10:21 PM, 31st December:
Sitting in front of her mirror, Kate Bishop calls down that she’ll be finished in a moment. She puts on the finishing touches to her make-up, dons a pair of earrings resembling small targets, puts on opera gloves and a domino mask to complement the off-shoulder purple evening dress.
How does she look? she asks America Chavez, who has been waiting. Like a princess, princess, she is told. She’d settle for “a million dollars,” Kate replies. Dress cost a significant portion of it. America compliments the earrings. Present? Birthday dinner with her dad, playing happy families, Kate replies. Coming of age for his little girl. He got a little drunk a lot and told her all manner of family crap she could have lived without ever knowing.
They step outside. Happy families. Now there’s a contradiction in terms, Kate scoffs. America advises her not to be cynical. It takes practice. “Doesn’t suit you, princess.” Kate wishes she’d knock it off with the “princess.” She’s trying to be nice, America replies surprised. Don’t be, Kate suggests. It takes practice. “Doesn’t suit you, princess.” America grins and opens a teleportation portal with a kick.
Kate muses she didn’t even think America liked her. She was wrong, America replies simply. She feels for her. They’ve all been there. But it’s the end of a year, start of a new one, and they’re alive. That’s always worth celebrating.
They arrive at a party in full swing with their dancing guests, the young heroes who all helped them save the world.
Wiccan stands in a corner with his boyfriend Hulkling, wondering about the taste of the fruit juice. Teddy assures him it is definitely non-alcoholic. People are acting kind of drunk, Billy points out. People act like they are drunk at parties, his boyfriend replies. People are idiots. Speaking as experts in that particular field. He holds Billy’s hand.
Billy leaves to get a drink. Prodigy takes the opportunity to address him. Arms crossed, Billy tells him to go ahead. Unless talking is code for kissing, in which case he can back the hell off. David apologizes and asks him to treat Teddy well. Because he’d jump into bed if Billy was off the scene? Billy smiles. In a second, David agrees. Billy admits if he’d met someone like Teddy he’d been tempted, but… Don’t do it again or he’ll blast him out of existence? David finishes his sentence. He’s got it, Billy agrees. David announces he has to go. He thinks he saw something. Needs to get his Sherlock on.
Billy looks at Teddy from some distance and wonders aloud if maybe someone like David would be better for him.
Enough! Miss America orders. He’s never going to get a chance to be Captain America. Thor. Iron Man. His mom. Any of these. Those positions are filled. Doesn’t matter. They save the world every day they choose to and crap over it every day they don’t. He’s Billy %&#* Kaplan. Own it! Her point made, she stomps off.
Billy rejoins Teddy with two glasses. He okay? Teddy asks. He thinks so. It’s a process. Everything’s a process. But he’s ready to fight. He wishes Teddy had talked about his fears earlier. Enough with the wishes, Teddy orders. They know where they lead. Billy smiles and drags him onto the dance floor. He could never dream him up. He could never have imagined loving anyone like he loves him. It’s impossible.
Rockslide asks America if she wants to dance. She rejoins if he wants to be stomped into dust. If he gets a dance, sure, he replies. Leave! America orders and watches Billy, remembering.
Flackback to an end of the world party, ten years earlier:
Young America is dressed as the Demiurge. She shouts at her friends, all girls, that they can’t catch her. They tell her to quit playing and look up. The holes in everything are going. Does that mean they are going to live? America reminds them she told them. Her moms aren’t going to let them all die. That’s what moms do!
Two uniformed women address her as Princess America and tell her she has to come with them. They explain her parents saved them all. The utopian parallel will remain. The debasers and normalizers have been contained and expelled. They can no longer be dragged to the common multiverse. The last rents seal even as they speak. One of them warns her to stand back from that hole in existence. Their parallel sits apart out of time, the purest incarnation of the Demiurge’s breath, a land born of his final unbinding of magic. Where stars do not need to be chained or contained.
What now? America asks. She is in a land of princesses, one woman replies. All princesses in time become queens. They will all reap the bounty her parents sowed.
She doesn’t care about her destiny, America replies. She wants to know when her moms are coming back. The women look at her with pity. They are sorry.
America thinks and makes a decision. She jumps into the closing gap to the multiverse and lands in a grimy back alley on Earth.
Utopias are fine as far as it goes, she figures. But you can’t do anything for a perfect world. And she wanted to be like her moms and Billy and everyone else who ever inspired her.
She was such a fangirl, and now she’s met her maker. The man who meant everything to her. The one who’s responsible for her even existing… and he’s an idiot. Like the rest of them.
Kate thanks Transonic for the X-students’ help and Kid Gladiator boasts he could have done everything alone. Laurie makes an excuse and drags Kubark along as Noh-varr, dressed only in pants, has joined them.
He wishes Kate a happy new year. It seems so, she replies coolly. He asks how her birthday was. Kate points out he’s lost small talk privileges. He didn’t mean to upset her. He didn’t, she replies, he just disappointed her. She calls him Marvel Boy. Noh-varr, he corrects. Definitely Marvel Boy, she smirks. She’ll tell him what: She’s going to dance in the New Year and forget about all this. She suggests he do likewise. She always was the sensible one, he muses. Kate glares. Not always. She turns away. And stops briefly. The girl of his dreams? He had her and he was so locked inside his head he didn’t even notice.
Suddenly, she is dragged onto the dance floor by the missing Tommy Shepard aka Speed, who asks why she isn’t dancing. He’s alive?! she bursts out. How is he here? Sorry, he can’t hear her over the sound of his awesome dancing! Kate decides she doesn’t really care. She tears off her mask, joins him and kisses him at midnight.