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Not All That Glitters

Chapter Text

Carol Denvers wakes up at 2am in the morning.

Insomnia has been her best friend since she became Captain Marvel four years ago. She knew that relieving the galaxy of its wars and turmoil would be no easy mission. She just did not expect it to be such a misery.

Millions of planets, each with its own agenda and eyes on the price of the next war. She being the all-mighty Captain Marvel, all of a sudden she is in high demand. These in power of each planet all want to be in her good graces.

In the end, she is still a piece of weapon, though this time she gets to pick her side.

Not that it matters much. It has occurred to her that she is fighting more wars in order to stop all wars.

She wonders if he would be laughing at her now, his golden eyes flickering.

Stop.

She told herself.

She gets up from bed, and went to her kitchen. It’s a small cottage Fury arranged for her as a safe house on earth. She visits it every now and then, finding it soothing to set her feet back on earth.

Shield must have checked the safe house regularly, even though they manage to keep a low profile. Every time she visits, the fridge and pantry are always stocked, though she never sees anyone within a 20-mile radius.

Fury truly knows a soldier’s need for solace, after a long day of battle and bloodshed. She appreciates it.

There is milk, cinnamon granola, and cranberries in the fridge. She makes herself a simply breakfast and sits at the kitchen table.

Chew, sip, Chew.

She eats in the dark quietly.

********

There is a specific reason why she cannot fall asleep that day.

Earlier on the Military Strategy Committee of the Inter-Galaxy Union had its 11th meeting. As an attendee, she coolly observed an Enor representative giving a passionate, if not slightly accusatory, speech on their forces should speed up their march to Hala.

Years ago, a small team of Kree’s elite force had launched a blitz on Enor, wiping off two-thirds of its population. The surviving Enor are now fervently anti-Kree, keep to avenge their people at all costs.

“The strategy you proposed,” she pointed out to the Enor representative, “includes blockading all surrounding plantets of Hala. Even if we are careful, we will still starve off 2-3 small neighboring planets. With their people on it.”

“Small price to pay to end an evil war.” He waived a hand dismissively.

She retorted: “The same philosophy is shared by Kree, if I remember correctly, Sir Fiogr.”

“Do you, Captain Marvel, have any other strategy that would be as effective?” The Enor representative held her gaze.

“There much be another way.”

There is not. She knows it. Hala has made its space forte impenetrable 2 years ago. The Union Army can only brute force their way in, and as much as she hates to admit it, the most effective way is what he proposes.

Sir Fiogr turned to face her.

“It seems that every time a military strategy against Hala is proposed, you always find something disapproving, something inhumane.”

She held her gaze steadily.

“If there’s a ‘humane’ way to archive our goal, I assure you I will be all for it.”

“As much as I admire your…benevolence, Captain Marvel” he said sarcastically, “sometimes I wonder whether your allegiance truly lies with Inter-Galaxy Union.”

Someone in the committee shouted. “How dare you!”

When Sir Fiogr spoke again, he had a cruel and pensive smile.

“Tell us, Captain Marvel,” he examed her, “if some hapless chap happens to hit you this moment with a laser blade, will you not bleed the blue blood of Kree?”

He paused for a more theatrical effect.

“The blood of a certain Kree soldier?”

She felt as if a blunt knife cut through her abdomen.

She was speechless, and listened to her allies defending her at the committee meeting.

It’s unbelievable how she can defeat an entire fleet single-handedly, tear apart a whole spaceship with her bare hands, and yet, getting shot down by a dirty political trick as simple as that.

Yes, he can laugh at her now.

Chapter Text

Fury has never asked her about her years at Hala.

Well, not since the day she became Captain Marvel.

As far as she can remember, they only came close to that topic twice since they first met 4 years ago. Back when she was still Vers.

The first time was when she gave him the pager.

“You can reach me even if I am not on earth. But for emergencies ONLY.” She joked.

“Ay Ay,” He touched his eye patch,“So you are from earth? Like all of us?”

“Yes. I am sure by now you have my birth records, enrollment records, down to my chickenpox vaccine records.”

“How come your blood is blue? Is it because of the energy core?”

“Oh that?” She said dismissively, “I had a blood transfusion.”

“A full body transfusion?”

She nodded.

“Damn, that must have been heck of an operation. Not just for you, either. Who’s the donor?”

By now she was eager to end the conversation.

“It was instructed by the Supreme Intelligence.”

“Supreme Intelligence?” Fury looks confused.

She was glad for the digression, and so went on to explain what the artificial intelligence ruling Hala is, why Kree would devote themselves to a ridiculous thing like that (“they are just brains of dead Krees?” Fury found it incredulous), how the government structure on earth differed, how Fury earned his first medal in a mission, the food quality at the troops he served at, and how bad of a beer an IPA is.

Chapter Text

“I spent 2 months at a hospital bed, missed 4 missions, and had 1.3 gallons of blood pumped out of me to keep her alive.” He stood over them, arms folded across his chest, his voice calm but had a hint of anger.

Minn-Erva cast her eyes down, looking contrite—not for hitting her with laser beam, but for infuriating her commander.

She, on the other hand, forgot the pain on her shoulder and was gloating.

“I sincerely hope I did not go through all the trouble only to find you made a grilled meat out of it.” He had a way of scolding people with understatement.

After her transfusion and rehabilitation session, when she was deemed fit for basic training, it surprised everyone when Yon-Rogg announced she would join his team, the most elite of all elite Kree forces.

Minn-Erva was assigned to be her trainer, the best of his crew. The blue-skinned Kree was not too happy with the assignment.

“Any Level Two foot soldier can do this job.” She complained, but obeyed the order.

When Minn-Erva realized that she was out-powering her after merely six months, Minn-Erva brought her laser beam into the training session.

“You need to learn how to dodge enemy’s bullet.”

Fair enough.

Minn-Erva didn’t even try to hide the fact that she was having fun shooting her. At one point, there were 4 different rays of laser following her at the practice ring.

On the second day of their laser session, she was cornered. One of the beam shot her shoulder, and she smelled burnt flesh.

She probably panicked then. Before she knew it, proton rays shot from her hand, blasting off half of the roof. Minn-Erva was thrown back hard on the floor, and a small commotion started at the gymnasium.

 

That’s how both of them were faced with the cold eyes of gold.

“Look what you did.” This time, he was looking at both of them, pointing to the debris and broken pillars of the practice ring.

 

“I thought the training went well.” She smirked.

Minn-Erva gasped at her insolence.

He turned to face her.

There was something about his presence that made her regret her sharp quips.

“I…I tried to stop it. The circle disc put on me by Supreme Intelligence is supposed to stabilize it, isn’t it? Not my fault if it’s not working as advised.”

He squinted his eyes.

She bit her tongue.

“Pity,” He spoke in a deliberately soft and sarcastic voice, “that it doesn’t also mute your voice.”

This might be a good time to look repentant, she thought. But before she could mumble an apology, his finger gently tabbed at her shoulder.

He frowned as he saw the burnt flesh.

“Now come with me to the hospital.”

********

The next day, he became her trainer.

Chapter Text

She had one of these nightmares in Hala.  A silver haired woman tried to murmur something to her. She was so beautiful, yet looked so sad.

What was it that she was trying to say to her?

There was shooting. Blood. Death. And Panic.

She woke up in cold sweat.

Since sleep was no longer possible, she might as well make some use of the night. She went to the gym, which was empty at the late hours of the night.

There was no windows but the building had a smart interior lighting system which echoes the sun movement around the orbit of Hala. Dawn was about to break, a tiny ray of sunshine cascading from above.

She only jostled for about 20 minutes, before she heard him approaching from behind.

“I told you to always come to me when you are having one of those dreams.”

He walked in front of her, and, without asking, took away the practice spear from her hand.

“We will do hand to hand combat today.”

“Maybe I just want some peace by myself?” She complained lightheartedly. She was glad for his company. Whenever she had a really bad dream, it was comforting to know there was someone she could turn to.

And he was always there. It was almost as if he knew when she would have a bad night before she did.

“A good commander should always know what’s going on with his crew.” He had said to her once, when she asked him how come he always opened his door for her.

They started to spar.

He was swift and precise, as always. His fist would go for her whenever she let her guard down.  She had to concentrate for defense that she forgot the silver haired woman for a moment.

He ducked under to avoid her punch.

A loud explosion. Smoke everywhere.

The silver haired woman was lying on the floor, blood gushing all over her body.

She looked at her with the last strength she had, mouthing some words.

Was she trying to say her name?

But she read her lips. It was not her name.

More explosion. And she saw her slowly dying.

There was a tight tug at her throat.

The next thing she knew, she was thrown down on the gymnasium floor with a hard thud.

“Vers.” He looked over her. Voice stable yet soft.

She could not see him for a second. The explosion and smoke was still in her head.

Who was that woman?

What was she trying to say?

Why did she have a look of urgency and frustration?

Was she trying to send her a warning of what was to come? Not all that glitters is gold?

“Vers.”

This time she saw him. He offered his hand.

His palm was surprisingly soft and warm. When he pulled her up, there was concern in his eyes. He looked worried about her, but did not voice it. She liked his reticence back then, reveling in the quiet warmth and empathy he gave her and her only. It made her feel special.

“I’m fine. Let’s start again.”

 “Don’t push yourself too hard.”

“I said I am fine.”

There is gentleness in his eyes this time. And she forgot herself for a moment, staring into these liquid gold of iris.

“Go back to your position then. We will start from one.”

The light in the building changed to a brighter hue. The practice ring looked as if it was basking in the first sunshine of the planet.

Another day started on the planet of Hala.

Chapter Text

5.

She does not visit Earth often nowadays. But she tries whenever she can.

When she is not staying at the safe house, she will come see Maria and Monica. It is nice to catch up with old friends and family (admittedly, they are the closest to a family she has now), and to remind herself of how it is like being human.

Monica is extremely happy to see her this time.

“It’s been a year now! What have you been doing, Carol?” Ever since she turned 15, she has dropped the “auntie” when addressing her.

“Saving the universe, yada yada.”

She laughed when Monica rolled her eyes and gave her a big hug.

“It’s so annoying when I can’t even call it cliché because it’s true.”

Maria made them sweet tea. She was happy for the sugar overload, flavor bursting on her tongue. Nice change to the bland liquid nutrient packs she gets when she’s in space.

“Why can’t they have this on Mars?” She gulps the tea.

“They will when I launch my spaceship one day.” The little girl looks confident and unwavering.

“She is going to major in physics. College is still a few years away, but man, you should see how she studies each and every brochure like they are treasure maps.” Maria smiled, pride shining in her eyes.

“It’s aerophysics and it’s never too early.” Monica reached over to her mother, and got a kiss on her cheeks.

“I told you not to do that again, Mom!”

Both of them laughed so hard.

“Are you proud of me, Carol?”

There’s so much expectation and joy in the little girl’s eyes that she is overwhelmed by waves of love, affection, and pride.

This is what she is fighting for. All the drudgery, all the politics, all the battles. This is what it comes down to.

“Of course I am.”

Chapter Text

She was practicing her usual routine moves at the gym when two other Kree soldiers from another squat approached her. They asked her if she minded doing a sparring session with them.

“We don’t see people doing that spin and kick move very often here.” One of them said.

She agreed.

“Both of you can spar with me.”

“One at a time?”

“No,” she smiled. “Both of you at the same time.”

********

She liked the pure adrenaline of it, the physical sensation when you fight hand to hand, the thrill of flesh punching flesh. It didn’t take her long before she put both of them down in the practice ring.

A round of applause from other Kree soldiers who were watching them from a distance. She smiled, pulled up her two sparring partners, both of whom thanked her.

At the corner of her eye, she saw him among her audience, arms folded. He must have just come back from a mission, judging from the fresh stains and dents on his armory suit.

She grinned at him.

“Yo. Proud of me?”

A faintest smile rose to his face. He didn’t acknowledge her question, but turned around and walked away.

Chapter Text

The second time Fury asks her about her life at Hala, she is visiting him at Shield’s base.

He has risen up the ranks faster than she expects. An honest man he is, he also knows his way around politics--which strings to pull, which buttons to push, how to make friends in high places.

 “Nah, you don’t need these dog tricks. You are Captain Marvel.” Fury assures her, showing her a new model of portable cannons that can be mounted on a sedan.

“You will be surprised, but being able to shoot proton beams alone is not going to get you that far.” She grimaces, “Ask any committee member of the Inter-Galaxy Union, and you will know how many times I got snuffed—they are polite about it, at least.”

“Is it about Planet Enor’s proposal of wiping out Hala with all its neighbours again?”

When Enor first made the proposal 2 years ago, there was disapproval from many other members of the Union. They even gave it a code name, “Project Black Hole”. 

It amounts to no less of a massacre. They had said.

It is not something justice would call for. They had also said.

Then 9 member planets got taken down by Kree over the course of 8 months.

Then another 11 over 5 months.

The voice of protest against Project Black Hole grows weaker day by day.

Two years later, she is now the only one who openly speaks against it.

 

She knows her opposition will weaken her status at the Inter-Galaxy Union--Captain Marvel is ‘going soft’ on Hala. She witnesses her former allies gradually turning their back on her, having secret side discussions which she is not invited.

“Innocent life will be lost.” She shouts at them.

They deal her frustration with thin-lipped determination.

 

There is no right or wrong side in a war. Only the side you belong to.

She hears his voice.

 

 

********

“It probably wouldn’t be a problem now if only I had beat Ronan then.” She confesses to Fury with chagrin, “Project Black Hole wouldn’t even exist.”

“Why did you let him go?”

“Ronan’s ship was too close to Earth. The debris might pass ozone layer and hit earth.”

“I didn’t mean him.”

Fury is taking her to another warehouse where they park jets. She is excited to see what enhancements Shield has done to these machines when he asks his next question.

“The other Kree soldier. Why did you let him go?”

“Who?” She should know playing dumb won’t get her very far with Fury.

He presses on.

“We were all at Dr. Lawson’s spaceship that day. The Kree Crew were on us as if they were hunting foxes.” He looked straight ahead, “They all followed his lead, so I assume he is, what, their captain or something?”

“Commander,” she corrects him, “our commander.”

He ignores her slip of tongue in that shift of pronoun, and she sees him thinking.

“He trained you.”

“He did.”

“And you let him go.”

“I needed him to deliver a message to Hala.”

She knows this is not enough of a reason to free the second strongest force of Kree. She knows Fury knows it too.

He doesn’t stop in his tracks, but does take a moment to look her in the eye.

“I see.”

He points to a silver combat jet with grey stripes painted over its side, “This may look like an ordinary plane, but let me show you what it can do.”

She thinks she catches a glimpse of acknowledgment in his eye, and wonders what he knows or does not know. It is courteous of him to make the look fleeting though.

She hates that look.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The crew was back from a particularly dangerous mission that day. She saw the four of them coming through the gate to the camp, fatigue written all over their face.

Even Minn-Erva lost her usual pristineness, hair smeared with blood and dust.

He looked the worst of them all, his green suit covered with bullet dent, mud, and what she hoped was someone else’s blood.

He sent everyone to their cots, and patched off Korath to hospital. When he was left alone, she walked up to him.

“Good day at the field?”

“Have seen better ones.” He was exhausted, but still took his time with her.

She would have to take that as his way of saying he was fine.

“What happened?”

He made it sound trivial.

“Just another day at the battlefield.”

He never showed her the full picture of what a war is like, the ugliness of killing, the relentless onslaught of losing your fellows, the unsavory knowledge that some lives are lost for other lives to prosper.

 

Even now, after all the lies and disillusions, she still doesn’t quite know whether he was trying to shield her or honing her in his own way for what was ultimately to come.

 

“When is this all going to end?” She asked him, measuring his injury with stealthy glances.

“Sooner than we think, hopefully.” He looked at her.

She took in all of him in her eyes, the curve of his shoulders, the firmness of his calves.

“Is it worth it?” She asked in a qiuet voice.

He examined her for a while.

“There is no right or wrong side in a war. Only the side you belong to. And I am a Kree.”

 

For the good of all Krees.

She knew that motto by heart, but somehow it was not good enough for her now.

“Don’t let me stop you from seeing the medical team.” She finally stepped away.

Chapter Text

The crew were given an extended week off, a reward for succeeding in a highly jeopardous mission. According to some inside joke and tradition established long before she had joined, all of them went drinking at a bar.

It was the first time she saw him in civilian clothes.

It surprised her back then that the Krees as a species, while militant, are not ascetic by nature. Well, she guessed if you live a life what could be easily lost any minute when you charge ahead in your next mission, you naturally adopt the ‘carpe diem’ outlook.

On Hala they call it ‘Blindfolding’--You allow yourself to look away from reason, to give in to the unknown world of sensibilities, to slip down the rabbit hole.

It’s not a philosophy much encouraged in Hala, but tolerated with a half-turned eye.

So there they were, drinking at a small shabby bar at a deserted street. Warm lights glowing over their head.

Korath was more talkative than usual, the effect of that neo-colored beverage.  He was joking about some ‘backfired’ beam guns, while Minn-Erva listened half-heartedly.

Their commander wore a relaxed look, which she didn’t see often. He was watching over them like an indulgent father, looking almost peaceful. His brown jacket was a bit worn, hung over his broad frame like an old cape. For a minute, it incredulously made him look less of a soldier than of a man who could almost live a normal life (Marry a Kree woman and perhaps make Kree babies? How do Krees even procreate? Her minds wondered).

Damn he looked good in that jacket. She thought.

He caught her eyes before she could look away.

“That’s your fourth shot.” He smiled.

“While you are still at your first. Are you nursing it?” She gestured to the bartender for another round.

He walked to her seat.

She reminded herself to remain still.

“At the rate you are drinking, liver failure will get you before a Skrull.” He leaned against the bar, hands in his pockets. He was in a good mood, she could tell.

“I will outrun it.” She downed her fifth shot.

He stood a few inches away. Right at the border of where her personal space ends and where a cordial but respectful distance starts.

He always knew where he stood.

Before either of them could say another word, a stranger grabbed her waist.

“You look pretty.” The stranger said.

She had learned earlier on about how pathetic pick-ups at Kree are.  In a planet where efficiency and rationale are paramount, subtlety is not appreciated by many. She did like the straightforwardness though.

And the alcohol pumped her up.

So she flirted with the dark eyed stranger. She laughed and danced, glad for the distraction and the excuse to not look back at the man beside her seat. She didn’t even mind it when the stranger’s hands moved further down on her body, and wondered what it would be like to bed a Kree.

Her thoughts did not get too far.

“That is enough.”

She saw him stepping in between her and her admirer, one arm up to form a separator between the two. Her partner was about to protest, but the cold composure of the soldier made him think twice. Eventually he walked off.

“And you”, her commander turned around to her,“ had enough of a night.”

“I didn’t know you are playing chaperon tonight.”

She was raising her hand to motion the bartender for another shot when he pulled her hand down. The heat of his palm lingers on her fingertips.

A sudden shiver spread over her.

He steered her towards the door.

“I’m escorting you back.” It was not a question. He spoke with the same command when he gave her instructions at their training sessions. She wanted to point out to him that he was not her commander at a bar, on an evening when they were supposed to be ‘civilians’. But she found the whole situation too amusing.

On her way out, she saw Minn-Erva watching them with cold eyes.

 

********

When he dropped her off at the door of her cot, she was close to dozing off. He was right—she did have a little too much to drink.

“You cock-blocked me tonight.” She mumbled. She didn’t even know where that came from, and after a minute, thought she should at least explain.

“I meant…it means…shit.”

“I think I get the idea.”

She looked up. Him not wearing his green uniform at the base made a bizarre sight. She was so used to seeing him in that suit which symbolized everything he stood for—discipline, restraint, and best representation of a true Kree.

She reached over with her palms on his chest, feeling his muscle under the brown jacket. The rough texture of the jacket prickled under her hand, but she did not care. Later she would blame the alcohol for it.

He did not move away from her touches.

And she was too drunk to read his look.

 

If she had reached over that night, standing in front of her cot, her palms on his chest, smell of alcohol in the air, would it have turned out differently?

 

She believed the last thing she said before passing out was

 

 “Is this real leather?”

 

 

Chapter Text

When Talos requests a private meeting with her, she is surprised.

The Skrull leader has always been deferential to her, if not distant. He never displays it but she knows he holds a private grudge against her. And she deserves every bit of it.

Four years ago, one of his most trusted men and dearest friends died on earth. Shot twice in the body, the second one claimed his life.

They both know who did it and why.

Skrull’s way of post-mortem forensics is extracting memories from the dead, zooming it out on multiple LED screens, then having a group discussion over the cause of death.

That’s how they found out he was killed because he had failed to answer one question to pass off his disguise.

She was in the forensics room with them. She saw him for the first time in his killing mode.

He aimed at the Skull with a stable hand. A crisp and clean job. Seamless sequences that could only be the result of years of experiences and operations.

She had never seen that side of him on Hala. Though it was her own naivety to have forget he was a seasoned veteran. In fact, the very best of them.

She tried then to repaint his image as a ruthless gunman. But her brain stubbornly flashed segments of a fatigued smile, golden eyes glistening under the warm bulbs at the bar in the middle of nowhere.

She wondered if she ever knew him half as much as she had thought.

 

Wordless accusation came from the other Skrulls’ eyes.

How could she have neglected to tell him the donor of the transfusion? How could she be so reckless to skip such a crucial life event?

 When later Talos broke the news to the widow, he did not disclose the full circumstances of his death, only that he sacrificed his life for protecting their homes. She heard the shrieking cries from the Skrull woman.

She secretly suspects that Talos brought her on this visit on purpose, rubbing the consequence of her recklessness to her nose in a way she could not put up a defense.

See what you did? The reproach he never voiced but nevertheless delivered resoundingly.

It worked tremendously. She was drenched with guilt and regret.

However, she did liberate the Skrulls, and has lived up to her words to find them a new home. In balance, they are still in her debt.

Not to mention she is an ally too powerful for them to lose.

So Talos keeps his respectful distance, and she pretends to accept his reverence graciously.

 

********

“Captain Marvel.” Talos enters the meeting room. “I believe you have heard the news. Project Black Hole passed votes at the committee meeting this morning.”

“I was informed, yes.”

She feels defeat, but she cannot say she is surprised.

“The Committee also decides to fully launch the mission in a moon’s time. Enor volunteered to supply the Union Force all necessary resources, from fleets to nourishments.”

“They want to get Hala by a blitz.” She realizes.

Enor’s way of an eye for an eye, to take over Hala the same way things were done unto them.

Talos nods in agreement.

“Enor’s sentiments aside, a quick war would serve well for Union’s cause.” He takes out a scroll, a virtual screen showing up in air in front of both of them.

She recognizes it’s a map of where the Union will deploy its force.

Talos continues.

“The Committee also want me to ask you, Captain Marvel, to lead its front troop of Project Black Hole.”

“It is not really an enquiry.” She says flatly, “Yes, I remember the Universal Treaties of the Inter-Galaxy Union.”

This is not the first time she is asked to lead a battle for a war she doesn’t wholeheartedly support. That’s why they reserve a high seat for her at the Committee. The perfect cannon. An indestructible weapon.

“I take it that I can relay to the Committee that you said yes?”

She is annoyed with the hypocrisy of it all.

“Talos,” she fixes her gaze at the Skrull leader.

“You and your people have lost your home planet, seen it destroyed.  Are you really comfortable to see the Union Force doing the same to these planets whose only fault is being too close to the orbit of Hala?”

Talos’s expression stiffens.

“Skrulls abstained from voting on this project.”

“But Skrulls will send its army to the Union Force, per the Treaty.” She is relentless.

 

His look darkens but he did not look down.

Frustration came over her.

So many games and so much debts.

She turns away from the conference table, a cue for him to leave.

 

But Talos is not done yet.

 

“One more thing, Captain Marvel.”

She does not even have the patience to see his face, so with her back still turned on him, she starts reading the deployment map.

“We received a report from our intelligence a few days ago.”

“Ummhmm.”

Talos chooses his next words very carefully.

 

 “The former commander of the elite squat of Kree is still alive. At Hala.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

She knew she was not supposed to hear this conversation. But she got curious when her name was mentioned. So she tiptoed and eavesdropped to what was going on in the meeting room.

 “You are coddling her.” The leader of another Kree squat accused him.

“She is not ready for mission.” He sounded matter-of-factly.

“Not for Level IV missions, perhaps. But she is ready for low-impact scouts.”

“I don’t remember asking for advice on what MY crew member can or cannot do.”

A third voice spoke.

“Come on, Yon. He lost 4 crew members two weeks ago. His team is short-staffed and you could loan your trainee to him for an easy scouting mission.”

 “It is not my job to make up for other’s incompetence.”

His voice was icy now.

“I also don’t see why I should entertain suggestion from someone who lost two battles in a row, and escaped when his crew were left to die.”

She was about to leave, turned around and saw Minn-Erva across from her at the corner of the meeting room entrance. The meeting was for commanders only, but their second-hand crew were often invited to sit outside, waiting for summons for report.

Minn-Erva did not greet her. Instead, she was immaculately cleaning her laser pistol with excessive attention.

She decided to walk past Minn-Erva in silence, leaving her to mind her own business. She heard her voice from behind, ostensibly addressing to no one in particular.

“Krees takes possession of their weapons and invests in them personally,” the blue-skinned soldier said.

Yon surely takes good care of his secret weapon.”

At the time she could not fully comprehend what she meant.

 

 

Chapter Text

She watched in wonder at Supreme Intelligence dancing in waltz, wearing the face of Lawson.

“What can you do?” That beautiful face looked amused and merciless.

“Without us, you are nothing but human.”

It gave her uttermost satisfaction to see shock in these gorgeous eyes, as the simulated sky broke apart.

She rose to see panic and bewilderment of her former crew members.

And then she saw the intentness in his eyes, his body language tense.

But she had so many records to straighten, too many lives to save, and a sinking ship to lift.

 

So she didn’t allow herself any time to dwell on why, at the realization of all the lies, at the moment of her illumination, Supreme Intelligence was wearing that battered browned Jack in her vision.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Maria is seeing someone. A physics teacher at a local high school.

He even has Monica’s approval.

“He said he will make a good assistant when I design my spaceship.” Monica told her over homemade cornmeal at their cottage.

“Whatever it takes to get my sweet tea to Mars, you do it.” She nods solemnly.

When the little girl goes up stairs to talk to her friend on her cellphone, Maria starts serving her guest freshly baked bread pudding.

“He sounds smart. When do I get to meet him?”

“Soon.”

A huge scope of the goodie dessert.

“Now tell me about you. It’s been four years and I know you are busy saving the world and all that. Any good candidate?”

Ah gossip exchanges.

She misses it for its nostalgic value, and it makes her feel human for once.

“Let me see.” She puts down her spoon, “I am rather torn between a purple Martian and a very good-looking Skrull who can turn into a 90’s Brad Pitt.”

They both laughed.

“How about that guy?” Maria asks casually. So casual that she doesn’t get it at first.

“What guy?”

“The guy on Dr. Lawson’s ship. The one with pretty golden eyes and impeccable pecks.”

It is so out of blue that she can only stare at her.

“I’m awestruck that you had the bandwidth to notice someone’s pecks when you had guns pointed at your head.”

Maria shrugs, “A girl gotta do what a girl gotta do.”

She goes back to her bread pudding.

“He is just a Kree soldier.”

Maria’s gaze falls on her, unwavering.

“He could’ve killed me then and there.  And he could’ve killed you. He didn’t.”

Sometimes she forgets how annoyingly smart her friend can be. She reorganizes her thoughts before replying.

“I am a very valuable weapon that Supreme Intelligence has invested in dearly. They hate to see their previous assets go to waste.”

She flashes a big smile with bare teeth. It looks too forced and too strenuous.

Maria serves herself a slice of pudding and sits down across from the table.

 “When they bound you with these glowing lassos at the ship, I didn’t know what was happening but I get that it wasn’t good.”

“Not good indeed. I was seeing the Supreme Intelligence.” She tries digression this time, “You know I could’ve been mentally captivated there till I die.”

“You know what’s interesting though?”

“Hmm?” When will this conversation end?

“When you broke free of the ropes, and you just floated in air and shining and beaming.” The memory makes Maria glow with admiration and pride.

“We were so proud. All of us.” She says to Carol.

She is about to join Maria in that memory of glory and true liberation, when Maria turns to her with these unwavering eyes again.

“You know what I saw on his face?

“Relief, not fear.”

Something inside her cracks at that.

 

******

“I don’t need to prove anything to you.”

That bitter taste in her mouth. And she made an effort to rid of the tremble in her hands.

All the lies, the manipulation, the breaking of an imaginary Utopia.

Something died, that unspoken tenderness which had not yet got a chance to blossom.

 He seemed as if wanting to say something, but she had enough of it.

Six years was too long to be so stupid.

So she shut him off.

“I’m sending you to deliver a message.” He seemed stung by the vehemence in her voice. She could not care less.

After she sent his flight craft into space, she walked out of the field a new woman.

********

 

“Are you all right?” There’s concern in Maria voice now.

She buries her face in her hands.

Silence stretches between them.

She smells oleander from the garden. The ticking sounds of the kitchen clock. Occasionally the sound of Monica’s laughter travels downstairs.

It is all just so tranquil.

So beautiful.

And so fragile.

 

Finally, she raises her head and speaks to Maria.

“The Union passed Project Black Hole last week. It will be launched in 26 days.”

“No way! That crazy proposal by Enor?”

She nods.

“I figured that Talos and Fury drop by often enough for jambalaya.”

“This is crazy! Can’t you do something about it, Carol?”

She is calm now.

“When the Inter-Galaxy Union was formed, every member signed a treaty. Whatever proposal gets past by a majority vote will be executed with support from all members.”

She has spent a whole year deciding whether she should sign the treaty. She tried going solo for over a year, only to find planets pledged alliance would defect in a heartbeat given enough bribery. Eventually she was convinced that an institutionalized governing body was the way to go, if she wants to see sustainable peace over billions of stars.

Collective decisions over individual heroism.

That’s what she signed herself for.

 

“You mean you will actually join the mission of Project Black Hole?” Maria asks.

“I will be its leading force.”

Maria seems startled, not only by her statement but also by the coolness in her tone.

“So you will be leading an army of Inter-Galaxy Union and wage a war against Hala…?”

“Precisely.” She drinks from her cup.

Maria pauses for a minute.

“Will you see him again?”

“Oh it gets better than that.”

 

She has the smile of a woman who died and was reborn the same day.

“I will fight him again.”

The look on Maria’s face reminds her of Fury, when he asked her why she had let him go. It stings a bit, but she doesn’t let it show.

When Maria speaks again, she speaks with the wisdom of one who has survived her own share of heartbreaks and disillusion.

 

“Oh Geez, Carol.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

When the fleet of Inter-Galaxy Union drives closer on its track to Hala, she stands in the captain’s room, watching the stardust unfolding to veal the green planet.

She hasn’t seen Hala from space much before. It is covered in dark green, the color of uniform she has once donned. It has a sinister beauty to it.

The place where she died and was reborn, bestowed with a new identity, and then saw it burning to ashes.

The fleet’s monitor screen picks up signals of armory.

“Watch out,” the captain says, “They are expecting us.”

She closes her eyes.

For a second she wants to forget what awaits her--a war she loathes to fight, old teammates she needs to detain, broken pieces of a false promise that she once thought was her world.

There is no right or wrong side in a war. Only the side you belong to.

He did teach her something useful after all.

She opens her eyes. Proton beams shimmering from her fists.

She is Captain Marvel again.

Chapter Text

Their training session that day was eventless. She did not destroy any infrastructure with her proton, and she had better coordination with her knees when kicking. He noted to her approvingly.

She even won a couple of rounds over him, though she still got thrown down more often than she would like to.

When they had an interval, he broke the news to her.

“I had an audience with Supreme Intelligence.” He paused, “They said you are ready.”

“Really?” Excitement took over her. She had been waiting for this day for six years.

“They want to put you on the next mission.”

“What is the mission?”

He motioned her to get back in position. And they started to launch into each other.

Punch. Duck. Kick. Slam.

“It’s a simple exact-and-run. We had an uncover who infiltrated Skrull and his cover was blown.”

He aimed for her left feet, and she had to struggle to find her balance.

“So we take our guy out and retreat to base.”

“That doesn’t sound too dangerous.” She said, trying to attach from his flank.

“Not if you stick to orders.”

She chuckled, flipping to his left side, and found her ground.

“Well, don’t worry. Just watch me rise and shine.” She gave him a smirk.

“Korath always say we should celebrate each time we survive a Skrull conspiracy.” She said while calculating her next attack. She liked Korath. Aside from Minn-Erva, the other members accepted her as one of their own over time, in their own stride.

“I told him I will take the crew for drinks when we come back from this mission.” He told her, and was searching for an opening to launch his fist.

“We can go back to the place we went last time.” She was not giving him any chance to attack, her defense was flawless, “They have good drinks.”

He nodded nonchalantly, and she could tell he was saving strength for his next move.

She would not give him any chance to attack, as she set her mind on winning this round.

 

“I won’t cock-block you this time.”

 

It took her a full moment to take in what his words meant. A gush of pink threatening to rise on her cheek.

And that was how she got thrown down to the floor. Yet again. With a loud echo while her head still in cloud.

He smiled over her.
“I thought you said to just watch you rise and shine.”

Damn he probably timed it with the distraction.

There was a genuine smile on his face, which she didn’t see often. Yet whenever it did show, she always felt the room lit up as if by a flaring flame, a warm glow flowing through her body, the rhythm of an unknown song hummed by her boiling blood.

His blood.

He extended his hand to her. His eyes golden like the winter sun, an irresistible bait made of lux amber, cajoling her to jump in the rabbit hole.

She remembered Krees’ warning of Blindfolding, and thought how right they were that it was dangerous.

 

One day, she said to herself when he pulled her up, she would die in these glittering gold of eyes.