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Man, Alien, and the Threat of Oxygen Deprivation

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"He did it."

Tony vaguely hears Nebula say the words, her voice echoing in his ears over and over and over again. He did it. Sitting defeated in a pile of his allies ashes; choking on the thickness of Thanos's victory. An indescribable weight has settled in his chest. He thinks, maybe, the word he's looking for is helplessness, or some less demeaning variation of that. How could it all have gone so wrong? How was this Strange's only option?

They each had their own individual wars with Thanos. Tony had been haunted for six years by him—even if he didn't know it was Thanos specifically—ever since Loki and the Chitauri invaded New York. Strange had a duty to protect the Time Stone at all costs. Quill, a perplexing (and frankly annoying) reflection of himself, Mantis, and Drax seemed to have some long-term beef with the Titan, mostly over one of their own—Gamora. Nebula, her sister, driven by the pure unadulterated rage of her past.

Peter. He racks his brain for a reason for Peter being there. It wasn't revenge. It wasn't for his own therapeutic release. You can't be a friendly neighbourhood Spiderman when there's no neighborhood. Tony didn't let on he understood the meaning of that, but he did. He's not stupid. Peter desperately wanted to be a hero. Wanted Tony to look at him with pride and see him as a companion. And he told the kid to go home. And now, looking around, he realises this is all his fault. All these ashes; all this bloodshed. How dare he call himself an Avenger, a leader, when half the universe has been erased and he's still alive?

His thoughts suddenly drift to Pepper, and his vision blurs at the possibility of her being among the vanished. He sucks in a breath, forces himself to believe she's okay. If he let's himself think the worst, he doesn't know how he could possibly carry on.

He has to get home.

His eyes cast to the blue woman. Nebula. He doesn't know her and she doesn't know him but all they have is each other. He's not sure what she's lost in her life to her father, but he's certain she has been the most affected by the wrath of Thanos.

"You're hurt." She says, and he follows her eyes down to his abdomen. Some of the synthetic material he applied to the area where Thanos stabbed him had torn from when he fell to the ground with Peter.

"Oh, this?" He croaks, lifting his arm and angling his wrist towards the gash. "This, I can fix." When he tries to spray the material, a few sparks fly from the nozzle of the mechanism. He tries again, but nothing. Again. Nothing. He looks up at her with a shrug. "Huh. Would you look at that, I was wrong about that, too."

"I must find him." She states, her eyes fixed on something close to him; something a little past his shoulder. He looks back, seeing the ship the Guardians had arrived on. When he turns his head back to Nebula, her gaze is on him. At first, he thinks, maybe, she expects him to want to go after him with her, or maybe the opposite. Maybe she wants him to tell her to go, to leave him here. The thought sends a wave of nausea through him.

"I don't know if you've noticed," he says after a moment, "but I'm out of commission." He says, gesturing to himself; his broken suit and body. "And he's unstoppable. You said it yourself: he did it. He has all the stones. Going after him... It's pointless."

"What else am I to do?" She says, louder this time. "He took everything from me! There is nothing left. Nothing to salvage from this but revenge. I don't care if it's pointless. I don't care if I die." She begins stalking towards the ship. He knows he's in no shape to follow her, and he is running out of fight in him.

"Please," he says, voice saturated for what must be the first time with desperation. He doesn't remember ever sounding so pathetic. She continues to walk straight past him. "I have people at home who can help us stop him."

The sound of her boots scraping against the gravel stops. "What?"

"I was—" he begins, "I'm part of a team. Our job is to protect Earth from people like your father. If you help me get back to them, we might have a real chance at stopping him."

"How do you know they're still alive?"

The question nearly knocks the wind out of him. He doesn't know, and the thought of going home to an empty compound instils a level of fear in him he didn't think was possible. It would mean truly having to accept this defeat, and he doesn't know if he's capable of that. If he'll ever will be.

"It's our only shot. Worst case scenario is it's a dead end and we go our separate ways. I need your help, Nebula. And frankly, you might need mine. Ours."

He doesn't dare turn to see her facial expression. If she decides not to accept his offer, he will die, alone, on this planet. Because he sure as hell won't go with her on this futile revenge mission of hers.

"Ugh," she seethes. Her boots begin crunching against the ground again, and for a split second he's convinced she's walking away from him, until he hears her footfalls grow closer to him. He turns his head in time to see her reach out and grasp his upper arm before beginning to haul him onto his feet. He grunts at the pain of both the exertion of the motion and of his wound. She wraps an arm around his waist, steadying him, and they begin trudging toward the ship.


 

They weren't there long before Tony could no longer hold himself up. By then, the movement had caused his wound to almost completely reopen and he was losing a lot of blood. He expressed the concern he had regarding his rapidly fading state of consciousness to Nebula before falling to his knees. He recalls her saying something along the lines of Stark, if you dare black out on me, before doing just that.

He slowly opens his eyes. If at all possible, he thinks he might actually feel worse than he did before he lost consciousness. His head pounds with dehydration and a searing pain pulses from his stab wound.

He realises he's lying down, looking up at the ceiling of the ship. Lifting his head, he sees he's bound to a metal table, wearing the same black undershirt he had on under his clothes when he and Pepper had gone for their run. Had that really been less than a day ago?

More pressing right now, though, is that he's tied down to this table.

"Hey, Nebula?" He calls out. She's nowhere to be seen. He wonders briefly with slight terror if maybe she had abandoned him after all, until he hears the dull thud of a pair of boots against the ships floor. She appears through an open entryway, a fist closed around a small object. "Ah. That's relieving. Care to explain why I'm tied up?"

"I had to launch the Benatar after I stitched you up. You would have fallen off the table and then I would have had to baby you even more."

He lets his head fall back against the table again, sighing as she starts towards him. "So that's what this thing is called." He muses, before narrowing his eyes. "Like the singer."

"Quill named it," she explains with contempt, but he recognises it as almost half-hearted. "He built his whole life around your petty earth heroes."

Tony wants to ask what she means by that, considering Pat Benatar is definitely not an earth hero, but she cuts him off. "Anyway. The destination is earth. We should be there in a few days."

He tries not to inflate himself with so much hope, especially since he doesn't know what is waiting for him at home. If anyone is waiting for him at home. But home, he decides, will always be better than here. This ship, this volatile alien woman he has already trusted too much—he is willing to put up with all of it if she gets him home.

"I don't suppose I still have to be tied to this table, do I?"

He's certain she's going to say yes for her own twisted entertainment, but she surprises him by wordlessly setting down whatever she was holding before moving to undo the binds.

"What's that?" He asks, using his chin to gesture to the object.

"It's for the pain." She says. "There isn't a lot of it left, so I suggest you heal quickly."

He nods in mock agreement as she undoes the strap across his chest and upper arms. "Noted. Thanks."

Once she has completely undone the binds, he sits up and touches a hand to his wound. "Do I want to know what you used to cauterise this?"

"A rusty nail."

"Very funny," he deadpans. "What'd you actually use?"

"My hand." She admits, holding up her metallic arm. Sure enough, the tip of her forefinger is charred. "It will heal."

"That's officially the most badass thing anyone has ever said to me, and I talk to myself a lot."

She scowls. "Whatever. Take the medication and rest."

"Aye-aye," he obeys, already moving to lie back down. Partly because he's tired and partly because she sort of terrifies him. They don't need to get on, but it would be nice to not have to exhaustively use the shield of sass and flippancy he so often falls back on.

She leaves, most likely for the cockpit. He doesn't think he's ever met someone less trusting of other people than himself—and he used to surround himself with the likes of Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff—but Nebula? It doesn't look like she's ever trusted anyone her entire life. Not even a little bit. But she trusted him. She trusted him enough to abandon her own suicide mission and take him back to Earth, a place she's never been to and has no care for, based off a hunch of his.

He decides maybe, they both trusted each other too much. Two strangers who knew the other was all they had left, who knew they needed each other to get this job done. To find Thanos and take back what belonged to them. It would have to be enough if either of them wanted to survive.

Chapter Text

Tony was still asleep twenty four hours later. Nebula knows from spending more time than she would care to admit with Peter Quill—who like Tony, was Terran—that his body would need more time than hers to recover. She can't imagine being so feeble. This man needed a suit of armour, full to the brim with all kinds of gadgets, to be able to go head-to-head with some of her weakest opponents. She watches the steady rise and fall of his chest from a distance, arms folded.

Her eyes drift to the box on the floor where she had placed his belongings. What's left of the red and gold suit is incredibly flashy and she wonders briefly if it's a reflection of his character or of his persona.

He told her he was part of a team. If thats the truth, why were they not on Titan with him? Surely they wouldn't have left him to go after Thanos himself while they stayed on Earth. She can't help but feel he hasn't told her the whole story, and she hates when people are dishonest with her. She trusted him enough to diverge from her mission for both his sake and the chance to truly succeed in murdering her father.

She realises his goal, unlike hers, isn't only to eliminate Thanos, but also to reverse the effects of the snap. That's where they differ. He has people he wants to bring back—needs to bring back—and while she stopped hating Quill and the other Guardians a long time ago, they weren't Gamora. The one person Nebula might ever have loved wouldn't be coming back. At this stage, killing her father would be more to avenge her sister than it would be for her own peace of mind.

Her train of thought is interrupted by Tony's head suddenly jerking to the side, followed by a sharp intake of breath. Soon, his whole body is twitching and he's muttering no and Peter over and over. Nightmare. She was going to let him wake up on his own, but the terror in his expression was all too familiar to her. She crosses the floor as loudly as she can, hoping the sound will be enough to wake him, but to no avail. "Stark," she tries, "wake up."

It doesn't work. God, she did not want to have to touch him. "Stark, wake the hell up." He continues to thrash on top of the metal table. Looking up at the ceiling, she shakes her head and breathes out a frustrated sigh, before reaching out to him with her non-metal hand and shaking his shoulder. "Stark." She repeats. "Stark."

His eyes fly open, and she quickly lets go of him. He's heaving, gasping for air. He locks eyes with her, and try as she might, she finds she is unable to look away. Usually, when someone is this vulnerable around her, its because they are on their knees begging her to spare them. Never because they need reassurance; never because they need grounding.

It suddenly occurs to her, under different circumstances, he could be one of her targets. A threat to her father. A threat to her. A single misalignment of events could have made them enemies. And in many ways, they were opposite enough to be just that. She was a killer; a daughter of Thanos. He was a hero and has spent his life fighting for a just cause. This is the path Gamora chose, and people loved her and mourned the loss of her. Nobody would mourn for Nebula.

"How long have I been out?" Tony asks. His erratic breathing has slowed down somewhat, and he looks less like someone on the cusp of death than he did when they first boarded the ship.

"A day." She tells him, stepping back.

Tony moves to sit up. "That's funny. I rarely get eight hours. Pepper would be proud."

"I gave you Xandarian medication used by the Nova Corps." She says, choosing not to ask who Pepper is. "It was supposed to numb your pain, not put you in a coma."

He raises an eyebrow at her. "You gave me alien drugs."

She almost rolls her eyes; he's clearly trying to push her buttons. The faster she gets this guy to Earth and out of her way, the better. Because if he's like this all the time, they're going to start butting heads very quickly. And she has no qualms about picking on weak and injured things. The smug expression on his face was enough to make her blood boil.

"I think it's time you get off your death bed and get to work, Stark. This ship won't fly itself." She spits, before turning and walking away.

A small part of her knows how harsh she's being. She doesn't care if he's done nothing wrong. She won't pretend to be friendly with him simply because they are relying on each other for the time being. There is no reality where they become friends, where they trust each other beyond the need to survive the way home; where she feels any affection for him. All they share in common is Thanos.

Yet another aspect of her life controlled by her father.

She finds herself at the back of the Benatar, looking out the window. Streams of purple and yellow flow through the star-studded darkness, but there are no other planets in sight. It's just her, Tony, and the vast expanse of the Galaxy. She often wondered how big it really was; if there were secret solar systems in the far reaches of Space who have yet to be discovered, who live in undisturbed peace from intergalactic politics. Except, she realises, they would still have suffered the consequences of her father's victory.

She scolds herself. You're thinking like Gamora. Could she really be going this soft? There was a time when other people's well-being never even crossed her mind. She knows a lot of her selfishness—and it is selfishness—comes from a childhood composed of indoctrination and propaganda and fear-mongering. Thanos made a mindless killing-machine of her. The epitome of compliance and loyalty with the grace in battle of a professional dancer. Gamora had spent a great deal of her final years trying to undo the damage caused by their father, but now she's gone. All that's left is Nebula, caught on the knifes edge separating relapse and redemption.

When she returns to the cockpit, she finds Tony sitting in the pilot's chair.

"You've never flown a spaceship before, have you?"

He turns at the sound of her voice. "Don't be ridiculous, of course I've never flown a spaceship." He turns back, flipping switches and pressing buttons. "Most of the controls don't have labels, and the ones that do aren't written in English, and they're definitely not written in Japanese, French, or Russian. I haven't made us die yet, though."

A long moment passes before she responds. "I suppose I'm going to have to teach you."

"I'd be careful, Da Vinci quickly outshined his teacher."

Her brow furrows in confusion at the reference. "You're worse than Quill." She comments, before taking a seat in the copilot's chair. "There are many things I can't be bested at. Flying is one of them."

Half an hour later, Tony knows the control panel like the back of his hand. She would even go as far as to say he's on par with Peter Quill, or even Rocket, though she would rather leap out of the Benatar and succumb to oxygen deprivation than ever admit that to either of them.

"What do you think?" Tony asks, sending a smug, lopsided smile her way.

"Satisfactory. I guess."

The silence that follows is surprisingly comfortable. Teaching him had helped melt away some of the tension she had felt. He spoke mostly the language of sarcasm and making a joke of everything. He reminded her a lot of Quill in some ways, but Tony wasn't nearly as sensitive as him. If he was, he hid it well. On the other hand, her way of coping included a lot more fire and venom. She supposes all metaphorical walls are built with different materials.

"I have to ask," Tony says, cutting through the silence, before gesturing to her. "There's a lot of...blueness going on here."

"That wasn't a question." She says, only mildly annoyed at his choice of words. "I'm Luphomoid. That's all I know about my race, though."

"You call Thanos your father, but he's, what, a Titan?" He glances at her, shrugging when he sees her steely expression. "Just—trying to make sense of things here."

She rolls her eyes. "Like all daughters of Thanos, he took me in on the day he 'liberated' my home planet." She pauses, shifting her gaze to look out the windshield. "He took my hand and asked me my name. Told me I was a fighter and showed me one of his switchblades. I focused on trying to balance it on one of my fingers while his army performed mass genocide on my people." She grows quiet. She relives that day often, but she hasn't recalled it out loud since she and Gamora were children, staying up past their bedtime to swap stories. When she dares to look back at Tony, he's staring right back at her. She can't exactly read his expression, but there is an unmistakeable tinge of softness in it.

"We'll make this right, Blue. I promise."

"Blue?"

He shrugs again. "Just trying it out. You don't like it?"

She answers by giving him a solid shake of her head. He smirks. "Alright. I'm making a mental note right now to call you that as often as possible."

She groans. He's teasing her, but she's not used to playfulness at all. All of the relationships she's had in life have been incredibly intense, full of resentment and mistrust. He can't possibly know that about her, otherwise he'd know she doesn't know how to respond to it.

Instead, she asks, "How's your wound?"

"Not gonna lie, it'spretty terrible."

"There is more medication."

He shakes his head vigorously. "No. No, absolutely not. I'm never sleeping ever again."

It takes her a moment to realise the meaning behind his words. Whatever nightmare was plaguing him, it was haunting his waking hours, too. She shuts her eyes. She can barely deal with the weight of her own emotional fragility. The prospect of taking on his sent a wave of dread through her. They're both suffering—there's no denying that. But they won't be alone together on this ship for long enough to become dependant on each other in that way.

In a few days, they'll be back on Earth. They'll be too busy to sift through their own individual traumas. And that's the way she likes it. Burying, burying, burying.


 

 

Tony knows what he said about never sleeping again, but his body seems to be abiding by Earth's twenty-four hour clock, despite the fact he's currently drifting through space. He left Nebula to man the controls while he decided to get familiar with the Benatar. It's not terribly big, probably twice the size of a Quinjet, but it's decent.

He finds himself at the small box containing his belongings. Besides the remnants of the Iron Man suit, the only other thing in it is his jacket. He slips it on.

He sits down on the floor and reaches for one of his gauntlets. Popping open the compartment containing the adhesive medical spray, he begins examining it. He's sure its simply one of a long list of functions that shut down on him due to the extensive damage his suit had suffered. He looks around for a toolbox. The Benatar had to have one, right? He spots one behind him and reaches back to pull it across the floor towards him. The tools are a little different; a little less primitive looking to the ones on Earth, but he decides he can work with them.

He loses himself in the low hum of the ships engines and the mindlessness of the task in front of him. Everything around him loses its immediate importance for a while, and he realises how long it's been since he's worked like this. He's always had Jarvis, and eventually Friday to rattle off his nonsense to. Sometimes, Pepper came into his lab and kept him company. She liked watching him, and would always bring him back to reality or calm him down when something frustrated him.

He swallows hard, forcing himself to put all thoughts of Pepper on the back burner. He wasn't ready to face the question of whether she survived the snap. He doubts he ever would be. He tells himself it's only a few days between him and finding out Pepper's fate. Everyone else's fate.

Natasha. Clint. Steve. Everything that happened between them was a complete shitshow. If he had just called like Bruce told him to...

He shakes his head. So much for not thinking about it.

He pulls his thoughts back to the task at hand. Fix the spray. Fix the spray. Fix the damn spray. He identifies the problem and focuses on mending it. His wound aches, and he feels like Nebula's handiwork won't do him any good for much longer.

"Ah," he mumbles after a while, "That should do it." He slides his hand inside the gauntlet, letting it conform to the shape of his forearm. He points the nozzle of the mechanism towards his wound and sprays. It works.

For the first time in a while, a triumphant smile spreads across his face.

Then, all of a sudden, the hum of the engine dies down completely, it's absence sending the ship into a void of deafening silence. He hears running, and a second later, Nebula appears in the entryway. Her face contorted in complete panic.

"The engine," she sputters breathlessly,  "the engine's failed."

Chapter Text

The last time the sky had seemed this huge to Tony was back in the Afghani desert. Out there, the absence of city light allowed the stars to twinkle in their billions above his head in their full, ceaseless glory. He'd never seen anything like it in the East or West Coast, or in any of the many places on Earth he had ever visited.

Of course, it had absolutely nothing on the view out of any of the Benatar's windows. Tony never even imagined Space to be anything but a dark and endless abyss. The single glimpse he got of it six years prior had made it seem that way, his memory of it warped by the fleets of Chitauri advancing through the Tesseract's portal. Here, he can see just how colourful the universe is, where bright, ethereal currents flow through the blackness.

It was tantalising and breathtakingly gorgeous, though it had come to scare him shitless in the hours following the failure of the ships engine. He and Nebula tried everything to get it back up and running, which included Nebula tethering herself to the exterior of the ship in what she called a holographic spacesuit. It was no use. The ship had only one suit and it would require both of them out there to fix it.

That was now...twelve hours ago? Tony had desperately been trying to keep track of how long they had been on this ship, to keep some semblance of his sanity, but the Benatar's timekeeping system was completely out of whack. He thinks it might be day four, though it feels like years have passed since they left Titan; since he was last on Earth.

Nothing on the Benatar seemed operational anymore, besides maybe the oxygen and the lighting. After some digging and rooting around, they found a stash of the Guardian's food rations—all weird Space cuisine Tony had never heard of before. He almost turned his nose up at the silver packet Nebula passed him, until his stomach growled and he realised he hadn't eaten anything in three days. That, coupled with a pointed look from Nebula, managed to embarrass him enough into begrudgingly accepting it from her.

The contents were akin to rice, but bigger. He decided be didn't hate it, tipping his head back to pour some into his mouth.

"Savour it." Nebula says, swallowing some food of her own. "We may not be able to get the communications system working."

He knows what the implications of her words are. No help. No rescue. The only chance they would have then would be in the hopes of crossing paths with another ship. But Tony knows if he's going to be at all useful, he needs to stay as healthy as possible. He finishes the packet, looking her in the eye as he does. She rolls her eyes.

"Navigation's busted, right? Do you have any idea where we are?"

Nebula sighs. "Do you see any planets out there?"

"No," Tony says, swallowing hard. "Are you trying to make me freak out?"

She levels a scowl at him. "Why, are you easily...freaked out?"

He huffs a breathy laugh. How does he always end up stranded with kids with no regard for his anxiety? Not that he minds—he'd hate for Nebula to tiptoe around him. It's not like he can stop fearing some things, either, just—

In that moment, she reminded him painfully of Harley. Tony's a lot of things, he knows. Been called a lot of things, accused of a lot of things... But he's never forgotten the face of someone who helped him, or at least made an impact on him. He was able to return the favor to that kid—to Harley. But he's not sure he can help Nebula. Not anymore. Not when they were drifting through Space, at the mercy of the stars.

She's still looking at him, expectant. The answer on the tip of his tongue was yes, he was easily freaked out. He can barely even look out of the window without feeling his own impending doom crashing down on him; can barely be asked a question about his own mental competence without coiling tightly in on himself.

"This isn't about me," he says, pointing a warning finger at her. "This is about where we currently are."

Without a word, Nebula stands, steps over his outstretched legs to peer out the window. Crossing her arms over her middle, she looks as though she's deep in thought; examining their surroundings for any kind of tells. "I don't know where we are, Stark." She says quietly, eyes casting to the floor. "I remember Quill once used the term, we're in the middle of nowhere, which seems to be one of your many strange Earth vernaculars—but it is fitting right now."

Tony sets the empty food packet down beside him. He feels the familiar tingle of panic, like ice cold water trickling down the back of his neck and into his clothes. Swallowing past the lump in his throat, he wills himself to stay calm; to momentarily allow her words to simply bounce off him.

Communications are most likely not coming back online. The engines have failed and there's no way of fixing them. The Benatar may as well be deemed the machine equivalent of braindead, floating through space like the tiny drop in the ocean it is. It's time to get real.

"How much food and water is on the ship?" He asks.

"If we ration properly," she pauses, considering, "it should last us another fifteen days."

"Oxygen?"

She turns back towards him, her arms dropping by her sides. "A few days longer than that. It's hard to tell while it's still plentiful."

"Okay." Tony says. That leaves them with roughly eighteen days. A small fraction of him is still hopeful that another ship will happen by and rescue them, but their odds have been cut in half—courtesy of Thanos.

It also gave him twenty days to come to terms with his death. He was going to die on this ship, where the clothes he was wearing and his suit, broken beyond his current means to repair it, were the only things familiar to him.

A horrible yearning for Pepper overcomes him. Her ability to put him at ease, to help him differentiate between right and wrong and foolish when the lines became blurred. If she had been taken by the Snap, it would have spared her from worrying about him, but he nonetheless prays, selfishly, that she's alive—that she's not alone.

If I get swallowed up by another alien wormhole, you go immediately to the Compound and you don't look back. You call Rhodey. You...you call Cap. Whoever picks up first, you understand?

He remembers her grinning and shaking her head in amusement at him, the way she did when she found his fretting over her both exasperating and endearing. But she did promise him she would. That's all that matters to him right now.

"Okay," he says again, while he stands. "I'm going to go over there," he announces, pointing noncommittally in the opposite direction, away from where they currently were. He needed to not freak out in front of her. That's all he needed. He's sure that's all he needed. He feels Nebula's eyes burning holes into his back as he walks out, but he doesn't dare glance behind him.


 

Once Tony's out of sight, Nebula sags back against the window. Her own words swirling around in her head made it impossible to think about anything else but the simple fact that they weren't going to make it out of this. Of course she already calculated how long they had left before he'd even asked; counting and dividing the stock of food in her head as soon as they found it.

It almost felt as though prolonging their lives was a pointless endeavour. No one was coming to save them. By now, whole planets have probably divided into factions, scavenging for food and supplies. Collapsed industry. Tyrannical beasts assuming roles of leadership. They were probably better off dying on this ship, as painful as that may turn out to be. Hunger. Dehydration. Suffocation. Thanks to her body mods, she will be able to survive much longer without food or water—even air—than Tony will.

He will die before her, and she'll be left to succumb to whatever takes her life, alone.

She could force herself to seek him out. Be his friend, make what little time she has left count for something. It was always about the mission. The next target. Whoever threatened Ronan; whoever threatened her father...whoever threatened her.

Gamora was one of those people, once upon a time. Her sister. The little girl who, without fail, bested her in combat time and time again. She ignored Nebula's screams while their father vandalised her body until she no longer recognised herself. She pretended not to notice the changes in Nebula's appearances, she simply carried on being better.

That's what killed her spirit more than anything Thanos could ever do to her, she thinks. It was foolish to believe they could have ever been anything more than each other's competitors. Gamora was only doing what she needed to survive, and for many years, Nebula tried to justify her hatred towards Gamora in spite of that.

Her sister managed to redeem herself. Gamora died a hero, and would not be remembered by many as the ruthless, loved by none killer that she once was. And now, Nebula would never be able to say the same.


 

"Hey, Pepper."

He waits a moment after activating his helmet to start speaking. He wasn't sure if it was working properly. Hell, he wasn't sure why he was doing this in the first place. He rubs at his eyes, trying to alleviate the weariness he felt.

"First of all, I'm sorry for going to Space without your permission. That was a dick move. But you know me—I just can't resist a shit-show." He sighs inwardly. This was harder than he thought.

"Well, honesty is the best policy, I guess. The truth is, I couldn't help myself. But you saw the look on Banner's face. Not even the Big Guy wanted any part in what we were dealing with. I couldn't—couldn't help but feel like it was all connected. What went down in twenty-twelve and this. And I was right. Doesn't feel good to say that, for once."

"I had to do this, Pep," he says after a long pause. "I know I promised after Cap and Nat left that I was done. I was done. I was—am—content to live in that house by the lake you've been dreaming of having since you realised the only way to keep me out of trouble was to forcibly remove me from it's radius. That's why I followed through with this. So we could finally find real peace. So I could rest easy."

"I'm safe for now. I—" he drops his head into his hands, sighing again as the backs of his eyes sting. "God, I lost the kid. He did that...that disappearing crap along with everyone else I was with when Thanos did whatever he did. Everyone but this blue woman. Nebula. She's mean, but she reminds me of that Harley kid I've told you about. You'd like her, I think."

He loses the desire to say more after that. Knowing the helmet is recording a video as well as audio, he does his best to muster a small smile. "If you're still alive, I hope you found your way to the compound. And I know you know I would never display this sort of intense vulnerability publicly, so I'm also hoping you keep this message on the down low. Just—I'm sorry. And I love you. It's always been you."