“What chance combination of shadow and sound and his own thoughts had created it?”
― Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train
“Fenrir, on your four!”
Peter snarled, fangs bared in open threat at the golem that had attempted to come up behind him, angling for an attack that borderlined out of sight for the ‘wolf: the red-eyed Alpha retaliated with prejudice—ignoring Steve Rogers’ chiding about using excessive violence, especially in sight of the general populace—and promptly swiped his claws deeply enough through the golem’s throat to decapitate the would-be creature.
“Cap, I know that you’re always for gathering around the campfire and singing kumbaya with the villainous flavor of the week—it worked on Loki, after all—but all signs point to the fact that the golems don’t show any sentience… and I’m really tired of getting my ass kicked out here,” Clint offered up in commentary over their comms, tiredness more than readily apparent in his voice even as an arrow soared over the meaty curve of Peter’s uncle’s shoulder to land with a thick thunk in the head of the golem that had also been attempting to attack Thor from his blind spot.
“I’m with Legolas on this one,” Tony chimed in, zooming past the fighting group with Natasha carefully held in his arms—that is, until he dumped her in the middle of a particularly large group of animations, wherein the redheaded assassin proceeded to do as she did best: kill. “I’m all for blowing them up at this point and then heading back to the Tower for dinner. Whose turn is it to pick the food? I lost count… two fights ago? I think?”
“I do believe that the choice is mine, my friends!” Thor yelled out, boisterously cheerful as he called down a lightning storm from the sky above; the high-voltage forks of electricity struck many of the golems spread out around the Avengers, shattering stone and clay to leave nothing but rubble behind.
Looking out over the destruction, Peter’s expression shifted into something within the realm of ‘annoyed disbelief’ and offered his uncle his dirtiest glare. “You couldn’t have done that in the very beginning?” the currently human wolf asked, tone long-suffering but resigned even as the crimson began to slowly fade from his normally glacial blue gaze. Claws and fangs also both began to ease back into their more societal acceptable versions: teeth white and flat and all too human, claws smoothing back down into well-groomed fingernails, neatly trimmed and buffed to a pearlescent shine.
In response to Peter’s too-dry question, Thor ended up shrugging—perhaps a bit more shamefaced than he normally would be. “I was leery of hitting our shield-brothers,” the blond Asgardian attempted in explanation.
“And the chance to pick tonight’s dinner offered itself as an extra motivational push to finish the battle sooner rather than later,” Loki tacked on, disgruntled expression mirroring that of his son’s even as he stepped up to stand side-by-side with Peter, both men still directing their best unimpressed glances Thor’s way: one bright, poisonous green and the other an arctic, chilling blue.
Knowing that there was no way to argue himself out of this particular corner, Thor instead just offered brother and nephew a crooked, sheepish smile in turn. “In my defense, it has been quite some time since we last had a meal from Katz’s Delicatessen. I have found myself craving their sweet potato knish as of late.”
“One thing in my life that I never expected myself to say is this: Thor, you’ve become a foodie,” Tony commented with a laugh, clunking past the gathered Asgardians. Still, with the teasing remark, Peter could hear the engineer instructing JARVIS to order multiples of everything on Katz’s menu—and extra of the sweet potato knish for Thor.
Shaking his head at what had become a standard ending to their battles here on Earth, Peter caught his father’s amused gaze and gestured wordlessly towards the quinjet that was just now touching down to pick up the Avengers to take them back to Tony’s tower. Father and son adjusted their stride so that they could walk side-by-side, and Peter took the opportunity to bask in his father’s presence, soaking in the thrumming packbond that had been stretched thin—near to breaking—for millennia. It was… nice… having pack, having family—his father--so near once again after he had been alone, an Omega in all but name, for so very, very long.
Earth wasn’t Asgard, but perhaps that was for the better.
It was honestly a relief being back at the Tower: it had been so long since Peter—since Fenrir--had a place he could truly call ‘home,’ and the Avengers Tower was the closest thing to that particular concept that the wolf had felt in centuries.
He sighed quietly as he shut his apartment’s door behind himself, taking a moment to just be… still. Quiet. Let the battlelust leave him in shuddering, hungry increments: ice-blue eyes closed and face tilted up towards the ceiling as the Fenrisúlfr took a moment to just breathe--in and out and in and out and in and out, steadying himself with every inhale as he drew in the familiar scents of his now-den.
“Mr. Fenrir,” JARVIS interrupted, tone apologetic even as Peter directed his attention to the nearest camera that served as the AI’s eyes. “Food will be delivered in the common area within the next twenty to thirty minutes. That should give you enough time to shower, change into a new pair of clothes, and join the others for their meal.”
“Is that a hint of reproach I hear, JARVIS?” Peter asked idly in turn, offering a smile sharp enough to cut even as he began making his way deeper into his apartment, shedding clothing—battle leathers, well-worn and much used—behind him with each step taken.
“It wouldn’t be in my place to do so,” came the AI’s prim reply. “However, I do believe that the others would be please if you made an appearance—especially since you refrained from attending the last six team meals.”
The comment made Peter pause, muffling a chuckle as he again tossed a rather sardonic look towards the closest camera lens. A quirked eyebrow came paired with the expression, and Peter finally tossed his suede trousers towards his dirty clothes hamper and stepped into the shower, turning the hot water on all of the way while relaxing beneath both spray and too-scalding steam. “Is that criticism I hear now, JARVIS?” the wolf called out over the sound of running water, knowing that the AI would hear him.
“Of course not, Mr. Fenrir. Merely an observation.”
Tony’s programming skills truly were impressive—the coding and evolution that JARVIS had apparently gone through was impressive, and it was more than readily apparent that the program truly had become an artificial intelligence. The sarcasm must have been emphasized upon in the original coding, however, because butter wouldn’t have melted in JARVIS’ mouth at that ending reply.
Peter snorted quietly to himself but silently relented to JARVIS’ commentary: after all, if the blue-eyed man didn’t give in and head up to join the others this particular meal, it was readily obvious that the AI would continue to offer his observations until Peter actually did. Better to give in gracefully than to cave underneath relentless, subtle nagging.
--the god shouldn’t be that surprised, however.
JARVIS must have learned how to do so by years upon years of dealing with Tony.
(No wonder he was so good at it.)
It wasn’t long after that that Peter wrapped up his shower, muscles finally relaxed—released from their too-tight, corded tension—and mood much better than when he had originally returned home; battles always strung him tight, placed on a razor-thin edge: too many years held captive had weakened the wolf-god, stripped him of many of his powers and much of his strength. It would be a long time before the Hróðvitnir was anything like he had been, once upon a time ago.
Time would heal certain wounds—but Peter would never forget the damage dealt to him. (And, eventually, those memories would come full circle in the reckoning that had been foretold at the start of this particular universe: no one could escape their fate. Not even his grandfather, as much as he otherwise tried.)
Shrugging into a dark v-neck shirt and a pair of black jeans, the shifted wolf headed upstairs to join his teammates in their meal; the immediate scent of good food—rich and filling—washed over the dark-haired man the moment he stepped from the elevator, and perhaps JARVIS’ silence became the smallest bit smug at hearing the god’s stomach rumble in reply, but… the potential of actually eating something hearty was enough to let it go.
“Fenrir!” Thor called out upon spotting his nephew, blue eyes lighting hopefully at the fact that Peter may have actually decided to join him and the rest of the Avengers for the meal: a rare enough occurrence that the thunderer wanted to take advantage of as thoroughly as possible if that ended up being the case. “Come and join us at the table.”
“As you wish, Uncle,” the wolf replied easily enough, resigning himself to the fact that he’d need to be sociable for the next several hours—worth it, though, if the food ended up tasting as good as it smelled. Loki hadn’t raised a fool, however, and the blue-eyed shifter slid into the chair next to the trickster god, settling between his father and the Black Widow: comfortable enough company for the mood the wolf currently found himself in. Natasha, after all, wouldn’t poke and prod and pry the way that Thor would, good intentions aside. And Loki would be sure to act as a buffer between Peter and anyone else who became too personable to the wolf who had ended up spending more time alone and packless than surrounded by others, through no choice of the Alpha’s own.
The food was doled out amongst the team and each began digging in almost immediately, ravenous after the workout that the battle had provided; it wasn’t surprising, then, that the Asgardians and the super-soldier were the ones with the plates that were piled highest than the rest, food leaning heavily towards both proteins and carbohydrates as those with the higher metabolisms attempted to refuel as quickly as possible (before another call came in to Assemble: the worst being multiple calls—five, last count—during one meal).
As things began to wind down, the meal eventually coming to its end—uninterrupted this time, surprisingly enough—the elevator that granted access to all of the upper level, private residences slid open with a soft, cheery sound, and all of the Avengers immediately directed their attention to its arrival as a beanie-wearing, glasses-clad teen stumbled out of the doors: nearly tripping over his own two feet, awkward in the sort of way that a young deer typically was—something not yet grown into all of its limbs.
“Mr. Stark! I know that he’s supposed to be head of R&D, but I’m sorry; Hamilton is both a giant dick and a moron and--” the tirade slowly trickled into silence as the newcomer glanced up from his StarkPad and finally caught sight of the fact that Tony was currently hosting the rest of the Avengers team. Intelligent, amber-hued eyes flickered from one superhero to the next—lingering, perhaps, for a moment or two longer on Peter—before turning an accusing gaze towards the nearest of Tony’s AI’s camera lenses. “JARVIS, you said that he wasn’t busy!”
“I do believe, Mr. Stilinski—“
“—that my exact words were: ‘He should be available for a consult by the time you arrive at the penthouse.’ As you can see for yourself, Sir has now finished his meal. Therefore, he should be available for a consult.”
The boy—Stiles?—squinted knowingly at the glass-coated lens, expression dubious with suspicion. “Kinda cutting hairs rather fine there, JARVIS.”
There was clear amusement in the AI’s voice as he responded this time. “I do learn from the best, Mr. Stilinski.”
The whiskey-eyed teen sighed at that, shaking his head and shelving the argument as a lost cause for the moment. Instead, his attention almost immediately zeroed in on Tony, and he loped towards the engineer with ground-eating strides, movements suddenly graceful and in control—stark contrasts with the awkward, coltish movements from just a few moments previously.
Upon the boy’s first arrival, Peter’s brain had purred prey. Now? His instincts screamed predator.
“Anyway,” Stiles began as he situated himself next to Tony, flicking the image on his StarkPad onto the holo display that had been embedded in the dining room table. Almost immediately after, the air was filled with brightly colored blueprints, coding scrolling off to the side—elegant and beautiful in its design, and the wolf found himself intrigued by both the boy’s genius and how he had so effortlessly dismissed the rest of the superheroes’ presence as insignificant and unimportant. “Like I was saying, Hamilton is both a dick and a moron. He’s all gung-ho for tossing out the design but, look, if the wings are angled upwards another three percent, it’ll cut energy usage by twenty-seven percent. But because I’m just a lowly intern, he doesn’t even want to check the fucking math! Which, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with it because I’m awesome!”
Frown marring his face as he dove into the science zone—where everything got blocked out except for numbers and the elegant flow of blueprints, the metal gleam of machinery—Tony began to skim through the proposals that Stiles had drafted and organized, moving from one report and image to another, eyes tracking information faster than most people were capable of processing it.
Catching the display that hosted most of the intern’s math, the frown deepened as the engineer began to decipher his employee’s results, calculating things further within his mind as the numbers glowed brightly, hovering in the air. “…huh,” Tony eventually offered, pausing at the end of the equation. “Well, you were right about Hamilton being a moron.”
Stiles tossed his arms up in the air, as if doing a silent ‘Hallelujah!’ at the fact that the official head of R&D was in agreement with his numbers.
“Don’t know if I can agree with you on him being a dick, though. I usually tune him out whenever he starts talking,” the billionaire continued, mischief more than readily apparent in the slant of his mouth as his gaze finally left the holographics to glance the teen’s way.
Before the intern had the chance to respond again, however, Steve cleared his throat and offered Tony a pointed Look when the engineer glanced the blond’s way: a gentle nudge that the brunet was forgetting his manners yet again in favor of the shiny allure of Science. Tony blinked slowly in reply before gesturing towards the boy, motion careless and absent even as his attention was again being drawn back to the numbers that hovered before him.
“Stiles, meet everyone. Everyone, meet Stiles. He’s one of the interns I hired for the summer—between his sophomore and junior years at MIT, and he originally caught my attention with the coding projects that earned him the Stark Scholarship for Computer Sciences award three years in a row. He’s also become one of Bruce’s favorites, too, because someone started trying to steal my minion away from me starting last week.”
Bruce rolled his eyes at that. “I needed his assistance on one experiment. Just one, Tony.”
“It always starts with just one. But one becomes two and two becomes three and three becomes ‘Hey, I haven’t seen my minion around the lab for days. Gee, I wonder where he could have possibly gone?’”
“Considering the fact that you’re the one signing my paychecks, I sincerely doubt that that’s something you have to worry about, Mr. Stark,” Stiles interrupted before the banter could progress much further. The amber-eyed teen offered a sharp-edged smile to all of the Avengers members—Peter could see Natasha stiffening slightly from the corner of his gaze—and commented lightly enough, “It was a pleasure meeting you all! I do need to go kidnap Iron Man now, though, to work on science-y things.”
With that said, JARVIS minimized the plethora of information, transferring it back to Stiles’ StarkPad.
“And who says that I’m going to let myself get kidnapped? I have lots of experience escaping nefarious kidnapping plots, I’ll have you know,” Tony shot back in answer, raising an eyebrow down at his intern now that science was no longer before him and offering itself up as an interesting distraction.
In return, Stiles quirked his own eyebrow and pointed straight at Sam. “Redwing.”
Tony opened his mouth to reply, paused, frowned, then closed his mouth as he considered the multitude of points that the teen was making by pointing out an immediate application to his math; the engineer blinked, quick and startled, shot a look Falcon’s way, and then slipped his arm with the boy’s. “I have reviewed your case and ruled that your argument is sound. To the lab!”
A whirlwind from his first appearance: there and gone again in a blink of an eye; Peter propped a stubbled chin in a hand, blue eyes thoughtful and filled with their usual plotting as he stared at the now-closed elevator doors.
“Intrigued?” Natasha asked as she reached for her drink glass, bringing its edge to her crimson lips to take a sip.
Peter blinked at that, jarred from his thoughts to sneak a glance the Black Widow’s way. “If I am, I wouldn’t be the only one. Don’t think I didn’t notice how you startled during his visit, liten edderkopp.”
The wolf’s father leaned into Peter’s space at hearing his son’s assessment, green eyes bright with calculations: a lifetime manipulating politics and people both, still so used to seeing his environments in terms of chessboards—games to be won, always in his favor. “The boy wasn’t afraid of us,” the trickster prince commented in turn and stole the last of Peter’s drink for himself, ignoring the exasperated look his son tossed his way. “How curious, don’t you think? Surrounded by those who retain power enough to crush him with naught but a thought and yet he didn’t even pause at our presence.”
Blue eyes glanced sidelong at the mage, and Peter couldn’t stop the slow curl of his mouth as amusement settled, warm and familiar, within his chest. “You’re thinking thoughts that our illustrious leader wouldn’t approve of,” the Alpha warned, carelessly absent with the fact that Loki would very likely not take the warning to heart.
“Just as long as the plotting stays to thoughts only, Loki can think whatever he wants,” Steve suddenly called out, reminding his teammates that the super part of ‘super-soldier’ also included super hearing. Natasha, Loki, and Peter all glanced the blond’s way, and the look that Steve gave the three of them was warning enough.
(Hardly enough to stop Loki, though.)
The shadowed figure fought its way through the Doombots, strikes landing hard enough to rip away machinery and electronic guts, fighting style brutally efficient as robot after robot gave way to gravity and topped to the ground. At one point, the newly arrived Avengers watched in surprise—and leery awe—as the figure’s arm punched completely through one particularly stubborn Doombot’s chest, hand grasping the ‘bot’s power source as it emerged from its back.
“…do we have another Daredevil on our hands?” Clint asked, voicing the question that everyone was thinking as the black-clad figure catapulted up and over one of the robots’ head, spinning almost seemingly effortlessly mid-air to deal out absolute devastation to another Doombot with a tornado kick that managed to cleave through two additional robots. “Or maybe it’s Iron Fist’s cousin: Vibranium Foot.”
The stranger landed on one knee, back to the Avengers as it (he? she?) faced off against the remaining ten Doombots; Steve took a step forward, readying his shield to throw to force some of the robots back to grant the stranger and the Avengers some breathing room—but the concern was apparently unwarranted. The newcomer brought up a hand, fingers spread wide, and a spinning, too-bright ball of violet and black-tinged light began to gather over the figure’s outstretched palm. It grew larger and larger, gaining both power and momentum in less than a heartbeat, and it was only seconds—a moment—later that the figure threw the spiraling ball into the midst of the now panicking Doombots.
As quick as the robots typically managed to react, it was still too slow in this specific case:
The purple and ebon-dark ball collided with one of the ‘bots, connecting with a telling, muffled pop!, and then light spread, blinding and encompassing as it stretched out for more than a block in all directions: leaving anyone and everyone in the epicenter temporarily blind while marrow-deep vibrations rumbled warningly through the Avengers’ bodies as the explosion erupted out from ground zero.
“…oh, my God. He has magic. Of course he has magic. So less Vibranium Foot and more Jumping Bean the Magic Ninja,” Clint complained as he rubbed at his eyes—something that a majority of the team was currently doing—and tried to clear the spots from his vision. Annoyance was readily clear in his voice, and while he was all for a good explosion or two (or ten), a little warning would have been greatly appreciated.
“I was actually thinking more along the lines of Foxfire,” a voice commented from above. The team stilled in surprise: no one had heard any indication that the stranger was still there: no rustling, no quiet sounds of breathing, no adrenaline-fueled beating of a still-human heart—just silence and the familiar, recognized sound of teammates and friends. The superheroes glanced upwards, gazes narrowing in on the shadowed figure above them all, perched carefully on the railing of one of the many fire escapes that littered New York. “For a name, I mean. All superheroes and supervillains are supposed to have one, right?”
Now that the fighting was finally over and the figure was actually still beneath their attention, the Avengers could see that the stranger was dressed in an odd mix of blacks and dark grays, alternating between leathers and a rough, linen-like cloth. Equally dark pouches strapped snugly to the other’s thighs and leather pants tucked into knee-high, steel-toed boots. The hilt of a sword—a tanto, judging by its size and shape—peeked out over one midnight-tinged shoulder, and the whole ensemble ended in the upper half of a fox’s features, a mask that left the fighter’s jaw and mouth free though it covered the rest of his features. A pair of bright, golden eyes stared down at the superhero team, and Peter’s eyes were recovered enough that he could see that full-bodied mouth curve into a wickedly amused smile.
“Though I commend you for such a strong, memorable name, my friend, I would greatly suggest you pick a different callsign. Kitsune are known for being possessive creatures, and I do not think that they would take lightly to your adoption of a name from one of their much-favored powers,” Thor advised good-naturedly and took a step closer to the alleyway currently hosting New York’s newest vigilante.
If anything, however, that wicked smile turned that much more fox-like and sly.
“Thanks for the concern, but I don’t think that that’s something you’ll have to worry about,” the boy--Foxfire--answered with a laugh, grin as going even more predatory. “Until next time: see you all later~” The farewell was paired with a jaunty salute, laughter ringing through the air, and the midnight-dark shadows that lay scattered throughout the alleyway came up in a nightmare-driven tidal wave and swallowed the vigilante whole.
Silence spread amongst the Avengers’ members as the light shifted to something a bit more normal than previously—the glow from the streetlamps gleaming against the metal of the remaining Doombots’ limbs—though the Sorcerer Supreme tapped at his mouth with a gloved thumb, expression pensive as he stared at the spot where the magic-wielding fighter had sat. Loki stepped up as he caught sight of the other mage’s face, slipping into place next to Stephen Strange. “Foxfire—how apt,” the Sorcerer Supreme commented, voice low enough that the majority of the team couldn’t hear his words.
Loki lifted one shoulder in an effortlessly Gallic shrug. “His shadow did have nine tails,” the god replied in turn, green eyes dark with a Machiavellian sort of contemplation: a chessmaster weighing various strategies before him, assessing the playing field before even making his very first move.
“He had a nogitsune’s aura but had none of the typical signs of possession,” Peter stated in a low murmur to add clarification to his father and the other mage’s conversation. “His scent was saturated with dark magic and fox, but otherwise… clean. Surprisingly so.”
“When is a yako-tsuki not nogitsune?” Stephen mused aloud, still staring up at the fire escape as a frown tugged his mouth downwards in an absent frown.
“I guess we’ll be finding out soon enough,” the wolf answered in turn, letting his gaze linger down the alley one last time before turning away to head back to the Avengers’ quinjet. It was a riddle that begged to be solved, but there was no use in dwelling on it further until more information revealed itself to the team.
As superhero after superhero returned to the quinjet and the plane took off with a low rumble of power and force, a pair of golden eyes winked into existence at the alleyway’s end, tracking its movement as it headed back to Avengers Tower.
Everyone has it and no one can lose it. What am I?
The voice whispered up from the deepest, most hidden corners of the boy’s mind, rumbling with threat and magic both, though all it did was cause the young fighter to slowly smile in turn. “A shadow,” Foxfire murmured in answer and smiled at the silent, echoing sound of amused laughter, a there-and-gone-again sliver of pearlescent shine, and then flickered out of sight once more.
The soft rustling in the darkness was the only warning that Peter received, letting him know that he was no longer alone.
JARVIS was suspiciously silent throughout the wolf’s suite, and the lack of the AI’s presence was enough to raise the hairs along the nape of Peter’s neck, nonexistent hackles raising as goosepimples marched along the corded muscle of the Avenger’s arms. The mattress dipped beneath a foreign, unexpected weight, and Peter kept his breathing steady and regular, seemingly asleep even as the stranger slowly made its way closer.
The god breathed deep, breathing in the scent of ozone—of magic flavored with the hidden boltholes scattered throughout the deepest, darkest parts of a forest—and of the thick musk of fox, eerie and starkly contrasted against the scent of wolf that had previously been the only scent to fill Peter’s den.
He opened his eyes then to meet a pair of glowing, bright golden eyes, almost seemingly floating in the darkness of the Vánagandr‘s bedroom. Peter blinked, gesture slow and predatory with eyes suddenly flaring bloody crimson, and the details of Foxfire’s outfit, the outline of the fox mask, slowly began visible within the low light that filtered in through the window just behind the intruder.
“I don’t seem to recall issuing you an invitation into my home—into my den,” Peter murmured as his voice shifted low and threatening, dipping into a growl that vibrated bones.
The other male paused at that, head tilting slightly to the side as the other super-human weighed and considered the wolf’s chidingly offered threat. Eventually, carelessly, Peter was offered a small shrug. “I don’t have yours or the other Avengers’ phone numbers, so it’s not like I could call any of you up.”
Heaving a much-aggrieved sigh upon realizing that the boy’s presence wasn’t genuinely a play upon the wolf’s life, Peter pushed himself upright, hands braced on the mattress behind him, and shot an unimpressed glance the nogitsune’s way. “And why is it that you need to reach one of us?” Peter asked, annoyed enough to consider biting in retaliation at the interruption of what looked to be—originally, anyway—a full night of sleep.
“Spider-man is facing off against a group using Chitauri-augmented weapons, is grossly outnumbered, and I figured that you all would want to be there to offer back-up to your teenaged, resident mascot,” the boy answered readily enough in turn, and the words were enough to cause Peter to stiffen in reaction: while Spider-man was too young to be considered an actual Avenger—it being an open secret that the superhero wasn’t yet eighteen—Peter and the others were rather fond of the sass and web wielding teen, and the thought of the younger Peter being in trouble and without their help… it had the wolf baring his teeth, fangs elongated, at the unseen threat. Seeing that particular reaction, Foxfire continued helpfully: “They’re at Coney Island.”
Peter blinked, forcing the crimson away, and returned his attention to the supernaturally-inclined intruder in his bedroom. “…and the reason why you picked me instead of going to one of the others? Captain America or Iron Man or even my father?” the wolf asked.
In return, Peter was gifted with a mischief-laden smirk: the corner of a plush mouth curling upwards into something that reeked of ulterior motives. “I wanted to see if you were a boxers or briefs sort of man,” came the glib reply.
Eyebrow lifting high at the response, Peter pushed away his blankets and stood, almost immediately after heading towards his closet to retrieve his battle leathers for the fight ahead. Moonlight limed bare skin, highlighting the fact that the wolf—in true Asgardian fashion—wore nothing to bed. A strangled sound came from behind Peter, and the god could hear the muttered comment of: “Okay, so it’s neither. None of the above, got it, okay—good, uh, wow.” Response ready on the tip of his tongue, Peter turned—and saw nothing but an empty bedroom.
Just as abruptly, JARVIS’ voice came from one of the hidden speakers, concern more than readily evident in his voice as he broke through the previous silence: “Mr. Fenrir? Are you well? My sensors were denied access to your room for the past five minutes.”
Already shrugging into his leather trousers and reaching for his undershirt, Peter immediately replied: “Wake the other Avengers, JARVIS. Peter Parker needs our assistance.”
Seconds later, the call to Assemble began echoing through the Tower and was soon enough followed by the pounding of footsteps as Peter’s teammates rushed towards the rooftop and the waiting quinjet.
The burn of Iron Man’s flight towards Brooklyn lit up the sky like the trail of a shooting star, brilliant against the city’s lights—and, as Peter watched his teammate rush towards Coney Island, he couldn’t help but mull over the fact that Foxfire had come to them to ask for their help instead of leaving the other seemingly young superhero to deal with things on his own, a victim of fate and poor fortune.
The next time that Foxfire crossed the Avengers’ path, it was specifically with Peter: the others were busy in Iowa, dealing with transdimensional portals and the ooze monsters they spat out. The Hulk and Fenrir had been left behind in New York to deal with any potential emergencies until that particular disaster was taken care of—neither Bruce nor Peter raising too large of a ruckus at being left behind because, unfortunately, everyone remembered their last encounter with slime monsters (from another dimension or otherwise)—and this city-specific call for assistance was self-contained enough that only Peter’s presence had been necessary.
When the wolf arrived on-scene, it was to the sight of a battle already finished: more vicious, more violent than the Avengers typically allowed themselves, even with the Hulk, Loki, and Peter all members of the team. A teenager, a young girl who looked around fifteen, lay sprawled out in the corner of the warehouse, soaked in blood from a gash across her throat and lifeless, still of all motion—empty, dark eyes just staring upwards towards the ceiling in a last prayer for salvation. Not far from her body lay a second one: a man was pinned to the concrete floor, sword thrust through his chest as a butterfly collector oftentimes pricked his prized specimens, setting them up for display.
He was still alive, gasping for breath as blood bubbled up from between his lips.
The man died, though, when the third body in the warehouse reached out, gripping the sword’s hilt between two hands and twisting it viciously to cut through meat and bone, jerking sharpened metal from the man’s torso as his eyes dulled and went flat, one last breath rattling forth from pieced, ruined lungs.
Peter stepped into the empty space, purposefully scuffing a heel to alert the dark fox to his presence. The magic-wielder stared down at the dead man for a long moment, silent in the echoing warehouse, and eventually stepped away to flick the blood from his blade, sheathing the weapon in one well-practiced motion.
The scene before the wolf would have had most of the Avengers livid, almost immediately launching into righteous, morally rigorous lectures on how those who defend others should be above killing their enemies—standing for mercy and second chances, the choice to redeem themselves. Peter, however… Peter took in the scene, head tilted to the side thoughtfully as he considered the stories that the bodies told and Foxfire’s telling silence.
Eventually, he asked: “What did he do?”
The slope of the vigilante’s shoulders tightened, hunching in on itself as that eerie, haunting mask lifted to meet Peter’s arctic gaze. The answering smile that the younger male offered to Peter was lopsided and mean, verging on cruel with just the barest hint of teeth hidden behind those full lips. “She was the District Attorney’s daughter. He was a telepath—able to control and bury himself in minds—and was hired to use her as leverage as either a hostage for one of the DA’s cases or to go in and destroy that evidence herself. She regained enough control to refuse. I guess the asshole took issue to her refusal, and he made her kill herself.”
“So you killed him in turn,” the wolf murmured quietly in reply, returning his attention to the man who had obviously suffered quite a bit before the dark fox had ended his life.
“I don’t like people who take away another’s autonomy.”
Peter slowly smiled at that, teeth lengthening into fangs, and allowed his eyes to flash crimson, red as rich as the blood splattered across the concrete floor: predatory and unforgiving, understanding in a way that not very many others would have been able to be so—the same expression that Thanos had seen before Peter ripped out the Titan’s throat with his claws in aching, angry memory of the empty, blue tinge that had lingered in his father’s gaze for years after the initial control had eventually released itself from the trickster prince’s mind. “I’ll be sure to bring my sister’s attention to her newest resident, then.”
He could picture, then, his sister’s reaction: the same wolfish smile widening her pretty, full lips as strawberry blonde hair fell over one creamy, milk-pale shoulder—dark eyes as predatory as Peter’s own. Loki’s children did not forgive. Nor did they ever forget.
Hel’s scream had rung through all Nine Realms the moment that Thanos had crossed over, caught and collared within the kingdom that Loki’s daughter ruled over. There would be no mercy, no rest, for the Mad Titan there.
(Peter hoped that he would suffer, forever hungering for the hunt.)
It was Foxfire’s turn to tilt his head to one side, slant of his mouth thoughtful and quiet as he returned Peter’s bright blue gaze with his own golden one. Silence stretched between them both, heavy with potential and a multitude of meanings, and—finally—the younger man murmured, “I’d appreciate it if you did.”
The wolf slightly inclined his head in agreement and, body language curious as he continued to watch Peter from beneath that hauntingly beautiful mask, the nogitsune disappeared once more in a flicker of shadows.
The Avengers didn’t notice Foxfire’s presence—but Fenrir did.
He didn’t bother bringing attention to the magic-user, instead letting the Avengers as a whole handle the current threat as they typically did; it wasn’t the type that warned of the end of the world—those typically occurred every three weeks; so, while they were nearly due for one, it wasn’t quite time—and the battle was quickly resolved and the villainous flavor of the week carted off to stand trial and face the consequences of her crimes.
Peter waved off the offer of a ride on the quinjet, quoting a desire to stop by a local restaurant for food before heading back to the Tower; but, when the others had left and it was just the wolf and the still-hidden Foxfire, Peter turned his attention to the darker-than-normal patch of shadows recessed in the alleyway’s alcove.
“Hello there, little fox,” he greeted, smirk knowing as he stepped past the mouth of the alley and into the darkness of twilight that had befallen the small, enclosed space.
The vigilante stepped forward, tendrils of darkness falling away from his masked form like droplets of water, tumbling through the air and disappearing before ever touching ground. “Hello again, Fenrir,” the young man greeted in turn, mouth pursing in curiosity at the fact that Peter had actually stayed behind—bothering to call the magic-user out on the fact that the Asgardian had been aware of his presence during the fight.
Peter stepped forward, steadily pressing into the other’s space until the scent of musk and magic filled his senses, stronger, fresher than the slowly fading memory that still lingered in his den. So, too, remained: the sight of gleaming teeth bared, eyes dark, blood coppery upon his tongue—echoes from the last time they had crossed paths.
The wolf was a predator in both heart and soul, destined to bring an end to things. His father’s child in all things, darkness had always sung a siren call to Peter—to Fenrir—and this man-child whispered a tempting, siren’s song to everything within the Fenrisúlfr. It had been so very long since someone called to him the way that this mortal did.
He reached out then, gently cupping a mole-kissed cheek against the calloused warmth of the palm of his hand, thumb brushing along the etched line of the fox’s jaw: watching as the teen’s lips parted at the unexpected touch, weight shifting but not pulling away—not yet. Perhaps not ever.
“Was it concern that made you stay, even though you saw that we had it well in hand?”
Foxfire stilled at the question, lips pursing slightly as Peter leaned in closer, crowding the younger man against the wall, dizzy and drunk on the aura of darkness that always surrounded this boy—wanting to glut himself by drinking his fill and more.
Idly, Peter’s thumb traced over the edge of the boy’s mask, lifting it just enough to catch sight of the tip of a pert nose, tops of the other’s cheeks a constellation of moles: and then, abruptly, the moment came crashing to a halt when the god felt the kiss of iron against his throat.
“No,” Foxfire answered, reply simple; it didn’t matter if it was in answer to Peter’s question or the silently-implied request to remove his mask: the no was flatly said, harsh with refusal and the fact that he wouldn’t back away from that response. Just: no.
Peter’s eyes flashed bloody crimson, fangs bared as an Alpha’s roar echoed down the empty streets; he reached for Foxfire, greedy to hold on to something that called so strongly to him—never before feeling the pull so strongly, not in Asgard nor during his binding nor through the years spent here on Midgard—but the Fenris Wolf was too slow.
Foxfire was gone.
“I admit: I find myself curious.”
The statement was baldly stated, open and unassuming—done in such a way that the masked boy tensed slightly, hidden face tilting just-so, an edged gesture articulate enough to let Loki know that the vigilant was both listening to him—and watching the god, as well.
The green-eyed mage smiled, curve of his mouth as sharp as any blade, sly as a fox’s predatory grin.
“Most of the others do not yet realize it,” the magic wielder continued, wicked amusement bleeding from his forest-bright gaze to leave his eyes somber and quiet, intent upon the other fighter who now sat perched on the edge of the fire escape. It had become standard practice for Loki to keep an eagle eye out for the other, no matter how hidden Foxfire attempted veil himself. It oftentimes took most of the battle before Loki was able to spot the other and, at least, the god was honest enough—with himself if no one else—to realize that the masked boy had been in attendance for the entirety of the fight but Loki hadn’t managed to spot him at all.
That sort of talent spoke of power.
And of age.
Thus, Loki continued: “Most of the others believe you to be nothing more than a vigilante, much as Daredevil had been—still continues to be, truly. Masked and useful in a small sort of way, but blind, as well, to what stands before them. Thor sees you now and believes you to be a kitsune, one who had managed to lose his way—deviating from Inari, but still a follower at heart.”
“And what do you believe me to be, then?” Foxfire asked in answer after a lull in the god’s speech, prompting his own inquiry in turn as he shifted just enough to rest his chin upon a dark-clad knee. Even without catching sight of his gaze—windows to the other’s soul, veiled though they may currently be—Loki knew that it was intent upon him, curious and wary and waiting to strike if need be.
If anything, the weight of the other fighter’s attention sharpened the god’s smile even further.
“Perhaps you were human, once upon a time ago,” Loki mused aloud, arms crossing as he continued to look up at the other. “But now… you’re something just slightly to the left of what was. Not human—but not a fox, either. You’ve somehow stumbled across a nogitsune and instead of possessing you, as is in their nature, it… changed you. Made you Other, but not quite. Thus: again, I find myself curious.”
Foxfire quietly snorted at that, spreading his arms wide in a mocking invitation for the god to continue, though he neither confirmed nor denied Loki’s seemingly absent exposition.
“Tell me, little fox: When is a nogitsune not a nogitsune?”
The boy laughed at that, the sound harsh and grating—and surprisingly mocking, for all that his body language had screamed caution even just moments before. “When it’s a shadow, Loki Lie-smith.”
Twilight-kissed Void surged upwards, darker than the space that lingered between stars and the heart that lay hidden and secretive within a black hole, and Foxfire was gone within the held breath that accompanied the tick of one second to the next.
Loki once again smiled at the boy’s answer, expression wolfish and wide and predatory, turning his head just-so to meet his son’s bloody, crimson gaze.
Midnight had come and gone long ago, shadows painting themselves across the walls as they blurred the line between what is and was and unseen but there: elements of gray that Peter had long ago immersed himself in, bleeding out into the void as friend and family alike chained him to rock and cave both before stepping back to watch his sanity slowly slip away until he became nothing more than the feral beast that one day foretold their doom and destruction. The wolf had lingered long in that in-between place, moving far and wide through the misty realms that embraced him as kin and lover: but so, too, everything came numbed of sensation until the one-time Asgardian began to believe that the world was one of cotton and he had faded away to the point of all of his senses being dull and thin, barely there and only a brief echo of what they had been, once upon a time ago.
The dullness had leeched over to Midgard, as well—grateful beyond words that his father had come to rescue him the soonest that Loki was able… there was nothing that Peter could do about the fact that things here were duller, more lifeless: magic and mystery ran thin in the mortals’ blood and the Fenrisúlfr, dread-wolf, still yet forged his way through thick fog, senses half-dead and searching ever outwards for something that would once again ignite a spark for himself.
Ennui had become a constant source to battle against—until the pseudo nogitsune had made his appearance, weaving in and out of the Avengers’ lives, their fights, like a flicker of thought and mischief and deadly intent.
The fighter’s scent, however:
In a world that had become ever duller to Peter’s senses, the scent that still clung to the wolf’s bedsheets from the vigilante’s one time appearance was like a balm to his tattered, scarred soul; colors bled and ran, layers rich in sight and scent, and Peter craved more: there was magic within the boy, lighting him up from the inside out like a lightning strike, ozone and fox musk and the cool kiss of a forest after an early morning rainstorm, fresh and green and living, thick with wet dirt and the sharp edge of life and death, endlessly circling ‘round one another in an intricate infinity knot.
The boy’s scent was addicting, hopelessly so, and Peter could at least admit himself set adrift even as he shamelessly pressed his face against the comforter whose scent was slowly fading: filling his lungs with what little remained, desperately clinging to at least this particular sense-memory even as the wolf pressed down against his mattress, hips rolling indolently as green and heat filled his head. A snarl rumbled low and threateningly from the depths of his chest, and Peter fisted his grip in the downy softness of his sheet and pictured silky-soft hair sliding between his fingers instead.
Fox-musk and boy, magic and darkness and the coppery tang of blood: a tangled web of imageries, of scents and memories associated with them all that left Peter hard and aching, rocking against the flat plane of his bed even as he tried picturing a willing, svelte body beneath him instead: wanting wanting wanting, needing with a desperation that screamed up from his soul, clutching greedily at the only thing that had finally made him feel alive for the first time in eons.
He orgasmed, come painting thick strips across his bed and belly, and Peter panted quietly into the comforter his nose and cheek still burrowed into; there was an ache that came at the knowledge that his bed was empty, scent the only consolation granted to him, and the crimson-eyed wolf finally opened his eyes once more to a world painted in shades of twilight and shadow, resigned to the fact that nothing had changed and the fog still lingered at the peripheral of his vision.
Knowing that he should get up and clean himself before the mess became unbearable, Peter instead closed his eyes once more and just… breathed, deep and steady, chest expanding to full capacity, and pretended.
Amber eyes lit by an inner glow, firelight in the muted twilight of a city nightscape, stared out across the blocks, gaze settling upon the too-bright tower that stood as a testament against the darkness. The ‘A’ that branded itself on the building’s side blazed more intensely than all of the lights around it, and the boy settled his chin upon his apartment’s fire escape to stare at it. Just… thinking. Contemplating.
A warm weight settled against his back, fur brushing lightly enough against throat and cheek to cause a shiver in reaction: velveteen and unexpected, but not unwelcome for all of that. There was a moment of silence, warmth enough to chase away the nighttime chill for the moment, and a narrow, vulpine snout shifted to rest over the human’s shoulder. Its gaze followed the boy’s, equally amber eyes settling upon the Avengers Tower with a low, purring hum.
“Considering the thought of asking to join the team?” the nogitsune mused idly, curious despite itself.
The human snorted in reply to that particular question, bringing a hand up to bury long, pale fingers in the thick ruff at the nape of the fox’s neck. “…no,” the boy eventually answered, shifting to brush their cheeks together—scentmarking, as well, though it was absently done to settle the darker, more primal aspects of the nogitsune’s nature. “Learned the hard way that I’m not really a team player.”
“Pity,” came the fox’s sly reply. “Less expensive rent means more snacks—more inarizushi—for me.”
The boy snorted quietly at that, shifting his hold just enough to tweak one of the fox’s ears in retaliation, ignoring how the other nipped the human’s ear in reply, sharp teeth warning against the delicate shell—but the boy didn’t bother pulling away, already knowing that the nogitsune would never draw blood from him.
They both eventually slipped back into the apartment’s living room window several hours later, Avengers symbol following them into shadow-filled dreams. Neither rested well that night and the amber-eyed boy woke dizzy with exhaustion, lonely with potentials gone unrealized, and the stale scent of an apartment only rarely used; he shifted and pressed his face deeper within the musk of velvety fur, fingers holding tight to one of the few things that still seemed real to him.
Eventually, the boy got up, got dressed, and readied for the day.
Peter’s fingers, tipped in razor-edged claws, brushed against the vulnerable nape of a pale neck, pad of a thumb lingering over the dark kiss of a beauty mark: there was a temptation to tighten his hold, let his fingers sink into that pale flesh—keep and hold and claim and realize, finally, just who this dangerous slip of a boy truly was—and the ‘wolf’s grip twitched with the sweetness of it.
A blade pressed to the curve of the Asgardian’s throat, forcing Peter to back away—impressed, too, with the suddenness of the strike. He hadn’t even seen Foxfire twist within the ‘wolf’s hold.
“You’ll have to organize a foxhunt if you intend on running me to ground, if you intend on catching me,” the masked fighter warned, pressure of the tanto’s edge shifting just enough—laying heavier against the vulnerable skin of Peter’s throat—that it finally broke skin, forcing a trickle of blood to slip its way down and along the winged curve of the ‘wolf’s collarbone.
“You can’t hide forever, darling boy,” Peter warned in turn, blue leeching from his gaze until there was only the hungry, aching maw of the wolf foretold that would bring about the End Times. “I’ll find you eventually.”
Magic and the musk of fox and shadows and a feral sort of wildness that made Peter’s blood roar: he wanted.
Breakfast was always a rather large and loud event in the Avengers tower.
Unless someone was out on a call, the team typically gathered together to eat: depending on who took initiative that morning, it was always a choice of buffet style, a plethora of food—some exotic and others more familiar to those less adventurous—spread out across tables and counters for teammates to pick and choose at their leisure, or whoever was cooking picked what was on the menu and everyone else had tough luck; no matter the scenario, however, there was always more than enough dishes to go around.
No one had been called out on this particular morning—each teammember drowsy with exhaustion but pleased to spend time in each other’s presence—and it was during the middle of their meal that the penthouse’s elevator once more slid open, spewing out the awkward, clumsy form of Tony’s newest intern, the one that everyone had briefly met weeks before.
Tony blearily glanced up at the sound of someone nearly faceplanting, not even close to being awake despite the fact that he was already mostly through his fourth cup of coffee; the engineer perked up a bit, however, at catching sight of Stiles’ familiar form and was already making grabby hands at the StarkPad held in one of the teen’s hands.
“I think that it might be safer to hold on to this until you’ve had at least one more full cup of coffee, Mr. Stark,” Stiles teased and stepped away from his employer’s outstretched hand, movement bringing him that much closer to where Peter was currently sitting between his father and Steve.
It was enough of a step, however, that the wolf finally caught the intern’s scent, muffled and as blurred with metal and electronics the last time he had appeared on Tony’s floor. This time… this time, the scent of fox, of the edge of midnight that came when all of the world held its breath, hours trickling by towards dawn, of the tang of lightning that paired so well with the more violent of magics—a combination of scents that were familiar, that still saturated the wolf’s comforter, breathed in as he fell asleep each and every night, rutting leisurely against the sheets as he awoke in the morning.
Peter’s hand darted out, wrapping tight around Stiles’ wrist—a mirror to the shackle that once held him captive.
The StarkPad clattered to the floor, screen shattering and sending slivers of glass to slide across the tile even as the cold edge of killing metal kissed so lovingly against the steady pulse point of the wolf’s throat—ignored as Peter drew Stiles closer still, crimson finally meeting a bright, golden gaze.
“Hello there, little fox,” Peter rumbled softly, canines sharpening behind a wolfish smile.
“Hello again, Fenrir,” Stiles murmured in response, hold steady as his tanto remained pressed to the god’s jugular.
Peter chuckled softly as they echoed motions from the last time that they had met, finally breaking the pattern as he ignored the blade at his throat to draw a pale wrist up to his mouth, placing a small nip and gentle kiss to the thin skin bared by the cuff of a red hoodie. “I caught the fox this time.”
“Maybe,” Stiles said, gaze flicking out over the assembled Avengers team, stance wary—though seemingly unbothered by a set of fangs pressing tantalizingly close to a major artery, attention mostly on the others.
Silence descended around the table, mouths gaping and eyes wide as everyone tried to process just what Peter’s comment and Stiles’ reaction seemed to infer: fire in a now-gold gaze and the hilt of a familiar sword held in one hand—and it was, typically, Clint who finally broke the stunned reaction at this particular reveal:
“How the hell is it always Tony that adopts the baby superheroes?!”