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The Last Of Us.

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I used to have nothing. And then I got this. This job. This family. And I was better because of it. And even though they're gone... I'm still trying to be better.

But nothing lasts forever...


DUBLIN, IRELAND

"Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived, all things were older than man, and they hummed of mystery."

Natasha read the last lines of The Road and closed the book as Steve ran a hand over her naked back while they lay in bed.

"Well, that ending was very...vague." Steve sighed, his brows furrowing with confusion. "And you said they made a movie of this?"

"They did," Natasha put the book on the table next to the bed, "And yet it still doesn't explain what exactly happened to their world that made it so terrible."

"Maybe it wasn't meant for us to understand."

"Maybe..."

The November air was whipping around outside, but in the hotel, it was the complete opposite. They were warm in each other's arms. It had been nearly a year since the 'Civil War,' and the pair had gotten used to each other, to their company. It was a feeling that they couldn't ignore. That they couldn't comprehend. It had drawn them closer and brought out something that neither of them knew was there. Steve couldn't deny how he felt about Natasha, no matter how hard he tried. There was something different about her that made Steve want her even more. The way she made him smile, the way she supported him, even when she disagreed with him. And now here she was, on the run with him like fugitives while sleeping in numerous hotels.

It amazed him how she could still be by his side even after all he put her through. He could never repay her for the way she stuck out her neck for him. Steve always thought that Peggy was the love of his life, that moving on was like betraying her in some way. But he learned that his life with Natasha was something he never experienced before. And he couldn't be happier. He felt like he'd known this woman for his entire life. They just meshed together perfectly on all levels without even trying.

And he wanted that feeling to last for the rest of his life.

"Why the long face?" Natasha lifted her head to look at him and rested her chin so that they could see each other.

"Nothing, just thinking," Steve sighed, shaking his head.

She quirked a brow at him, "You'll give yourself gray hairs."

"Well, we all can't be young and beautiful as you."

"Don't worry," She kissed his chest, "You're still my old man."

"I'm glad," Steve smiled wistfully. "I don't know what I would do without you."

"Don't go soft on me now, Rogers." She chuckled.

They stared at each other for a moment, lost in their world before Steve cleared his throat and disentangled himself from her grasp.

"Hey, I uh... I have a gift for you." He laughed nervously.

"Why are you grinning? What's going on?"

"You'll see." He lifted her and placed her against the headboard so that she wouldn't be tempted to get back under the covers, "Wait there." He said pointedly before getting out of bed.

He kept a close eye on her as he went to the closet on the other side of the room and reached for the small box on the top shelf. Hidden from prying eyes. She watched him dubiously as he walked back and got in bed next to her.

"Whatever it is, I don't want it." She huffed like a petulant child as he placed that small rectangular box on her thigh. She sat up slightly, her red hair cascading over her breasts.

"Nat, you haven't even opened it yet."

"The box looks like it contains a certain piece of jewelry that I told you was off-limits in our relationship." She picked up the gift-wrapped box and scrutinized it, "What is it?"

"It's a gift, and I can't tell you what it is," Steve smirked, looking at her intently. "Do you trust me?"

"No. So, do I have to open it?" She asked quietly, making him roll his eyes.

"Yes, and if you don't, I'll just get you another one."

She sighed deeply as she lightly peeled off the wrapping, muttering something about how he never listens to her and what she was going to do to me if the gift was expensive. Steve just rolled his eyes. As if he could practically afford anything expensive at the moment.

"What is it?" She held up the wooden box after the unwrapping was done. Her face filled with anger, tension, worry, more anger, and a little hint of apprehension.

Steve shrugged and smiled sadly, "Open it."

"Jesus, throw me a bone here Rogers," She shook her head as she lifted off the top portion of the small box. Inside was a standard, small, black velvet box, and they both knew what it held.

"Steve..." She gasped slightly, but Steve quickly interrupted her.

"I'm not proposing. Not yet at least" He took the black box from her hands and opened it. The first thing she noticed was the gigantic sapphire that was sitting on the silver band, surrounded by a ring of small, perfectly cut pearls. She covered her mouth when she saw it, but Steve still heard her whisper, 'It's beautiful.'

"A woman was selling this down at the market, and I immediately thought of you," He took her hand from her mouth and pulled the ring out of the box.

"You were thinking of me?" She asked him in a whisper, and he nodded.

"It's a promise ring," Steve said unashamedly, "I know we have some stuff to settle first, but I wanted you to know that I'm in this for the long haul Natasha, nothing is going to change that."

She had unshed tears in her green eyes, and Steve could practically see the gears in her head working, trying to figure out the situation.

"I wanted you to know that engagement and marriage is on the horizon." He uncurled her fingers of her right hand instead of the left and gently slid the ring on her fourth finger, "I will marry you one day, Natasha, and this just lets you know that."

She was at a loss of what to say when he let her hand go after placing a kiss on her knuckles. He waited for a couple of moments for her to say something, anything.

"I love you, Steve." She finally uttered and wrapped her arms around his neck, rolling them over so that she was on top of his body, "I love you so much it hurts, and I love this gift."

"Really?" Steve swallowed hard, his heart thumping rapidly against his chest, "You'll wear it?"

"Nothing would make me happier." She sadly smiled.

"I love you, Natasha. I never thought I'd say that about another woman, but I do, and I can't live my life without you." He set them up so that he could see her better. Her legs were on either side of his, and he wiped the small amount of moisture from the corner of her eyes.

"Thank you." She said when she pulled herself together, "I never thought I would find love." She whispered.

"You never thought it was an option for you?"

Natasha chuckled unhumorously, "You know my life, Steve. Love wasn't ideal for me."

"I can't have a life without you, and when I see the future, I see you. Ten years down the road, if you want a big house, a white picket fence, dogs, kids, whatever, just as long as you're with me." Steve said truthfully. He felt her stiffen the slightest bit on his lap, and she dropped her head, suddenly occupied with the ring on her finger that she was twirling around.

"This is a gorgeous...promise ring." She laughed, "I feel so weird saying that."

"I would like it if we can call it an engagement ring," Steve suggested, optimistically hopeful.

She smiled to herself but tried to cover it up, "I like the sound of that." She looked at him with penetrating eyes as she took the ring off of her right hand and placed on the fourth finger on her left.

She smiled softly at him and pressed her lips against his, feeling ghostly soft, "I don't know how much time we have, how long we can have these small moments, but I just want to live. Live for the time we do have, and I want to live it with you."

Steve smiled back weakly and guided them off the bed, pulling her with him and stood her up against the window. He dropped to one knee and held her hands in his.

"Natasha Romanoff, I know that I'm doing this wrong, and it might not be traditional, but I have to take it where I can with you." Steve snickered, "I want to spend the rest of my life with you, from now until the end of forever, and I can't see my future with anyone else. You have given me so much in these past few months, and I truly love you for it. And you will never find a man or woman who will love you the way I do."

She sniffled but didn't shed a tear, clinging on the sheets to make sure it covered her naked torso.

"You've given me something to live for. I promise never to be unfaithful to you and always treat you the way you deserve. Will you be my wife?"

She closed her eyes and let out a deep breath, collecting herself and uttered a crackled, "Yes."

Steve hugged her around her stomach, and she ran her fingers through his hair. He could finally feel the wetness from her tears as they dropped from above him, and she made no move to stop them. He held her so close that he could almost feel her ribs breaking under his grasp, and he wasn't ever going to let her go.

"I love you so much." Natasha crumpled on the floor next to him and took his face in her hands, kissing him fiercely. Their lips moved together like a wet, fiery tango that was filled with passion, raw sexuality but so much love that they thought their hears were going to burst. And then, she pulled back and stared into his blue eyes for what seemed like forever. Not too long ago, Natasha thought she'd never see him again. All the feelings she'd denied for so long were released. All the barriers she had put up came crumbling down. She realized that here in his arms is where she was supposed to be. It was where she wanted to be with all her heart. Overcome with emotion, and she started feathering tiny kisses all over Steve's face. With every kiss, she convinced herself that he was there. She kissed his temple, the tip of his nose, his cheeks, and his chin. Natasha wanted Steve, and she wanted him forever.

"Marry me," she said suddenly.

His brows furrowed, "I thought I was already..."

"No, I mean, marry me now. Like right now."

He froze, "What?"

"I don't want to wait," She said solemnly, my face growing serious. "I love you, Steve Rogers. You're the man that I want to spend the rest of my life with; you're the one I want to wake up to in the morning, you're the man I would travel to the ends of the Earth with. I don't know what the future will hold, but I don't want to wait for another second to become your wife."

His eyes bored into mine as his finger brushed against her engagement ring, "Are you sure?"

She pulled back just a centimeter and wrapped her arms around his neck, "Things are complicated, and there will be a lot of people who won't approve, but I don't care what people think anymore. What I think is right is what matters, and this is right for me. I love you, and you love me. That's all that matters."

He ran a thumb over her bottom lip, "And that's all that matters."


"I'm getting married," Natasha said to herself repeatedly before she started roaming.

There hadn't been any rehearsal, so neither of them understood how this was supposed to work, but they seemed to be in control surprisingly. Natasha kept a languid pace as she went through the double doors, and her feet immediately hit a long white carpet that led up through the rows of chairs in the cathedral. Her heart completely stopped when she saw Steve. It just stopped for at least five seconds. There wasn't a flower girl, or altar boys, or anything else one might think of when dealing with a wedding, but they didn't have time for any of that, and they didn't need it. This was more than enough.

Natasha made sure to breathe slowly so that she wouldn't pass out and honestly only saw the simple decorations surrounding me through hazy eyes.

At last, after what seemed like too long, she stood in front of Steve Rogers, who appeared to be the perfect picture of calmness. Though he wasn't, he could feel his heart thumping rapidly against his chest.

"You look… exquisite," he whispered. She gave him a knowing smile.

"Are you ready for this?" Natasha asked him, clasping his hands into hers.

"Ready," Steve kissed her cheek before turning them both forward.

"We are here today to witness the union between Steven Grant Rogers and Natasha Alianovna Romanoff."

That was honestly all Natasha heard because she blocked everything else out. She just looked at him and got lost in her own world. After all these months and all the troubles they had to overcome, they were finally here. They were making a lifetime commitment to each other, and that was really saying something in Natasha's eyes. The ceremony was short, and she tried to listen at least so that she remembered this moment. They didn't write vows but recited the Catholic ones that were read to them.

And all too soon, it was over.

"It is my great pleasure-" The minister began.

"Wait, I have something to say," Steve cut him off. He couldn't let it end like this. There was so much he needed to say.

"What are you doing?" Natasha whispered in shock, feeling her heart flutter in surprise.

"I wanted to tell you something. I know we didn't write vows, but I wanted to tell you something."

"Okay?" Natasha was skeptical but yet intrigued by the proposition.

"Natasha, I can't remember what my life was like before I met you. I was bitter, and I was broken, I was lost. Until I found you. Who would've thought that after four years, you would be the essential piece in my life? You have changed me, Nat. You have become my sun and stars, and I can't wait to start this new chapter with you. I can't wait to wake up every morning to your beautiful face. You told me that your love is forever, and I want you to know my love is forever too. I'm all yours, Natasha. Now and always. I love you."

Natasha couldn't stop the tears from flowing; she was beyond crying. She was bawling her eyes out while trying not to make herself look like a crazy person. She couldn't help it, though. The minister handed her a handkerchief from his jacket pocket, which she took gladly with a shaky smile.

"It is now my greatest honor to introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Steve Rogers. You may now kiss your bride."

Natasha slowly put her hand on the nape of his neck and pulled him in a long, tantalizing kiss. She was a married woman, to a devoted man who would love her unconditionally. And he was a married man, to a woman who would stand by his side and walk through fire for him if he asked. They both knew that this was forever.

"You're now a married woman, Mrs. Rogers," Steve pressed his forehead against his.

"I think I can get used to that," She breathed.

"I love you."

"And I love you."


I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I'll make you so sure about it
God only knows what I'd be without you

"What is this song?" Steve chuckled as Natasha's head, rested on his bare shoulder while we swayed to the music. They had both made love again until they were both drained of energy. Neither of them had ever felt such bliss and happiness in their lives. Everything just seemed so clear and so simple now, so peaceful. They couldn't imagine a life without each other, and they weren't planning on losing each other anytime soon.

"You're joking, you've never heard of the Beach Boys?" Natasha gawked at her husband.

"I can honestly say I haven't."

"Well, Steve Rogers, it is my duty as your lawful wedded wife to make sure you know every song on 'Pet Sounds.'

He leaned back slightly and quirked a brow at her, "Pet Sounds?"

She nodded curtly, running a hand through his hair, "Greatest rock album in 1966. Brian Wilson's a legend."

If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on, believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me
God only knows what I'd be without you

"Do you miss her?" Natasha asked suddenly as she ran her hands over his broad shoulders.

Steve thought about his answer before saying, "Sometimes. She's apart of me, and I'll always love her, but you, you're my world now. I can't imagine my life without you in it. You're the love of my life. Nothing will ever change that."

"I believe you," She leaned up and kissed him chastely.

"I can't believe this is real," Steve laughed slightly, shaking his head. "I'm married to Natasha Romanoff. "

"I know right, sounds better when you say it out loud." Natasha shot him a flirty wink.

Steve rolled his eyes at her and pulled her close, kissing her forehead. They swayed to the music for a few moments before Natasha spoke again.

"Steve?"

"Yeah?"

"Promise me that nothing will change," She whispered, her head resting on his shoulder. "Promise me we'll always be there for each other, and that when the time comes, we'll protect each other."

And it was like those words put a massive weight on his shoulders. He couldn't put his finger on it, but it was something behind her words that made him vulnerable. He couldn't promise something that he had no control over. But he knew that it was his job to protect his wife. It was his job to make sure that she was secure and that she trusted him. He didn't want to make any more empty promises to anyone again, especially Nat. But this time, he just had to make an exception. Natasha was the only thing that mattered to him now, and if a promise were what she needed, then he would give it to her.

With that, he brushed his lips against hers and pulled her closer, "I promise. I'll always protect you."

Little did they know that their world was going to change forever.

Chapter Text

2 YEARS LATER.


SCOTLAND.

Impossible...this was impossible.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me."

Natasha felt her chest tightening as she sat against the cold wall in the hotel bathroom. She tried to take deep breaths and form coherent thoughts, but the more she tried to, the more the situation became a reality. Six pregnancy tests were lined up on the sink counter, all having one thing in common. They both had the signs that said what needed to be said.

Natasha Rogers was pregnant.

She was losing her mind; she had to. Natasha remembered when she had the procedure done. She remembered that day like it was yesterday. A piece of her left that day, a piece that she thought she would never find again. Until Steve showed up into her life, and ever since, her life has changed for the better. Natasha found love, love in a place she never expected. When she was younger, she would picture herself and her child on the porch of their home. They would watch the sunset until her husband arrived after a long day of work. And now, that was all going to be a reality.

She didn't know how and she didn't know why, but she was having a baby. She was carrying little miracle inside of her, a baby. She wanted to smile, and then she wanted to cry… and then she wanted to smile again. She was going to have a baby—Steve's baby. This wasn't the best time, not the best time at all. They were fugitives of the law. Now they had to worry about a child. This was not going to go over well. It wasn't like they had planned this. She thought, no, she knew that she couldn't have any children. But this...this baby was going to change everything for them.

The door swung open, and Sam was standing there with a concerned look on his face.

"Nat! You alright?" He asked frantically.

"I'm fine!" Natasha screeched. "What the hell are you doing! Get out!"

"I've been calling your name for the past 10 minutes! Didn't you hear me?"

"Of course I didn't, obviously. So don't you think you should have knocked first?" Natasha said through gritted teeth.

"Well, excuse me for being a concerned friend," He scoffed and rolled his eyes before he turned his head and his eyes landed on the counter. "Holy shit."

Natasha scrambled to her feet and quickly got rid of all the pregnancy tests. She roughly shoved him out of the way to throw them in the trash.

"Romanoff, um… is that what I think it is?"

"Shut it!" Natasha snapped. "Not another word, you hear me?"

"Nat, are you pregnant?"

"What did I just say?" Natasha pounded her fists on the counter in frustration but tried not to scream. "Not another word!"

Sam just shook his head and walked out of the bathroom without another word.

Shit!

He was going to ruin everything. She prayed to God that he didn't let this slip. She was going to have to watch what he said around Steve. This was all too much pressure to handle. She had to tell Steve soon. That was her main priority at the moment. She rushed to freshen up because she had dinner plans with Steve tonight. Maybe this could be the perfect opportunity.

Her eyes slowly rose as she checked herself in the mirror to see if there was a sign of her pregnancy. She knew it was futile, but she just had to make sure. She didn't want to admit it, but she was scared and happy, anxious, and eager. For years, she accepted that having a child wasn't an option for her. But she and Steve talked about it all the time, and even then, they were always so careful. But they were having a baby. All nausea and weakness fled her body, and she was filled with joy.

"My little miracle..."

After stepping out, she spotted Sam standing at the foot of the bed with his arms crossed, "Are you going to tell him?"

"Of course, I'm going to tell him. When I'm ready to. But you know nothing, absolutely nothing."

"I didn't mean to freak you out in there, sorry about that. I won't tell him; I swear to it."

"Good." She nodded curtly, letting out a sigh of relief.

Sam nodded as well and stood up. "How are you doing?"

"I'm hanging in there, I guess. I haven't thought about it." Natasha sighed, fiddling with her fingers.

"You sure?"

She nodded her head.

"Do you want the baby?" he asked.

Natasha gave him a shaky smile and nodded, "It's not the right time, but I really do. I think I do, at least."

"A baby..." Sam whistled. "I can't wait to see the look on his face when he finds out. His heart might stop."

"Don't even joke about that," Natasha laughed, playfully punching his shoulder. "I'll kill you if he has a heart attack."

"Well, you know I'll be here for you. Congrats, Nat." Sam wrapped her in a brotherly hug and a respectful nod to her belly. "That's gonna be one lucky kid you got there."

Natasha smiled even wider. "Okay, stop it."

Natasha would never admit to him, but she always counted on Sam to be there for her. Throughout the entire time they were on the run, he was the one who cheered her up when Steve wasn't around. He was like the brother she never had, and she loved him dearly for it. She trusted him with her life and Steve's, and that kind of trust was hard to come by these days.

Suddenly, the door swung open, and Steve came in frantically. And the immediate sounds of their coms filled their ears. Steve's eyes met hers and saw the desperation and the fear in them. They both knew what the other was saying without words.

Something was wrong.

"Guess him finding out is gonna have to wait a while..."


"Hold still," Wanda whispered to Vision as she healed his wounds on the quinjet. They had just fought a fierce battle back in Scotland, and they barely escaped with their lives, and for the first time in a long time, Natasha Romanoff was genuinely afraid. She was fearful of what would happen to her child and her husband. Those creatures that they were fighting were skilled, unlike any other being they had fought. Luckily, they were able to get the upper hand, but one wrong move and everything could've changed. And everything was a lot to Nat.

"This is all my fault," Vision grunted in pain. "I should've never lured you out there; I should've protected you." He held Wanda's hand tightly to his chest, where his heart would be and kept it there. Wanda's eyes met his for a mere moment and respectfully pulled her hand away. She didn't miss the way his eyes flickered in disappointment. She didn't want to hurt Vision like this. She knew of his feelings for her, and although she was flattered, she couldn't help the fact that her heart pined for another. And in the back of her mind, she would always hold a grudge against Vision for what happened to her a few years back. But she would never admit it; to herself or anyone else.

"Don't do that to yourself, Vis," She shook her head. "There's no way you could have predicted this would happen. What matters is that you're safe and that they were able to get us in time." Wanda's gaze reached Natasha's, and she nodded back in agreement. "I'm sorry we put you all in danger. We know you wanted us to stay low for the time being."

"Well, we're safe now like you said. That's all that matters," Natasha nodded again, letting them know that there wasn't an issue about it. Wanda was like a little sister to Nat. It had been so long since she's had a sister to look after and care for, to love. She couldn't pass that on to Wanda. She had a sort of innocence about her that threw her off sometimes, and she found it amusing. Once they arrived in Scotland a few months back, she would always make sure that she was comfortable and safe. Natasha knew of the terrible things she went through in that prison, even the things she didn't like to talk about. It takes a real soldier to power through such pain and trauma, and she knows that she thinks about it every now and then. And that if or when Wanda wanted to talk to her about it, Natasha would be ready for her.

Vision averted his gaze from Wanda for a moment to look at Steve, who was still sitting on the passenger's seat with his gaze facing forward, "Thank you again, Captain. I know I don't deserve it from you, but you saved my life. I can only hope to repay my debt to you."

Steve didn't say a word, didn't spare a glance at him. He just nodded with a grunt and left it at that. He didn't really have any love for Vision, not really. He was always undermining him and questioning his decisions. And then with the Accords in hand and the emotional stress he put Wanda through, he knew they would never be back on good terms again. But he had to put that aside. The world was at stake once more, and they had to focus.

Natasha gave him a firm nod herself before going to Steve's side, leaning over the seat as she wrapped an arm around his neck. Steve sighed in content, and placed a hand on her forearm, satisfied with her comfort. Sam's gaze reached Natasha's as he silently asked her question, a question only she would understand. When Natasha shook her head, he gave her a subtle nod and turned his head back towards the front.

Steve turned his head to the side and nuzzled his nose against her cheek, inhaling her scent, "How are you holding up?"

Natasha sighed, shaking her head once more, "I just can't believe we're back at this point of our lives again. I thought after New York and Sokovia; the threats would somehow disappear. And now..."

"And now, we have to save the world again. As usual," Steve smiled sadly, and she smiled back. People loved doing what they were good at. But Steve didn't. He thought of it as a blessing and a curse. For the past six years since he's woken up from his seven-decade slumber, all he's done was fight. That's all he's ever known was to fight. And then he found Nat, a woman who understood him better than anyone in the world. When she agreed to be his wife, it was like he found his home. He found something that would get him a way out of this never-ending cycle of fighting. Because in truth, he was tired of fighting. He just wanted to spend the rest of his days enjoying precious time with his wife. But now, it seemed futile to even think such a thing could ever happen. Not for him, at least.

"Two years," Natasha glanced down at her hand, the wedding band that resided there on her fourth finger. "Two years we've been on the run. Dodging the law, sleeping under the roofs of crummy hotels, barely having enough food to get us by. And I can't seem to recall a time where I've never felt more alive. Happier. And now, it seems it's all about to come crumbling down on us. I'm not sure I'm quite ready for that, you know?"

Steve could hear the pain in her voice, the raw sadness behind her words. She was afraid. He knew she wouldn't admit it to her, but he knew it was how she was feeling. He stood up from the seat and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her close. His gloved hand caressed her as he wiped the small stray tear away, "Hey, everything's going to be alright, Nat. I promise."

"Things have changed, Steve..." She sighed, clutching onto his hand tightly. "Everything has changed, Steve."

Steve didn't understand her words, but he knew that there was a double meaning behind them. He cupped her face in his hands and leaned down to press a soft yet passionate kiss against her lips. His fully grown beard was tickling her face, but she didn't seem to mind at all. She just melted into his embrace and gave in to his sweet kiss.

Sam groaned inwardly as he rolled his eyes, "Will you two give it a rest? It's already bad enough I have to deal with that in every hotel room we go to. You do realize that cheap hotels have thin walls right."

Steve ignored him but grinned nonetheless. He just continued to pepper kisses along her face, down her cheek, along her jawline, her nose, and back to her lips once more. Natasha laughed a little, basking it all in. Wanda smiled at the scene from behind them, happy that her friends found happiness in the midst of this madness. She never thought that they would get together, that they would get this far in their lives, but they made it. They were happy and in love, and that was enough for both of them.

Sam smiled softly at them, stopping his teasing, "Where to next, Cap?"

Steve pulled back slightly and sighed, his eyes gazing ahead of him, "Home."


"Damn the Accords right now, sir!" Rhodey argued with Thaddeus Ross, who held an unamused gaze at him. Rhodey could feel his displeasure even through the hologram, but at this point, he really couldn't care less. "Tony's gone, and we have no support to hold these monsters back. We need to call in some reinforcements."

Ross grunted in disappointment, but his hard stone gaze never faltered, "Still any word from Vision?"

Rhodes sighed in aggravation, "Satellites lost him somewhere over Edinburgh. Haven't gotten a signal from him since."

"On a stolen quinjet with four of the world's most wanted criminals."

Rhodes sighed again, thinking of the choices he's made of the past two years. He believed in what the Accords stood for, and he thought that by signing it that it would win back the trust of the people. That with limits, things would be a lot more peaceful. But he was wrong. Things went sideways quickly, and he fought for the wrong side. It took him a while to see that, but he did now, and he couldn't make amends to his friends.

"You know, they're only criminals because you've chosen to call them that, right, sir?"

"My God, Rhodes. Your talent for horseshit rivals my own."

"If it weren't for those accords, Vision would've been right here."

"I remember your signature on those papers, Colonel." Ross countered, walking over to Rhodes.

"I believe I've paid for that, don't you," Rhodes gestured down to his legs, the braces that were bound to them. He had gotten used to them over time, but it still wasn't the same. It was always a reminder of what was lost and what would never be the same again. Ross looked down and grunted in agreement, knowing that no words could erase that pain.

'Do you have second thoughts?"

"Not anymore," James heard the sound of footsteps approaching the side of him, and he smiled softly at the sight of his old friends. Steve barely glanced at his way as Natasha stood by his side vigilantly at the doorway, with Wanda, Sam, and Vision behind them. Steve was the first to speak.

"Mr. Secretary," Steve said coldly.

Ross looked them up and down before scoffing in disbelief. His gaze landed on Natasha's before he spoke again, "You got some nerve, Romanoff. I'll give you that."

Natasha smiled thinly as she looked back at him, "It's Rogers now, Mr. Secretary. And it looks like you could use some of that nerve."

"Ah," Ross gestured between thee two before nodding in understanding, now moving his gaze to Steve, "The world's on fire, and you think all is forgiven?"

Steve couldn't help the anger and mutual hatred he had for this man. After all, he had done to protect these people, the world, and he had the gall to call him and friends criminals. And even so, even after the truth was revealed, they still had treated them the same. Criminals. They didn't deserve their help, but he was willing to give it to them anyway, "I'm not looking for forgiveness, and I'm way past asking permission. Earth just lost her best defender, so we're here to fight. And if you want to stand in our way, we'll fight you too."

Natasha placed a subtle hand on her husband's back, slowly but surely calming him down.

Ross turned his head towards Rhodey and nodded his head, "Arrest them."

"All over it," With one swift movement with his hand, Rhodes terminated the hologram and faced his friends once again. It had been nearly two years since he had seen either of them, and it was just great to be around them. He never thought he would get the chance to, and now he did. Rhodes smiled softly as he held his hand out to shake Steve's hand. "Great to see you, Cap."

"You too," Steve replied with a small smile before Rhodey turned his attention to Natasha, giving her a small hug.

"No offense, but you guys really look like crap," Rhodey smiled softly, crossing his arms tightly.

"Well, the hotels weren't exactly five stars," Sam replied.

"I think you look great," a voice said behind them. Natasha froze in her spot, knowing that she'd recognize that voice anywhere. The six of them turned and saw none other than Bruce Banner standing there, his eyes burning a hole in Natasha's soul. She couldn't' believe it; that after all this time, he was finally here. And she felt nothing, no emotion at all. She was just...there. "Yeah, I'm back."

Natasha said nothing to him as they stared at each other, both of them wondering who would say the first word. She had been dreading for this day, ready for the day when she would tear him a new one for how he left her. To unleash the wrath, she felt for how he treated her when she gave him her heart. And now that the moment was here, she had nothing to say to him. There was nothing left to be said, really. She had made peace with his decision a long time ago. Besides, she moved on and found something better along the way. It all worked out in the end.

"Hey Nat," Bruce broke the silence, sadly gazing at her. Before she could react, he walked to her and wrapped his arms around her in a tight, remained stiff, not daring to move. It was rare to see Bruce Banner so flustered and open with his emotion, but this was different. The fear had fled his gaze and was replaced by an overwhelming passion, one he'd always held at bay to protect her. She hadn't seen that look in years. Natasha quickly took a step back, unused to seeing so much naked emotion from him. It was a reflex reaction. He grabbed onto her arms, not letting her get far. The intensity of his gaze bore into the depths of her soul.

"I…," he began, desperately trying to tell her something. But he took another look at her hand and saw her wedding band, resting on her finger. Before he could say another word, Natasha removed her hand and took a step back. Steve quickly made his way by her side. He had his hands on her back to comfort her in silence. He didn't know it, but he was slowly but surely giving her strength. Steve knew that what Natasha and Bruce had was nothing in comparison to their marriage. It could never. They were happily married, and they have been for two years. But still, it didn't change the fact that whatever Natasha and Bruce shared had an impact on her. He couldn't just ignore that.

Natasha nodded curtly, leaning into Steve for comfort, "Bruce."

Just as quickly as they appeared, his emotions were bottled back up inside as he nodded back. It was all he could do. What could one say to that? His emotions, though buried deep, were like a blazing brand in his eyes.

There was a brief silent moment until Sam commented, "This is very, very awkward."

Steve nodded to Bruce as well before nudging his head to the room behind them, "Let's go down to business, huh."

"Good idea," Natasha turned around and smiled at him softly, moving into the back room. Not wanting to waste any more time than they already have, Natasha immediately spoke, "Alright, we need to come up with a plan on how we move forward with this."

"The entire planet is in danger. We need all hands on deck. Where's Clint?" Bruce pressed, laying his hands on the wooden table in the middle of the room.

Natasha crossed her arms stubbornly as she answered, "After the whole Accords situation, he and Scott took a deal. It was too tough for their families. They're on house arrest."

Bruce's brow furrowed in confusion, "Who's Scott?"

"Ant-Man," Steve confirmed.

"There's an Ant-Man and a Spider-Man?" Bruce shook his head. "I have a lot to catch up on."

"Yeah," Natasha scoffed at him. "That's what happens when you leave. You tend to miss things."

Bruce winced for a second at her harsh words, before finding the will to continue, "Thanos has the biggest army in the universe. And he is not going to stop until he gets... Vision's stone."

"Well, we have to protect it," Natasha concluded.

"No," Vision jumped in. "We have to destroy it."

All eyes reached him, peaking their curiosities, "I have been giving a good deal of thought to this entity in my head. About its nature. But also, its composition." His eyes reached Wanda's as he began to approach her. "I think if it were exposed to a sufficiently powerful energy source, something very similar to its own signature, perhaps its molecular integrity would fail."

"But wouldn't that kill you?" Wanda asked before she crossed her arms.

"In a sense, yes."

"And you think that I would just be okay with that, killing you?" Wanda questioned him again.

"Wanda..."

"I'm not sure I can," Wanda shook her head. "That's not what we do."

Wanda didn't want to admit it, but there was a part of her who cared for Vision. As a friend, of course. There was a time where he treated her as a friend instead of a monster like the world did. When the world turned their backs on her, it was him...and another man who kept her going. She would never forget that.

"She's right," Steve countered firmly. "We don't trade lives, Vision."

"This is the only way, Captain. If Thanos gets the stone, half the universe will cease to exist. We can't let that happen.."

"But that doesn't mean you have to die," Bruce suggested, conjuring up a plan in his head. "Your mind is made up of a complex construct of overlays. Jarvis, Ultron, Tony, me, the stone. All of them mixed together, all of them learning from one another."

"You're saying that Vision more than just the stone?" Wanda asked.

"I'm saying that if we take the stone, there's still a whole lot of Vision left. Perhaps maybe even the best parts.," Bruce concluded.

"Can we do that?"

Bruce sighed in defeat, shaking his head, "Not me, not here."

"Well, you better find someone and somewhere fast," Rhodey intervened. "I highly doubt that Ross is gonna let you get your old rooms back."

The room fell silent, wondering what was next for them. Natasha's gaze met Steve's and saw the light bulb go off inside his head. Their eyes met, and they both shared nods of agreement, "I know where."


Steve made his way up the ramp of the quinjet, his eyes, ever watchful, as Natasha began to pack up supplies for the journey to Wakanda. They figured they should travel as lightly as possible, considering that it was only a temporary trip there like the last time. Steve still hadn't moved or said a word to her the entire time they were packing. And even though he was a few feet away, he'd never felt more distant from her.

"Well, I guess that's it." Natasha sighed, closing up the case full of supplies.

"Are you sure?" Steve said professionally, which was cruel in its own way. Natasha could feel him slipping through her fingers like crumbled ashes, and she couldn't let that happen. She knew why he was like this, why he put up this facade to hide his jealousy. When they both knew he had nothing to be jealous about. She was totally and completely committed to him, and that wasn't going to change anytime soon.

Without saying anything, she walked over to him and shoved him against the wall of the quinjet. His mouth gaped open slightly to speak but was immediately silenced by her lips being pressed against his in a soft yet desperate kiss. He wasted no time to wrap his arms around her waist as his thumb rested on the hem of her vest, feeling the bare flesh underneath. Natasha groaned as she locked her fingers in his hair, loving how it felt under her touch. Steve couldn't help but grunt in pleasure when he felt Natasha's teeth pull his bottom lip in. This was what they needed. Reassurance from each other that nothing had changed. That they were still in love, and that Bruce was the past and Steve was her future.

Steve moved them off of the wall, his hands firmly attached to her hips. Their lips moved in a fiery dance, saying things they didn't have time to tell each other, surrounding them in a euphoria neither of them could describe. Natasha gasped, loving the intensity of their passionate encounter. Their kisses were wild and aggressive, but never too aggressive. There was always love behind their kisses. Steve's strong hands palmed her rear, and he lifted her up in his arms to set her on the small table beside them. She wrapped her legs around his waist and threw her hands around his neck, moaning against his lips once more. After a few moments, Steve collected himself and pulled back slightly but still kept his face inches away from her.

"Uh, wow," Steve chuckled, barely catching his breath. Natasha laughed as well, gliding her hand down his bearded jawline. "Sorry about that, I guess I..."

"Why are you apologizing?" Natasha shook her head at him, lifting her hand up to flash her wedding band. "I'm your wife, and you're my husband. This is what married couples do."

Steve smiled softly before a sigh escaped his lips. He leaned his forehead against hers as he held her close, "I didn't mean to seem jealous, Nat."

"I know," She placed a quick kiss on the tip of his nose. "And I never meant to make you feel that way. You're the only man for me, Steve. Nothing or no one could ever come between us. You hear me?"

Steve smirked once more before nodding and pulling her in his arms. Natasha closed her eyes and grabbed the nape of his neck, inhaling his scent. This was it. This was the perfect time to tell him.

"Steve, there's something I have to tell you."

"What is it, Nat?" He pulled back a little and brushed her blonde locks away from her face.

She grabbed his hands and placed them flat on her belly, letting her eyes bore into his "I'm pregnant."

And it was like the world around them froze. Steve's eyes widened at her words, letting them sink in. He wasn't quite sure if he had heard her correctly.

"What did you just say?"

"I'm pregnant," She whispered, feeling his hand have a soft yet firm grip on her belly.

He let out a shuddering breath, barely able to speak, "How do you know?"

"I took a bunch of tests when we were in Scotland," Natasha looked down at her stomach. "And I can feel it. I can feel something growing inside of me...our baby."

"I...you told me you couldn't have any children," Steve let out a small laugh, trying to catch his breath.

"I thought so too, but the signs are all there. Nausea, tiredness, sore boobs. I'm pregnant, Steve, with your child."

"Oh, God." He let out a deep breath, "This...this is a lot to take in all at once."

"I know. I know." Natasha placed her hands on both sides of his face, pressing her forehead against his. "Are you mad at me?"

"No, Nat. Never." She could feel his body shake as the news sunk in. "This is a gift, an amazing gift from you to me."

"It is?" Natasha smiled as tears ran down her cheek. "You mean that?"

"I do...because I'm going to be a father." Steve smiled as well, running his hands up and down her arms. "With you, Nat. With you."

His eyes reached hers as he silently asked her could he touch it. She took his hand back once more and let it rest there again. The smile on her face was starting to hurt, but she could care less. Even though they both knew this wasn't the perfect time to have a child, it was still the best thing to ever happen to them both. They were having a child, a baby that was apart of both of them, and that was a blessing. A blessing that would last forever.

"Does anybody else know?" Steve asked, his hand still feeling around on her stomach.

"Sam does. I told him I would tell you when the time was right." Steve nodded in understanding, the smile never leaving his lips. "We're going to be parents."

"We are," Steve leaned forward and kissed her lips chastely.

They jumped slightly when they heard claps at the doorway, interrupting their moment. Wanda, Rhodey, Sam were standing there with wide smiles on their faces. Steve cleared his throat as he helped Natasha from the table, clearly embarrassed but happy at the same time. Natasha rolled her eyes at her shyness and kissed his cheek.

"How long have you three been standing there?" Steve said, trying to hide his embarrassment.

"Long enough," Wanda answered, the smile on her lips widening. She walked up the ramp and wrapped Natasha in a waist crushing hug. Natasha couldn't help but feel happy at this exact moment. Even with the universe's fate hanging in the balance, this was arguably the best day in her life. She was having a baby, a baby she thought she could never have. She felt so grateful that she could share this moment with the people she loved, and she wanted it to last forever.


WAKANDA

Steve thought Wakanda was one of the most beautiful places in the world. He remembered the first time they arrived here, under less happy circumstances he may add, and he never got a chance to really give it a good look. He was fascinated by the animals that roamed free through the open fields, the exotic plants and trees that grew here, and the sunrises were unlike anything he had seen. He could see himself growing old here one day, walking around with Natasha by his side to take in the fresh air. Who knows? Maybe when this was all over, they could come back here.

The hissing sounds of the quinjet ramp going down brought Steve out of his thoughts, along with the quick squeeze of Natasha's hand. "Move it or lose it, old man," Natasha teased, giving him a quick slap on his butt. Steve rolled his eyes but smiled nonetheless. That woman would be the death of him one day; he just knew it.

He walked down the ramp with Natasha close by his side to see T'Challa waiting there for him with a smile on his face. He couldn't forget the hospitality T'Challa showed him when he first arrived here. The last time he was here was to get Bucky checked out after the encounter with Tony, and T'Challa was very understanding of the situation after learning the truth. Steve knew a good man when he saw one, and the king of Wakanda was definitely a good man.

Steve shook his hand tightly as he approached him, "It seems like I'm always thanking you for something."

"Kwa kweli Kaka," T'Challa nodded curtly at Steve, showing him a sign of respect. He nodded to everyone else as well before he turned around and started making his way back to the large glass building. "How big of an assault should we expect here, Captain?"

"Uh, sir?" Bruce butted in, catching up with the pair. "You should expect a massive assault."

"How are we looking?" Natasha asked.

"You have my king's guard, the Border Tribe, the Dora Milaje, and..."

"A semi-stable hundred-year-old man," A voice said from the side of him. Steve's gaze reached Bucky's, and a small smile hit his lips at his life long friend. He looked stronger compared to the last time he saw him. He remembered the broken look he gave him before he was put on ice, and it haunted him for a while. It made him think about how he handled everything and how his life had shifted. He thought about how he tried to excuse everything Bucky did when even Bucky knew there was no going back. He murdered people, tortured them, and many other unspeakable things he couldn't speak of. But even then, Steve knew his best friend was down there somewhere, and he was going to be there for him until the end of the line.

Steve walked to him and hugged him roughly, patting his back. Natasha smiled softly at the two friends reuniting, "It's good to see you, how have you been?"

"Could be better," Bucky shrugged his shoulders with a smile playing on his lips. "I could be dead by now, but we'll see. The day's just getting started."

"So it is," Sam teased, earning a chuckle and respectful nod from Bucky.

"Not on my watch, Barnes," Wanda's playful voice broke out from behind Steve and Natasha, and Bucky's smile ended up widening at the sound of her voice. Their eyes met, and it was like breathing for the first time. It had been nearly two years since they had seen each other, since they had looked in each other's eyes, since they've touched. During the time of conflict, it was what brought Bucky and Wanda closer and together. Their pain and misery, it was what made them see each other in a different light. And it was what ultimately let them into each other's heart.

Wanda approached him before stopping a few inches.

"Hey, Red," Bucky chuckled, brushing his cybernetic hand along her red hair. She shivered slightly from his touch, but couldn't help but lean into it. "I've missed you."

She hummed slightly, closing her eyes to revel in his sweet caress. After a lingering moment, Wanda opened them slightly and leaned in to let her lips reach his. They wasted no time getting reacquainted after there departure. Bucky used his left hand to cup her face while the other gripped her waist to pull her close. The kiss was like coming home to them as they breathed each other in, savoring this moment for all it was worth. They didn't know when they would get another chance like this.

Wanda pulled back slightly, but never parted from his embrace, "I've missed you as well, James."

They looked at each other for another bittersweet moment before pulling apart, realizing that there was an audience watching them. Steve, Sam, and Natasha knew of their relationship, and they couldn't have been happier for them. It was hard to find peace and love in this chaos. Steve and Natasha knew that better than anyone. Vision looked at the scene with a small flicker of hurt before quickly masking his emotions once more. Bruce and Rhodes were just trying to figure out what was going on.

"Well," Natasha clapped her hands, breaking the silence. "Shall we begin?"


Shuri's brow furrowed as she continued to let the algorithms and holograms inside her head. She had never seen anything like this, such power, the raw and rarity of it. Watching her work was like giving a kid a new Christmas toy to play with. Finally, after moments of tinkering around, she finally spoke.

"The structure is polymorphic," Shuri stated, her eyes reaching Bruce's.

"Right. We... we had to attach each neuron none... none sequentially." Bruce answered her.

"Why didn't you just preprogram the synopsis to work collectively?" Shuri asked him, causing all eyes to reach him. He couldn't help but feel slightly embarrassed from being outshined by a teenager from Wakanda. But he hid it well as he responded.

"Because we didn't… think of it?"

"I'm sure you did your best." Shuri gave him a kind smile, trying to wash away his embarrassment.

"Can you do it?" Wanda asked.

"Yes, but there are more than two trillion neurons here. One misalignment could cause a cascade of circuit failures." Her eyes reached her brother's, giving him an absolute nod. "This will take time, brother."

"How long?"

"As long as you can give me."

Then, the alarms blared, alerting everyone in the room. Okoye looked at her king with a guarded yet worried expression, "Something has entered the atmosphere."

"Hey, Cap, we got a situation out here," Sam informed through the coms.

Seconds later, the ground began to rumble; the walls began to shake. They could see the explosions occurring outside as they hit the protective barrier, not able to penetrate through them. Dozens of gigantic ships came crashing down from the sky, destroying everything in its path. It was time.

"It's too late," Vision grunted, trying to get off the table." We need to destroy the stone now."

"Vision, get your ass back on the table," Natasha demanded, making her way to him.

"We will hold them off," T'Challa nodded, before barking orders to his guard.

"Wanda, as soon as that stone is out, you blow it to hell," Steve said, earning a nod from her. "Everyone else with me."

"I will," She whispered as she gave his hand a quick squeeze, "Watch his back out there, will you?"

"I always do." He didn't need to ask who, he already knew.

"Evacuate the city. Engage all defenses," T'Challa stopped by the doorway and turned to Steve. "And give this man a shield."

Steve nodded back before letting his gaze fall back onto the battlefield, the nerves that filled up his body. He felt another body nuzzle against his side, and he couldn't help the smile that played on his lips. Even when times weren't the brightest, she always found a way to make him smile. He turned fully to her and wrapped his arms securely around her waist.

Her eyes looked up at him as she cupped her husband's face in her hands. "I don't want you out there to be a hero, Steve."

"It's our job, Nat. Someone has to be."

"Not you," She shook her head, pressing her forehead against his. "Not you."

"Romanoff..."

She places her head onto his chest, hugging him a lot tighter, "Nothing else matters anymore. I refuse to lose you when we have so much to look forward to."

"I'm right here, Nat. I'm right here." Steve buried his face in the crook of her neck, pulling her closer to him. "It'll be hell to pay if I die before you get the chance to kill me."

Surprisingly, a laugh escaped her lips, and Steve couldn't help the smile that reached his, "Damn straight."

Steve pulled back to see her smiling at him. He moved his hand to her forehead to brush a strand of hair from her eyes," "This is how I'll remember you. Smiling, laughing." He kissed the corner of her lips. "My beautiful wife. The love of my life, Natasha Rogers."

"Steve..." she breathed, holding her husband close. "I want more time. We didn't have enough time."

"We will, Nat," Steve pressed his forehead against hers once more. "We will have all the time in the world. I swear this to you."

Steve's eyes focused on her belly, knowing that a child was growing inside the woman he was desperately in love with. He couldn't even comprehend the emotion that overwhelmed him when he found out. It was something he never thought of growing up. Steve never wanted a child; it wasn't in him to do so. But now, knowing there was a child apart of him and her, he couldn't help but feel just a bit excited about what was to come. It only made him want to fight even harder for what was his. His family, his love, his heart.

His hand hovered over her barely-there belly and sighed deeply, "I hope it's a girl..."

Her breathing hitched slightly as she moved her hands to ghost over his, "I hope it's a boy," Natasha closed her eyes and pulled him impossibly closer. "I don't want to die, Steve. I don't want our child to die..."

"We won't." A tear slid down her cheek, and he kissed her crown, soothing her as best as he could. "We're strong. We can get through this."

"Just come back to me." She whispered. "I can't do this without you by my side."

"I'll be with you, Natasha Rogers. Always."

She hummed contently, laying her head on his shoulder, "Good."

And for now, that was enough. Having her husband, the father of her unborn child by her side, it was enough. She just only hoped it was enough for him to come back home to her.


Natasha watched Steve with worried eyes as he watched the mysterious creatures run into battle. The chaos had emerged, and the battle had begun. The sight was horrific, even from a distance. The moment they collided with the barrier, it was an immediate bloodbath. He watched as the hands of those monsters were dissembling from their own bodies. Steve watched the fight with anger, an emotion she rarely saw on her husband.

"Steve..."

He turned to her and stared into her eyes, filled with the same intensity. He could feel himself slip from her, and that was the last thing he wanted, to be distant from the woman he loved. The fire that was beginning to ignite within him begins to smolder as he gripped Natasha's gloved hand. She gave him a soft smile before turning her eyes back to the scene of the war.

War... more like a massacre.

"It's not looking good out there," Steve confessed, watching the fire begin to disappear into the night. They were losing more soldiers by the second. Natasha's hand moved to hover over her belly, and the fear started to emerge once again — her child. Her innocent little child that was growing inside of her was in danger. And that terrified her beyond reason.

Steve followed her movements and laid a hand over hers, "But it's not over yet."

Natasha looked back at him and studied him for a long moment, wondering where else was she going to get a view like this again. The wind was blowing past his hair, making his brooding look exceptionally attractive. She didn't know what was to come next, but she knew that she would always be grateful to Steve for coming into her life. He was everything she needed and right when she needed it. She loved him, truly loved him. It was beyond anything she's felt for any man.

She fully turned to face him, her hands caressing his cheek. Steve leaned his forehead against hers and held her impossibly close, sneaking a few kisses while they could. They both knew that they were close to the end. That this could be the last time he holds her like this. He would cherish it until his dying breath.

"Steve..." She breathed, and he immediately shushed her.

"I love you," He assured her. "And I'll come back to you. I swear it."

She leaned up and kissed him thoroughly, wrapping her arms around his neck. It was a kiss that solidified their love, their will to always come back to each other. Natasha pulled back and looked at her husband as if it were the last time she would see him.

"You better."


The battle dreaded on through the day. The field scattered with bodies. It was like looking at a horror film with all the blood and disassembled body parts. The smell of smoke was evident, no matter where you stepped. Natasha didn't want to admit it, but she was starting to feel afraid for what was about to come. She could feel that this battle was far from over, even with the leaders of the operation taken out. Natasha knew what this war meant. She knew what it would mean if they failed. They wouldn't just lose the stone; they would lose everything. And to Natasha, everything was too much to lose. To work this hard for what she wanted for so long, to fall in love, and to bear a child she never thought she could have, only to lose it all in an instant. She couldn't accept that. She would fight for as long as she could, whatever it took.

The sound of Vision wincing in pain interrupted Natasha's thoughts. Wanda was by his side with Bucky watching vigilantly.

"What is it, what's the matter?" Wanda bent down to face the broken man before her. His eyes met hers, filled with fear and certainty. And his next words brought fear into her heart.

"He's here."

Suddenly, it was like a shift in the air. It was as if the wind was whispering something to them. Something was definitely wrong.

"Everyone, on my position, we have incoming," Steve said into the coms. Natasha shifted closer to him, letting her arms brush against his. "Stay close to me, Nat."

"What the hell..." She whispered.

And then, out of thin air was the second-largest being Natasha hade ever seen. She could tell, she could feel that it was Thanos. He stood tall and bold, a gold gauntlet on his left fist with the stones brightening up on the inside of it. His eyes were stuck on Vision, preparing to take the necessary steps to get what he desired. He had sacrificed so much, came too far to settle for anything less.

"Cap," Bruce nudged his head towards Thanos, "that's him."

Steve turned to Nat, and he laid a soft kiss on her forehead. Natasha sighed at the feel of his lips, clutching onto his gloved hand. This was it; it was time. He looked at Bucky and Sam for a moment before giving them a curt nod, letting them know that it was time.

"Eyes up. Stay sharp."

And just like that, the spell was broken. Steve turned from Natasha and ran straight into the fire, leaving her behind. Without hesitation, the others followed suit and begin their assault on the invader.

Wanda took a protective step in front of Vision, but he instantly stops her, "Wanda..."

She didn't look at him; she couldn't dare do it. She knew what had to be done in order for the universe to be safe, and even though there was a lot of water under their bridges, she didn't want to end his life. Nobody deserved to die like this.

"It's time," He whispers.

Wanda takes a deep breath, nodding her head, "I know, I just... I wanted to give you a chance, you know?"

Vision smiled softly at her back, "I'm grateful for the time I've spent on Earth, that I was able to meet you," His eyes lingered on Bucky for a moment before turning back to her, "He will make you happy, Wanda. Happier than I ever could."

Wanda finally turned around and faced him. Her eyes were filled with tears that threatened to spill over. She didn't expect this to be so hard. Her eyes closed once more before she held her hand up, feeling the familiar burn rise within her. "Goodbye, Vision. I'll never forget you."

And she began to muster all of her strength to destroy the Mind Stone.

The chaos surrounded them, nearly suffocating them. Natasha watched the battle continues as she was under some form of trap. She looked up and saw Steve, fighting Thanos with everything he had. And the fear crept up to her again, like a virus that wouldn't go away. She knew that there was so much even Steve could do, and she was afraid for his life. He had his hands gripped around the gauntlet, and her heart stopped. At that moment, just a second, she thought she would lose him right then and there. Instead, Thanos launched his gigantic fist across his face, rendering Steve unconscious on the floor.

Wanda watched Vision slowly crumble apart, hearing him whisper sweet nothings to her. She felt Thanos breathing down her neck before she extended her other arm towards Thanos to keep him at bay.

"Goodbye, Wanda."

And then she saw a flash of white before she was swept off her feet. She didn't dare look at the damage she caused. She just kept her eyes closed and let the smallest hint of relief wash over her for a moment. For as long as it would last. She flinched harshly when she felt a large hand caress her head.

"You're a powerful one, my child," Thanos said. "Very powerful indeed."

She looked up at him and bared her teeth at him, "And you're a monster."

"Perhaps," Thanos walked towards where Vision last stood and held his gauntlet out. "But you'll all thank me once this is over."

And before Wanda could blink, Vision was right there before her eyes once more as a green aura blinded her sight.

"No!" she yelled. Before she could move a muscle, Thanos swatted her away as if she weighed nothing. With his goal in sight, he threw the android to the ground and slowly, carefully, placed the last stone into his gauntlet. And then, a flash of lightning came crashing down from the sky, stunning Thanos for mere seconds. Thanos' eyes widened in shock as he sent the most powerful blast towards the source. Thor roared in anger before threw Stormbreaker towards him at full speed, lodging it straight into his chest. Thor landed on his feet as Thanos fell onto his knees, blood pouring from the open wound.

"I told you that you would die for that," Thor growled as he gripped the back of Thanos' large head and pushed his axe deeper. Thanos yelled in pain and anguish, the pain sending a burning sensation through him.

"You...you should have..." Thanos placed his hands on Thor's chest before their eyes locked. "You should have gone for the head."

Steve's heart stopped at the sound of Thor's scream, blood going cold, "Where'd he go? Thor?" He looked around for a moment before his gaze landed back on him. Where'd he go?"

And it was when everything began to change for the worse.

"Steve?" Steve turned his head to the right and saw Bucky, crumbling into dust before his very eyes. Wanda stood up and walked slowly to where he stood, his gun laying in his place.

"James..." She whispered, her lips quivering. She dug her hands into the ashes and let them slip through her fingers. "James?"

Steve couldn't find the words to express how he was feeling. He could only look at the ashes with a broken heart, knowing that he was somehow gone. He looked around and saw more ashes fill the air, and instantly, he could hear his heart thumping in his chest.

"Steve..."

"Wanda," Steve wrapped his arms around her while trying to pull her up. She went limp in his arms, losing the will to keep going. "Stay with me, Wanda." And then just like that, she was gone as well.

"Dammit, shit," Steve ran a frustrated hand through his hair as he listened to the desperate cries of sorrow and pain. And then, in an instant, his mind went to Natasha.

"Steve!" He heard her yell for him.

"Nat!" He yelled back, running away from Thor. "Nat!"

His eyes glazed over, and he felt a swell of relief when he saw Natasha still breathing. As her for him. It had brought them to hope where they thought there had been none. She needed to touch him, hold him before her heart would believe what her eyes were telling her His eyes met hers. He didn't say a word. He didn't need to. His heart was in his eyes.

She ran to him, heedless of her injuries. Nothing mattered except being in his arms. She ran and practically lept into his arms, and he held her tightly but carefully. They dropped to their knees as Natasha buried her face into the crook of his neck. He leaned in a seating position while his back rested on a tree.

"I thought I'd lost you," Natasha whispered against his skin.

He stroked her hair, and she felt his lips lightly brush the crown of her head. "I'm alright as long as you're safe. The baby..."

"As far as I can tell, we're both alright."

Their eyes met, and Nata melted. He looked so broken, so defeated. She never wanted to see him like that. She reached up and touched his face, wiping the dried blood from the corner of his mouth with her thumb.

"Sam?" Natasha shook her head, and Steve closed his eyes tightly, letting out a deep breath.

"Wanda?" When Steve didn't answer her, she let out a soft sob, pulling him closer. "Is this the end? Are we next?"

His eyes looked over her shoulder as he continued to hold her, eyes lingering on Vision's lifeless body. He couldn't answer that for her, he could only wait for what was to come, and that was honestly more frightening than anything in the world—not knowing. But he had her now, and he would hold her until he died in her arms. And he would be in heaven if that was the case.

They had lost, and everything they had built over the last two years was beginning to crumble within seconds.

"Oh, God," Steve closed his eyes and buried his nose into Natasha's hair, holding her as she cried for the lost of their fallen friends and the universe.

Chapter Text

Steve stood under the water of the shower for another ten minutes and let out a deep breath of relaxation. He kept taking deep breaths to keep himself from breaking down. He could feel it coming towards him, the emotions he's been trying so hard to bottle up for the past three weeks. It was all he could think about, the image of his friends turning into ashes forever burned in his mind. He remembered when Bucky called his name before he disappeared from his life. He remembered holding Wanda in his arms before she faded into nothing. He remembered every beating, every scar, every bruise he got from that fight, and he would never forget that they lost. He wanted to forget, he tried to let it go, but how could he? Half the universe was dead, his friends and family were gone. How can you just forget something like that?

"Could be better. I could be dead by now, but we'll see. The day's just getting started."

Bucky's words were ringing in his head, and he winced in pain at the headache. Steve clenched his fists tightly and then shut off the water. He got out of the shower and wrapped a towel around my waist, heading to the fogged-up mirror. Once he wiped all the condensation off, he could see his reflection. He couldn't tell who he was looking at in the mirror, but he was a different man he was a few weeks ago. A man he didn't recognize he was becoming.

Behind him, he could see Natasha standing in the reflection with a small smile on her face.

"Hey," she whispered to him. He didn't say a word to her. He just gave her a small smile and got his shaving stuff out and filled the sink with warm water. She came up behind him and pressed a kiss to his naked back.

"Couldn't sleep either?" She asked him. He shook his head and smeared shaving cream on his face, testing the warmth of the water. She watched him in the mirror as he made the first swipe down the side of his face. He continued to cleanly shave his face with Natasha watching for a couple of minutes before she finally offered to finish the rest. He gave her a small nod as he handed her the razor. Steve leaned against the marble counter so Natasha could get a better look at him. He relaxed under her soft touch as she made the razor glide over his skin without feeling.

"Another nightmare?" she asked and continued with her light mechanically movements.

"Same one."

"Did anything new happen?"

"Not that I can recall."

"I can see it's taken a toll on you, Rogers," she said with a small hint of worry in her tone.

"Nothing I can't handle."

"Nothing I can't handle, either."

Steve opened his eyes to the feeling of a warm washcloth running over his face. He looked in the mirror and smiled softly at his wife's work, "Not bad, Nat."

"I know."

She smiled back, making him turn around and pull her in his arms. Natasha admired Steve's commitment to showing strength she did. But, she knew he was barely holding it together inside. Natasha wanted so badly for her husband to lean on her, to let her comfort him. She never thought of him as weak. Steve was the strongest person she knew. But, nothing she said would convince him of that. It would take a lot of groundwork. Three weeks ago, they had failed, they failed everyone they loved, and they lost the universe. And she knew it hit no one harder than the way it hit Steve. He felt the weight on his shoulders intensify, and he thought he deserved that pain and humiliation. But Natasha didn't think so, and she was always there to pick him back him up when he fell.

Natasha lifted his head to face her and looked into his eyes. His blue eyes bored into hers, and she found what she was looking for; a sign. A sign of her husband being alive still, the foundation of their love for each other, the burning desire that would never fade away.

"I've missed this face, you know?" She whispered. Despite himself, the corner of his lips lifted slightly. Without hesitation, Natasha slowly wraps an arm around his neck and pulls him closer before latching her lips to his.

"Nat..." Steve sighed in a warning tone. She leans forward and kisses his cheek, attaching her hands into his hair.

"We need this," She feels his hands creep up her thighs, making them burn in anticipation. "We deserve to let go for tonight."

He sighed again as her lips descended on his exposed chest.

"Just let go."

Steve grunted again, his lips trailing down her cheek until they reached her neck again. His hands gripped her thighs tightly as he pulled her up on the marble counter, letting her straddle his hips. He sighed in content when he felt her skin against his, her breasts pressed against his chest. It was then he decided just to let go for tonight. He leaned down and kissed her with more fervor while still being gentle.

She exhaled laboriously as Steve grabbed the hem of her white tank and pulled it over her head, her small grey shorts following quickly. His fingers brushed against the new scar on her collarbone, a reminder that he failed her as well. But she was here, alive. That was enough. It was more than enough.

It was everything.

Unconsciously or consciously—not sure which—Steve carried Natasha to their quarters and set her on the wooden table nearby, setting her down roughly. Natasha gasped at the sensation, the coolness of the table on her bare skin, making her shiver. This was going be rough, a crave that they've been holding back for a long time. And she wouldn't have it any other way.

He then gripped her smooth legs and held them tightly. Natasha's nails dug into his shoulders so hard that they began to feel numb. Steve could feel her anxiousness; she was coming undone in his grasp and was more than ready for him. He placed one of his hands over hers while the other rested on her smooth legs. Natasha didn't have any time to recover before he was entirely inside of her. Natasha moaned unashamedly.

His kisses were wild, biting and desperate, firm, almost dominating. He kissed her like it was the first time like it was the last time. His kisses tasted of love and desire, ecstasy, and despair. Everything he had ever felt for her, everything he ever would feel for her, was there in the way his lips caressed hers and the way he rocked inside of her. But there was something else she couldn't put her finger on; the animalistic raw tension between them. Like he couldn't get enough of her, as if she was the only thing attaching him to reality.

He was taking her to places, to heights of passion they'd never reached before. Natasha's fingers scratched and clawed down Steve's back, nibbling on his lip as well. His thrusts began to get faster, rougher. Her hands tangled in his hair while he roamed her body with his, squeezing, kneading, and digging into her flesh. Natasha gasped in pleasure as she focused on every kiss, every caress, on the rising crest of pleasure building in her gut, getting ready to explode through her veins. She closed her eyes, getting lost in a primal rhythm. He was crazed, unable to hold the animal within at bay. His pace increased, his breathing ragged. She writhed beneath him, caught up somewhere between tears and cries of pure joy and ecstasy.

"Steve..."

Natasha moaned loudly once more as the table hit the wall and started to creak.

Steve placed a firm grip on her ankles as he continued his pace. He knew her body like he knew the back of his hands. They were always in sync. It took a few more rough thrusts before Natasha quivered her release, Steve following after.

His forehead rested on hers as he tried to catch his breath, "Did I hurt you?"

She shook her head. "No, that was...perfect."

He nodded his head against hers and pulled away from her when he heard their phones vibrate simultaneously. They both knew what that meant. It was time to go back to work. To make everything right.

"Thanks, Nat."

She leaned up and kissed his forehead, "Anytime."


It had been nearly two years since Steve had seen Tony, and he was honestly glad to see that he was still alive. But not like this. Tony didn't even look the same. His eyes were sunken in, and he looked as if he'd aged maybe ten years. His eyes looked lifeless, and he had lost a considerable amount of weight. It broke his heart to see his friend this way. He wanted to help him more than anything. But he knew that it was easier said than done. Natasha noticed Steve's distress and held his hand, giving it a tight squeeze.

"Where is he now?" Tony asked grimly with his face in his hands.

"We don't know," Steve replied, his jaw clenching with anger and disappointment. "He just opened a portal and walked through."

Tony sighed as he turned to Thor, who was sitting in the room in the back with Carol Danvers beside him. Ever since the events in Wakanda twenty-three days ago, Thor kept to himself. He didn't want to be around him at the moment, maybe not at all. He did share a few moments with Danvers, though. There was something about her that made him top his guard. That made him forget about the world, even for a second. He couldn't explain it, but he was indeed grateful for her.

"What's wrong with him?" Tony pointed at Thor.

"Oh, he's pissed," Rocket answered from across the room. "He thinks he failed... which of course he did, but there is a lot of that going around, ain't there?"

Tony looked down at him for a moment and blinked a few times to make sure he wasn't hallucinating, "What the hell am I looking at right now?"

"We've been hunting Thanos for three weeks now," Steve injected. "Deep space scans...and satellites, and we got nothing." After a moment, he stated, "Tony, you fought him-"

Tony's head whipped towards him as he narrowed his eyes at him, "Who told you that?" He shook his head repeatedly."No, I didn't fight him. No, he wiped my face with a planet while the Bleecker Street Magician gave away the store. There was no fight cause he's not beatable."

"Okay," Steve sighed while nodding, being patient with Tony. He knew that it was precisely a delicate subject to speak on, but he needed answers. "Did he give you any clues, any coordinates, anything?"

"And why the hell would he do that for my benefit?"

"Tony..."

"You know, I saw this coming a few years back-" Tony sighed, leaning back in his wheelchair. "I had a vision, though I didn't want to believe it. It was all like some awful dream, you know?"

Steve separated himself from Natasha and moved towards him. "Tony, I'm gonna need you to focus-"

"And I needed you," Tony snapped at him. "I needed you to keep this team together to keep our family close. You remember us right before you ran off with your one-armed war buddy? I needed you to save the world so that kind of trumps what you need now."

"That's not fair, Tony," Natasha sighed, defending Steve. Steve had already made peace with his decision to protect Bucky, and still, he wishes there some things that he could do differently. But everything happens for a reason. And there was no going back now.

"Oh, isn't it? You know what I need," Tony fired back as he flipped over the bowl that was on the round table. Rhodey immediately tried to sit him down. "I need a shave. And I remember telling all youse... alive and otherwise, that what we needed was a suit of armor around the world. Remember that? Whether that impacted our precious freedoms or not. That's what we needed."

"Well, that didn't work out, did it?" Steve pointed out, feeling Natasha close behind him.

"I'd said we lose. You said, 'We'll do that together, too.' And guess what, Cap? We lost. And you weren't there," Tony wiped his nose, slowly losing his footing. Rhodey held him in his arms to keep him on his feet. "But that's what we do, right? Our best work after the fact. We're the 'Avengers'? We're the 'Avengers,' not the 'Pre-vengers,' right?"

"Okay, you've made your point Tony, just sit down, okay?" Rhodes begged.

"No, no, no…" Tony broke free from Rhodes' arms and staggered towards Steve. Natasha stepped in front of him halfway, placing her hand on his chest. Tony looked between the two of them for a second, before a flash of recognition washed over his face. He just laughed it off and shook his head, his eyes glued to their matching accessories. Instead of speaking about it, he stuck to matter at hand. "I've got nothing for you, Cap. I've got no coordinates, no clues, no strategies, no options. Zero. Zip. Nada. No trust, liar."

Steve's face softened at the blow behind his words. He knew that he had no one to blame but himself for the team's departure. He did what he thought was right, and he betrayed the people that were closest to him. In the back of his mind, he always knew it would end this way. But he wasn't prepared for the feeling that he was experiencing at that moment. Tony, trying to compose himself, finally took a moment to catch his breath. Without another word, Tony ripped off his arc reactor and slammed it onto the table before walking to his chair. Rhodey took it as a sign to get him out there.

As Tony wheeled by them, he mumbled under his breath, "Congratulations, Mrs. Rogers."

Natasha gave him a look between being defensive and sympathetic as Steve walked to her and held her close. He kissed the side of her head. They watched as he was wheeled to the back room, leaving the room in silence. They didn't know how this would end; they didn't know if this would be the last time they would all be in each other's presence again. But whatever happened next, they would all find a way to move past this.


"Steve?" Steve jumped, startled by Natasha's voice, having nearly forgotten she was there for all of his fear. His eyes never averted from the small picture that was in his hands. It showed an image of Wanda and Bucky in Wakanda, a few days before his cryo-sleep stasis. She had a broad smile playing on her lips as Bucky laid a soft kiss on her forehead. They looked so happy and so content with each other's company. So perfect. If only it could've lasted forever. They deserved more time then what was given to them.

Steve let out a deep breath through his nose, trying to let go of the tension that was evident in him, "I'm fine."

She stooped down to his level, her green eyes boring into his own. Her warm hands caressed the sides of his face; her thumb brushed gently across his cheek. Steve met her gaze, unable to look away. He was utterly in love with this woman in front of him. Throughout this entire ordeal, between her carrying his child and the world coming to an end, she was his light in the darkness. Without her, he would've been completely lost.

"I remember that picture, you know?" Her fingers traced the back of his. "Wanda couldn't stop smiling on for an entire month."

"They didn't get enough time," Steve said firmly.

"I know, but we'll make sure that they do."

"I miss them..."

"I know," Natasha whispered as she pulled Steve towards her and held him firmly, so close that he could hear the reassuring beat of her heart against his chest. He gave himself up to her embrace, though he knew it wouldn't last; it couldn't last. She kissed him desperately and thoroughly, leaving him breathless and lightheaded. Fierce determination flared in her eyes. "But we'll make it right, for our child, For everyone. You know that, right?"

It felt like a loaded question. His gut told him that once they left this planet, nothing would be the same again. He was sure of it. He was terrified of what was to come. But there wasn't much he could do about that. He knew that whatever was to come next, they would face it together as always. With that in mind, Steve nodded curtly and followed Nat on the quinjet.

Bruce watched the scene from behind with sad eyes. All this time, he had seen Natasha and Steve together, he never indeed saw them. It was always too hard to see them together, loving each other when he was so dead inside and so alone. He would see them as individuals. He would look at Steve with envy and disdain. And he would look at Natasha longingly, missing the love and attention he had thrown away so recklessly. But, even after all that time, he never looked at them as a couple. A married couple. A family. He did so now.

He had to.

He closed his eyes, sighing in defeat. The truth was evident to anyone with enough sense to see. They were made for each other.

Bruce had been holding onto a dream, to a moment in time when his life, for once, had meaning. But Natasha couldn't be that for him. She alone couldn't provide a sense of his entire existence. He tried to get her back, keep her in that box. He tried to carve out that moment in time and live it forever. Had he succeeded, they would've grown stagnant, stunted. He would've dimmed the life in those beautiful green eyes. He knew that. He must have known all along. And that's why he left her. She needed to live and be happy. She was with Steve.

The usually spotless, minimalist jet was bursting at the seams with people. The majority of the team was present. They occupied one side of the plane, while another party was occupied with the others. The scene would have almost looked comical if it weren't for the dire circumstances in which they found ourselves. Thor sat on the far side of the jet, his body sprawled in the definition of relaxation. Carol sat beside him as they shared an intimate look. They pulled back immediately and smiled at Steve and Natasha as they entered, looking carefree. Only the fire in their eyes belied their true feelings. They were ready for a fight. It was most of the team, restless and agitated. And rightfully so. They've never faced a threat like this in their lives, and their strengths were being tested at this moment.

The air was stifling, and Steve was finding it hard to breathe. He felt the familiar headache come back once more. But Natasha h his hand comfort, reminding him yet again that no matter what happened, they would go through it together. He sighed in relief and walked towards the jet before sitting down in the back seat.

Thor moved from Carol's side, and walked to Steve, patting him on the shoulder.

"Come, my friend. There's something I need from you."

Steve's brow furrowed in confusion, but he followed him to the back room. Thor made his to the corner of the room and leaned against the wall, his gaze lingering on the large axe in the middle of the floor.

"What's going on, Thor?"

He gave Steve a blank stare before he pointed to Stormbreaker, "Call out to it."

Steve's eyes narrowed at him, "I'm sorry?"

"The axe, call out to it."

"What is this, Thor?" Steve sighed, losing his patience.

His eyes uncontrollably shifted to Thor's axe as it sat there in the ground. He thought that Thor was losing his mind. Even then, he knew he couldn't wield the hammer. It was all fun and games. But now...there was feeling he couldn't explain. Just by looking at it, he could feel a surge of energy pulsing through his fingertips.

Suddenly, a rough voice whispered in his ear, "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he is worthy, shall possess the power of Thor."

"Thor..."

"Call for it," Thor nodded curtly.

Not really given a choice, Steve closed his eyes and reached his hand out, waiting for the hammer to be in his grasp. It slowly moved off the ground within his command, and the feeling grew more intense than before. Finally, it was in his hands, filling him with some energy that he couldn't even begin to comprehend.

You are worthy.

Steve felt the weight of the weapon grow heavier but lighter than he expected. He couldn't believe what he was seeing, what he was doing. He was wielding the greatest weapon in the universe, a weapon designed for a king. He was deemed worthy in the eyes of Odin, but he didn't feel worthy of anything. How could he? He felt like a failure, letting the universe crumble into ashes within' minutes. He failed to stop the maniac from inflicting chaos, and he was going to live with that for the rest of his life.

"You should've gone for the head..."

Instantly, Steve dropped the weapon and let it fall to the ground. His hands went to his head and let the headache pass by. He had had them ever since the battle in Wakanda, and they haven't gone away since. Thor walked to his side and lifted Stormbreaker off the ground, leaning back against the wall nearby.

"What the hell is going on?" Steve breathed, still clutching onto his head.

Thor walked up to his side, and let his hand touch Steve's shoulder, "Your body's adjusting to these changes. You're now a warrior of Asgard, Rogers. Your potential is unlike anything I've ever seen."

"I don't understand..."

"In time, you will, my friend. I promise."

"Everybody accounted for?" Rocket yelled from the pilot's seat.

Thor grunted and gave Steve a curt nod, "We'll talk more when this is over."

Steve gave him a curt nod back before watching him take a seat. He tried to shake off the uneasiness that was in his body, but he couldn't. He didn't know what it was, but he felt different. Stronger even. He didn't know what was going on, but he was going to see it through. It wasn't like he had a choice in the matter anyway. After settling back down next to Natasha and a few helpful tips from Rocket about the effects of space, they were off in a flash. Steve could barely catch a glimpse of anything outside the front glass, but it was mesmerizing, like nothing he had ever seen before.

Hopefully, it wouldn't be the last time he'd see something beautiful like this.

"I'll do a quick recon." Carol gave them a curt nod before quickly exiting the ship and zooming straight to the planet. Carol was...different. Steve had never met a more powerful being in his life besides Thor. She and Fury used to be great friends back in the '90s before she left for an important mission. And now she was back, ready to raise hell with the rest of them. There was a fierceness in her eyes though that he couldn't comprehend. He could only hope that it would be used to help them and not end up reckless.

Steve shivered slightly when he felt familiar hands wrap around his waist once again, "This is gonna work, Steve."

"And what if it doesn't?"

She moves in front of him to press her forehead against his, "It will. It has to."

He leaned back slightly to brush a strand of hair away from her face, "You know I love you, right?"

"You know that I love you too." Steve breathed in her scent and just held her for as long as he could. Just in case this was his last moment with her, this would be it. He placed a subtle hand on her belly and let it rest there for a moment, letting her fingers overlap his.

A blur flashed in their faces, "There's nobody else there, no signs of life or army. It's just him."

Nebula moved up and nodded her head slightly, "And that's more than enough."


The planet was beautiful. Exotic plants were exploited everywhere around them; even the air was oddly fresh. But something about this place was very eerie and dark, probably because of the person lurking around in it. Natasha wraps an arm around Steve's, walking down the paved as she took in their surroundings. She could hear the birds chirping as they flew to the giant trees beside them. An oasis could be seen past the small garden, and plants that grew from them looked fresh.

"So, you made it." A deep gruff voice said, making the group stop in place. "I have to admit; I'm surprised you didn't show up sooner."

They all stood vigilant as their eyes were fixed on the massive man sitting on the gigantic porch of the hut. The being who took everything from them and destroyed their lives was right in front of them. He looked like hell, the left side of his face burned. Still, he remained very calm through it all, as if he was prepared to meet his fate. "Funny how destiny works, isn't it?" He continued to stir the mysterious food in the giant pot. "No matter what you try to do, it all seems to come around in your time in need."

Before anyone could react, Thor angrily threw his axe at Thanos, burying it deep in his chest. He flew back into the small hut, grunting and riling in pain. The structures of the building began to crumble from the impact. Carol nodded curtly as they stalked closer to him. Thor took his axe back and buried it into the wooden floor. "You tell me everything we want to know, or I start hacking."

"Thor…"

"What's it going to be?" He asked.

"So ungrateful. After everything, I went through to set the universe right, and this is how you repay me." He had the nerve to chuckle.

"You've killed trillions!" Bruce yelled in frustration, shoving him to the ground, "And you think we should all be grateful for that."

Steve couldn't let his emotions out. He had to make himself hard and empty if he was going to face the battle ahead. He had no room for empathy. He had a job to do, and there was no place for compassion. He had to close off all the emotions that made him who he was. If they were going to succeed, he needed to be a hardened shell. He looked at his left hand and noticed that something was missing, "Where's the gauntlet?

"Gone, there was no use for it."

"What do you mean, no use for it?" Thor pressed.

Natasha's heart dropped when Thanos looked up and smiled, deviously, "I destroyed them."

Rage was within Steve, fighting to break out, wanting to make those words untrue. But, he locked it down deep inside. If he let it loose now, I'd never been able to rein myself in. And all hope would be lost.

"You're lying, where are they?"

He said nothing. "Where are they!?"

"They're destroyed, you see what it's done to me. I don't have them."

Steve could tell by the look in his eyes that he was telling the truth. If he could've cried, he'd be balling right about now.

"No..." Steve shook his head in denial, "You're lying to me!"

Nebula brushed past the crowd and knelt in front of him with a questionable look on her face, "My father is a lot of things, but a liar isn't one of them."

"Thank you, daughter," He said in a hushed tone, finally succumbing to his wounds, "Perhaps I have mistreated you unfairly."

And suddenly, it was like something had snapped inside of Steve. Something broke down. Without hesitation, he shoved Nebula out and kicked Thanos square in the face. His pent up fury had been unleashed. A wildness erupted from him that he thought could never be tamed. He punched, kicked, everything he could to make him feel any pain. Nebula and Carol were pulling him back while the rest watched on.

"You've taken everything from me! How dare you!"

"It's the way life goes," He shrugged carelessly, his words not affecting him at all. "Nothing lasts forever."

"Your logic is faulty. What gives you the right to play God?"

Natasha placed her hands in Steve's for comfort, as Thanos looked up with a grim smile on his face, "I am God."

Thor quickly swung his axe at his head, and it slid off smoothly. There was a sickening crunch and crack as his head detached itself from his body. Thanos' body limped to the side before it fell completely. The blood stained the wooden floors as it flowed down to the doorway.

"The Mad Titan has fallen," Thor stood over the body.

"What...what did you do?" Rocket gasped.

"What I didn't do last time." Thor walked away from Thanos' corpse, only to have Carol follow him out. "I went for the head."

Nebula fell to her knees as she stared at her father's cool head, "This is it; there's no hope now."

And Steve couldn't help but believe those words as he looked at the lifeless body of Thanos, leaving his mind and soul more broken than before.


Natasha bit her lip as she walked through the headquarters, letting her footsteps echo off the walls. Her heart thundered in her chest when she stood by their room. The doors to the garden were open, allowing the warm breeze to flow inside. It blew the drapes in a rhythmic motion that was oddly soothing. Steve was in one of the comfortable outdoor couches, the fire pit in front of him raging with the flames lapping at the night air. A bottle of whiskey was on the table near the sofa, more than half empty. He held a large glass in his hand and a solemn look on his face.

He didn't turn when Natasha's shoes clicked on the pavement, but she knew he heard her.

"Steve?" Natasha called to him softly. He didn't answer. "Steve, please…"

His face was stained with tears that had since dried, but it still hurt her like hell to see the red of his cheeks and the pure anger in his eyes. Seeing the man she loved more than anything in pain was one of the worst kinds of torture in the world. Steve, in any distress, was almost too much for her to bear. It reminded her of the first day after the war. He pushed her away even then. She hated it, and even more, she hated that once again, there was nothing she could do to stop his pain.

"May I sit?" Natasha asked, her voice tentative as if she was walking on glass.

"Of course," Steve cleared his throat, following by a sniffle.

Natasha kept to the far side of the couch, pushing herself away from Steve at all costs. She wanted to comfort him, wrap him in her arms, and tell him that everything was going to be alright. But no amount of words could make that true. It was apparent to both of them now that nothing was ever going to be okay again. Steve didn't raise his head to look at her, but all she wanted to see was his eyes. They would tell her how much pain she was in.

"You hungry?" Natasha suggested. "I can go in and make us some food."

Steve shook his head. "I'm fine, Nat. Thanks."

That was all she got. His tone wasn't clipped or angry. She expected more, something, anything. She needed him to let all of his emotions out.

"You can talk to me," Natasha whispered. "Let it all out. It's just you and me now."

"You know I don't wear my heart on my sleeves, Nat." He closed his eyes, breathing through his nose.

"That doesn't mean you can't feel anything, and you're not pushing me away. Not now."

He didn't say anything.

They sat for a while in silence before Steve spoke again, "What are we supposed to do now?" he asked quietly. "This was supposed to be our chance to make things right, and now we can't. So what do we do?"

"Whatever we can," Natasha inched closer to him, but still kept some distance between them. "But we have to stay strong, Rogers. They wouldn't want us to give up like this."

He let out an exasperated laugh. "I'm exhausted, Nat. I'm so tired."

"I know you are," She reached for his hand but pulled back at the last second, thinking twice about it.

"I just want to be able to live my life for once," He felt her body come closer. "I want us to have a house in the hills, a home we can grow old in. A home we could watch our child grow and thrive in. But I can't think about that because all of our friends are dead and I don't know what to do anymore."

"Steve," I got on my knees and placed my hands over hers."Some things are beyond our control."

"But, this wasn't."

Natasha's hands cupped his face as she pressed her forehead against his, "We're gonna get through this."

"How do you know this?" He sighed, clasping his hands over hers.

"Because we'll be together."

"You can't promise that. You don't know what could happen."

She kissed his cheek, "I can promise you this. No matter what, I'll be here for you. We'll find a way to get through this together."

Steve's eyes finally met hers, and he felt his heart swell with a feeling he couldn't describe. He didn't know how he had gotten so lucky to end up with such an incredible woman. Even in the face of death, she was always trying to find the good in things. It was something she had taught him, even though he was catching on a little slowly. She was strong, stronger than he could ever be. She was the only thing holding him together. So he would fight for her. Fight for their child's future and the happiness that was stolen from them. Whatever it takes.

He placed a hand on her belly and smiled weakly, "I love you, Natasha Rogers."

She overlapped his hand with hers and pressed her forehead back against his, "I love you more."

And at that moment, a new promise was made.

Chapter Text

Natasha woke with a start, her cramps suddenly too much to bear. She had felt them throughout the night but didn't think anything of them until now. Her abdomen hurt so much; she almost couldn't breathe. She became more and more coherent as the pain worsened. It was then liquid dripped down her leg, and she knew what was to come.

She threw her head against the headboard, "For fuck's sake..."

Sweat was matted to her head as she ripped the sheets off of her and took deep breaths. For months she had gone through the motions, the pregnancy sickness. She was feeling them all. She felt sticky and felt sick, and she didn't know what to do about it. This was different, different from all of the things she went through, and she knew what it meant.

The baby was coming.

"Jesus, what are you doing to me?" Natasha breathed in and out, feeling their active kicks pulse through her belly.

She hurried out of bed, moving inch by inch, trying not to jostle herself too much. On the outside, she was fine, but on the inside, she was terrified. She shuffled, slowly and deliberately, down the hall to the living room of the Avengers HQ. Steve was the first to notice her, and he immediately made her way to his wife in distress.

"What's wrong, Natasha?"

"The baby's coming," Natasha panted. "It's time."

"Okay, let's just stay calm and collected."

"I am calm."

"Good, that's good," Steve held her shoulders and smiled weakly at her. "Everything's going to be okay, and there's no need to cry, honey."

"I'm not crying."

"Yes, you are," Steve wiped the tears off her face. "Focus on your breathing."

Natasha nodded vigorously before she inhaled and exhaled in rhythm. Her second contraction hit just as quickly as the last but was a little more forceful this time.

"Oh," She huffed in pain, holding her stomach. "I don't think I can do this. "

"Yes, you can," Steve assured her, carrying her to the room back down the hall. He laid her gently on the bed and began to prepare it for the baby's arrival. They had been preparing for this moment for the past seven months, and they were handling it pretty well. Considering that most of the hospitals were heavily occupied, it was clear that most things were going to be done by themselves.

"How are you doing, Nat?" Steve asked her, rubbing her belly in a soothing motion.

"Great," Natasha said through gritted teeth.

"Hang in there. In a few moments, the baby will be here."

"If you say so," Natasha closed her eyes, breathing in and out. The contractions came more frequently and more painfully, causing Natasha to scream and yell in pain. She opened her eyes quickly when the last one hit, letting her know that the baby was prepared to come out.

"Alright, Nat. It's time."


"Wake up," Natasha groggily woke up, feeling Steve's hand smoothing the hair out of her sweaty face. His touch was soothing her. "There you are. You were amazing."

She could barely speak; her lower area was succumbing to the pain as the smell of blood wafted up to her nose. Her nightgown was soaked entirely with it, matting down to her alabaster skin. But she was content, her baby was here, and that's all that mattered.

"Show me," Natasha kept her eyes closed, trying to regain her strength back slowly. It was then Steve brought her daughter to her, who was wrapped in a soft blanket. Her eyes were closed as she yawned and waved a small pink fist in her face. She looked so much like her father, the way her nose was scrunched and her lips pursed. Natasha couldn't help but smile at her.

"Oh my god, you're so beautiful," She whispered in awe as she kissed her forehead, cradling her daughter to her sweaty chest. They were lost in their world as Natasha smiled down at her affectionately. Steve leaned down next to her and looked over her shoulder, smiling at her as well. He couldn't help but feel a swell of pride at the sight of his daughter. His shirt was covered in blood, and the room was filled with an odor that couldn't be tamed. But that didn't matter to him, their daughter was here and the moment couldn't get any better.

"She's perfect," Steve smiled, tears staining his cheek.

"Our beautiful little girl," Natasha brushed her blonde hair from her forehead, thinking for a second. "Sarah Rogers, our daughter.

Steve's smile grew wider at the sound of his mother's name being passed on to his little girl, "Beautiful she is...

Natasha leaned in close to Sarah's face, her lips brushing against her forehead once more. "Do you like it, my daughter? You'll have to live up to that name as your own. I expect great things from you."

She just yawned wildly, waving her hands over her mother's face. She smiled as her eyes opened and were the bluish-grey of all babies. She looked around the room in wonder and admiration.

"My little miracle..."

She had her little hand wrapped tightly around her mother's finger. She was so beautiful. Her skin was as smooth as butter, and she almost didn't want to touch her because she was so fragile. It was pale and kind of shriveled, like all newborns. She was moving around and making the sweetest sounds imaginable. She looked exactly like her mother.

"We love you, Sarah Rogers." She bent down and kissed her forehead. "More than you'll ever know."

Natasha sighed as she nuzzled her head against Sarah's, feeling peaceful in her for the first time in a long time. Steve surrounded his arms around them and held them close, reveling in the birth of their daughter.


5 YEARS LATER...
NEW YORK, 2023

"So, I, uh, went on a date the other day—first time in years. You know? I'm sitting there at dinner." The man shrugged his shoulders, losing his train of thought. "I didn't even know what to talk about."

"What did you talk about?" Steve asked encouragingly, his arms crossed.

"Eh, same old crap. You know, how things have changed. My job, his job. How much we miss the Mets," He nodded his head, words starting to turn into whispers. "And then things got quiet... then he cried as they were serving the salads."

"What about you?" a man asked from across him.

"I cried just before dessert. But I'm seeing him again tomorrow, so…"

Steve nodded, "That's great. You did the hardest part. You took the jump. You didn't know where you were gonna come down. And that's it. That's those brave little baby steps we gotta take... to try to become whole again, try and find purpose. I went into the ice in '45 and woke up seventy years later. And now... now my life has changed in a way I never expected. I have a wife, a beautiful daughter, and I'm a better man because of them. And even though we've lost, you gotta move on. The world is in our hands. It's left to us guys. We got to do something with it. Otherwise...Thanos should have killed all of us."

Steve had been apart of leading group therapy sessions. He remembered the day he saw Sam doing the same thing all those years ago, helping those in need. Giving hope to others when they thought that all was lost. For the first time in a long time, he had found a purpose in his life besides his family. And in some small way, it felt like Sam was apart of him in a way he never expected. He never wanted the feeling to go away.

As he was stacking up chairs, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket.

Even though I know you won't, don't forget to pick up Sarah. Thx - Nat.

Steve smiled at that and shoved his phone back in his pocket, continuing to stack the chairs in the dim. Suddenly, he felt a familiar pull shift through his body, and he felt a cold shiver down his spine. Instantly, he whips his head behind him, and there he stood, the nightmare that would never leave his mind. The cause of his despair and misery. He winced in pain as he felt his headache arrive. Steve's breathing hitch slightly at the sight of him, his heart rate increasing. He takes a few steps away from him.

"You're not real..." Steve shook his head, keeping his eyes closed. "You're...dead."

A wry smile hit his lips, "I am?"

"I watched Thor kill you with his own-"

His giant figure strolled closer to him, "Oh, you need not remind me. It was one of our finest moments together. But that was then, and this is now."

"What you do want from me?"

Thanos shook his head slightly, a rough chuckle brushing past his lips, "I was just checking on how everything has worked out. Remembering the time I spent trying to revive your dying planet."

"You're a murderer..."

"I saved you. Your beloved planet was dying. Slowly, painfully, silently. I stopped that from happening," Thanos dared took another forward, and Steve took one back. "Had I not spared you and saved your planet, so many things would be lost. I wouldn't remember everything turning into ashes, the sound of her voice pleading me to spare her friend, the screams of agony that followed, and the power and satisfaction I felt when I fulfilled my destiny. That which binds us together would have been no more, and how I would've loathed living in such a world."

Steve clutched his head tightly, feeling his presence grow more robust, "Hold onto that hatred you feel for me, Captain. It will only make you stronger, strong enough to protect the ones that are still here. You have to live for your wife, your daughter, your family."

At that moment, he felt nothing but anger and hatred. He was seething with rage, years of pent up aggression building up and boiling inside of him. Unconsciously, he grabbed a chair from beside him and lodged it towards him with all his might, "You bastard!"

And then he faded, the chair landing on the ground with a loud thud. There was an eerie silence in the air, nothing to be heard but the heavy breathing coming from Steve. He felt a trickle of sweat, his headache getting a little weaker by the moment. He didn't know how much of this he could take. It was clear to him that even with all the time that's passed, even with the good changes in his life, he could never escape Thanos.

And in some strange way, he didn't want to.


AVENGERS HQ

"How are things back at New Asgard?" Natasha asked Carol, watching as a smile crept over her holographic face.

"Strange, never in a million years did I think I would be the queen of a Norse mythological kingdom, let along get married to a thunder god." She shrugged her shoulders, giving Natasha a quick smile.

No one would've ever thought that Carol and Thor would get married to each other. When they first met, it was an instant connection that was too powerful to break. It was like they were made for each other, just waiting for their destinies to intertwine. New Asgard was flourishing in Norway, a kingdom unlike no other. Though half their people were slaughtered, they continued to prosper and move on with their lives. It was astonishing to watching Thor and Carol build their kingdom together. They were a force to be reckoned with.

"How are the kids?"

"Tiring, they sure know how to keep a woman on her toes. What about you?"

"We're hanging in there," Natasha chuckled.

She and Thor had two sons and a daughter now. Natasha could only imagine how powerful those kids are going to be considering who their parents were. It was great to see them make the best out of this situation. Not a lot of people can say the same. It was hard to.

"And Thor?"

Her lips moved to a thin line, and she ran a hand through her short blonde hair, "He's...ok. The same old Thor. Just a lot more distant these days."

"Distant, how?" Rocket asked.

"I can tell when something is on his mind. He smiles through the pain, but I can tell what's going on. He still thinks about it," Carol crossed her arms, a sigh escaping her lips. "Most days he's fine, but then some days, he puts up that wall. And I know all about that wall."

"It's hard not to." Rhodey said, "I feel for him."

"We'll be there for you, whatever you two need." Carol nodded curtly before Natasha went back to business. "So, status report. What's new?"

"Well," Rocket started, Nebula standing vigilant by his side. "We boarded that highly-suspect warship Danvers pinged."

"It was an infectious garbage scow." Nebula finished, her tone was slightly annoyed.

"So, thanks for the hot tip."

Carol just shrugged, "Well, you were closer."

"Yeah, and now we smell like garbage."

Natasha shook her head and moved onto Okoye, "And you?"

"Nothing major, just a few unsettled storms, couple of rebellions. Nothing we can't handle over here." Okoye stated, "I wish I could assist you, sister, but since the throne is vacant, I must protect my country."

"I understand completely. Carol, will we be seeing you here next month?"

"Not likely," Carol shook her head. "Thor and I have been helping vacate Nidavellir so that more weapons can be forged. It's been our main priority for months, so it'll be a while before you see us again."

"Well, this channel is always open. If anyone gets out of line, doing shit they're not supposed to, you call us."

Everybody nodded in approval and understanding before their holographs closed.

It was only eleven in the morning, and Natasha already felt like she had been through a full day of work. Papers were strewn across her large desk, and her computer screen flicked with documents of all kinds. Even so, it kept her busy in her free time. If she didn't have anything constructive to do, she would lose her mind. Natasha sighed and took a bite out of her sandwich before noticing that Rhodey was the last person there, "Need something, Rhodes?"

He crossed his arms and shook his head, "No, just checking to make sure you're okay."

"I'm fine; thank you." She smiled softly, nodding at him. "Where are you?"

"Mexico, the Federales found a room full of dead bodies. Bunch of cartel guys, never even had a chance to draw their weapons."

Natasha leaned back in my chair and shrugged, "It's probably a rival gang."

"You know it isn't Nat," Rhodey pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed, "Clint's out of control. What he's been doing for the last couple of years is insane. And the scene he left, I hate to say it, but a part of me hopes we don't find him."

Natasha couldn't respond to that. There was a small part of her too that didn't want to find Clint either. But she couldn't abandon him, not now when he was so lost out there, killing out of blind rage. Two years he had been doing this, slaughtering every crime organization out of vengeance. Though they weren't exactly innocent, it wasn't the right way to solve his problems. He needed her now more than ever, and she was going to find him. He would've done it for her.

"Will you find out where he's going next?" Natasha nodded, taking another bite out of her sandwich.

"Nat?"

"Please?"

He gave her a reluctant nod and left. And as soon as he left, the floodgates immediately opened for her.

What the hell are you doing, Clint?

"Мама!" A childlike voice exclaimed from the side of her. Immediately, Natasha wiped her face and turned around to see her daughter standing by the doorway with Steve by her side. Her pretty smile was infectious, and Natasha squatted down as Sarah ran into her arms. She lifted her with ease and gave her a tight squeeze.

"привет мой милый цветок," Natasha kissed her cheek, hints of barbecue sauce on the corner of her daughter's lips.

"She ate her barbecue in five minutes," Steve nodded, which made Natasha chuckle.

"Well, she's a growing girl. Always hungry." Natasha kissed her cheek again.

Her hair was a little longer than Natasha expected, curling in a unique way around her head. Her nose was small yet strong along with her cute little lips. They reminded her of Steve, but her eyes, her eyes were unique in their own way. She was the spitting image of Steve, though she could see a bit of herself in her. She counted herself blessed not only as a mother but as a mother to his child. There was no one else in the world that she would want this experience with.

"How was your day, hon?" Natasha asked, sitting back down on the chair with Sarah perched on her lap. She smiled as she watched her daughter scrape through her backpack to get out her crayons and coloring books.

She was definitely a daddy's girl.

"It was...eventful," Steve said slowly, remembering the breakdown he had after the meeting. "Everybody has their scars. Have to take it one step at a time. You ok?"

Natasha tried to crack a smile, but failed miserably, "Never better."

He knew that she was lying; he knew all of her tells by now. Seven years of marriage could do that to a man. He walked over to them and bent down in front of her, eyeing her intently. "You sure?"

"Mhmm," Natasha swallowed hard, avoiding his gaze.

Steve kissed Sarah on the forehead, "Sweetheart, why don't you go down the hall and look at some tv while I talk to mommy for a sec, ok?"

Natasha gave her another kiss as well for reassurance. Sarah gave an understanding nod before grabbing her things and giving her dad a quick peck on the lips, "Sure thing, Daddy."

Steve smiled weakly and tossed his keys on the table, before sitting in the chair beside her, "You know, I saw a pod of whales while we were coming over the bridge."

"In the Hudson?" Natasha asked amusingly.

"There's fewer ships, cleaner water," Steve added, his smile widening a little bit.

"Rogers, I love you. I do, but if you're about to tell me to look on the bright side," She lifted the plate beside her and set it down. "I'm about to hit you in the head with a peanut butter sandwich."

Steve chuckled at his wife's empty threat, "Promises, promises."

He grabbed her hands and placed them on his lap, eying her intently. They didn't say anything for a minute as they found themselves lost in each other's eyes, "You know how my life was, Steve. I had nothing. No family, no home, nothing." She smiled lightly when she felt Steve's hand land on her thigh in comfort, "But I found this job, this family...you. And I grew so much as a person because of it. I mean hell, I'm a mother now to a beautiful little girl." Her gaze went towards the room her daughter resided.

"And even though they're gone," Natasha shook her head, trying to hold back some more tears, "I'm still trying to be better."

Steve's hand reached for her as he slowly pulled her from her chair and onto his lap, "At least we have each other."

She nodded in agreement and gave him a warm smile, "At least we have each other." She wrapped her arms around him and laid her forehead against his. Even after all these years, Steve was still the essential thing in the world to her, alongside Sarah. After everything they had been through, there he was, remaining by her side through all of their heartaches and traumas so they can face them together.

He was still undoubtedly the love of her life.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" He trailed a finger down her jawline. She moved Steve's head up so that their lips could meet, and her arms encircled his neck, bringing him closer.

"So, I can do that."

"How generous." She kissed him again. Before their kiss could intensify, a constant ringing noise interrupted their moment.

"Later?" He asked.

"Definitely."

With her free hand, Natasha swiped the audio message only for the front gate camera to appear, "Oh, hey! Hi, is anyone home?" A familiar voice yelled excitingly.

Their gazes immediately averted to the holographic screen to be greeted with the tired face of Scott Lang. He waved his arms always at the security camera, obviously trying to get their attention. "This is Scott Lang, and we met a few years ago in Germany. And I got big, Ant-Man! I know you remember that, right?"

They disentangled themselves from each other's arms and stared at the screen in awe, "Is this a recorded message?"

"It's the front gate." Natasha gasped.


"You alright there, Scott?" Steve asked, crossing his arms.

"Yeah," He sighed before rubbing his eyes. He looks like he had been through hell. He was pacing back and forth as he mumbled under his breath. It had been seven years since they had seen him. Nothing much had changed about him, but it was still good to see him alive all the same. "Have any of you studied quantum physics?"

"Quantum, what?" Steve asked.

"Alright, so about two years ago, I was in this place called the Quantum Realm. It's a microscopic universe, and to get in, you have to be small. Hope...She's my... Hope was supposed to pull me out." His averted to his left hand, where a ring resided on his finger and smiled sadly. "And she never did."

"I'm sorry, must have been a rough couple of years."

"Except it wasn't," Scott shook his head, "For me, it was about a couple of hours."

"What do you mean by that?"

"I'm saying that the rules of the quantum realm aren't like the rules up here. Everything is unpredictable." His eyes quickly averted behind Steve and pointed to Natasha's half-eaten peanut butter sandwich. "Is that anyone's sandwich? I'm starving."

"Help yourself," Natasha moved out the way and watched him practically sprint to the plate.

"Okay, Scott, slow down, bud," Steve pressed, "What are you talking about?"

"So..." Scott grumbled as he took a bite, "I'm saying that time works differently in the Quantum Realm. Now, we can't navigate it... but what if we did?" Scott scrambled across the room with a look of wonder in his eyes, "I can't stop thinking about it, what if we can go back and reverse everything that happened?"

"Like a time machine?" Steve quirked a brow, chuckling a little.

"As crazy as that sounds, it is like a time machine."

Steve looked at Natasha, and for the first time in years, she saw a glint of hope in his eyes. Hope that she thought had died out a long time ago. She could feel it too,o and they both knew that despite everything, they had to try at least. They owed it to them. "We have to give it a shot."

"I agree." She walked towards him, stopping inches before they could touch. "It's too big of an opportunity to pass up."

"So, who do we talk to about this?"

Steve and Natasha shared a look, "Tony."


Natasha watched as Steve's fingers wrapped around the steering wheel tightly as he drove, watching the dirt road ahead of him.

"Hey, you alright there?" She asked him.

He managed to place a small smile on his lips, but she could tell it was forced, "Of course."

"Rogers..."

He sighed, finally giving in, "It's just..it's been a while, you know? We rarely speak."

She slipped her hands into his, "Tony loves you, Steve. I know things are still a little rough between you two, but I'm sure he'll be happy to see you."

"And what if he isn't?

"He will."

He turned his head from the road to give her a small smile, "Always the optimistic one."

"I try."

He lifted her hand and placed a soft kiss on it, "Have I ever told you that I love you, Mrs. Rogers?"

She smirked and returned the gesture, "I know."

Scott looked to his side and watched the young girl continue to draw in her sketchbook. He held a hand out to her in greeting, "Hey there, I'm Scott."

Sarah gave him a small smile and shook his hand, "My name is Sarah Rogers."

Scott looked up a little baffled, surprised that Natasha and Steve were even a thing, let alone have a child. Considering that they were on opposite sides of the 'Civil War,' it was interesting to see them come this far from that. But he was glad that they found happiness, nonetheless, and wished them the best.

"You're one lucky kid, Sarah."

"I know."

For the rest of the ride, Steve drove the Audi smoothly and steadily, letting his hands caress the steering wheel to calm his nerves. The twisted and gnarled wrought iron gates of their house were up ahead. Giant S' were warped into the metal on each side, loudly announcing who lived beyond the entrances, just in case you didn't know. The house was beautiful, isolated, and quiet. But what did you expect, it was the home of Tony Stark after all. Nothing more, nothing less. When they pulled to the front, Pepper was standing on the porch with a young girl perched on her hip.

"Well isn't this a pleasant surprise," She smiled at the sight of them. Steve opened the door for Sarah and let her run free, watching as she ran there at top speed. Morgan got down from her grasp and pulled Sarah into a tight hug. Steve was happy that Sarah and Morgan had developed a deep friendship, despite the tension between him and Tony. Those two were practically inseparable, and he enjoyed watching the two of them grow.

"Hey, Pep," Steve smiled before pulling her in a hip, crushing hug, "We've missed you."

"The feelings mutual." She chuckled before hugging Nat as well. "We were just about to have lunch, you guys like pot roast?"

"Very much," Scott breathed, practically drooling at just the thought of having some real food in his stomach.

"Well, come on in," Pepper held both of the little girl's hand as they walked back into the house. "Wipe off your shoes."

They all did as they were told before looking around. Scott closed the door behind them as he let out a low whistle, "You have a beautiful home, Mrs. Stark."

"Thank you, I try to keep it clean, but I live with two children." Pepper shook her head, "Tony, we have guests!"

The little girl was sizing Steve up, circling him before stopping with a curious look on her face, "How strong are you?"

Steve bent down to her height and tilted his head, "How strong do you think I am?"

"Sarah says you can lift a car, is that true? Can you lift one right now?" Morgan's eyes lit up at the thought. Sarah giggled as she hugged Morgan's side, holding her arms tightly.

Steve couldn't help the laugh that escaped his lips, "Another time perhaps."

"Morgan H. Stark, I thought I told you to..." They looked to the foyer and saw Tony standing by the long stairway.

He looked like he had seen a ghost, frozen in his spot, "Oh, it's you guys."

"Hey Tony," Steve greeted, standing up.

He shook himself back to life and nodded curtly, "Steve."

"Well, are you guys gonna just sit there, or are you gonna come to eat?" Pepper asked while putting the food on the table.

"Of course." Natasha smiled, grabbing Steve by the arm to wash their hands.

Tony sat at the head of the table. Steve sat to Natasha's right and Scott's left. There wasn't much talking while they ate. It was bizarre and awkward, but Natasha enjoyed it for some reason. Tony looked so uncomfortable, although he was good at hiding it.

"So Nat, Steve, how have you two been?" Pepper asked them, taking a sip of water. She watched Morgan and Sarah giggle from across the table, and the sight warmed her heart. "You two seem to be enjoying the family life as well. Thinking about having another?"

Natasha smiled softly, "We were thinking about getting a pet before having another child. But, when things are more settled, we'll see it through."

She smiled at the blush that crept up Steve's cheek. Though he had changed tremendously, he was still that innocent shy guy who thawed out of that ice eleven years ago. She entwined his fingers through hers under the table.

"This is delicious, by the way," Scott shrugged his shoulders, scarfing down some more pot roast.

"Thank you, Scott," Pepper's attention averted to Morgan, who was poking her food around with her fork, "Why aren't you eating, Bambina?"

"Not hungry."

"Oh come on, don't you want to be big and strong one day?"

"As long as I get a juice box in the end," she giggled, forcing a laugh out of her mother.

"можно мне немного воды ,отца?" Sarah spoke up, asking her father can she get some more water. Steve gave her a curt nod and handed her the glass of water, filling her small cup to the brim.

"You understood that?" Tony quirked his brow at Steve.

"I'm picking it up here and there," Steve and Tony gave each other a soft smile before Tony cleared his throat.

Tony put his fork down and wiped his mouth. "So, what did you four come here for? I know you're not here for a tea party."

"No, we're here to talk about something else." Steve pressed, nudging his head towards the front door, "Privately."

'This should be good," Tony muttered mostly to himself. He gave Morgan and Pepper a kiss on their foreheads before standing up, "I'll be back."


"We know how crazy this sounds, Tony." Steve started, "But I know you've heard crazier."

"You're right, Steve. This is crazy."

"The stones are in the past, Tony. We can go back and fix everything." Steve nodded adamantly.

"We can do this, Tony. We can make it right." Natasha added

"Or we can just make matters worse." He countered.

"I don't think we will," Steve crossed his arms.

Tony chuckled a little before patting Steve's shoulders, "I got to admit, I miss that gitty optimism of yours."

"However, high hopes won't help if there's no logical, tangible for me to execute said time heist safely," Tony informed them. "I believe the most likely outcome is our collective demise."

"Tony...we have to try," Natasha whispered. "We have to try for them so that our kids can have a brighter future ."

"We did try, and we failed, Nat, " he said. "We failed them."

"Look, I understand that you have a lot on the line here. You have a wife, a daughter. " Scott crossed his hands in front of him. "But we've all lost someone to this, and now we have a chance to bring them all back, and you won't..."

"That's right; I won't." Tony sighed. "I'm not losing anything else in my life."

They all jumped when they heard the front door swing open, only to have Morgan run through it to lunge in her father's embrace. Sarah followed suit, throwing her backpack over her shoulders. She walked over to her mother and hugged her legs, giving her a soft smile, "Mommy told me to come and save you."

"Thank you. I'm saved." Tony stood up with Morgan in his arms and pushed his chair away from the table. "I wished you guys had come for that tea party."

"Tony," Steve grabbed his arm softly, "I understand. And I'm happy for you, I really am. But this is our second chance."

"This is my second chance, Cap. I'm not blowing this one." Tony looked down at Sarah and smiled at her as well. "You shouldn't want to roll that dice either, Cap."

And then he walked back into the house without uttering another word. Steve sighed as he lifted Sarah in her arms, pressing his forehead against hers. He just held her tight, thinking about what to do next.


Natasha's eyes stared at the television as she let her head rest on Sarah's back, who was fast asleep on her father's chest. Steve did the same thing as well as he ran a hand up down Natasha's back. It was simple moments like this that made her all the more grateful. She used to think that she was a monster, a monster not worthy of anyone's love or pity. She thought she could never have a child and give them a life that she never had. And then came Steve, a man who loved her more than anything in the world and gave her a miracle child and an apartment in New York that was her home. To think that she could lose it all...

"Go on, say it," Steve sighed, running his free hand through Natasha's hair. "I know that something's bothering you."

"I want this to work, Steve. More than anything, but..."

"But?"

Natasha shrugged, looking up slightly to watch her daughter sleep. It was moments like this that she enjoyed. Alone time with her husband and child, watching her sleep, laughter-filled with joy, her toothless smiles. It was all precious to her, and she would do anything to keep it like this.

"It's risky like Tony said." Natasha took a deep breath and ran a hand through Sarah's hair, feeling Steve's hand rest on her back. "If I lose her... God, I don't know what I'd do."

"I know how you feel, believe me." Steve pulled back and stared at his daughter for a moment. She was the reason for their existence, the rain to their desert, the second love of their life. A life without her would be empty, and it was a life that they couldn't imagine.

"We were blessed with her, our little miracle baby," She smiled, reaching over her daughter to grab Steve's hand. She squeezed it tightly. "I'm thankful for this extraordinary life you've given me, Steve."

"And I'm thankful for you and our little girl," Steve said. "We'll find a way to get through this. I promise."

"I love you," Natasha whispered, her arms surrounding them.

"And I love you," Steve gave Sarah another kiss to the forehead and let his arms enclose his two girls tighter, hoping that they would find a way to put an end to these dark times.

Chapter Text

"Daddy!"

Steve could only hear the blood pulsing in a rush through his ears. The chaos around him was evident that his senses were obscured. Ships and other machinery have collided. Some are in flames, and others were disappearing in the thick black smoke. Soldiers are running for cover away from their position. Their hands clutch their weapons tightly. Some are dropping to the ground for protection. Many bleed from scraps and wounds. A soldier ducks down to the sand, looking terrified. Everyone seems terrified.

What is going on?

Steve looks around and notices the trees that hovered over him, burning ever so brightly. He then realizes where he is and what was happening. He was back in Wakanda, lying in the middle of the battlefield, watching as the fight rages on. His eyes were on the blood that curves around his forearm and down his arms, dripping on his lap. He knows he should feel pain, but he can't find a way to understand or process it. He's numb.

"Daddy..."

Steve hears her voice this time, forcing him to look up. The sight that beheld him broke his heart into a million pieces. It was Sarah, holding onto a giant leg for dear life as she cries. He knew who it belonged to, and that alone frightened him. His gaze trailed up, and he starts to shake uncontrollably. The skies rain with explosions, covering everything in black smoke and right in front of him was Thanos with his hand wrapped around his wife's throat, squeezing the life out of her.

"Na...Nat," He could barely make out his words.

"Steve," Her voice called through strangled breaths.

Thanos' gaze met his, and the grip he had grown tighter, "You're too weak to save anyone. Not even your family. Or yourself." Hie began squeezing the life out of her body, and her  eyes bulged immediately as she thrashed her arms around. Thanos just squeezed harder.

"Stop it, please!" Steve g aped at the sight as he scrambled to his feet.

Natasha's throat felt like a twig that he could snap at any moment. He would have loved to see her lifeless body on the ground, under his command. Thanos forced pressure into the pulse point of her skin and tried to pop it with strength.

"Beautiful woman you have here," Thanos whispered. "A shame that she has to die."

She tried to speak but couldn't.

"Take me," Steve fell back to his knees, begging for her mercy. "I'll do anything! Just let her go!"

Natasha had surpassed blue. She was now purple.

"I told you that I was inevitable," Thanos took a second to look at Steve before he heard a large snap. And a thud followed after. He didn't look; it would kill him to see her that way. To see the life in those beautiful green eyes fade away. He couldn't look at Sarah either, as she cowered behind Thanos' leg. She was gone. The love of his life was gone, and he did nothing to prevent it. "The world still needs me, and I will not end. Nor will I have you end."

He gives the little girl a soft touch on the top of her head, a sinister smile playing on his lips, "Not until I've made you suffer."

And then it all went black, more screams following after.

Steve woke with a start, just like he did every time he had a nightmare. Cold sweat poured down his back, and he sighed deeply, running a hand over his face. The thought was always the same, and he'd had it several times over the years. It was an automatic movement when his eyelids opened. For a moment, he stared at the ceiling. He relived every ounce of sadness, every pang of grief before he sighed, feeling frail but firm arms around his bare torso.

Natasha was still asleep, unaware of his turmoil, and he didn't dare move to wake her. It wasn't like she was getting much more sleep than himanyway. She sighed and shifted under the sheets, her naked body brushing against his. Steve turned and pressed a soft kiss to her jaw before he extracted himself from her embrace and padded to the bathroom. He tried dousing his face in cold water to wash away the dream. It didn't work. His mind still whirred around the images in my head, and his racing heart hadn't slowed much.

For a moment, he examined himself in the mirror, hanging on the door. A part of him wouldn't have objected to crawling back under the covers and pretending the past 24 hours didn't happen, but they had a busy day ahead of them.

Instead of crawling back into bed, where he knew he'd only lay awake, Steve slipped out of the room and walked to the kitchen of the small home. Pre-dawn light streamed through the large windows, highlighting the remnants of the meal he and his family had shared. The lower level of their apartment was eerily silent for a Sunday morning.

He walked to the kitchen and grabbed a half-empty coffee mug in one hand while turning the small TV on with the other. The news, the only channel that could keep him in a stable mood...

He jumped slightly when he heard footsteps approaching the kitchen, "Good morning," Natasha smiled sleepily at him as she pulled a half-awake Sarah by her side, who held a small notebook in her hands.

Natasha felt the familiar flutters in her stomach. Steve's broad shoulders and defined muscles never failed to make her body stand up and take notice. He would always be a god among men in her eyes, even with the scars that never faded.

"I couldn't sleep," He smiled weakly, pouring himself a cup of coffee and inhaling a rich aroma. The final fog of his dream was being pushed aside by the strong smell. Natasha sat Sarah at the table and walked over to her husband, smiling sadly at him.

"I know," she whispered, kissing the corner of his lips "Do you want to talk about it?"

"I'm fine. It's behind me now."

"You sure?" She cupped his cheek, pressing her lips to his in a soft kiss. "You know you can tell me anything, right?"

"I know," He smiled sadly as she brushed a stray tear away with her thumb. "But I should be worrying about you and our little girl, not the other way around."

Natasha was about to respond, but she was interrupted by the sound of her daughter's voice.

"Машина, грузовая машина, лодка, самолет," Sarah went over the vehicles in her notebook, saying them fluently.

Natasha thought it would be good for Sarah to speak Russian so that she could learn more about where she comes from. Even though Natasha's time at her home wasn't so pleasant, it would always be apart of her. She couldn't change that even if she wanted to. But she grew stronger from it, and she wanted it to give her daughter strength as well.

"отличная работа," Natasha walked over with a grin, kissing Sarah soundly on the cheek. "You're learning way quicker than I expected, little bird. I'm proud of you."

Sarah smiled at her mother's words and continued to read. Natasha couldn't help but be impressed with her child. She was way beyond her years, smarter than your average five-year-old. Her grades were exceptional, and her room was always clean. Everything in her room had to be perfect. She was only five, yet Natasha felt like she was growing up way too fast. Still, Natasha encouraged her independence. She just wanted her daughter to have a normal childhood. As normal as it can get anyway.

Natasha couldn't have asked for a better child. She was truly blessed.

Natasha let her gaze travel over his body as he took a seat next to Sarah, kissing her forehead, "Morning, sweetheart."

"Good morning, daddy. Did you sleep, okay?" Sarah asked as Steve scooped her in his arms.

"I've had better nights, pumpkin," He smiled sadly, brushing a strand of hair out of her face.

Her arms wrapped around his neck, and they lost themselves in their own little world. Natasha loved seeing them this way. Steve was a wonderful father to Sarah. He made sure that she was always the center of his attention, but made sure that she was never spoiled. They chatted away in the kitchen, Sarah filling her father in on her dreams. Steve never lost interest. He kept her distracted while Natasha braided her hair and slipped on her clothes. Sarah loved to wear simple things, which was completely fine with them. However, they knew there would come a time where a dress is required.

"Bruce said he'd meet us in a diner not too far from here," Natasha said, throwing on one of Steve's button-ups and tucking them in. "I said we'd met there in a little bit, so get dressed. Now."

Steve gave her a soft smile and a salute, rising up from his seat, "As you wish, Mrs. Rogers."


"I'm so confused," Scott said, watching as Bruce reached over to grab some food off the table. It was like a trippy moment, watching him in this form. It was something that they would have to get used to, but they didn't if they would anytime soon.

"These are confusing times," He chuckles as he lets his gaze linger on Sarah, who was coloring on a kid's meal paper while sitting on her father's lap. Natasha noticed how it wavered but decided not to speak on it. Not at the moment, at least.

"Right, no, no." That's not what I meant." Scott stammered, struggling to find the right words.

"I get it, I'm just messing with you," Bruce waved it off.

"How is this happening right now?"

"Five years ago, we lost. Got our asses kicked, except for me it was worse for me...cause I lost twice. " Bruce sighed, taking off his glasses. "First, Hulk lost, then Banner lost, and then we all lost.

"No one blamed you, Bruce," Natasha insisted.

"I did," Bruce nodded curtly to her. "For years, I've been treating the Hulk like a disease… but then I started looking at him as the cure. Eighteen months in the gamma lab, and then here we are."

"So, do you think you can help us pull this off?" Scott asked.

"A time travel do-over?" Bruce leaned back and scratched his chin, deep in thought. "Eh, guys, it's outside my area of expertise."

"Do you think you can at least try?" Steve asked, letting Sarah move over to her mother.

"Sure thing," Bruce gave Steve a respectful nod.

"That's really pretty, little bird," Natasha said to Sarah. She laughed a little, letting her fingers trace over the neatly colored daisy flower. She leaned over and gave her a smile, "You did this in less than ten minutes?"

"Not all by myself," Sarah shook her head as she laid it against her mother's chest. "Daddy helped with the leaves and the grass. Isn't it pretty, mama?"

Natasha quirked her brow at her husband, and he gave her a subtle wink, "Is that so?"

"That was all you pumpkin," Steve smiled before pulling her back into his arms. Bruce was watching them with a heartbreaking, yet joyous look. Even with all the time passed, it was hard to see them together. Eventually, he got over it. He had to. But every now and then, he would feel a tug at his heart when he saw their precious little girl. He remembered the day Natasha told him she couldn't have children and how she felt like a monster. But Steve gave her something she never thought she could have; a miracle. How could he stay jealous after what the two of them have been through together? He was happy for them truly, and he couldn't wait to see what the future held for them.

Bruce caught Natasha's gaze from the side of him as she nudged her head to the exit. He gave her a subtle nod and followed her out, listening to the young girl's laughter. Bruce was nervous, but he could tell she wanted to talk to him about something. As they continued to walk outside, Bruce looked on, bemused.

"What?" She asked, raising a brow at him. "Something on my face?"

He chuckled, shaking his head. "No, nothing like that. It's just…you look beautiful. You look….incredible. It's almost like you're glowing."

She was speechless, and Bruce turned away, looking off ahead as though embarrassed for saying too much. After a few more quiet moments, he said, "How's everything been going for you?"

"It's been an adventure every day, but I can't complain."

"As you shouldn't, your life has completely changed for the better," Bruce gave her sad smile, stuffing his pockets with his giant hands. "But what was it you wanted to talk to me about?"

All playfulness went out the window when Bruce saw Natasha flinch as if she had been slapped across the face. "We haven't seen you in a while, Bruce."

"Surprised you noticed..."

"Why wouldn't I?"

Bruce nudged his head back towards the diner where Steve was tickling Sarah's sides by the doorway, laughing like there was no care in the world, "It seems you have other things to be concerned with as of late. I didn't want to get in the way of that."

"You could never, even if you tried," Natasha's gaze turned to her family, and she smiled softly at them. "But that doesn't mean that I didn't want you around, Bruce. We're way past those times now."

"Maybe you are..."

That wasn't much of a shocker to her. In fact, if she was honest with herself, she guessed she had known all along. In many ways, that was one of the reasons she allowed Bruce to keep his distance. It couldn't have been particularly easy to move on, even though she clearly has. They were all adults, though. It was time to put those things behind him.

"Don't. You left first and didn't look back. So whatever you're about to say right now, save it."

"It was the way it had to be, Nat."

"I agree, so how about we drop it. Before we both say something we regret," She pointed her finger to Steve and Sarah. "They are everything to me. There's nothing I wouldn't do to protect them. I want you in our lives, Bruce, I really do. But if you can't respect our marriage, if you can't respect my family. Then you and I have a problem. Understood?

Bruce couldn't help but smile at her fierceness and determination. She was definitely not the same woman he left all those years ago. She was stronger, had more confidence, and more importantly, she was happy. To have something that you wished for more than anything come true is a feeling that you could never explain. It was like seeing the world from a new perspective. And that's how Natasha felt. Even though the world has changed, it still gave Natasha hope that anything was possible.

He couldn't have been happier for her.

"Loud and clear." He smiled at her.

Smiling back, she gave him a slight nudge to his giant forearm, "It's good to see you, Bruce."

"You too, Nat. You too."


NEW ASGARD

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"Report," Carol said as she walked down the long hallway of the castle. Valkryie was following her close behind, listing things off her chart. Workers and servants were moving things out of the ballroom, clearing it out from yesterday's festivities. Over the years, Carol had cut back a lot on her workload at for the kingdom. When she became the 'Queen of Asgard,' she realized that she needed to make a decision. She couldn't run an empire while also patrol the galaxies for anomalies at the same time.

While Carol was away on patrol and Thor was off-planet as well, the kingdom was managed by Valkyrie. She was the most organized person she ever met, and she couldn't think of anyone better to take over her role while she was away. Of course, Carol still consulted on everything, but she rarely had to question her motives. It wasn't necessary. She kept everything from falling apart while she worked other aspects of my life. Thor, however, was a different case.

"The citizen have been sent the proper food and water. Should last them a few months, long enough for us to stock up again.," Valkryie ran through the list. "The stables are looking strong, and the weapons are prepared for defense."

Carol nodded simultaneously as she made her way to her throne in the massive room, "Anything else?"

"Not at the moment, Your Highness," Valkryie nodded curtly.

"Thank you," Carol gave her a look of approval. "You can leave now."

Valkyrie nodded once more before exiting the room.

"Okay, Carol," She said to herself, deep in thought. "What to do next?"

A small giggle interrupted her thoughts. She sat up a little straighter, listening for it again. And then she smiled slightly when she saw ten small digits curl around the edge of the chair. A shock of blonde hair followed, and then brown eyes. The head ducked down quickly, giggling again.

"Who might that be?" Carol tapped her fingers against the armrest.

"Shhhhh." Another voice was added to the first.

"Oh, two of them?" She got up from her throne and strolled around behind it, being sure her feet made heavy sounds. "I wonder who they could be."

Their giggling got louder as they ran away from her.

"You'll never catch us!" Her daughter Frigga darted across the room, her long blonde hair flowing as she ran. Her twin brother, Atreus, chased after her, but he wasn't as fast. Carol snatched him up by the ankle and held him in the air.

"And what exactly are you two doing?" Carol asked her son, quirking a brow at him.

"We're bored. Take us to the combat zone," He smiled, holding his hands together. "Please."

"You know I can't do that." Carol swung him from side to side as his arms flung around. She gave him a quick poke in the stomach before sitting him down. "Your father and I have plans today."

"You guys have things to do all the time," Frigga skipped out from the hallway, dancing around.

"You're supposed to be relaxing. You're not relaxing," Atreus said, very matter-of-factually.

"Queens don't have time to rest, my beautiful children," Carol sat back down in her throne. They came over to her, looking just as identical as the day they were born. Everything about them was the same. It was eerily shocking at times. "Be wise to remember that."

"But you promised you would take us," Frigga pouted.

"I will take you guys out to do something fun tomorrow. Your father and I are going out for dinner tonight."

"Oh, can we come?" Frigga climbed into her mother's lap.

"I think not."

"Why?" Atreus asked.

"Because we need a night away. You are driving us insane," She joked, even though it was true. At some times, she thought she might actually go insane. No one said raising kids was easy, but she didn't know it would be this hard either. Thor was the only thing that kept her smiling through most of it.

"You can help Korg make a cake," She suggested, hoping to cheer them up. They weren't allowed to have sweets often, so it was a treat.

"Really?" Frigga's blue eyes shone. "Let's go find him, Atreus."

She jumped from her lap and clasped hands with her brother, all thoughts charging out of the room.

"Where's your father?" Carol called after them.

"The Undercroft!" They yelled simultaneously.

Carol sighed and collapsed further into her chair. The Undercroft serves to forge weapons and armors after Nivadellir's fall. A few years after Carol became Queen, rebuilding it became her top priority. Every day, she and Thor would be working non stop to make sure that it was the way it should be. No one was more determined than Thor. These days that's all he would be up to, it was nearly an obsession. But she didn't question it. He would only deny it.

Her eyes looked up to see the giant tapestry of her and Thor that hanged over the wall, the King and Queen of Asgard. To think that not too long ago, she was just discovering who she was and reaching the full potential of her powers. To think that she was way beyond those times now, her name being immortalized with powerful gods and galactic heroes. She was living an extraordinary life.

With a sigh, she got off her throne and took the stairs two at a time and made her way into the front foyer on the newly polished marble floors before heading down into the basement. The armory looked glorious, and the sun was brightly shining through the windows, making the air unseasonably hot for an April morning. Carol rounded through the armory to hear the loud banging of steel colliding. She looked through one of the windows began to hear the soft waves of the lake lapping at the rocky shore. Norway was truly a beautiful place.

She then spotted Thor across the room, hammering away on something she couldn't see yet. Falling in love with Thor wasn't something she had in mind, nor was it for him. But once their eyes locked, once words were exchanged, it felt like magic. They connected in a way that no one understood. It was like an instant attraction. Years would go by, and then they would have beautiful children together. They never really talked about how many kids they wanted or when they should stop, but Thor figured they weren't stopping any time soon. They couldn't keep their hands off of each other.

Once she got a good look, she let her eyes roam over his body. She watched his muscles clench and unclench as he kept banging the hammer against the Asgardian steel. He wore a black tank top with armor-clad pants, his body rock solid. His hair was still lustrous, and his voice still sent tingles all over her skin. Then she let her eyes move lower, biting her lip unashamedly.

"Stop staring at my ass," Thor stopped his movements as his lips pulled up slightly.

"Don't tell me what to do, Your Majesty."

He turned around and took her hand before he pulled her towards him. His body warm and covered in sweat, "As you say, my Queen."

His head bent down until his lips met hers. Their hands started to roam, and Carol trailed her nails over his hard chest and pulled at his tank, threatening to tear it off.

"Where's Astrilde?" Carol breathed, feeling his lips attach themselves to the base of her neck.

"Sleeping, down for a nap," Thor whispered, his beard tickling her skin. "Atreus and Frigga?"

"Distracted."

"Good," He growled as bent down to bite down on her neck. She suppressed her moan. He let his hands travel under her shirt and touch her bare skin, his grip electrifying. "It gets me a chance to devour you before we're..."

A throat cleared, and the two them looked back to see a servant standing stiffly from the doorway, eyes shying away from them.

"Distracted," Thor whispered harshly.

"Apologies, my king and Queen. We have guests, and they required your presence immediately." The servant bowed his head and quickly made his way out of the room before he was able to get chewed out.

Thor ran a hand over his face and sighed, "You've got to be kidding me..."

Carol leaned in and kissed him softly, "We'll have plenty of time for that tonight. You have my word."

"Promises, promises," Thor smiled at her, which was quite rare.

"You're smiling," Carol pointed out. "It's been a while since I've seen that happy face of yours."

"I always smile."

"You've been doing it alot lately."

"I have more to smile about than I used to," He told her truthfully.

"Do you?" She tilted her head, running a hand through his matted down hair.

"Why wouldn't I?"

Carol opened her mouth to speak but thought better of it, pulling him by the arm, "Come on, let's see what waits for us now." She held his hand as they walked back towards the cathedral. Sure enough, Bruce was waiting in the massive ballroom, playing some game with Atreus and Frigga sitting on his lap. Rocket looked around the castle in awe, taking in on how colossal everything looked.

"Tell us a story, Bruce," Frigga rubbed her palm over Bruce's cheek. You could almost see him melt on the spot with affection.

"Perhaps another time, kiddo," Bruce smiled softly, ruffling up her hair with his giant hand.

Once Thor realized who was here, he gave his old companions a guarded smile as he walked over to them. He lifted her off of Bruce's lap and leaned his forehead against hers. "Why don't you two go upstairs and practice with your sword hands, hm?"

Frigga took off, her question forgotten, but Atreus rolled his eyes and acted as if his feet were made of lead. He knew better than to say anything.

"So, what brings you by my humble home?" I sat on the arm of the chair that Carol was in by the long dining table.

"You haven't heard? We're getting the old team back together." Rocket kicked his feet up and placed his hands behind his head.

"What?"

"Natasha and Steve have found a way to fix everything that happened to our friends."

Thor sighed heavily as a lump formed in his throat. He felt a pull in his heart, old wounds reopening with those simple words. He didn't know what to say; he didn't know what to do at the moment. All he could do was relive the moments where he failed everyone. "We don't have time for this; we have plans."

"Thor," Bruce sat up straighter. "Please listen for a moment."

Carol got up from her spot on the chair and stood up, "I'll give you three time to catch up. If you'll excuse me, it's time to give Astrilde a feeding."

Carol left a long, lingering kiss on Thor's lips before leaving the room.

"Why are you here?" Thor sank into the chair, rubbing his forehead. "It better be for a good reason."

"Romanoff said something about a time machine, thinks we can go back fix the past," Rocket answered bluntly.

"What?" Thor sighed.

"There's this place called the Quantum Realm, a place where we can go back and grab the stones before Thanos can." Bruce got closer to Thor, eying him intently. "We can fix everything and make it right, Thor. This is our second chance at life."

"I can't."

"Why?" Bruce asked boldly. "Are you afraid?"

Thor's eyes met his and felt the anger immediately rise within him. He didn't want to admit it, but apart of him didn't want to go back. He had accepted the fact that he failed the world a long time ago and that there was no coming back from it. Now that there was a chance to do so, he wasn't sure if he should or not. He had everything he needed at the moment. His home and people were thriving. He had a queen and a little prince and princesses, but most of all, he was happy. Happier than he could remember, even though there were times he felt like he wasn't himself, he didn't want to risk losing what he found here.

Thor stood up and looked at Bruce intently, "Do you have kids, Bruce? A wife to come home to? A kingdom to rule and thousands of people depending on you?" He waited for him to answer but only got silence."And what the hell should I be afraid of? Hmm? I'm the one who killed that guy remember who ruined our lives. Did you kill Thanos, Bruce?"

He remained silent once again.

"That's what I thought. I won't risk everything I've built over some theory," Thor then turned around and walked towards the foyer of the cathedral, "It was good to see you my friends, but I think it's time for you to leave. I have a date tonight."

Later that night, Thor and Carol's lovemaking was slow, tender, rough, and heavy. Thor worshiped Carol's body until he had no more to give. The feeling of them doing this was indescribable. The power that surged through their bodies was electric and earth breaking. He pulled her close to his body, feeling her naked skin against his. He couldn't shut his eyes and decided to forgo resting. He didn't even try. His brain didn't want to shut down. Carol couldn't sleep either.

Her limbs clung to him, forcing them to get tangled within the rich, silky sheets.

"What's on your mind?" She lifted her head and rested her chin on his chest, "What's going on, Thor?"

He thought about his answer for a while before he answered, "For the past five years of my life, I can't stop thinking about how I failed everyone. I failed my friends, my brother, my father. I was in a dark place at that time. It was one bad thing after the other." He smiled weakly as he brushed a strand of hair out of her face. "Until I met you. You've given me so much in so little time, you've given my people more than I could ever ask for. And now...they come back after everything in my life is finally back on track, to say that we have to take back what we've built over the years."

"Thor... I know you're scared." She cupped his chin, forcing him to face her. "But this isn't about you or us. This is about doing what's right."

"Carol..."

"I never thought I would be here either, Thor. We've been through so much, and I love the life that we've built together. I will treasure these small moments until my dying breath," She smiled; sadly, her hands brushing down his stubbled cheek. "But we owe this to everyone who didn't get the chance that we did. We have to fight for them so that they could get the future that was stolen from them."

Thor shook his head, "I already failed the world once, and I don't want to do it again. If what they say is true, I have to make sure I never fail again. It's time I made a change, and I can't do it alone."

"We won't fail this time."

"And if we do?"

She shrugged and smirked at him, "We'll be together. That's all that matters, right?"

"That's all that matters." Thor smiled and kissed her forehead, grateful to have an extraordinary woman in his life. He had found his home, and he wasn't going to give it up without a fight. The time for playing nice was over. It was time to be the king he was destined to be and bring everyone back home.


Steve couldn't help but notice how everything seemed to look as he stood outside the Avengers HQ. The yard was empty, and he couldn't reminisce for when things were so much brighter, when the place was filled happy recruits, smiling secretaries... a happy family. For the past few days, they were test running the quantum realm to make sure everything was on track. Things couldn't have been more stressful. The test run was a disaster and honestly getting exhausting. But they couldn't give up; they were going to find a way to make this work no matter how long it took.

His head jerked at the sound of a car pulling up beside him, revealing Tony's smug face. Steve couldn't help but smile, "Why the long face? Let me guess; he turned into a baby."

"Among other things, yeah," He admitted, shaking his head. "What are you doing here?"

"It's the EPR paradox," Tony explained as he was exiting his vehicle. "Instead of pushing Lang through time, you might've wound up pushing time through Lang. It's tricky, dangerous. Someone could have cautioned you against it."

"You did."

"Oh, did I?" Tony gasped in surprise." Well, thank god, I am here. Regardless, I fixed it. A fully functional time-space GPS." Steve couldn't help but let his smile widen at his words. He had a feeling that Tony could find a solution to their problems, even if he didn't want to.

"I just want peace," Tony winked at him, closing the door to his car. "Turns out resentment is corrosive, and I hate it."

"Me too, Tony."

Tony smiled a little as a certain memory ran through his mind, "I remember when you guys showed up for Morgan's third birthday party. She was so happy to see Sarah. Throughout that entire day, they couldn't stay away from each other. They were nearly inseparable. And we...me and you, we were happy. It almost felt like old times."

Steve nodded, remembering that day as well, "It did, didn't it?"

"And it was nice, and it was like we had finally made it."

Steve nodded once more, sighing deeply, "I know I let you guys down. I know that over the past couple of years, things haven't been as smooth as they should have been, and I take full responsibility for that. Between you and me, and everything that's been going on here, I've lost my way. I was so stubborn and selfish that I wasn't looking at the big picture. I've let everyone down."

Tony looked like he wanted to stop him, but his mouth wouldn't let him.

"We have a chance, Tony. We have a chance to fix everything... including this."He gestured his hand between them.

"What does that mean?"

"It means that I'm willing to anything to get our team... our family, back on track. Whether it's to sign the accords or whatever the case may be. I'm willing to meet in the middle."

"How long have you been thinking about this?" Tony cleared his throat.

"For a while," Steve admitted. "Things are changing out there, and I know you haven't had the chance to dive into that side of your life since you and Pep had Morgan, but we can't stop. Not now. We have to stick together, Tony."

"Yeah, we do." He crossed his hands together to appear calm.

"And this time, when this is over, we'll be a team again. Just like I promised." Steve held his hand out towards him.

A sly smirk came over his lips as he looked at his hand, fondly, "Alright, old man. I'll take your word for it."

And his hands clasped his, solidifying their bond and friendship. Steve sighed in content as he felt the weight lift off his shoulders. Seven years of all the pain and hurt were being thrown out the window, and they were finally moving forward with their lives. Tony nudged his head to his car and opened the trunk, revealing another old friend.

Steve sighed deeply as he looked at the shield. Suddenly, he felt that pull in the back of his head. The pull that made him ache more than anything. The shield conveys protection against evil and falsities. It represented the never-ending fight he had to endure. But it also represented failure and dishonor. Even though it's gotten him through alot, he couldn't accept it. He wasn't the same Captain America he was before. He was a different man now, and it was time for a change.

"No," Steve shook his head, pushing it away. "it's your father's. You should keep it to honor his memory."

"But he made it for you." Tony countered.

"He made it for Captain America," Steve corrected, shaking his head again. "But I'm not that same man, Tony. It's time I did something a little different. Something that'll protect the ones I love."

"Something like what?"

The flashes of his previous dream entered his mind, and his fist clenched tightly, "Something more dangerous."

He wasn't losing anyone else to that monster. He would make sure of it.

Chapter Text

"Relax, Nat."

Natasha's body shivered as her wet skin glided against Steve's in the small bathtub. Steve rubbed her shoulders, causing goosebumps to rise under his fingers. She shivered slightly but did what her husband asked. A sigh escaped her perfect lips as his fingers ran through her scalp, gently washing her hair. He worked his hands to the base of her neck and back, and she purred. She moved toward his hands, her back arched, and her shoulders tense.

"How do you know exactly what I need before I need it?" She asked, kissing the backside of his hand.

"It's simple," He smirked as he continued his actions. "I know you better than anyone else in the world."

Natasha was leaving today for Tokyo to find Clint. He wasn't doing too well. According to Rhodes, Clint had become a heartless stone-cold killer, but Nat saw something else, hope. She was adamant about whether she wanted to find him or not, but knowing her; she was going to see him set things right. Steve wanted to go along with her, but he knew this was something she had to do on her own.

"You know I can come with you, right?" Steve whispered, running the sponge along with her arm. The soft petals caressed her skin as its sweet fragrance, mingling with the honey and vanilla, surrounded his senses. He watched her chest rise and fall with her shallow breaths, and he could feel a stir within him.

"This is something I have to do alone, Steve." She sighed as she held his arms tightly against her breasts, holding him close to her.

"I know," He sighed, running his hand slowly down from her shoulder to her ribs. He knew better than to argue with Nat when she had her mindset on something.

"Thank you for understanding."

He smiled sadly as he leaned his head against hers. "Of course."

"Clint's not himself right now." She sighed again. "I need to get to Japan to knock some sense into him."

"He's lost so much, Nat, in such little time." He kissed her shoulder and the junction her neck, "Remind you of someone?"

She nodded her head slowly, looking down towards the faint color of their hands entwined together under the water. "We have to be there for him, show him that he still has a family in us." Natasha looked up to him with a faint smile as her left hand touched his chin, and she kissed him softly. He hadn't even realized that she had moved onto him fully until he felt her breasts gliding up and down his bare chest.

Her hands cupped both sides of his face, "I'm so lucky to have you in my life."

"I believe that's my line," Steve moved his hand to the faded scar on her cheek before brushing the length of her jaw, "Clint's gonna be alright, Nat."

"I believe you."

And just like that, the spell was broken. They both got dressed in silence. Nat went back to the bathroom to freshen up, and when she came back out, Steve and Sarah were waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs, her bag in hand. Her heart broke a little at the thought of leaving her behind. She's never been apart from her like this. They would be thousands of miles apart, and that alone was killing Natasha on the inside.

But somehow, Natasha knew it would always end up this way. It was inevitable.

The drive to the HQ was sweet and silent as Natasha held her daughter's hand tightly the entire ride. She had her arms around her mother's waist. She didn't want to let go, and neither did Natasha. It wasn't that they were saying goodbye to each other, but she was going to be far away. They weren't quite ready for that. Even as they arrived, Sarah didn't let her go. Natasha closed her eyes and lifted her in her arms, hugging her tightly.

"I don't want to leave you either, honey," Natasha sighed, feeling tears prick at the corner of her eyes. "But I promise you; I'm coming right back."

"You promise?"

Natasha set Sarah down on her feet and placed her tiny face in her hands, wiping the tears away, "I will crawl through the depths of hell for you, little bird. Nothing can stop me from coming home to you. I'll always come back to you."

"Me too, pumpkin," Steve smiled sadly as he bent down and pulled Sarah against his chest. His eyes reached hers, and he gave her a soft smile, "Don't worry about a thing, Nat. Everything's going to be alright.

Natasha smiled weakly in acknowledgment and kissed his forehead. He pulled her close and buried his nose in her hair and inhaled, memorizing her vanilla scent. She leaned up and gave them both another kiss, saying, "I'll be home before you know it."

"And we'll be here waiting for you when you do."

And just like that, she was gone.

"Be safe, Nat."


Ronin in Tokyo - Scene HD - Avengers: Endgame - YouTube

TOKYO

Natasha was quiet throughout the flight to Tokyo. She stared out the window, watching the take-off and landing. She was going through the motions, but her mind was numb, blank. She was over a thousand miles away, but her heart was in the great city of New York, where the essential pieces of her life reside. An empty shell was all that remained. When she landed, she hitched a taxi that took her to a local hotel where she checked in for a couple of nights. Sleep was her top priority before she could regroup and decide on her next course of action.

She looked around and saw the two generic queen-sized beds. After a cursory glance at her temporary surroundings, she walked into the bathroom and locked the door behind her. Behind closed doors, her walls came crashing down around her. She fell to the floor, too tired and weak to carry her weight, and she cried. Any semblance of strength she had in front of Steve was now gone. The floodgates had opened, and she was helpless to close them again. A part of her didn't even want to. She was exhausted, and she wanted nothing more than to give in to the overwhelming despair. Fighting it was too hard. She didn't think she had the strength left to keep fighting it. The cold from the tile floor seeped into her body, chilling her to the bone. But she didn't care. She was numb, freezing from the inside out.

She didn't know how long she was in that bathroom. Time ceased to have any meaning for her. But after a moment of collecting herself, she took a deep breath and solemnly nodded. She had a job to do, and the quicker she got it done, the faster she could save her friend and go back home to her family.

Her phone rang, and she answered it without delay, "Rogers speaking."

"Got a read on Clint, he's downtown right now as we speak," Rhodey's voice spoke through the phone. "If you want to get the jump on him, now's the time."

"I'm on it." She quickly hung and geared up.

Natasha prowled the dark alleyways, waiting for a sign of anything out of the ordinary. The Shinobu Gang, she was in their stronghold, on their turf. The Shinobu gang was one of the deadliest gangs in Tokyo. Drug cartels, mass murders, human trafficking. Your average gang. And Clint was taking them all down. He was pushed too far. There was no going back until every last one of them was dead. He lost everything so they wouldn't live to see another day.

With every step she took, she felt him. He was so close that she could practically sense him. He needed her. And she was going to find him. Her feet slapped against the cold, wet pavement. Thoughts of Clint clouded her mind. He was nearly far gone. She'd failed him. She'd let him down, but she wasn't going to make that same mistake twice.

She heard footsteps around the corner, and her adrenaline kicked in. She closed her eyes a moment to savor the anticipation. Whoever or whatever came down that hallway was going to regret it. A man in a black leather jacket bounded towards her, careless within the presumed safety of his territory. Natasha emerged from the shadows, revealing her location. He stopped dead in his tracks; brown eyes opened wide in disbelief. He quickly gathered his senses, crouched low, and ran at her. She quickly got rid of him. Clint needed her. He was just one more obstacle standing in her way. And that was a dangerous place for him to be. Even though it had been years since she's fought anyone, her training never wavered. She was still not to be trifled with.

She continued to stalk down the street, following the path the bastard had taken. They kept leading her down, down, closer to the very heart of the city. Half the warehouse was already on fire. The walls and floors above her shook, and wood and stone crumbled down. The place was falling to ruins around her. Nothing was stopping her from saving her friend.

It was then she heard his voice, "What I want, you can't give me."

Her eyes averted up to see him right in front of her. His back was turned to her as a helpless man was on knees, practically begging for his life. Blood was coated over his throat and lips. There was no hope for him, but at least she could stop Clint doing any more damage to him.

"Clint, stop!" Natasha yelled.

He froze for a moment before yielding his sword, kicking the wounded man down. A sigh escaped through his lips as he ripped the mask off his face, his hair mopped down from the pouring rain. He didn't have to look back to know whose voice it was. He'd remember that voice anywhere. "You shouldn't be here."

"Neither should you."

He fumbled with his gloves, sighing again. "If you don't mind, I have a job to do."

"That's what you call this?" Natasha made a gesture all around her. "Killing these people isn't gonna bring your family back, Clint."

"Nat..."

"We've found something." She moved again, "A chance...maybe."

He looked at her, really looked at her, and she nearly broke down once more. He was torn, years of heartache and pain had taken a toll on him. He wasn't the Clint she remembers. But it was up to her to bring him back.

"Don't, Nat, please don't."

"Don't what?" She whispered.

"Don't give me hope."

Tears threatened to leave her eyes, "I'm sorry I couldn't give it to you sooner." And before he could react, she pulled him into his arms and held him tightly. "I'm so sorry, Clint."

After a while, he finally hugs her back, wrapping his arms around her waist. He held his friend close as he buried his nose into the crook of her neck, "Thank you, Nat."

"Anytime," She sighed into his shoulder, sighing in content that she had one of her best friends back in her life.


"The soul stone is conscious; it has a desire to collect souls. For the soul stone to be collected, you must..." Natasha sighed when she felt strong arms around her waist, and soft lips kiss her neck. "I didn't hear you come in."

"I've been looking for you." He kissed her neck again. "You alright?"

"I was just reading the mission summary for tomorrow," Natasha smiled weakly at him, "Have to be prepared, you know?"

His hands brushed hers as he turned off the tablet and set it on the dining room table, "No more of that. Tonight is a carefree night for us. We deserve it."

He stooped down to her level, his dark eyes boring into hers. His warm hands caressed the sides of her face, and she was unable to look away. He was so driven, so brave in the face of all her fear and doubt. "Everything will be fine." He whispered, and she believed him.

Still, she couldn't help but think about how much things would change once they go through with this plan. Would life be the same? Would it be different? Would it be better? Would it be worse? So many questions that she needed answers to. The planning process for this week was brutal; it was nonstop planning, continuous testing. It was chaos. Everybody had their missions, their teams.

Reality Stone: Thor and Rocket.

Power Stone: Nebula and Rhodes.

Time Stone: Bruce

Mind and Space: Steve, Tony, and Scott.

Soul Stone: Clint, Carol, and Natasha.

There was something that wouldn't just stop nagging in the back of her head, what the soul stone needed: a soul.

A soul...

A soul...

That one word didn't sit right with her. The soul stone required a soul for them to understand it's power, which meant that someone wasn't coming home when this was all over, which meant that she might not come back home to Steve and their beautiful little girl. That thought alone terrified her more than anything in the world. It was like a dagger wedging through her heart, stabbing her every time she thought of it. She couldn't imagine a world without them. It would only make her empty inside. And she didn't want to go back to those times again.

"Hey, where'd you go?"

Steve's voice brought her back to the here and now. He tilted his head to the side and flashed her a gorgeous grin. She couldn't help but smile in return. Instead of answering him, she grabbed his hand and led him out of the dining room to the back where their daughter was resting on their bed. Steve's brow furrowed in confusion until he saw her take her side of the bed and lay beside Sarah, staring at her intently. Steve followed suit.

"Beautiful, isn't she?" Natasha whispered as she ran a hand through her hair. "We got really lucky with her, huh."

"Yeah, we did." He chuckled a little before it died down, his face growing serious, "She's the best thing that's ever happened to us."

"I remember when I first held her, and she had to be hooked to so many machines after a few days, " Natasha felt tears at the brim of her eyes. "I've never been more terrified."

She remembered the first few weeks she was separated from her. Sarah had certain health issues that prevented them from holding her, so she was being looked over until she was better. She stayed in that tiny room for observation, four weeks after her birth just to make sure she was strong. Natasha hated every moment of that but made the best out of the situation. She and Steve would never leave her side and would read her stories as she slept on.

"I wanted to take away all the pain for her, everything she was feeling. I would burn this world for her," Natasha caressed her cheek and sighed deeply. "I don't want to lose her, Steve. I can't, not after everything we went through to bring her into this world."

"Nat..."

"I promised her I would always come back to her. I promised that I would always protect her," Natasha closed her eyes, shaking her head. "But I always knew that this day would come."

Steve reached over Sarah and tilted Natasha's chin to face her, "When this is over, we'll be done. For good this time. We bring everyone back and live the life that we've been fighting for. That's my promise to you."

And she believed. She would always believe him.

Steve and Natasha laid on Sariah's bed on both sides of her, wrapped up in each other's arms as their breathing steadied, and their racing hearts slowed down. They didn't say anything. There was nothing left to say. Steve kissed Sarah's forehead, and Natasha did the same. Gone was the urgency from before. The desperation had morphed into stoic acceptance. Reality lay outside of our room, outside of their embrace. And they weren't about to take a step towards it until they were forced to do so. But, the moment was not made to last.

Finally, they both knew it was time to leave. After getting dressed, they went down to the beach for a while before the real world came crashing down on them again. A few minutes arriving there, they both stopped at a specific spot, letting this poignant moment flow over them. Sarah was on top of Steve's shoulders as Natasha leaned on his arm, watching the sunrise. They didn't know if they would ever stand together like this again, but it would always rank high in their most special memories.

Steve's thoughts were running in the same direction as hers, and he smiled softly, "We've come a long way, haven't we?"

She nodded at him, looking out at the sparkling surface of the river. She looked far out to the horizon and let her eyes wander along its expanse. She could make out the curvature of the Earth's surface. The effect was subtle but real. With their hands gripped tightly between them, resting on the weathered sand, the family stared quietly out at never-ending sea, neither of them wanting the moment to end.

The reflected sunlight looked like shiny pennies sparkling on the ocean's crenelated surface, and the whitecaps were spraying sea-foam into the wind. Tiny rainbows sprang up on occasion, prismatic reflections from the water droplets that spread from the crashing waves.

The only sounds they could hear was the swooshing of the surf breaking on the beach, the whisper of the wind, and the distant cries of the gulls. It was an idyllic setting, and Natasha's chest felt heavy at the thought that this was all going away; that she might never again sit here, in this spot, with her family. That thought weighed heavily on her as they watched the sunrise in the sky.

This was what they needed, a moment alone before their lives change forever once again, a moment alone — a moment to appreciate even the small things around them.

Hopefully, they would have more time to do that.

"Are you ready to go in there?" Steve asked as he held Sarah in his arms.

Natasha took a deep breath and looked up at the large building. This building, this place used to be a sanctuary for her. But now, looking at it made her feel cold, knowing that it could be the last time she walks through these glass doors again. She squeezed his free-hand and nodded. Her gut told her that once they entered the HQ, nothing would be the same again. She was sure of it and strange enough, so was Steve. They terrified of what was to come. But there wasn't much they could do about that. They could only move forward.

Natasha led Steve and Sarah through the front door and took us into the meeting room.

Thor sat on the far couch, his body sprawled in the definition of relaxation. His arm was thrown around Carol, who sat beside him. They nodded and smiled at her as they entered, looking carefree as ever. Tony and Pepper stood to the side. Tony had his arm around Pepper, comforting her. Their eyes were filled with parental concern as Morgan stood beside them. She knew the feeling. Nebula's lithe body was perched on the back of the couch. She gave them a brief nod, and her mouth was reduced to a thin line. Scott, Bruce, Rocket, and Rhodey were in the corner, discussing something intense.

Though the meeting room was massive, it felt tiny with all the astronomical bodies and personalities occupying every available space. The air was stifling, and Steve was finding it hard to breathe. Natasha squeezed his hand as Sarah set her feet to the ground and held onto her father's leg.

"Well, what do we have here?" A voice said from behind them. Natasha turned around and saw Clint standing there with his arms crossed, a small smile on his face.

Natasha smiled as well as she pulled Sarah to the side and bent down beside her. Steve and Clint shared respectful nods, "Little bird, this is your Uncle Clint. He's an essential member of our family."

Clint bent down and held a hand out, "Hey there, kiddo."

Sarah smiled back, taking his hand respectfully, "Nice to meet you."

"Likewise," He watched the girl with peak curiosity, her eyes boring into his. She looked so much like both of her parents, so strong and beautiful. Clint's gaze saddened a little as he brushed a thumb over the back of her hand. "I remember when Lila was that little. So full of life and joy..."

"Sarah!"

Morgan's voice squealed in delight as she ran to her best friend, wrapping her up in her arms. Sarah laughed as she caught her in her arms, spinning her around. They ran down the hall and continued to play. Clint quickly pulled himself together and gave Steve and Natasha shaky smiles.

"I'm so happy for you two. You guys deserve this."

Natasha smiled and hugged him tightly, "I'm glad you finally met her."

"I wouldn't miss this for the world," Clint said wistfully. "She looks happy; so full of life."

"Alright, everyone," Steve said to the room at large. "It's time."

Tony stepped forward. "Speech?" he asked.

Thor chuckled as Carol sat on his lap, "You know it's coming."

Steve sighed in annoyance but smiled nonetheless. It was one of the things he did best. "You know, we've come a long way. After everything, and we're still standing. Five years ago, we lost. We lost so much in such a short amount of time. But we've also won some things along the way. We've built something here, we've grown our family and strengthen our alliances. We've made the best out of an impossible situation. And now, it is our chance to make it right. We can bring them back, and we can bring them all back. No second chances, no do-overs. We have one shot, let's make it count."

Everyone looked at Steve and nodded in respect to his words. It amazed Natasha how he could do that almost every time he spoke. It would never get old.

"Suit up; it's gonna be a long day."

"Hey," Rocket stated. "He's pretty good at that."

"I know, right?" Scott said, shaking his head. "He knows just what to say."

Thor came by Steve's side, something covered in a silky wrap in his grasp, "Rogers, I have something for you."

Steve gave him a respectful nod, "Alright."

Thor escorted him to the back as he slowly revealed what was underneath. Steve's breath hitched as the first thing his eyes laid on was a sword. It was lengthy, almost two feet longer than a standard long sword, tapered to thrust as well as slash. With three fullers incised into the blade to reduce weight. There are ripples in the dark steel, indicating that it was Asgardian. It had wings and a star engraved in the pommel of it. His eyes noticed the shield beside it, and he couldn't express how he was feeling at that moment.

"Thor, this is..."

"I modeled it after my father's sword, but it was destroyed on Asgard. It's one of our strongest weapons." Thor nodded curtly as he put them both in his hands. "The shield is about the same as your other, Asgardian steel is just as unbreakable as vibranium."

He looked between the two weapons as he shook his head, "I..Thor, I don't know what to say."

"You could say thank you," Tony stated as he had something in his hands as well. "I overlooked it with a giant dwarf, so you're welcome."

Before Steve could say anything else, Tony placed it above his equipment and nodded curtly. "A new suit. Should fit you like a glove, Cap."

"Guys, you didn't have to."

"Cap," Thor smiled, clapping his shoulders roughly. "These last five years have been hell for all of us. There were good times, of course, but...he was always in the back of my mind. I can still hear him laughing, taunting me. His words forever burned in my memory. I failed them; we failed them. I don't know what's going to happen, but I know we have to be prepared for anything. You're a warrior of Asgard, Rogers. You're my brother, and we do whatever it takes to bring everyone home."

"And, not dying would be nice," Tony remarked, smirking at him.

Steve and Thor chuckled lightly at Tony, the three of them letting the poignant moment pass over them. Meanwhile, Natasha looked around the room at all the faces of the people she loved. She wasn't sure if she'd ever see any of them again. Her heart was breaking. She knew it was necessary, but she didn't know how to take that next step. She needed to feel the familiar warmth and strength of Steve's embrace. I looked towards him, searching for…something, anything that could make all the fear and doubt go away. And for a moment, just a moment, he did.

"Mama?" Sarah's voice said from behind her. "You and Daddy are leaving again, aren't you?"

Just then, she felt Steve walk beside her, bending down in front of her, "Yeah, pumpkin. We have to go."

"I don't understand, why do you have to go?" Sarah whispered, her head tilted to the side.

"I know you don't, baby," Natasha smiled sadly. "And when the time is right, we'll tell you everything. OK?"

"Will both of you come back to me?"

Steve pressed his forehead against hers, "Always."

He felt something slip into his hands, which made him pull back. He looked down and saw a picture of the three of them at the park, smiling without a care in the world. He wished he could go back to those times and to freeze that moment. If he would've known that it would lead to this, he would've cherished it more. She placed a small plastic compass in his hand as well, wrapping her fingers around it.

"It's for protection. Bring it back safely to me, OK Daddy?"

Steve clutched onto it tighter and nodded, "I promise pumpkin."

Natasha bent down beside her and placed her hands on both of her shoulders, "Be strong for me, little bird. We won't be gone long."

"I will, Mama. I promise."

Their good-byes were hurried. Natasha didn't have the time to make them lingering and meaningful like she would have wanted. And all the while, her fear was fed with doubts about ever seeing her again. She didn't say much, afraid that her voice would crack, and her emotions would betray her. Instead, she relished the warmth of her daughter's embraces and prayed with all her heart that she would see her, every last one of them again when this was all over.

She looked up over to see Steve, Clint, Carol, and Nebula were clearly in an intense conversation.

Before she could move, Tony cleared his throat behind her, effectively distracting her from her thoughts. She turned around to face him and noticed that the room was nearly empty. She quickly wiped her face.

"Hey, Natalie," Tony said, looking towards the front entrance where Pepper was leaving with Morgan and Sarah. "You ready to go back out there and take a stand?" He swallowed hard, looking uncomfortable.

She smirked slightly and patted a hand on his shoulder, "Only if you are, Stark."

"Brave kid you got there," Tony huffed, watching the front entrance intently. "They're both braver than me."

"At least the girls have each other."

"And they always will," He smiled back and nodded to where Steve was, who was now standing alone with a gentle smile on his lips.

She smiled in realization. He was allowing the married couple some alone time to say their good-byes in private. She was grateful for his thoughtfulness.

"Thanks, Tony," She whispered. He hugged her in response and then walked out the door.

Her heart pounded rapidly and felt like it was going to jump out of her chest and put her out of her misery. Her head turned towards Steve, and he just smiled wistfully back at her. She smiled back and took a few deep breaths.

"You ready?" Steve murmured, squeezing her hand gently. His face was sincere and yet sad, all at the same time.

Natasha groaned, "When this is over, I want a thick bottle of whiskey."

"I think I can arrange that, " Steve brushed his fingers along her ring and broadened his smile. "We'll have plenty of time for that when we come home to our little girl."

"I hope so."

Steve squeezed her hand once more to comfort her and placed a kiss against her temple. "Everything is going to be OK, Nat."

"You don't know how much I want to believe that." She bit back a laugh at Steve's expression.

"You don't have to be brave in front of me." He brushed a strand of hair away from her eyes and smiled sadly down at her. "It's OK to be afraid."

"Now is not the time to be afraid," Natasha hastily wiped a tear off her cheek.

"My Natasha, always trying to put a strong front for me," Steve pulled her in his arms and held her close as he rested his chin on top of her head. At that moment, Natasha felt calm, relaxed, and content. Safe. She looked at Steve, and his eyes met hers, and she knew he felt the same. And when his radiant smile and bright eyes lit up his face, she knew it was going to be all right.

She leaned into his massive frame and hugged him tightly. "Thank you. I needed that."

"We both did," he answered.

"I love you," he whispered, pressing a soft kiss into her hair.

"I love you," She whimpered, washing away the rest of the emotions she had left.

Nothing more was said. Nothing needed to be.


Steve looked all around the room and nodded curtly. "Change of plans. Carol, you take my place for New York, and I take Vormir. We re-route here once we've got what we need. No screw-ups and no messing around. Got it?"

Everyone nodded respectfully, but Natasha had a baffled look on her face. She wanted to question his motives, his intentions, but she couldn't find the words to speak at that moment. She looked over to see Thor cup Carol's face in his hands, "Stay safe, my love. Asgard needs their Queen."

"Not as much as they need their king," They both laughed at that. Carol sighed softly, gripping Thor's chin and smile, "I love you, bucko. On this day until my last day." For a moment, Carol eyed him curiously to find something in his. What was it, doubt, hesitancy, regret?

"Be safe." She smiled sadly, hand gliding down his cheek.

"Of course, my Queen." He gives her one last kiss before finally departing from each other. Carol patted her shoulder before standing in her position.

Natasha turned over to see Steve with a severe look on his face.

"Ready?" He asked, holding a hand out to her.

After a moment of hesitation, she took it and nodded curtly, "Ready."

And just like that, they were off to their missions and plunging into the unknown.

Chapter Text

NEW YORK, 2012

Arriving in New York was chaotic, as to be expected. The sidewalk was full of people in blue coats with bright yellow 'FBI' embroidered letters, evacuating as many people they can. Bruce's heart speeds up, and he braces himself for the worse, feeling that this will be a tough mission. Everyone had already separated themselves and split up. Everyone knew what had to be done, and there was no time for playing around.

"Can I help you?" A soft voice said from behind him, making him turn around slowly. He was face to face with a beautiful bald woman, dressed in a long silk robe. She turned her head to the side, eyeing him curiously.

"I'm looking for Dr. Strange," Bruce replied, slowly approaching the woman.

She hummed in amusement, "You're about five years too early. Strange is currently performing surgery twenty blocks that way." She crossed her arms defensively. "May I ask why do you need to see him."

A glint of a shiny necklace caught Bruce's eye at that moment, "Actually, I'm here for that."

The woman followed his gaze and smiled nonetheless, "Unfortunately, I cannot give this to you."

"Please, I don't have that much time." Bruce sighed. "Six years into the future, something terrible will happen to the world. And I need that stone to fix what happened."

The woman gave him a dreamy look, "If I were to give you the time stone to fix your reality, my reality would cease to exist."

That puzzled Bruce for a small moment, "What do you mean?"

With a swift motion, a map of stars and constellations appears at the tip of her fingers, "The Infinity Stones create what you experience the flow of time. Remove one of the stones, and that flow splits. This may benefit your reality, but mine, not so much."

Bruce stood there puzzled before a thought clicked in his head, "What if we erased it?"

"Erase it?" She repeated, suddenly intrigued by his proposition.

"If we put the stones back in place at the same time it was taken, in that reality, it never happened."

She couldn't deny that it was a thoughtful idea, but in the back of her mind, she knew that there was a chance that he may not return with the stone. She had to be sure.

"Will you be alive to bring the stone back?"

"You have my word," Bruce said solemnly.

She pinches the bridge of her nose, confliction starting to build within her, "We must protect the time stone no matter what, and I can't risk based on your word."

"If you must protect it, then why Strange give it away?"

That baffled her, "I beg your pardon?"

"Strange willingly gave the stone to Thanos."

"No...no, that can't be true. Why would he do that?" A faint whisper escaped her lips.

"Maybe he made a mistake."

"Or...maybe I did." And at that moment, slowly, reluctantly, she placed the stone in his giant palms. "Strange was supposed to be the best of us. Don't make me regret this, Bruce."

"I won't, I promise."

One stone down, five more to go.


ASGARD, 2013

Being back on Asgard was strange for Thor.

It seems like yesterday he was in a spaceship watching Surtur burn his home into ashes, and now here he was, back like nothing ever happened. Everything looked the same, but at the same time, it just felt wrong to him. There was a part of Thor that wanted to stay here, reminisce about the moments he spent with his father, his mother, even Loki. Trapped in a bubble of an illusion of what his life used to be. There was also a part of him that wished he could show this to his kids and his wife what a beautiful place his home used to be. Maybe he'll rebuild a part it just like this. He had all the time in the world, after all.

"Alright, Thor," Rocket whispered hastily, interrupting his thoughts. "You go in there, charm her a little bit, and then I suck the life out of her with this, and we're out of here."

Thor didn't like the thought of seducing Jane, knowing that he had a wife in God knows where by now. It was like betraying his vows and commitment to her, and that made him uncomfortable. "I feel so dirty." Thor shivered slightly.

Rocket rolled his eyes, "Don't worry about Carol, Thor. It's just until I get the stone out of her, and then we'll be out of here."

Thor's body stopped when he heard a familiar soft voice call his name, "Thor?"

Rocket quickly hid, giving Thor a curt nod. And Thor stopped dead. He would know that voice anywhere, but never thought he would hear it again. He took a deep breath and looked up. What he saw nearly made his knees give out. There stood Jane Foster haloed by the sunlight and more beautiful than he ever remembered. It had been so long since he had last seen her, and it was quite overwhelming.

"Jane?" he breathed barely audible, but he knows she could hear him.

She walked towards him at a fast pace, and he thought she was going to stop in front of him, but instead, she grabbed him by the waist and pulled him into her. Before he could react, her lips were crushed against his. The second his lips touched hers; he immediately felt wrong all over. Not only had it been a decade since he's last seen Jane, but he knew now that his heart now belonged to another. But Thor knew that he had to fight it. Instead, he was kissing her back with just as much intensity. His mind was clouded in all that is Jane Foster. His lips molded to hers as if the time apart never happened.

The second their lips broke apart, Jane ruffled his hair affectionately, "A haircut? What's the occasion?"

Before he could answer, Thor has instantly pulled away from her arms and into another pair of small arms, but this was a lot stronger.

"Thor! I missed ya, you rugged bastard!" Sif's twinkling chime voice said as she pulled back out of their hug but didn't release him.

"Sif... it's so good to see..."

Another voice boomed before he could get the words, "Thor!"

Then he heard loud footsteps and saw Volstagg, Fandral, and Hogun emerging from the outside area and looking right at him. He was immediately leaped on and flattened to the ground by all three of his friends.

"Guys...can't...breathe."

"Oh, sorry, my friend," Volstagg said, helping him up. "I can't believe you're here and look how much you've changed!"

Rocket couldn't help but smile at the scene. It reminded him so much of what he lost, of what he had, and didn't appreciate them enough until they were finally gone from his grasp. He was going to show them how much they meant to him once they got back.

Thor grinned proudly and roughly pulled them all in a group hug, "I've missed you too, my friends, more than you know."

Thor's breathed them all in, feeling their comfort and warmth for the very last time. They would always be with him, and he would make sure their sacrifices would never be forgotten as long as Asgard stand... "Could you guys give Jane and me a moment?"

They all nodded in understanding and left, but not before Thor pulled them in for another hip crushing hug.

"Now, where were we?" Jane whispered, slowly latching her lips back onto Thor's.

This time Thor remembered Carol, the mother of his three children, his Queen, and he immediately pushed her away.

"Jane... please don't do that again." He whispered. The second the words left his lips, a part of him wished so badly that he could take it back, but the other part knew it was the right thing to do. Her face panicked.

"What's wrong? Is it the shirt. I didn't-" He stopped her before she could continue.

"It's not you, Jane...it's...I have to tell you..."

"Thor?" He looked up to see a woman staring at the scene with a small smile on her face. "When where you going to tell me you were back?"

"Mom..." Thor breathed. Losing his mother became one of the worse things that have ever happened to him. How could it not? She was the only one he had, and just like that, she was gone. It crushed him for years, but now, she was here. She was alive. Thor walked past Jane as his mother walked down the steps towards him. A few seconds later, he was pulling her into a tight hug.

"Oh my. I didn't realize you missed me that much." She said, startled by his aggressive hug.

"I did miss you. I missed you so much, Mom." Thor felt the tears that were building up in his eyes spillover. Years of the emotions he tried so hard to hold back were finally threatening to spill over, and he didn't know what to do to hold them back.

She pulled back and cupped his face, gazing at his face intently, "What happened to your eye, honey?"

Thor laughed softly, gently covering her hands with his. He enjoyed her soothing touch, "It's a long story."

"Oh?"

"We should talk..." Thor turned around to invite Jane with them only to find her gone. Rocket gave him a look, letting Thor know that he was on the case. Once they were settled, they were talking and catching up on all of the things that had happened in the years ahead of them. It felt great to speak to his mother about this. If only he could still share conversations like this with his father, brother, and friends. It still amazes him how quickly things have changed.

"So, who's the woman?" Frigga smiled as she lifted his hand with the band on his finger.

Thor chuckled sheepishly, "Carol Danvers, Queen of New Asgard." He couldn't help but smile at just the thought of her. "She's an incredible mom. She saved me. Without her, I wouldn't be the king I am today. I wouldn't be a man without her. "

"I'll bet, any woman who can make you settle down like this will forever have my respect."

The thought saddened him a little, knowing that she will never have the chance to meet her face to face. It was so many things that would never happen, and that broke his heart."I wish you could meet her, mom. You would love her more than the kids do. She's quite a fighter."

Her eyes widened in awe, "Kids?"

"Oh, right, Carol, and I have three kids. Two daughters and a son."

"Wow," Frigga placed a hand on her chest. "I have grandchildren."

Thor placed a hand over his mother's and smiled sadly, "I named one of the twins after you, mother. You would be proud."

Frigga placed a hand on her son's cheek, and her smile widened, "Oh, but I am proud my love, believe me, I am. You have finally let yourself live another life, and you're ready to face the unknown ahead of you."

"Thor!" Rocket's voice yelled from behind him, holding a container. "I got the thing, we have to..." he stopped short when his gaze met Thor's mothers. "Oh, you must be mom." Rocket nodded respectfully once more at her before looking at Thor again, "We gotta go, Thor."

Thor held onto his mother's hand, afraid to let it slip from his grip, "I wish we had more time."

"This was a gift, my son." She smiled sadly before placing a kiss on his forehead. "Now, you go be the man I know you can be."

"I love you, mom."

"I love you." And with that, Thor pulled her into her arms and just held her for as long as he possibly could, grateful for the time he had with his mother.

He took a few steps back and gave Rocket a curt nod.

Before Rocket could react, Thor yelled, "Wait!"

Thor closed his eyes and outstretched his arms, hoping and praying that it will come where it's supposed to be.

Rocket quirked a brow at him, "What the hell am I looking at?"

"Oh, sometimes it takes a moment. Give it time." Frigga explained.

Come on...come on.

In a swift motion, it was in Thor's tight grip. Mjolnir was back where it belonged.

"I'm still worthy!" Thor yelled ecstatically. "I'm still worthy."

Rocket rolled his eyes at the irony of it all.

"Bye, mom," Thor whispered.

"Bye, honey."

And just like that, they were gone, now having two stones out of six. Frigga smiled at the sight of where her son once stood and placed a hand over her heart.

"So proud..


Thanos continued to wipe the blood off his sword while his other arm laid on the armrest of his massive throne. Of course, being the man that he was, he took the head seat for himself. The eyes of the all of that followed and worshiped him were staring at him with waiting expressions.

"Ronan has located the power stone; I'm dispatching the location to his ship," He stated, throwing his rag to the side.

"He won't like that." Gamora sighed, having her hands behind her back.

Thanos couldn't help but chuckle at her bold words, "His alternative is death, that obsession of his makes him reckless."

Nebula glared at her sister before bowing down obediently to her father, "I will not let you down, father."

His eyes averted from Gamora's and landed on Nebula. Of course, it did not satisfy him. Nothing ever did. But it was the thought the counted in Nebula's mind. She would do anything to be her in her father's good graces, whatever it took for him to love and accept her finally. And when that day comes, she would finally be at peace of what she had become. But it didn't change the fact that it had been aggravating years for Thanos, and he knew it was only a matter of time before his patience would finally pay off.

"I know, daughter."

"I swear to you," Nebula whispered. "I will make you proud."

Suddenly, an electric jolt shot through Nebula, causing her to fall on her rear and let the recording play through her left eye.

"Alright, you three. No screwing around. Get that soul stone and get out of there."

"You know we will." The woman with red and blonde hair smiled at their direction, placing her hand on Nebula's shoulder, "Stay sharp out there, keep an eye on Rhodey for me, would ya?"

"Of course, we'll see you when we get the stone."

Another man comes into view, smiling as he wrapped an arm around her shoulder, "Stay safe."

Nebula smacked her head before the recording could play anymore, breathing uncontrollably in the process.

"Who were they?" Gamora asked, her voice filled with sisterly concern.

"I don't know. My head is splitting..."

Gamora stood up and looked at her father once more, "Her hardware must have been damaged in battle."

Thanos was off the throne in an instant, recognizing their faces, "It was an earthturian, an Avenger."

The word had been ingrained in his brain since the failed battle in New York, and Thanos hated them. He despised them. They cost him so many soldiers, and it was because of them that he was never genuinely fruitful—as much as he should have been, anyway. This was a race, and he came in second. And the one thing he hated more than anything, losing.

The Avengers had stopped his tyranny from running to Earth, taken everything from him, and he would never forget it.

Gamora sat up a little more in question.

"The Avengers," he said the name with disdain, "wretched creatures I tell you, stubborn to the very end."

Thanos's feet made the steady ground shake when he stepped down from his throne, his hands behind his back in an authoritative manner. No one dared speak, because his anger was evident and created palpable tension in the air.

"Bring Nebula onto my ship." Thanos decided to keep the details of his plans vague.

"Father?" Gamora asked quietly.

"I believe we have war among us, daughter." Thanos continued.

He stared at Gamora intently and tried to decide on the final aspects of his plans, which was quickly coming together. He needed to be meticulously calculated, and that was going to take time. He still needed the stones. But he knew what he wanted, the end of the Avengers. The Avengers was going to be in pain, suffering, and they will finally inherit failure on his behalf.

"I don't care what we have to do, as long as it gets done."


How many Avengers are gone in search of 6 stones through a time ...

VORMIR, 2014

A content sigh escaped Natasha's lips when she felt a hand clap on her shoulder.

She turned her head slightly to see Clint, giving her a sly smile, "Doing alright there, Nat?"

She sighed again, letting her hands grip on the armrest a little bit tighter. "I don't know... I can't shake this feeling." She saw Steve moving from her side. Her eyes refused to meet his again. Steve was making sure he had his gear in the back, prepping himself for landing. Natasha was honestly trying to keep her composure, to keep herself from breaking down right in front of her best friend, to push away the thoughts of doing something that she might regret.

Clint sat next to me in the passenger seat, "What's on your mind?"

"I know what's about to happen...and if we want to win, I have to let it happen," Natasha whispered, fiddling with her wedding band. "I don't want to lose everything that I've built for these last five years. Things were doing so great, you know? When Steve and I got married, when I found out I was pregnant, the concept of love couldn't have been more clearer. They became my world, and I would do anything for them. And now..."

"I know," Clint nodded, sighing deeply. "I know."

"You would know better than anyone, wouldn't you?" Natasha smiled sadly, reaching for his trembling hand.

"Change hasn't been on my side lately, Nat."

"It isn't on anyone's side," Natasha sniffled. "It's up to you on what you do with that change, Clint."

"I wish I could look at life the way you do," Clint swallowed and attempted a smile. "I just wish things could be more simple than what they are."

Natasha placed a comforting hand on his thigh, "We've come a long way from Budapest, haven't we?"

"Sure have, and it's been one hell of a ride ever since." Clint placed a hand over hers. "And the ride is far from over."

Natasha gave him a soft smile before standing up to get a good look at the view around her. Clint smiled softly as he watched Steve walk to Natasha. She was married to a good man and had a beautiful child together. Clint couldn't have been happier for her. She had found true happiness, and that's all he ever wanted for her.

She rested herself against Steve's chest as his arms were wrapped around her waist. They looked at the constellations while being in each other's arms. It was where they were the happiest, where they could forget about in the world and just be them. Steve and Nat. Steve's expression was stiff, grimacing at the thought of this potentially being the last time he holds her in his arms. He loved this woman, no matter what. He wanted to watch their little girl grow up with each passing day. He wanted to wake up to her smiling face in the morning. But most importantly, he wanted her to live even if it meant without him.

"It's beautiful," Natasha whispered, leaning her head against his chest. "So many views we've seen, but never nothing like this."

Steve could only grunt in agreement. Nothing more was said. What could one say at that moment?

They both jumped slightly as they felt a rumble under their seat. Steve's eyes averted to the front to see that the shuttle had come to a halt to what looked like a desert. The sound of a shuffling caused them to turn around to see Clint holding his stash of arrows in his hands.

"You two gonna cuddle all day, or are we gonna make a difference out there?." He joked, filling the bag with arrows. Natasha rolled her eyes as they pulled apart. Steve didn't dare look at her as he went to grab his weapons. He just attached his sword and shield to his back and made his way out. But as he walked out, he heard a small cackle in his ear but chose to ignore it.

The shuttle doors slowly rose down, letting the cold wind breeze in violently. Vormir was beyond anything they've ever seen in my life. The sky was nearly dark, followed by what they believe was their sun, making the air result in a dusk type theme. While the rest of the planet was filled with nothing but sand and small oasis's, there was a gigantic mountain, hovering everything in all of its glory.

It was indeed a strange place...

"Let's get moving," Steve said curtly.

Natasha's brow furrowed as she watched Steve march up the mountain. There was something different about him, something that was keeping him guarded. She couldn't put her finger on it, but something was definitely bothering him. As they got close to the mountain, a knot began to form in her stomach, telling her that something terrible was going to happen. That feeling, that feeling that she couldn't shake was letting her know that this time, it wasn't going away.

Something about this place made her feel eerie inside like danger and darkness was lurking in every corner. It was an uneasy feeling to process.

Natasha shivered slightly as a deep voice filled the void of the darkness.

"Steve Rogers," The winds grew frantic as a man in a black robe floated in our direction as if he was God himself. "Son of Joseph. We meet again after all this time."

Steve's gaze widened slightly, and his hands grip on the hilt of his sword. Here was the man who changed his life forever, that terrorized his country and caused a lot of missed time in his life. Steve couldn't help but feel pure hatred towards that man and wanted to do nothing more than to cut him down. But he knew that without the past, he wouldn't have the life that he had now. He couldn't ignore that.

"Schmidt," Steve said through gritted teeth, his grip never loosening. "I see you've made yourself home here."

"As one would do when they have no choice in the matter."

"Sounds like you got what you deserve, you bastard!" Natasha jumped slightly as she heard the anger in his tone. It had been so long since she's seen him this way, and she knew what would happen if she let him continue down this path. Natasha stepped in front of Steve, placing a protective arm in his place. Red Skull noticed the gesture and nodded respectfully.

"Natasha, daughter of Ivan. Clint, son of Edith."

Ivan...

Ivan was the name of her father. The man who gave her life, the man she never grew up with, the man she was stolen from and now thirty years later and epic journey then, and she finally learned his name. Meeting her parents was always part of her plan. She had her suspicions that they were long gone, but a small piece of her was hoping that she could finally get the closure that she dreamed about all of her life. And she did, just not the closure she was expecting. Although it would've been nice, she didn't need her father. There was another man in her life now.

And he's not going anywhere for a long time.

"I'm not in the mood for your games," Steve said solemnly, stepping forward. "We just want the soul stone, and we'll get out your way."

His red, cracked face moved as he shook his head slightly, "It is not that simple, old friend; the treasure you seek is not what you think."

"Tell me where it is now!" Steve demanded.

"Soul holds a special place among the infinity stones. It cannot be found. It must be earned."

"Earn it. How?" Natasha asked shakily, afraid of what his answer would be. Though what really made her afraid was if her suspicions were right.

"It demands a sacrifice."

"What does it need?" Clint pressed, now in sync with Steve and Natasha, as they followed him down a narrow path to the top.

"A soul. You have to sacrifice that which you love to take the stone. A soul for a soul."

Silence fell upon them as their gazes were now ahead of us, looking at the spot that one of them would cost one of our lives.

They all sat there, letting the words of the mysterious man sink into their minds. "The son of a bitch has to be messing with us. I don't trust him. There has to be another way." Natasha wanted to believe Clint's words, more than anything. But she knew deep down that the words of the other man couldn't be more accurate.

"I don't think so, Clint," Natasha whispered, her voice trembling.

"Why, cause he knew your daddy's name?" Clint replied sarcastically

"I didn't." Natasha shrugged. "And let's not forget the fact that Thanos left this place without his daughter. We have to be smart about this."

Natasha looked at her wedding band and felt a pull at her heart. It was a sign of Steve's love and commitment to her, the promise of him returning her no matter. And here they were, at the crossroads of losing it all. Steve didn't bother to look back as he held his little girl's plastic compass in his hands. He held it tightly but soft enough not to crush. Sarah wouldn't be too happy with that.

Natasha looked at how close he was to the edge. Not too close that he would fall off the edge with a step, but enough to make her worry.

"Steve..." She called his name, slowly approaching him.

"Tell me something, Nat," Steve said bitterly. "How long did you know?"

Natasha winced at his anger once more, not expecting him to sound this way. Her fear slowly escalated, and she immediately turned her head away from me. And then, it was like all the pieces were falling into place. She knew what needed to be done; she knew that one of them was not coming back home, and she knew that it would be her. She had already decided that, without even telling him.

"You knew what needed to be done all along, didn't you?" Steve whispered, his jaw clenched tightly. "All this time...and you said nothing to me."

"Steve..."

"You were gonna jump, weren't you?" Steve turned around instantly, causing her to take a step back. "You knew that I was going to stop you."

"Steve, listen to me..."

"No, you listen!" He snapped. "There's not a moment in my life where I felt like I couldn't trust you. So it shouldn't take Nebula to tell me that you were planning on jumping off this damn cliff to kill yourself. You were the one who was supposed to tell me, because that's what we do, right? We're always honest with each other, no secrets."

"I knew you were going to stop me, so I didn't tell you!" she confessed, tears rolling down her cheek. "And if I would've told you, if I would've told Sarah... I wouldn't have gone through with it."

"And what about our daughter? Did you ever stop and think about what your death would to her, to me?!" He lifted her hand and pointed to the ring on her finger. "You promised me that you would always be there that we would spend the rest of our lives together. And you were going to throw it all away without a word to me!"

"Someone has to," She looked up, tears falling down her cheek. "If not me, then who?"

"She's right, Cap," Clint said, a defeated look starting to cross his features. "We have to get that stone. The fate of the world is in our hands."

Steve sighed deeply, realizing that there was no way out of this. Tears slipped out of his eyes as his hands slid into hers in a firm grasp.

"I guess we know who it's gotta be," Clint whispered, his eyes averted down the end of the path.

"Yeah," Natasha's eyes gazed down to her ring, letting her finger brush over it one more time. "I guess we do."

Steve closed his eyes for a moment before he leaned forward and pressed his lips against Natasha's. She whimpered against his lips. It was definitely a goodbye kiss. There was no other way to explain it. It was one of those kisses that said everything that needed to be said. That no matter what, their love was forever. Their commitment to each other was forever. Their family was forever. And they were forever as well.

Steve sighed deeply as he pulled away from Natasha. Slowly, he removed his weapons from their holsters, looking at the both of them, "Before we get started...does anyone want to leave."

Clint smiled sadly as he prepped his bow and arrow for shooting, "I'm gonna miss you, Cap."

"You too, Clint."

Before anyone of them could react, a shot flew through the air, and a green beam lodge through Clint's shoulders. Natasha's eyes widened as she roared his name. Without hesitation, she ran to him and caught him in her arms. Steve looked up and felt his heart stop at the sight. The sky began to rain with ships, soldiers shooting their laser rifles at them. He knew this all too well; it was an ambush. One that they were definitely not prepared for.

"Take cover," Steve yelled as he used his shield to block all incoming projectiles. He looked to his left, and Schmidt gave him a curt nod before disappearing with the wind. He took cover behind a giant boulder and looked at Natasha she looked over Clint's wound. It was through and through, clean shot. He grunted in pain when he tried to sit up.

"Not good," Steve said, looking at the horde coming down the path. "They're boxing us in."

"Who are they?" Clint said, slowly getting back on his feet. Natasha took out her .45 caliber pistol and shot back.

"It doesn't matter," Steve grunted. "We need to get out of here! Now!"

"Then, we break out. Hit them from the back," Natasha said solemnly.

"No, I'll clear the path," Steve said, looking at Clint. "Stay here. I'm gonna hold them off for as long as I can!" They were both confused, wondering what the hell he was doing. The horde was coming, and they were bringing more within the second. Their options were clearly limited.

"Steve, what are you..."

Steve grabbed the base of Natasha's neck and pulled her in a seething, heated kiss. Startled at first, she quickly responded with the same enthusiasm, her hands tangled into his hair. Catching her off guard, he grabbed one of Clint's loose arrows off the ground and stuck it to her sleeve, wedging it deep into the boulder beside them.

"Steve," She gasped, trying with all her strength to get it off.

"I love you!" He nodded curtly, running back into the fire. He heard her voice scream his name through the sounds of the weapons firing. Steve was he was ready. He was a soldier, a warrior of Asgard, and he wasn't going down without a fight. A small horde of Chitauri ran towards him, and he stood guard, ready to attack those who dared tried to challenge him. Effortlessly, he swung his sword upright and downwards, expertly taking out the small group alone. He could feel his arms grow tired the more they circled him, but his will to survive was too strong. He was ready for more.

But before he could swing again, he felt shoulders bump his and watched as the horde fell before him. Natasha and Clint were in front of him, slashing and slicing at each of them.

"She never listens, never," Steve shook his head at his headstrong wife. Steve, feeling more determined, decided to help. He snuck in a few stabs and swipes at the heartless monster. They were relentless. The more they cut down, the more they showed up. The structures began to crumble around them, causing the ground to tremor from each rubble that fell. They had no way of escaping with the entrance being blocked.

Natasha clutched her side tightly, her hands drenched in blood, "We...we have to get out of here."

Steve noticed how weak she was, how her legs were beginning to wobble. It was only so much she could take. Without hesitance, Steve put his arms under her legs and carried her to the cover nearby. Through the thickness of Natasha's suit, Steve felt the heat of blood on his black uniform. Steve looked down at Natasha and saw blood running down her nose, her cheeks bruised and battered. She had been through hell but still looked as determined as ever.

"Shit, " Natasha huffed as a sharp pain shot through her side.

"Stay with me, Nat," Steve huffed, putting pressure on her wound. "You're not dying on me Rogers, not today. I need you, Sarah needs you."

"Steve..." Natasha looked at her husband, softly pressing a hand to his cheek. And before they knew it, an explosion separated them, sending them across the pavement. Steve was much closer to the entrance, but Clint and Natasha were nowhere near it. He looked around him and saw the paved path filled with bodies, the smell of foreign blood filling his nose. He grunted in pain as he stood on one knee. And then, he saw him like a ghost popping out of thin air, like a wolf fresh from the den. Thanos had returned, and he was looking better than ever.

Steve looked at the man that's has been haunting him for years with defiance, blood seeping from the side of his head. Thanos bent down in front of him, a menacing smile on his lips. Their eyes locked, and there were no depths to the words that they were silently saying to each other. Thanos grunted in amusement as he stood up slowly, giant sword in hand.

"Take him, kill the rest."

"No!" Natasha yelled from behind them. Steve could barely hear it with the ringing in his ears. He wanted to move, more than anything. But he found himself stuck to the ground, forced to listen to the horror behind him as they dragged him onto one of the ships. Natasha looked up and saw a soldier hovering over her, prepared to kill. Before he could make a move, two arrows went through his skull, causing him to plummet to the side of her. Natasha turned around and saw Clint at the edge of the cliff.

His eyes met hers, and they told her everything within seconds. It showed how much he cared, it showed his pain, it showed his sorrows...and it showed her just how much he needed this. He had red in his ledger, and this was his way of wiping it off.

With all of the strength he could muster, Clint smiled weakly and whispered, "Tell them I love them, okay?"

His smile widened for a second, and before she knew it, he was gone. He was slowly falling, and Natasha felt her voice caught her up in her throat, unable to process what had happened. Her heart broke into a million pieces, and she felt it at that very moment.

A bright illuminating light shined around her following by the sound of lightning, letting her know that the Soul of Clint Barton had been accepted.


Natasha's eyes popped open immediately, only to find herself in warm shallow water. The sky shined a little bit brightly as she felt something small in her hand. When she lifted it, her eyes were immediately blinded by the bright gem. She had it, the soul stone, and all she had to do was watch her best friend die and let her husband get captured to get it.

She didn't watch him jump, hearing the thud was already hard enough. Her mouth was dry, her throat was aching from crying, her eyes were throbbing, and her pulse was slow and loud in her ears. She watched as the ships roamed through the sky, leaving the planet's atmosphere. Her eyes looked at the stone again, staring at the stone with hatred and disdain.

"Clint...Steve..."

She was still in pain but couldn't help but let out her anger and anguish. She was suffering in a way that she couldn't explain. It was a pain that no woman or wife should ever experience. But even so, she had a job to do. She was going to make this right for them, and she was going to make them proud, even if it killed her. And then...as if it just hit her, she cried again. She cried even harder, realizing that she had to go back home to her little girl without her father.

Chapter Text

Steve grunted in pain as he felt another attack to the back, hands bound to the side. It had been going on like this for quite some time now. He was trapped, confined in this dark room. His body ached from the constant beating received, and there was no end to their imagination. He didn't know how long they had held him captive, but he couldn't remember the last time he stopped smelling his blood. The top part of his uniform was thrown across the room, leaving him shirtless and bare. He didn't flinch as they continued their assault.

Gamora and Nebula stood behind their father as he watched on with amusement, feeling prideful at the sound of him being broken. The air was thin, but every hit to his ribs made the air leave because of the assault to his ribs. Blood dripped down the side of his head and traveled to his neck. Finally, Thanos raised a hand to tell them to stop. He slowly approached him and bent down to get a good look at him, "Such resistance. I do commend that."

Steve looked up at him, his eyes void of any emotion. He couldn't show him weakness; it was the one thing he couldn't take away from him.

"I'm sure no introductions are needed," Thanos smirked at him, walking around in a circle with his hands behind his back. "After all, you and your annoying little misfits are doing everything in your power to reverse what I've done in your time."

Steve remained silent; every part of his body completely numb.

Thanos' grin widened as he watched the machine absorb his mind, collecting his memories and watched as he succumbed under pressure. He had never seen such resilience in a man, much less from a mortal. The wheels began to turn in his dark, twisted mind, filling them with great potential and opportunities. Giving the Maw a curt nod, the machine quickly released Steve. He dropped to the floor with a light thud.

Gamora's nose scrunched up from the smell of blood as it overwhelmed her senses.

"You can stop this," Nebula whispered beside her. "You know you want to."

But before she could respond, Thanos nodded curtly and ordered, "Let's see his potential shall we?"

"Natasha...Sarah..." Steve grumbled as he remained on his knees. His eyes never wavered, his hands clenching and unclenching. "Natasha...Sarah..."

Thanos nodded curtly as he tossed Steve's weapons to the ground. Steve's eyes remained open, his hands slowly reaching for his weapons. Thanos chuckled, urging his soldiers to approach him. Steve didn't flinch at them, revealing their weapons to him. He was prepared for a battle. He was ready to die. The soldier to his left was the first to strike, and Steve's reflexes were unlike anything Thanos had ever seen before. Before his hand could fully reach out to him, his hand was cut off. The creature yelled and writhed in pain, blood gushing onto the cold floor. Steve's head whipped quickly to the two soldiers charging at him. He promptly slashed at one of their legs, causing him to fall. The other swung his sword, only for his attack to be blocked. Without hesitation, Steve took the opportunity to send his own weapon through his throat before yanking it out quickly. The fight was brutal and bloody. At that moment, it was clear to Thanos that the soldiers were outmatched.

The soldiers around him were dead; more blood smeared on his face and clothes. He looked like death, and Thanos knew death, in more ways than he cared to admit. And to him, Steve was the pure definition of death. Steve wiped the blood off his sword and waited for the next approach. He heard movement from the side of him and wasted no time. He sidestepped the soldier and wedged the sword through his back. He slides the sword down, and his insides spilled out of him slowly. He dies as well. Steve stumbled a second before regaining his balance. His head turned towards Thanos, watching as eyes examined him from head to toe.

Thanos watched with grim satisfaction as pieces of his soldiers were torn brutally from their bodies. He had found the perfect pawn. He had broken his mind, his spirit, and he was greater than the man he was before in his eyes. Steve's chest heaved with labored breaths, sweat beading on his skin. He closed his eyes, tired and dazed as he tried to catch his breath.

"Rogers," Nebula shook her head as she remained bound to the ground. "You're a good man. Don't let him control you like this. Fight it, dammit! For your wife, for your daughter! Fight it!"

For a moment, his gaze wavered, and his grip on his weapons loosened. But it left as quick as it came, and he slowly dropped back to his knees. He was broken beyond reason.

Steve Rogers was no more.

Thanos nodded curtly and Gamora, "Prepare our armies for the attack. When Nebula sends the signal, we need to be prepared." He looks at Steve with newfound interest, his lips curling up into a small smirk. "Prep him as well. He shall be very useful."

And with that, Thanos left the room and an eerie silence behind. Gamora slowly approached the man and trailed a finger under his chin, watching him curiously. She forces him to face her, his emotionless eyes staring back at her.

"Good luck," Gamora nodded in respect. "You're gonna need it."

And then she left as well, finally escaping the brutal torture.

For now, at least.


Natasha's eyes stared at the lake with a blank expression; her gaze never wavering. Her thoughts were like a million miles away, the previous events replaying in her mind over and over again. But nothing could make her feel any better about it; it only brought more pain and misery. The rest of the crew were solemn, grieving over the loss of their friend and family. They mourned over the death of Clint Barton, and the sadness was heavy in the air. But one was feeling the tension more than Natasha. No one could even begin to comprehend the pain she was feeling.

Her cheeks were stained with tears, but she didn't cry over them anymore. She didn't have any more tears to give. The past few days had been rough. She had cried herself dry, and she was surprised that her eyes hadn't fallen out. But she had to be strong. She still had Sarah to think about, and she couldn't ignore that.

"I just...I can't believe he's gone," Tony sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I remember Nebula saying something about 'sacrifice' but... this?"

"And he captured Steve," Thor growled in frustration, and his fist clenched in anger. "There's always a setback when it comes to this sick bastard!"

Natasha didn't flinch; she had become numb to the sound of his name. She would fiddle with her wedding band when she thought about him, a reminder that their commitment is forever. Everyone's gaze landed on her, their eyes filled with concern. She could practically feel their eyes burn a hole in her back.

"I'm sorry, Nat. I'm so sorry," Bruce reached over to touch her shoulder but thought better of it.

"How can I even look at them?" she whispered, not bothering to turn around.

"Nat..."

"I can never escape their grief, their pain. Every time I see them, I'll see him. Always."

"We'll bring him back," Thor said solemnly. "As long as we have the stones, we can bring them all back."

She laughed sarcastically, shaking her head, "We can't get him back. It can't be undone."

"Come on, Rogers," Thor sat down near her and put a strong hand on her shoulders, rubbing them in comfort. "They wouldn't want us to be weak. They would want us to fight this."

"It's my fault," She whispered as she nodded her head. "I loved them both too much, and they suffered because of me."

"You know that's far from the truth," Carol joined them. "It could've gone either way, Nat. There was no better way around this."

"And Steve is still alive," Tony said curtly. "Once we're done with this, we're going back for him, no matter what."

"I'll be sure to let my little girl know that when I come home without her father..."

And then, as if on cue, she finally broke down and let herself fall into Carol's arms. Carol quickly embraced her and held her close against her chest. And as Natasha let the floodgates continue it's course, and she realized that there was still more work to be done.


Nebula remained where she'd sat for the past three hours – staring resolutely into the fire, eyes unwavering. The pebble she clutched in her small fingers had long since gone numb in her grip. One corner of the blanket she'd pulled over her shaking shoulders had slipped down, revealing a bruising splotch on her bare shoulder.

The tears that had so recently spilled down her cybernetic skin left behind furrows of deep blue that raked down her cheeks, but no more fell. She had none left. Sadness - which had wrapped itself around her entire body and squeezed until she couldn't breathe, couldn't move, couldn't even think – also disappeared, faded into a barbed numbness that fogged her brain. Any trace of her usual emotions that were usually so prevalent had gone into the flickering fire before her. She sat now, an empty shell of a woman who was used to being torn apart.

Getting kidnapped wasn't part of the plan; it usually isn't. But as usual, her father was always one step ahead of things, and now she was under his thumb once again. Their plan was going to unravel before her very eyes, and she couldn't help but blame herself.

The wind cut an icy blast across the exposed swatch of her skin, but Nebula didn't move to remedy the situation. She turned her head to see who had opened her cell. She saw the dark outline of a woman, slipping in quietly.

"We'll be landing soon." She whispered. "Don't try anything."

Words tumbled from her lips, and surprisingly, she reached up to touch her face. The fingers that pressed ever so lightly against her cheek burned hot against her skin, but she didn't pull away.

Nebula fell silent as she looked at her sister with desperate eyes.

"You can stop this." She begged. "You know you want to."

Gamora took in the bruise, the death in her eyes. "You know I can't help you." Gamora kept her voice low and even, though apart of her knew she was telling the truth.

"You know our father gets the soul stone, right?" Nebula asked.

Her words came out so clear, so strong that Gamora's gaze speared up to her face, and the expression she found there almost frightened her.

And then she was moving. Her tiny arms and tiny legs flailed for a moment, and she scrambled to a kneeling position. "Do you know what he does to you, my sister?"

Gamora was almost afraid to ask, "What?"

"He throws you off a damn cliff...just so he could get it." There was madness to her pleaded that leaked into her eyes and planted a seed of fear in his stomach. "I've watched him destroy the world once, and I can't let him do it again."

"You don't know that, Nebula," Gamora whispered, completely adamant about Nebula's statement.

"But he will," she continued, not breaking face for a single moment. "He'll never stop. Never. You know that better than anyone."

"Tell me something." Gamora made her towards her, sitting in front of her. "In the future, what happens to you and me?"

Nebula chuckled darkly at their moments, "I try to kill you, several times. Very close, if I may add. But... eventually, we end up becoming sisters, a lot closer than we've ever been."

Gamora looked at her, really looked at her, and for the first time, she knew that her sister was genuine and honest with her. A quality that was buried very deep inside of her. Her eyes now showed a fire in them.

"So we'll run," Gamora told her, "You and me. We'll go somewhere far away until he can't find us."

"There's nowhere we can go that he can't find us, Gamora." Her lip trembled with the force of tears that threatened to erupt. "You know what we have to do."

Nebula had figured out the answer to her problem.

Thanos had to die.

She couldn't do it herself, of course. She wasn't nearly strong enough, and she didn't dare pit herself against the wrath of the Black Order. But the Avengers… they had the strength and the ability to take on Thanos. They were fully capable of eliminating that horror from her life. She made sure to smother the smile as she pulled back and pushed hope into her eyes.

"That's easier said than done, Nebula."

"It's nothing we can't do together."

Gamora should have said no. She knew it was a bad idea from the moment Nebula spoke the words, and now as she trudged through the thick fog of night, he felt even worse about it. Killing Thanos would not only be incredibly difficult, but it would also be a chance that they would make things worse than better. But, Gamora was never one to shrink from a challenge, and she wasn't going to start now.

"That man," Her eyes looked at the old puddle of blood, shivering at the thought. "Did you know him well?"

Nebula swallowed hard, "He's a good man, better than most Terrans I've met." Nebula's gaze followed the blood trail out of the room and sighed deeply. "And our father just turned him into a mindless killing machine within' a few days."

Her eyes landed on Nebula's once more and smiled weakly, "Then we'll have to save him as well."

Nebula smiled back, but it faded as quickly as it came, "She's gonna go through with it."

"We'll stop her together," Gamora nodded curtly. "And what about your friend?"

"That...is a complication, one that only his wife can fix."


"I love you, Mama!"

"And I love you, little bird." Natasha closed her eyes tightly, reveling in the sound of her daughter's voice. She didn't know when the next time it'll be before she hears it again. "I'll see you soon."

This was it; the moment was finally here.

To think that everything her life changed five years ago. It's nearly a struggle even to forget, but how could she? They lost, they lost everything that day. And when that wasn't enough, they continued to lose things that were close to them. It was like sand slipping through their fingers, and they were slowly dissolving, just like it. But now, it was the time to make it right, to make up for their mistakes. They were all suited up and prepared for what was to come. It was time to bring everyone home.

"So," Rhodey crossed his arms. "Who's going to do it?"

"I'll do it." And it was the last voice Carol wanted to hear. They all turned to Thor, who looked determined and set on his resolve in his warrior armor. Natasha had grown to love Thor like a brother; he was always supportive of whatever she and Steve went through as they were for him. So, she felt this need to protect him. It wasn't as though she didn't trust his strength or abilities. I just knew that his chance of surviving this was very slim, and he had a family to go back home to.

"Thor..." Carol began, but Thor cut her off.

"It has to be me, my queen."

"Yeah," Carol laughed darkly. "Out of everyone in this room, it has to be you."

"I need this, Carol. You know, I do." Thor growled, avoiding eye contact with her. He was in pain. She could see it in his dark eyes and feel it in the tremors rippling through her body.

"Look at me, Thor." She whispered. "Look at me."

He did.

"You don't have to prove yourself to anyone, Thor. It wasn't your fault." She kissed his forehead. "It was never your fault."

Thor clenched his fists tightly, tears falling down his eyes. He immediately wiped them away. He would always lay his emotions bare in front of his wife, even without trying, "I'm so proud of the king you have become, the man you have become. And it kills me to see you blame yourself over something you had no control over. You have to let it go, Thor."

"Carol..." he croaked.

"Let it go, Thor."

His shoulders shook as Carol continued to soothe him. And then, everything became so clear at that moment. Thor felt like he failed everyone when he didn't kill Thanos when he had the chance. If he had taken a different route that day, maybe things would've been different. She couldn't exactly fault him for feeling the way he did. It was the same feeling Natasha felt when it happened. But it wasn't anyone's fault; it was just...inevitable.

"Just let it go," Carol whispered once again before pulling him into a crushing hug. Thor buries his head in the crook of her neck and wraps his arms around her waist tightly. "I love you, bucko."

"And I love you," he sighed as he breathed in her scent.

"I'll do it," Bruce said suddenly out the blue.

"Bruce," Natasha gave him a look that only he understood. "You sure?"

Bruce ran his hands through his hair and paced the floor. Everyone gave him a wide berth. He was being put in an impossible position. He looked to Tony, possibly for guidance. Natasha wasn't sure. But, all he got from her was stoic acceptance. Bruce sighed and said, "Yeah, it has to be me; it'll destroy any of you guys on the spot. I can do this."

Anyone who knew her knew that Bruce was apart of her life like the rest of the team were. But she knew the importance of this moment. As much as she feared for him, she understood that this was part of the duty he was sent upon.

Tony carefully placed the gauntlet in hands, eyeing him warily, "Okay, Banner. Focus on bringing on everyone back and nothing else. Change nothing from the last five years."

Bruce nodded gruffly, slowly sliding his hands inside the gauntlet. "Everybody comes home."

Carol walked over to Natasha and wrapped her arms securely around her waist. Her back was pressed against her chest. Carol kissed the side of her head quickly and said, "Everything's gonna be alright, Nat."

She just nodded coherently, never taking her eyes off of Bruce.

"Friday," Tony, now armored, looked back cautiously. "Initiate the lockdown protocol.

The room grew darker as every window and door was being blocked off from the outside. No one was getting in or getting out at the moment.

Tony, always thinking ahead.

As soon as the gauntlet clung onto Bruce, he immediately dropped to the ground yelling in agonizing pain. The stones shine brightly in beautiful, enigmatic transparency. Sparks climbed up his arms, nearly scorching his arm to bits. Natasha held onto Carol's hand tightly as they watched on.

"You alright, Banner?" Thor asked, his voice thick with concern.

Bruce took several deep breaths, pacing himself so he could try to embrace the pain. He nodded tiredly, trying his best to push on. The gauntlet roared again to force another scream out of Bruce. Natasha's heart stopped when she saw him slowly raise his hand. His eyes landed on hers before his middle finger and thumb came together for a loud snap. His eyes rolled to the back of his head before he collapsed on the ground, the gauntlet slipping out of his hands. Thor quickly kicked it out the way before turning his attention on Bruce.

"Bruce," Natasha screamed, immediately running to his side.

"Did it work?" He whispered, staring at her desperately.

"Don't worry about that right now; just stay calm."

"Don't move," Tony said as he began to look Bruce over.

Tony looked at it once more before stabilizing his condition.

And suddenly, it was if her body shifted at the change. Her eyes looked up to see the sunshine brightly in the sky, and she could feel the difference. Hundreds of birds flew past the windows as the atmosphere in the room slowly grew calm. The birds were singing loudly. Louder and louder by the moment, higher and higher. It flooded her ears effortlessly, drowning everything out in the process.

"I think it worked, Bruce," Natasha whispered in awe. "You did it."

Then, the birds' singing was replaced by a strange whistling sound.

Natasha dropped Bruce's hand by his side. She looked to the sky again and shielded her eyes with one hand.

And then, the room grew darker. A massive ship was staring down at them, creating an eerie setting in the room.

Then a giant roar.

As soon as the weapons pulled out, Carol immediately secured her arms around Natasha as there was a flash of white behind them. The ground lurched beneath her body as she shielded Natasha from the falling debris. A big burning chunk of metal whipped by along with a thousand shards of glass, which seemed to move very slow before her.

Then they crashed to the ground on their backs. Covering their bodies was a shower of dirt and glass.

Carol lifted her head and examined Natasha for injuries, "You alright, Rogers? Are you hurt?"

Natasha couldn't respond. She looked around the room and saw that the walls were shaking, and the ceiling was in danger of collapsing down on top of them. She could barely focus on the ringing in her ears and the haziness in her vision.

What the hell was going on?

Carol stood up and held her hand out, "Are you with me now?" She asked.

Natasha nodded curtly.

"No time for lounging you two," Tony's voice said from behind them. "We've got trouble."

Natasha slowly got up to her feet, taking in all the destruction around them, "Where are the others?"

"Does anybody copy?" Bruce's voice yelled through her coms. "We're pinned down here, and we need backup!"

"I copy!" Lang yelled in response. "Hang on. I'm almost there."

There was a loud rumble, and the room shook, dropping large pieces of stone from the ceiling down to the floor. "You have to help them, they won't last long down there," Tony said, eyeing Carol intently.

Carol nodded in agreement. "Of course." She patted his shoulder and added, "Watch Thor's back for me."

She then looked over to her king and caressed his cheek with an intensity that they'd never experienced before and said, "If you go, I need you to come back to me." She leaned closer so that only he could hear. "To us."

Thor sighed and took her face in her hands and brought her lips to his, kissing her, branding her with his love. "Always, my queen," he whispered between kisses. "Always."

She gives him one more lingering kiss before going down the narrow path, leaving nothing but dust behind.

Natasha's eyes averted to Tony, "Do you have any idea what the hell is going on?"

"Come see for yourself." He nudged his head towards another direction. After a few minutes of walking, Natasha was met by a gravesite. After watching the man's head get cut off, five years later and he's still here, resilient, and intimidating as ever. He was fully armored from the last time she's seen him, a giant sword mounted by his side. Thanos' eyes met hers, and she couldn't help the anger that bubbled up inside of her when a cocky smirk hit his lips.

The nerve of that bastard...

Natasha looked over at Thor to see him staring Thanos down intently."What's he been doing?"

Thor sighed, shaking his head. "Absolutely nothing."

"He doesn't have the stones, so we make sure it stays that way."

Thor couldn't help but chuckle darkly, "You know it's a trick, right?"

Tony laughed back, "When has that ever stopped us."

"True," Thor stretched out his arms, causing the dark clouds to form lightning with the loud boom of thunder. Within the next few seconds, Stormbreaker and Mjolnir were within' his grasp. Armor began to cover his body once more, making him look even more badass in Natasha's opinion, "Shall we?"

"Of course." They nodded in sync before they began walking towards him.

"Destiny is a funny thing, isn't it?" Thanos chuckled roughly. "No matter how many times you try to deny it, in the end, it will always be inevitable."

He looked up once again, "I thought if I eliminated half of life, that the others would flourish and grow. But I see now, that as long as there are people who hang on to what was, they won't be able to what it can be. And they'll resist."

"What gives you the right to tell us how to live our lives?" Thor said bitterly.

Thanos turned his head to the side as he stared at him curiously, "Because I see the good in things unlike you."

"There's no good in murdering innocent people," Natasha replied, feeling as if Steve's words were coming out of her mouth at the moment. "Everyone deserves a chance to make something out of their lives; it's not your decision. You don't have the right to play God."

"It seems we've reached an impasse, haven't we?" He worked his question in such a way that he wasn't challenging her. Instead, he was stating simple facts, facts that she could not ignore. "Well, at least I know what must be done," he continued, not moving from his spot, "Once I get the stones you've so graciously collected for me, I will shred everything to nothing. And finally rest, knowing that the universe is grateful."

"Over my dead body." Natasha crouched defensively, ready for a fight.

"That, my friend," Thanos smirked as another man came up behind them. "Can be arranged."

Natasha's hand immediately covered her mouth at the sight that beheld her. This was a different man from the one she knew. His hair was matted down from the sweat, dried up blood sticking to the side of his head. His eyes were jaded, darkened, unlike the beautiful blue eyes. His armor was covered in grime and blood, and his weapons clutched tightly in his grasp. It didn't take much to know what was running through his mind. He was far from happy to see them.

"Steve..." He was alive. He was home. But he was broken as well.

Thor and Tony stood vigilant, waiting for someone to make the first move.

"What have you done to him, you bastard?" Thor said through gritted teeth.

Thanos nudged his head towards him and grinned, sitting back to get a better view, "Why don't you come to find out?"

"Well," Tony sighed, letting his helmet cover his face. "Looks like we get that rematch after all."

And just like that, they were thrown into one of the toughest battles in their lives.

Chapter Text

"Let's do this," Carol nodded sharply, a hand tightening on the hot metal of the gauntlet. She released a sharp jet of air through her nose. And then took off like a shot with the gauntlet. She didn't dare look behind her. She kept her pace. Sounds of animalistic growls were making her ears ring.

Without warning, an explosion rocked the ground. A scream shot passed her lips as the concussion wave struck her back, throwing her to the ground hard. Her palms took her full weight against the jagged tear of the pavement, gravel driven into the instantly bloody gouges. The bite of pain wasn't just ignored, but utterly unfelt as adrenaline put her on a heart-shattering high. Her entire body felt energized and yet wholly numb.

Disorientation shook me for a mere second as the tunnel, and the ground was a wild blur in her stinging eyes as she clawed to clear them. She turned around and sent a powerful blast towards the creatures before launching herself to safety. She landed on her back with a light thud, taking a moment to catch her breath.

A figure loomed over her. Deep brown optics were focused on her, staring at her intently.

"Nebula," Carol sighed in content. "You're alright."

No words left her lips as she walked to her and grabbed the torn gauntlet from her grasp.

Nebula smirked slyly at her, "Father... I have it."

Carol immediately froze at those words and gazed at her shockingly, but the shock was gone as quickly as it came. She got on her feet and rammed her shoulder into her hip. Nebula's arm snapped at the impact and howled in pain. Nebula took one look into Carol's eyes and shuffled her legs awkwardly until the wall blocked her retreat. With nothing to balance her, she was trapped. She leaned back against the wall; shoulders bowed in defeat. Carol turned around when she heard footsteps approaching from behind her.

Nebula and Gamora skidded to a stop when they saw the carnage in front of them. And then they all gaped at her.

Nebula stepped forward, fear, and concern all over her face. "Carol, are you…"

Carol pointed to the other Nebula, "What the hell is going on here?"

The other Nebula's eyes rushed between Carol and her duplicate. She hissed in defeat.

Carol stalked closer to her until she was within reach. She wrapped her hands around her neck and held her against the wall firmly, "You give me the gauntlet, and I won't rip your head from your body."

"Wait…" Nebula and the green woman start to argue, but Danvers didn't care. She was too focused on the soulless eyes of the woman in her grasp.

"What's it going to be?" Carol asked.

From the side of the other Nebula's body, the flesh of her arm knit together seamlessly before her eyes. "Go to hell," she whispered, before headbutting Carol. Unfortunately, that didn't go so well for her.

"Wrong answer," Carol completely ripped off her arm, and a loud crack echoed in the tunnel. The other Nebula screamed.

"No, please stop! Wait!" Gamora pleaded, slowly approaching Carol and the other Nebula. Her eyes met hers, and she immediately tensed up again. "You're betraying us, Gamora?

"Nebula, you don't have to do this," Gamora whispered.

She scoffed at her words, "I am...this."

"But you can be so much better." Nebula held her hands in surrender, approaching her duplicate. "And deep down, you know that."

The other Nebula looked away, unable to meet her eyes. "Do the right thing, give us the gauntlet."

Her eyes met her duplicates again, and she shook her head, "He won't let me."

"It doesn't matter what he wants, what do you want?"

Carol could tell by the look in her eyes that she wanted something more out of her life. Nebula could see the pain in her eyes, the torture that had been inflicted on her for her entire life. This was her chance to start over, to become something more. But deep down, she knew it could only end one way.

"Alright," She whispered, slowly and reluctantly placing the gauntlet in Carol's hands. Carol stood up and retrieved her other arm, which had been lying uselessly on the floor. She looked up at her curiously, waiting for her to reattach the second arm.

After an awkward moment, she placed a hand over hers and nudged her head, "You might want to hurry, your friends aren't gonna last long with him."

Carol nodded curtly as Nebula and Gamora nodded back, letting her know that they were going to take care of things from here.

"Well, I've seen it all," Carol shook her head before going back out to the battlefield.

This was far from over.


Natasha swallowed hard as she took a cautious step towards her husband, "Steve.."

Quickly, he unsheathed his sword and pointed it towards the mother of his child. Thor clutched onto his weapons tightly, waiting for Steve to make the first move, "Nat, he doesn't look well."

"Agreed," Tony nodded. "He'll kill us all from the looks of it if we let him." There was something different about Steve, something deadly and dangerous. He was no longer the man they remembered. He was cold and menacing, with a fierce look in her eyes. Still, Natasha knew that the man she loved was still down there somewhere.

"I won't give up on him..." Natasha revealed her batons, prepared to fight the love of her life. "Get ready."

And just like that, his rage exploded inside of him. Steve swung his sword wildly at Tony first, and he barely dodged the attack. He hopped back and crouched into a defensive position.

"Rogers!" Thor roared his name loudly. "Don't do this!"

Steve ignored his plea. He continued his rampage and swung wildly, yet gracefully at his companions. They were shocked at how well he maneuvered around the battlefield with the sword in his hands. Tony blocked his rapid attacks before he swiftly kicks him in his torso, knocking him back. He relentlessly pursues, using his abilities to attack his friends. Thanos decided to join the fight, approaching them with a giant sword in hand. After recovering from his previous attack, Natasha got back on her feet and started to defend herself, trying to hold him back. As soon as he blocked one of her attacks, he shoved her hard and pressed her against the rubble nearby.

"Please, Steve! Listen to me!" Natasha pleaded as the tears glistened in her eyes. She struggled and writhed under his grasp. "It's me; it's Nat!"

For a moment, Steve stopped fighting her. She looked into his eyes and saw the pain in them, the sincerity. But then she felt his anger take over once more, his pain And that could not be tamed. Without hesitation, Natasha yanked her head back and lodged it against his, forcing him to stagger. Taking advantage of the situation, she kicked him once more, knocking him to the ground. She pointed her batons at him again, watching as blood ran down his nose. Steve looked into her eyes and saw the pain in them.

"Don't make me do this, Steve."

His eyes bored back into hers for a moment, and they were emotionless, cold, and brutal. And at that moment, so was he.

Natasha had never felt so helpless in her life.

Using her moment of weakness as a chance, he quickly sweeps under her leg and causes her to lose her balance. She falls on her back with a small thud. He quickly takes the small dagger from her back pocket and wedges it into her arm, causing a scream of pain to leave her lips. Moving in inhuman speed, he takes the dagger out and places a hand around her throat before lifting her off the ground.

Steve's gaze quickly averted to the side where he saw Thor prepared to grab Stormbreaker off the ground to attack Thanos from behind, who was focused on pummeling Tony to the ground. Steve reached out for it, and it immediately came to his grasp before he hatched it into the dirt beside him, leaving Thor defenseless. Thanos takes advantage of it and throws him back with a powerful punch.

Steve turned his focus back to Natasha, his hands tightening around her throat.

"Steve...look at me," She croaked, wrapping her hands around his. His hand squeezed harder. "Hey, it's ok. I know...you would never hurt me intentionally."

"But he is hurting you, and he enjoys it," Thanos said, from behind him, examining the ruins that surrounded the battlefield. "He does as I command. And I'll watch him strip that delectable body naked and have his way with you. He'll hear your cries. But, he won't do a thing to stop. And then he'll kill you, slowly and intimately until there's nothing left of you. Only then, will he take his place by my side to end your wretched planet."

Natasha's eyes wavered as tears slid down her cheek. Steve's grip began to loosen a little at the sight, an unexplainable feeling washing over him.

"It's ok..."

She looked into Steve's eyes. They had a silent conversation in that brief glance. What they didn't say spoke volumes. She looked into the depths of his eyes, beyond the rage and deadly violence, and found peace and love. And if that's the last thing she would see, she knew that she would be at peace. She would accept that he loved her. And he always would.

"I love you...so much." She panted, feeling her last breath slowly fade away.

At those words, his eyes widened slightly as his breathing hitch. His hands started to shake, and then...he let her go. The fog in his mind had cleared away, and he had realized what he had done. Natasha dropped to the ground in a sobbing heaping mess. He immediately went to her side and brought her body to his chest, holding her tight.

"Oh my god, Nat..." He breathed, running a hand through her hair. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."

She didn't respond. She just sighed in relief and held onto his hands, never wanting to let them go.

"The will of a true warrior," Thanos hummed. "Only true love can revive a broken man. I shall have to remember that."

Steve gently laid Natasha down gently before he whipped his head towards Thanos. He didn't want to waste any time with him. He grabbed his shield and Mjolnir off the ground and ran towards him in a fit of rage. A searing curse burned passed lips as Thanos twisted his way. Throwing up his right arm as a useless shield, the momentum of the attack ended up throwing him several feet into the air, where he was caught by Thanos' unforgiving hand. Disorientated by the impact, and jarred by the crushing power of his grip tightening around his frame, his shield dropped from his grasp. Vast chunks of faux-flesh of his right arm were gouged out, the fire of his torn muscles making it as painful as if he'd been torn to the bone.

Steve groaned, resisting the urge to cry out as the hand tightened around him. Searing pain in his left shoulder told him the bone had popped out of the socket. In defiance to the enemy, Steve refused to show pain.

"Such resilience," Thanos sighed, throwing him to the ground. "Sparing you was a mistake. I'm going to enjoy smearing your pathetic little body into the ground. I'll make sure there's nothing left but a red smear for the worms to roll in."

Then suddenly, Thor bounded off the debris and threw his ax straight towards Thanos. He deflected it with his sword, and he pounded Thor's head against the ground. Thanos continued to attack at Thor's exposed stomach, eliciting a yell of pain. He gripped Thor around the throat and threw him across the field. He crashed into a giant boulder and fell to the ground and just when Thanos was about to deal the deathblow, Thor held his hand out in desperation for his ax. Thanos circled Thor before kicking him so hard in the ribs that she could hear his bones crack. Thanos snatched the ax from Thor's grip. Thor was strong. But he was utterly defenseless against Thanos, deprived of all his senses. Thor was pinned down, barely holding Thanos back from driving his weapon to his heart.

Natasha watched from the ground and grimaced at the pleasant imagery now blooming in her mind's eye. She wanted to help her husband; to shield him from the pain. But once again, she was forced to face the fact that she was powerless. Her eyes uncontrollably shifted to Thor's hammer as it sat there in the ground.

"Whosoever holds this hammer, if he is worthy, shall possess the power of Thor."

Out of pure desperation, Natasha closed her eyes and reached her hand out, begging for the hammer to be in her grasp. It slowly moved off the ground within her command, and she couldn't help but gape at the sight.

With Thanos' back to her, he was an easier target.

Thwap!

The hammer swats him in the back, forcing his grip on Thor to loosen.

Finally, it was in her hands, reviving her strength once more.

You are worthy.

"It's not over you son of a bitch," Natasha huffed as she crouched down defensively, prepared for another fight.

Furious, he charged at her, grabbing her and locking his arms around her rib cage. He tugged and pulled her away from Steve so that he could squeeze the life out of her. She felt her ribs crack and break under pressure. She twisted and turned, trying to loosen his hold on her. He roared and threw her across the clearing. She crashed into a boulder and fell to the ground before rolling back up on her feet.

Mjolnir connected with his granite skin for multiple hits, but it wasn't enough to keep him grounded. He threw multiple, bracing swings while she swiped at him with the hammer, colliding with him once again, and that pissed him off. He landed a hard blow, and she felt her collar bone shatter. He punched her in the face, splitting her skin from her cheek to the corner of her lips. Thanos continued his brutal attack by landing a swift kick to her chest, knocking the hammer out of her hand and leaving her vulnerable. But before he could strike her again, Steve rushed from the side and pushed her away.

In desperation, Steve raised his shield up.

And that just pissed him off even more. His sword hacked and hacked relentlessly, forcing his restraint to crack and break under pressure. Steve groaned, feeling utterly weak and helpless. With another powerful strike, he wobbled for balance, and he kicked him forcefully, pressing his advantage and brought him to the ground. Steve landed on his back, his body more broken and torn than it's ever been.

"I know your pain," Thanos said. "You've lost something very dear to you, and you were willing to do anything in your power to bring it back," he cocked his head to the side as though deep in thought. "I admire your resistance and your courage. Not many men have that. But I have to tell you, what I'm about to do to your annoying, stubborn little planet. I'm going to enjoy it. Very, very much."

His palms felt numb, grabbing the earth below him. His body was burning with everlasting pain, but he would be damned if I were to give up now. Natasha crawled to his side and placed a hand on his chest.

"Hey, stay with me," She whispered as she caressed his face, her thumb glided gently over his split lip. "Stay with me."

"I will," Steve sighed, leaning his forehead against hers. "Always."

They could hear raw animalistic growls from across the field, and they both knew what was to come next. Natasha helped Steve to his feet and held him close. They looked ahead and saw hundreds of creatures behind Thanos, ready to tear them apart with one single order. They all looked menacing and diabolical, a reminder of when they first arrived. It wasn't looking too good for them. But they both looked at each once more, eyes filled with love and adoration before intertwining their hands together. Unconsciously, their feet walked over to Thanos and his army, prepared to fight for their lives.

"Cap."

They both stopped moving instantly at the familiar voice on his coms.

It couldn't be...

Before he could respond, the voice spoke again, "Cap, can you hear me?"

"Sam?"

"On your left..."

A bright light flashed behind them, and the sight nearly made his knees give out. The first face that met his was Clint's, still caked in dirt and blood, but was still standing nonetheless. He gave them a wicked grin and a curt nod. Sam soared out of the golden portal elegantly, and everyone else followed suit. Steve and Natasha watched the sight in awe as they held onto each other. His eyes averted to

They were here, all of his friends, his team, his family. They were back; they were back home where they belonged.

Steve's eyes turned and met Thanos', his teeth gritted.

"Avengers...assemble!"

And the war began with the team back together.


Wanda searched through the battlefield relentlessly, looking for the one thing that would make her whole again, and there she saw him. Their eyes locked and it seemed like time stopped around. Bucky looked at her as if was the last time he would see her. The way her eyes were focused on the battle before her. And her lips, her soft pink lips that just ached to be kissed. They were small and plump, but they were perfect for him. And they were made just for him.

"Red," He whispered, his gloved fingers lacing through hers when he held her hand. She looked at him, startled but still didn't pull it away. This was real, she was real.

She was alive.

"Red, I love..." Wanda then grabbed the base of his neck and pulled him in a seething, heated kiss. He quickly responded with the same enthusiasm, his arms wrapped around her waist. The trickles of his growing facial hair tickled her a little bit, but she couldn't care less about it. She too busy kissing the man she loved, the man she always loved.

Bucky pulled back first, his hands still on her waist, "Um...that was..uh..."

"I love you too, James," Wanda whispered, leaning his forehead against hers. "Don't leave me again."

Bucky leaned in and kissed her again, this time gently, "I wouldn't dream of it."

Behind him was Thanos in her line of sight, chasing after T'Challa. Without warning, she soared into the air and went after him without a second glance back. She saw red once her gaze landed on him. He was the man who caused all of this suffering, who made her miss all this time without the love of her, and there was no coming back from that. She was going to make him pay for all he had done to them.

She landed in front of him, her body covered in a red aura, "You took everything from me," she spat, her tone full of anger and hatred.

"I don't even know who you are."

"You will."

And then, in a blur, blue projectiles begin to rain fire on the field, separating them. The atmosphere was filled with smoke, and it was spreading. Steve coughed, and his eyes began to water from all the dust and smoke in the air. An apparition stepped through the smoky haze. It was Carol, with the gauntlet in her grasp. Behind her, her eyes locked with Thanos. And suddenly, they turned its full attention on Carol. Recognition flashed across its features, a jagged mouth pulling back into a ravaged snarl.

"The stones!"

"Carol, get to the van, now!"

Valkyrie arrived by the side in an instant, "I got your back, Your Majesty!"

Thanos turned his head towards the wrecked van, and without a second thought, he lodges his sword with full force at the van with precise aim. Almost instantly, it explodes and sends a wave of energy across the field. Almost everyone was caught in the crossfires, and it sent them scattering. Steve grunted in pain as he saw the gauntlet underneath the small pile of rubble. Thanos was inching near it; his body weakened from the battle.

There was no more adrenaline left in Steve's body to pump; his muscles burned, seized under extreme distress, and exhaustion. He grunted once more as he got back to his feet. Before he knew it, Carol flew past him and tackled Thanos to the ground. They rolled around on the ground, trading blows. Thanos gripped Carol around the throat and threw her across the field. She crashed into the rubble nearby and fell to the ground and was still. Thor and Tony quickly followed suit and pushed him back making sure that he didn't get his hands on that gauntlet. But in the end, there were only two left.

"I told you before," Thanos gestured to the death and carnage around them, eyeing Steve intently. "I am inevitable."

"You controlled me," Steve said through gritted teeth, clutching onto his sword and shield. "You forced me to fight my friends, my wife. I will make you pay for everything you put us through. For every death, for all the pain you inflicted, you will suffer."

Thanos chuckled a little, gesturing Steve to come and get him, "Let's finish this, shall we?"

Not wasting any time, Steve quickly rushed him and slashed his weapon at him. Thanos turned to the side at the last second and punched him so hard in the ribs that he could hear his bones crack. Taking advantage, Thanos slashed his back and his legs, making him fall to the ground. Steve was strong. But he was utterly defenseless against Thanos. He had been through hell earlier, and this wasn't making it any better.

Natasha watched the scene from the ground as Steve took blow after blow without making a sound. It was chilling. He knocked him back down instantly and let his eyes frantically search for the gauntlet. Steve's broken body twitched, slowly coming to life. His arm jerked awkwardly before landing firmly on the ground again. Tony and Thor were by his side, tired and worn from the battle. Thanos' gaze reached the gauntlet, and he immediately made his way towards it.

"Steve," Natasha whispered, trying to force herself up.

Carol then reappeared out of thin air and pushed him. She unleashed blow after blow on Thanos, striking his already wounded ribs and legs. Thanos grunted in pain as she knocked him to ground, pummeling him deep into the dirt with a fury of punches. Blood spilled down the side of her head from cuts and open wounds; her long hair was matted with it.

Finally, Thanos seemed to come out of a trance and he attacked Carol with fierceness and savagery that had never been seen before. Carol fought back like a cornered animal, landing brutal blow after blow in quick succession. He absorbed each crippling hit, grunting in pain each time. They were moving so fast that it was hard to process. And then, once more, Thanos blocked her attack and was able to fend her off.

Thanos stumbled a second before regaining his feet. His massive head turned towards Steve's sword that was near his foot, picking it up. At that moment, the four companions' gaze met each other's as they watched Thanos slowly approach a resilient Carol. They slowly got up on their feet and shared curt nods.

"Now!"

They quickly ran behind him and attacked. Natasha sent her batons through his neck as Thor, Steve, and Tony tried to restrain him. It was working for now, but Carol knew that this was only temporary. Nothing could stop him, except for one thing.

Thanos grunted and headbutted Thor, causing his grip to weaken. Thanos roared loudly as he threw them off of him once more, tired of playing this little game. He looked down and noticed that Danvers was no longer in that same spot. He turned around slightly and the sight made his heart stop in fear.

A bright aura nearly blinded him, causing him to shield his eyes from the light. Noises came crashing into her conscious mind, thunderous and overwhelming. Carol grunted in pain as she felt the energy of the stones surge through her. And after taking a moment to compose herself, Carol gave Thanos a determined look.

"Looks like I get the last words now," Carol huffed, preparing her fingers for the iconic moment. "Burn in hell, bitch."

Snap!


Ashes flew across the air, their enemies fading into nothing. They had won, they had beaten the 'inevitable'. Carol huffed as she tried to compose herself, feeling a wild insatiable burn on her neck and right arm. The smell of burning flesh flared in her nose and she immediately scrunched her nose up in disgust. However, it was quickly forgotten as she watched the last of Thanos' army fade away like dust in the wind.

A grin hit her lips, "Not bad for a queen."

Through the haze and smoke, Thor saw Carol lying on the ground. Her eyes remained in the sky, nearly glassed over.

"Carol," Thor yelled as rushed to his wife's side. He immediately took the gauntlet off her hands and tossed it across the field. He held her face in one hand and shook her shoulders with the other. "Stay with me, dammit! Don't die on me now!"

Carol looked at him and pressed a hand to his cheek, smiling weakly, "My love... when I die, it'll be far more dramatic than this."

"Damn you," Thor laughed a little, feeling the tears prick at his eyes.

Tony noticed them and rushed over, stabilizing her burns, "There, she should be fine at the moment."

Thor held her head in his lap, caressing her hair, "Gods, why did you do that?"

"It was the only way," Carol whispered softly. "Only one way to make sure that you'll be safe."

Thor pressed his forehead against hers, holding onto her hand tightly, "It's my job to keep you safe, not the other way around." His hand brushed away the sticky strand of hair away from her face.

"Hey..." Carol leaned up and pressed her lips to his, tangling her fingers in his hair. "I love you, bucko."

"And I love you, my queen. Forever."

The team shared embraces, reveling in their well-earned victory. It was a bittersweet moment shared between them all. It was only Natasha who looked around the battlefield to find her husband. And then, she saw him, laying on the ground while leaning against the fallen debris. His chest heaved with labored breaths. Sweat beaded on his skin. He was broken and dazed as he laid there on the ground. Natasha slowly sat down beside him and laid her head on his chest.

He kept his hand on the open wound on his stomach, keeping the bleeding at bay. The warm blood seeped through his fingers, but he didn't rightly care. He just wanted to embrace this moment.

"The war's over, Steve," Natasha whispered against his chest. "We can go home now."

He stroked her hair and lightly brushed his lips against the crown of her head, "Home." He felt blood searing at the corner of his mouth but he quickly wiped it away and held Natasha closer instead. "You're my home, Natasha."

Natasha closed her eyes and inhaled Steve's scent, letting it linger in her senses. "Then we're already home."

Natasha pulled back and she felt her heart break at the sight. She reached up and touched his face, wiping the blood from the corner of his mouth with her thumb. It was then fresh blood seeped out from the corner of his mouth again.

"Hey," Natasha watched like a curious observer, mystified by the sight of his blood. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Steve coughed a wet, guttural sound from deep within his lungs. He leaned his head back and let it rest against the debris, closing his eyes. "I...I just need a moment, Nat. Let me have this moment with you."

She looked at her husband with sad eyes, the corner of her lips turned up slightly. He was searching for something in that moment, some form of peace she assumed. It had been so long since she had seen him like this. So hopeful and peaceful looking. She missed that part of him, more than he'll ever know. This day had been hard on everyone, no one more than Steve. He deserved this moment to recuperate.

"I love...I love you, Nat," He said between breaths. "It was...always you."

His breathing slowed and his skin grew cold within the second. Natasha smiled weakly and placed a soft kiss to his cheek, feeling his cool skin against her lips, "You can rest now, my love. I'm not going anywhere."

And she didn't break her promise. She held her husband's hand and never let go, waiting for him to open his eyes again.

Chapter Text

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”


"I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am," Sarah read along as she laid her head against her father's chest while he rested peacefully. "He must really hate green eggs and ham, huh daddy?"

Natasha smiled softly at the sight from the doorway, watching her daughter interact with her father. It had been like this for the past couple of days. Things began to surface about Steve's condition. He and the rest of the team were celebrated all over the world, endless parades and graffiti all in their honor. Natasha gathered almost every article she could get her hands on and would let Sarah read them to her father. It was the only way she could feel close to him again during this difficult time.

That, and the child that was growing inside of her every day.

The day after the battle, Natasha saw her reflection in the mirror and nearly screamed. She looked horrid. She had a black eye, her lower lip was swollen, and the cut on her mouth looked deep. Her hair was a tangled mess, and her cheek had a red mark on it, following by a small scar. Her arm was sore and stiff, and it was hard to maneuver around, but she had to make do with the simple tasks.

She took off her suit, now naked, and nearly broke down. She had bruises on her shoulders and was almost sick to her stomach when she saw the bruises on her thighs. Her hands were on her belly, barely untouched, and along the ridges of her hip was a small bump sticking out.

And once she let Bruce examine her, she found out she was pregnant once more. She would never take it for granted that she now lived and that her child was now safe. Considering the pain that was inflicted on her body, she knew that she was lucky and that this pregnancy was going to be far from easy. The road to recovery wasn't going to be pleasant as well, but she was willing to do whatever it takes for her family.

Natasha's gaze averted to Steve's heart rate monitor, listening to steady beeping of the machine that was assuring her that everything was okay. Natasha sat in the chair by Steve's bed; her focus always on him or the monitor.

Natasha and Sarah rarely left the hospital. Natasha wanted to be the first thing that he sees when he wakes. For the past couple of days, they had cafeteria food and read stories to Steve as he rested on. All in all, Nothing could make them leave.

Carol and Thor had stopped by, and so had Tony and Pepper with Morgan. Teddy bears and flowers sat on the table by Steve's bed, along with drawings and finger paintings that the kids did. It was an indication of how much Steve was loved and respected. Tony wouldn't admit it but he was worried sick about Steve, everyone was really.

Carol was recovering as well. Her body was slowly but surely getting back to normal as she fights off the radiation. For now, her arm is pretty bad shape, and it was best if she rested to recover faster. What better place to do that than a kingdom that adored their queen and a family that needed their mother. Clint was home as well, by some miracle. According to Doctor Strange, the 'snap' was able to reverse what had happened and revived him. Natasha decided not to ask any more questions about it and just be grateful that her friend was back home.

"Say... I will eat them anywhere. I do so like green eggs and ham. Thank you. Thank you, Sam I a..." Sarah's eyelids slowly closed, and she got more comfortable near her father's side as she falls asleep.

Natasha looked back at Steve; his battered face an image that was forever burned into her brain. She glanced down at his right hand and reached out and stroked his cut knuckles before brushing her lips against them. Natasha gently took Steve's limp hand in hers, and she sighed at how cold he was. She glanced at his face and wondered if he could hear her, hear their little girl reading. The doctors had said that he wasn't in a coma and that he was just in a deep sleep because of the anesthetic. His eyes were responsive to light, but he just hadn't woken up yet.

"Why won't you wake up, my husband?" She whispered to his sleeping form. "Are you dreaming? Can you hear me, Steve? Can you hear us?"

Natasha paused for a moment, watching his face. For a second she thought she saw his eyes move, but realized he remained still.

She bit her lip and placed his limp hand against her heart, "I know these types of these things take time, but I'm getting impatient here. I need you, Steve. I can't do this without you. I can't live without you. This isn't how our story ends. This is where we live, where we watch our family thrive. We have so much to look forward to, and we have so much to live for."

Still, he remained asleep.

"I love you," Natasha whispered, brushing a hand through his hair, "I love you so much. And I'll be here waiting for you, for as long as it takes."

She leans forward and presses a soft kiss to his forehead and lips, never letting go of his hand.

Then, ever so slightly, she felt his finger move.

Natasha's eyes immediately shot down to their hands, and then his middle finger pressed lightly against the back of her hand.

"Steve?" Natasha called out his name. "Steve, honey, can you hear me?"

His fingers moved again and clasped around the back of her hand. His heartbeat accelerated a little, and his eyes began to open.

Natasha gasped and gripped his hand, "Oh my god..."

His blue eyes opened, and he stared at the ceiling, his eyes moving here and there as they blinked. And then, slowly, he turned to the side and laid his eyes on his wife for the first time in days.

"Hi, my husband," Natasha said softly, tears leaving her eyes.

Steve smiled weakly, getting a firm grip on her hand, "My wife."

"How do you feel?" Natasha asked, examing him for more injuries. "Does anything hurt?"

"Nothing I can't handle," he smiled again, this time looking down at a sleeping Sarah. He runs a hand through her blonde hair and moves slightly to press a soft kiss to her forehead.

Sarah slowly lifts her head and freezes, staring at her father with wide eyes.

"Daddy! You're awake!" she said, a huge grin spreading across her face. Wasting no time, Sarah quickly wraps her arms around his neck and holds him close, earning a grunt from him. He didn't mind, though. He held her just as tight.

"Hi, pumpkin," He brushes nose against her hair, inhaling her scent. "I've missed you."

Sarah pulls back and kisses her father's cheek, "Does that mean you're feeling better?"

Steve nodded his head, "I'm feeling better."

Steve's eyes reached Natasha's, and they shared a poignant moment. It was like a moment of relief; it felt like coming home. And in a way, he was home. He was back with his wife and his beautiful daughter. At that point, Nothing else mattered. Nothing could come between them again.

Natasha smiles as she leans over the bed to reach her husband, her lips inches away from his, "Welcome back, my love." She whispers, placing her hands on both sides of his face.

"It's good to be back."

Breathing deeply, Natasha closes the distance between them, and as her arms wrap his neck, her lips whisper words in my ear that swiftly brought me to made his heart burst with joy.


"To think that I wielded that thing," Natasha chuckled as she stared at the mythological weapon. "But I'm gonna leave that to the professionals."

Sam shook his head slightly before he crossed his arms, "Still, not everyone can say that they were worthy of a weapon made for gods."

Natasha patted his shoulder, "Truer words have never been spoken."

After a few days of repairing and recuperating, Bruce was finally able to fix the Quantum Realm.

And the time had come to put everything back to normal.

Steve felt Bucky pat him on the shoulder and turned around to lead him on a short walk beside the lake. It had been so long since they had done something like this, so long since they could be alone again for old time's sake. And now they had all the time in the world. Or for as long as they were in each other's presence.

"You're going back to see her, aren't you?" Bucky smiled softly, keeping his gaze averted.

For a moment, Steve feels embarrassed and looks away, "I owe it to her."

Bucky hums in agreement as he stuffs his hands in his leather jacket pocket. In the process, he couldn't help but look back behind him where Wanda, Sam, and Natasha were surrounding Sarah, eyes admiring her in awe, "I understand that. You do owe it to her. But Steve, look at that."

For a second, he did. Natasha had bent down and begun peppering Sarah with kisses all over her face. Steve couldn't help but smile at the sight of his family, the swell of pride that filled his heart. They were everything to him, and Nothing or no one could ever change that.

"You got lucky," Bucky whispered. "We got lucky.'

"I know," Steve agreed. "Nothing will change that. That right there is my future. It's the rest of my life."

"But?"

Steve bit the inside of his cheek and clenched his jaw, "I made a promise. I can't ignore that."

"I respect that," he says carefully. "Just...try to be careful and understand what you're in for. There's a lot of water under that bridge, Steve. And you might not want to open those flood gates again."

Steve claps his shoulder roughly and pulls him into a brotherly embrace, "You know that I'll come back."

Bucky smiles weakly and nods curtly, "You always do."

Steve gives his friend one more friendly nod before walking back to his family, his daughter running straight into his strong arms. Bucky smiles as he watches him lift her off the ground, spinning her around like the little princess she was. Natasha then wrapped an arm around her husband's waist in his uniform, earning a soft and quick kiss from him. They were laughing and smiling at each other, completely lost in their own world. Bucky had never seen a couple so in love and so committed to each other.

"Hey, you."

Bucky smiled and turned around from the happy couple, pulling Wanda into his arms, "Hey, Red."

"Are you spying on them?" Wanda teased, brushing a hand over his cheek, which was cleanly shaved.

"Only a little..." He bent down and kissed her lips softly. "I'm just glad that he's found happiness. He deserves it."

"Yeah, me too," Wanda smiled, following his gaze. "We've come a long way, haven't we?"

Bucky glances at them and notices how intimately close Steve and Natasha were. He had his forehead pressed against hers as he held his daughter in one arm and the other wrapped around her waist. Natasha breathed him in while she had a protective hand over her belly. Bucky didn't think that she was aware of making such a telling gesture. It only made Bucky more proud of him, that he had found the one love in his life. He had finally made it.

"Yeah, we have."

Natasha looked up at Steve, watching him with eyes that were filled with love and desire, all for him, "You ready for this?"

Steve's gaze suddenly turned serious as he set Sarah down to her feet to bring Natasha back into his arms. His eyes were so bright and intense that it was hard to focus on them, "Natasha Alianovna Rogers, you have me. You have my heart, body, and soul. Forever."

"I believe you." She whispered, caressing his cheek. She took his face in her hands and brought his lips to hers, kissing him and branding him with all of her love. "Just come back to us, alright?"

"Always, Nat," He whispered between kisses. "Always."

"So how long will this take him?" Sam asked, crossing his arms.

"To us, it'll be five seconds," Banner tells him. "For him, as long as he needs."

Steve takes a deep breath as the platform lights up underneath his feet. His eyes meet Sarah's, her smile full and bright as her mother holds her on her hip. They both blow him a kiss, and that's the last thing he sees before everything goes white.


He stares the mahogany door, hands inches away from knocking on it.

Of all the things he encountered in his life, nothing could've prepared him for this. Even with all the words he prepared himself to say, he knew that it would mean Nothing once his eyes saw her brown orbs once again. But he knew he had to go through with it. It's like he said before. He owed it to her. He owed it to both of them.

And after another short moment, he finally raised his fist and knocked.

"Just one second," a familiar voice said from the other side. And that voice, that voice was enough to make him weak at the knees. His heartbeat began to fasten, scared of what he would have to face behind that door. But it was too late. The door had already opened, and behind it was a lovely sight that he hadn't seen in a long time. "I'm sorry, I had to..."

Steve closed his eyes and sighed deeply, his brain frantically spinning at the moment.

A desperate, strangled cry blew past her lips as she whispered his name," Steve?" Her body was shaking so severely that she couldn't see straight. "You're...you..."

She got so close to him that she could smell his scent, and she shut her eyes, hoping that this was a dream.

"You're not real; you can't be." She shook her head.

"Peggy..."

"No, you can't do this to me. You're dead." She shoved him hard in the chest, but she wanted to hold him. "You're not Steve!"

"I am," He said, letting his eyes remain closed.

Peggy's eyes welled with tears as she began to sob uncontrollably. Her hands loosened its grip off his jacket and raised it to glide against his cheek. He gripped her hands when she ran one over the cheek. She was real.

"My darling, you're really here."

Steve breathed in her scent, the familiar aroma of honeysuckle and vanilla, the smell that made him feel at home and nodded, "I'm real, Peggy."

Peggy dragged the pad of her finger down his jaw and the side of his neck; how many times had he dreamed about her touching me like this, how many times has he desperately wished to have her in his arms, apologizing and begging for her to take him back after all those years and heartbreak. And now that moment was here, but it felt... wrong. It felt cheated.

"I waited for you..." She croaked, shaking her head. "I waited for you for so long."

"I know, and I'm sorry," Steve's deep voice was remorseful and sad but firm. "I never, ever, meant to hurt you."

She didn't let him say anything else. She just pulled him into the home, and Steve didn't resist as she guided him to the living room. The house was beautiful, quaint even. There were photographs lined up on the wall, and it had been so long since Steve had seen a black and white picture. He noticed that in most of the images that she wasn't alone, and it didn't take a genius to know who the mystery man was.

"Why are you here?" Peggy whispered with her hands now on the nape of his neck.

"I came for you."

"Steve..." She tried so hard not to break down in front of him, but it was starting to become impossible.

"I made a promise to you," Steve said solemnly, moving to the corner of the room where a record player resided. "As I recall, I owe you a dance."

And then, a song plays. Steve walks back to her and holds a hand out, smiling weakly at her, "May I have this dance, Peggy Carter?"

Peggy laughs half-heartedly as she quickly wipes the tears off her cheeks. She smooths her dress down and takes his hands in hers, pulling him close. They instantly connect and sway with the music without a care in the world.

"How is this possible?"

"It's a long story," He replied. "But I'm from another time. From another life."

"But you're..."

"I'm real. I'm here."

"My darling," She whispered as they sway with the music. "Tell me this isn't a dream, that this isn't some cruel joke. And I'll believe you."

"This isn't a dream," Steve sighed, leaning his head on top of hers. He clasped onto her hand again only to feel to something small poke into his palm. He looked at her hand and sighed slightly. A wedding ring. She was a married woman now, probably with children. Strangely enough, it was still a pull to the heart. Steve already knew that Peggy had moved on with her life, and he was happy for her, honestly. It was the fact that he broke his promise to her, and another man was able to give her what he couldn't.

She followed his gaze and immediately lifted her head to face him, "Steve, I..."

"No, it's alright. You don't have to explain." Steve shook his head, smiling weakly. "I'm glad that you're moving on with your life."

As she smiled back, a tear slid down her cheek. "It's just that... it's been so long, Steve. I waited for you for years. And you never..."

"I know, I know, Peg. And I'm so sorry that I broke my promise to you." Steve whispered, wrapping his arms around her waist while continuing their rhythm. "But... you're happy now. You've found a man who can give you what I never could."

"I just...things would be different now if you had come home to me all those years ago." She whispered into his chest. "Our life...god, I should've never let you get on that bloody plane."

"I think everything is the way it should be, Peggy," Steve murmured, shaking his head. "None of us can go back, and the best thing we can do is move forward."

She sucked in a deep breath, holding him tighter, "I suppose you're right."

Steve pulled back and grinned at her, "Of course I am."

Peggy smiled and laughed a little, rolling her eyes in the process, "I can see time hasn't changed you at all, Mr. Rogers."

"I have changed a lot since the last time you saw me, Peggy."

"I can tell the difference." She said before cocking her head to the side. "You want to tell me about her?"

Steve smiled slightly, thinking about his family that was waiting for him back in 2023. It amazed him of how much Peggy knew him. It just showed how much she truly cared about him and how much their friendship truly meant to one another. You can't find anyone like that nowadays.

"Natasha, she was a spy like you. You'd love her," His smile widened at the thought of them meeting each other.

"Married?"

"Yes."

"Children?"

"A daughter... and another on the way."

Peggy's guarded smile widened at the thought, "I'm happy for you."

"Thank you, you don't know how much that means to me, "He sighed, looking down at their intertwined hands. Steve let his forehead rest against hers, letting her aroma linger his senses for one last time, "I've missed you so much, Peggy."

She leaned up and pressed a gentle kiss on the corner of his lips, brushing her thumb against his jaw, "I've missed you too, my darling. More than you'll ever know."

"I wish we had more time," Steve shook his head. "I'm not ready for this to end yet."

"I know, but this is the way it has to be," She smiled, hastily wiping the tears off her cheek. "And I'll die happy knowing that I had this time with you."

Steve's hands dug into his pocket and pulled out something significant to his heart, always; the compass with Peggy's picture.

He thinks, even then, he knew deep down that he'd never get to be with Peggy again. But he could never bring himself to part with it. But keeping it was a constant reminder of what he had lost. So that left him with only one option. He guesses that's why he kept it so close all these years. He knew what he had to do, but he hadn't been ready. He hadn't been strong enough to let her go. Letting go involved a lot of stages. Peggy had come full circle in her life. It was his turn to do the same.

"This has saved my life more times than I can count." Steve laughed, thinking of all the things that he had been through. "But I think it's time I let you have it."

Steve carefully slipped it into her hands and closed her fingers around it.

She smiled sadly at it, brushing a kiss on her knuckles, "I'll treasure it for the rest of my days."

He couldn't believe he was giving away something so precious. But, that's all it was, a thing. Steve had his memories of Peggy. This compass didn't represent her, nor did it in any way symbolize the love he had for Peggy. It was a chain, holding him down, locking him into a prison of his own making. Peggy will always have a place in his heart as an old friend and someone who he will never forget. Someone he loved and still does.

Peggy lifts her head up and meets his gaze, smiling that sad smile once more. She brings her hand up to brush a strand of hair away from his face, and he doesn't shy away from his touch. Steve sighs deeply and cups her face in his hands, leaning his forehead against hers for the last time. This was it.

This was truly goodbye.

"I love you, Peggy," Steve whispered. "And you will always be a part of me."

"And I love you, my darling." She leans up and places another soft kiss to his forehead. "And we'll be a part of each other."

"Always..."

"Forever."


Natasha and Sarah watched in awe as Steve reappeared on the spot he once stood in five seconds ago. Sam couldn't help but sigh in relief, glad that his friend had safely returned to them.

"I thought you would've flaked out on us, Cap," Sam teased, earning a chuckle from Steve.

"Sorry, I had to pick up something first," Steve smiled as he lifted the infamous shield, which gleamed in the sunlight. He saw the way Sam's gaze lingered on it, and his smile widened. "Try it on."

Sam instantly froze at those words, his gaze immediately searching for Bucky's who was standing behind them with Wanda by his side. With an encouraging nod from Bucky, Sam hesitantly and tentatively took the shield from Steve's grasp.

"How does it feel?" Steve asked, tilting his head to the side.

Sam sighed, shaking his head, "Like it belongs to somebody else."

"It doesn't," Steve confirmed. "It's yours."

"Steve," Sam took a deep breath, reveling in all this information. "I'm honored truly, but... what about you?"

Steve's gaze lingered on his family for a second and smiled widely at the sight of them, "To be honest, Sam. I haven't felt like 'Captain America' in a long time. I've changed, and I'm not the same man that I was all those years ago. I'm on a different path now. But, I know that you won't let me down, which is why it's yours."

Sam followed his gaze and gave him an understanding nod," Thank you, Cap. I'll do my best."

Steve gave him another pat on the shoulder and wasted no time running to his wife and daughter, pulling them into his embrace. There was no place he'd rather be, in this time or the next.

"Daddy, you're back!" She squealed in delight, wrapping her arms around his neck.

"Yes, I am," Steve spun her around as he held her tight. "Daddy's back, and he's not going anywhere."

"You promise?"

"I do. And..." Steve set her down so he could reach in his pocket. Sarah gasped at what he pulled out.

"My compass!" She said in shock, quickly taking it to keep it at her chest. "You protected it?"

"More like it protected me, pumpkin," He smiled, brushing a strand of hair away from her face. "It brought me back to you, sweetheart. And now, Nothing will keep me away from you ever again."

Sarah ran back into her father's embrace and let him hold her tight. Steve looked over her shoulder and saw Natasha smiling before she knelt beside them.

"So, back home, we go?"

Steve grinned and shook his head, "Not exactly."

And when Natasha quirked a brow at her husband, he knew that he had already piqued her interest.


They drove for about fifteen minutes until he pulled up to a large house in a wooded area not too isolated from New York. There were other small neighboring houses that Natasha spotted along the way. There were alot of trees that surrounded them, but it was spacious enough for the sun to shine upon the home.

"Come on," Steve said eagerly, pulling them out the car. "It's alright."

Natasha took Sarah's hand as Steve ushered them inside.

"Wow," Sarah whispered in amazement.

The foyer was… so beautiful. The doors opened directly into the gleaming wooden floored entryway that had a sweeping staircase. It had high ceilings, draping chandleries, and a very rustic feel to it. Beyond the dining room was the kitchen to the side of it that had hard vinyl floors, an arched ceiling, and large arched windows.

"There's more," he encouraged. "Let me show you upstairs."

Steve took his wife's hand and led her up the staircase, Sarah following close behind them. He squeezed her hand, and she could swear he was shaking. He opened a large wooden door that squeaked once he pushed it back.

The space was breathtaking and jaw-dropping. It had smooth, clean concrete floors and eighteen-foot ceilings. Tall windows lined the far wall letting in the brilliant light from the setting sun. It was beautiful. But after her eyes had their fill, they were riveted to the center of the room. There, in the middle of the room was a massive bed covered in plush velvets and silks. It was then she realized that the majority of the home was already furnished, ready for someone to move in.

Natasha swallowed hard as her breath hitched, "Steve, what is this?"

And then he held out a set of keys, smiling shyly, "It's yours, Nat."

She caught them when he tossed them to her and looked at him, clearly confused, "What do you mean, it's mine?"

"I do believe I remember saying that I would build you a home one day," He glanced away nervously and added, "Took me a few years and a little help from Tony, but I did."

"You…you built it?" Her eyes widened in shock. Steve nodded and couldn't help the smile that his lips.

"This is home, daddy?" Sarah giggled as she jumped on the bed, the covers already crumbling from her hopping feet.

"If mommy wants it to be," Steve pulled Natasha in his arms, giving her a questioning look. "Do you want it to be?"

Natasha bit back a laugh, "Are you being serious right now?" She asked.

"Well, do you?"

"Are you kidding me?" Natasha gasped and nodded her head vigorously. "Of course, I would!"

He swept Natasha up in his arms and spun her around. She laughed as Steve peppered her face and neck with kisses. They flopped onto the bed and continued to joyously celebrate with each other with Sarah laughing and giggling by their side.

They were finally home.

"So, now what?" Natasha looked at Steve and smiled with their daughter between them and their second child growing inside of her with every passing moment.

"Now," He smiled back. "It's the beginning of the rest of our lives."

And he bent down and kissed her once more before pulling his family into another embrace.


End Of Part One...

Part II|The Next of Us coming soon...

Chapter Text

TWELVE YEARS LATER...
THE RAFT CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, 2035

"Zemo," A guard called him out. "You have a visitor."

Zemo climbed off of the bed and walked through his room before going into the hallway. He was led to the meeting rooms, which just held circular tables with chairs, and he sat to wait.

"Helmut Zemo," A gruff voice said from behind him moments later. "We meet at last."

His eyes averted to the man's voice as the orange jumpsuit clenched onto his body tightly, making precise movements quite uncomfortable. The handcuffs that hugged his wrists were cold and hard, hard enough to leave a mark. A hooded man walked out of the shadows and watched him intently, piquing his curiosity.

"You must be Anthony Masters, 'AKA 'Taskmaster,' I presume," Zemo smirked, nodding in respect. "Your reputation precedes you.."

Taskmaster was a very skilled man and very dangerous. He was practically unstoppable, with his extensive training in martial arts and photographic reflexes. He knew how to work his way around any gun. From a simple pistol to a massive assault rifle that could rip through a vehicle. But times had changed him, among other things.

"Save me the flattery," He huffed, sitting across the chair from him. "I'm here for one thing, and one thing only. The job."

"Of course."

Today would make the nineteenth year for the first day of Zemo's lockup.

And he never missed a day. After all, he was a man of patience. His trial had lasted for about a few months, and it couldn't have been a lot worse, in his opinion. There was nothing for him to say. He accepted what he had done and decided not to fight against it.

Throughout Zemo's arrest and subsequent trial, he refused to speak to anyone. He wouldn't give them the satisfaction of putting him in this hellhole. Agent Everett Ross was the only one he would talk to, and they had created somewhat of a mutual hatred for each other. It didn't matter, though. He got what he had wanted, yet, even so, vengeance still lingered on the brain.

It had been nineteen, long hard years for Helmut Zemo, and on most days, he just wanted to end them all. But the thought of getting revenge once more was enough to keep him going. Breaking them apart wasn't enough anymore. They had caused him so much strife and pain. The only thing that could help with that was their deaths. If he couldn't have a happy ending, then neither could they.

"So, what do you want?"

"More importantly," Zemo grinned, leaning closer. "What do you want?"

"Right now, the job," The hooded man grunted, slamming his fists on the flat table. "I don't have time to do this dance with you."

Zemo chuckled a little but gave him a nod of understanding, "I need help, 'Taskmaster.'" Zemo confessed, gesturing around him. "As you know, I'm in... quite a predicament."

It was no secret of what happened to him and who put him behind these cold bars. His arrest was announced worldwide after all.

"Sounds like a personal problem to me," Masters grunted, getting irritated that he had been brought all this way to deal with this nonsense. "Your point?"

"The Avengers," Zemo said the name in envy and disdain. "has ruined my life. My wife and son are dead because of their ignorance. Yet, they're still celebrated all over the world, still pretending that they're heroes. And they haven't just taken from me; they took something from you too."

Masters went silent behind the mask, listening to him, intently, "You have my attention."

"The Avengers are weak now. We need to strike now while they're blissfully unaware of what's coming. Their time is coming to an end," Zemo decided to keep most of his plans vague until he was sure that he could trust him. There was also still some planning that needed to be done.

"Easier said than done, pal," Masters leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. "If some genocidal maniac from another planet can't stop them, what makes you think you and I can?"

"I have a plan."

"Yeah, and look where that got you," Masters scoffed, shaking his head. "These people...they're not built to lose. Even when they do, they still find a way to win. You better pay well."

Zemo reached inside of his jumpsuit and tossed a set of photos on his table, "But isn't revenge the best payment of them all?"

Masters looked down at the picture and began to shake in a fury, old memories flashing in his mind.

A family—were having a lovely picnic in the park without a care in the world. They all had smiles on their faces and were having the times of their life. Unfortunately for them, they were being watched.

The young girl looked to be the age of seventeen. She had long flowing blonde hair that was styled in a rebellious yet beautiful way. She was very fit for a young teenaged girl, her resemblance uncanny from the two adults beside her. She had a broad smile on her face as she held two children in her arms while the younger boy leaned against her side.

Masters' gaze went from the first picture and went to the second one. They landed on a woman was in the arms of the older man, who was swinging her around in his embrace. He knew the man. Not personally, but everyone knew who he was. The man's hair was long and slicked back—his usual style. His face held a rare smile along with a stubble of facial hair sticking out. He had never seen the man with such freedom, so liberated. He was unwound and relaxed. He was truly happy.

But the woman...this woman was the real reason for his wrath, his craving for vengeance.

She was gorgeous. No matter how much Masters hated her, there was no doubt that she was stunning in every way. From her long, red hair, to her statuesque figure and her delicate facial features, she was incredibly beautiful. She looked a little older from the last time hen had seen her, but he would recognize that face anywhere. She defeated him, ruined him, and he would never forget that.

Throughout the intense silence, Zemo watched the masked man with amusement, the final aspects of his plans, which was quickly coming together. They needed to be meticulously calculated, and that was going to require patience.

But they would lose this time, and Zemo would make sure of it.

With a slight grunt, Masters looked up and clenched his fists tightly, telling Zemo everything that he needed to know.

He was in.

"When do we start?"


BROOKLYN

"Come on, Atreus," Frigga said teasingly from the corner of the room. "You can take her. She's 'just a girl' after all.'"

"Shut it, Frigga!" He grunted, trying to focus on his opponent.

Sarah huffed as she circled him a couple of times before she lunged and took him down with her. They hit the mat with a thud that echoed off of the walls in the gym. Frigga grinned as she watched Sarah wrap her legs around his neck and held him down to the ground effortlessly. Nathaniel was lifting weights on the other side of the room while other people went on about their day, hardly working out. Atreus grunted in frustration before he quickly threw Sarah off of him, and she rolled over before hopping back up.

"Yeah, Atreus," Sarah toyed with him, trying to get inside his head. "Show me what you can do."

"Shut up and fight, Rogers." He charged at her, but Sarah was prepared. She moved to the side and landed a swift kick to his side. Atreus grunted as he dropped to his knees and held onto the sore spot.

"Pick up the pace, Odinson," Sarah taunted him as he got up and landed his fists into her chest.

"I got you now," Atreus grinned, ready to strike again.

Sarah then lifted her legs and wrapped them around his neck once more before pulling him down to her level. He let out an animalistic grunt, and she flipped them over so that she was pinning him down.

"Tap!" Sarah demanded, stretching his arm out in the process. Atreus tried to hold it in, but the pain in his shoulder became unbearable.

"Alright, I yield!" Atreus yelled as he tapped her leg rapidly. Sarah immediately let go and got up to her feet, wiping the blood off her lip with a satisfied smirk playing on them.

"Sarah-3, Atreus-0," Frigga shook her, smiling as she pulled her brother off the ground with ease. "You should really apologize to her, Trey. It might make you feel better."

Atreus looked at Sarah for a moment before rolling his eyes and sighing in defeat, "I'm sorry for calling you 'just a girl.'"

Sarah took a swig of her water and grinned, her blue eyes glistening in the light. "Considering I kicked your ass, apology accepted."

"If you hadn't made that stupid move your mom taught you, I would've had you pinned," Atreus argued, making Sarah stick her tongue out at him. "Real mature."

"Still, she did kick your ass," Frigga hit her brother's chest, where a purple blotch resided. "Imagine if mom heard you. You would've been lucky if a bruise was all you got."

Atreus grimaced at the thought. His father was a playful parent, the type to do all of the cool things with. Go to combat zones, going fishing, riding winged horses in the summer, all those cool things. But his mother, she was a disciplinary parent. Though she loved her children and was just a playful as her husband, when it came to discipline, she was the go-to. And most of the time, Atreus was in the discipline area.

"Good fight, Odinson," Sarah sighed as she loosened her blonde ponytail from its restraints. "Maybe next time."

"Hey guys," Nathaniel walked over with his phone in his hands, scrolling through his messages. "Mom and Dad said we're supposed to come over Sarah's place for our get together tonight. We have to get ready."

"Now?" Atreus let out an exhausted grin.

"I forgot that was today," Sarah shook her head, throwing on her black hoodie. "Yeah, mom and dad are hosting it this year, so I guess we should book it."

"Sarah," Nathaniel looked at her intently. "Morgan's gonna be there."

Sarah froze and tensed up at the sound of her name, a lump formed in her throat. She quickly composed herself and shrugged her shoulders again, "OK, so is Uncle Tony and Aunt Pepper. You can only assume their daughter is coming over as well."

"Yeah, except Morgan's been acting differently since she ditched us and started hanging out with those rich snobs in Midtown," Frigga rolled her eyes. "And to ditch her best friend as well is low, even for her."

All eyes averted to Sarah, and her cheeks flushed from embarrassment.

"Staring's rude," Sarah snapped at them before she turned around and continued to pack her bag. "And as far as I'm concerned, I hope her and those spoiled brats are happy with each other!"

"Aww," Frigga pouted her lip and pulled Sarah into her arms, hugging her affectionately. "It's OK to be jealous, honey. It happens to the best of us."

Sarah rolled her eyes and cursed in Russian under her breath, "I'm not jealous, Frigga."

Nathaniel and Atreus snickered as Frigga pulled back and gave her a broad smile, "If you say so."

It amazed Sarah how freakishly annoying they can be, but still supportive at the same time. She wouldn't have survived her first two years of high school, and now she was going into her junior year with three of her closest friends. She remembered when it was five of them. When they were growing up, all they had was each other. They were practically inseparable, especially Morgan and Sarah. It was as if time froze around those two, as if nothing could tear them apart.

But time changed that quickly.

"Morgan doesn't define me," Sarah defended herself, "I've been doing pretty well without her, and I'm pretty sure I can keep doing well without her."

"Well," Nathaniel and Atreus walked over and threw their arms around Frigga and Sarah, pulling them close, "At least you have us."

"I know," Sarah rolled her eyes again and pushed them off of her, "And I thank you guys for that. Seriously."

"So, we have time to go home and shower?" Atreus asked his sister as he glanced at the time.

"I don't see why we shouldn't," Frigga shrugged her shoulders before pulling Sarah back into another embrace. "We'll see you in a bit, Sarah."

Sarah told her friends farewell and made her way to the parking lot, where her cherry red Harley Street 750 was waiting for her. The motorcycle was her pride and joy, practically her baby. After getting it for her sixteenth birthday, she and her father spent two summers fixing it from scratch, and now it was good as new. There was literally nothing she wouldn't do for it.

Hearing the engine roar to life, Sarah grinned and sped down the late afternoon highways of Brooklyn. She would pass all the colleges and universities that all the rich kids attended and couldn't help the sigh of annoyance that left her lips. Most rich kids were stuck-up pricks, in her opinion. They always thought of themselves better than everybody else and should have the ground they walked on to be worshipped. And now her best friend was in with those pricks.

How fitting.

Sarah thought she had a normal upbringing, all things considered. Her father became an auto-mechanic a few years after their retirement and had been putting in work ever since. Her mother decided to be a stay at home mom and be the dutiful wife. But she wasn't entirely bored. She would check in now and then to make sure that everything was on track for the team. But she was retired as well. They both had said goodbye to their old life and moved on to their future, as did the others.

Tony and Pepper remained married and continued to raise Morgan in their quaint home in the woods. Tony decided to stay on the science side of things and provided the new generation of heroes the resources they needed. At the same time, Pepper remained the CEO of Stark Enterprises, continuing the family business.

Thor and Carol moved down to New York from Norway so that their children could be close to their friends and have better opportunities handed to them in the US. Though distance didn't stop them from running their kingdom, nothing ever could. Still, Valkyrie was a valuable asset, and they were lucky to have her.

Clint and Laura picked right back up where they left off and continued. Cooper and Lila graduated from high school and went to college, moving on with their lives. However, since Nathaniel was among the other victims of the 'snap,' he would've been technically twenty-two years old but now was in the body of a sixteen-year-old teenager. Nathaniel didn't mind, though. He had the best of friends he could've asked for. Nothing could ruin that for him.

Bucky and Wanda were happily married. They were expecting their first child together and Wanda was very much looking forward to it. She just wanted to live her life with her husband, and that's all that mattered to her.

As for the rest, the Avengers was now lead by Sam after he took the mantle of Captain America. Bruce and Tony still consulted on everything, but otherwise, everything was pretty much under control.

Things were finally right with the world.

The houses on the side of Sarah suddenly turned into trees and rolling hills of green grass as she neared her home. When she pulled up, her mother was waiting for her on the front steps of the house with her arms crossed.

"Sarah Alianovna Rogers, what the hell took you so long?" Natasha exclaimed, an apron wrapped around her waist. It was covered in flour and other stains that covered it.

"I went to the gym with the gang," Sarah grinned as she hopped off the bike and jogged to her mother, kissing her cheek soundly. "Sorry, mother."

"Well, get ready моя маленькая птичка, they'll be here soon," She ushered her daughter inside with a grin of her own.

Sarah walked into the family room, where her siblings were located. Her father was sketching on the floor with her little sister Caroline drawing with him while her brother, Tobias, was on Steve's back, hovering over him. Annabelle was reading a book at the table while her brother James was doing homework beside her.

"Sarah!" Annabelle squealed as she got up from the table and ran to her sister's arms. Sarah picked her up with ease and spun her around, earning another squeal of delight from her. Her smile radiated, and it just warmed her heart to the core. "Did you have fun at the gym?"

"Sure did," she said as she sat down with her little sister in her lap. "What have you been doing all day, kid?"

"Reading," Annabelle said, showing the children's book to Sarah. "It's about someone who hates green eggs and ham."

"I know all about that book, champ," Sarah smiled at a fond memory before she kissed her sister on the forehead. She turned to James and ruffled his hair before she got up and walked back towards her dad and bent down to kiss his cheek as well. "Father."

"Hey, sport," Steve grinned but didn't turn his head from the book he was reading. "Go freshen up for dinner."

"Yes, sir." Sarah saluted as she walked past James, who immediately pinched his nose.

"Yeah, and do it quickly. You reek," He retorted while shaking his head.

Sarah turned around and stuck her tongue out at him before shoving the back of his head, "Still smell better than you, dork."

James looked at his older sister and sighed before turning back to his homework, "In your dreams, brat."

Sarah turned around when she heard a low grumble behind her. She turned slightly to see Lena staring at her intently, asking her a silent question in her own way.

Sarah gave her a hum of approval before she padded her way to her feet. Her wet nose nuzzled against her leg as she continued to pad her way to her room. Her parents found Lena in an alleyway, whimpering in pain. A Siberian husky, alone and broken. Natasha didn't want her, she was just another thing added to her list and she didn't want the baggage. But Steve insisted, and Natasha couldn't deny her husband even if she wanted to.

Lena was well trained, Sarah'll give her that much. She gave her an order and she followed. She also chased away unwanted company which made her loveable in Natasha's eyes, and she was starting to grow on her. Though, she would never admit it to Steve. It just proves that he's right ninety percent of the time.

After giving Lena an affectionate pat on the head, Sarah climbed the large stairs to her room and walked down the long hallway, passing family portraits and awards that the Rogers children had accomplished. There were six of them, after all.

James looked more like their mother every day, especially with his red hair. And Sarah thought that he was quite smart and thorough for a twelve-year-old kid. His grades were exceptional, his room was perfect, and he was always prepared for anything. Everything in his room had to be just right, not a book or pencil out of place. It worried Natasha how persistent and stubborn he was at some times. It was like he was growing up way too fast before her eyes. Though she still encouraged his independence, Natasha just hoped that James would only take a little time to be a kid. And even though he was a pain in his older sister's ass, she loved him nevertheless. There was nothing she wouldn't do for her brother.

Then there was Tobias, the seven-year-old adventurer. It was hard to keep him still, and he would get into something new every day. But when he was calm, he was a good kid. He was Steve's clone down to the bone structure and attitude. They even walked similarly. Of course, those two were inseparable, and Steve encouraged Tobias' mischievous ways. That didn't mean that he wasn't worried about him sometimes.

Annabelle and Caroline were the only twins of the Rogers family, and they were four. They were connected in a way that neither Steve or Natasha could ever understand. They could never be too far away from each other, and they were always in sync. They never complained and rarely fussed. They were so adorable that they practically had everyone wrapped around their fingers.

Then there was Savannah Rogers, the youngest child who was seven months. Their miracle baby, the one who almost didn't get a chance at life. Natasha counted her lucky stars and thanked God that she made it. It would've broken them apart if she didn't.

And last but not least, there was Sarah. The oldest.

Sarah had changed from the little girl she once was. She was different now, more guarded and careful. Certain circumstances made her this way, and she couldn't help it. But when she was with her family, her friends, Morgan...she could be happy. She was so liberating and free when she was around them. She wanted to have that feeling forever.

But she knew that some things weren't meant to be forever.

"Get a move on up there, Sarah," Natasha shouted from downstairs, making her daughter hurry to the shower after stripping off her clothes.

She took a short but sweet shower and washed her wavy blonde hair before wrapping a towel around her torso and heading into her bedroom.

Sarah didn't like having her wall full of posters like her siblings. She had a dozen trophies and medals on a shelf from when she played sports as a kid and her freshman year in high school. But other than that, she had a bed, TV, and a couple of books to read. That was all she needed at the moment.

After rummaging through her closet, she threw on a navy blue Dodgers t-shirt and some dark jeans to go with them that would complete her look. She ran a hand through her long curly hair and let it flow down her back. She walked down the steps and made her way to the massive kitchen. She took a seat and watched her mother move around the kitchen to get dinner.

Her father walked in, and his eyes landed on his wife, a smile hitting his lips. She was in nothing more than a black blouse and dark slacks to match. Steve just stood there and looked at her, unashamed of himself. Her hair was long and flowing, now wholly red. It was like twelve years had done nothing to her. She looked almost the same as ever. No lines on her face or signs of aging. Well, Steve didn't see any, but she assured him they were there. And her body... the things that lingered on his mind every time he looked at her. It was like watching her for the first time every time.

"Stop eye-fucking me, Rogers," she said without even turning around. "It's not polite."

"I wasn't," Steve lied quickly, putting his hands up in surrender.

She gave him a look that made him sigh in defeat. He smiled softly and made a beeline straight for Natasha. He took her hand, and she pulled him in her arms, "I can't help it. You're too beautiful."

"You sweet talker," Natasha rolled her eyes but grinned nonetheless. "You have the hots for me, Mr. Rogers?"

Steve roughly pulled her in his arms and made her gasp, "Desperately."

He bent his head down slightly and pressed his lips against hers. Their hands began to explore each other's bodies and were tempted to their clothing off without a second thought. Even as the years passed, their passion never wavered. It only grew stronger.

Sarah made a fake gagging noise, and they broke away.

"We'll continue this," Natasha kissed him once more. "In private."

"I sure hope so..." Steve winked as he walked back out of the kitchen and into the dining room to set up the table.

"You two are disgusting," Sarah shivered at the thought of her parents getting intimate. "You two do know that the house has thin walls, right?"

"You're such a child," Natasha smirked as she leaned against the marble counter. "I hope you know what it's like to fall in love one day, my daughter. It is a feeling that you will never forget."

"Love makes people weak, mother. It makes them do stupid things," Sarah averted her mother's gaze. "I'm not weak, and I don't want ever to feel weak."

Natasha titled her head to the side and smiled weakly before walking over to her daughter, "Well, I don't know about that. But, I do know that without love, I wouldn't have you or your brothers and sisters." She grabbed the back of Sarah's head and pressed a quick kiss to her forehead. "That's gotta count for something, right?"

Sarah couldn't help but smile back, "I suppose it does."

Just then, the doorbell had rung, and Sarah became frigid.

Steve sighed as he opened the door, knowing that the scene that would greet him would be chaotic.

Sure enough, he was greeted by loud laughter, belonging to both children and adults.

Something small collided with his mid area, and he looked down to see a tiny head of blonde hair clinging to him.

"There's no escape, Uncle Steve!" Astrilde said, and he laughed, reaching down to embrace the twelve-year-old girl. There was no way he could say no to that adorable face.

The kids immediately walked to the door, and Thor threw a squealing Annabelle over his shoulder. Carol walked in as her children followed, quickly making their way to Sarah. Once the Bartons and Barnes family arrived, and Sam, the gang was practically reunited. Tony and Pepper didn't come with them, so they were fashionably late. As usual.

It was like time never passed with them. They could be apart for decades and come back together like they were never separated. That's how a real family worked.

Natasha walked to Bucky and a very pregnant Wanda with Savannah in her arms, talking about how things were going for them. Wanda caught Steve's eye and smiled slightly as she continued to speak to Natasha with one hand resting on her bulging stomach. Steve grinned at her as he kissed the top of his baby girl's bald head. The oven beeped in the kitchen, and Natasha rolled her eyes in annoyance.

"That's the chicken breasts. Hold her for a moment."

As soon as Savannah got into her father's arms, she immediately began to fuss.

"Hey, baby girl. What's wrong?" Steve whispered as he rocked her slightly. "Tell daddy where it hurts, and he'll make it better."

Her cries began to simmer down, and she leaned her onto his chest as he held her. He pressed another kiss on the top of her head and smirked when he noticed that Bucky and Wanda were watching him, smiles on their faces.

"Look at us," Bucky turned his head, now smiling at Wanda. "We made it."

"Yeah, we did," Steve looked down at his beautiful daughter as she bit and sucked on his finger to stop her teething pain."We did."

Wanda laughed slightly and wiped a tear off her cheek, "Fucking hormones.

He looked around and at his family and couldn't help but feel a swell of pride in his chest. He had built this life, this family over the years, and the foundations were healthy and pure. He wondered what his mother would think of him right now if she saw him. He knew that she would be proud of him and the man he became. And he knew that he wanted this to last forever.


"You two sure know how to throw a party," Sarah heard her Uncle Tony's voice through the open front door.

The gang all looked at Sarah as she had a hardened look on her face to mask her feelings.

"Why the hell are you guys staring at me like I have shit on my face?" Sarah snapped, causing her friends to jump back a little. They knew how different Sarah acted in times like this, so they weren't really surprised.

"Oh, this is going to be fun," Frigga grinned, crossing her arms over her chest.

"I doubt it," Nathaniel grinned as well, bumping his shoulder against Sarah's. "We got your back, Rogers."

Sarah was about to respond until she saw Morgan turn the corner. All words flew out the window. She was… God, were there any words in any of the languages she knew to describe what she saw? Perfection, maybe? And then, their eyes locked and it was like the world had stopped.

Her gaze traced her face first, remembering a pair of honeyed eyes that would make her weak in the knees every time she saw them- they were lonelier now, shaded. Her pert nose was still the same, and her full lips were slightly parted at the moment as she openly gaped at her. Her long, earthen-brown hair was flowing down her back without a care.

Her gaze lowered down slightly, and once they reached the curves of her waist underneath the black leather jacket she was wearing, she immediately averted her gaze and cleared her throat. Sarah gave herself a hard mental shake, reigning in rampant thoughts.

Tony's loud voice suddenly filled the too quiet, too tense kitchen, "Hey kiddos! How have you been?"

"Hey, Sarah," she breathed. Her name sounded too good on her lips, like coming home after a long time away. "Hey, guys."

Automatically, she could feel her own lips moving, daring to say her name as if it were a spell. "Morgan." It surprised her to find how comfortable her name sat on her tongue after what's been going on between them.

Frigga waved back at her, and the boys just nodded respectfully to her. Tony broke the tension once more and clapped his hands together loudly, "Well, alright! Let the celebratory feast begin!"

Morgan nodded weakly, her gaze still trapped on Sarah. "Yeah, sure thing…"

Natasha was the only parent to notice the weird exchange between their children. She felt Steve's arms encircle around her waist, and all previous thoughts were forgotten.

"Ready to eat?" Steve asked, kissing the side of her head.

"You know it," Natasha moved her head to the side to place a kiss on his lips. "After you."

But before she could move, her phone vibrated in her pocket. Her brows furrowed in confusion as she pulled it out.

Who could possibly be texting her around this time of the night?

Her curiosity peaked once she read the message silently.

Come outside. We need to talk. - Unknown Number.

Natasha looked around herself and checked to see if she was being watched before leaving out the front door of her home. Her eyes looked around the front yard for a few seconds until they averted down the paved path of her driveway, which lead her down to a familiar face.

"Hello, my sister," the woman said with a small smile on her face. "It's been a long time."

It couldn't be...

Tears came streaming down her cheek as she covered her mouth, whispering a name she never thought she would again.

"Yelena..."

Chapter Text

"So, how have you guys been?" Morgan asked with a sweet smile playing on her lips. "I haven't spoken to you all in a while."

The parents were down the long dining table, laughing and joking around without a care in a world. Meanwhile, on the opposite side, it couldn't get tenser. It was so awkward that they barely knew what to say to each other. It was like their entire childhood together was forgotten.

"I wonder why," Frigga smiled, her lips curling in a sarcastic smile.

"Frigga!" Atreus whispered, nudging her shoulder with hers. He gestured his head to Sarah, who averted her gaze, eyes looking down at her full plate of food.

Frigga just rolled her eyes in annoyance.

"I've missed you guys," Morgan chuckled, playing off the awkwardness that oozed between herself and Sarah. "I feel like I haven't seen you guys since the middle of the summer."

"Life's funny like that," Frigga nodded her head as she stuck a piece of pot roast in her mouth. "Guess this means explanations aren't needed, huh?"

"I guess not." Morgan tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, the corner of her eyes looking at the blonde-haired girl a couple of seats down from her. "Sarah, I-." She searched for the right words to say, anything to make this moment less awkward, but the words didn't come. All that happened was a painfully hot awareness curling in the pit of her stomach as if every molecule of her body was reacting to her.

Nathaniel and Atreus cleared their throats to ease the tension.

"We missed you too, Morgan," Nathaniel said, giving her a careful smile."Everyone misses you."

"Everyone?" Her gaze flickered to Sarah's form.

"Everyone, yes," Nathaniel confirmed.

Atreus nodded beside him, trying to ring his sister in as well. Frigga just smiled sarcastically again before stuffing her mouth with more food. Sarah didn't move a muscle. She only remained stiff, waiting for this moment to be over with

"That's good," Morgan grinned, fiddling with her fingers under the table. The tension that had built between her and Sarah slowly released the longer Sarah ignored her. Maybe if Morgan ignored her long enough as well, she'd go away. "I know we haven't been hanging out lately, and that's my fault, but..."

"Save it, "Frigga held her hand up."It's all forgiven."

"Is it?" Morgan pressed in mock-suspicion, eying Frigga intently. "It seems like you're not completely over it."

"Believe it or not, I am," Frigga shrugged without a care in the world. "It took me a while to do so, but I did. And yeah, it hurt knowing that you chose to hang out with pricks who barely care about you than the friends who've been with your entire childhood. Then to top it off, you leave Sarah in the dust in the middle of the summer, where we spend most of our time together for those spoiled brats. So excuse me if I'm not 'completely over it.'

Silence fell upon them, knowing that her words rang true. Morgan knew that it was, and she didn't deny it. She knew that their friendship was being tested, and right now, she was failing them. But she didn't give up. She would never give up on them. Sarah lifted her glass of water and raised it to her lips, still avoiding her gaze at all costs. Morgan noticed it and was done playing the game they've been at.

"Sarah, say something to me," Morgan whispered. She never felt so distant from her. It was a terrible feeling. And Sarah didn't like it as well. The entire conversation in front of her friends was making her uncomfortable. Subtly, Sarah nudged her head upstairs and led her up to her bedroom, not sparing a glance behind her friends.

When they reached her room, the silence between them stretched on. It had been quite some time since Morgan had been in this room, and she couldn't help the smile that reached her lips.

"You still have this picture," Morgan picked the frame up, looking at it longingly. It was a picture of when they were all kids, the five of them all huddled up against each other in front of the Starks' home. She looked between her friends and saw herself cuddled close to Sarah, who had a toothless smile. Even then, she knew that they would always be apart of each other. "It seems like a lifetime ago now."

Sarah looked at her for a split moment and decided to speak finally.

"Morgan, I don't know what this is about, you being here and all, but I'm not getting mixed up in all this again. Okay?" Sarah shook her head, crossing her arms. "Whatever you and those pricks went through, I want nothing to do with it. I'm not anyone's second choice." Her arms wrapped around her torso, Morgan's gaze was drawn to the way it emphasized her chest.

"You're right, and I'm sorry for making you feel that way," she apologized, smiling weakly. "I just... I wanted to make things right between us."

Morgan dared a step toward, only to have her tense and take a half step back. Sighing, she planted her feet, understanding that, despite the apparent arousal that darkened her eyes, she was still wary of letting her near. Without thinking, she reached out to take Sarah's hand, only to have her jerk back, away from her touch. Her brow furrowed in confusion; she could understand her not wanting to get snugly with her but refusing to touch him at all. "Why do you keep doing that?"

"Because..."

I'm afraid of letting you close again.

A slight frown marred her face. "Is this… is this about how things ended between us?" she asked quietly.

A physical tightness erupted in Morgan's chest the moment she saw the fear creep back into Sarah's lovely eyes. While her reaction took her by surprise, she was more surprised by the strength of the urge; she suddenly had to go to her. Morgan resisted, of course, trying to respect the distance that Sarah was imposing between them.

Finally, Sarah found her voice. "I don't know." As opposed to her voice moments before, she sounded subdued now. Her gaze no longer met Morgan's.

"We weren't ready for that, Sarah," Morgan whispered. "We were stupid freshmen in high school."

"And now?"

"You know that I still care about you, Sarah. That never changed and it never will," Morgan closed her eyes tightly. "I don't want this to ruin our friendship, our family. We've been separated for long enough."

"Right," Sarah huffed. "And to hell with what it does to us."

"Why do you think I hung out with those jerks instead?" Morgan hissed, whipping her head towards her. "Being around you... not being able to hold you. Touch you... it was hard. It was suffocating, Sarah. I couldn't handle it."

"So you left me completely instead," Sarah bit back, still trying to keep her emotions intact.

And then Morgan looked into those eyes, those baby blue eyes that would make her weak at the knees, and she wanted to take her into her arms and hold her. Just hold her.

Unable to help herself any longer, Morgan took a step towards her, frowning when Sarah crept a step back.

"Don't make me chase you," Morgan warned. Her body tensed, but she said nothing. She was quick to overtake her, enwrapping her in her arms and pressing her lithe body in her embrace. Sarah's body suddenly jerked as if her knees had given out, Morgan's arms tightening in response, supporting her. A long, shuddering breath rattled from the teenaged girl's lips, fanning hotly against Morgan's neck. Standing there, like they were, they just… fit.

"l never meant to hurt you," She was taking a stab in the dark at this, overstepping her boundaries again.

Sarah's eyes closed, and she breathed in her scent. "I-." She didn't fight her this time. She didn't want to. She managed to say, "I forgave you a long time ago."

"I know."

Sarah could feel the heat radiating off her body as she hugged her back, wrapping her arms around her waist. She was perfect in her arms, every curve of her pressed against every hard plain of her own body. It caused something primal to stir in her, wanting to offer comfort, protection.

A shock ran through Sarah's entire being when she felt soft lips on the crown on her head. A kiss. Not sexual, but soothing. She laid her head on Morgan's shoulder, reveling in her warm scent.

"I missed you," Morgan whispered almost breathlessly. God, she missed the feeling. "I missed you. A lot," she breathed into the crook of Sarah's neck, her lips moving gently against the warm skin.

"I missed you, too. A lot," Sarah replied earnestly, surprised by the sincere truth behind those words.

Morgan allowed herself to giggle a little, hugging Sarah a little tighter. She leaned back, taking in Sarah's face, guarded and sincere. So beautiful. Acting on memory alone, she leaned up and laid her lips on hers. It was barely a kiss, more like a peck- no, not even a peck, a touch. She touched her lips to hers.

Nothing had ever felt so right in her life.

Morgan wanted the moment to last just a little longer and she pulled her closer, deepening the kiss. Sarah wrapped her arms around her waist and pulled her impossibly close, their lips moving in an exotic dance. Morgan was quick to realize what she was doing and ended the kiss far too soon. Sarah's arms tightened fractionally for a second before loosening once more, letting the girl slip from her arms as she backed away.

"Um- wow," Sarah breathed, slightly bemused.

"Uh, yeah…" Morgan searched for something to divert the awkwardness. She hadn't meant to kiss her. Not like that. Not at all. There was something new in Sarah's eyes as she looked at her now, and it made the yearning in her heart all the more durable. She took her hand carefully, lightly. "Come on; I bet they're probably wondering what's taking us so long."

"Oh, right…" Sarah didn't sound like she was in much of a rush.

Morgan offered her a bright smile that made Sarah's heart burst and smiled as well as she tugged her back out to their family and friends.


"Yelena?"

She gave her a bemused look, quirking a brow at her, "Are you gonna stand there, or are you gonna come over and give your sister a hug?"

Natasha didn't waste any time. She practically ran to her sister and spun her around in her arms, holding her tight. Yelena rolled her eyes at the public display of affection but managed to hug her back as well. It had been seventeen years since the two had last seen each other. Growing up in those hard times when all they had was each other, it was a time that neither of them would forget. They had been through so much together, and now, after all these years, they were reunited once more.

Natasha pulled back for a moment and placed a kiss on both her cheeks, smiling broadly, "я скучал по тебе."

I missed you.

"I know," Yelena grinned. "I missed you more."

"How have you been?" Natasha sat on the bench that was on their property, holding her hands in hers. "I haven't heard from you since..."

"I know," Yelena interrupted, patting her hand. She noticed the ring on her finger, and her grin widened. "Married life suits you, my sister."

Natasha couldn't help the blush that crept to her cheeks as she looked back at the home that he built for her. She knew that she was lucky and blessed to have such a loving man by her side. To be given this incredible family and this extraordinary life. She always said she would never take it for granted. And she meant that.

"I've never been happier," Natasha admitted. Her heart began to race as an idea popped into her head. "You have to meet Steve. You have to meet all of them right now."

Yelena immediately tensed up at the thought as she remembered why she was here, "Unfortunately, I can't. Not now, at least."

Natasha's brow furrowed in confusion, "Why not?"

"I tracked you down because we have a problem," Yelena whispered lowly. "He's back."

Her heart started to beat furiously, knowing precisely who 'he' was. She felt the walls of her chest tightening, old terrifying moments beginning to flood back in her mind.

"What… what do you mean he's back?" Natasha stammered.

"Meaning he's alive," Yelena stated simply. "And he's coming for you."

"We killed him," Natasha whispered, her voice was almost non-existent. "We made sure that he was dead."

"Apparently, we didn't double-check," Yelena sighed. "I got a lead on him at the Raft Correctional Facility under some unknown alias where he was last seen. Different suit, different mask. But the same man It was him, Natalia."

Now her heart was stampeding. "How can this be? How long have you known about this?"

"A few weeks," She admitted, crossing her arms across her shoulders. "As far as where he is and what he's planning, I don't know."

Her mouth was parched, and her head was starting to throb like a jackhammer was pounding it.

"I… I don't understand. What does this mean?" Natasha asked.

"He's alive, Natasha," Yelena said with finality. "Taskmaster is alive, and we need to stop him."

It couldn't be. It wasn't plausible. She watched him die. She watched him plummet from a hundred feet in the air. There was no way in hell he survived that. And if he was, there was no way she was throwing herself back into the mix again. Still, deep down, she knew that her sister was telling her the truth.

"No," She shook her head. "I can't do it, Yelena."

"What the hell do you mean you can't?"

"I'm retired, Yelena," Natasha stood up, pacing back and forth. "I promised myself that I was done with this life."

"You and I both know that it wasn't gonna last this forever," Yelena retorted, quirking a brow at her again. The years did nothing to her snarkiness.

"It's not about just me anymore," Natasha yelled, practically pulling at her hair. "I have a family to think about now, and I want nothing to do with this."

"You don't have a choice," Her sister replied bluntly. "As much as I feel for you, Natasha, he will come for you. He wants revenge, and he won't stop until he's made you suffer. He won't stop until you and everything you love is dead. And you know that I'm telling the truth."

Natasha looked up, and the dark sky was filled with endless stars and the everlasting moon. They represented a new life, the clean air, the stars, the moon, everything meant something in her eyes. It felt like her whole world was being turned upside down, and she didn't know what to do about it. She didn't know if there was something she could do about it.

"There has to be another way," Natasha shook her head, trying to think of some better options in her head. "It has to be."

"There's only one way, Natasha," Yelena got up from the bench and placed a comforting hand on Natasha's shoulder. "The only way we know."

Yelena gave her one more pat to her shoulder and walked away from her sister, leaving her with her thoughts. She had thought she had left this life behind. She thought she had finally found peace and that her fighting days were over. But nothing lasts forever.

"Whenever you're ready, I'll be waiting, my sister."


Steve sighed contentedly and shut the door with his free hand as the last of their friends headed back to the car with their kids. It had been a night with their friends and family, but like all good things, they had to come to an end.

"She's finally asleep," Steve whispered as he rocked his baby girl gently in his arms. He sighed and pressed his lips to Savannah's bald head, her eyes closing as she slowly fell asleep against his shoulder.

"Our beautiful little girl," Natasha whispered back, managing to smile at the sight of them.

Steve leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to his wife's lips, "I'm gonna put her to bed,"

"Ok," Natasha said, kissing the corner of his mouth. "I'll be waiting for you."

After making sure she saw safe and sound in her crib, Steve gave his daughter one last kiss to the forehead and went into the bedroom to join his wife. He looked at her and watched as the moonlight shone over her through the silky curtains, highlighting her features. She was so beautiful, so perfect. In his eyes, she would always be flawless. She felt his presence and turned around, trying to force a smile. But he noticed her distress, he always did.

"Hey," He pulled her in his arms, holding her close. "Are you alright?"

"Always," she managed another weak smile.

Steve eyed her carefully, scrutinizing her, "Anything I can do?"

She nodded and wrapped her fingers around the base of his neck, "Take me, my love."

"Say no more."

No more words needed to be said. Without hesitation, she brought him down and crashed her lips onto his into a passionate kiss. They became we were a mess of severed limbs and gasping breaths. His kisses were rough, urgent, his tongue probing and teasing. And then she was in his arms, clawing and pulling him closer, always closer. He held her as though she weighed nothing at all. He ran his hands through her hair before moving down her body, cupping her bottom in his hands, squeezing and kneading her flesh. She wrapped his legs around his waist, moving up and down in his arms, grinding herself against the zipper of his pants.

Steve's kisses were like taking a deep breath after being deprived of oxygen. Natasha bit his lower lip, sucking it into her mouth in what seemed like an attempt to devour him whole. He melted into her, giving her everything and anything she needed. She pulled away from his lips to catch her breath, and he blazed a trail of hot, open-mouthed kisses down her throat. Her fingers got tangled and lost as she pulled his mouth hungrily back to m.

Her skin tingled, and her very core throbbed and ached for more. Their bodies were flush together, yet it wasn't enough. She was a moaning, whimpering mess. She could feel his heart thumping in his chest. She writhed in his arms in an attempt to increase the friction between her legs.

He pushed her up against the wall. She grunted at the impact. He moved as a man possessed. He leaned in, pinning her to the wall with his massive body.

"You do realize we have thin walls, Mr. Rogers," she managed to gasp out, entirely at his mercy.

"You do realize," he pinned her arms above her head, leaning closer to her. "That I don't particularly care."

He pressed his knee between her legs, causing her to mona as he rotated his hips, blood rushing to her core. They tore at each other's clothes until they were both naked above the waist. He paused, taking the time to devour her with his eyes. The depth of his desire had her reeling. She couldn't think, let alone speak. Her hands found their way back into his hair as she pulled him down into a thoroughly passionate kiss.

His hands were everywhere, groping and kneading her breasts, and every so often slipping between her legs to stroke her aching core through her pants. She was being driven beyond the point of sanity.

Her hands shot to his belt as she quickly undid it. She growled in frustration, and Steve set her back down on the floor. Before she had a chance to whimper or complain about the loss of heat from his body, she found herself stripped and bare before him. Their clothing laid in a haphazard pile on the floor.

They stared at each other, both of them completely naked. In one swift move, he hefted her back up into his arms, pinned her against the wall, and thrust himself inside her. He was not gentle, and Natasha didn't mind it one bit. Natasha moaned as his engorged length pushed in and retreated repeatedly. She clawed and scratched like an animal down his shoulders. Every time he withdrew, she pulled him desperately back. She wrapped her lips around his neck and tugged gently with her teeth. She exploded into an orgasm that took everything out of her. The moment of pure bliss felt as though it lasted an eternity. Steve stilled his movements and watched in awe with a self-satisfied, proud smile as she experienced ecstasy at his hands.

They were a sweaty mess of tangled limbs and mingled juices. Steve got his breathing under control a lot quicker than she did. He gave her a sweet smile and kissed his wife hungrily and thoroughly.

"Wow," he whispered. "That was just...wow."

"Definitely," Natasha breathed, quirking a brow at him. "We're going again, right?"

He laughed and flashed his brilliant white teeth, "Of course."

She whimpered as his lips crashed back down onto hers, and she knew that she was in more than capable hands.

Natasha collapsed face-first onto her bed hours later. Steve sprawled next to her face up, his chest heaving from exertion. She felt sated and lethargic, blissfully unaware of anything but the two of them in their bedroom.

She hugged the pillow to her breasts and looked over at Steve. His eyes were closed, but he had a satisfied, content smile on his face. She bit her lip as she took him in, letting her gaze travel unashamedly. She could barely feel her legs. They had attacked and devoured each other countless times. Sex was like a drug for them. And they couldn't seem to get enough.

The comforter and sheets were in a tangled mess at the foot of the bed. Natasha was lost in a euphoric state, and none of that seemed to matter to her. All she cared about was the handsome man in her bed, who was her husband.

She leaned up on her elbows to get a better look at him. She could feel the heat radiating off of his skin. Her body tingled, craving more of his touch. She felt as though she was always sated but never quite satisfied. She wanted everything from him, and then she wanted more. She was obsessed.

His breathing slowed, and she knew he was resting. She almost felt sorry for him. Here he was, the great Captain America, and she had nearly milked him of all his energy. Luckily for her, he was known for his stamina because she certainly didn't know where hers came from.

With that in mind, her eyes wandered over his naked skin unabashedly. His messy blonde hair matted to his forehead, which made her gaze pay attention to the small stubble that surrounded his face.

His chest glistened with sweat that was perfumed with his creamy, manly musk. Her heartbeat fastened at the sight of his battle scars, which showed the embodiment of his sacrifice and what he was willing to give to save the world, his family. Her body stirred in response to the visual stimulus in front of her, especially when her eyes paused south of his hips.

"Feeling better?" He asked, not opening his eyes. He had a playful smile on his lips.

"Much."

He chuckled, his voice low and husky. "Good, then I've done my job."

"Thank you," she whispered, smiling weakly. "I needed that."

He relaxed back into bed; only this time, he pulled his wife towards him so that she could rest her head on his chest. She was quiet for a while, reveling in the feeling of her husband running his hand up and down her naked back.

After some silent contemplation, she sighed deeply and said, "Steve..."

"Don't say it," He stopped her. "Not tonight. Let's just enjoy this moment, okay?"

He knew what she wanted to say, deep down. But this moment was meant to last, and he wanted it to for as long as he could.

Reluctantly, Natasha nodded kissed his chest lightly. "Okay."

And both enjoyed their embrace, letting the moment last as long as they possibly could because both of them knew that trouble was coming back their way.

There's only one way, Natasha. The only way we know.

Chapter Text

"All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day."
― Alan Moore


"Have you ever had a bad day, Ms. Gordon?" Zemo asked his therapist as he ran a hand through his scruffy beard. It had been a while since he's has a proper cleaning.

"Of course, Zemo," she gave him a careful smile, staring at him through small glasses. "We all have bad days."

"No, I don't mean a day that was bad. I mean a day where you were bad. When you were cruel and short-tempered? When you lashed out at the ones you cared for? When you woke up the next morning and question, how could you do such horrendous things?"

Gordon's brow furrowed in confusion, but she still nodded in confirmation, "I believe I'm following."

"Thanks to the Avengers, I have lost count of how many bad days I've had." He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, reveling in the memories of all the things he did. "All it takes is one bad day to reduce a good man into a sociopath. Just one bad day."

"Interesting words," His psychologist noted, writing a few things down in her journal. She always found his choice of words a mystery to her. They were all cryptic and had a double meaning behind them. "Why are you telling me this, Mr. Zemo?"

His eyes opened slowly, and his lips curled up into a sinister smile, "Because the Avengers are about to realize what a bad day can truly do to a person."


"Rise and shine, little bird. It's your first day of school."

Natasha's soft voice interrupted her daughter's rest as she ran her hand through her blonde hair.

She loved it when she did that. She had been waking her up for school this way her entire life, and she didn't know if she would ever be able to wake up on her own when the time comes. The motion never actually made her wake up but made her want to sleep even more. Sarah gently pushed her mother's hand away and turned onto her side with her back to her, putting the pillow over her head. It was Monday morning. The worst day of the whole week and the first day of her junior year. She wasn't very much encouraged to get from under her covers.

"Come on, Sarah," Natasha said, rubbing her back in a soothing motion."You don't want to be late on your first day, do you?"

"I've been on time for two years straight," Sarah muffled into the pillow. "Can I be late for once?"

"Afraid not, my love," she said calmly, taking the pillow away from her.

Sarah groaned and rolled onto her back, blinking up at her mother. She sat on the edge of the bed, the pillow on her lap. She started to stroke her hair again, and she closed her eyes, just letting her do it.

"My beautiful baby girl," Natasha sighed, looking at her daughter wistfully. "You're all grown up now."

"Come on, mom," Sarah sat up, smiling weakly at her. "Let's not make this too overemotional."

Natasha grinned and grabbed the back of her head, kissing her forehead, "I'm so proud of you, little bird. You're growing into such a mature young woman."

"I do have a great role model."

"Damn right, you do." They shared a laugh before Natasha stood up, nodding curtly at Sarah, "Now that you're up, you can get off your ass and get ready. Don't want to be late, now, do you?"

"No, ma'am," Sarah complied. "I'll be ready in a few."

Natasha gave her one more smile before leaving.

Sarah sighed and ran a hand through her hair just as her phone vibrated beside her. She picked up her phone and looked at the message, seeing that it was from Morgan. Her heart fluttered at that.

"Give me a ride, beautiful?"

"Don't you have a car, rich girl?" Sarah replied, rolling her eyes as she climbed off of her bed and headed to the dresser.

She pulled out a casual white t-shirt and a pair of jeans before her phone vibrated again.

"Sure do, but it's starting to bore me. And you don't want me bored, do you?"

Sarah sighed, shaking her head as she texted back, "You're so spoiled."

"Just how you like me, Rogers."

"I'll be there in 15."

"I'll be waiting."

Sarah couldn't help the smile that hit her lips. Morgan had a way of doing that to her. She shook her head and set her phone aside, taking in her appearance in the mirror that was connected to her dresser.

She was in nothing but a sports bra and some shorts. There was a stitched patch of skin that ran vertically down the right side of her torso, starting just below her peck and ending right above her hip bone, an old scar evident from her childhood. She would look at them as battle scars, like fighting in a war of the century. It made her feel like a soldier. It made her feel like her parents.

After throwing a brown leather jacket over her shoulders and pulling her hair up, she walked out of her bedroom and downstairs to the kitchen, where her parents were watching the news on the small television intently. Her father was shirtless as he held a sleeping Savannah in his arms. Her head was resting on the burping cloth while her father kept patting her back soothingly. It was his off day, so he would help Natasha get the kids ready for school to make things easier on her part.

Lena turned the corner and laid down obediently by Sarah's foot as she grabbed herself a glass of milk and a piece of toast off the table.

Sarah's eyes followed her parent's gaze and paid attention to it as well. A man who was arrested for the murder of a child was brutally beaten to death in his cell before he could make it to his trial. The family of the child said that although the murderer was gone, it didn't change the fact that their daughter was gone as well, and nothing could ever erase that pain.

"What a scumbag," Sarah scoffed, shaking her head. "He deserved to die."

Both of her parent's heads whipped towards her, and they gazed at her intently. Sarah swallowed hard but didn't break down.

"Why would you say such a thing?" Natasha asked, her brows furrowing in confusion. "That man was brutally murdered, beaten to a bloody pulp. No one deserves that."

"Mother, he killed and violated an eight-year-old girl," Sarah argued, shrugging her shoulders. "Justice needed to be served, and they gave it to him. You won't see anyone shed tears for him."

"His family will," Steve replied, keeping his voice low. "And justice would've been served by the book."

"No disrespect, dad. But 'the book' doesn't help anything. It's a joke. It just allows criminals to get off from the horrible things they've done. Can't you see the injustice in that?" Sarah asked.

Natasha moved closer to her daughter, her gaze growing sterner, "I can see where you're coming from, little bird. More than anyone in this room. But think about what you're saying. You're talking about taking a life here, Sarah. That's not something to take lightly."

"It isn't something I 'take lightly,'" Sarah stood up from her chair and stared back at her mother. "But if it was you, he took from me. If it was Annie, Caroline, or Savannah that suffered as that little girl did, I would've done nothing but search the entire planet until he was mine, and I would've made sure that he burned in hell."

"You don't know the line that you would cross, Sarah! You don't have any idea what that can do to your mind, to you." Natasha closed her eyes tightly. "Sarah, once you go down that path, there is no coming back from that."

"Well, it's better than to let the ones you love suffer from the hands of a maniac!"

"That's enough, Sarah!" Steve roared, causing Savannah to stir in his arms. He soothed her quickly before turning his attention back to Sarah. "I understand you're speaking your mind, but you will not disrespect your mother like that ever again. This conversation is over. Are we clear?"

Natasha regained her composure and turned away from Sarah, walking over to Steve's side. Sarah bowed her head down and threw her bookbag over her shoulders, "Yeah. We're clear."

"Sarah, I..." Natasha tried to reach out to her daughter, but it was too late.

Sarah didn't bother to look back at her parents as she walked out the door, feeling a lot less confident about her first day of school. And Natasha buried her face in her hands, feeling guilty about the entire conversation she had with her daughter. Because deep down, she knew that sooner or later, she would have to tell her about her dark past.

For some strange reason, Natasha felt dizzy and unsteady. Almost tired to say, which was weird even for her. Her head began to ring in pain, and she could hear her heartbeat thumping in her ears. It was strange. Lena whimpered from under her and nudged her head against her leg.

"Nat?" Steve called her name in a worried tone. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Natasha nodded curtly. There was like some bubble in her chest that needed to be popped.

"Are you sure?"

"I said I'm fine."

Except that she wasn't and she knew that.

What the hell is going on?


"Be careful on that thing, Maguna!" Tony yelled from the porch of his home, practically biting his fingernails. "It's a death machine."

"Oh, give it a rest," Pepper smacked his shoulder before leaning her head on it. "Have a good day, girls!"

Sarah couldn't help but chuckle under her breath as she handed Morgan a helmet. Sarah didn't bother putting one on for herself. She was practically a professional when it came to riding her baby.

"We will, Mom," Morgan grinned while snapping the helmet on. "I love you guys!"

"Locked and loaded?" Sarah asked, putting her hands on the clutch.

"Always," Morgan wrapped her arms around Sarah's waist, and the whir of the bike's engine was a muffled roar in her ears as they sped towards Midtown High School. It wasn't until they were off the bike in the school parking lot.

Before she could react, Morgan kissed her quickly. She realized this was their first time making it "public" that they were back together. They hadn't even told the gang about this.

She was suddenly a nervous wreck when Morgan took her hand as they walked to the school building.

Morgan noticed it and stopped her movement, "Something wrong?"

"Just nervous."

"About?"

"Me and you." Sarah took a breath. "I mean, this is the first time we're going public."

"Well," Morgan held onto her hand and squeezed it. "Hiding our relationship is not an option anymore. We're together, that's all that matters. Right?"

"I...guess so."

"Good, because people can think whatever the fuck they want, it isn't going to change anything." Morgan took Sarah's hand and kissed her knuckles. "Relax. It'll be fine."

"Let's hope so."

The bell rang, and Morgan tugged her towards the door; there were already people staring.

Morgan squeezed her hand and smiled that crooked grin that always took her breath away.

Sarah could already hear the gossipy hum in the air, and she would be met by nothing but that sound all day. As annoying as it would be to have to deal with, she knew it wouldn't be so bad with Morgan at her side.

The young couple had been walking hand in hand through the school corridor, and as they pushed their way through the watching crowd, they were meet with three smug faces.

"Well, " Frigga grinned, crossing her arms across her chest. "Took you two long enough."

Before they could react, Frigga walked over and grabbed both of their arms, "And you two thought you were being subtle."

Morgan rolled her eyes at her, "Of course you guys knew."

Sarah grunted and removed Frigga's grip from his arms, "Alright, get the hell off me will ya?"

Frigga took a step back, clutching her hands behind her back. Atreus and Nathaniel looked on with an amused expression playing on their faces.

"Jesus Christ, will you three get over yourselves," Sarah rolled her eyes. "It's not that big of a deal."

"I'll say," Atreus grinned but still nodded nonetheless. "I'm happy for you two."

"Ditto," Nathaniel nodded as well.

"Great, nice. Now can you three drop it," Sarah pleaded, casting an anxious look around. "Seriously, I think you're overdoing it."

"See you two at lunch," The gang left with one last smile and hug for the reignited couple.

"Shit," Sarah muttered as we headed towards her locker. "That was annoying."

"I don't know," Morgan grinned at her teasingly. "I enjoyed it."

"Of course you did."

Once they reached her locker, Morgan leaned against the one next to it and watched Sarah intently. She shoved some of her things into the locker with haste and had a blank expression on her face.

"You alright, Sarah?"

Sarah looked at her for a split moment as she pulled books out of her locker. "I'm fine."

"You say that, but we both know you're lying." Sarah sighed in defeat, realizing it was futile to try to lie to her. Morgan knew her more than anybody in the world, and no one would ever know her as she did.

"I got into an argument with my parents this morning."

"Oh, lover," Morgan sighed softly, her head resting sideways on the locker. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," she shrugged, still organizing her books around.

"Look at me."

She didn't.

"Sarah."

"Yeah."

"Look at me." She repeated.

She snuck a quick glance at her, "I'm fine, Morgan."

"Liar."

"Maybe," Sarah shrugged her shoulders, finally shutting her locker.

Morgan took the opportunity to pull Sarah in her arms and hold her close, "You know that you can talk to me about anything, Sarah. I'm here for you."

"I don't wear my heart on my sleeves, Stark," Sarah sighed, trying to get out Morgan's grasp. But she held on tighter. "You know this."

"Well," Morgan leaned forward, her lips meeting hers in a soft gentle kiss. "Maybe you should every once and a while."

With that, the bell rang and they headed off to class, preparing themselves for the first day of their junior year and a long hard road ahead.


"We're alone," Sarah mumbled under her breath followed by a huff.

"So we are," Morgan had a calculated grin playing on her lips. "My parents must have had a meeting to attend to."

It was after the first day of their junior year and they were parked in front of the empty paved path of Stark's home. They sat on Sarah's bike with Morgan's arms still wrapped around her and just stared at the beautiful home in front of them.

Morgan climbed off and Sarah followed suit, putting her helmet in the compartment in the back. Sarah watched as Morgan opened the door to her home and walked in, gesturing her girlfriend in. Walking into the house made it feel like coming home to Sarah. As if it was theirs and theirs alone.

"So, studying and homework?" Morgan asked, closing the door behind them. The home hadn't really changed much over the years to her. Just a few more pictures hanging on the wall, a couple of new furniture, but underneath it all, it was still the same home she grew up in. And that would never change.

"I suppose."

Morgan walked them into the living room and dropped their bags by the coffee table. Sarah took her usual spot in the middle of the couch as Morgan watched her.

"Hungry?" She asked, tossing her jacket over the back the rocking chair.

"Starving, actually."

"Then I'm your girl," Morgan winked and made her way into the kitchen. Sarah couldn't help but smile at that.

After a few moments, Morgan returned with a tray of popcorn and two glasses of soda. She found Sarah leaned back against the couch, her leather jacket now sprawled behind her, which left her in the white t-shirt that hugged her curves tightly. She had a book on her lap and her notes stacked neatly at her feet. Morgan bit her lip as she let her gaze travel along her body. The thoughts that ran in her mind were far from pure, but she buried them without a second thought. She had work that needed to be done.

So, the French Revolution, huh?" Sarah's eyes flickered up to her, and she nodded in confirmation.

"Yep. That's what we're supposed to study…" Morgan sank into the spot next to her on the couch, snuggled against her side. Sarah didn't object, not that she wanted to anyway.

As they studied together for hours, munching on popcorn and sipping soda every now and then, Sarah couldn't focus on her notes or the textbook; all she could feel was Morgan's touch, and all she could hear was her voice as it slowly read each word from the book. If Morgan did a recording of the entire textbook, she would play it over and over again, just to hear her voice run over each word with such fluency.

"Ah, de Conseil des Cinq-Cents et Conseil des Anciens," Morgan read off Sarah's notes, saying the words as if she had spoken French all of her life.

"Oui, oui, mousier," Sarah replied in a less fabulous accent.

Morgan chuckled at her effort and gave her kiss on the cheek, "At least you said them right."

Sarah smiled for a moment before she suddenly remembers the conversation she had with her parents, and her face grew somber.

Morgan recognized it and immediately understood, "Was it that bad?"

Sarah decided not to fight against it this time. Instead, she shrugged and said, "I don't know, it just... I've never seen my mom so intense before. I mean, we disagree all the time on stuff and it's no big deal. But this, it was like something that was meant to set her off. But it doesn't change my opinion, and it never will."

"Opinion on what?" Morgan pressed.

"Murdering criminals," Sarah said the word without hesitation.

Morgan looked at Sarah and adjusted her position so that she sprawled her legs across her thighs and leaned on the armrest on the leather couch, "What?"

"I don't think criminals deserve to see the light of day ever again," Sarah averted her gaze and looked out the window beside them. "Does that make me a bad person?"

"What do you think?"

"Criminal scums don't deserve to live," Sarah shrugged her shoulders carelessly. "The world would be a better place without them."

"True, but do you think murdering them will solve anything."

"It sends a message in my eyes," Sarah whipped her head towards Morgan. "Locking them up just gives them a chance to do wrong all over again once they get out. It's pointless."

"Would you…" Morgan hesitated, not knowing if she should ask her question. Would you ever kill someone?"

It took a moment for her to process the question before she said, "I don't know. If my family, friends, or you...were in danger, I would like to think that I would make that split decision. It'll keep you safe, and that's all that would matter to me."

And then she stopped her rambling and noticed that Morgan was staring at her with pure adoration in her eyes.

Sarah caught her staring and instantly felt self-conscious, "What?"

"Just about how passionate you are," Morgan whispered, smiling softly at her. "And how beautiful."

Sarah snorted nervously. "Uh, thanks. I guess."

That made Morgan frown in disappointment. "You don't agree?"

"Not really," Sarah shook her head, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

"So you don't think you're attractive in the slightest?"

"I try not to care as much as you do about appearances."

Morgan moved the notes out of the way and tossed the book to the other side of the couch before placing herself in Sarah's lap, straddling her. Sarah's face was beet red.

"Sarah Alianovna Rogers, you're beautiful. The most beautiful girl I've ever laid eyes on, and you can't tell me otherwise."

Her blush deepened. "You haven't seen a lot of girls then."

"Not anyone like you," Morgan whispered, their eyes meeting in a burning gaze. Without hesitation, Morgan leaned down and gently meshed their lips together in a soft kiss.

Sarah grunted as her hands gripped Morgan's waist and squeezed the soft flesh beneath. Her lips parted and both of their breathing increased. Their lips molded together like a never-ending dance. Sarah was consumed and intoxicated by all things that Morgan H. Stark. She only wanted more.

The grip Morgan had on her hair got tighter and she couldn't suppress a moan at the sensation. Morgan hummed against Sarah's mouth and cradled her face in her hands. Sarah started trailing kisses down her neck, her lips traveling from just below her earlobe to her collarbone, up and down, over and over.

Morgan wrapped her arms around her neck and suddenly it was hot, much too hot.

Their bodies ignited with the undeniable sexual tension and it was burning them alive. The only sound in the room was that of their ragged breathing and the rustle of fabric as their clothes rubbed together. Everything was happening so fast; suddenly Sarah's hands found their way up Morgan's shirt while her lips latched themselves to the base of her neck. She could feel her pulse against her lips and she sucked on her skin, earning a slight gasp from her.

"Sarah," Morgan moans, making Sarah pull her hips flush against hers, sending a surge of ecstasy through her body.

Somehow, the hem of Morgan's shirt was up to her chest, leaving her bra-clad breasts in sight. Sarah let her hands travel higher while Morgan let them travel lower, ready to reach down between her legs. Her eyes snapped open immediately.

"Stop," Sarah whispered suddenly, panting heavily as she held Morgan close.

"What is it?" Morgan whispered frantically. "What's wrong, are you okay?"

"I'm sorry," Sarah holds Morgan still, pressing her forehead against hers as she tries to catch her breath. "I'm sorry, I thought I was ready but-"

"It's alright, cheer up," Morgan reached out a finger and pushed at the corner of her lips up, trying her best to ignore how they parted just slightly under her touch. "I...went a little overboard. I'm sorry."

Sarah reached up and touched her lower lip, "It wasn't just you. I wanted it just as much as you did."

"I know, it's just..." Morgan bit her lip and stared at her intently, "Sarah, can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

Morgan took a deep breath before asking, "Do you love me?"

The question threw her off a bit, but she managed to say, "You know that I do, Morgan."

"No, I mean," Morgan huffed, trying to rephrase her question. "Like...are you in love with me?"

Sarah swallowed hard, taking her words in carefully. She knew that there was a part of her heart that belonged to Morgan and it would only belong to her forever. But she knew that if she gave it to her, if she let herself open up to that kind of love, she would be vulnerable. It would leave her defenseless and weak. And she wasn't ready for that feeling. Not yet.

"Morgan, I..."

Sarah's vibrating phone interrupted the intense moment, and it caused them to jump apart and fix their clothes. She looked at the caller ID and saw her mother's face smiling back at her. She sighed deeply and looked back at Morgan, seeing the sadness in them. "They're probably wondering when I'm coming home."

Morgan gave her a guarded smile and nudged her head to the door, "You better get going then, my parents should home soon too."

Awkwardly, Sarah walked up to her and placed a soft kiss on her forehead, "I'll see you later."

"Yeah, sure."

And before she knew it, she watched Sarah grab her things and walk outside and hop onto her bike before driving into the night. Even as she was gone, Morgan couldn't help but whisper, "Be safe."


The house was filled with silence. All the Rogers children were fast asleep and prepared for the next adventurous day ahead of them. Natasha and Steve were currently relaxing on the couch, playing an intense game of chess. In all the years of doing this, Natasha had never once won a game of chess against her husband. Sometimes, he would think about letting her scoot by with a victory, but she acquired this proclivity of taking advantage of his kindness. Natasha was cutthroat to the very end. She loved these moments with him. Where they could be alone and talk about each other's day. Where they enjoy each other's company and just be happy. Natasha would never take that for granted.

"Talk to Sarah yet?"

Natasha sighed and shook her head, shuffling her piece forward, "No. She barely looked at me when she walked up to her room. She hasn't been out since."

Lena was lying on the floor beside the couch, resting peacefully.

"Maybe I was a little too hard on her," Steve looked back to the staircase for a second. "Maybe we should talk to her, try and make her understand."

"You know how she is," Natasha couldn't help but smile despite herself. "Too proud and stubborn to speak about her emotions."

"Like her mother," Steve teased, grinning at her.

"And her father as well," Natasha pointed out. "She'll come to us when she's ready."

"But what about..."

Steve wasn't able to finish the sentence because her phone dinged loudly beside her. Her eyes swept over the message and her heart froze.

"Trouble's coming your way- Unknown."

And before she could react, the lights shut off completely. The air conditioner also powered down simultaneously, and an eerie silence fell over the room. The bubble in her chest from earlier started to expand, but she tried not to think about it.

Lena growled in the dark, perched in front of her owners.

"What the hell just happened?" Steve whispered.

"I don't know," Natasha said quietly. She was instantly on alert, listening, and squinting in the dark for any abnormality.

They both jumped when they heard a soft knock at the door, causing their suspicions to rise.

"Who the hell is that?" Steve asked, his fists clenching and unclenching.

Natasha took a deep breath for a moment and felt a clench in the pit of her belly. But deep down, she knew who it was. And she didn't hesitate to open the door.

"What's going on?" Natasha said through gritted teeth as she let Yelena in her home.

"Shut up and listen," She brushed past a baffled Steve and moved towards the back balcony door and pulled the curtains closed.

"Who the hell is she?" Steve asked, feeling his irritation grow.

"Later," Natasha tuned everything out and honed her hearing. It only took a second for her to hear it, and she instantly said, "Trucks."

"What?" Steve brow's furrowed.

"Black SUVS," Yelena said. "Two dozen, I think. I couldn't get a good look at them, but I brought some help." She peeked out of the curtain.

"What the hell do they want? How did they find us?" Natasha questioned her silently, leaving Steve all the more confused. "Answer me, Yelena!"

"You know why and who, Natasha," Yelena said bluntly. "Don't act so surprised."

"Will someone please tell me what the hell is going on before I lose my mind here?" Steve said, impatiently trying to keep his voice down.

Yelena looked back for a moment and stared at Steve intently, "You must be the husband, the great 'Captain America'."

"And you are?" Steve bit back, placing his hands on his hips.

"Here to protect my sister and finish what we started," Yelena stated before sneaking another peek through the curtains.

Steve looked at Natasha in disbelief while she avoided his gaze. This was definitely not the right time for this conversation.

"Sister?"

But before Natasha could form a sentence, Yelena warned, "They're coming."

Steve ran a hand through his hair and huffed in frustration. This was all too much to take in. "The kids."

Without another thought, he ran upstairs with Lena following suit and made his way into Sarah's bedroom, who was surprisingly still up.

"Dad?"

"Get up," Steve said hurriedly ushering her off the bed.

Sarah gave him a confused look as he pushed her into the dark hallway, "Dad, what's going on?"

"Sarah, listen to me and listen closely," Steve said as he walked to the backroom to grab something out of the wardrobe. "I need you to wake up your brothers and sisters and take them in our bedroom."

"Dad, please, you're freaking me out here."

"I don't have time to explain," Steve sighed, placing firm hands on his daughter's shoulders. "Please listen to me. Take them to the bedroom and lock the door. Your mother and I have a key, so if someone knocks, it's not us. We need to sort something out and-"

"What aren't you two telling me?" she interrupted him. "Whatever it is, I can help! I can do this!"

"You will do what I tell you to!" Steve's tone made her flinch, and he had to stop himself from yelling. "Please… just listen to me. Protect your brothers and sisters, okay?"

Sarah thought for a second, her feelings evident on her face before she nodded, "Alright."

"Thank you," Steve placed a soft kiss on his daughter's forehead. "We’ll keep you safe. I promise."

"I believe you, dad." Sarah gave Lena a curt nod and she came to her side. "Be careful."

And they departed from each other and went to do their duties.

"How many are there?" Natasha asked when he came down.

"Two dozen and they all have some impressive firepower." Yelena turned to her sister, revealing a .45 caliber pistol in her grasp. "How do you want to do this?"

"I need them alive.," Natasha instructed, her voice grown stern. "I want to know who they are, why they're here, what they want, and how they found us."

"Understood," Yelena saluted and took cover behind the nearby bookshelf. "On your command."

Steve shook his head and sighed, "Alright, so we're really doing this."

"Steve, I..."

"Let's just get this over with," Steve grunted and moved things around to provide them cover. "We're definitely talking about this later."

Natasha's mind went into overdrive: making plans, finding exits, trying to deduce the best strategies, seeing if any valuables needed to be put up. She had been in these types of situations many times before and this time was no different. She flipped the long dining table over as Steve did the same to the couch and the coffee table, spilling the chess game onto the floor. Yelena helped her sister push the bookcase into the middle of the room—anything for the extra coverage.

There were twenty-four of them and three of them. Shouldn't be too hard.

Natasha sent Yelena into the kitchen, while she crouched on the floor next to her husband to wait for whoever was trying to attack her home. She looked down and saw the glistening reflection of Asgardian steel by her husband's side. It had been a decade since she had last seen it, and now she doesn't know when she won't see it again. Natasha could feel her heart beating with the rapid anticipation that she usually got when a fight was about to begin. She guesses her time off had come to an unexpected end.

"This had to be the night that we didn't set the alarm system," Steve wrapped the strap of his shield around his wrist, pulling it tightly. "What the hell is going on here?"

"I'll explain everything to you when this is over," She reached over to his free hand and gave it a comforting squeeze. "I promise."

Steve was about to respond but then stopped his train of thoughts to listen and heard footsteps creaking from the outdoors. There were twenty-four sets, just like Yelena said. Natasha's senses could pick up the heaviness of each man and the sound of their guns clicking together. Natasha took out the small kitchen knife from her pocket and gripped it tightly.

The locks on the door began to jiggle, and Natasha gave Steve a curt nod, just as it banged open. They stayed in their spot behind the sofa, barely breathing. Barely moving a muscle. They knew what needed to be done.

"Where are they?" a gruff voice asked.

"I saw movement. They're here." another replied.

"How many are we supposed to take care of?"

"Eight. No witnesses, no part of the house left unscathed."

The two parents' heart clenched at the men's cruel words. Nothing left unscathed, no witnesses. They were gonna kill all of them, including their children. There was an itch in the back of Natasha's mind, something that she hadn't felt in a long time. And she had a feeling that it was only a matter of time before it was to be set free once again.

"Why are we even here?"

"Because the pay is good. Stop complaining and find them."

Yelena' was the first one to attack, and the sound of hasty bullets suddenly erupted around them.' Natasha kept her head low in the general direction, where she heard the most commotion. She realized that her house was probably going to be destroyed. And that was like another pull to the heart.

There were approaching footsteps of a man, and Steve judged his distance from his hiding place. When he was close enough, he stood up and prepared to attack. He was in full military gear, complete with a helmet, bulletproof vest, and a thick jacket to cover his body.

That left two main targets for maximum penetration: the face and the groin. Steve didn't even give him a chance to prepare himself before he used his brute strength to knock him out unconscious. His body jerked violently as his body crumpled under pressure.

Natasha saw a movement out of the corner of my eye and reacted immediately, kicking him square in the chest. He was on the ground, but still wiggling in despair. She brought the knife down on his legs, and he yelled in pain.

More men came, and they fell nearly in an instant. The way the married couple fought, the way they handled the intruders, it was like time never phased them. All they had learned, all the fighting they had done just came back like a long lost puppy. It was never gone, it was just buried deep down inside them, praying never to be dug up again. But they were prepared for this to come.

The family room was quiet, with bodies on the floor around them. The lights were still out, and the walls were littered with bullet holes. The smell of new blood seeped into the carpet, and Natasha could sense that they were breathing. Just barely.

Natasha trod lightly and quietly, keeping to the shadows. There wasn't any noise, but that only made her feel more alert. Her steps grew lighter so that she could listen closely. She distinguished Yelena's footsteps from down the hall.

"I took six," Yelena sighed, still on edge.

"Sixteen. That means there's two left." Steve held his shield close. "Did they go outside?"

Before Yelena answered, there was a loud pop from upstairs, followed by terrifying screams and the barking of a dog.

Steve and Natasha immediately turned their attention to the commotion.

"Sarah!" Natasha yelled her daughter's name before she quickly ran up the stairs. The first thing she noticed when she rounded the corner into the upstairs hallway was that their bedroom door was busted clean through with an unconscious body wedged between. Wood was splintered everywhere and the door was broken off it's hinges.

Natasha rushed into the room and saw a man on our bed, clutching his shoulder, his blood staining the sheets red. He wasn't dead but looked not very far from it.

Sarah held a small gun in her hands. There was a terrified look on her face, and a deep scratch on her cheek. It was almost as if someone had tried to swipe her with a knife or some animal had clawed at her. James and the others were by the closet door, holding onto each other for dear. Lena was crouching in front of them protectively, blood staining her coat of fur. Steve immediately ran to their sides and embraced them in comfort.

"You little bitch," the man groaned and fell onto the floor, the blood now staining the floors.

Natasha grabbed him by his vest and knocked him unconscious. He was limp on the ground.

"Holy shit, kid," Yelena looked around the room, which was disheveled and in complete tatters. Everything was broken or split in two.

"Did he do that?" Natasha walked to her daughter and cupped her cheek, feeling small trickles of blood landing on her fingers. The gash wasn't deep, but it sure looked painful. "Did he touch you, little bird?" Natasha couldn't help the anger that had risen in her tone.

She nodded slowly, shaking slightly with the gun in her hand, "It was...I'm fine."

"Are you okay? What did he do?" Natasha slowly but surely took the gun out of her grasp and stuffed it in her back pocket.

"He just...he..." Sarah swallowed hard, pulling up the ripped portion of her shirt that was falling. "He was gonna kill us, all of us."

Natasha noticed holes in the walls that could only be made by bullets. And that made her blood boil.

"He tried to shoot at you?" Natasha whispered angrily.

"He tried. Lena got to his friend first," Sarah looked at her brothers and sisters. "I was able to get him before he had the chance to do something stupid."

"Nice shot," Yelena said, examining his body. "One shot through the shoulder and one in the chest. Precise aim."

Sarah sighed and placed her face in her hands, trying to calm herself down. Lena came to her side and licked the back of her hands to comfort her.

"Good girl."

Natasha knelt in front of her daughter, placing a hand on her shoulder, "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, we're fine." She nodded, trying to be strong. "Are you?"

"We're alright, little bird."

Steve walked over to them with Savannah in his arms, a trail of tears falling down his cheek as he held her close. Natasha stood up and took them in her arms. She had never felt so afraid, so weak and helpless. She looked over at James who was trying his best to comfort his little brother and sister, but they were scared. And understandably so. They had never been in a situation like this before. It was traumatizing and Natasha wasn't able to protect them from it. How could she do that to them? What kind of mother puts her children in danger?"

Natasha saw Sarah go into the bathroom and came back with a washcloth and a Band-Aid.

"Sarah honey, are you sure you're alright?"

Sarah's face scrunched up into a scowl, "I said I'm fine." Though her face and actions were said otherwise. She was shaking, fear radiating off her body. With that in mind, Natasha walked to her daughter and wrapped her arms around her when she rested her head on her chest.

"Were you afraid?"

"It all just so happened so fast, I..." Sarah took a deep breath. "I was just scared for them, nothing else mattered."

"You matter."

She nodded. "I know."

"Good." Natasha kissed the top of her head. "I should've protected you from this. I'm so sorry."

"Mom..."

"If we want any info out of him, we might need to work fast. He's slipping," Yelena interrupted, lifting him up.

"Alright," Natasha kissed the top of Sarah's head once more before turning her attention to Yelena. "Let's make him talk then."

After Steve gives Savannah to Sarah, he dragged the man off of the bed and lifted him on his shoulders with a grunt.

"This is crazy." Steve strained as he adjusted his grip. "What kind of sick bastards would want to kill kids?"

"I only know one," Natasha whispered darkly, Yelena's eyes burning a hole in her back. "And he's messed with the wrong mother for the last time."

Steve dropped the body on a rickety chair in the backyard. Yelena looked at the small lake that showed more trees across from it. It was peaceful and beautiful out here, a place where her sister and her family could feel safe. And now that was ruined for them.

After straining him to the chair, Natasha searched through all his pockets, searching for any form of identification. She found a small black book and handed it to Yelena. "See if there's anything useful in there."

"What are we going to do to him?" Yelena asked and flipped through the pages.

"You know what we're going to do to him," She answered truthfully, which frightened Steve a little. Natasha was so filled with anger that he could barely see straight. His blood was coating her hands as Natasha kept trying to find more information.

"I don't recognize his uniform."Steve was trying to stay as calm as possible, to keep his emotions in check. But deep down, he was spiraling out of control.

"Is he dead yet?" Yelena crossed her arms.

"He's breathing, barely." She smacked the man repeatedly in the face. "Wake up, you son of a bitch!"

His eyes immediately shot open, and his face twisted in pain. Natasha turned slightly and a gleaming tool caught her eye. She bent down and grabbed a crowbar and waved it in an intimidating way.

"I'm going to ask you this once, and I won't ask again," Natasha said slowly so that he heard her. She was beyond angry and had almost no patience to deal with this man, so if he didn't answer her questions, this wasn't going to be pretty. "Who are you?"

He gasped and coughed. "Where the hell are my men?"

Without hesitation, Natasha swung the crowbar with her full might and the man gasped for air. His windpipe instantly collapsed under pressure and he found it hard to catch his breath. Steve instantly moved to stop her but Yelena moved her hand up to prevent him from moving any further.

"Breathe, soldier, breathe," Natasha said menacingly, waiting for him to obey her command. Just by looking at him, she could feel her heart practically ready to jump out of her chest. Once he exhaled, Natasha looked at him expectantly. "I told you I wouldn't ask twice."

He began to grunt in pain, blood seeping from the corner of his lips. Yelena shuddered in annoyance as Steve cringed a little. It was hard to describe what he was feeling at the moment.

"Please, stop! Please," He choked and turned his head away. He tried to get loose from his bindings, struggling to break free.

Natasha swung the crowbar at his knees, causing him to roar in pain. Steve cringed again and looked away.

"It would be best if you answer our questions.

"I get paid to kill," he said through his clenched teeth.

"A mercenary," Yelena said and Natasha nodded in confirmation. They could spot a hired killer from a mile away. This man was trained militarily. "You work for Taskmaster?"

"I don't know," He was shaking and sweating profusely. "We get paid to kill, but we don't know why or who. We don't ask questions."

"You're lying to me right now," She gripped his chin tightly, forcing him to look at her. "I don't like liars."

"I swear to you on my life, I don't know who put the hit out on you. I get a call and get on the plane."

"You do know, and you will tell me," Natasha said through gritted teeth, pulling the gun out from her back pocket and pressing it to his temple. "Or I'll blow your brains out."

"Nat..." Steve shook his head, taking another step forward. "This wasn't the plan."

"What's it going to be?"

And he nodded in confirmation; letting his answer be vaguely known.

Taskmaster.

"And how did you find us?" Natasha asked.

"He gave us the location," he garbled.

"Who's he?" Steve asked, clearly in the dark about all of this.

"An old friend," Yelena answered smoothly.

Natasha closed her eyes and locked her genuine emotions down deep. Yelena knew what she was feeling, exactly what she was feeling. She knew that if she let loose now, she would not be able to rein herself in.

"Is that everything?" She moved the gun against his head for emphasis.

"Yes, I've told you everything." He said, his breathing slowing down.

"Nat, he told us everything," Steve said, trying to pull her back from him. "We got what we need."

"Alright." She whispered, moving back slightly.

"So... you're gonna let me go?"

Natasha whipped her head and cocked the gun back, "Not on your fucking life."

Before Steve could react, Nat shoots the gun, putting a bullet through his forehead. His neck jerked back violently from the force of the led that was ripping through his brain and came out on the other end. Steve looked at Natasha in shock and awe. He was dead, and his head limped forward as his body stilled. He was covered in grime, dirt, sweat, and sticky blood.

"You...you killed him," Steve breathed.

Natasha shot a glare at her husband, "Does it look like I give a shit, Steve? This son of a bitch comes here with two dozen men to kill us and our children and you're worried about him?"

"No, I was just..."

"Whatever, it's done now," She threw the gun at the foot of the dead man.

"Your home isn't safe anymore, my sister," Yelena stated, standing by her side. "What do we do now?"

Before she could answer, the man's phone vibrated in his pocket. She took a deep breath and pressed the speakerphone button.

"Hello?" Natasha asked, not letting herself falter.

"Hello, Natalia," A voice said, causing her heart to stop. "It's been so long."

Natasha felt her blood boil at the sound of the man's voice. It wasn't the voice she was expecting, but she was still seeing red and she had no way of controlling her hatred at that moment. She walked away from the scene and stood by the door, "Listen, you sick son of a bitch..."

"How does it feel, Mrs. Rogers," Zemo laughed menacingly. "To watch everything you build slowly crumble from within, how does it feel to watch your children near death. It must infuriate you. Surely, it makes you go mad."

"When I find you, I'll...I'll," She was so angry and out of her mind that she couldn't even bring herself to words.

"I'm sure you'll do something scary," Zemo chuckled darkly. "After all, I practically drove you back to murder."

Her breathing was coming out in short rasps and she was so pissed that her blood was beginning to literally boil.

"One bad day, one bad moment. That's all it takes."

"I'll kill you," Natahsa said in nothing more than a whisper. She couldn't speak any louder. It was like an out of body experience. "I..will kill you."

There were words being spoken, but she couldn't hear them. Her head was clouded with something she couldn't explain.

"That's all it takes."

Then a pain spurted to her chest, the familiar pain she felt earlier this morning. Natasha dropped the phone as her knees started to give out. Steve noticed it and instantly went to her side, catching her in her arms. Yelena followed suit.

"Nat! Honey, what's wrong?"

The pain was unlike anything she had ever experienced in her life. And the pain didn't stop. It only stretched on as she continued to struggle to catch her breath.

"What's wrong with her?" She heard her husband ask. "What the hell's going on?"

"She's having a heart attack..." Yelena's voice was drowned out but she still felt her hands on her. She felt the pain spread from her shoulders to her neck. "Stay with me, my sister."

It just takes one bad day...

And that was the last thing she heard before she completely blacked out.