The Spy and the Painting
by J. Merrick
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, or the Avengers.
Timeline: After Deathly Hallows for Harry Potter…although "stuff" happened before the epilogue. After The Avengers movie for them. You'll see.
Summary: The enemy was supposed to be incompetent. The mission was supposed to be easy. Instead an evil was released into the world that was beyond comprehension.
"Careful men, this is priceless!" came the shout from the foreman. His supervisor had let him know this morning that if the painting had been dinged, damaged, dented, or deformed then he could consider his life dinged, damaged, dented and deformed. He had nodded his understanding, remembering back to when he was a laborer and had seen the man tear the throat off of a black bear with his left hand.
His men, meanwhile, were working as quickly as their care could possibly allow. Their hushed whispers gave way to mutinous thoughts that they should ding the frame some, they were tired of the shouted commands of the foreman. They were tired of showing up to the canteen and receiving an apple and a handful of burned mutton for their days rations.
Most of all, they were tired of one of their number mysteriously dying everyday. Their mutinous thoughts gave way to idealizations of flight – if they left they might die by the hand of another man, but they wouldn't die with their vocal chords snapping from their screams. Twenty two days they had been digging in this hole, and twenty two of their number had been consumed by that golden, torturous, and welcome light each day.
That of course said nothing of the usual deaths due to rock slides, misplaced swings of pick axes that embedded into craniums, and death rattles from exertion.
The foreman surveyed the pit from his position overlooking it. In every man's eyes he saw a desire. It was the glowered eyes, the hushed whispers, the veins throbbing on their hands as he walked by. He had stopped eating his mutton, they had stopped attempting to mask the smell of the poison. He saw the itch under their skin to swing their tool that was in their right hand and embed it in his frontal lobes.
He prayed that they made contact with their dig soon – he had decided ten days ago that he would kill himself in 12 days if they hadn't. It was better to die by his own hand than to die like Cesar, stabbed in the front, back, and side. Or to live his final moments with the feeling of his trachea detached from the rest of his body.
He look up at the tunnel that led to their current location, the string of lights extending beyond their own illumination into darkness that stretched for miles. It was that darkness that bore down onto the men, that gave them that itch under their skin, that took decent men with normal thoughts and turned them into automatons that dreamed of murdering their master.
There was a clink.
Then a second.
Then the light shined. The golden light. The killing light.
All sound left the tunnel, the chamber, the hole. The men with their eyes wide, frantically looking for the man that was about to be consumed next.
It didn't come.
The light continued to grow brighter and brighter, burning the retinas of all who didn't shield their eyes soon enough. The men starting to panic, looking for the one that was about to face his rendition in the most painful way they had heard.
Then it happened. A quiet sound, a snap, and then the light was gone.
The foreman leaned over his post and into the bottom of the hole. A faint golden hum of light was radiating at the bottom. He had the men clear out, which they were more than happy to after the many days they had spent idling with their mutinous thoughts. He signaled to his assistants, they were to go down and investigate the hum.
What they found turned their minds for the rest of their soon to be short lives.
X X X
Natasha Romanoff was not having a great day. Contrary to her outward appearance her shoulder was still sore from her last mission, she hadn't been able to get a lot of sleep, and she absolutely despised coming in on her day off.
If pressed by the right person (of whom only Steve qualified at this point in time), she would admit that she possibly had an issue with the fact that Clint still hadn't apologized for accidentally shooting her with one of his arrows on that mission. It didn't matter that it was her fault (no, not even Tony at his most charming or Bruce at his most bumbling could get that out of her), Clint deserved to be pleading for mercy every time she felt a slight twinge radiating down her arm.
Of course, she also would admit to absolutely no one that Clint shooting her had also been the cause of her lack of sleep as well. The last time that had happened…she had a lot more red on her ledger. It was all red at that time in fact. Gushing, as Loki had put it. It had been years since she had put some serious thought behind that red, more than the lip service she gave for why she was a member of the Avenger Initiative, but lately she was drowning in it.
Then of course, she was decidedly female. She had female things to do on her day off that she couldn't do when surrounded by nothing but testosterone and it's wannabe brother "manliness" that was always present when she was called into SHIELD. Of course in this she could at least commiserate with Agent Hill, who with a shared look let her know they both were annoyed for this reason.
She sat down at the table in the conference room that Director Fury's latest assistant had directed the trio to, making sure that Agent Hill was between her and Clint. She would be back to friendly terms with the Hawkeye when her shoulder stopped twinging, but until then she knew the man didn't deserve to have his arm twisted out of it's socket. Which she would do if he got too close.
"Ladies," came Fury's voice, causing a slight chuckle form Clint, "I'm sorry to call you all in on your day off but we have a minor situation that has developed over the past twenty four hours."
He ran his hand over the table and swiped it at the wall. As much as Tony Stark annoyed them on a daily basis, SHIELD would not be as advanced as it was without his help.
"We have been doing some low level monitoring of the Black Forest in Germany when we picked up a massive operation being carried on by the Mow Dock Consortium," Fury continued, "Normally we wouldn't even both calling you three in on your so precious day off but the idiots stumbled onto a weapon. A weapon they have no idea of how powerful it is."
He swiped his hand and more images appeared on the wall, this time of men carrying a package out of a tunnel.
"The brain surgeons at the MDC believe all they have uncovered is a priceless work of art, but in reality they have uncovered what is believed to be the keys that could possibly summon a being on level with Loki at his worst into the universe."
He paused, and let his eye roam over his three agents.
"I need you three to get this artifact out of MDC hands and into ours," he paused, a beat slipping by, "and I don't care how you do it. Just know that you can not touch this artifact with your bare hands for any reason. The information we have received on it is that it is not only highly volitile, but that twenty two men died in absolute agony just trying to reach it."
"So we're talking Earth Shattering Kaboom then?" Clint cut in, earning a glare from Fury. Natasha merely rolled her eyes, to busy looking at the pictures on the screen which showed a massive and flat object being moved out of the tunnels. It appeared to be encased in some sort of box, but beyond that she couldn't make anything out. Knowing Mow Dock as she did, she assumed that while it wouldn't be difficult in extracting the artifact, it was to be tiring.
She pulled her eyes away when she heard Fury addressing them again.
"We all know how inept the MDC is, which is why I need you three to be extra careful. No more slip ups, I don't need another agent taking an arrow into their shoulder because they got complacent."
Natasha felt her shoulder twinge, and gave a minor glare to Clint who at least had the sense to look slightly ashamed.
"Hill, you're going to be running the operation," Fury continued, handing over the tablet he had been holding, "Hawkeye, you're going to be providing cover. Agent Romanoff you will be infiltrating the MDC and retrieving the artifact."
He pulled a device out from underneath his desk, that looked like a box with a giant button on it.
"When you have located the artifact, put this on it and press the button. Mr. Stark has assured me that it will expand to consume the artifact and then fly it back to a drop off point at a speed faster than most nations air forces."
She picked up the device, allowing herself to silently marvel at Stark's (and she guessed Banner's as well) genius. She made a mental note to slip it into her mission bag.
"Now, it goes without saying that I have been pushing you three pretty hard lately. Please don't slip up this time, I've gotten quite used to relying on you."
With one final look at the three, Fury walked out of the room as the trio stood up. Natasha nodded at Hill, glared at Clint, and walked out. She heard Clint calling after her as she left. Closing her eyes momentarily, counting to десять, she looked over her shoulder (her bad one!) at the Hawkeye to show that she was listening and continued on to the locker room.
"Natasha, wait up!" she slowed, slightly, not changing her expression. While she mentally knew she shouldn't stay mad at him, she did enjoy seeing him sweat.
"Listen, I need to make sure we're okay," he continued as he caught up, "You've been slightly off since you stepped into my shot."
Natasha stopped herself cold. In the back of her head she admired the look that flashed across Clint's face, it was one of instant regret.
"I apologize for stepping into your shot Clint," Natasha ground out, her long repressed accent inflecting on her words. No, she wasn't angry about something at all. She continued, "I'll do my best in the future to let you know where I'm going to be at all times so as not to screw up your precious little shot."
She strode away, leaving a shaken Clint Barton in her place. Her shoulder was throbbing, it was her day off, and she was more mad at herself than anything.
This was going to be a long mission.
X X X
If Agent Hill had noticed the frosty relationship between the two normally best friends, she didn't comment on it. As it was, as soon as they had suited up they had gone into complete business mode. Agent Hill had, if possible, gotten more serious. Clint had lost all traces of humor. Natasha had lost all emotion and inflection from both her features and her voice.
The flight to their insertion had been brief, with the surveillance consistently ran on the MDC it was known that their perimeter was something that could be easily breached. The pair, Black Widow and Hawkeye, moved in silence as they knew that Agent Hill observed them from above. Natasha had studied the lay out of the location on the flight over, it had seemed simple enough. They would go in from the side, with Clint staying on the hill watching her every move. The artifact was being held in an open air hanger, and as soon as she made the single he would start taking however many MDC personnel were present.
It was supposed to be simple, which was why it of course had all gone to hell.
It had started predictably, she had walked in right past every guard. Then Hawkeye had misread her cue and started taking out guards too early. This caused her to be out of position, and thus get into a larger hand to hand fight than she had been planning on.
Adding more red to her ledger – most would say it was indeed black, but the MDC guards were inept enough that it was like murdering the painful innocent – she was able to get closer to the artifact. She was fighting off three guards that had so far been yet to be put down by Hawkeye when she was hit hard in her shoulder by a club.
Twisting out of the way to regain her senses as the pain went shooting through her entire body, she tripped over the body of one of the guards that had just taken a Hawkeye arrow. She put her arm out to stop her fall and noticed one second too late that her palm – her incredibly fleshly, definitely not covered by a glove palm – was laying flat against the artifact, which for the first time she noticed was a painting of a boy that looked to be about her age. She didn't have much longer to contemplate the painting though, because a bright golden light immediately exploded outwards from it and knocked her on her back.
She quickly closed her eyes as the light became blinding and realized with a small amount of fascination that it light was actually causing a hum. As suddenly as the light came, though, it retracted. She opened her eyes, and sat up with a small groan, still favoring her arm. All of her training was required not to react to what she saw.
Standing before her was the man that had been in the painting.
He was dressed like Loki had been, but his robes were not quite as flowing. They, in fact, looked almost functional. He had long hair, and at least a few weeks worth of growth on his face. Then there were his eyes, they were intoxicating. Their green surveyed all that was around him as almost if in a frenzy, the kind a caged animal gets after being let out after to long a time spent in their cage. They came to rest on Natasha as she noticed that he looked like he looked like he had recently been a part of a battle.
"Right, you were the one that let me out?" he asked, a clipped British accent to his words. Natasha nodded silently, the pain in her shoulder preventing her from opening her mouth.
"Great, you seem like you don't want to kill me while the people around here want to do you in," the man said as he silently walked over to her, and saw watched as he waved his hand causing all the guards to go flying away. He bent over, and put his hand on her shoulder. Instantly, all the pain that she had been carrying around in it went away.
"I'm Harry," he said, still holding her shoulder, "And this might feel a bit weird."
She was about to ask what it was, when she felt herself disappear with a pop.
End Chapter One
Author's note: An alternative summary could be "It really was all Hawkeye's fault, Natasha would protest after she let an oncoming storm out of it's cage."