“May I have this dance?”
Dahlia Griffiths paused at the unexpected voice, before a small smile crossed her face. She turned to the right and met the gaze of Agent Phil Coulson; someone she never expected would grow into a dear friend to her. He stood there as professional as ever, suit looking immaculate as it usual was, with a steady hand raised in offering towards her.
She arched an eyebrow. “This is an invitation only event, Coulson. How’d you get in here?”
“We have our ways,” he replied without missing a beat – the same answer she’d had to many questions over the years. It was familiar and never failed in making her smile.
“Of course you do,” she mumbled, placing her hand in his and allowed him to lead her onto the fairly empty dance floor that had been cleared for the newly wedded couple’s first dance, and had only just started to be joined by other guests.
She fell easily into the dance, remembering the lessons her mother had forced upon her as a child, and was suitably impressed that the American across from her could keep up with the moves. The thought had never occurred to her – she’d always just assumed he had two left feet. Though, by this point, she doubted she could be surprised.
The questions burned on the tip of her tongue, but she stayed silent, instead wanting a few more moments of simple, fluid movement before she had to face the harsh reality of the reason why the man was here. After all, a personal visit could only mean bad news. Unfortunately, Phil wasn’t the kind of person to put stuff off until the last moment.
“Fury sent me,” he started.
Dahlia sighed slightly. “I guessed that. Only Nick Fury would believe my sister’s wedding reception was a good place to discuss top secret information.”
“In his defence, this is of global importance.”
“It’s always of global importance…” she muttered, “And I don’t usually mind – I like being helpful – but really, it is impossible for me to have one bloody night off?”
For a moment, Coulson looked genuinely sorry. “This is more important, Dahlia. It’s time.”
The Englishwoman looked surprised, shocked even at the sudden announcement before a look of reluctant acceptance crossed her face. “Already?” she whispered softly.
“Unfortunately,” Phil nodded, “We had an issue at the base last night. Agent Barton and Dr. Eric Selvig were taken, along with the Tesseract, by a hostile. Fury called for the Avengers Initiative to assemble, you know how important that cube is to him as well as the world balance.”
“You don’t have to sell me Phil,” Dahlia forced a smile through her worry, “You already know I’m on board…when do I have to leave?”
“As soon as possible,” he answered a tad apologetic.
The woman sighed and nodded, understandingly. “Alright; just let me say goodbye to my sister.”
“Of course,” he conceded easily.
The dance slowly came to an end with a twirl of cloth and a few more steps of shoes. The music faded out and the two relaxed their stance. Coulson glanced to out onto the dance floor briefly before announcing he would “meet you outside” and scurried away. Dahlia watched him go with some confusion, until she felt her sister touch her arm. Oh, that explains it. Calista wasn’t exactly fond of Coulson, especially since he only seemed to show up just before her baby sister was put in some kind of life threatening situation.
The taller woman glared daggers at the retreating back before turning her concerned gaze towards her sister. “Lia, what’s happening? Why is he here?”
“You look beautiful today Callie,” Dahlia smiled warmly.
“Sweetie, I know I do – don’t try and change the subject,” Calista warned her gently, eyes narrowing slightly.
The younger girl’s smiled faltered. “…It’s time Calista; they need me to come in.”
“Can’t it wait until tomorrow?” she questioned frantically, “I mean, it’s late – they can’t really expect you to do anything at this time of night. Besides, it’s my wedding, and the bride always gets what she wants.” She finished stubbornly.
“Sorry, sis, but I have to. You know I do,” Dahlia tilted her head slightly; “This is what I’ve been waiting for, why I was recruited in the first place. I need to do this.”
“No you don’t,” Calista answered lowly, “But you’re going to anyway.” She sighed sadly and wrapped her sister into a tight hug which was automatically returned. “Just…stay alive, yeah? And come back to me in one piece. You’re all I’ve got.”
Dahlia shook her head as she pulled away. She smiled woefully. “Not anymore. You have Tommy and a baby on the way. You have what we always wanted. But I will promise this, I’m going to be home to spoil my niece absolutely senseless. It’s my right as an auntie.”
“And I will complain that she doesn’t need that toy, or that she shouldn’t eat so much chocolate, but secretly be glad she has someone who will always be there for her,” Calista quoted her usual response. The ritualistic talking about the future of the newest member of their family had taken up a lot of their time recently and it made the whole goodbye seem bittersweet.
“Now why would I want to miss out on that?” she grinned widely. She rose up on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to her sister’s cheek, “I’ll call you tomorrow. I want to know every detail of your wedding night.” She wriggled her eyebrows suggestively in an attempt to relieve the tension.
“You better,” Calista smiled weakly, waving half-heartedly. She watched her sister go and bit her bottom lip in worry. She couldn’t help herself. Even though Lia was 23 years old, and had aged in maturity long before she should of, she constantly worried about what would happen to her baby sister.
They only had each other growing up. Their father was a scientist, too consumed with his work to actually worry about his children. Their mother too obsessed with her social standing and how a perfect family should be to notice what was falling apart around her. And then the Incident happened. It had nearly tore their family apart, the arguments between her parents about what to do and the unexpected consequences on her sister’s wellbeing putting strain on their relationships. But Calista had always been there to protect her sister through it all, as a good big sister should. But now…Dahlia had to do this alone, and all Calista could do was watch desperately from the sidelines, wishing that she would be alright.
She felt familiar arms wrap around her waist and lend back into the touch. She closed her eyes and sort the strength to let her sister go in their hold.
“Where’s you’re sister going?” Tommy asked curiously.
“Um, she was called into work,” Calista told a half-lie, “It’s important and, well she couldn’t get out of it.”
“You’d think she’d take a day off for her sister’s wedding,” her new husband frowned slightly.
She smiled softly and reached up to cup his cheek. “It’s fine. It’s not as if she can help it. Her job is demanding and the times are erratic. She would have stayed if she could.”
Tommy rolled his eyes. “You’ve told me that so many times, I can probably quote you word for word by now.” he grinned mischievously, “Now come on, I’m sure you’ll spend the whole of tomorrow night talking to her, but for now I want to spend some time with my beautiful wife.”
Calista smiled at him and allowed her self to be lead back into the centre of the dance floor. She glanced once more to the arched doorway of the hall.
Stay safe Dahlia.
Dahlia hung her dress carefully on the thick coat hanger, not wanting the expensive fabric of her maid of honour dress to get creased, and placed it inside the back of her wardrobe. She caressed the fabric almost fondly, taking the time to breath.
She knew this had been coming – Fury himself had warned her that at some point, sooner than either of them wanted, she could be called upon to join a group of people with gifts such as hers. Well, he had called them “superior beings”, but well, she thought that was a tad big headed. She had even met a few of her soon to be team-mate, and had befriended them (at least, she believed she had, she couldn’t say the same for Steve, Natasha and Clint) but still, it just didn’t seem real.
It had always seemed so far in the future, something that wouldn’t happen for a long time so she had nothing to worry about, but now it was here. She was going to be a superhero. She almost laughed at the thought. The last thing she, Dahlia Griffiths from London, England was was a superhero.
Superheroes were supposed to be these strong, attractive people who were dedicated to the protection of Earth and all of humanity. Steve was a prime example of what a superhero should be like, from his looks down to his morals. She was someone that was tainted; all the abilities she had were forced upon her in one failed explosion. She had been a child, unable to protect her self or really understand what had happened, and it had affected the whole of her life. Her abilities were uncontrollable; only seemed to bring death and destruction which weighed heavily on her conscience.
Now, maybe you can do some good, Dahlia mused slightly bitterly to herself.
With a sigh, she pulled away from the dress, reluctantly stepping back and making her way into her living room where Coulson was sitting awkwardly on the edge of her old, ratty sofa. He stood up instantly as she entered the room.
“Are you ready?” he questioned.
She reached up to tie her light brown curls into a ponytail. “As I’ll ever be,” she answered. She grabbed the bag she had prepared months ago, ready for when the call finally came. “So where are we going?”
“You’ll find out,” Phil answered mysteriously, leaving the apartment first.
Dahlia rolled her eyes and followed, mumbling something about annoyingly unhelpful bureaucrats. She paused in the doorway to peer into her small apartment. It wasn’t much, but it was the first place she had brought for herself. And now, this may be the last time she saw it.
Sighing with acquiescent resentfulness, she turned off the light.