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Fixing Forever

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“Got it Steve. Speaking of lovebirds, have you and Sharon gone on that date yet? Yeah, yeah. I’ll be ready when you get here.” As she speaks the woman maneuvers around the room, absentmindedly retrieving and loading her weapons with her phone held between her cheek and shoulder. She’s barely had time to hang up before a child’s voice intrudes on the solitude of the room.

“Where are you going Mama?”

“Wanda and Vision went off grid and might be in trouble. Can you grab my tac suit Kate?”

The little girl nods and scampers out of the room and down the hall to do as requested, dodging around Clint
as he enters the room. The man wraps his arms around Natasha and kisses her cheek from behind, as she continues preparing for her mission. “Come on Nat, can’t Cap or Tony deal with it on their own?”

She melts into his arms with a sigh, her hand coming up and tangling in the hair at the base of his head. “Sharon’s running a mission for Fury, and he doesn’t think he and Sam can handle it without help.”

“Danger level?”

She shifts in his arms so that she’s facing him. “Unsure. I'd say they probably just lost track of time, but Steve seems worried. And I don’t think he wanted to tell me everything over the phone.” She stands on her toes to press her forehead against his. “Regardless I promise I’ll be back within a week, and then we can go out for dinner to celebrate the end of your house arrest.”

“Family dinner or…”

“Found it Mama!” The couple parts slightly as their eleven year old barrels into the room, the large half blind dog bounding along on her heels. Placing the bundle of clothing with the rest of assembled gear she turns to them with a cheeky grin and worms her way between them, turning the embrace into a group hug.

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“I-I think you look great.” At those words every head in the room whips around to face a man most of them haven’t spoken to in three years, and stare at him in shock. Uh… heh… yeah. I’m back.”

Natasha gulps awkwardly remembering the ill fated flirting with him she had engaged in to mask her terror of the Hulk. “Hi Bruce.”

From the look on his face she presumes that he’s realized her flirting was an act, a subconscious defense response, and that he doesn’t blame her for it, but this knowledge doesn’t seem to take away the hurt that cracks in his voice as he responds. “…Nat.”

Natasha’s smile is full of hesitation and apology as she tries to find the words to explain. The room is tense with a nervous and lost energy and when Sam voices how awkward it is everyone silently agrees, the changes in Natasha’s life in that time making it even more so.

The following briefing is tense with the same awkward energy only partially dissipated by the anxious energy that accompanies such a battle as they expect.
“So we gotta assume they're coming back, right?”

“And they can clearly find us.”

“We need all hands on deck. Where's Clint?” Bruce is frantic as he practically cuts Wanda off.

Natasha answers his question mindlessly with the simple truth, barely paying attention to her words as her mind has shifted back to mission mode “At home with Kate. After the whole Accords situation, he and Scott took a deal. It was too tough on the girls, they're on house arrest.”

“Who’s Scott? And Kate?” Bruce trails off with the last word as Steve answers.

“Ant-Man.”

“There's an Ant-Man and a Spider-Man?”

As Steve and Bruce talk Natasha begins cursing herself for having momentarily forgotten that her daughter hadn’t entered their lives till after Bruce left. With a quick glance around the room at those who have met the little girl she decides that quick and simple is the best way to cover the lost years. “Kate is Clint’s and my daughter.” Bruce’s jaw drops as he turns back towards her. Across the room Wanda has to stifle a laugh at this, while next to her Sam doesn’t even try to hide his chuckle.

“Wait, what? How long was I gone?!?” Bruce’s eyes are wide with confusion, as he frantically looks around the room, dreading being told he missed a lot longer than he had thought.

“A lot can happen in a few years. A lot can happen in a few hours even.” Natasha’s answer is succinct, and the subject is dropped as they return to their previous discussion and are immediately struck with debate on how to save both Vision and the universe.

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The farm around her is nearly silent as Kate readies her bow. Clint is sitting on the ground a few feet away wrestling with the dog, but the child is seemingly oblivious to the fact as she stares down the shaft of her arrow at the target, already embedded by several arrows in and around the bullseye. She focuses on her breathing for a moment before releasing the arrow on her exhale. She smirks at the solid thunk as it hits right alongside the others.

Clapping fills the air as Clint rises to his feet “Good job Hawkeye! Give it a year or two and you’ll be out shooting me!”

She slings her bow across her back as she turns towards the older archer. “Is this something resembling humility I hear?” by the end of her question he has reached her and begun ruffling her hair.

“Oh ha ha ha. Go get your arrows, then we’ll eat.”

“On it…” She nods and moves to retrieve them, but stops midstep, turning back to him while staring at her tingly hand. “Daddy? What’s happening?” He catches her as her arm starts to turn to dust “I’m scared.”

He clutches her closely as she begins to hyperventilate “It’s ok Katie-Kate, I got you.” but by the time the words make their way out of his mouth his arms are empty save for dust.

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Dropping her gun into her holster with one hand, Sharon flips her sweaty hair out of her face with the other. Her breathing is slightly ragged as she steps over the dead and unconscious bodies surrounding her on her way out of the warehouse. Oblivious to the stares at her bloodied white tac suit, she seems in a haze of crashing adrenaline as she walks through to town to a burger shop she saw the day before.

Flopping down at a table without even ordering first she pulls out her phone, quickly sending a message to Hill and Fury that her mission is done. As the text sends she checks the messages she missed. There aren’t many, and most are various relatives from the Carter-Sousa family asking if she’ll be at family dinner this week. The only one that catches her eye is from Steve, usually he doesn’t leave a voice message if she misses his calls.

Pressing play his voice fills her ear, his words rushed and almost frantic. “Hey, I know you’re on a mission, but when you get this head to Wakanda. Long story short, we got aliens causing a full on war, and need all the help we can get.”

His words have barely reached her ear, and his message isn’t over, yet she’s already out the door at a full sprint towards the quinjet she left waiting. She’s only half way up the ramp when her legs fall out from under her, and she turns to dust.

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“HARLEY! MOM SAYS YOU NEED TO COME INSIDE!!!” The sixteen year old groans in exasperation at his younger sister’s words, but continues tinkering with the bulky red and silver watch on his right wrist.

“TELL HER I’LL BE THERE IN A MINUTE!!” with a final twist of his screwdriver he stands and taps something on a metal sleeve on the left arm of his sweater. In seconds both the sleeve and watch have extended to cover his hands in glowing gauntlets. His metal shoes have also expanded up his legs, as a metal box hidden under his hood folds out to cover his torso. Likewise his belt buckle and sunglasses also expand.

Once the clicking of metal stops his feet and legs are armoured to his knees. The fronts of his thighs remain in just his Jean’s, but his belt buckle has turned into a codpiece and tassets, crawling down the sides of his thighs as well as up his waist where it connects to the back and breastplates formed from the back of his sweater. Pauldrons have also extended from his back over his shoulders, but his right arm remains covered in only cloth till his wrist, while his left arm is armoured from elbow to finger tips. His face and head are also mostly covered, save for the lower half of his face and a shock of hair sticking out the open top of his helmet.

Grinning and tapping a button on the computer in front of him he speaks. “IronLad Mark 2 Test 11. The issue with right gauntlet is fixed, and suit now forms fully and in sync. Movement is not inhibited by armour unlike Mark 1. Proceeding to repulsor test"

He turns to some targets across his workshop garage, and begins charging up his gauntlets to fire, but powers them back down just as fast as his mother’s voice fills the air. “Harley! Don’t make me come out there and get you! Get in here and finish your homework!”

“GIVE ME TEN MORE MINUTES MOM! Ok. Repulsor test is a go.” He powers up his gauntlets once again and fires them at his target. Whooping with glee he spins around pumping a fist in the air. “Repulsor blasts are a go! Now proceeding to flight test!” Standing in the center of his workshop he powers up both boots and gauntlets. “Starting at five percent. Six percent. Lift achieved at seven percent! Maintaining steady at eight percent with elevation of ten feet. Basic flight test successful! Will proceed with advanced flight test tomorrow.”

Suddenly he drops several feet in elevation and has to scramble to catch himself. “Internal monitors non functional. Left leg tingling. Possible malfunction.” As he says the last sentence his leg begins to dust, and his balance is thrown off even worse “Leg disappeared! Loosing altitude! Not a malfunction. Cause unclear! As he speaks he simultaneously drops towards the ground and turns to dust. He’s gone before he can crash.

Moments later his mothers voice fills the air. “Harley! Your ten minutes are up! Homework. Now.” At the lack of response she intrudes on his workshop. “Harley? Where are you? Harley? Harley!”

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She refused to believe it when she the rumors first reached her of Asgard’s fall. Being banished from the entirety of the Nine Realms made news of her homeworld scarce and unreliable, and surely this must fall into that category. Even with Loki being on the throne as opposed to Odin, as confirmed by her banishment, surely the Trickster wouldn’t let their home fall to ruin. Even at his most misguided the young sorcerer had never truly betrayed Asgard. And even if Loki had brought chaos upon their kingdom, surely Thor would return and between himself, the Warriors Three and Heimdall they’d be able to counteract Loki's mischief.

Yet even with this logic running through her mind as she went about her quest on this planet, Sif couldn’t help but worry. The likelihood of her home being attacked and overwhelmed by such had once seemed impossible but recent years had proven otherwise. And if this news was true, it was undoubtedly several weeks old at least. As such she was gripped with fear for her people, for her friends, for Thor; and guilt at not being there if disaster had occurred.

This combination of thoughts and emotions somehow failed to distract her from her job of ridding this village of a carnivorous nuisance, instead she funneled this rage through her blade as she slashed and pierced the vicious beasts. Battle was routine to her after centuries, a series of actions based on muscle memory and honed instinct. The preoccupation of her mind as she fought was but a nuisance in regard to her actions, despite the intensity of her concerns.

So occupied both mind and body, she hardly recognizes the tingle that starts in her finger tips and begins crawling up her hand. It isn’t until she moves to bash the closest of these beasts with her shield that she notices the emptiness where her hand should be. Slicing the jugular of the creature with her sword she staggers back a few steps and stares in confusion at her arm slowly turning to dust before her eyes. Scanning her surroundings she’s baffled to see several of the creatures and the vegetation around her also dissolving into the air, though at a much faster rate than herself.

Despite this development the remaining animals surrounding her are mindless of the fate of their fellows, and barely give her a moment to absorb this information before they resume their attacks with greater intensity recognizing only that she is now injured. By the time the dusting spreads beyond her arm she is alone in the clearing, and collapses to the ground. She pays no mind to the puddle purple blood oozing from the corpses around her as she lays against a rock catching her breath.

Her breathing is ragged and shallow in a way it shouldn’t be after such a fight as this was, she can only figure it’s due to the dusting. It’s an interesting sensation, being able to feel her missing body parts while seeing them disintegrate before her eyes, and she doesn’t particularly enjoy it. Sif wonders if being an Aesir and thus stronger in multiple ways than most species of plants, animals or people, is why she remains conscious of this entire minutes after everything else affected turns to dust. Closing her eyes as she feels the tingle of disintegration reach her chest, her last thoughts are questions of if this counts as falling in battle, and if so who will be there to greet her in Valhalla.

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The little girl isn’t aware of what happened at first. No one in her small Judo class had disappeared, so once the lesson is over Cassie simply hops on her bike and heads home. Her dad and Hope should be there to pick her up in an hour or so, and so she leaves grinning. As she bikes home she thinks nothing of the car crashes that she passes, other than that there sure are a lot today, and that the emergency response must be busy.

Parking her bike on the driveway she expects her mom to greet her at the door, but simply shrugs it off when she isn’t there. But she isn’t in the house at all. And an hour passes and she’s still not home, or answering her phone, and neither her dad or Hope are there to get her, and they aren’t answering their phones either. And then Paxton doesn’t come home from work, and no one is answering their phones, not even the number for Hope’s parents she was given in case of this kind of emergency.

At this point she starts worrying, and hyperventilating as she turns on the TV, cause if something big happened, or heroes were involved it should be on the news even hours after the fact.

She sits staring at the TV in shock for hours, flipping channels constantly desperately hoping for something different, some mention of Antman or Wasp, neither of whom were mention, because especially if her mom and Paxton are gone, she needs her dad and Hope.
It takes her a while before she’s able to work up the motivation to move, but she has to. She has to find her dad and the Pyms, and if she can’t she has to get to their lab. Hope gave her an address with the emergency number, and that’s most likely the location of the lab or some sort of safe house. If she can get there, even with out them, she can fix this. She has to be able to fix it. And even if she couldn’t she needs to get out of the city before it goes full apocalypse mode, and that location will be safe.

Eventually she makes her way to her room. Once there she fills both her school backpack and her sports duffle bag with as much clothing, and a few favorite toys and other important items, as she can, before hauling them back downstairs to the kitchen. In the kitchen she finds a collapsing cooler and fills it too with as much food as possible.

Having gathered or hidden everything her ten year old brain can think of, Cassie hauls her bags to her wagon in the back yard. After tying them together and to the wagon itself she pulls it around the house, and attaches it to her bike. Securing her phone to the handlebar she pulls up the GPS map to the location Hope gave her, and sets off.

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As soon as the immediate shock of battle and the losses they just witnessed wear off the remaining Avengers scatter to see who’s left of the people they know. Natasha is the first one with a phone to her ear, desperately hoping for someone to pick up, as those around her scour the battlefield. She almost cries from relief when the phone picks up, speaking before they have a chance on the other end.

“Are you guys alright???”

“She… she’s gone Nat.” His voice is broken as he speaks and tears do flow from her eyes now, a mix of grief and pain at his words and relief and gratitude at hearing his voice.

“Clint…”

“She turned to dust in my arms.” The heartbreak in his voice, makes her own break even more.

Her own voice and mind are equally desperate in response “Meet me at the compound. I can be there within hours.”

“Even Lucky's gone.”

She’s hardly aware of Steve approaching as she pleads with her partner across the phone. “Yastreb, we can fix this. We’re already trying to come up with a plan.”

“How am I supposed to be a hero when I can’t even protect our little girl.”

Her legs crumple under her at his words, and she falls against Steve’s arm. “Clint, please. Don't” *CLICK* “hang up…” and then she’s sobbing into the chest of her best friend and honorary brother, as he in turn cries into her hair.

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Even after killing Thanos they are all in a state of shock. Whether the shock has returned or never left varies, and several of them would be hard pressed to answer which it was. The entire Avengers compound may as well be occupied by corpses with how lively it’s residents both old and new are. Many wonder if that would be less painful.

It’s only Pepper and Carol capable of even pretending to be functional, otherwise Carol probably would have left to help other planets recover. The two women spend their days coaxing everyone else to eat, reminding them to take care of themselves and stopping them from self destructive behaviors. After the first few breakdowns at seeing the rooms lacking only the occupants, certain bedrooms have to be sealed off. Natasha even has to be moved to a different wing of the building after finding several of her daughter’s possessions scattered around; she doesn’t use the new room and instead stays in the common area where she isn’t alone, refusing to let go of a small purple bear she somehow still managed to find.

Steve hovers around Natasha as though fearing she too will disappear, and seems shocked that she’s still there whenever he sees her after being separated for even a minute. Likewise Rocket and Nebula begin panicking if they notice the other isn’t in the same room as them. Thor has hardly moved since their return and simply sits glaring at the wall, Bruce is still trying to wrap his head around how much he missed and sits next to him staring at a data pad that auto turned off hours ago. Rhodey tries to pretend he’s coping, claiming that his losses are minor compared to the others, but even then he has to be reminded to do things as simple as press the button to summon his leg supports so he can get out of bed. No one has been able to find a trace of Clint since Natasha had called him from Wakanda.

Tony is the worst, and after finding out that Harley was dusted too he’s nearly catatonic, his shaking hands clinging to those around him. Pepper is his usual lifeline, one hand constantly reaching for her whenever she has to leave his side. Even then his other hand searches for his two closest friends, for Rhodey and Nat, and for the cyborg girl he was rescued with. As if without the physical reassurance of their continued presence they’d simply fade away as well.

When an Asgardian woman shows up at the door after the first few days they welcome the distraction even if only momentary. She leaves the next morning with Thor and Bruce both trailing after her in a daze. Spotting a bottle in Thor's hand as they leave, Pepper wonders if this is a wise decision, but with everything else going on she can’t bring herself to question it.

Even as the days turn into weeks and the group begins to regain the ability to function those remaining at the compound find themselves needing reassurance that the others are alive. Steve and Tony both needing frequent reassurances that Natasha is still alive causes problems as the two can still hardly stand being in the same room for more than a few minutes. Tears pour down Natasha’s cheeks whenever the two men she sees as her brothers spot each other and simultaneously leave the room.

When Pepper announces that she’s pregnant, already about three months along, is the first time that any Avenger smiles after the snap. Even if it is only half smiles filled with just as much heartache as excitement.

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It’s about a two months after the snap, a month after killing Thanos, and a week after Pepper’s announcement, while helping organize and compile the lists of the vanished, that Natasha finds her name. It’s not her real name, the only ones who could have reported Kate Bishop as missing being Avengers themselves, but apparently, despite not having actually lived there in two years, the neighbors from their Bed-Stuy apartment were concerned enough to report the whole family missing. Natasha’s eyes skim right past her and Clint’s aliases, marking them as accounted for without a thought, but she pauses hovering over the third name. Eliza Delta.

Her eyes well with tears just at reading the alias for her little hawk, at seeing the picture of her. This is the only one of her aliases that Kate had ever had need to use, so the others wont show up on here. Seeing her name though, even just an alias, seeing her face once she taps on it, here to be marked as gone feels like the knife in her heart is being twisted. Like by checking the box to say she’s dusted, Natasha will loose her again.

The picture is a few years old, taken back when they had first adopted her and were living under their Bed-Stuy aliases, and she’s not sure if the age of the photo makes it hurt more or less. It’s not the sarcastic and reckless eleven year old who hugged her goodbye before she left for the fight staring back at her. Instead it’s the tiny and mischievous little eight year old that they’d pulled out of the rubble of her house.

She’s so lost in her thoughts that she doesn’t notice when tears blur her vision enough that she can no longer see. She doesn’t feel the pain as her teeth dig into the hand she had pressed to her mouth to stifle the audible sobbing. Nor does she taste the mixture of blood and tears, falling down her cut hand and streaking cheeks. She’s unaware of time’s passage as she sits there sobbing in front of her daughter’s picture.

It’s Carol who finds her eventually, and the spacefaring Avenger is stunned by the sight. From their previous interactions and what she’s heard from the other’s Carol wouldn’t have thought Natasha capable of such whole bodied cries, even with the state everyone has been in. Slowly, but loudly enough to announce her presence, Carol approaches the sobbing spy, and places a hand gently on her shoulder.

The noise and touch Carol provides are enough to ground Natasha back in reality, enough that she can remind herself to breathe. The two women stand there for a few moments, Carol looking at the picture curiously, as Natasha regains her composure. “Who was she?”

“My daughter. An alias we used to protect her while living in the city.” Natasha has to pause to swallow the lump in her throat “This was right after we adopted her. She was eleven. My partner, husband, was at home with her while I fought Thanos' army. Last I spoke to him he said that she vanished right from his arms.”

“Where is he now?"

“I don’t know.”

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It takes the remaining Avengers, combined with the shambles of Government and law enforcement, several months to realize that Cassie Lang is simply missing as opposed to one of the vanished. Once realized the Avengers begin kicking themselves for not realizing, or even considering it sooner; and begin searching for her.

It’s Natasha who takes this revelation the hardest. If it weren’t for the lingering pain of loosing Kate, Natasha freely admits that she would probably be organizing and running orphanages for children left behind in the snap, but with that pain she can’t bare the thought of letting any other children close to her. But at the same time, this is Cassie.

This is the other daughter of superheroes, who understood Kate’s fear of having a parent not return from a mission. This is the little girl who would run around the Avengers compound with Kate, and crawl through the vents with her. This is her daughter’s best, and arguably only friend. This is a child who she already knows and cares about, who has had sleepovers in her apartment, and her quarters at the compound, and on her floor at the tower, despite living across the country. This is a child who has already carved a place in her heart.

And so it becomes her personal mission, her way of distracting herself from her grief, in a way that leading the remaining team can’t, to find this little girl. And Natasha has to admit this girl is smart. Upon surveying the house it obviously hasn’t been lived in since the snap, and seems to have been hit by looters. But Natasha knows better.

The fridge was largely emptied before the contents had a chance to mold. There are hardly any of Cassie’s clothing, though her drawers are mostly still in the dresser. There are assortments of toys, clothes and other personal and sentimental belongings hidden under the furniture, in places that a looter wouldn’t think to look but to a trained professional such as herself are plain as day. And most tellingly is the absence of certain pictures, while the frames remain. Well that and the missing child sized bike.

Actually finding the child proves a lot more difficult than figuring out that she left of her own volition. The last anyone saw her, and remembers or recognized her, was about five or six hours after the snap when an eight year old neighbor boy saw her head off with her bike and wagon.

“Any leads on your missing child case?” The number of people actually living in the compound has dwindled to just the two of them, yet Natasha hardly moves at Steve’s words. Only responds with the slightest shake of her head as she continues pouring over surveillance footage and traffic cameras, trying to spot even a trace of the little girl.

“No. Even going through all this the last glimpse I’ve found of her shows her in Mill Valley California, the day after the snap. After that she seems to have gone off all major roads and into the parks. I can’t find any trace of her.”

“If she’s hidden her tracks so well, maybe she isn’t the one hiding them. Maybe she has someone with her or…”

Natasha cuts him off. “This kid grew up with a cop stepdad, an ex-convict turned hero dad, and family on the run from the governments of several countries for the past two years. She can definitely hide her tracks well enough for them to disappear after several months. Especially if she’s following instructions left by one of them. The question is did she get to her destination in one piece, and where is the Pym's safe-house that they sent her to.”

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Morgan Stark is born two weeks early, at 6:44pm exactly six months after the Avengers return from killing Thanos. Her mother sleeping after the birth, her father sobs silently as he holds his little girl alone for the first time. Staring at her in awe and fear as if simultaneously baffled by her existence and terrified that something might take her away from him too. He counts each toe and little finger over and over, running his fingertips around her cheeks and down her nose. Reassuring himself that she’s all there and not turning to dust. Feeling her heartbeat against his palm and chest as her soft breaths tickle his neck. Reminding himself that this isn’t a dream, that he really has this precious child in his arms. Her soft little newborn cooing makes him smile softly as he clutches her closely and vows to protect her where he failed her brothers.

When Natasha is asked to be godmother to a one day old Morgan she cries, tears running down her cheeks as she genuinely smiles for the first time in months. Her head is tucked down, her smile hidden by hair and only seen by the baby in her arms. Both Tony and Pepper try to backtrack at seeing teardrops splatter and darken the baby’s blanket, fearing that they stepped too far and caused their friend to relapse into her grief. But she simply draws the baby closer and nods, pressing a kiss to the tiny girl’s forehead.

Rhodey doesn’t even need to be asked to be the godfather to this tiny girl, scooping her in his arms as soon as he enters the room and introducing himself as her Uncle Rhodey. Promising to her that he’ll be the best godfather is the world. Swearing that between him, her parents, and the rest of their messed up family, nothing will even get close to her. Happy pouts teasingly as he hears this, feigning disappointment at not being godfather himself but adoringly cradles the child in a single hand, gently brushing a kiss to her cheek when his turn to hold her comes moments later.

Nebula shakes with uncertainty as Morgan is handed to her. Baffled that anyone would let her hold, or even near their newborn child. But Tony and Pepper both smile encouragingly as they show her how to support the child’s head and cradle her properly. The tiny girl simply stares up, blinking softly in curiosity at both the woman fearfully holding her, and the raccoon peering down at her over Nebula’s shoulder.

Steve is shocked that he’s not just allowed, but specifically invited to visit the newborn. And even more surprised when the child is placed in his arms. Sharing a nod with Tony as he retreats a few steps, trusting Morgan to Steve’s care even for a few minutes, not all is forgiven but they silently agree to try.

As gifts for the child fly in from Wakanda, and New Asgard, and a fancy space mobile from some planet called Tarnax IV, the mourning heroes are more joyful than they have been in months. As just a little spark of light returns to their lives in the tiny form of Morgan Stark.

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The child slips around unnoticed in the practically empty little tourist towns, the people living there so used to seeing new faces that even in a post apocalyptic world it hardly even registers to see a little girl buying a carton of milk and a bag of apples here or case of strawberries and some carrots there. Especially when her getup consists mainly of clothing embellished with the names of parks, beaches and towns nearby. After securing her perishable food in her collapsing cooler the little girl begins her return ride home.

Sometimes going for a provision run takes the little girl upwards of eight hours. The difficulty of biking off trail through the forest lengthening what would be much shorter were there simply a path to the front door. She’s glad that there aren’t many people in the parks anymore though, if she had to hide from throngs of tourists every time she went to get food she would never accomplish anything. Even with only needing to take a day or two off a month, she’s still struggling desperately.

She gets off her bike at a clearing hidden by both the woods she came through and an encircling bay on the ocean side. Reaching under a bush she pulls out what appears to be a very detailed dollhouse, before placing it in the center of the clearing. Once it’s placed just perfectly she retreats back to the edge of the clearing and presses a button on a key fob. In seconds a large manor has filled the majority of the clearing, and the little girl simply carries her bike up the steps to the front door. Pressing her hand against a certain ‘window pane’ the handle glows and the door swings open, allowing her entrance.

“Hello ChANTelle. Would you mind putting these in the fridge?” were anyone not familiar with the family of this child, and the function of the earpiece she wore, they would balk at the giant ants and question her sanity as Cassie Lang spoke to them as though they could understand her. And maybe almost a year of near isolation was getting to the girl, but given that the ant appeared to nod at her words, one could conclude that it had indeed understood.

Satisfied with that answer Cassie passes her cooler bag to the oversized insect and leans her bike against the wall before she heads through the hallways to the basement, passing about a half dozen more giant ants as she goes. In the basement she unlocks another door by hand scanner and finds herself in a small lab. The lab is a mess of papers spread on every surface, some in her childish scrawl and others in multiple more matured handwritings. There is a vault behind her that has obviously been tampered with in an attempt to open it, but as of yet none of her attempts have succeeded.

The eleven year old plops herself on a stool and spins around a few times before picking up a notebook and burying her nose in the equations contained therein.

Chapter Text

It doesn’t take long for the world to realize that Morgan
inherited her father’s brain, as words begin to fly from her mouth as early as her fifth month of life. By seven months old her little mind is already hard at work connecting multiple words to a single object or being, understanding far more about the world around her than any other child her age. She sits observing the world around her with eyes narrowed in confusion, to understand the logistics of movement before she tries to take her first steps.

By her first birthday she’s toddling around the lake house with a constant stream of questions. Her sentences are still short and stilted, the words not quite able to form properly with her lack of teeth, but they get her point across. Asking how the TV works and why the leaves are falling. Asking what new words mean and why animals are fuzzy. Filling the silence of their escape with repeated queries of what, why and how in the curious manner of children thrice her age.

Typically a first birthday is filled with family cooing over a tiny baby just taking their first steps and saying their first words. Her party however is filled with her giggling at her own stories and weaving between the legs of the small group, dropping into a crawl when she deems speed to be important. Of the remaining heroes only Rhodey and the two assassins are able to come, but with the additions of Happy and May Parker, the little girl is more than content with the size of the crowd.

Morgan sits in her brand new backyard tent with Nebula and introduces her to all the toys her daddy had brought out for her. The cyborg girl sits there in confusion at the customs of children but smiles back every time the toddler grins at her and hands her yet another doll with a needlessly complicated name. The rest of the adults sit on the deck talking, but Tony leans over the railing with a bittersweet smile on his face as he watches the young woman and baby play together.
“She’s lucky to have you for a dad Tony.”

His smile widens slightly at Natasha’s words as he absentmindedly answers “Which one?”

Leaning on the railing next to him she gives him a small and slightly teasing grin. “Both. Nebula deserves to have someone care for her, and now she finally has that. Morgan deserves to live in a world where nothing can hurt her, but since that can’t happen being your daughter is the closest she’ll get.”

“Nebula did have someone, her sister, who cared for her though before…” he trails off and angrily chucks a piece of chipped off wood that he’d been playing with into the lake. His voice begins cracking as he resumes speaking “Nebula deserves her older sister back, and I just wish... I wish my boys could be here. I wish they could have met their baby sister. I look out into the yard and in my mind I see them goofing off and making faces at her.”

Some time during his speech tears come to Natasha’s eyes too, and she leans against his shoulder, gripping him in a one armed hug as she too speaks. “And Kate would be over by that tree over there, probably hanging upside down from one of the branches, and taunting one of your boys.”

“It would be Harley, he’s used to a little sister teasing him, and would simply tease her back if she tried. And the two of them would sit there snarking back and forth at each other for hours, while Peter played tea party with Morgan and read to her, and ran around giving her piggyback rides.”

“And Wanda and Vision would be sitting by the lake flirting and being all cutesy, but Vision would have his sensors focused on his tiny organic sister. And Clint would be giving Vision his overly exaggerated ‘protective claimed older brother’ glare that he was working to perfect while at the farm.” A choked half laugh escapes Tony’s mouth at the descriptions.

“And both of my younger ‘cousins’ would be here. Share undoubtedly on the porch behind us, trying to flirt with Captain Fossil who she would have talked me into inviting and dragged over herself. And Hope and her idiot would be sitting on the steps watching the kids play, as his little girl joined Kate in teasing the boys.”

“Those two were always terrors when they joined forces. Sure your boys could handle them?”

“Given that Cassie seems to be surviving on her own, I’m not sure. But Morgan would love them, and follow them around trying to help them with their schemes, and nine times out of ten, the boys would undoubtedly be the target.”

“They would have been a good team wouldn’t they. The four of them and the princess, and maybe Morgan when she’s older. A fitting legacy for our team to leave behind.” All Tony can do is nod slightly as he leans his head against hers, the two friends, the two heroes, united in the grief of their lost family and in the imagination of what could have been.

Chapter Text

Cassie sips her juice pouch almost frantically as the notes before her come together after months of research. Months of teaching herself quantum physics, before breaking off partially from that train of study to learn safe cracking and she finally thinks she’s got a solid grasp of the later concept, in addition to a better understanding of the former than most people will ever have. Apparently after her father had successfully managed to break into this vault the security measures had been increased, and liquid nitrogen won’t bypass the locks this time.

Her plan is reliant on several things, first she has to be able to either enter the passcode for the electronic lock, which is the molecular chemical formula for Pym-Particles, or disable the lock itself. After spending over a year trying solely to decipher that formula, practically rediscover it, she changed her plan to the second option. The second part of her plan is a targeted chemical explosion right on the manual locking mechanism, with additional blast points on the deadbolts holding it to the floor and ceiling.

The plan comes together quite simply without the need to worry about time constraints or tripping the alarms and having several superheroes be there instantly. The alarms on the vault are silent unlike the ones protecting the lab itself, merely meant to alert the four people granted access as opposed to startle the intruder. Cassie morbidly wonders if the security feeds are even still active with whatever happened to her family breaking the connection. Regardless of her thoughts she sets to work, it takes her several hours of disconnecting and reconnecting the right wires before she hears the satisfying click of a deadbolt releasing.

The chemical compounds she uses for the second part of her plan are not ones she’d heard of in school, and she’s not sure all of them are even known to most of the world. She knows that she definitely is not supposed to be touching them, but the lock on the chemical cabinet had been far easier to break than this one. Her homemade bombs in place she ducks behind a work bench that she had turned on its side and pulls a rope to knock over the vial of chemicals that will trigger the reaction. Her hands instinctively raise to cover her ears as the air is filled with a loud roar, the room behind her glowing momentarily with a white chemical flame.

There is little debris, though more than expected and she waits till the smoke clears before she looks out from her hiding place. The door to the safe is open just a crack, with a trio of holes blown straight through it. Cassie can’t help but grin at the sight as she approaches. The metal is hot where she reaches to pull it open, but not more than a little uncomfortable to the touch, the heat of the blasts having been contained mostly to the isolated areas as planned, even if the force had exceeded her predictions.

Upon seeing the interior however her smile turns into a slightly disappointed grimace as she steps over shattered glass, trying not to touch any of the unstable Pym-Particles now spilt on the floor. She can see her goal mere feet in front of her in the form of an unfinished Wasp suit similar to the one Hope kept with her. As she approaches though she feels a prick in her foot as she steps on a small shard. The pain is minor at worst, but the world begins to shift and swirl around her.

She isn’t aware of falling unconscious or to the ground until she wakes up. Even the she’s only aware of that fact because she’s staring up at the ceiling, the distance of which is changing as the safe grows and shrinks around her. No, that’s not right. The safe isn’t what’s growing and shrinking. The safe is the same size, consistent with the rest of the house. She’s what is fluctuating in size.

Sitting up Cassie finds herself tiny, the shattered fragments of glass distant across the floor, some looking large enough to climb on. Seconds later she begins to shoot up, with a scream escaping her mouth. The shards of glass are drawing nearer and nearer and she knows that they’re seconds from slicing her up. Until suddenly they are being pushed away by her rapidly growing body. Then the fragmented glass feels almost like sand against her legs as even sitting her head reaches the ceiling.

She presses a hand to her forehead and closes her eyes for a moment, trying to comprehend her situation. When she opens her eyes again she has shrunk back to approximately her normal size, most of the glass pushed out of the way as she grew but a few smaller pieces remain digging into her legs. Looking around she notices that most of the spilled Pym-Particles are gone, presumably absorbed into her clothes that remain damp. The prototype Wasp suit remains on the mannequin, though now shoved against a wall, along with the shelving unit that had held the smashed vials.
Taking a breath she tries to control her body, praying that these rapid size fluctuations will end. As she focuses on her breathing she becomes aware of a faint almost buzzing energy in her body that wasn’t there before. Focusing on that new aspect she tries to keep it from fluctuating as she stands. It works, at least to some degree, and she manages to grab one of the unsmashed vials, and makes it to a machine on one of the benches.

She doesn’t know what it’s called, but she has figured out that it identifies the substances contained in any sample inserted. It was fun to use in the first few months as she figured out what chemicals she had access to and the composition of various liquids she tested, including her blood. She places the vial of Pym-Particles in the testing port and sets the machine on.
Still growing and shrinking despite her efforts, she then runs to the decontamination chamber to shower and change into non Pym-Particle drenched clothes in hopes that it will cease her size fluctuations. It doesn’t. Her hand is triple the size it should be, and shaking as she puts a few drops of her blood into a vial and sets that to scan as she reads over the results of her first test.

The chemical composition is complex and made of several extremely volatile compounds and elements, and she knows she doesn’t have any way to access many of them, let alone recreate the process of making them. She’s pondering this conundrum as the machine beeps for a second time. She pales at seeing the composition of her blood. Or rather, the liquid that is running through her veins but is no longer purely blood.

She needs to find her dad or one of the Pyms now.

Chapter Text

It takes Cassie a few more months to figure out where the Quantum Realm test had been conducted on the day everyone vanished. In that time she takes to wearing the half finished Wasp suit. It shrinks to fit her easily and keeps her size consistent with the size of the suit at least, in addition to giving her a way to return herself to her regular size when needed. She is a little bitter that the wings weren’t functional yet, and thus had to be removed; and that most of the weapons don’t work either, but it serves her needs.

She’s taught herself how to drive in the past few months as well, and simply grows herself to adult height and takes one of the cars to get supplies. Today though she doesn’t simply go to one of the little towns around her parks. She takes the car straight into the city. Following the coordinates for the quantum tunnel’s tracker she makes her way to a storage facility.

Her eyebrows crinkle together in confusion. The notes had said that the retrieval was happening on a rooftop parking tower. Taking off the jacket and hat she wore over the suit, she throws them in the car she drove. Tossing the now shrunken car into her pocket with one hand, she flips the mask on and focuses on shrinking. The tracker now on her wrist display continues beeping and telling her where to go as she sprints under doors and between the feet of the few security guards. Running from the rats that roam around the storage bay itself proves even more challenging as the rodents currently are probably a hundred times her size.

Finally having lost the rat that was trailing her, she comes to a skidding halt when she sees it. Luis' van. In a fenced off area labeled Lang. She wonders why it’s there, and who put it there. She wonders if any of her dad’s friends are still alive, and if they moved the quantum tunnel to this storage facility. She suddenly regrets not looking for any of them before she left the city.

She gulps as she approaches, growing back to her normal size once she’s in the containment area. The locator continues flashing at higher frequencies as she approaches and opens the door into the cab. She knows its childish, but her mind can’t help but hope that she’ll find her dad and Hope sitting in the seats of the van goofing off. That they’ll tell her they just lost track of time on their mission, and were on their way to get her right then.

But the cab is empty, just as the logical part of her brain, the part that has kept her alive on her own for two years now, told her it would be. Still she can’t stop the feeling of disappointment in her gut. She feels small and alone, and has to force herself not to shrink at these emotions. She has to pull herself into the cab to turn off the tracking beacon, and instantly curls into a ball and cries once the switch is flipped. She just wants her family back.

Her tears turn angry and she starts punching the seat she’s on, unaware of suddenly growing until her back hits the steering wheel and her head the roof. It always takes her a moment to get accustomed to her new size when this happens, and the confined space of the cab of the van makes it even more awkward. She tries to shrink back down on her own, but her emotions are all out of whack and she can’t force herself to return to her normal size. There’s several moments of flailing limbs as she tries to get turned around, able to hit the button to pull her helmet back on, but unable to reach the emergency Pym-Particles at her belt to place them in the size controls. As she finally grabs the particles, her elbow hits some device on the dash, and the whole vehicle began to shake.

“Oh Fudgecicles!” A whirring noise fills the air as she inserts the particles and shrinks back to her normal size to throw herself out of the van. Upon landing she keeps herself curled in a ball, waiting for the vehicle to explode as did most of the experimental technologies and compounds she wasn’t supposed to touch but did anyway. She covers her head and helmet instinctively as she hears the blast and something flying from the vehicle and crashing into things, but quickly snaps them back down and jumps to her feet at the groan of pain that follows.

Running around to the back of the vehicle to check who’s hurt she stops and stares. It’s her dad. She feels the tears running down her cheeks again, but can’t wipe them away this time due to her helmet. The visor quickly fogs up from her tears.

Scott sits up in confusion looking around at his surrounding, trying to figure out where he is and why he’s there. Spotting a figure in a familiar, if slightly different suit he speaks. “Hope?”

The figure hardly moves at all, just a simple movement of the fingers to retract the helmet. Cassie’s voice is breathless and choked as she speaks. “D…daddy?”

His face is unreadable to her as he pulls himself to his feet and approaches her. “Cassie?” she nods and sprints forward into his arms. He clutches her tightly, caressing her hair as she sobs in his arms. She’s almost five inches taller than she should be, with the addition of a Wasp suit on, and he suddenly feels like he can’t breathe. “H… What… How long was I gone?”

She looks up at him with tears still in her eyes “Two years. Everyone… everyone’s been gone for two years.”

Chapter Text

Sighing Natasha collapses into her chair as everyone signs off. She has to stop herself from groaning in annoyance at seeing Rhodey still there. “Where are you?”

“Mexico. The federals found a room filled with bodies. Looks like a bunch of cartel guys. Never even had the chance to get their guns off.”

She brushes his comment off, purposely avoiding the other explanation that comes to her mind “It's probably a rival gang.”

“Except it isn't.” He's starting at her sympathetically as she realizes she can’t delude herself. “It's definitely Barton. What he's done here, what he's been doing for the last few years... I mean, the scene that he left…”

Natasha scrunches her eyes shut, trying to stop the tears that she can feel forming in her eyes. She’s not even listening as Rhodey continues speaking. She can’t have another breakdown, but every time she hears rumor of her missing husband it hurts. She almost thinks it hurts more to have Clint still alive but lost, than it does to have lost everyone else. It doesn’t occur to her that she’s eating, her body on autopilot to keep her alive, until she’s forced to swallow. Her voice is tinged with desperation as she speaks “Will you find out where he's going next?”

“Nat...”

“Please.”

“Okay.”

As soon as he’s gone she allows herself to break. To cry. She feels the same sort of empty loneliness the followed her between the RedRoom and S.H.I.E.L.D. only now far worse having experienced much deeper affection. It pains her the path that her husband is taking to try and deal with grief. It’s to reminiscent of herself after leaving the RedRoom. She’s so lost in her thoughts and grief that she doesn’t notice Steve’s arrival till he speaks.

“You know I'd offer to cook you dinner but you seem pretty miserable already.” His arrival is welcomed but unexpected and she curses herself for showing weakness in front of him. Regardless that he’s seen her worse.

“You here to do your laundry?” her attempts to dismiss his presence fall flat, and her eyes widen slightly at his response.

“To see a friend.”

“Clearly, your friend is fine.” Her words are sharper than she intends. She does want him here. She wants one of her best friends beside her. If only so she won’t be alone. He seems to understand this and continues talking.

“You know I saw a pod of whales when I was coming up the bridge.”

“In the Hudson?”

“There's fewer ships, cleaner water.”

Natasha glares at the man half-heartedly and cracks a smile at his words “You know, if you're about to tell me to look on the bright side. Um... I'm about you to hit you in the head with a peanut butter sandwich.”

He returns her smile and moves to sit down by her. Grateful that the two of them can still joke around with each other. “Sorry. Force of habit. You know I keep telling everybody they should move on and... grow. Some do. But not us.”

“If I move on, who does this?” She gestures at the mission reports and security records from her search for the missing Lang.

“Maybe it doesn't need to be done.”

It takes effort not to glare at him, thinking of Cassie being on her own. But then she thinks broader, of how she’s effectively taken it upon herself alone to do what S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded to do, and has to reflect on why. “I used to have nothing. And then I got this. This job. This family. And I was... I was better because of it. And even though... they're gone... she’s gone… Now, I'm still trying to be better.”

“We both need to get a life.”

Natasha smiles, easily and happily slipping back into their familiar banter. “You first.”

The monitor in front of her beeps, drawing both of their attention to it. The security monitor shows both Langs at the front gate with a beat up old vam. “Uh...Oh! Hi. Hi! Is anyone home? This is Scott Lang. We met a few years ago, at the airport? In Germany? I got really big, and I had my mask on. You wouldn't recognize me.”

“Yes they would. You met most of them more than just the once Dad!”

“Is this an old message?”

“It's the front gate.”

Chapter Text

As soon as the pair are inside Natasha pulls the little girl into a relieved hug. “Please don’t do that again. We knew you were alive and alone, and we couldn’t find you. I’ve been worried sick.”

The twelve year old is stunned by the level of affection from her friend’s mom, stunned at any affection really after two years alone, and awkwardly hugs her back. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know anyone was looking. I just needed to get out of the city.”

The woman nods and ruffles the child’s hair. “You’re a smart girl, but you don’t have to do it alone.” As she speaks to Cassie, Natasha is dimly aware of Scott pacing and a conversation between him and Steve. “You good to go and play?”

“Is Kate…” Cassie trails off at the reaction mentioning her friend gets. “I’ll stay here.”

“Have either of you ever studied Quantum Physics?”

The question draws Natasha’s focus from daughter to father. “Only to make conversation.”

“Alright. So... two years ago, right before Thanos, I was in a place called the Quantum Realm. The Quantum Realm is like its own microscopic universe. To get in there, you have to be incredibly small. Hope, she's my... She was my...”

Cassie interjects “She was his partner.”

The man nods with a sad smile at his daughter. “She was supposed to pull me out. And then Thanos happened, and I got stuck in there.”

Understanding the pain of loosing your partner Natasha can sympathize, but the concept of being trapped and unaware of what happened scares her. “I'm sorry. That must've been a very long two years.”

“Yeah, but that's just it. For me, it was only two hours.” At that he resumes his frantic pacing, rambling on about the Quantum Realm. Cassie interjects a few times to elaborate on what he means, and explains how she spent the last two years.

“… What if, we could somehow control the chaos, and we could navigate it? What if there was a way to enter the Quantum Realm at a certain point in time but then exit at another point in time? Like... Like before Thanos.”

Suddenly a spark of hope fills the hearts of the two grieving Avengers. Steve is the one to vocalize that hope. “Wait, are you talking about a time machine?”

“No. No, of course not. No, not a time machine. It's more like a...”

Cassie interrupts once more. “Yes. He means a time machine”

“Yeah, a time machine. I know it's crazy. But I can't stop thinking about it. There's gotta be some way... No, it's crazy.”

Natasha tries not to let her hope grow too much, but even a concept of a sliver of a chance is more than she’s had in a long time. “I get e-mails from a raccoon, so nothing sounds crazy anymore.”

“So who do we talk to about this?”