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Life Should Not Resemble a Fairytale

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While Clint knew Thor was technically an alien --even if he looked like a particular tall and buff human-- he’d honestly never expected he’d be dealing with a classic alien invasion during his stint as a member of the Avengers Initiative. Yet he wasn’t at all surprised when it happened.

“Hawkeye, there‘s a ship descending on the Met,” Coulson said sounding perfectly calm through the earpiece.

“Another one for me?” Clint asked as he ran even faster up Fifth Avenue. The Metropolitan Museum of Art would still be full of patrons this time of day. The aliens had come down in the middle of the day and too quickly to clear the city so a lot of public buildings had been instantly sent into lockdown. Emergency services were instructing everyone to stay indoors but that particularly defensive measure didn‘t work when an alien ship landed practically on top of a building full of people. “Aw sir, you know exactly what I like.”

“I‘ve got another of these guys dropping near a school if you don‘t have enough to do, Hawkeye,” Tony grumbled into the Avenger Initiative’s designated frequency.

“Where?” Steve asked grimly.

Clint heard a grunt from him and the distinct metallic ting the shield made as it hit something before it rebounded. He ignored the rest of the chatter as he entered an office building and used a SHIELD override to ride an elevator to the roof. He found an ideal spot to cover the evacuation of the Met. There were a handful of NYPD officers already on the scene. They were good and fast in getting the civilians out with minimal panic at least until the ship opened up a large bay door and the alien soldiers came out shooting.

Screams and gunfire erupted at once.

Clint didn’t hesitate and began taking down the attackers. The alien gun he’d gotten his mitts on, courtesy of Tony Stark, cut through their dark body armor like butter. Personally, he wished he could have used his arrows for this but he learned the hard way that these aliens could shift their bodies around until an injury which should have been fatal barely slowed them down. The same went for bullets. Fury had not been happy when they’d discovered guns were useless because it cost SHIELD five agents to learn that vital piece of intelligence before they‘d been ordered to pull back to rearm.

“Hey Coulson, don‘t you think that green aliens are kinda cliché?” Clint asked absently. The gun buzzed with every burst of fire, sounding a lot like a swarm of ticked-off bees every time Clint fired. The blasts were a rather pretty purple which he was never going to say out loud.

“Keep the comm clear, Hawkeye!” Came simultaneously from both Steve and Coulson. Clint grinned and his smile widened as he caught the blue-white flash of Mjölnir’s lightening from over the north end of Central Park as Thor attacked the ship which had landed there. The aliens’ ships weren’t big, only a little bigger than a city bus but there were a lot of them. Every Avengers was out on their own to cover as much as the city as possible.

“Hawkeye, you need to disable that ship because we have another one coming down a block away from you on Madison,” Coulson said.

His voice was mostly calm but experience with the agent let Clint catch the undertone of tension that was always an indicator that the shit was hitting the fan. Hard. Extra adrenaline kicked into his system and Clint had to breathe through it. He really hated hearing that tone, last time he heard it was in the middle of a mission which ended up going spectacularly FUBAR and landed Clint, Coulson and Natasha in the hospital for two weeks.

Crap.

“Got it, sir,” Clint said flatly. “Please ask NYPD to pull back.” He waited patiently the thirty seconds it took for the police officers to gather the lingering civilians and pulled everyone back to safe range. He shifted his aim to the engine ports which he’d learned was a weak spot from the last ship he‘d taken down. Clint’s shot was perfect, as if there was ever a doubt. The ship shuddered and tilted to the left. It spewed out black smoke and smashed part of the Met before it crashed down onto the steep steps which let up to the front entrance. The ship slid to a grinding stop halfway onto Fifth Avenue. More smoke poured out, thick and choking.

The civilians cheered and waved up at Clint.

Clint barely had the chance to grin in triumph when he saw another ship descending from the sky. He swore under his breath as he tracked it and for once neither Coulson nor Steve scolded him. As soon as he saw it land he was up and down the elevator.

“Avengers,” Fury’s voice over the earpiece was so commanding that Clint came to attention from sheer reflex. He shook it off. “Return to base.”

“What?” Tony yelped.

“Acknowledged, sir,” Steve said crisply.

“Hey, we still have too many people on the streets. We need to deal with these guys,” Tony protested. Even as he spoke Clint could hear the pitched pulse of Iron Man’s repulsors being used. Wherever Tony he was, he was fighting hard. “I still have kids here.”

“Take them down then get your ass over here. These bastards are now dropping all over the goddamned country,” Fury growled. Clint’s fingers tightened until they ached from the pressure on alien not-quite-plastic. “We need the Avengers to take out the mother ship. SHIELD and the military can deal with the enemy on the ground, otherwise it won‘t just be New York we lose but the whole fucking planet.”

“Understood,” Natasha said calmly. “Black Widow: coming in.”
*-*-*-*

It took Clint longer than he should have to join Avengers assembled at SHIELD Headquarters in the Helicarrier. Bruce was in full out Hulk-mode and refused to come in as he was caught up in fighting the aliens on the ground. And like the joke of the 800 pound gorilla getting to sit anywhere he wants, the ton of Hulk got to fight anything he wanted, so SHIELD stayed out of his way. Thor was the last one to join them. The thrill of combat made him reluctant to break battle until a sharp order from Coulson brought him in.

In HQ’s Command center there were a dozen agents urgently talking into headsets as they coordinated SHIELD teams with military and law enforcement agencies around the country. The level of tension in the room told Clint that the pressure of the situation was affecting them even if the agents where maintaining calm expressions. Agent Coulson and Agent Maria Hill were giving orders over their own headsets as they stood next to Fury, ready to also pass along his orders. Clint saw that out of all of the agents in the room --with the exception of Fury-- Coulson looked the most relaxed which told him exactly how badly they were fucked. Coulson always looked extra calm when situations were at their worst.

“The good news it that we have the exact location of the mother ship,” Fury said, glaring at the large digital screen which covered an entire wall in the command center of the Helicarrier.

“That‘s one ugly ship,” Tony said, leaning towards the large screen where a feed from a military satellite looked down at the alien mother ship. It was ugly with weird protrusions and angles. A smaller side screen on another wall showed a camera feed from the ground. Each video showed a steady stream of smaller ships leaving the mother ship and descending on the planet.

“Who cares about their spaceship designs?” Fury snapped.

“I hate ask but what’s the bad news?” Clint asked.

“The bad news is that every city on the planet with a population of over 500,000 people is getting hit by the smaller attack ships,” Coulson said, breaking off from the steady flow of orders he was giving over the SHIELD radio band to the agents on the ground. Hill smoothly continued giving orders for him. “Even with every SHIELD agent in action and every other agency we‘ve been able to contact, we‘re spread too thin to stop the invasion.”

Fury’s one visible eye damn near shot off sparks from the intensity of his anger. “The Avengers need to take these bastards down at the source,” he growled.

Tony frowned thoughtfully. “How? We don‘t have a space rocket.” He blinked, and shot Fury a sulky look. “Unless SHIELD is holding back on some of their resources. Do you have a rocket? And how come I didn‘t know about it?”

Fury grimaced. “No, we don‘t have a rocket or any other kind of spaceship but NASA has orders to move and fuel up a shuttle. They should be prepared to launch by the time all of you arrive.”

“That will take hours even if they do a rush job which isn‘t exactly reassuring,” Tony said grimacing. “Anyway, I doubt they have the right equipment to dock with that ship.”

Fury drilled a glare at him. “Do you have a spaceship you haven‘t told us about, Stark?”

“No, but I will next time. JARVIS make a note: I need to design a spaceship. Hmm, maybe in Iron Man colors,” Tony said thoughtfully. His eyes were distracted, and his armored fingers twitched as if he was already building the specs. “Noted, sir,” JARVIS said, audible over the speakers in the flipped open visor in Iron Man’s helmet.

“You want there to be a next time?” Clint asked curiously.

“There are people under attack right this minute,” Steve said, shooting Tony and Clint an annoyed look. Steve’s hands clenched into fists, the leather of his gloves creaking as every inch of him radiated controlled anger. “We don‘t have hours. Hundreds of people will die.”

“Or thousands or millions.”

Loki’s coolly amused voice made them spin towards him as he stepped out of the shadows. Clint aimed the alien weapon right in the middle of his expensive black suit. Tony aimed both his repulsors at him, Natasha had her gun aimed and Steve looked ready to leap. Every agent in the control room had their weapon out with the exception of Hill who kept giving out orders without hesitation. Coulson narrowed his blue eyes as he acknowledged the new threat and he aimed the gun sights right at Loki’s head.

Thor beamed and stepped forward, his face suffused with delight. “Brother, you look well! Much better than our previous meeting!”

Loki snapped, rage twisting his face. “Stop calling me: brother.”

Their last meeting had involved the Avengers beating his ass, Clint mentally snorted. Last time he’d seen the god, a bruised and bleeding Loki had vanished in a swirl of green and golden light. It had been eleven months now and nowhere near long enough in Clint’s opinion.

“Why are you here?” Fury growled, before Thor could voice his protest at Loki‘s words.

Loki dismissed Thor with a sneer before turning his entire attention on Fury. The cold smile which spread across his face made Clint uneasy. “I‘m here to help you.”

Fury snorted in disbelief. “Right, and I‘m Stark‘s mother.”

Clint grinned because the disgusted grimace on Tony’s face was one to treasure. If he survived this day he made a mental note to get a screen capture of it from SHIELD’s security cameras.

“Oh, I didn‘t say that I would do it out of the goodness of my heart,” Loki said. He took a step closer to Fury and Coulson tracked his movement without a change of expression. “I could send your Avengers right into the heart of the ship but there will be a price for my magic.” The disdain in Loki’s voice veritably dripped from his voice.

Fury glared Loki for a moment as they all considered the implications. With Loki’s help they would gain hours, and considering the uncertainty of the space shuttle even working, Loki could guarantee their access to the interior of the alien ship. The number of lives that would be saved would be incalculable. Hundreds for certain, maybe even millions and in a worse case scenario: the entire planet.

“Sir, it could greatly improve the odds of success,” Coulson added calmly.

“You‘re not actually listening to him!” Tony exclaimed in disbelief.

Fury’s glare at Loki intensified. He snapped, “What do you get out of this? And how do you guarantee we can trust the God of motherfucking Dirty Tricks.”

“It will be a deal,” Loki said. There was satisfaction in the cruel slant of his mouth. He knew he had them. “It would be sealed with magic. I would not be able to break it.”

“Thor?” Steve asked.

Thor looked away from his brother to look at Steve. “He is correct, my friends. A binding magical deal cannot be broken by either party without a backlash. He would be true to his word.”

“You still haven‘t said what you want,” Tony said to Loki. His dark eyes glittered with anger.

“It would not be anything you can not part with,” Loki said to Fury. He looked at all the Avengers, skipping his brother although he took note of the SHIELD agents at their stations. Everyone met his eyes with a defiantly raised chin. Loki’s grin looked madder and madder with every bold look. He took another step towards Fury. Coulson sidled carefully between them with a silent warning in his blue eyes. Loki eyed him for a moment before he dismissed him with a sneer as he shifted his gaze back to Fury. “You’re a king of your own little kingdom. I just want one of your subjects.”

Clint didn’t react but he could hear more than one agent in the room inhale in surprise.

Loki’s grin was wolfish. “It would just be one life.” The god turned his back on them and eyed the ship still hovering on the screen before them. The stream of descending enemies hadn’t slowed down. “A small price to pay, don‘t you think?”

“No,” Steve said firmly.

Loki turned back to them. “But it‘s not your choice to make, Captain. It is your Director‘s. The King makes the decision here. Not the soldier.”

“We‘re not going to sacrifice anyone!” Steve said. Clint thought it was a nice sentiment, but not at all realistic and from the rigid tension in Steve’s broad shoulders he knew it too.

Fury’s expression was unreadable. Everyone was quiet as they watched him think until Coulson broke the silence. “Sir, we‘re losing agents and civilians with every minute. If this is the means to save them then it’s acceptable price to pay.”

A muscle in Fury’s jaw jumped. “I know that, Coulson.” He and Coulson exchanged a look which was undecipherable on both their ends before Fury looked back at Loki. The god was still smiling a cold and creepy grin. “None of the Avengers are part of this deal.”

Loki tilted his head to the side the smile sliding off his face. “Pity. I rather liked the idea of claiming the green monster you call the Hulk for my own.”

Clint swallowed down his horror at the mental picture of the amount of destruction and death a Loki controlled Hulk could bring about. He honestly didn’t know if they’d be able to stop him without a lot of casualties and Bruce would never forgive himself if he so much as hurt an innocent.

“And you can‘t make them divulge any confidential information,” Fury added with a dangerous bare of white teeth.

“Agreed,” Loki breathed. His expression was hungry as if he was going to devour the flesh from Fury’s bones the moment he accepted. The weight of uneasiness which had been growing in Clint’s guts from the moment Loki stepped out of the shadows became nearly unbearable. “Say the words, mortal.”

Clint held his breath for an eternity as Fury’s mouth tightened like he tasted something disgusting. Finally Fury gritted, “Fine, I agree. Your help for one of my people.”

Loki lifted his hand, flicked his wrist and pulled a long golden staff out of mid-air. He spun it once and planted it before him. “The King has sacrificed one of his warriors to me.” The head of the staff pulsed with white light, and the modern high-end suit Loki wore became dark green plates of armor in that medieval-like style of Asgard. Loki’s low laugh of victory made the hairs on the back of Clint’s neck stand up. “Then I will collect my payment afterwards.”

Fury eyed him suspiciously. “Why not now?”

“I‘ll wait to see who survives the upcoming battle then I‘ll make my choice,” Loki said with a superior look. He turned to stare at the Avengers and raised his staff. “Prepare yourself.” He brought it back down with a slam which blinded Clint with a flash of bright green.
*-*-*-*

Clint blinked his eyes to clear it of black spots and heard the roar of an angry Hulk before he fully regained his vision. The Avengers were in the middle of some sort of launching bay. He could see opened and empty attack ships to his left. Unfortunately, they’d also appeared in the midst of nearly fifty of the alien soldiers but before they could get over their surprise to attack the Avengers they were forced to deal with a furious Hulk.

“Shit,” Clint swore and targeted the nearest alien who aimed at him. Tony cursed furiously and shot his repulsors knocking several aliens ass over teakettle like they were bowling pins and he‘d just hit a strike.

Loki was nowhere in sight.

“Is it just me or did we forget to get a ride off this tin can?” Tony huffed.

Clint kicked at a close alien before he shot him in the head. The alien gun hummed in his hand as he shot another blast at an alien who got too close to Natasha. “There are plenty of those attack ships around. We can steal one. I‘ve always wanted to take joy ride in a spaceship.”

“There was never a guarantee this was a two-way trip, Stark,” Natasha said calmly, as she shot her own alien gun with an angry bzzzt. She flipped to the side and just missed getting shot. She returned fire.

Tony sighed. “Okay, point taken, but I’m still lodging a complaint with our travel agency.”

“Avengers! We need to find the control room!” Steve shouted. Clint and Natasha immediately followed after him. They covered each other’s back with every step, shooting purple blasts of fire at the aliens.

“This is a spaceship, you should at least call it the bridge,” Tony complained. He snickered, “We’re going where no man has gone before.”

Natasha cleared her throat delicately.

“Human-- where no human has gone before,” Tony corrected himself hastily. Then he yelped as the Hulk tossed a screaming alien right past his head. “Hey, watch it!”

“Go my friends! The Hulk and I will hold off the enemy!” Thor called after them.

“Tony! Where should we go?” Steve asked, as he punched an alien which was changing shape --getting bigger and bigger-- before he smashed him in the face with the shield and dropped him with a heavy ka-thump.

“My guess? Upwards!” Tony said. He pointed towards a door which led into what looked like an elevator shaft which disappeared up into the high ceiling.

Steve nodded and cut a swathe through the aliens. Tony flipped down the Iron Man visor and shot after him.

Clint gave Natasha a grin. “Ladies first.”

Natasha’s return smile promised a beat down in their next sparring session. “Then you better go on ahead,” she said sweetly,

Clint laughed and followed after Captain America. Any worries he had about Loki and Fury’s deal he shoved out of his mind. It had nothing to do with him now because only the mission at hand mattered.

It was time to save the world, again.
*-*-*-*

It took the Avengers a little over three hours to find the bridge, shut it down and end the alien invasion of Earth. Not that it was as easy said as done. They had to fight tooth and nail through the ship’s corridors, locate the damned bridge and get into it. There they fought even harder to take down the alien leader who had a squad of personal guards even tougher than the soldiers.

Clint hated to admit it but having Loki’s help was probably the only thing which had allowed them to win the fight. From what Tony had learned from their computers it would have been impossible to be able to get close enough to enter the mother ship in a space shuttle without being detected. The would have been blown into pieces before they got within a mile of it. Yet even with the advantage the trickster god had given them, Clint had ended up with a broken arm and a twisted ankle. Natasha had been clipped by a lucky shot from one of the alien guns and had a deep furrow cut into her right thigh. The only reason she hadn’t lost too much blood was due more to the blast cauterizing the wound as it hit than from their first aid training. And Steve was so bruised that only the fact that he was Captain America kept them from worrying about internal bleeding. Not that it stopped Tony from fussing. Clint was going to call him Iron Mother Hen next time Tony called him the Great Arrow-Wonder.

The alien computers had also damn near fried JARVIS until the AI program had managed to adapt. It had been JARVIS that allowed Tony to understand the system enough to stop the invasion. They also lucked out that Thor’s Allspeak allowed the Avengers to properly threaten the leader into ordering the wholesale surrender of all the ground forces. To everyone’s relief, SHIELD agents showed up soon afterwards. With Tony in the computers they’d been able to safely commandeer a couple of the attack ships to take a ride back up to the mother ship without having to worry about being shot down. Clint hadn’t been at all surprised to learn that the first ship to dock held Coulson. It was reassuring to hear the agent’s voice in his earpiece. It meant that the situation on the ground had to be in control for Fury to let Coulson go. If he’d been needed then Fury would have kept him to coordinate the defensive forces.

“It‘s good to see you, sir,” Clint said, from where he was sitting against the wall facing what Tony thought was the alien brig. They‘d managed to get the bridge crew down into the cells although Tony had yet to figure out how to seal them in. Last Clint heard from him he’d been muttering about shields and energy forces and material stressors. Clint had tuned it out once Steve had ordered him to stand guard.

Coulson stepped onto the bridge with an assessing look at the aliens sitting in their cell. Clint was amused that Coulson was still wearing his suit instead of the SHIELD field uniform. It was hilarious to him that Coulson hated the SHIELD uniform and refused to wear it at long as he could. The last time Clint had seen him in it had been five months ago and it had taken a direct order from Fury. “You know you won’t be able to keep from wearing the SHIELD uniform forever. You’ve already held off 154 days, Coulson.”

Coulson’s eyebrows rose at Clint. “I don‘t think my sartorial choices are actually important enough for you to keep track, Barton.”

“I’ve bet Natasha that you‘d be able to hold out another two weeks,” Clint said cheerfully.

“Your faith in me is flattering,” Coulson said dryly.

Clint grinned. There was something about teasing Coulson that made the ache in his ankle and arm feel better. “Well, sir, she bet you‘d be able to make it another three months.”

Coulson sighed and shook his head, but the faint smile at the corners of his mouth made Clint’s grin widen. “How are your prisoners behaving?” Coulson asked.

“Oh, a couple of them tried to shift, but this baby puts a stop to that,” Clint said, wagging the barrel of the alien gun lightly from where it was sighted over the line of sitting prisoners. He was using his uninjured leg as a brace for the gun since one arm was out of commission. Fortunately whatever sort of materials made up the gun left it lightweight enough to make it fairly easy to operate one handed.

“Good,” Coulson said. “In about another hour we should have enough agents aboard the ship to send you down for medical treatment.”

“Sounds good, sir,” Clint said. He looked over at the aliens who were looking at them with stony expressions, their protruding chins giving them an aggressive look. “I‘m glad I don‘t have to deal with the aftermath of this.”

Coulson grimaced. “Don‘t remind me. SHIELD is going to have to come-up with entire new forms of paperwork just to get everything properly categorized especially in dealing with prisoners from an alien invasion attempt of the planet. Just thinking about the hizzy fit the World Security Council is going to throw is giving me a headache, never mind how other agencies will react when they learn SHIELD has control of the mother ship.”

“Better you than me, sir.” Clint said cheerfully.

“Thanks for that, Barton.”

“You‘re welcome, sir,” Clint grinned. Coulson’s mouth twitched again with a suppressed smile.

“There you are.”

Clint and Coulson both stiffened as Loki appeared next to them with a smug expression on his face. Clint prepared himself for an attack. Loki ignored him even though Clint had the gun barrel pointed right at his chest. The soft sounds of the aliens shifting made Clint swing the aim back with a curse and a low growl of warning. They may not understand English but they understood that. They froze. Then it hit Clint as to why Loki would be here when the only SHIELD agent in the room was Coulson.

“No!” Clint snarled and he instantly shifted aim of the gun to fire. The god didn’t even look at him as he waved a hand at Clint’s direction rendering him unable to move or speak before even Clint’s reflexes could get off the shot.

“Agent Phillip Coulson,” Loki said coldly. “I have come for my payment.”

Coulson‘s expression didn‘t change but the stillness of his body language told Clint he‘d figured out exactly why Loki was here. Clint mentally pushed at Coulson to go for his sidearm or knife or for the radio. Coulson needed to do something no matter how ultimately futile it was. Loki took three slow steps until he was right up against Coulson’s front forcing the agent to lean his head back to look into the god’s eyes, leaving barely an inch of space between them.

“I believe you need to speak to Director Fury about your choice,” Coulson finally said after an intolerable minute of them staring at each other and neither backing down. Clint growled low in his throat and strained against the magic which held him in place. Even from his angle, Clint could see the hungry smile curling up on Loki’s lips.

“No, I don‘t think I do,” Loki said, with an amused tilt of his head. He raised his hand until it hovered right before Coulson‘s face. “Agent Phillip Coulson, you are mine as agreed upon by the deal made by your king. Or should I say, your former king.”

Coulson stiffened as green light glittered from Loki’s hand and crossed the space between them before sinking into his eyes. He slowly blinked twice before his eyes remained closed and his knees buckled. Loki caught Coulson preventing him from hitting the floor and behind his silenced mouth Clint howled in frustration and anger.

“You are not his strongest warrior, nor his most powerful, his bravest or deadliest,” Loki whispered into Coulson‘s ear, “but you are his most devoted and faithful. Nicholas Joseph Fury has given you to me. All the loyalty you once held for him is now mine.” To Clint’s horror, Loki shoved his hand into Coulson’s chest. “Your heart has been sold to me. It is mine!” Loki breathed out harshly. He drew back his hand from Coulson’s chest. There was no blood to Clint’s relief but there was something shinning with incandescent golden light between Loki’s long fingers. The god closed his first around whatever he’d pulled out of Coulson’s chest before even Clint’s sharp eyes could see it clearly.

Coulson inhaled deeply as if taking a breath after being deprived of air for minutes. He slowly opened his eyes. Clint’s own heart skipped a beat when he saw how formally well known blue eyes were now an unfamiliar dark green.

“Who are you?” Loki asked.

Coulson blinked up at him before he carefully straightened out of Loki’s arms. Loki let him go as he waited for his answer.

“I‘m Phil Coulson, Agent of Loki,” Coulson said calmly as he straightened his suit jacket and then his tie. He frowned slightly. “But you know that, sir.”

Up until now, Clint had thought himself pretty inured to all the horrors the world could dish out. Hell, he’d even been responsible for a few but hearing Phil Coulson call Loki ‘sir’ with every evident sign of sincerity was new nightmare fuel that was going to haunt him for many sleepless nights to come.

“Yes, Agent Coulson. I do,” Loki agreed, smiling cruelly. He stretched out his dark green cloak over them both until Coulson was hidden from Clint’s view. “We have work to do.”

“Yes, sir.”

Then they were gone and Clint could move again. He shifted the gun barrel back at the alien prisoners who hadn’t stirred the entire time before he opened up a comm line through the earpiece in his ear.

“Avengers, we have a problem. Loki‘s taken Coulson.”