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Enough of the Sidelines

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Ever woke up with a piercing knowledge deep inside your gut that something really wrong just happened last night?

Maria had exactly that, except multiplied by the speed of light.

Her senses caught the scent of home, except it was faint and diluted with dust. Every inch of her muscles throbbed in familiar ache, feeling like the times she had been sitting in the cockpit for too long. And something in her guts was burning, boiling, a rotten bile reserved for a special grade of assholes. It was even worse than the one she felt about HYDRA and that shit was awful.

Then she heard a choked sound.

Worse, it was Monica, and the bile burst into flames, burning through Maria’s deepest core as she sat up, eyes opened.

And it was her daughter indeed, except she looked older and so, so tired. An invisible tightness coiled like a deadly snake as ghosts were lurking behind her eyes. Her posture remained alert and ready, but there also was something heavy Maria had seen too many times in her decades of military service.

Never in her deepest nightmare did she expect to see that in her own freaking daughter.

“What happened?” she said—rasped. Holy Mother of Fuck, why was her throat so dry. “Who made you like this. Give me a name, sweetie, and I’ll make sure they pay.”

At first, hearing her words, Monica just closed her eyes. Scrunched her face into a grimace that brought back memories of the little girl who refused to cry even after beating up bullies twice her size.

Maria wanted to reach out towards her, to comfort her, but before she could even move her daughter had practically tackled her into a crushing hug.

Mom,” Monica whisper-sobbed. “I can’t believe—I don’t—”

It only took a long, shaky breath to break the dam, unleashing honest-to-God tears that ripped Maria’s heart and stomped it into a thousand pieces.

Letting only a long, shaky breath, she had to bit her lips to prevent her own tears from falling. Her fingers clenched and unclenched, short nails digging a bit further into her palm with every single repeat. There were no words she could say here, not right now. Pain is pain and grief is grief and you couldn’t work on them if you didn’t let them go first. All Maria could do here was to weather the storm together as she tried not to think about how adult (trembling, scarred) her daughter’s hands were.

Of course, Maria’s mind took that moment to finally catch up with the present.

News after news reported the same thing. Tony Stark, missing. Alien ships on New York, Europe, and right now—Wakanda. Shots after shots of the ruined New York, except without any signs of SHIELD this time. Fury, Hill, May—no one picked up. She didn’t even know if they were alive—bastards decided to go underground after Sokovia.

This was her first time being in the sidelines. Something told her this was the worst so far. A burning urge blazed in her cells; to move and act and do something while having neither destination nor target to aim those feelings at. She could fly her small plane, but where?

Her only consolation was having Monica clutched right on her side. One less person to think about.

Of course, that particular track lead to a gnawing thought; maybe even worry. Higher and further, past the stratosphere, a thought reserved for she who fights above her skies and fuck knows Maria never ever worried about her.

Then Monica let a horrified gasp, and Maria looked down.

There was a growing numbness as she saw her hands scattering to dust, like being anaesthetized except not at all. She might not know what happened, but she understood perfectly what was about to happen. Righteous anger was soon followed by regret. She couldn’t even say a word for her daughter, and she’s right here. Monica shouldn’t see her like this. Her death should happen in the sky. Should be glorious and brave and not at all like this.

Helpless.

After a final, choked sob, Monica finally withdrew, but still a couple more moments passed before she could finally speak. “Five years, and everyone thought we’ve done what we could, but—“

A trembling breath, and Maria held back her snarl.

Judging from her daughter’s pained expression, though, the attempt wasn’t that successful. She could see her daughter’s expression hardening as they looked at each other.

“….I saw you fading with my own eyes,” she uttered.

Maria let a silent nod, almost imperceptible. The air was thick with mutual understanding.

Wordlessly, they both stood up.

Taking out the many guns Maria kept in the house wasn’t hard given how none of them changed position. But neither were they abandoned; some of the guns were clearly new babies, sleek and lightweight and incredibly deadly in the right hands.

“It’s last gen Stark, mixed with just enough Vibranium to pack a punch,” commented Monica. She was wearing what looked like a child between Tony Stark’s suit and SHIELD tech. “Wakanda helped. Even with half the world gone, some people still end up being the bad guys.”

Maria didn’t know where to start about that. At least there was relief. Rambeau women weren’t known for sitting still in their grief or for sitting still at all. She tried the latter, and look what it cost her.

Five years of pain she couldn’t take back.

Relishing the joy of moving, Maria opened her front door. Outside, her surroundings didn’t look that much different; maybe some of the trees are a lot taller, and her neighbors’ houses looked a bit more dilapidated. Her attention, however, was aimed solely at the garage, where a brand new heli was sitting right beside her old Cessna.

And in front of them, Carol.

Monica let a relieved, almost feverish laugh. Maria felt like the air was punched out of her lungs. Carol was drenched in some disgusting goop. A bloated bruise filled her right side of the face, purple and black and blue, as if she was sucker punched by someone three times her size. Her space armor thing—still in the color Monica chose—was torn on so many places, revealing bare skin filled with cuts and burns both old and new.

Still, she looked like a goddamned angel. Like the most heroic scene Hollywood could ever conceive, but better.

“Auntie Carol.” By the time Monica approached Carol, her relief was replaced with a youthful fervor. “What happened and why am I not there?” she almost demanded.

“Not the one calling the shots this time, Lieutenant Trouble.” Carol shrugged weakly. “But it’s all done. Thanos is gone.”

“Thanos?” Maria asked.

Could you miss a sound and simultaneously wishing never to hear it again in your life? Because that was how she felt about the sound Carol make, a hitch too similar to a choked sob.

“Hey.”

A little shrug as an awkward greeting. Not exactly the smoothest move.

“Hey yourself.”

They both locked eyes, and Carol’s face screwed up into a mildly frozen smile while Maria worried her lips. Carol looked as if she didn’t expect her to speak.

And Maria understood. She couldn’t believe it herself; some parts of her still wondered if this was her fever dream. There were decades of what-ifs between them; things she could have said and done, things she had wanted to say and do back then. Things she wanted to say and do now. They all choked inside her throat, tackling each other in a rush to get out only to end up holding each other back.

So she let an amused chuckle out.

“You look like ass, girl,” said Maria.

Carol blinked. “I look like ass?”

“Mmmh, one after a bit too much spanking, yeah.” She smiled, and that came out way too bright and earnest. “Nice haircut though. A bit overkill on the hair gel, but it’s Peak Butch all right.”

She received a half-broken laughter as reply. “Thanks. Somebody said I look middle-aged.”

“Well somebody did look like they’re gonna ask for the manager,” shouted Monica. She had entered the garage, far away from the two of them, and her eyes were suspiciously focused on a particular spot on her heli.

“Just saying, I’m your mom’s age!” yelled Carol back. It was so full of familiarity that the fire in Maria’s guts turned into warm light.

She let out a snort. “It’s true, though. You didn’t age one fucking day.”

“Hey, I got good genes.”

“Alien tech, more likely.”

“The perks of moving faster than the speed of light, maybe.” Carol made a little chuckle and darted her eyes across the ground. “So listen—“

“Hold on.” Maria rested her hands on her hips. “Aren’t you coming here first?”

Carol dragged her feet on the ground. “Can I?”

“Blushing virgin ain’t a great look on you, Carol.” Rolling her eyes, Maria spread her arms wide. “Come on. Pretty sure we got shit strong enough to wash whatever’s sticking on your suit.”

It literally took a split second before Carol pressed her lips long and firm onto Maria. The ever so familiar tang of blood was sharp and bright, mixed with something she could only describe as otherworldly, but Maria couldn’t really give a fuck right now.

This was the kind of kiss she always had in her dreams. The kind Carol used to give, and the one she hoped Carol could give back then, before that fateful flight with Dr. Lawson took her away to a fate greater than the two of them.

And Maria returned the gesture with just as much need and strength, opening her lips and sealing whatever distance remained between them. Her hands reached up to wipe some of the stickiness from Carol’s hair, and even the disgusting goop couldn’t change the fact that this was her hair. Maria had so much she wanted to do, she had been staying quiet way too long, and no way was she going to waste any time after watching herself scatter to dust.

That moment stretched and stretched until Maria could feel Carol’s warmth seeping onto her. They both knocked foreheads onto each other and all the feelings inside Maria dislodged themselves with a sigh.

“Is everything over now?” she finally asked.

“Yeah.” Carol tried flashing her familiar smirk, but it broke in a second and a pained grimace rose above it. “I was late back then,” The words stammered all at once. “I was late, and you were—Fury was—Can’t be late again this time.”

“You still saved the day,” she remarked with a smirk.

“Not me. Earth has a fine group of protectors now. They did most of the hard work.”

“The Avengers,” Maria wiped the sticky mess on Carol’s face. It’s a lot of ick. “Fury named them after you, you know.”

Where Carol would have quipped back, she just laughed tiredly. The softness of her voice hurts.

“Look at us,” she said. “Almost three decades and one world invasion later.”

“You returned once.”

“Mostly as Vers,” murmured Carol in a low voice. “It took many years to remember everything, and by then—“

“You’re at the other side of the universe, saving people.” finished Maria, lowering her hands to shake Carol a bit. “Listen, you silly. I’m no grieving war widow. You’re here. The world’s saved. Whatever else happened or didn’t happen, I know you’ve done enough.”

A slight tilt of her head, and she pressed her lips onto Carol’s.

“Now stop being a Debbie Downer. Pretty sure we still got a lot in our hands.”

“We?” asked Carol, smile growing oh-so-sweetly.

“Just saying, between you and Fury, I’ve had enough of the sidelines.”

A chuckle, and Carol pecked her lips once again. “Fair. I don’t think early retirement works for you anyway.”

“Mmm, flattery will get you everywhere.” Maria restrained herself to give just one more kiss before she truly pulled away, smiling. “Good to see you still got that silver tongue, Danvers.”

“Still can do a lot with it.”

“I am not talking about this in front of my daughter.” Whom was still standing far, far away from them. “Get yourself right here, young lady!”

Monica rolled her eyes as she approached. Her footsteps were heavy and dragging and pretty much reminding Maria of her teenage years. “Urgh. Not looking forward for it.”

“The work, or the PDA?” asked Carol. “Just saying. One can wait. The other involves an unpredictable succession crisis.”

Urgh.” Monica groaned loudly. “Just so you know, Mom, the power vacuum after half the universe vanished sucks.”

For the first time in what felt like a long, long time ago, Maria cackled. “Can’t exactly blast that sort of mess, can you?”

“Not for a lack of trying,” teased Carol.

“Was that how you do business out there, Danvers?” she hooked both her arms around Carol and Monica and pulled them close. “Damn. Making sure the whole universe gets a taste of the USAF, aren’t you?”

Monica laughed, and the sound warmed Maria’s heart.

Then she saw the twinkle in Carol’s eye. That. That was the woman she knew long, long time ago. Not some alien super-soldier or some savior of the universe.

Just Carol Danvers. Her partner in so many ways.

Maria never thought of her own life as incomplete, but with her loved ones so close by her side, for once it felt like everything would be alright.