Thanos had the Gauntlet – it looked used up and dry now, but he still wore it on his hand.
Carol, Thor and Iron Man attacked, followed by Rocket and Nebula. The others joined in as Steve went for the Gauntlet. He pulled as they continued their relentless attack on the Titan. He was still strong but not really a match for Thor and Carol together.
Nebula’s rage made her stronger than she had ever been. She screamed like a banshee as she attacked her adopted father.
The others were not idle either as they all attacked as Captain America pulled on the Gauntlet.
After what seemed like hours, it gave way, the Titan’s power broken by the strength of his foes. Steve carried it away as the rest of the crew closed in Thanos.
He began to laugh, a hearty if also a bit maniacal laugh. “You aren’t going to get what you think you will. Think hard before you use it, Captain.”
And he seemed to waver a moment and almost allowed himself to be killed by his attackers. By the time they were done, there was little left of the great purple being who had wiped out half of the galaxy on his quest.
They all stood and stared at one another. It was hard to know what to do now.
“Time to back to earth, you idiots,” Rocket shouted with glee and it was.
“Wake up, my child.” He heard the voice of the Ancient One. “It’s time. Your friends have taken the Gauntlet from the Titan.”
“What can I do?” he asked.
“Soon, you will be called upon to help them decide who the Soul Stone will claim in return for the souls it holds. That is why you are here.”
“They defeated him?” he asked.
“It was the plan all along.”
She smiled. “Oh yes, the plan was set in motion millennia ago.”
“By whom?” he asked but he already knew the answer to his question.
She appeared before him and smiled. “The stones are not all just stones, are they?”
He shook his head. “Of course not.”
“One of the stones is not content to simply radiate power. That stone is a collector and it always seeks to better its collection.”
“The Soul Stone,” he said dully. None of this was a surprise to him. He had seen it, but hoped that they could do something to avoid this.
She nodded. “It has half of the souls in the galaxy inside it right now, including your, but it wants another soul and is willing to trade.”
“Am I to negotiate this trade?” Strange asked her.
“You are, my child.”
Wong woke with a start.
He dreamed the Ancient One came to him.
“Help him,” she said and that was all she said.
He got up and made himself a cup of tea. The tea wasn’t quite what he needed so he found the bottle of whiskey in the cabinet and poured a large portion into his cup. He took a sip and winced.
“What have you gotten me into, Strange?”
It wasn’t the last of his dreams that night.
They landed at the New York facility and carried the Gauntlet with its stones into the Avengers Headquarters.
“Now what?” Tony asked.
“We use it,” Steve and Carol said at the same time.
“Do we know it will work?” Bruce asked.
“Do we have a choice?” Steve said.
No one could argue with that. They all gathered around it and looked at it. Everyone jumped when the phone rang. Rhodes answered it. He talked a moment then hung up.
“That was Strange’s colleague, Wong. He says we need his help. He knows we have the Gauntlet and he can help us use it to fix this mess.”
“Tell him to come on up,” Tony said.
They locked the Gauntlet in a sealed chamber.
It was time for showers and to decompress a few hours before they’d meet for a meal and to talk about where they needed to go from here.
A few hours later, they all sat around a table. Wong had arrived as well.
Some of them were eating and some were picking at their food. Wong was wolfing down everything on his plate.
Bruce finally said, “So what news, Wong?”
The librarian nodded, wiped his mouth with his napkin and began to speak. “I have been contacted by the Ancient One in a dream. She says that it is now time to make a trade.”
“A trade?” Steve asked.
“Well, one of you will have to put the Gauntlet on. Once that is done, you will be instructed what else to do to make the trade.”
“Who would do that?” Tony asked.
“The person who is supposed to do it will know,” Wong said.
Everyone looked from one to the other around the table. Every person but one.
“Me. I am the one.”
“Nononono,” Tony said quickly. “You don’t know that. You have no idea.”
“I do know it. When I touched it, I could feel the power in it. It didn’t scare me.”
“You can’t do this, Cap. The world has to have you.” Tony’s words were coming faster and faster.
“The world has Carol. She will take care of it in my stead.” He looked over at her and she grinned and shrugged.
“I won’t let you go alone,” Tony said.
“I don’t think you can stop me this time,” Steve answered him. They both knew it was true.
“I can go with you,” Tony said.
Steve closed his eyes as if the words hurt to hear.
They waited a few days before doing anything. There were arguments and fights. In the end, Steve won.
They all stood around him as he slipped the Gauntlet on his hand, a hand that had saved the world many times, a hand that had soothed the tears from the love of his life just last night.
It spoke to him inside his head. “Do you come willingly?”
He didn’t have to answer. All he had to do was think his answer.
Laughter. “Good. You are the soul I have longed for for such a long time. I sensed you back when you were young in this world.”
“Will you let the others go?”
“Indeed. I have no need of them anymore.”
“Then do it.”
“Oh, I will let you tell them goodbye. I will take one for you, if you desire it. I shall keep you company, but I know little beings like one of their own to commune with as well. Is the Iron one the one you want?”
“He says he wants to come. You knew that he would.”
“Go! Talk to them. I will come back in a day and I will release all the souls if you come with me.”
“All the souls in the galaxy?”
He seemed to be jolted of a trance suddenly.
“You’re back!” Tony shouted. “We thought you were gone. Your eyes turned orange.”
Steve looked around and they all stared at him.
“I’m going, Steve. It asked me and I said yes. I’m coming too.”
Steve closed his eyes and nodded. He knew he was selfish but he couldn’t face eternity without Tony.