He’s wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap when he pulls up and parks a sleek Tesla in the street outside her house and honestly Maria wonders how literally anyone thinks that this passes for a disguise. Admittedly in his case it would be necessary to hide away his uncanny, inhuman eyes even now that Earth as a whole knows about aliens but as far as disguising who he is even almost twenty years later she’d recognize him anywhere no matter what he’s wearing. And there’s really only one reason why he would be here.
“I don’t know where she is,” Maria calls out before he can even step foot on her property. She takes a moment to be grateful that Monica has long since moved out. “I don’t know how to contact her either and since we aren’t in touch, hurting me won’t do a damn thing.”
“I’m not here to hurt you,” he replies, taking a few short careful steps down the driveway toward where she’s standing and then stops. He has his hands held out in the apparently universal I’m harmless gesture, although she knows he’s anything but, even without a weapon in hand. “I just want to talk.”
“Last time you were here you tried to toss me and my friends out an airlock and invited an alien army to come blast my planet out of the sky, so you’ll forgive me if I’m a little skeptical that you’re just here for a catch-up chat,” Maria says. “ Yon-Rogg .”
“That was a long time ago, much has changed,” Yon-Rogg says a bit impatiently. “I don’t fight for the Kree anymore, they kicked me to the curb along with the rest of my team for failing our objective. I’m lucky to be alive. I fight only for myself these days.”
“Something tells me that that’s always been true,” Maria says. She sighs, this isn’t getting them anywhere and he could kill her just as easily outside as inside. “Come inside before the neighbors start getting curious.”
“Thank you, Captain Rambeau,” Yon-Rogg says, gesturing for her to precede him.
“No need to lay it on so thick,” Maria says. “And after you, by all means.”
He gives a shrug and then heads toward the house, walking inside like he owns the place. She leads him to the kitchen, pouring two glasses of iced tea out of habit, then ushers him over to sit at the table, pushing her own chair back slightly to give the illusion of a little distance between them. He makes a face after he sips the tea, tilting the glass to look at it, but then he takes another larger gulp so she assumes that it’s not toxic to Kree. Pity.
“So why are you here?” Maria asks. “What do you want from me?”
“I know Vers, excuse me, Carol hasn’t been back to Earth, as I’m sure that would have caused quite a stir,” Yon-Rogg begins. “It seems strange to me, however, that she wouldn’t have found a way to send you a message in all this time.”
“Even if she had, I wouldn’t tell you about it,” Maria says. “But she hasn’t contacted me, like I said. As far as I know she’s dead.”
“She’s not dead. For all that we haven’t seen her since she left, you know that and I know that,” Yon-Rogg says. “Honestly I’m not sure beings like her can die, and if they did it’d certainly leave a mark on the universe that would be felt. I know that I’d feel it if she died. Wouldn’t you?”
Maria doesn’t reply, just studies him and takes a sip of her own tea to play for time. She likes to think she’s rational, that she lives her life according to facts and science and math, but the simple truth is that for so long now she has lived with the assumption that if Carol died she’d just...know. She hadn’t allowed herself the hope when Carol’s plane had crashed the first time and everyone said she was dead, but while she’d missed Carol every second of every day, she’d never grieved her like she was dead because it hadn’t felt like that. And when she’d turned around and seen Carol standing there, beautiful and glowing and alive, her first thought had just been of course .
She refuses to say any of this to Yon-Rogg. There’s a knowing glint in his eyes however that says that maybe he knows.
“Did you know that I’m the reason why she bleeds blue,” Yon-Rogg says, changing tacts. “That it is my blood that courses through her veins, makes her more Kree than human. Connects her to me.”
“That’s...weird,” Maria settles on finally. “And no matter what happens to her body or her DNA or her powers or whatever, Carol will always be human. She has a human heart and a human soul, the rest is just window dressing, no matter what you choose to believe. Why are you telling me all this? Seriously why are you here?”
“I just wanted to look you in the eye, and know what was so special about you,” he says, and there’s that glint again. Jealousy , she finally realizes with wonder. This powerful violent alien warrior has for some reason traveled across galaxies after all this time to what, posture here in her kitchen because he’s jealous ?
“She used to dream about you, you know. She’d wake me up and tell me about the glimpses she got of you and I’d see the pain and confusion as those memories slipped away from her grasp, just out of reach,” Yon-Rogg says. “Mar-Vell she admired, idolized, sure, but you, you she…”
“Loved,” Maria says. “She loved me. Must be hard for you to imagine. Having never experienced it first-hand.”
Yon-Rogg huffs, a small hurt noise, letting her know that one hit its mark. Knowing everything he put Carol through Maria lets herself feel a brief thrill of satisfaction at that.
“We have a connection,” Yon-Rogg insists. “And our paths will cross again.”
“And then what?” Maria asks. “You’ll fight her? Woo her? She could squash you like a bug and you have to know that she’s never going to forgive you. She may not have killed you but you betrayed her trust, used her and knowingly fought on the wrong side of an unjust war. Things may have changed but they haven’t changed that much. Whatever quest you think you’re on is futile, surely you see that.”
“Always so sure of everything,” he says, tapping his fingers on the table and staring her down. “I suppose the two of you have that in common.”
“Oh there are plenty of things I have doubts about,” Maria says. “But never about Carol.”
“Thank you for the sweetened plant water,” Yon-Rogg says, drinking the last of the tea and setting the glass down with a skeptical look. “And for the conversation, I suppose. It has been...enlightening.”
“I’d say ‘anytime’ but I wouldn’t mean it,” Maria says, following him out the front door and down her own walk. “Please don’t come back here.”
“I don’t suppose I’ll have reason to,” Yon-Rogg says. “C-51 may have gotten more interesting over the past few years but it’s still a shithole.”
“Home sweet home,” Maria says.
“Is it true…” Yon-Rogg starts to ask, pausing at the door to the car he’d driven here. Maria wonders if it was stolen. Probably.
“Is what true?” She prompts.
“Is it true that the Agent known as Fury has a pet flerken?” he asks.
“I don’t even wanna know what he feeds it, and it took his eye out twenty years back, but yeah, man. Fury loves that flerken,” Maria replies with a shrug.
“ Humans ,” Yon-Rogg huffs in disgust. He slides the sunglasses back on his face, gives her one final nod then slips into the car, driving away without looking back. Just another rogue alien warrior with a questionable moral compass loose on Earth.
This is probably the sort of thing she should report to someone, she thinks. But first she needs a drink.
“Well what?” Fury asks, sounding vaguely irritable. “When you called you literally started the conversation by telling me that Yon-Rogg was probably already long gone, you can’t actually be surprised that we didn’t find him.”
“Yeah I guess,” Maria sighs. “I was kind of hoping you’d get one of your superheroes to maybe knock him around a little before he went.”
“He always was a smug bastard,” Fury agrees. They’re sitting in his office at SHIELD Headquarters, a place that always puts Maria on edge. “We found the car he’d been driving, the Tesla. Abandoned and on fire. Unclear whether he did that or it just lit itself up like they do sometimes, but either way he left no evidence behind. We’ll keep some feelers out, but if he doesn’t start causing trouble there’s not much else we can do.”
“I don’t like it,” Maria says.
“Neither do I,” Fury says. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Fine,” Maria says. “Weird as it may sound, I really do think he just came to talk.”
“Well we’ve gone over your property with a fine toothed comb and haven’t found any trackers or listening devices,” Fury says. “Although I find it a little hard to believe that he wasn’t just here to try to use you to get to Danvers.”
“Have you heard from her?” Maria can’t help but ask, although she already knows the answer. Carol wouldn’t contact Fury without also getting in touch with Maria, and even if she had, Maria was the first person Fury would go to.
“No, she hasn’t contacted me,” Fury says.
“Not even when a hole in the sky opened up above Manhattan and aliens invaded?” Maria asks incredulously. She’d contacted Fury after it had happened, knowing in her bones that he must’ve been at the center of it and he’d assured her he was fine but she hadn’t gotten any further details from him. “I would have thought you might have sent up that emergency flare she left you.”
“If it had gone on for much longer I might have,” Fury admits. “But as long as the Avengers were still standing and fighting I figured we still had a shot.”
“Hmmm,” Maria says. She feels fidgety, restless in a way she hasn’t in a long time. She’d made her peace with living here on Earth while Carol was out there somewhere traveling through the stars, but seeing Yon-Rogg has amplified that ache in her breast she’d learned to live with.
“You met Thor yet?” Fury asks.
“Where would I have met Thor?” Maria says, curious at the change in subject.
“I don’t know, he gets around,” Fury replies. “He’s basically a giant Golden Retriever and it’s not like he’d be the only alien you’ve had a conversation with recently.”
“I’ve seen him on the news just like everyone else,” Maria says. “Why?”
“The thing is…” Fury sighs, like he knows he’s about to get in trouble. “I haven’t heard from Danvers, but I have heard from Talos.”
“What?” Maria exclaims. “And just when were you going to tell me about this?”
“When it came up,” Fury says, unrepentant. “Look, he’s a spy, I’m a spy, sometimes spies need to communicate. But the only way to keep that shit secret is to not tell anybody about it.”
“I’m not just anybody,” Maria protests.
“I know,” Fury says. “I made a judgment call. I’m sorry.”
“What does this have to do with Thor?” Maria asks.
“The thing is it’s too dangerous for Talos to come back to Earth, for all we know the Kree are watching,” Fury says. “But if someone else were to travel to some sort of midpoint, a neutral interstellar location that he could get to, well, he could theoretically pick someone up and bring them to a third location. And we don’t have access to any sort of spaceship that could travel far enough to get us to him but... ”
“...Thor travels to space by Bifrost, and I’m guessing he can take someone with him,” Maria says, realization dawning on her. “Why didn’t you tell me this was an option.”
“Like I said, there was no point in risking you or Talos unnecessarily by spreading around dangerous covert information, and until recently when Thor started working with us, it wasn’t really an option,” Fury says. “Also…”
“Monica,” Maria sighs. “I can’t leave her.”
“You should talk to her about it,” Fury says gently. “She’s always been your biggest champion, yours and Carol’s, and she’s an adult now. She can take care of herself while you’re away.”
“For all we know this could be a one-way ticket to space,” Maria shakes her head.
“Or it could be the thing that brings Carol back to Earth,” Fury points out. “Look, I know this isn’t an easy decision but you deserve to have the option. Talk to your daughter. Think about it. In the meantime I’ll float the idea to Thor, see if he’d be amenable.”
“Mom, you HAVE to go!” Monica exclaims, and Maria has a disorienting moment where she’s looking at her baby, eleven years old and in Carol’s old stretched out air force t-shirt, telling her she has to go to space to help a shapeshifting alien find his family. The moment passes and then once again she’s looking at her grown daughter, strong and proud in her own private office, surrounded by the work that’s so similar to that which was started by Mar-Vell so many years ago.
“Honey, this isn’t like a weekend trip to Toronto,” Maria says. “Carol may be powerful but the trip will be dangerous and god knows what she’s gotten herself into since she left. I don’t know how long it would be before I could come home, if I even ever made it home at all. And that’s not even getting into whether Thor is willing to take me or Talos can even make it to a midpoint…”
“You’re just making excuses now,” Monica says, although her eyes are warm and understanding. “Look, I didn’t understand what you were giving up when you stayed here on Earth with me.”
“And I never regretted that choice for a single second,” Maria says, reaching out and holding Monica’s hand. Monica grasps her fingers back and smiles.
“I know that, and I’m so grateful for everything you’ve done for me,” Monica says. “But I’ve got my own life now and I can take care of myself. It’s time you do something for yourself.”
“I don’t even know if she…” Maria stops, a lump forming in her throat, stopping her from finishing her thought.
“She does,” Monica says. “She will. You have to do this.”
“You’ve always been my brave baby,” Maria says, hugging Monica to her.
“I learned it from my moms,” Monica says.
“Asgard used to have a race of women warriors called Valkyries, they also had intense shield bonds that are still sung about today,” Thor says enthusiastically shaking Maria’s hand. “The tale of you and your Carol reminds me of them. I am honored to be reuniting two such fierce warriors to reignite their shared eternal flame.”
“Oh my god,” Maria says, feeling her cheeks heat. “Right. Yes. That.”
Thor is standing in her kitchen, taking up most of it with just his golden presence. Even though they’re both aliens, Maria can’t help but think that Thor is everything that Yon-Rogg is clearly not, for all that Yon-Rogg probably misguidedly sees them as equals.
Maria had said goodbye to Monica the day before back in DC. They hadn’t seen evidence that Yon-Rogg or anyone else was watching them, but just in case Maria hadn’t wanted Monica there in case things went south when Thor showed up and it became clear what they were doing. They would be safe once in the Bifrost, Thor had assured them no one could follow them by that route, but for all that Monica insisted she could take care of herself Maria insisted. The less fuss they made over what they were doing the better. She’d made arrangements for someone to watch over her property, unsure if or when she’d be back and packed only a small bag of necessities and a few sentimental items to bring with her.
“Is traveling by Bifrost painful to humans?” Maria asks, her hands somehow steady as she ushers Thor out the back door and locks up her house for what is maybe the last time. She doesn’t let herself look back, can’t afford to be sentimental at the moment. What lies ahead of her is more of a home than this house ever was, for all that she loves the life she built here.
“Not painful, however I am told it can be overwhelming,” Thor tells her as they walk back into the open field. “Fury said you are an experienced pilot and have traveled to space before, which should mitigate the effects. I have no doubt you will weather the experience with more grace than some Asgardians.”
“Let’s hope so,” Maria says. “If I throw up on your cape my daughter will never let me live it down.”
Thor gives a loud bellowing laugh even as he wraps one strong arm carefully and respectfully around her. She grabs hold of his armor as he raises his hammer above his head, thunder rumbling in the distance. Maria looks around one last time but there is nobody here to stop her. It starts to sink in that this is really happening.
“Heimdall,” Thor shouts to the sky, and then there is light and color and sound roaring in her ears and eyes and mind, filling Maria’s senses and dragging her through the stars.
Higher, further, faster, baby, she thinks.
“Well, well, well, look who the flerken dragged in,” a familiar voice says behind her. Maria turns and finds Talos. He’s changed, more than Yon-Rogg had but is still easily recognizable as her friend.
“Talos,” Maria says warmly, letting him embrace her. She pulls back and they look at each other for a moment. He has new scars on his face, a few new grooves around his ears that she presumes are accounted for by whatever aging process Skrulls go through.
Talos tucks her arm in his as they make their way across the golden ship dock that Thor had left her at. Thor had offered to wait with her, but half a dozen nervous looking Asgardians had been attempting to talk to him since they’d landed in Heimdall’s hall and she’d assured him he was free to attend to whatever pressing business was waiting Asgard’s Prince.
“You look amazing my dear,” Talos says fondly. “I’d been erroneously informed that non-super-powered humans aged rather rapidly.”
“Some more than others,” Maria says slyly and Talos laughs with delight. He gestures her forward to a small ship docked at the end of the bay. It looks fairly nondescript compared to the cruiser that had housed Mar-Vell’s lab, but she supposes that when trying to travel covertly through space the less flashy the ship the better.
They get settled in the cockpit, but before Talos can power up the ship she reaches out, handing him the small information disc she’d been given.
“From Fury,” she tells him. “He sends his regards.”
“How is my old friend,” Talos asks.
“Same as ever to those who know him well,” Maria says. “Intimidating to those who don’t. You should see his whole look though these days. Wears a long black leather trench coat, wonder where he got the inspiration for that, huh?”
“Must have been inspired by someone with great taste,” Talos says with a smile, tucking the disc away. “Buckle up, we’re in for a long ride.”
Traveling all the way across the galaxy is considerably different than flying to a ship that’s directly in Earth’s orbit, Maria discovers once they’ve left Asgard and are well on their way.
She thinks she should be more awed by her first deep space travel experience, that she should be paying closer attention to what Talos is saying about where they are, where they’re going, what’s been happening since they were parted. She manages to inquire after his family and responds accordingly when he brightens and tells her about them, but the rest of it goes in one ear and out the other, her brain too crowded with Carol, Carol, Carol, Carol repeated like a drumbeat as the stars and planets fly by them.
Talos seems to realize after a while that she’s distracted because he keeps his patter light. He only mentions Carol once, says that she’s fine but will let them catch up properly in person, before changing the subject and asking about Monica, a subject that Maria can speak about for hours.
Even using jump points it takes them several days of travel to get close to where they’re going, a previously uninhabited planet that the Skulls have been using as a home base for some time, far from the reach of the Kree Empire. After the first day Talos shows Maria the ins and outs of the ship’s controls and she finds she picks up the art of spaceflight quickly, enjoying it once she can get out of her own head enough to live in the moment.
She lets Talos land once they reach the planet, her hands are shaking too hard. A thousand flights including testing dangerous new planes, flying to space to face aliens and enemies, hell graduating from the Academy and having a child and her hands were always steady as a rock but now they’re shaking. She’s gotten soft, she thinks, or maybe her body is finally catching up to her mind in panicking about what’s about to happen.
They land in a small airfield surrounded by trees and just large enough for Talos to set down without clipping any of the treetops. There is a figure standing at the end, waiting.
The back hatch of the ship hasn’t even fully lowered before Maria is down it and running across the field. Carol is running toward her, beautiful, glowing, radiant, familiar Carol, and it must be only seconds but it feels like an age before they meet in the middle and their arms are around each other finally, finally, finally.
She’s crying, they both are, but she’s not going to make the same mistake she made before, when Carol had left and she’d hesitated. She pulls back from the deep embrace just enough to nose her way across Carol’s cheek, soft and warm and here and then they’re kissing. Maria feels like her whole body is singing, points of heat wherever Carol is touching her, her lips, where one hand rests gently at the back of Maria’s neck, the other down on her hip, a leg pressed against her own thigh.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” Carol says, pulling back again although only far enough to rest her forehead against Maria’s.
“Me neither,” Maria says, huffing out a teary laugh.
“I wanted to come home so many times, I’m so sorry I…” Carol blurts out.
“It’s okay, I understood,” Maria says, reaching up to thread calming fingers through Carol’s hair. “I’m here now, we’re together now.”
“Yeah,” Carol sighs. She leans back slightly, studying Maria’s face intently. Maria vaguely wonders what she sees. Carol hasn’t aged a day, but somehow she looks older despite this, something in her eyes maybe, reflecting the years she’s lived, the battles she’s fought. It suddenly hits Maria just how long it’s been since they’ve seen each other, just how much life they’ve lived apart.
“Oh god, I should have asked if there was...if there was anybody you…” Maria stumbles over her words, a thread of anxiety suddenly hitting her.
“Nobody but you,” Carol says, gently lifting her chin and meeting her eyes. She leans forward, kissing her gently. “How’s Monica?”
“She’s good, she’s so good,” Maria says, laughing through her tears as Carol cups her face now, tenderly. “She misses you and sends all her love. She recorded a message for you.”
“We can watch it soon,” Carol says, pulling Maria closer into another embrace, resting her face against Maria’s neck. “I just need this for a minute.”
“I’m here,” Maria says, still with wonder. She closes her eyes and lets herself bask in the moment, lets herself feel nothing but the warm gentle familiar feeling of Carol in her arms. “We’re here.”