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The Power of the Nexus

Chapter Text

Tension hung in the air, suffocating those still conscious enough to feel it. Wanda stood with her shoulders squared, collecting what little strength she had left as she faced off with the Mad Titan himself. The red energy swirling around her hands was brighter than it ever had been, causing Steve to shield his eyes to protect them. To her credit, her legs weren’t shaking like she thought they were, and the only look in her eyes was pure malice. She couldn’t hear Thanos, the words drowned out by the sound of her heart beating rapidly, but when he turned back time to undo what Wanda had done to the Mind Stone (and Vision, but she was trying not to think about that at the moment), she lashed out.

 

As Thanos’ hand reached for the Mind Stone, Wanda threw her arms to the side, red energy trailing behind her fingers. She felt a scream tear from her chest, but still she only heard her racing heart.

 

As quick as a blink, the area was devastated by a wave of red energy, her allies barely dodging the blast without getting hit. Thanos still stood in front of her, but something was different. There was a vague look in his eyes, as if he’d been stunned. Wanda took a step towards him, hands still swirling red.

 

“I will not let you destroy not only my own life, but the lives of billions of people you plan to slaughter needlessly,” she grit out, a dark expression on her face. “You have ruined far too many civilizations, but your reign of destruction ends here,” she went on, throwing her hands towards him as she stressed the last word. Energy flowed from her finger tips, tearing through the Mad Titan’s chest. She wasn’t fully aware of the ramifications of that fact at the moment, too focused on her task to realize.

 

The energy spread through Thanos like a wildfire, dispelling the Mad Titan in moments. The Infinity Gauntlet crashed to the ground, the five stones catching the light as Wanda levitated the thing to bring to Steve without touching it.

 

Speaking of Steve, he was frozen in the spot he’d crouched in, eyes wide in awe as he watched Wanda destroy Thanos with little effort beyond intense rage. He snapped back to his senses when Wanda brought him the Gauntlet, getting to his feet to assess the weapon.

 

“Can you send it somewhere?” Steve asked, still not fully understanding the extent of her powers. Frankly, she didn’t either.

 

“I can try,” Wanda nodded. “Where do you want me to send it?”

 

“For now, the base back in New York,” Steve said. “And if you can, keep it secure somehow.”

 

Wanda nodded again, waving her hands in front of the Gauntlet, causing it to vanish. “It should be safe,” she assured Steve, turning away at the sound of something stirring in the brush behind her. When she realized it was Vision, she was at his side in moments, kneeling next to him and pulling his head into her lap.

 

“Viszh?” she muttered, voice breaking. “Please be alive.” It was almost a prayer, said so quietly the only one to hear it was Vision himself. His eyes slowly opened, revealing the brilliant blue beneath his eyelids. Wanda almost cried in relief when he opened his eyes, though she did let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

 

“Wanda?” Vision muttered, hoarse and scratchy. “What happened? I thought you were to destroy the Mind Stone?” he frowned.

 

“I-I did,” Wanda whispered. “But Thanos had acquired the Time Stone. He simply reversed time to undo what I had done.”

 

“And what became of Thanos then?” Vision asked, still frowning.

 

“I do not know,” Wanda admitted. “I remember lashing out at him, though I cannot remember the next few moments before the Infinity Gauntlet crashed to the ground.”

 

“And he is gone?” Vision pressed, a dull pain radiating through his head that he’d come to associate with the Mind Stone trying to tell him something.

 

“It looks like it,” Steve piped in, having stayed silent up until that point. “She turned him to dust, pretty much,” he informed the couple, trying not to sound as impressed as he was to keep the situation serious. “A quick survey of the rest of the battlefield suggests the beasts Proxima Midnight threw our way are completely gone too.” He couldn’t help the impressed tone at that point. Wanda had gotten stronger over the last two years, that was clear.

 

Wanda made a noise of disbelief, hands shaking as she brought them into her line of sight. Had she really done that? Had she really taken out that many threats with a simple flick of her wrists? What more could she be capable of? What exactly had HYDRA done to her? The questions flooded her mind as she sat there, frozen with a horrified look on her face. She knew her powers were dangerous, but she never imagined she’d be able to do something of that scale by accident, without remembering how.

 

Despite the aches he felt all over his body, Vision pulled himself into a kneeling position similar to Wanda’s, facing her and gently wrapping his hands around her wrists to get her attention. Once he had it, he brought her hands to rest on her lap, though he didn’t release them.

 

“Wanda,” he said, quiet but firm. “This is not a moment to fear your powers. It is a moment to celebrate a victory against the strongest foe we have come against as a team. There will be time for fear later. Now, we must find our allies and make sure they are safe,” he told her, tone far gentler than Steve had ever heard.

 

Wanda nodded weakly, hands slowly ceasing motion. “I almost lost you,” she whispered, too quiet for Steve to hear, even with his enhanced hearing. “I did not want to lose you, Viszh,” she mumbled, eyes trailing up to meet Vision’s. “I did what felt right, and it resulted in Thanos’ defeat.”

 

“Do not sound so ashamed,” Vision told her. “You accomplished something that no one has been able to for centuries. You should be proud of yourself, as I am proud of you.”

 

“Oh Viszh,” Wanda muttered, a few tears tracking down her cheeks. She nodded slowly, getting up on her feet as Vision did the same. He let go of her wrists, though he immediately took one of her hands in his own to remind her he was there, he wasn’t dead.

 

The eerie silence of the forest was broken by the sound of heavy footsteps crunching leaves and twigs, running towards the small clearing they were in. Steve, who had been silent to respect their privacy, immediately held up the shields Shuri had given him in defense.

 

“Whoa, hey, just me,” called the gruff voice of Bucky Barnes, who came into view with his hands up in surrender. The gun he’d been given was hanging off his shoulder, the Vibranium of his new arm no longer shining due to the amount of dirt and blood that had gotten on it.

 

“Bucky,” Steve muttered in relief, doing his best to not sprint as he went over to his oldest friend. He grabbed him by the shoulders, pulling him into a hug for the first time since this battle had started. Bucky didn’t hesitate before returning the hug, letting his guard down for the first time in two long years.

 

“Hey Stevie,” Bucky muttered back, the tension in his posture slowly melting away in Steve’s presence. The two did pull apart, but stayed relatively close, as if to make sure the other wouldn’t disappear.

 

The next people to enter the clearing were T’Challa, Shuri, Okoye, and Nakia, all wearing unreadable looks.

 

“What just happened?” Shuri asked, sounding intrigued rather than concerned. “The beasts disappeared without warning, leaving behind no trace of their presence.”

 

“We’re still trying to figure that out,” Steve stated, casting a brief glance at Wanda to assure her he wouldn’t say anything unless she wanted him to. “Seems some other cosmic force was on our side this time.”

 

“I see,” Shuri frowned, not entirely believing Steve but not questioning him for now.

 

“How are the others? Any casualties on our side?” Steve asked, slipping back into Captain America mode rather than Steve mode.

 

“None that we could see,” Okoye informed him with a shake of her head. “Doctor Banner is severely injured, however. Falcon is grounded due to damaged mechanics in his wings, which Shuri has offered to repair. The Odinson, the raccoon, and the odd tree are relatively unharmed, save the Odinson’s missing eye, which he assured was removed before this battle.”

 

“Thank you, Okoye,” Steve nodded, turning to Nakia and T’Challa. “Any sign of Agent Romanov?” he asked, as she had been fighting closely with Nakia.

 

“Agent Romanov has been knocked unconscious but is still breathing,” Nakia answered. “She, and many of Wakanda’s soldiers, are being transported to our hospital for examination.”

 

“And what are you doing with Banner?” Steve asked, frowning slightly.

 

“Doctor Banner insisted we leave him be for the time being so he can ‘reason with the big guy’, whatever that means,” Shuri answered, using air quotes to show she didn’t know what that meant.

 

“He’s fine then,” Steve assured her. “We should all regroup, figure out what we’re going to do about finding the other Avengers and getting Rocket and Groot back to their team.”

 

“Meet us in the throne room in thirty minutes,” T’Challa said, already coming up with a few ideas.

 

Steve nodded. “Will do. For now, you need to see how your soldiers are doing, and I have some Avengers to find.”

 

T’Challa simply nodded, turning and motioning for Shuri, Okoye, and Nakia to follow him as he headed for the hospital.

Chapter Text

The Wakandans had at least helped Bruce out of the Hulkbuster armour, leaving him resting beside it on his own insistence. That’s where the others found him after parting ways with T’Challa and the others. He looked over when he heard them coming, a weak sort of relief hanging over his body.

 

“Did we win?” Bruce called over, leaning against the suit to keep himself upright. There were cuts across his face and down his arms, though it didn’t look like they were bleeding anymore.

 

“Looks like it,” Steve nodded in response. “You good?” he asked, since he’d been told he was talking with the Hulk.

 

“The big guy’s still refusing to come out,” Bruce informed him. “Other than that, I’m in one piece. Can’t say the same for Hulkbuster.”

 

“As long as you’re alive,” Steve assured him. “Can you walk? We’re meeting T’Challa in a half hour.”

 

“I can try,” Bruce nodded, gripping the Hulkbuster armour to help pull himself up. His legs shook as he got up, but he managed to balance himself once he let go. Bucky went over to help him stay upright, letting Bruce lean on him if he needed.

 

“Now, where’s Sam?” Steve asked, only to have his question answered by the man in question trudging over with his broken wings in arm.

 

“Sam’s over here,” he joked, sounding winded. “The hell happened, Cap?” he asked, not noticing Wanda tense at his words and grip Vision’s hand tighter.

 

“I’ll explain when we get to the throne room,” Steve said. “Let’s go,” he added, motioning for everyone to follow. The six made their way towards the castle, not daring to speak. Wanda pressed herself against Vision’s side, trying to ease her racing heart with small calming breaths. Vision ran his thumb over the back of her hand to help, silently wishing he could do more to help.

 

On their way to the castle, the group found Thor, Rocket, and Groot with Rhodey, trying to figure out how to help him up so he could walk. Rocket was arguing he could probably get up on his own, while Thor tried to reason with Groot to help. They couldn’t understand what Groot was saying, but Thor apparently did and wasn’t fond of what he was hearing.

 

“Groot!” Rocket cut in, huffing in frustration. “I don’t care if your stupid game got crushed. It’s clear this guy needs help, so you can quit whining and do something useful.”

 

“I am Groot!” the tree-teen cried out angrily, crossing his arms over his chest.

 

“Your tone is uncalled for, “ Thor told Groot bluntly. “The weird rabbit is right, we must help Colonel Rhodes to his feet, and you are the best one of us to do that.”

 

“Blondie’s got a point, Groot,” Rocket agreed, albiet reluctantly. “We came to Terra to help ror something, so help.”

 

“I am Groot,” the tree-teen sighed in defeat, hanging his head and uncrossing his arms so he could extend them, looping them around Rhodey’s upper arms to get him to his feet. Once he was up, Groot unwound his arms and shrunk them back to regular size as Thor braced his arm around Rhodey’s shoulders.

 

Being mostly out of it, all Rhodey could do was grunt in thanks and move his feet enough that Thor wasn’t just dragging him.

 

Groot noticed the approaching group first, exclaiming an alert ‘I am Groot!’ to Rocket and Thor. Rocket turned around, noticing the six Avengers and automatically reaching for his gun.

 

“Hey Blondie, I think I found your friends,” Rocket called over his shoulder, causing Thor to turn his head. When he saw the people in question, his face split into a wide grin. He got Rhodey to turn with him to face them, though he kept supporting Rhodey.

 

“You’re all alive!” Thor remarked happily. “Where are you headed?” he asked.

 

“Yes, we are,” Bucky nodded. He shifted his arm around Bruce when he started to fall, the metal plates barely making noise.

 

“T’Challa wants us to meet him in the throne roon,” Steve explained.

 

When Sam noticed Rhodey, he went to take over for Thor, supporting his friend as best he could. Thor nodded in gratitude, moving closer to Steve and the others.

 

“Lady Wanda,” Thor greeted. “Captain Rogers, Sergeant Barnes, Doctor Banner, Vision,” he went on, nodding to each person in turn. “Is Lady Natasha alive as well?”

 

“One of T’Challa’s associates informed us that Nat is being taken to the hospital after being knocked out,” Bucky told him.

 

Thor nodded in understanding. “I take it we will hear of her condition when we meet the King?” he guessed.

 

“Hopefully,” Steve nodded. “We should get going. We’ve got 15 minutes,” he ordered, heading forward as the others followed suit.

 

As they walked, Vision turned to look at Wanda, a look of concern on his face.

 

“How are you feeling?” he asked softly.

 

“I do not know,” Wanda admitted quietly, meeting Vision’s eyes. “I feel numb, like I am floating away, and yet I am still here on the ground.”

 

“That does not sound pleasant,” Vision frowned. “Do you know why?”

 

Wanda shook her head, though she did have a faint idea of what it was. She just didn’t think now was the best time for that information. She’d bring it up with him once everything settled down. Maybe then her nerves wouldn’t feel like they were on fire, and her heart wouldn’t be racing from the adrenaline rush of what she’d done.

Chapter Text

Once the group had reached the throne room, Bruce and Rhodey were shifted into chairs so they could still participate in discussion and support themselves without aid. The rest of the Avengers stood scattered around the room, stone silent as they awaited the Wakandans. Vision had an arm around Wanda’s waist, pulling her against him protectively. Wanda leaned back against him, arms wrapped around herself. The silence had let her mind drift from the situation at hand, thoughts of what she had to say weighing heavy on her mind. She knew she’d have to tell everyone eventually, but right then she didn’t know how she’d tell Vision. He should know before nyone else, but she was having trouble thinking of a way to bring it up.

 

She was pulled from her thoughts when the Wakandans entered, preparing to have to tell her side of what happened. She was feeling less numb by then, so hopefully she’d be able to talk about it without too many problems.

 

“Does anyone have an account of what they saw?” T’Challa asked, prompting Wanda to hesitantly raise a hand. No one else made an indication that they would speak, so T’Challa nodded to Wanda. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before she spoke, steeling her nerves.

 

“I believe I know what happened,” she said softly, hoping everyone could hear because she wasn’t going to be able to speak very loudly. “I had destroyed the Mind Stone just as Thanos arrived. He had got his hands on the Time Stone, so he turned back time on the work I had done. He went to reach for the Mind Stone, but I lashed out at him with my powers. I blacked out after that, and do not remember the next thirty seconds. Captain Rogers witnessed what I had done,” she explained, looking at the floor instead of anyone else, not wanting to see the looks on their faces.

 

“She turned Thanos to dust, near enough,” Steve informed the group, expression neutral, as amazed as he still was.

 

“What about the beasts?” Sam asked. “They just disappeared. Some kind of red blast tore into them, did a real good job.”

 

“She did something with her arms,” Steve said, mimicking the gesture with his hands, “sent out a wave of energy.”

 

“I see,” T’Challa nodded, no indication of his thoughts visible. “Are you injured?” he asked Wanda, noticing how much she was leaning on Vision.

 

“I do not think so,” Wanda shook her head. “But my head is spinning.”

 

“I can bring you to see a healer,” Shuri offered, wanting to strike up a conversation with the woman. She found Wanda fascinating in many ways, and wanted to learn about her.

 

Wanda hesitated for a moment before she nodded, pulling away from Vision and kissing his cheek. “I will be back,” she promised softly, going over to Shuri.

 

Shuri gestured for Wanda to follow her, leading her to the healer that operated within the castle.

 

“You are amazing,” Shuri told her as they walked, a look of childish wonder in her eyes. “I have never seen abilities like yours that do not require technology to use. How do you harness them?”

 

“I do not know,” Wanda shrugged, arms wrapped loosely around herself almost protectively. “I had these powers forced upon me, and I have been learning new things I can do as every day passes.”

 

“That is so cool!” Shuri said excitedly. “Your abilities, they came from the Mind Stone did they not?” she asked.

 

“They do,” Wanda nodded. “Though I do not wish to talk about that right now. It is not a subject I enjoy talking about.”

 

Shuri nodded in understanding. She was silent for a moment, simply walking in front of Wanda. She turned to walk backwards so she could face Wanda for her next question.

 

“Have you told him yet?” she asked vaguely, but Wanda knew exactly what she was talking about.

 

“I-, how do you know?” Wanda asked, caught off guard. “I have not told anybody.”

 

“The way you carry yourself, with your arms like that,” Shuri said, gesturing to Wanda’s arms wrapped around her midsection. “And you are easily nauseated. It does not take a genius to put them together. And he is rather intelligent.”

 

“Please, do not mention this to him, or anyone else,” Wanda requested with as firm a tone as she could muster. “I should do so myself.”

 

“Of course, Wanda,” Shuri nodded, turning back around to open a door and letting Wanda through. She went to talk to the healer, explaining the situation to her so she knew what to do.

 

The healer motioned for Wanda to sit on the bed nestled against the wall, which she did without question.

 

“Princess Shuri tells me you are feeling light-headed?” the healer asked, sitting in a chair next to the bed. When Wanda simply nodded, she continued. “She also tells me you are expecting. Do you know how far along you are? I do not wish to do anything that would negatively affect your child during my examination.”

 

“About three weeks,” Wanda said softly. “I do not know how using my powers at such an intense level will affect things though.”

 

“I will take a look,” the healer assured her. “Can you lay down on your back, please?”

 

Wanda nodded, lying on her back with her arms to her side despite the urge to rest them on her stomach. The healer unlaced her corset, absently thankful it laced up the front. Shuri stood by the door silently, just watching.

 

The room was silent, save the healer’s equipment. To Wanda, it was an eerie silence, foreboding silence that would lead to information she may not want to hear.

 

When the healer was done, she helped Wanda re-lace her corset, instructing her to keep it loose as to not put unneeded pressure on her stomach.

 

“There is nothing concerning that I can find,” the healer told Wanda once she sat back up. “I believe you were light-headed from the force you exerted during the battle.”

 

“And my child?” Wanda asked, voice barely above a whisper as she placed a hand on her stomach, glancing down briefly.

 

That seemed to amuse the healer, as she let out a soft chuckle. “Both of your children are perfectly fine,” she assured her, watching Wanda’s eyes widen in realization.

 

“Both?” Wanda muttered in awe, looking down towards her stomach.

 

“Both,” the healer nodded, clearly amused. “It would seem you are carrying twins, Miss Maximoff.”

Chapter Text

By the time Shuri and Wanda returned to the throne room, the only people left were T’Challa, Steve, Bucky, and Vision. T’Challa, Steve, and Bucky were clearly discussing something, while Vision had no doubt been waiting for her to return. When he saw her, he floated over and reached out to pull her into a hug.

 

“Is everything alright?” he asked, letting her go just enough that she could look up at him without straining her neck.

 

“Everything is fine,” Wanda nodded. “The healer said I just exhausted myself.” She went quiet for a moment, trying to figure out how to tell him. She couldn’t keep it from him much longer, and after what she’d learned, she knew he needed to know.

 

“Viszh...” she muttered uncertainly, looking up at her partner. “There is something I should tell you.”

 

“You said everything was fine...” Vision trailed off with a frown. Even now, human emotion was still sort of confusing.

 

“It is,” Wanda assured him. “Please do not worry, as this is something good I must tell you.”

 

Vision just nodded for her to continue, still frowning slightly.

 

“Just days before we were ambushed by Thanos’ soldiers, I had gone to see a doctor,” Wanda began, speaking softly. “He told me that I am pregnant,” she got out, forcing herself to not back out in fear. “Just now, the healer has given me news that has shocked me,” she added. “Twins,” was all she said, waiting for Vision to say something.

 

Vision wore an expression of surprise and happiness, his blue eyes wide in awe.

 

“How is this possible?” was his first question, sounding more like disbelief than accusation.

 

“I do not know,” Wanda admitted. “But I will choose not to question the ‘how’ of the matter, as should you,” she said gently, hands moving to cradle Vision’s jaw. “I do not question miracles, which we have been given two of.”

 

A brilliant smile found its way onto Vision’s face, a contrast to his previous confused expression.

 

“This is brilliant,” he beamed, tightening his arms around her again to hug her. His enthusiasm was contageous, bringing a smile to Wanda’s face as she returned the hug, resting her head against his chest. “Absolutely brilliant,” he repeated softly, resting his chin on the top of her head.

 

“It truly is,” Wanda muttered, smiling in relief. “This will be hard, but it will be worth it,” she added.

 

Their moment was interrupted by Steve calling them over, which made them split apart but immediately reach for each other’s hand. Steve noticed with the smallest of smiles as they walked over, figuring he shouldn’t mention that he could hear them, and Bucky probably had too. They’d tell the rest of the team when they were ready.

 

“Feeling any better?” Steve asked Wanda, in reference to her visit to the healer with Shuri.

 

“Yes, thank you for your concern Steve,” Wanda nodded, the faintest trace of a smile still on her face.

 

“Good, because we have a couple people to bring to space,” Steve said with a firm nod. “Rocket said that if we can get him to his team, he can help us find Tony.”

 

A worried look passed over Wanda’s face in a milisecond, but she didn’t let it show. She was hesitant on space-travel in her state, but if Steve needed her there, she’d be there.

 

“Since Rhodey, Sam, Nat, and Bruce are in no condition to make the trip, we need as many hands on deck as we can,” Steve went on. “So it’ll be the four of us and Thor, because T’Challa is needed here.”

 

“When are we leaving?” Wanda asked. “I would like a moment to rest and eat something,” she requested. “It has been a long few days, and I have not had the chance to eat.”

 

“We’ll head out in a few hours,” Steve told her. “I think we could all use a break after that.”

 

“I can show you to the castle’s kitchens,” T’Challa offered. “I am sure you will find something there.”

 

“Thank you, T’Challa,” Steve nodded, gesturing for him to lead the way. T’Challa set off, the four Avengers following after him.

Chapter Text

Between eating and gathering equipment, the Avengers and the displaced Guardians were near the border of Wakanda, with Rocket tinkering with a quinjet so it would survive space travel. Steve wasn’t sure it would work, but Thor told him to ‘trust the weird rabbit, he knows what he’s doing’.

 

“And you’re sure this’ll work?” Bucky questioned the raccoon, eyebrows raised in doubt.

 

“Don’t get your bionics in a twist, soldier boy,” Rocket called back, finishing his modifications. “I’ve built shuttles from scrap. This is easy.”

 

Bucky put up his hands in a sarcastic show of surrender, making sure his rifle was in place. Steve tried to convince him to leave it, but Bucky stood his ground, so the rifle was strapped across his back, extra ammo clipped to his belt.

 

“Alright, meat sacks,” Rocket rolled his eyes. “Let’s go. Quill’s probably whining about something, and Drax definitely wants to punch him.”

 

The group boarded the quinjet, Steve insisting on piloting because he didn’t trust a raccoon in the pilot’s seat. Everyone else settled in the back, the Avengers bracing themselves for their first trip through the atmosphere. Wanda was sitting as close to Vision as she could without sitting on him, arms wrapped nervously around her stomach. Vision rested a hand on her knee to reassure her, trying not to show how nervous he was.

 

Bucky sat across from the two and a few seats down, casually listening to Wanda and Vision’s conversation. He’d overheard parts of their talk in the throne room, and he wanted to make sure everything was alright as they flew. He had no information on the matter, but he was pretty sure that space travel wasn’t a good idea for a pregnant woman. He didn’t want anything bad to happen to her; she deserved something good in her life, especially with the shit he’d heard she went through.

 

As the quinjet approached the atmosphere, Rocket jumped into Steve’s lap despite the man’s protests. He took over the control, ordering Steve around to do the things he couldn’t reach. The passengers braced themselves for the inevitable turbulence that would come with leaving the atmosphere.

 

After the initial shudder, everything seemed fine. Rocket didn’t give Steve a choice and kicked him out of the pilot’s seat so he could navigate, because ‘you’ve never been to space, shield dude’. He conceded, not wanting to fight an angry, cybernetic raccoon right then. Instead, he went to sit next to Bucky, patting his friend on the shoulder.

 

“How’re you doing, Buck?” Steve asked in concern. “Haven’t had a chance to catch up since we got here.”

 

“Feels good to have two arms again,” Bucky told him with a soft chuckle. “Means I can do this,” he added, wrapping his left arm around Steve’s neck and using his right fist to scratch his scalp, earning a genuine laugh from Steve, one Bucky hadn’t heard for so long he’d almost forgotten it.

 

Steve laughed for a few more seconds, until Bucky let him go. He rolled his eyes, though he was smiling.

 

“Anyone tell you you’re a jerk lately?” he teased, punching Bucky’s shoulder.

 

“Anyone called you a punk lately?” Bucky shot back without missing a beat, grinning. Steve took a moment to commit the sight to memory so he could draw it next time he had a chance. It was a beautiful sight, even with the scruff and dirt. He hadn’t seen that smile in decades, and he wanted to see it again.

 

“Nah, not for a couple years,” Steve chuckled, shaking his head. “Good to have you back, Buck.”

 

“Good to be back, Stevie,” Bucky nodded. “Haven’t seen anyone in two years. Even if Wilson was one of them, it was nice to see people’s faces again.”

 

“And it’s good to see your face too,” Steve responded with a smirk. “How’s the new arm feel?”

 

“Hell of a lot better than the old one,” Bucky shrugged. “Lot lighter, moves better. Cool rocket things in the fingers too,” he added, stretching out said fingers and wiggling them. His face went serious for a moment, leaning closer to Steve’s ear.

 

“You sure we shoulda brought her?” he muttered in Steve’s ear, trying not to be heard. “If I heard earlier, than you did too.”

 

“I don’t think she wanted anyone to know yet,” Steve muttered back. “We should act like we don’t, for her sake.”

 

“Still,” Bucky argued. “We don’t know if she’s in danger being out here.”

 

“Vision’s most likely going to be watching her like a hawk. If anything goes wrong, we’ll know,” Steve countered.

 

“Fine,” Bucky huffed. “But I’m still watchin’ out for her.”

 

“Wouldn’t be you if you didn’t,” Steve said, pulling away with a nod.

 

While Steve and Bucky were talking, Wanda had leaned her head on Vision’s shoulder in an attempt to not fall asleep. Vision’s arm was wrapped around her, holding her protectively.

 

“Should I have asked Steve if I could stay in Wakanda with the others?” Wanda muttered, looking up at Vision. “What if something happens?” she added fearfully, arms tightening around her stomach.

 

“I will do my best to protect you,” Vision promised, kissing her forehead.

 

“Oh Viszh,” Wanda chuckled softly. “My knight in shining armour,” she teased. She heard Steve laughing and turned to see what was going on. A smile spread across her face as she watched Steve and Bucky, who were probably acting like they did before the War. It was heart-warming to know that Bucky was able to fall back to that so easily; it meant he was healing.

 

When the two started whispering, Wanda turned back to Vision and nestled into the crook of his neck, falling asleep until Rocket yelled that they were wherever he’d brought them.

Chapter Text

After reassurance from Rocket and Groot (translated by Thor), Wanda stepped out of the quinjet with Vision, gripping his arm tightly out of fear. Her fear disappeared momentarily as she saw the beautiful array of stars and gas clouds above them. Why couldn’t Earth have clean enough skies to see this beautiful display?

 

Refocusing her attention on the task at hand, Wanda turned to Rocket and Groot, listening to Rocket’s instructions.

 

“Wlecome to Knowhere,” Rocket said, making a wide gesture to the ruins of what used to be a busy hub. “Doesn’t usually look this shitty, Thanos got his grubby hands on it lookin’ for the guy in charge.”

 

“Why are we here, if it’s been destroyed?” Bucky asked with a raised eyebrow and arms crossed over his chest.

 

“’cause I can get a hold of Quill, so long as the thing I need didn’t get trashed too,” Rocket explained. “If we split up, might find it faster.”

 

“What’re we looking for?” Bucky asked again, started to get annoyed with the raccoon who tried to steal his arm.

 

“It’s about yay big,” Rocket said, miming something roughly the size of a standard car tire, “covered in buttons and spikes. Probably not as pink as usual since there’s dust and shit everywhere.”

 

Bucky snorted, rolling his eyes. “Very descriptive,” he deadpanned, which earning him a disapproving glare from Steve that shut him up.

 

“Just go look,” Rocket snapped, taking off with Groot to check the last place he’d seen it.

 

“Thor, you go with Wanda and Vision,” Steve instructed. “Go to the south, Bucky and I will go east.”

 

The three sent south nodded, turning to go investigate. Steve and Bucky headed east, and if they held hands when they thought no one could see them, that was their own business.

 

Thor took charge once the group split up, which Wanda and Vision didn’t protest; Thor knew what to do in space, and they didn’t. They wandered for a bit, overturning rubble to look for the large pink thing covered in spikes. With nothing productive happening, Wanda turned to Vision, just watching him for a few minutes.

 

“Do you think one of the twins will look like you?” she asked softly, causing Vision to pause.

 

“I do not know,” Vision mutterd after a moment of thought. “Though if one takes after me, they will be at a disadvantage,” he commented.

 

Wanda frowned, turning to Vision with a confused expression. “What do you mean?” she asked, still frowning.

 

“Humans do not react well to unusal skin pigmentation,” Vision stated, trying to get around the fact that he was talking negatively about himself. “I would not wish that upon any child, least of all one of my own,” he explained.

 

Wanda sighed softly, shaking her head. “I do not care what other humans think,” she told him firmly. “If one of our children takes after you, they will be handsome, just like you,” she went on, a sincerity in her voice that Vision found reassuring.

 

Before Vision could respond, the sound of a large crash tore through the air, coming from the direction Rocket and Groot had gone. Wanda and Thor began running, Vision flying alongside them.

 

“Found it!” Rocket called out, a manic laugh evident in his voice.

 

It seemed Steve and Bucky had the same reaction as the others, as they met at the quinjet at roughly the same time. Rocket was holding the item he’d been looking for above his head like a trophy, grinning wickedly. Once everyone was there, he placed it on the ground and began messing around with it. As he did, a hologram was projected from one of the spikes on the top. At first, it showed nothing, but the more Rocket messed with it, the more details showed up.

 

While none of the Avengers recognized the image, Rocket and Groot did, if Rocket’s cursing and Groot’s frustrated huff were anything to go by. He gestured to the holographic image that depicted the view from Peter Quill’s eyes, the orange desert-like landscape full of more ruins and rubble than Knowhere. Right in the middle of Quill’s line of sight was none other than Tony Stark, who was rambling about something, but what they couldn’t tell, as there was no audio.

 

“That tin can your buddy?” Rocket asked, meaning Tony.

 

Yeah, that’s him,” Steve nodded, though he was confused. “What is this showing? I thought you were looking for your teammate?”

 

“We’re seeing exactly what Quill’s seeing,” Rocket explained. “I chipped the dumbass not long ago so I could keep track of his sorry ass.”

 

“So he’s seeing… Tony?” Steve frowned. How had that worked out, that the people they were looking for were in the same place?

 

“And Titan, Thanos’ home planet,” Rocket said flatly, clearly not amused. “ I recognize two of the people he’s seeing, that’s Drax and Mantis, but the idiot in red and the guy with the blanket around his shoulders I don’t. They yours too?”

 

The one with the cape, or as you say ‘blanket’, is Doctor Stephen Strange,” Thor responded. “He is a skilled magician, and is in fact the Sorcerer Supreme. How he ended up on Titan with Stark, I’m not sure.”

 

“The guy in the red calls himself ‘Spiderman’,” Bucky supplied. “He’s just a kid. Stark recruited him for Berlin; guess he stuck around.”

 

So what I’m hearing is we’re going to Titan, and that’s it,” Rocket hummed. “Groot, I need that damn headset of yours,” he said, turning to the tree-teen. Groot initially protested, but gave in when Rocket scowled at him. He began tinkering with it, rigging it to navigate to Titan from Knowhere.

 

Alright meat sacks, Groot, let’s go to Titan,” Rocket said once he was done, heading for the Quinjet.

Chapter Text

Rocket said the trip to Titan would be a lot longer than the one to Knowhere, so the Avengers made themselves comfortable for the ride. Rocket actually could pilot the quinjet, so they no longer feared for their lives. Steve and Bucky were sitting away from the others, which Wanda found odd but didn’t question. She simply curled against Vision’s side to take a well-needed nap, head on Vision’s shoulder and one of his arms around her. Thor was sitting up near the front with Groot, apparently swapping stories. Vision absently listened in, though he didn’t speak ‘Groot’, as he’d been told it was called. He simply listened to Thor’s side of the story, piecing together what he could with how Thor responded to Groot.

 

Over in the corner, Bucky poked Steve in the ribs to ‘make sure he wasn’t falling asleep’, snickering when Steve tried swatting his hand away.

 

“Hey, I missed you, I’m allowed to be annoying,” Bucky teased, though his eyes were sincere when he said he’d missed Steve.

 

“I missed you too. Does that mean I get to be annoying?” Steve countered, though he was being sincere as well.

 

“Nah, means you get a hug,” Bucky shook his head, following through by wrapping his arms around Steve tightly. Steve returned the hug, smiling faintly.

 

“You’re not leaving me anywhere for two years ever again,” Bucky muttered as he pulled away. “Especially not if my brain’s still fucked and malfunctioning.”

 

“I don’t have any plans to,” Steve assured him. “I plan on keeping you where I can see you, so if anything goes wrong, I’m there.” His tone was teasing, but his expression was all protective idiot.

 

“You’re a sap,” Bucky rolled his eyes, bumping his shoulder against Steve’s.

 

“Yeah, I know,” Steve chuckled, returning the action. “But you love me,” he reminded Bucky, a stupid grin on his face. He’d really missed Buky, this Bucky. The one he could tease and mess around with like old times.

 

“Of course I do,” Bucky shook his head with a dramatic sigh. “Someone has to,” he pointed out, leaning over to place a kiss on Steve’s cheek. He laughed quietly at the blush that rose in Steve’s face when he did that, rolling his eyes. “Ah c’mon Stevie, you’re almost a hundred years old. Quit blushin’ like a schoolgirl,” he teased.

 

“Can’t help it,” Steve countered. “It’s been way too long since the last time you did that,” he pointed out. “Forgot what it felt like.”

 

“You really are a sap,” Bucky teased, rolling his eyes again. “So what colour would you turn if I did this?” he smirked, before kissing Steve properly for the first time since 1944.

 

Steve didn’t hesitate before returning the kiss, hand moving to cradle Bucky’s jaw like he always used to do.

 

Despite nearly 70 years between their last kiss, it felt as natural as it did in ‘44. Even with Steve’s beard and Bucky’s stubble, it felt the same.

 

When the two eventually broke apart, they didn’t stray far. With Steve’s hand still on Bucky’s jaw, they rested their foreheads together, just enjoying the moment before something inevitably ruined it.

 

“I love you,” Steve muttered. Just saying those three words, Steve felt a weight lift from his shoulders. It wasn’t a big weight, but it was the one that was holding him back the most.

 

“I love you too,” Bucky muttered back, a small but fond smile forming on his face. The two fell into a comfortable silence, not needing to talk to express how they felt. They’d stopped needing words in about 1938. Their eyes did all the talking, sky blue and crystal blue able to hold entire conversations by themselves.

 

“If we make it back from space,” Bucky muttered, breaking the silence, “when everything’s all sorted out, we should get married. Nothing fancy or anything, just so we’ll never be denied information if one of us is hurt or something.”

 

“Sounds like a good idea,” Steve said, smiling. “And good ideas should be used.”

 

Bucky laughed at that, shaking his head. “Now you’re not just a sap. You’re a dork.”

 

“Ah, but I’m your dork,” Steve reminded him, smirking.

 

“I know,” Bucky sighed dramatically. A noise to Bucky’s left drew his attention, causing him to pull away from Steve to get a better look at it. “Looks like we’re going to have to come back to this,” he stated, as Rocket was yelling at everyone that they’d made it to Titan in mostly one piece.

Chapter Text

When Rocket had said ‘mostly’ in one piece, turns out he meant that he knocked an unimportant piece off the side when landing. Other than that, the quinjet was in working condition as the group exited onto the orange-brown sand of Titan’s surface. Rocket’s make-shift GPS was pretty accurate, as the group were almost instantly ambushed by a blur of red and blue Spandex and a barrell on two legs.

 

“Fuck’s sake Drax, really!” Rocket grumbled, causing the barrell on two legs to stop.

 

“Oh, Rocket,” Drax realized. “I thought you were going to the place with the unpronouncable name with the man who crashed into our ship?”

 

“Been there, done that, came looking for your sorry asses,” Rocket shrugged.

 

“I am Groot!” came the tree-teen’s pitchy voice from behind Steve.

 

“Oh yeah, and these guys needed help finding a guy in a tin can that happened to be here with you guys,” Rocket added, as if it were unimportant.

 

“Is that a raccoon?” The voice came from the kid in Spandex, who pulled his mask off to reveal just how young he was. “Because it’s talking. And walking on two legs.” The kid sounded panicked, as if he were seeing things.

 

“He doesn’t like being called a raccoon,” Quill called over, shouldering through the others to see his friends. “So if I were you, I’d call him Rocket.”

 

“Why Rocket?” the kid frowned.

 

“’cause that’s my name, idiot,” Rocket answered simply, though clearly annoyed. “Anyway, where’s the tin can and the guy with the blanket? Apparently they know him too.”

 

“I don’t think the Cloak of Levitation appreciates being called a blanket,” came a Brooklyn-accented voice that oddly put Steve and Bucky at ease. The voice belonged to a man in blue and gold robes, said red cloak around his neck as he floated to the ground. The cloak looked like it wanted to attack Rocket though, as if it had a mind of its own.

 

“Yeah, I learned that the hard way,” Tony sighed as he came over, not wearing his suit anymore. “Several times in the time we’ve been stuck here.”

 

“How’d you get here anyway?” Bucky asked with a raised eyebrow.

 

“I was talking to Strange when Banner fell through his roof, Thanos’ lackies started attacking New York, Strange and I went to help, Spidey’s ‘spider sense’ told him there was danger so he joined us, and we ended up hitchhiking on a donut-shaped spaceship,” Tony summarized. “We also nearly had the Infinity Gauntlet, if someone hadn’t punched Thanos in the face,” he added, glaring pointedly at Quill.

 

“Don’t worry, it’s locked away,” Steve told him. “Thanos is out of the picture too.”

 

“Dammit, why does the fun always happen without me?” Tony grumbled. “Do I even want to know how you did it?”

 

“An angry witch,” Wanda said, just loud enough to be heard by everyone. “An angry witch that was done seeing those she loves suffer needlessly.”

 

“Wait, holy shit! You’re the Scarlet Witch!” Spidey realized excitedly. “You took out Thanos on your own? That’s amazing!” he rambled, eyes wide in awe.

 

“In a way, I suppose I did, yes,” Wanda nodded, amused and flattered by the kid’s amazement and excitement. “What is your name, young one? Stark called you Spidey, but what is your real name?”

 

“Peter,” Spidey said quickly, still star-struck.

 

“Well then Peter, I would like to commend your bravery. You cannot be more than 17 years old, and yet you ran head-first into a dangerous situation,” Wanda told him. “You truly are a hero.”

 

Peter was struck silent, mouth opening and closing like a fish as he processed what Wanda had said. The Scarlet Witch had called him a hero! And said he was brave! This day was getting better.

 

“Excuse me, but I couldn’t help but notice your forehead, sir,” Strange spoke up, tapping the spot on his own forehead where the Mind Stone sat in Vision’s. “Is that an Infinity Stone? I thought Thanos had acquired all six.”

 

“It is,” Vision nodded. “The Mind Stone keeps me alive and functioning. As for Thanos not having it, I had an angry witch to keep him from getting it,” he explained, glancing at Wanda when he mentioned the angry witch and giving her a small smile.

 

“If you have the Infinity Gauntlet, does that mean you have the Time Stone?” Strange asked. “I have sworn an oath to protect it as part of an artifact known as the Eye of Agamotto that I do not wish to break.”

 

“We can figure that out when we get back to Earth,” Steve nodded. While he’d only heard stories of Strange, he seemed to be the type one could trust with such a powerful object. Strange nodded in thanks, but said nothing more.

 

The only person present that hadn’t spoken yet decided to speak up right then, as usual making things awkward.

 

“Miss Scarlet Witch?” Mantis said hesitantly. “I can sense you are anxious. Are you… alright?” she asked, trying to remember the word Quill had taught her for questions like that.

 

Just like that, all eyes that didn’t belong to Vision, Steve, or Bucky were on Wanda, singling her out. She stood closer to Vision, not liking the attention. Vision wrapped his arms around her to reassure her, which seemed to ease her discomfort slightly.

 

“Oh no, did I say something wrong?” Mantis realized with an apologetic, guilty look. “I am sorry. The Guardians have been trying to help me fix that.”

 

“No, no. You have not done anything wrong,” Wanda assured her with a shake of her head. “You are an empath, yes?” she asked, to which Mantis nodded. “Then you cannot help but feel everyone else’s emotions. It is alright that you said something, you were just concerned.”

 

Mantis nodded, clasping her hands in front of her. “Are you alright though?” she asked again. “Of all the anxiety around us, yours is… different. Is it not because you are on Titan?”

 

Wanda sighed inaudibly. She knew she’d have to tell everyone eventually, so she might as well tell the half of the team that was here.

 

“Not entirely,” she shook her head. “Or at least, not for the same reason as many of the others.” She closed her eyes for a moment, collecting her thoughts so she could put together a coherent sentence in English without slipping into Sokovian as she did when she was nervous. “While I am anxious about my first trip to space, I am less concerned for myself than the others,” she said, delaying as much as she could. “There are two others I am more concerned about on this trip,” she finally said, a hand reflexively moving to rest flat on her stomach.

 

“I do not understand,” Mantis frowned, brows furrowed and head tilted. “Are two of your travelling companions unwell?” she asked, truly not understanding what Wanda meant.

 

Before Wanda could answer, Quill clasped a hand on Mantis’ shoulder with a small smile. “It means she’s pregnant, Mantis,” he explained. “Twins, by the sounds of it. It’s how humans reproduce. Not all races are grown like bugs. Congrats, by the way,” he went on, turning to Wanda and pretending to tip a hat in her direction.

Chapter Text

After Mantis’ exclamation, the group fell silent. It was somewhere between tense and understanding, and it made Wanda uncomfortable. She wasn’t Mantis, she couldn’t feel what everyone else was and it made her more anxious. Vision wrapped his arms tighter around her, in an attempt to calm her nerves.

 

The first person to break the silence was Tony, his one-word question echoing through the air of the deserted planet:

 

“How?”

 

“I do not know,” Wanda shook her head softly.

 

“Vision?” Tony muttered in disbelief, though Wanda could hear a bit of awe in his voice.

 

“Of course,” Wanda nodded, sounding offended. Why would Tony question that? There hasn’t been, nor ever will be, anyone but Vision. Even Vision showed visible offense at Tony’s statement.

 

Tony didn’t say anything else, though the look on his face said he was trying to figure this whole situation out.

 

Wanda turned to Steve and Bucky with a questioning look. They hadn’t said anything, had barely reacted. The look in her eyes must’ve been easy to read, because Steve and Bucky developed awkward expressions.

 

“We… already knew,” Bucky muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. “We overheard you guys in the throne room back in Wakanda.”

 

“We didn’t mean to,” Steve added quickly. “You weren’t being loud either; the Serum enhanced our senses, especially our hearing.”

 

Wanda just sighed, shaking her head. A small smirk appeared on her face as she mentally reached out to just Steve and Bucky, mischief in her blue eyes.

 

Eavesdropping is not nice, boys. And neither is a sickeningly sweet marriage proposal while in space. You should have done that on Earth, Barnes.

 

Bucky choked on his own spit at the comment, cheeks flaring red as he glared at Wanda, who was snickering. Everyone was staring with wide-eyed confusion, except Steve, who wore a sheepish look as he rubbed the back of his neck.

 

Who’s eavesdropping now, kid? Bucky shot back triumphantly.

 

Call us even. I do thank you for not saying anything until now though Wanda smirked. And for that, I will extend you the same courtesy. I will not say anything unless the two of you allow me to.

 

Bucky and Steve just nodded, the rest of the group even more bewildered.

 

“What… just happened?” Tony asked, visibly confused for once.

 

“Revenge,” Wanda said simply, glancing over at the two Super Soldiers. They had put a few more millimetres between them as they stood, Bucky still flushed pink.

 

“I don’t know what you just did, Maximoff, but I’m impressed. You got Barnes to turn pink,” Tony commented idly.

 

“An-y-way,” Parker said awkwardly. “How are we getting home? I’m assuming the Guardians are gonna split, but do any of you know how to get back to Earth from here? I kinda hitchhiked to get here...”

 

“I think it’s only fair to give you guys a ride home,” Quill offered. “After all, you guys saved our asses by taking out Thanos down there.”

 

You wanna go back to Terra?” Rocket asked incredulously. “You haven’t been on Terra since you were taken. Thirty years ago,” he pointed out.

 

“Yeah, well, maybe it’s time I pay a visit. It’s long overdue,” Quill shrugged, though he wasn’t as casual as he usually was. Something was off. Mantis could tell, but she was learning to not tell Quill about his emotions. He yelled at her like Ego did, to the point where he reminded her of Ego sometimes.

 

“Are you sure?” Steve asked, raising an eyebrow slightly. Quill seemed tense. Then again, he had just met the guy. Maybe he was always like this.

 

“I’m sure,” Quill nodded. “Got a few things to do anyway. Been putting them off for a while now.”

 

“Alright then,” Steve nodded. “I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say your offer is appreciated,” he added.

 

“Hey, no problem,” Quill shrugged. “You guys got here in that?” he asked, gesturing to the quinjet. “It doesn’t even look space-capable. How the Hell did you manage that?”

 

“You underestimate my skills, Quill,” Rocket huffed, crossing his arms over his chest. “Few spare parts and some swapping, got this thing from Terra to Knowhere to here with no problems.”

 

“I’m impressed,” Quill commented. “There gonna be enough room?” he asked Steve.

 

“The quinjet was built to hold entire military regiments,” Steve answered. “We’ll have more than enough room.”

 

“Alright awesome,” Quill said. “It’s gonna be a long flight, so we might as well start now,” he stated, which prompted the Avengers and the Guardians to board the quinjet. Steve showed Quill the cockpit before going back to sit with Bucky and Parker, because Bucky had declared he ‘wasn’t letting the damn kid out of his sight’, claiming he was too young for this shit.

Chapter Text

“How old are you kid?” Bucky asked pretty much right as the three of them sat down, concern in his tone.

 

“...16,” Parker admitted awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck. Bucky’s eyes couldn’t have widened any more than they had then, a look of concerned awe on his face.

 

16?” Bucky repeated in utter disbelief. “The fuck you doing in outer space fighting a genocidal alien dictator?”

 

“I-I realized there was something bad going on while on a class trip, slipped out the window of the bus, helped Mr. Stark and the magic guy fight two of Thanos’ minions, then followed Mr. Stark to their ship,” Parker rambled anxiously. “Mr. Stark gave me this cool new suit and tried to send me home, but I wanted to help, so I stowed away on the ship so I could.”

 

“Stark’s fault, of course,” Bucky muttered under his breath. “Your heart’s in the right place kid, but you could get seriously hurt doin’ this shit even if you’re a hundred years old. You need to be careful. Better yet, you need to step back and wait a few years. Finish school, all that. Then go nuts with the hero thing.”

 

“I can’t just stop,” Parker said, shaking his head rapidly. “Queens needs me. I can’t just let people like Vulture terrorize the people there because I’m too young!” he added, sounding frantic.

 

Bucky seemed to understand where Parker was coming from, sighing. “You remind me of another shrimp I know that wanted nothing more than to help people, even if he was too fragile. Too stubborn for your own good, just like him.”

 

Steve discreetly elbowed Bucky in the side, rolling his eyes. ‘Asshole,’ he mouthed at Bucky, blocking his mouth from Parker. Bucky just smirked, shaking his head.

 

Parker just watched in confusion, wondering what the Hell was happening.

 

Elsewhere on the quinjet, Tony had decided to sit across from Wanda and Vision, wanting to ask questions. Because of course he did. Wanda wasn’t comfortable with it at all, but he wasn’t taking ‘go away’ as an answer.

 

“So, the two of you...” Tony muttered, gesturing between Wanda and Vision. “How does that even work?”

 

“It is none of your business, Stark,” Wanda said flatly, an unimpressed. “How would you react if someone asked invasive questions about your love life?” she countered, raising an eyebrow in challenge.

 

“People do all the time,” Tony shrugged dismissively. “And this is from a strictly scientific standpoint,” he argued.

 

“I do not care if it is for science,” Wanda said, even flatter than before. “Our personal life is for us, and us alone. You are not entitled to that information simply because it is scientific inquiry.”

 

The look in Vision’s eyes was one of smug pride, and Tony couldn’t help but silently admire how human it looked. Vision really had changed in the last two years, that was for sure. Had Wanda been the one to change him? To humanize him? That posed an interesting hypothesis for Tony to look into back on Earth. That, and how Vision was human enough to knock Wanda up.

 

There must’ve been a look on his face as he lost himself in thought, because Wanda sighed heavily while shaking her head.

 

“I can see the wheels turning in your head,” she commented. “I do not know what experiments you are considering, but I will not give my consent to be part of your crazy ideas, and I am sure Vision will not either,” she said sharply, to which Vision nodded.

 

Tony shifted uncomfortably at her tone, leaning backwards slightly. “I wasn’t thinking about experiments,” he tried to lie, though he’d gotten worse at lying since the Accords. “Fine, I was,” he sighed after a few moments of tense silence, looking down at his hands. “I can’t help scientific curiosity.”

 

“But you can help the desire to experiment on allies,” Wanda pointed out, still unimpressed. “Now, if you do not mind, I am in need of sleep,” she muttered, which prompted Tony to get up and go sit with Thor, Rocket, Groot, and Mantis. Wanda curled against Vision’s side, head on his shoulder and arm wrapped around him as she drifted off to sleep.

 

Meanwhile, Parker had eventually gotten up and moved to sit with Strange due to how absolutely confused he was regarding the way Steve and Bucky were acting. He’d grown up hearing stories about the two of them, and saw Captain America fight in New York and Sokovia on TV, and both of them face-to-face in Berlin. And yet there they were, two of the best soldiers the US Army had ever had, making shitty jokes and laughing like they were no older than Parker himself was. He reasoned that if he was going to sit down next to something crazy, it might as well be the guy with the sentient cape that smacked people.

Chapter Text

Once they’d entered Earth’s atmosphere, Steve took the pilot’s seat from Quill so he could rest since he didn’t know where to go from there. He went to sit at the back with Bucky, though he wasn’t quite sure why until he spoke.

 

“Y’know, when I was a kid, before I got abducted, I used to look up to the two of you,” Quill commented. “Captain America and his best friend Bucky Barnes, the unstoppable duo.”

 

“Really?” Bucky blinked. “Me?” he muttered in disbelief. “I was just an idiot who got captured by the Nazis. Stevie was the real unstoppable one.”

 

“Dude, if someone gave you a sniper, you never missed,” Quill shook his head. “Your aim was legendary back in Missouri. Kids at my school wished they could shoot like that.”

 

“Huh,” Bucky muttered in awe.

 

“Yeah,” Quill nodded with a faint smile. “I think my grandfather was a soldier in World War II. He told me stories about you and Steve when I was a kid, and the rest of the Howling Commandos. He never had a bad thing to say about either of you. Said he was honoured to serve at the same time as the two of you.”

 

Bucky was struck silent, eyes widened slightly and a look of disbelief on his face. He’d never really given much thought as to his legacy after he got better. He didn’t think he was significant enough to have a legacy, but apparently he was and he did.

 

Quill just chuckled, shaking his head. It looked like Bucky was the opposite of him, in a way. Quill wanted to have a reputation, but he didn’t; Bucky had a reputation, but he didn’t know it. Funny how that worked out.

 

“Oh hey, congrats by the way,” Quill said idly, watching Bucky’s face switch from awed to utterly confused in seconds flat.

 

“Huh?” Bucky frowned, brows furrowing.

 

“You and the Captain,” Quill explained, jerking his head towards the cockpit and keeping his voice low so no one else would hear. “You’re not exactly subtle,” he said idly. “You’re just surrounded by the most oblivious in the known galaxy. Well, the witch chick isn’t so oblivious.”

 

Bucky’s expression was somewhere between taken aback and anxious. Quill realized he probably touched on a raw nerve, so he chuckled awkwardly and rubbed the back of his neck.

 

“I won’t say anything,” he assured Bucky. “It’s not my place,” he added, glancing over to the other Guardians, Thor, and Tony with an annoyed sigh. “Gotta go. I think your guys are trying to get Rocket to agree to experiments. And Rocket hates being experimented on.” At that, he got up and went over to separate the raccoon, the god, and the scientist before someone got seriously hurt. Bucky just watched him leave with that same expression on his face, wondering what the fuck just happened.

 

Thankfully, Steve called out their arrival in Wakanda, landing as carefully as he could with the state of the once-battlefield. Once off the quinjet, Steve and Bucky naturally gravitated together as they headed to the castle to check on Nat, Sam, Bruce, and Rhodey. Wanda also wanted to check in with the healer to make sure nothing was wrong after her trip to space.

 

T’Challa had sent Okoye to direct the Avengers to the room the others were resting in, and Shuri was there eagerly awaiting the Guardians so she could ask them all kinds of questions about their planets, other planets, cultures, biology, and pretty much anything else a sixteen-year-old super-genius could think of to ask a rag-tag group of space assholes.

Chapter Text

Nat was sleeping when the group entered the room, but the guys were awake. Sam wasn’t in the bed he’d been given, instead sitting with Rhodey playing a game of cards. They looked over when Okoye cleared her throat, Sam grinning and Rhodey smiling in relief. Okoye bid the Avengers goodbye, turning to leave and return to T’Challa.

 

“Welcome back from space, guys,” Sam grinned. “What was it like?” he asked eagerly.

 

“Lot of sand,” Tony shrugged. “And assholes. Whole team of them. They call themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy or something like that. They have talking tree. And all he can do is introduce himself.”

 

“I’ll have you know Groot has a wide vocabulary, if you speak the language yourself,” Thor interjected from the back of the group.

 

“You can understand him?” Tony blinked in disbelief. “How? Why?”

 

“It was an elective in school,” Thor shrugged, as if that statement were normal.

 

“Why does that not surprise me?” Tony sighed, shaking his head. He turned to face Rhodey, who still looked a bit worse for wear. “You doing good?” he asked seriously.

 

“I’m fine, Tony,” Rhodey assured him, rolling his eyes. “Just a bit sore. The doctors here are amazing.”

 

“Good, good,” Tony nodded.

 

Steve turned to Bruce, who was oddly silent at the moment. “Still not cooperating?” he figured, earning a slow nod from Bruce.

 

“He refuses to even listen anymore,” he said frantically. “I don’t know what happened or how to fix it.”

 

“You’ll figure it out,” Steve told him. “You always do.”

 

“I hope so,” Bruce mumbled, sinking back into his own head to reason with Hulk.

 

Just then, Nat stirred awake with a small noise, sitting up and rubbing her eyes. “You guys okay? They told me you went to space,” she asked, sleep still lingering in her voice.

 

“Yeah,” Steve nodded. “Yeah, we did. Brought back some strays,” he joked, earning an unamused noise from Tony.

 

“I… don’t want to know right now,” Nat decided, yawning quietly. “What I do want to know is how the rest of you are. T’Challa told me what happened with Thanos when I came to. Impressive, by the way,” she asked, nodding at Wanda. Wanda just smiled uncertainly, still not done processing what she’d done.

 

“Pretty much in one piece,” Bucky shrugged, half-serious and half making a terrible joke about having two arms again.

 

“Very funny, Barnes,” Nat said flatly, rolling her eyes. She turned to find Vision among the group, who she couldn’t help but note was holding Wanda rather protectively. “How are you feeling, Vision? That had to be a hell of a headache.”

 

“I feel fine,” Vision nodded. “I have had sufficient time to repair.”

 

“Heal,” Nat told him. “The word you’re looking for is ‘heal’. But it’s good to hear you’re alright.”

 

Vision nodded in response, falling silent. Nat let out another yawn, one arm stretching above her head as she did. She looked straight at Wanda afterwards, an odd look in her eyes. “Since the rest of you are fine, could you give me a minute with Wanda?” she asked sweetly, an unsettling tone coming from her. The men could do nothing but nod at the tone of her voice and the look on her face, scurrying off to find something to do. Vision lingered outside the door however, worried about what she had to say to Wanda.

 

Once the guys were gone, Nat motioned for Wanda to sit with her on the bed. The Sokovian witch did, sitting at the foot of the bed with a nervous expression.

 

“Have I done something wrong?” Wanda asked softly, looking down at her hands and twisting one of her rings absently.

 

“Not exactly,” Nat shook her head, shifting to sit next to Wanda. “I’m just worried about you,” she said. “Specifically, I’m worried about what you’re hiding from Sam, Rhodey, Bruce, and I,” she went on. “The others seem to know what it is, but won’t say anything. So, what is it you’re not saying?”

 

Wanda seemed to shrink in on herself, arms wrapping around her stomach. Seeing that, Nat just nodded as if Wanda had given an answer verbally. She sighed softly, shaking her head and putting her hand on Wanda’s shoulder.

 

“I’m guessing you didn’t say anything about it yourself then,” Nat observerd, squeezing her shoulder. “And right now, I can either be the strict Mom or the supportive sister, but I’m going to be both. I’m not going to give you a lecture on safe sex or anything, but I am going to tell you that you should’ve been more careful,” she said in a stern but sincere tone. “We’re living in a warzone, near enough. That’s no place to raise a kid.”

 

Nat looked towards the door for a moment, rolling her eyes. “I know you’re there, Vision,” she called over. “No sense hiding anymore.”

 

Vision phased through the door with a sheepish look on his face, making his way to the end of the bed the two sat on. He said nothing, simply hung his head.

 

“The two of you are worse than teenagers,” Nat shook her head with another sigh. “You better be ready for this. I’m here for you if you need me, and I’m sure the others are too.”

 

“Thank you, Natasha,” Wanda nodded, looking up from her lap to the woman next to her. “Do you know if there is a healer around? I need to speak to one,” she asked.

Chapter Text

Wanda had found the healer, and had been brought to her examination room for the second time in roughly twenty-four hours. She laid down on the table with her corset untied again, fingers anxiously drumming on her thighs. The healer went about checking vitals, hers and the faintest trace from the twins. That alone made Wanda both smile in relief and frown in confusion. The days after she found out she was pregnant, she’d been looking into all the things a first-time mother should know, and what she’d read stated that the baby’s heartbeat couldn’t be heard until the six week mark. Had she been wrong when she said three weeks? The healer seemed unconcerned, so Wanda told herself it was fine, and that she didn’t need to worry.

 

Once satisfied with the vitals, the healer rolled her stool backwards so she could press her hands over different parts of Wanda’s midsection, wanting to make sure nothing was out of place. Wanda tried not to react to some of the sharper jabs, knowing the healer wouldn’t intentionally hurt her.

 

The healer rolled backwards, ready to give Wanda a basic rundown before moving on.

 

“All seems well so far,” the healer told her. “Your vitals are stable, as are the twins’. Are you sure you are only three weeks along?” she asked with a small frown. “The twins are developed far more than they should be for three weeks.”

 

“I do not know,” Wanda frowned in thought. The healer frowned right back, turning to locate her ultrasound wand. Once she had it, she returned to Wanda’s side and repositioned the monitor so Wanda could see it.

 

See it she did. Her eyes were glued to it as the healer did her thing, watching with both excitement and fear.

 

While she stayed silent, the expression the healer wore became increasingly more confused, a frown forming after a minute or so.

 

“Miss Maximoff,” the healer said with a confused tone, “can you tell me about the father?” she asked.

 

“What would you like to know?” Wanda asked with a frown, not sure where this was going.

 

“Physical and biological oddities,” the healer prompted.

 

“He has no biological oddities,” Wanda answered. “That would require him to be a biological entity.”

 

The healer paused, sitting up straighter with an alarmed but intrigued look on her face.

 

“Explain,” she prompted. “How could something non-biological contribute to a pregnancy?”

 

“I still do not know, and I found out last week,” Wanda admitted. “Vision is am incomprehensible man. His existence should not be possible, and yet he is here. I have stopped questioning his capabilities, as there are always more being discovered.”

 

“Interesting,” the healer muttered, glancing back up at the ultrasound monitor. She made a circling motion round two small blobs, which seemed to be encased in a glowing aura unlike anything the healer has ever seen. “This is why I asked,” she said, turning back to Wanda. “It is the most unusal thing I have seen on an ultrasound in my many years working for the royal family.”

 

Wanda shifted so she could properly see what the healer was talking about, eyebrows furrowing the longer she looked at it. Did it have something to do with her powers? Or was it caused by the Mind Stone itself? There were a lot of questions running through her mind, almost fast enough to leave her light-headed.

 

“Are you able to give me a copy of this?” Wanda asked the healer, wanting to take it to Vision so he could see.

 

“Of course,” the healer nodded, turning away to print a copy of what was on the monitor, though the odd aura came out a faint pinkish-red rather than the grainy white-gray it had been on the screen.

 

“Thank you,” Wanda nodded, sitting up and re-lacing her corset. When that was done, she carefully slid off the examination table, taking the printout with a grateful nod and heading off to find Vision. She had told him to stay with the others, not wanting to overwhelm him in any way.

 

She found him with Strange, Thor, and Quill, sitting in the courtyard discussing the Infinity Stones they had (or still) possessed and how they felt to hold. As she approached, Thor was discussing the different feelings the Space and Reality Stones gave off. He happened to notice her and stopped mid-sentence, smiling and waving her over. The others turned to see who he was waving at, Vision smiling softly and shifting over on the bench he was sitting on so she could sit with him.

 

“Lady Wanda!” Thor greeted, as cheerful as ever. “I haven’t had the chance to congratulate you. To be a mother on Asgard was the highest regard a woman could have. I am happy for you.”

 

“Thank you, Thor,” Wanda smiled, sitting next to Vision and leaning against his side. The printout was in her pocket, so it would be safe.

 

“Miss Maximoff, I presume?” Strange spoke up with a small nod. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced yet. My name is Doctor Stephen Strange.”

 

“The surgeon who was in a car crash?” Wanda remembered. “I heard about that on the news last February. I see you have recovered, at least.”

 

“Yes, that would be me,” Strange nodded, sounding almost ashamed. “At any rate, I did have a few questions for you, if that is alright?” he hummed.

 

“Depends what the questions are about,” Wanda told him simply, but not unkindly. She wanted to talk to Vision, but she could do it later, when they had a chance to be alone.

 

“Your magic,” Strange responded. “I’ve never heard of any type of magic that could turn a Titan and his army of beasts to dust by accident. It’s fascinating, to say the least.”

 

“I do not know very much, but I will hear your questions,” Wanda nodded. She’d never spoken with another sorcerer before, and maybe, just maybe, Strange could help figure out what the odd aura was.

ultrasound

Chapter Text

Thor and Quill politely excused themselves from the conversation, getting up to find others to talk to. Wanda and Vision shifted to face Strange better, Wanda ending up in Vision’s lap. She was leaning back against his chest, getting as comfortable as she could for the questioning ahead.

 

“What would you like to know, Doctor?” Wanda asked, not sounding as tense as she felt.

 

“I think my biggest question is where your magic comes from,” Strange stated. “It’s like nothing I’ve seen, not in person or any of the tomes I’ve studied.”

 

One of Wanda’s hands reached behind her, index finger tapping the Mind Stone in Vision’s forehead. “That is a very complicated and personal story I do not wish to share with a man I have just met. I will share that the source of my powers is what is now keeping Vision alive,” she answered simply.

 

“An Infinity Stone...” Strange muttered to himself, clearly thinking that over. “Your powers stem from an Infinity Stone,” he repeated louder. “The Mind Stone. Fascinating. Do you require verbal triggers for your powers? Or specific hand gestures?” he asked, excited to learn about a new kind of magic.

 

“Nothing like that,” Wanda shook her head, hand returning to her lap. “I simply think of what I need to happen, and it happens. Or in some cases, I do not intend to use it, but it has its own agenda. Such as with Thanos,” she explained.

 

“From what I heard about the incident was that your magic lashed out due to your emotions,” Strange hummed. “Anger, grief, resentment. Even weariness. Your magic seems to be directly tied to how you feel.”

 

“It is, from what I have seen,” Wanda nodded. “It has done something like this once before, during the Battle of Sokovia,” she recalled. “My twin brother was killed during the battle, and when I realized what had happened, my powers lashed out and helped me rip Ultron’s mechanical heart from his chest and kill him.”

 

Strange was silent for a moment, a pensive look on his face. “When those you love are in danger, your magic helps you avenge or protect them...” he muttered, scratching his chin. “Amazing.”

 

“I...have never thought of it that way,” Wanda admitted with a ‘huh, really’ look on her face. That quickly turned into a look of realization, hands scrambling to remove the ultrasound print from her pocket. She held it in one hand, index finger of the other tracing the halo-like circle that had baffled both her and the healer.

 

Vision frowned when she pulled something out of her pocket, looking over her shoulder to see what it was. His eyes widened when he realized what it was, rendered speechless.

 

Strange watched the two curiously, though he didn’t say anything. They were clearly having a ‘moment’, and he didn’t want to ruin it.

 

“Now it makes sense...” Wanda muttered, hand stilling on the print so she could just look at the halo and the twins. She turned to look up at Vision, having forgotten that she had yet to show him the print. She simply held the print up so he could see it, watching as his eyes lit up in awe.

 

“The healer and I could not figure out what this was,” Wanda said softly, tracing the halo again, “but I believe I know the answer. Thanks to you, Dr. Strange,” she added, looking over to the man in question briefly.

 

“How so?” Strange asked, somewhat confused. What had he done to help her come to a realization?

 

“It was your observation, that my magic reacts to those I love in danger to protect them,” Wanda expained, looking up to him and showing him the print. His eyebrows furrowed when he spotted the halo, though a look of understanding quickly replaced them.

 

“I was worried that something would happen to the twins during my time in space,” Wanda said, moving the picture back where Vision could see it. “My magic protected them, and still is protecting them. As if it is trying to guarantee nothing goes wrong,” sh explained, voice barely above an awed whisper.

Chapter Text

While Wanda was with the healer, Steve and Bucky had found a quiet corner of the courtyard, having spent two years apart during Bucky’s recovery and Steve’s time on the run. They also has 72 years before that to make up for, in a less verbal sense. They planned on getting the talking out of the way first, especially after what had transpired on the quinjet.

 

Bucky was leaning against Steve’s side, letting himself truly relax for the first time in a very long time.

 

“I wasn’t kidding, by the way,” Bucky muttered. “We get all this settled, when we get State-side, you and me are going to the courthouse in Brooklyn.”

 

“Didn’t think you were,” Steve assured him.

 

“Good,” Bucky nodded, “cause it’s you and me til the end of the line, Stevie. Can’t take that back now,” he said, serious and teasing at the same time.

 

“Til the end of the line,” Steve echoed with a nod, smiling fondly. He wrapped an arm around Bucky’s shoulders, pulling him closer to his side. Bucky just sighed in contentment, reaching over to grab Steve’s other hand in his own. They’d have time for a proper reunion later; for now, just being close was good enough.

 

They stayed like that for a while, quietly observing the others scattered throughout the courtyard. They saw Wanda and Vision with Strange, marveling over what the two assumed was an ultrasound; Thor and Groot were arguing about something, and Quill was clearly amused by the argument; Parker was with Tony, Bruce, and Rhodey, probably discussing science or engineering, maybe both; Nat was sitting by herself, tapping away at a tablet on her lap, most likely updating Clint on what had happened. For a moment, they were peaceful, recovering from a draining battle that decided the fate of half of humanity based on the outcome.

 

Nat stood up at one point, heading towards Steve and Bucky, who instinctively split apart as if burned. It was a knee-jerk reaction they’d developed back in Brooklyn, and it seemed it hadn’t gone away.

 

“Hey, no need to do that,” Nat shook her head, sitting on the bench across from them. “This isn’t the 1930s or the 1940s. It’s 2018, and none of us give a shit, you hear me?” she teased, though there was a sincerity to her voice that was usually reserved for Clint, Laura, and their kids. She paused for a moment, smirking in a mischievous way that let the Super Soldiers know she knew something and was about to use it against them. “For the record, there’s no chance in Hell I’m going to let you get hitched at a courthouse,” she said idly, still smirking.

 

For the second time since the battle ended, Bucky choked on the spit in his mouth, coughing a few times to regain his composure. The bewildered look both men wore made Nat chuckle, shaking her head in amusement.

 

“Don’t worry, no one else heard you,” she assured them. “I just have ears everywhere, remember?” she commented, tapping one of her ears. “Seriously though, I won’t let it happen. Even if it’s small, I’m going to put together something for the two of you once we get back home.”

 

Bucky went to say something, but Nat cut him off. “No protests, Barnes,” she said firmly. “I won’t listen.”

 

Bucky sighed in defeat, though he wasn’t upset in the slightest. On the contrary, actually. He felt happy, honoured even. He may’ve lost his baby sister decades ago, but Nat was becoming a different kind of little sister. Becca would always have a place in Bucky’s heart, but Nat was nudging her way in right next to Becca.

Chapter Text

Steve was talking to T’Challa about the wellbeing of his troops, wanting to make sure they were alright, when Quill, Mantis, and Drax approached them. T’Challa noted the Guardians’ expressions and excused himself, realizing it was a serious and potentially personal discussion.

 

“Guardians,” Steve nodded in greeting, squaring his shoulders and straightening his posture out of habit. “What can I do for you?”

 

“Back on Titan, you said your people have the Infinity Gauntlet,” Quill began, sounding almost nervous, “and you offered to give Strange back the Time Stone. We were wondering, could we at least take a look at the Soul Stone?” he asked.

 

“What would you be looking for?” Steve asked, furrowing his brows in concern.

 

“One of our own was sacrificed by Thanos to get his grubby little hands on it,” Quill said, glancing away briefly. “Her soul in exchange for the Soul Stone. We figured if we checked the thing out, we might be able to save her.”

 

“Not that I don’t believe you, but why would Thanos sacrifice her in exchange for the stone?” Steve frowned, honestly confused.

 

“Gamora is one of Thanos’ adopted children,” Mantis spoke softly. “She held bitter resentments towards Thanos as long as I have known her; I could feel how distraught she was when we first were confronted by him. To Thanos however, she was his favourite daughter, his greatest success. The only thing he had ever truly loved besides himself,” she explained, looking down at the ground as she spoke.

 

“Oh,” Steve muttered, nodding in sympathy. “You’ll have to come to New York with us though, if that’s not a problem. At least there we’ll have some of Tony’s more advanced tech in case we need it.”

 

Quill, Mantis, and Drax briefly discussed the pros and cons of spending more time on Terra before turning back to Steve.

 

“It’s fine,” Quill nodded. “We need time to get a hold of the Nova Corps anyway.”

 

“Alright,” Steve nodded. “We’ll be leaving in about an hour.”

 

“Thanks, Cap,” Quill nodded, the three Guardians bidding Steve goodbye so they could go explain to Rocket and Groot what was going to happen.

 

Elsewhere, Nat had ‘borrowed’ Sam and Wanda, bringing them to an even more secluded corner than the one Steve and Bucky inhabited. She had her tablet with her, preparing to contact Clint to chip in.

 

Once they were settled, Nat called Clint and set the tablet up so they could all be seen, waving when Clint’s obviously just woken up face showed up.

 

“Nat, it’s the crack of dawn,” he mumbled-yawned, covering his mouth with his hand. “This better be important.”

 

Nat rolled her eyes with a chuckle and a sideways smirk. “Did I wake you up, Sleeping Beauty?” she teased. “As for what I need, I’m recruiting you to help me and these two,” she said, gesturing to Wanda and Sam, “plan a wedding.”

 

“Whose wedding?” Clint and Sam asked at the same time, though Sam sounded far more confused than Clint.

 

“Steve and Bucky’s,” Wanda answered with a knowing smirk. “No one but the four of us know right now, besides the two of them, so we will have to be careful not to tell anyone. That is their honour.”

 

“About fucking time,” Clint muttered jokingly. “I spent like one day with them during the ordeal with the Accords, and I already wanted to tell them to get a room.”

 

“I know, right?” Sam nodded in agreement. “There was some serious sexual tension there. I feel bad for Scott, that being his first encounter with either of them.”

 

Wanda smiled at the banter, momentarily able to forget the horrors they had been through and instead pretend they were just a close-knit group of friends on vacation while the responsible one was home with his kids. It wasn’t entirely a lie, but the domestic angle was comforting.

Chapter Text

The wedding planners had to wrap up earlier than they would’ve liked, as Steve called out for everyone to prepare for the flight back home. They bid goodbye to Clint, Nat promising to stop by once they were back so she could see the kids again.

 

Once everyone was ready, Tony declared he was taking the pilot’s seat, and Steve didn’t even bother to protest. It was going to be a long flight, so he’d end up flying for a while anyway. Tony was stubborn, but he got tired a lot faster than Steve.

 

Wanda and Vision were sitting together, as had become to be expected, talking in hushed but excited tones about the twins and the ultrasound Wanda was holding in her hand. It was heart-warming for the other Avengers that knew they previously to see after what they’d all been through, while Parker, Strange, and the Guardians just saw two excited parents-to-be.

 

Bruce was still tired, having spent quite some time reasoning with the Hulk to no avail, so he was curled up sleeping, and probably would be the entire time. Strange offered to keep an eye on him to make sure nothing happened, which Steve thanked him for.

 

The Guardians were clustered together, probably discussing what to do about the Soul Stone and its potential to get Gamora back. Groot’s declarations were the only ones that could be heard, though Thor was the only one who understood them. Thor found them highly amusing and highly alarming.

 

Thor was sitting by himself, which was unusual for the Asgardian. No one wanted to question him about it, because he looked deep in thought, and none of them wanted to chance getting hurt or lashed out at. Well, no one but Mantis that is. She could feel how pensive, hopeful, and conflicted Thor felt, so she excused herself from the Guardians to talk to Thor.

 

Thor looked over when he noticed Mantis coming towards him, giving her a tense nod.

 

“Lady Mantis,” he greeted, managing a polite smile. “Is there something you needed?”

 

“I am… concerned,” Mantis told him, trying to find the right word to use. “Your emotions are frighteningly strong and worrying. What is making you feel this way?” she asked softly, in that way she did that told people she meant well.

 

“During my first encounter with Thanos,” Thor muttered, looking off at nothing in particular, “my brother was acting uncharacteristically, which was concerning on its own. His willingness to comply with Thanos was even more alarming, as Loki never complies with anyone. He got himself killed, but he has faked his own death before. I’m uncertain as to he did this time, or if he really was killed by Thanos,” he explained, turning back to her.

 

“Oh no,” Mantis gasped, genuinely saddened. “Were you and your brother close?”

 

“Until a few years ago, yes,” Thor nodded, glancing away again. “Recently however, we have begun trying to reconcile.”

 

“I wish I knew how to help you,” Mantis mumbled sincerely.

 

“It is alright, Lady Mantis,” Thor assured her, looking back. “This is my burden to carry.”

Chapter Text

Wanda was still amazed by what she had found out about her magic, though the excitement of the twins in general was far greater. She couldn’t stop herself from looking at the ultrasoud print, and honestly, neither could Vision. He was still perplexed by how this was even possible, but mostly he was just excited. This was an opportunity he never thought he could have, so he stopped questioning the ‘how’ and focused on the fact that it happened.

 

As the adrenaline from the battle wore off, Wanda was hit by a realization that she could’ve gone without for a while longer. It stopped her mid-sentence, words dropping off as her train of thought halted. Vision noticed almost immediately, frowning in concern.

 

“Is something wrong?” he asked softly.

 

Wanda was silent for a moment, voice small as she responded. “The twins will never get to meet their uncle,” she muttered, looking up at Vision with sadness in her blue eyes. “They will never know how wonderful he was,” she added, voice barely above a whisper.

 

Vision sighed softly, cradling one side of her jaw in his hand. “All we can do is tell them,” he told her gently. “Share stories of Pietro’s life and heroic actions. They may never meet, but the twins will absolutely know how wonderful their uncle was,” he assured her. “His legacy will live on, of that I am sure.”

 

Wanda pressed her cheek into Vision’s hand, smiling softly. “Oh Viszh,” she sighed fondly. “You always know what to say.”

 

“I just know you,” Vision said, returning her smile.

 

Wanda giggled softly, shaking her head against Vision’s hand. “Have I ever told you how much I love you?” she asked, still smiling.

 

“Once or twice,” Vision chuckled, “and I am certain I have told you how deeply I love you.”

 

That made Wanda’s smile widen as she leaned forward to press a soft kiss to Vision’s lips.

 

The two were so focused on each other they didn’t realize that Nat was watching them with a faint smile. She wasn’t sitting far from them, and she did hear everything after all. Any lingering doubts she held about whether or not the two were prepared for parenthood disappeared as she watched them, replaced with certainty. Even with everything the two had faced in their lives, Nat could tell they’d be amazing parents. Despite Vision’s short life thus far or Wanda’s scarring past with HYDRA, Nat just knew the twins would have the best parents possible.

 

With their enhanced hearing, Steve and Bucky had heard the exchange as well, faint smiles similar to Nat’s on their faces. Bucky was leaning against Steve, their hands laced together between them as they listened.

 

“Those two are adorable,” Bucky commented. “Almost as bad as Becca and her fiance, but adorable either way.”

 

“Ian? Oh, absolutely,” Steve agreed with a chuckle. “Even your Ma thought that,” he recalled fondly. “You’re right though. Wanda even reminds me of Becca,” he added.

 

“She’s even got the mandatory Barnes stubbornness,” Bucky mused.

 

Steve just chuckled, squeezing Bucky’s hand. “You should get some sleep,” he suggested. “I probably should too.”

 

“Damn right you should sleep,” Bucky nodded in agreement. “And if me sleeping means you will, I’ll do it.”

 

“Good,” Steve nodded, shifting into a more comfortable sleeping position and wrapping an arm around Bucky’s waist once he made himself comfortable against Steve’s chest. Bucky was out like a light in an impressively short amount of time, though it took Steve a solid ten minutes before he fell asleep.

 

Even from across the quinjet, Sam got a picture of the cuddling Super Soldiers, planning to give it to Nat once they got back to wedding planning. She’d definitely want to use it, if Sam knew her as well as he did.

Chapter Text

When Tony finally gave up the pilot’s seat, it wasn’t Steve who took over, it was Nat. Steve and Bucky were still sleeping, tangled together like headphones you just took out of your pocket. No one dared to try waking them up, mostly out of fear that Bucky would lash out. T’Challa had assured them he was recovering quite well, but he had a metal arm again, and the only one that might survive that was Vision. Even if he wanted to try though, he had Wanda sleeping against his chest, so he wasn’t going anywhere.

 

By the time Nat landed the quinjet at the base, everyone who was sleeping had stirred awake, though not on their own. Rocket was told to wake them up so their ears didn’t pop as Nat landed, so he’d whistled. Loudly. There was no one in the entire galaxy that could sleep through that whistle, everyone was sure.

 

To Nat’s surprise, there were people waiting for them when they got off the quinjet. Six people, to be exact: four adults and two children. Said children immediately ran to Nat, ambushing her in a hug.

 

“Hey kiddos,” Nat chuckled, though she sounded surprised. “Did your Dad bring you guys here?” she asked, earning matching nods from Clint’s oldest two kids.

 

“When they found out you guys were on your way back, they wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” came the voice of Laura Barton from somewhere behind the kids. “Nate’s taking a nap inside, but he was excited to see you too.”

 

“C’mon, Auntie Nat!” Lila beamed, taking Nat’s hand to tug her away. “I made you something!”

 

“Speaking of, I should probably go check on him,” Clint mused, standing from the spot he was sitting in the grass and brushing off his pants. “I’ll see if he’s up for coming to see you,” he offered, heading inside before Nat could answer.

 

While Nat was being dragged off by Cooper and Lila, the other Avengers and the Guardians noticed the other two adults, who had been silent until one of them saw Tony and rushed over to him, expression equal parts furious and relieved as she pulled him into a hug.

 

“Oh God, you’re alive,” Pepper muttered into Tony’s shoulder, refusing to let go yet so she could make sure he really was there.

 

“’course I am,” Tony nodded, returning her hug just as tightly. The entire time he’d been in space, he couldn’t stop worrying about Pepper back here on Earth. He knew she’d be pissed when he got back, and he was prepared for that as well as he could be. For now, he was more than content just holding Pepper close and not letting go.

 

The other adult looked considerably more awkward than the others he’d been with, hands in his back pockets as he leaned against a tree.

 

“Hey Tic-Tac,” Sam called over with a grin. “Who told you we were heading back?” he asked curiously.

 

“Uh, Stark, actually,” Scott shrugged, glancing briefly over at Tony. “Told me you might need somone small to lend a hand, so here I am. Oh, and Sam? Don’t call me Tic-Tac, man,” he added, the last part directed at the man in question, with amusement in Scott’s tone. Sam just grinned, going over to greet him.

 

As the others made their way inside to deal with the Infinity Gauntlet, Parker turned to Steve with an almost nervous expression.

 

“Hey, uh, is there a phone I can use to call my aunt?” he asked awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck. “She’s probably freaking out and thinking I was killed or something.”

 

“C’mon,” Rhodey said, gesturing for Parker to follow him. “Does your aunt know about your whole Spider-Kid deal?” he asked, mostly to avoid awkward silence.

 

“If I remember correctly, I attempted to send the Gauntlet to one of the underground storage units,” Wanda spoke up, twisting some of her rings out of habit. “I do not know which one specifically however.”

 

“I can help narrow it down, once we get there,” Strange offered. “Shouldn’t be too hard to track, given it still possesses the Time Stone,” he reasoned.

 

“You guys do that. I’m going to go back to sleep,” Bruce mumbled, splitting from the group once they got inside. Sure, he’d just slept for 19 hours straight, but Hulk was still being stubborn, and it was wearing Bruce out.

 

“I’ll go with him,” Thor offered, leaving no room for argument as he followed Bruce. Knowing what Hulk, and by extention Bruce, had gone through under the Grandmaster’s thumb, Thor wanted to make sure everything was alright with both of them.

 

Steve led the rest of the group down to the basement, though the Guardians stayed at the top of the stairs. Strange moved to the front when they arrived and closed his eyes. After a few odd hand gestures, he opened his eyes again with a small nod.

 

“Third unit on the left,” he stated, gaining a nod from Steve in response.

 

“Thank you, Doctor,” Wanda nodded gratefully. “I could learn a thing or two from you, it seems.”

 

“I’d be glad to help if you do wish to expand your powers,” Strange told her.

 

“We can discuss this later,” Wanda nodded back, honestly excited at the opportunity to understand and control her powers better.

 

While the two talked, Steve, Bucky, and Vision were at the unit, Steve trying to remember the unlock code. Vision simply phased through the door, picked up the Infinity Gauntlet, and phased it through with him as he exited. He handed it to Steve without a word, just a nod. Steve nodded back, and the five of them returned to the Guardians.

Chapter Text

While the Avengers and Strange were retrieving the Gauntlet, the Guardians stayed back as to not crowd them. Mantis, Drax, Rocket, and Groot were also distracted by all the human stuff around them, wanting to touch a lot of things. It took quite a bit of reprimanding before they stopped, standing quietly as they waited.

 

Once the others returned, the Guardians followed them to a conference room, sitting at the table quietly. There would be time for questions later. Right now, they needed to focus on the Soul Stone and possibly reviving Gamora.

 

When the Gauntlet was placed on the table, Strange removed the Time Stone, with considerable force, conjuring an imitation of the original Eye of Aggamotto to place it in. Steve removed the Soul Stone carefully, placing it on the table in front of Quill, shaking his hand as if he’d been burned. Probably had been; he bare-hand interacted with an Infinity Stone, and only pure Celestials were meant to do that.

 

Quill wanted to touch it, see if he could feel anything, but he remembered the last time he held an Infinity Stone and decided against it. Instead, he looked over at Strange and Wanda with a look he hoped said ‘any magic stuff going down?’. Strange seemed to get the message, closing his eyes and focusing on the Stone.

 

“There is an odd aura coming from the Stone,” Strange noted. “It’s almost furious, as if it can feel the way a soul can.”

 

A hopeful look crossed the faces of all five Guardians, Groot perking up in his seat.

 

“I am Groot?” he asked hopefully, forgetting the Avengers couldn’t understand him.

 

“We will do our best to help,” Wanda nodded, her telepathy translating the language for her, much to the bewilderment of everyone else at the table when she responded.

 

“You can…?” Quill frowned, gesturing between Wanda and Groot. “How? It took us months to understand him!”

 

“I am a telepath, Mr. Quill,” Wanda explained, tapping her temple with one finger. “It seems that despite speaking the same three words, Groot thinks mostly in English.”

 

“Huh, neat,” Quill blinked.

 

“Someone want to tell the rest of us what the tree said?” Bucky asked, raising a hand to draw attention to himself.

 

“He asked if the Soul Stone being upset could help save their friend,” Wanda explained simply, though not unkindly.

 

“I believe it could, yes,” Strange nodded thoughtfully. “Miss Maximoff, I may need your assistance in testing this, however,” he mused, turning to Wanda.

 

“I will try my best,” Wanda nodded, turning to the Super Soldiers to her left. “Steve, Bucky, would you mind showing the Guardians around? The fewer of us in the room the better, lest I lash out again.”

 

Steve nodded in understanding. “Of course, Wanda,” he assured her, getting up and motioning for the Gaurdians to follow. Bucky got up as well, though he hesitated a moment to glance back towards Vision in confusion, wondering why he wasn’t being kicked out too. Steve seemed to know what he was thinking, shaking his head and taking Bucky’s hand both to pull him away and because he wanted to.

 

After the room cleared, the remaining three occupants moved to sit at the end of the table, Vision and the head with Wanda and Strange across from each other, Soul Stone on the table between them.

 

“How will we do this?” Wanda asked Strange, since he knew more about specific magic than she did.

 

“While I’ve never had to do something like this before, I may have an idea,” Strange assured her, placing his hands palm-up on the table, one on either side of the Stone. “Put your hands over mine,” he instructed, nodding when she did. “Now, you said your magic is controlled by what you want to do. Try thinking about peeking into the Soul Stone to see what it holds,” he suggested. “I’ll try to keep your magic stable while you do.”

 

Wanda nodded wordlessly, closing her eyes and concentrating on the Stone in front of her. She almost recoiled when the full force of the Stone’s fury hit her like a tidal wave, but she managed to only flinch slightly and frown. After a few moments, she felt like she was floating, the room around her looking mostly the same as the conference room with the exception of appearing to be made of an orange crystalline material. She frowned, wondering what was going on.

 

Another few moments past until someone began to appear in the seat Strange was supposed to be sitting in, their hands taking the place of his. The hands were delicate and feminine, though the green skin showed battle scars of all kinds. The fury Wanda had been hit with dulled slightly when the person appeared, causing her to look up.

 

Sitting across from Wanda was a green-skinned woman with intricate facial scaring and wavy purple-pink hair. She radiated an aura of danger, of pure anger, but Wanda could tell it wasn’t directed at her. Rather, it must’ve been towards Thanos; this must’ve been the Guardians’ missing friend.

 

“Are you Gamora, the one Thanos traded for the Soul Stone?” Wanda asked, not fully aware that the other two people in the room could hear her loud and clear, postures straightening out as they listened with wide eyes.

 

“I am,” the woman nodded, a faintly impressed look on her face. “Does this mean he’s gone? No one would have a chance to get the Gauntlet if he isn’t.”

 

“He is,” Wanda nodded. “Your friends are trying to find a way to release you from the Soul Stone, actually,” she informed her.

 

“They made it out of that alive?” Gamora blinked, equally impressed and shocked. Drax, Rocket, and Groot she could believe survived; Mantis, maybe; but not Quill.

 

“Yes,” Wanda told her. “Groot is especially worried about you,” she commented.

 

“Are you like the man who crashed into our ship then?” Gamora asked curiously. “He said he took Groot as a class in school.”

 

“No, no,” Wanda chuckled with a shake of her head. “I am a telepath, and Groot’s thoughts are in English.”

 

“Ah,” Gamora nodded, though she was still confused. “Any idea how to actually get me out of here? My body is probably destroyed by now, so I’d need something to bind to,” she mused. I’d be like Nebula she thought to herself with mixed emotions.

 

“That should not be a problem,” Wanda assured her. “Though the Soul Stone may need to become a part of you, the way the Mind Stone has become a part of my partner,” she explained.

 

Gamora blinked once. Twice. “Your partner survives off an Infinity Stone?” she muttered in disbelief. “Only Celestials are capable of touching one and surviving.”

 

“Vision is a… unique case,” Wanda shrugged, her mind feeling fuzzy. “I must go now, before I am trapped as well. When we meet again, hopefully it will be in person.”

 

“Thank you,” Gamora nodded, fading away as Wanda took her hands off Strange’s and opened her eyes.

Chapter Text

Wanda’s timing turned out to be incredible, as Steve returned with the Guardians (and Bucky) just as she opened her eyes and took a deep breath.

 

“Everything okay?” Steve asked in concern, eyebrow raised.

 

“I… don’t know,” Strange frowned, having pulled his hands back to fold on the table in front of him. “Though I believe she was successful.”

 

Quill stood straighter at that, eyes widening hopefully. Mantis tilted her head though, detecting a wide range of feelings from Wanda and Strange. Not Vision though. She couldn’t get anything from him, which was… unsettling.

 

Wanda nodded slowly, glancing over at Vision before turning to Steve. “I think we can get her back,” she said, which brought a grin to Quill’s face. “Steve, do you still have Dr. Cho’s contact information?” she asked, earning a nod. “Will you call her, please? She may be the one person to do this properly.”

 

“What’s ‘this’, exactly?” Rocket asked skeptically. Terrans were always so vague and annoying.

 

“Gamora’s soul is bound to the Soul Stone,” Wanda explained. “However, the Avengers have created an entire life from an Infinity Stone in the past using artificial intelligence,” she went on, gesturing to Vision. “The procedure should not be hard to rework for a pre-existing soul.”

 

“So what you’re sayin’ is we’ll have a Nebula,” Rocket huffed, crossing his arms over his chest.

 

“Who’s Nebula?” Bucky asked with a frown.

 

“Gamora’s adoptive sister,” Quill explained. “Another one of Thanos’ child soldiers, near enough. She’s a bat-shit crazy cyborg.”

 

Wanda shook her head. “Vision was created using an artificial intelligence developed by one of our teammates, and he developed his own personality, separate from the AI. Gamora should be the same as she wass before, though she will have a metal skeleton and artificial skin.”

 

“If she turns into a Nebula, I’ll be on your ass about it,” Rocket threatened evenly. Despite him being a raccoon, the tone of his voice and the malice in his eyes made Wanda shiver in fear.

 

“Rocket, calm down,” Quill chided, rolling his eyes. “Thank you,” he told Wanda with a grateful smile. “We appreciate the help.”

 

“Consider it a ‘thank you’ for keeping Tony alive out in space,” Wanda giggled, shaking her head slightly. “Now, we must go upstairs and find Tony. He is the only one who knows how to use the computer systems here to make 3D rendered blueprints.”

 

The Guardians, Steve, Bucky, and Strange headed upstairs, though Wanda and Vision trailed behind. Vision wore a look of concern on his face, which had become a constant thing since she told him about the twins.

 

“Are you alright?” Vision asked softly, taking Wanda’s hand. “Your face has gone pale, and your hands are sweating,” he observed with a small frown.

 

“I am fine,” Wanda assured him with a nod. “I have never tried something so complicated with my powers; it is probably a response to that. It is nothing to be concerned about.”

 

Vision nodded, though he wasn’t entirely convinced she was completely fine. He’d leave it for now, so they could help the Guardians get their friend back.

Chapter Text

Tony was a little too eager to help craft a new body for Gamora, almost immediately setting up FRIDAY to let him make schematics, the Guardians settling around the room to tell him what she looked like. The rest of the Avengers relocated to one of the lounge areas elsewhere, giving them some privacy so they could focus.

 

Laura had taken the kids home, but Clint stuck around to catch up on what the Hell had just happened. It was Maggie’s weekend with Cassie, so Scott was still there too, sitting on the edge of the coffee table while small, mostly to save space for the others on the couches and chairs.

 

“First, and most important, question,” Clint hummed once everyone was settled, turning to look his best friend dead in the eyes. “Nat, what the fuck did you do to your hair?” he asked bluntly, though the tiniest upturn of his lip let Nat know he was joking. “Platinum blonde, I’ve seen on you. Even gray. But this weird in-between colour? The Hell were you thinking?”

 

“Needed a disguise,” Nat chuckled, a teasing look on her face. “Wanted something different and fun. And personally, I like how it looks,” she smirked, a twinkle in her blue eyes that Clint knew meant trouble for everyone else.

 

“No,” Clint said flatly, shaking his head and pointing at her in a fake-scolding manner. “I know that look, and I’m saying no. We’ve got enough to deal with without you dying random people’s hair, Nat.”

 

“But Clint,” Nat sighed dramatically. “You’re no fun. Must be because you’re getting old.”

 

Bucky’s metal hand lazily raised into the air, drawing attention to the spot on one couch occupied by Steve and Bucky. Once he had the attention he wanted, he looked Nat straight in the eye like Clint had, a blank look on his face.

 

“What, exactly, is wrong with getting old?” he challenged, narrowing his eyes in an almost threatening manner. Anyone who wasn’t Steve actually shifted in fear at the look on his face, while Steve smacked the back of his head with a scolding look on his face.

 

“Stop scarin’ everyone, Buck,” Steve sighed, though his tone and eyes were fond. “Lighten up; we need more old men hangin’ around. Who else can we make shitty jokes with?” he reasoned with a smirk.

 

There was a brief silence, though Parker quickly stuttered his way into the spotlight. The look on his face was pure bewilderment, dark eyes wide.

 

“Sorry, but, uh, did Captain America just swear?” Parker asked, completley scandalized by the idea. He was told that Cap never swore, so this was confusing and alarming.

 

Before Steve could respond, Bucky snickered, clearly far too amused by the question.

 

“Kid, we spent our teenage years livin’ in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. There’d be a problem if he didn’t swear,” Bucky told him, shaking his head slightly.

 

“Ah yes, Brooklyn,” Strange chuckled fondly. “I can assure you, the 1990s didn’t fare much better for teenagers not swearing,” he said, turning to Parker. “Though, I’m not certain you were alive at any point in the 90s,” he mused with a raised eyebrow.

 

Parker just turned almost as red as the suit he wore, trying to make himself small enough to hide his embarrassment.

 

“Ah, c’mon kid,” Sam piped up with a small chuckle. “We’re teasing you. I’d suggest getting used to it, because Steve over there will not stop now that Barnes is around,” he warned, earning twin heatless glares from both Super Soldiers.

 

Parker just nodded awkwardly, cheeks still bright red, though he uncurled himself from the ball he’d became.

 

The banter kept up for a little longer before someone finally forced them to be serious (it was Clint, for once). Scott had returned to normal size, finding a spot on the arm of Sam’s chair so he could be seen.

 

“Okay, you’ve had your fun,” Clint observed. “Now, will someone tell me why a giant purple alien with a God-complex tried to massacre humanity? And while you’re at it, there is a talking tree and a very violent talking raccoon in there with Tony right now that need some explanation too.”

 

“Thanos came to Earth in search of two Infinity Stones,” Wanda said softly, leaning against Vision’s side. “The Mind Stone,” she added, gesturing to Vision’s forehead, “and the Time Stone,” she said, pointing to Strange.

 

“Before arriving on Earth, Thanos ambushed the ship of Asgardians that survived Ragnarok to claim the Space Stone from my brother,” Thor spoke up, having been mostly silent. “Loki and Heimdall lost their lives, while I could do nothing to save them,” he muttered, looking down at his hands shamefully.

 

“And at some point, he got the Reality Stone from this weird space colony called Knowhere, according to the Guardians,” Bucky added. “Weird ass colony,” he stated vaguely, not elaborating for those who weren’t there. The looks on their faces were too priceless.

 

“So he had two of them by the time he got here?” Clint asked, frowning.

 

“Three,” Thor shook his head. “He already possessed the Power Stone when we met initially,” he explained.

 

“So when did he get his hands on the others? Besides Vision’s, anyway,” Clint pressed.

 

“Mr. Stark, Mr. Parker, the Guardians, and I faced off against Thanos on his home planet Titan,” Strange said. “I attempted to trick him into taking a false Time Stone, but he saw through the illusion and destroyed the sacred amulet the Stone was housed in.” He lifted the chain of the new Eye he’d created, the green glow of the Time Stone slipping out of the intricate design.

 

“None of us are quite sure where or how he got the Soul Stone,” Steve added. “Though it apparently involved sacrificing a member of the Guardians, a woman whom he had adopted as a little girl,” he went on. “Her soul in exchange for the Stone was what Quill told me.”

 

“Quill briefly explained to me what had happened on the trip back, and Gamora told me some of it herself,” Wanda said, sitting up a little straighter. “Thanos had given Gamora a task as a young girl, to find the location of the Soul Stone for him. She had found it, but she kept it to herself due to her hatred of the man who called himself her father,” she explained. “Thanos used the torture of Gamora’s sister Nebula to coerce her into bringing him to the location of the Stone. A haunting man with an entirely red skull in a black cloak told Thanos that to acquire the Stone, he must sacrifice the one thing he loved most,” she went on, not noticing the look of alarm Bucky and Steve shared. “Gamora was that one thing. His favourite daughter, his greatest success. The most dangerous woman in the entire galaxy.”

 

“And the sacrifice caused her soul to become the Soul Stone,” Clint wagered, earning a nod.

 

“Near enough,” Wanda confirmed. “Tony is currently working with the Guardians and Dr. Cho to recreate Gamora’s body the way Vision was created, as a means of binding the Soul Stone to a body so her soul may be released.”

 

“Okay, can I just say, that sounds awesome,” Scott commented. “I mean, not the whole sacrifice thing. The binding thing. You think they’ll be able to do it again? From what I heard, Vision was mostly a fluke, no offense,” he went on, turning to Vision to asure him he meant no disrespect.

 

“We must have faith in Mr. Stark and Dr. Cho,” Vision told him. “Fluke or not, they are both talented in their respective fields involved.”

Chapter Text

After Clint and Scott had returned to their homes, Sam and Strange offered to take Parker back to his aunt before she went completely crazy worrying about him. Steve and Bucky headed off to… you know what, no one really wanted to know where they were going. As long as it was far enough away that they couldn’t hear anything. If Clint didn’t know about them before, there was little doubt now, after the way they interacted with each other. Clint had wanted to cover Parker’s eyes it was so bad.

 

That left Nat, Wanda, Vision, and Sam in the lounge, the other three catching Vision up on their plans for Steve and Bucky’s wedding. Vision had exactly no experience when it came to weddings, but he could help somehow.

 

Vision was sitting on the couch as he had been before, but Wanda’s head was now resting in his lap, her legs stretched out on the couch. She had a content, peaceful expression on her face as she looked up at him, making him smile back softly. Sam was sprawled across one of the other couches, while Nat was curled up in an armchair, tablet sitting in her lap so she could take notes.

 

“Sam,” Nat hummed, turning to the man in question. “Can you convince the curator of that exhibit with all of Steve’s stuff to give us some of it? Obviously you can’t tell him the exact reason we want it. Say he wanted some of it back for nostalgia or something.”

 

“What kinda stuff we talking?” Sam asked, propping himself up on his elbows to look over at Nat.

 

“I know they’ve got one or two of his old sketchbooks,” Nat told him. “Probably stuff in there we can use. Maybe some old photo albums or something. Think cheesy but sentimental.”

 

“I’ll see what I can do,” Sam nodded, making a mental list of things that might work.

 

“Family albums would be perfect as well,” Wanda spoke up. “Pictures of their parents, and Bucky’s younger sister. They may not be there physically, but they can still be in spirit.” The thought made Wanda wish she still had pictures of her parents and Pietro, for if she ever got married.

 

“That’s a great idea,” Nat nodded with a grin, typing away on her tablet. “And pictures of Sharon’s aunt, Peggy,” she added. “The three of them were a force to be reckoned with back in the War, and she can’t be there either,” she said, though the last part was muttered quietly. Peggy Carter’s funeral had come at a bitter time for Steve, but she just knew he’d appreciate that they took her into consideration. “Any other ideas?” she asked.

 

“Cheesecake,” Sam suggested with a small smirk. “Blueberry and strawberry. With little stars.”

 

“Sam Wilson, you are a genius,” Nat beamed, adding that to the plans. “Wanda, any suggestions?” she asked, turning to the witch.

 

“Are you aware of the language of flowers?” Wanda asked, moving on without waiting for a response. “As a little girl, my mother taught me that each type of flower has its own emotional meaning, and that wedding flowers are sometimes arranged with these meanings in mind. I believe I can put together an arrangement that reflects the two of them, and their relationship,” she offered.

 

“That would be perfect,” Nat smiled. “Any ideas yet so I can get them down?”

 

“Nasturtium,” Wanda replied. “Forget-me-nots. Pink carnations,” she went on, closing her eyes to help focus on remembering. “Edelweiss. Violet. Yellow roses.”

 

Nat typed away as Wanda spoke, making sure she got everything down. “What do they all mean?” she prompted, honestly curious.

 

“In order, patriotism, true love memories, I’ll never forget you, courage and devotion, loyalty and devotion, and joy and friendship,” Wanda told her, opening her eyes again.

 

“Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty accurate,” Sam commented with a nod. “Any flowers that mean ‘get a room you assholes there was a child here’?” he asked jokingly.

 

“Not that I can recall,” Wanda chuckled, one of hands having absently taken one of Vision’s to rest both on her stomach.

 

“You noticed too?” Nat asked, pretending to be in disbelief. “I love those two like brothers, but they really need to tone down the eye-sex. I think they scared poor Peter,” she joked.

 

“I believe that may have occurred when Steve swore,” Vision said idly, speaking up for the first time since they started.

 

“True,” Nat and Sam said in unison, grinning.

 

“I think he will fit in quite well,” Wanda observed. “Though I fear Tony will corrupt the poor child in some way,” she joked.

 

“Only time will tell,” Nat chuckled, shutting off her tablet. “Now, Wanda and Sam, you guys need sleep, and so do I. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

 

“Yeah, sleep sounds great right about now,” Sam muttered, getting off the couch and heading for his room.

 

“I agree,” Wanda mumbled, sitting up and turning to look at Vision. “Come with me?” she asked softly, pulling her cardigan around herself.

Chapter Text

While the others wandered of, Tony and the Guardians, along with a video chat with Dr. Cho, were working on the new body for Gamora. Quill had some pretty intense descriptions of Gamora’s appearance, down to the intricate designs on her face. Rocket was asking questions about the tech that’d be going into this, privately wondering if he could weaponize it in some way. By the time the Guardians wanted to turn in for the night, the plans were nearly finished. All that was left was to actually follow them, which Tony figured would take a good few hours.

 

Tony showed the Guardians to rooms they could crash in, heading into his personal lab to call Pepper. She hadn’t stopped texting him since she left, so he wanted to call her to assure her he was fine. He was still down there when everyone woke up hours later, having fallen asleep at his bench while still talking to Pepper. Bruce found him there when he’d gone down to run some tests to further his mission to figure out what was wrong with Hulk. He decided to let him sleep a while longer, knowing Tony hadn’t slept properly in a long time.

 

When Tony finally woke up, Pepper had long since disconnected, probably off doing something important. He stretched his arms above his head, glancing over at the nearby clock and groaning tiredly.

 

“Shit,” he mumbled, getting up slowly and stretching his legs out before heading upstairs to find everyone else. They were all sitting around the kitchen area, some eating breakfast, some just sitting and waking up. Quill’s grasp on his bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch could only be described as over-protective and paranoid, as if someone was going to come along and take them. Tony couldn’t help but chuckle to himself as he poured himself some Cheerios, walking over to sit near him.

 

“No one’s going to steal your cereal,” he told Quill casually, causing him to flinch slightly.

 

“Sorry,” Quill mumbled, though he still held his cereal bowl in a death grip. “It’s been thirty years since I last had a bowl of cereal,” he admitted. “Hell, been thirty years since I’ve been on Earth.”

 

“Thirty years?” Tony repeated, surprised. “You’ve been in space for thirty years? And you’re still alive? With no physical reprecussions?” He was rambling slightly, excited about the possibility of learning new things.

 

“Tony, leave the poor guy alone!” Nat called over, nursing a mug of black coffee as she smirked. “Let him readjust. Culture shock can be a bitch even when you’re not being pestered by a mad scientist.” Tony just shot a glare in her direction, turning his attention to his Cheerios.

 

The kitchen fell into a lull in conversation, everyone eating their breakfasts in peace. At least, until Steve and Bucky finally wandered in. The second Sam caught sight of them, he burst out laughing, trying to muffle it in his hand. He didn’t do very well, as everyone’s eyes turned to the two walking into the room.

 

“Hey, Steve?” Sam called over, not quite done laughing as he pointed his fork in Steve’s direction, making vague circling motions towards the collar of his shirt. “You’re looking a little purple there, under your collar.”

 

That got Steve to glance down and curse under his breath, adjusting his shirt collar in an attempt to mask the marks.

 

“No point hiding them,” Sam teased. “It’s not like you’re subtle or anything.”

 

Bucky shot Sam an unimpressed glare, lazily flipping him off as he went to get some toaster waffles. Steve just rolled his eyes, sending Sam an unamused glance as he followed Bucky over.

 

Rhodey, who had mostly been keeping to himself since they returned, frowned at the interaction, not entirely sure what just happened.

 

“Did I miss something?” he asked in confusion, glancing towards Sam for an explanation.

 

“Rhodey, buddy, have you been living under a rock this past week?” Sam teased with a raised eyebrow. “Two of them have been eye-fucking since they reunited before the battle.”

 

“Ah,” Rhodey nodded in a tone that said ‘why do I do this again?’, returning to his breakfast.

 

“For the record, Wilson,” Bucky called over without turning away from the toaster, “been happening long before any of you were born,” he smirked, earning a swat on the arm from Steve that was accompanied by a quiet snicker.

 

In the corner, Wanda was giggling at the others, Vision visibly amused as well. Seeing Steve so comfortable and relaxed was a refreshing change from the high-strung Captain America they’d had as of late. Things were starting to feel like they had before the Accords, and Wanda let herself relax and be comfortable. It’d probably backfire later, but for now, it was what she needed.

Chapter Text

After everyone took showers and changed into more comfortable clothes (save Rocket, Groot, Drax, and Mantis; Quill was given some clothes by Steve), they awaited Strange’s arrival with Dr. Cho. Once more, they were gathered around a lounge area, though this one was much larger to accommodate the larger number of people. Rocket, Groot, and Quill were discussing something quietly, while Drax and Mantis were asking numerous questions about Earth, as any curious aliens would.

 

The reddish-orange glow of Strange’s portal drew everyone’s attention, pretty much bringing any conversations to a halt as Strange and Dr. Cho stepped through.

 

“Thank you, Stephen,” Dr. Cho nodded with a polite smile. “I’ve already said it, but I’ll say it again: I never thought I’d see the day one of New York state’s most talented surgeons wielded magic the way you do.”

 

“Nor did I, Helen,” Strange chuckled, shaking his head as the portal dissipated. “It’s nice to see you again, by the way. It’s been far too long since we last saw each other.”

 

Tony was baffled and taken aback as Strange talked to Dr. Cho. He was vaguely aware that Strange had been a surgeon, but he hadn’t thought he knew Dr. Cho. Maybe it was just the stress of everything finally getting to him and making him overreact to everything. Yeah, that was probably it.

 

“Thanks for coming, Dr. Cho,” Tony nodded in greeting.

 

“We really appreciate it,” Quill spoke up sincerely. “It’s a weird situation, but they said you know what you’re doing.”

 

“I only operate the cradle,” Dr. Cho shrugged. “Tony and Bruce did most of the work. Regardless, it is my pleasure to help your team with this tragedy. I wouldn’t have the first idea what to do if something like that happened to one of my friends.”

 

“Actually, it was Wanda’s idea,” Mantis piped up, looking over to the scarlet-clad witch in question. She looked up from her spot curled against Vision’s side at the sound of her name, shrugging slightly.

 

“It made the most sense,” she reasoned. “You have helped us create an entirely new life powered by an Infinity Stone. It is likely you could do the same with a pre-existing life and a different Stone.”

 

“We will see,” Dr. Cho nodded, turning to Tony and Bruce (who had taken a hiatus from fighting Hulk so he could help). “I was told you put together schematics for the body’s appearance?” she hummed.

 

Tony nodded, calling for FRIDAY to display a 3D model for her to manipulate and examine. Dr. Cho spent some time doing just that, focusing entirely on her task for the time being. While she was busy, a thought occurred to Wanda that caused her to shift from Vision’s side so she could look at him.

 

“Viszh, I just thought of something,” she said softly, catching his attention. “Dr. Cho knows how the cradle works and what it can do. Maybe she has the answers we cannot find ourselves,” she mused, hand absently shifting to rest on her stomach. It’d become a common thing by that point; she knew her magic was protecting them, but she wanted to feel like she was assuring the twins in some way that they would be fine.

 

“Possibly,” Vision nodded in thought. “We could ask her once she is finished with the Guardians.”

 

Wanda simply nodded, returning to her spot against his side and yawning quietly. It took her a while to fully wake up in the morning unless something urgent was happening. Right now, there wasn’t, so she was almost falling back asleep where she sat. Vision simply kept an arm around her, chin resting atop her head of still-wet hair as he observed everyone else.

Chapter Text

No one dared speak, or even move, lest they distracted the ones working on Gamora’s rebuild, for lack of a better term. Dr. Cho was meticulously monitoring the cradle, while Tony and Bruce worked to put together the Vibranium skeleton and get it set in before the cradle moved passed that point. The Soul Stone was in a safe enclosure, ready to be removed and implanted when ready.

 

Quill was the only one wearing a visibly anxious expression, though he knew better than to freak out physically, choosing to do so internally instead. The look on his face got so bad Steve softly told Bucky he’d be right back, going to sit with Quill.

 

“Don’t be so anxious,” Steve muttered, resting his hands in his own lap. “I know how terrifying it is, to know someone you love is undergoing some strange procedure to make them who they were again, but stressing didn’t help me, and probably won’t for you either,” he said quietly, not wanting to distract anyone.

 

“Really?” Quill asked skeptically, raising an eyebrow. “Captain America can get scared?”

 

“Yeah, he can,” Steve nodded, glancing over at Bucky for a few seconds before looking back. “You’re lucky though. You get to be there for her as she readjusts. I lost two years of that, and I regret that. The fact that you can is more than most get, so keep that in mind,” he observed. “Being there for her is all you can do right now. If she’s anything like the dangerous women in my life, she’ll be too stubborn to admit she needs help, which is why you need to be there even more.”

 

Quill was quiet for a few minutes, gazing at the scientists working around the cradle absently. “I can’t help but feel responsible for what happened,” he mumbled, turning back to Steve. “If we hadn’t gone to Knowhere, hadn’t gone to Titan, she’d be fine. She’d be alive,” he sighed. “I don’t want to mess up that badly again.”

 

“One day at a time,” Steve told him. “Keep some optimism, Peter. You’re too pessimistic,” he advised, slowly getting to his feet to head back to where he’d been sitting.

 

“Quill, get over here,” Tony called out, followed by a hand motion. Quill got up and went over, frowning in concern.

 

“What do you need me for?” he asked, tilting his hand and shoving his hands in his jacket pockets.

 

“You said you could touch Infinity Stones without being instantly vapourized,” Tony stated, gesturing to the case containing the Soul Stone. “Someone needs to put that thing in place, and you seem like the best candidate.”

 

“Oh,” Quill nodded slowly, hands slowly pulling out of his pockets. “Where am I putting it?” he asked.

 

“I was thinking the back of her neck,” Bruce spoke up. “That way, it’s not as visible of a target, since you guys do a lot of fighting.”

 

“Okay,” Quill nodded, steeling himself as he went over to the case. “Now?”

 

“Now,” Tony nodded, stepping out of Quill’s way once he had the Stone in hand so he could have the quickest route.

 

Naturally, Quill’s hand felt like it was on fire the longer he held the Stone, but he focused on why he was holding it, which seemed to block some of the pain. His hand was shaking as he lowered the Stone into place, making sure it was sitting firmly before quickly retracting his hand with a hiss through his teeth.

 

After a few short seconds, Dr. Cho stepped back from the cradle in anticipation. The others stepped back as well, everyone in the room (that could) held their breath, waiting.

 

The tense silence was broken by the sound of a groan, distinctly high and feminine, followed by a cough as the figure within the cradle managed to pull into a sitting position and look around.

 

“It worked,” Gamora noted, voice hoarse. “I’m impressed. Terrans can make technological advancements,” she observed.

 

Quill was stunned silent longer than everyone else, eyes wide in… awe? Relief? Guilt? He really wasn’t sure. All he knew is he wanted to hug her, but she might very well deck him if he tried.

 

Gamora climbed out of the cradle, thankful to have what looked like her old clothes on. She took a few steps to make sure she could work this body properly, turning to the scientists with a grateful nod.

 

“Thank you, Doctor Cho, Doctor Banner, Mister Stark,” she thanked, nodding to each individually, turning to look for Wanda. She cautiously approached her, a small smile on her face that looked out of place to the Guardians. “And Miss Maximoff, thank you for suggesting. I’m grateful for your kindness.”

 

Wanda smiled softly in return, sitting up straighter. “I know how it feels to lose someone you care about. I did not want your friends to suffer the way I did, when there was a chance we could save you.”

Chapter Text

The Avengers excused themselves, giving the Guardians privacy so they could fill Gamora in on everything that had happened. Dr. Cho stayed to tidy everything up, keeping to herself as she did.

 

“How do you feel?” Quill asked her, still somewhat anxious.

 

“Stiff,” Gamora admitted, rolling her neck in hopes of relieving some of the stiffness. “Otherwise, I’m fine,” she assured him with a small smile. “Everything feels the same as it did before, even though my skin’s synthetic and my skeleton is made of metal. Did they say what kind of metal they used?” she asked. “It’s nothing like any metals I’ve encountered, so it must be Terran.”

 

“Asshole in the suit called it ‘Vibranium’,” Rocket spoke up. “Said it was the strongest metal known to Terrans, but he doesn’t know how it squares up with the shit we’ve seen out there. Not exactly in those words, mind you, but you get the point.”

 

Gamora nodded at the answer, flexing her fingers a few times to work out the stiffness.

 

“Thank you,” she said softly, addressing the entire team but looking at Quill. “For risking coming to Terra, for trying to save me, all of this,” she added, uncharacteristically sincere as she spoke.

 

“You are our friend, Gamora,” Mantis spoke up. “Of course we tried to save you.”

 

“I am Groot!” the tree-teen chimed in happily, making Gamora chuckle.

 

“Thank you, Groot,” Gamora smiled, shaking her head slightly. She turned back to Quill, simply giving him a grateful smile before moving on. “Have any of you managed to make contact with Nova Prime?” she asked, turning to face everyone. “She’d probably know how to get us back home, and how to get the Milano back.”

 

“I had Rocket try,” Quill told her. “He’s the best at that kind of thing.”

 

“Of course I am, Quill,” Rocket all but snorted, rolling his eyes. “I got a message to her a couple hours ago, and since Terrans aren’t smart enough to transmit signals to space fast enough, I haven’t got one back yet.”

 

Just as he said that, a beep tore through the air, originating from a device on Rocket’s belt that somewhat resembled a GameBoy Colour, but the size of a novel. Rocket took the thing off his belt, reading the message he’d received with a tiny frown as he concentrated.

 

“Nova Prime said she’ll send someone to pick us up at this location,” Rocket relayed, looking up from the device. “Says it’ll take about an hour and a half, depending on the Corps member that ends up taking the job.”

 

“What should we do until then?” Gamora asked, not a fan of just sitting in wait without doing something.

 

“Maybe we could ask the Avengers to teach us about Terra?” Mantis suggested. “Peter hasn’t been back in 30 years, so many things have certainly changed.”

 

“Hey, good idea,” Quill nodded. “Maybe I can get someone to make me a new mixtape...” he muttered to himself.

Chapter Text

Tony, Sam, and Bruce were happy to catch Quill up on what he’d missed since 1988. Parker, who had come back after school to check on everyone, jumped at the chance to make Quill a mixtape, since he had a terrible taste in music; an old person taste, really.

 

By the time the Nova Corps came for them, Quill had a digital music collection and new headphones, courtsey of Stark and Parker. The Guardians bid the Avengers goodbye, finally heading home.

 

Meanwhile, Bucky had isolated himself from the rest of the Avengers, finding a quiet corner of the facility to sit and think. He was alone for exactly three minutes and ten seconds before Steve found him, though he wasn’t surprised. Steve always knew when something was up with Bucky, and could always find him if there was. Steve simply sat next to Bucky, taking his hand and lacing it with his own, not saying anything. Bucky would talk if he wanted to; Steve was just letting him know he was there.

 

After a period of silence, Bucky turned to look at Steve, expression somewhere between relieved and anxious.

 

“What happens now?” he asked softly. “With the team, I mean,” he added, since what happened now with them was pretty obvious. “Most of you are fugitives of the UN,” he pointed out. “And I’m on every most wanted list in the world.”

 

“I think Nat and Clint are working on that one,” Steve assured him. “They’ve got the connections to get something done, in the absence of Director Fury.”

 

“Until then?” Bucky pressed, anxiety slowly decreasing.

 

“Until then, we relax,” Steve told him. “Remember, Nat’s refusing to let us just go to the courthouse in Brooklyn, so we have something to look forward to.”

 

That got Bucky to chuckle and shake his head. “She’s stubborn like that, isn’t she?” he commented with a faint smile. “Guess it’s a common trait among the team. Except Vision. I don’t think he could be stubborn if he tried.”

 

“You’re probably right,” Steve chuckled in response. “Especially about Vision. I’ve seen him as a downright smartass like Tony, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him trying to be stubborn.”

 

“I want to see the tin can out-smartass Tony Stark,” Bucky all but snorted, though he wore a decently serious expression on his face. “I’d pay to see him do it,” he ammended with a smirk. “Someone needs to knock that man down a few pegs. He’s too much like his father for his own good,” he added, muttering to himself mostly. Howard Stark was an arrogant prick most of the time, but he did have his occasional moments where he was helpful. Tony was much the same way, but his helpful moments always benefited himself more than anyone else.

 

“I know,” Steve muttered softly, glancing off at nothing for a few moments. For the longest time after meeting Tony, Steve could only see Howard standing there in front of him. Howard, his friend and ally, the man who risked far too many things to help Steve be reckless, the man who made him his original shield. Even now, years later, Steve could sometimes see Howard staring back at him through those sad blue eyes, and it hurt every time.

 

Across the facility, the wedding planning crew was strewn about the same lounge they’d met in last time, though with a couple boxes of stuff on the coffee table.

 

“Sam, I see boxes,” Nat hummed, gesturing to the two medium-sized cardboard boxes labelled ‘museum stuff’. “What did you get?”

 

“One of the boxes is just pictures,” Sam told her. “The other has about four sketchbooks and some trinkets I thought would be nice. Oh, and I found a jewelry box. Didn’t open it, but I grabbed it.”

 

“Perfect,” Nat grinned eagerly. “Can I see the box of pictures first?” she asked, earning a nod from Sam that got her off the couch and to the box. She grabbed it, bringing it back to the couch with her and putting it in her lap. Wanda shifted from the next couch over curiously, Clint doing the same from the other end of the couch Nat was on.

 

The box held quite a few albums, worn and faded with age, as well as framed pictures of all kinds of sizes. The one sitting directly on top made Nat almost squeal, though she did let out a soft ‘awwww’, hand vaguely covering her chest.

 

The picture in question, a 7” x 9” print in a simple wood frame, depicted two little boys, no older than ten or eleven. They were grinning widely, arms thrown over each other’s shoulders. The taller of the two boys, who was probably Bucky, looked like he was holding the smaller one, definitely Steve, protectively in case something happened. They both had dirt smeared across their cheeks and noses, hair a wild mess. It looked like they’d either been playing in the dirt or fighting, but that wasn’t important. What was important was the youthful innocence the two Super Soldiers once possessed, and their bond as life-long friends. The affection Nat saw in young Bucky’s eyes was the same affection she’d seen on the quinjet flight to Wakanda, despite the numerous decades between.

 

Most of the framed pictures were individual shots of either Steve or Bucky, but one caught Wanda’s eye as she and Nat were going through them. She carefully picked up the 9” x 12” print, trying not to chip away any more of the fading paint on the frame.

 

The print was of two families, posed as if they were one large one. Three parents stood at the back, with three children in front of them. Wanda immediately recognized the confidence and stubbornness Steve Rogers always had in his eyes, even if the face the eyes were set in was 15 years old. Next to Steve was Bucky, without question. They wore matching smiles, but they were the forced kind people gave when pictures were being taken professionally. In front of the two was a young girl, probably around 11, with her hair in two low braids tied off with ribbons. She was missing a couple teeth, but that didn’t stop her from smiling as widely and brightly as she could. That had to be Bucky’s sister then, Rebecca. Directly behind Steve was a woman who could only be Sarah Rogers, her light-coloured hair in a neat bun. Behind Bucky would’ve then been Winifred and George Barnes, his parents. It was such a domestic picture, yet it told stories of two families, brought together because one kid attached himself to the other to protect him.

 

Clint spotted a picture that wasn’t in a frame or an album, carefully taking it out to inspect. The black and white image was surprisingly clear, depicting three men and a dangerous looking woman. Recognizing Steve and Bucky, Clint realized the other two were probably Stark Senior and Sharon’s aunt. The four held silly poses, genuine smiles on their face that reached their eyes. Steve had his shield above his head like it was raining, Bucky aiming a pretend sniper at it while Peggy and Howard laughed. The ridiculousness of the picture was a testament to how soliders back then made the best out of their situation, when things were grim and ominous. But here was two soldiers and two civillian associates goofing around like they were teenagers.

 

Among the albums were baby pictures of Steve, meticulously organized by Sarah Rogers herself; and an album made up of pictures of Bucky sporting various injuries, childish captions stating the date and how the injury happened. The other two were mixed, pictures of both families as Steve and Bucky were growing up.

 

The other box though, that was the real MVP when it came to finding things for the wedding. Sam’s trinket haul was a goldmine of Depression-era toys and such, as well as a couple rosaries and prayer books. The jewelry box was set aside, the group silently agreeing to open that last. Clint, Nat, Sam, and Wanda each took one of the sketchbooks to look through, Vision helping with the one Wanda had. They were all amazed by the skilled drawings within, especially the ones dated around the time Steve would have been eight or nine years old. A lot of them were just random objects or landscapes, but Wanda’s sketchbook held the best ones: drawings of Bucky. Literally just drawings of Bucky. All sixty leather-bound pages showcased Bucky growing up, from the eyes of his best friend. Some of them even had Steve in them, which was pretty impressive for a kid.

 

There was a drawing dated June 19th, 1932 that caught Vision’s eye, particularly for the detail but also for the writing underneath the portrait. He motioned for Wanda to turn the book towards him so he could read it.

 

I don’t know why he makes me feel the way I do. We’ve known each other since we were small, but now that we’re older, something’s changed, at least for me. All the boys at school are all excited to kiss girls, but… The rest of the text was smudged after that, as if it were erased quickly. Even Vision could infer the ending of the thought, based on what he knew about the Captain and the Sergeant.

 

The portrait itself was striking, depicting a teenage Bucky Barnes wearing a smirk and a devilish twinkle in his eye that must’ve been hard to recreate. The attention to detail was so intricate that Wanda could make out some of the pores on Bucky’s face, while Vision noted a small scratch on his buttom lip.

 

Wanda turned the sketchbook to the rest of the group, making a noise to get their attention.

 

“I think I found the perfect drawing,” she told them, leaning forward to place the sketchbook on the coffee table so the other three could see it.

 

Sam’s eyebrows raised in surprise at the detail, and a tiny smile found itself on his face when he saw the writing. Nat let out the softest ‘aww’ that only Clint heard, a sneaky smile on her face. Clint nodded his approval, both of Wanda’s choice and the drawing itself.

 

“Should we have it framed?” Wanda asked, already thinking of different frame styles she could help construct to fit the art perfectly.

 

“No question,” Clint nodded. “Learned the hard way that loose pictures and canvas prints don’t fare well for weddings,” he explained, wincing slightly and rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly.

 

“Oh, I remember that!” Nat grinned. “It got really windy during your reception, blew everything not weighed down into the creek!” she recalled, clearly amused.

 

“Don’t remind me,” Clint groaned.

 

“Frame it is,” Sam said, trying not to laugh lest his bird bro shoot him with a net arrow. Again. “Now, the most important piece: what jewelry could possibly have made it into that box? Maybe some rings?” he commented, the last bit said with a cheeky tone.

 

“We should do this carefully,” Wanda noted, waving her hands in the air to neatly repack the boxes and move them to the floor so they had room to lay the jewelry out flat. Out of the corner of his eye, Clint saw the briefest flicker of awe from Vision, which he found adorable. Even after knowing her so long, and so closely, he was still amazed by what she could do.

 

“Thank you, Wanda,” Nat nodded, setting the box itself in the centre of the table.

Chapter Text

Sam ended up being the one to open the box, seeing as he was the one who managed to get it from Cap’s exhibit at the museum and all. The worn-down hinges let out a quiet screech, most likely from lack of use over the last handful of decades.

 

The first thing everyone noticed was a locket shaped like a heart. The gold pendant sat in a little corner of its own, the stones embedded in a swirling shape catching the light even through layers of dust. Mimicking the actions needed, Wanda floated the locket out of the box and opened it gently, revealing a small photograph of a teenage boy and teenage girl. They were dressed as if they were in the early to mid 1910s, and the light colour of the girl’s hair led them to believe these were Steve’s parents.

 

“Well now we know who it looks like,” Sam commented as Wanda gently placed the pendant on the table next to the box. “If that’s Steve’s Dad, I think they just cloned him and made Steve, because shit.”

 

Everyone nodded in agreement, because he was right. While the picture was grainy and fading, the striking resemblance Steve shared with his late father was uncanny. Of course, Steve had considerably larger muscles, but otherwise, it was like looking at an average-sized Steve. They were all sure that had this been a colour photo, the boy’s eyes would be a very familiar shade of blue.

 

Moving on, Wanda carefully lifted each piece from the box and laid them on the table, not wanting to potentially damage anything by touching it.

 

Right at the bottom of the box were two velvet draw-string bags, one cobalt blue and the other charcoal black. Those were a bit trickier to get open without touching, so she made the choice to carefully pull the strings with her hands instead.

 

Inside the blue bag was a set of wedding bands, one male and one female, considerably older based on the style. They were simple and gold, the stones matching the colour of the bag they had been in. Wanda placed them neatly on top of the bag, moving on to the black one.

 

The black bag housed a similar set of rings, though the male ring was thicker and the stones were white. They were placed on top of their bag as well, Wanda sitting back and admiring her work. Clint could feel Vision’s awe, and adoration, the entire time Wanda was working with her magic, and honestly he thought it was sweet. He really did love her, he could tell.

 

“Those must be their folks’ rings,” Sam observed, voice unusually soft as he examined them with his eyes. “If they’re anything like Steve and Bucky, the blue one belonged the Joseph and Sarah Rogers, and the black belonged to Bucky’s parents.”

 

“Winifred and George Barnes,” Nat filled in with a nod. “I’d have to agree. Steve’s sentimental, so he probably got that from his parents. Those stones are pretty close to Steve’s eyes.”

 

“With what I’ve pieced together about Bucky’s parents, the thicker band would’ve been precautionary, since George Barnes did a lot of manual labour,” Clint commented.

 

Wanda had been silent as she listened, mostly content to learn rather than share, but she did realize something that should be noted.

 

“Steve never knew his father,” she spoke softly, the way she did when she talked about her family in any way. “Joseph died fighting in the First World War, just a few weeks before Steve was born.”

 

The others fell into a heavy silence, the fact having slipped their minds at the time. Due to the silence, Wanda moved closer to Vision, leaning on his side out of habit. It was Sam who finally broke the silence, his tone the same as it had been when he made his comment in the first place.

 

“I think Steve’d want to wear it more then,” he said. “Like we said, Cap’s sentimental. He hoards old newspaper clippings about Peggy in a shoebox under his bed, and the number of Bucky drawings is insane. His Dad’s ring would probably mean a lot to him,” he reasoned.

 

“I like the way you think, Wilson,” Clint nodded, absently twisting his own wedding band around his finger. He only wore it when he was certain nothing was going to happen, when he was around friends. “I was given no choice when it came to Laura’s ring. Her grandmother looked me dead in the eyes and handed me the box with her ring. Didn’t say a word, but I wasn’t going to cross her.”

 

“Master archer Clint Barton, scared of a little old lady?” Sam chuckled, smirking teasingly.

 

“Oh trust me, Grandma Neely was a terrifying lady,” Nat shook her head. “I should add, Clint was well into his 20s by that point.”

 

“If you say so,” Sam shrugged, rolling his eyes. “Anyway, Nat, would you ask Bucky if he’d be cool with using their Dads’ rings? I’ll ask Steve. Wanda, you looked like you want to make the frame for that drawing, so go nuts. The rest of us are about as creative as a block of dried cement.”

 

“I would love to,” Wanda chuckled with a nod, already going back to mentally planning out the frame she had in mind.

 

“I’ll try,” Nat nodded. “Barnes is a bit stiff, even now.”

Chapter Text

Wanda and Vision ended up sitting on Wanda’s bed, with Wanda spit-balling design ideas for the picture frame. Vision didn’t know anything about designing anything, but he did enjoy seeing Wanda so excited, so he offered the occasional bit of advice where he could.

 

Eventually, they’d ended up lying down, Wanda curled against Vision’s side with her head on his chest, one of his arms around her. Wanda had begun drifting off to sleep, so Vision simply ran his hand through her hair to help her fall asleep. Since he didn’t need to sleep, his mind decided to wander from thought to thought, settling on a couple different, but interconnected, ones.

 

Of course, they all pertained to the sleeping witch on Vision’s chest, but that’s no surprise anymore. What would surprise someone to learn was that Vision had been interacting with JARVIS inside his own head, researching things on the internet with assistance from FRIDAY if needed. He may be young, but Vision wasn’t completely inept. His time in Scotland with Wanda helped him figure out how to be more human-like, and in this case, that meant research. What, exactly, the three AIs were researching remains confidential, FRIDAY even going as far as completely remove their internet history so not even Tony could find it.

 

*--*--*

 

Nat found Bucky in the weight room, hair pulled away from him face in a tiny bun as he swung punches to a helpless bag. He didn’t notice Nat right away, clearly focused on his own thoughts as he punched. Nat could also just barely make out a headphone cord connected to Bucky’s ears and left pocket, so that probably held his attention too. He finally looked over when he pulled away from the bag, turning off whatever he was listening to music on and dangling the headphones around his neck.

 

“Did you need anything?” Bucky asked with a slightly raised eyebrow. “You’ve been standing there for ten minutes now, not saying a thing. If you were starin’, you’re outta luck and you know it,” he teased, rolling his eyes.

 

“Yes, actually,” Nat nodded, rolling her eyes right back. “And I know. I’m actually here to talk about the fact that you’re not single,” she teased right back. She and Bucky had a rocky past thanks to HYDRA and the Red Room, but they got along like siblings by that point. It was confusing to everyone except Steve, who knew Bucky and how he made friends.

 

“I’m all ears, Red,” Bucky nodded, making a sarcastic sweeping gesture with his hands.

 

“I’m going to be serious, just so you’re aware,” Nat warned, tone even to prove her point. “I managed to get my hands on an old jewelry box that was in the piles of Steve’s stuff from the museum,” she told him, which made his eyes snap up and widen, a look between uncertainty and hope shining against the blue irises. “There were two sets of wedding rings, at the very bottom. I have it on good authority that one set belonged to your parents, and one to Steve’s,” she went on, giving him a minute to process. One of his hands had gone to his face, eyes falling to the floor then raising to the ceiling in hopes of hiding the tiny tears forming in them at the thought of having something of his parents’.

 

“You know I’m gonna ask to see them, right?” Bucky finally muttered, looking back at Nat. “I’ve done enough listening without looking to not be skeptical.”

 

“I figured,” Nat nodded, removing the black drawstring bag from her pocket and handing it to Bucky. His hands were shaking as he held the little bag in his left hand and opened it with his right, scared that if he handled them with the metal hand he’d break them.

 

Even just glancing into the bag to view its contents brought the tears back to Bucky’s eyes, though they weren’t falling yet. No, he was keeping himself together enough to not do that. However, when he picked up his Ma’s ring and saw it for the first time in a long, long time, a single tear rolled down his cheek.

 

“Ma used to tell us that her ring just had salt crystals in it, not diamonds,” Bucky said softly, turning the ring over in his hand gently. “Dad insisted they were real diamonds, and we believed him. Not just ‘cause he said so, ‘cause we could tell he loved Ma too much to give her a ring with salt crystals in it.”

 

“That’s sweet,” Nat said with a small smile, arms crossed over his chest.

 

“It was,” Bucky smiled with a soft chuckle, putting his Ma’s ring back and hesitantly reaching for his Dad’s. The thick band was a familiar weight in his hand, memories fighting to the front of his mind reminding him how many times he’d marveled at the simplicity and beauty of the piece of metal in his hand.

 

Nat didn’t say anything, just letting him have his moment. His memories were hazy and broken, some to the point of no return, but he was clearly reliving his childhood right then, in the middle of the weight room at the Avengers’ facility.

 

He didn’t say anything for a while, just admiring both rings. It was clear the longer he held them, the harder it was to keep himself from crying.

 

“You said you found Steve’s parents’ rings too?” he finally asked, any trace of the deadly assassin replaced with the kid from Brooklyn that wanted to make his parents, and Sarah Rogers, proud.

 

“Yeah. Sam’s probably got them on him right now,” Nat nodded, uncrossing her arms. “We wanted to get the okay from both of you before we planned anything with them.”

 

Bucky nodded slowly, closing his hand around the rings. “Just… be careful, with the stuff you found. Steve’s touchy when it comes to anything that belonged to his Ma, ever since her funeral,” he warned, the last line muttered mostly to himself. “Oh, and I’m keeping these with me,” he added, holding the hand with the rings up a bit to show her. “Nothing against you, but I already lost my parents. I’m not gonna lose their rings too.”

 

“I’m not going to stop you,” Nat assured him. “You have every right to keep those rings where you know they’re safe.”

 

“Thanks, Natalia,” Bucky muttered, looking down at the hand closed around the rings. Nat just nodded in response, a faint smile on her face.

 

*--*--*

 

As Nat had predicted, Sam had the small blue drawstring bag in his jacket pocket, path set on finding Steve. He found the Super Soldier outside on a bench, a sketchbook in hand as he sketched quietly. He’d been doing more sketching lately, using it as an escape and a way to calm his mind from the stress he’d been under lately. He had also had an opportunity to shave, which made him look quite a bit younger than he had before.

 

Steve looked up when he heard Sam approaching, giving him a wave and a smile in greeting.

 

“Hey Sam,” he nodded. “What brings you out here?” he asked. Sam just reached into his pocket, pulling out the drawstring bag and underhand tossing it to Steve, who caught it with a frown of confusion. At least, it was confusion until he realized what was in his hands.

 

“Sam...” Steve said slowly, uncertainly. “Where’d you find this?” he asked carefully, not sure whether he should open it or not. He wasn’t entirely certain he was right about this little bag, but checking it would either cause heartbreak or disappointment, and he wasn’t fond of either outcome.

 

“In a jewelry box I found with your stuff at the museum,” Sam answered slowly, not wanting to upset him. “Found another one too, but it was black.” He wouldn’t immediately say the other set belonged to Bucky’s parents, deciding to slowly address Steve’s questions and concerns before diving right in.

 

Steve let out a tiny breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, cautiously opening the small bag and tipping it to dump the contents into his palm. He simply stared at the two rings initially, thousands of memories swirling in his mind.

 

“I never thought I’d see them again...” he muttered softly, looking back up at Sam. “What were you looking for at the museum?” he asked, trying to piece together a chain of events that could’ve led Sam to finding these rings.

 

“This and that,” Sam shrugged, not wanting to give away the surprise of the sketches and photographs.

 

Steve gave Sam a look that said ‘bullshit’ without him having to say it out loud. “Whatever it is you’re planning, don’t lose these,” he said firmly, nodding to the rings before carefully putting them back in the drawstring bag.

 

“Of course,” Sam nodded, accepting the bag when Steve offered it back to him.