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1995 -- Ghosts

The Black box recording had given her -Vers - Carol - back some pieces - some jagged memories that now made more sense. There was not a flood of scenes, but rather a slow drip that added to an ever-growing pool replete with emotions and scattered thoughts and a jigsaw of faces and words. She burst out into the Louisiana twilight overwhelmed with emotions. Betrayal. Anger. Confusion. Hurt. Those feelings rose high to the top of her head and filled her lungs near to the point of bursting. But then Maria was there with her out there in the yard keeping her from exploding with simple concentrated look in her eyes. She was the woman who figured so heavily on the edges of Carol's memory, and when she followed her out into the lukewarm night there was also another emotion that filled in between the creases and gaps of those other emotions. Maria and Monica were in those gaps. And those empty pockets were full of affection, full of belonging, full of love. She could see it in Maria's eyes and when she spoke about Carol, the Carol that she wasn't quite, at least not yet anyway, she could feel it filling those creases and those gaps.

Maria spoke about her best friend and her brave friend and it took all her discipline to not keep going, to not let her mouth form around the other words she wanted to say: I missed you so much; I love you so much; I knew you wouldn't leave us. She didn't say the words. She couldn't, but she didn't stop herself from reaching out towards this woman with Carol's smile and Carol's eyes. Strong fingers touched down on Carol's shoulder and they are moving towards one another and it is easy. It is a memory. It is a beginning.

Vers, no, Carol.

Carol. Carol. Carol.

Carol knows these fingers and this touch and that voice. She wants to be this brave woman who is loved by this beautiful woman. Their eyes are filling with tears and she sinks into Maria's arms - these familiar arms- and it's not just a broken and hazy dream. It's real. She's real. And they are real together. She chokes out "Maria" like a life line and Maria just holds her tighter because slowly but surely, this is her Carol gripping her sides and molding against her body as if nothing has changed.

They cling fiercely to one another in the yard with the buzz of the crickets and bullfrogs providing a soundtrack. Carol nuzzles into Maria's neck breathing her in, and no she doesn't have all of her memories back yet, but this feeling is clear and familiar and right.

Carol's breath tickles her neck and Maria let's out a huff of laughter and a happy sniffle. There is a spark of remembrance in the way Carol is holding her. She knows these hands and the body that fits so easily against her own. She moves her hand to cup Carol's warm cheek and they meet each other's tear-filled eyes and smile bright and long. Maria does not hesitate this time. The first kiss in what might as well be forever is wet and salty (and ironically enough it's much like the very first one) and this time it's perfect.

They break the kiss after a few moments and Carol gulps air and touches her forehead to Maria's before chuckling. "Well shit, if I had known you were out there, if I had known what it was like to kiss you...I-I would've stolen a spaceship years ago."

A happy shiver goes up Maria's spine and she peppers Carol's face with kisses. "And if I have my way, you'll never forget again."

They are laughing into their kiss once more when they hear the screen door swing open with a hard slam against the frame. Neither of them need to look up to know that it's Monica's quick footsteps that are zipping across the grass. She practically skids to a stop as she bumps into the legs of the two women. Big brown eyes that match her mom's bounce between her mom and then Carol. Her smile is nervous, but her eyes are hopeful. She cranes her neck back and finds Carol's eyes. There is something familiar there.

"Mommy?" Her little voice cracks with hope and hesitation.

Carol's knees almost buckle, but Monica's hands braced against the small of her back keep her upright. Carol's chin wobbles a bit as she nods and before she can even take a breath, Monica is leaping up into her arms. Carol catches her easily and adjusts her so that she's balanced on her hip. She's much too old for this, but in this moment, it's as if six years haven't passed and Monica is still that little five-year old who loved her favorite spot snuggled between her parents. The women adjust their arms as they embrace Monica and each other. Three heads huddled together with delighted tears and smiles and butterfly kisses on cheeks for everyone.

They are lost in a moment of re-connection when Fury comes to stand in the doorway. He looks out on the family and just smiles. Dusk had finally settled in and the light of the stars glitter in the sky. They had a long night ahead of them with plans to make and strategies to consider, but for now he recognized this was the only thing that mattered. He turned around and left the family to themselves.
________________________________________

TBC...

Chapter Text

1983 – Kiss Me Deadly

Since the day they met as cadets, there was never a moment when they hadn't had each other backs - even the near year they spent apart -- because Maria had been afraid of what was brewing between them. The thing that had tugged at them both since that first orientation day meeting. Pitted against each from the outset, but they never took the bait and instead challenged each other and supported each other all the way to the top of class. Even if they had wanted to avoid each other the pull was too great, and it was inevitable that they would come crashing into each other. Carol had no family to lose and no one to disappoint, so when her heart ached for her best friend and she pined away for her in the night, she gave a small shrug and a middle finger to propriety and put her heart on the line.

For the record, Maria had kissed her back.

Beer buzzed and giddy from trouncing the dipshit frat boys at pool at Panchos, they fell into each other somewhere in the parking lot in the shadows behind the bar. For a brief moment it was frantic hands and sloppy kisses, but then Maria pushed backed and stepped away. She still held tightly to the lapel of Carol's jacket and as her eyes alighted on those wings and the "Avenger" call sign embroidered on the jacket she shook her hand free as if she had been shocked and stepped back.

"Goddamn it, Danvers!” she hissed seemingly madder at herself than her friend. "We can't. We can't." Maria forced herself to look up and meet Carol's eyes and she immediately regretted it, as the collapse was evident. Every ounce of hurt and rejection shone in her eyes and Maria wanted to take it back and make it go away, but the words were out.

Carol fumbled for an apology, nearly biting her lip to keep from crying. Maria just shook her head and held up her hand to make her stop.

"I'm sorry, Carol. W-we can't. I can't." Maria took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. She wasn't going to break out here in this parking lot knowing she had to be the one to walk away before she gave in to the voice in her heard and in her heart.

Maria went on leave the next weekend and she didn't come back to the barracks. She had left Carol a simple bare note that said she'd always love her, but she didn't want to risk all they had worked for and the time away would help them both. Carol understood. And after the fight she got in at some random dive bar she had sped off to in the desert night, those two unlucky guys understood too. She could still hear Maria's 'higher, further, faster, babe' in her ear every morning, but it was just the echo in her head. She checked the mail box and even her messages, but six months went by and there was nothing. Of course she kept track of "Photon", but they moved around and away from one another with the skill and precision of airmen in a dog fight.

It's when the seventh month came around that Carol's phone rang at 2:30 p.m. and Maria's voice came crisp through the phone. "Can you meet me at the Clinic in Apple Valley. I need a ride."

If Carol were to tell it, she would've sworn that she hit Mach 1 in her Mustang as she sped across the state. She found Maria in the waiting room of the women's clinic and when the other woman fell into her arms Carol knew she would fight through an armed battalion just to have this and nothing more. Whatever she wanted, she would give it to her. She took Maria by the hand, put her in the car, and just drove.

Eventually they found their way up a windy cliff path about 30 miles away from the base. Carol parked the car and they sat down on the hood and just held hands until the sun went down and the stars speckled the sky.

"I couldn't do it." Maria's voice was hoarse. Carol said nothing. She just squeezed the hand caught up with her own and gave Maria the space to keep talking. "I mean it'll be hard and it's not the way I imagined this going- but, I think I can do this."

Carol just watched her as Maria stared out into the desert below; the lights of the small city far off below. Carol swallowed and spoke firmly. "We can do this."

Maria turned her head to face her friend and saw strength and forgiveness and love. Maria fought to hold back a sob, but it hiccuped out of her throat and she leaned over into Carol's waiting and ready arms.

"I've got you and I'm not going anywhere. I've got you both." Carol squeezed harder and Maria cried harder. She pressed kisses to her forehead and just held her tight.

Sometime later when the air got too cool they got back into the car. They sat close to one another, thighs and shoulders touching, hands entwined, Maria's head resting on her shoulder. "You want to know something crazy?" They were the first words either of them had spoken in nearly an hour. Carol just nodded. "I was thinking about you the whole time." Carol couldn't contain her gasp. Maria sat up and kept her eyes focused on their tangled fingers. "I think that's part of the reason that I couldn't go through with it." Maria sighed and finally met Carol's wide open eyes. "I mean, I'm a big girl, I knew what I was doing. In hindsight should have been a bit safer." She let out a mirthless chuckle, "but truth is, you were the only thing on my mind."

They sat in silence for a minute while Maria's words settled into the silence of the car. Carol dragged her free hand through her hair and blew out a long breath. "Is he - Does he-”, she started before taking a cleansing breath and steadying her voice. "Does the father know?"

Maria kept her eyes on Carol and just nodded.

Carol's voice was stronger now. "Does he want to be involved?"

Maria shook her head no. Her eyes still never wavered from Carol's.

"And you want me in your life? And the baby's?"

Maria grinned and nodded.

Carol's response was nervous laughter. "Okay."

Maria reached out and touched her fingers to Carol's jaw, prompting her to face her once more. "Look, I need to say something." Carol met her eyes. "I'm not sorry for walking away from you in the parking lot at Pancho's." Carol winced, but Maria kept going, “but I am sorry that I didn't come back sooner. I am sorry that it basically took an extended one-night stand to make me realize that I was being an idiot. A scared idiot, but an idiot."

"Mari-

"Let me finish." She grinned, voice confident now. "You are the most stubborn, smug, cocksure, pain in my ass."

"Well, tell me how you really feel," Carol mumbled.

"I'm not done." Maria chuckled. "You are also the smartest, most beautiful, bravest, loyal, pain in my ass." They both laughed. "And I love you. More than that, I'm IN love with you." She met Carol's eyes which had gone wide with wonder once more. "I've probably been in love with you for as long as I can remember, but I let all that noise from the ground get in my way. But every time I climb into that cockpit and take off and let that speed fill me up, you are always the only thing there. Your smile, that goofy smirk you do when you are about to be reckless. Your voice. Your laugh. You, you -just you. Up there, my head is clear, my heart is burst open wide, and it's singing your name."

Carol's growing smile was impossible to hide. She leaned forward, and they rested their foreheads against one another. "I tried to ignore what was obvious. Filled my ears with noise and bullshit about protocol and blah, blah, blah. I just knew that everything hurt, and it was because you weren't there, and no well-meaning fireman was going to change my mind about you." Maria let out a small sigh. "Unfortunately, I realized that about six weeks too late."

They sat quietly for the span of a few breaths and then Carol let her eyes drop down to the opened buttons of Maria's denim jacket. She extended a slightly shaky hand. Her voice was just above a whisper, "Can I?"

Dark brown eyes followed the path of Carol's hand and she gave a small nod. "Please," Maria softly answered.

Carol's splayed her hand across Maria's belly. She knew she wouldn't be showing yet, but the inevitably fascinated her. "So," Carol cleared her throat, "if I'm hearing you correctly, you love me, and this baby is mine." Her cheeks rose in a dorky smile.

Maria burst into laughter before lifting her head and pressing a kiss to Carol's lips. They laughed between kisses and happy tears. "You are such a jackass."

Carol's smile was smug. "Yeah, but this jackass loves you and I love this baby that you made while I was on your mind." If she could have high-fived herself she would have.

Maria swallowed her up in another embrace and then they were kissing again hard and fast, like teenagers in the backseat desperate for contact. They clawed at one another in a rush of pent up need and yearning that had been forced to lay dormant for years. Carol dragged Maria into her lap with hands roaming beneath shirts and blunt nails scraping against skin. All that they had locked away came rushing out in a flurry of motion.

Neither would remember who made the joke about the back seat, but none the less they tumbled over it, and yeah it was cramped and yeah it was hot and yeah as first times go it was pretty cliché, but it was them all the way.
________________________________________

1984 -Mrs. Rambeau

Life settles in and they give up the barracks for off-base housing and a mentor-ship with Dr. Lawson. Monica comes into the world kicking and giggling and Maria's exhausted and sore, but she's never seen anything more beautiful than Carol giving nuzzling her nose against their newborn baby. And yes, to anyone and everyone that mattered she was theirs. Even Maria's parents found themselves wrestling with and pushing aside long-held ideas about what was right and proper and blessed.

In a sleepy Louisiana parish a few miles from New Orleans, Carol was off tinkering around with a tractor engine with her father and Maria sat with her mom on the porch of her childhood home while baby Monica slept soundly in the screened-in porch in a bassinet.

"You really are happy, aren't you?"

Her mother's words broke her staring out in the yard and Maria turned her head and smiled. "Of course, I am. Does that upset you?" Worry creased her brow.

Mrs. Rambeau grinned and came to sit down next to her daughter. "Don't go getting all worried." She smoothed down her child's brow and pushed her bangs off her forehead. "I won't lie and say I wasn't worried and concerned, but I'm not blind either." Maria smiled. "You two have been smitten with each other since you were cadets and yes, at first I thought it was just 'cause you were the only two women, but there was always something else." Maria looked out across the yard at where her dad and Carol were laughing about something. "I know I didn't always say the right things, but I just didn't want you to lose what you had worked so hard for. And for that I apologize."

Maria turned back to her mother and hugged her around the shoulders. "I was scared too, but I realized I needed her more."

Mrs. Rambeau hummed her understanding as they pulled apart. She fixed her eyes on her husband and Carol. "You two make a great team and I'm proud of you both." She picked up the sweet tea she was sipping and drank. "And just so you know, if that girl breaks you or Monica's heart, I will feed her to the gators."

"Mama!' Maria gasped at her mother. Mrs. Rambeau gave a half shrug and wore a sly smirk. Maria shook her head and bumped shoulders with her mom. The two women laughed and kept their eyes fixed towards the yard and simply enjoyed the quiet.
________________________________________

TBC...

Chapter Text

Monica is three when it happens for the first time. They are cleaning up in the kitchen after a lunch of turkey sandwiches, with the crusts cut off and cut into triangles because a certain someone is only eating triangles this week. Carol is wiping the counter while Maria finishes putting the dishes in the drying rack when Monica bounds back into the kitchen.

"Mommy, can you tie my shoes, please?" The please comes out with a lisp because her baby teeth are still growing in, but that's not why everyone freezes. Maria lets the plate slip into the rack with clank and she turns to see Monica standing in front of a wide-eyed Carol and looking up at her with big brown pleading eyes.

They'd been trying to get her to say "Auntie Carol" because that would take less explanation beyond the confines of their apartment. She was reading and counting and practically talking in full sentences, so they knew she was smart, they knew she had understood, but somehow this had not made the impression they had wanted.

Carol is fumbling for words, so Maria speaks first, "Baby, what do you need?"

"My shoes, mama. I asking if mommy can tie my shoes." Her smile is big and her eyes never leave Carol's. She is clear in who she is addressing. Their kid is super smart.

Finally, Carol recovers as she drops down to one knee. "Sure thing, Lieutenant Trouble, Auntie Carol's got you." Carol makes quick work of the laces and as she stands she scoops Monica up and the little girl settles in on her hip, wrapping arms around her neck. They walk into the little living room with Maria right behind them. "So, mommy, huh? Where'd that come from?"

Monica shrugs. She toys with the ends of Carol's wavy hair. "You’re my mommy, right?" She seems a little confused, her voice small. Maria and Carol share a concerned glance as they all sit down on the couch.

"Of course, she is baby," Maria soothes as she rubs Monica's back. "It's just easier to call her Auntie Carol, you know?"

Monica shrugs again, still unconvinced. "You've already got a pretty awesome mom though." Carol tickles her side a bit and Monica grins.

"Yup. I know," she nods her head. "And you are my extra mommy."

"Is that right?" Carol smiles and pokes the little girl once more.

Monica nods eagerly, making her curly ponytail bounce. "You do mom stuff."

The two women settle on the couch with Monica nestled between them. "Mom stuff?"

"Yup. You check for monsters and read me stories and we eat ice cream and go driving."

"Driving?!" Maria glares at Carols in surprise.

"It was one time and we didn't really go anywhere." Carol speaks quickly and smiles as sweetly as she can, knowing she might be in trouble.

Maria just sighs but smiles anyway. "Well, that does sound like Mom stuff. But here's the thing," she touches Monica's chin to get her attention. "That's fine for when it's just us here and when we go visit Nana and Papa, but when we go to base, it might confuse people." Both women watch as Monica toys with the hem of Carol's t-shirt while she sits mulling over her mother's words. Maria looks up at Carol with a small hint of desperation in her creased brow.

Carol gives a squeeze to Monica's shoulder. "Does that make sense to you, Lou?"

Monica looks up and glances between her parents. "No. Not really." She shakes her head and pouts a bit. "Who cares what I call you."

Maria's heart is aching for her daughter for all the right reasons. She shares a look with Carol that seems to say they both know how much of a handful she is going to be as she gets older. "Hey, Monica, sweetie, look at me." The little girl turns her head towards Carol. "You, my sweet girl, are absolutely right that it shouldn't matter what you call me, but the truth is, everyone is not as smart as the three of us." She boops the little girl on her nose which males her smile. "And I know it doesn't make sense, but what if you think of "Auntie Carol" as my codename? Or my call sign."

Little eyebrows rose up high at that. "A codename?"

"Yeah, a codename. Like for missions,” Carol answers.

"Like when you and mama go to the planes?"

"Exactly like that," Maria chimes in. "When we fly do you know what my code name is?" Monica shakes her head. "They call me Photon."

Monica sounds out the words with her mom. "Pho. Tawn." She giggles. "What's a pho-ton?" She pronounces it as two words.

Maria scrunches her nose in thought and then pinches her index finger and thumb together. "It is a tiny tiny tiny piece of energy. And it helps create light."

"Even though it's so tiny?" Her voice is full of wonder.

"Well, think about how tiny you are and how much energy you have." Maria is tickling her sides and Monica wriggles with laughter in response.

"And what about mommy? What's your code?"

Carol still couldn't help the goofy grin of delight she got on her face at hearing the little girl address her as mommy. "My codename is Avenger. And an Avenger is somebody that helps people when they need help." Carol caught Maria's arched eyebrow and she shrugged. It was the nicest definition she could come up with for a three-year-old.

"That's a cool name. Do I get a codename?"

"Sure. But what's wrong with Lieutenant Trouble?"

Monica laughs. "Too long."

Both women laugh. "Ok then, what would you like your code name to be, baby girl." Maria brushes away wispy curls from her daughter's forehead and watches amused as she purses her little lips in thought.

"Um, what was the thing you taught me with the light?" Her eyes were on Carol.

"With the light?"

"Yep. It was that clear thing and the rainbow came out." She moves her hands in opposite directions to create an arch.

"Oh, you mean the prism. You want your name to be prism?"

"No, not that," she lets out a little huff. "Um, the colors had a name. And you told me."

Carol's face lit up in recognition. "You mean the spectrum of light."

"Yes!", she beams. "I like spectrum 'cause it has all the colors."

The two women smile at each other and Maria leans forward to press a kiss to Monica's forehead. "Then codename Spectrum it is. And when we leave the house?"

"Codename: Auntie Carol." She puts her shoulders back with pride and earns high-fives from both her parents.

"Now, how about you got get your coat and we go make some crispy marshmallows!"

With a squeal of happiness, Monica bolts off the couch heading straight for the hallway and the closet.

Maria lets out a huge sigh of relief and leans back across the couch to press a grateful kiss to Carol's lips. Carol holds tight to Maria's hand pressed against the column of her neck. "You okay there, mommy?" Maria's smile is warm.

Carol lets the term wash over her once more and she just nods before cupping Maria's face and kissing her. "Never better." They sit together for a moment and simply soak in the moment, before a bouncing Monica is demanding attention once more.
________________________________________

TBC...

Chapter Text

Maria looked down at the detailed chrome watch face of her Breitling (a graduation gift from her parents) once more and sighed inwardly. Lawson had been on a tear the past two days as they worked schematics, flight plans, and prepped for the next week's test flights. It was proving to be another late night for both women and was one of the few times that they both were away from Monica at the same time. Maria glanced again at her watch to see 7:30 was only slightly closer. They had the sitter until 9 or even 10 if necessary, and between the way the day had started and the long hours, her agitation had only grown as the hours moved slowly. She let out a huff of a breath and rolled her neck back and forth. The few small pops the action elicited did nothing the relieve the real tension she had been carrying around all day.

Starting the day before the rays of dawn were anywhere near breaking through the twilight had kept the women quiet on the drive into base. Their jobs kept them apart for most of the day and even when they managed to inhabit each other’s space, however brief, it was just to orbit one another.

It wasn't so much that they had argued the night before, but it was clear they were on opposite ends of the conversation. Carol was always the one to toss protocol out of the window and push rules right to the brink. She was always willing to dance on the edge of decorum, especially if the ends justified the means. Maria was a bit more calculated in her thoughts, but that didn't mean she didn't improvise, it just meant she sat back and tried to survey the whole scene before finding the right path. It wasn't that she was wholly against the idea of marriage, she just recognized that it was impractical and impossible. Carol on the other hand was ready to run them off to Vegas on the back of her motorcycle and shout it from the top of The Mirage.

Maria glanced up from her inventory sheet and watched as Carol passed by to head towards her plane. She was finishing the last check up on the F-20 she was taking out for a test run in the next week. When Carol didn't even so much as glance her way Maria grumbled under her breath. It had been hours of silence from both women and Maria knew she didn't want to go home with a sulking Carol, not when they were both right.

Maria dropped the sheet and headed further into the hanger. "Got a second, Danvers?"

It took a moment, but eventually Carol moved from underneath wing and stood up. She could see Maria near the nose of the plane. "Sure. Need something?"

Maria fought the urge to roll her eyes at Carol's curt response. At least she wasn't answering with sarcastic quips anymore. Maria put her hands in the pockets of her overalls. "Just a quick question. Can I bother you for a second?"

Carol nibbled on her lip and finally made eye contact with the other woman. She could see Maria chewing the inside of her cheek, which meant she was nervous. Carol slumped her shoulders a bit and let out a breath. This was stupid. She knew she couldn't stay mad at Maria and especially not over something that they both really did want. They just didn't agree on how to get there. Carol sat the ratchet on the table top and headed towards Maria.

"You know it's not a bother." She half-grinned. "What's up?"

"I-uh, I just wanted to say that I was sorry. You know about last night. This morning, I just-

Carol cut her off with a raised eyebrow. "You serious? You want to talk about this here?" She wasn't mad. Just genuinely surprised.

Maria raised her hands in defeat. "I mean not really," she glanced around in the empty hanger. "But I don't want to end the day like this either."

Carol pointed to the room behind her. "Meet me in the tool room."

"Huh?"

"Go. I'm right behind you." She shooed the taller woman off.

Maria did roll her eyes this time, but still, she turned and headed towards a small enclosed space where the tools were stored. She leaned against one of the roller cabinets and folded her arms across her chest. Carol was tousling her hair that had been covered by a ball cap for the past few hours.

She tossed the cap on top of a cabinet. "Okay. We can talk now."

Maria smirked. "I'm pretty sure it's just us and Lawson's somewhere lost in her office."

"That's probably true, but better safe than sorry, right?" Maria raised her eyebrows at hearing her own words coming out of Carol's mouth. "So, before you say anything else, I just wanted to say that I was sorry, too. You're not wrong and I can be an impulsive little shit." She emphasized the 'can' by pointing at herself. She followed with, "And seriously, I'm not going to jeopardize our life, you know that right?"

Maria squeezed her bicep to keep herself from reaching out and touching the other woman in front of her, which was really how she wanted to respond to Carol's declaration. However, the women knew to keep a respectable distance from one another whenever they were on base or to be honest, around most people Considering that they had left the apartment without the customary kiss and hug that normally started their day, Maria relied on discipline and thoughts of self-preservation to keep her hands to herself. Skipping the small ritual of intimacy had been further carry-over from the night before that left them sleeping with their backs to one another all night. It had felt like days since they had touched and being on base for nearly twelve hours, did nothing to alleviate that issue. Just being in the small closed off space felt risky to Maria. She lifted her right hand and scratched short nails through the just curling hair at the nape of her neck, and then fixed deep brown eyes on Carol and looked contrite before responding. "I know you would never do that and I wasn't trying to insinuate that either. Believe me, you are worth the risk.” The smile that accompanied her words was mirrored on Carol’s face.

After the momentary connection, she continued, “it's just hard sometimes. It's like walking around with a muscle tensed all day and you just can't wait until you can relax. We pretty much had to trick Monica into calling you "Auntie Carol". How on earth do we get her to keep a secret like that?" Maria frowned a bit. "I just hate how hard this is sometimes." She mustered a small smile for the woman across from her. "Trust me, it's worth it, but still."

Carol was still all smiles even as she shoved her hands in the pockets of her cargo pants and exhaled. A quiet moment passed, signaling the release of the tension between them. Finally, Carol breathed out, "Yeah. I know." She leaned against the opposite wall and made no secret of looking Maria up and down. Her intentions were clear. "Like, I can't wait 'til we get out of here." She leaned forward and whispered, "I may have to pull over on the side of the road and have my way with you.” Bright brown eyes sparkled with all manner of mischief.

A pleasant shiver ran up Maria's spine and she batted her eyelashes at the smirking woman. "Well, Mrs. Watson is watching Monica till 9," she checked her watch. "If we get out of here in the next 30 minutes, we could have a whole hour."

Carol wiggled her eyebrows. "Or we could leave right now, ask her to stay ‘til 10, and have almost two hours."

Maria laughed. "Slow down there, Speed Racer. Let's get this work done now, so we don't have to come in here at the crack ass of dawn tomorrow."

Carol groaned dramatically and stood up straight. "You're right but let me just say this and then we can drop it." Maria nodded and she waited. "I know we both wish the world were different. And I wish I could speed up time to get to that progress that you can see on the horizon. It's just that sometimes I look at you and Monica and you two are my whole world, and I just want for so much, for us.” Carol’s smile only got wider as she watched the way Maria sank back against the metal cabinet like she was melting under the weight of her words.

She removed her hands from her pockets as she spoke because she could feel the nervous energy building in her muscles. Her next words were confident and quick. "And it's not about paperwork or certificates. We could go out and get a lawyer tomorrow if we just wanted paperwork. Hell, I don't even need a damn official. I just want you to know that this," she gestured between the two of them. "This is forever. This is all I want. All I need."

Maria let out a small whimper while regarding the woman across from her. If anybody cared to look they would see the love radiating off her like an aura. If she was truthful, it was some kind a miracle that more people didn't wonder about them. Maria unfolded her arms and nearly reached out for Carol. Instead she took a steady breath and put her hands back in the pockets of her overalls. "You drive me crazy, you know that." Her words were quiet, but once the sound reached Carol's ears an impossibly large smile spread across her face. Maria wanted to kiss those dimples, but she knew she had to wait. "You know if things were different, I'd marry you in a second."

"Oh, yeah?" Carol's voice was filled with challenge.

Maria rolled her eyes playfully. "Of course, crazy."

Carol bounced on her toes and then stood up straight. "Stay right there!"

Maria could barely get out the confused "why?" before Carol zipped out of the tool room and back into the hanger. She was back in less than 30 seconds and smiling like a kid who found their parents' candy stash. Maria knew that look. It was the look Carol got right before she opened the throttle on the bike and went well past 120 mph. It was the look she got before she'd hit a barrel roll or sharp bank in the jet. It was the look she got when she and Monica were plotting something that Maria was eventually going to have to clean up.

"Danvers, what's that look for? I know that look." A still silent Carol pulled out a wide dark ring of metal from her pocket and just grinned. Maria was perplexed. "Carol, what are you doing?" Carol dropped down to one knee and held out what was clearly a wide metal spacer or possibly a bolt. Maria's eyes went wide and she braced herself against the roller cabinet. "What are you doing, woman?" Her attempt not to yell came out as a raspy whisper.

"Let's just do this. Forget what I said last night. I don't care about paperwork or officials. Just you and me and the stars in the sky. Let's just do this for us. Nobody has to know." Carol's bright brown eyes were big and hopeful as she met Maria's eyes.

Maria caught her bottom lip between her teeth while her eyes darted about from Carol, to the ring, to the doorway, and back. "Carol," she started with a small sigh. "I love you, but you are being ridiculous."

She held the band up higher. "Just ridiculous about you. Maria Augustine Rambeau will you do me the greatest honor of my life by accepting this really strong piece of metal as a sign of my everlasting love and devotion? Will you marry me and commit to our little family? I promise to love and cherish you and sing Karaoke at the top of my lungs for you all the rest of my days!"

Maria covered her face with her palms in an effort to keep a stern look, but the earnest sound of Carol's voice, and warmth and love in those brown eyes made her just want to surrender in excitement. "If I say yes, will get up off the ground?"

Carol nodded vigorously. "But you gotta’ say yes. No take-backs."

Maria laughed. She bared her teeth playfully at the woman kneeling before her. She wanted nothing more than to kiss that smug smile from her face. "Yes, Carol, I will symbolically marry you and commit to our little family, paperwork be damned."

Carol jumped up and kissed Monica on the cheek so fast the other woman didn't even have time to be properly flustered.

They sped through inventory and then it was speeding through the desert in the Mustang and headed up to the cliff side that had easily become their spot for all their important moments.

There were no pressed uniforms. No clergy. No procession.

There was only the barely audible murmur of the top-40 radio station that was either playing U2's "With or Without You" or possibly Debbie Gibson's "Only in My Dreams", mixed in along with the hum of the desert at night. The nearly full moon hung bright in the sky and the clear night sky was so full of stars, it was as if they had been painted against a midnight blue canvas.

Carol wore her leather jacket and Maria covered her overalls with a soft red flannel shirt. Carol fished out the wide dark brushed metal bands and held out her hand. With a smile, Maria placed her hand in Carol's and watched as she slipped the metal over her ringer finger. Carol took a moment to marvel at the way moonlight shone on the smooth expanse of Maria’s dark brown complexion. She pressed a kiss to the back of Maria’s warm skin before releasing her hand. They switched positions and Maria slipped the band over Carol's finger. They let out ecstatic giggles and shared a gentle kiss.

Carol spoke first. "Maria Rambeau, under all these stars and galaxies I promise to love you until the end of my days. I promise to fight for you and support you and be brave for you. Always. And I promise that Monica will never want for my love or doubt how much she means to me." Carol watched as a tear escaped Maria's eyes and knew she wouldn't be able to hold out for much longer.

"Carol Danvers." She stopped to take a breath. "You have been my best friend, my partner, my wing woman, and always my great love. You have been my strength and my heart for so long that I'm not sure I want to imagine my world without you. I love how you love me, and I love how you love Monica and I know were it not for you than she might not even be here. And for that matter, I might not be. And I want you to know that even if we are never able to shout about this from the rooftops, I won't deny you or our family and I will fight for us and love for us. Always."

They were both a mess of tears by the time Maria finished. Salty tears mixed with warm lips against the cool desert air while they kissed for a few long moments, losing themselves to feel and taste of one another. Their 10pm curfew grew too close for them to stay swaying together to some imaginary song for too much longer. The found themselves laughing into their last few kisses right before glancing down at the matching “rings” that they would eventually thread onto the chain with their dog tags in the morning.

There would be no pictures or witnesses, only the sparkle of the infinite unknown above them -- and for tonight, the stars would be enough.
________________________________________
TBC...

Chapter Text

Breathe in.

They make love that morning, not necessarily because it's the day of the test flight, but because Carol loves morning sex. Maria would barely have brushed her teeth, brightly colored satin scarf still tied around her hair, and she'd spy Carol's gorgeous brown eyes staring back at her from the mirror telegraphing all the lascivious things she wanted to do to her.

The morning of the crash, it was Maria who rolled over first, spooning around the other woman, bare breasts meeting the warm expanse of Carol's back. She was always so warm. All the time.

Carol registered the press of hardened nipples against her skin just as a cool tongue traced the shell of her ear. She was wet in two seconds flat.

With a growl of excitement, she turned and rolled so that she could pin Maria to the bed, leaving her with long arms outstretched toward the headboard. She was met with a lopsided smirk and then Carol pounced. She alternated between kissing and lapping first at the column of her neck, then licking and sucking her way up her pulse points, onto following the curve of her jaw, until finally, teasingly, meeting Maria's soft full lips.

Their kisses were opened mouth, mixing teeth and tongues. Carol's heartbeat pounded against her rib cage as Maria dragged her fingers through long blonde hair and scratched at her scalp. Carol arched at the sensation which drove her hips into Maria's center. The stuttering moan the woman beneath her let out gave Carol permission.

She lingered at her lips only for a moment more before wasting no time to chart her course down Maria's torso. A gentle push on her head kept her from stopping to linger on taught nipples and instead Carol found herself nestled between strong thighs. She breathed the other woman in and nearly came just from the sight. Carol looked up and met Maria's dark eyes. She kept her eyes locked on the other woman as she slowly moved forward and buried her face in the warmth between Maria's legs. Maria let out a hiss of approval and closed her eyes to the feel of Carol's mouth and tongue inside her. Pale pink muscled arms wrapped around trembling brown thighs and proceeded to take as much time as she could to render the other woman quivering and boneless.

Maria would come with one hand clutching Carol's hair and the other holding the pillow up to her face so she could bite down into the material and muffle the pleasurable noise that rose from her throat. She had barely caught her breath before she was greeted with Carol's glistening smug smile. Their kiss was sloppy but neither woman cared.

Carol started to make a joke about how wiped out Maria was, but the words died on her lips as she felt the welcome intrusion of Maria's long fingers underneath the waistband of her boxer shorts. Maria put long arms and a height advantage to work as she rolled them both over. Carol was already halfway to the stratosphere, so she came forcefully and quickly with her face against the mattress, Maria's skilled fingers between her legs, and the heat of her kisses on the back of her neck.

---------

 

Breathe out.

Everything hurts.

She's bleeding and it's blurry. She smells fire and engine oil and there is blood everywhere. There is blue blood everywhere. Her ears are ringing and she's sure she's concussed, but all she can think about is her girls.

Maria. Dark brown eyes flash with light. There's laughter. Cocoa butter and jet fuel.

Fuck, I am sorry.

Monica. Curly hair and big brown eyes. Face sticky from syrup and pancakes.

Baby girl, I'm sorry.

Mar-vell is dead and there's a man heading for her. Aiming. He's aiming at her. She takes aim.

Christ, I'm so sorry. All she can think about is the last thing she saw: Her girls at the door.

She takes a deep breath and aims at the engine.

Maria and Monica with big smiles and sticky kisses and I love yous. "I'm going to drop her at Mrs. Watson's and then I'll see you at base."

"Stay out of trouble Lieutenant." A wink and little girl giggles. Another stolen kiss. And then Carol is walking backwards out of the door. She catches the kisses blown her way and then curls in three fingers ,from ring to index, and extends her thumb and pinky. She waves at her two smiling girls in the door way, who make the sign back.

Good luck it says. See you later it says. I love you it says. Goodbye it says.

 

Breathe In

She has no choice. She pulls the trigger and maybe she only imagines the blue light, but after that, it is flame and fury and burning and dark and the only thing on her mind and lips is: MariaMariaMariaMariaMariaMariaMar-
----

And then there was darkness.

It was so dark inside the apartment. She couldn't move. She could barely breathe. Her parents drove all night and all day and it was still dark.

And then Monica was gone too. And it was dark and silent. And she was empty.

Mrs. Rambeau gave her daughter nearly five days, before she blew through the house like a team of Navy Seals on the hunt. There was yelling and tears, but then there was daybreak and Maria showered for the first time in days, ate food, and managed a smile for the only thing she had left: Monica.

Maria came back to herself when her tears were empty and filled up on rage. She went up the chain of command with phone calls and letters and pacing outside of doors and waiting in hangars and asking question after question after question.

A week in, her Colonel pulled her into his office and told her to have a seat. Maria opted to stand at attention. He rubbed a hand down his cheek, pulled a bit at his neck tie, and then sat down heavy in his seat.

"Rambeau, you have to let this go. We've given all the answers we can. There's nothing else."

Maria blinked twice and thought about the box she was handed. What was left. Half a dog-tag and a flat dark bolt fused to part of the chain. They'd given her a flag, a heap of condolences, and then said don't ask anymore questions. We've no answers to give.

"Sir, respectfully, you haven't given me answers. All I've gotten are closed doors."

He sighed. "Rambeau. Damn it, Maria," he tried. "There. Is. Nothing."

"Where's the black box, sir?"

"There is no box, Captain. We've gone over this."

Maria broke and threw her hands in the air. "I am her only family and it is my right to know. This is bull shit, sir." She grimaced at her breach of protocol and then stood back at attention.

The colonel stood. "Now, you listen to me and you hear me." He slapped the desk and met her eyes. "I say this as your superior officer and as your friend, you need to stand down."

She opened her mouth to protest and he slapped the desk once more. "Rambeau!", he raised his voice to a low growl. "You are dancing dangerously close to the edge of a line that I don't think you want to cross." He spoke with hands, so he drew and imaginary line and then pointed a finger in her direction. "Believe me when I say that I hear you, but there is nothing to tell you. They are going to close this case and walk away. I suggest you do the same." Ice blue eyes bored into Maria's brown eyes and they stared at one another for a too long moment.

Maria let out a breath and her shoulders sagged. The colonel followed with a relieved exhalation of his own.

He looked at the woman with empathy and tried to give her a look that said 'I'm sorry'. "You're a good pilot, Rambeau. One of my best. I've already lost one of my best and I don't want to lose another."

Maria's chin trembled, but she squared her shoulders and stood up as straight as she could.

"Now, do us all a favor and take the rest of the day, hell take the week. Matter of fact, take two. Go be with your daughter and then get back here with your head on straight." They made eye contact and he waited for what was almost an imperceptible nod. "You good with that?"

"Yes, sir." Her voice was firm.

She walked out with her head held high and didn't even think to cry until she was two miles from base, with the windows down on the Camaro and Nine Inch Nails blaring out of the speakers.
------

Take a Breath

There is barely any light the first year. Maria moves like she's on an assembly line. Monica is with her parents and she is just sleepwalking. She barely feels anything at all except the shape and outline of Carol. Like a phantom limb, the feel of her resonates through her waking day.

She stays at the base for as long as she can, but the ghost of Carol haunts everything. It's made worse because everyone wants to act like it never happened, as if she just didn't disappear. Agents with too long of an acronym come in to scrub Lawson's office and that was the end of everything.

She lasts a year before she transfers to the base in Baton Rouge. Closer to home. Closer to Monica.

She and Carol had joked last Christmas about buying the house and land two parishes over from her family. The loan came easy and Maria was sure it was because of the silver haired British woman from the base, who had kept her eyes on her the whole time the agents were there cleaning Lawson's office. Colonel just said she was some big wig and to leave it alone.

The second year Maria finally comes up for air and Monica, ever prescient, notices first. Sure, it hurts like hell that she still runs around in Carol's t-shirts that hang off of her like ball gowns, but it is what they need. They pack up the apartment and settle into the heat and humidity of Louisiana. It is hell on her hair, great for her skin, and good for her soul.

After the third year, she gets her honorable discharge and ten unsolicited referrals to work anywhere she wanted. Maria smirks. Whatever they were covering up was still too big to let her completely walk away. She shoves the letters in a drawer and finds a local flight school that needs a mechanic. By year 5, she owns the school.

At year six, she feels her chest expand with her breaths easier. The weight is gone and the pain is dissipating. Now, it is just when Monica wants to look in the box or when she has to wash the one or two of the leftover shirts that she hasn't managed to put in storage, along with Carol's leather flight jacket in the cedar closet.

Their little family is thriving, and Maria feels the closest thing to happy she has in a while. She is humming along to some Alanis song while tinkering with the plane engine in the workshop. She slides the wrench into the back pocket of her jumpsuit and feels the crush of paper. Her brow furrows in thought while she pulls out the paper and smiles. It's a number from the woman at the bowling alley. She works the counter, handing out those two tone shoes with a puff of disinfectant and a smile.

Upon handing back Maria's Timberland boots the other night, she had slipped the piece of paper to her and smiled shyly.

"No pressure," she said.

Maria ducked her head and had enough sense to smile back. "Uh, thanks. See ya' round."

Real smooth she thinks to herself. She pockets the paper and makes a mental to note to pick up the phone after dinner.

She heads back to the engine before footsteps and unfamiliar voices catch her attention.

Monica's squealing "Auntie Carol!" announces what her eyes can see.

Same face. Same hair. Same eyes. Same mouth. She's just there and all Maria can do is stare. Wide eyed and dumbfounded. The ghost stares back. They are caught in each other's gazes and Maria doesn't even realize she is holding her breath.

Breathe.

-----------
TBC...

Chapter Text

In the five years since Carol's return, the Rambeau-Danvers family had settled into normalcy. Now, her life as Vers is as faded as the band t-shirts she still insists on wearing. Well, that is when she can wrestle them away from Monica, who has re-purposed them for school.

"But you don't even like KISS!" Carol howls after her daughter who just zooms out of the house and heads to school full of laughter. Carol and Maria just share a laugh as they watch their teenager head off for school.

Despite having a superhero for a partner, a whiz kid for a daughter, and spending a couple weekends out of every month testing planes and training for S.H.I.E.L.D, Maria is satisfied and sated. She runs her fingers through Carol's newly shorn locks and smiles. She sweeps the long hair on top back and kisses her with promise, before trailing a finger down her sternum in a light tease and then heading for the stairs. For once, neither of them have anywhere to be, so Carol doesn't even let Maria get more than two steps up the stairs before she's lifting her up with a laugh and they are practically floating to the bedroom.
--
The Kree War has waged less and the Skrulls are thriving in most places, so Carol's missions aren't always as long. She's away sometimes only for days or perhaps a month. The longest mission took her away for nearly six months, but it was worth it because she's been home just as long, and they are celebrating a sweet 16 with cake and unexpected (well just to the visitors) fireworks and a promise to let Monica drive the Mustang when mommy's off on missions.

Maria and Carol sat on the porch in the swinging seat and watched Monica and her friends do whatever amounted to dancing out in the yard. "Clearly she gets her dance skills from you," Maria joked, as she nudged Carol's shoulder.

“Excuse you,” she pretended to be offended and pinched the other woman's leg. “Anyway, I do my best moves in the bedroom.” She popped an imaginary collar.

Maria held her sides as she laughed loud and long. Carol just squinted her eyes and pouted at the other woman’s too giddy response. "You're lucky we're out here with all these witnesses. Or I-"

Maria stopped laughing and leaned in so that their foreheads almost touched. "Or you'll what?" She playfully challenged Carol and the responding glow in her cheeks made her smile in triumph. She tapped Carol's nose and sat back. "Welp, guess you'll have to wait."

Carol just groaned. She had a half a mind to grab onto the cotton of Maria's soft shirt and pull her in for a soul searing kiss, teenagers be damned. It was the start of the new millennium for Christ's sake.

"Hey Mama! Can we go look at the car?" Monica called out.

"No driving!" Both women answered in unison. They didn't need to even be able to see to know that she was exasperatedly rolling her eyes.

And Carol swore she heard one of the girls giggle out, "Dang, Mon' your parents are hilarious." She watched them head toward the parked muscle car and proceed to open the doors and pile in the car. She looked back at Maria and winked. "You think we should tell her she was conceived back there in that seat?" Her grin was cheeky.

Maria's eyes went wide. "Nope. No. No. Let's never tell her that. Ever." Carol just laughed while the other woman stood and headed inside. Bright brown eyes followed the sway of Maria's hips and Carol wondered if the kids would even notice they were gone.
---

A month later they would find themselves in the yard once more amidst fairy lights strung all over the property and family and friends as they exchanged vows once more. Monica's dad had regained the use of his right arm after the mild stroke, so he walked her down the short aisle in her modest white sleeveless dress. The March weather was unseasonably warm, so the goosebumps were just from excitement. Carol wore tuxedo pants with a crisp white low collar shirt and white suspenders. Monica remarked to the rookie with her mama's name that her mommy looked like some soft-butch dream girl and that her parents should be on the cover The Advocate. Her mother Maria, who was within earshot, had been stunned silent, but after she finally saw Carol, she couldn't disagree with her daughter.

Fury presided, and Monica handed off the rings (and a necklace Carol had made just for her) that looked to be suspiciously made of that metal that had been stolen from Wakanda. Between each ring ran a thin channel that appeared to house a shimmery liquid running through it; Carol just said it was stardust. Carol shrugged off Fury's skepticism and promised him it was from a planetary deposit she found in some far-flung corner of the Universe. She was always amazed at how he could give good side-eye even with one eye. He grumbled about her owing him a favor and Carol simply nodded her assent. Fury, Coulson, and Director-Emeritus Carter had made it as official as possible between all the paper work at S.H.I.E.L.D and the D.O.J. It went without saying that Carol, Maria, and Monica would forever be grateful.

They danced the night away with family and friends underneath the stars, and a future that had never looked so bright.
________________________________________

TBC...

Chapter Text

In 30 plus years of marriage (both official and unofficial) Maria and Carol had never missed an anniversary. They celebrated in March because that was both when she had returned and when they made it really, really official for the second time. Sometimes Carol was a galaxy away, so she was late, but new communicators and holograms allowed messages to travel across light and space further and faster. The latest return she had ever made had only missed by a week, but usually she was on time and they were both in the same place.

Carol had messaged home that she might be a few days late, but she'd be there by Monday. When she hadn't gotten even a response from Maria by day three, Carol simply looked at Talos and he knew. She was just reaching the outskirts of the Milky Way when the sound of the emergency pager hit the receiver in her helmet. She tumbled out of her flight pattern and careened into an asteroid when she realized it wasn't just the pager she had given Fury, but also the one she had given to her wife.

A sonic boom cracked the atmosphere and the crater was 20 feet wide when she landed in the front yard of their Louisiana home. Carol was shaking the cobwebs from her head when she heard the screen door swing open and smack against the door frame. She knew who would be standing in the doorway even before her helmet receded and she stood up.

A Captain now herself, Monica had been away on her own missions for a small but, reformed S.H.I.E.L.D. for the past two years, so her dreads were longer. She was at least as tall as Maria now, and she definitely had both of her front teeth, but she would always look like that wide-eyed 11-year old forever awed at seeing her other mother return. Today was the first time ever that those brown eyes were dark with the same grief that was surging up from Carol's gut and into her throat. She let loose an inhuman wail and her fist glowed red hot rage. It was only Monica's hesitant "mommy" that pulled her back into the present moment. She was at the front steps in blink of an eye and they curled into one another and held on tight.

Eventually, the tears would subside long enough for Monica to hand over her mother's ring and they just stood together in the yard for a small eternity. The fading sound of Fury's pager reached Carol's ears and she finally lifted her head from Monica's shoulder. She cupped her daughter's face in her hands and steeled her features. "You need to come with me to S.H.I.E.L.D. Fury's pager is also going off."

Monica blew out a shaky breath as she held onto Carol’s hands and just nodded. "I don't understand," she took in another deep breath. "They're just gone. J-just gone."

Carol's chest heaved, and she tried centering herself. "We'll figure this out." She looked Monica in the eye and saw a glimmer of something different, yet something almost familiar. She withdrew her hands and placed them on Monica's shoulders and really looked at the young woman. It had been two years since they had seen each other face to face, but where Skype and holograms had sufficed, nothing was better than the real thing. And even though the world, their world, seemed to be crumbling down before them, she could see something was changed about her daughter. She glanced down at the necklace, made of the same vibranium and stardust that made her mother's ring and looked back up to meet her eyes once more.

There was a slight edge of fear to her voice. "What's happened Monica?"

Monica managed a slight grin. "I guess it would be stupid to think you wouldn't understand." She blew out a shaky breath. "There was an accident during a mission. I tired to prevent something disastrous and well...” She felt Carol squeeze her shoulders before she quickly added, “I’m okay, promise. But, I am a little scared."

Carol relaxed all the muscles she had tensed and then she pressed a kiss to Monica's forehead. "I made a promise to your mama before you were even born, and I meant it. I've got you. I've got you both." She pressed her forehead to Monica's. "I love you and we're going to figure out how to make this right."

Monica gruffly wiped the tears from her eyes and stood up straight as she nodded. "Do you think you can fly?" Carol asked.

Jet black eyebrows arched a bit as Monica creased her brow in thought. "Well, I'm - I'm not sure. So much to still figure out. I mean, I haven’t exactly tried."

Carol tilted her head in confusion. "I meant the plane. Can you fly the plane?" With a raised eyebrow, she stepped back and took in the younger woman once more. She still looked like the girl she helped raised. Sure her driver's license said 34, but she knew she still got carded. She couldn't put her finger on it, but there was an energy to the younger woman that she couldn't place. She eyed her daughter warily, which made Monica draw her shoulders in and glance down. Carol drew in a quick breath.

"Hey," she started, and Monica looked up. She dispelled the young woman's worry with a smirk. "Not sure what you got yourself into Lieutenant Trouble, but how about you fly with me and you can explain on the way."

Monica gave a small grin as Carol stepped back and squeezed the ring still in her hand.

With a slight tremor in her hand, Carol slipped Maria's ring on her finger, so that it stacked with own ring. She let out a shaky breath and brought her hand to her to lips to press a reverent kiss against the metal. For a split second, she felt like she wanted to collapse under the weight of their collected sorrow once more, but then she met Monica's eyes -so much like her mother's - and saw a glint of hope and determination there. She made fists of her hands and let the energy of the Tesseract flow free. The bright blue sinewy tendrils of energy receded once more and Monica smiled her approval.

Bolstered by the trust in her daughter's smile and the belief she knew Maria had in her, Carol scooped up Monica in her arms, and they took off headed West: towards the desert S.H.I.E.L.D base; towards the unknown; and towards what they both hoped were answers.


--------
End???

Chapter Text

The vulcanized rubber soles of her boots were quiet against the gravel as she walked with quick steps towards the mausoleum. She was only a few minutes behind the others, but then again, she didn't quite have the capability to move as quickly. With a hand clutching the long stems of two Aster Lilies, she turned the corner and entered the marble and concrete structure.

"Sorry, I'm late." A Louisiana drawl accented voice echoed through the enclosure and the other women turned.

Wispy fly-aways of blonde hair bounced when Carol turned her head and a beaming smile filled her face as she took in the sight of the other woman. She wore a light hooded blue puffer vest, with the sleeves of her shirt pushed up to expose warm brown skin, that matched the deep dark brown eyes that still sparkled even behind the reading glasses she sometimes wore. "Hey, you," she opened her arms. "I told you I would've come to get you."

"Ha! I'm sticking to planes for all my flying, thank you very much." She winked at Carol before they shared a quick hug and a slightly longer than seemed appropriate kiss on the lips.

"Guys! Ew!" Beside them, Monica looked up from the bench with a scowl of protest on her lips.

Maria just rolled her eyes at her suddenly prudish daughter. She sat down next to her on the wood and steel bench and wrapped an arm around her shoulder before smothering her with kisses. Carol swooped in from the other side to plant kisses of her own on the woman's other exposed cheek. She wriggled like a worm on a hook before bursting into laughter. "C'mon on. We are in a graveyard." She was still half laughing as she squeezed out from under the assault of her parents into a standing position.

"This is true, but for your information, your Grandma and Papa would never begrudge us a much needed PDA." Carol stuck out her tongue to solidify her point.

Monica just huffed and sat back down between the two women. Maria wiped the faint stain of lipstick from Monica's cheek and smiled at her daughter. She took a moment to gaze adoringly at the two women to her left. Monica's long dreads hung past her shoulder blades and were dyed red on the ends. As expected, she wore her customary long dark trench coat and a pair of black boots that Maria knew laced right up to the knee. She at least wore jeans and t-shirt, but like the other woman beside her, she was always ready to spring into action.

Although as of late, Carol "Captain Marvel" Danvers-Rambeau was happy to hang back and let the new wave of super powered beings rule the day. The truce between the Kree and the Skrulls was holding strong and the old Avengers had spawned the Mighty Avengers, with Monica chief among them. In truth, she was happy to rest, but she knew she would not hesitate to come, if called. Director Hill, by way of Fury, still had her pager and again, if it was a real emergency, Carol wouldn't waste any time in suiting up.

If asked, she would admit honestly, that after wielding the gauntlet, even for a brief time, she had her fill of playing god. She knew she spoke for at least two of the people in the room when she mused that she was done with Quantum Universes and Soul stones and Time stones and all the other stones. In fact, the only rock she was really interested in was the one she currently lived on: Earth. She was content to leave the outer reaches of space to the Asgardians and the talking raccoon that made her laugh.

Carol watched as Monica got up and placed the flowers in the flower hooks, and she reached out to find Maria's hand already reaching for her own. She thought about Steve in that moment and remembered his last words to her and to all of them really - and he was right - it had been an honor, but now it was time to leave, and time to live. Carol interlaced her fingers with Maria's and looked down to see the polished vibranium-made ring on her wife's finger. She would never tire of the sight.

"Where's your head at, babe?" Maria's words were quiet against her ear.

Carol wrapped her arm behind Maria's back and let her hand rest on her side. "I'm here. Just got tangled up for a bit."

Maria smiled in understanding as she pushed back a stray lock of blonde hair from Carol's face. She'd cut it again after letting it get long. In fact, both women had opted for shorter hair in the last few years, partially out of necessity, but mostly out of a want to simply live freely and honestly in whatever that looked like.

As they sat in the mausoleum and sat out flowers for Maria's parents and a few other friends, they knew they were lucky. Not everyone returned whole from the Thanos-incident. Oh, they made it back in body, but the spirit was broken, and the soul had been rendered. Maria still went to therapy and every night she wrapped herself up in Carol and let the steady beat of her heart lull her into some semblance of sleep. She still sometimes needed pills to stay asleep, but every morning when she woke, Carol was there to ground her and whisper "good morning, my love. Where to today?"

Some days they never left the bedroom, or they made it as far as the porch, but more days than not, they hopped in the SUV or they took the plane or even the bike, and they just took off. They usually found themselves in some out of the way town lending a helping a hand to places still in clean up mode after everything. And then, if they had gone too far to make it back home, they might camp, or find a B&B, or a grateful person's couch to crash on. In the end it didn't matter because they were together again. They were a whole family once more.

Monica felt two set of eyes on her as she ran her finger tips along the engraving of her grandmother's name. Her fingers phased a bit through the marble and she stepped back. She turned and proceeded to take a seat between her parents. The women easily moved apart to make room and then squeezed in tight so that Monica was bracketed from ankle to thigh. She smirked and leaned her head on her mama's shoulder, earning a kiss to the forehead.

"You doing okay, baby?" Maria asked.

"Not so much a baby anymore, am I?"

Carol chuckled. "Are you mad ‘cause you didn't get carded when we went out the other day?"

Monica sat up and glared at the laughing woman. "You know what?"

Carol bumped her shoulder. "Just messing with you. I know 35 is hard."

"Um, 35 was two-years ago!" she squeaked indignantly.

Carol shrugged, and Maria laughed at them both. "Well, as the only person here who is aging normally, I think neither of you should talk about aging."

Carol reached across Monica and grabbed her wife's hand. "Hey, as someone who gets the luxury of staring at your beautiful face every day I can say with great honesty that you are not aging so normally yourself." She winked.

Maria's smile made the dimple in her cheek pop. She squeezed her wife's hand. "You're just saying that because you know I'll throw out all your t-shirts."

Carol touched her hand to her chest in shock. "Never."

Monica laughed at her parents. "She’s not lying mama. You're making 60 look good. Seriously, how you only have like three grey hairs after the two of us, is mind boggling." She glanced up at close cropped natural curls and smiled.

Maria’s cheeks warmed at the compliments and she couldn’t help but chuckle. The shenanigans they had survived during Monica’s teenage years, paled in comparison to what it meant to not only have a wife powerful enough to beat the brakes off a mad Titan, but also, having a daughter who could control and transform into in any form of electromagnetic energy. She was basically a human photon.

“Well, it’s not like you two haven’t tried to keep me on my toes. Do you know how much we have to pay for fire insurance!” She laughed. “I suppose the Universe felt the need to bless me with some good luck and some good genes.” She grinned.

Amused, Carol shook her head and added, "Well, you know what they say?" She looked at the two women to her right and darted her eyes about. "Wait, am I allowed to say it?"

Monica laughed, and Maria rolled her eyes. "Sure, you can say it," Maria managed to get out.

Carol squeezed her wife's hand and proudly announced, "Black does not crack."

All three women fell into each other with laughter. "Mommy, this is why we don't take you out."

Carol let her shoulders sag. "Damn! Here I thought it was ‘cause I shoot fire out of my hands. Betrayed by my own child. Ouch." She held a hand to her forehead and Monica hip checked her playfully, but the force still caused her to slide on the bench.

Maria just shook her head. "Okay, you two, no rough housing." She arched a serious eyebrow at the women. "Last time you two got going I had to explain to Sheriff Balor what happened to his police car." She eyed both women until Monica looked down at a spot on the floor and Carol suddenly found the ceiling of the mausoleum interesting.

Maria smiled at her two super powered loves. She grabbed Monica's hand and watched as Monica reached out her left and Carol laced their fingers together. Properly admonished, she changed the subject. "You ready?" Her question was posed to Monica.

The younger woman just nodded and they all bowed their heads. "Dear Grandma and Papa Rambeau, your girls are here to give thanks to you both for your love and your wisdom and your strength. The world has changed so much and so have we all," she paused here to squeeze the hands of the women that sat to her left and right. "But know that your lessons on love and what it means to be a family are the things we hold dear. We love you and we miss you."

The three women sat in a pleasant and contemplative silence for a few minutes. It had been almost four years since the world snapped back, as Monica liked to say, and the elder Rambeaus had survived the snap, but not the invasion that followed. Those first two years after everything were like a slow crawl uphill through broken glass. As a family they had come out on the other side, mostly in one piece, and the least they could do on these National and Global days of mourning was pay their respects to those who had sacrificed.

After a quiet two minutes, they stood together and exchanged hugs. Monica exited first, and Carol waited as her wife, ran her fingertips across the engraved letters of her parents' names. She pressed a kiss to her fingertips and touched both plaques before turning and looping her arm through Carol's. They met Monica on the path back to the SUV. Sometimes Maria missed her muscle car, but between all the modifications that she, Carol, and Stark’s young protégé, Williams, had made to the Range Rover, it practically ran like a supercharged Camaro anyway.

The sun was making its way through the clouds and each woman slipped on a pair of aviators to dampen the brightness. The matching actions set off a round of soft giggles. "So, where are you off to?" Maria asked as she tucked one of Monica's loose dreadlocks over her shoulder.

"Headed up to New York actually. Gotta’ call from a friend of mine, Luke. Said something about checking into some vampire thing."

Carol's jaw dropped open. "Say what now?"

"Did you say-" Maria started.

Monica rolled her eyes and shrugged a shoulder. "Eh, I mean it seems crazy, but at this point…" They all nodded as she trailed off. "I mean I've been impaled on a spear by an 8-foot tall alien lady. I'm ready for anything." She smiled a cocksure grin that matched Carol's.

Maria couldn't help the involuntary bristle of her shoulders. That was a memory that she was appreciative of, only because it didn't end in the worst way possible. It also happened to be the first of only a few memories she remembered immediately after the Thanos-incident. Like a sleeping princess, she had been awoken from a daze with a kiss, only to find out in the next breath that her suddenly superpowered daughter was on the front lines of another alien war ravaging the Earth.

For a moment, Maria’s mind flashed with the dull orange fog that she and countless others had wandered around in aimlessly for what seemed an endless amount of time. Much later she would learn about soul stones and realms, and the great lengths it took a handful of heroes to go to in order to return them all to the world. The flashes of orange fog have lessened over the years, but they are always accompanied by her first clear memory: the breaking of the fog with a shattering of gold beams and then a blast of unmistakable blue, red, and yellow light.

Seeing the dark brown eyes glaze over, Carol ran a hand down Maria's arm and the warmth of her palms against her forearms brought her back to the present. She didn’t have to ask. Carol just tangled their fingers together and tugged her closer. The moment passed and with her head inclined toward Monica, she changed the subject. "So, who's this Luke?" She was not subtle.

Monica chuckled. "A friend."

"A friend? What kind of friend? And speaking of friends, whatever happened to Adam?"

Monica held up her hands as her mama rattled off her questions. "Adam? Mama, that was like three years ago!"

Maria lifted her right arm in a gesture of 'so what?'. "What's three years to the man who saved your life?!"

Monica shoved her hands in her pockets and dramatically spun on her heels as if that would somehow stop the onslaught of her mother's questions. She looked over at Carol for help. "Mama, seriously? It was three years ago, it's done. I've moved on."

She scoffed. "What's three years? And we worry about you." She reached out and tugged on her arm. "And three years is nothing. I waited for six."

"Oh-my-God," Monica whined and let her head loll back, she looked to the sky. She couldn’t help but think that it would take very little energy to simply shift out of this moment. No need for invisibility here, she could just take off into the sunlight.

Carol snickered and attempted to rescue her daughter. "Stop being so dramatic. Your mama and I just want you to be happy and make sure you're taking care of the other important stuff. Saving the world is great and all-

Monica glared at her parents behind mirrored shades as she finished the statement, "but how great is it, if nobody's there with you." She groused playfully. She knew her parents meant well, but they were still annoying. "Guys, I know, and I get it. And trust me, I'm dating."

She paused and then added after a beat, "when I have time." She adjusted the soft headband that she used to tie back her hair. "Don't worry, I'm not being a monk like mom." She winked at her mother.

"Hey! I waited because I knew deep down that this stubborn pain in my ass was still out there." It was a sweet fiction and they all knew it.

Carol blushed and then pulled her wife into a hug. She dramatically swooned. "You waited for me? That's amazing. Aww, that's just amazing." She kissed Maria's cheek.

Maria leaned into the kiss, but also lifted her glasses and shot her daughter a glare. "Mama, I think it's beautiful you waited six years for your great love to return." She practically sang out the words. Monica was doing her best to bait her mother.

She pointed at her smart-ass of a daughter. "You were all the dating I had time for, my love."

"Uh-huh." She turned her head towards a suspiciously quiet Carol. "And how did you fare for six whole years without the love of your life?"

The mirrored aviators hid what they all knew were wide open eyes. "Huh? What? This is not about me." Maria stepped back and put a hand on her hip as she watched Carol run a hand through her short hair and rest her hand at the back of her neck. "I for one, did not know- And I mean, I was like on a different planet, like where I didn't even know my name - And, yeah, so I'm not even sure what we’re talking about." She spoke quickly and tripped over her words as she searched for a way to dig out of the hole.

Monica held a hand to her mouth to curtail her laughter and Maria just stood with her hand on hip and watched her wife sputter through an attempt to make a sentence. Finally, she had mercy on the other woman. Maria just smiled and wrapped her arms around the slightly shorter woman from behind.

"Baby," she pressed a kiss to her very warm cheek. "Those six years were a lifetime ago." She pressed their cheeks together. "And besides, I'm pretty sure I'm the best you've ever had on this world and probably the next."

With a cocky grin, Carol turned in her wife's arms and planted a firm kiss on her lips. "You got that right." They shared another mostly chaste kiss, but stopped short when Monica let out a mortified groan when she watched Carol nibble on her mama's bottom lip.

"Okay, you two, please break it up. I'm totally still standing here." The two women disengaged from one another and turned to find Monica holding her hands over her eyes.

Maria stepped in front of her daughter and pried her hands away. "It's safe now, I promise."

Monica attempted a pout, but quickly gave into the smile tugging at her cheeks. "You guys are ridiculous and I love you."

"You better," Carol began as she came to stand next to Maria. "Or we'll cut you out of the will, Lieutenant Trouble."

Monica stuck out her tongue. "And that's Captain Trouble, thank you very much." Carol stood at attention and saluted. She cracked a smile and they all laughed. "Anyway, I'm going to leave you two to all your space exploits and head east."

Maria frowned a bit, knowing she had to say goodbye to her daughter for the time being. She wouldn't ask her to stay because she knew she wouldn't; so much like Carol in that way. She wrapped her up in a tight embrace and they rocked from side to side for a moment, before Maria pulled back. "You know to call and all that?" Monica just nodded. "Will we see you in December?"

"Yeah you will!" Her toothy grin punctuated her words. "You think I'd miss another Christmas in the Crescent City?"

"Please don't ever do that again," Carol deadpanned. She pulled Monica into a hug and kissed her cheek. "I'm serious," she added as she stepped back. "It was like Defcon 2," she stage- whispered and Monica giggled.

Maria pulled on her belt loop as Carol stepped back. "You know I can hear you right?" Carol just hit her with that dopey smile that made Maria forget what she was ever mad about.

Laughter preceded Monica's words, "I promise I'll be back for Christmas. And, if I play my cards right, maybe even Mardi Gras."

Carol whooped. "Yes!" Her smile spread across her face. "You know they let me do the fireworks now."

Monica nodded her approval. "Know what? Maybe I'll come and help this year."

A ripple of light ran up Carol's body. "That would be amazing. We would so put on a fantastic light show."

Maria looped her arm though Carol's while she watched her high-five Monica. There was no comment necessary to make other than her smile of pride at her two superheroes.

Monica blew kisses at her parents once more and stepped back away from them both to give herself some room. "You two going back to the house tonight?"

Carol and Maria turned to each and simultaneously shrugged. "Eh." They said in unison.

Monica just nodded and took that as a full statement that said, 'we'll see where the road takes us.' She touched her hand to her brow in a quick salute. "I love you guys."

"Love you too, baby."

"Remember, if you can't stay out of trouble...", Carol started.

And Monica finished, "stay safe." Her smile faded as she phased into ultraviolet light with a faint snap and rode the energy wave that would take her East in a matter of minutes.

Carol and Maria waved at the sky one last time before heading towards the parked Range Rover. Carol made to move, but Maria was still staring wistfully at the sky. She waited until she shifted her head. "Hey you, where's your head at?"

Maria grinned and tugged the other woman towards the car. "In the clouds of course. Watching our baby girl fly off." She shook her head in disbelief. "Still amazes me."

"And you amaze me." Carol earned a peck on the cheek for her compliment right before she opened the driver's side door for Maria. The passenger door was already unlocked when she made it to the other side and got in the car. "So, where to my love?"

The engine revved to life and Maria drummed long fingers on the steering wheel. "Definitely hungry, but –"

Carol knew what was coming. "You also want to drive to the base in Baton Rouge and call Hill and ask about Vampires in New York don't you?" There was no judgment in her voice as she looked over at her wife.

For a space of a couple of breaths, Maria said nothing, only tapped her fingertips on the steering wheel and stared out of the windshield. Eventually, she turned her head to the right and smirked. "Yeah, I kinda’ do."

Carol leaned over the armrest and they shared a kiss. She trailed a finger along Maria's jaw line when they pulled apart and snuck in another quick kiss before sitting back and buckling her seat beat. "Alright, let's do this! There's a place to get some shrimp and grits and gumbo once we get past Lake Pontchartrain."

Maria put the car in drive and pulled off. "You know, when you retire for real, maybe we should start a food and travel blog."

Carol rubbed her chin in thought. "Hmm, I like it." She fiddled with the radio. "And just promise that the title and like all the photos will be extra gay."

Maria laughed out loud. "Honey, if you or I are in the photos, trust me it will be super gay."

They both laughed and then gasped in delight as an unmistakable guitar riff came blasting out of the speakers.

 

Fade out....

Chapter Text

2020: Superhero 101

Monica slapped a gloved palm into the Louisiana soil in the backyard of her childhood home. “Fuck!”, she growled.

“Hey now! You’re going to have to stop hanging out with Fury if you’re going to talk like that.” Carol’s feet touched the ground as she walked towards the still kneeling woman. She grinned.

Monica only rolled her eyes and blew out a long breath of frustration. She looked up at the proffered hand and reached out to grip it, allowing the other woman to pull her to her feet. Monica rolled her neck and started moving through a series of stretches. She was ready to go again, but she knew she needed to take a short moment to rest, just in case she sapped her energy again.

They had been outside for about two hours running combat drills, and it was clear neither woman was interested in stopping any time soon. Monica’s initial foray into the world of The Avengers ended abruptly with a spear to her side, so her determination to get back to form and be of use had been her only focus for the past six months.

“Are you still trying to do two different blasts at one time?” Carol asked while watching Monica perform a few stretches.

Monica stretched her fingers and stood up straight. “Nope. We already figured out that doesn’t work. I can only do one energy form at a time. I think I’m just trying to switch between Ultraviolet and Gamma too fast.”

Carol tapped the updated Stark A.I. interface on her forearm. “Okay, then let’s stick with the ultraviolet for the time being.”

As expected, the younger woman sighed. “But I’m sure of that one.”

Carol’s smile was warm and without judgement. “I know you’re sure of it, but you need to master it. It needs to be perfect.” She met a pair of brown eyes that were nearly identical to her own and waited for Monica’s small nod. “Look, you need to have at least one source you can rely on at all times no matter what happens. Whether you can channel it or turn into it, it doesn’t matter, but you need to always have an out. You understand?” Monica nodded firmly. “You ready to go again?”

Monica pushed up the sleeves of her brown trench coat, cracked her knuckles, and looked the other woman in the eye. With a confident smirk, she nodded, “let’s do this Captain Marvel.”

Carol swelled with pride and then she pushed off into the sky. From her perch about 20 feet off the ground, gold and blue swirls of energy pulsed around her, and she gazed down at Monica who stood at the ready. Gloved hands were outstretched, and her brow was scrunched in concentration. “Now, just start with focused blasts. Then remember, if I move, you move.”

Monica just nodded, and Carol nodded back.

“Alright, hit me.”

Brown eyes focused on the bright gold of the star on Carol’s uniform and then after a deep draw of breath she exhaled and sent out of a blast of energy.

The initial pulse pushed her back, but she remained at a steady hover until the blast receded. “Good. Now, see if you can pulse it.”

Right before Monica could send out another pulse, she heard Maria’s yell from the bedroom. Carol dropped from the sky with a small thud and waved off Monica, before the younger woman could even move. “I got it this time. Just stay put, I’ll be right back.” She gave Monica a reassuring smile before she dashed into the house.

A frantic "Danvers!" sent her racing up the stairs.

A wide-eyed and slightly perspiring Maria sat up in the bed, scarf askew, and a shock of curly hair sprouting from the open top of the scarf.

Carol was all smiles as she took in the agitated woman. Her demeanor was calm and patient, just as they had all practiced. It had almost been a full year since Maria’s return - a year full of therapy, nightmares, and sometimes panic attacks. She and Monica both knew the drill. There was no pity or surprise in her voice, only the bright and genuine happiness of seeing Maria in their own bed and not confined to the plain, sterile walls of the room in the infirmary that she had lain in for three weeks.

"Hey, pretty lady." Her voice was soft, so as not startle the woman further.

Glassy, dark brown eyes nearly on the verge of tears darted about unfocused until they alighted on the familiar face. Freshly cropped blonde hair was plastered back like it had been under a ball cap for hours. Maria blinked her eyes a few times while taking shallow, quick breaths. She leaned back on her outstretched arms with the sheets tangled around her legs.

Carol moved quickly to the bed where she sat down and immediately cupped Maria's face in her hands. She had learned from doctors at the newly reformed S.H.I.I.E.L.D initiative, that her most immediate job was to ground Maria and provide an anchor whenever she had an episode. Together they quickly learned that Maria most readily preferred the touch of the other woman. A hand, an arm, lips, or simply skin. Carol touched their foreheads together and breathed her in. She could feel rather than see Maria take in a shaky breath of her own.

Carol sat back and eased her hands away from Maria's face, leaving one hand to rest over the woman's rapidly beating heart, and with her other hand she took Monica's left hand and pulled it to her chest, so that her palm rested against the steady thumping.

"Hey, you," her smile never faltered. "I'm here. You're here. We're here." Her tone was light and confident. Bright brown eyes waited and watched as Maria's warm brown eyes finally focused and she seemed to take Carol in all at once.

She startled a bit, but Carol held tight. Maria exhaled. "What time is it?" She sat up fully and her hand still rested against the anchor of Carol's chest. With her free hand she rubbed at her cheek like a sleepy toddler.

"It's about 3."

She could feel Maria's heart pick up. "Wow, I really slept."

Carol shrugged, signaling that it wasn't a big deal that she had been cocooned and asleep in the bed since midnight. "Eh, nothing wrong with rest."

Maria started to nod and then she looked down and realized that Carol was wearing her suit. "Wh-what's happened? Why-Why are you dressed?" Her head twisted back and forth as she looked around the room. “Where's Monica? What's happened?"

Carol held firm to Maria's hand even as she tried to pull away, and she let her other hand remain where she could feel the frantic beat of her heart. Her voice was calm, and she kept her smile. "Everything's fine. I'm not going anywhere and Monica's out back." She nodded her head slowly and waited until Maria's eyes focused on hers. "I'm here." She waited a beat. "You're here." She waited another beat. "We're here. Nothing's happening. I promise."

Maria finally nodded back. She swallowed hard but began to relax at the familiar mantra. The words acted as verbal breadcrumbs to guide her back to safety, back to Carol, and back to herself. Although her time in the Soul Realm had only accounted for weeks, it had felt interminable.

Unstructured and listless she had wandered through the orange haze desperate for a familiar face, only to find the same confusion in every face she met. None of them understood what had happened, but it was clear that they had all been ripped away without a word of warning. Upon her return, it was only Carol and Monica that made any sense, and that was only after constant reminding. All Maria cared about was keeping them both close. In those first two weeks, she remained tethered to one or both of the women unless she was asleep; and even then, she reached out for Carol in her sleep.

Admittedly, it ate at her to not be able to punch her way to a solution. Instead, Carol focused on training Monica and assuming the new leadership position she had been thrust into. She pinballed between her new duties and her duty to her family, and the transition was hardly smooth. She knew she needed to make a decision.

In the end, a spiteful Thanos made her decision moot, when the titan targeted Earth for a last chance at destroying those who had bested him. Carol and Monica both decided to sedate Maria until the danger was over.

Captain Marvel and The Avengers did in five days what a galaxy of naysayers said was impossible.

After the last of Thanos’ forces had been beaten back and the all-clear was given, Carol found herself bloody, bruised, and spent, when she finally sank down into a chair positioned between two hospital beds. To her right, she held tight to Maria’s hand as she slept, and to her left, she kept her other hand wrapped around Monica’s forearm as she slept. Carol had kicked off her boots, slouched down in her seat and slept right along with her family. She would never know that a sword-wielding Asgardian stood watch outside the door and threatened anyone within a 10-foot radius, on pain of death, if they even so much as attempted to bother the Captain.

Presently, Carol kept her eyes locked with Maria’s and never stopped her steady smile. Maria’s pupils were still a bit dilated, her breathing still unsettled. "Hey, will you breathe with me?" Maria gave a slight nod. "Take a breath with me." Carol slowly drew in a breath and Maria followed suit. They exhaled together and she could already feel Maria's erratic heartbeat slowing its jagged pace. "Can we take one more?" This time she let Maria start and they both drew in a chest swelling breath. "Hold," she softly prodded. "And let it out." Once again, they exhaled together. Carol could feel both their heartbeats return to normal and dark brown eyes were more focused. Carol just smiled. "Can I get one more breath?" she asked.

Maria's grin was small, and she nodded. Once more they drew in a deep breath at the same time, held it, and then let it go. Maria closed her eyes and rested her free hand along the column of Carol's neck. "I'm good now. Thanks."

Slowly and a little reluctantly, Carol let her hand drop. She waited for Maria to open her eyes once more. She smiled. "Hi there. What do you want to do today?"

Maria's responding smile was a full one. She leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss to Carol's lips. "Well, firstly, I should probably get out of this bed."

Carol waggled her eyebrows. "I mean, we don't have to get out of the bed."

Maria chuckled and tugged on the other woman's ears as she pulled her in for another kiss. They broke apart with a pleasant hum. "You are such a horn dog, you know that."

"Can you blame me?" She nipped at Maria's bottom lip and they both laughed.

With a sigh Maria sat back and dragged her scarf from her hair, loosing soft haphazard curls. She had followed Monica's lead years ago and let the perm grow out of her hair, and for now she kept it short, but not quite as short as she imagined she might eventually go. She tousled her frizzy curls and winked at her wife. "The bed will be here later."

"You sure?" Carol teased and then leaned forward, trapping Maria against the pillows and the headboard while peppering her exposed collar bone with kisses. Maria giggled, but did not push Carol away. Getting out of bed was certainly a priority, but Carol could convince of her just about anything. Unfortunately, her growing desires were quickly dampened by a loud voice.

"What is happening!?" The sound of Monica's perturbed voice filled the stairwell before she even made it into the hallway that led to the bedrooms. "Mommy! C'mon! You just left me outside!" She whined. "What is even--

Her words stopped abruptly once she finally reached the open door of her parents’ bedroom. And to no one's surprise, she saw the back of Carol's layered blonde hair as she nuzzled her mother's neck. Maria just laughed and pushed at Carol.

"Oh, come on you two!" Monica waved her hands in the air and then folded her arms across her chest. "Y'all are like two teenagers. Sheesh!" She did a poor job of keeping the smile off her face. She was happy her parents were alive and well, and she honestly only kept up the complaining because it had become a running joke. They had embarrassed her once as a 17-year old in front of her then boyfriend, and not a chance went by when she didn't have to relive how mortified she and her date (well, maybe him not so much) had been at walking in on her parents making out.

Carol sighed dramatically. "Way to mess me up, kiddo." She followed her words with a wink.

"Ugh. Whatever." She rolled her eyes and then quickly smiled at her mother. "How are you, mama?"

Maria smiled up at her daughter as she swung her legs off the bed and flexed her calves. "I'm awake now, so that's good."

Carol stood up and let Monica take up the spot she had vacated. She slung an arm around her mother’s shoulders and kissed her cheek. "Welp, now that you are up, you should come outside with us!" Monica's toothy smile still hadn't changed.

Maria eyed the two women warily. "Oh yeah. What are you two up to?" She glared at Carol.

"Just a little training for Miss Photon blasts over here."

Maria shook her head. "Oh boy. This sounds like trouble in the making."

"No trouble at all." Monica smiled and then reached out to pull gently at her mama’s curls, playing with the shock of hair that stood on end.

Maria swatted at her hand. "Girl, what are you doing in my hair?"

Maria leaned away, but Monica followed as she ruffled her curls into some semblance of a poofy afro. Maria tried to dodge her, but gave up. "If you don't stop," she said with a laugh.

Finally, Monica relented. "I just like your new 'do. The curls are working."

Maria rolled her eyes. "You know you have curls of your own, Miss dreadlocks." She grabbed a lock and gently tugged before she let go and stood from the bed. She stretched and shook out her arms.

Monica just looked to the ceiling. "This is way less maintenance, I swear."

Her parents answered in unison, "no, it's not." They all laughed.

"Any. Way," Monica started. "How about you take a shower and meet us out back."

"It's going to be a good time," Carol offered as she watched Maria head towards the en suite bathroom.

Monica nodded enthusiastically. "Yep. You can come watch me beat up Captain Marvel." She made fists of her hands and punched at the air like she was a 19th century pugilist.

"Oh really?!" Carol challenged. She then moved off the wall and towards Maria who was lingering outside the bathroom door.

"Oh Lord, should I call the fire department now or later." Maria eyed both women as she held onto the doorframe.

Carol blushed. "That was one time."

Maria scoffed. "That was three weeks ago." Carol had the good sense to just look sheepish instead of attempting a snarky retort.

"No fires. Promise. Just come outside with us, please?"

Maria looked from Monica to Carol. "Just a little practice. She needs some confidence," Carol added conspiratorially.

Monica was on her feet and narrowing her eyes at the smirking woman. She poked Carol in her arm and the intentional spark of energy surprised her more than hurt her. "Ow-ow-ow!", she half wailed and half laughed. "That hurt."

"Hey!" Maria warned from the doorway of the bathroom. "No fires in the bedroom!"

Carol's lip curled up in sly smile. "Well, actually -

Monica yelped and held her hand up. "Un-uh! Nope! Don't even say it!" She pressed her fingers together in a 'zip it' gesture as Carol went to respond. "Don't even do it. Can we please go outside, now?"

"Oh, come on! That was going to be a great joke!" Carol whined and bounced on her toes.

Maria just laughed and walked into the bathroom and closed the door.

Monica shook her head. "I don't want to hear it. Now, let's go. You promised me outside." She folded her arms across her chest defiantly.

"Ha! It's like you're 12 again! I love it." Carol threw her head back in laughter.

"Baby, please stop teasing her!" Maria called from behind the closed door. "I will meet you guys downstairs in about 15 minutes.”

Monica gestured towards the door. "See. Now, let's go."

Carol sighed but didn't move. "Are you waiting for me?"

"Yes, yes I am." Monica looked at her pointedly. "In fact, I'm escorting you." A snort of laughter was her response. "I'm serious! If I walk away right now, you are just going to turn around and go into the bathroom and we both know it."

Mouth agape, Carol furrowed her brow, appearing to contemplate a retort. She couldn't quite form words that weren't a lie. Monica just pursed her lips and hit her with a look that said, "I dare you to say otherwise."

"Tell me I'm wrong." She waited a breath and watched as the other woman's upper lip twitched. "See. I know you. I know you both, so let's go." Her smug smile was triumphant.

Carol fought the smile and pouted a bit. "I-," she began boldly. "Am not-" ,she kept going, but then stopped herself as she looked at Monica's arched eyebrow. "Yeah, I was totally going in there." Her cheeks were nearly as read as the colors on her suit. She just smiled.

Monica rolled her eyes. "After you, mother!" She waved a hand towards the door and waited until the older woman shuffled through the door, wherein she quickly followed behind.
---

When Maria finally made it to the back porch with a tray of waters, she was greeted with a small light show. Monica was firing pulses of light from her hand and basically targeting Carol. The energy force field she was enveloped in absorbed or refracted the light to make for a frenzy of bouncing colors. Maria could only blink her eyes in wonder. This was all still new to her and despite Monica's explanations that theoretically she understood, it was still a sight to behold to see her child turn into pure energy.

She sat the tray of drinks down beside her and took a seat on the steps of the back porch. She wore a strappy sundress, so she wrapped her arms around her shins as she rested her chin on bent knees and watched the show. Carol hovered off the ground by about 30 feet, blonde hair, billowing and floating as the energy of the tesseract flowed around her body.

"Alright, kiddo, let's try this on the move," she called down towards Monica, who was down on one knee. She wore skin tight black leggings and knee-high black boots that blended in with her pants. Underneath her tan trench coat, she wore a white shirt with a black star emblazoned on it. From Maria’s vantage point it looked like a bigger version of the star on Carol's suit. Maria ginned and reminded herself to ask about that at some point. For now, she just sipped tea and watched Monica attempt to hit Carol as she darted and twirled and twisted about. It was dizzying for Maria to watch, who tried to track Carol as if she was in the cockpit of a Quinn Jet. It was tough to get a bead on her and Monica's frustration was evident in her loud grunts and errant blasts.

"C'mon Monica," Carol growled. "Concentrate. Focus that energy and hit me damn it. You are faster and stronger than this." A photon zipped past Carol's ear. "Nice try. Do it again! And don't miss!" She was baiting her.

Monica furrowed her brow and let out a guttural scream before she disappeared into a ball of light.

Carol froze in mid-air and Maria stood up from the stairs slack-jawed.

In the next blink of an eye, a screaming pulse of light careened into Carol and sent her tumbling out of the sky. An errant blast of energy zipped through the air and split a tree a few hundred yards away.

Maria moved quickly down the steps and jogged out into the yard where she found the two women sprawled out in the grass about 100 feet apart. Maria looked towards Monica who emitted a groan while lying flat on her back.

She heard Carol's muffled, "I'm good" just as she turned to head towards Monica. She knelt down and with a hand to her daughter’s back she eased the younger woman into a sitting position. "You okay?' Maria's eyes roamed quickly over her daughter for signs of discomfort.

She watched as Monica grabbed at her side, the same side where one of Thanos' Midnight Children enforcers had impaled her a year ago. Maria bit her lip in an effort not to crumble into a fit of nerves. She took a breath. Monica need her strength and support not her collapse. "That was something new, wasn't it?"

Monica grinned and looked at her mama. "I'll say." Her attention was drawn to Carol who came to stand in front of her. She held her hand out for Monica to take. Monica, with a small grin, reached up to grip her hand an allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. "So, did I hit you?" Her tone was only a touch smug.

Carol said nothing for a moment, as Maria stood and they all waited. Brown eyes bored into Monica's and then finally a smirk broke across Carol's lips. She wrapped her arm around Monica in a side hug. "You are going to be a whole heap of trouble when you master this, you know that right?" She kissed her forehead. “Harness that feeling and bend it to your will. You don’t tamp it down. Use it.” Monica nodded, and they bumped fists.

With relieved and delighted smiles from both her parents, Monica found herself enveloped in their embrace. Finally, they separated and headed towards the porch without prompting.

"What was that by the way? Ultraviolet? Or electricity maybe?" It felt like every month they were discovering a new facet to her powers.

Monica shook her head as she took the offered glass of water from her mama. "Not sure." She was breathing quickly and then took a deep drink. "I think it was maybe the ultraviolet, but there's also the radio waves, microwaves, and whatever else is out here.”

"Impressive by any standard," Maria encouraged.

Monica just ducked her head at the support. "But mommy's right," she looked in Carol's direction. "I need to figure out how to focus it out of my hand. I mean, I am kind of wiped."

Carol tapped her water glass against her daughter's. "Well, we'll keep working kid." She winked. "You're going to have to grow into that name you've chosen." She was all smiles.

Monica laughed and dropped down on the porch steps. "I don't know, thinking about changing it now." She tapped her chin as her mama sat down beside her. Carol remained standing with her free hand gripping the belt of her uniform.

"Oh, yeah, what to now?" Her grin was lopsided and playful.

Monica sucked her tooth. "Honestly, I'm thinking I should just take Captain Marvel."

Carol gasped, and Maria laughed.

"Seems only fitting," Monica added nonchalantly, before she sipped from her water.

Carol scoffed. "So, you're just going to take my name? Just like that?" There was gentle amusement in her words. In truth, she'd be happy if the woman she helped raised wanted to assume the moniker. Not only would it be an honorable gesture, but then maybe she could retire faster. However, for the moment, she was enjoying the banter. “So, you’re just not even going to write me a letter or put in a formal request in like an email. Hell, call me and let me know." She punctuated her words with her empty water glass.

A nonplussed Monica just stared at her with a wry smile on her lips. "Call you?! Ha! I know where you live!" She stuck out her tongue and they all dissolved into a round of laughter.

Carol held her sides from laughter as she sat down on the other side of Maria and rested her head on her shoulder. Maria's worried voice disrupted the amused moment. "Um, does that look like a fire to you two?”

Maria pointed above the trees to a plume of black smoke. Carol sat up straight. "Black smoke is never good." She patted Maria's knee before meeting her eyes. "Just going to hover and see. You two go inside. It's probably a grill fire." She waited for Maria to nod and then watched as both women walked inside the house, Monica guiding her mother with a hand in the small of her back.

Carol rose high in the sky and made a quick path to the smoke. She hovered for a moment, taking in the damage and then immediately turned for home.

Maria practically jumped out of her sandals as Carol burst through the back door and started zipping out of her suit. Monica sat up from the couch with sparks in her eyes.

Carol hopped around on one foot as she stepped out of her pants and kicked off her boots. She shoved the now rumpled suit into Maria's hands. "If anybody asks, I'm not here." With that, a half-naked Carol bounded up the steps and closed the bedroom door.

Monica and Maria shared stunned looks. Before either could question what was happening, a heavy knock at the front door caused them both to jump. Nobody moved for a breath.

Another knock came. "Um, uh, Mrs. Rambeau, it’s Sheriff Balor. Damn it, I mean Mrs. D-Danvers, um, could yo-

The front door swung open before he could get the words out.

A fresh-faced, smiling Maria Rambeau opened the door to the youthful red-haired Sheriff Balor. "Hey! Sheriff!" Her greeting was way too loud.

The young Sheriff removed his hat and scuffed his shoe on the door mat. "Hiya, this evening. Ma'am." He was nervous. "I am so sorry to bother you, but um," he scratched at the back of his neck. 'Um, would your, your uh, your wife, Mrs. Danvers, um, would she be home?"

Monica leaned against the doorway and shook her head. "Oh, no, I'm sorry. She's actually not here right now. Can I help?"

He looked down at his hat and then back up and then past Maria where he could see into the living room. "Is that Miss Monica?" He gave a wave. "Hey there."

Monica responded from the couch. "Hey, there Sheriff! Good to see you."

"You too, Miss." He looked back at Maria. "Sorry, for the bother, I just- well, something kind of weird happened."

"Really?" Maria sounded concerned. From the couch, Monica turned her head so as not to laugh at her mother. "Anything I can do?"

"Well, it's just that there was some kind of lighting-laser blast that came out of the sky and um, well, it kind of shattered my car."

Monica sat up with a squeak. "What!?"

Maria waved her daughter off. "It's fine Monica, you just rest." She stepped out onto the porch and left the door ajar.

"Oh, ma'am, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bother you guys, it's just that-

She reached out and touched a comforting hand to his shoulder. "Believe me, I know Sheriff. It can be scary out here."

The young Sheriff sighed. "After everything, you know, it's just safer to be on alert, and I figured since Captain Marvel is around." He almost whispered the words as if it was a secret.

Maria gave him a warm smile and patted his shoulder once more. "Understood. Unfortunately, she's not here at the moment. But I'll give her call and let her know to check it."

His eyes grew big. "Oh. You can make calls and stuff out there?" He pointed to the sky.

Maria chuckled. "Actually, she's at the base."

"Oh." He seemed a little deflated. "Oh, well, that's good too."

She backed towards the door. "How about I give her a call and she'll check into this laser/lightning thing." The young man nodded. "I'm sure it's absolutely nothing."

"I'm sure you're right, but with everything-

She finished for him, "it's better to be safe."

"Well, alright." He put his hat back on. "Good to see you." He looked over the woman's shoulder. "Good to see you, Miss Monica. And uh, hey, if you're still around next week there's a Church Bazaar."

Maria’s smile was downright devilish. "Oh, she will be here, Sheriff. Guaranteed."

The young man stood up straight and smiled. "Thanks again, Mrs. Rambeau. I mean, Mrs. Danvers.” He winced and then quickly added, “Have a good night." He nodded and turned to head back down the walkway.

Maria watched him get further down the lane until she closed and locked the door.

She turned to find Monica hiding under the blanket on the couch. "Danvers!" She kept her eyes on Monica who began to peek out from under her temporary armor. "Living room. Now."

Dressed in boxers and a faded Luscious Jackson t-shirt, Carol padded on bare feet into the living room. She plopped down next to Monica on the couch, and Maria sat across from them on the armrest of the chair. Dark brown eyes swept over both women for an eerily silent minute. Finally, she pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed.

"So." The one syllable word seemed to shake the house. "Seems you two broke Sheriff Balor's car."

Carol looked up with puppy dog eyes before speaking, "Technically, it was more like a laser or photon if you will, that cleaved his car in two."

Monica just hung her head and buried her face in her hands.

Maria just stared at her wife. "Really, baby?" She was exasperated, but she also really just wanted to laugh. Carol shrugged and showed all her teeth in a weird grimace smile. Maria sighed and shook her head at the two chagrined women before her.

"Ok, here's what's going to happen." She waited until Monica looked up. "You," she pointed her finger at Monica, "are going to call base and get the Sheriff a shiny new car with all the bells and whistles."

She then pointed at Carol. "And you, are going to go back over there and clean up that mess and assure the Sheriff that there's not another damn invasion. Lest, he go call in NASA and the National Guard." Both women nodded and made to move. Maria's raised hand stopped them both. "And I want you both to promise me that you won’t be doing any more training in the back yard, front yard, or anybody's yard. Any training happens in the desert. Or, in space for that matter."

Two sets of chastened brown eyes looked down and then up at Maria. "Am I clear?" Maria eyed both women until they nodded in agreement. Silence descended on the room for a few breaths and then Maria clapped her hands together. “Today, ladies.” Carol and Monica jumped into action, scurrying up the stairs and into the kitchen, respectively. It had been nearly a decade since she had trained recruits, but Captain Rambeau could still command the room.

Maria let out a huff and slid off the arm of the chair until she sat fully in the chair. She stretched out her legs and rested her feet on the coffee table and let her head rest against the cushion of the seat. She closed her eyes and with a smile on her face she listened to Monica pacing the kitchen and asking questions about police cruisers into her phone. She could also hear Carol moving around as she zipped up her suit and stepped into her boots.

All too soon, soft lips pressed against her forehead and she fluttered her eyes open to find Carol smiling down at her dreamily.

“Penny for your thoughts, pretty lady.”

Maria smiled. “Thinking about insurance.”

Carol frowned. “Huh?”

“I have a feeling that we don’t have nearly enough coverage for whatever messes you two are going to get into.”

She pursed her lips in thought and then nodded. “Yeah, you’re probably right.” She leaned down and bumped her nose against Maria’s. “How about I pick up some po’boys and apology beignets?”

Maria squirmed with delight in the chair. She lifted up and kissed the corner of Carol’s mouth. “And make sure you pick up some for the poor Sheriff.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Carol raised her fingers to her brow and saluted her wife. “Be back in 30.”

Maria just nodded as she watched Carol head for the front door. “Make it 20 and maybe I’ll forgive you sooner.”

Carol’s head whipped around as she heard a very clear promise in Maria’s voice. There was just something about the way her Louisiana accent curled around the ‘maybe’, and how her voice dropped an octave. Plus, if she had missed any of that, the gleam in those warm brown eyes was unmistakable.

The screen door slammed into the door frame on account of Carol bursting out of it like she was on fire. If she pushed it, she could make it back in 15.

 

Fade out…