The next morning Alanna awoke to Noel sleeping next to her in the medical ward bed and she smiled a little thinking about how he had done so much during the battle yesterday. Even though she was afraid they weren't going to make it, he was the one who had encouraged her through it all and she would never be able to repay him.
"Noel, wake up, it's morning."
He groaned a little before opening his eyes. "Good morning beautiful, how are you feeling?"
She smiled. "I am fine, the pain is gone and I think Bruce is about to come in to release me, so you have to get up." Noel laughed and kissed her before moving and as soon as he had, Bruce entered.
"Morning Noel, Alanna, are you well enough to move around?" He asked her. She nodded and he checked her wound and it was already healing nicely. He discharged her and Noel escorted her to the main living area.
"Come on, I am sure the others are waiting for you Alanna." She smiled a little as she was being dragged to the elevator.
Once they arrived on the main floor, they stepped out and Alanna smiled to see her friends all gathered there. Tony smiled.
"Hey, Alanna feeling better?" She nodded and Noel pulled her closer. "We all want to thank you for your bravery yesterday."
Alanna put her hands up. "It's not necessary, I just acted on instinct and did what I could to help."
Natasha shook her head. "You deserve this, so I had a special breakfast prepared for all of us including you." She walked over to where the meal was spread out and she turned to Tony with tears of joy starting to show in which she wiped them quickly.
"Was this your idea Stark?" She asked him.
Tony nodded. "Obviously. It's to celebrate our victory and the graduation of Stark Institute's first students," he told her with a smile. After that everyone sat down to a wonderful breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon. Once everyone ate their fill, Tony had called everyone into the living room for an announcement.
Clint could tell the kids were all a little rowdy after hearing Tony say they were celebrating a graduation. No one knew who had made the cut yet, so they were all talking amongst themselves excitedly. Tony took the front of the room and had Jarvis make a pseudo holographic pedestal in front of him. He cleared his throat to get everyone's attention and once he had it he continued.
"Alright everyone, I have a pretty important announcement to make," Tony began, "Kole, Luke and Michael will be leaving us."
"What!?" Evelyn cried out. Her eyes went wide and she quickly glanced at the three who were mentioned. They wore equal expressions of shock.
"Yes, these three have shown that they have what it takes to function as a team in the real world. They'll be graduating to the team in Italy," Tony explained, "The rest of you still need a little time here before you strike out on your own."
"Congratulations," Bruce said and Steve nodded as well.
"Congrats, Soldiers," he said.
"Now, if you three will follow me, I have outfits that you will wear for your graduation—your new uniforms." Tony took Kole, Luke and Michael off to get them dressed up.
Noel and Alanna both were silent but deep down they were happy for them. Alanna got up and walked over to Evelyn.
"Looks like I am taking the role of big sister for sure now, so if you need me for anything don't hesitate to ask." She told her.
Noel smiled at Hawke. "Same for me Hawke, I am now your big brother."
Natasha turned to them both. "Noel, Alanna, we have our own surprise for you as well." Alanna gave her a confused look in which soon Fury called the tower and Natasha answered it. Alanna and Noel greeted the director.
"Today is not just about the celebration of Kole, Luke, and Michael leaving and moving on but for you two as well, Agents Sommers and Barrows."
Noel shook his head. "Sir, we still don't follow."
Fury turned to Natasha and Clint. "Agents Romanoff and Barton, will you two please present Agents Sommers and Barrows their new security level cards and new badges. Congrats Noel and Alanna, you both had just reached S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Status."
Alanna and Noel were in shock and Natasha turned to her partner. "Should we Clint?"
Fury smirked. "I am proud of you two, enjoy your day as new S.H.I.E.L.D Senior Agents." He cut the communication and Noel and Alanna both turned to their mentors. Natasha handed Alanna hers than hugged her. "Congrats, you deserve this."
Alanna whispered. "Thank you." Noel turned to Clint waiting patiently.
"Here Punk, don't lose these," Clint said with a smirk tossing Noel his.
"Wow, great job you two," Hawke said giving them a thumbs up. Evelyn smiled at Alanna but then turned to Natasha with worried eyes.
"Does this mean they are leaving too?" She asked. She didn't want to lose both Kole and Alanna.
Natasha shook her head, "No Evelyn, Alanna and Noel will be here training under us for a while longer, and they can't use these until after they leave the institute." She reassured her the best she could.
Alanna hugged Evelyn, "You can't get rid of me that easily."
Noel smiled, "Thanks Clint." He felt proud that he had accomplished so much but now there was still one question still on his mind but before he could ask it Tony had returned with Michael and the others. Noel smiled, "Hey, Michael, just the person I was waiting for. So, with you leaving who is going to play leader of the novice group?" Alanna too had wondered about that.
Steve called, "Hey Stark and you three just missed out on the news from Director Fury, Alanna and Noel both just been promoted to S.H.I.E.L.D Senior Agents." Tony than reacted in his very usual manner. Alanna glanced at Noel for they were both waiting to hear Tony's sarcasm for they both knew on how he really felt about S.H.I.E.L.D and Fury.
"Oh goody, more of S.H.I.E.L.D's spies running around…well at least I like you two," Tony grumped. Michael, Kole and Luke congratulated Alanna and Noel. When they finished Michael smiled at Noel and clapped him on his shoulder.
"Actually Noel, about the leader thing…I want you to take my place. I know you have what it takes," he said.
"I can't argue with that, Sparky." Luke chimed in. Kole hit him so Michael wouldn't have to.
"So what do you say?" Michael asked waiting for his answer.
Alanna turned to Noel. "Well, you just got promoted once, might as well take Michael's offer." Noel saw everyone was waiting for his answer and deep down he felt like he wasn't leader material, hell even Steve, the great Captain America himself thought he can handle it.
He sighed and met Michael's gaze. "Honestly I don't think I am fit to lead this group but since you put your trust in me completely, I will not let you down. I will make you proud Michael, as leader of this group."
Alanna hugged Noel. "Congrats Leader."
Noel smiled a little. "Yeah leader..." He sat down and she saw the worry in his eyes in which she walked over and sat next to him. She took his hand.
"You can do this, I trust you, you know that already." Noel nodded and squeezed her hand.
Tony sighed. "Alright enough, let's really party it up." He blasted the music and brought out all of the pop and food he could muster for the team.
It wasn't long until Alanna dragged Noel to the dance floor and he was wearing a smile again. She called her friends over and they all started having a blast.
Tony smirked. "Alright so I guess Alanna has a surprise for the grads, Alanna." She nodded and walked over grabbing the microphone.
"Evelyn please come join me in helping me sing this." She saw her friend approach and soon the song started. Alanna and Evelyn performed for their friends and as soon as the song ended, she could tell that they were touched. Alanna smiled. "To Kole, Michael, Luke, thank you to you three for everything. Don't be a stranger alright and try to keep in touch." She left the area and Tony returned the music.
Noel was hanging with their friends and Alanna walked over to Clint who had to ask him something that kept bothering her and at the moment. Natasha was busy challenging Stark to another round of drinks. She turned to Clint.
"Can I talk to you real quick? I would ask Natasha but she's busy challenging Tony."
"Sure, no problem. What's on your mind?" Clint asked raising an eyebrow. Natasha was going to end up an alcoholic at this rate.
Alanna scanned the room to make sure no one was listening. "So, now that Noel and I are Senior S.H.I.E.L.D Agents, how do I keep it professional between him and I? I know how Fury feels about agents being more than partners and friends. I am worried honestly, I'm afraid that when we do go out on missions together that we might slip up and then Fury will find out and we will be in deep trouble. So how do you keep it professional with Natasha on a mission?" She asked him seriously and met his gaze in which she knew he saw her vulnerability.
Clint frowned, "Well, honestly if Director Fury ever finds out then he will go out of his way to make sure you two never work together again. So you have to keep it professional always. You just can't show your emotions. It's something you will have to work on. It's a lot harder than it sounds." He told her apologetically. This was one thing he didn't really know how to explain. This whole thing with him and Natasha was still pretty new and he didn't even know how they would keep their feelings a secret.
Alanna was silent for a moment. "I guess I have to turn off all of my emotions and he will have to do the same also. I forgot that you and Natasha are in the same situation now, I am sorry for putting you on the spot like this." She than asked him one more thing. "Do you think that I am ready to be a Senior Agent? I have this self-doubt that my skills aren't good enough to be up there with you or Natasha."
Clint grinned at her, "Now that you don't have to worry about. Director Fury doesn't just go around appointing agents willy-nilly. He believes in you two. I have no doubt that you stand at our level, now you just have to build experience."
Alanna nodded. "But that is just it, I guess you can say that I am worried on venturing out on my own with Noel and Natasha won't be there to have my back to catch me if I fall. I guess it's just nerves and it's probably stupid to worry." She never had this much self-doubt before and it made her feel stupid telling Clint this.
"Yes, Natasha won't be there to catch you…but Noel will. You have to trust him. You guys will be perfect partners." Clint told her, "Seriously Alanna you've proved yourself many times now with Loki and Nakhti. You shouldn't even doubt your abilities."
Alanna whispered, "It's not my abilities Clint..." Tears started coming to her eyes as she remembered her conversation with Noel the night before but she wiped them away and continued. "It's my bloodline power that scares me, I could have died when I lost control during the battle and I am afraid to use it again. I am close to just shutting it out completely and not have anything to do with it. I just want to protect Noel that's all..." She became quiet than.
"That…," Clint saw the tears and immediately sent Natasha a pleading look from across the room, "Well, you saved us with that power and it was your mom's voice you heard. I don't think it's a bad power."
Natasha saw Clint's expression and laughed as Tony was passed out again than she walked over to Clint and saw Alanna's tears in which she embraced her than turned to Clint. "What is going on?" She asked him.
Clint sighed with relief once Natasha had come to his rescue. She could handle emotional situations better than him. "Alanna is freaking out about her bloodline power. She thinks she might hurt someone with it."
Natasha pulled Alanna away slightly. "Alanna, talk to me." She rubbed circles on her back trying to calm her down in which Alanna glanced at Clint than back at Natasha.
"He's right Natasha, I can't deal with being a freak with an abnormal power."
Natasha sighed, "Let's all go somewhere private come on." She escorted Alanna out and Clint followed, they ended up in the empty room outside of the main living area. Once all three of them were inside Natasha turned to Alanna. "You must not think the worse Alanna, you aren't a freak and your new power has been there since your birth. Your mom helped you out right by talking to you?"
Alanna sighed, "It's impossible Natasha, she's been gone for 9 years and I just lost it big time." Natasha shook her head.
"Dr. Strange knew it first, your parents never showed the power and your original abilities saved you as a kid."
Alanna turned away and glanced out the window. "I don't know anymore, it feels like everything I ever went through is a lie."
Natasha turned to Clint. "We are here for you Alanna, all because you and Noel are going out on your own does not mean that we won't help mentor you or be there for you when you need us. Even if the missions get too hard for you two, Fury will send us in to help you in any way possible. You will never be alone, trust in Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D us, Noel, even Tony and the others, we all have your back. Right Clint? Also your life is not a lie, you just been through a lot and your power is good Alanna, never think otherwise." Alanna was silent and Natasha urged Clint to talk.
"Right, we're all here for you. We're a team. We deal with our problems together. Not just team stuff though, we're here to listen whenever you need us." Clint told her. "I promise." He hoped Alanna would believe him and trust herself.
Alanna turned back to her friends and gave them a small smile. "Thank you for the encouragement." She walked over and hugged her friends. "I will promise to come to you guys anytime I need advice, so now let's head back to the party." She left the room with a smile and once she entered the main living area again she walked over to Kole and Evelyn. "Hey girls, can we hang out a bit?" She happened to glance over and laughed as Thor and Tony were passed out while Noel and the boys enjoyed showing off on the dance floor.
Noel noticed Alanna and mouthed. "Are you ok?" She nodded and waved at the girls to move away from the guys.
Alanna turned to them. "I thought it would be cool to hang out one last time with you Kole."
Back in the empty room Natasha turned to Clint. "Anything else you want to tell me about Alanna? Is she worried about working on her own?" She asked him.
Clint's smile flattened into a thin line and he couldn't help glancing the other way as he spoke since these words applied to them as well, "She worried about her and Noel's relationship if Director Fury finds out…honestly I didn't know what to tell her. She's also worried about losing you to cover her back."
Natasha walked over to him and took his hand."We will be fine Clint, I can stay professional and Fury will never find out about us as long as you do the same. Alanna and Noel will figure it out and I'm sure all four of us will be fine out there on the field. As for Alanna afraid of losing me as back up, I just hope she remembers what I just told her. If the missions do become too much for her and Noel, than Fury will send us in to help them so in a way she still has me to cover her back." She leaned in and kissed him trying to calm him down, she could tell that he was a little stressed. She wanted Clint to know that they were going to be ok no matter what. "I love you remember that." She whispered.
Back upstairs, Alanna turned to Kole. "So, when do you and the boys leave exactly?" She felt upset that she was losing Kole especially since they just became close friends. "Also, I promise to look after Evelyn with my life and protect her." She told her.
Kole smiled at Alanna. She could tell Alanna was having a lot of doubts but she still tried to be strong saying she would take care of Evelyn. "Alanna, thank you. We're all leaving tomorrow morning early and I will miss you two more then you know, but I promise to write." Kole told her and she pulled Alanna and a teary Evelyn into a hug. She hated to leave them both, but she knew they were strong enough to make it on their own.
Alanna pulled back some. "I will miss you too and you better call and even when you are in trouble and I'm on a mission, I promise to save you!" She smiled at her.
Back with the boys Noel saw Alanna's expression and knew a lot was bothering her but at the moment he was thinking of his own problems. "So, Michael, how are you going to keep Luke in line? He will give you even more problems since you will be in a team now with Kole." He laughed at Luke's expression and then became serious, "You can trust Hawke's care with me, I promise to keep him out of trouble."
"Thanks man…" Michael said giving Noel a grateful look, "I worry about Hawke a lot since he gets down on himself a lot about being a 'monster'"
"Yeah, good luck without us, dragon boy." Luke told him.
Soon Natasha and Clint rejoined the party and honestly the whole atmosphere seemed somewhat gloomy and it was to be expected since everything was changing. Natasha glanced over at Clint and smiled than turn to Steve and Bruce."So, what is going on you two?" Steve nodded.
"Nothing much, the kids are having a hard time though."
Bruce nodded, "They became close not that long ago, but I'm sure they all will see each other someday."
Soon Stark woke up and glared at Natasha. "You cheated Romanoff!"
Natasha smirked. "No way Stark, I'm Russian I know how to handle my alcohol."
Tony turned to Clint. "Well Robin Hood anything to say?" He knew something happened when he was passed out and glancing at the kids, he knew this was hard on them.
"Yeah, you suck at holding your alcohol," Clint told him and then took pity and patted Tony on the back, "The kids'll be okay, Stark. Goodbyes are always tough." All of the Avengers were quiet then and even though it was a party the mood had an underlying bitterness.
The next morning saw many tearful goodbyes and Luke made sure to take one last group picture with all of them.
"I'm going to miss you two so much. I'll call once a week. You can count on it." Kole said as she hugged Alanna and Evelyn one last time. She even gave Noel and Hawke a hug, making sure to ruffle Hawke's hair before she let go.
"Goodbye," was all Luke managed to say. He left to the plane quickly and Evelyn could swear she saw tears in his eyes.
"Good luck everyone," Michael said, "I'm counting on you Noel," he said with a smile and then he took Kole's arm and gently lead her away.
As Noel and the others watched their friends leave, Alanna embraced Evelyn as tears fell down her face and Noel patted Hawke on the back.
"Now there were the four musketeers." Alanna grinned a little. "Evelyn, Hawke, we will make it ok. Trust in Noel because I do."
Noel gave her a look with a smile. "Well, I guess we should go see the others."
Noel led them into the main area in which they were waiting for the kids to return. "So, what now?"
Tony knew the four remaining were depressed so he tried to cheer them up. "Hey, guys what would you say if I told you that you were getting two new members?"
Alanna snorted. "Fuck that, we just lost three of our friends and suddenly we have to accept new teammates."
Noel gave Alanna a look than turn to Evelyn and Hawke "Can you two give us a minute?" He saw them walk away and then he turned back to Alanna. "Please, don't do this to me Alanna. It's not easy playing leader ok. I just need your support."
Alanna nodded slightly. "Doesn't mean I have to like it."
Noel sighed. "Damn you Michael, how in the hell did you deal with this?" He walked away and Tony rolled his eyes.
"Touchy already, anyway I'm going to let Natasha and Clint take over." He left the room and Natasha noticed the four members standing there waiting.
"Alright, there will be a new girl and a new boy. They are here now so please show them with respect." They turned to see the two new members who just entered the institute. Natasha continued. "The girl is Keira Bowman and she goes by Dark Wave."
Keira walked over with a smile and Alanna instantly felt something was off about that smile and she felt almost threatened like they had met before.
Noel nodded. "I am the new leader of this group, Noel and this is Alanna, Hawke, and Evelyn."
Keira nodded. "Pleasure." Natasha turned to Clint. "You can introduce the boy."
Clint nodded but before he could say anything the boy spoke up for himself.
"Alex Bennett," he said with a smile, "Codename Black Ice."
Hawke blinked at his bulky clothes and noted that somehow Alex didn't quite seem to fit him.
"They both have nice hero names," he commented and Alex shrugged walking up to them.
"Tony said I should call myself Snow cone, but Pepper hit him and she gave me the name Black Ice, honestly it's a work in progress," Alex explained with a nod.
"So, first order of business is that you help your new teammates get settled into the dorms." Clint told them all.
Alanna turned to Natasha with a look and she instantly knew that Alanna already sensed something off about the new girl and she nodded back at her. This was their way of communicating that there could be a possible danger and to stay alert.
Alanna sighed, "Come on Keira, I will show you the dorm." She motioned Evelyn to follow and once inside the elevator Keira turned to Alanna.
"So, what is your hero name?"
Alanna cautiously read her expression as she answered her, "I am Red Huntress and Evelyn is Energy Beam."
Keira smirked, "Cool, I hope I make you guys proud."
Alanna nodded and soon they were on their floor and once they entered the dorm, Alanna turned to her. "You can have the bed by the window." Keira smiled.
"Thanks, I will make myself right at home." She got busy unpacking and Alanna glanced at Evelyn with a guarded look and mouthed. "Be careful."
Back in the boys dorm Noel, "Alright Alex, you can pick any one of the two empty beds. I hope you enjoy your stay here and if you need anything let me know. By the way I am Storm Dragon and this is Revolver."
Back upstairs Steve turned to Natasha. "Why did Alanna give you that look just now?"
Natasha smiled. "No reason, she's just being herself." Steve left it go at that but she could tell Clint saw right through it. Natasha just nodded at Clint and motioned him to follow her for they have schedules to work out for the newly assembled team. The other members just relaxed for now, since they all earned it from a long battle with Nakhti and now things are going to get more interesting.
What awaits for the new team? Who is the villain that wants to come destroy the Avengers and the new team?
To Be Continued in Stark Institute II in the near future.