A/N It's great to see that so many of you are interested in this fic! Unfortunately, I probably won't be posting next week due to the fact that I have finals tests, which suck up much more of my time than I'd wish. After that, though, I'll be back and churning out chapters at the usual rate.
Thanks to CiCi the Awesome, piogeo, Byrneshadow, ImNotYourBreakfast, Guest, Kathrin J Pearl, glaringowl, mudkipz, DesertDarkfire, Lady-0f-Time, Guest, YourDreamer138, ImTheHero
Disclaimer I don't own Sherlock/Doctor Who/Supernatural/the Avengers/Jekyll, or any associated characters, events, etc.
CHAPTER II. Recruitment
The stove was on fire.
The stove was on fire, and the whole thing was so bloody ridiculous and overwhelming that John Watson, confronted with the very issue, was painfully tempted to just throw his newspaper down on the floor and stalk out of the flat, calling over the shoulder that the detective he lived with was absolutely ridiculous and probably half-insane and needed to find himself help.
However, being who he was, John was painfully used to this.
So he settled for dropping the newspaper more tamely on the counter than he'd originally intended and reaching for the telephone in as calm a manner as possible despite the raging heat pressing in from across the room and the orange flames casting long shadows over the floor and ceiling. His heart was racing ahead of him, but the explosion was small enough—contained—and he could afford a quick call before racing outside. "You are completely mad," he stated, keeping his voice even as his fingers hovered over the number of the fire department.
"No, no, I've got it!" Sherlock insisted from the sink, where he was filling a heavy-bottomed pot with icy water. John opened his mouth to release a protest, but not before his dark-haired flatmate heaved the pot around and sent a wave of water crashing onto the burners, resulting in a sharp sizzle and a massive wave of steam. Coughing, John raised a hand over his eyes and stumbled backwards, barely daring to look between his fingers at the scene before him.
Sherlock stood triumphantly before the mass of grey smoke—the fire, it seemed, had indeed been completely extinguished by the huge load of water, but half of the stove was still singed beyond repair, if what was visible through the wavering curtains of steam was any indication, and one of the burners was slowly sinking into a formless glob of melted metal.
"What the hell," John decided.
"I didn't mean for it to happen. An experiment grew… slightly out of hand." Sherlock reached up to remove the goggles fixed over his eyes, revealing patches of pale skin around them that weren't smoke-stained—reverse raccoon eyes. "I really am sorry, John," he added almost nervously as the doctor simply stared on in disbelieving silence.
"You're paying," he said quietly.
"And you're going to be the one explaining to Mrs. Hudson, too."
"Jesus Christ." He set the phone back on its hook slowly, shaking his head and taking a deep breath to soothe his hyperactive lungs. "Sometimes I'm just beginning to hope that all that time in Switzerland pushed up your maturity level just a bit, and then you go and do something like this."
Sherlock tensed—for obvious reasons; they didn't usually talk about Switzerland—but any further words on either of their parts were cut from formation by a ring of the doorbell downstairs. For a moment, they just stared at each other, both sets of eyes wide and bewildered, then John groaned softly to himself.
"If this is a client—now, of all times…"
However, Sherlock shook his head slightly, a minute frown creasing his forehead. "Clients are either more tentative or more urgent. That was a long, steady ring—someone announcing himself rather than questioning."
"Too firm for Molly, too obvious for Mycroft, too patient for Lestrade. Can you name any other associates?"
John willingly gave a slight shrug, and their eyes remained locked for one more second before both, bound by curiosity, turned towards the door and darted out to the staircase.
"I'm answering it," John growled, "not you, not when your whole face is completely grey."
"Whoever's on the other side is going to see me in any case, you know. There's really no point to suspending the moment."
"No reason not to, either, is there?"
Before Sherlock could form another argument, John pulled the door open, slightly out of breath as he regarded the sight on the other side.
Standing there was a woman perhaps in her late twenties, with vivid red hair tumbling to her shoulders and sharp, intensely green eyes. Her figure was thin and curvy, but less emphasized than usual due to her outfit of jeans and a slightly overlarge T-shirt. The getup was so unusual, in fact, that it took John a moment to recognize her.
"Dr. Watson, Mr. Holmes," Natasha Romanoff greeted smoothly, stepping into the flat without so much as an invitation. John hurried backwards, allowing her past, and she tapped the door shut with her heel before turning to face him, arms crossed. "It's been a while."
"It has," he agreed, rather harried. "You, er… you caught us a bit unprepared…"
"So it would seem." Her eyes flicked briefly to Sherlock's figure as he stepped in front of John, his eyes narrowed with intent interest.
"Are you here for Fury?" the detective inquired. His voice was much colder than it had been when speaking only to John—not necessarily unkind, but not nearly as familiar.
"I am." She crossed her arms and tilted her head back in order to regard him fully. Despite their notable height difference, she somehow managed to hold herself on a level equal to him. "Hopefully that won't be a problem."
"Well, we—" John began, but he was cut off by a swift rebuttal from Sherlock.
"Not a problem whatsoever, Miss Romanoff. It's a pleasure."
John had to refrain from rolling his eyes. Of course, the detective had been waiting for another call from the Avengers like a child waits for Santa Claus—overeager, obsessed, unable to sit still. Even though several months had passed since the incident with Moriarty, Loki, the Master, and Lucifer, there still didn't seem to be a day when John didn't catch Sherlock sitting idly in front of the laptop as if expecting a message, or otherwise lingering near the window and gazing down at the street in hope of a SHIELD agent's arrival. Now it was finally happening.
"Well, that's good to hear. We need you back—both of you. There's something new, and Fury's dragging everyone in again."
"Everyone?" Sherlock repeated with a slight curl of his lip, but nothing beyond that.
"Everyone," Natasha confirmed.
"Fascinating. And would you care to tell us what we're up against?"
"We don't know yet. That's what your job is, Mr. Holmes—we need your help in not only tracking our new little nemesis, but also figuring out whether he's alien, human, demon—something else entirely, perhaps. SHIELD received a call from Torchwood, a Welsh alien-hunting organization, and they need our help. All of our help."
"I presume you'll want us to come immediately?" Sherlock inquired, raising an eyebrow.
"I'll allow you a half hour to pack," Natasha offered, making it sound like the most generous idea in the world.
"Wait—wait, slow down a minute," John cut in, shaking his head. "You can't just—appear out of nowhere and expect us to come with you, alright? Try back in a couple of days, maybe we can sort things out, but he's only just blown up the stove and we've got about thirteen cases going on right now—"
"Blown up the stove?" Natasha repeated. He couldn't help but notice she sounded almost amused.
"That's not important," Sherlock interjected, "and the cases are trivial, I'll ask Mycroft to put in a word about them to the Yard. It won't be a problem."
There was a definite headache throbbing underneath John's skull now, and he let out a small, pained sigh. He already knew that he'd lost, that he and Sherlock would be going on with Natasha within the hour, but he could at least try to resist, give it a last-ditch attempt.
"Alright," he tried, "I'm not saying we won't help. But just give us a moment, please—just a moment, okay? One day."
"Can't do it, sorry." She didn't sound sorry at all. "We need you now, Dr. Watson. It's a matter of national importance."
"Isn't it always?" he mumbled.
"Most of the time, yes. It's our job—and yours, as well, now that you're a part of the Avengers. You did say that you were willing to rejoin us in times of need, and now—"
"Yeah—yeah, alright, I get it," he sighed, resisting the urge to whack his head against the wall. "It's fine. I'm coming. But I need that half hour to pack."
"Of course," she agreed, a slight smirk materializing on her full lips.
Sherlock looked rather as though he had the very first night John had moved into 221b—as though he wanted to leap into the air with excitement. And, despite himself, John couldn't ignore the fact that a hint of eagerness was beginning to grow inside of him, as well.
"You know, you may be a wonderful and magnificent angelic being or whatever, but you're pretty shitty as a hunter," Dean decided.
Castiel glanced up from where he sat on the hotel bed, his wide blue eyes apparently torn between injury and confusion. "Am I?" he questioned almost guiltily, running his fingers over his wrists as a slight scowl darkened his features.
"No offense or anything." Dean squinted into the mirror in front of him, trying to get a better look at the series of thin cuts scored over his arm, when he flung it before his eyes in defense of shattering glass earlier. It was true enough that Cas's little burst of angel mojo had killed the werewolf they'd been tracking as effectively as any silver bullet, but the windows of the shack they'd cornered it in had taken quite a pounding as well, and didn't seem particularly keen on falling apart in a neat little pile of glass. Instead, the shards had flung themselves in just about every direction imaginable, many of them choosing to lodge themselves in the side of Dean's arm, from where he was painstakingly removing them now.
"I achieved what we intended to," Cas pointed out, seeming genuinely confused as to why Dean would insult his hunting abilities, "right? I killed the werewolf."
"Yeah, and you almost killed me in the process." There. His fingernails tightened around a small, thin spike of clear glass, slowly removing it from his bicep with a hiss of pain and a trickle of blood.
"I would never—"
"I'm being hyperbolic, dude, give it a rest."
The angel obediently silenced, but still seemed rather distressed—his half-offended expression was still visible just over Dean's shoulder in the mirror. Dean considered saying something more, really assuring his angel that it was all cool and that he didn't actually blame him for anything more than a few scratches, before deciding there was no reason to and vouching to remain silent instead. It took several minutes to continue de-glassing his arm, and he was just on the last tiny fragment when a knock rattled the door.
"For the sake of—we don't want housekeeping!" he half-shouted over his shoulder, not looking away from the fine bit of glass suspended between his forefinger and thumb. His arm was now streaked with a number of small red streams, from where he'd removed the shards but hadn't bandaged yet, and he figured that this really wasn't the time for company—tricky explanations and all that.
The knock just came again, more insistent, and he growled in frustration through his teeth. He tugged at the glass bit, and, after a moment, it slipped out willingly and into his palm. A small noise of triumph rose behind his still-scowling lips as he dropped it into the trash can beside the sink, then grabbed a cheap motel towel off of a plastic rack painted to look like metal. In a few swift actions, he wrapped the towel around his injured arm, tucked the limb nonchalantly out of the way, and strode over to the door, through which he snapped the same words as before over again.
"We don't want friggin' housekeeping!"
"I'm not housekeeping, Winchester."
Shit. That voice was familiar. He stepped back, eyes wide, and glanced frantically towards Cas, who seemed just as intent. He couldn't quite pinpoint the owner, despite himself, which was rather challenging, since he could be about to let in a sworn enemy just as easily as an old friend. He sufficed for a simple "Who are you, then?," hoping intensely that his ignorance wouldn't prove punishable.
"Maybe if you opened the door you'd recognize me. Get on with it, though, we don't have all the time in the world—it's in a bit of peril, in fact. The world, that is."
"I'm gonna regret this," Dean muttered, half to himself and half to Cas, then shouldered the door open and immediately lapsed into a loosely defensive stance against whatever was standing on the other side.
However, it turned out to be a man—just a man, gray-eyed and brown-haired, regarding them with a rather unimpressed expression. It took a split second for Dean to target him as—oh, hell, what was his name? Something Barton, one of the SHIELD dudes, one of the—
Great. The Avengers.
"What do you want?" he demanded, to which Barton simply rolled his eyes.
"It's not about what I want, obviously. But if you are curious as to what's going on, you should probably let me in. I'm not authorized to talk about it in public space."
"Of course you're not," Dean muttered, but he obediently stepped back to allow the archer inside, closing the door quickly behind them. Barton glanced over towards Cas, his features morphing from irritableness to respect.
"Castiel. It's good to see you here, too."
"You're Clint Barton," the angel replied warily. "From SHIELD."
"I am indeed. Pleasure to see you boys again, though it would be nicer if it was for different reasons."
"Let me guess," Dean sighed, leaning against the wall and cradling his injured arm, the makeshift bandage of which was beginning to show a few faint red spots. "The world is ending again. Joy."
"I wouldn't say the world is ending, but Director Fury hasn't quite told me everything," Barton replied sharply. "He sent Hill to send me to get you, so I'm here. All I know is that there's some new threat and we need you again. You're in our ranks, now, so you can't really… refuse."
"Is that a threat?" Dean demanded, straightening up.
"Certainly not, unless you include to interpret it as one."
"Okay, listen up, hotshot. Where we go and who we help—that's our business. And just because our business also happened to be SHIELD's at one point doesn't mean that we're all buddy-buddy now. We've got enough trouble just doing our regular jobs, and I hate to break it to you, but the world really can't afford to lose us to a few superheroes. So—"
"We'll come," Cas interjected.
Both Clint and Dean turned in disbelief, the former looking pleased and the latter completely frustrated, though neither with any lack of confusion. Cas was still sitting on the bed, his tan trench coat sprawled over the maroon comforter, his hands in his lap. His back, however, was straight, and his eyes much more intent than before.
"Wait, what?" Dean demanded.
"We agreed, Dean," Cas reminded him, though his eyes didn't leave Clint's. "That we would come back if they ever needed our help again. And now they do need our help… so we go back."
"Why should we help them, though? What do they need us for?"
"I wish I could answer that," Clint muttered, "I really do. I couldn't say so myself, but the Director seems to think you're worth something, and it's not my place to question the decisions that he makes. So if you could just come on now, this'll be a very easy process and we won't have to do it the hard way."
"Do it the hard way?" Dean repeated, his chest itching with the urge to figure out just what that was. It was pure rebelliousness, maybe, that fueled him to defiance, but his resolve was none the weaker for it. "We aren't gonna do it at all. That's it. That's decided."
"We helped you with Lucifer, now it's your turn to pay us back," Clint insisted, sounding more weary and impatient than anything else. "Now, if we're going back to SHIELD, we need to leave—now rather than later—and we are, so follow me."
"No," Dean began again, but not before Castiel locked eyes with him. The pure azure of his irises seemed to knock the breath cleanly out of Dean's lungs for a moment—they were deeper than he had expected them to be, wide and determined and full of something close to imploring.
"Dean," the angel murmured. "We are not going to abandon them when they need us."
For a long moment, Dean simply stared back, unwilling to break the tension, to give in to the SHIELD agent and agree to go back, to work with the Avengers, to take the title of Avenger himself for however much longer. He didn't want this—he just wanted to keep hunting, with Cas, in the Impala. It didn't seem like too much to ask, really, and yet something or other—more often than not the end of the world—always seemed to get in the way of a relatively peaceful life like that.
"Fine," he muttered. "Fine. We'll help your stupid Avengers. But that's only because we promised to once, and—"
"Yeah, I know. Follow me." And, without another word or so much as a glance of acknowledgement in Dean's direction, the agent strolled out the door. It took a moment of shocked confusion—were they supposed to pack? Straighten the beds? At least grab the toothbrush from the sink?—but then Castiel stood and the two of them followed, Dean's stomach twisting at the thought of what could possibly be dangerous enough to warrant SHIELD's retrieval of him and his angel.