Rynan ran, not looking where she was going, just knowing she had to leave.
The epiphany that Fury was HYDRA was like a hundred tons landing on her shoulders; like she had been dropped to the bottom of the ocean with cement blocks chained to her feet, gasping for breath. It was one of the worst feelings she had ever felt. No betrayal could amount to this. She had grown to trust the man, had thoroughly checked him over, had believed in his cause.
She ran into a solid body, arms reaching to push away the offender and struggling when the grip tightened.
"Rynan?" the shock in his voice pulled her from her panic, "Hey, hey, talk to me!" Steve was urgent in his probing, concerned as he hadn't seen Rynan so upset in their brief time together.
Rynan grabbed onto this anchor; Steve was safe, Steve was trustworthy.
Without giving him a response or a chance to react, Rynan turned the grip around and dragged him to the nearest supply room where she knew there were no cameras.
Steve obliged without question, his concern growing, deducing that something had happened and that it may involve Bucky as Rynan had been coming from the labs.
He does make a sound of protest when he finds himself being shoved into a supply closet but it is muffled as a second later he is being squeezed through what felt like a suffocating tube. If he still had asthma, he would be having a full-blown asthma attack right now. As it is, he only finds himself dropping to his knees, gasping for his breath as he gathers his bearings.
Rynan spares him a blank smile, "Most vomit their first time side-apparating. Congratulations."
Side-apparating? What did she mean…? His hands grasp at the carpet that was definitely not there before. His eyebrows furrowing as his eyes finally take in his surrounds and he has to physically stop himself from falling back. They are definitely not at SHIELD anymore. And the implications don't shock him as much as they would've of a couple of months ago.
Rynan spares him a glance, guilt rising at the shock he must be going through. She should've taken a moment to fill him in instead of springing this on him. She doesn't have time to reflect on it further because a voice pierces through what should've been an empty house.
Steve tensed, hand moving to the shield on his back. Rynan turned to the familiar voice, bushy hair engulfing her face as arms wrapped around her.
Rynan returned the hug briefly before gently pushing her friend away.
Hermione allows it, taking in the state of her friend and worryingly biting her bottom lip.
"Rynan, you know the laws," she says, reprimand slipping as was her job in the ministry. But Hermione could only heave a sigh as she did recognize who the man in front of her was. Her best friend needed a very good explanation for why she had revealed magic to Captain America.
"Steve – Hermione. Hermione – Steve. Now that introductions are over," Rynan strides to her stash of firewhiskey and takes a massive gulp before wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
Hermione takes the bottle away, concerned eyes imploring her to speak, "What on earth has gotten into you!?"
Steve would like to know that as well, along with an explanation of what just happened.
"He's HYDRA, Hermione. He's HYDRA!" she exclaims like it explains everything.
Hermione looks quizzically to Steve, not believing that this man was HYDRA. Steve looked just as confused.
"Who's HYDRA?" they both say at the same time.
Rynan kicks at the coffee table next to her to show her frustration, "Fury! This entire time he's been playing with us! How many at SHIELD do you think are really HYDRA? We always knew there was a chance but this is FURY! We checked and double-checked him!"
Hermione winced at the sound of wood splintering, mind rushing at the information she was given. It was a logical deduction but she needed more facts before she would jump to conclusions.
"Don't let your personal feelings cloud your judgment. You don't have the best relationship with Director Fury and to accuse him of treason leaves you vulnerable from every side. Why don't you take a deep breath and start from the beginning: what happened?"
Rynan steps back, straightening her back and waving her hand in the direction of the coffee table she had broken. Before his eyes, Steve saw the table straighten and the splinted wood smoothing out.
There was more to Rynan Potter than people realized, Steve was coming to understand. But that was a topic for another time. Right now, he needed to hear why she thought Fury was HYDRA.
"It was Stark who made me realize. He talked about how Fury had his eyes everywhere and who else knew all our plans? Knew I was going to Ukraine, knew I met with Sam? Engelward went missing on a mission sanctioned by Fury! And a few days later, Petunia is killed!? We've been at this for years - years, Hermione! - how else do you explain that if he wasn't sabotaging us at every move?"
She gnawed at her lip, eyebrows furrowed together as she tried to put the pieces together. Fury was too obvious and if he had really wanted to get rid of Rynan, he had had plenty of chances.
Steve didn't have to think hard on this, his mind turning to the weapons he had found on the helicarriers and the man's insistence on having the Tesseract in his control. "I'm not saying Fury is HYDRA, but he has a lot to answer for."
As the only reasonable person left in the room, Hermione felt it was her responsibility to bring some sense to the duo but it fell on deaf ears as Rynan took Steve's support and grabbed his arm before anyone could react, disapparating them back to SHIELD.
Hermione stared at the spot her friend had disappeared from before letting out a deep sigh, resigning herself to cleaning up Rynan's messes again. She moved to the fireplace to floo her husband. She had thought to surprise her friend with a girls' day, today being one of the rare days she allowed herself off. Molly was watching the kids and Ron was in a meeting all day with the rest of the Auror department. Now, she had to message her husband with the danger their friend was about to place herself in before going to make sure she didn't get herself killed.
Steve landed better the second time, managing to stay on his feet when they landed.
Rynan wasted no time, charging out of the closet, all but running to the elevator to Fury's office.
"If Fury is HYDRA, we have to be cautious," he tried to reason with the woman who was on a witch hunt.
The plain walls rushed by them, ignored as Rynan jammed the UP button. While she would prefer the stairs – fewer people – it was too many floors between them and Fury's office. They stood side by side in the elevator, silence filling the space. It has been a whirlwind half hour and Rynan hadn't even stopped to inform Steve the main reason she had been in the labs earlier.
She fingered her wand, her arms crossed. "James stopped by last night. He remembered me. I think we have an actual chance at this."
Steve swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. This mission just became all the more important.
"If Fury's HYDRA, Bucky can come home."
And that was the hope that drove both of them. That if they could do this, James could stop running and come home to them. They could go back to the way things were.
Their eyes follow the elevator floor pointer, tensing when it dinged, indicating they had reached their destination.
Steve stepped out first, motioning for Rynan to stay back until he cleared the area. Just as he was about to give the all-clear, a woman walks out from the stairs: Natasha.
No, not her too.
"Rynan, don't do this. Director Fury is on our side." Natasha approached the two like they were wild animals, slightly crouched and hand in a placating position to not spook them.
Rynan moved to stand beside Steve, "I want him to tell me that."
Natasha shook her head, eyes begging Rynan not to do this. "I can't let you pass."
Rynan dropped her wand into her hand prompting Natasha to pull her glocks and aim them at her friend and partner.
It was a three-way standoff with neither woman willing to stand down and Steve reluctant to attack a comrade.
Natasha liked Rynan, she really did. But she owed Fury everything and she refused to let her go any further if her intentions were to harm Fury.
"Are you really gonna shoot me? "
"If you take another step, you don't give me a choice."
You could feel the blanket of tension in the air, each reluctant to fire on their friend and ally but circumstances and emotions pushing them to do so.
The tense atmosphere was broken with the opening of the door behind Natasha, the sound like a bomb in the otherwise silent hallway. And there stood the man himself.
All eyes turned to him, Rynan gathering her magic and Natasha turning both glocks on Rynan, sweat sliding down her neck but her heartbeat steady.
Fury let his single eye survey the scene, appearing nonchalant at the threat to his life, if anything, a hint of appraisal and disappoint mashed together on his face, if that was even possible.
Instead, he let out a long suffering sigh, "I wondered how long it would take for you to suspect me."
"Sir!" Natasha demanded, shocked, but never turning from her target.
"I'll save you the hassle...no I'm not HYDRA but I've been thinking the same as you. We need to talk." He turned to his office and entered, giving the three two options: continue their attack or hear him out. Either way, they would need to enter his office.
Rynan exchanged uncertain looks with Steve who shrugged his shoulders and entered, Natasha not moving to stop him. That left the two females outside the office. Rynan didn't want to take Fury at his word so why was she hesitating? This is what she came here to do, wasn't it?
She took the first step, Natasha not lowering her weapons, following behind her until they were both in the office where she took the flank. With everyone in the room, Fury initiated a lockdown that canceled all cameras and monitoring equipment.
With the room secured, the Director of SHIELD placed his elbows on his desk, stationing his head on top of his laced fingers, burning his single eye into Rynan. It always seemed to come back to this woman. She hand come to him nothing but a problematic kid looking to get herself killed but here they were, years later and not only was she still alive, but she was also proving to be quite the adversary. And he knew she was powerful, more powerful than she had led him to believe. If he didn't think she would refuse him on principle alone, he would offer her to join the Avengers. He noted that she hadn't lowered her wand. He wasn't fool enough to think she needed it to attack him. He had seen her wave her hand and cause explosions.
"No doubt you came to the same conclusion as me: there is a mole high up in SHIELD. It could go all the way to the security council."
"What evidence do you have that it's not you?!" she demanded, eyes narrowed. "You're quick to point the blame away. Sorry if I need more proof that this show."
Fury regarded her calmly, a change from most of their meetings, Natasha noted. He must know the danger he was in if he couldn't convince Rynan he was on her side.
"I'm not HYDRA. Those bastards have had me running around for the past six years looking like a fool...believe me, I wouldn't waste my time with this charade. I would've killed you the first chance I had and I definitely wouldn't have allowed Rogers to enter the equation. I'm still your best resource, Potter. If I was HYDRA, why would I allow a team like the Avengers to assemble? After New York, no sane person would possibly challenge them."
Rynan had to concede that point and she finally admitted to herself why it was she hesitated outside the door. She knew then that Fury wasn't HYDRA and if it wasn't him, there was only one other person she was close to high up in SHIELD. But if it was him, that would be even worse because she had genuinely like him and connected with him on a personal level.
"It can't be him. I trusted him, let him in!" she choked out. Fury didn't know if he should be offended that she immediately labeled him HYDRA yet denied when another name came up.
Steve didn't know who she was talking about but both Natasha and Fury seemed to.
Natasha let her guns lower, not believing that Pierce could possibly be HYDRA, her mind running through every scenario where that would've indicated him as a double agent. He had been flawless in his act.
"That man turned down a Nobel Peace Prize. He said, "Peace wasn't an achievement, it was a responsibility." I don't want to believe it but I've been tracking his movements the past two weeks; I even went back and connected him to the HYDRA base we rescued you from no less than three times this year alone. He also authorized three dozen missions off records with questionable targets. You've been on two of them," Fury delivered, anger simmering just below the surface, tone even as he addressed the three in the room.
Steve shifted in agitation, wondering about what Fury meant by rescuing Rynan from HYDRA. She hadn't mentioned anything about that.
Fury had remembered those missions Rynan had participated in, had questioned Pierce about the security of them with a known target. In hindsight, it was obvious why Pierce hadn't been concerned with the safety and security of the mission. Was that a test for her and if so, was that why he had decided to capture her instead of killing her?
Rynan shook her head in denial, black hair falling into her face, obscuring her eyes.
No. No. There was no possible way! She had read the reports. Those people had been suspected HYDRA agents. She had taken them into custody to be questioned by the proper authorities.
"There is no record of them being taken in by SHIELD and I found this." It was an autopsy report on a John Doe fitting the exact characteristics of her last target.
Rynan pushed her hair back and took a deep breath before taking the offered report, staring at it but not really seeing it. How could she have let herself be fooled? She had been vigilant, constantly looking over her shoulder. How had she become complacent? How had she missed taking innocent people into custody, more than likely leading them to their death? Her wake up called should've been when Petunia was murdered. She should've realized then that something was wrong.
Steve moved to take the report when he saw her staring blankly at it, hand coming up to comfort the distraught woman. He could only imagine having to face the realization that she had been unknowingly working with the enemy.
Rynan shifted her hand away, silently telling Steve that she was well enough to read this. Natasha moved closer to glance at the photo on the front of the folder. It wasn't anyone she recognized. Rynan flicked the folder open, hand tightening and crinkling the paper as three sets of eyes took in the autopsy photo.
The man had clearly been tortured.
Natasha's eyes flickered to Fury, question unasked. Fury only pursed his lips and leaned back in his chair, no answer.
It was Steve who broke the silence, quickly turning into soldier mood as he analyzed the situation, mentally planning their next steps, "So what're we gonna do about this?"
Fury leaned forward, his single eye boring into the three people he knew he could trust, and proclaimed "We stop him."
There was a reason Alexander Pierce had survived as long as he has. His positions of power were used to cover up people and events the public didn't need to know about. It also gave him easy access to potential threats and Rynan Potter was one of those threats under constant monitoring while she was at SHIELD, the same was true with Captain America.
So when Potter stormed out of the labs with Natasha chasing after her only to run into Rogers, that grabbed his attention. When they disappeared only to reappear heading to Fury's office, his interest piqued. And when Natasha held them both at gunpoint outside the Director's office, Piece was able to piece together what was transpiring. Rynan was finally learning and questioning the actions of those she had trusted. If she suspected Fury, it would only be a matter of time before she pieced together the facts and came for him. While her relationship with Fury had never quite taken off, Pierce knew if there was one person in the entire world who could convince her Fury wasn't HYDRA, it was the man himself. That meant the next most likely suspect was himself and he would rather be two steps ahead than caught off guard. So he would strike first while they were divided. This would eliminate his most threatening opponents and allow him to weave the narrative that would benefit HYDRA the most which was Potter taking the blame, allowing him to open inquiries into UK affairs for him to plant spies across the UK.
A quick phone call was all that was needed for the deed to be done. And when it was, he moved into action to give himself a solid alibi if suspicion did come to him.
It was a high-pitched beeping noise that alerted everyone to the danger and Steve was quick to pull the two closest to him behind his shield, covering them but being blasted back by the explosion that came from the ceiling, grunts escaping from each of them at the strength of the impact. Natasha tucked in, defending her tender points while Steve had wrapped his free arm around Rynan to stop her from slamming into him when they hit the floor.
Rynan didn't even notice the embrace, Steve dropping his arm the second they hit and all three immediately on their feet, gathering their bearings as the ringing in their ears faded. She was already casting detections spells, knowing whoever did this would have to be nearby. She wiped away the blood dripping down her brow, concentrating on her spell that let her 'see' people in a set radius. It was something she had developed and was still working out the kinks. But it would sever her purpose if she could pull together her concentration from the throbbing in her head.
While the three came out of the blast relatively unharmed, Fury wasn't so lucky. Being the paranoid man he was, he had multiple gadgets and weapons within arm's reach and had moved to activate a prototype shield but hadn't been fast enough for the whole shield to activate. He was blown into the wall, barely missing the window where he would've fallen to his death. Since the walls were reinforced, his body took the full impact, knocking him unconscious.
Natasha rushed to Fury's side when she regained her bearings enough to walk, quickly checking his pulse and calling for evac on the secure channel she knew Fury and Hill used, the explosion having deactivated the lockdown protocols.
The desperate call from Natasha gained both of their attention and Rynan was ashamed to say she hesitated. This could be their only chance at getting to Pierce but she couldn't, in good conscience, leave Fury to die. If Natasha was letting that little bit of fear into her voice, it was to tell Rynan how serious the wounds were. Feeling Steve nudge her forward, she cursed, barking out directions she had gathered from her spell before running to the Director and immediately passing her wand over his body. She pulled at her bracelet, canceling the shrinking charm and summoning the paste she needed; she had learned her lesson from before and always carried them on her person now. Healing spells didn't work so well on muggles because of their slight difference in physiology but potions and pastes did help (something Pomphrey had drilled into her during her brief lessons).
"You're not allowed to die on me, not today."
Rynan pulled each potion forward, tucking the blood-soaked hair behind her ear as she leaned forward on one knee to get a better vantage of his wounds.
"Bloody hell, I need to call Hermione."
Bloody fingers pulled out her cellphone which now had a large crack across the screen but still worked. Wiping her fingers on her shirt to rid them of the warm blood, Rynan pressed to call her best friend who was probably going out of her mind after how she had left her.
"Rynan!" The relief was evident in Hermione's voice when she picked up. "Tell me you haven't done anything foolish!"
Quickly tapping the screen to turn on the speaker, she placed the device on the ground beside her, calling for her friend's attention.
"Hermione!" that stopped whatever the witch was going to say, "We were attacked and Fury is in bad shape. I have my healing kit but I don't know which to use."
Interrogation could come later, right now she needed to help her friend save a life.
"What are his vitals and read off your physical assessment. Where and what do his wounds look like."
Rynan listed off what was asked and Hermione gave her precise instructions, Rynan following them to the T.
Natasha watched her like a hawk as she took goo and various other liquids and spread them over the director's chest wound. Seeing the skin knit together and the blood flow start to decrease, Natasha said nothing but moved to have her back as Rynan continued her work. Steve had left to chase the attacker so that left them by themselves and Natasha as the last line of defense between Rynan and an injured Fury.
It wouldn't take long for Hill to arrive with reinforcements so they could evacuate Fury to Dr. Banner. As of now, the Avengers were the only ones to be trusted.
When Fury was stabilized and Hill appeared with reinforcements, Hermione had gotten Natasha's word that she would evacuate Rynan with them. True to her word, Natasha used one of her Widow Bites to knock out Rynan to make her more agreeable to retreating to safety. Hill only raised an eyebrow at the agent's method, shrugging her shoulders. It was effective.
Natasha quickly tapped her phone screen, pulling up Banner's number and giving him directions on where to meet. He was reluctant but knew he was the only one they could trust right now. He only hoped there wasn't another attack and the Hulk appeared.
It is only an hour later that Rogers is radioing in to inform them he had only been able to capture a single person and Pierce was nowhere to be found, likely making his escape the minute he saw his plan failed.
It was a hard pill to swallow for the team but now they knew who their enemy was and could plan from there.
When the news came that there were no casualties in the attack on the Triskelion, Pierce knew he had made the correct decision to retreat. Just because he had been made didn't mean the rest of HYDRA had. He could still give orders, they would just have to be more discrete and careful.
This wasn't his only plan though. With a public attack on Rynan and Steve, it was sure to draw out Barnes from where ever he had hidden himself. He wouldn't be able to ignore this. He would have to check in on the two people he had cared about and that would make it easier to get him back under their control. He would either have to modify his wipe procedure to make it more effective or he would need to take the two together. Threatening Rynan Potter was sure to guarantee Barnes' cooperation and it would take her out of the picture.
Alexander Pierce was nothing if not patient. He had time.