“Unknown craft approaching,” Nebula’s voice pulled Tony out of the restless slumber he’d fallen into. His last message to Pepper still echoing in his mind, maybe this was the miracle he’d been hoping for.
“They’re hailing us,” she said sharply, sounding as close to excited as he’d ever heard.
He looked out the front window and swallowed his disappointment when he realized this was yet another dream of rescue, of home.
The ship approaching looked straight out of a 1950’s alien invasion movie. A big, perfectly smooth, silver cylinder with artfully placed fins. He sighed and sank back into his seat, too tired to do more than watch his hallucination play out.
Nebula glared at him with hard eyes that said all she couldn’t bring herself to. He hated to be yet another teammate to leave her. There was a good chance she’d make it out of this in spite of everything, but she’d refused to improve her chances by cutting the dead weight (him).
Coming from her that meant a lot. And he knew she’d keep her word to get his messages back to Pepper if at all possible. She’d given her word as a warrior and he’d taken it as her highest vow.
“Stay with me, Stark. You can’t die now! We’ve come too far for this,” she snapped.
He huffed a laugh, at least he’d die with a friend by his side which is more than he deserved all things considered.
“They’re in range!”
“Hey Quill! Open up we’re here to save your asses!” came a slightly raspy, masculine voice.
Nebula’s shouders slumped for a moment before she lifted her hand to the headset she’d put on when the other ship came into range.
The voice came again before she could reply. “Come in Quill! Drax! Gamora!! Come in Mantis!” he was starting to sound frantic. “Milano, reply!”
“This is the Milano. Rocket, it’s Nebula.”
Silence fell for a moment, “Is it just you?”
“I’m here with Tony Stark of Earth.”
A sudden scrambling sound and indignant shouting shattered the calm of their ship until. “Stop! Stop! Get down, Let me!” had Tony jolting up in his seat. “Platypus?” but of course he couldn’t hear him without a com link.
“Tones? Are you there? Come in Tony!”
“I’m bringing you up on screen now,” Nebula began typing out a sequence on a small tablet. Then there was Rhodey in a red and white space suit with a nanotech arc reactor attached to his chest. He looked older and more tired than Tony had ever seen him. But when their eyes locked, years of worry lifted from his features in an instant.
It was like being in the desert again, running towards the chopper, towards his best friend. His brother who would always come for him.
“Hey Honey Bear,” he said weakly, laughing when Rhodey rolled his eyes as they both ignored the suspicious brightness glittering on their lashes. “Hey am I still hallucinating or is that Elon Musk?”
“I’m not sure you recall, considering how the rest of the day turned out, but I made you an offer in Monaco that the lovely Ms. Potts took me up on just days after the Dusting.” Elon was saying eagerly after they’d transferred to his Space-X Ship and gotten Tony hooked to fluids in each arm and an oxygen mask.
It took Tony a second to remember what he meant. “The Grand Prix,” he laughed. “If I’m ever lost in space give you a call?”
“And here I am! With the help of your remaining engineers, and Dr. Rhodes here.”
“And of course my dear friend, Rocket who is not a raccoon,” he concluded brightly.
“I’m still not sure this isn’t a dream,” Tony murmured softly to himself. This was too good to be true. His friends had saved him. Pepper was safe and alive on Earth but… “Why didn’t Pepper come herself? Was she injured?”
Their rescuers shared a meaningful look and Rhodey ducked his head and muttered something about Pepper killing him for this. “No, she wasn’t harmed. We just didn’t think g-forces were a good idea in her condition.”
“Her con-” his eyes widened in shock.
“Yeah man, you’re gonna be a father, please try to act surprised when Pepper tells you! I’d hate to survive the Snap just to get murdered by one of my oldest friends.”
“No promises,” he swallowed thickly, hands shaking at the news. This changed everything. And with this crew, perhaps there was still hope.
“Nebula, do you have any idea where Thanos is now?”
She cut him a sharp look, eyes bright with vengeance. “I know exactly where he is.”
“FRIDAY, my best girl!”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you boss.”
“Hey I’m the one who went out of SAT range; you helped the team and protected everyone you could. I don’t doubt the lack of Nuclear reactors and refineries exploding was down to you.”
“Yes Boss. We had already lost too much to allow more collateral damage.”
“That’s my girl,” he choked up. She’d grown up so well, he couldn’t be more proud of her. “Rocket gave you a boost huh?”
“He helped me access the jump point mainframe. I’ve greatly expanded my knowledge base and made some new friends.”
Tony grinned, heart full to bursting with happiness. “Tell me all about it.”
And she did. And with her help and a quick call to Earth to have Thor use his Battle Axe to travel to them, they and their numerous alien allies converged on the other side of The Garden and made a plan.
“Thanos isn’t wearing the gauntlet now,” said a pale blue woman with eyes like static. “He’s saving his energy to use it again soon though. There is no time to waste.”
With the helpful use of a portal while Thanos’ back was turned (Wong grumbled the entire time about how Stephen must have orchestrated this from the Great Beyond) they easily stole the gauntlet from under his nose.
From then it was just a matter of the savage beating over a hundred beings teamed up to give him before Thor took his head off and stuck it on a pike.
“Huh. That was comparatively easy compared to sustained space travel,” Elon mused idly.
“Hulk snap. Bring people back safe.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? We saw what it did to Thanos,” Tony said thickly, voice still weak from his near death. He couldn’t stand the thought of losing another friend, especially if it was all for nothing in the end.
“Gamma radiation. Hulk survive.” He shared a meaningful look with Tony. “Tinman say Hulk saved for reason. This reason.”
Tony blinked back tears at the memory of his first conversation with Bruce on the helicarrier so many years before. “Yeah. Maybe it is. Besides, we’re all here for you.”
“About that. Us being all here for him may actually help,” Rocket cut in thoughtfully.
After everyone Snapped and murdered by Thanos in the previous year reappeared in the nearest safe location to their vanishing or death point- a very specifically worded wish that took quite some time to formulate by everyone present, they all eagerly departed for their home planets and returned loved ones.
“Bringing back everyone he murdered would have too many ripple effects through the galaxy. He’s been killing for decades. We would do more harm to many planets by just reversing every choice he ever made,” a short male with skin black as night and hair like vapor and a voice like rolling thunder spoke authoritatively.
Tony wasn’t going to argue with that, and Thor was more than happy to have the few citizen’s he’d saved from Asgard’s destruction returned to him whole. Though first he’d have to find what planet they’d landed on. He seemed to think that would be part of the adventure.
Loki was sure to have something to say about that.
“There will be enough of us to rebuild,” he said softly, clearly changed by his recent losses and struggles into a far more mature version of himself. Tony was happy to see it.
Thor looked around the lush uninhabited planet with a gleam in his eye. “This would make a lovely new Asgard.”
“Incoming call, Boss.” Friday cut into Tony leaning against Rhodey as they listened to Quill argue with Nebula about what quantified ‘stealing a ship.’
They had all spoken extensively over audio lines and soon they’d be in range for visual calls. Tony couldn’t wait. Pepper had shared their happy news and they’d had a very sweet reunion. So grateful to have more time together and that they’d both survived the initial Snap in the first place so they could save so many lives. It was all a bizarre, wonderful turn of events.
Dr. Strange had agreed to take everyone on Titan back to Earth to wait for the Milano and the rest of their crew.
They would have to wait a bit longer for their reunion since Rocket, Nebula, and a very excited Elon Musk were preparing to head out on the newly refitted Milano to pick up Gamora on Vormir.
Her communicator was still intact and she was ‘waiting with only a sadistic wraith for company so get here now!’
The Guardians were more than happy to oblige.
Peter was alive and well back in the loving arms of his aunt as well as Pepper and Happy who had grown quite fond of him over the past year.
Tony couldn’t wait to hug the kid himself, feel him alive and well in his arms, not dust on an alien planet.
“Put the call through, FRI.” he said absently, adjusting his head against Rhodey’s shoulder for maximum comfort.
Pepper shocked him by popping up on a large screen in front of him, the surprise on her face melting into fury in an instant, “Are you out of your mind?!”
“I was abducted!!”
After the Snap, international militaries which had mobilized over the invasion of Wakanda still arrived to help kill/drive away Thanos' forces. By the time they arrived the capital city, palace, and holy mountain of vibranium were overrun by alien invaders.
The barrier was still open so the world got a front row seat to finding out they weren't what they seemed. The surviving Wakandans were horrified by this and an un-dusted T'Challa was removed from power nearly as soon as he returned.
Team Cap survived the battle only to be arrested by troops from European countries with arrest warrants out for them. With T'Challa dusted and so many killed because of them no one spoke up on their behalf and they were taken away and imprisoned in various EU nations awaiting trial for their actions during the Civil War.
The USA had bigger concerns than arguing for those who abandoned them and failed to prepare for the invasion or prevent the Snap.
The remaining, non criminal avengers were immediately recruited by Pepper and Elon Musk to save Tony.
Hawkeye was arrested in Bolivia after the Snap was reversed and he was found to have killed over thirty people in just over a month of 'vigilante justice' in two South American countries.
Scott Lang was recovered after a few quiet moments calling out to Hope and Hank and took a very long time to convince that his friends hadn't been playing a practical joke on him for about two very scary minutes.
And everyone lived happily ever after!!