- Alternate Universe
- Science Fiction
It had been a week since the battle with Ares at the Triskelion. Everyone had been busy, either helping to dismantle SHIELD or helping to set up the Avenger’s Initiative under the UN. Steve and Maria had been like ships in the night after that first night. It had been frustrating to her, mostly because she couldn’t really enjoy the second chance she’d earned due to all the work they had to do.
Stark had simply put his foot down one afternoon and declared a Sunday. On a Tuesday, but whatever, they needed the day off.
And so, instead of heading out to one of the City’s hottest new restaurants, they’d gathered around the dining room table in Tony’s suite of the Tower for a catered meal from the finest steak house New York City had to offer, plenty of wine and mind-blowing desserts, because never let it be said that Stark didn’t understand the women in his life.
Clint and Natasha had officially resigned from SHIELD, even before the organization was officially mothballed. They’d joined the Avenger’s Initiative fulltime, with a side-gig at Stark Industries, conducting world security analysis. Stark had said at one point that he’d be taking global security private; Maria just hadn’t believed him.
Sam Wilson had actually quit his job with the VA and gone to work full time for Stark Industries; he’d simply moved into the Tower and never left. Stark had plans for hiring vets and a variety of other skilled workers, to fill out the science and engineering departments as well as Stark Global Security, as he’d begun to call it. He’d wanted someone on staff who could both relate to them and help them navigate the world outside the military, and Sam was more than willing to be that guy.
The Army had made noises about recruiting Steve, either to serve again fulltime or to consult with them on issues of national security. Steve made it clear that, though he was grateful for the opportunity, he’d completed his service with honor and would prefer to retire from active duty. Officially, he was a part of the Avenger’s Initiative. Unofficially, he’d joined Clint and Natasha at Stark Industries.
Barnes, too, had taken Stark up on his offer. Though he wasn’t ready to work fulltime, re-integrating into modern society was effectively a full time job, so he wasn’t bored. Steve, Clint and especially Natasha had taken on the task with gusto, and the four had become thick as thieves.
Maria and Phil had—as Steve had suggested—stayed with the Avengers Initiative and were working on setting it up under the auspices of the UN. Instead of one team of superheroes, they’d conceived of a group of several rapid-response teams that could be ready to go at a moment’s notice, each made up of enhanced and non-enhanced individuals. They were based all around the world for ease of access to any potential hotspots that might crop up.
It was a good plan, and one that Maria was very proud to be part of.
After dinner, they’d all moved to the lounge area on the Avengers’ floor, where the party seemed to just keep right on going. More liquor, enough video games to satisfy all the type-A personalities in the room, and the comfort of good friends, everything Maria could have asked for on a peaceful night in New York City.
“You’ve been quiet,” Steve murmured in her ear as they watched Clint, Bucky and Tony attempt to kick each others’ asses at Mario Cart, of all things.
“Mmmm,” she hummed. “Just enjoying this. There hasn’t been time for nights like this in far too long.”
“Now that things have settled down, maybe we should plan to do it more often,” Steve said. “I’m all for hanging out with friends and forgetting the outside world exists.”
“I wouldn’t argue against it,” Maria said with a smile. “All work and no play…”
“You’ve never been dull in your life,” Steve said. He nuzzled into her neck and dropped a kiss on the skin he’d exposed. When he pulled back, he was grinning ear to ear.
“Fury used to ask—on a regular basis—if I ever even went home at night,” Maria said. “There were a lot of nights I didn’t. SHIELD was my life, for a very long time.”
“And now it’s different,” Steve said. “Are you okay with all the changes?”
“I’m still getting used to some of it, but it’s good,” Maria said. “It’s good to have a job and a purpose. And to get to do it with good friends. And you.”
Steve blushed slightly; Maria thought it was adorable.
“Speaking of Fury, have you heard from him?” Steve asked.
Maria shook her head. “He’s gone to ground again. He talked about taking Persephone on a trip around the world, showing off the best of what Earth has to offer. I’m sure he’ll pop up again someday. He’s not one to stay out of the game for long.”
“It’s strange thinking of him as a happily married man,” Steve said, shaking his head. “He’s always struck me as a loner.”
“Fury was a loner by necessity,” Maria said. “Hades is the life of every party he joins. To me, it’s always been jarring to see him so isolated. Still, I’m glad he’s taking this opportunity to enjoy life a little. For a man whose job it is to deal with death, both as a god and as a human, I think he’s earned this.”
“As have we all,” Tony said from across the room.
Steve turned, one eyebrow raised as he looked at Tony. “Did you put listening devices in our glasses?”
“I have above-average hearing,” Tony said, grinning. “Plus, you’re talking about the Spymaster. I’m never not going to perk up when he’s mentioned.”
“Anyone else creeped out by the idea of Persephone wearing The Cavalry’s face?” Clint asked as he guided his cart around the virtual track of the video game.
“May wouldn’t have minded,” Natasha said. “And you wouldn’t be calling her that if she were still alive.”
“It’s still gonna take some getting used to,” Clint said. His cart crashed, and Tony crowed in delight as he sped past. “Oh, fuck you, asshole.”
“You’re just pissed because I’m plain old human and have the reflexes of a demi-god,” Tony said.
“No, he’s pissed because he’s finally found someone he can’t beat,” Sam said. “I flat refused to play against him after the fifth time in a row. Until we find a game he can’t win, I’m on strike.”
“No shooter games, unless you want to lose your pension,” Natasha said.
“I get that,” Sam said.
Maria glanced around the room as the friendly banter continued. Phil was sitting near Clint, smiling softly at Clint’s antics. Bucky was grinning from ear to ear, something he’d only started doing recently, most especially after he’d spent some time with Natasha. Pepper was smiling indulgently at Tony, and Sam had a foot propped up on the coffee table, enjoying the show. Even Bruce had joined them, though he’d refrained from drinking alcohol.
“I propose a toast,” Phil said, standing up. “It’s a brave new world we’re living in, and I for one am pleased to be doing it beside all of you.”
“To friends,” Tony said, rising and raising his glass.
There were echoes of his words all around the group as they rose and clinked glasses. Steve pressed a kiss to Maria’s head. “To being more than friends,” he murmured quietly.
“To the future,” Maria said, touching her glass to his.
Steve hummed in agreement. “To the future.”