Smoke rose high around the now clean-swept native village. The Guardians had received a distress call, but it was too late. The village of natives to this planet, Nebula didn’t know the name, didn’t bother to, had been burnt to the ground when they arrived, the raiders being the only ones that remained.
Or so she thought.
Mantis and Groot had stayed back to make sure that the raiders didn’t get onto the ship and hurt Athena and Araceli. They were also there to keep the twins from leaving the ship and running onto the battlefield. Now that the coast was clear though, Quill had gone back to keep his daughters from leaving while Mantis and Groot helped look for any possible survivors.
There was very little chance of there being any survivors, but apparently the universe decided to lean towards the unlikely. Through her advanced hearing, Nebula could hear Mantis’s slight gasp and then cry of disbelief before she called her name. “Nebula?”
“Yeah?” She walked over to where Mantis was standing with her hand over her mouth.
Nebula looked over the log that they were standing by and gasped herself when she saw a small baby girl wrapped in a blanket lying on the ground, her bright purple eyes staring up at them in awe. She resisted the urge to gag when she saw who was most likely the rest of the little girl’s family dead all around the ruins of their house.
Mantis glanced over at her. “What do we do?”
“We can’t just leave her.”
“I agree. Do you think she has any family?” Mantis leaned over and picked the girl up. The girl’s hand became loose from the blanket and reached up for Mantis’s face, causing her to smile.
“From what I can see, entire families lived in the same house.” Nebula looked over at her girlfriend holding the small child. Her heart sank and she knew what Mantis was going to ask, going to want even. “We should probably take her to Xandar. They’ll know what to do with her.”
The slight smile that had formed on Mantis’s face as she looked at the child fell. “You can’t be serious?” She glanced up, looking almost heartbroken.
“Mantis, you know we can’t- that I can’t,” she cut herself off. “Nevermind. We can talk about it on the way there.”
Mantis held the child closer to her, in a protective, almost mother-like stance. “Fine,” she finally grumbled. “But if you think I’m not gonna fight for this kid.”
“That’s not fair and you know it.” Nebula’s voice softened.
Mantis shook her head. “Whatever. The others have probably already gotten back to the ship. Let’s go.”
The walk back was short, but Nebula kept glancing over at Mantis holding the small child. It reminded her of when Morgan was born and Tony wouldn’t stop holding and looking at her. Speaking of Morgan, her birthday was coming up soon, and Nebula still hadn’t gotten her a present. Some aunt she was. No wait, that wasn’t fair. She was busy with keeping the galaxy safe so that her friends’ sacrifices weren’t in vain. Morgan would understand, hell, the girl was almost sixteen.
“What the hell?” Rocket’s shocked voice snapped her out of her thoughts. “What did you two find?”
Gamora came out to the opening, holding Athena (who, quite frankly, was old enough to walk on her own by now at the age of eight) on her hip. Araceli was standing behind her. Her eyes widened when she saw the small child. She set Athena down. “Athena, Ara, go help your father with dinner.”
“Auntie Neb, what’s Aunt Mantis holding?” Araceli asked, pointing to the child.
“It’s a baby you dumbass,” Athena responded. “She probably found it in the wreckage.”
Araceli teared up. “Oh…”
“Athena,” Gamora warned.
“Yeah,” Athena rolled her eyes, ignoring her mother. “Maybe if you actually spent time paying attention to what’s important around here, you wouldn’t be such a dumbass.”
“Athena!” Gamora yelled. “Apologize. Now.”
By now Araceli was blubbering and crying, she refused to look over at her sister, who was refusing to apologize. Nebula kneeled down in front of her niece. “Hey,” she whispered. Araceli glanced up at her. Her dark eyes gleamed with tears. Nebula reached up with her nonmetal hand and wiped the tears off her cheeks. “You aren’t a dumbass okay?” She tucked Araceli’s hair behind her ear. Araceli nodded in response.
“And for you,” she glanced over at Athena, who still wasn’t apologizing. “I would listen to your mother if I were you. She’s serious when it comes to stuff like this. Trust me.”
“Oh because if you underestimated her she would beat you in a fight which resulted in you looking like how you do?”
Nebula, Gamora, and even Mantis all gasped in shock. Araceli looked between her mother and her aunt, her eyes wide in shock. Her crying ceased and she began to hyperventilate. “What?”
Gamora began fuming with anger. “Athena Meredith Quill, knock this attitude off now. Apologize to your sister and your aunt now..”
“Apologize, now. ”
“Athena, say you’re sorry or you won’t get any cake for dessert. You understand?”
Athena’s eyes widened at the thought of not having cake for dessert, especially since cake was a rare treat. “I’m sorry,” she finally grumbled.
“Say it like you mean it.”
“I’m sorry I called you a dumbass, Ara. And I’m sorry I mentioned that, Aunt Nebula.”
“I’m not mad,” Nebula said. “I just want to know who told you about that. That’s who I’m mad at.”
“Of course,” Nebula mumbled.
All the noise caused the girl in Mantis’s arms to start crying. Nebula had almost forgotten she was there.
“You want me to hold her and you two go talk?” Gamora asked.
“Please,” Mantis gasped. She also whispered, “If I can’t get through to her, can you try?” The absolute desperation in Mantis’s voice was the only reason Nebula didn’t say that she could hear her. Gamora nodded and took the child from Mantis’s arms.
Nebula followed Mantis to their room. She closed the door behind her. “I know you Mantis, I know you want to keep her.”
“Well, yeah,” Mantis sat down on the bed. “You know how much I want a kid of my own. And since we can’t have one for obvious reasons, adoption is the only option.”
Nebula sat down next to her. “I just, I can’t.”
“Why? Why not? You say this every time I bring the idea of us having a kid up.”
“You know,” Nebula sighed, putting her head in her hands. “I would mess her up. I’m not, I’m not cut out to be a mother.”
Mantis wrapped an arm around Nebula’s shoulders. “Why not?”
“Just look at me. You’ve seen me, how I am mentally and physically. I just, I wouldn’t do it right. I’d hurt her in some way and just, that girl is better off not having me as a mother.”
“Is this because of your own childhood? You’re scared you’ll turn out like him?”
Nebula’s vision blurred with tears. She nodded her head. She thought about it, again and again and again, what it would be like to be a mother, but everytime, there was a voice, Thanos’s voice, in the back of her head, telling her that she would fail, that she wouldn’t do it right. Her hypothetical kid would grow up hating her. It was just easier to not even try.
She felt Mantis hug her tighter. She twisted her body and leaned into her girlfriend’s hug. “You’re right, I have seen you.” Mantis pulled away, first wiping the tears off of Nebula’s face then holding onto her arms. “I’ve seen you around Morgan and Athena and Ara.”
“Yeah but they have their actual mothers taking care of them. I’m just their aunt. And I’m not even Morgan’s real aunt.”
“You might as well be. I’ve seen the way that girl’s face lights up whenever she sees you, and how happy you look whenever you’re playing with Ara or showing Athena a new trick. You could and can do it, if you’re willing to.”
“But what if I mess up?” Nebula shook her head.
“We both will, multiple times. Luckily for us, our siblings are already parents and can help us. We’ll figure it out.” Mantis reached down and clasped Nebula’s hands in her own. “Together. Like we have ever since we first started dating. What do you say?”
Nebula looked up at Mantis, the only person she one hundred percent absolutely trusted. She was right, they would figure it out together. They’ve gone through a lot, they’ll figure out how to be moms. “Okay,” she said shakily. “Just one thing.”
“I don’t want our, our daughter to have two parents that aren’t-”
“Yes.” Mantis gasped.
“I didn’t even finish.” Nebula slightly chuckled.
Mantis shook her head. “I know where this is going. Yes.”
“At least let me finish. I don’t want her to have two parents that aren’t permanently together. So, and this isn’t how I originally planned on doing this,” Nebula turned around and fumbled through a drawer. “Gamora actually helped me pick it out.” She grabbed a small box. “I was going to do this on Terra actually, I had the spot planned out and everything, but I just, it just seems right to do it now.”
Nebula, holding the small box in one hand, grabbed Mantis’s hand with the other. She looked up at her, the only person she could really trust, the girl that she loved more than anything, her bright ray of optimism that could easily change her mood when she was down, who understood her, accepted her boundaries at first, and then was there for her, for almost eight years, and didn’t leave, not even in her darkest moments. Whenever she looked at Mantis, she saw her other half staring back at her, right now with her hand clasped over her mouth, tears of joy making her eyes shine as if they were freshly polished wood floors. “I love you, more than anyone or anything,” Nebula said.
“I love you too,” Mantis whispered.
Nebula opened the box, revealing a thin, fancy yet practical, ring. “Then Mantis, will you marry me?”
Mantis quickly nodded. “Yes.” She slid down from the bed and sat in front of Nebula. Nebula quickly slipped the ring onto Mantis’s hand before taking her face in both hands and kissing her. There weren’t words that could come close to what she was feeling. The only thing she would think of was joy, just absolute joy and happiness, with a twinge of nervousness about all the changes, but she would get over that with the help of the woman that she loved, that she would soon be married to, and the help of her sister and really weird family.
“You know,” Mantis finally said after breaking the kiss, “It was only a matter of time before I got tired of waiting and asked you myself.”
Nebula rolled her eyes. “Of course it was.”
“I don’t wanna tell everyone just yet. Gamora can know, but that’s it. Plus she is kind of holding our daughter so,” Mantis shrugged.
“Our daughter, huh. That’s gonna take some getting used to.”
“So is calling you my wife and not girlfriend.”
Nebula felt her face heat up. Just hearing Mantis refer to her as her wife caused her heart to warm up. “Lots of changes huh?”
“Yeah,” Nebula leaned her head on Mantis’s shoulder. “Good changes.”