Clint trudged along through the desert, Natasha at his side. He had an arrow nocked but, due to the fact that there was no one in sight, it was loose, pointed harmlessly at the ground. They still had another mile to go before they reached their destination but were, as always, alert. Upon hearing the sound of hoof beats on the hardened ground he and Natasha exchanged glances, moving fluidly to face the approaching black shape. In an instant he had drawn back his arrow, pointing it at the approaching rider, and Natasha's gun was up, held steadily in her strong grip.
"Hold!" called a voice that sounded familiar.
Clint and Natasha exchanged glances, pausing as the large black horse approached, and he squinted to get a better look. There was no mistaking that shock of red hair. He lowered his bow slightly, still wary but accepting that this was a friend who was approaching. Natasha followed his lead, holstering her gun as the horse drew up beside them, the spirit of summer seated comfortably on its back.
"What are you two doing all the way out here?" Merida asked, looking down at them with a grin.
"Mission," Clint answered briefly. He may have trusted Merida but he wasn't about to spill confidential details. He nodded toward the horse. "Where'd you get the ride?"
She grinned, patting the horse's neck. "Angus? He an' I have been together for a long time," she answered. "He gets me to where I want to go."
"How does a horse get you from New York to Australia?" Natasha asked skeptically, eyeing said animal.
Merida's grin widened. "By flying o' course. Want a lift?"
"Hold on," Clint protested, "how can a horse fly?"
The spirit's grin turned into a small frown. "If North's reindeer can fly than why can't Angus?"
Clint shrugged, he had no response to that. Instead he took the offered hand, lifting himself up onto the horse behind Merida. He didn't bother to offer Natasha a hand and she lifted herself onto the horse without any assistance, sliding on behind Clint. It was a good thing the horse was so large, but Clint still doubted that it could carry them all. "Are you sure he can handle all of us?" he asked, shifting to look at Merida.
She snorted. "O' course he can! Which way are you headed?"
Clint just shook his head as Natasha relayed the directions. He had seen some strange things before but ever since he had joined the Avengers his life seemed to get stranger. Flying horses. What was next, flying pigs?
They set off at a trot and Merida pointed toward the plume of smoke coming from the helicopter Clint had taken down with a well-placed arrow. "I saw your handy work," she admitted. "I was a bit curious to see who had caused it."
"What were you doing here?" Clint asked.
"You don't think I stay in America all year do you? Summer's almost over here, just trying to get in one last heat wave before Hiccup cools things down a bit."
"It doesn't get that cool in Australia."
"True, but I figured they get enough heat as it is. Time for me to move on."
"Are you all just nomads then?" Natasha asked curiously, trying to find out more about their new friends.
Merida shrugged. "Basically. We've all got our places we return to though - the places we lived and died. Mine's a castle in Scotland. It's in ruins now," she admitted, "but I still like to visit."
Clint couldn't help but think about how depressing that would be. To return to the place where you were born, lived, and died, knowing that it was nothing more than a ruin, no trace of the people who once lived there. Natasha was evidently still curious though, speaking up again.
"What about the others?"
"Well Rapunzel's got where her kingdom was, Jack's got some town in Pennsylvania I think, and Hiccup usually hangs out somewhere up north - Norway I think."
The conversation stalled as they approached a large rock formation – the perfect place for an ambush. The three exchanged glances the best they could while riding a horse, evidently thinking the same thing, before Merida pointed to a good hiding spot. She nudged Angus forward, the horse breaking out into a canter. Ignoring the shots fired at them they jumped off the horse as they approached the rock ledge they intended to hide behind. Angus continued on without them and Clint peeked above the ledge to get a good look at the enemy camp.
One large black Hummer was in view and Clint caught sight of several men hiding behind rocks next to it, only around fifty feet away.
"Amateurs," he scoffed, ducking back down behind the ledge. At a look from Natasha he spoke. "At least four men, possibly five. Two assault rifles and an assortment of other guns. If they have a missile launcher it's in the truck. What's our plan of attack?"
"Can you take them out?" Natasha asked.
Clint sneaked another look. "Two or three of them," he ducked quickly as a bullet flew over his head.
Merida also chanced a look. "Aye, I could get at least two with my bow but we aren't high enough to get the others."
"Not the best position we could have chosen," Clint said, trying to mentally calculate if one of his exploding arrows could take out multiple people.
"But the only one," Natasha admitted, glancing around at the barren dessert around them.
Suddenly the sky began to darken as storm clouds formed overhead and the three of them looked up simultaneously as a loud screech echoed through the air, Toothless' signature purple lightening striking the enemy vehicle. There was a shadow overhead as Hiccup passed them by, circling around to land next to them, and Clint sent Merida a look. She shrugged.
"I didn't know he was in the area," she admitted, "but Summer is almost over."
"As you'll do well to remember," Hiccup joked, jumping off his dragon to stand with them. "Can they see you?"
Merida and Clint nodded together. "We rode in on her horse," Clint told him.
"Ah," Hiccup voiced his understanding, smiling ferally and pulling out his sword. "Well they can't see me."
Before he could charge forward Natasha grabbed his arm. "We need the leader alive," she told him, pointing in the direction the man had hidden.
Hiccup smiled lightly. "Who said I was planning on killing anybody?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. He trotted off toward the enemy camp and Clint settled down to wait. There was no need to be nervous – how could people fight what they couldn't see?
His gaze shifted to Toothless, who had remained behind. The dragon was nudging Merida, warbling slightly with eyes half closed, and the teen smiled.
"Hey Toothless," she greeted, rubbing his head. "It's good to see you." The dragon evidently agreed, crooning slightly. "Do you remember Barton and Romanoff? They fought with us in New York." Merida asked.
Toothless' eyes opened fully, staring searchingly at the two of them, and Clint returned the gaze warily. Beside him Natasha was doing the same. He had seen this dragon bite the heads off its enemy – the Chitauri in this case – and he had no desire to have his own head removed. He also had no clue how intelligent the dragon was. Was it a mindless pet or a ferocious companion?
Choosing for neutral ground Clint nodded in greeting, resolving to remain far from the black creature.
Merida seemed to notice their apprehension. "Oh he's harmless," she told them reproachfully. "Just give him a good scratch…" the spirit scratched under Toothless' chin, causing him to flop to the ground. Clint and Natasha stared. "…and he'll go right to sleep." Merida grinned up at them as Toothless purred beneath her.
"Is that normal?" he asked.
Merida shrugged. "Don't know. I've never met another dragon. I'm pretty sure Toothless is the last of his kind."
Clint pondered that, realizing that Hiccup and Toothless were perfect for each other. The last Viking and the last dragon; life would be rather lonely if they didn't have each other. He remembered all those times he had Natasha or a fellow agent with him on a stakeout and began to understand why Merida was so fond of her horse.
Shrugging aside any lingering fear he approached, giving Toothless a hesitant scratch. The dragon only rumbled in his sleep, shifting contentedly. Glancing back he noticed that Natasha had relaxed but didn't bother to approach. She considered pets to be for children and – while she was respected Toothless' battle skills, or perhaps because she respected his battle skills – felt no need to treat him like a common dog or a cat.
Shortly thereafter Hiccup returned, sword sheathed and a grin on his face. Toothless opened his eyes at the spirit's approach, heaving himself to his feet, and the three humans followed suit.
"All clear?" Merida asked.
Hiccup nodded, patting his sword. "Yep, thanks to Thor."
Clint and Natasha started slightly at the Avenger's name. "What does Thor have to do with it?" Clint asked, glancing around subtly, as though expecting to see the Norse god of Thunder.
"Oh," Hiccup shrugged sheepishly, "I named my sword Thor. God of Battle. I was a Viking."
"I thought Odin was the god of battle?" Natasha asked.
"Norse gods are complicated," Hiccup admitted as they began their trek to the enemy's camp, "but Odin was our god of war."
Nobody asked the difference – everyone there understood that a battle was not always a war.
They paused in their discussion to gather the guns of the unconscious agents, throwing them in a pile which Toothless promptly exploded. As Clint took the time to secure the men Natasha called in their success, speaking smoothly as she managed not to lie while at the same time not mentioning either Hiccup or Merida.
As the sound of the SHIELD helicopter became evident the spirits mounted their rides (Angus returning with a whistle), clearly preparing to leave. Clint pondered once more on how lonely their life must be – they were preparing to separate only minutes after reuniting and it would be a full year before their seasons overlapped again.
"Our next mission's in South Africa," he told them. "Still Summer there."
"But almost Fall," Hiccup countered.
"Exactly," Clint grinned, "it would be a shame for you to miss it."
Merida and Hiccup exchanged grins before glancing over at Natasha, as if to ask what she thought.
"Just outside Johannesburg. About five miles to the south," she said with a rare grin before turning to the helicopter.
"See you there?" Clint asked.
AN: Well that was a dreadfully long wait. Sorry about that. I couldn't get this to turn out how I wanted it. It ended up a bit short and a bit pointless. Hopefully next chapter will be better.
As for next chapter, I've gotten a request for the Hulk and Rapunzel with Ross and another for Rapunzel, Dr. Banner, and/or Thor - so, next chapter will definitely have Rapunzel and Bruce/Hulk (hopefully both), and I'll try to squeeze Thor in there. On another note, I've been asked what Rapunzel's weapon is and I'm still struggling to decide. Ideas?
Anyway, thanks for such a huge response - over 100 favorites and followers? You guys are amazing. And thanks to all the awesome people who reviewed. Let me know how it turned out.