One round-trip each. No mistakes. No do-overs. Be careful. Look out for each other. This is the fight of our lives. Whatever it takes. Steve Rogers
T New York
he risks were astronomical. The odds slim to none. One wrong little step and the entire operation could go completely sideways. When you mess with time there was no room for error, no second chances or do-overs. Get in, get what you need, and get out before anyone sees you, especially past versions on yourself.
Aria hated the idea, every bit of it. Even as she and her mom suited up for the task ahead, she had a bad feeling about it. If there was one thing everyone knew about Aria's feelings, is that they were never wrong, and they were never good. Six stones, three teams, a single chance at saving the world, or more so bringing it back from being lost. Aria understood why it had to happen, it was what they did, what they always did, save the ones who couldn't save them selves no matter the cost. Unfortunately she had no idea just how high that cost would be.
"You ready for this?" The young woman asked of her mom, the assassin who had rescued her from the Red Room when she was just a little girl. Natasha glanced over and nodded.
"Are you?" Natasha replied, zipping up the suit and grabbing her daughters hand, cold fingers giving her own a tight squeeze.
"I have a bad feeling... but I know we can't ignore this chance." That feeling was something that would only grow until it became unbearable.
"It's time." Natasha said, now both woman walking to join the rest of the group. Steve gave everyone a pep talk, making sure heads were clear and focused to avoid any incidents. Whatever it takes. Steves words from earlier that day echoed in her mind. They owed it to the world to at least try, so here they were risking everything to do just that. Aria exchanged a glance with Tony as they stood on the platform, a forced look of determination. Tony Stark had a different destination despite arguments of who would be sent where. He wanted Aria on his team to make sure he could watch her back. Tony had always been protective of her ever since they met when she was only seven. After they found out two years ago that he was her biological father, that desire to protect was fueled even more.
Silenced footsteps connected with the arid ground beneath the Milano. Vormir. The destination Aria and Natasha were sent to to retrieve the soul stone. That feeling grew intensely causing a worried look to flash across her face. Step by step they made their way up the mountainside in silence, even the sound from their feet seemed to dissipate in the dry air. Tension grew the close they came to the top, the two stopping a few feet short as a cloaked figure approached. Natasha drew her gun, Aria her daggers, both ready to take out whatever threat lie before them. Was it a challenge? A way to protect the soul stone? Whatever it takes. Steve's words echoing in her mind again, a reminder of what had to be done as she observed the cloaked being before them.
"Welcome Aria, daughter of Tony. Natasha, daughter of Ivan." Aria's gaze did not leave the strange figure. Temptations tugged at her to simply use her abilities and dispose of him, but curiosity made her take pause. Natasha questioned the identity of the man, or shadow of a man more so. He claimed to be a guide, one for any who sought the soul stone. Natasha feigned gratefulness before half demanding for the stone so they could leave. The words from the shadow, a claim of not being so easy, sent a chill down Arias spine, exacerbating that feeling even more.
"That which you seek lies in front of you, as does what you fear. In order to take the stone, you must loose that which you love. An everlasting exchange, a soul for a soul."
Natasha sat in thought, her mind trying to play out every scenario while Aria paced anxiously. There had to be another way, there was always another way. Was Aria ready to sacrifice herself for the world, for all those whose lives were extinguished in a single second? Maybe not, but she would do it to save her mother there was absolutely no doubt in her mind about it. The young womans gaze shifted back to the edge, anxious foot falls now stopping in place. Chilled fingers tightened around the dagger hilt at her side, and a soft deep breathe allowed her the moment she needed to convince herself. Did she really need convincing? Probably not, but the focus of her mind would certainly help. Aria wanted to turn around, face her mother, kiss her, hug her, just one more time. Yet she knew such an action would no doubt give her intentions away and Natasha would stop at nothing to keep her from going over the edge. A single tear rolled down her cheek, slowed by the cold arid air around them. Her foot pushed hard against the dirt, lunging her towards the edge in hopes she was quicker than Natasha, her mom, "that which she loved".
The sudden movement was interrupted only a few feet from the edge as Natasha tackled her to the ground, sending them both rolling closer to the edge. Firm arms pinned Aria to the ground, a mix of fear, anger, and sadness washing over her face.
"What the hell are you doing Aria!" Natasha screamed, trying to fight back tears.
"Whatever it takes!" The young woman snapped back, echoing Steves words determination strong though her voice was crippled with threatening emotions.
"That was not your choice to make. I have to be the one who goes and you know it." Aria pushed the woman off her, shaking her head as she tried to process how close the edge was.
"No.... No you don't. Mom please, let me do this. Let me finally be free." Aria knew full well her pleas would go unheard, but she had to try to distract her just long enough. The moment they landed on Vormir, Aria had discovered she couldn't access her abilities other wise this would be a far easier task. It was in this moment Natasha realized it and knew she could use it to her advantage, turning and running the last few steps towards the edge. Aria bolted up, reaching out to grab her hand at the last moment. Without her powers to aid her, the weight of her mother pulled down hard on her shoulder, nearly causing her hand to slip free as she dangled off the edge. Natasha gave a nod, and a small smile.
"It's ok. You have to let me go." Her words stabbed through Aria like an ice pick, and she refused to let go of the woman who saved her, raised her, gave her a life all those years ago. Arias hand tightened around hers, but when Natasha kicked against the wall she could not hold on against the momentum of the swing. The shrill scream from the girl was whisked away by the vast open air as Natashas body hit the icy cold stone below, red liquid seeping out of the now lifeless corpse. Aria turned over onto her back pushing away from the edge, and squeezing her eyes shut as if convincing herself it were only a bad dream. An open mouth attempted to scream again, but no sound came from it. A bright flash of light shot upwards into the sky before everything went dark.
Eyelids flickered exposing blue hues. Cold water felt across the skin.Consciousness wrapped back around the girl prompting her to sit up quickly searching for any signs that her mother was alive. The mountain was far in the distance now, and the ankle deep water she found herself in seemed to be a vast river. Upon realization that it was not simply some horrible nightmare, her head sunk and tears again fought to break free of their damn. As her hand shifted in the water something could be felt within. A brow furrowed as she lifted it upwards from the icy liquid and slowly curled back her fingers. A bright gold glow emitted from her palm only further confirming the dark realization that her mother was truly gone.
The rush through the quantaum tunnel pushed through Aria as she was pulled back into the present. This time she barely even processed it, too far lost in her own grief to grasp too hard onto reality. When she appeared back on the platform, the helmet retracted back into her suit, and the girl stood frozen as the others tried to determine if they really had suceeded. Suddenly a silence washed over the room as the others gazes caught site of Aria. Clint was the first to speak up.
"Where's Nat..?" Clint didn't want to know the answer, his heart already breaking seeing the look of deep loss across the girls features. Tony shook his head, and Bruce dropped down to one knee as tears filled Arias eyes. She felt empty inside like the biggest chunk of her heart had been ripped out of her chest. There was no processing the scene around her, the looks of the others or their lack of questions of what happened. After a moment staring off into nothingness, she felt warm arms wrap around her, ones that finally snapped her out of her daze. As Tony hugged his daughter, tears finally burst free of their damn, a wail of sorrow shoved forth by her lungs as she collapsed into Tony's arms. Her mother was gone....