Titan, Somewhere in Space
"You'll thank me when this is all over," Stephen said, smiling even as he disappeared. "See you in the endgame."
Tony stood on the desolate island planet of Titan, which Nebula would later inform him was so far from any decent civilization (thanks to the Mad Titan's destructive nature) that they were stranded unless they got on the Milano and tried to push toward a decent planet.
They played finger football, rationed their food and water, and tried hard to stay alive even as they died. The fuel ran out too quickly, the food, air, and water soon after. Thus, when the orange sparkles, so reminiscent of a certain magic man, appeared before the two, it was as if someone had restarted Tony's heart.
"Wong," Tony said, while he got his first real breath of air in two weeks, "have I told you you're invited to my wedding?"
"You lost my wingman," Wong said drily, but helped them cross over.
Washington DC, Earth
Despite knowing that they were both on the same planet, it took the 2018 Wakandan-Titanian Battle hearing for Steve and Tony to acknowledge each other's presence.
"One big happy family," Rhodey said unhappily as they all gathered just inside the building. Steve had on an enormous face bear, and if Tony had been in a better mood he would have said something witty.
"What, you boys gonna go a couple rounds with the whole world looking on?" Nat drawled as the two stared each other down.
"It wouldn't be the first time," Tony quipped back without taking his eyes off Steve's.
"It's been a long time, Tony," Steve said resignedly.
"It's been more than that, Cap," Tony replied, and the two shared a brusque one-armed hug.
"I heard there's a wedding in the making," Thor remarked as they made their way through the halls. He forced a smile, though he had been incapable of making one since Thanos. None of the others remarked on the dead look to his eyes.
"I'd invite all of you and your Asgardians, but you'll have to bring your own booze. You almost bankrupted me last time," Tony replied, instead.
"I'm sure," Nat snorted good-naturedly. "Between Thor, Steve, and Ali…" She trailed off, looking to Steve, whose face turned ashen at the mention of Ali.
"So," Bruce chimed in, right on time. "Pepper's well?"
"After the apocalypse, you mean? Yeah sure, well as she can be. We'd put the wedding off, in light of recent events, but we're-," Tony said, looking to Steve.
"Pregnant?" he asked, with a genuine smile.
"We're thinking of naming it Morgan, after my weirdest uncle," Tony said.
"Your only uncle, you mean," Rhodey corrected him.
"Still very weird, and that's coming from me," Tony retorted.
"Congrats, Tony, that's great," Steve said, as they neared the conference hall. The team sobered for a moment.
"Or, y'know," Thor mused, "you could also name your child Thor, after your greatest ally and friend, god of thunder, Asgardian hero-king, or something equally intimidating and noble." It was the first time hearing him joke in a year.
Nat grinned and pushed her way into the hall, to face down the World Security Council and Senator Ross. After Thanos, this was nothing.
Soul World, ?
Ali awoke in a world of purple and orange, with a headache the size of Jupiter. That made no sense. She didn't really care.
"C'mon, get up," a familiar voice said, and a hand was thrust in her view. "Come on," it repeated, and she took it. Bucky helped her stand up out of the water, and then kicked Sam gently where he lay. A tree was – for want of a better word – sitting beside him. Ali found Wanda beside her and helped her up. The young woman was weeping quietly – now that it was all done and over with, her body was wracked with sobs. Ali held her.
"C'mon, get up, bird brain," Bucky drawled.
"I hate you," Sam replied, not opening his eyes.
"Sam, get up," Ali said seriously. "You've gotta see this."
They were in a shallow pool, surrounded by slowly awakening people and animals. Many of them were Wakandans, including King T'Challa, who was helped up by one of the Dora Milaje. T'Challa was rounding up his people, and had no eyes for Ali or her group.
A wail came up around them, sickening, and grew in all directions. Wanda added her voice. For once, Ali didn't feel like crying.
Sam swore. "Who else is here?"
"I don't know – it looks like we were grouped here by how close we were together on Earth," Bucky said. Ali bent her knees to fly off, but found herself firmly grounded. For once, it didn't frighten her.
"Grounded," she reported. It was a pity – flying would definitely help recon along, but they'd have to do it the normal way.
"I have both arms," Bucky reported as well, watching both of his flesh hands in quiet awe. Even Wanda looked up at that.
"Let's get out of here – my socks are wet," Sam said at last. They walked.
They must have walked for days – it was always dusk there, and there were no celestial bodies to help them gauge time or space. After the pool of water, there were rolling hills – endless hills. Bucky and Ali found Valentine, and Bucky scooped him up. He and Ali took turns holding him, and sometimes they'd let him down and he'd just follow, bleating.
"When are we going to eat her?" Sam asked once.
"Him," she and Bucky had responded immediately.
They passed many human societies, and after them, alien societies. No one took notice.
Sometime later, they found a mountain. They had nothing else to do, so they hiked up it. When they got to the top, they could not look down thanks to what resembled cloud cover. None of them remembered passing through any clouds. They walked down the other side.
They must have walked for weeks.
Eventually, they made it to a rocky plateau, where Ali heard a voice she recognized.
"We may be called back at any given moment, so we have to be ready," Stephen Strange was saying. Ali ran forward, in bounding leaps. She even dropped Valentine, who bleated in protest.
"Hey!" Bucky called, but she didn't know if he was reprimanding her or just surprised.
"You guys," Ali said softly, coming to a clearing. Stephen Strange was sitting about with several aliens, and Peter Parker was lying on the ground, listening.
"Tempest," Stephen called in greeting.
"Not anymore," Ali said, smiling ruefully, and held up her hands to wriggle her fingers harmlessly. Bucky stepped over to Peter and loomed over him, searching his face. Valentine was in his arms. Ali watched as Peter's eyes opened and he stared uncomprehendingly at Bucky.
"…Jesus?" he asked.
Wanda burst out laughing, the only sound for miles. For a moment, it was only her laughing, from her stomach, with pure mirth, tears rolling down her cheeks. Sam had to help her stand. And then, Sam and Bucky were chuckling too, and the laughter spread. The only one who didn't laugh was one of the other aliens, a wideset man, but then a black-eyed girl with feelers touched him, and he was belly laughing with the rest of them.
Introductions were made, the circle widened. They sat down and shared stories of their defeat.
"That's all well and good, but we're not done here, yet," Stephen said, once they were done.
"Yeah? What else is gonna happen? Mistress Death comes in here with her – her Cosmic Vacuum Cleaner and sucks all our souls away?" Sam asked aggressively. Ali smirked.
"…No," Stephen replied, eloquently. "It could go either way, but one of the futures I saw ended in our victory. No, shut up," he said when everyone began to argue. "If things go right, the Avengers and some of your… Guardians can go back in time and gather the Infinity Stones and undo Thanos' damage in the present. If and when that happens, we have to be ready to fight, because they will drag Thanos's army back to the current time, and we have to help defeat him."
"Wow, and what will the current time be, exactly?" Quill asked shrewdly.
"2020," Stephen replied after a pause. Everyone erupted into angry protests again, except for Bucky, who wasn't too perturbed, and Wanda, who got up.
"Well come on then, she drawled, once everyone else had shut up to stare at her. "I'm done sitting on my ass – time to fight."
San Francisco, Earth
Kurt was not amused when the quantum van came into his possession after the infamous Snap. He'd lost all of his friends to it, including Scott Lang, who was last seen in said van. He debated giving it up or selling it for parts, decided that there was enough technology in it to destroy the world seven times over in the wrong hands, and after that left it be. It was perhaps 18 months later when the van began to blare out la cucaracha in the middle of one night. Kurt, pissed as shit, went to check on it to find a rat on the horn, amusing itself by stepping on it every time the music stopped.
He bust open the door, shooed it out, and found that the extensive technology extended from the trunk to the front of the van. He took a while staring blankly at the buttons and keypads before he realized that the machine was still undergoing some unknown function. Deciding that he didn't want the van to explode or create a black hole anywhere near his living quarters, Kurt activated the control panel and shut the machine down. He was surprised shitless when there was a bang in the back of the van and the vehicle lurched.
"Oww!" a muffled voice shouted in the back. Kurt threw himself out the door and opened the trunk doors, and Scott Lang fell bonelessly onto the pavement, holding onto his head. He was still in his spiffy Antman suit. "Uggghhh quantum nausea," he moaned as Kurt hoisted him to his feet and cried like a baby.
"Where is everyone?" Scott asked once Kurt could breathe again. At the sound of his voice, Kurt began to blubber again. When he was capable of speech, he sounded reminiscent of Luis, except his accent was much thicker.
"Whoa whoa whoa, take it easy, Kurt! Where's Hope and the professor?" Scott asked, taking in the night and the unfamiliar surroundings.
"They're dead or missing – Scott – Thanos – the Snap – you have to go to Avengers – now," Kurt reeled off. It took another fifteen minutes to get a decent understanding of what Kurt was going on about, but eventually, they got there.
"Can you get me to them?" Scott asked, breathless. "And where's Cassie?"