It has been far too long, Steve thinks as he walks up the stairs and into the building. Gone is the humongous building that used to be the North American headquarters - instead, he is directed to and greeted by a small inconspicuous office block. He hears that they are no longer 'Shibusen', instead adopting the acronym S.H.I.E.L.D. - but whatever that stands for it should be along the same lines as the original. He does not know.
(His last mission still haunts him, peeking out from every stray shadow, every pocket of silence. The Witch he was assigned to hunt down had made a last-ditch attempt at defeating him - Bucky had shifted back from his weapon form and took the full blast as Steve fell back, back and far below where the ice formed and eventually covered him. It was a miracle that he was merely preserved and not frozen to death, even more so that Shibu- no, SHIELD agents found him half a century later. Perhaps it has something to do with the ice.)
He steps into the room and someone rises from their seat to greet him. "You must be Captain America," he says, and Steve nods. He has long forgotten the moniker they had assigned him years back, as Shibusen's poster boy for recruiting new Agents. The person continues, "Phil Coulson. Director Fury wants to see you, sir."
Coulson leads him through a series of floors, corridors, lifts and doors and Steve honestly thinks that the building should not be so large. The silence is punctuated with every flick of his guide's eyes before he (finally) says, "May I have your autograph?"
Steve opens his mouth, then closes it. He was not expecting that.
* * * * *
They have called him many things.
He realises that yes, changing partners every week or so (his record is five minutes) is not entirely orthodox. But the sad truth is that every single one of his partners are trying far too hard to get him as their Meister - Tony Stark, son of famous Meister Howard Stark, possibly destined for greater and more. His partner - now ex-partner, actually, and he did not even get to see her Weapon form - is shouting at him, asking him all sorts of redundant questions he would rather not answer since there is no need to.
He almost wishes that Pepper was a Weapon, they would get along splendidly. As it was, Pepper is a Meister although she leant more to the administrative details of life.
The girl slaps him after a rudely placed comment said accidentally on purpose and storms off, and Tony heaves a sigh of relief. He leans down to scratch Jarvis on his head, before heading out of the door. He is sufficiently late for that briefing Fury wanted and hopefully Fury will not get on his case of changing partners faster than he could spot the latest promotion for eye-patches.
Who is he kidding, of course he will. But, and Tony's lips curl up into a self-satisfied smirk, that's all part of the fun.
* * * * *
She was there, far earlier than the rest - which actually meant on time. Fury stood at one end of the table, his one eye watching (glaring at) the door, waiting for the rest of the members supposed to attend the meeting to trickle in. Natasha cannot deny that there will be people who are obviously going to be late (Stark) but the faster this briefing is over, the better. She had been called over from the Eastern Europe branch in the middle of an assignment and she is not amused.
Agents from all over the world are being called over to the North American branch, she realises as she quickly flips through the notes Fury handed to her. Banner was coming in from the African branch, Thor Odinson from the Western European counterpart. Barton, who had previously assigned Asia (she almost fondly remembers his exclamations of becoming a ninja) was also coming in. Natasha wonders what is so important that Fury required these specific people?
When Steve Rogers turns up with a bemused look on his face alongside Coulson who looks more flustered than she ever thought he can actually be, a smile flickers on her face. Fury dismisses Coulson as quickly as he came, and she leans over to Rogers, grasping his hand in a handshake and introducing herself, quick and efficient. "Has he asked you for an autograph yet," she muses aloud, and he returns the statement with a quick, jerky nod. The corner of her lips lifts up into an amused curl and she tells him about what Captain America merchandise has been passed around in SHIELD for the last fifteen years, micro films and memorabilia. Rogers looks torn between bewilderment and amusement.
Barton comes in soon enough, assuming a soldier's mindset the moment he sees Fury, although he does drop Natasha a whisper over how far he could climb on the ceiling 'like a fucking ninja' now. Thor blunders in moments later, booming his apologies and introducing his younger brother, who Fury also sends out much to Thor's blatant dismay and the said younger brother's thinly veiled relief. Banner shuffles in, sending everyone a clear message of how much he would rather not be here. Natasha cannot agree less.
(They start the meeting without Stark, whom truly to Natasha's expectations saunters in an hour later with a fading handprint splashed across his cheek.)
* * * * *
The meeting starts with Fury stating the obvious in rather rude terms: we have a problem.
Of course they have a problem - there are more and more Evil Humans (Bruce winces at the capital letters they honour the term with every time) and more souls likely to turn into Kishins (he'd rather not use the term demon gods, thank you very much) and what else could there be? Would-be Kishins teaming up together to reach their aspiration? Goodness knows that they would turn on themselves before executing the first step of any plan.
But what keeps Bruce on his toes is that they decided to call him in. Bruce Banner, who they have sent all over the world (even though he was assigned to Asia it was a flimsy limit overridden by those higher up), Bruce Banner who is sent on more often than not suicide missions in the hopes that if he does not manage to take down the objective it will take him down instead. He has no partner, no partner that can match his soul's wavelength - his wavelength is considered off the meter enough for the whole of SHIELD to consider him a possible Kishin, a threat. At times he wishes he was not a weapon, but he resigns himself to the fact that there is nothing else he can be.
Fury keeps talking, but apparently it is only one would-be Kishin he is after - Thanos, he dubs him and Bruce wonders if the Evil Human did not read the Greek textbook correctly and ended up half-arsing his own name from the correct 'Thanatos'. No one seems to share this sentiment - Rogers is sitting straight at attention and one can wonder if his back can be any straighter; Romanoff and Barton are coiled loosely but still tense and alert. Thor, Thor is halfway through of a box of Pop-Tarts and Fury's one eye seems to be focusing more on him than the notes held stiffly in his hands. Bruce sits back in his chair and waits.
Agent Romanoff asks the question Bruce finally wants to be asked and the whole room leans in. Fury scoffs and delivers straight to the punch, he has lost more Agents than SHIELD was willing to lose to Thanos so they're there to tie up the loose ends of the fucking ribbon on the present that won't stay tied. Barton stifles a snort and if Fury was a gun, Barton would be shot clean in between the eyes. It would be a quick death.
Stark walks in and introduces himself with a flourish and Barton is swept off the radar (for now). They repeat everything all over again and Fury guns Stark down, insisting he is not an Agent until he can gets a Partner, one that can last for more than six months and has not spread his legs for him yet, that would be the bonus. Stark flips him off and Agent Rogers frowns at the blatant display of disrespect.
If they were to work together as Fury implies, Bruce thinks that one Kishin would be so much easier to deal with than a group of rag-tag Meisters and Weapons.
* * * * *
Thor Odinson has been destined for many a great things since he was young.
Odin Borson was an accomplished Meister, now retired and married to fellow Meister Frigga. Thor is expected to be the same, a Meister that lives up to the standard set by his predecessor or even surpass it. He does not shy from his path, hoping even to outshine his father's feats of hunting down David Fitzpatrick or even Countess Elizabeta Bathory. He wants to shine both in his own right and next to his father.
Well, he would and could if he weren't so damned picky.
"Thor," Frigga sighs once more as she watches the partner Thor had apologized to scurry away in despair. The girl would have been an acceptable partner at least, and Frigga did rather like the spear she could turn into. Thor also eyes her retreating back before turning to his mother.
Thor had grown up well, exuding all the confidence and aura that Odin had in his youth and Frigga cannot hold back a smile. But she must repeat this lesson over again and again if she must, for Odin himself will not be so lenient with his words.
"Thor, as much as I respect how much you wish to live up to your namesake," and at this Thor puffs up proudly, almost like a golden peacock, "you must realise that the odds of finding a hammer, let alone a lightning hammer is extremely slim."
Her son is undeterred, as he has been many times ago. "No, Mother," he says, and is so sure of himself Frigga can almost believe him. "There is someone like that. I swear, there will be and I will find her."
Frigga can only continue smiling - but she wonders if Thor one day will look back and regret that he have been so sure of himself, so confident that this dream weapon only for him will be found; only to lose out many chances along the wait. But Thor has a habit of surprising people and astounding them, and perhaps this matter in which he believes in with all his heart will turn out to be true.
They return back into the house, unwary of watchful green eyes from the second-storey window.
* * * * *
Loki Odinson has always been concealed within the shadow cast by his brother since he was young.
He had once believed that he would be able to bring his family, bring Odin and Frigga pride and joy as a Meister, like Thor. Although he lacked significantly in terms of strength and power, he was sure that his speed and slighter frame could make up for his loss. He could shine next to Thor, the two Odinsons shining well above the rest in SHIELD.
His dream came crashing down in a messy heap when he was fifteen.
He had been on his way home when he was mugged, or at least someone attempted to mug him. Although he tried to fight back using his fists and whatever else he could get his hands on and swing, his ambusher had a rather large knife. It was only when he threw up his arm to block the blade from approaching his face - that very arm turned into something blue and metal and screeched against the knife.
He could not even think to chase after the mugger as he ran away, screaming. Loki ran home, ran home to confront his father.
(All at once, everything was clear, why he could never seem to match up to Thor, to everyone else in the family. You were adopted.)
When Thor knew that his younger brother was a weapon, word quickly spread. His partner left him for another Meister, and no one in the Western European branch wanted to take that place. Why let a weapon be a Meister when weapons were already so scarce? Other Meisters approached him instead, those who were daring enough anyway.
He rejected all of them. Loki Odinson, whoever's son, refused to be a weapon, and will never turn into one again for as long as he lives. He has trained all his life to be a Meister and he is not about to give up that dream - he will prove to all of them, every single one of them who had mocked a weapon's effort to be a Meister instead of what he was born as, he will prove that he could outshine the rest of them, and even his own not-brother. It is not fair for Thor to excel as a Meister just because he is born into a family of distinguished Meisters - Loki should have that chance.
When Thor decides to bring him along to North America, where he was called to and more importantly where no one knows him, he jumps at the opportunity. He waits in front of the door, for the meeting to end. He knows who he wants to approach.
("Mr. Barton. May I have a quick word with you?")
* * * * *
Clint has been in the business for a long, long time.
He has seen his fair share of missions and Evil Humans, has been assigned to places halfway around the world. (Hell, he's been in this business longer than even Natasha herself.) He has been on cases that left him almost next to death and cases that were easy as one-two-shoot. He, Clint Barton, has seen it all, baby.
So when a scrawny boy who he recognizes as Odinson's younger brother asks him whether he can try partnering up with him, he almost wonders why. Thor Odinson is well known even in the international circle of SHIELD associates even if he is seemingly trying to compete with Stark over who has the most partners within the month - but his brother? Not so. He assesses the boy, but as the smile on his subject's face grows even more frigid he relents.
They proceed to shooting range, and once Clint picks a distance he deems far enough he shifts into his weapon form. Loki is able to pick him up, but Clint is made aware of an familiar feeling he cannot quite place his finger on the moment contact is estabilished. He tries to dwelve into it as Loki aims, as he draws the bowstring back with some difficulty and as he is about to shoot.
When Loki lets go, Clint finally realizes what the feeling was and-
The rejection is immediate - the silver arrow dissipates as something tears between their mutual arrangement. Loki panics and forces his soul wavelength into Clint's own. Clint suffers the whiplash, turning back into his human form and coughing up coppery blood; when he looks up Loki is staring down at him, breathing harshly and frozen.
"You're a weapon," Clint says.
Something shatters and Loki turns to leave without a word.