Laura doesn’t like the tattoos. Clint always knew she wouldn’t; he isn’t so sure he likes them himself, anymore. He got them as a different man, a hollow one - each stab of the needle a reminder, a reprimand. They got Thanos; you get me. He hadn’t had a code, hadn’t counted his kills, except like this - for every bloodbath, he got a new piece.
He doesn’t think he likes the sleeve anymore, but he knows he has one more debt to settle. The woman is a black silhouette, blotting out the rest of the canvas that is his skin. He outlines her in red, red, red - not for her ledger. For her hair. For her lips. For her laugh.
Laura unwraps it carefully when the waiting period is up, traces the lines with reverent fingers. He doesn’t mind the ache, not when it’s her. Not when it’s them. “She’s beautiful,” she says, voice low and uneven, eyes shining, about to spill over.
“She was,” Clint agrees, and laces his fingers through hers.
Scott missed Cassie’s junior prom by three weeks. He knows it’s nothing in the grand scheme of things, not really, knows that other people have missed more, that there will always be a greater tragedy than a white middle class dad not getting to complain about the cut of his daughter’s prom dress. He should be grateful, he is grateful; he’s alive, isn’t he? Hope’s alive, Hank’s alive, Cassie’s alive.
But he missed it. He missed her first day at high school, her first kiss, her first break up. He missed the transition of his little girl into this- this woman, this beautiful, brilliant stranger who lost her dad right when she needed him the most.
“I’m sorry, baby,” he croaks, when she starts crying hysterically in the middle of dinner, BLTs like he used to make for them every Friday, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry-”
He has time to make this right again. It’s just- he doesn’t have the right time. He’s never getting those years back. She’s never getting those years back. None of them, none of them, are getting those years back. Five hours, it had felt like to him, while she had been getting drunk at high school parties and piercing her own ears and picking out a prom dress. Five fucking hours; five goddamn years.
“It’s okay,” she says through her tears (god, she’s brave. She’s always been brave, and he’s always known it, but has she always been this brave? This strong? He never wanted her to have to be) and smiles. “I just- missed this.”
“Me too,” he says it like a promise, “me too.”
Peter doesn’t recognise half his class when he goes to school for the first time after- after. There’s Ned, thank god, and MJ, and goddamn Flash, but there’s also kids whose faces are completely new to him. Half his friends on Facebook are in their twenties, just like that, with jobs and degrees and partners and facial hair in a blink of an eye.
Mr. Harrington spends the first academic decathlon session of the year crying. The ones who didn’t get snapped - who lived in a half-world for five years, who were eleven fucking years old two goddamn days ago - cluster awkwardly in the corner. Peter doesn’t blame them; seeing teachers cry is weird.
At least this time, he thinks, memories of black suits and bouquets blurring together in his mind’s eye, they were tears of happiness. Peter has a feeling that everybody on Earth has cried enough for several lifetimes, these past few days, these past five years. Aunt May had gathered him up in her arms, and Peter had been shocked by how frail she felt, by the deepened lines around her mouth, by the streaks of grey in her long hair.
It’s been too long. It hasn’t been long enough. Peter thinks he’s going to be struggling to walk this line for the rest of his life.
Sometime over the last five years, Rocket and Nebula became friends. Good friends. True friends. Friends like he and Groot had been, a lifetime ago, friends like Rocket had thought he’d never have again when Thanos snapped his fingers. Friends who have each other’s backs in a firefight and cried over glasses of cheap alcohol together and get stupidly competitive over a game of paper football. Friends who grow together, because there’s no one else to grow with.
He’s not used to having a full ship again. It’s loud, and wonderful, and so much. “I forgot,” he says to Nebula, down in the workshop, the only place the two of them are completely without company anymore, “how it felt.” He doesn’t know how else to say it, but Nebula nods like she understands anyway.
Because Rocket has changed. He’s lost everything and everyone he loved, and he came out better than expected, and now they’re back he wonders if that makes him a bad person. Because he loved them, loves them, but sometimes they look at him like they aren’t quite sure who he is.
It’s been five years; five long, long years. For him and Nebula and Thor, at least. For the rest of them, it’s been no time at all - no, that’s not fair. Gamora is out of time too. She is as stabby and sharp edged as she ever was, back at the beginning, and Quill is trying to woo her like the lovesick idiot he is. It’s entertaining, if nothing else.
Thor, too, has changed. They parted ways before, but they had at least both lived through the aftermath even if it had been on opposite ends of the galaxy, had borne the weight of those lost years on their shoulders, albeit separately. Thor is trying to become the man he used to be, or at least resemble him again, and Rocket wishes he had the strength to do the same. Thor has been a prince and a god for millenia, and only a depressed drunk for less than a decade; Rocket has been a science experiment gone wrong for a scant handful of years, more of them spent alone than not. He’s a little afraid that this is just who he is now, that he’s been like this too long to go back.
But this is his family. This is his family. He remembers that movie from Terra that Quill made them watch before they left his backwater planet that maybe, maybe was once Rocket’s backwater planet too. (This is my family, I found it all on my own. It is little and broken, but still good, yeah. Still good.) So, it’s Rocket and a Norse god with a drinking problem, two assassins who are learning to be sisters, a literal idiot, an insect-woman, a man stupid enough to try and bring a woman who can dice him into pieces mixtapes and Groot, who still won’t eat his goddamn fertilizer.
He’s gonna make it his again. Soon. He just needs to get the hang of this whole ‘other people’ thing again.
Morgan knows who her dad is, who he was. She’s seen hundreds of interviews, watched that hologram will of his over and over until she knows it word for word. He’s got her eyes and her nose (because they are hers now, even if they were technically his first) and yet-
She has very few memories of her own, and what she does have she can’t be entirely certain she hasn’t made up. She knows that’s something brains can do.
Tony Stark lived, and she’s got half a world to show for it. Tony Stark loved her, and he left her because he loved her, and Morgan wishes sometimes - when she’s feeling angry and sulky and mean - that he’d stayed. There are kids at school who were in first grade the same year she was born; every single one of them is back because of her dad. Their parents too, and Uncle Clint’s family, and Spider Peter, and Harley who made mud cakes with her, and the president and- so many people. More than she could ever count, even if she used a calculator and all her fingers and toes.
But Morgan hadn’t known they were missing from the world when she was little. She’d had her mom and her dad and the lake house, and her best friend Layla from preschool, and she’d never wanted anything more.
She wants her dad back, even though she knows it’s selfish. She wants her dad back, even though she knows he chose the world, not her. She wants her dad back, because so many people tell her that she should be proud of him, of what he did, but all Morgan hears is that she should be happy that he died. She wants her dad back, because she wants to know if she made up the way he smelled or not. She wants her dad back, because she didn’t get to say goodbye. She wants her dad back, just because.
She makes Uncle Rhodey a father’s day card at school. It’s not the same.