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Part 4: Choices

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Steve walked onto the plane, looking at his team. It was one of the smaller ones. This was a dangerous mission but not one that warranted bring Vision or Rhodey. He looked over at the pilot seat where Jennifer would typically sit. She had over the last year refused to go on any missions. Something was bothering her, but she wouldn't talk to him about it. He would often find her held up in the lab with Tony working on some project. In fact, that's where the two were today. Off presenting their invention at a university. Steve shook his head. He wished he could have been there to see it. But he needed to be with his team. He reached into his pocket, grabbing the small box. Steve had gotten it a few months ago. He had even gone and talked to Clint and Laura. Now he just needed to come up with a plan to ask Jennifer a question.

"Are you sure you don't want to call in reinforcements," Natasha asked, sitting down next to him. Steve looked over at her.

"Do you think we need them." He looked at Sam and Wanda. They were getting strapped into their seats.

"No, I just thought that there was a certain pilot that you might want to be sitting next to instead of me," Natasha said, laughing. Steve shot her a disapproving look.

"You know that she took her name off the active duty roster," Steve said more to himself than to her.

"Yes, and I also know that you were very hurt by the fact that you can't save the world together anymore," Natasha added, patting his arm.

"She made her choice; I'm not going to force her. Jen needs to make her own choice. If I'm not mistaken, you were going to take her name off if she didn't," Steve said Natasha gave a small nod.

"You and I both know it was the right call Jennifer is a loose cannon. If something happened, it could put all of us in danger." Steve hated to admit it, but Natasha was right. It was safest if Jennifer didn't go with them.


 

Maria Stark sat at the piano singing as she played. Tony was laying on the couch, hiding his head under a blanket pretending to block out the noise. The truth was he loved listening to his mother play. The blanket was tossed off his head revealing his father. Tony did his best to pretended that he had just been woken up.

"Wake up, dear, and say goodbye to your father." Tony rolled to his feet.

"Who's the homeless person on the couch?" Howard Starks asked as he buttoned his custom suit jacket up. Tony adjusted his Santa hat that had slid down to cover his eyes.

"This is why I love coming home for Christmas…Right before you leave town." Howard shook his head at Tony's words. Maria continued to play almost as if she were trying to relax the two.

"Be nice, dear, he's been studying abroad," Maria called out to Howard, keeping her voice lit. Howard shot back with an unsavory remark making Maria falter in her playing.

"Candice," Tony answer his father, trying to fight the urge to swat his father's hand away as he messed with Tony's hat.

"Do me a favor? Try not to burn the house down before Monday." Howard said, pulling the hat off Tony's head.

"Okay, so it's Monday. That is good to know I will plan my toga party accordingly." There was a flash of disappointment that crossed Howard's face and the word "party". Tony, however, wasn't throwing a party not this weekend anyway. He was having a new piano brought in for his mother. The one she was currently playing needed to have some of the keys replaced and his father keep pushing it off. This weekend gave him the perfect opportunity. "Where you going?" Tony asked his mother.

"Your father's flying us to the Bahamas for a little getaway." She explained picking up where she left off on the song.

"We might have to make a quick stop," Howard added, walking over to his son.

"At the Pentagon. Right? Don't worry; you're gonna love the holiday menu at the commissary." Tony leaned over and whispered in his mom's ear.

"You know they say sarcasm is a metric for potential. If that's true, you'll be a great man someday." Howard said to him as Tony walked to the other end of the room. He didn't want to be near his father's disapproving stare. "I'll get the bags." He finished walking out to the room, leaving Tony and his mother alone.

"He does miss you when you're not here." She called out to him, not looking away from the music. "And frankly, you're going to miss us." She said, getting to her feet walking over to him. "Because this is the last time we're all going to be together." Tony closed his eyes, not wanting to look at her. "You know what's about to happen." She words pulled his gaze up to her eyes. "Say something if you don't, you'll regret it." Howard walked back into the room.

"I love you, Dad. And I know you did the best you could."

"That's how I wish it happened," Tony said, appearing in the back of the room his younger form diapering. Jennifer stood on the side of the stage. She watched as Tony explained the technology. Jennifer had helped him with the use of her powers to perfect the device. It looked precisely as Tony remembered it with the one slight change. Her phone went off, pulling it out she saw a text. When are you coming home? It was from Laura. Jennifer was supposed to go out and visit them but had canceled the trip last minute. Jennifer deleted the message.

"Afraid of a little nightmare." The Monster said breathing down her neck. Jennifer resisted the urge to flinch. The times where the Monster wasn't visible was growing fewer and fewer with the passing days.

"It wasn't my fault," Jennifer said, drawing the eyes of a P.A. standing near her. Jennifer gave a small smiled holding the phone to her ear, pretending to talk to someone on it.

"Ah but your wrong remember she told you herself." Jennifer closed her eyes, and the Monster flooded her mind with the memory.