It's been three years since she's been back when it happens. They're in Xandar for their 'wedding'. Just because Earth thinks same-sex couples are unnatural doesn't mean that the rest of the universe does, so along with their family –from Fury and Monica to half the Skrull population– they'd gone to Xandar for the ceremony. They dress in the ceremonial robes, Maria a dark blue and Carol a deep red, with Monica sporting a purple one, a perfect blend of the colors of her mothers. Fury had refused to put on the traditional green guest robes, so he's looking sharp in a black and grey robe usually used by the parents of the couple. Maria hadn't wanted to bring her parents along, so Fury would stand in for both of the women's parents.
The rest of the entourage, Talos and Soren, along with their daughter and a few other Skrulls the pair had befriended, dress in robes too; green for the adults, white for the children. The officiant, a woman with pink skin and kind eyes, dressed in a golden robe, makes everyone march from the small room they're in to the gardens where what looks like a choir of birds sings an unfamiliar melody. She motions for the guests to make a circle around Maria and Carol, keeping Monica and Fury at her sides while she makes the pair kneel on the grass, hands together between them and fingers laced.
Once everyone is in position, she gives Monica a silver ribbon and tells her to loop it over her mothers' hands, up and down so the result is an infinity symbol. Her smaller hands tremble as she does, eyes glassy and a smile so big it takes over her face. The officiant then gives Fury a smaller, black ribbon and tells him to tie it around the place where the silver ribbon crosses.
And then she starts talking, but only the Skrulls understand what she's saying. Well, Carol does too, but she's not really listening. She's lost in Maria's eyes, in the way they shine and sparkle like stars. She squeezes her hands and Maria's smile widens to unnatural proportions. God, she's so beautiful…
"– Captain!" the officiant's voice finally registers and Carol turns to her with a distracted 'huh?'. There are chuckles all around them as the old woman shakes her head, Fury facepalms and Monica giggles, one hand covering her mouth. Carol flushes, a bluish tint staining her cheeks. Maria bites her lip to contain her laughter.
"Sorry…" the old Xandarian shakes her head, but in a fond way, as if this isn't the first time she witnesses this and is sure it won't be the last.
"I thought you were in a hurry to get bonded, hmm?"
Carol chuckles because yes, they were. They'd never wanted to get married, marriage was created as a way to bind women to men, to guarantee that the children were biologically his. Through marriage, women became the men's property, and they found the entire thing repulsive and a waste of money. It had taken Carol two years to realize that they could get 'married' in Xandar. Native Xandarians had never had these male/female roles, given that both sexes could grow and birth their offspring. So their binding ceremonies weren't about binding one to the other: they were about binding each other. It was about lacing their souls together, about the love pulsing from their hearts and through their veins. And they couldn't wait to make that commitment.
"Yeah…" she swipes her thumb over the back of Maria's warm hand, eyes twinkling.
"Well, then pay attention, child!" she chastises and Carol grimaces. Yes, she should be paying attention. Maria can't understand squat of what's being said so Carol has to guide her through it. "Now, let go of her hands, let the silk fall to the earth. Rest your hands in your lap, palms up."
"Rest your hands in your lap." She repeats to Maria and they let go after a last squeeze of their fingers. The ribbons fall to the grass, the six loops splaying to the sides, two smaller at each side with a bigger one beneath them. The officiant makes a happy little sound, hands clapping together.
"Oh, a perfect match!" she announces, grinning from ear to ear. No one else seems to understand what she's talking about, but she doesn't seem to care. "I'm going to need a little something special then…" she mutters to herself, dropping the golden pendants in her hands and rifling through her ceremonial robe. Finally, her hand comes up with a pair of black, woven bracelets, with small blue stones embedded between the thick, metallic-looking threads. They're kept together with a small, golden double clasp.
"What's that?" asks Maria, looking questioningly between Carol and the bracelets. They hear Talos and some of the other Skrulls suck in a deep, awed breath.
"This, my child, is a άπειρο, woven by the nymphs of Saastea." Carol recognizes the name, had heard it whispered back in Hala. An errant, sentient planet, populated only by female-like creatures that live off of what their world chooses to give them. Those bracelets– "They leave their planet once every a hundred years and distribute these throughout the galaxy. It is said that the stones will glow if the love of the couple that wears them is pure."
She carefully undoes the clasps, separating the bracelets. The stones pulse and the clasp turns into sparkling dust that flies away in the soft breeze. Carol stares at the bracelets, awe in her eyes.
"Carol?" she turns to Maria and grins. Taking her hand once again she looks at the officiant. The woman gives her one of the bracelets and Carol takes it with her free hand.
"On the right one, child." Corrects the older woman and the blonde fumbles, hands trembling a little. This is it, this is happening. "Do you love this woman?"
"Will you love her until your death?"
"Will you cherish her and any children she gives you?" Carol laughs wetly.
"Will you ever strike her down?"
"I won't." she shakes her head. No, never.
"Do you take her as yours, forever?"
"Put the άπειρο around her wrist." She does, sliding it over her fingers and palm until it rests right above the ulna's end. It tightens until it fits perfectly. The old Xandarian then offers the other bracelet to Maria, who takes it with shaky fingers. "Repeat after me, so she can answer properly."
"I'll ask you what she asked me, answer the way I did: 'I do', 'I don't'..." Maria nods in understanding, breathing in deeply before letting it out slowly. The officiant speaks, and Carol translates. "Do you love me?"
"Will you love me until your death?" Ok, that's kinda morbid, but…
"Will you cherish me and the children I give you?" Maria, Fury and even Monica snort. The old woman glares in disapproval.
"Will you ever strike me down?" Maria gasps, scandalized.
"What the– of course not!" Carol gives her a look and she grumbles. "I won't."
"Do you take me as yours, forever?" the smile returns to Maria's lips, as do the tears in her eyes.
"I do." She slides the bracelet into Carol's wrist. It tightens as it did with hers, but then the stones pulse once, twice and then keep on glowing. Carol's breath stutters and she looks up at Maria, tears pooling in her eyes.
"What are you waiting for, child? Do whatever it is Terrans do to show affection." With a broken laugh and tears rolling down her cheeks, Carol takes Maria's face between her hands and crashes their lips together. She hears Monica whoop in the background and Fury starts clapping, the Skrulls quickly following their lead, but the only thing in Carol's mind is Maria. Maria, Maria, and only Maria. Maria's soft lips and Maria's small sighs and Maria's warm hands tightening around her wrists.
And that, right there, is heaven.
"I love you so much." She breathes when they pull away, foreheads pressed together and noses bumping.
"No more than I do." Maria returns and Carol giggles for the first time in her life.
"I wouldn't be so sure about that."
"Rise, my children," interrupts the officiant, just on time before it escalates. "go through the golden door." she motions to breathtakingly intricate doorway, with thousands of motives edged and rising from it.
They help each other up from the ground, giggling like children and sharing smaller, sweeter kisses before Fury clears his throat. Laughing openly now, they practically skip to the doorway, hands laced together between them and bracelets glowing a pure blue. Before crossing over, they stop and turn, looking at their little girl and opening their arms. She runs to them and crashes into their embrace, laughing and crying at the same time.
"Be good for Fury, ok?" tells her Maria, tucking one strand of wild hair behind her ear. Monica nods, eyes watering. Carol and Maria are going on their honeymoon –turns out that it's a universal concept–, so Fury had volunteered to look out for Monica during the two weeks they would be away. It was summer break, so there was no need to stay in Louisiana and so, the teenager would spend her days following Fury around SHIELD headquarters and confusing the hell out of all the agents. Fury, apparently, couldn't wait.
"But not too good," winks Carol, smirking down at her daughter and earning a laugh from the girl and a slap on her arm from Maria. She draws her to her, squeezing her tightly. "I love you, LT. So much."
"Love you too, Mama." She returns, giving her a last squeeze before hugging Maria, whispering another 'I love you' and stepping back, letting Fury drop an arm over her shoulders.
They smile at each other and walk through the threshold.
A really alien-looking car takes them to a hangar, where they board a small ship that will take them to the space station, where a bigger ship waits for takeoff. They're going to a resort, a previously empty planet that now serves as the best honeymoon destination in the entire Nova Empire. Both Carol and Maria are practically bursting with excitement. Out here, far from Earth, they can hold hands and kiss in public and the only disdainful looks they'll get will be from people uncomfortable with PDA.
They sit close together, hands laced and head's touching. It doesn't take Carol much to fall asleep and her head slides down until it rests comfortably on Maria's shoulder. An announcement sounds, but Maria doesn't understand so she doesn't pay attention. Instead, she looks out the window and studies the odd-looking workers, the one with scales all over and the one with four tentacles sprouting from their back. She sees a figure from her peripheral but doesn't pay it any attention until they insistently wave at her. She frowns when they speak.
"I can't understand you." She tells the male looking person. He sighs and motions at Carol. His fingers are webbed and she blinks at them for a second before answering. "Uhh… yeah, she can. But I don't really want to wake her, is it really that important?" the man looks up and at one of his coworkers. They shrug and he sighs. He returns his eyes to her and tells her in a series of signs to buckle her seatbelt and to lower the cover of the window. Once she does, he gives her what she supposes is a thumbs up and leaves.
The ship takes a surprisingly long time to take off, but Maria can't ask what's happening so she contents herself with watching Carol sleep. She's so beautiful, relaxed and peaceful, her brow smooth and her lips parted slightly. She shifts minutely, nuzzling her cheek onto Maria's shoulder and a blonde curl falls over her cheek. With tender fingers, she tucks it behind her ear and with the movement the sleeve of the top she'd changed into falls down her arm, revealing the bracelet and the softly glowing stones. She hears a gasp and she looks up; her eyes collide with a triplet of yellow eyes. A child, looking at her from the seat diagonally to theirs, at the side and one forward. Their hair is in small pigtails, one small curl per each and they bounce with every shift of their head. Maria winks at them and they smile, a big, toothy grin that reminds Maria of a much younger Monica, proudly showing her the finger art they'd done in preschool.
Finally, there's a rumble all around that tells Maria the engines have been turned one and takeoff is immediate. She lowers her hand back to her lap and settles her head against Carol's. She relaxes into the plush seat and closes her eyes, letting the rhythmic sound of her breathing and the hum of the ship lull her to sleep.
Some time after, Carol shakes her awake, murmuring softly that they're at the station. Maria grumbles sleepily and lets Carol tug her up from the seat and support her as they disembark. She catches the eyes of the child from before and waves at them with a sleepy grin. The kid waves back enthusiastically, jumping up and down and saying something she can't understand. She feels Carol chuckle and then the child is out of view.
"Why was that kid calling you 'fairy'?" she asks, the chuckles still vibrating through her chest.
"She saw the bracelet; must've thought I was doing magic or something." They stop and wait for a few minutes for the luggage to be unloaded and take theirs. By then Maria is more aware of her surroundings and starts asking questions. "What is that guy, over there, with the huge teeth?"
"Oh, that's an Argian. They look really mean but they're actually big teddy bears. They are pretty much defenseless, so they have to look dangerous to scare away predators."
"Their world is populated by these really big rats, they eat Argians. The uglier you are the better." Maria snorts and discreetly nods towards another direction.
"What about that one? That really big salamander."
"Grazoarlian. They're scavengers. Their world is kinda messed up: it's really small and there aren't a lot of resources, so they can't really afford overpopulation. They have a lottery to decide who lives and who dies. And every five years they have a death race that kills 10% of the population." Maria looks kinda green, so Carol sweeps her eyes around and then nudges her. "See that cute ball of fluff?"
"That ball that looks like cotton candy?"
"It is cotton candy!" Carol grins at Maria's disbelieving face.
"It's true! Well, not exactly, they're tougher than actual cotton candy. They come from a planet where everything is made of sugar. Half of the Nova Empire is banned from going because they eat their houses." They snicker together, heads close and almost touching. A voice resounds around the place and Carol's head snaps up. "That's us! Let's go!"
Hands laced, they walk towards their boarding gate, Carol leading the way. When they get there, there's already a small line forming so they get behind the last one, a bull-like male with three horns and five boobs. Maria raises her brows in surprise and Carol merely snorts and shrugs. They wait patiently as what Maria thinks is a flight assistant checks the tickets and directs the passengers towards one of the two halls. When it's their turn, Carol offers the man –she thinks it's male, with the beard and broad shoulders– her arm, their tickets already loaded on her electronic vambrace. The guy makes a face at the device, it's obvious that it's Kree by just looking at it, but swipes the scanner and points them towards the right hallway.
They stroll through the tunnel-like hall in silence, merely enjoying each other's company. They reach a door and step in, the lift takes them up and to the ship. There's another flight attendant –female this time, with deep blue skin and curling horns– that asks Carol for her seats. The woman points them to the right and they go, Maria waiting for Carol to find their seats.
They settle in easily, Maria on the window seat this time. Carol is in the middle of an exited rant about the ships engines when a child appears, diving between their legs and curling into a ball, shaking like a leaf. Maria catches sight of the green skin and pointy ears before Carol is spreading a blanket over their laps, effectively hiding the kid. Not a second later, a mean looking man, with floppy skin and razor sharp teeth bursts inside despite the protests of the flight attendants. He walks along the middle corridor, his goat eyes scanning every pair of seats. Carol opens the meal catalog and Maria leans into her, sneaking a hand beneath the blanket to settle it over the bare head of the child. Their shaking subsides enough that it's not visible from the outside just in time. The man passes by them, looks over the small space and continues on. Five minutes later, he turns back and exits the ship, pushing the flight attendants out of his way.
Carol stops Maria when she tries to take the blanket off. She stops an attendant as they pass by and asks something. They nod and continue on. Carol opens a compartment on the back of the seat before theirs Maria hadn't even noticed was there and presses a small button. A black screen materializes around them, enclosing the little space in darkness until Carol presses another button and small lights litter the roof like stars. She presses one last button, this one lighting red but not doing anything else.
"Ok, you can come out now." She says finally, rising the top of the blanket to peer beneath at the child. Maria moves her hand away as the child looks up and gasps. A Skrull. They look scared, and Maria is quick to school her features.
"It's ok, sweetheart, we won't hurt you." She smiles softly and the child relaxes. "You want to come up here? You look a little cramped." She pats her lap and they climb up with surprising ease. Her heart breaks a little when she takes them in. Tattered and dirty clothes, scrapes over hands and knees and barefoot. Carol opens another compartment –ok, this is getting ridiculous, how much space can there be in a seat?– and takes out what looks like wet-wipes. She carefully runs them over the kid's face, hands and feet.
"Can you tell me your name?" asks Carol as she works, carefully dabbing at the scrapped knees that are stained a vibrant green. The kid chirrups and Carol smiles. "Lars? That's a really pretty name! Mine's Carol, and she's Maria." She reaches inside the compartment at takes out a couple of band-aids. "Can you tell me why that ugly man was searching for you, baby boy?" Lars lets loose a series of tweets and chirps, eyes watering by the end. He leans against Maria's chest, exhaustion taking hold of him. "It's ok. We'll keep you safe, ok? Sleep now." He does, eyes closing and body sagging. Maria folds the blanket in half and drapes it over the small boy.
"What happened, Carol? Where are his parents?" the blonde sighs, and stays silent as she disposes of everything.
"He said that guy came to his house and made his mother go to sleep, so she's probably dead. His father grabbed him and snuck him in a ship, told him to run and hide. The ship took him here, but that guy followed him. He's scared and he wants his parents." Maria closes her eyes and presses a hand to the boy's head. "The man's probably a bounty hunter. The Kree offer rewards to those that bring them Skrulls, better dead than alive."
"So he's an orphan now." Mutters Maria, keeping her arms wrapped tightly around the boy.
"Won't be for long. I'm calling Talos, he'll send a couple of his people and someone will adopt him on their planet. And we'll try to enjoy the rest of your honeymoon." Carol leans in and presses a chaste kiss to Maria's lips before drawing her sleeve back and tapping at the screen of her vambrace. Seconds later, a blue miniature of Talos is standing over Carol's forearm.
"Carol, I thought you were supposed to be relaxing!" he chastises her, though a big grin adorns his face. It drops quickly when he sees her grim face. "What?" wordlessly, Carol points her arm towards Maria, letting the scanner in the device see Maria and Lars. Talos sucks in a deep breath. "Is that–?"
"His name's Lars, a bounty hunter killed his parents. Could you send someone to pick him up at the resort? Children aren't allowed in there." Maria raises her brows and Talos nods.
"Yeah, of course. I'll call Slav, he'll get the kid. Maybe you'll have to wait for a bit, the jump point is a few hours away from Nihass." Carol nods and hangs up.
"Nihass? They finally named it?"
"Yeah, it means 'miracle' in an ancient dialect or something."
Silence falls over them, not an uncomfortable one, thankfully. A few minutes later they feel the engines start and Maria watches as the stars become streaks of light. One of her hands is laced with Carol's, resting over the blonde's thigh. The other is pressed against Lars back, rising and falling with each deep breath the little boy takes. He looks so young, five at best. He shifts in his sleep, one hand rising from beneath the blankets and a thumb going into his mouth. Maria thinks of when Monica use to do that, cuddled between her and Carol in bed or beneath the stars.
"We're getting you a translator as soon as we get there, ok?" Carol's voice is soft and low, as if she knows she's deep in thought and doesn't want to startle her. Maria nods, shifting until she can lean on her and sighs, content for the moment. "He's going to be ok, babe. Someone will take him in."
"I know, that's not what I'm worried about. Lars was lucky, he found us. But what if he'd snuck on a different ship? What if he'd tried to hide somewhere else and the people there sold him out?" she looks down at the boy, thumb still in his mouth and sound asleep.
"Talos once told me that Skrull children can sense safety." She drops her head over Maria's and her thumb starts moving back and forth over the back of her hand. "It's like a beacon in their brains, it guides them where they'll find protection. In their homeworld there were a lot of predators, the adults can sim those predators or even bigger ones to protect themselves, but children don't know how to do that yet. So they developed like a sixth sense of sorts that tells them 'hey, go this way and you'll be safe'."
Maria hums, relieved that Lars would've found them one way or another, but her heart still hurts for all the other children that won't have the luck of finding Captain Marvel in the next ship over.
When it's time to leave the ship, Lars is already awake and scared again. They don't know how to get him off of the ship and he knows. Maria gives him a sandwich to distract him while she and Carol think of something. Sooner or later one of the flight assistants will come to get them and there's no way of knowing if they'll sell Lars out. The probabilities are low, any citizen of the Nova Empire that colludes with the Kree will go to prison or get exiled, but there are a lot of people out there that would do anything for a few hundred credits.
In the end, they decide to wait until every other passenger is out of the ship to reduce the people that could try and hurt Lars. They wrap him in the blanket and put one of Carol's hoodies on him so they can cover his head. the thing is huge on him and they can't help but laugh when he flops his arms and the sleeves fall about twenty centimeters from the tips of his fingers. When someone knocks on the black screen, Carol presses the red button and tells the worker that they'll be out in a second. They get everything back in their bags and with Lars wrapped securely around Maria, not an inch of green skin visible, Carol sucks in a deep breath and lets the screen fall. A walking beard stands before them, blabbing and motioning towards their mop. Carol answers calmly, apologizes and then tells them they were already leaving. Maria rushes to follow her, keeping one hand over Lars head to keep him from moving. He presses his face to her neck and sags against her. As they exit, one of the assistants gives them a weird look, but they ignore them and keep moving, Carol's arm around Maria's shoulders to steer her in the right direction.
"You're doing so good, Lars. Just a little bit longer, ok, sweetheart?" murmurs Carol, her head lowered towards the boy. He chirps and Carol nods. "I know you're hot, but you gotta hold on for a little bit longer. Can you do that for us?" Lars nods silently and settles down, putting his entire trust in the couple.
Finally, they reach the main area in the station. There are people all around, from all sizes and shapes. Maria thinks she sees a giant teddy bear before Carol steers her to a little corner where she makes her sit on the small but surprisingly comfortable chairs. Once there, Carol puts herself in front of Maria, in a way that no one will be able to see her unless they stand right next to Carol.
"He can take off the hood now. Only for a moment though; I have to contact Talos." As Carol tinkers with her vambrace, setting up an audio-only call, Maria settles Lars in her lap and draws the hood off his head. His deep purple eyes collide with hers and she smiles reassuringly, sneaking a hand into the sleeve of the hoodie to tickle his fingers. He giggles, chirping excitedly.
"Carol," the sound of Talos' somber voice breaks through the exited rant Maria can't understand. "I've just gotten a transmission from Slav, he's docked in the Family Docks, spot 8364."
"Roger that. Lars is feeling better already, we managed to calm him down. He'll be with you guys in a bit." Talos hums his affirmative and they hang up. "Time to go." She says to Maria this time and takes the boy into her arms, waiting patiently as Maria adjusts the hoodie back over his head and makes sure not a centimeter of his skin is visible. Once done, she nods and they start walking again.
It doesn't take them long to reach the Family Docks, a place where people can park their personal ships. If it weren't because it's in space, Maria would say it looks like a simple parking lot, with space ships instead of cars and everything divided into tunnels. They move to the 8000s and then down the one with the 8300s. Halfway down, they see a man with curling horns, goat legs and a tail withering behind him. they stop in front of him and his eyes are immediately glued to the bundle of clothes that is Lars.
"Are you Slav?" asks Maria, looking him over suspiciously. The tag next to the door says 8364, but you can't ever be too careful.
"I am." He says, his voice deep and gravely. It doesn't match with his slim body.
"Prove it: what's the name of Talos' daughter?" Carol almost laughs at the irony. The same technic to prove you're not a Skrull used to make sure you are one.
"Signe. And his life partner is Soren." He adds after a second. Carol nods then, and he motions to the ship. They step inside and right after the door closes behind him, Slav drops the sim and reveals his true face. The blonde smiles and draws the hoodie back, letting their little charge know that it's ok now to move. She sets him carefully on the floor and takes the blanket and hoodie off of him, booping him in the nose once she's done. He giggles and hugs her.
"You're welcome, Lars. Look, this is Slav, he'll take you to your new home." She turns him towards the man and the boy smiles when he sees another one of his kind. "We have to go now, but we'll see you again another time, ok?" he looks a little sad, but nods and hugs her again before going to Maria.
"Be a good boy, ok?"
Lars chirrups and bounces a little. He waves enthusiastically as they leave and both women return it, laughing when he almost throws himself out of Slav's arms in his need to keep waving as they turn and leave the corridor.
Maria's jaw drops when she sees the resort. Carol isn't much better than her, but she hides it better. She's seen a lot of impressive things in the galaxy, but this one takes the cake. About ten stories high, with waterfalls from the top that fall into the small pools surrounding the complex. The garden that surrounds it reminds them of the Versailles' gardens, only bigger and even more impressive.
"Ok, wow." Mutters Maria, eyes going to the top of one of the fountains where something that looks like a nebula floats and twists inside the glass bubble. "How much is this going to cost?"
"Not a cent. It comes with the bonding." Carol pauses a little and then grins. "And I might've used my charms and the fact that I can and will protect the entire empire from the Kree to get us a better deal." Maria looks like she can't decide if being annoyed or amused, but before she can say anything a centaur stops before them. The human-looking part is female, with the lower part sporting a rich brown that shines in the light.
"Hi, I'm Kheedala, welcome to the Toutaris Resort. I will be your guide through all the activities you have selected. You are the Rambeau–Danvers, right?" Carol nods, face lighting up at the joined surname. "Please, allow me to take your bags and escort you to your room." Carol gives the woman the bags and she sets them in the carrier strapped onto her back.
"Could we make a detour to the medical facilities? My bonded needs a universal translator." The centaur stops for a second before nodding and motioning with her hand to follow her. She starts walking slowly, completely aware that her steps are bigger than her charge's and guides them around a series of corridors until they reach a strikingly white building, with smooth floors and practically deserted. Kheedala tells them to take a seat in the chairs while she makes the necessary arrangements. They sit close together, sides pressed against each other. Maria swats at Carol's hand when her fingers sneak beneath the shirt she's wearing and the blonde laughs before pressing a peck to her lips. When she goes to pull away, Maria grabs her and brings her back to her, deepening the kiss until they're both breathless.
When Kheedala returns, it's with another female centaur, dressed like a doctor. They guide them into a small room, where they make Maria sit on the bed. And when the doctor takes out the biggest needle Carol's ever seen, the color of Maria's face drains away.
"Oh, hell no!" she says, shaking her head, scooting back on the bed and away from the centaur. Carol chuckles and takes a seat next to her, grabbing both hands and making her look her in the eyes.
"Maria, hon, it's ok! I swear you won't feel a thing." In an effort to relax the woman of her dreams, she grins teasingly. "I thought you weren't scared of needles." Maria huffs, but there's a smile threatening to escape her lips. "There she is," she leans in, pressing a quick kiss to the corner of her mouth. "C'mon, close your eyes. Don't look at me like that, just close them. Ok, good. Now, as soon as we get out of here, Kheedala will take us to the suite and we'll spend the rest of the day putting the biggest bed you'll ever see to good use." Maria grins, chuckling and shaking her head. Carol squeezes her hands. "Then, if I'm not mistaken, we have reservations at the restaurant. Don't worry, they won't make us eat weird food; their chef is special, they can make anything you want. And then– ok done!" Maria opens her eyes to see Carol grinning like a mad woman.
"The translator, it's already set." She looks incredibly proud of herself. Maria turns to see the doctor setting the needle down in a tray, spray it with a blue thing and then throw it in the garbage.
"You sneaky little–" Carol laughs and Maria can only hold the façade for a few seconds before joining her. Kheedala interrupts them with a soft inquiry.
"You two ready to head to your quarters?" Maria nods, having finally understood what the centaur says. Carol merely grins from ear to ear. Hands laced between them, they follow their guide through the many corridors, crossing similar couples with their own guides. Finally, they reach a double door; Kheedala sets their luggage on the floor and gives them two necklaces. "Press the button on the charm if you need me. I'll come at 2100 to take you to dinner." She nods at them and leaves.
Maria turns and thanks her for her help, and when she turns back she's encountered with Carol's mischievous grin. She doesn't even let her a second to register it before the blonde has her in her arms, one arm behind her knees and the other one around her shoulders.
"It's a tradition to carry the love of your life through the threshold." She says, the grin still firmly in place. Maria snorts, but wraps her arms around Carol's neck and presses a kiss to her cheek.
"Well, go on then, love of my life, carry me through the threshold." Carol steps forward and the door slides open, revealing the most ostentatious room either of them have ever seen. The floor is made of a plush and soft carpet that feels like clouds when Carol steps in and the furniture is fancy. Incredibly fancy. Maria's mouth falls open and Carol grins proudly, her back straightening. "Ok, wow." Carol seems to preen as if the compliment is directed at her.
"I know; only the best for you." Carol's grin is all teeth and Maria can't help but snort and tighten her arms around the blonde's neck.
"Stop it with the flirting and get those bags inside. Close the door while you're at it." Maria wiggles until Carol sets her down and then gives her a come-hither look before disappearing into the bedroom of the suit.
She hears Carol stumble around, close the door with a bang and then she's there again and they're falling into the bed, laughing and kissing and Maria feels like her chest is about to burst.
Her ears are ringing. Her mouth tastes like blood. Her head's pounding. She feels like shit but the only thing in her mind is Maria. She blinks her eyes open and coughs, spitting saliva and blue blood onto the debris-filled ground. She looks around, trying to find Maria in the chaos. There are people screaming all around, smoke rising from the fire in the buildings that are still standing.
"Maria…" she mumbles, pushing her torso up from the ground with trembling arms and then finding the strength to stagger to her feet. "Maria…" she says again, louder this time. She stumbles, looking around, trying to find her love. "Maria!" she calls, shouting now. A twi'lek crashes into her, almost taking them both back to the ground and one of her tails – the lekki or lekku or whatever they're called– almost smacks her in the face. She continues running, shouting something Carol doesn't even try to comprehend. When her eyes finally find her, her heart stops.
She's hanging in the air, feet barely brushing the ground. Around her neck, there's the unmistakable blue light of a magnetron gauntlet. Carol doesn't recognize the Kree soldier wielding it, but that doesn't really matter, he'll be dead in a few seconds. Her fists begin to glow, but suddenly there's a gun pressed to Maria's head. it stops her dead in her tracks, but the power in her hands intensifies with her rage.
"Yon-Rogg," she spats, bristling at the leering look he gives Maria.
"So she's the reason you never accepted to come to my bed." He sneers, pressing the barrel of the gun harder against Maria's forehead, moving her head in the process. She glares at him, eyes red from all the smoke and the pressure of the gauntlet. "Turn off the light show or she dies. A shame really, given that you just got bonded. Such a pity."
Maria looks at her, pleading with her eyes to kill these bastards. And she wants to; oh, she wants so desperately, but she can't risk her. She can't lose her, and Monica can't grow up without a mother, not again. She breathes deeply, slowing down her heartbeat and trying with all her strength to calm down. Slowly, the light dims until there's only a faint glow beneath her skin.
"Good girl, now you'll come with us back to Hala." He motions to the now descending ship that had bombarded the resort along with three others. And even from here, she can see the dark spot that is the Accuser Warship right outside the atmosphere, ready to send reinforcements should the battle team need them. "Try anything and I'll decorate the wall with your lover's brains, understood?"
Carol nods, her jaw clenched so hard it hurts. She takes careful steps towards the craft as it lands and more soldiers descend, guns pointed at her and ready to fire. She ignores them completely, her eyes glued on Maria's and the way they sparkle with rage and hate. These jackasses have destroyed the resort, have killed half the people here and have crashed their honeymoon. The fire in Maria's eyes intensifies and Carol knows that somehow, they'll get out of this and they'll make them pay.
The soldiers move with her, keeping themselves at a distance that wouldn't protect them if she wanted to fry them alive. She pauses, eyes on Yon-Rogg. She's not moving if they don't come with her, Maria's not leaving her sight. One cocky soldier pokes her with his gun and she turns, eyes blazing bright. He squeaks and scrambles back, gun trembling in his grasp. She slowly returns her gaze to Yon-Rogg, the light in her eyes diming back down.
"My bonded's not leaving my sight. I'll behave, as long as I can see her." The man raises a brow, probably amused. She has no ground to make demands, but she knows he knows that she'll be much too difficult to handle if he doesn't do as she asks.
With a nod, the soldier releases the gauntlet and Maria drops to the ground, her knees trembling with the strain of holding herself upright. Yon-Rogg takes her arm, the gun pressed to the back of her head and they advance, taking the ramp. Carol follows close behind, or as close as the battalion around her allows. Maria tries to keep her eyes on Carol as well, but Yon-Rogg pushes her forward and into a cell, where a soldier already resides with his gun trained on Maria. The battalion leads Carol into the cell right in front of it. Once there, the laser beams activate and everyone leaves except Yon-Rogg and the soldier that guards Maria.
"He has orders to shoot your bonded the second you try to escape." He tells her, a smug smirk plastered over his face. Carol glares, her jaw flexing in her repressed rage. He then steps closer, his voice dropping down to a whisper. "You're going to be our weapon again, once we get to Hala." He sneers, getting as close to the laser beams as the static allows. "We'll wipe that stubborn brain of yours again and again until there's nothing left, you won't even know how to walk." Spit flies from his mouth, one drop falling on Carol's shoulder. It repulses her, just like the blood rushing through her veins does, but she stays stoic, not giving him the pleasure of a reaction. He scoffs and saunters away.
Once his steps have faded away, Carol uncurls her fingers from the tight fists they've been in and flexes them to release the tension. She then drops to the grown, slowly when she sees the soldier tense up, and sits cross-legged right in front of the bars, her eyes glued on Maria's. She's seated against the wall, with her legs stretched and she's fingering the bracelet, the small, blue stones now dormant, the blue darker and opaque instead of lighter and brilliant. Carol touches her own, and the stones pulse warmly for a second.
I love you, Maria mouths at her, head falling to the side.
I love you too, returns Carol, her fingers pressing harder against the bracelet until the stones dig into her skin. They pulse again, emitting the softest of light and the soldier's eyes almost pop out of his skull. Maria immediately yanks her fingers away and draws the sleeve of her shirt over her wrist, but it's too late.
"You two… you're soulmates…" he murmurs voice awed and shaky. Carol tenses, afraid of what this man will do with the information. If he takes it up to Yon-Rogg… "But… I don't understand." He looks at her, his gun lowered but still trained in Maria's direction. "I know who you are, you're Vers; you're all everyone talks about at the Academy. They told us the Skrulls brainwashed you." Carol lets lose a mirthless laugh.
"The Kree were the ones doing the brainwashing, kid. They took me from my family, they kidnaped me and wiped my memory because they wanted to use this." She raises a hand, directing the power to it and making it shine for a few seconds. "You're fighting on the wrong side of an unjust war, kid. The Skrulls aren't terrorists, they're just refugees, looking for a new home." He looks like he's about to protest, but she waves her hand in clear dismissal. "Save it, I know you don't believe me. You're still young, you probably haven't even killed your first Skrull, so let me give you an advice: leave the Force, before you become the murderer of thousands of innocent people."
The man stays silent and Carol's fine with that. It gives her the opportunity to stare at Maria, to take her in and all the details visible even from five meters away. She gives her a reassuring smile, fingers itching to hold her hand, hold her, and kiss her and just go back to Louisiana with Monica and cuddle all together in the couch. She sees Maria's fingers flex, curl into fists and then relax once again. Carol can practically hear what Maria's thinking, and it brings a smile to her face.
He's not looking at me, I could take him. He's young and scrawny, it wouldn't be so difficult. And he's lowered his gun, it's now or never.
Carol sees Maria's leg twitch and she touches her bracelet, sending a little pulse to Maria. She takes her eyes from the obviously distracted soldier and glares at her. Carol shakes her head minutely trying to convey with her eyes that they have to stay put, that this is not the time. Maria pouts for a second, making Carol grin like a goof, but nods and relaxes back onto the wall.
It warms Carol's heart how much she trusts her.
Halfway to the jump-point, Yon-Rogg gets cocky and takes them from their cells, moving them to the bridge where only the top-ranking soldiers are allowed. The ones that are aware that she was kidnaped and that the Skrulls aren't an actual threat, basically. They laugh and taunt her, telling her the atrocities they'll make her do once she's back to being the perfect little soldier. It's not until one of them make the mistake of mentioning Maria that she snaps.
"I think I'll keep your little bonded as my slave. She's pretty enough, she'll do beautifully." The disgusting man snarks, stepping towards Maria as she glares and refuses to give him ground. Carol clenches her fists, ever aware of the gun trained on Maria's head. "You'll be a good, little pet, won't you?" he caresses a finger along Maria's jaw, and she raises her knee. It hits him square in the groin and he releases a squeal-worthy of a dying pig.
Carol sizes the opportunity. She moves like lighting, shooting beams at the three soldiers surrounding her then blocks the blow that comes to her head. She glares at the woman and shoots her right in the solar plexus, sending her back to the wall. She turns just in time to send another soldier to the floor and then makes a mad dash for Maria. She has the scumbag that had wanted to make her his slave in a chokehold, the man's eyes turning blue from the strain.
Maria's eyes go wide and her mouth falls open. Her hold on the soldier slackens and he runs away like the coward he is. Carol's breath stops. The left upper side of Maria's shirt is turning crimson, and she raises a hand to touch, to check if she's really been shot. Her eyes lock with Carol's, her lids already dropping.
"Carol…" she gasps out, her knees buckling.
She bursts forward, her powers aiding her to cross the room in time and leaving scorch marks over the floor in the process. She falls to her knees, skidding beneath her love just in time to catch her. She cradles Maria to her chest, burning hands pressing over Maria's wound, but not causing any harm whatsoever. Their bracelets shine a sparkling blue in the sudden darkness. Maria gasps and coughs, blood staining her lips.
"No… nonononono! Maria, Maria, baby, it's ok, you're gonna be ok." Tears are streaming down her face, falling like waterfalls onto Maria's cheeks and neck. Maria gazes at her, terror in her eyes. Her lips move, but no sound comes out. She hears a sickly gurgle coming from inside Maria's chest. She knows that sound, a punctured lung. "Stay with me, honey, stay with me, ok? Everything's gonna be fine." She smooths back Maria's wild hair, getting blood all over the strands and Maria's forehead. Her fingers shake and she presses her hand against the wound once again. Maria grunts, a tear slips from her eye and runs down her temple.
"Car– Car-ol," she chokes out, eyes glassing over and struggling to stay focused on Carol. "I– I loh– I lo-oh-ve–"
"No, no, don't you dare." She shakes her head, sobbing uncontrollably now. She draws Maria closer, curling around her. "Don't you dare give up on me. Monica needs you. I need you. Don't leave us; please, Maria, don't leave me…" she feels her powers rising, sees the shine of them in Maria's eyes, the glow around her hand and arm as it applies pressure to Maria's wound. Maria smiles a sad, heartbroken smile that smashes Carol's heart to pieces.
"Ta–Take ca-re of– of our daugh–te–er."
Carol watches as her chest rises, falls and then stays that way. The stones in their bracelets blink and fall dormant even though there's not a centimeter of Maria that Carol isn't touching. The shock has her silent for a few seconds, but then she howls; the sound of a wounded animal, of a lost soul, of a broken heart. She presses her face to Maria's neck. She pulses once, twice–
And she blows up.
Newly promoted Officer Garthan Saal blinks at his screen for the third time in ten minutes. He can’t believe what he’s seeing. It's a recording from a satellite out in a moon of Hirus-8, right before it went offline. As it was programmed to do in case of destruction, the satellite had sent the last five minutes of recording to the Nova Corps. And Officer Saal had been the one to receive the message almost… fifteen minutes ago, now. He knows that he should notify a superior immediately, more so given that the destruction of the equipment was Kree related and not because of some asteroid.
He can’t even make himself press the button.
“Hey, you ok there, rookie?” the no-nonsense voice breaks through the haze and he looks up to one of his superiors, Irani Rael, and the woman’s amused face falls when she sees Saal’s expression. Without a word, she strides to his post and connects her set of ear pods to his station. He presses play to the recording for the fourth time.
At first, there’s nothing unusual. The moon off to the side and Hirus-8 right behind it. And then, the jump point opens and an Accuser Warship falls out, coming to a sudden stop a little off to the side. The camera, detecting the disturbance, adjusts its focus until the moon and planet are out of sight and the Kree vessel is smack-dab in the middle of the frame. Again, nothing; the ship stays motionless, not deploying nor shooting at the planet under the Nova Empire’s protection.
And finally, fourteen seconds before the recording ends, a sound pierces the silence. It makes Rael jump and Saal flinch, having expected it but finding himself unable to predict the way this sound makes his heart squeeze in his chest and long to feel his bonded’s arms around him; God how he wishes to have him here. Saal closes his eyes and lets it play out. He knows that at T-minus seven seconds there’ll be a burst of light coming from the ship; knows that at T-minus four seconds there’ll be a second one and that at T-minus oh-point-five seconds there’ll be the third and final one.
The ding that notifies the end of the recording breaks him out of his thoughts and he looks up, finding the stupefied face of his superior. He takes in a deep breath and pulls up a dozen reports from distressed calls.
“As of now, I have thirteen distress calls form Hirus-8. The moon under the satellite’s vigil is gone and according to the last update, thirty-two percent of the planet’s surface is in flames.” Silence. And then…
“None reported. The initial flames only reached the sea and the… Yevoria Forest, which hasn’t been inhabited for more than a century. Only flora and fauna have been affected. However, almost all technology on the planet was destroyed, which is why we’ve received so little calls.” He hesitated on the next part, looking up at the woman for a second before continuing. “There’s also been sightings of a ‘ball of fire’ in the sky, more or less on the same coordinates as the Accuser Warship. It is unclear if it was a planned attack or something that the Kree were transporting that got out of control.”
The woman stays silent for almost a minute, eyes hard and calculating. He doesn’t blame her, the Kree are a sensitive subject. Then, she opens her mouth.
“Send a message to External Deployments, tell them to have a platoon ready for my arrival.” She pauses. “Send another one to the Helpers, inform them of the planet’s situation. And send ED the coordinated for Hirus-8 and the unidentified object.” She adds the last sentence as an afterthought as she strides away and out of the command center.
Saal watches her walk away and stares at the door she’s disappeared through for almost two minutes before he does as she’s ordered.
Irani Rael isn’t a woman of action. At least, not anymore. She used to when she was younger, but now she’s been riding a desk in the Nova Headquarters for the past five years and she’s not sure if she misses the thrill or not. However, this unusual case is hitting her close to home. Not only was Hirus-8 one of the planets she’d grown up in, but the energy that had destroyed one of its moons was disturbingly familiar. Only rawer and more uncontrolled. And that sound… she shivers at the thought of it. She’s shown the recording to the platoon to prepare them and she can hear them discussing it in the back.
“I just don’t get it! How is it possible for sound to travel in space!?”
“It’s not, it defies the laws of the universe. There’s no sound in space!”
“Well someone just defied the universal laws, because that sounded like a scream to me.”
“Yeah! Did someone get chills? It was so disturbing!”
“It was awful, I felt like crying.”
“Did someone feel like something was trying to squeeze their heart out?”
The pilot’s voice ringing from the intercoms halts the team in their tracks. They’re on sight. As one, the entire platoon jumps from their seats and piles on the observation window.
“Holy shit!” seems to bee the only thing that manages to break out from their lips, along with “What the hell is that!?” and “Son of a–!”, the last one being intercepted by a fellow soldier before it comes out.
Breathing in deep, Rael tells the pilot to deploy a drone and get it as close to the potential weapon as she can. As it boots up, the video feed appears on the big screen. At first, they can see the same as in the window: a ball of fire, almost perfectly round with arm-like tendrils escaping every few seconds, as if feeling for danger around it. The drone gets closer and the team is able to see how the ball fluctuates, how flames race over the surface like sprinters, running to win an unachievable trophy. And then, the drone captures an image just before the dancing flames catch it and destroy it.
Right there in the core of the sphere, two bodies curled around one another, golden and jet-black hair swirling around them.