“You never thought to bring this up before?” Tony asked Thor.
“No. It sort of popped into my head when Natasha and I were talking last night.”
Thor had told them at the breakfast table that he believed that even Thanos had been used by someone or something to achieve an endgame that they did not yet know about.
Steve leaned forward. “Let me get this straight – you think that when we kill Thanos and take the gauntlet that something worse will happen?”
“I don’t know if it’ll be worse, but I do believe there is more to it all than we know.”
Steve shook his head. “Does it end sometime? I feel like I’ve been fighting this same battle since I became Captain America.”
“You may have,” Thor said. “I think this is a long game.”
“So do we give up on the Titan trip?” Banner asked.
“I don’t think we can,” Natasha said. “We still want our friends back and the only thing that will help us there is to reverse what that gauntlet and the stones did.”
Rocket came in at that time with his baby Groot in his pot.
“Hey all, I want you to meet Groot. I had a splinter in my pocket and I planted it.”
Everyone looked surprised, but seeing the tiny tree being brought a much needed smile to the faces around the table.
“I am Groot,” the tiny fellow chirped.
Thor nodded. “Of course we will take you with us if you wish to go.”
Tony’s phone buzzed. He got up and walked away from the table for a moment. When he came back, he said, “That was Rhodey. He was at Avengers HQ in New York when Scott Lang showed up. He’d been in the Quantum Realm all this time. It appears Hank Pym and Janet and Hope van Dyne were dusted. He wants to join us. So does Rhodey.”
“Perhaps it’s time we moved the show to New York for the last part of getting ready,” Steve said.
“I have new suits there…they are a new color scheme and will be good for space travel. I was going to have them sent here anyway before we take off,” Tony said.
Within days, they had moved to the Avengers facility in upstate New York. They had flown everyone who wanted to go to the facility. Rocket had piloted the ship and under direction from Tony, had done a flyover of New York City.
“There are many more humans than I realized,” Nebula said. After all she had seen, she seemed impressed with the city as they flew over New York Harbor then around the city and up to the Avengers HQ.
FRIDAY greeted them all as they entered the building.
“Hello, Avengers. Welcome home, Boss.”
“Hello again, FRIDAY. Are Rhodey and Lang here?”
“Yes sir, they are waiting in the conference room for you.”
Tony led them all to the conference room. Steve was the first to greet Lang, patting him on the back as a hello. He nodded at Rhodes.
Tony did introductions all around and everyone was staring at Carol Danvers by the end of them.
“Uh, Ms. Danvers? I don’t even know what your powers are. I assume you have powers…”
“I was made from the power of the Tesseract when Mar-Vell’s plane blew up. Then I got a Kree blood transfusion, making me a hybrid so I can, um, create cosmic energy. I can fly, burn, shoot, and I’m really, really strong.”
“So all of us combined?” Steve asked.
She nodded. “And then some.”
“No wonder Fury called you,” Banner said.
She nodded. “Yep.”
Tony just stared for a moment. “You can fly? Like Superman?”
She grinned and nodded. “Yep. I don’t need a ship.”
“Can I – we see?”
“Sure. We should go outside maybe,” Carol said lightly.
They all filed out to the landing strip. Carol Danvers shot up into the night sky then she became engulfed in flame and she flew over and around them all at an ever increasing speed for several minutes.
Her entire audience was completely speechless by the time she floated to a landing in front of them. She looked over at Stark. ”Was that what you wanted to see?” she asked with a smile.
Tony nodded. He had no words for what he’d just seen.
“Do you think there is another being out there controlling Thanos?” Steve asked Tony as they got ready for bed.
“I don’t know. I can’t argue that there may be a bigger plan. Why was Thanos compelled to destroy half the universe? For a few trees? I don’t think so. It would have to be someone or something very powerful to manipulate a Titan. He’s stronger than Thor, or you.”
“Carol Danvers may give us a fighting chance.”
“She’s amazing. To think Fury had that secret all those years,” Tony said.
Steve lay down beside Tony, pulled the covers up. He was very still for a few seconds then he said. “Have you considered that one or both of us might not come back from this?”
Tony pulled Steve into his arms. “Forever won’t be enough time for me to love you. You know that, but if I have to go, I want to go by your side, doing what we do.”
Steve didn’t say anything for a long time. Tony thought he might have gone to sleep.
“I was really a man out of time with no family, no life when I was thawed out. Hell, I was a man without any of those things when I went into the ice. I loved Peggy, but we both knew I wasn’t ever going to be allowed to have a real life with her, with anyone.” He raised his head from Tony’s embrace. “You gave me more than I thought I’d have. To say I’m sorry for Siberia is – well, there aren’t any words to tell you how sorry I am.”
“That doesn’t matter anymore, Steve. That is over and done. I love you here and now. That’s all we have, all we ever had. Let’s not waste it.”
Steve nodded and turned off the light.