taking the damn name.

She feels every tooth of the key that she slides into the front door, hears every creak and groan of a tiny, shoebox of a house that hasn’t seen its owner in approximately two days. All is quiet here, and Danvers is reluctant to break the seal, in part, incidentally staking a claim on someone elses’ life. As such, she moves with a little more care than she normally would. Boots off now, she sets her keys down on a side table instead of tossing them onto the well-worn rack by the door; she doesn’t touch the packets of sweetener laying next to the coffee pot when she makes herself a scalding cup. At least one thing seems familiar. Humanity, she’d joke, if there were anyone to receive it; it comes about ten minutes after the caffeine hits my brain. Instead, she stays quiet, as if the universe’d been about to lay an epic truth at her feet.

It doesn’t. It’s decidedly disappointing.

Another sip of coffee rolling on her tongue, Carol looks down, hoping to find something there, but all she can see are bare toes, tanned and tipped in ballet-pink polish. Not a shade she would’ve ever chosen, but it suits this body. This face. This life. It’s all so much neater than the one she knows, pretty in a way that Carol Danvers’ many lives have ever been. It’s been just over a week that she’s been cannonballed into this one, and grieving her own losses isn’t something that’s crossed her mind, nor worn heavy on her shoulders. This.. This isn’t worth grieving, she surmises, pushing herself away from the countertop. Not today.

She’s here for a reason, she supposes. Any other way of thinking about it’ll do her in.

Those toes pat down the hallway as Carol sifts through the last three weeks of activity on Cara’s phone; there are emails about the fires in Malibu, wild questions to her friends about Danvers’ own existence (she lets out a snort at that one), and a smattering of photos.. Significant strangers with faces and names that she’s had no choice but to memorize. There are a few that stand out and some of the photos are worth smirking over; Danvers counts it as a victory when she can name three faces and be amused by what she really knows, pleased with the fact that this is starting to feel less like a dossier and more like an experience. She's a part of this, even if she's just a fleeting mention.

Carol recognizes the face that’s now her own again, nose gripped by the small hand of a mop-headed child sitting on her hip, caught mid-joyful shriek. Auntie Cara. She swipes again, and again; flicking through photos of sushi dishes, and what looks like a party with more people and things and life than seem able to fit in this tiny place. There were things Cara didn’t know though, horrors that existed between these rushed selfies and screenshots; things that make even Carol’s blood want to run cold.

The memories are called to attention, and like she’d given them the passcode, they flood back; the flashes of Logan’s face -- rage, rage, pure rage -- in the darkness, of her burning rasps of frustration and pain when bone cracked nauseatingly on bone, of white-hot slices of adamantium on flesh that was too stubborn to give way to the lashings, accepting them as easily as the blurry kiss or two she’d found in Cara’s camera roll. It wasn't fair. This was suffering that her half-alien body had deigned too insignificant to reflect. These were the things that Cara Davies had the luxury of not remembering, but had endured without agency. Cara had no choice in this as much as Carol did, but Carol.. She had the acumen to do something with it.

It wasn’t a superhero thing, she'd claim. It was a human thing. It wasn't right.

She’s reached the bathroom by now. The phone is sitting on the sink and trilling an old Twisted Sister track while she thinks; the floor heaters are on (smart girl), and the water’s cranked up to some ungodly temperature while she scrubs herself clean -- trying to scrape off the morning and the tangle that came with it. The shower is always a place for Danvers debate and brooding; it's a place where she can bury her wet hair in her fingertips in some poor attempt to massage a solution from between her temples. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Taking inventory of the facts helps things along. It usually works, so she starts; one by one, she takes an internal headcount. Jessica is here. Her Jessica, and not her Gerry, a small child thrown into this clusterfuck -- again, without any say. Tony is here, and she'd woken up with her face buried in his chest, which'd been a separate debacle unto itself. Peter, and Gwen, and Pietro, and Thor, and Logan, and Ororo, and Natasha.. All here.

While Danvers herself wasn't connected to the Big Bang energy.. It didn't take a cosmic being to come to the conclusion she did, if she'd even be able to call it that. The faucet twists, the waterflow stops without a fuss, and steam billows out from the bathroom door. It isn't exactly the epic moment she'd been looking for in the kitchen; honestly, she hadn't even begun to think about it that way, but in retrospect, it'd suffice.

When the unruly mane of blonde is tied back, threaded through a crimson Stanford baseball cap, Carol wants to feel like she's come home and suited up. Every atom in her wants to vibrate and connect, to race to the edge of the universe and back, sight enhanced by a helmet only she can control, speed tempered only by the sharp temperatures of space; it's the adrenaline rush she associates with doing something worthwhile, and at least right now, it's very-much out of the question.

She can't fly or throw the sun from her palms, but she can search for her best friend, and the innocent child that she loved just as if he were her own.. Notably not putting Cara Davies and that life in danger. It wasn't hers to risk, and she'd already made that mistake once. She can't be herself, and she can't pretend to be Cara Davies either. She won't, and whether it's nobility or stubborn ego that made that decision remains to be seen.

They are both and neither, all and none, which isn't a specific nor satisfying answer to things. Carol knows this. She takes a minute, staring into the mirror and stretching her face.. She opens her mouth wide, curls her lip, tilts her chin and examines each freckle or blemish. It's a gesture of burgeoning acceptance and reconciliation; with a little more than a week in this body under her belt.. There isn't time to waste on pitying herself. She has a Jessica, a Gerry, and a Cara to protect and learn.

When the last text message of the morning comes in (one of the many she's pinged out), Carol's already halfway out the door.. But it's the last syllable that she sees, the last message that catches her eye: this couldn't be more accurate for you, cap. She doesn't reply just yet. Instead.. Captain Marvel just smiles.