She gets back to earth in the wreckage of a Majesdanian ship. It is unsettlingly like her first return, minus Karolina.
She manages to pilot the broken thing far off shore enough so that no one will notice as it falls into the ocean with a large splash, and smiles with bitter satisfaction as she watches the ship sink slowly below lapping waves.
It means a longer swim to shore, but she simply slips from one gender to the other, to utilize the muscle of a human male. She then turns her attention to the spit of land she sees far away on the horizon.
Karolina is waiting for her.
Hope rises swiftly in her breast as she swims closer and closer to shore, nearing the Malibu house—but there's nothing there, only rubble and charred wood cordoned off by yellow constabulary tape.
She stands on the shifting sand, cold and dripping salty water, and wonders what could have happened.
She waits nearby, hoping the team will come back to the ruined house. One night is spent on the windy beach in front of the house, leaving her cold and clammy in the morning, her joints stiff and her long hair tangled. She spends a day pretending like she belongs there, in the revealing beach-going costume of humans, and keeps an eye on the ruined house. But there is nothing.
With another night spent on the beach, she becomes used to it. But she can only wait so long before the neighbors begin to notice, no matter how far away the next house is.
Perhaps the rubble is not as new as she thought. The team does not return.
She carefully circles the house early one morning, eyes narrowing as she briefly considers checking under the rubble, sifting through heavy material for some sort of clue, any sign telling her where they went.
Or simply what happened.
She's terrified of what she might find. The very thought of it makes her heart skip a beat, her stomach turn, and she banishes that thought from her mind.
She leaves without a backward glance.
The happiest time of her life was that spent with Karolina—and by default her companions, which was slightly less pleasant. But that is inconsequential. Now that her beloved is gone, she wonders if her days will ever be sunny and warm again.
She thinks back to her trip to the holding place of the remaining Majesdanes. While unpleasant, nothing unpleasant Ihappens/I to her. She counts that as a victory, considering how ruthless Majesdanians are known to be.
Her escape was more dangerous.
She tries not to think about that. It makes her too anxious, has her looking over her shoulder even though she knows no one will come looking for her.
She stays vigilantly on task, to find the others as much as to avoid remembering.
She has no idea where they've gone, and Los Angeles yields no clues, so she checks New York next. She blends in easily. It's not like anyone in the city cares about one girl wandering around looking lost, anyway. Tourists do it all the time, Karolina once told her, and it serves as a great cover.
She spends longer there than at the Malibu house, checking every location she remembers visiting with the others, however insignificant.
She starts to wonder if someone's taken them. Could it be possible?
No. She tells herself it's not.
Whenever she hears the loud, wailing sirens of the fast black-and-white cars, she follows carefully, hoping that she'll catch Karolina and her companions as they leave a beaten miscreant for the constable to clean up.
But there is nothing, simply men in blue putting people in their vehicles.
She does not understand. How far could four teenagers, two children, and a dinosaur have gone?
With a simple shift, she clothes herself in garments she remembers Karolina wearing. Although it hurts to do so, copying works as a good cover as she understands little of earthling fashion. Worry weighs heavily upon her, and she finds that even in this heartless city, there are some people who reach out, who tell her smile, don't look so sad.
She was not aware that she was frowning. It has become her default expression, etched onto her with every day that she does not find her beloved. She puts on a smile, pretends to be more jovial if only for her cover.
She feels like a traitor.
She finds that in this city there are men acting like spiders and hulking green women, but no runaways.
Humans and their useless emotions. They're catching, like a disease. She finds she has become susceptible to happiness, sadness, emptiness.
She remembers lying with Karolina one night, her head resting against a pale chest. Her beloved's heartbeat was strong, a tangible presence as Xavin attempted to sleep.
"Light of my life, what would I do without you?"
She remembers thinking that as long as Karolina was alive, she'd be able to feel her, to find her easily no matter where she went, her heartbeat a guide.
But the beat's gone still and quiet.
She can't feel Karolina.
After two weeks in New York, she gives up. The team is not here, but dangers such as the Kingpin still lurk.
With nowhere to go, she gravitates back to Los Angeles, although slowly.
She racks her memory for any mention of another possible home that Karolina had mentioned. She even checks what's left of the hideout under the tar pits, and spends a night there. It's better than sleeping in the bushes somewhere.
She continues her search, careful to dodge the vigilantes the group was so worried about—Captain America, S.H.I.E.L.D. Adults.
She's not certain they even know she exists, but better to ere on the side of caution.
She loves Karolina with unbound passion. But the runaways are also her only home. A traitor to many worlds, where else is she welcome?
The compass Molly gave her before she left is worn in places from where she's rubbed her thumb against it in worry—something earthlings call a "nervous habit." She'd unconsciously picked it up from Karolina, or one of her companions, and it became an everyday occurrence as she spent long hours pondering her fate on the Majesdanian ship.
Wondering where she can possibly look next, she slips it out of the pocket of her human clothes, turns it over in her hand, and stops suddenly where she's walking, swallowing hard, the magnitude of it all hitting her.
I'm lost, she whispers, the people of Los Angeles flowing around her. She stands on a cracked sidewalk in a huge city where no one can help her, cold despite the summer sun.