Actions

Work Header

even on the darkest nights there are stars

Chapter Text

 

NEW YORK, 2023

 

Metal crunches underneath Carol Danvers’s feet as she saunters across the desolated scene. As far as she can see, the damage from the final stand against Thanos extends for miles. The smog and soot are heavy, and her chest is filled with a somber sensation. This sort of thing is becoming all too familiar to her. Yet, somehow, this hits harder than ever before. Maybe because it’s technically her home. She hadn’t felt what that was like for a long time, yet the cold emotion yanks at her heartstrings. Her chest lets out a heavy breath and her eyes squint.

 

Though despair is heavy in the air—it is not completely hopeless. As she closes her eyes, she could hear the soft commotion coming from behind her. It’s a celebration of sorts if that’s what you could call it. Carol maybe wouldn’t go that far. Maybe it’s more like a drink-our-consciousness-away kind of function. Surprisingly, it hadn’t been Thor’s suggestion as much as it had been Rocket and Quill’s. Rocket insisted he could find a stash full of booze hidden on the Guardian’s ship. Despite everyone’s nerves running high from not only the battle but the return of everyone they thought they had lost, most people seemed to agree that the alcohol and simply being together to commemorate the win would be enough to keep their minds off everything. At least for a couple of hours.

 

Not everyone stayed. Clint dipped the second the smoke cleared and he could walk in a straight line. Carol didn’t blame him. Her family had miraculously been saved from the dusting, but if Maria and Monica had been gone for these past 5 years she sure as hell wouldn’t be waiting around here.

 

Not only that, but Clint had been overwhelmed by his close partner’s death. Carol was, too. She’d work closely with Natasha the past couple of years and damn, she’d lie if she said she didn’t admire the hell out of her. She was an excellent colleague but even more so a better friend which Carol had few of these days. It’s a part of not staying one place for too long, she supposed. It didn’t matter. It hurt too much to think about Nat—and so she forced her mind to survey the area once more.

 

There’s a crashing sound from behind her that causes her to twist and turn back to where the soft glow of the party is coming from outside the Guardian’s ship. She can hear Quill scream out a string of profanities followed by Drax’s obscenely loud laughter. Despite everything, she found the corners of her mouth tugging upwards. At least someone was having fun. You could always count on the Guardians to look on the bright side of things, in that respect.

 

Carol thought about returning to the party. At least Thor, Korg, and Miek could probably keep her mind off of things. Assuming they would still talk to her, which might be asking for more than she deserved.

 

She had made a quiet exit from the party which wasn’t usually her style, but she didn’t want anyone to stop her. Besides, the one person she really was looking for had left without a moment’s notice. Their silent truce had been brief, but God, what she wouldn’t do to have her fight by her side again. On her team.

 

Carol turns back and trudges on. Not only is the Avengers compound long gone, but so was everything around it. What catches her eye, though, is what appears to be some sort of impromptu shed propped up against a pile of rubble. A flash of brilliant white makes her pause. She’s not really sure if her eyes are deceiving her at first. Nothing could be that pure in the midst of all this destruction. She jogs over, dodging the jagged pieces of debris. When she peers inside, it’s not exactly what she was expecting.

 

She was partially correct: there definitely was a magnificent winged horse taking shelter in this makeshift stable. However, its owner was nowhere in sight. Instead, it was the boy she recognized from earlier—Peter Parker—who was standing in front of the creature. His back was turned to her but he was staring up at the horse in awe. She thinks she remembered looking up at the sky and seeing him riding on the legendary creature, wailing at the top of his lungs as they dipped down towards the fight. She could only imagine the wonder in his eyes as he stared at the horse.

 

She’s about to say something but she pauses when she hears a ragged sniffle. When she leans in closer, she can see his whole body is trembling. Carol feels another painful pang in her chest. He’s crying.

 

Or, at least trying not to cry. Whatever is happening, it looks like it’s hurting him, holding all that in.

 

Carol watches with careful eyes as he reaches up, his fingers gently resting on the snout of the horse. He pets it quietly. The Pegasus stands so still and calm Carol might have thought it was a statue if she didn’t know any better.

 

When he lets out a little panicked gasp, Carol decides to make her presence known. She purposefully makes her footsteps loud as she walks towards him. Peter stiffens and turns when she speaks quietly, “Peter Parker?”

 

“Oh!” He spins towards her, hand swiping across his face. It’s a weak attempt to cover up the fact that he had been crying. His eyes are bloodshot and his cheeks are rosy. His voice is raspy as he croaks, “Ms. Danvers—um. Uh. It’s not what it looks like, I swear.” He takes a step away from the pegasus which is still unmoving. “I was just walking by and I saw it and—I wasn’t going to steal it or anything. I swear. I thought that girl would be here but she wasn’t.”

 

“Valkyrie.” Carol states, the name bringing up a mirage of memories as she does so. “It’s okay, Peter. I don’t take you for the thief type.”

 

“Valkyrie? Wow, that’s a cool name. And thank you.” Peter is biting his lip, preventing himself for saying more than he probably wants to.

 

“What are you doing out here, Peter? I thought I saw you at the party with Groot and Shuri.”

 

“I was.” Peter nodded idly. “But… I wanted some time alone. Why aren’t you there, Ms. Danvers?”

 

She walked up so she was beside him and looked up at the horse who stared right back at her. “Same reason as you. I wanted some time to think.”

 

Peter nods again, and Carol’s beginning to think it’s because he’s afraid to speak out loud and hear his voice shake. They’re quiet for a few minutes, but Carol finally breaks it to try and keep Peter comfortable. “There was a time when this guy really hated me. Used to bite my fingers all the time when I tried to pet him. I was never really the type of girl to like horses growing up. They sort of scared me, to be honest. But wow,” She grinned at Peter. “When I saw him for the first time I thought this has got to be the coolest thing ever. I used to be a pilot and now you’re telling me they have horses you can fly? But sadly, he tried to buck me off every time I got on him alone.”

 

The horse glared warily at Carol as if to challenge her once more. Carol snorted in response. “It’s a wonder he’s letting you get this close up to him. He must really like you.”

 

“You know, I never been this close to a horse. Never mind rode one. Sometimes you’d see the police officer riding them around Central Park, but I always thought they looked pretty goofy. This guy…he’s really cool. If my Aunt May saw—“

 

His voice cuts off and he gets a faraway look in his eye. Carol opens her mouth, about to say something, but Peter turns away. He shakes his head over and over again, “Oh God. Aunt May—Ned—MJ—have they all been here while I’ve been gone?”

 

Carol didn’t know who any of those people are, but she tried keeping him calm as she reassured him, “If they weren’t already then they’ll be back by now. And I’m sure they’ll be so, so, happy to see you, Peter.”

 

“Carol…” Peter starts, and Carol could hear the edges of his voice starting to crack. “Did I do everything I could have? I could have… I could have saved Mr. Stark. If I hadn’t been so stupid—if I was strong enough I could have held onto the Gauntlet. I could have put on the Gauntlet. I could have done the snap. It could have been me. And then Mr. Stark would still be here and be with his kid and Mrs. Potts and Happy and—oh my God.” His breathing was haggard and a hand pressed against his chest as he tried to steady it. It was then Carol realized he must have been having a panic attack.

 

“The world needs Tony Stark more than it needs me.”

 

Almost instinctually, she reaches out and pulls him close to her chest. Finally, the sobs came clawing their way out of his chest as he bawls against her. Carol’s arms tightened around him in an effort to make him feel a little safer.

 

“Shh, Shh. Peter! Listen to me.” She pressed her cheek against the top of his head and rubbed his back, “Don’t ever say that. You know that’s not true. There’s absolutely nothing you could have done differently. This was…supposed to happen. This is how it had to happen.”

 

“You don’t know that.” Peter choked out between breaths.

 

And it was true—Carol didn’t really know if this was how it had to be done. Thor hadn’t been the only one to carry the burden of not killing Thanos when he had a chance. For the past five years, she had constantly been wondering what could have happened if she had been here sooner. If Fury had called her earlier maybe this whole thing could have been avoided.

 

“I do.” Carol pressed, “You heard Dr. Strange himself—this was the only way. If Stark was here, he would tell you that, too. He’s known for a long time.”

 

At this point, Peter had no control over the violent and raw cries that came washing over him. Carol just let him let it out—she knew he had to confront the pain he was feeling head-on. Bottling it up would only make it worse. Still, he held onto her like she was a lifeline, reminding Carol quite vividly that he was still just a child. A fleeting memory of when she held a teenage Monica like this came across her mind, and she squeezed him a little tighter.

 

“He loved you, Peter,” Carol whispered. “I don’t know if he ever made that clear to you, but during the time I worked with him, it was so evident. He cared so much about you, he wanted you to have the best future you possibly could have.”

 

Peter doesn’t say anymore after that. She just holds him and reminds him he isn’t alone. Her eyes flicker over to the pegasus briefly who is still staring at them, but somehow it doesn’t translate as guarded as before. Carol has had too many run-ins with this particular horse to know better than to bother with him otherwise.

 

She doesn’t know how long they stood like that. It must have been a while because eventually, Peter tires himself out to the point of exhaustion. He slumps against her and she thinks he’s practically cried himself to sleep. “Peter, come on. I’m going to bring you back to the ship. You need some rest; we’ll bring you to your Aunt tomorrow.”

 

He pursed his lips and nods numbly. He starts, “Ms. Danvers—“

 

“What the hell are you two doing in here?”

 

Peter jumps but Carol recognizes the voice immediately. Still, a shiver runs up her spine as Valkyrie approaches them. While some time has passed since she last saw her since today, she was just as beautiful and alluring as the first day they met. Peter feels Carol shift uneasily beside him, which surprisingly doesn’t go unnoticed despite his fatigued state. Carol steels herself, forcing herself to concentrate on her face and not on how fucking fantastic she looks in that armor—

 

“Well?”

 

Peter is scrambling to come up with something and Carol steps slightly in front of him to shield him from the potential fury she feels coming on from the other woman. The longer she stares at her the more evident it becomes that Valkyrie is clearly drunk. She’s still holding a bottle of whatever liquor she managed to get her hands on. She sways slightly, having a hard time simply standing up straight as she continues to glare at them with a stare not unlike the pegasus had given Carol earlier.

 

“You’re drunk.”

 

“Wow, amazing deduction skills, Professor Hulk.” Her eyes flickered up to Carol’s recently cropped hair. “Nice haircut, by the way. 

 

“Shut up,” Carol bites back. Oh god, here they go again. “I thought you were doing better, Val.”

 

“Get lost, Carol.” Her eyes shift down to Peter who at this point is cowering behind Carol. “You too, Bug.”

 

“I know it’s not the point,” Peter practically whispers. “But spiders aren’t technically bugs, they’re actually a part of the arachnid family—“

 

“Not the time, Peter.”

 

“Right, right.” He paused before adding. “Shuri would have laughed.”

 

Carol feels a little guilty for shutting him down but she’s trying to navigate them out of this situation with Valkyrie unscathed. “We’ll leave, okay? No harm no foul.”

 

“Ms. Valkyrie,” Peter pipes up again despite Carol’s request. Valkyrie’s gaze sluggishly turns over to him. “I didn’t mean to like, make it look like I was stealing your horse or anything. I just thought it was cool. Like, when you caught me in the air—that was really, really sick. I wanted to just see it again.”

 

In her belligerent state, Valkyrie must not have been as mindful to the fact Peter sounded like a drowned cat after crying for so long. She takes another swig of her drink before she pushes past both of them to get to the pegasus. “Great. Don’t do it again. Now leave.”

 

Peter visibly deflates and it makes Carol’s jaw tighten. Maybe because there was a lingering tension between them that she kept wanting to antagonize the other woman instead of just finally leave, but she provokes her once more. Carol’s hand shoots out a second later as she passes them, and she grips her forearm tighter than she expected from herself. “Don’t take it out on the kid when we both know who you’re really mad at.”

 

Valkyrie yanks her arm away as Carol burned her. She doesn’t face her right away but when she does the anger is seemingly drained from her face. All that’s left is a blank expression that breaks Carol’s heart just as much when she saw Peter huddled in on himself when she found him alone in here.

 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

Carol ushers Peter out after that, not wanting him to see any more of Valkyrie in that kind of miserable state. It’s a little while to walk back to the Guardian’s ship, but they take their time despite the fact that Carol could probably fly them back in about thirty seconds if she wanted to.

 

“You’ve known her for a while.”

 

“What gave it away?”

 

“You said you knew that horse.” Peter pursed his lips. “Um, I know it’s not my business—you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to—but are you guys friends? She seemed pretty mad.”

 

“She isn’t always like that.” Carol tried to justify. “She has a lot of pain in her heart like the rest of us—she just doesn’t know how to deal with it all the time.”

 

“Oh…” Peter’s expression looks fallen. “Well, what’s she like when she’s not like that? Or—” He cleared his froggy throat. “How—how did you guys meet?”

 

Carol snorted, “You don’t want to hear this story. It gets messy.”

 

“Yes, I do.”

 

Carol glanced up at that. Peter’s expression is so genuine that it caught her off guard. He looks desperate for a distraction. Carol thinks she might need to embellish to give him the happy ending he might be looking for.

 

---

 

NEW YORK, 2018

 

“Fury’s gone.”

 

Carol didn’t know who this blonde chick was, but whoever she was she must have been mistaken. Carol shook her head in response.

 

“No, that can’t be possible. He was the only one I gave a signal to. He would never give it away—“

 

“Well, accept it. He’s gone. Dusted. Dead.” She snapped back. “And he didn’t give the pager away, we found it where he was last spotted in New York.”

 

Carol’s glare was hard and she and the blonde girl seemed to be in some sudden-death stare down. An uncomfortable cough does nothing to break up the tension.

 

“Hey, hey! We’re all getting off on the wrong foot. Maybe we start with names?”

 

Finally, Carol looked up. A man with graying curly hair smiled kindly and held out his hand for her to shake. “My name is Bruce Banner. Nice to meet you.”

 

Her gaze shifted to the other two men beside her. She raised an eyebrow.

 

The handsome man with a scruffy beard shifted before forcing himself to replicate a similar friendly approach. “Steve Rogers.” He hesitated. “Or—well, people call me Captain America, too.”

 

Carol’s eyes narrowed, thinking the name sounded familiar but even years later, not all of her memories from life on Earth ever became crystal clear to her. The other man brought her out of her reverie.

 

“You can call me Rhodey.”

 

And finally, the stone-cold woman before her. “Natasha Romanov.”

 

The group of them stared at her expectantly. “Carol Danvers.” She eyed Steve warily. “Or Captain Marvel.”

 

“Carol Danvers,” Natasha repeated. “Why does that sound so familiar?”

 

“Fury was my friend. One of my best. Maybe he mentioned me before.” She paused for a moment, appearing pensive. “My callsign was Avenger. Captain Carol “Avenger” Danvers. Maybe that’s where you heard of me.”

 

The room was so quiet you could have dropped a pin. Even Cap’s mouth is slightly agape. Bruce holds up his hands, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Do you mean to tell me you’re the Avenger? Like, the first one!?”

 

Cap looked a little deflated while everyone was too shocked to say anything.

 

“I mean; I guess? I don’t really know what you’re talking about. But before I left Earth years ago I gave him a signal to call me in case of an emergency. Well, I’m here now. Sorry, it took a couple of days—I was halfway across the galaxy.”

 

The four of them shared a look with each other before Rhodey finally groaned, “Damn, Fury. A little late on that call, huh?”

 

---

 

They briefed Carol on the scenario. Carol had heard of Thanos in passing, but he had yet to visit the planets she had been aiding when she was out in space. Still, it rocked her to her core to think that half of the people she had helped were more than likely wiped from the existence without a trace.

 

They argued back and forth a lot over what the course of action should be next. Arguably, there was nothing they really can do. Not yet, at least. One of the men on their team—they say his name is Tony Stark— was lost in space somewhere after chasing the Black Order’s ship and they hadn’t heard from him since.

 

“He could still be alive.” Natasha reasoned.

 

“He could be,” Cap agreed. “But even if he is we have no way of finding him. We can try tracking where the Order’s ship could have gone, but as of now, that’s our only lead.

 

“We have to try,” Rhodey affirmed, “I won’t stop until we’ve got a lead on—“

 

There’s a loud banging noise coming from the next room over. Carol starts at the sound and shoots a questioning look to Bruce who sighs, massaging his temples. “Ugh, he’s at it again. Who gave him something to drink?”

 

“Oh yeah,” Natasha snorted. “You haven’t met Thor, yet. You’ll have to excuse him, he’s kind of in a funk right now since we lost to Thanos.” She rubbed the back of her neck, “We all are.”

 

“Give him a minute.” Cap’s meaningful gaze shot towards the door.

 

Lo and behold, a man who looks like he could have been carved from marble emerged from the hall and into the room. His face was pinched and he looked like he was fuming. Rhodey huffed, “Were you throwing shit around again? Stop acting like a giant toddler.”

 

Thor took a swig from the can of beer he was holding. “Only the useless shit.”

 

Natasha sighed in a similar fashion to Bruce. “Thor, we want you to meet Carol Danvers. She just got to Earth. Carol, this is—“

 

“Thor, God of Thunder.” He nods stiffly to her. “Son of Odin—you may have heard of the Asgardians, no?”

 

“Can’t say so,” Carol shrugged. “The universe is a big place.”

 

Thor looked a little ticked off by that but he let it slide. He crossed his arms over his chest firmly. “Right. Well, Carol Danvers, God of Nothing. Where did you come from?”

 

“Oh, I’m from Earth.” She conceded, “I’ve just been gone for a long time. Helping other universes and all that jazz.”

 

“What kind of help?”

 

Carol explains to the group why exactly she set off to space after she finished her job here on Earth in the 90s. She explained the Skrulls and how she was helping them find a new home, and how her jobs eventually snowballed into something much larger than that.

 

Thor’s eyes grew comically wide and he snapped his fingers. “You’re just the person I need.”

 

“For what, exactly?”

 

“My people—the Asgardians. They were displaced after Thanos took over our ship and—” A painful memory must have been brought to the forefront of Thor’s mind. Everyone was deathly silent before he shook his head and tumbled on, “My friend, Valkyrie, was able to escape with who remained of our people after Thanos massacred half of them. I’ve been trying to contact them and find them to bring them to Earth where they can be safe, but I haven’t been able to get in touch with them.” He looked hopeful, “Maybe you can help me.”

 

“Thor, we just got her!” Rhodey reminded him. “We need to focus on the task at hand, which is getting Tony back and figuring out how to reverse this.”

 

“You don’t know how long it’ll take to find him, though. We could be searching for weeks. At least with the Asgardians, I can retrace our steps easily. They couldn’t have gotten that far within the past couple of days, the escape pods wouldn’t have enough fuel for them to travel.”

 

Captain America raised his eyebrows and nodded approvingly. “Thor does have a point there. We don’t know how long it could take to find Stark, or even if he’s still alive.”

 

Rhodey bit back sharply. “He’s alive, trust me.”

 

“Please, Danvers.” Thor talked to her directly. “Help me find my people and bring them back. I have to be able to do at least this.”

 

Everyone in the room seemed to agree that Thor needed this. Carol had only been here for a couple of hours with the Avengers, but she could already she could tell the impact the loss was having on these people. She glanced to her new comrades in the room. “If he’s right, we could at least save more lives that need us out there while we try and locate your friend. I can reprogram our tech so we can stay in contact with one and other, and you could call me if you find Stark’s coordinates.”

 

Even Rhodey seemed to concede to this agreement. Thor smiled for what must have been the first time in a while. “Great! When do we leave?”

 

--- 

 

Rocket offered to be their commanding pilot, but first, they need a ship.

 

They call in a favor from Okoye. While they had a couple of aircraft that might be able to break through Earth’s atmosphere and make the journey out into space, it was clear the tech in Wakanda is so much more advanced thanks to the progress of their prodigy Princess. Okoye was tight-lipped on the phone which was not unlike her, but Carol doesn’t miss the utter sadness in her eyes when she and Thor arrive in Wakanda and she escorted them to the ship.

 

Both Carol and Thor wanted to ask who was ruling Wakanda if both the Prince and Princess are gone, but both also knew better than to prod. Still, it was hard to ignore the amount of Jabari tribe members hanging out in the halls of the palace. Even though Carol and Thor didn’t know much about Wakanda since they hadn’t been on Earth when they opened their borders, the Jabari stuck out distinctly in comparison to the rest of the Wakanda tribes.

 

“Travel safely.” Okoye saluted them. “I pray you to find what you’re looking for.”

 

---

 

The ship was an average size, but durable. It was at least more impressive than anything they had at the Avengers compound, Carol thought to herself. She doesn’t technically need an aircraft for space travel, but they’d have no way to bring Thor’s people back if they didn’t have something to carry them on.

 

Carol was glad she wasn’t piloting because it gave her a moment to think about what was to come in the impending days. Thor was brooding in the kitchen area, and Carol finally gave in, thinking maybe it was best if she tried and get to know the seemingly stoic man.

 

While it took a little bit of getting used to, it became clear to her that Thor was quite the opposite of stoic, honestly. Instead, he was overwhelmed. He shared his troubles pretty openly, much to Carol’s surprise. It took him all of about ten minutes for him to start talking about his father and his mother, about his brother, Loki, and his evil sister (who evidentially is also the Goddess of Death which Carol isn’t really sure at first whether that’s an extreme hyperbole until it becomes very clear that it is not) who destroyed his beloved hammer. He showed her excitedly his new axe, Stormbreaker, like a kid showing off his shiny new toy. Whatever wall he put up came tumbling down the second Carol let him knew she was listening. She tried to remind herself people have funny ways of dealing with grief and she tries not to judge when he talked about himself for an overextended period of time. 

 

“So, who exactly is this Valkyrie we’re saving?”

 

“Valkyrie? Oh, well, I suppose she’s my best friend, now. She’s all I have left. Her and Banner.” He told her the story of how they met on Sakaar which ended up being a little more complicated the more and more he tried to explain to her.

 

“Wait, I’m confused.” Carol’s eyebrows furrowed. “Is Valkyrie her name or the group of warriors she was a part of?”

 

“Both?”

 

“What do you mean both?”

 

“Well, when I met her technically I knew her as Scrapper 142.”

 

“And then after you met her?”

 

“You know, she never really told me. We just call her Valkyrie and she seemed to like that.”

 

“So, let me get this straight…she’s your best friend…and you don’t even know her first name?”

 

“Well.” Thor scoffed. “I guess when you put it like that…” He shook his head. “Regardless, I think you’ll like her a lot. She’s a skilled warrior and a good drinking buddy.”

 

 “Mmhmm…” Carol hummed absentmindedly and looked out towards the window. Thor launched into a handful of stories about him, Valkyrie, and the Hulk which evidentially Carol was supposed to believe was a giant green monster that the scientist Bruce Banner turned into. As crazy as it sounded, she’s seen much, much, crazier in the universe, so it’s not necessarily that unbelievable. Especially given a talking raccoon was currently driving their ship.

 

Despite that, Thor talked about these people so fondly it becomes quite clear to Carol how much he admired each of them. There were all he had left now. And while she just met this God of Thunder, she felt a new sense of motivation to help him and get his people back.

 

It was not an easy journey. Or, not as easy as Thor initially believed it would be. Carol started to get cabin fever and has to split her time wisely between chatting to Thor, the talking Raccoon (who Thor explains is being a little colder than usual because he lost his tree son to the dusting—which she didn’t even begin to attempt to unpack), and finding a quiet corner in the ship to be by herself. She wasn’t used to traveling with other people. It was weird not working alone for once.

 

 It took them about two weeks just to locate the destroyed ship that Thanos had overtook. Carol was sitting in Rocket’s co-pilot chair with Thor staring angrily out the window as they drifted past the floating hunk of metal.

 

“My brother’s body and Heimdall are probably still there.”

 

Carol and Rocket glanced up at him. He was still going on, “They’re bodies are probably rotting on that ship, along with the rest of my people, no?”

 

“That would be most likely,” Rocket said a little too forwardly. Carol shoots him an unkind look. “Eh, did you want to stop?”

 

“No.” Thor frowned. “Let’s focus on the task at hand, shall we?”

 

“Yes, we need to keep our focus on the living.” Carol agreed. “Bring up a map of the nearest planets and we can start looking.”

 

They took the next couple of days visiting the closest nearby planets and tried to collect any clues they could use as to where the Asgardians could have gone. Thor started getting frustrated after their third attempt. After planet number six, he lost hope. Carol was not used to assuming such a comforting role, but she tried her best to assure Thor that he just has to be patient, that they would find them soon enough.

 

Planet number seven Rocket noticed something weird on the screen. “Hmm, now isn’t that interesting.”

 

“What? What is it, Rabbit?”

 

“The map picked up some activity below. Looks like some debris from a handful of ships or something.” 

 

Thor’s jaw clenched and Carol watched him grip Stormbreaker tightly. “Land the ship, Rabbit.”

 

“All right, all right. Sit down big guy and we’ll descend.” Rocket rolled his eyes and pointed at Carol, “You too, Star Power.”

 

Carol took the seat beside Thor and buckled in. She warned, “Thor if the ships crashed it might not be a good sign. I just want to prepare you if— “

 

“Stop talking,” Thor commanded. “You don’t know Valkyrie. Or the Asgardians, for that matter. They’re the strongest people in the galaxy. She wouldn’t go out like that. Not in a million years.”

 

Carol inhaled deeply but nodded, not wanting to argue with him. She just hoped he was right.

 

---

 

“You idiots can go searching. I’m gonna stick on the ship and make some minor repairs before we have to take off again.”

 

Carol and Thor started their exploration of the area once Rocket waved them off. They had landed nearby the escape pods, which Thor insisted they go examine to check and make sure they were the same pods from the ship Loki had stolen from Sakaar. Carol stood back a few feet and watched as he squinted at the print, wiping away dirt and mud. While he examined the crash, Carol surveyed their surroundings. While the pods had landed in a clearing, nearly every which way was filled with dense trees. They would need an aerial view to see where this forest ended.

 

“It’s definitely the Asgardians. They couldn’t have gotten far from here.”

 

Carol agreed and pointed up at the sky. “I’m going to go up there and get a look on the premises. Maybe I can catch a glimpse of them if they’re in a large group.

 

“After you.”

 

Carol shot up into the air like a rocket. An aura of light surrounded her as she sped faster and faster up into the sky. Thor watched from below, cupping a hand over his eyes as he tried to make her out under the bright, shining sun.

 

Woods extended for miles upon miles. There were a few pastures scattered throughout here and there, but this whole planet was seemingly drowning in woods. If the Asgardians were here, she sure helped they were resourceful because Carol could imagine how easy it would be to get lost here.

 

Off in the horizon, there was a tall mountain range that broke up the forest. It was a dark purplish navy rock that stood out starkly among the sea of green. At the very bottom of one of the range was when Carol saw it—a few small, but billowing clouds of smoke.

 

“Thor!” She called down.

 

“Yep!?” A beat passed, “Do you see them!?”

 

“Let’s go!”

 

Since Thor no longer wielded Mjolnir Carol blasted downwards to lift him off the ground before they zoomed over the treetops towards the smoke. It took all of five seconds for her to drop out of the sky, landing like a flash of lightning on the ground. What she wasn’t expecting was for her landing to appear directly in front of a massive figure made of rock.

 

The thing jumped back, toppling over onto the ground in a thud and gasping, “Oh-my-God!” He leaped up off the ground and cried out, “Miek! Did I squash you?!”

 

Thor appeared beside her a second later, sparks jumping off his body. Carol glanced up at him when he cried out with delight, “Korg! Miek! It’s really you guys!”

 

The rock thing—Korg, Carol guessed—turned to Thor and exclaimed, equally as excited, “Thor! You’re alive! Hey, hey! Miek, do you see? Thor’s alive!” He picks up the purple sluggish looking alien who lets out a whirl of happy clicks and the two bound over to hug Thor who claps them on the back. Carol couldn’t help but smile fondly, she didn’t think it was possible to see Thor this happy in the short period of time she knew him.

 

“We for sure thought you were dead,” Korg admitted. “Right Miek? Like, super, super dead. Like, no question. Right, Miek? I said—right, this is what I said—I’m pretty sure Thor is has perished. He must be dead. He’s not coming back. And we were both super bummed out about it. Everyone was. But now you’re back! That’s great.”

 

“Well, I told you I’d return, yes?”

 

“Right, you did. I should have never doubted you.” Korg scratched his head and Carol watched as a couple of tiny pebbles bounced down off his shoulders. Korg noticed, and he turned to the blonde. “Oh, where are my manners? Hello! My name is Korg and I am made of rocks, as you can see. This is my best buddy Miek. We’re Thor’s friends, right Thor?”

 

Carol shook the hand Korg extended to her but paused when she moved to Miek and saw his hand was just made of sharp blades before she let her hand drop back to her side. “Pleasure to meet you both. My name is Captain Carol Danvers. Thor speaks highly of his friends.”

 

Korg looked thrilled at the sound of this. His eyes scrunched up gleefully, “Is that so?”

 

“Korg, listen.” Thor brought the attention back to the mission. “Where’s Valkyrie? And the other Asgardians? We need to get you all of this planet and back to Midgard.”

 

“Oh, right! Well, the Asgardians are just down this path. Miek and I are in charge for the time being.”

 

“What?! Where’s Valkyrie?” Thor’s eyes looked like he was going to bulge out of his head at the sound of Korg and Miek leading the Asgardians. If Carol could remember carefully when Thor mentioned these two he said something about Korg planning a rebellion on Sakaar but no one showed up because he hadn’t printed enough pamphlets. So probably not the best option for group leaders.

 

“Not to worry, Thor. She went up to the mountain path. Said something about finding more food options and that she was going to try and find a way out of these woods.” He hummed loudly, “Hmm. Now that I think about it, she said she thought she saw something flying above the hills and wanted a closer look. I asked her if she wanted some company to go with her, but she insisted we all stay put.” Korg frowned, “She’s been gone for a couple of days now, though. She’s probably okay though, right Thor?”

 

It sounded super vague and Korg might not be the most reliable source to relay the information. Thor ran a hand through his newly cropped hair. Carol stepped in and tried to assist, “Korg. We have a spaceship a few miles back. We’re going to take you and the rest of the Asgardians to Earth. Would you be able to get everyone all together and get them ready to leave while Thor and I go look for Valkyrie?”

 

“Sure thing, Captain. All right Miek, you ready to go?”

 

They said goodbye to the strange duo and Carol turned to Thor. “Funny friends you got there, Thor.”

 

“Glad you think so,” Thor grumbled, looking contemplative. “Valkyrie wouldn’t just leave everyone out of the blue. She might be a little flighty sometimes but I don’t think she would leave everyone unguarded so willingly. There must have been something else that made her leave.”

 

“Well, when we find her you can ask her.”

 

They pick the closest mountain to the camp the Asgardians had set up because it seems like the most logical place they would find Valkyrie. The two of them think they’ll cover more ground if they split up, so once Carol flies them up to the top of the mountain they start their descent down on separate paths. She must have been searching for a couple of hours, but she honestly didn’t mind the silence. It finally gave her some time to her thoughts. So much had been piling up the last couple of days, she could hardly keep up with it all. She’d seen a lot of shit in the universe but this whole mess with Thanos—this was bad.

 

Her mind drifted back to Earth but she’s woken from her haze when a beep from the tracker in her suit. She pressed a few buttons and a hologram of Natasha Romanov appeared above her forearm.

 

“Romanov.”

 

“Danvers.” Natasha greeted with the same cool tone. “We’ve got some news. But first, what’s the word with Thor and the Asgardians?”

 

“Well, it was a hell of a trip out here.” Carol sighed, ducking underneath a tangled arch of tree branches. “He sure likes to talk about himself, huh?”

 

Natasha laughed at that. Carol didn’t recall a time she actually ever saw the blonde crack a smile since she got to Earth. “That’s Thor for you. You should have met his brother. What about the Asgardians, have you found them? We’re working on finding a place for them to stay once you return. We’re talking with the UN and some people from Norway at the moment.”

 

“We did, just today,” Carol confirmed. “I’ll have Rocket forward you our coordinates. We’re looking for his friend and then hopefully we’ll be on our way back shortly.”

 

“Well, that’s the other thing I wanted to talk to you about, actually.” Even through the hologram, Carol could see how bright and hopeful her eyes look. “We think we’ve got a range on where Tony could be.” She pursed her lips. “Would you be able to take a detour on your way back? You’d be able to go solo, yeah?”

 

“Send me—” Carol stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes went comically wide. “Oh my God.”

 

“What?” When Carol doesn’t respond right away, Natasha pressed, “Danvers, what’s going on? Are you okay?”

 

“Is that a Unicorn?” Carol gawked.

 

“Uh—a what?”

 

Carol’s mouth visibly was hanging open. “Oh my god, I think that’s a Unicorn. Natasha.” She turned her arm. The Natasha hologram squinted, “Tell me that’s not a Unicorn.”

 

“I can’t see its face.”

 

“Let me get closer.”

 

“Carol, are you sure that’s a good idea?”

 

“What’s the worse it’s going to happen? It’s a Unicorn, not a god damn flerken.”

 

“A what?”

 

“I gotta go.” Carol whispered quickly, “Send me his coordinates and I’ll bring him back home.”

 

“Be careful!” Natasha warned before Carol hung up on her.

 

Carol had to give herself a moment to take everything in. She was only mildly disappointed to realize the beautiful white stallion had no horn, only a pair of pearly feathery wings. As to not to disturb it, she drew closer to it quietly, extending her hand out. Still, she had traveled all over the galaxies and nothing amazed her quite like this.

 

That is until she felt herself getting body slammed the second she reached up to touch the horse—just to make sure her eyes weren’t deceiving her.

 

She tumbled to the ground, scrambling to get up onto her feet. Her eyes frantically scanned the perimeter around her—she wasn’t used to being caught off guard. She blinked only for a second when she saw a flash of silver whipping in front of her, and she dodged backward, lifting her arm just in time for the sword to come bearing down. The sword hit the metal bracers on her suit, and she pushed the force backward. The tip of her sword nicked her cheek in the process, causing a small stinging sensation to come from her face.

 

“Ouch! Damn it, what the hell was that for?” Carol pressed two fingers to the small open wound. When she pulled back, she saw a little bit of dripped blue blood was coming from the slice.

 

Her gaze cast upward and she felt just as paralyzed as she had before. Her eyes settled on quite literally—possibly one of the most gorgeous (yet terrifying) women she had laid eyes on. Her warm brown eyes were wild and she had a positively feral look to her expression as she stared Carol down, sword still positioned in attack mode. Her thick, curly brown hair cascaded down her back, though part of it was pulled back into a bun. She was wearing more casual armor that left her shoulders and toned biceps uncovered. A turquoise blue cape was pinned to one of her shoulder blades, and it ever so slightly flowed back and forth as a breeze picked up on the mountaintop.

 

She was so entranced that she missed the way the girl came lunging at her again. Carol eventually was able to snap out of it. She didn’t want to use her powers on this girl for whatever reason—but she was not letting up as Carol tried to duck from her attacks. The girl finally managed to ram her up against a tree, causing her to hit her head and they consequently fell into a heap on the ground. The girl pressed her strong arm against Carol’s neck while her knee pinned against her chest. Carol gasped, her hands beginning to glow and warm up as an automatic response to the danger.

 

“Valkyrie!”

 

In that second of a moment of distraction, Carol’s fist heated up and she shot a powerful force of energy, sending the girl flying off her. Carol gasped, rubbing her neck as she pushed herself up so she was sitting on the ground. The girl had been launched several feet back, and Carol watched with awe as the pegasus came to her side, snuffling and beating its wings in a fury—as if to check if its fallen friend was okay.

 

Thor came seemingly out of nowhere. He stomped pass Carol without a second thought and picked up the slumped figure on the ground. The horse seemed to recognize Thor as a friendly figure, and it clomped backward a few paces. Thor squeezed the girl into a tight hug who let out an unhappy groan in response.

 

“Thank God you’re alive!”

 

“Thor! Put me down!”

 

Oh God, she hadn’t even heard her speak before Carol was completely giving her heart eyes, but damn. That girl had a raspy, sultry voice with her heavy accent. Carol felt like she could listen to her talk all damn day.

 

Carol coughed, nearly hacking up a lung as she gathered herself up onto her feet and cautiously joined the other two.

 

So this was Valkyrie.

 

“Valkyrie, I am so happy to see you.” Thor let out a sigh of relief. He seemed to just notice Carol’s appearance. “Ah! Did you meet my new good friend, Carol?”

 

“You could say that.” Carol huffed. She wasn’t used to getting her ass handed to her. But give her some credit at least—anyone would have been a little caught off guard if they had just seen Valkyrie for the first time.

 

Valkyrie’s eyes narrowed at her accusingly. “Yes, we did. She was just about to steal the pegasus I found.”

 

“What--?” Thor's eyes shifted over and he finally noticed the enormous winged beast standing before him. He gaped, once again feigning the amazement of a child. “No way! That’s a Pegasus!” He was overjoyed as he grinned, “You know, the fame steads of the Valkyrie—“

 

“Yes, yes, yes.” Valkyrie crossed her arms. “I do recall, Thor. I am one of them.”

 

“How did you find him?”

 

Valkyrie cast a glance back the horse. “I have no idea how he got here. Honestly. But I thought I saw him from far away.” Her eyes looked soft for the briefest of moments as she stared at the creature. “I didn’t want to leave the Asgardians, but I thought all the steads died when we fought Hela. If there was a chance there was one more left…”

 

Thor’s eyebrows are furrowed, but he nodded along with her compassionately. “You don’t need to explain anymore, Valkyrie. I completely understand.”

 

There was some unspoken form of understanding between the two of them that went over Carol’s heads for obvious reasons. Still, Valkyrie seemed to notice her presence and her expression steeled once more. “Anyways, I spent a couple of days looking for him and left him here for all of ten minutes to go look for some food to bring back to camp when she showed up and tried to steal him.”

 

“Steal him!” Carol scoffed loudly. “I just wanted to pet him.”

 

“That wasn’t what it sounded like from your speaker thingy.” Valkyrie pointed vaguely to the communicator in her suit.

 

Thor’s head tilted to the side like a confused puppy. “Why’s you’re face bleeding? Did you fall?”

 

“No, I didn’t fall! She tried to stab me!”

 

Valkyrie shrugged. “Honest mistake.”

 

Thor nodded understandingly again. “Completely reasonable mistake.”

 

“Good God.” Carol smacked her forehead, “Okay, Thor. We found your friend. Let’s go back to the dropship with the rest of the Asgardians, shall we? Natasha called me before. She says she thinks they know where I can find Tony, so the sooner we leave, the better.”

 

“Right!” Thor clapped his hands and smiled. “Aw, isn’t this great! My good new friend with my good old friend! Traveling across time and space together. Won’t this be fantastic?”

 

“Great.” Valkyrie raised her eyebrows and smiled, seeming to only want to appease Thor. “There’s going to be drinks, right?”

 

“Of course!”

 

Carol grumbled to herself as she followed behind the trio, “I hope that thing doesn’t poop a lot.”

 

---

 

“Cheer up, Star Power.” Rocket said as Carol sat, brooding as she stared out the window of the co-pilot seat as they drifted through space. Down the hall, she could hear Thor’s boisterous laughter bouncing off the walls.

 

“There’s nothing to cheer up about.” Carol muttered darkly, “I have no idea what you’re referring to.”

 

“Oh please.” Rocket snickered, “You and Thor leave—which by the way, two of the most arguably cocky people in the whole fricken’ galaxy I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting—and you come back with a big ‘ol cut and a scowl on your pretty face. Something tells me you don’t like to lose.”

 

“I didn’t lose anything.”

 

“Mhmm.” Rocket hummed. “So why aren’t you back there with them now?”

 

“Just giving Thor his space. Thought he could use some time with his friends.” Carol sighed, rubbing her temples, “How much longer is it going to be again until we part ways?”

 

“You’re looking at a day, day and a half before we drop your ass off at the curb.” Rocket clicked a few buttons before letting the ship cruise on auto-pilot. “Maybe I should get one of those drinks back there. Thor said they saved some Asgardian liquor which I hear is some of the best.”

 

Carol’s about to tell him to go help himself when Thor remerges into the cockpit. “Hey, you two!” He cheered. “Who wants a celebratory drink?”

 

“Carol does!” Rocket volunteered. Carol glared daggers at the raccoon who just cackled.

 

The joke went over Thor’s head who smiled genuinely and waved her forward, “Great! C’mon then, you haven’t been properly drunk until you’ve drunk with Asgardians.”

 

“Thor, I don’t even think I can get drunk.”

 

“Nonsense! You only say that because you had to drink Earth’s piss water. This will be different, trust me, Danvers.” He left the room, automatically expecting Carol to follow behind him without question.

 

On her way out, she flipped off Rocket who calls from his seat, still snickered, “Grab me a drink while your back there, would you?”

 

When she entered the room it’s just Korg, Miek, and Valkyrie. They had some game Carol’s never seen before laid out across the table with a bunch of cups surrounding the board. She was somewhat surprised that any of them were awake. Most of the Asgardians had retired for the night in a separate part of the ship. The pegasus—or Aragorn, As Valkyrie had named him—was being stowed away at the bottom of the ship in its own separate room, much to Rockets disdain about bringing it on in the first place. Still, the winged horse seemed uniquely intelligent and understood that it had to remain there for the time being until they returned to Earth.

 

Carol’s nose wrinkled as she entered the room. The air was heavy with alcohol. Thor poured her a large drink and pulled up a chair for her to sit down. She could feel Valkyrie’s eyes on her profile and she peeked at her from the corner of her eyes, trying not to be as obvious with her leering. She sat down beside her and Korg, who in return pushed a handful of game pieces towards her. “Wanna play, Captain? Miek keeps beating all of us but you should have a go.”

 

The game pieces must have been made out of scraps found around the ship. Still, whatever they’re doing looked pretty foreign to Carol and counter-offered instead, “How about I watch first and play after?”

 

“Smart move, Danvers.” Thor grinned.

 

Carol took a sip of the drink Thor had given her and she nearly spat it out immediately, “Oh God, is that gasoline?”

 

Valkyrie chuckled, which caused Carol’s attention to flicker over to her. “Told you, Thor. Maybe there’s some liquor from Earth on this ship we can give her.”

 

Carol’s fist clenched underneath the table, and her eyes hardened. “No, no. Not necessary. I’ve had some strong drinks on other planets, this is no different.”

 

“Hmm.” Valkyrie leaned back on her chair. “Glad to see you can keep up.”

 

It was an indirect challenge, but damn it if Carol didn’t have a competitive streak in her.

 

After the second round of watching the group play, Carol’s already pushed back a couple of drinks. Thor excitedly poured her another as she handed him her cup and motioned to Korg, “Alright, Rock-Man. Deal me in.”

 

“Sure thing, Captain.” Korg pushed the makeshift game pieces back over to her. She could still feel Valkyrie’s (now impressed) stare on her as she scooted forward to join. The first time around she lost pretty badly. The second, she comes in second to last. And by the third, she was in a stare down with Miek, trying to predict his next move. It was arguably a difficult task considering Miek didn’t really have that much of a physical range of emotion to his expression, but if Carol had to guess, he seems to be a little nervous by the way he clicked his mouth.

 

“Oh, if you win this, Miek will be right pissed.” Korg nudged his companion.

 

“She won’t do it,” Thor predicted. “No way.”

 

Still, she imitated a move Valkyrie had drawn against Korg in the last round, causing her to win the game. Miek let out an angry hiss before pushing a game piece in an attempt to chuck it at Thor’s head when he burst out laughing. Korg held his friend back and gave him a disapproving look.

 

“Now, that’s not very sportsmanlike.”

 

“Well, I have to say you know how to make an impression.” Valkyrie conceded. Carol watched as she tossed back her drink and reached across the table for the handle of the bottle.

 

“You would be the first to say that, either,” Carol smirked and winked at her, feeling a little embolden from the alcohol.

 

They locked gazes for a second, and Thor’s eyes flickered back and forth between them questioningly while Korg consoled his friend. Thrumming his fingers against the table, he cheekily offered, “Can I offer either of you another drink?”

 

Valkyrie tipped the rest of her drink she had just poured back and pushed it across the table to Thor. She raised an eyebrow at Carol who followed suit, passing him her emptied cup as well.

 

They play for a couple more hours. Carol had underestimated this crew, though. She gets properly drunk—she’s more trashed then she’s been in a long time. Still, she tries not to let on just how wasted she is. She slumped forward and rested her chin on her hand. Thor patted her on the back good-naturedly behind her. “You’re all right, Danvers!”

 

“Thor’s right,” Korg smiled genuinely, “Anyone who can keep up with Thor and Valkyrie is good in our books.”

 

Her gaze lands on Valkyrie who looks a little friendlier than before. She grinned dreamily and reaches across the table to squeeze her shoulder, “You know, Thor’s got a point. We got off on the wrong foot before. I’m sorry.”

 

“Apology expected,” Carol slurred, then paused, correcting herself. “Apology accepted.”

 

Valkyrie giggled (which caused Thor to raise an eyebrow at Korg from across the room), clearly just as intoxicated as Carol at this point. She cocked her head to the side, looking at the cut that was already healing up on Carol’s cheek. “It didn’t hurt too much, did it?”

 

Carol’s hand reached up, her fingers brushed over the slice mark and she puffed out her chest a bit, leaning in closer to Valkyrie subconsciously. “No, no. Not at all. Kinda used to this sort of thing.”

 

“Oh really?”

 

“Yeah, it’s no big deal, really.” Carol drawled out casually. “I’ve traveled to a lot of different planets. Fought a ton of different people. Every once in a while, I get cut up—just part of the job, I suppose.”

 

“Wow.” Valkyrie blinked her wide chocolate brown eyes, causing Carol to be absolutely entranced. “That sounds impressive. I’m sure you have lots of stories.”

 

“Oh, you bet.” Carol leaned in a little closer.

 

“You’ll have to share them sometime.”

 

“Uh, hello? I’m still here.” Thor waved his hands between them. He gestured vaguely between them. “Is it me, or am I sensing something is happening here?” His eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, “Is this the start of a wonderful friendship?

 

Valkyrie scoffed loudly. “Don’t be ridiculous, Thor. You’re so over the top. We’re just chatting. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

 

“Of course.” Thor smiled before stretching and yawning loudly. “But Korg and Miek look like they’re about to fall asleep. We’ll leave you alone and hit the hay.” Carol missed the way he waggled his eyebrows at Valkyrie who snorted again and shook her head, turning away from him.

 

After Thor ushered out a sleepy and stumbling Miek and Korg, Valkyrie and Carol were left alone. “So…” Carol began. “Care to explain why you almost stabbed me over touching a horse?”

 

Valkyrie sighed. “It’s more than just a pegasus. You wouldn’t understand.”

 

“Try me.” Carol shrugged when she glanced up at her. “Maybe I want to try and understand.”

 

“It’s complicated. And messy. And I’m not particularly in the mood to talk about it.” Valkyrie warned, still guarded despite the considerable amount of alcohol that was buzzing through her body. “I’m sorry I might have gotten a little carried away. I just…now that I found him, I just need to protect him. He’s the last of his kind—well, at least from my people.”

 

“The Valkyrie.” Carol confirmed.

 

“Yes.” 

 

“Thor talked about them on our way here.”

 

“Then you would know the tragedy that’s involved with the story.”

 

It’s another warning, and Carol gets the hint. She doesn’t want to upset her, so instead, she changes the subject. “Let’s talk about something else.”

 

Valkyrie helped her. “I want to thank you for helping Thor. When I saw him again, I could tell he was...very upset.”

 

“He’s not taking losing to Thanos lightly.” Carol agreed.

 

“Right. Coming back to find us meant a lot to him, and you didn’t have to help, but you did. I appreciate it.”

 

“It’s kinda what I do,” Carol said, but she smiled sincerely to let her know she meant it. “I’m happy I could help you all, though.”

 

“Thor says you’re going to find their Avenger friend. When do you leave us?”

 

“Rocket said a day, day and a half at tops.”

 

“Hmm. Well, it was nice talking to another girl while it lasted.”

 

Carol laughed at that, “Yeah, I was telling Thor that I don’t travel that much with anyone. Much fewer girlfriends.” There was a sobering moment before she asked, “What do you think will happen when you return to Earth?”

 

“I’ve never been to Midgard before. I don’t know what to expect.” Valkyrie admitted. “My people have nowhere left to go, though. So I hope we are allowed to stay.”

 

“It’ll work out,” Carol promised. “I’ve seen it happen before. Thor won’t settle for anything otherwise, anyways. I get the feeling you wouldn’t, either.”

 

Valkyrie chuckled, “No, I wouldn’t.”

 

“And don’t worry about Earth. It can be underwhelming compared to some of the places I’ve visited in the galaxy, but it’s still will be one of my favorite.”

 

“What’s your favorite thing about it?”

 

“Hmm.” Carol genuinely pondered over the question for a moment before she replied earnestly. “The summer nights. Oh wow. When I lived in Louisiana with my…” She hesitated for a moment, causing Valkyrie’s head to cock curiously to the side. “…my family. We would sit outside during the summertime and watch the night sky. We’d sit outside and have a bonfire and we’d make S’mores and go stargazing. I remember, I got my goddaughter a telescope for Christmas one year and that’s all she wanted to do.” Carol chuckled lightly, “I remember feeling so small when I looked at the constellations. Never in a million years thought I’d be flying among them.”

 

Valkyrie grew quiet for a moment. “That sounds nice.”

 

“It was. Especially the S’ mores. I guess that’s an Earth-specific thing.”

 

“What are S’mores?”

 

Carol feigned a tragic expression. “Do me a favor and the second you go down to Earth find out what S’mores are and how to make them. You’ll thank me.”

 

There’s a healthy lull in the conversation again. Carol finished up her last of her drink Valkyrie who broke it, “What will you do? I mean…they lost, right? The Avengers?”

 

“Well.” Carol began, “We’ll probably try and find Thanos and try to reverse this. If that doesn’t work, then I’m not sure what comes after this, either.” Carol exhaled heavily, “Whatever happened here, though, I’m sure is happening across the universe. And not everyone has been graced with the support system of the Avengers Earth has. I might need to head back out there and help where I can.”

 

“I see.”

 

Carol broke out into a cheeky smile that could rival Thor’s. “If you’d like, I’ll come to visit you all on New Asgard. I’d love to help in any way I can there as well.”

 

Valkyrie smiled, this time genuine as well. “Well, I think you’ve got a group of friends that will be waiting for you. I don’t think Thor will ever shut up about you after you leave. He gets bored when he doesn’t have anyone else to compete with.”

 

“And you?” Carol raised an eyebrow jokingly.

 

Valkyrie laughed and held out her hand. Carol shook it tightly. A warm feeling spread across her chest in response. “You make a half-way decent drinking partner, I’ll give you that, Danvers.”

 

---

 

Carol woke up the following morning with a killer hangover. She pushed through it and flipped Rocket the bird again when she stumbled into the cockpit with a bottle of water and some space food. He told her they would approach her drop-off point sooner than later, so she better shape up fast.

 

When she says goodbye to Thor, Korg, Miek, and Valkyrie, they’re huddled by the pods.

 

“Danvers,” Thor greeted. “This is it, huh?”

 

“I’ll be back soon, Thor,” Carol promised. “And I won’t be alone.”

 

“No.” He rested a hand on her shoulder. His hair was pressed to one side of his head and he looked as worn as she felt earlier in the day. “Bring him home, yeah? They need him on Earth. We all need Stark.”

 

“I’ll try and bring him back as quick as possible.”

 

“That’s the spirit.” Thor grinned. “Thank you, for coming with me as well. Your help is immensely appreciated. We say Asgard is not a place—it’s a people. And you will always be welcomed among our people.”

 

“Thank you, Thor.”

 

Carol turned to Korg and Miek who also greet her in a similar happy fashion. “Thank you, Captain Marvel, ma’am! It was nice getting to know you. Please come back and visit us soon.” He turned to his friend who let out a series of squeals. “Miek is still a little sour about last night, but he says thank you as well!”

 

“It was nice meeting you both.” Carol returned politely and then turned to Valkyrie who somehow doesn’t look hungover in the slightest. Instead, she’s got her arms crossed coolly and protectively across her chest.

 

“Valkyrie.”

 

“Danvers.”

 

“Oh, you two—” Thor gushed. “Stop walking like you have sticks up your butts.”

 

Valkyrie broke out into a smile. “We said enough mushy stuff last night.” She smiled kindly. “But don’t die, yeah? I think I would be disappointed if you did.” Thor sighed loudly.

 

“Likewise.” She eyed the group of them, “Make sure they get back, okay? I don’t entirely trust the Raccoon.”

 

They say one more goodbye before Carol steps into the entrance. Before the door separating them closes, she waved and shouted, “See you guys later.”

 

The door slammed shut in front of her, and instantly her body begins to glow as her feet lift from the ground. Through the window, Thor, Valkyrie, Korg, and Miek are watching with awe. A second later, in a flash of light, she’s shooting off into space so quickly that they might have missed her if any of them had blinked.

 

“Wow,” Valkyrie breathed. “I have to say, that was badass.”

 

Thor smiled to himself, clearly delighted. “See…I knew you both would like each other.”

 

--- 

 

Chapter Text

“There you are, Peter!”

Carol and Peter had returned back to the Guardian’s ship. A couple of stragglers were still outside. Some people had retired for the night while others looked like they would be drinking themselves to sleep. Peter himself had been nodding off while Carol told him the story of how she and Valkyrie met. And while Peter was really invested in the whole tale, Carol knew he had to get some rest before they brought him back to his Aunt in Queens tomorrow. It was just too much for the kid.

“Hey, Shuri,” Peter said, his voices till a little raspy around the edges. If Shuri noticed, she chose not to comment.

“Groot and I were looking for you. We noticed you left and we wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Carol smiled at the thought. It was good the little group of teenagers had a support system. Shuri acted so much older that people seemed to be forgetting she was a kid too who went through this incredibly traumatizing experience. It amazed Carol she held herself together so well.

“Peter and I just were having a little talk.” Carol covered for him so he didn’t have to explain to his friend why he had left. “But you guys should get some rest, don’t you think?”

“Groot said there was a place we can sleep on the ship. Do you want to come, Peter?”

Peter looked up at Carol. He looked kind of lost. Carol realized it was most likely because he looked to Tony for some kind of guidance or instruction. Her chest felt like it was clenching up as she squeezed Peter’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Peter. You can go with them.”

“But—” Peter was caught off guard by a loud yawn. “I want to hear more about the story…”

Carol promised, “I’ll tell you some other time. I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other again soon.”

Peter purses his lips but nodded before turning to Shuri. Carol felt herself finally relax until he jolted, spinning around and throwing his arms around Carol in a tight hug before she had a chance to even react. Slowly, she lifted her arms to return it.

“Thank you.”

He parts from her and joined Shuri’s side without another word. As they walked off towards the ship, she could hear Shuri asking Peter questions about what they had been talking about. Carol watches until they were gone, crossing her arms over her chest solemnly. She felt awful that these kids had to go through this. No one should have been at the forefront of this kind of extreme destruction. She’d almost become desensitized to it, in a way. Still, the one thing that always surprised her that in the midst of mass destruction was the smallest glimpses of hope people would hold onto. It somehow made a world of a difference.

“Well, well, well! Look who finally decided to show up!”

“Sam.”

“What!? Thor was raving about his friends and said how they could drink us under the table.”

“I’m sorry about him, Captain.”

Carol turned to see Sam and Steve approaching her. She smirked at them and rolled her eyes. “Of course Thor said that.”

“Well! It’s a party isn’t it?”

“I’m not really in the mood tonight, Sam. Sorry, we’ll have to do a raincheck on that one.”

“Hmph.”

“You know, not everyone copes the same way, Sam.”

“You’re just saying that because you can’t get drunk, old man. Where the hell did Bucky go? Anyone seen Bucky?”

“He’s around…” Steve assured him before turning to Carol again. He extended his hand. “Good fight tonight, Carol. Thank you for coming in. I’m not sure we would have made it without you.”

“Always happy to help, Rogers.”

“Is it me or do you guys strangely look like you could be cousins or something?” Sam hiccupped. “Maybe I did drink too much. But I also feel like I’m seeing double.”

“What are you talking about?” Steve raises an eyebrow.

Sam gestures vaguely, “Well based off the thirty seconds I’ve known Danvers…you’re both Captains. Both blondes with short hair. Both are stupidly kind and courageous. Both want to help people without getting anything in return. Both bi—“

“All right, all right, that’s enough.” Steve scowls, cutting off Sam. Carol smirks and snickers in response. “Let’s leave Carol alone, yeah? We’ll see you around, Danvers.”

Carol passes by them and walked through the camp. Things were beginning to wind down. Rhodey and Pepper were understandably nowhere in sight. Most of the stragglers seemed to be sitting around the campfire, cheering as Thor pounded back a handle of Asgardian liquor. Carol frowned at the encouragement—anyone who returned from the snap didn’t really know the full extent to Thor’s bender beyond the extra weight he had gained. She just hoped things would get better for her old friend soon.

Something seemed off, though. When Carol looked up, she notices a little way from the camp was a figure sat on the side of a mound of rubble. Curious, Carol ventures off to the nearby cliff that overlooked the destruction the Battle of New York had left behind. The closer she approached the figure, she could begin to hear the soft sound of music flowing from crappy speakers.

Why do the birds go on singing?
Why do the stars glow above?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?
It ended when I lost your love

“Hey?”

“Ahhh!”

Peter Quill jumped at the sight of Carol. He scrambled to grab his Walkman, pressing the stop button as quickly as he could manage. He let out a heavy exhale and commanded, “You didn’t hear anything!”

“Oh, I think I heard something.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“That was the Carpenters.”

“Well, duh,” Quill said scowling, rubbing at his red eyes. Carol pretended not to notice. “One of the best bands ever.”

“Is that a Walkman? I wanted to bring mine to Space but when I came back to Earth they weren’t making them anymore.”

Quill pauses, staring at her intently. He slowly stated, “My old one was crushed, but I found this being thrifted on another planet. I’m shocked you know what that is. I tried talking to the Panther-Cat-Guy’s sister about it and she laughed in my face.” He huffs, “I thought she was supposed to be a genius.”

Carol laughs and points at the empty space beside him, “Do you mind if I sit? They’re a little too rowdy for me back there.”

“I guess.” Quill shrugs.

Carol jumped up onto the side of rubble that Quill was sitting on. After finding a relatively flat surface to lean back on, she stares out over the horizon. It was even worse from this angle. She didn’t even want to begin to imagine how long it would take to repair.

“Thor said you’re from space?”

“Kinda. Originally from Earth, left, didn’t come back. Well, until recently.”

“Sounds like me.” Quill scratches the back of his head. “I never came back, though.”

Carol looks up at that. “Really? This is your first time back on Earth?”

“Yeah.” Quill nods absentmindedly, staring out across the horizon. “When I was a kid I used to want to come back so damn bad. I knew there would be nothing to come back to—my family was pretty much gone. But there were little things I missed. Being here now though…” He sighs. “This isn’t my home anymore. I hardly recognize it.”

“To be fair, it doesn’t all look like this.” She reminds him. “But I get what you mean. Sometimes…sometimes it’s not always literal, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean…” She furrows her brow, thinking. “Earth’s not so much my home either, anymore. It’s the people I’ve come to love here. You could pick us up and drop us off at any point in the galaxy and I would feel the same way.”

Quill glances back towards the fire where Drax, Mantis, Nebula, and Rocket were all sitting and laughing with Thor. “Yeah.”

“Did you lose someone?” Carol asked. “I don’t know why else you would be listening to arguably one of the most depressing songs, ever.

Quill chuckles, “Kind of. I thought I did.” He shook his head. “It’s sorta hard to explain. She’s gone now though—not like, dead gone. But I have no idea where she ran off to. And... she’s different now, regardless. She’s not the same person I fell in love with. But she kinda is. Like I said, hard to explain.”

“I’m sorry. That sucks.”

He shrugged again, trying to come off as indifferent. “Yeah, it kinda does.”

“Will you guys go back to space now?”

“I guess so. Even if she doesn’t want to be found, Nebula and I won’t stop until we find her.”

While she didn’t know Gamora personally, she heard her name countless times from working with Nebula and Rocket over the past couple of years. She returns him the same sympathetic look.

They’re silent again, for a moment. Carol grabs the Walkman that’s sitting in between them. “Can I play it again?”

“Yeah…” Quill asked, “Did you lose someone, too?”

“Kind of. I used to maybe think not completely, but I’m not so sure anymore.”

Quill didn’t press any further. He seemed sort of caught up with his own thoughts. Carol pressed play on the Walkman again, and soon, her mind too began to drift.

Why does my heart go on beating?
Why do these eyes of mine cry?
Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?
It ended when you said goodbye…

---

NEW YORK, 2019 (10 MONTHS AFTER THE DEATH OF THANOS)

Natasha was waiting on the front lawn for Carol when she landed from her descent. She had a half-smirk on her face as she greeted her relatively new friend. “Danvers. Long time no see.”

“Ah, you know my style, Romanov.”

They embraced lightly before pulling apart. Natasha will never admit it out loud because she loves her team of original Avengers—but God, did it feel good to have a girlfriend again in the midst of it all. Wanda used to be that, albeit she was a little bit younger than Natasha. Still, Carol and she became pretty fast friends for all things considering.

“Anything new to report?” Natasha asked.

Carol shook her head, “Not particularly. I’ve been trying to help where I can but at this point, it isn’t it even a matter of physical security. No one’s being hurt. No one’s being invaded—it’s just…a lot of the emotional pain. And the logistical issues of having half of a population disappearing from society.

“Right.”

“So, why’d you call me?”

“We want you to stay here for a while.” At Carol’s expression, she amended, “We’re hoping you will stay for a while.”

“Natasha…”

“Look, I know what you’re going to say.” She held up a hand before Carol could interrupt. “I am trying my best to keep whatever this is alive.” She gestured vaguely to the Avengers compound behind her. “I am no Nick Fury. But I am doing everything within my power to do what he would have wanted and that’s to keep this thing going. You knew him probably better than anyone.” She locked eyes with her, telling her very seriously: “I am asking you not only as a colleague but as a friend. Please. Help me see this through. If not for us, then for him.”

Carol broke their stare-down to look out across the compound. It was a foggy morning and if she listens close enough, she could hear the birds chirping in the distance. Natasha can see she was on the fence, so she added for good measure, “You know it’s what he would have wanted. There was a reason you were the last thing on his mind before he…” She doesn’t have to finish her sentence.

“Fine, I will stay. For now.” She concluded, “For Fury.”

“Great.” Natasha let out a sigh of relief. “Now, come with me. I’ve got some clothes for you to change out of—I already have an assignment I need to to help out with.”

---

NEW ASGARD, 11 MONTHS AFTER THE SNAP

 

“Really, fuck you, Nat.”

“Oh, stop whining. Did you like the clothes I gave you? I tried going for your grunge-y 90s I-Hate-My-Hometown vibe. Did it work?”

“Yeah, under the 200 layers of snow gear you gave me. You sent me to Norway in the dead of winter!?”

“Thor loves you! He’ll be ecstatic to see you.”

“I’m going to ignore the fact that A. You already had a winter wardrobe picked out for me despite the fact I hadn’t yet agreed to stay and B. The only reason I think you sent me here is that you didn’t want to.”

“Listen, I’ve seen my fair share of winters in Eastern Europe. Woman up.” She pointed out. “Not only that but you literally can light on fire. This shouldn’t be an issue for you.”

“I should have extended my vacation in Louisiana longer.” Carol growled, “My ride’s here. I’ll call you later.”

“Try to remember to have fun!”

Carol hung up on her. It took a couple of tries but she managed. Natasha had gifted her a brand new cell phone before she left and gave her very little instructions on how to use it. Carol didn’t understand why she needed it in the first place—she had a communicator on her suit.

Because! Natasha had all but yelled at her: This is what normal people use. Try and get used to Earth today if you’re going to stay.

If she wanted her to get used to the normal world, Carol thought to herself bitterly, she shouldn’t have shipped her off to a fishing village in the middle of Nowhere, Norway. Never mind the fact Carol couldn’t even fly there. Natasha had claimed it was so small she might miss it if she flew too high. Instead, she had to get her a little dinky trunk to drive her from the nearest city to this small little coastal kingdom.

Carol tugged her parka around her closer as she got into the truck that pulled up to the curb for her. A scruffy old man greeted her in a heavy accent. Carol was polite as could be and introduced herself as they cruised down the road. He wasn’t much of a talker, though, so Carol had the luxury to stare at the rolling mountains and valleys that surrounded them for miles. It was quite beautiful, really, and she was being a little bratty about the whole ordeal. But sue her—even when she came back to Earth her first time she landed in Los Angeles. When she wasn’t in New York for Avengers meetings she was in warm Louisiana sitting on the porch with Monica and Maria drinking sweet teas. This was a little out of her geographical comfort zone.

The truck rattled and Carol thought it might be one bump away from the engine exploding every time they hit a pothole in the road. It takes them about an hour and a half before they reach the sign that says WELCOME TO NEW ASGARD.

Her driver dropped her off at the docks along with the duffle bag she’s packed for her stay. Natasha didn’t specify how long she wanted her to stick on this side of Earth for, just that she expressed some concerns for Thor when he stopped responding to the regularly scheduled meetings the Avengers were supposed to have. Tony had stopped too, of course, but he had formally retired after Carol returned him safely home. The last time any of them had seen Thor was when he walked off Thanos’s farm after decapitating him with Stormbreaker.

It was going to be strange seeing him again, to say the least.

“Oh, hello!”

Carol turned around to see Korg a few feet away from her, holding a dead fish in his hands. “You’re Captain Marvel! I remember you.”

“Hi Korg, it’s nice to see you again.”

“Same to you, bruv.” Korg smiled kindly. “What are you doing here? We don’t get visitors often.”

“Natasha sent me.” When he doesn’t react, she tacked on, “From the Avengers? You know? In New York.”

“Oh! Right, right.” Korg laughed awkwardly. “Thor complains about them a lot.”

“Where is Thor?”

“Up in the King’s house.” He pointed up above the small village. On the Cliffside sat a modest-sized cabin. It must’ve been a bit of a step-down from whatever throne he had been sitting on in Asgard.

“Would you be able to take me up there to see him?”

Korg nodded, “Sure, let me just bury this fish quick. I stomped on him on accident and I feel so guilty for the little guy.”

After Korg finds a proper burial place for the dead fish he squished and forces Carol to say a few kind words about the creature, he brought her up the hillside. Carol tried to ask him a few questions about how the Asgardians were adjusting to their resettled life, but Korg doesn’t reveal a lot of information she wouldn’t have already predicted.

When they enter Thor’s cabin, they’re greeted by a warm room that smells like stale beer. Beer cans and liquor bottles are scattered about the space, though a larger cluster seems to be centered in on the coffee table sitting in front of the TV.

Valkyrie is passed out on the couch, still clutching a bottle of booze that looks like it’s one move away from slipping out of her hand. Miek is in the chair opposite of her, whirring and clicking at the sight of a horse race on TV.

“Oh my god, I am so sorry, Carol. The place is a mess, I’m the only one who bloody has the decency to pick anything up.” Korg looked mortified, “This is so embarrassing. I told them to clean up before I left.”

“No worries, Korg.” Carol walked around the room after waving to Miek who looked more invested in the TV than her arrival. “Err, is there always this much alcohol laying around?”

“Oh, yeah. Thor and Val like to keep it out.”

“Who’s managing the town if they’re both up here wasted?”

“Well…” Korg shrugged, “I dunno. Sometimes I like to walk around and see how everyone is doing.”

“How are the Asgardians doing?”

“Okay. They never really had to fish before and now that seems to be the only thing allowing us to survive.” Korg added as an afterthought, “Oh! And they somehow are still able to make Asgardian liquor down here. That definitely helps, too. Val said the alcohol here is a step down from piss water.”

“Right.” Carol came to a halt in front of the girl in question. “Should I wake her up?”

“Oh, she’ll be right pissed but she might be a little more helpful at answering your questions.”

Carol leaned over the side of the couch. Valkyrie was still fast asleep. Her chest slowly puffed up and down as a soft little snore would escape past her lips. Carol hesitated, for a moment, her gaze glued on Valkyrie’s softer features. It took Korg clearing his throat before she snapped out of it and leaned down to grip her shoulder and shake her awake.

“Val—Ahhh!”

“Aghghgh!”

She hissed, jumping backward when she saw a knife come out of seemingly nowhere. Valkyrie had a wild look in her eyes as they flickered around the room, trying to get a grip on where she was and what was going on.

Valkyrie’s hand lowered when she realized it was Carol who had jumped far back from her. She looked down at the bottle she was holding in her other hand and set it on the coffee table before grumbling, “Oh, it’s you again.”

Carol clutched her chest, seething. “Dear God, do you just keep those stored in your couch? That’s the second time you’ve almost stabbed me in the face and we’ve only met twice.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Valkyrie snorted, completely missing the point. “I keep them on the side of my pants.

“Oh yeah, because that’s so much more normal. Who the hell is going to come out here and kill you? The nearest grocery store is like 50 miles away.”

“You never know.”

Valkyrie threw an arm over her eyes to shield her hangover from the late afternoon sunlight that was streaming into the room. Korg grunted disapprovingly, “I thought I told everyone to clean up this morning before I left! Have you been sitting here all day?”

“Depends, what time is it?”

“3 PM.”

“Yep, definitely slept through that day.” Valkyrie yawned.

Carol shook her head, “Where’s Thor?”

“Probably sleeping in his room, I would guess. We normally don’t wake up this early anyway.”

When Carol turned to look to Korg, he shrugged and sighed in defeat.

“I’m going to wake him up. We all need to talk. Go take a shower, you smell gross.”

Valkyrie expression feigned offense but after taking a whiff of herself she didn’t further complain.

Entering Thor’s room was like journeying into the den of a hibernating bear. The room is swallowed whole in darkness. Thor had put up black curtains to keep the light from peering into the room. It smelt rank, like something, could potentially have been buried under the piles of dirty clothes that laid strewn about the room.

This time, Carol approached the sleeping giant with her hands raised in case Thor got caught off guard. However, he had quite an opposite reaction to seeing Carol after she shoved him awake. He blinked away the sleep before he exclaimed at the sight of her glowing hands. “Danvers! You’re back!”

He sprung up off the unmade bed and tackled her into (fittingly) a bear hug. Carol pat his back gently before growling, “Let me down! Don’t distract me, we’re having an intervention. Put on some pants and let’s go.”

Thor looked down at his boxers before agreeing to put on a few more articles of clothing before Carol left the room. It was like trying to herd cats to get everyone in the living room. Korg had managed to clean up around the place after forcing Miek to turn off the TV and help him. Despite the frigid temperature outside, Carol insisted they open a window to air out the place of the musky smell.

Thor insisted that he make them all bloody Mary’s which Valkyrie cheered to and started bustling around the kitchen before Carol could put a stop to it. The only reason she didn’t make him throw them out is that after he handed her one to which she complained, “Thor, let me remind you it’s almost dinner tim—oh, damn, that’s good. You got good a making those.”

“Oh, I know.”

“All right, stop! Everyone sit down. As fun as it is to hang out with all of you, there’s a reason I’m here.”

“What, you didn’t come just to say hi?” Thor looked hurt, “I thought we were closer than that.”

Now that she could see him in the light she noticed how unkempt his beard was becoming. His previously short spiky blonde hair was a little bit longer, and starting to turn at that awkward length that screamed for him to get a haircut. His face and body were a little fuller and his cheeks were flushed pink. It was strange to see the God of Thunder in sweats and a stained t-shirt. In fact, seeing them all in clothes from Midgard was a little strange. Valkyrie herself had thrown on some thermal leggings and a tank top despite the draft coming through the house. Even though the fact that the Asgardian gang didn’t look like they were doing much of anything these days, Valkyrie’s toned biceps suggested they could still crush Carol’s head if she wanted to.

“So if you’re not here on a friendly visit, what did you come for?”

Carol was pulled out of her reverie and glanced up to meet Valkyrie’s eyes. She had an eyebrow raised.

Damn it. Carol thought, She totally noticed me leering.

“Natasha sent me,” Carol confessed. “She’s said she’s been trying to stay in contact with Thor but he’s being unresponsive.”

Thor let out a disgusted sound at that. “Oh, of course, she sent you. The reason I don’t respond is that she’s been nagging me nonstop ever since we left the United States. She can’t take a hint.”

Thor set down his Bloody Mary, the glass clanging against the tabletop. He practically growled at her, “The Avengers are over. We failed. Why can’t she just accept it and move on?”

“Is that’s what’s going on here? Is this what you call coping?” Carol gestured vaguely around the room. “Thor, you left without a word. We couldn’t even find you until Bruce told us you returned to New Asgard.”

“Yeah, and one would think she would get the hint that I would like to be left alone. If she thought she would send you to convince me to come back, then she’s got another thing coming.”

“She isn’t trying to make you do anything.” Carol explained. “She just wants to make sure you’re okay. That’s the only reason she sent me.”

Thor glared and looked out the wide window on the other side of the room. The sun was beginning to set behind the clouds, casting a remarkable glow across the ocean’s waves. “Stay as long as you’d like, Danvers.” He finally looked back at her, his two different colored eyes looked incredibly sad. “I told you once that you will always be welcomed here for everything you did to help me get our people back. But that’s about as much as I can give you.”

Carol shoved her hands into her pocket. Valkyrie was unusually quiet. It seemed Carol might have to do a little investigating to figure out what was really going on here.

Thor rubbed his eyes and shook his head, trying to uplift the mood. “Agh! What happened to you being the fun and lose-canon one? I thought we were going to be able to have a fun time and get drinks. Natasha has made you all stiff and business.”

Carol realized that she was on Thor’s turf and that in order to get more information or get him to do whatever she wanted she was going to have to play by his rules. She finally smiled at him, deciding to play the game. “I still am.”

“Then come out for drinks with us downtown tonight. It’ll be fun! We can finally catch up.” He glanced across the room to his other companion. “Right, Valkyrie?”

“Of course.” Valkyrie hesitated before she asked Carol, “You’ll stay, at least for a little while, won’t you?”

“Well, I did pack a bag. Nat asked if I would operate on this side of the planet to reach out to our international allies.

“Fantastic!” Thor grinned. “We’ll find you a place to stay. Korg, would you check downtown and see if there’s a room we can get Carol in?”

“Sure thing, Thor. Come on, Carol.”

It was the start to a trip that would extend much longer than Carol ever intended—but looking back on it now, it would also come to be one of the happiest times of her life.

---

Korg finds Carol a room at a homey B&B by the docks. Their “downtown” is a little bit of an understatement—It’s just a larger clump of shops and apartments that are squashed together on two streets overlooking the seaside. After Korg leaves, Carol explores around a little. There’s not much to New Asgard. People are clearly adjusting still, but underneath it, all Carol could sense there’s something special here. The people just had to find what that was.

Later at night, she gets ready to go out to meet her old group of friends at the bar Thor had given her directions to. Though when she arrived (a little fashionably late, of course), neither Thor nor Korg and Miek are present. Instead, Valkyrie is just sitting at the bar, drinking down a hefty tankard of beer among the crowd of drunk Asgardians.

Her hair is braided and she’s wearing dark, smoky makeup. She’s wearing the tightest black ripped jeans Carol’s ever seen and a fur-lined leather jacket. She looks like something out of a European fashion catalog, and suddenly Carol felt underdressed in her blue skinny jeans and usual brown pilot jacket.

“Hey!” Carol greeted as she sidled up beside her, “Damn girl, you look great!”

“So do you,” Valkyrie smirked, “I like this jacket.” She touched the embroidered patch of the American flag on the side of her arm, “You look like a proper American pilot. You’re just missing the aviators.”

Carol laughed, “I’m surprised you would know what that looks like, considering you’re not from this planet.”

“Miek is very into American movies. He made me watch Top Gun. Thor wants us to try and understand Earth culture a little bit better since it looks like we’ll be here permanently now.”

Carol looked around the bar suspiciously, “Speaking of which, where are they now? Weren’t they supposed to meet us?”

After a moment of looking around the bar, Valkyrie’s face slipped into an expression of realization. “Oh for fuck’s sake.”

“What?”

“He totally set this up.”

“What!? He bailed on us?”

“Yes.” She growled before taking another long gulp of her beer. Carol noticed she looked a little nervous. She slammed her drink down angrily. “I’m going to kill him.”

“That makes two of us.” Carol huffed before flagging down the bartender. After she ordered a beer she turned to Valkyrie. “Why would he do that?”

“He’s an idiot.” After a moment, the bartender returned with Carol’s drink. She took a few greedy sips, wanting to definitely not be completely sober in this situation. She nearly snorted beer through her nose when Valkyrie added, “And he thinks I need a good shag.”

Carol coughed a few times, and Valkyrie pat her on the back. She rasped when she could finally catch her breath, “Come again?”

“What? Are you not—“ Valkyrie groaned, “Oh, shit. I’m sorry, are you not--? I thought…sorry, I just was getting vibes and so was Thor. Maybe we misinterpreted—“

“No, no!” Carol spluttered, “You didn’t misinterpret anything.”

Valkyrie paused, quirking an eyebrow and smirking. Oh God, that smirk was literally going to be the death of her.

“You know what? I think I need a shot. We should do a shot. Or like, 30.” Carol suggested before she waved over the bartender again.

Carol admittedly wasn’t this use to be off her A-Game. Normally she had no problem flirting with girls. In fact, she was a fucking champion at it. Talos told her himself. Several times. But there was something about Valkyrie that made her question everything. There was something that really threw Carol off about Valkyrie. She wasn’t sure if it was the ice cool demeanor or how she radiated skill and confidence that made Carol question everything about this girl. How did she know Thor? Who was she? How was she such a skilled warrior? Thor had mentioned the Valkyrie to her before, but they never really got into that much depth about what they really were.

Carol gets them both shots before they go sit at a booth in the corner of the room. It takes a little bit of drinking to get Valkyrie to really loosen up but Carol keeps getting them more and more drinks they second they empty. She’s still trying to get a hold on what exactly was going down in New Asgard since she’s been gone from the planet, but she knew it was going to take a little bit of liquor to loosen the other girl up.

“Tell me, Val—is it okay if I call you that?”

She snorted, “Sure.”

“Is Thor really okay? Are you all?”

Valkyrie scoffed and rolled her eyes. “What do you think? I mean, this isn’t typically abnormal behavior for me. Thor’s just has been a worse influence.” She lowered her gaze. “He’s…he’s really beat up about not beating…you know.”

“Thanos?”

Valkyrie reached across the table to grip her wrist tightly. Her fingers felt warm as they enclosed around her skin.

She shushed her, “Shhh. Don’t say that name. It’s forbidden in New Asgard.”

“What?” Carol blinked owlishly, “Thor banned his name?”

“He wants to erase him from existence.”

“That’s insane. Aren’t the people who were lost here upset they can’t acknowledge what happened?”

Valkyrie shrugged, “I’m sure they are. We’re just not allowed to say it.”

Carol clenched her jaw. This might be worse than she anticipated.

“Thor is trying his best, he is.” Valkyrie defended the King. “Believe me, this is not my lowest. Thor helped me and forced me to dust myself off and get back in the game when I felt like I couldn’t be any worse off. I would follow him to the ends of the galaxy if he asked me to.” She bit her lip. “You have to understand he’s lost a lot in the last couple of years…his mother, his father…Loki…Heimdall…his hammer for God’s sake. We have to be a little patient with him.”

“He has a responsibility to these people though, no? It seems like you are struggling.”

“Any new kingdom would. We’re adjusting.” Valkyrie corrected.

“There has to be something more we can do to help.”

Valkyrie stared at her for a moment. Her gaze was calculative as if she was trying to read inside Carol’s mind. She leaned in closer across the table. Carol tried not to think about how she smelt like mint leaves and lavender. “What about you, Danvers?”

“What about me?”

“Why are you really here? Or—let me rephrase that, why are you staying? You don’t seem like the type to offer to stick around for too long. Don’t you have a planet to be saving or something?”

Carol took another gulp of beer. “I made a promise to an old friend who was lost in the Snap. He would have wanted me to stay and help where I could, at least until I knew Earth was totally protected. I didn’t realize I would consequently be owing Natasha any favors, yet, here I am.” Carol added, “Maybe I wanted to see new friends, too.”

Valkyrie’s eyes sparked up at that and she’s got her cheeky expression back to normal. It makes Carol’s heart do summersaults in her chest.

Valkyrie changed the subject. They chat a little bit more casually, just trying to get to know one and other better. Carol, of course, challenged Valkyrie to a game of darts to which the smaller woman accepts almost immediately.

“I used to play all the time with my best friend. There was a bar near our base we went to all the time. So if you need a few pointers—“

Before Carol had even finished her sentence a dart whizzed over her shoulder and landed about two centimeters away from the bullseye on the board. When she turned back Valkyrie had a wide smirk on her face and she winked coyly, “I think I’ll do just fine.”

Carol gripped the darts she had been collecting tighter and she grinned toothily, “Oh you are so on.”

The two of them are too competitive to let anything rest so they went at it for hours. When one won, the other would want to go again. They spend the rest of the night forwardly flirting with one and other now that the air is cleared on whether either would be interested.

When they call it a night Carol’s had a good buzz so when they walked out into the bitter night breeze, she felt a little warmer than when she had walked into the bar. What made her forget about the temperature completely, though, was when Valkyrie pushed her up against the brick wall in the alleyway behind the bar. She was a few inches shorter than Carol herself and had to reach up to kiss her. Carol was stunned for a moment, but a second later she kissed her back and her hands snaked around Valkyrie’s sides to pull her in closer. Valkyrie’s hand cupped the back of her neck as she deepened the kiss, only pulling away for a second to catch a breath.

It grows heated quickly—and Carol soon realized that it was in part because her hands subconsciously began to illuminate with energy when she felt Valkyrie let out a little shiver on top of her. Mesmerized, Valkyrie stopped kissing her to grab her forearm and stare at the light that radiates from her arms.

“Is it helping?” Carol asked as she rubbed her bicep, trying to get some heat into her body. They can see the puffs of each other’s hot and heavy breaths in the cold air.

“Yeah.” Valkyrie pecked her lips again. Everything has the faint taste of beer which Carol is too tipsy to care about. She leaned up and whispered against her ear.

“I want you.”

Carol’s grip tightened on her. “You can have me. We’ll go to the place I’m staying. It’s closer.”

They rush back in a flurry to the B&B Carol’s staying at for the time being. A few glimmers of snow began to fall from the sky as they ducked back into the warmth of the building. There was practically giddy energy overflowing between the two of them as they tramped up the stairs, ignoring the disapproving look from the host who was sitting at the reception desk, flipping through a book. When they finally got upstairs, Carol unlocked the door to let them in. The second the door was closed she backed Valkyrie up against the wall and caught her lips in another heated kiss.

“Fuck,” Carol gasped as Valkyrie moved down to kiss and nip against her neck. Carol let her head fall against the back of the door. “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in all the galaxy.”

Valkyrie snickered at that. “’ Course you’d say that. Flatterer.”

“I mean it,” Carol told her earnestly. Valkyrie pinched her side in response and Carol swatted her hand away from her ribs before moving to unzip her jacket and throw it haphazardly across the room. Valkyrie held up her arms as Carol pulled her shirt over her head, throwing it in a similar fashion. Her hands went back to her sides, fingers brushing over her soft and smooth dark skin before she dived back into the open-mouthed kiss.

Carol ushered them back towards the bed. As she does, Valkyrie pulled off her bomber jacket. Carol was about to push her down onto the bed when Valkyrie reaches to pull her down on top of her. They fall onto the bed in a jumbled heap. Valkyrie chortled, “I hope you know I’m like always a top.”

“So am I.” Carol nipped her jaw before moving down to kiss her down her body. Valkyrie’s fingers curled through her hair. “Guess we’re at a bypass, huh?”

The brunette let out another breathy laugh as she felt Carol’s lips feathered down from her chest to her stomach. Her hands were already beginning to pop open the button to her jeans. “You’re impossible.”

“You’re just starting to realize this now?”

“Fine, but we’re switching next time.”

“Ohhh! So there’s already going to be a next time?”

Danvers!” Valkyrie snapped, clearly frustrated as she shifted beneath the blonde. “Shut up, would you?”

Carol leaned up to kiss her lips one last time before she finally yanked down her jeans. “For you? Anything.”

---

When Carol woke up the next morning, Valkyrie was sitting on the edge of the bed, tying up her boots. At first, she’s surprised to see Valkyrie up so early and ready to go. Then again, she’s not so shocked. Valkyrie doesn’t quite strike her as the type to want to cuddle and spoon the next morning.

She turned her head and froze at the sight of a sleepy Carol.

“Shit, I’m sorry. Did I wake you up?”

“No, no.” Carol yawned, pulling the covers up over her chest as she rolled onto her side, resting her head on her hand. “I normally wake up this early anyway.”

“That’s crazy.” Valkyrie gazed out the window, “I don’t think I’ve been awake this early in years.”

“You didn’t have to, you know.”

Valkyrie frowned. “I’m not really…I’m not really looking for anything permanent. I’m sorry if there was a misunderstanding…?”

“Wha—oh no, I didn’t mean that.” Carol quickly amended to save them both the awkwardness. “It was just shag, I got it. I just meant you didn’t have to worry about anything like that.” Carol, “I’m not looking for anything serious either. But this was fun.”

Finally, Carol felt herself relaxed when she saw the other girl smile a little more comfortably. “I had fun, too.”

Carol waved her off. “Next time sleep in if you want. Or don’t.”

Valkyrie teased, “So there will be a next time.”

“Only time will tell, Val.” Carol winked before letting out another over-the-top yawn, “Now get the hell out so I can get another hour of shut-eye. You know how to wear a girl out.”

Valkyrie snorted again and lightly jabbed her side, causing Carol to grunt and swat her hand away before she finally got up and left. Carol clutched the blankets a little tighter after that, trying to convince herself that she was definitely not in danger of catching feelings for a girl like Val.

Carol spent the next few days out and about in New Asgard. She was interested in learning more about these people and she tried her best to help the people in any way that she could. She saved a ship one afternoon that had run too close to the shore and hit a rock, consequently making it sink. Another day she helped a crew of fishermen rake in a hefty amount of haddock to bring back to shore by sending a few photon blasts through the water. There were a few outlying farms around the village and one afternoon she was able to locate a heard of sheep that seemingly vanished. She saved them from a pack of hungry coyotes before it was too late. In another part of the town, they were reconstructing a few older buildings and some of the workers ask her to hold up walls as they drill them into place.

They’re entirely menial tasks. She wasn’t fighting armies or blowing up space ships or disintegrating tyrants. But she felt the same sense of happiness when she saw the looks on the people’s faces she helped. They shake her hand and hug her tight and kiss her cheeks for her kindness.

One time Talos warned her to be careful, that she might come off as not genuine to some if she took this whole thing too far. She ran the risk of appearing as some pretentious savior. But in her heart she knew she had to be doing the right thing—this is why she had these powers, right? To help others? It would be selfish if she kept them to herself. Whatever it was, she was trying her best to do what was right. This felt like it was right.

It might be in part because their king was currently stewing in his own filth on top of the cliffside. He rarely came down the path. When he did, his visits were brief. Her heart ached for Thor, she knew he was going through some shit. Not a day went by where she didn’t feel the guilt creep into her bones and she would ask herself what would have happened if she had gotten to Earth sooner.

Regardless, Thor couldn’t ignore his duties. Carol wasn’t the Queen of anybody. These people needed a leader and while Carol wanted to help, she knew she wasn’t the woman for the job.

Carol doesn’t see Valkyrie until a couple of days later when she noticed a flash of white flying closer inland while she was taking a walk across the docks. The people around town all know of her name by now and often feel comfortable coming up to talk to her. She had been playing with a couple of kids who were skipping stones across the waterfront when she noticed the familiar creature in the sky.

“Oh! Valkyrie is on her Pegasus again!” One girl cried out, bounding up beside Carol. “I want to be like her one day. I want to be a Valkyrie!”

“Don’t be dumb.” Her brother scolded. “They’re all legends. She’s the last one.”

“I don’t care!” She complained, sticking her tongue out at him before she turned to gaze back at the woman on the winged horse in awe. “I want to be like her when I grow up. And have a horse like that.” She tugged on Carol’s arm, “’ Cept mine’s not gonna be white. It’s gonna be green, like the Hulk.”

Carol smiled down encouragingly at her and pat her gently on the back while her brother snorted and rolled his eyes. “I should probably go talk to her. You two should get home, it’s nearly dinner time.”

After the kids said goodbye Carol took off to the sky. She whizzed through the air, flying straight past Valkyrie and her horse who have to make an abrupt turn last minute to avoid from crashing into her.

Valkyrie shouted a few feet away when Carol finally slows down and looped back. “What gives!?”

“Have you been avoiding me the last couple days?”

“Course not!” Valkyrie complained. “Maybe I’ve been busy.”

“Mhmm.” Carol clapped her hands together. “Tell you what! Why don’t we have a friendly little race? You win, I’ll leave you alone for the rest of the day. I win, you let me take you out to dinner tonight.”

Valkyrie rolled her eyes. “You’re impossible.”

“You’ve mentioned.”

“No, I mean it. It’s literally impossible. Aragorn is fast but we’ll never even come close to catching up to you.”

Carol winked.

“I’ll go easy on you!”

“Yeah right. How about to Bear Island and back?”

“You’re on.”

---

The ocean itself is a magnificent thing, but as Carol flew past the rocky terrain and cliffside that make up Bear Island, she was reminded once again of the simple but unique beauties Earth had to offer.

They dart through canyons and tunnels and duck behind curtains of waterfalls. There are points where the water was so still it looks like a mirror is reflecting the setting sun. It’s a painting in the sky composed of gorgeous orange and red palette. A flock of black and white seabirds caws and flap their wings as Aragorn swoops past them, twisting midair and taking off like a missile as they ducked below a rock arch in the middle of the canyon.

Valkyrie’s was laughing and had the brightest grin on her face that Carol’s ever seen. It made her heart swell seeing Valkyrie so gleeful. She didn’t think she could recall a time she’s looked this calm and relaxed. The warm sun was setting on her and Aragorn, and she appeared to be positively radiant.

Carol was staring at her so fondly she completely missed the huge boulder right in front of her. She smashed into it with a force so strong it sent the rock plummeting into the ocean. Carol rubbed her forehead as she tried to recover and prayed to God Valkyrie hadn’t seen what had happened.

Unfortunately, despite to be seemingly off in her own little world, Valkyrie’s roaring laughter suggested otherwise. She flew by and stopped where Carol was floating.

“Okay, that was priceless.”

“If you tell anyone you saw that I’m going to kill you.” She growled, “Especially Thor. Or Nat.”

“Oh, I’m definitely telling them.” She held out her hand, reaching out to extend to her. “Come on, this is hardly a race anymore.” She shrugged, “I think I won, anyway.”

“We’re having a real race later, you know.” Carol huffed, still rubbing her head. “And next time, I’m bringing my aviators so I can block out the sun.”

“Is that what we’re saying happened?” Valkyrie teased as they took off again, dipping low in the sky and flying close to the waves now. “You, an actual human star, got blinded by the sun?”

“Shut up.” Carol sighed, “Are you letting me take you out to dinner or not?”

“Wow, so romantic.” Valkyrie cooed as she pressed her knee against Aragorn’s side, directing him so he turned a little to the left so they could loop back and return to New Asgard. “Has anyone told you you’re really good at this?”

I normally am, Carol wanted to say, but she swallowed it down. Instead, she wrapped her arms around Valkyrie’s waist and held on tightly. “Don’t drop me. If I die, that’s on you.”

---

Carol took Valkyrie out. Several times. She came outside of her little cabin that’s on the rocks on the oceanfront more often. During the afternoons (which is really the start of her day), she’ll find Carol downtown and help her with whatever project she’s working on. In turn, people start to get to know Valkyrie herself a little more. Before people had told Carol she seemed sort of isolated. Most people gave her some space, though. Everyone all understood the Valkyrie to be dead. To be the last one must have been a lonely experience. Carol hadn’t really thought about it that way until someone pointed it out to her.

Valkyrie brought her to her cabin and told her she thought she should room with her instead of having the Avengers pay for the B&B she’s holed up in. It costs the Avengers virtually nothing to pay for her room and board, but Valkyrie tries really hard to look indifferent when she makes the offer to Carol.

They had been sleeping together more regularly. Carol hadn’t lived with someone since she was on Earth with Maria and Monica. Still, the thought of…not being alone anymore…

It was enticing, to say the least.

So she agreed. Maybe stupidly so. She made sure to preface that she doesn’t know how much longer she’ll be able to stay in New Asgard before she was expected to leave.

They made the most of their time together when it became painfully evident how much of a rapport they have, and how much they like spending time with one and other. Valkyrie showed her Aragorn a few more times. He was also pretty transparent on his feelings for Carol—and that was clear when she tried to ride him and he bucks her off.

Valkyrie had hovered above where she was lying on the ground. “Hm, I should have probably told you they usually only let their Valkyrie ride them. Don’t take offense, he’s like that with everyone.”

“Oh, did you forget?” Carol winced, though she wasn’t really that hurt.

“I mean; it was a little funny.”

“You tell me this now? He’s nearly bit off my fingers! And he’s almost kicked me in the head. Several times. Don’t tell me that’s his way of saying 'He likes you!”'

“I think that’s his way of saying…'I’ll tolerate you.'” Valkyrie chuckled and Carol playfully pushed her shoulder in response. “He must remember when we fought when we first met. They’re very intelligent, you know. If you stick around long enough, maybe he’ll get used to you.”

It was coincidental that Natasha calls her later that afternoon. Carol was outside, watching the waves crash against the rocks as the wind whipped through her hair. Valkyrie had gone up to go check on Thor. They usually did that a couple of days of the week. On Fridays, he would tell them to come up to drink and they agreed, just to see him and make sure he was having social interactions. It was becoming quite prevalent that Thor was not doing any better since Carol had returned here, though.

Her phone rang three times. When Carol saw Natasha’s Caller ID appear on the screen, she hesitated before she forces herself to pick it up.

“Hello?”

“Danvers, what the hell? You haven’t reported in weeks. I thought you might be dead somewhere.”

“Takes a lot more to kill me than a flock of angry puffins and seals.”

“Very funny. Do you have anything new to report?”

“Not really. Thor is the same. Valkyrie and I have been trying to rebuild Asgard and it’s happening…slowly but surely.”

“Great, just as expected. When are you coming back to New York?”

“Come again?”

“I said, are you coming back soon? We might need you.”

“Well…” Carol scratched the back of her neck, “Look, Nat. Could you get Rhodey or something to help you out? I think I can still help the Asgardians out here. They still got a lot of work to do and maybe I can get Thor to turn around and put in a little more effort. But it definitely doesn’t sound like he’s coming back to the Avengers. At least for now. Maybe if we’re able to fix up New Asgard he’ll feel different.”

“Uh-huh…” Natasha started, “Any other reason you want to stick around?”

“Are you insinuating something?”

“Me? Never. I’m shocked you would think that.” Natasha laughed, “You and I are strictly colleagues. I would never suggest us to gossip about something non-work related. That would be incredibly inappropriate and unprofessional.”

“Oh ha-ha. Very funny.”

“Just be careful—that’s all I’m saying, Carol.” Natasha huffed, “You don’t want to get too invested in anything if you have to leave again. In my experience, at least, intergalactic long-distance doesn’t work out well.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.”

Her memories of Maria were proof of that.

“If you’re going to extend your stay there, then would you at least be able to go to Wakanda? Okoye told me there’s been a little scuffle between some of the tribes. I could send you over the briefing details a little more in-depth on your way over there.” Natasha suggested, “Maybe while you’re there you can try and help them make some allies. The world will definitely take notice of New Asgard if they have an alliance with Wakanda.”

Carol thought it could potentially be a great idea, and so she brought it to Thor and Valkyrie. Thor’s at home playing Fortnite with Korg when Carol entered. Valkyrie was sipping on a beer and writing some notes down in a journal. Carol made them pause the game and relayed the information Natasha had told her, starting with how she was going to have to make a trip to Wakanda.

“I think you should come with me.” She told Thor. “Natasha has a point if you can form some kind of goodwill with them they might be able to help out New Asgard in more ways than one.”

“I don’t know…”

“Thor, come on. I’m begging you. Okoye is an Avenger, she’ll help us. This is a slam dunk.” Carol still couldn’t believe he wasn’t completely sold on the idea.

He glanced backward and pointed at Valkyrie, “Why don’t you take Val with you? I shouldn’t leave Asgard alone, but Valkyrie is my best advisor. She’ll be able to go in my stead.

Valkyrie started, “Thor, is that the best—“

“Of course it is! It’s genius.”

Carol exhaled heavily, locking eyes with Valkyrie who still looked like she was on the fence. “One of you should come. I guess it doesn’t matter who.”

“Great, it’s settled. Valkyrie will go with you. Think of it as a little vacation! If you want, spend a couple of extra days there. My treat for all the help you’ve given us.”

Carol crossed her arms over her chest, “Thor, look. I’d hate to be the hard-ass but if we go, you need to go downtown and check on people. Help them if they need it—even if it’s pointless tasks. You showing compassion will go a long way for them.

Carol began to wonder if she was overstepping her boundaries by directing Thor, but he seemed so lost that he hardly took it as a command. Instead, he nodded, “You make a good point, Danvers. I’ll see to it. You can count on me.”

---

“Why are you so nervous?”

“I’m not nervous.”

“Is that why you haven’t said one sarcastic quip this entire trip?” Carol asked. “Come on, I thought we were a little closer than that.”

“Okay, I’m nervous! Are you happy?” Valkyrie snarled.

They had decided to fly on Aragorn to Wakanda and take a quick stop in France overnight before they made the rest of the journey. They were staying the night in a little flat in Paris while Aragorn flew outside of the city limits. She had total faith that if she whistled he would hear and come when she called, but Carol had a hard time believing that they wouldn’t be searching high and low for the creature come the time the following morning.

“Okay. This is good. Let’s talk.” Carol encouraged. “Would you like to tell me why you’re panicking?”

“This is not what Valkyrie do. I was never trained to do this. I'm pissed Thor threw this on me all at once!” She seethed, taking a long swig of a drink from the mini bar. She was plowing through the drinks like she was taking shots of water, scowling every time she took a drink of non-Asgardian alcohol. She had a handle of it in her bag but was trying to savor it over the duration of the trip. “Like, really? He’s the King! All the Valkyrie are trained to do are to be a guard for the throne. We’re not supposed to do any of the political agenda.”

Carol leaned back on her hands on the king bed taking up the majority of the room. “You know you’re not alone, right? I’m here to help if you need it.”

“Carol, I appreciate everything you’ve done for us but even so, you don’t know what’s best for the Asgardians. What if…what if I mess something up? Odin will be cursing me from his grave. I don’t think I can do this. Maybe we can call Thor and…”

“Hey, hey, hey.” Carol finally bounded up to her feet and grabbed Valkyrie’s hands, squeezing tightly. “Breathe, okay? Stop second-guessing yourself. Don’t think of it as some political gain. First of all, it’s Okoye and she isn’t going to try and pull the rug over our heads or manipulate your people. It’s not their style.” Carol added, “Think of it in a different light. Don’t think of it as some exchange between royal families for political power or anything like that. Even if Thor is around right now, Asgard is pretty leaderless. Someone has to take a stand. And if anyone has that courage to take that leap of faith, I know it’s you. You’re sharp, you’re a strategic warrior, and when you want to show it, I know you have a truly kind heart.”

Valkyrie was staring at Carol like she grew a second head. Her mouth was slightly agape as if she was still trying to process everything Carol was saying. Carol squeezed her hands again. “Everything will be fine. I promise. I’m here for you, too.”

After a few moments of silence, she finally said very quietly, “Even when I was a Valkyrie, I wasn’t a leader. I just did everything my sisters told me. It wasn’t until…” She could feel her throat growing sore at the memory, “It wasn’t until I was alone did I realize I had all this power I never had before. I could choose…I could do anything I wanted. And I ran away. I chose to be a coward.”

Carol was equally as quiet, for a moment. It was rare that Valkyrie ever talked about her past. To hear her open up about it now was huge. Her thumb brushed comfortingly over the back of the shorter girls’ hand. “It’s a lot of power.” Carol agreed, “I’ve made the wrong decisions in the past as well. But we learn from it. And we move forward.”

“Higher, Further, Faster.” Valkyrie parroted, a phrase she heard Carol say often.

Carol smiled. “Exactly.”

---

The trip to Wakanda proves all of what she suspected of Valkyrie.

This was both of their first time in Wakanda. It was albeit different than usual—half of the population is missing and parts of the city had to be shut down because of it. Since T’Challa was the last Black Panther, Okoye and the Dora Milaje were trying to run the show for the time being. There were mass disputes over who would become heir to the throne—not only was the King gone but so was the Princess.

They meet Nakia who was trying her best to help Okoye, but it was clear they both were under extreme stress. Still, Okoye puts on her best smile when she saw Carol and met Valkyrie for the first time.

“Ah, so this is the famed Valkyrie I’ve heard. I admit I did not hear of your people until Carol told me the tales she’s learned. You may be interested in meeting some members of our Dora Milaje. We may have more similarities than you would think.” She winked at Valkyrie who has the same light in her eyes Carol sees when she’s riding Aragorn. When she met the Dora Milaje, they greet her and call her sister and Valkyrie looks so overjoyed that she might burst at the seams. They offer to spar with her later that week and Valkyrie accepts immediately, honored to have even been asked.

After their day of meeting them all, Valkyrie sits on the balcony of the room their sharing in the palace. It has a magnificent view of the electrifying city before them. It might be the adrenaline from the day, but Valkyrie seemed to be more candid after Carol passed her a glass of whiskey. Valkyrie was sitting on a loveseat, so Carol sat with her back pressed against the arm of the chair, and she crosses her legs over Valkyrie’s lap who uses them as a table for her drink and arms. They both had shed off their Asgardian layers and were grateful to be wearing more comfortable clothing in the warmer temperature of Wakanda.

“I never told you much about the Valkyrie, have I?”

“No, not really.”

“Why have you never asked? Most people have a million questions.”

Carol shrugged. “I obviously wanted to learn more. In general, they sound like a badass group of women. But I knew the subject was painful. I would never want to drudge up some memories just for the sake of you entertaining my imagination.”

Valkyrie nodded stiffly. “Well. It’s been a while. Maybe I should start.”