Holy crap in Hell, I'm BACK! Can you believe it?! It feels so weird. Oh, yeah; you've probably noticed that the rating has gone up. Mostly that'll be due to language-Rose has a rather dirty mouth, when the moment's right. Plus, T'Challa may or may not (but definitely will) be more sneaky about gettin' some lovin', the big goof ball. Anyway...!

The Management of Chaotic Inc. wishes to advise readers that the creator of this (and the other) story does NOT own the rights to Marvel or any related properties. She is only responsible for her original characters and the occasional side plots, and the occasional appearance by characters lent by other authors. The Head of Creative Chaos also strongly warns that there will be strong words used, and maybe more if the Black Panther has his way.


The Private War of Doctor Doom

'Dear Alenka,

I'm sorry that I haven't written to you or Diego for a few days. As it turns out, moving into a foreign country's embassy is a lot more complicated that I realized—doubly so if it's the Wakandan embassy. The amount of security checks needed, even with T'Challa's help—yikes.

Okay, okay, you got me. You know me well enough to know that I'm still a bit put out with your "meddling" with my being. Believe me, it's really great that I don't exactly "die" now, I just wished you also did something about the pain I go through in the process; my time with the Odin-force wasn't at all fun. Plus the fact that you've never mentioned said meddling to me, at any point in time, kinda rankles a bit.

Getting past that, everything else has been pretty wild. For starters…'

…That's the question, isn't it? What else can I write about?

So much has happened since the week before last, when the Avengers were sent (by accident or design, I still don't know) to Asgard and ended up saving everything and everyone from Loki—in fact, I'm surprised that none of us have me ourselves coming and going yet.

True, all that the others have to worry about were the usual petty small-time crooks, and sometimes a super-villain or two, and the odd emergency—but they handled it all with their usual ease. Tony had a few more things to be concerned about—an entire company to run, a team to keep in order, and other stuff…when he wasn't busy in trying to avoid the now-in-charge Director Hill: she was still pestering with the same old song and dance of superheroes registering with SHIELD.

As for me…I have my own share of problems, and none of them were all that pleasant.

For example, when T'Challa announced to his embassy staff that I was going to live there with him, it caused a few uproars. A majority of them were of the happy sort—happy enough to throw impromptu parties on a few occasions. Some of them I went to, and they were fun. The other side, however, were less than happy with me—an American girl—moving into the embassy. T'Challa, Chantè and those perfectly happy with me wouldn't exactly tell me what was wrong—they must have felt that I either couldn't handle all the negativity, or something else along those lines.

But the fact remains that T'Challa is their king. And so, with quiet unease, I was moved into the embassy…and an atmosphere of silent condescension that could choke an elephant herd, several times over. Yippee. It was just a good thing I was set up with a psychologist—otherwise this could be a lot more harrowing.

Thankfully my head shrink was as smart and perceptive as any, often heading off any moments where I was beginning to feel upset and overwhelmed. Actually, it was she that suggested that I write fake letters to people I had problems or issues with, but not send them. I had to admit that earlier on—as silly as the idea seemed, it actually felt good to get everything out of my head and onto paper. Apart from the times I got stuck.

She was also a bit brutal in the honesty department, but with the best intention. Her advice about not trying to please everyone was sound: if I did, I'd never get anywhere and I'd only make myself feel worse. Besides, there were more people that liked me than hated me, so why should the haters matter all that much in the first place?

My thoughts were interrupted by a fluffy tail being brushed against my face, and a tiny head butting up against my chin. An adorable little meow helped the shift the last of the mental cobwebs, and I was now looking at the small black ball of fur currently sitting on my lap, with a pair of the biggest and brightest orange-y yellow eyes looking back at me with an expression that could melt butter.

"Hey there, Salem," I smiled at the cat as I put down my pen and used both hands to gently scratch at his ears. "Where have you been this time?" All I got in reply was a series of trilling chirps and purrs.

Salem—the latest addition—is a black exotic short-hair cat. Somehow (And I still can't figure out how) Voltaire managed to get out one day, and came back three hours later with the tiny creature curled up on his back. And my giant dog made it damn well clear that he (at the least) intended to keep the cat around.

I was more than happy to have another pet, but T'Challa was very reluctant for some reason—which he wouldn't tell me about. I didn't need to worry though, not after watching my boyfriend being subjected to a double sad pouty look from Voltaire and the cat. My dog then cleverly added the most heart-breaking sounding whine, the sort that brought a tear to my eyes. Then the impossible happened.

The big, bad, all-mighty and powerful Black Panther caved, like a tonne of bricks.

After that I could only watch—in very badly concealed amusement—as T'Challa folded with wounded pride, only to be pinned to the ground by my puppy, who then licked at my boyfriend's face with such exuberance I swore that T'Challa might've actually drowned in dog drool. And the cherry on the humiliation cake, the cat then decided it wanted in on the fun, too.

It really was too bad that I didn't catch the event on video, because I really doubt that I'd ever see a big, tough man like T'Challa flinch and squeal as a little cat's tongue licked at his neck. It didn't help that Voltaire still had him pinned, so T'Challa couldn't fend off the cat…and it probably didn't help that I lost it and fell to the floor in a fit of hysterical laughter.

As for how Salem got his name—well, I really like Halloween and all things spooky, so T'Challa offered a few options that were related. Salem was one of them, and it kinda stuck.

And that was the event of how Salem became a part of our little family.

I did have to scoff to myself about T'Challa and his 'firm' decision of not letting Salem stay. It's not like Salem causes problems, though. While a lot of cats make it an almost deliberate point to destroy furniture and other things, or hog an entire bed, or even leave little 'presents' for their humans, Salem was the complete opposite…sort of.

He'd rather scratch at the giant climbing tower we got for him, he doesn't knock things off their perches (especially not the extremely valuable stuff, thank Heavens), and the only place he'll sleep is curled up against Voltaire—often times almost disappearing into his fur. How that happens, I don't know—it's a black cat against a white furred dog: how can you miss him?!

About the present thing—yeah, fine, Salem does have a habit of leaving us things from time to time, but they were things like pens, hair ties, or a sheet of paper, and all at times that either T'Challa and I needed them. A little weird but eh, whatever—I'm happy with it. Another bonus is that Salem knows how to use a human's toilet as his own toilet…okay, that last one did surprise us a bit. As well as make me ask why I seem to attract animals with human-like intelligence, which made T'Challa laugh. Still, it's one less mess for anyone to clean up!

If I ever needed some definitive proof that T'Challa was all talk about not having a cat (other than him) around, the sight of them playing together was it. From batting little paper balls across the desk to each other, to see them and Voltaire play wrestling with each other—Salem always comes on top of those bouts.

My absolute favorite sight of T'Challa and Salem was the time I walked into our bedroom after walking Voltaire, and seeing T'Challa sitting at his side of the desk, staring rather intently at something on his laptop. Whatever it was must be super serious; the little cue being his hands laced together against his mouth. The whole scene would have been a worry, if it wasn't for Salem perching on the back of his chair, both little paws clamped on my boyfriend's head to keep him in place while the cat groomed his hair.

How in the name of all things cute and cuddly did I not fall into a great big heap of squealing mess, I have no idea. I did have the bright idea to catch the moment on video, in case of future blue days. It was a good plan…up until T'Challa pinned me with a mild version of The Look from the corner of his eyes.

Whoops. Busted~!

"May I help you, Rose?" he asked in a deceptively neutral tone, but I knew him well enough to hear the undercurrent, and feel it send shivers of near-panic up my spine. My feet were frozen to the spot, like a deer caught in on-coming headlights…though the more appropriate metaphor would be like the vulnerable prey upon seeing the bigger, deadlier and hungrier predator.

As if sensing the fast approaching and quite inevitable doom, Salem gave my boyfriend's hair one last lick before leaping to the ground and bolting through the bedroom door to freedom and safety, closely followed by Voltaire. I tried to follow their examples, but sadly my speed is pretty damn dismal compared to the greased-lighting quick reflexes of the Black Panther. So instead of freedom, I was easily picked up and flung over my boyfriend's shoulder, where I was powerless to stop him from tickling my sides.

I was then tossed into the middle of the bed, pined by T'Challa's body and tickled even further into submission. It really didn't help me that my clothing consisted of a sports bra and pants, leaving my stomach and sides woefully unprotected against his assaults.

After a few minutes of listening to my shrieks of laughter and cries for him to stop, T'Challa showed mercy and sympathy for my poor aching sides, and watched in smugness as I struggled to get enough oxygen into my lungs between splutters of helpless laughter. "You are a big meanie." I finally managed to wheeze out as T'Challa propped his head up with his hand, the other draping itself over my stomach.

"So you say, my love." He grinned sweetly before leaning down to press a gentle kiss to the tip of my nose. He didn't get too far away before my fingers curled into the material of his shirt, pulling him back down so that I could kiss him on the mouth.

Humming a soft warm sound, T'Challa pressed deeper as the hand that was draped over my stomach began to slowly slide up and down from the top of my hip to the bottom edge of my top; the sensations making my insides warm up pleasantly. Slowly rolling him onto his back, I settled on top as one of my hands curled under his head as the other slowly crept up the inside of his shirt. His entire body rumbled and shook with a deep moan, while his hands caressed the now highly sensitive skin of my sides and back.

All of this was almost enough to distract me…almost.

"So, I have a question for you, oh great and glorious Black Panther." I breathed out huskily when we parted for air. T'Challa gave a soft inquisitive humming sound as he continued to trail his fingers up and down the groove of my back.

"How come you didn't want Salem around?" From hot and turned on to puzzled, resigned and defeated in record time.

"You are never going to give up until I tell you, aren't you?" he asked flatly. I didn't answer verbally, but pulling my hands away to fold on top of his chest and rest my chin on top was a pretty good indicator that we weren't moving till I got my answers.

Seeing as he was beaten, T'Challa heaved a heavy sigh and finally coughed up the goods.

"It is not that I am against having another pet," He grumbled in an adorable way. "It is more that we would be setting ourselves up for ridicule by Clint, despite recent efforts to make him behave."

…Ah. So that's the root of the problem.

As awesome as a big brother figure that Hawkeye can be (occasionally), there have been times where he can be shockingly crude when it came to teasing people about their love life—doubly so when he thinks it's something absolutely hilarious. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to faze him the slightest if we threaten to do bodily harm to him, or have the Hulk do it for us—Clint can and will seize any moment for creating chaos, and will absolutely take a mile from an inch.

Having said that…yeah, I can see why T'Challa would feel that way about Salem. It was probably just as well that the other Avengers don't know about the cat, either. It may get back to Clint, and that moron has more than enough ammunition already.

A prime example would be when I told Tony that I was moving in with T'Challa at the embassy. As typical of any overprotective brother, Tony was very reluctant to let his only little sister out of his sight, let alone move in with another man. But after much interrogation and internal debating on his part—and puppy pouting on mine—Tony finally gave his blessing.

Unfortunately for me, Clint happened to be walking past and heard the whole thing—and now comes the inappropriate innuendos. The first few I was willing to let slide—which was the biggest mistake I could have ever made, because the fifth one ended up with him getting sucked punched in the stomach by me, zapped by Wasp's stingers when she found out about it, and smacked upside the head by my brother. Sadly, none of this taught Clint to mind his manners.

But the one person to teach him that lesson, it was someone none of us were expecting by a long shot.


It was the last day of August, when I was in my room deciding what clothes I was taking to the embassy. Clint was moseying nearby and stopped by my door, and began to make pleasant small talk…which inevitable dissolved into really dirty innuendos: the sort that I had no problem what so ever with killing him over.

Point in case, the last crack he made over stepped the boundary, so much that I was on my feet and fist ready at full power, only to be beaten to it by someone else. Once second I was glaring at an upright Hawkeye, the next he was down on his knees, both hands clutching at his head as he groaned in severe pain.

"I think that's enough out of you, Barton." A male voice commented. The pair of us looked up as the owner of the voice stepped into view—a tall man in a crisp dark suit, and a friendly expression in his otherwise neutral face.

Clint—probably still groggy from the sneak attack—was ready to retaliate, but once he got a better look at whoever the man was, he paused…and turned a very interesting shade of pale. I could only watch in stunned surprise as the usually fearless archer gaped like a goldfish, with no sound escaping him. What really surprised me was that, just by mere presence alone, this mysterious man had Hawkeye breaking out in a cold sweat.

"So would you care to repeat yourself, Barton?" The man inquired in a deadly yet somehow pleasant tone. "Because I don't think I heard that last crack about Miss Stark properly." Wow, if Clint wasn't scared before, he went straight past it to 'sheer blind pants wetting' panic mode. Something people have only ever heard about, but never saw…until now.

I witnessed the purple archer mimic a goldfish for a few more seconds then bolted so fast that I swear that there was a smoke trail left in his wake.

"I thought as much," The man remarked almost to himself before turning to me with a true friendly smile. "Are you okay, Miss Stark?"

'Apart from mentally blown away be the fact that Hawkeye is freaking terrified of you? Yeah, just hey-ho, pip and dandy!' My inner self remarked, while my head nodded slowly on its own will.

"Just peachy, Mr…I-I didn't catch your name?"

"Phil Coulson." He immediately addressed himself, reaching inside the pocket of his suit jacket to pull out an official looking badge. Wait, isn't that a—

"I'm an agent of SHIELD." The man finished his introduction, confirming what I was just thinking. Well…this could be very interesting, or very painful.

"I guess it'd be pretty redundant to introduce myself then, since you already know my name." I remarked in my most casual sounding tone of voice, even though I was coming close to pooping myself in panic.

"Pretty much," Agent Coulson nodded in agreement. "Besides Nick Fury was thorough in describing you to me, right down to the cluster of freckles on the inside of your left leg that looks like a star." ….

I am going to kill Fury.

"Which brings us to the topic of why I'm here," Coulson continued. "Before he went underground, Fury asked me to keep an occasional eye on you, see how you're doing every now and then."

…Unbelievable! Fury actually had the nerve to set me with a baby-sitter!

'Maybe so, but can I point out that your 'baby-sitter' just about scared the crap out of Hawkeye?'

"In that case, how about we have a chat? Preferably about what it is that makes you so scary to Hawkeye?"


"Rose? Rose, are you all right?" The concerned voice of my loving boyfriend pulled me from my thoughts.

"Sorry," I apologized. "I was miles away." T'Challa merely raised his eyebrow at me, his face saying that he knew there was more and that I was holding out on him.

"I can see that," He replied, and then oh-so kindly expanded on that. "You're smirking again."

Ah, of course. It used to annoy the crap outta me that he could always tell what I was thinking—he finally coughed up the info when I nagged him about it. Turns out I start to smirk whenever I'm thinking of something hilarious or—ahem—mature.

That's probably the reason why I never play any sort of card games against him.

"So?" T'Challa gently prodded as his fingers once again traced a path up and down my spine. If I didn't know any bet—hey, hey!

"Th-that's cheating." I protested weakly, despite my defenses starting to crumble under the deliciously pleasant trembles that my devious yet equally delicious boyfriend was causing.

"You started it." He retorted in a deep seductive voice. I could only manage a soft whimper as he rolled the both of us over, carefully pinning my body against the mattress with his larger frame and began to gently kiss at my neck.

'Damn that man.' I mentally grouse, but it was beginning to get pretty hard to focus when said man was doing such deviously wonderful job of keeping me distracted.

"Rose." T'Challa purred in a deeply seductive way that had all of my defenses just about falling down around my ears…which was the perfect moment time for him to drop the act and pull away, despite my near whimper/cry of protest. The crooked half-smirk and raised eyebrow were all he needed in order to say 'got ya, now spill'. You know, there are some times were I really hate this man.

Before I could lose my temper on him, T'Challa pressed his mouth against mine in a sweet, tender, head-reeling kiss. While I was distracted (Dear Lord, his tongue is brilliant), he rolled the both of us over again—onto our sides this time—and wrapped me tight in his arms, hugging me close to his body.

"Rose," He murmured softly as we pulled away for air. "Please tell me what you were thinking?"

"Grr, mmph," I half grumbled before finally relaxing against him, "If you must know—"

"I must, I must." …And he says he doesn't like Blazing Saddles? Failing to keep back a pleased smile, I told him that I was remembering the first moment I met Phil Coulson, and how it was nice to know that we had someone to keep Hawkeye in his place.

Now it was his turn to look disgruntled. When I first told him of what had happened after I got back to the embassy, T'Challa was very…I'm gonna go with concerned, but not quite to the 'clucky' point—yet. Despite Phil knowing oh-so many of Hawkeye's most embarrassing moments, T'Challa was hesitant to put any sort of trust in the agent…something I agreed on.

There's just something about him that makes you feel like you can trust him, but there's also something that sets off the heebie-jeebies a little, I had told him then. With that, we both agreed to be welcoming but cautious whenever we ran into Phil.

"Would you feel better if we had a contingency plan for dealing with Hawkeye ourselves?" I asked my conflicted boyfriend. And that's inspiration—and a serious giggle fit—hit me.

"I just remembered something," I snickered madly. "I still have that pony costume of his. And I joined the My Little Pony mailing list, so I know where all of the conventions will be." It took a few seconds for what I said to make sense, but even T'Challa was laughing as hard as I was at what that meant for the unsuspecting archer.

Later when I went for a shower, I did have to mentally remind myself that while Phil Coulson may be a SHIELD agent, and that Fury sent him, neither told me whether he agreed with Hill or not. Maybe I can talk to Quartermaine or Wu about what I should do.


Sept 12th, 20xx

Somehow—between returning from Asgard till now—the Avengers ended up agreeing to a poker game with two members of the Fantastic Four: Johnny Storm and Ben Grimmes, aka The Human Torch and The Thing, respectively.

Sensing the potential for an energetic (read absolutely chaotic) evening; Tony decided that he'd head over to the Baxter Building to talk shop with Dr. Reed. Wasp also decided she'd tag along too, if only to gossip with Reed's wife, Susan Storm: aka The Invisible Woman.

It might just be me thinking this, but it also looked like Wasp was still trying to find someone to give her a sympathetic ear about the whole Ant Man quitting thing, especially after I told her to leave the matter alone. Hank quit, that's the end of it, so stop trying to flog a dead horse. Admittedly, there will be times where we will wish he was around, but we just have to adapt.

Yeah, I'm not really in Wasp's favorite books right now, since I took Hank's side and all. And that I compared her nagging about the issue to flogging a dead horse. To be fair, she gets cranky with anyone that takes Hank side in the matter.

Putting aside my supreme reluctance to put up with Wasp, I was still 'um-ing' and 'ah-ing' on whether to tag along with Tony and talk all things science with him and Reed, or to stick with the others. That's when the 'trying to be helpful' voice in my head reminded me that I probably wouldn't be allowed to play with the boys anyway, not if Clint has anything to say about it. Not that I'm a bad player—quite the opposite, actually. As Hawkeye, Quartermaine and a few other SHIELD agents found out, I was scary good.

On second thoughts, maybe I shouldn't play: the last time I played against Clint it ended up with him owning me somewhere in the thousands…which he is yet to pay me.

I mentioned this to T'Challa, who then gained a thoughtful look on his face…oh, no. No way! As much as I love T'Challa, and would willingly walk through fire for, there's no chance in Hell of me putting up with a whining Hawkeye—especially if he's going to end up owning me more money.

Although I could definitely take advantage of my boyfriend being busy, and double check that I have moved certain items of mine into the Wakandan embassy…hmm.


"You know, I somehow get the impression that you're in for an interesting evening." I casually remarked to T'Challa after we arrived at Avengers Mansion. He didn't say anything as the pair of us watched the Hulk, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimmes wrestle each other on the front lawn. And they weren't going easy on each other, either, if the flames were any indication.

Oh, yeah, I'm really glad that I'm not joining the game tonight, especially if it means not having to sit at the same table as Johnny Storm.

As far as superheroes went, he wasn't all that bad. As a regular male…he leaves something to be desired. To put it succinctly, the rare few times that I've made an appearance at the Baxter Building when the Fantastic Four were home, I've had to awkwardly put up with Johnny flirting with me—despite it being so painfully obvious that I was in no way interested.

I wonder how things will go now, since I'm dating a rather overprotective man.

Pulling myself out of my thoughts, I looked up and beyond the flailing limbs to spy Clint watching the chaos unfolding from the safety of the front door, with an expression that said he'd rather be anywhere but here right now.

"I'm starting to think Iron Man had the better idea this evening." He wryly commented to us as T'Challa escorted me past the mayhem to the front door.

"Maybe, but I'll take this over putting up with Janet," I replied. "Especially if all she is doing is complaining about Hank leaving or us taking his side." Hearing this, Clint dragged his attention away from the fight to look at me with a raised eyebrow.

"She's still at it, huh? Sheesh," He huffed in agitation. Strangely, that look then turned into a look of worry. "Out of curiosity, you don't see Jan as the type to be really, really petty, right?"

A bit of a random question, to be sure, but nevertheless, it was right on the tip of my tongue to say that she was already being petty—until a stray fireball exploded near our feet, causing two of us to yelp in fright and make T'Challa pull me behind his body for safety.

I'm not entirely sure if it was due to me yelping the loudest or from Hawkeye's yell to 'stop the damn fireworks!'—either one caught Johnny's attention. The second he realized that I was present, he was up onto his feet and extinguishing himself as he made a beeline for the front porch. T'Challa was almost bawled over when the flame-head positioned himself in front of me, his arm resting against the door and a flirtatious grin on his face.

'Oh, boy, here we go!' I mentally gulped, my face twitching itself into an uncomfortable smile as Johnny began to greet me, totally ignoring (or not even noticing) the growing dark aura emanating from T'Challa.

Thankfully—before there was any sort of bloodshed—Clint reappeared and quickly clamped his hand against Johnny's mouth, just as Hulk and Ben walked over, the former chuckling darkly.

"Better hope he's got funeral insurance," Hulk grinned savagely to the rocky giant. "He's gonna need it."

"What, just for talkin' to Briar?" Ben asked in disbelief.

"Nope, for makin' eyes at Panther's girl." While the two giants had been discussing the matter between themselves, Clint had been talking sense into the protesting younger male.

"Don't. Whatever you're thinking, don't do it," The archer had warned. "There's to be no look-y, no touch-y, and definitely no flirty!" Johnny seemed too annoyed to pay any attention, but when he heard the Hulk's comment, the fire bug made a loud noise of disbelief.

With wide eyes, Johnny looked at me. Before I could gently break it to him, I almost jumped out of my skin when T'Challa slid his arm around my waist and pulled me against his side. I tilted my head up to give him a Look, but my vision turned dark when T'Challa placed a seemingly chaste (but really a blood-racing, toe-curling) kiss against my mouth.

It took me a few seconds to get my bearing after T'Challa pulled away, but I was able to see Johnny slump in defeat.

"Aw, how come it's always guys like him that get the girls?!" Johnny complained as a sympathetic Ben walked the poor boy inside. Hulk gave a hearty snort of laughter and clapped his hand on T'Challa's shoulder (almost sending the poor man into the ground) as he followed the tow of them inside.

Finally internally balanced out, I watched along with Clint as the three of them retreated further inside, then we looked at each other and finally at T'Challa—Clint even going so far as to slow-clap him. The devilish fiend that is my boyfriend simply smirked and playfully bowed at the praise. Then, with a proper chaste kiss to my cheek, T'Challa followed after them.

"Well, good to see that he's still got it." Hawkeye exhaled. I could only hum softly in response as I marveled at how intimidating my boyfriend can be sometimes…if not all the time.

"That reminds me," Clint added as we walked inside and closed the door. "I owe you an apology, for all the stuff I've been sayin' to you lately." Okay…? Not that I'm against an apology (especially from him, of all people) but I do wonder what—or who—brought this on.

"Thing is…when I heard you telling Tony that you were moving in with T'Challa," Hawkeye began in a sheepish tone, "It…well it reminded me of our conversation. When we were heading to the Norn Stone? Kinda made me think I had a hand in it, or something."

…Well that makes some sense, at least where Clint was concerned.

"Plus, even with Cap and Hulk around, and sometimes the others too…" The nervous hand scratching at the back of his head, and the matching tone of voice easily revealed what Clint was really getting at, and the revelation made my insides begin to wobble.

"Aww, you're going to miss me?" I finished for him. When he eventually nodded, I couldn't help myself but coo at his adorkable-ness and slung my arms around his waist and hugged tightly. "I'm gonna you, too, ya big goof," I admitted as his arms settled around my shoulder in return. "Maybe we can sleepover at each other's place some nights?" He gave a response that was half a grunt and half a chuckle, and pillowed his cheek on top of my head.

We stayed like that for another a few minutes before I felt Clint raise his head and look around. "No Voltaire tonight?"

"No, he's at the embassy with Salem." I answered automatically, before it hit me what I just revealed. Crap! The one thing I hoped to keep quiet, especially from Clint, of all people. I just hope he doesn't make a big deal out of it.

But I never expected what came next to happen at all.

"Salem? Of all the names to give a black cat, you choose Salem?!" He complained, pulling away to look down at me. "Seriously?!" My brain was too stumped to react, but I think Clint got the point and eased up on me.

"A couple of weeks ago, Voltaire just showed up here out of the blue, and made a beeline for your greenhouse," He explained. "I followed after him, and somehow he found a black cat in one of the bushes…kinda weird, even for your dog." No kidding. Well, I guess we now know where Voltaire found Salem. Now I had to find out how Salem even got into the greenhouse in the first place. Good thing T'Challa insisted that the cat get all of his shots.

"So…no teasing?" I hesitantly asked him, "No innuendos; gibes; taunting; taking the mick?" I wouldn't put it past him to sneak some more jabs at T'Challa and I, but all he did was shake his head in a firm 'no'.

"Nuh-uh," He answered vehemently. "There's no way I'm taking a shot as that little fur ball—not if it means facing Voltaire. Plus you've made it pretty obvious that you'll get me back with interest, now that you've got Phil on your side." It took a lot of self-control to not grin, let alone jump in joy, because hearing that Clint wouldn't be teasing us about the new addition to our family was just about the best news I could have gotten!

After getting his word that the others wouldn't get word about Salem—unless T'Challa and I said something first—I decided to bring up the subject of Phil Coulson, and how my darling boyfriend seems rather…unsure about him.

"Relax and give it time." Clint assured me. "Phil's a decent guy, not to mention one hell of a seasoned agent. Just let him and T'Challa test out the waters with each other—they'll be friendly enough to each other in time."

"Are you sure?" I asked doubtfully. Phil may set off my 'heebie jeebies' alarm, but he still seemed a nice enough person to be around. If not that, then at least he'll be decent enough to save you from any bad guys and not let them hurt you.

Clint gave me a flat look before heaving a heavy sigh of defeat. "If it bugs you that much, I'll take your man aside and have a chat with him." The grateful hug I gave him in response said everything I couldn't get into one word, much to his amusement. With arms wrapped around shoulders and waist, Clint and I slowly strolled down the hallway to where the game was going to start soon, when something in the back of my mind nudged itself into the forefront.

"By the way, why were you asking if Jan was the type to be petty?" I inquired. The relaxed looked on Clint's face dropped, and he stopped just before the entrance of the den. A furtive glance around to check for any eavesdroppers, he leaned into a little closer to me.

"A few days ago, Hank came over to pick up some of his things…and his new personal assistant was with him." His new—oh…oh, wow. Upon my raised eyebrows look, Clint carried on with his explanation. "It was just damn lucky that Wasp wasn't around. She'd really freak out on the new lady—especially since Hank seems pretty into her. And she's pretty easy on the eyes."

Despite myself, I gave a sarcastic snort.

"Scoff all you want, but even Hulk's head was turned when he saw her." Clint gently reprimanded, and I have to admit that I was now interested. I honestly didn't think that the Hulk was even interested in the opposite gender….or about dating in general. So if the Hulk's head was swivelled, then this lady must be really something…oi vey.

"I'm gonna regret asking this…but what does she look like?" I asked him.

"Trust me: she's someone you definitely want to meet in person." Clint advised, and in a tone that brokered no argument. Well…all righty then. In the meantime, we agreed to keep this from Janet…at least, for as long as possible. Doubly so if it turns out this lady is as hot as Hawkeye claims.

After our private conversation ended, Clint went to go begin the game—even cheekily offering to cut me in. Tempting as the offer was, I had to politely decline. Giving a small shrug in response, Clint entered the den as a few of the boys called for him to get a move on. Left on my little lonesome in the hallway, I tried sorting out the load of gossip that was just dropped on me: Hank getting a new assistant—replacing Wasp, as it were. I can't tell if that's just an 'ow' or a serious slap to someone's face.

"Then again, with all the time she spends being an Avenger..." I reminded myself quietly.

'Plus we're assuming that Clint's right about this new lady.' My inner self pointed out. All very true…still, seeing as I had made plans to go see Hank sometime soon, I'd see for myself about this 'new lady' and get to the bottom of it…and hope like crazy that Wasp really wasn't the petty type, or worse.

*.*.*.*

Upon entering my old bedroom, a part of me remarked as how little it had changed, even though there were fewer clothes in some drawers, from my wardrobe, and various knick-knacks from around the room—including the heirloom mirror.

After his first appearance, Phil came by another day and helpfully suggested that I take the mirror with me, for practical reasons. Since a scary amount of bad guys knew where a majority of Avengers lived, there was every chance of another break-in/invasion, which could either end badly or much worse. So—for the sake of my mind—I moved the mirror to the Wakandan embassy for safe keeping.

I smiled a little at the memory that brought up. When I told Chantè the history of that mirror, she took it upon herself to safeguard it until it was in a safe location within the embassy. And she took her job so seriously, it was almost like she was protecting the king. T'Challa noticed this as well, and only gave me a badly suppressed smile as we watched Chantè hover over the movers as they carried it into the bedroom.

Other than the mirror, there was very little of anything else that I wanted to take with me to my new home. Of course, before I even started the arduous task of deciding what goes and what stays, T'Challa and I came to the agreement that I would keep my old bedroom—just in case there came times when I was too tired to make it back to the embassy, something that Tony agreed on.

As I sat on the edge on my bed, I looked about the room. So hard to believe that only a few short months ago that I was—

BOOM!

The very room shook violently as an explosion rocked the mansion from somewhere downstairs. Before my mind could catch up, I had bolted out of my bedroom, leaping down the stairs three steps at a time. I hit the landing just as green lasers began shooting around me, and it was only from the amount of reaction time drills T'Challa plied on me that allowed me to hit the deck as fast as I did.

"Now what's going on?" I complained to myself as more weapon fire erupted around me. I just happened to be wishing for some sort of help, when fireballs flew at whatever was attacking first, soon followed by a flaming Human Torch zooming over my head. Soon the other Avengers and Fantastic Four member joined in the chaos, and T'Challa (as predictable as ever) found me first.

"Do I really need to ask anymore?" I questioned rhetorically as his hand slipped under my arm and hauled me up to my feet, and pulled the both of us behind a pillar for some sort of cover.

"Envoys of Doctor Doom," He answered regardless. "Are you hurt?"

"No, are you?" He wasn't either, thanks to his armor. Belatedly, I realized that I didn't have mine on—dammit. This is starting to become a bad habit; me not having my armor on at times when I really did need it. I didn't even have my clawed gloves!

T'Challa seemed to have spotted my problem as well, and firmly instructed me to get away to safety. My first thought was to get to my private lab—in an emergency it also acted as a panic room. The only problem was that Doom's forces were blocking the only available path to safety. My only other option was to get outside and make a break for it.

I pointed out my options to my boyfriend, and true to his character, he hated the idea of me running out of the mansion. But he liked the other plan even less, so carefully timing things he created enough of a diversion for me to slip past unnoticed.

The plan seems to have work—

ZAP

—and down I went…yet again.

*.*.*.*

I can't be all that positive about how long I was unconscious for, but I could damn well be sure enough about how much I hated being attacked from behind, yet again. And—despite how weird I'd look—I should definitely make it a point to look into some sort of protective head wear.

During the brief moments when I sort of regained consciousness, I could only just make out the fact that somebody was talking—actually, two somebodies. I couldn't even focus on catching what they were saying before I lost the fight to stay awake.

It became a bit easier later on, mostly thanks to an obnoxiously loud alarm going off, but everything just refused to focus properly. At least I was able to stay awake his time, though I felt oddly cramped for some weird reason.

Somehow finding the energy to do so, my eyelid managed to peel open…though the view was very less than helpful—everything looked as though I was peering through filmy fog, which didn't really help in telling me if I was really alive or really dead.

Beyond the immediate—and unattractive—view, I saw vague shadows of varying sizes jumping about, followed by what sounded like fighting. Geez, what the Hell is going on out there? And why does my head hurt so much? I know I've taken hits to the head before, but it's never taken this long to recover.

As testament to lack of said recovery, I was in no way prepared for the sudden weightless sensation, kinda similar to being dropped from mid-air. Thankfully my free-fall was short-lived as somebody caught me from below. Instead of putting me back on my feet, however, the person who saved me just pulled me tighter against their broad chest—I guess they thought I wasn't in any condition to walk…which worries me, because it means I'm in way worse shape than I think I am.

'Funny, but the person holding me feels a whole lot warmer than a person usually should. Why is that?'

My poor little head started to swim again—nearly violently, this time—and my stomach felt like there was a roller coaster inside my guts. Blissfully the moment passed without making a mess, and it was now much easier to focus on the stinging pain in my forehead and the wet something wiping against my skin there.

"Hey, is she coming to?"

"Hard to say; sometimes she'll just open her eyes, but other times she'll—"

"Get da fuck off-a me, ya wet slimy git."

"She'll do that. Now she's awake." My brother: the comedian.

A few more gentle swipes later and whatever the wet thing was, was taken away, finally allowing me a chance to open my eyes. Like I knew he'd be, Tony was almost hovering by my left shoulder; Johnny Storm was standing on his left, looking down at me with a very worried face. There was a soft, almost near quiet sound of movement to my right—it was T'Challa, with his mask pulled back completely.

Normally, seeing him would calm me down, but the fact that he now wore surgical gloves? It really didn't help ease the heebie-jeebies that he held a soiled red cotton ball in his hand.

Probably sensing my (sluggishly) rising panic, T'Challa discarded the cotton ball into a surgical dish and gently captured my hand between both of his, gazing at me with soft intensity. "How do you feel, Rose?" He inquired in an equally soft tone.

"Like there's a damn elephant stomping on my brains." I slurred weakly, mostly due to a (thankfully) minor wave of nausea. "Sorry, but the gloves don't exactly make me feel any better. I'm kinda afraid to ask what I've done this time."

T'Challa—for his part—looked relieve that I was coherent, at least enough to manage long enough sentences without feeling (or being) sick. My brother and Johnny—on their part—were cautious, almost uncertain. In the end (and after a particularly pointed look from T'Challa) Tony cleared the lump on his throat and began to speak.

"Well, you…you kinda took a bad clip to the head." He explained lamely, and frustratingly, it wasn't the least bit helpful. I looked to Johnny in the hopes of a better outlook, but the most he could offer me was an attempt of a smile that looked more like a very painful wince. Belatedly, the smarter part of me brain piped up and asked me why I hadn't asked T'Challa, since he wasn't one to mince his words; especially when it comes to bodily harm.

Like the suspiciously telepathic man I often accuse him of being, T'Challa rolled his eyes and sent the other two rather dirty looks. Wow, I didn't know he had it in him. When he looked back down at me, I could see in his golden eyes a private war being fought. His protective side was trying all it possibly could do to prevent me from learning the truth; his rational side knew that telling me the truth would be much better.

But, in all likelihood, his realistic side won the argument by pointing out that if he lied to me, and I found out that he did, I'd kick his ass as painfully as I could make it.

"We cannot be certain when it happened," He spoke at long last, "But I suspect that when one of the Doom-bots attacked you from behind and the momentum sent you tumbling rather heavily into the ground." There he stopped and carefully watched my face, ready for any sort of subtle that marked my reaction.

"…it's bad, isn't it?"

"It did raise some concerns, yes. Thankfully it turned out to be a 'it looks worse than it really is' matter." Hm…still, it goes some way to explain the state my poor head is in.

"What next?" I asked, "About the Doom-bots and the rest, I mean." Relieved that I was taking everything so well, Tony jumped back in to take over the story, the big, shiny chicken.

"You, Wasp and Sue Storm were taken to Latveria," My brother explained, "We're not exactly sure on why Dr. Doom did that, but it doesn't look like he did anything else to you ladies…besides attacking and kidnapping you."

"As soon as we had who we needed, we retreated from Latveria, and are now heading home," T'Challa finished up. "We are only an hour from New York. As for your injury, I took advantage of your disorientation—"

"T'Challa! That's no way to treat your girlfriend! Shame on you, you bad man." I interrupted, playfully gasping in mock outrage. If it weren't for the fact that everyone knew me better, and for the big ass grin on my face, they might have otherwise thought I was being serious. Instead, while Tony tried to smother his laughter, T'Challa just smirked and rolled his eyes at my attempt of humor.

"As I was saying," He continued, "While you were 'out of it', I cleaned out the dirt from your wound, and stitched it closed. I was cleaning the last of the dried blood when you so eloquently came around." In T'Challa speak: 'we need to have a word about your language, young lady.'

Whoops~!

"Yay for me," I mumbled to myself before sighing in a little relief. "Still, we're safe and sound and heading for home. That's as much as anyone can ask for." My brother and boyfriend were happy enough to agree with my assessment, whereas Johnny grumbled under his breath about making Doom pay, or something along those lines. Thankfully, he left it at that.

As he mentioned earlier, T'Challa finished cleaning up the last of the blood on my forehead, then carefully covered the (he assures me) tiny stitches with a small plaster. Let's just hope there isn't a repeat of the last time I had stitches. Once I was patched up and cleaned to his liking, T'Challa sat back with a relieved sigh and snapped off the surgical gloves. I was so bloody tempted to make a joke about 'being examined', but he caught the blossoming smirk on my face and quickly placed a gentle finger against my lips.

"Not now, my love," He spoke lowly, "And certainly not in public."

"Spoilsport," I managed to get out. Failing miserably to conceal his smile, Tony looked at my boyfriend and gave a subtle nod to the side, indicating he wanted a private word. Heaving a resigned sigh, T'Challa gracefully rose to his feet and—after giving Johnny clear instructions on not letting me fall asleep—followed after Tony.

Johnny then sat in the recently vacated seat, just quietly watching me. As much as I found his eagle-eyed look unnerving, I was grateful for a few minutes of peace and quiet to deal with a sudden wave of nausea hitting me. Once it passed, I was grateful to see Johnny holding a bottle of water for me. Then—bless him—he helped me sit up, and held the bottle while I took a few tentative sips.

"Feel any better now?" He asked softly as he screwed the bottle lid back on and set it aside.

"Marginally," I answered honestly, leaning back on the wall behind me. "My head hurts, and I feel nauseous every few minutes. It could have been a lot worse, though."

"Ain't that the truth?" Johnny muttered under his breath. I wasn't sure if I was meant to have heard that or not, so I pretended that I didn't.

For the next few minutes or so, Johnny talked about random things in an effort to keep me awake. There were a few instances when I did close my eyes for a bit longer than he thought was safe, but I was still talking, so that was something at least. But there was one question of his that caught me by surprise.

"Hey, Briar, do you…do you ever think we might've had a chance, as a couple?"

…Really? He had to ask me that, right now?

But—try as I might—it was pretty darn hard to be mad at him when poor Johnny looked so darn innocent and hopeful. As my poor little brain tried all it could to come up with a decent and truthful answer, I started to wonder what he even saw in me at all. Plus, cute as Johnny is and all, he can be really loud and pretty damn brash when it comes to fighting (and a few other things). There was also the part where he's all for the public's adoration and praise—I wasn't even going to touch the fan-girls and their 'one-shots'. That was the same day I learnt how terrifying the internet could really be.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense: Johnny just wasn't the right guy for me.

"Honestly? I doubt it." I finally answered truthfully, "Personality wise, we're completely incompatible, and we'd only end up on each other's nerves all the time."

"So? Opposites attract, don't they?" He countered.

"Maybe, but not all the time," I continued, "We're just too different from each other, and have very little in common." To my muddled mind, that sounded like a perfectly reasonable answer. I just hope he doesn't take it as an insult.

Thankfully the small, kind and understanding smile that appeared told me that he didn't. He conceded that I was right, and that it was for the better that I was with T'Challa after all. "But that doesn't mean I can't tease you about us being a couple," He smiled impishly, "Whenever we're likely to catch up." Smiling a little, I rolled my eyes, but quietly admitted to myself that maybe he wasn't all that bad after all.

In the back of my poor, sore little brain, a part of me remarked that it was a good thing that Johnny and I were still friends—because whatever reason he had, Doctor Doom had acted tonight with clarity and purpose.

I wonder…what are the chances that this event could change everything, for everyone?


And that's the first chapter! Wow, I feel so...yeah, I'll work on that. Speaking of working, you'll have noticed that I've changed how I write. I'd appreciate it if anyone had any tips about spelling and grammar. Just be warned that any haters will have to deal with the Hulk.

Well, that's me for now. I've been warned not to take so long with this story this time; a certain sorceress has her eye on me. Til next time!