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Homecoming (for the second time)

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Earth came back into view as a tiny white dot. Indistinguishable from all the other dots that made up this part of the galaxy, but Carol liked to think that it held something special to her, even from this distance. As she travelled closer, it grew and grew and grew until she could have reached out and held it within her hand. The continents, the seas, they all came into view slowly. There was even this stretch of lights down the East Coast that Carol vaguely remembered being familiar with as a pilot. Heh, the things you remember after being gone for a while.

She came down fast enough that she only registered as a brief flash of light, the atmosphere tugging at her as she moved through. She landed in a field with a thump that shook the neighbouring properties.

Carol stood up in the hole that she’d created in the field. She was back on Earth. A nearby cow mooed at her. She gave it a long look, before climbing up out of the hole, and dusting herself off.

It had almost been a year since she’d left with the Skrull refugee ship in tow. It’d been a long journey, full of difficult, dangerous paths, and frequent encounters with less than friendly ships. The Skrulls, despite constantly surprising Carol with their ability to persevere, were often sick and tired easily in the long days of space travel.
But finally, they’d found a planet: an M Class planet, on the outer reaches of the galaxy, with the right conditions to sustain life. It was even pretty, Carol had thought to herself, a planet covered in pink and green flora, with wide rolling expanses of trees and grass. When night had set, Carol had taken to flying slow loops over this land, above where the Skrulls were settled. It gave her peace of mind, and also time to think. Flying had always done that for her.

The Skrulls had taken to colonisation of their newly found planet with all the enthusiasm they could muster. Houses were built, food was gathered, and space-wearing craft were slowly put together. Soon Carol was left feeling like the odd one out, her powers a little redundant for the mundane tasks ahead. She spent her days on the ground, helping dig holes and put in posts and coding new security patterns. At night, the kids would beg her to use her powers, and she often would, sending blasts of light over the horizon to their yells of delight. They reminded her of Monica, in a way.

Eventually, she got itchy. The Skrulls were settled, and were well on their to becoming a thriving community. They’d begun to send out encrypted signals to other Skrull outposts, in the hope that more would join them, to build a real Skrull home here. They were moving on, and no longer needed a hero—not that they didn’t want her around. Talos had become her close friend, along with many other of the Skrulls. But she felt restless, like there was something else that was calling her along to the next thing.

Eventually, Talos gave her leave to go. He’d probably realised sooner than Carol, that she had to leave. Carol protested at first, but eventually relented, with a promise to come back soon. It was harder than she thought, to turn her back on the Skrull people and the community that she’d helped build, but within a couple of weeks, she’d packed up her few items, said goodbye to those she was close to, and set sail for the stars.


Now back on Earth, there was still that restless feeling running through her, but now it was accompanied by an anxious undertone.
She stepped over the fence, feeling the heat of the air through her suit. It was about June, or July, right in the middle of the Southern heat. Even at dusk, the heat still hung in the air. Carol closed her eyes for a moment, remembering the feeling of a hot summer, mosquitoes buzzing in the air, sweating underneath her day uniform. She used to hate the heat, hate when summer would turn over and over and over for days on end, like an unwanted penny spinning around. But, with so long past since then, it almost felt like a relief, to be back in familiar space.

Carol walked to Maria’s. It wasn’t too fair, maybe a couple of miles, but then again, Carol had travelled light-years before this. The roads were quiet, with only a couple of cars passing through. Carol almost laughed at the double-takes that she got. Apparently, this wasn’t the typical outfit for Louisiana. She made a face at one kid whose face was pressed against the window of their car, who gaped back at her.

Carol had vague memories of wearing a lot of t-shirts, and a lot of jeans. Never any skirts, never any dresses. She’d always been a tomboy, which her Daddy had often cursed her out for. Maria had loved to wear dresses, pretty things with frills and gathered hems, but they both loved their Airforce uniforms more. There was a vivid memory of Maria smoothing the creases in her khaki coveralls with careful hands in her head, which she hadn’t remembered before. Carol shook her head, bemused more than anything. An hour on Earth, and it was already dragging memories out of the crevices of her head.

She came up to Maria’s place, which was a little way from the road. The lights were on, and Carol could hear voices even out from the road. The sight of it settled something within her. It almost felt like a homecoming, even though this hadn’t been her home for a long time.

“Aunt Carol!” a voice rang out. Monica bounded from the deck of the house, straight at Carol. She collided with Carol, not bothering to slow down. Carol caught her easily, and whirled her around, laughing.

“Oh my god, look at you!” she exclaimed. Monica had grown about a foot and gained a fair bit more bulk since Carol had last seen her. She looked like a young, strong woman now.
Carol set her on the ground, smiling.

“It’s good to see you, kiddo,” she said fondly. Monica nodded enthusiastically, already tugging on Carol’s hand to lead her back into the house, chattering at a fast pace.

“And it’s my freshman year this year, and I get to go to a dance! All my friends are so excited about that, but I like that I can choose all my subjects now. Have you ever done woodworking, Aunt Carol? I want to do it, but my friends don’t want to do it, because it’s messy and boring, but I think it’ll be great—”

Carol blinked, trying to keep up with the stream of information.

The screen door swung open again, just as Carol was towed to the bottom of the deck stairs. Carol looked to see Maria stepping out. Her typical coveralls were tied at the waist, with a thin white undershirt on top. Her hair had grown out a little, but otherwise she looked the same as she’d looked to Carol last year, six years ago, ten years ago. She looked good.

“Well, well, look who it is.” Maria said evenly, a slow smile spreading on her face.

Carol shrugged, fighting the urge to tackle Maria into a bear hug. “Sorry I didn’t call.”

Maria chuckled. “Cute.” She held out her arms, and Carol found herself pulled into a tight hug.

“Glad you’re back.” She said softly, and Carol cleared her throat inconspicuously, before stepping back.

“I missed you guys!” Carol said brightly, glancing from Monica to Maria. While Monica wasn’t a carbon-copy of her mother, there was strong similarity between the two, especially since Monica had grown so much.

“Are you staying for dinner, Aunt Carol? Mom’s making mac n’ cheese.” Monica asked.

“Mac n’ cheese? Well, now I’ve got to stay. As long as it’s okay with your mom, of course.” Carol said.

Maria laughed. “Of course you can stay. What, you got somewhere else to be?”

Carol shrugged. “No where else I want to be.”

“Well good,” Maria said, with humour in her eyes, “then you can help me make dinner.”


Dinner wasn’t quiet, in any sense of the word. Firstly, Carol’s attempt at helping with dinner was short-lived, after she almost set fire to the pasta.

“Aren’t you supposed to be a space hero or something?” Maria asked incredulously, as she waved the smoke away with a tea towel. Monica laughed with a hand over her mouth, from her spot at the kitchen table, her books spread out in front of her.

“I’m a space hero, not a cook.” Carol protested, eyeing the singed pasta in the pot. Whoops.

But Maria just laughed. “Nothing has changed then. Monica,” she said, directing her voice over to aforementioned girl, “did I ever tell you about how Aunt Carol almost burnt down our damn house one time, when she was trying to impress a boy—what was his name, Carol?”

“Um,” Carol thought, trying to remember. Failing to remember.

“You remember him! Skinny white boy, senior year, you were crazy about him!” Maria exclaimed.

Carol shook her head, feeling something cold slide down between her shoulder blades. She didn’t remember. She couldn’t remember. Despite all the memories she’d gained back, there were large chunks which had never returned.
Maria caught on. She’d always been the intuitive one between the two of them.

“Oh, it—that’s alright,” Maria said quickly, “He wasn’t anything special anyway. You only liked him because he was in a rock band.”

Carol let out a breath and felt gratitude towards Maria swell inside her.

“Alright,” said Maria, rapping the spoon across the pot, “Attempt No. 2. Carol, watch how an expert does it.”


It was… a lot. To be back on Earth, to be back with Monica and Maria, to be back… here. In truth, when she had left with the Skrulls, some part of her never really believed that she was going to return. But here she was.

Carol sat out the back of the house, dangling her legs over the edge of the deck and kicking them back and forth intermittently. Maria had lent her a pair of jeans to wear, and an old worn t-shirt with a band on the front that Carol didn’t recognise. Maybe she would have recognised it in another life. Maybe it used to be hers.
Carol set her mouth in a straight line, and looked out to the dark line of trees beyond Maria’s property. The cicadas screeched a constant tune, but otherwise it was a quiet night. The sound of footsteps came from behind her, steady and sure.

“Hey, got room for another?” Maria said softly.

Carol nodded her assent and shifted over to allow room for Maria to sit. Maria swung down next to Carol, close enough that their thighs pressed together.

“Monica’s gone to bed. She has to study for a test tomorrow.” She said, facing out the same direction as Carol.

“She’s a smart kid.” Carol said, and Maria hummed her agreeance.

“Damn right. Any luck, she’ll be smarter than the both of us put together.”

Carol huffed in amusement. “That wouldn’t be too hard.”

Maria smirked. “Maybe for you, Miss-can’t-cook-more-than-a-piece-of-toast.”

“Hey!” Carol said, “That’s Captain-can’t-cook-more-than-a-piece-of-toast.”

Maria’s answering laugh made Carol glow inside, like a cat purring its contentedness. Carol leant over to rest her head against Maria’s shoulder. Taller than Carol by a few inches, it wasn’t uncomfortable at all.

“It’s good to have you back, Carol,” Maria said softly, “Can’t tell you how much I missed you. It was better this time, since I knew you were out there somewhere… but not knowing where you were, or when you were coming back…” Carol felt Maria shake her head.

“I’m sorry.” Carol offered, unsure of what else she could say. Again, Maria shook her head, this time a little more enthusiastically.

“Nah, you have a job, I know that. Saving the galaxy, fighting bad guys, all the works. It’s just nice to have you back. How long do you think you’ll stay?”

Carol closed her eyes, and listened to the sound of Maria breathing, her shoulders rising and falling with each inhale and exhale.
“A while, I think.” She said softly.

Maria hummed. “Good,” she said.

They stayed like that for a while. At some point, Carol fell asleep, and woke up some time later to Maria gently shaking her upper arm.

“Come on, space woman,” she said, something warm in her eyes. “I’ll put sheets on the couch for you.”

Carol found herself too tired to complain, and soon she was lying on a couch that was all too familiar to her, looking that a ceiling that she had spent years looking at, memorising the cracks in it. Sleep took her easily.



In the morning, Carol woke up when it was already light, sunlight streaming an unbroken path through a nearby window. It was disorientating, to say the least. She had barely slept in the past year. Honestly, Carol thought she didn’t need to anymore, but apparently not on Earth. She stood up, and stretched slowly, feeling her joints and muscles strain. Something cracked in her back, and she winced.

“Morning” said Monica, from her resumed position at the kitchen table. Again, her school books were spread out in front of her. Carol could see one for physics, one for chemistry, and another for English.

“Morning, Captain Trouble.” Carol rasped, and Monica giggled.

“Mom’s outside, working on her bird. She said you can help her after breakfast.”

Carol nodded absentmindedly, running a hand through her hair. It felt like a bird, or a small racoon had made a nest there overnight.
“You got school today?” she asked Monica.

Monica shook her head, her hair bouncing just off her shoulders. “No, it’s Sunday. School’s tomorrow.”

“Huh.” Carol sat down at the kitchen table, directly across from Monica.

There was silence for a little while, while Monica read her book, and Carol worked her way through a large bowl of Rice Krispies. Funnily enough, she remembered Rice Krispies. They used to be her favourite when she was a kid, when she could get them. They never had them on base, but Maria used to smuggle those mini-sized boxes in her pack for Carol and her to share.

Suddenly, a loud, metallic noise came from outside, and Carol jumped to her feet, knocking her chair over. After a second or two, it stopped as suddenly as it came. Carol looked to Monica, who was unfazed.

“Mom’s welding,” she said brightly, pointing out the window.

Carol peered out the window, to the shed where Monica’s light-craft was parked. She could see the dark shape of Monica, fully clad in her coveralls, along with a welding mask positioned on the top of her head. She’d stepped back from her workbench, obviously inspecting her work.

“Mom won’t let me weld yet. She says she won’t teach me, but I think I can figure it out myself.” Monica said, looking out the same way that Carol was.

Carol hummed. “Maybe wait until your mom can teach you. You might end up burning off your eyebrows,” she said

Outside, Maria was a strong figure against the flat land, a torch in hand as she flipped her welding mask down. Sparks flew, and Maria was outlined in flashes of light. For a moment, it was like Carol was in space again, watching stars speed by milliseconds. Another moment, and Maria switched off the welding torch again, and flipped her mask up. She turned towards the window where Carol and Monica were standing and waved a gloved hand.

Carol raised a tentative hand and waved back.



Carol washed her plate, and pulled on a pair of old boots, before walking out to the shed. Maria was engrossed in her work, bent over the work bench.

“Hey,” Carol said, ducking underneath the wing of the light craft.

“Hey, Carol. Sleep well?” Maria said, turning around from her workbench.

“Like a log, you?” Carol answered, coming up to Maria’s side.

Maria hummed. “Not too bad.”

Carol looked over Maria’s shoulder. She had the side panel of her plane on the bench, with fresh welding marks through the centre of it. “Want a hand?” she asked.

Maria nodded. “Sure,” she said. “Reckon you could help me replace the wheels on this baby?”

Physical labour was one good way to shake the errant thoughts from one’s head, and Carol took to it like a duck to water. It was something she’d always done—always running faster, fighting harder, flying further to work through whatever mojo she was going through. It was like Carol’s version of yoga, or meditation, or whatever.

“You know I have a jack for that, right?” said Maria incredulously, watching Carol as she lifted the wheel mechanism of the light craft.

Carol huffed a laugh. “I’m a bit better than a jack, I think.” She lifted it a little higher with one hand, so that Maria could crouch beside the chosen wheel, and start undoing the bolts that connected the wheel with the wheel frame.

Outside of the shed, it was hot, heatwaves rippling off the dirt and grass already. Carol watched Maria adeptly undo the bolts, and begin to fit the new wheel on.
“Do you do all this yourself?” Carol asked.

Maria shrugged. “Mostly. The electrical stuff I don’t bother with, but everything else is okay.”

She started to secure the new wheel on in steady movements, holding the tool loosely between her fingers
“After I was discharged, I taught myself how to fix this all up. It’s easier, I suppose.”

Carol didn’t know quite how to reply to that, so she continued to watch Maria work. She didn’t need to ask the reason for Maria was discharged from the Airforce, she knew already. It wasn’t logical to feel guilt, or shame for that, but Carol still felt it.

“Alrighty, first one done. Lower that down, will you?” Maria said, standing up. Carol did as she was told, slowly lowering the wheel onto the ground. She turned to look at Maria as she did so, and the wheel frame slipped from her fingers, landing on the ground with a heavy thump.

Maria was lit up with the morning sun, in a way that made her look very alive and real. Her hair was messy and ruffled from the work, and sweat glinted off the edges of her—her hairline, her jawline and her noise. Carol couldn’t quite describe the feeling that went through her, but it was like a lightning bolt striking a tree—splitting her in two with an almost painful sensation.

“Woah, Carol!” Maria exclaimed, kneeling down to examine the wheel. It was undamaged, thank goodness. Carol blinked rapidly, like a woman coming back to herself. What was that?
“Sorry. Uh, it just slipped.” She said slowly.


The rest of the work on the bird progressed quickly. The heat of the day had reached its pitch, under a slowly darkening sky. Carol kept quiet, her gaze focused on a far-off spot, deep in thought. Questions encircled her, some she could answer, some she could not. Some left her uncomfortable, almost ashamed, too afraid to answer them.

It was almost a relief when Maria announced it was time to quit work, and to head inside. Carol did so quickly, not even sparing a glance for Maria, for fear that whatever was inside her would come out again.

But, like the heart of a star, or centre of a spiral, Carol found herself gravitating towards Maria inevitably. She touched her arm, as Maria poured a glass of sweet iced tea for both Carol and Monica. Carol leant into her space, as they sat at the table on the back deck. Carol took frequent glances at Maria, even if it was out the corner of her eye.

Had she always done this? Was she only now noticing it?

Was this what friends did? Or was there something else here, something that Carol had forgotten, and Maria hadn’t told Carol?

Vaguely, Carol noticed that she was panicking.

“Hey, Aunt Carol, your hands are glowing!” Monica said excitedly.

Carol’s hands were indeed glowing, to the growing agitation of Carol. Carol focused on re-centring her power within her, and the light receded quickly from her hands. The only sign of it was the table, which was left smouldering slightly in a couple of places.

“Carol, are you okay?” Maria asked, laying a hand on Carol’s shoulder. Carol jumped slightly, the touch sending a shock through her. Maria let her hand drop, looking towards Carol with concern in her eyes.

“I’m- I’m fine, sorry guys. Just tired, I suppose.” Carol shrugged, in a concentrated attempt to look nonchalant. It mainly involved bringing her eyebrows down as far as she could, and thinning her lips into a straight line. It definitely did not work.

Maria raised an eyebrow, and Carol also tried her best not to cringe. Maria had a nose for bullshit, and Carol knew that this propensity had only increased with her years as a mother.

“You’re still tired? Thought you slept all night on that couch. You feelin’ okay?” she asked, a hand reaching up to Carol’s forehead to feel her temperature.
Carol leant back out of Maria’s touch, and stood up hastily.

“I’m fine, I promise! I’m probably still tired from the journey, or something.”

“Or something?” Monica questioned, an identical eyebrow raised. Damn it, there were two of them, Carol thought to herself, almost amused.

“Umm-” Carol began to say, starting a sentence that would most definitely not end with “Did I forget that I was married to your mom?”

Thankfully, Carol was cut off by the wind blowing an almighty gale through the yard. The wooden shutters on the house slammed back and forth, creating an almighty racket that. Both Maria and Monica jumped.

Outside, the clouds had darkened even further. Carol knew this colour—summer storms, hot and heavy on the skin, hurling rain and lightning down onto the earth. It was less of a memory, than an instinct really, to stand up and help Maria and Monica secure the shutters and close the windows of the house. By the time they were done, the rain had come, falling outside in a curtain loud, heavy noise. Inside, it felt oddly secluded, like the rain had shut them off from the rest of the world.

Maria rested a hand against a window and watched the rain. Carol watched Maria.

“There goes the rest of the day, I suppose,” Maria said softly.


Monica assured Carol that the rain meant that they didn’t have to do anything, and that they could just ‘chill’. Carol was familiar with the term, but she felt uncomfortable at the prospect of just… doing nothing. She hadn’t done that in a long time.

“Are you sure there’s nothing I can do?” Carol asked, on the edge of desperation.

Monica shook her head firmly, and over the back of the couch, Maria called out, “No chance, Danvers!”.

“So, what do we do?”

Maria came around the couch, wearing a pair of well-worn shorts and a t-shirt, carrying a blanket, which she passed to Monica.

“We chill, Danvers. Watch and learn.”

She grabbed a VHR from under the TV, and slotted it into the machine. It made an uneven clunking noise, and Carol frowned at it. Such an unruly, unsophisticated piece of tech. It made even the old holovids from the Skrull look relatively futuristic. But as the TV buzzed and hummed, and the picture came into focus, Carol craned her head forward.

“The Lion King?” she asked.

Monica gasped. “OMG, Aunt Carol, it’s my favourite movie, it’s so good!”

“Huh.” Carol said, still standing.

“Oh for-” Maria grabbed Carol’s hand and pulled her down onto the couch. Carol could have stood her ground, but she went willingly, like a horse led to water.
Between Monica and Maria, it felt like belonging. Or what Carol imagined it feeling like.

“Wait, why is the monkey-” Carol asked, and was immediately shushed by both of the Rambeau women. Carol huffed and leaned back into the couch.

An hour or so passed, and Carol was thinking that she’d gotten the hang of chilling again. She hadn’t moved from her place on the couch and hadn’t done anything other than experience some true emotions about a cartoon lion.

“That was really good.” Carol said, watching the credits roll.

Monica would have answered, if Monica wasn’t slumped against Carol’s side, fast asleep. She looked much more like the little kid that Carol could remember vividly carrying to bed at night-time, remember her falling asleep at her side on long car rides.

Next to her, Maria switched the TV to the local station, and sat back with a sigh, closing her eyes. Carol watched her, and felt the pull of something inside her. Something wanting, something she couldn’t quite understand.

Maria was the constant in her life; the one thing she returned to, over and over again. In some way, she felt like she was the inevitable centre of things, the centre of Carol.

But to what end? Carol could remember their life, the years that they had lived together, worked together and fought together. There was love, yes, but as Carol had learnt, love came in different forms.

Love could be friendship, but Carol knew it could also be more. Did she want it to be more? To hold, and to keep, and to know for the longest period of time possible.

Maria’s eyes were open, and she was watching Carol.

Carol sucked in a breath, prepared to say something, anything, but Maria didn’t look perturbed, or even disconcerted. She looked… contemplative. After a second, Maria stretched up, the length of her legs pushing her upright from the couch.

“I’m making some tea. You want some?” Maria said, with a question that seemed less like a question, and more of a demand.

Carol nodded, finally at a loss for words, and gently extricated herself from Monica’s grasp, before following Maria to the kitchen.

Outside the kitchen windows, it was still raining, but it seemed to have slow down to a quiet patter. It wasn’t cold, but there was a chill in the air that made Carol wrap her arms around herself as she entered the kitchen.

Maria poured the water into two mugs, and pushed one to Carol. Carol picked it up, feeling the warmth of the ceramic mug on her fingertips.

“Alright, spill. What’s going on, Carol?” Maria asked, an identical steaming mug in hand.

Carol opened her mouth, and realised she had no real way of explaining this. “I don’t know,” she said honestly. “I just-” she paused. “What were we, before I left?”

“What do you mean, what were we?” Maria asked.

Carol shook her head frustratedly. “I- I can’t remember everything, and I can’t remember whether I felt like this before, or whether this- this is something new.” Carol pushed out a shaky breath, taking a sip of her tea to avoid meeting Maria’s eyes. It was still scalding, and Carol winced.

“Whether you felt like what?” Maria questioned, taking a closer step to Carol. Carol could see each of her eyelashes, the shape of her nose which she’d committed to memory at some point in her life.

“Like-” Carol struggled, both with Maria’s closeness, and the subject at hand. How could she explain this.

Finally, something in her gave way, like a dam wall breaking before a flooded river, and Carol stepped forward gently, curling a hand around Maria’s jaw. She pressed a gentle kiss to Maria’s lips, chaste and close-mouthed.

Maria looked surprised, her eyes wide and alarmed as Carol pulled back. With something cold growing in her gut, Carol opened her mouth to apologise, to splutter out some witty excuse, but a small, relieved smile spread across Maria’s face. Maria wound her arm around Carol’s waist, and pulled her closer, until they were inches apart.

Maria kissed her, and Carol let herself get lost in it, get lost in Maria. The warmth of it, the love that she felt, it was almost overwhelming.

Eventually, she pulled back, and rested her forehead against Maria’s.

“We’ve never done this before,” stated Carol. Maria shook her head.

“No, never. But, it feels right, to me at least.”

Carol smiled. “It feels right to me too.”



The next day at breakfast, Carol and Maria sat opposite Monica, who was neck deep in her textbooks. She had her maths test this morning, and she was stressing out.

“What if I forget?” she asked, panicked. Several Cheerios were stuck in her fringe, and Carol pulled them out delicately.

“You won’t forget, Monica, you’ll be fine. Now eat your breakfast, and Aunt Carol will walk you to school.”

Stress almost forgotten, Monica shot Carol an excited look, before returning to her book.

Maria and Carol hadn’t talked much, but Carol knew they were on the same wavelength. They’d always been: in the air and on the land. They loved each other, and the rest they would work out.

Carol was about to take another bite of her Rice Krispies, but was interrupted by the sound of cars, passing close to the property.

“Jesus, who’s driving around this early?” Maria questioned, looking out the window.

Carol followed her gaze, to see several official looking cars, black and shiny and bureaucratic looking, pull up outside of the house’s driveway. There was at least five of them, and as they stopped, official looking persons began to file out of the cars.

“Monica, stay in the house, yeah?” Maria said carefully, already making her way towards the front door.

“Wait, I want to see!” Monica pleaded, looking to Carol. Carol shrugged half-heartedly at her, and followed Maria.

Outside, the agents were still waiting around the last car, as another tall man stepped out. Carol’s initial concern was knocked out of her, and she opened her mouth to yell across the field.

“Fury!” she said loudly, and the man turned around.

“Captain!” he said equally loudly, causing the suited agents around him to wince. He smiled broadly. “Back in town?”

Carol nodded enthusiastically and waved him over to the house. Beside her, Monica had darted out of the house, and waved at Fury from next to her mother.

“Hey Monica,” he said, giving the girl a smile. He smiled towards Maria as well. “Ms Rambeau. How you been?”

“Not too bad, yourself?”

Fury nodded, taking a while before answering. “Not too bad either. Got a little worried when I saw Earth’s Defender was coming back to Earth though.” He directed the last statement at Carol, getting a little more serious. “Anything I need to be worried about?”

Carol shrugged, fighting off a smile. “Nah. I’m here on personal business.”

At this, she took Maria’s hand, and wound their fingers together. Maria smiled at her, and Carol smiled back.