Chapter One: Haunted
Natasha Romanoff lay on her bed at the Avenger's new Compound in upstate New York, a glass of vodka in one hand and a book of photographs in the other. Despite Tony's protests, she'd been pardoned by the President after assisting the United States government with a covert operation in North Korea and returned to the Avengers.
"She's the same person that she always was; we were just dumb enough to believe she was anything else." His words echoed in her mind. For a good reason, Tony was upset with her, but it was surprisingly hurtful having him have such disdain for her.
But the sting of Tony's hatred for her was overshadowed, her teary eyes focused on the photobook in her hands. Natasha's heart pounded against her ribs as she stared at the picture of her and the baby boy in her arms. "I should have taken you and ran," She traced the outline of her boy's face. "Just seen how far I could get before they caught us." There were many things she regretted but letting them take him from her was the hardest one to swallow. Natasha downed the shot and set the glass on the nightstand.
Her sorrow was interrupted by Vision entering her room through the wall. "We've talked about this." Natasha let out an irritated sigh and rubbed her eyes. Walls weren't something Vision seemed to concern himself with.
"Yes," The android nodded. "It's just I can sense your distress from-" He stopped, gesturing to his room on the other side of the wall.
"We talked about that too, didn't we?" Natasha was less than pleased by her thoughts and feelings being read without her consent.
Vision approached her bed. "It's not always voluntary, I'm afraid." The infinity stone's power was still not entirely under his control. He looked at the book in her hands. "May I?" He extended his hand, to which she passed him the book without a word. "Your son?" He asked, already knowing the answer, as he looked at the pictures of the former assassin holding a baby, which in itself was a tad disarming. Vision sat down on the edge of the bed, glancing at the folded up note in the back of the book, a handwritten note to her son, he assumed. Naturally curious, he wanted to read it, but wouldn't ask. "What was his name?" Vision asked, handing the book back to her.
"I wasn't allowed to give him a name," Natasha's sadness was momentarily replaced with anger. "As far as the Red room was concerned, we were both property." She quickly looked away and tried to blink away the tears. "They took him from me and would occasionally let me see him if I completed my mission without making too much of a scene. It helped them control me." There was silence between them, and he could tell Natasha was mulling the answer over in her mind. Even after all those years, she still wasn't sure. "I don't know anymore, Alexei, maybe." A small tear dripped off her lash and onto her cheek, though she was quick to wipe it away.
Vision knew that humans were emotional creatures by nature, but Natasha had always seemed so in control of hers, detached from them even. "Tonight must hold some significance for you to be in this kind of pain." Their eyes finally met, and he tried his best not to read her mind. He wanted Natasha to tell him on her own.
"It's his birthday." She swallowed hard, trying desperately to fight back the tears. "I can't even wish my son a happy birthday." Natasha choked out the words and tried to remember her training to suppress her emotions, but it was no use; her mind just returned to her son.
Vision sighed and scooted himself closer to Natasha. "Have you thought about finding him now?" She laughed dryly. The answer was a tad obvious.
"Of course I have. But I wouldn't even know where to start." She'd dreamed of finding him countless times since she'd joined SHIELD 13 years earlier.
"You do have the world's greatest intelligence agency behind you." Vision realized he was trying to convince her to look for him, and even he wasn't exactly sure why.
Again Natasha laughed. "And if I managed to find him, what would I say?" She scoffed at the thought. "Hey, kiddo, I know I haven't seen you since you were 3, and I doubt you remember me, but I'm your Mom." Natasha mocked the scenario. "No," She took a shuddering breath, her eyes focused on the twiddling of her thumbs. "I never want my son to find out who I was."
Vision understood now that it wasn't just the daunting task of finding him. Natasha knew that the whole world knew who she was now, and the idea of her own son rejecting her was beyond terrifying. "I can't force you to find him," Vision put a gentle hand on Natasha's shoulder. "But, I think you need a little closure if nothing else." The phone on Natasha's bedside table rang.
"Damn it," Natasha swore, clearing her nose and throat before answering the call and switching back to the emotionless spy façade she wore for the rest of the world. "Yes, Mr. Secretary?" She listened to him explain her next mission in silence, her and Vision's eyes locked while she listened. It was impressive and saddening to watch how good she was at hiding her feelings from everyone around her. "Yes, Mr. Secretary, I'll be on the next flight." Natasha hung up and looked back at Vision. "I've just received orders to Afghanistan." Part of her wanted to stay here with Vision and talk about her son all night, but Natasha couldn't refuse an order from Secretary Ross.
"Another night then, Agent Romanoff."
Peter sat at his desk working on his science homework. He found school work to be little more than time-consuming at this point. Even with his mind only half focused on anything other than being a hero, he aced every test put in front of him, but Mr. Stark had insisted he stay with his grade. "Be 15 for a while." Peter almost rolled his eyes just thinking about it. It didn't matter what he did; he was still just a kid to them.
He didn't fit in at home, and he didn't fit in with the heroes he idolized; and for the first time since his parents died, Peter felt alone.
The door to his room opened. "I see you stayed home tonight." Aunt May folded her arms and leaned on the door frame behind him. Peter could hear the old wood frame creak as she put her weight on it. The sound was like nails on a chalkboard to him at that moment.
"And last night, and the night before that, and the night before that, and-" He stopped himself, realizing how dangerously close to snapping he was. It'd been a week since he'd gone out as Spider-Man, and the lack of an outlet for his almost endless energy was beginning to wear on him. His already superhuman senses seemed to be dialed up even further, and it was giving him a constant headache.
"Which I'm grateful for. You're too young to be out trying to save the world." Aunt May spoke with conviction, and Peter understood why she was upset to find out he'd been sneaking out and fighting crime for close to a year. Not to mention Stark had taken him to a battle halfway around the world.
"Aunt May-" Peter began to protest.
"No!" She interrupted, pointing her finger at him. "No, you're my nephew, and I promised that I would keep you safe, and I can't do that if you're out there playing hero." At that, Peter grabbed the laptop from his backpack and ripped it open.
"Playing hero, huh?" He pulled up several news articles he'd spent hours poring over. "Man beaten and robbed six blocks from here," He looked up quickly. "Two people gunned down in Brooklyn." Peter could have gone all night. "Every night that I sit here doing homework instead of being out there, bad things happen to innocent people. I have the powers, May, and that gives me a responsibility to use them to help people!" Peter felt his lip quiver, frustration tears welling up in his eyes.
"Peter," She took a few steps towards him and leaned in. "You are a child; saving people is NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY!" Peter realized that she didn't get it. She couldn't understand what it was that he went through, knowing he could have stopped something bad from happening to an innocent person.
He jumped from his seat and threw his hands in the air. "That's it!" He exclaimed, grabbing his bag and heading for the window.
Aunt May was startled by his sudden outburst. "And where do you think you're going?" She knew what he was doing and that she couldn't stop him.
"I am NOT going to sit in this God damn house for one more second." And with that, he disappeared from the room and scaled the brick walls of his apartment building to the roof. Rain began to fall the second he made it to the roof, so he changed quickly before heading off into the night.
Peter breathed in the mid-October air, taking a brief second to enjoy the cool rain while he slipped his suit on.
"Hey, Peter!" Karen came on with the rest of his heads-up display.
"Karen, can you get the local police scanner for me?" Peter asked Karen, impatiently.
"Of course, Peter." Her voice had a way of calming him, even if she was just an AI. "However, citing your lack of medical training I'm limiting you to police and fire emergencies." He agreed, knowing he'd do more harm than good in a situation like that.
It only took 10 minutes for the first police call to come through. "All units be advised, that we have a break-in at a pharmacy on 164th Street and Hillside Ave. Approach with caution." Peter would have been lying if he said he wasn't excited as he swung from building to building, nearly losing his grip on his webs twice.
Peter reached the store just as the masked man ran out of the store and into the rain, a bag filled with money and painkillers in his hand. He shot a web and caught the thief by the ankle, causing the man to face plant with 'Smack!' as he hit the wet concrete.
"This doesn't belong to you." Peter yanked the bag from his grip with another web. The desperate man drew a knife as he jumped to his feet and charged Peter, swinging wildly at him. Peter dodged the swings with ease before finally countering with a quick, open-handed shot to the man's sternum, which knocked the wind out of him and dropped him to the ground. "I hope you think about this before you decide to break the law in my town." He smirked beneath his mask, webbing his leg to the ground and kicking the blade out of reach.
A shiver shot up his spine as he turned to leave, something was coming at him, and fast. But even with his superhuman reflexes, he couldn't react in time and he was seized by the wrist. There was an audible 'pop' as his left shoulder dislocated. Peter yelped in pain, trying to yank himself free from the death grip he was in.
"Stop moving." A familiar voice ordered as they flew above the building line.
"M-Mr. Stark?" Peter stopped trying to free himself, realizing they were 200 feet off the ground, at least.
"Uh, yeah." The blue eyes of the Iron Man met his. "You and I are gonna have a little talk." Peter could tell by the tone in his voice that he wasn't in the mood for arguing. It didn't take more than 2 or 3 minutes for them to reach an empty park. Tony dropped Peter on the wet grass before landing in front of his young friend.
"Ya know, maybe just call me next time?" Peter winced as he popped his shoulder back into place. He wished he'd taken that damn tracker out of the suit, but Tony would have noticed that if he did it again.
"Shut it," Tony ordered, his helmet opening, Peter just nodding his agreement. "So I got a call from Aunt May about 20 minutes ago, saying you blew up on her. And THEN left out the window in the suit I gave to you, without so much as a goodbye?" He took a few steps towards Peter and knelt down to his level. "What's going on with you?" Tony's gaze softened just slightly.
Peter sighed, a feeling of guilt hitting him. "It's just-" He paused, removing his mask. "It's just that when I don't go out, I feel ashamed and guilty when something happens. And I have all this pent-up energy, which puts me on edge when I don't use it." Tony listened to Peter, and he understood, to an extent. "And everything little noise or movement makes me-" Peter stopped, feeling embarrassed when he noticed how intently Tony was watching him. "I'm sorry, Mr. Stark. I know I shouldn't have yelled at Aunt May."
"Don't say sorry to me, kid" Tony stood and sighed as he watched the boy he'd taken under his wing. "She's worried about you, Pete. And frankly, so am I." Peter's eyes would occasionally glance up at him while he talked. "You're not returning my calls, you have 3 B's, which you and I know you're above, and according to your lovely aunt, you've seemed wound up and snappy, and you haven't been playing with that friend of yours either." He ended with a deep sigh.
"We don't 'play' Mr. Stark. I'm not a little kid anymore." Peter folded his arms across his chest. "And how do you know I have 3 B's?" Tony scoffed.
"Peter, don't try to change the subject." They both stayed in silence for a long time. "I think we all need to talk." Tony knew that the young hero wouldn't open up so easily.
Justin Hammer walked from his cell flanked by two guards. He'd spent seven years in federal prison for assisting Ivan Vanko in escaping prison and been sentenced to 7 years after taking a plea deal. Seven years of planning and thought on how to take his revenge on Tony Stark. The eccentric man tried not to smirk as he thought of watching Tony grovel at his feet, begging him for mercy. Begging for the lives of his friends.
But he knew it would take time, and more planning to make sure he didn't make the same mistakes as before. Recruiting Ivan had been a mistake he'd had many nights to regret; Ivan wasn't someone he could control. Something he would have known had he taken the time to vet him, but he'd been blinded by the idea of taking down Stark in front of the whole world.
It took less than an hour for him to be processed out of the prison, the winds that whipped across the desert were a welcome change from the stuffy prison. "Welcome back, Mr. Hammer." Hammer was greeted by his faithful assistant, Quinn, who handed a rather thick envelope to him. A man Hammer had continued to employ from behind bars, paying him handsomely from a secret account to keep tabs on the Avengers. "You'll be happy to know the Avengers are exceptionally good at making enemies." With an evil grin, Hammer began thumbing through the many people that'd been incarcerated by the Avengers.
"This one." He stopped skimming the file in his hand, a lanky finger pointing at the name. "Georges Batroc, 36 kill missions for the French Foreign Legion." He read the file with a chuckle. "I like him already, that's where we'll start." Hammer closed the file.
"Sir, are you sure about someone like him?" Quinn questioned. "I mean killing the Avengers could just make them martyrs, right?" It was true. After their deaths, the world would mourn their heroes and once again idolize them.
"The thing is, Mr. Quinn," He smiled at him. "I don't give a shit what the world does after Tony Stark and the rest of those freaks are dead." Then anger he carried bubbled to the surface and his face flushed red. "I just want my revenge,"
Author's note: Hey everyone, thanks for reading my first Avengers fan fiction! This chapter is a little slow, but I was trying to flesh out the alternate universe I'm making, it'll pick up I promise. Also, I feel compelled to give credit where credit is due, I got the idea for this story while reading Spider's Sanctuary by PanzyBears. So I recommend checking that story out! I'll have the next chapter up asap!