Thank you for being patient, and to everyone who has taken the time to read, review, favourite or follow this story.
No excuses, on with the show!
wintermoon7: Thank you! I kinda am too, but ultimately yeah she will be :/ thanks for reading though, and if you read the end of chapter notes you might find something you'll like :P
Sam0728: Yep! He's back, but he unfortunately can't stay for long…you'll be seeing him soon though, I promise.
Rosmir: I'm glad you like Thor being included and that he saved the day instead of one of our other heroes! I was worried about whether people would want to see him because he's not in the movie, but it's good to know :) I am so so so so sorry for the long wait, I know I keep saying that but I get so busy and then I lose motivation, but I really hope I don't disappoint anyone too much! I don't actually know Spanish, but I would love to learn it…I have a really good translator so all of your writing makes sense :D When I think of Ash I don't really know who I have in mind, maybe someone like a younger Weronika Rosati or maybe even Willa Holland, but I would love to know who you imagine her as! Thanks for reading and reviewing, I really love that there are people all over the world reading and I hope you enjoy this chapter :) (random question, but do you like football?)
abstract0118: Thank you so much for reading! An Astro reunion in this chapter, so hopefully you like it :)
Most Mouse: Cool comment, thanks.
Just kidding :P I wouldn't do that to you because I'm a nice person, you probably can't even remember what you wrote in your comment now that I think about it…you guessed right about the Thor thing, but he can't stay too long for this chapter :( I actually can't even wait for this CW storyline to be over so that I can go into the whole story with Ash's past and stuff. You want an origins story, I shall give you one! P.s totally dedicated the flashback in this chapter to you (but I decided to have the main one in the next chapter instead), because you seem to be the only one that likes them so you're welcome. Gosh, the things I do for you… :D By the way, I can't write 'Ashley' without thinking about your dog, you've ruined my character for me, I hope you're happy! haha
GetLegsBish-Aiya: I love it when they binge :P haha thank you for reading and reviewing, I'm really sorry for the long wait!
hanlue: Thank you! haha I agree, Rebekah was definitely right about that! I'm Team Steve too, but I do love Tony as well so I hate picking sides :P There will definitely be more Thor scenes, but mainly in later chapters, this one is pretty brief unfortunately, I just have to get the Civil War storyline out of the way before I bring him into it all again :D There's an Astro reunion in this chapter so we get to see more of them. I ship them too haha so I can't wait for them to finally have scenes together again! Now that this is updated, I'm working on Vermillion, I promise! Thanks for reading and reviewing :D
Lucy: MIA :P
boobop3690: Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it so far, and don't worry I won't ever abandon this story (but I will sometimes take a while to update because of uni)! Thanks for reading :D
If you see any mistakes please let me know and I'll fix 'em ASAP!
Disclaimer: See chapter 1…
"36 hours…Barnes, Rogers, Wilson."
"Thank you, sir."
Tony rubbed anxiously at a spot on his chest, the stress of the situation painted clearly on his exasperated face. Ross had just given them 36 hours to detain Steve, Sam and The Winter Soldier. Tony thought it wasn't so bad…he worked better under pressure. But that didn't stop the variety of colourful expletives flooding his mind as he stared the man down while he walked out to answer a phone call.
Despite their previous argument, well…it was hardly an argument -more like Tony working off some of his anger by yelling at her- the billionaire shared a look with Natasha. They hid it well, but this was not something either of them wanted to be doing. It was still better than the alternative though, and that was the only reason they would do it.
Special Ops? Pfft…please, Tony thought. As if they would be enough to take down Steve and Barnes alone. But Ross was adamant, and as the man in question snarled at his phone with a hand on his hip in agitation and anger seeping from his tense frame, Tony knew he'd do whatever it took to bring Steve and his buddies in. Whatever it took.
"My left arm is numb, is that normal?" He shook the arm out in forced amusement, but Natasha could see the stress eating at him.
"You alright?" Her concern was clear, and she gave the billionaire a comforting pat on the shoulder as she made her way over. Tony didn't miss a beat.
"Always." His lips quirked up in his usual little smirk, but they both knew how forced the action was.
"36 hours, jeez." Tony murmured quietly.
Natasha nodded along, each of them trying to find a quick and easy solution to a problem that had no quick or easy solution.
"We're seriously understaffed."
Tony almost scoffed in half-hearted amusement, but he knew Natasha was just trying to ease her mind - and his own. "Oh yeah."
"Be great if we had a Hulk right about now, any shot?" Tony leaned back in his chair, half serious, even though he knew there was no chance in finding the 'Big Guy' -especially in a 36 hour window.
Natasha's lips tugged up in a rueful smile. Even if they could find Bruce, she doubted it would do them any good.
"You really think he'd be on our side?"
Tony almost winced at the thought. He knew Bruce would likely align with the Cap's point of view in this situation, and for a moment he was even glad that Bruce wasn't there. It was uncomfortable to think about not only the scolding that Banner would have given him, but how Ross would react to a threat from The Hulk. Tony himself had been on the receiving end of a beating back when Wanda had tampered with Bruce's mind, he really wouldn't be ready for another round if that's what the situation eventually (inevitably) came to.
So that left one very important question…who else could they count on right now?
Half the team was missing, no…more than half. Steve and Sam were on the run, Wanda was MIA just like Bruce was, Clint was out of this whole mess in the first place, Cap…well, Cap was long gone. It wasn't a good situation for anyone.
Other than Rhodey and Vision, Pietro was funnily enough the only person that Tony and Natasha could rely on at the moment. And if they were being honest, the kid was probably going to end up a turncoat in the end.
They were on their own…and they needed help. They needed a team.
"I have an idea."
Tony looked over at Natasha, nodding in acceptance.
"Me too." His face twisted in a way that said 'it's a long shot, but it's all I got'.
Natasha's brow inched up slightly, wondering how he knew to ask 'where' rather than 'what'. But she knew she shouldn't have been surprised. He may have acted like a jock, but Stark was nerd at heart.
The beginnings of a smile appeared on the billionaire's face, but before he could answer, the doors were thrown open again and an agitated Ross was barking at the men trailing after him nervously.
"I want know when the hell this happened, and how 6 armed vehicles ended up as scrap metal on the side of the road!"
After quickly stuttering an affirmative response, they scattered and Ross' rage found a new target.
"You better not have had anything to do with this, Stark!" He pointed a stern finger at the genius.
Tony cocked a brow, jaw ticking in agitation. Why did everyone always assume he caused all of the trouble?
"That depends, you wanna let me know exactly what we're accusing me of?"
Ross shot him a glare, absentmindedly waving a hand toward one of the men that had come in with him.
"Pull up the footage."
The older man tugged his bottom lip into his mouth, both hands on his hips with his head slightly shaking in disbelief. His posture screamed: 'Can this day get any worse?'
The video seemed to be taken from a helicopter, and Tony's brows furrowed as he walked over to the wide-screen. The chopper was circling a scene on the road, the familiar reinforced vehicles strewn across the road, some upside down and in the tree line, others flaming and crushed as if they had exploded. They probably did, he thought.
But it was the large crater in the middle of the road that caught Tony's attention. He didn't know what could make that much of an impact other than the Hulk, but he knew that was practically impossible. Bruce didn't even know Ash…wait, Ash!
"Where is she?" He whipped around to face Thaddeus, an uncharacteristically serious expression on his features.
"You tell me." Ross pinned him with a stern look. He really wasn't messing around anymore. Anything that could have gone wrong had gone wrong. He had three fugitives to deal with and the girl- the freak science experiment- she had escaped with what he was sure was outside intervention. Someone had helped her, and he wanted to know who.
"Tony's been here this entire time, you know that."
Natasha spoke up, an edge to her words that somehow made Ross simmer down. Thaddeus knew that Tony never really needed to be somewhere to have an impact, he could use his little gadgets from the other side of the planet if he wanted to, but he also knew that the billionaire had too much on his plate to coordinate a prison break.
"I've got 32 men either dead or dying, I want to know who or what helped her get out of there and then I want you track her down." He directed the last part of the order at Tony, raising his brows as if daring the billionaire to refuse.
Tony always did love a good dare.
"I wouldn't even know where to start."
"Cut the crap, Tony. You found her once, you can do it again." Ross' eyes pinned them each with an expectant look. "And remember, thirt-"
"Thirty-six hours, yeah, thanks…we got it." Tony smiled falsely, earning nothing in response other than a short glare before the older man turned on his heel and left the room.
"Well…you heard the man." His eyes widened in exasperation and he shot an amused little smirk Natasha's way. "Let's get to work."
He had to get to Queens, ASAP.
45 minutes earlier…
His friend in the passenger seat only had a moment to register the obstruction that had just dented the bitumen of the road, before he jerked the van left harshly, attempting to avoid a collision. The car swerved in an attempt to avoid the newly formed crater, its tires catching on the raised bitumen.
They were unconscious by the second flip of the vehicle, barely alive when the van's screeching metal side stopped sliding and was finally halted by a thick tree trunk.
The vibranium lined door at the back was ripped off with startling strength, belonging to someone that Ashley hadn't expected to see again.
She had felt the panicked swerve of the vehicle, and instantly knew what would follow. Vibranium cuffs be damned, her power had shot out to protectively surround her. The gravity free capsule suspended her in the back of the van while it was thrown every which way. By the time it had finally slowed down, her brain had caught up with what was happening.
She knew something very powerful had caused the crash…she could feel it. So she braced herself, whatever it was, wouldn't go down without a fight. Ashley almost flinched when the large metal door was so easily torn off of the strong hinges.
What she saw when her eyes adjusted to the bright light now seeping through the gaping hole, had stunned her into silence.
"Lady Ashley! My sincere apologies…are you harmed?"
She couldn't believe her eyes.
The Asgardian gave his usual wide grin, nodding once in response. Ash let out a breathy and disbelieving chuckle. This was certainly not expected, but she wasn't complaining. Realising that her captors would have been alerted by now, the brunette crawled out of the van, giving the Norse god beside her a quick thanks when he steadied her.
"What are you doing here? Not that I'm not grateful, of course…" she quickly added.
The blonde stared at her for a moment, searching her eyes for something she wasn't aware of. It seemed like he was silent for an age, but it was merely a few seconds. Deciding that he was satisfied with what he found, Thor sighed.
"I have been shown something…something that bodes ill for the both of us." His face was uncharacteristically grim, and her own smile fell to match it.
"What were you shown?"
"I-" He cut himself off, suddenly pushing her to the ground -perhaps a little harder than he intended. But Ash held back her annoyance when she heard gunfire tear through the silence, and saw the bullet ricochet off of the vibranium door she was just standing in front of. In the blink of an eye, Mjölnir was hurtling through the air, and even Ash pitied the poor soul who was sent hurtling along with it until it was finally called back to its master.
She didn't doubt that it had probably killed the man…they were only mortal after all. Though he had opened fire first, and thankfully his companions had stopped to watch him face Thor's hammer rather than following his lead.
Thor's eyes narrowed at the men who had trained their weapons on them, as if silently telling them to hold fire - or else. They seemed to take the silent command, but that didn't stop them from shouting out, shaky voices trying to summon as much courage as possible as they ordered the prisoner and god to stand down.
Ash's gaze flickered between the man beside her and the small army standing against them. There wasn't a doubt in her mind that they would open fire at any moment, their nerves would no doubt get the better of them.
"I'll take the right, you can take the left?"
Her dark eyes snapped up to the god, who raised a questioning brow with a small smirk on his face. She almost returned it, before realising the only thing that was halting her was also impossible to remove.
"Uh…I'm a little tied up at the moment." Ash raised her shackled hands in explanation, but the smug look she received from the blonde made her nervous. What was he planning?
"Luckily I brought this."
Ashley's lips parted slightly, her brows furrowing when he unsheathed a familiar blade. She had absolutely no idea how he had managed to find the golden dagger, especially considering where she had left it, but she laughed anyway. He was full of surprises.
"How did you get that?"
He simply smiled, gently grasping her forearm and running the blade over the metal just as gently. It tore through as if it were paper, the clean cut glowing for a moment before the shackles fell to the ground, completely useless.
"Heimdall sees more than just people, my friend." He grinned.
The blade was something special, and very valuable. By now, Thor had accepted that there was much about the woman he wouldn't know for a long while, but he wouldn't question her until they were safe.
All he did know was that much like himself, she was not of this world, and the blade in his hand had belonged to a Valkyrie. The enchantment allowing it to cut through anything. Like Mjölnir, it could be used as a weapon -to destroy, or a tool -to build. He didn't know who had given it to her, but it was a fine gift indeed. She would no doubt be needing it very soon.
The months had passed slowly in Asgard, with trouble brewing throughout the nine realms. Heimdall had told Thor of much, including the ever-present darkness that was forming in distant worlds. Something was coming, something powerful and unstoppable, and it was coming for the woman before him. She held a stone, that much was known, and even the Allfather had been notified of such things. In fact, it was Odin who had encouraged Thor to aid the woman in the first place. However, unlike his father had requested, Thor wouldn't be retrieving the woman right away.
Heimdall had already told the blonde of the trouble his friends had gotten themselves into, and he knew that they needed her right now, far more than he did.
Ash's lips quirked up while she rubbed her wrists, it was good to feel the power surging. With a quiet sigh, she turned to look back at the men cowering behind the opened doors of their vehicles, guns still trained on them. One of them was still barking orders, but hardly anyone was paying him any attention.
"Alright…let's give 'em hell, big guy."
Thor grunted in approval, Mjölnir spinning in his grip like a propeller. And then they were off, with bursts of green and a crack of thunder overhead that promised pain.
Bucky felt strange sitting in the back of the Volkswagen Beetle that Steve had managed to borrow. He was used to military vehicles, the real tough stuff that he didn't feel so very vulnerable in. But he would remind himself that their location was currently unknown, and there was less of a chance of it becoming known in something as inconspicuous as this.
Still, the cramped back seat was uncomfortable and his legs barely had enough space to fit behind the seat that Sam Wilson was currently occupying. They had just retrieved some gear from the woman…Sharon? Bucky couldn't really remember her name, which wasn't all too surprising considering he had never even met her before. All he knew was that they were going to meet a friend of Steve's now, one who could really help them in their current situation.
He knew the name. The man was one of S.H.I.E.L.D's finest and had caused HYDRA a lot of grief over the years. Despite knowing that Steve would undoubtedly support him if need be, Bucky felt a tinge of…not worry, it was something else. A strange feeling that he couldn't quite place, but he could label it 'worry' for now.
So he worried that he wouldn't be welcome amongst the others, those he knew to be Avengers. He wasn't a hero…he was far from it, the furthest from it he could be. He hadn't done good things, he hadn't saved people and he hadn't cared for the consequences.
But he was trying.
He didn't set that bombing up, and he knew that. Now they just needed to find a way of convincing everyone else that he was innocent. He didn't really see that happening any time soon, but despite the fact that he was no longer 'The Winter Soldier', he still possessed his skill set.
And if anyone could get themselves out of this situation, it was him.
But he wouldn't be alone.
Steve glanced back at his old pal through the rear-view mirror, his brows furrowing in concern when he noted the blank expression the former assassin wore as he gazed out the window at the passing scenery.
Despite the circumstances, Steve wouldn't lie by saying he wasn't relieved to have his old friend back. Bucky wasn't the same man he had known as a child, but he didn't need to be. All that mattered was that he was here, out of HYDRA's reach and hopefully on the road to recovery -mentally.
And now that Steve had finally found the former assassin who had been almost impossible to track in the years since he had saved him after the Triskelion incident, he would stand by him no matter what. Even if that meant going up against Ross and the authorities…even if it meant going up against Tony and the rest of his friends.
Funnily enough it was Tony's words that rang through his mind as motivation in the past few days.
"To hell with the greater good, Cap! I'm all for the bigger picture, but I'm tired of sacrificing the people in my life for people who don't even give a damn."
That's what the billionaire had told him, and Steve finally understood. He knew what was about to happen, and even though he'd rather not deal with what he was sure would be a disaster, he knew it was necessary. There were times in life when you had to toughen up and get a job done, regardless of whatever expectations the world had of you. This was one of those times.
With his determined gaze set on the road, Steve pulled into the parking complex, Level 6 like Clint had said. The silver van was already waiting for them when Steve parked the VW Beetle. Before they even had a chance to exit the vehicle, Clint was striding over with a very 'Clint Barton' smirk tugging on his lips.
"Cap." The archer nodded in greeting, extending a hand which Steve shook warmly. The super-soldier shot a quick smile over Clint's shoulder in greeting when he realised that Wanda had joined them.
"You know I wouldn't have called if I had any other choice."
Although Clint had been surprised when Steve had given him a call a week back and asked him to watch over Wanda if things went down hill, the archer was happy to help. The Avengers were his family away from his family, and when Pietro had risked his life in Sokovia to save him and the boy from Ultron's attack…well, he had red in his ledger.
"Hey man, you're doing me a favour." Clint shrugged lightly, his head nodding backward toward the Sokovian as he continued. "Besides, I owe a debt."
Steve nodded in understanding, his eyes trailing back over to the van. "How 'bout our other recruit?"
Clint wasted no time in marching over to the van and sliding the door open.
"He's raring to go! Might need to put a little coffee in him, but should be good."
The man inside jolted at the noise, seemingly just waking up. Steve looked over to Sam in question, who crossed his arms defensively after remembering the beating that he took at the Facility. Either way, Sam gave the super-soldier a nod. This was their guy.
Bucky watched on as the somewhat strange newcomer greeted Steve with a handshake that stretched a little too long. Truthfully, the former assassin was just glad that they hadn't really paid him any attention just yet. Meeting Barton at that moment had made him question whether the man would really care about his past in the first place…from first glance he didn't seem like someone who was bothered by too much.
The pleasantries were cut short when an alarm sounded in the distance, and a man spoke in rapid German over the PA system. Bucky frowned when he heard the man announce an evacuation of the airport, and decided to translate to the rest of the group who seemed to finally take notice of him when he spoke up.
There was only one word on everyone's mind, and Steve grimaced.
It looked like Bucky was right after all…it did always end in a fight.
With a steely resolve, the Captain gave out his first order.
Ash chuckled at the surprise in his tone, glancing down at the black suit that Tony had created for her.
"Thanks, I thought I'd dress for the occasion."
Thor's small smile weakened at the thought of his friends fighting, but he knew there was nothing he could do to prevent such a thing. He wished he could help in someway, but the most he could do was return the woman he had freed to them. His father had explicitly stated that he could not linger for long. Asgard and the nine realms needed his undivided attention…he wasn't even allowed to visit Jane yet!
"Hey, listen…I really appreciate you doing this for me."
Ash sighed lightly as she tucked a knife into one of the many sheaths that she had been given for her suit. It felt a little tighter than before, but she supposed it was only normal considering it had been made just after they had rescued her from HYDRA. She was bound to put on a few extra pounds now that her diet wasn't predominantly liquid.
"It is no trouble. We are friends after all." Thor smiled widely, as if that was enough of an answer to justify all he had just done for her.
She couldn't keep the small smile off of her face. They had spoken about the real reason for Thor's 'visit' after they had…dealt with Ross' men. While Thor had tried to resist harming the mortals too much, she had no problem with making them hurt. She hadn't thrown the first punch after all, and that was the only thing that mattered.
It had taken them a while to get back to the US, and Ash had no doubt that her fear of helicopters was probably non-existent after experiencing what it was like to hurtle through the air with only a hammer and Norse god to keep you company. Needless to say, Thor thought her terrified screams were hilarious…at least one of them was having fun. But she understood that it was necessary.
Organisations could now monitor some weird kind of atmospheric readings or whatever (science wasn't her thing), and that meant that the Bifrost that Thor kept talking about was out of the question…for now.
"You know I owe you for this…whenever you need anything, you know where to find me."
Thor gave her a grateful nod, knowing that she was referring to the conversation he had initiated with her as soon as they had arrived at the Tower - he had finally told her what he had been shown. Much was discussed and they both had plenty to think about, but that wasn't relevant at the moment. So instead of replying, the God of Thunder merely held out her final blade, the gold glinting even in minimal lighting.
Ash accepted it hesitantly, weighing it in her hand while her mind wandered to the day she had first received it. It had been a while since she thought of her sister, longer than she liked to admit. Remembering that she wasn't alone, the brunette shook the thoughts from her mind, swiftly sheathing the blade.
Ashley gave her room a final look, her dark eyes taking in the green designs that Tony had taken the time to arrange for her. It kinda felt like…goodbye.
With that thought in mind, she removed the small USB from beneath her mattress. She stared at it long and hard, having an internal debate. But she knew that ultimately the decision was already made.
Thor watched as the young woman gave the small device a light squeeze before slowly and reluctantly placing her secret on top of her untouched bed. She owed it to them.
"Do we tell him?"
Tony cocked an unimpressed brow as his chest plate clicked into place, his eyes flickering to the bulky form that stood with his arms crossed out of ear shot. The airport was on lockdown and it would only be a matter of time until Steve made an appearance, now all they had to do was wait.
"What? That his sweetheart is out there somewhere terrorising local law enforcement?"
Natasha rolled her eyes, adjusting the cuffs around her wrists that allowed her to fire the charged chips that she so frequently liked to use. She knew it was risky, not telling Pietro about what was going on. They both knew that of all the people he had met in the last year, Ashley was his favourite. They also knew that he was aware of Wanda's whereabouts, but they had snowball's chance in hell in getting that out of him.
"Your call, but he's not going to be happy when he finds out."
Tony already knew that. He had known the moment he found them sitting together at the Tower, once upon a time when the Sokovian was still trying to convince himself he hated the girl he now so clearly…liked? loved? The extent was the only thing Tony didn't know. But he'd put money on the latter.
"Yeah, well…we need him right now, and if we tell him do you honestly think he'll stick around?"
They both knew the answer to that.
It was like asking if Bruce came back, would Nat stick around? Or if Pepper came back, would Tony?
Not likely. Even now as they stood waiting for the evacuation to end, Nat and Tony could see the impatient bouncing of Pietro's leg. He was eager to finish this, to meet up with his sister, hand the Soldier over, and then find his girl. The genius knew that if Pietro found out that Ash was free, he'd hightail it out of there in the blink of an eye. The only reason he had stuck around this long was because he thought detaining Barnes for Ross would earn him some kind of favour…and he hoped that would be enough to guarantee him Ashley back.
Rhodey's voice cut through the silence, earning Tony's attention instantly.
"We got him."
The billionaire sent a reassuring nod Natasha's way, his mask slamming shut with the familiar glowing blue eyes that belonged to the Ironman.
"Alright, it's showtime."
Bucky wouldn't admit to anyone that his pride had taken a hit after that…spider-thing had so easily taken him and Sam out. He was only a kid, but that didn't mean he didn't pack a punch. But after Sam had finally managed to knock the kid out of the window, it was back to the real fight. Which was the fight against the 'doctor'.
Plan A was to get to the quinjet so that they could get to Siberia as soon as possible. His memories of the other super-soldiers were downright terrifying in terms of what they could do. Sure, they were like him, but even 'The Winter Soldier' had more humanity than those beasts did. Unleashing them would be a disaster, which is exactly why they had to get out of there as soon as possible.
If Stark and the authorities weren't so damn ignorant then they would have figured it out a long time ago. They'd be doing anything in their power to make sure the man who was currently tearing the team even further apart than the Accords, was caught before he could do any more damage.
But they weren't doing that.
Why? Because it was easier to blame someone they knew was a murderer, than believe for one second that Steve wasn't being biased because of said murderer's identity. So that left it to them to make sure that an even bigger threat was avoided, and it was damn hard now that they had several other gifted individuals fighting to detain anyone even remotely associated with Bucky or Steve.
He also hadn't forgotten about the fact that he had yet another problem on his hands, one that might be even more difficult to deal with.
Ashley was detained, that much was apparently certain according to Steve and Sam. It wasn't so much the fact that she was detained that was the problem, more the fact that she was detained by the government and most likely had an army standing between herself and freedom. It would be impossible to break into whatever facility they were keeping her in without maximum casualties. While this fact wouldn't have bothered him in the past, he couldn't bring himself to do it now. The people guarding her were just doing their jobs, and he wasn't a murderer. Not when he had a choice.
So he'd have to figure that one out when they got out of their current predicament. For the time being, he and Sam had met up with the rest of the team and were making a break for it. The quinjet was in view, parked on the other side of the airport runway.
Unfortunately their hopes of a clear escape were shot down -literally- when the one they called 'Vision' seemingly appeared out of nowhere to fire a yellow blast from his…forehead? Bucky's brows scrunched together at the sight, but they were all quick to stand back as Vision drew a line before them, almost daring them to cross it.
"Captain Rogers! I know you believe that what you are doing is right…but for the collective good, you must surrender now."
Steve's gaze hardened as Tony landed beside his creation, carrying Natasha with him, while Rhodey did the same with the royal who had it out for his best friend. A blue blur signalled Pietro's arrival, and the young Sokovian gave his sister a reassuring nod before his hard glare settled on Bucky. The kid that Steve had seen earlier -a fan of his, apparently- swung down from one of his webs, and Steve realised that was it. The fight had finally come.
"What do we do, Cap?" Sam spoke up quietly from beside him, but the rest of the team standing along side them had heard.
"We fight." Steve didn't even hesitate, his words spoken with conviction as the two teams approached each other.
What was originally a walk, quickly became a run...and then fists were flying.
Steve had naturally taken on Tony, which was perhaps not an entirely equally matched pairing, but it seemed fitting and the super-soldier held his own quite well.
T'challa and Bucky were facing off beside them, a rapid and precise exchange of blows that seemed to be favouring the man currently fuelled by the death of his father.
Pietro shot around much like he had when the Avengers had first fought the twins, back when they were allied with Ultron. He went unseen, aiming a solid punch here and there whenever he deemed it necessary. Of course he wouldn't target his sister, and in truth he had nothing against any of Steve's 'team'. He agreed with the super-soldier's view more than he agreed with Stark's, but he needed Barnes. He needed the former assassin apprehended.
If that meant he had to go up against his friends to do so, then he would.
Amidst the chaos around them, only one person seemed to notice the sky light up with the golden light that they had so often come to associate with everyone's favourite god. The swirl of colours and the patterns etched onto the runway signalled a new arrival, and Tony sighed in exasperation.
"Please be on our side…"
An angry Thor was not what he needed right now.
Surprisingly enough, the figure currently stood on the other side of the runway near the quinjet, was not who he had expected.
Travelling by Bifrost was nothing like Thor had described. As Ash stood there breathing like she'd just run a marathon, hands outstretched and knees bent while waiting for her organs to catch up to her, she mentally cursed the god. He made it sound so casual…
It is merely like moving through one of Tony's devices…an elevator, I believe they call it.
An elevator, my ass! There Thor was, acting like she hadn't just shot through the sky in a giant starry rainbow! It was the stuff of every little kid's dreams…but she really wouldn't recommend it. She was still convinced she'd lost a lung somewhere in there.
"Well look who finally decided to show up."
Tony continued firing at whatever caught his attention from afar, whether it was stray vehicles being throw about, or current rivals that could take a hit (he tried to avoid Clint seeing as he was ill prepared to defend against blasts). He'd leave Clint for hand-to-hand, something that Nat had no problem engaging in apparently, even if it was against her oldest friend.
Ash's eyes widened as she slowly made her way over. Thor had told her that her friends would be needing her soon, she suddenly understood exactly what he meant. What was happening? Hell, even Clint and Natasha were exchanging blows!
With a grim frown she jogged over unnoticed, toward the man who had saved her what seemed like years ago. The Ironman hovered before her, facing the fight and firing, but she knew Tony was waiting to talk to her.
"What the hell are you doing, Tony? This is ridiculous!"
He didn't turn to look at the face that no doubt held the same amount of anger as her tone, deciding to not beat around the bush.
"You with me or against me, Consuela?"
She flinched as something red and blue went hurtling into a jetway.
"You know I can't pick sides here."
Tony sighed, knowing it was a lost cause. She would never side with him, regardless of their friendship. He didn't really blame her, knowing that Ross was frothing at the mouth when it came to capturing her. This time Tony wouldn't allow it, but she still wouldn't help him. Not while Barnes -for whatever reason- was so close to her.
"Can't or won't?"
She almost huffed at the question, her eyes distractedly glancing around as she tried to find her closest friends. Wanda was kicking some serious ass, but what caught her attention was Bucky -who was about to get his ass seriously kicked if he didn't notice the 'cat-suit guy' sneaking up behind him.
Tony finally turned to face her, watching as she sent a jolt of green toward the royal who looked ready to pounce at Barnes, the latter remained unaware of the man who was sent hurtling behind his back. Tony cocked a brow even though he knew she couldn't see it.
"I kinda think you already did."
Ash turned to look at the familiar suit, scoffing indignantly at his words.
"Yeah, well I kinda think your 'team' served me up to the feds, so we can call it even."
She couldn't see the way Tony's jaw clenched, but he was a little pissed. He had been willing to try anything and everything to get her out of Ross' reach, and he would have done so, straight after he dealt with his current situation. But apparently she had no problem killing a bunch of people to get herself out anyway. At least now he knew who the 'outside intervention' was, and Ross was probably joining the dots now that they had likely been alerted to the spike in energy that the Bifrost gave.
"That's not on me. You can blame Romeo for that."
Her eyes soften as she sighed, ignoring the Romeo comment. She didn't want to play the blame game, it really didn't matter to her at all. She was there now, but these people…this group of people that had saved her and showed her what a team -a family- could be like, we're tearing everything they stood for apart.
After everything they had faced together, it seemed the only thing able to stand between them was themselves.
"I'm not blaming anyone, Tony. But there's a storm coming…and you can bet your ass you'll need all of the Avengers on the same team when it does. Stop this."
She spoke of things he didn't yet understand. Things he couldn't understand until they were standing on his doorstep, and they would be soon. Thanos was coming, she knew it. Soon they would face death and destruction of a magnitude they had neither seen nor imagined before, and when that time came…no one would be safe. United, as they so often were, The Avengers stood no chance against the power of Thanos. Divided? They would be the first to fall.
"How many lines are we going to cross before we finally realise we're doing more harm than good? We needed to be put in check, half the damn team is 'wanted' and I'm the bad guy for trying to limit the damage?"
His intentions were noble, she'd give him that. But had it really taken 4 years of constant global threats to finally decide this? There were casualties in every war, that was inevitable. The aim was to endure as a race, not survive as individuals. Besides, The Avengers themselves were formed by the government, yet when it came to taking the blame they were punished as if they were a group of vigilantes.
Still, as she took his words into account she couldn't help but snort sarcastically.
"You call this 'limiting the damage'? I won't let you or anyone hurt the people I care about, Tony. Just like I wouldn't let anyone hurt you."
Tony steeled his nerves, knowing that he couldn't keep debating in the middle of a showdown. He had a job to do. He didn't want to do it, but he had to.
"Well, you're outta luck, kiddo."
Ash didn't even have enough time to process the movement before his hand was outstretched as she felt the powerful blast against her chest, sending her sailing a few feet back into the air until she hit the ground with a 'thud'.
Pushing herself up onto all fours, her angry green gaze snapped up to where the billionaire had last been, only to find him gone.
If he wanted a fight, he'd get one.
Unfortunately, he was nowhere to be seen right now.
Instead, the person who had fallen into her line of sight was Natasha, who was preparing to knock her best friend out cold.
The redhead's bones ached after being hurled away from the archer she was sparring with and into the truck a few feet away. She winced in pain, her head falling back against the cool metal of the vehicle as she tried to regain her breath. Her gaze caught sight of the green bolt that soon knocked Rhodes into a jetway. She wasn't even surprised that the kid had targeted her.
Natasha understood there was some tension between them, just like Ash understood that the assassin was loyal to the people who had issued a warrant for her arrest. It was neither of their faults, but it sure did make fighting a whole lot easier.
Ashley's attention was quick to turn back to Bucky after that. She had tried desperately to locate Pietro, but either he was moving too fast for her to notice him, or he just wasn't there to begin with. She felt panic race through her when the same man that had almost slashed her own throat a few days prior, struck out at Bucky's. Ash had never been happier to see the red swirls of Wanda's power than she was in that moment, when they wrapped around the man and launched him away from her old friend.
But he wasn't out of the woods yet.
Pietro watched as his sister saved the man's life, his anger hitting him full force. He'd never been one to wish a man dead, and he still wasn't, but he really didn't like him.
The elder Sokovian shot forward in a blur of blue, eager to expend some of the anger he held toward the man with the metal arm. With speed and an instinct Pietro hadn't anticipated, The Soldier whipped around, a strong fist flying straight toward the Sokovian's face. If he hadn't been enhanced, there was no doubt that he would have been hit, and possibly even killed by the force of the cybernetic arm, but he was enhanced. In a split second Pietro ducked his head, opting to tackle the assassin instead.
The broad shoulder Bucky felt colliding with his gut was enough to temporarily wind him, and both he and his attacker were thrown to the ground from the strength of what could only be described as a football tackle. They rolled across the tarmac before coming to a disorientated halt.
Pietro shook his head lightly, rolling his shoulder back to ease the slight pain in it, before pulling himself up onto a knee and practically sneering at his rival. The former assassin had staggered to his feet and levelled him with blank glare that he was sure many people had seen before their untimely deaths.
Pulling himself onto his own feet, the youngster released a deep breath, preparing himself for what was to come. No words were shared, they didn't need to be. They both knew why they were fighting. Instead, they both charged forward like two bulls ready to lock horns, determination and anger flowing from them in waves. And yet, in the next moment, both were hurtling back through the air before landing in their own respective heaps with a grunt.
Pietro, now sprawled out on his back after landing with a 'thump', raised his head with a groan. His confused gaze met that of his opponent, who had adopted a similar position, and they both winced when they noticed the green glimmer of a forcefield dividing them.
"I don't want to see it. Not between you two." Ashley hissed as she approached them.
It was unusual to see so much anger on her face, or hear it in her tone, but they both seemed to deflate at her seriousness. She didn't even want to accept the fact that the others were fighting, yet alone the two she cared about most.
Red, as she had once called him, was a mentor and her oldest Terran friend…and perhaps in a different world, one without Pietro in it, he could have been more. He wasn't that man anymore, that much she knew and she was happy for him. Then there was the Sokovian who had managed to worm his way under her skin after all of the hostility they had shared at the very beginning. She knew he was already in her heart, and god had she missed him. But that didn't mean she would sit there and watch the two of them hash it out for no reason!
Thankfully Steve chose to make his appearance, keeping everything calm for the moment. He was surprised to see her there, but shot her a relieved and welcoming smile.
Unlike the rest of the team, Ash had no idea what was being said through the ear-pieces, but judging from what Steve and Bucky were saying, she could tell things weren't going to end well. Realising that she wasn't going to get much information from the small snippets of discussion, she turned to look at the Sokovian who was staring at her with wide eyes.
Pietro shot to her side as soon as he snapped out of the daze he was in. For a moment he wondered if he had hit his head too hard, and now he was imagining things. But he knew he wasn't the moment his hands came up to gently settle on her shoulders.
Ash cocked a brow, biting her bottom lip to keep from chuckling.
He huffed out a breathy laugh, uncharacteristically shy as he glanced down to the ground and released her shoulders, choosing instead to wring his hands together awkwardly. His strange behaviour didn't go unnoticed, and she rested a hand on his forearm in a silent command to stop. Pietro's wide, pale eyes shot up from the floor to look at her in question, his shoulders tense as he held his breath.
He didn't know why he was acting so nervous. It was pathetic now that he thought about it, and if the frown on her face was anything to go by, he was starting to concern her too. So what? It had been almost a month since he had seen her, that didn't mean anything had changed.
Or maybe it did. Maybe things had changed in that month, and maybe his nervousness was justified. She had spent the entire time with a man that she had some sort of feelings for years ago, granted when he had asked her, she said that she didn't love 'Red'. But that was then, and this was now. What if…what if she-
"Hey? Are you okay?"
Remembering that he wasn't breathing, the Sokovian took a deep breath, a entirely fake but reassuring look on his face as he replied.
"Me? Yes, I-I'm good."
The look she shot him was full of disbelief, and she gave him a quick once over to make sure he wasn't injured.
"You sure? You're acting kinda weird…"
His lips opened and closed for a moment, trying to find a believable response.
"Just…worried about Wanda."
Ashley looked like someone had just slapped her. They were in the middle of a fight! What the hell was she doing chatting away? Of course he was worried, how stupid could she get?
"Oh my god, you're right! We gotta go…"
She quickly made her way over to Bucky, knowing that he had his own plans to get back to. That much she could tell by the look on his face. The former assassin's gaze softened when he saw her, he wished he had more time for a proper reunion (he was curious as to how she was even there in the first place), but they had to keep moving. Whatever softness his gaze held was swiftly wiped out as soon as he noticed Pietro hovering behind her.
"Hey, listen…I have to go help them out there, whatever it is you're about to do, be smart about it."
Bucky nodded hesitantly, torn between asking her to come with him, and asking her to run as far as she could. The last thing he wanted was to drag her to Siberia where a team of assassins more ruthless than anyone the world had ever seen before, were about to be awakened. But in all honesty, he didn't really want her going to fight with the rest of the team either. As if knowing exactly what he was thinking, she shook her head impatiently and spoke up.
"It's okay, do what you have to do…I'll see you when this is all over, alright?"
He bit back his concerns when he met her reassuring gaze, and even though they both knew it wasn't okay, he hesitantly nodded.
"Yeah, just…" He sighed nervously, but forced a half-smile. "Just stay out of trouble."
Ash rolled her eyes with a small smirk, giving him a mock salute as she turned to rejoin the main group who were still giving each other hell.
Pietro moved to follow, but he was brought to an abrupt halt as soon as he felt an iron grip on his shoulder. He winced lightly, hearing the cybernetic arm whir as the assassin's fingers dug into the bone painfully. With his jaw set and eyes hard, the Sokovian turned to face him.
Bucky wore a similar look on his face, his grip barely relenting even though he had caught the kid's attention.
"If anything happens to her-" Pietro was quick to cut him off, his tone leaving no room for argument.
"If it does…" Bucky's grip tightened further, but he couldn't bring himself to enjoy the way the youngster flinched. "I'll kill you myself."
They shared a long look, both of them understanding that they had come to some sort of agreement. That Bucky was placing a portion of trust in Pietro to protect someone he cared about. It wouldn't have been his first choice, but the only other person he would trust with her protection was Steve, and he wasn't an option. The former assassin didn't know the rest of them well enough, but he knew the kid had feelings for Ash. Even if he hadn't been taught to read people, he'd be able to see it from a mile away. He just hoped he liked her enough to do whatever it took.
When he finally decided he had made his point, Bucky removed his grip but didn't stick around long enough to see the younger man rub his shoulder in discomfort.
Wanda watched as the Captain and his friend made a break for it, both sprinting as fast as they could while the others were preoccupied with the fact that Scott had grown to…monumental proportions.
Unfortunately while Stark and his friends were trying to avoid all of the vehicles being thrown their way, while simultaneously trying to take 'Ant-Man' down, Vision wasn't easily fooled. The synthetic humanoid was quick to slice a control tower in half, sending the structure plummeting down toward the entrance of the hangar.
Funnily enough, it was Vision himself who had helped Wanda gain even more control of her powers in the weeks following the Lagos incident. Control which inevitably allowed her to suspend the falling debris long enough to allow Steve and Bucky safe passage.
Well…she hoped it was safe passage.
She didn't know what it was that Rhodes had done to her, but now she lay clutching her head in her furious brother's arms for the third time since they had met the Avengers. Rhodes had found his suit rapidly powering down before he was roughly launched into a stack of crates.
Ash offered her friend a small smile, which ended up looking more like a grimace, the green receding from her eyes just as quickly as it had come.
The Sokovian nodded, forcing a grateful smile onto her face. "I'm fine, thanks."
Pietro let his sister go when she tried to sit up, a stormy look on his handsome face as he made to follow Rhodes' trajectory. A hand pressed to his chest halted him, and he looked down at the woman it belonged to.
"We don't have time for that right now…"
His brows furrowed and he followed her line of sight when she nodded toward something behind him. Wanda sighed in relief as she watched the quinjet shoot off into the sky. It was no longer up to them, it was in Steve's hands now, and they could only hope that the super-soldiers could shake the men on their tail.
The world seemed to stand still for a moment when Colonel Rhodes was shot out of the air by a blast from Vision. Ash didn't see what had distracted the humanoid to cause such lapse in focus, but she didn't really care for the reason, not when the distant sound of sirens could be heard.
"We gotta get out of here." The twins turned to look at her, blinking out of their shocked states.
Tony hadn't been able to save his friend in time, and even though Ash felt slightly bad by using the situation to mask their escape, it seemed like the only possible time that wouldn't result in their capture.
Wanda froze for a moment, looking back at the sight out in the field. Maybe it wasn't fair, but she blamed this one on Tony. Had he not tried so hard to stop Steve from doing the right thing, then maybe they wouldn't be in this situation. The look on Vision's face was one she knew well.
She had worn the same look in Lagos.
She knew how it felt, and she knew how important it was to have support. Vision had been her support, as had Pietro, and now as she sat watching the regret flood his features, she couldn't help but want to support him in return. No matter which side they had fought for. They had all seemed to forget that there were some things more important than following orders. They had forgotten just who they were fighting. Friends, and family.
Both Pietro and Ash looked at her with wide eyes, their heads snapping in her direction as soon as she had whispered the word.
"You have to leave, they want you." Wanda returned Ashley's bewildered gaze with a determined one of her own.
The elder woman completely ignored her as she muttered a string of what Ash could only assume was Sokovian, in her brother's direction. Pietro looked torn for a moment, and his sister seemed to notice it.
His eyes clamped shut as he released a defeated sigh, before they opened once again and he gave Wanda a nod.
Ash watched on in confusion, only understanding the situation when Pietro turned to her with an expression that said: 'I'm definitely going to regret this later'. Her eyes widened in panic.
They were gone in flash, Wanda's hair fluttering for a moment as her brother shot past her. Despite the dread she felt when the armed vehicles turned up, and when she was cuffed and throw into her own respective one, she knew she had made the right decision.
"And then when you're ready, I'll bring you some books."
Gamora smiled as the 5 year-old's eyes lit up. So far the woman had taken to bring her maps of foreign lands. It was easier to understand than a book, and she liked the carefully painted details. Not to mention that the girl would be needing them at some point, one day when she had her own missions to carry out. It was best to prepare her now.
"Books about what?" Azlure asked excitedly.
"Gods and golden kingdoms."
Gamora's lips tugged up at the edges when she heard the awed 'oooooh!' at the mention of gold. Unfortunately her smile was quick to drop when they rounded the hallway corner and she recognised who stood a the end of it.
"Nebi!" Azlure shot from Gamora's side like a bullet, wrapping her sister's legs up in a tight hug. She didn't get to see the woman often, and much to Gamora's dismay, the girl had quite the soft spot for her 'sister'.
Nebula's onyx eyes softened in a way that was foreign to anyone who would have witnessed the spectacle. It had been a long time since the child had managed to pin her down. She had tried so hard to avoid young Azlure, unwilling to show the weakness that came with the child's presence.
It was hard enough watching her perfect sister parade the girl around like a proud parent, she wouldn't subject herself to further humiliation by allowing her father's minions to see her weakness when it came to the child. No, this was not the place for such things, and if she ever wanted to gain Thanos' favour she would have to steel herself and remove all weaknesses.
With that thought in mind, and her jaw clenched tighter than ever, Nebula roughly pushed the child away from her. Little Azlure stumbled to the ground, a look of fear and hurt covering her features when her big brown eyes looked up to her saviour. Nebula avoided her stare, fist clenched by her sides to refrain from helping the child back onto her feet. She wouldn't get the chance to do so either way.
Gamora rounded on the other woman with her lips pressed into a hard line, and a glare that had sent many running for the hills. The two held eye contact for a long moment, a silent battle raging before Gamora tore her gaze away to help the little girl back up.
Azlure held onto her sister's hand tightly, her bottom lip trembling slightly as she shied away behind Gamora's legs. It was harder to witness the child's fear than Nebula thought it would be. Fear directed at her.
Don't be scared, I would never hurt you…
But you just did, the voice inside her head reminded.
Yes, she did.
She had to…that didn't mean she wanted to.
"She's just a child, show some restraint."
Her jaw tightened while Gamora all but snarled at her. No matter how much she despised her 'sister' Nebula was at least relieved that the woman cared for Azlure as any big sister should. It made ignoring the child easier, even if it hurt worse the more she did it.
She has someone to look after her, she doesn't need me…
It was funny how she had now met one of the very gods that Gamora had no doubt spoken of.
"Are you okay?"
Ashley's lashes fluttered as she came out of the memory, and she looked over to the concerned Sokovian. Her initial anger had passed a few hours ago, and now her head was working overtime to figure out what they were going to do next. Pietro had reassured her that they had a better chance of getting their friends out of prison like this, than they did if she too had waited around to be locked up. She reluctantly admitted that he was right.
After he had gotten them both out of there, they had made their way to one of the safe houses that Bucky had marked in one of his notebooks. In case of emergency, was what the former assassin had told her, and even though she rolled her eyes at the time, it sure had come in handy now.
"Yeah…yeah, I'm fine."
He sighed at the false smile she sent him, and made his way over to the bed she was laying on. Ash shuffled over slightly to give him enough room to sit down on the edge beside her. They stayed silent for a moment, before she felt Pietro's warm hand clasp her own, and their fingers entwining in his lap.
"You know you can trust me…"
While his words held a degree of vulnerability -much like his tone- she could see the intensity in his pale eyes, reinforcing what she already knew. She did trust him. She trusted him more than she trusted anyone else, maybe even more than she trusted Bucky. Why? Because Pietro cared in a different kind of way. Her mind flashed back to that night when she had her first 'reunion' with the former assassin. The happiness she felt in that moment had overshadowed everything else on her mind, including the events that had transpired earlier in the day.
It was the same day Pietro had kissed her, and Ash knew that it was something that they would eventually need to talk about. She had almost forgotten about it entirely, after all of the crap that followed. Running from the authorities wasn't easy when they had eyes and ears all over the planet, and she was just lucky that she had run into Bucky that night or she would have been detained a long time ago.
But she was getting off topic.
Pietro had completely disappeared that day, and she hadn't taken the time to properly question the whole situation.
Why did he do it?
They were arguing, she hadn't told him about Fury's visit and he was concerned. It came out of nowhere, and then he disappeared into thin air. At the time, her head had been racing with thoughts, but now…
Looking at all of their interactions, from the first day they met -when they were less than friendly- to the day she saved his life in Nord, to that day on the quinjet on their way back from Greece, to the late nights and shared secrets…
Now the answer seemed obvious.
She didn't know how to feel about that. Was it a good feeling? Yes. But how well did he really know her? Sure he knew 'Ashley Conlon', but is that who she was? Was she not significantly more than that? An individual formed from the combination of two worlds. Who's to say he'd like Azlure as much as he liked Ashley?
Azlure was not a good person.
Should she tell him about her? If she did, who could guarantee that he would trust her.
"I do trust you. But I need…" She trailed off into a whisper, her eyes looking away unblinkingly as she had what he could only assume was an internal debate.
"Ash?" He was worried, but she was scared.
What would he say? What would he think? Would he be angry that she hadn't told him? Would he be freaked out in general?
"I-I…I need…I need to tell you something."
She looked at him with wide glazed eyes that were pleading for something. What that something was, he had no idea. But he squeezed her hand in reassurance.
She tried to smile weakly at his reply, but it looked too sad to be a smile.
"I need to tell you…who I am."
Alrighty…well let me know how that went, but the next chapter will be very heavy with Astro content. I didn't really think that proper reunions were possible during this chapter just because of all that happens. So you'll see it next chapter instead :) you'll also see what Thor told Ash.
I just want to thank you guys for sticking with the story considering my horrendous updating patterns, I hope the next chapter will come a little quicker than the 47 years it took to get this one out! I do tend to have more fun writing when it's not following a script, and I won't deny that following it during this chapter kinda put me off of writing for a little while and that probably shows.
Thanks again for reading and I'm sorry for the ridiculously long wait, see ya soon!