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Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again

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It was nearly a month after half the world disappeared, and no one heard anything from anywhere outside of Earth. Well, there was one exception to that. Harper was staying in the background, out of the way from everyone else, when Carol arrived. Not that they could have said anything to her, Carol was too intimidating. In a good way, of course, in the way that Harper knew they wouldn’t be able to think straight while talking to her.

At least, that was until a little while ago. Harper was still trying to call their parents. It was hard to tell if they died or if they just weren’t picking up. Deep down, they knew their parents would have blocked the number if Harper was being a bother. However, they tried to hold onto some sense of hope.

After another repetition of their parents’ voicemail, Harper looked through their contact list. They pulled up the last texts between Annie and themself. It was odd since there wasn’t anything serious in the last couple of messages. Mostly because Annie was in space, there more than likely wasn’t a chance she would get anything they sent. Still, there was something comforting about looking through the texts, no matter how mundane they got.

“Hey, kid, you’ve been pretty quiet,” Carol commented, catching Harper by surprise.

They looked up from their phone, “Um… yeah, you could say that.”

“Can I ask who it is? That you’re missing”

Harper shrugged, “I-it’s my friend, well, my best friend… her boyfriend, he’s my friend too… um there’s my boss, that’s Iron Man. They’re all still in space. A-and they just can’t be gone, but I don’t know.”

“Hey, I can’t promise you anything… Harper, right? But we found something floating in space close to where a few of those stones were used. I’ll at least be checking,” Carol said, putting a hand on their shoulder.

Harper felt their cheeks heat up, “I think you’ll find them… if they were really gone, I’d know. Well, I’d know my best friend for sure.”

For a moment, Harper thought about texting Ned, telling him that Peter and Annie would be back soon. They didn’t. Harper didn’t want to get his hopes up. Not when Harper knew they were probably being too hopeful.

It was pretty late at night when the compound started shaking. Harper was talking with Pepper. Not about anything important, but about how the weather was. How Harper’s next design was coming along. Simple stuff to keep both of them from going crazy.

It was better this way anyhow, they could both run out to the spaceship Carol was carrying. It had to be all of them. Harper could practically hear Annie laughing for ever thinking she might not make it back. Then, Peter could call Ned and give him the news himself. That they were all okay. Things were going to be okay. Half the world may be gone, but two of the people that mattered most were there and they could move on. Maybe Harper would make Annie call her parents so they could stop wondering if she was missing or dead.

Except, only two people came out. Tony and some blue android alien creature. Peter and Annie weren’t there. It felt impossible. This had to be some kind of joke. Sure, it was a messed up joke, but Harper wouldn’t put it past Annie to hide somewhere on the ship and somehow get Peter in on it too. They were alive. They had to be.

“Stark, where’d the others go? Or are you in on this thing too?” Harper asked, a smile at their lips.

Tony didn’t say anything, at least, nothing they could hear. So they made a move to run inside the ship. The android stopped her.

“They aren’t here,” she said, her eyes looking cold and serious.

Harper shook their head, “Nah, you’re in on this thing too. Look, lady, I don’t know who you are, but you can’t fool me like that.”

“Fine, be my guest,” she said, stepping to the side.

Harper ran into the ship, looking around. It wasn’t anything they had ever seen before, but Harper knew that Annie wouldn’t keep this sort of thing going for long. They sighed.

“You guys really are assholes, you know that, right?” they asked, still looking around.

They kept looking through all the same places, there wasn’t anyone else. Slowly, Harper began to realize they were looking around in vain. There weren’t any tears in Harper’s eyes, but there was a blank look on their face.

The only one not there trying to comfort anyone was Natasha, so she went over to Harper, “I’m guessing they’re not here.”

“No shit,” they murmured, “They can’t really be gone, right? Do you think they are?”

Natasha hugged Harper tightly, “I don’t know… there might be a way. We have everyone here now, that could do all of us some good.”

However, when they got inside the compound, it was clear that nothing good was happening. It was an all-out argument over things that had nothing to do with the fact that their best friend was dead. Why wasn’t anyone thinking about bringing everyone back? Everyone lost someone, shouldn’t they all be working harder? There had to be some kind of way to stop this. Because there was no way Harper was about to call Ned and tell him that his best friend wasn’t coming back. It was a conversation they refused to have.

In the heat of it all, Harper wanted to just scream at both Tony and Steve. It didn’t matter if they were at least twenty years older than them, those two were acting like children. All this fighting could wait for after. None of it really mattered, but Harper still covered their mouth, their eyes wide when Tony took off his arc reactor.

Maybe everyone really was gone.

Carol then started to leave, claiming she was going to kill Thanos herself. For the first time in fifteen minutes, Harper began to wonder if maybe she could do something about this. It was possible. Not everyone was capable of carrying a spaceship from the middle of nowhere in the void of space and back to Earth.

“I’m gonna get your friend back, okay? And her boyfriend too. I don’t think you told me their names,” Carol said, looking Harper in the eyes.

Harper felt tears sting their eyes, “Annie and Peter, I don’t know if you’ll see them, but… I-I think they’d both really like you. Annie for sure.”

“I better hurry up, then.”

Of course, the others didn’t just let Carol leave like that. They were insisting on going with her. And with Nebula telling them where Thanos was, it seemed like their job was going to be easy enough. It almost made Harper want to go with all of them. There was a small chance that everyone could be saved, and Harper wished they could be there. But it wasn’t like they could really bring much to the table.

So instead, they waited. Harper still didn’t tell Ned anything, not when there was a chance that no one was really dead. The Avengers could just snap half of the world back. Annie and Peter would be back, and they could all go back to their normal lives. Well, as normal as they ever had been.

It was another waiting game, and Harper was pacing around the compound like a crazy person. Maybe they should find something to occupy their time, but what could they really do? Harper was really just stuck in the same room they had been in since Thanos happened.

There was the obvious lurking thoughts in Harper’s head. This wasn’t fair. Not to Annie and not to them. Everything had finally settled into a rhythm, and it was a good one. And then that spaceship had to come down and ruin everything.

Harper kept reminding themself of two things. One, it would never have made a difference if Annie had been there when it all happened, she would have only disappeared in front of them that way. Two, Annie was probably coming back with Peter before they could ever have a chance to let the grief sink in.

Still nothing from their parents. There weren’t any notifications on Harper’s phone. Well, that was a lie, but they didn’t want to text Ned or do anything until they could deliver good news. Good news that they were still waiting on.

When the ship finally landed, Harper ran out, still feeling their stomach churning. There wasn’t anything to worry about. It wasn’t like they would just fail.

However, all the ginger could do was stare blankly as the others filed off the ship. They somehow carried themselves with more grief. It was obvious what kind of answer Harper was going to get if they asked anyone what happened. So Harper instead kept their mouth shut and looked at them.

Feeling invisible was common back in Seattle, when their parents couldn’t care less about what Harper did. Back when only a handful of people seemed to believe in them. No one was quite acknowledging Harper. Not even Carol.

It was the blue android from earlier who approached Harper, “Your friends… I don’t think they’re coming back.”

“Y-yeah, I kinda figured,” Harper choked, feeling tears threatening to pour out of their eyes.

The android looked at them, “Which one were you closest to? I’m assuming you were worried about the teenagers.”

“The girl, her name’s Annie… w-why? Did you see when they…” they refused to admit it.

“Yes… she tried to hold on, I can give her some good credit for that. She died in the boy’s arms.”

“I think you’re talking about her boyfriend… I guess it’s good to know she didn’t… well… she wasn’t alone.”

“I wasn’t sure if you would find comfort in that or not.”

“It’s more than I had earlier… thank you… um… what’s your name?”

“Nebula.”

“I’m Harper… you know, what do you think of some bronze accents to match all this blue and purple you got going on?” they asked, changing the subject altogether.

Nebula stared at them, intrigued, “Why would you want to do that?”

“Because I think it’d look nice, and you seem nice enough.”

Once everyone was finally asleep, Harper was still awake. Not from sketching designs, but because they were staring at their phone screen. They knew Ned would still be up. He wasn’t sleeping all that well lately. Neither were they. But this was probably the first time in hours that Harper wasn’t crying too much to talk.

So they pressed the call button and waited.

The line on the other end clicked, “Hey, you doing alright?”

“I um... “ Harper couldn’t say it, not without crying, “The um… the spaceship came back.”

“Were they there?”

Harper let out a sob, “N-no, they… they were supposed to and they didn’t. Th-they were killed with everyone else. A-and I didn’t wanna tell you ‘cause the others were gonna fix that, but… b-but they can’t. N-Ned they died.”

“Oh.”

There wasn’t any other noise on the other end. No breathing or crying or rustling in the background. Harper still felt tears streaming down their face. They couldn’t breathe through their nose because of how stuffy it was from crying and they could feel a headache start to come on.

“They don’t think there’s another way?”

Harper let out a shaky sigh, “No. Th-that was the other way. The other way didn’t work.”

Another long period of silence weighed down on Harper. Neither of them hung up on each other that night. Not because they were talking, but because neither could bear to leave the other one alone.

This wasn’t fair.

Chapter Text

There wasn’t a whole lot to be done. The small conference between the remaining Avengers was short. Life was slowly moving on. Governments were slowly reforming, some better than others. Harper was asked to go get some papers by Natasha so she could talk to Rhodey on her own. It rose a few questions, but Harper went off anyways.

Namely because there were only a handful of things that Natasha asked them to leave during. It had to be something personal, and Harper figured that they would figure out soon enough.

As much as they wanted to, Harper didn’t listen in on the conversation. Instead they wandered about after getting the papers they were asked to get. Harper checked their phone, seeing Ned replied to their text from earlier. It had been a couple of weeks since they hung out. Not because they were avoiding him, it was just the way things ended up playing out.

After Peter and Annie disappeared with half of the universe, Harper went out of their way to be around Ned. Not because of any feelings, but because they both understood each other the best. And despite Annie's suggestions, Harper never asked Ned out. It just never seemed like the right time to do so. Not to mention they were rarely in the city because of their job.

           Ever since Tony went off to retire from being an Avenger, Harper was out of a job. If he wasn’t going to be a superhero, then he didn’t need anyone around to work on suit designs or anything. Naturally, there wasn’t a whole lot left for Harper until they were speaking with Natasha when they were going to leave and try to find somewhere to go. She seemed to want to do something for those affected by the snap. Eventually, after a long conversation and some crying on both of their parts, Natasha resolved to take some type of action.

From there, Harper became Natasha’s assistant. Between organizing what was left of the Avengers and overseeing the organization that took care of children orphaned after the snap, there was a lot to keep track of. Besides, it gave Harper enough money to get by as well.

Scrolling through their phone, Harper saw some old messages between them and Tony. Those were from over a year ago. Ever since the snap, Harper and Tony seemed to have less and less things to talk about. That was just the way things were.

Instead, Harper went ahead and messaged back Ned. The two of them were messaging about what to do the next time they saw each other. Whatever they ended up doing, it would likely involve them talking about what it would be like if their best friends were still around. If Peter and Annie had come off that ship on that day.

What Harper never asked was if Tony would have been so quick to retire if those two had been okay. It wasn’t like anyone would have an answer anyways. Besides, there wasn’t much use in trying to figure out what-ifs.

It didn’t take much longer for Harper to find the papers and when they made their way back, they could hear Steve talking to Natasha. Meaning that it was likely okay for them to come back into the picture. Even though it didn’t take much deduction to figure it was about Clint when they came back to see Natasha doing her best not to cry.

Much like Harper and Tony’s strained relationship, Natasha and Clint hadn’t really spoken since Thanos either. Well, as far as Harper knew, he was under house arrest during that time. That was her best friend, though. Of course Natasha was keeping tabs on him.

Though, in Harper’s opinion, he seemed a bit beyond repair. Not that they could blame him, losing a whole family was pretty difficult. Except, Harper lost their sister, parents, and best friend and they weren’t an assassin.

Then again, there were probably better ways for Harper to sort out their problems too. Harper probably could have afforded to talk to Tony.

However, it was easier to simply not bring it up.

“Here are those papers, Nat,” Harper said, setting them down on the desk.

It almost seemed like Steve and Natasha were in the middle of something, but they didn’t feel bad about it. Either way, things were just oddly tense. Granted, things had been tense since day one, and now they were still just as worse off as ever.

Well, unless it was Steve talking. The guy was always so positive, and they couldn’t understand how or why. Of course, it wasn’t like anyone would be coming back any time soon. Everyone just had to make do with what was left.

Steve smiled slightly, “There was a pod of whales today. The Hudson’s looking a bit clearer too.”

Harper gave a stiff smile, biting back their tongue. How, almost everyone they cared about five years ago was gone, but, at least the whales were doing just fine. It was rude and they knew it. Steve just had a different way of moving on, and he was genuinely acting like he had moved on. Except, they knew better and so did Natasha.

“Oh, is that the peanut butter with honey in it?” Harper asked, taking a couple bread slices.

Natasha shook her head, “Just regular.”

“Screw it,” they muttered, taking the butter knife and starting to make themself a sandwich.

That was when a sound rang through the room. There was someone trying to call. At this point, it could have been anything. Harper didn’t think it would be anything that actually mattered. Instead, they went to putting their sandwich together and took a bite of it.

Natasha and Steve seemed perplexed by what was on the screen and Harper shook their head, “What’s up?”

“Is that an old message?” Steve asked, not paying attention to Harper.

Natasha shook her head, “This is right now, outside. Harper, look at this.”

Harper nodded, circling around to look at the camera. Only for their jaw to drop when they saw who was on that screen.

“But he’s been missing for five years…” they trailed off, clutching their sandwich, “Maybe you should let him in.”

Just for one moment, Harper wondered if Scott Lang was alive, could Annie still be alive? Was there still a chance to bring back everyone? It would mean that things could go back to the way they were before. That would be enough for Harper to just go back to the city, finish their degree and become a fashion designer. They would probably start talking to Tony again too.

In that moment, Harper knew they would give anything to bring back everyone. Because at the end of the day, they lost just about everything. The only person really left from how things were was Ned. And Harper liked Ned, they really did. However, there was no way he would ever compare to Annie.

They knew that they would never compare to Peter, so maybe that was how it worked. However, Harper also knew that everyone just coming back for no reason wasn’t how things worked. While they would have killed for that to happen, it was impossible.

Which was exactly why all three of them were left wondering what in the world Scott was doing. Something had to have happened, but it wasn’t anything Harper could theorize. The same could be said for Steve and Natasha since they seemed just as confused. Still, they let Scott in regardless of that.

“So… are we gonna let him in?” Harper asked, taking another bit of their sandwich.

A few moments later, Scott was inside and standing in front of them. He was pacing around, almost as though he knew exactly what he had wanted to say five seconds ago. Currently, however, he had forgotten everything he needed to say. That much was blatantly obvious to Harper.

Steve gave a concerned look at Scott, “You alright?”

“Yeah, yeah, just a bit hungry… and am I hallucinating or is there another one of you guys now?” Scott asked, pausing to look at Natasha’s sandwich, “Is that someone’s sandwich? ‘Cause I’m starving.”

On that note, Harper watched in slight amusement as he took the sandwich and started eating it, “I’m Harper, I just work here.”

“Well I figured that, but are you a new Avenger? A lot can happen in five years,” Scott said, his mouth full of food.

Harper shook their head, “Nope, just an assistant. What about you?”

A part of Harper wanted to say everything. How they weren’t an Avenger, but their best friend technically had been. That said best friend was dead, but she was his biggest fan, and if she were alive and there she would have practically begged for an autograph.

Instead, Harper kept quiet and listened to Scott’s story.

           “You guys ever studied quantum physics?” Scott asked, seeming to start off nonchalant.

Steve let out a small, exasperated laugh, “Only for casual conversation.”

“Yeah… I was in the quantum realm and Hope she was my um… she was supposed to pull me back. And then there was… Thanos-”

“You mean the snappening?” Harper prompted.

Scott shrugged, “I guess, but um… she didn’t pull me back and I was stuck there for five years.”

“I’m so sorry Scott, that’s an awfully long time,” Natasha replied, frowning.

“But that’s the thing, it wasn’t. It only felt like five hours.”

And maybe Harper was just being delusional, but that almost sounded like there was an idea. A real point in Scott coming all this way. In being in New York. To tell all of them that there was a way to make things better.

Everyone could be brought back. And of course he would think that was possible. He hadn’t been in this world for very long.

As Scott continued to explain himself, Steve shook his head, “So you want to build a time machine?”

“No! I just want us to build something that could shrink us down to get us through ti… okay, it’s a time machine,” Scott said, a resigned look on his face.

Harper shrugged, “Is it really the craziest thing we’ve ever done?”

“Considering there’s no scientific proof… yes,” Natasha pointed out, sighing, “Look, obviously I want this to work as much as the next guy, but we need to be reasonable.”

They shook their head, “To hell with reasonable! Is it reasonable that half the universe just disappeared at the snap of some asswipe’s fingers? Does that sound like there was any science behind that before it happened? Because it sure as hell wasn’t something on my radar five years ago.”
There was a pregnant pause in the room and Harper sighed, “You guys all know what I mean. Thanos winning was impossible, but here we are. What’s the worst that could come from trying this?”

“I swear I didn’t ask… Harper? Yeah, Harper, to sell this for me. But it might be worth a shot,” Scott said, sighing a bit.

Steve nodded slowly, “Maybe we could get scientific proof. We haven’t seen Tony in awhile.”

“Steve, that’s a terrible idea,” the ginger interjected only to cause another awkward silence, “I mean, come on, he has no interest in being a part of this anymore. He made that very clear. What does that say to him if we just march in there, demanding he help us with the craziest possible plan?”

Natasha sighed, nodding, “Harper’s got a point there… he might not want to help.”

“But wouldn’t he want to get everyone back? That’s what the rest of us want, right?” Steve pointed out.

Harper sighed, “Some people moved on… to a point. If you bothered to pay attention to the news, you’d see he’s married and has a kid. Maybe he still thinks about everyone, but he’s managing.”

“So you think he’s just given up?”

“I do, actually. And I feel like I would know better than any of you. Look, I get it, you guys were on the run, but I was the one who worked for him before Thanos. You guys don’t know him like I did,” they pointed out.

Scott looked between the three of them, “Um… do you want me to back out for a sec? I think I should back out for a sec. I didn’t mean to cause an argument or anything.”

“No, Scott, you’re fine. We just need to figure out how to get this to work properly. You’re right, Harper, we hadn’t been around before everything. Still, if anyone would know what to do, it would be Tony,” Natasha said, sighing as she tried to think it through.

Steve frowned, running a hand through his blond hair, “I know… just… wait! What if we all go there with Scott and have him pitch the idea. It was his idea anyways. Why should we try to sell something that we didn’t come up with?”

“I still don’t think it’ll work the way you want it to,” Harper paused before shaking their head, “But screw it, it’s the only shot we really have.”

Natasha looked at everyone, “Well, if we’re all in agreement, then let’s go over and talk to Tony tomorrow.”

“Great! That’s awesome, but um… I kinda came on a whim and I don’t really have anywhere to stay,” Scott admitted, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

Harper smiled a bit, “Figured as much, come on, there’s enough room for everyone here. I can get something set up for you.”

“You sure? Because I can just chill on the couch or-”

“I’ve got it, don’t worry. What’re we supposed to do with all these rooms for people who stay here when there’s really only three of us who stay here?” Harper pointed out, “Now do you want a room or not?”

Once they got a nod of approval from Natasha, they continued to lead Scott to where all the boarding rooms were. It really was meant to house all of the team at once and then some. However, it was made way before Thanos came into the picture, that much was obvious. There were only a few heroes still left, and Harper could tell that much for sure. They opened one of the rooms, frowning when they saw it was all dusty and empty.

They shook their head, “Sorry, this is a designer’s worst nightmare. If you were staying here, I’d offer to fix it up for you.”

“Why? This is… alright,” Scott said, running a finger across the nightstand.

Harper’s eyebrows rose, “Alright for a medieval peasant. Look, I may be Nat’s assistant, but I’m a fashion designer first, dude. You remember White Swan?”

“Well, yeah! She was one of the only heroes on the west coast,” Scott pointed out, “What about her?”

They smiled weakly, “Well, apart from her being my best friend, I take credit for all the suit designs, and the first one was when I was, like, fifteen and the second, way better one, I was seventeen. I’m, like, a fashion genius. Just saying.”

“Not that you’re tooting your own horn or anything,” Scott said with a weak laugh, “She was one of the-”

“Yeah… she went up to space with Tony and Peter. Tony came back, but they didn’t. Which sucks because I was actually starting to enjoy having Peter around. Like a little brother, ya know?” Harper explained, quickly blinking back tears, “But that’s not important. If this works, they’ll be back and it’ll be like none of this ever even happened. And you can get your lady friend back.”

There was something about knowing that Scott hadn’t even been able to grieve anyone he lost. Something that gave an added hope or delusion to everyone. If Steve and Natasha even began to believe this was a possibility, then that meant they were believing it was a possibility.

Then again, Harper knew nothing about the quantum realm or quantum physics in the first place. It seemed like that was all Scott’s territory for the moment. Hopefully, that would mean Tony knew what to do.

Only, deep down, Harper knew that if there were a way to get everyone back and Tony figured it out, he would have told everyone first. At the same time, being in space like that caused some sort of massive shift they were unable to comprehend. It was possible he hadn’t done anything to bring anyone back.

Except, they doubted it. Regardless of any unspoken fights between them, Harper knew Tony wouldn’t have just given up like that. They stayed standing there in Scott’s temporary room.

He cleared his throat, “You alright?”

“As alright as I’m gonna be. I just… I don’t want what happened last time everyone thought they could fix this to happen again,” they explained.

“What happened last time? If you don’t mind me asking. You don’t need to say anything if it’s too much.”

Harper shook their head, “It’s cool, so Thanos had all the stones. There was this one lady, Carol, she basically led everyone to where he was after… everything. It was supposed to be a piece of cake and a last resort. Get the gauntlet and snap everyone back into place. Turns out he destroyed all the stones.”

“Hey, I know you’re supposed to be an adult and stuff, but… do you need a hug or something, kid?”

There were tears in Harper’s blue eyes and they quickly nodded. Scott stepped over and hugged them, and Harper could hear Scott sniffling a bit too. They all had really lost someone. All of this still felt like a never ending nightmare that they couldn’t wake up from. None of it was fair. Why did one… one thing get to decide half the universe was going to die. No one else wanted this. The one person who had this goal was dead, and everyone else had to live with the aftermath of it all.

At this point, Harper didn’t know where to go from there if Scott’s outlandish time traveling idea wouldn’t work.

It was well past midnight when Harper finally decided to call Ned. There wasn’t exactly a good way to explain what happened that day. Maybe it was supposed to all be completely secret, but how were they supposed to know? Besides, it wasn’t like Harper had ever been one to keep secrets from their closest friends. At least, not completely.

“So… something kinda crazy happened today,” Harper started.

There was a pause before Ned responded, “What happened?”

“Do you remember Ant-Man?”

“Yeah, what about him? Didn’t he disappear with everyone else or something?” he asked, not seeming to think anything of it.

Harper sighed a bit, thinking through their words again, “Well, you see… he showed up today. Kind of out of nowhere. He was stuck in the quantum realm for five years. It turns out everyone in charge of pulling him back disappeared.”

“Oh, that’s crazy. What’s he like?”

“Um… pretty cool, you know, for losing a lot of close friends and family and then everyone still alive is five years older. He’s handling it better than I would’ve,” they said.

The conversation didn’t contain the possibility of time travel. Originally, Harper was going to tell him. But if it didn’t work out, they didn’t want him to be disappointed a second time around. Maybe it was best to keep the disappointment to a minimum. If it worked, they were sure he would be one of the first to know.

Chapter Text

The day was sunny enough. That had to be a good sign. In a little bit of time, everyone would be back. Harper could finally see their best friend, and maybe they could go back to how things used to be before.

Being the youngest out of those in the car, Harper got stuck in the back. Though, Scott was there too. Somehow, Harper didn’t really notice that anyone was doing anything. Looking out the car window, it was easy to get lost in their thoughts. Thoughts about when things were easier. Before something like Thanos was even in the picture.

As they drove closer to the lake house, Harper was starting to realize why they never bothered to come. It was exactly like they thought it was going to be. Too much like all of those easier times. Only, the people who made those times easy were nowhere to be found.

“Annie? You’re up, right?” Harper asked, looking over from their sketchbook.

The girl sat up, a small smile on her face as she was playing with Peter’s hair, “Yeah, usually am.”

There was a beat of silence as Annie continued messing with Peter’s hair. He was already asleep. So was Ned. Harper had tried to get them to stay up, but that clearly didn’t work as evidenced by Ned’s soft snores.

“I don’t know if it’s because it’s four in the morning and I’m delusional, but… do you think there’s anything after we die?” they inquired, closing their book and setting it aside.

Annie stopped messing around with Peter’s hair and thought for a moment, “Well, I don’t really know. I mean, if there is something, I’m positive I’m going to the spot reserved for not so great people. But… it’s also kinda nice thinking someone like Tina actually got to start over.”

“Annie, sweetie, you’re literally a superhero. If there’s an afterlife or something, you’re going to the spot reserved for great people,” Harper insisted.

She laughed a bit, “Right, whatever you say, Harper. You’re always right.”

“Obviously. You can’t be the one always right, the world would spontaneously combust! The responsibility is therefore mine,” they claimed.

It was silly, but Harper really hoped they had been right. Maybe it wouldn’t matter, though. They couldn’t help thinking that Tony had something up his sleeve. Something that would make it so everyone could be saved. Then, they could ask Annie for real, and Annie would probably have an answer of some sort. They hoped so.

No one said very much on the ride over. Not even Scott who seemed to talk as a way to fill up any awkward space. Granted, Harper wasn’t sure if they wanted to talk about much of anything anyways. There was a solid chance it would get to the topic of the people they missed. Because Harper, Natasha, and Steve had five years to try and recover from their losses. Scott barely had a couple of days.

A couple of days after figuring out for certain who died, Harper could barely even get out of bed. Let alone travel across the country and go out on a limb to tell some Avengers that weren’t ever guaranteed to be there and explain how time travel could possibly exist and fix their problems. How Scott was managing this while keeping everything together was beyond them.

Maybe it was just because he didn’t let the grief sink in just yet. Hopefully, it wouldn’t. Then, Harper could brag to Annie about how they met her all-time favorite superhero. There was something gratifying about that picture. Probably because Annie was alive whenever they thought about it.

Before they could really finish that thought, the car was pulled into Tony Stark’s driveway. Harper hadn’t spoken to him since he formally told them that he didn’t need a suit maker or assistant anymore. Unbeknownst to him, Pepper kept Harper on call for different fashion things. It was more of a formality, but it helped Harper know that, if nothing else, Pepper didn’t see a need to cut them off.

Except, something told Harper this could be what finally did that. They knew a little bit about Tony’s daughter. Although, they also knew a little bit about this lake house too. It was a bit too much like Tahoe for their taste. Almost too many memories.

When all of them were sitting around on Tony’s porch, Harper could vaguely hear Scott explaining himself one last time. They couldn’t be bothered to pay complete attention. Honestly, Harper wasn’t sure why they were there. It wasn’t like they had any crazy powers or serious talents to be put to work in any type of time heist.

If Harper stared too hard into space, they almost expected to hear Peter say some weird science fact. Why that mattered so much, they weren’t sure. 

“So… you and Annie?” Harper asked, sitting next to the boy on the couch after unpacking everything.

He nodded, “Yeah. She’s great actually. I mean, I’ve liked her for months, so, I mean, I-I just wasn’t sure if she liked me or-”

“I get it. I’m the best friend. And I know that we kinda met before, but since it looks like this thing you guys got is gonna last for more than a week, then I gotta do the normal best friend thing,” Harper replied, cutting off Peter’s rambling.

Peter looked at them and shook his head, “What best friend thing?”

“Oh, nothing big. Just, if you even so much as consider hurting Annie in any way, shape, or form I will take your right foot and shove it so far up your ass that you choke on it,” they said, giving a light shrug.

His doe eyes went to the size of dinner plates and he scooted away, “Okay, okay, got it. I-I’d never do that,  for the record. I really like her. I mean, I can’t even hurt people that I don’t know, so… I really couldn’t hurt her. Promise.”

Harper laughed, “Oh, relax, I was only warning you. She was right, you get nervous really easily.”

“She says that?”

“Well, among other super top-secret things.”

Peter’s posture loosened up and he leaned forward, “What did she say?”

“It’s gotta be a secret! I’m gonna make some lemonade,” Harper said, getting up from the couch.

“Look, if you guys came for literally any other reason, I really like seeing you guys. There’s seven places set up at the table,” Tony started as the others got up to leave.

Somehow Harper managed to tune everything out. How they did it was unclear. Maybe there were more memories running through their head than they really anticipated. They still hadn’t gotten up. Natasha gave them a look, almost as though she was asking what Harper was doing.

There was a huge choice being offered up. If they didn’t bring up time travel, then they could see Tony and Pepper. But how couldn’t they bring it up? How were Peter and Annie not supposed to come up? They couldn’t just stay. It would bring back too many memories that they couldn’t understand how he didn’t see all of it the same way.

Except, no one ever brought up either of them. Then again, Steve and Natasha and Scott didn’t know Peter or Annie very well. Not enough to genuinely care about their deaths. Definitely not enough to realize how it probably impacted Tony.

“Um… just a sec,” Harper said, waving off Natasha.

Tony looked at them, “It’s been awhile.”

“It’s exactly like Tahoe, don’t you think?” they asked, looking around.

“What do you mean?” Tony asked, raising an eyebrow.

“You know… this is like when we were all in those cabins. I mean, that was, like, right before shit hit the fan and, well, you know. The snappening.”

“The snappening?”

“Yeah, and you know… I get that you’ve got this super great life with Pepper and your cute little daughter. I’m happy for you, I guess. But it really feels like you forgot all the other important people. I know Peter was important to you, I wasn’t as close, but he was a good friend. And, you know, you talk about not wanting to lose children but you’re conveniently ignoring that chunk of time when you were convinced Annie was your daughter. So, I guess it’s your choice, but some of us just aren’t as lucky as you were. And I’m not gonna make you help with this time heist or whatever, but I want you to know damn well that I’m gonna do whatever it takes to get both of them back. Because we both know they would do the same for us.”

Tony stayed silent for a few moments and sighed, “It’s a suicide mission.”

“Well maybe that’s better than doing nothing. You don’t have to agree, but suicide mission or not, I’m sticking with it,” they moved to stand up.

Tony shook his head, “It’s been five years-”

“Yeah, five years and I still can’t do anything without thinking about my best friend or my family or anything that I used to know before all of this. Some of us never had the means to move on properly. And-”

“Hey, calm down, if you just come in with-”

“Don’t cut me off when I’m clearly in the right here. Don’t cut me off when I tried to grieve properly and talk to you about everything and you would just change the subject. Look, if this doesn’t work out, I don’t lose a whole lot. So I’m doing this and so are the rest of us. I hope you realize that,” they finished, fists clenched as they stood up.

At that point, Tony didn’t say anything as Harper turned and went back to the car. He didn’t try to stop them. Probably because it was apparent that it would have all been for nothing.

Maybe Harper didn’t think they had any useful talent. But they also knew Annie would have been the first to tell them they were wrong about that.

The drive back, Harper never asked about where they were going. They were too wrapped up in thinking about what they brought to the table. Stubbornness sure, and designing for certain. And maybe Harper learned something from the different things Natasha taught them about fighting.

Although, it was starting to concern Harper a little bit once they noticed the route was a little bit different than normal. They weren’t going to the compound, that much was for certain.

When the car was pulled up to a diner, Harper looked around, “What’re we doing?”

“Getting reinforcement,” Natasha replied, “Kind of like a second opinion.”

Scott sighed, “You really think this guy will agree? I mean, he seemed pretty adamant about it.”

“I said he probably would be. But I’m sure as hell not giving up,” Harper replied, “I’ll become some sort of crazy physicist if that’s what it takes at this point.”

With that in mind, the four of them went to the diner. It was a little bit packed, but it was easy to figure out who the aforementioned “reinforcement” was supposed to be. Harper had seen Bruce every once in awhile, but it was always a tiny bit weird to see an oversized, slightly green man. Then again, maybe this was what they had asked for when they started working with one of the Avengers. It was really hard to say.

Again, Harper just couldn’t get themself to focus on what was happening right in front of them. Had they said the right thing to Tony? It was possible that they only made things worse. But if anyone was going to put things into perspective about just who they lost five years ago, Harper knew that Natasha, Steve, and Scott weren’t going to cut it. They tried nibbling at the grilled cheese they ordered, but it was hard to eat when it was clear the fate of their best friend was in the hands of the small group sitting around them.

A couple of kids asking Scott to take a picture of them with Bruce was what forced Harper back into reality. It was pretty clear that Scott hadn’t felt noticed at all. After all, he wasn’t one of the original, New York-based superheroes. Annie had gone through that too when she first moved. That was just another thing Annie would have probably killed to talk to Scott about. After she stopped freaking out over meeting her idol.

That was what would happen right after everyone came back. Maybe the environment would have a couple of kinks in there, getting half of the life from earlier back, but that was okay. There were far worse things going on with only half of everything. 

“You know, I’m a superhero too, Ant-Man?” Scott said, trying to hand back the phone to the kids.

It was a painfully awkward exchange with Bruce trying to get the kids to take a picture with Scott. Something that didn’t work seeing how the kids wanted to back away.

Scott sighed, mumbling, “No one knows who Ant-Man is.”

“Um… if I may, that’s not totally true,” Harper said softly, still keeping an eye on what else was being said.

Scott laughed, “Thanks, but I’m not totally sure you count if you work for the Avengers.”

“Psh… I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about my friend, White Swan, remember? She freaking loved you and thought you were amazing. And when, not if but when, we get everyone back, she’ll  probably take all the selfies in the world with you,” they insisted.

This was what Harper wanted to think about. Not about all the ways things could go wrong, but about all the things that could happen after everyone was back.

Harper gazed down at the paper that Bruce was drawing on. It looked like he was trying to figure out what the suits for time travelling would look like. Red and white with nothing but an exorbitant amount of padding. The whole thing was extremely tacky to say the least.

“Harper’s the fashion expert here,” Natasha said, looking at the design.

Harper nodded, “Yeah, just hand it over here, I think I’ve got some ways I can help to make it better.”

Bruce handed the sheet over to Harper and they looked at it and reached into the pocket of their olive green jacket, “Yeah… I feel like there’s just one tiny improvement to be made,” they paused as they pulled a lighter out and set the paper on fire.

“Woah what?!” Bruce exclaimed.

Harper put the burning paper in a glass of water, “Those suits are fucking hideous. I’m gonna take care of designing.”

Natasha couldn’t stop herself from laughing. Five years working with Harper taught her to expect things like this. Though, with a lot of the regular Avengers things on hold, it was also easy to forget they liked working on these projects.

“But they were functional!” Bruce replied, looking concerned.

Harper rolled their eyes, “Yeah, but on my watch something can look cool and be functional. And you don’t have the original design anymore. So tell me what makes this so functional.”

After getting the basic list of what needed to be put into the suit, Harper swore up and down they would have a better design done and ready to be tried out by tomorrow. Which meant a sleepless night for them and a whole lot of coffee. The sketch didn’t take too long, but getting the materials certainly did. And it wasn’t like they could ask Natasha for help since she was running off trying to get reinforcements.

They assumed “reinforcements” was code for a last-ditch attempt to get Clint back. It was understandable, Harper would have done the same for Annie if the roles were switched like that. Then again, Thor had yet to be seen since that day a few years ago either. 

Some upbeat music played in the background as they worked on building one of the suits. If one got done, then the rest would hopefully be a breeze. Looking at the clock, Harper noticed it was close to midnight and the first suit was halfway done. They would have to pick up the pace.

Their phone started to ring and they picked it up, not looking at the contact. Surely if someone called around midnight, it was something important.

“Hey, Harper… is that a sewing machine?” Ned asked, his voice coming through the speaker.

Harper laughed a bit, “Yep, I’ve got a super huge secret project I’m working on. If it goes right, I think you’re gonna love it.”

“But why can’t you just tell me now?”

“Because there’s a chance this project may end up not working out, and it’s only cool if it works.”

There was a pause as Ned tried to understand what they were getting at, “Well, you asked me to call you, is everything alright?”
“Oh yeah, I wanted to tell you that I finally talked to Tony… went as well as you would expect,” they replied, the sewing machine still whirring as they spoke.

“What did you tell him?”

They sighed, “Not a whole lot, just kind of… well, when I went to see him… he’s got this lake house.”

“Like when we were all in Tahoe?”

“Yes! Exactly like that. Except, you know, it’s New York. But it reminded me so much of everything and I kinda snapped. I mean, I feel like I either said the right thing or that I just pissed him off.”

“I’m sure you said the right thing. You know you would’ve said it sooner or later. It’s better you said it earlier while it was daylight and you weren’t drinking anything,” he pointed out.

Harper reached over to get a drink of coffee from a mug balancing haphazardly on their table, “Hey, I drunk dialled you one time. And that was after I turned twenty-one!”

“Still, it could’ve happened again,” Ned pointed out as he listened to the sewing machine start up again, “Do you want me to keep talking to you while you’re doing your project?”

They nodded despite him not being able to see them, “That’d be nice… wait, don’t you work tomorrow? I don’t want you staying up late if-”

“It’s my day off tomorrow. Don’t worry about it. Besides, it’s more important you stay up, so I’m happy to help.”

Chapter Text

At some point in the morning, Harper was woken up not by the sun or by an alarm, but by a phone call. The ringing wouldn’t stop even though Harper would have insisted they deserved at least another five minutes of sleep. So they let the ringing go until it stopped. Only for it to start up again another couple minutes later.

“Hello?” Harper grumbled.

There was a chuckle on the other end, “Making time heist suits?”

“Tony? I swear if you’re calling me while I’m sleeping to tell me I’m being stupid I swear I’ll-”

“No, not that. But are you making time heist suits?” he asked again.

Harper rubbed their eyes and groaned, “Yes, I’m making time heist suits. And they’re going great no thanks to you.”

“Hey, if you stop overworking yourself and you wait a few hours, I could help you with your designing. How many suits have you made?”

They sighed, looking to the fabrics and threads and materials strewn around their room, “One… out of… out of enough.”

“Yep, hold tight. And don’t let anyone do anything too stupid, got it?”

“Look, you gotta tell me what’s up otherwise I’m gonna not know what to do,” Harper pointed out.

He sighed, “I figured out how to make it work. But I wanna tell everyone myself, but I also don’t want you working yourself too hard because I know you would.”

“Alright, fine, your secret’s safe with me,” Harper said, “Now can I let you go so I can get some more sleep?”

“Go for it, see you in a bit,” Tony told them, hanging up with a click.

And try as Harper might to get a few minutes of extra sleep, they simply couldn’t. Not when they knew Tony was coming, it was impossible to relax. Was it because of what they said the day before? Or was it something else that convinced him? It didn’t matter, all that mattered was that this could possibly work.

If Tony was there, then they were doing something right. He wouldn’t change his mind like this unless he figured something out. Something way more important than a faster way to make suits.

A few hours later and Scott was getting into the new and improved suit Harper made. Maybe this was the stupid thing Tony wanted them to stop, but they weren’t the type to make up a killer excuse. Besides, how bad could it be really? If Tony were really worried about someone getting hurt, he would have told them to tell everyone that he was coming.

Looking at the new suit that was similar in design, but instead used red and black as the main colors, Harper was satisfied. For only having a whole night to get it done, it was arguably some of their best work. Even better if it successfully shrank and did everything it was meant to.

Within a few moments, Bruce was already starting to send Scott into the quantum realm. Harper didn’t say anything, figuring it would just be that nothing happened. Then they could sit around in defeat for a little while.

Instead, they all found themselves face-to-face with a young Scott. Then an old Scott. Then a baby Scott. Finally, Scott was back to his regular self. Harper laughed despite themself. There was no way this was going to go well, that much was obvious to them. 

Scott sniffed and cringed, “I don’t know if that was baby me, old me, or just… me.”

Hopefully Tony got in there soon, because Harper was starting to doubt any of them had any faith in this plan. If they hadn't known what was to come, they likely would have felt fairly hopeless themself. Instead, they knew exactly what was going to happen, so they just remained calm.

"What's got you so relaxed?" Natasha asked, standing next to them.

They shrugged, "I don't really know... I guess I just feel really good about this."

"So far it's all gone to shit," she pointed out.

Harper nodded, "Perhaps, but maybe it's supposed to be hard at first. Come on, Nat, it's time travel. Not exactly the easiest thing ever. Hell, I think getting Clint to come over here would be easier than that... too soon?"

"No, I tried talking to him. But I'm starting to feel like I was just fooling myself with all of this, you know?" 

"Yeah... I get what you mean, but it's not the end of the world. We tried this thing out once, and we'll have to try it multiple times, but... but I really think we'll get everyone back. Then I'll have my best friend back and things can get better. Not great, but better."

Harper was so unbelievably tempted to tell her just why there was no need to worry about whether or not they would be able to do this. Tony wouldn't have called unless he had a massive breakthrough. Now, what caused it was what Harper wondered, but did it matter? Everyone was one step closer to coming back and that was all that they truly wanted in the end. Just for everything to go back to the way it was before. To get back what they had lost.

Perhaps that was just the thoughts of a grieving person, but they truly couldn't care less in that moment. They wanted their best friend back. Hell, Harper almost wanted their parents back. Just so they could see the look on their faces when they realized that stupid lizard they owned for all those years walked away with all their fortune. It was almost funny to think about in that moment. Not that it made everything better.

They sighed a little bit, "But what do I know? I'm the youngest one here and arguably the most inexperienced and-"

"We both know only one of those things are true. You're the youngest, but you're clever, Harper. Working with you these last five years has taught me a lot. And you've taught me a good amount, your age has absolutely nothing to do with that. Just trust me on this. I can tell you're gonna end up doing some really great things someday. Maybe you won't be an Avenger. So what? You don't need to have a triple black belt in martial arts to make a difference. You've proved that just last night."

That was when Steve ran in, holding his shield,  Tony trailing not too far behind him, "Tony's helping us!"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm here. You guys have been going at all of this time travel stuff the wrong way and I'm gonna show you how to do it the right way. Just watch and learn. Harper, I have a way faster for you to do what you do best, let’s get going," Tony said, leading them back to his car.

Harper gave a skeptical look, "I'm gonna make the rest of the team's suits in the back of your car?"

"Not unless you want to. I just need your help with getting this bad boy inside to where you design. I'm assuming that's your room?" Tony asked.

They nodded, "Yeah, yeah, that's where I do that. What did you make?"

"You see, I was thinking about how annoyingly difficult it can be to get your suits ready. Fiveish summers ago, you took over a month to make a new suit for Annie. If I can just give you some function options and design options to help that as well as full control over colors, you're good to go and make suits by just pressing some buttons," Tony explained as he opened up the backseat of the car.

Inside was a rather large tube-like structure. It took both of them walking it in to make sure that it didn't just fall and break. There was no way Harper was letting this go. If they could get a robot to do all the hard stuff for them in a matter of a few hours, they could save so much time. With a working time travelling device, Harper knew that this was all going to work perfectly. They couldn't wait to tell Annie all of the crazy things they had gone through just to get everything to work like this. She would go crazy. Especially over the new suit maker that could do virtually whatever they wanted.

Once it was installed in their room and Tony was gone, Harper decided to play around with the functions just for a few moments.

"Pull up everything you have on White Swan," they said, wondering just what Tony had been doing the last five years.

Unsurprisingly, there were a few different concepts and designs. They smirked a little bit, knowing that Tony had to have thought of her almost as often as they had.

Then, out of another spark of curiosity, Harper cleared their throat, "Show me everything you have on Spider-Man."

Once again, there were several designs for different suits. There were more for Peter, but Harper knew that they had known each other for longer. And then, there was one more thing that Harper just couldn't help wondering about.

"What do you have for Harper Higgins?"

This time, there was just one, slightly unfinished, suit. It made them genuinely smile. Over all this time Tony had something planned. Realistically, it was for if things got really dangerous, but Harper couldn't help feeling a sense of pride at that. They had their own suit. It didn't do much, they didn't have any powers, but if something got really bad, they weren't going to be useless.

But Harper had a different job to take care of and they knew it.

They sighed a little bit, "Okay... let's get this thing started. Transfer files from Harper's flash drive in the hero folder."

As all the suits were making themselves, they took the chance to go down to the large meeting happening lower in a common area. Suits could take all the time they wanted, but unless they knew exactly where they were going to get those stones, then they couldn't get anything done.

Needless to say, Harper had never experienced anything to do with the infinity stones. They only knew the extent of their power, nothing more and nothing less. No one ever heard about the stones being somewhere in the west coast at any point in time. Not in a time that they were aware of, at least. They didn't know what they were doing here, but Natasha insisted they at least try their hand at researching.

Researching was something Harper had a decent shot in succeeding at. It was something they did with Annie all the time. That was the number one way to make sure she wasn't getting herself into some kind of huge trouble. So they looked around as the different Avengers started to get situated.

Harper sat next to Nebula and couldn't help smiling, "The gold and bronze looks really great!"

"You say that every time I see you," she commented.

The ginger shrugged, "Well, they always look great every time you see me. Not my fault."

"Actually, you were the one who created them, so it is completely your fault... but thank you. I think they look nice too."

Harper wanted to catch up with Nebula for a little while longer, but they couldn't since Thor was starting to go up to explain the Reality Stone to everyone else. A stone which seemed to have a deeply personal attachment with Thor. They noticed that he seemed a little bit different from before. Not in physical appearance, though that was for certain, but through his personality. The way he seemed to react to having to talk about Jane was rough to watch. They sort of hoped someone would just have him wait it out. He clearly wasn't in a good position to be helping out with anything. Either way, Harper listened to them talk about how everything seemed to work together. It was nice to know that they were just so close to getting it all to work.

Once given a chance, Harper went ahead and checked on all of the suits being made. They smiled to themself, loving how they were coming out and how they were coming out so quickly at that. This was more than they could have ever hoped to imagine. Soon enough everyone would be back. They could talk to Annie. A part of them wondered if she would look the same way she did when she disappeared or if she would come back looking older. They weren't sure which they would prefer. Hell, did it even matter? Harper was just elated at the idea of their best friend coming back after so many years of not having her around.

After several years of wanting to call her and tell her about the craziest thing that happened and not being able to. Ned was great, he really was, but they knew that he would rather talk to Peter every day than them. Not that Harper could blame him.

It would all sort itself out soon enough. They could just feel that all of this was going to work out somehow.

It took a few hours. Actually, it took several hours for all thuits to be done, but it was worth the wait. Especially when Harper knew that they would have taken so much longer had they been working all on their own. They couldn't help grinning at their now finished product, seeing that all of them were fresh off the press and ready for everyone to wear them.

Harper bounced down to everyone researching, "The suits are all done! You guys are gonna love them!"

"Great, Harper, that's great because we just finished figuring out how to divide everyone up," Bruce told them.

Harper nodded eagerly, "Yeah? So... what am I doing?"

"I'm gonna actually have you be the failsafe to this whole mission. You're in charge of making sure we actually come back or that nothing insane happens to the machine," he explained.

They nodded slowly, "Okay, how long are you guys gonna be gone for?"

"Just a minute, no longer. You're in charge of making sure it's only a minute. If it's any longer, we could jeopardize everything."

Harper laughed nervously, "Right, because that would be really bad... we'll be fine though, right?"

"Yeah, yeah, of course we will be! It's nothing to worry about. I just felt I should give you a job so you could be occupied."

With that, Harper got to watch their creations in action. All of the heroes looked amazing and Harper couldn't help wishing they were going. Except, they didn't know the first thing about handling an infinity stone. There was no way they were even qualified to monitor the time contraption. Yet, if anything went wrong, they were the one who was going to have to fix it. How that would happen, they had no idea. It seemed like Bruce was riding more on the idea of nothing going wrong. That was a fait assumption given that it would only be a minute. A minute wasn't that long, was it? No, there was no way it would be that long.

Yet, something told Harper they were going to be in for the longest wait of their life.

"You're gonna do great, Harper," Natasha told them with a grin.

Harper hugged her, "Yeah, you're totally right. And you'll all be back and we can bring back everyone else. It's perfect, we'll  fix everything."

Still, that didn't feel too likely when they looked at everyone standing around in the circle. Harper didn't want to mess this up for everyone, but Bruce was the one who put in the commands for the machine. Maybe he really didn't think anything would happen to the machine. That was a relief.

Everyone looked at each other, going over their plan one last time. Who was going with who as well as where and when they would be heading.

"See you in a minute," Natasha said before everyone disappeared.

It was just Harper. Now, they had been alone in the compound before. Not often and not for very long, but it did happen. Maybe it shouldn't have worried them so much, but they couldn't help being worried about what was going to happen. What if something went wrong and they couldn't fix it? What if someone didn't come back? What if they all came back too soon? What if they all came back as babies? What if they were the reason everything went wrong?

That was silly to think, though. They couldn't possibly ruin this one mission. This one not so simple mission that would only be a minute. How long was a minute again? It was one minute. But one minute was sixty seconds. And sixty seconds were more milliseconds than Harper could recall. There was plenty of time to think of all the ways this could go wrong. What if someone didn't get a stone? No, they were all responsible. They would know what to do if anything came up. It was silly to worry about whether or not the Avengers could do this.

But they hadn't stopped Thanos. Half the universe was gone and they couldn't prevent it.

Except, they were all divided at that time. Now everyone was together. They would win this time around.

Finally, after what felt like far longer than a minute, Harper jumped, seeing everyone suddenly appear in front of them. At first, Harper really thought everyone was there.

Until Bruce spoke up for them, "Where's Nat?"

Natasha hadn't come back. Was this supposed to be some kind of joke? No, this wasn't a time to joke around about everything. It was real. Natasha was dead, and it was evidenced by the pained look on Clint's face. Someone she hadn't even had a chance to talk to. The only thing they had in common was that they missed Natasha for more reasons than one.

Everyone knew what happened. Not the specifics, but enough to know Natasha wouldn’t be coming back. Was this really the price to get everyone back? Harper was starting to wonder if it was worth it.

The rest of the team left to go outside, and Harper decided not to follow. Somehow, it just didn’t feel right to be there with everyone else. Not when they knew everyone had known Natasha so much longer than they had.

But that didn’t mean Natasha didn’t mean anything to them. Quite the opposite. Five years and they learned so much from her. Some things were really important and other things weren’t, but Natasha took them in when no one else had been able to do so. Gave them a job and friendship when everyone else decided to go their separate ways, not thinking about what little some people were left with.

Harper walked around the compound, knowing that everyone was outside. No one would have been mad if they showed up too, but they also didn’t feel like they would fit there.

Back in their room, one last suit was being finished up. Since it had been shown with all of Tony’s different ideas, Harper figured he wouldn’t mind them making it into a reality. Figuring out everything they wanted from it was tough, but they managed to work it out on their own. And if Natasha couldn’t be there anymore, they knew they could certainly try to be there.

“The suit looks nice,” Tony commented.

Harper jumped and turned around, “Can’t you knock?”

“Door was open. You coming?”

They raised an eyebrow, “Coming where?”

“We decided to go through with this snap. Natasha would’ve wanted it. I think she would’ve wanted you to be there.”

“Yes. I-I’ll be there, should I change? The blast is gonna be big, isn’t it?”

Tony nodded, “Yeah, I made that for a reason. I didn’t think it would be for this, but you get changed and I’ll work on getting the stones together.”

In less than an hour, Harper stood in a circle with everyone else with a green and white suit. This was finally happening. It was everything they wanted, wasn’t it? Yes, Harper knew that they wanted this. Annie would be back, everyone would be back. Natasha would have wanted them to enjoy life after all this.

Maybe they could go back to college or something.

Everyone was arguing over who should get to snap the gauntlet. Harper didn’t volunteer. No one would have let them, and they knew that.

“I’ll do it,” Bruce said, “It’s all gamma radiation.”

With that, everyone sort of murmured an agreement. Bruce had the gauntlet on and the power was causing him pain. Harper had the mask on for when the snap happened. Their heart started to beat rapidly and then there was the click of a snap.

The force of it gave a bit of an impact, but Harper didn’t care. If it had power, then they could see Annie again. Everyone was back, right?

Once they could get out of the room, Harper rushed out to the window. There were trees and birds that hadn’t been there before. Quickly, they pulled out their phone.

“Ned, Ned they’re coming back!” Harper exclaimed.

Before they could hear a response, their phone was thrown out of their hand and they were forced back by a massive blast.

Chapter Text

The blast knocked Harper far back and into lots of rubble. They had no idea what caused the blast. All they knew was that they never would have survived without the suit and that their phone was busted for sure. It wasn’t anywhere to be found. Granted, it looked like their problems were far greater than a destroyed phone.

Harper forced themself to get up from the rocks. Whatever caused this was looking for a fight. Natasha would have wanted them to fight.

So they ran, trying to find a way out of the crumbling compound. The only things motivating them being what they lost and what they had to gain.

When they reached an area that was slightly clear, Harper stopped.

The sight in front of them was confusing to say the least. Clint was the one with the gauntlet. Any sense of relief only lasted for a handful of moments, though, because of just how adamant Nebula seemed on getting the gauntlet in her possession. Harper stayed in the shadows to try and understand what was happening. It shouldn’t have mattered who was carrying the stones, only that the stones were safe and not in Thanos’s hands.

Before Harper could piece anything else together, Clint glanced at them and tossed the gauntlet towards them. Instinctively, Harper caught it in their arms and held onto it, not sure where this was headed.

“Hey, Nebula, I don’t know what’s going on with you, but maybe we should just get this to a safe place,” Harper suggested, slowly starting to back out to find a new area to run off to.

Nebula stared at them blankly, “I have no idea who you are, but I need the stones.”

“Okay, that’s total bull because I’m kind of one of your only friends. Unless… you’re not Nebula and you’re her evil twin or something,” Harper replied, trying to put the pieces together, but still had nothing to go off of.

At least, not until a second Nebula ran in with another woman with green skin. It seemed like there were more questions in this situation than there were answers. And Harper was still the one carrying a gauntlet with stones more powerful than they could possibly imagine.

Which, needless to say, was doing nothing for the intense stomach ache beginning to form inside of them.

They let out a nervous laugh, “Okay, Nebula, you don’t look like the one I know, ‘cause you don’t have the gold thingy, but um… I think that’s your evil twin or clone or doppelganger or something?”

However, Harper was completely ignored as the green woman started trying to reason with the evil version of Nebula. Nothing about the situation was making any sense to them. It seemed like they were in good company, though, when Clint looked just as confused as they did.

Somewhere, billions upon millions of miles away from the now decimated Avengers compound, a girl woke up with a start. The only thing Annie could remember was Peter begging her to let go. She sat up, seeing him lying down just a few feet away.

Annie shook him gently, “Pete, you gotta get up.”

“Hm? Oh, Annie! You’re okay!” Peter’s eyes squinted like he was trying to remember what happened moments before.

It seemed like he remembered everything too because his arms wrapped around her in a nearly bone-crushing hug.

She nodded, pressing a quick kiss to his lips, “Y-yeah, yeah, I’m fine.”

And for the first time in awhile, she knew that she meant it.

“Good, you’re both up. Look, it’s been five years and Thanos snapped half the universe out of existence, but now we’re all back. Are you both ready to fight?” asked Dr. Strange.

However, the question felt more rhetorical than anything else. Mostly because everyone still on the planet had just finished a huge fight. None of them were exactly prepared nor in the best place for yet another fight.

It was Quill who was only a few yards away who spoke up first, “What do you mean by five years? Did we die?”

This was far from fine. If the wizard was correct and being honest, then there was so much Annie missed. Her audition, the musical, any other musicals or auditions, both proms, getting into Julliard, graduating, everything. She missed out on everything and there was nothing she could do about it. All because this had to be the day they were going to somehow win.

“Wait just a second there, Gandalf. You’re telling me, and everyone else that we’ve been dead for five years?! And you just expect me to turn around and fight again?!” Annie exclaimed, pure energy leaking from her hands.

Instead of speaking further or attempting to convince Annie of anything, Stephen chose to start creating a portal in the middle of the energy. No one moved to stop either of them or tried to question it at first. Mostly because it looked like it was something they had both practiced before.

Peter was the only one to speak up, “Annie, y-you’re glowing purple… not that it’s a bad look! You actually look amazing, like… really stunning but… but why?”

“Whatever she absorbed of the power stone that can come out is being released. Which is perfect for creating portals to different worlds,” Dr. Strange explained as he proceeded to do just that.

There was a lot to be said, but Annie was too angered to even know where to begin. Then, there was the obvious question of where Tony went. Maybe he lived and went back to Earth. Annie really hoped so.

However, it didn’t seem like anyone would have an answer, so Annie kept her mouth shut. Though, she would have been lying if she said using her powers didn’t feel great. A part of it was the tiniest bit exhausting, but the sudden euphoria that came from releasing so much energy was indescribable.

Gauntlet still in hand, Harper was starting to think they weren’t going to see their best friend again despite her now being alive again. Especially when so many ships and aliens came into view. With the stones right there, they knew they were a target and there was no way they could possibly win so outnumbered.

So they stayed in the background with the real Nebula as well as her sister who they were barely introduced to a few moments ago. Frankly, Harper was waiting for one of them to offer to take the gauntlet off of their hands, but the offer was never made.

Just as they were starting to weigh the options left upon looking at the vast amount of ships in the air, Harper saw a gold circle on the left of Steve that opened into a portal where several people started to walk out.

To their shock, several more portals exactly like the first one began to fill the area. For a moment, Harper almost dared to wish that Annie would come out of one of them. Was that even possible? As far as they knew, she was all the way in space doing something they had no idea about. And did they really want their best friend stuck in this fight too? She could handle herself just fine, but Harper still worried at the thought.

Yet, whether they liked it or not, Annie walked right out of one of the portals in her full suit. Peter wasn’t too far behind. There were several others, but they didn’t really care about all of those other people as much. Not when they finally had the confirmation that their best friend was alive and looked just fine.

It was in that same moment Steve seemed to realize just how many they were surrounded by and he looked straight ahead, “Avengers…”

There was a long pause as everyone got into a stance. Something Harper definitely didn’t have prepared by any stretch. What were they supposed to do?

“Assemble.”

Just like that, everyone was off. And it wasn’t that Harper was scared, well, they were terrified, but the gauntlet got handed off to someone else rather quickly. Who it was, they couldn’t recall as it all happened so quickly.

On the other hand, Annie was completely out of her element for a few moments. One large, messed up purple alien was a different thing to fight when accompanied by countless dangerous aliens that could easily kill her if she lost concentration for even a moment. Hell, Peter was in the same amount of danger she was in.

Had she known Harper was in there somewhere, she would have likely had a heart attack. Because last Annie knew, they were just a fashion student. Then again, a lot could have happened in five years.

Did they even think about her? She needed to think about literally anything else. Especially as she was blasting energy through the different aliens.

The obvious power after just waking up was gone, but her powers did feel more sensitive and effective than before. Which made her wonder just what Strange meant when he talked about her getting out what she could of the power stone. Did she just have a piece of it stuck with her for the rest of her life?

If it meant she could keep blasting aliens five times her size, she wasn’t complaining.

When Annie got separated from Peter was something she wasn’t quite sure on. However, she was certain that she lost a bit of focus when the head of a large, almost dragon-like alien was lasered off moments before it could bite her head off.

“You gotta be more careful, Ann, you almost gave me a thousand collective aneurysms!”

That was a voice Annie would have known anywhere and her head snapped up to the figure in a green and white suit and she rushed toward them, “Harper?! It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?”

“Yeah, you could really say that. If by a minute you mean upwards of two million minutes,” Harper replied nonchalantly, laughing a bit.

Annie shook her head in disbelief, “When did you get a suit? Since when did you start fighting? How much did I miss?!”

“Doesn’t matter, I’ll catch you up after all this, but it’s looking like your boyfriend needs help,” Harper said, pulling her in for a quick hug.

Annie hugged back, nodding quickly, “Right, I’ll see ya really soon!”

There wasn’t enough time for Annie to acknowledge the large knot in her throat after seeing her best friend. All of this work wasn’t finished yet, but Annie sure as hell wasn’t about to come back to life after five years only to die five minutes later. She was going to have a proper reunion with Harper whether Thanos liked it or not.

By the time Annie got to Peter, he was cleared of any weird aliens thanks to none other than Captain America. Someone Annie never thought she would be within a mile radius of, let alone fighting alongside him.

Only a little bit away from her, Peter was rambling to Tony. So he did make it back. She felt the tiniest bit of relief at seeing he was just fine. Well, as fine as anyone could be in a huge battle like this. Annie smiled a bit, seeing Tony simply hug Peter only to spot her a few seconds later.

Tony moved just so there was enough room for a third person, “Get in here, Pikachu.”

Annie laughed despite herself and rushed to join the hug. As much as she wanted to say something, she couldn’t really think of anything. And by the time she could, they had to let go and go back to the more important mission at hand.

Besides, she felt like there were a lot of things that were best understood by being left unsaid. At least, she really hoped so.

Peter was the next person to get a hold of the stones. Almost immediately, aliens were going after him next and Annie was not going to have that. If it really had been five years, that also meant five years that she completely missed with Peter. She quickly followed after to cover him as best as she could.

Somehow, the gauntlet ended up in her hands for a few moments. It ended up being passed back and forth between both her and Peter until they ended up on the back of a pegasus.

That was arguably one of the less crazy things to have happened to her.

She would have certainly taken the simple pegasus ride over being blasted out of the sky by a bunch of bullets. Instinctively, she clung onto Peter as they fell from the sky. Any sort of cover was quickly shot down by the spaceships above. The bullets raining down were louder than she could handle and she wasn’t sure if she had been hit by any or not.

There was a large explosion and then she was on the ground on top of Peter for a few minutes. Both of them moved to cover the stones. Until everything just stopped.

Both of them looked at each other. Peter’s face looked completely pale with all the dust that covered it. Quickly, Annie kissed him on the cheek. She didn’t admit that she was terrified Thanos was a few steps away from taking the stones all over again.

Instead, Annie was a bit blinded by whoever was coming into view right in front of them. Whoever she was, she was definitely beautiful. So much so that Annie was at a loss of words for a moment.

“I’m Peter… Peter Parker,” Peter stammered, seeming more shell-shocked than nervous.

The woman grinned, “You got something for me there, Peter Parker?”

“Yeah… I don’t know how you’re gonna get this through all of that, though,” Peter said as he handed it to her, getting up.

Annie was quick to jump up, dusting herself off as best as she could, “I could help! I’m Annie Hardwick, by the way.”

“I’d love your help, Annie,” she told her, seeming to have a knowing glint in her eye.

Several women gathered up right then to get the gauntlet through as far as they could. Annie talked Peter into staying back just for a few more minutes. The fall had been hard on him and she didn’t want him to accidentally get hurt.

He sighed, “Okay, but you can’t just flirt with the first lady superhero you meet.”

“Oh please, you have your whole thing for Thor, I don’t wanna hear it,” she told him with a small smirk before rushing off.

Annie could feel her heart racing with the adrenaline from fighting and a couple of near misses. Still, the new sensation she had with her powers gave her a sense of confidence she never truly had before. 

It was all the more present when she started to get into a one on one fight with the Squidward-like alien she remembered from what should have been earlier that day. He was a bit of a tough one to get through, but she felt like she was doing well enough.

“Your powers are inconsequential to mine,” he claimed.

In that moment, Annie was hit with an idea. She focused all the energy that was hurtling towards her and focused on changing its shape. Right then she flung him back with a large burst of pure electricity.

“Bet,” she muttered.

Instead of him being shot back further or getting set on fire, he was dusting away. Dusting away in the same way she had.

There was a wave of panic inside of her. What if half of everyone were dusted again? She didn’t want to go like that again. Especially when she couldn’t see Peter anywhere.

She stopped worrying as much after a few moments passed and she realized that she was still completely there. Naturally, she wondered what happened, so she rushed off, trying to maneuver herself through all of the rubble.

The sight that Annie found wasn’t something she would have ever been able to make up herself. Tony was leaned against a large piece of rubble and Peter was trying to talk to him.

“Mr. Stark, we won. You did it, we won,” he kept repeating and all Annie could hear was his voice cracking.

Annie quickly rushed over to Peter’s side, a hand on his shoulder.

“Tony, I’m sorry,” he said and she could see he was crying and she was doing everything in her power to stop herself from crying.

All she could manage was a pained, “Thank you.”

They were both quick to get out of the way for Pepper. Annie didn’t pay attention to what she said. She hugged Peter tightly as he cried into her shoulder. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. They were supposed to all make it out of this alive.

A few moments later, Annie felt someone else’s arms around her and she let out a sob. Harper held on tightly to both of them, crying just like they were. Just as clueless about where to go from there.