"I used to have bad dreams," Carol told him as they sat in the cockpit of Mar-Vell's, Lawson's, ship. She took another sip of Terran hot chocolate, the last of her precious supply until they managed to find a port with Terran goods again. She stared out past him into the vast expanse of stars.
Ordinarily, Carol soared ahead of the ship, scouting into the great void beyond where the ship's radar could reach. He had a feeling that she was only sitting here now, confined to the cockpit like a mere mortal, because of him.
The Skrulls didn't like him sitting here by himself, fearing he might change their course or sabotage the ship without their knowledge. Never mind that neither they nor Carol would ever allow that to happen. Even after all these years, the Skrulls could never quite trust him.
He understood, he was Kree after all, but that didn't mean that he liked it.
It was a pity then, that after waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweat, that the cockpit was the only place where he could return to himself. Had he stared out at these same stars back then? He imagined he had, perhaps not these stars, not at this end of the galaxy, but he must have looked out at similar lights and wondered.
Perhaps he'd thought about Carol soaring through the night, a star in her own right, golden dust trailing behind in her wake. Perhaps he'd thought of the Skrulls, a people he had supposedly hated then and sought to annihilate at the whims of an artificial intelligence. Or, perhaps, he'd sat there and wondered how many worlds were out there and how different they were from his own.
He didn't know, and unlike most things, he wasn't sure Carol could tell him.
He had been very private; Carol had told him once. Most Kree were, they didn't wear their hearts, emotions, or thoughts on their sleeves. Emotions were considered a debilitating weakness, especially in warriors like Yon-Rogg. He'd been trained from a young age to keep his most precious thoughts to himself.
She could tell him his favorite foods, that he'd loved to train children, that he'd spent much of the past six years training her, but she couldn't tell him what he was thinking when he looked out at the stars.
Sometimes, he cursed the previous Yon-Rogg for his lack of foresight. If only he'd known better, known that it would be Carol Danvers' memory alone that would preserve him, then maybe he'd think to save something of himself in her.
Now all he had was the occasional bad dream, Carol, muscle memory, and the suspicion of a people he'd given up everything to protect.
He spared her a glance, but she was lost in her memories, in her own bad dreams. Carol had regained her memories after six years, in part because hers had not been stolen by head trauma, but because the Kree AI had taken them from her. For six years though, she'd been just like him, lost in a void seeking out any hint of familiarity.
He sometimes mused that it could mean there was hope for him yet, he could suddenly regain his memories too, but with each passing year he doubted it. Wherever Yon-Rogg of the past had gone, he doubted he'd ever return.
"They're not always bad," he said.
Tonight, yes, and by the knowing look in her dark eyes there was no fooling her on that. However, it was true, they weren't always awful. It wasn't always his own face contorted in an awful sneer, laughing at him, while silver snakes strangled him and dragged him down into the silver water and drowned him. It wasn't always Carol, glowing and vengeful, striking a burning hand through his chest and tearing out his heart, whispering, "Liar", in his ear as he tumbled into the void.
"Sometimes there's—" he paused, not quite sure how to say it, "There are flashes."
Her, mostly, the good dreams were often of Carol. Strange, nonsensical, dreams that contained flashes of memories. He and Carol flew to worlds he'd never seen before, they had picnics on the purple beaches of red oceans, she wrote the word "Vers" in backwards Kree glyphs, and she'd glow like a second sunset on the shore as she laughed at something inane he'd said just to make her smile.
"Good flashes?" she asked, blonde eyebrow raised.
"They're not bad," he said with his own smile.
He wished the flashes would tell him more about his life, about Hala and the world he'd left behind, but he supposed he'd take what he could get.
"Maybe it's for the best," Carol said with a considering hum, "You don't have to look behind, don't have to yearn for what you miss."
Had she? Yes, she must have. Even with her memories gone she said she'd always tried to find out the past, longed for it, some sense of identity and meaning in a world where she was an orphan. Some part of her had always been reaching back to Earth, to Maria and Monica waiting on the surface.
As for him…
He felt like he should miss something. Like his heart should feel torn in half to leave his home, his people, even for a worthy cause. If it had taken him so long, six years, to return Carol to herself and aid the Skrulls, then he must have been very conflicted. Carol always said he'd been extremely devoted to the AI, had been raised to be and wanted to believe in it, and it had taken him six years and the order to exterminate Carol to change his mind.
It was just so hard to imagine ever even entertaining the idea of harming her.
Perhaps he hadn't realized what he did to her, Carol implied he'd never really thought it through, but Yon-Rogg didn't want anyone to live as he lived, as Carol had once lived, a stranger to yourself and all you knew.
"Hey," Carol said, poking him in the shoulder, "You're thinking too much again."
"Sorry," he said quietly, but as usual, she seemed to see straight through him.
"It's fine," Carol said, "I forgave you a long time ago. Besides, you were… different then."
"Was I?" he asked.
"Yes," Carol insisted, "You… You thought you were doing the right thing."
She meant that, but then, Carol always meant what she said. She looked at him with firm insistence, her dark eyes burning into his, her face set in determination as if just daring him to challenge her.
Still, he couldn't help but ask, "When would this have ever been the right thing?"
She snorted, "It wasn't, and I was pissed as hell at the time, I even—Well, you're right, it wasn't and will never be the right thing, but you didn't know that. You were all kinds of messed up."
He wondered about that. He believed her, or at least, believed that she believed that, but… He imagined having done that to her, looked down at Carol's broken body, and brought her back to his dark masters to unwittingly serve in their wars of destruction.
He wanted to ask if he had been a good man. Of all the things he'd asked her though, that one he didn't dare. He didn't want to know her answer.
Maybe she was right, maybe it was better that Yon-Rogg the Kree loyalist stayed dead. He could keep his dark secrets, his servitude to blood-soaked empires, and the many betrayals he undoubtedly committed. Yon-Rogg the defector would slowly but surely work to eradicate the sins he couldn't remember, would try to earn the respect and trust of a people who had no reason to trust him, and he would try to live up to what Carol saw in him.
He would try desperately to become the best version of himself.
"You know," Carol mused with a mischievous smile on her face, "Whenever I had bad dreams on Hala, I always knocked down your door in the middle of the night and asked you to spar."
"Did you?" Somehow, he can just see it. The enigmatic Commander Yon-Rogg quietly asleep in his room or else meditating and then bam, there goes the door, kicked in by a grinning Carol Danvers stating, "Best two out of three, bitch!"
Her smile turned into a full-blown grin, "You always looked exhausted when you opened the door. Like you'd keel over right then and there. You never said no though, not once, not even when it'd been five nights in a row and you were recovering from being shot in the thigh."
"Really?" he asked, trying to picture it.
"Really, one of the few times I actually took it easy on you."
He laughed at that, "Well, I imagine you finally had pity on me and felt I deserved a victory or two."
She gave him a funny look then, as if at first trying to decide if he was joking, and then realized that there was something fundamental in this conversation he was missing. It was in moments like this, whenever she made that face, that he felt the previous Yon-Rogg's absence so sharply.
Finally, Carol shook herself, "Well, now, sure, I'd hand your ass to you and back again. But back then I rarely beat you, on a good day, maybe but… I wasn't in control of my powers yet, didn't use them in sparring so I could focus on getting by without them, and you were one of the best."
That was hard to imagine. He didn't spend much time fighting these days. Most of the time they were in the deep expanse of space, hurtling forward beyond the Kree's ever-reaching grasp and searching for a planet just dull enough to escape notice but habitable enough to support the Skrulls.
Whenever they did get into trouble Carol was always the one to take care of it. If Yon-Rogg had ever been suited to more than a desk job then there was little point in using those abilities now. Carol was better, period, and if he ever were to partake in combat…
He had a feeling that Talos wouldn't like it.
"You don't believe me," Carol said slowly, her face pale in horrified disbelief.
"No, no, I'm sure you're right—"
She kept looking at him, her face growing paler, as if she realized something very important. He wanted to curse, he knew what she realized, she just realized she was missing yet another piece of Yon-Rogg. She'd once known a man and all she had now were a few scattered pieces left in the shape of him, a pale reminder of a good friend, and once again he'd failed her.
She stood, drained the last of her drink, and held out a hand to him as she commanded, "Come on, up."
She grabbed his hand when he didn't reach out to take hers and yanked him onto his feet. He stumbled forward gracelessly, bumping into her.
"Come on," she said, her smile the sun shining out behind clouds, "We're going to jog your memory."
With that she pulled him away from the cockpit and towards the hold, the only place on the ship large enough to serve as Carol's training floor, and now, apparently, his.
It was a small lie.
One that, in some other world, would never have occurred to her at all.
In some other world, maybe better, maybe worse, she sent Yon-Rogg back to Hala in disgrace. He touched down in a broken-down escape pod, battered and bruised, and limped his way to the Supremor with Carol Danvers' message from Earth: that she is coming for them.
Carol didn't know what would have happened to that Yon-Rogg. At the time, she hadn't thought that far ahead, something he undoubtedly would have chided her for when he had the power to chide her. She could almost hear him, see the fondness that he tried and failed to hide from her, "Emotions are dangerous, Vers. They distract you, tie you to the past and present. Emotions cloud your understanding of the future."
Perhaps nothing would have changed, he'd remain a commander, his team would have a large Vers-shaped hole inside of it, and life would go on with a new mission to destroy her and the Skrulls at all costs. Then, perhaps, at the end of it all, she'd see him on the opposite end of the battlefield after the Supremor had been destroyed and the Kree empire had been fought back. Perhaps he'd be in chains, perhaps he'd be negotiating peace, and perhaps he'd smile at her as he always did. Perhaps, with enough time and distance, things would be different.
Now though, with time, perspective, and some of the intensity of emotions fading she couldn't believe in that future. Yon-Rogg had looked at her in the desert and simply said, "I can't return empty handed." She hadn't cared to understand what that meant, that the Supremor didn't hand out slaps on the wrists. At best, after being tortured for his failure, Yon-Rogg would have been stripped of his rank and sent to perform some menial task out of the way for the rest of his life.
More likely, he would be made an example of.
He would have been banished, enslaved, or else executed for daring to have lost control of Vers and having the arrogance to believe he could contain her in the first place. He'd allowed sentiment to make him weak, it caused him to stall Ronan the Accuser in a misguided attempt to reclaim her, losing his ship, risking the lives of his team, and losing her in the process. In bringing her to Hala at all, giving her blood and desperately attempting to keep a simple Terran alive, he had lost himself to useless sentiment.
It was one thing to fight him back, to stand over him and prove he had no power over her, another to send him to his annihilation with a smile on her face.
Carol, in attempting to send him back to Hala, had unwittingly been sending him to his death if not worse.
But none of that happened, so it didn't matter.
In this world, the one Carol inhabited, Yon-Rogg never made it back to Hala. He never even made it through Earth's atmosphere. She hadn't watched, only turned at the sound of the impact, shielding her arms as the wave of dust blew out towards her. When it cleared, there it was, that broken-down escape burning in a crater, and Commander Yon-Rogg trapped inside of it.
So, instead of leaving immediately with Talos, searching for some world beyond the Kree's grasp, she sat at Yon-Rogg's bedside. Maria and Monica sat by her often, trying their best to give Carol support, but he meant nothing to them. No, he meant worse than nothing.
Monica looked at him with curiosity, anger, and the same betrayal that Carol felt. This was the man that had single handedly stolen Carol from her life, taken her away from half of Monica's childhood and left this Carol Danvers shaped stranger named Vers in Auntie Carol's place. And while Monica asked what he was like, the good and the bad, what Hala was like, and wondered why he ever would have betrayed Carol like that if he cared about her at all (something Carol kept grappling with herself) it was clear that she just wished he'd get up, walk out the door, and never come back.
Maria looked at him like she wished she could cut the bastard's throat herself. Maria had no time for Monica's curiosity and open mind. Maria felt more than the pang of the betrayal to Carol, she felt the grief for Carol Danvers that she had never been able to move past, a mysterious death without a body or explanation to accompany it. Then, when Carol had finally come back home, Maria was gifted this Kree thing called Vers that couldn't even recognize her. This man had taken so much from her, from them, and for what? For an empire that was slave to an imperialist, insane, computer? So that Carol could be their version of a nuke that they launched at uncooperative refugees? Whenever Maria was in the room, Carol couldn't help but shift, wondering to herself if she'd start pulling plugs when Carol wasn't looking.
Fury was more practical, as Carol suspected he always was. He pushed and prodded at Yon-Rogg, gathered blood samples (and the sacrilege of that, knowing what that meant to Yon-Rogg and so recently had meant to her, had her biting her tongue and tasting her own tainted blood), and always kept an eye on "Spaceman Spiff" as Fury had taken to calling him.
He also had a few very frank conversations with her.
"Be honest, Carol," Fury said, his wounded eye now covered by a dark patch, "How much of a pain is this asshole going to be when he wakes up?"
Carol felt herself smile, an uncontrollable reaction, as she kept looking down at the prone Yon-Rogg, "The biggest."
And that, at least, was true. For all that he was more stoic than her, more level-headed, balanced, and rational in his reactions, Yon-Rogg could almost out-stubborn her any day of the week. He was wily, intelligent, and never gave up. That was what had gotten him into this mess, wasn't it? He hadn't been able to give up on Vers even when Carol had already thrown her away.
Fury hummed, giving the man his best side-eyed glare, and said, "You know, we don't have to keep him here."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that, as you pointed out, SHIELD's not," he paused, searching for the right words. That wasn't like him, Carol thought, Fury didn't seem like the type of man to ever mince words or grasp for what he wanted to say. Finally, he continued, "We're not equipped for this extraterrestrial bullshit you've piled on us. We couldn't get you into custody. Something tells me, if we let him get up and running, we're not keeping him in custody either."
Carol gave him her own look in turn, weighing his words, "He's not staying in your—"
"So, he's going with you and the Skrulls then?" Fury asked, looking too amused for Carol's taste, "Have you told our green friend Talos yet? Because I'm sure he's just going to love that."
Carol opened her mouth, closed it, but Fury took the words from her, "The way I see it, we have only a few options here. Either he stays here on Earth with SHIELD, and we have one hell of a time trying to keep him behind bars and off the dissection table. He goes with you on your little quest, and you and the Skrulls have one hell of a time keeping him behind bars. Or he has an unfortunate accident."
"We're not killing him," Carol snapped.
Fury just gave her another look, as if she was being willfully stupid.
"We are not killing him," Carol repeated, and this time the words were a hissed warning accompanied by the crackling static electricity of her powers.
Fury, however, was hardly cowed, "I seem to recall this bastard being the one who shot Lawson, tried to shoot you, kidnapped you when that didn't work out for him, and then brainwashed you to be the best Kree boy scout you could be."
She knew all that. She knew that very well, felt the deep aching pain that everything she'd ever believed in and cherished was a lie. It wasn't so much the Kree empire, the Supremor. That stung, but she wouldn't put it past them, the Supremor was what it was. It was concerned for the future of the Kree as a whole and only the glories of the Kree as a whole. Yon-Rogg, however, was not the Supremor.
He had been her only friend, her best friend, and maybe the closest friend she'd ever had no matter how much it pained her to admit that. Flashes of Maria returned, and as they did, Carol could feel the strong bond in them but they somehow paled compared to the past six years. It could have been time, it could have been the distance between Hala and Earth, Vers and Carol, but she couldn't imagine banging on Maria's door in the middle of the night demanding to kick the ever loving shit out of her because Carol just had another nightmare. As much as she hated it, Vers' world was still closer to her than Carol Danvers'.
Yon-Rogg had always been there, always supported and believed in her, and then it turned out it was just because the Supremor had told him to. No, it was worse than that. He had taken everything from her, worked to destroy her and build her into what he and the Supremor wanted, and when he realized he had failed he'd been prepared to do it all over again.
But, for some inexplicable reason, call it sentiment if you wanted, she still didn't want him dead.
Emotions are a weakness, he'd always said. She hated that, this time at least, he seemed to be right.
"I'll talk to him when he wakes up," Carol said instead, ignoring the way Fury kept looking at her, the unspoken 'is that what you think' in his dark eye, "I'll send him back to Hala and he'll give my message to the Supremor."
Neither of them noted, that at that point, it was still an 'if he wakes up'.
Fury was right, though, and they both knew it. If he'd just landed back on Hala, none of this would have happened. Now they had to decide what to do with him and, with no convenient escape pod to launch him back in, Carol would have to reason with him, build him a ship, and trust him to go back to the empire with his tail between his legs.
Carol didn't want to do any of that.
But she also couldn't picture him kept in the brig on Mar-Vell's ship, out of sight and out of mind, or left to his own devices on Earth.
So, Carol kept vigil, waiting for him to wake up, waiting for him to do something, and tried to think of which future she wanted to pursue.
Maybe that was why it happened, Yon-Rogg gave her too much time to think. When he was just lying there, his face smooth and blank, those gilded eyes closed, her anger could turn into grief and nostalgia. Because while he might not have felt anything for her, she'd felt more than something for him. That was why it hurt so much.
Maybe, if he hadn't been Kree, they really would have liked each other. Maybe not everything about him was a lie, maybe they could have been friends, maybe he would have had the courage and strength to see and do what was right.
Maybe they wouldn't be sitting here right now.
So, when he finally did open his eyes and failed to recognize her or anything else, maybe the lie had already been on her tongue.
Half of it wasn't a lie, after all, it was a wish.
She told him that he was a Kree commander and she'd been his subordinate and protégé. He'd come to Earth, C-53, six years ago for a mission to execute a Kree traitor, Mar-Vell, who they believed had given a weapon of enormous power to their ancient enemy, the Skrulls. Carol Danvers, a local human, had gotten caught in the crossfire trying to protect Mar-Vell and what she believed in. Impressed, not because of her strange powers but because of her courage, he'd decided to save Carol Danvers' life despite Carol trying to save his enemy. He'd given her a blood transfusion and taken her back to Hala under the mistaken belief that she would reach her full potential there.
The Supremor, the Kree's unquestionable AI god, commanded him to train her to be a weapon for the Kree. He used this as a justification to bend rules and become her friend. For six years, this worked fine, and Carol Danvers became Vers.
Then, Vers was abducted by the Skrulls, and everything turned on its head. She returned to C-53, began picking up the pieces to her past, while Yon-Rogg watched everything fall apart outside of his reach. When it became clear Vers was lost, the Supremor ordered him to destroy her, or else the Accusers would do it for him.
None of that was a lie, exactly. It could have been true, she wished it was true. Even while she burned, her heart wished she could excuse at least some of it for him. Yes, he'd taken her, but he'd also saved her life. Yes, he could have left her on Earth, but then what? He'd have been expected to shoot her and if he hadn't then Minn-Erva would have gleefully done it for him. Even if she'd survived, the Kree would have come, searching for the last remnants of Mar-Vell's core and research.
If he'd wanted to keep her out of the Supremor's hands, and at that point why would he, then he would have had to defect right then and there and kidnap Carol Danvers anyway to somewhere out of the Kree's reach, at least until she could control her powers. They'd have to jump from planet to planet, avoiding Kree and bounty hunters at every turn. And how well would Carol Danvers have taken being forcefully kidnapped by Lawson's murderer who claimed he had no choice in the matter?
And why would he? Yon-Rogg believed in the Supreme Intelligence, he always had, and more than even that he believed in the Kree. To him, taking Carol back to Hala, even at the cost of her memories and identity, was a no brainer.
The friendship, Carol wanted to believe that some part of that could have been real.
The lie was small, only at the very end of her story, so easy that it might as well have happened.
She said that, when Yon-Rogg had been forced to choose between Carol Danvers and his home, he'd chosen her. He stood down, defected, abandoned his team and his empire. He recognized the Skrulls for what they were, victims of a genocidal campaign, and chosen to help not only them but Carol.
It was so small, so easy, sometimes she forgot it was a lie at all.
Author's Note: I have been sucked into the trash ship Yon-Rogg/Carol and it knows no bounds. And, as I apparently decided to write a 17k one-shot for it, we're dividing that up into multiple parts.
Thanks for reading, reviews are much appreciated. Thanks to Vinelle for betaing the story.
I don't own Captain Marvel or the greater MCU.