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Gather Here Your Champions

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 Banner By: inkvoices 

 

 

Once upon a time there was a young Asgardian who wanted to escape the stigma of his parentage so he faked his death and fled to Midgard where he had many lives and many names until he became Nicholas J. Fury.

Seeing how the Midgardian governments were trying to govern its citizens while dealing with the creatures created by science and sorcery, Fury had taken his vast fortune to establish an organization called Strategic Homeland and Intergalactic Enforcement and Logistics Division. It consisted of highly trained and skilled operatives of all the races on Midgard to deal with what the Humans' governmental agencies could not.

Looking out over the city whose architecture reminded him of Gothic Asgard, Nick Fury turned from the window to look at his left and right hand, Maria Hill and Phil Coulson. Maria was the daughter of a human soldier and Ourania, the Muse of Astronomy. Phil Coulson, a human warrior/scholar ... Only Nick knew Phil's maternal line traced back to Nick himself, who had been at the Scottish court of King James IV.

At the moment, they were staring at the newest piece of equipment from Stark Alchemy & Industrial that called up information from their archives at the touch of a button. The information Phil and Maria were reviewing with the Founder and Director of SHIELD, had started with a wish list of equipment and personnel and grown from there.

"I met with Mr. Stark to go over plans for your flying fortress. Miss Potts is quite cross that he has disappeared into this project to the exclusion of all others, but he has brought the plans to where it only needs your authorization to proceed. The alchemy, magick, and technology he melded in the Man of Iron armor has proven to be adaptable to larger applications. I would also suggest him for your Initiative of Avengers." Coulson concluded.

Hill scoffed.

"Do not confuse the man's true face with the public façade he perpetuates." Phil scolded.

Fury stepped in before Hill could sharpened her claws on Coulson's thick skin.

"How goes the thawing process on our human iceberg?"

"Slow. We have to give the magick in the Eriskine/Stark formula the time to heal the good Captain's cells as he thaws."

"That's two. Are we having luck with any of the other names?"

"No, Sir. It is as though they disappear between sightings." Phil scrolled through several files. "Before you ask, there was report of Dr. Banner being in India, but he, too, seems to have disappeared into the aether. "

"Keep looking. I want both of him for my Initiative."

They looked at Maria as she typed furiously. Nick settled next to Phil while they waited.

"News?" Nick asked.

"It seems Nedolya has bestowed her gift of bad luck on the Red Room …" She read for a minute. "Their last functional Black Widow has terminated her association with extreme prejudice."

"Do we know where she went?" Phil pulled up his own file of contacts.

"Like Dr. Banner, into the aether." Maria frowned at her computer.

~**~

Clint Barton pinched the bridge of his nose to stave off the tension headache he could feel behind his eyes as the emotions around him continued to build. As a high level empath, his shields were impeccable, but the sheer number of emotions from the people arguing in the mess tent was starting to cause cracks. Lightly touching the black clad shoulder on his left and the organic metal shoulder on his right, he stood.

"ENOUGH!"

He broadcast psychically in addition to his shout. The room fell silent. On the other side of the man with the metal arm, Marcy Carson, troupe owner, waited.

"Most of you seemed to have forgotten that you came to join this merry Guild of thieves and assassins in the same manner as our new Sentinel. That is the reason we decided to do this world tour. A lot of our members/acts have retired and the ranks are a little thin. Plus, it never hurts to have another Sentinel in the troupe. Then there is one more little fact ..." Clint paused to be sure everyone was paying attention. She is MY Sentinel."

He felt both Sentinels stiffen, along with the shock, surprise and happiness that came from the rest of the troupe. Since he was an Alpha Guide that meant the red-headed woman was an Alpha Sentinel.

"Nothing changes. We go on with the tour while we figure out where our new member will be best utilized as both an act and as a member of our Guild." Marcy informed them. "I suspect Clint and James will be working her into their act."

The Guide and the Beta Sentinel nodded. The other Sentinel and Guide members of the troupe nodded their agreement, and Clint breathed a sigh of relief.

"Now, if all the bitching and whining is done, we have a troupe to move. Next stop Berlin. Move it, people." Their leader snapped, and mess tent cleared with no more argument.

"Do you remember me, Nemnogo Pauk? (Little Spider)"

"Yasha." She said simply. "They made me forget many things, but I never forgot you."

"Da. Yastreb and I have a job when we pass through Poland. Since he is yours you may go with us or stay with the troupe."

Clint watched her with his chameleon eyes as she studied him like a bug on a pin. He kept his shields in place remembering how James acted when Clint had liberated him, two years ago, while fulfilling a Guild contract in Atlanta. The pair were number one with a bullet on HYDRA's hit parade. Rasputin was not happy Clint had stolen his pet assassin.

"You do not push." She said quietly.

"You have to choose." Clint closed his eyes on a memory. "I do not like when people use coercion to make us do things, so I try not to do it to others. Unless they're shooting at me." He exchanged a look with James. "I'll be on the train."

The two Sentinels watched as halfway to the train, Clint was accosted by a teenage girl carrying a bow and a quiver of arrows. The laughing Guide let the girl pull him out of sight. The ex-Russian agents walked toward their train car. Her lips twitched to see a traditional samovar in the car.

"Yastreb, is most unusual for a Pykoboactbo (Guide)." She noted.

James fixed them a cup of tea, making sure she saw everything he did. Just because they had 'rescued' her did not mean they had her trust.

"Six months after Clint brought me to this sanctuary, Rasputin's men found young Kate out, away from the protection of the troupe. For three months we battled the Red Octopus to find where they held the girl." He held up his metallic hand. "I do not know what sorcery Rasputin used to make this arm out of organic steel, but there was a geas to make sure I would always return to him when I finished a mission. Clint broke that geas."

"What of the child?"

"Rasputin left his stronghold to visit the Red Room facility in St. Petersburg. He took Kate and a small contingent of security. Clint took me and Dr. Banner, whom he adopted when we traveled through India."

"Dr. Bruce Banner?" Her voice was incredulous.

"What can I say? Clint has tendency to bring home strays. He tasked Dr. Banner with gathering all the children while we took out the security detail. Rasputin escaped with an arrow in his shoulder and one of my knives in his leg."

"That would have been when they doubled security in Moscow, but what does that have to do with coercion?"

"Clint would receive messages from Rasputin with targets … Young Kate's life was forfeit if Clint did not fulfill the missions. It was not only a difficult time for the Hawk, but also for the Guide."

"How is it that HYDRA, the Red Room and others do not know of Sentinels and Guides." She held her cup out for a refill.

"I do not know. I think it has something to do with the Alpha Guides that are Shamans. I think our spirit animals hide the knowledge of us from those who are like HYDRA and the Red Room. I think that is why their mind wipes did not completely work. I think our spirit animals hold our true selves on the spirit plane."

Both Sentinels paused and cocked their heads … Listening. Listened to Kate sassing Clint over her school work. Listening to the mellow baritone, both Sentinels relaxed as James poured water from samovar into the French press, and handed Clint the cup as he entered the car. He rewarded James with smile as Kate continued to complain.

"Katie, girl, if this is what I have to contend with every time I let you off for something special …" He trailed off.

Kate trying to push his buttons after an afternoon dealing with everyone's emotions was just too much. He slammed his cup down and went back out the door to help the roustabouts work on the tear down.

The two Sentinels frowned at the young girl who looked sheepish as she placed her bow and quiver in its trunk.

"Malen'kaya ptitsa (Little Bird)?" James asked.

"What! Just because I'm a Guide doesn't mean …" She trailed off. "Oh."

She stilled when she saw the red headed woman everyone on the lot was talking about … Especially since Clint had revealed she was his Sentinel. Both Sentinels glared.

"You are a 16-year-old un-bonded Guide in a strange country. Your Alpha does what he does to protect all his Sentinels and Guides. Do you think he is letting any of our un-bonded out from under his protection?" James asked. "He loves you like you are his own, Doll."

"I know." Kate sounded repentant.

Seeing the untouched coffee cup, she frowned.

"I'll take his coffee to him." She grabbed a mug spelled to keep drinks hot out of the cabinet.

"We will all go and help. The quicker we are on the road the better we will all feel."

They all headed out onto the lot.

~**~

If she was surprised to see a green giant in a purple kilt, The Widow kept it to herself. She had heard of these sanctuaries, but to actually be here and see her Guide standing on the shoulders of the Hulk to dismantle the trapeze had her off balance. If not for Yasha's presence, she was not sure what she would do. She never thought she would ever have this. Widows were not Sentinels, and they definitely were not dependent on anyone, but here she was … Free of the Red Room … Free to be a Sentinel … Free to be with her Guide … Natalia was free to be … Natasha Romanoff.

She walked up to where the women were loading the silks, harnesses, and the other odds and ends needed by the various aerial acts.

"I am Natasha. How may I help?"

Soon she was working with the other members of the Guild as though she had always been with them. They spoke of past jobs, favorite weapons, and their strangest jobs. She saw Marcy Carson directing the loading of the train cars, while an older woman with a corona of silver braids and a clipboard kept them all organized. Working together, they were able to watch a beautiful sunset, while enjoying supper in the dining car as the train crossed the Russia - Poland border.

~**~

Conversation stopped as Victoria Hand rushed into the Director's office. She stopped to regain her composure.

"Agent Hand?" Phil stood between the agent, Nick and Maria.

"I do beg your pardon, Sirs, but we just got word from one of our operatives in Moscow."

"About the Black Widow?" Maria stepped alongside Phil.

"No, the Hulk."

"The Hulk?" Phil asked. "What was the body count, and the amount of property damage?"

"None, Sir."

"None?" Nick stepped out from behind his two Assistant Directors. "There was no Hulk smashing? What was he doing?"

"Folding the Big Top, Sir."

They stared at the woman.

"In a purple kilt. We have photographic proof."

"Why am not I looking at the proof, Agent Hand?" Nick growled.

"It should be on your server now, Sir."

"Dismissed, Agent."

They waited until the door closed before Hill cued up the file on Nick's large monitor. They watched the green abomination wearing a purple kilt wrapped around his hips. A brown haired man in form fitting pants, short sleeved shirt, and knee high boots, like the ones Nick himself favored, rode the massive shoulders dismantling tent frames, solar panels, windmills, and lighting fixtures.

"Did anyone catch the name on the troupe's train?" Nick asked.

"I did not see any signage, but it should not be too hard to find out which troupes recently appeared in Moscow." Phil offered as Maria settled at the archive machine.

"There is nothing, Sir. There are plenty of articles and postings about performing troupes, and where they are performing, but nowhere does it mention a name. It is almost as though … If we cannot track the name ... We cannot find a schedule, and there is no mention of any troupes appearing in any of the surrounding countries. It is almost as if it only exists in the spot where it is stopped." Maria speculated.

"What type of sorcery is that?" Nick asked.

Before their eyes the images slowly faded into a black screen. Thinking he saw something move, Nick turned his head to see a hawk sitting on the back of a huge tiger fading from sight.

"What do either of you know about Sentinels and Guides?"

~**~

Red hair covered by a blonde wig, green eyes hidden behind dark spectacles, Natasha enjoyed a wonderful cup of tea with her paczki at a sidewalk cafe. Yasha was on the roof above her … The Sentinels watching Clint dressed like he had parked his flying machine outside of town, approach the building across from the cafe.

Both Sentinels listened as Clint shamelessly flirted his way past the receptionist to a supposed appointment on the top floor. Clint blessed the person who made the beautiful metalwork of the lift cage that allowed the occupant to see everything as they traveled to the upper floors.

On the third floor was another reception desk. The receptionist and the three guards were all armed and alert as the cage continued its trip. Clint got off at the top floor, which was all open space just waiting for a tenant to make it their own.

A few minutes later he heard the cage start back down. He felt the agitation of the woman that entered the cage as it began its journey back to the top.

Still feeling annoyed, her face was a mask of professionalism as she stepped off the elevator.

"Pan Brandt, I apologize. It seems my assistant forgot to put your appointment in my calendar."

"Put it from your mind, Fraulein Davinsky." Clint said in a perfect Berliner accent. "We are both here, now, and you can tell me all about your lovely building and why my company offices would be safe ... Should we become tenants."

As much as he did not like using his abilities to get people to do his bidding, he was soothed by the feel of his spirit animal as it settled on his shoulder. If he was a bad person for doing what he was doing, he was sure the animal would stop appearing. The woman told him everything he wanted to know without much prompting on his part until he asked about the other tenants.

"We try to protect all our tenants' privacy, Pan Brandt."

"I understand that, Fraulein, but my company has an impeccable reputation, and I would not like to find out I have situated my offices in a place with nefarious operators."

He felt her anxiety level ratchet several levels, but her mask never cracked.

"The tenants on the third floor deals with very proprietary material, and they fear industrial or magickal espionage, hence we allow the armed guard." She smoothed imaginary wrinkles in her skirt.

"I see." Clint frowned. "I am not at all sure we will be a good fit if I must worry about the safety of my employees." He looked around the space. "This would have been so perfect. Close to everything we need." He shook his head sadly. "I am sorry to have taken your time, Fraulein Davinsky." He started to walk toward the lift cage.

"It is no problem, Pan Brandt. It is my job to find tenants for the building. I am sorry that we could not be what you feel your company needs. I could, if you are interested give you the name of a colleague that may be able to fulfill your needs."

"Thank you, Fraulein. That would be much appreciated." Clint gave a slight bow.

Clint left the building with several names and contact information. It felt like the entire building relaxed when the door closed behind him. It was a short walk to the hotel room they rented for the job. Bucky and Natasha were already in the room arguing about room service. He peeled off his long coat and collapsed in a chair. Natasha brought the Guide a cup of coffee she had gotten before she left the café.

"What did you perceive from the outside?" Clint asked as he inhaled the coffee.

He knew both Sentinels used him as an anchor point to prevent zoning. What had him fatigued was the anxiety and fear from everyone inside the building. He could not totally shield without cutting off his connection to his Sentinels so he marshaled on. The next thing he knew Natasha was shoving a plate of food in his hand.

"The building is old, the security is second rate, which is why they have armed guards on the third floor. I detected no magicks on any of the doors or windows.The floors above and below the third are being used as quarters for the guards." Bucky answered.

"Communication and power lines are exposed so can be easily cut with no backup systems. The guards are bored, and whatever they are guarding will be shipped out tomorrow." Natasha continued.

"None of the stairwells are secured. Simple lock on the roof access. We have to go tonight even though they will probably be on guard since I was there today."

"Yastreb, you can put them to sleep?" Natasha asked.

James frowned at the Alpha. She had not yet bonded with Clint, but she was very territorial with him. He hoped she would decide soon. He could see the strain Clint was under being around her, but not bonded to her. He understood Natasha's trepidation … Red Room trained, brainwashed, and beat the emotion out of you, with an emphasis on trusting no one, but after all Clint had done for him and all the young Sentinels and Guides in the Guild, he wanted to see his friend bonded. James was pulled out of his thoughts when Clint answered.

"Yes, I can put the whole building to sleep while my two sneaky Sentinels go in and retrieve the package as I control the lift cage." He sounded disgusted.

Both Sentinels nodded. The Guide would be safe at the lift.

"There's only one problem with that plan, and the reason Marcy assigned me to this contract." They waited while he rubbed his hands over his face and scrubbed them through his hair."The package has to be handled by a Guide. It will be in my care until we meet with the client."

"Which is when?" Natasha paused.

Why did she care? It was needed to complete the mission. Emotions had no place on a mission.

"Unknown. I was told I would know when I needed to know."

"Can the others help?" James asked.

"No. We got the contract because I am what I am. So now I'm going to take a nap. Wake me 15 minutes before time to leave." He said as he stretched out on the bed.

The Sentinels nodded. Natasha settled cross-legged on the bed while James pulled the chair over by the window.

"You do not understand, do you?" James kept his voice sub-vocal so he did not disturb Clint.

"Have you talked with your spirit animal?"

Again she shook her head.

"If you ask, it will come."

He closed his eyes and concentrated until he heard her gasp. Opening his eyes, he reached down and laid his hand on the head of his cougar. Green eyes went wide at the sight of the big cat, and then she heard the ruffle of feathers behind her.

James smiled to see a Harris hawk sitting on the head of the brass bed. Looking torn between her training not to trust, but wanting to see her spirit animal. She took a breath and let it out. This was Yasha and HER guide. She was safe as she could ever be … She closed her eyes and wished. After a few moments, a heavy head lay on her lap. Opening her eyes, she gasped at the Amur tiger staring at her with steady green eyes. She bent over and laid her cheek on the large head. The tiger jumped on the bed, and being careful to not jostle Clint stretched out beside the Guide with a contented sigh.

James chuckled at Natasha pole-axed expression.

"Now what?" She asked quietly.

"Take a nap." James grinned.

~**~

Clint woke, surprised to see the bed full of spirit guides and Sentinels. Donning their battle suits, masks, cloaks and weapons, they moved through the shadows to the roof of the building they'd visited earlier.

Once on the roof, Natasha picked the lock while Clint worked to put the dozen people in the building to sleep. James kept watch over both. Bow and knives at the ready, the trio eased down the stairs to find everyone asleep. Natasha accompanied Clint into the offices while James kept watch in the hall.

Sitting on the desk in the middle of the room was a case emanating a blue glow. Checking around the desk for alarms, magick, and pressure triggers, Natasha felt herself falling into a tunnel while using her enhanced sight. A soft word and a brush of her arm above her Widow's Bites brought her back to herself. With an abrupt nod, she stepped back and let Clint at the briefcase.

Opening the case, Clint gasped as the power of the blue cube reached out to him. Blue light traveled up leather covered arms and disappeared into his chest. The cube went dark. Clint closed the case and turned ready to leave when James came through the door and stopped next to a dumbfounded Natasha.

"Is everything …" He stopped when he saw the blue glow from Clint's eyes.

Natasha grabbed James' hand.

"I cannot feel him. When I try all I see is a blue wall."

The glowing eyes caught Natasha's

"That is because he is our vessel. If he was bonded to his Sentinel, then his Sentinel would be by his side in all things. You must decide, Little Spider for if you do not want him, we will keep him for our needs."

The glow faded, and Clint mantled like his namesake to clear his head.

"Why is everyone standing around? Time to get back to the train." Clint said as he brushed past the two Sentinels.

Their route to the train took them past the hotel, where James grabbed their bags because Natasha refused to leave Clint's side. The three thieves climbed into their train car as the train began to pull away from the station ... Having restocked on water and coal. They had stripped off their cloaks and masks when Marcy and Gretchen came through the door. Both women were pale and distressed.

"Thank the Gods." Marcy breathed. "We thought the worst."

"Why?" Clint asked.

"You disappeared. None of the Guides or Sentinels can sense you." Gretchen explained.

"Neither can we." James offered.

"Is it the package? Is that why it had to be a Guide?" Marcy asked.

Clint nodded as he continued to strip off his gear. The two women looked at Natasha, who turned away from their scrutiny.

"He is your Guide. Why can you not you feel him?" Marcy demanded.

"Because we have not bonded." Natasha hissed.

Before Marcy could continue, James stepped between the women.

"There are extenuating circumstances that has caused the delay. You do not have all the facts so you need to go back to your car until we get to Berlin. Natasha and I will take care of Sentinel and Guide business, and you take care of your Guild's business."

As he talked, he herded the women toward the door. Marcy tried to glare him down, but he was as immune to her as he was to Clint, and in the end the Beta Sentinel locked the door in their faces.

When their attention turned back to Clint, the Guide had disappeared. Natasha looked a little wild around the edges until they heard the shower.

"I did not think there was a valid reason to bond. Love is for children, and we were taught it made us weak, vulnerable. Clint never pushed or seemed different without the bonding."

"Then you should give your Guide a reason to choose to stay by your side. Through me he knows what HYDRA and the Red Room did to us so it will be up to you. For the first time it is your choice. You chose your new name … Now is the time to choose to be with your Guide, or release him to be used as the spirit world sees fit."

She paled as she looked to the back of the car when the shower stopped.

"I am out of time." She whispered.

"You have 'til Berlin to decide, Doll."

She spent the rest of the night wrapped around Clint, the tiger and the hawk keeping watch.

~**~

Nick Fury stared out the window of his flying fortress. Tony Stark had truly outdone himself. The genius was flitting across the bridge checking readings and steadying the glowing engines … Bringing the magick and technology into balance. He watched Phil dodge around Tony and the minions he had conscripted from SHIELD's ranks.

"A moment, Sir." Coulson was practically vibrating.

"My office, Agent." Nick did not wait to see if he was followed. He paused at the door. "Stark, do not drop my ship on Europe."

"Pfft ... As if." Stark was already on to the next glitch that needed tweaked.

"Last night there was a huge magickal power surge in Warsaw."

"Do we know what caused this power surge?"

"Not exactly, but the Sentinels and Guides we have recruited are staying in close contact with each other, both bonded and not. "

"Have we learned anything about these Guardians other than what the legends tell us?"

"Just that more of them appear right before there are events where the 'tribe' is in need of the most protection. They have a tribal council, they have hierarchy within their tribes, but there are no records of any of this. All the records seemed to have vanished. We only know what we know from what we have observed ourselves."

"How is the Captain adapting?"

"He was not doing well until we introduced him to Agents May and Woo." Phil paused giving Fury a chance to catch up.

"So is the good Captain a Sentinel or Guide?"

"We have no way to determine, and they are not telling."

"I guess it is a good thing we are floating over Europe at the moment."

This was one of those days when Phil wanted to lock his office door and wait until the crazy passed. If the Sentinels and Guides were appearing on the landscape, and Phil was not sure he wanted to imagine what kind of trouble was coming. It was bad enough they had to worry about AIM, HYDRA, beings from the nine realms, and rogue sorcerers. He didn't want to think about how the 'something coming' is worse than those.

~**~

She had only been with the troupe for three weeks, but Natasha knew that Clint never slept this long. He was always up early making his rounds of the lot. She had tried to rouse him, but the archer had grumbled until Natasha buried her nose in his neck and began the imprint another of her senses other than hearing on HER Guide. She would not allow a blue hunk of stone to dictate her actions with Clint.

"Tasha?"

"Hush, Yastreb. It is time for me to stop being a little girl, and be the Black Widow."

Clint opened his arms and accepted his Sentinel into his mind and body, and the blue energy within the Guide approved and embraced the first Prime Guide and Sentinel in fifty years.

James Barnes was lifting his coffee cup to take a drink when a wave of blue energy rolled through the train. The cup fell from nerveless fingers as his senses, that had been stable since Clint found him, tried to spin out of control. Struggling to get his senses dialed down, he heard the voice of his Prime calming him and his senses.

"It is okay, James. You have just been promoted from a Beta to an Alpha, and I have a feeling it will not be very long until we find your Guide. We will be out as soon as we are dressed."

Clint entered the dining car first, Natasha on his right, James on his left. Katie ran to Clint and jumped in his arms, but was quick to let go when Natasha stepped forward with a growl.

"Easy, Tasha, she is a Guide, and practically my kid." Clint soothed.

"You bonded! Why didn't you tell us you were going through with the bonding?" Her voice was rising.

"Katie girl, you are starting to screech like a banshee. That is not conducive to being a Guide." Clint teased. "Now let us get some breakfast, and we will have a chat."

As the latecomers finished their meals, only Sentinel, Guides, Marcy and Gretchen remained in the dining car. Clint stood and looked over the people that had given him a sanctuary, and the people he had brought into the sanctuary of the Guild.

"As you all know, we received a commission for a job. I do not know who contacted Marcy because that is not my place in the Guild. One of the stipulations was that the package could only be handled by the highest ranking Guide, which is me."

"To retrieve the package, Clint put everyone to sleep, Natasha went in with him while I monitored the building." James continued.

"In the office there was a case emanating a blue light. Clint opened the case. A blue cube sat inside. Clint lifted the cube and the blue light went up his arms coalescing in his chest. The light died except for the same blue glow in Clint's eyes. James and I could no longer detect Clint with any of our senses." Natasha gave a delicate shiver at the memory. "The cube threatened to keep Clint for itself since we had not bonded." She glared at all the un-bonded. "I corrected that situation last night."

"When our bonding was complete, The Tessaract … The blue energy from the cube released a wave of energy across the spirit plane." He looked at James. "From what we experienced, it seems everyone got jacked at least one level." He looked at Marcy. "I know it will probably be an inconvenience to Carson Troupe of Traveling Wonders, but our tribe will be leaving ... Those who choose to follow. If you do not … I am sure there is a reason if I interpret what I am being told from the spirit plane."

"How do you know all this Barton?" Marcy was sounded put out. "You do not dictate what happens in my Guild."

"In this instance I do. When the energy wave was released, a number of Alphas were raised to level of Prime. The Primes have the last word on how Sentinels and Guides will be deployed during the coming Troubles."

"What kind of Troubles?" Marcy was getting agitated until Gretchen laid a hand on her shoulder.

"Unknown at this time, but from what I understand, The Tesseract only sends out this kind of power when the Troubles will be worldwide and life altering. I would suggest taking this downtime before Berlin to meditate on where you are supposed to be. I believe we will be seeing an increase in bonds so that we can be in top form."

"Where are you taking this crew of yours, Barton?" Marcy growled.

"I do not know. I only know it will be in Berlin, a symbol of a black eagle affronte, and a name. We will meet back here after supper for everyone's decision."

He held his hand out to Natasha. She took his hand as Marcy called to James when he started to follow.

"You going with Barton?" They heard as the door closed.

Clint closed the door to their bedroom.

"He with us?"

"Was there ever a doubt?" Natasha asked as she buried her nose under Clint's collar.

"No."

He let his Sentinel take what she needed.

~**~

A body tossed in sweat soaked sheets. An eye moved in REM sleep. Sounds of anger and distress came from a hoarse throat as the man sat up and his eye darted around his spacious quarters on his flying fortress. The remnants of the dream ran through is brain.

"Your family comes, Nari."

Nick Fury wiped his sweaty face on the sheets. There would be no more sleep this night. Somewhere the Tessaract had been activated. He hated that his family would soon know he had taken advantage of the feud with his brother to fake his own demise. If his father made an appearance … He really didn't want to put energy behind that thought in case it brought him to his door. *HOLY HELL* ... The Tessaract ... The power surge centered in Warsaw.

Ten minutes later he was showered, dressed, and in his office yelling for coffee, Coulson, and breakfast.

~**~

"I need to talk to Bruce." Clint said as he drew his cloak around him. "He needs to come with us, but I am afraid he will run." He confessed to Natasha and James.

"Hulk will not stay here without Cupid." James snickered.

"Bruce will not like where we are going. Secret organizations are not his favorite entities."

Not ready to separate from her Guide, Natasha secured her swords and cloak. Clint's chin dropped to his chest in exasperation. The train sat on the side rail where they would be parked until the troupe left Berlin.

"I am going to talk to Bruce, not raid the Kremlin, Tasha."

"Asking Chernyy Vdova (Black Widow) to go without her knives is like asking her to go without her pants." James laughed.

"Rather go without my pants." Natasha muttered.

Clint threw his hands in the air and stepped out in the cold afternoon to find Bruce.

He found the man in his train car stitching a roustabout's cut caused by a snapped guide wire. They waited until his patient had been sent on his way. They waited while the organic alchemist cleaned up the aide station. They waited until Bruce was ready to talk.

"I know what you want." He said bluntly with a frown.

Clint saw the swirls of green in the brown eyes. Before he could comment, Bruce continued.

"The Other Guy wants to go where Cupid goes. I do not want to have anything to do with anything other than what I have, but logic dictates I go with you, since whatever it is you do to protect the troupe will leave when you do."

Black leather, dark purple and burgundy cloth swirled as Clint stood to embrace his friend.

Thanks, Doc. I was not looking forward to getting you to go by convincing the Big Guy to bring you along."

Bruce actually chuckled.

"He was telling me when I woke up this morning that we were going. I am almost packed."

"Everyone is meeting in the dining car after supper. We will be pulling out at lunch tomorrow. I sent James and Brunnhilde to acquire transportation to take us … I will know when it is time to know. I am only getting bits and pieces at the moment." He rubbed his forehead.

"Yastreb?" Natasha asked softly.

"This Prime business if tiring. What do I know about leading anyone anywhere?" He sighed and accepted the pills Bruce handed him. He gave them a tired smile. "Am I whining?"

"You are allowed this once." The corner of Natasha's mouth twitched.

"I will remember that when it is your turn." He snarked.

The couple walked the lot, talking to everyone, answering questions, and saying their goodbyes. Today was a quiet day before setup. Everyone was taking advantage of the downtime to take care of the mundane tasks of living. Clint stopped by the stable cars to see the horses that had carried him and then him and James through their act. He hid his face in the thick neck as the horse nuzzled his shoulder in comfort.

"Damn, I feel like I am losing my family." He turned away from the horses.

"Some of them will be traveling on our path, Moy Pykoboactbo (My Guide)." She ran a gloved hand over his wet cheekbone.

"Yeah. Think I will meditate on all this … I should probably pack instead." He frowned trying to remember all of his stashes.

Natasha pulled him back across the lot.

"Do what you need. Your things have been packed." Her eyes twinkled.

"You and Bucky are scary." He grinned at her.

"Remember that or I will have Dusha (Soul) sit on you."

"Your tiger?"

"Da."

"You really do not play fair. The worst Caelum can do is mess up your hair." Clint grumbled as he tossed his cloak on the couch and went in their sleeping area.

~**~

Dinner was a somber affair. People huddled in their family groups, touching, spending their last few hours together until everyone got settled. There was no discussion after the meal as everyone filed out of the train car, their bags piled outside. Brunhilde gave a shrill whistle that had Grane landing by a bus that looked like a bohemian caravan.

Everyone began packing their gear in the bus while Clint, Natasha and James went to gear up for the last time from Carson's Troupe of Traveling Wonders. A final hug to Marcy and Gretchen, they climbed on the bus without looking back as James took the wheel, and headed out of town until they saw Brunhilde and Grane standing in a hay field gone fallow for winter.

~**~

If Nick Fury was prone to fidgeting, he would definitely be twitching as his Seconds glared across the table.

"No wonder my mother laughed when I told her the name of my boss." Maria grumbled.

"It also explains some things." Phil rubbed a thumb across his forehead.

Before they could take the conversation further, they felt the fortress change course. They ran for the bridge.

"Stark! What the Hell is wrong with my ship!"

"Unknown. All the readings are green across the board."

Captain American ran onto the bridge, shield and sword slung across his back.

"What is the situation?"

"Not enough information." Fury answered.

Looking around the bridge he saw no one was rushed or panicked. Everyone was acting as though it was any other shift. Then he noticed something else at the same time as his Seconds.

"Sentinels and Guides." The said in unison.

The Sentinel of every Guide, and the Guide of every Sentinel on shift stood behind their Bonded's station. Steve moved to stand next to Agent May.

"Alpha Guide Rogers." She acknowledged.

Stark, Fury, Coulson, and Hill stared wide-eyed at the icon they had rescued from his icy coffin.

"What the Hell is a Guide and what has that got to do with Capsicle?" Stark asked.

"Part of a pairing that only appears in times of great trial and tribulation." Coulson answered.

"Apparently there are some things your father and Dr. Erskine did not see fit to record about our Super Soldier." Hill mumbled.

An alarm sounded. Fury's head snapped around to Stark who's metal suit was beginning to encase his body.

"Radiation alarm."

"Care to enlighten us as to the type of radiation?" Fury growled.

"Gamma."

Phil pulled the pictures of the members of the Initiative they were hunting onto Fury's command screen.

"That means we have three members of the Initiative close at hand, Sir."

"Holy … Are we dying?" Tony asked.

"What are babbling about, Stark?"

"Valkyrie." He pointed.

"Shit." Nick muttered.

"Sir." Hill asked.

"I did not know Brunhilde was on Midgard."

"Agent May." Fury snapped.

"Sir."

"Where are we going?"

"To retrieve the Guide and Sentinel Prime."

"Do these people have names?"

"Unknown what identity they are using at this time, Sir."

"How long is the mutiny going to last, Agent?"

May looked at the ship's timepiece.

"Approximately ten minutes to the pickup point. Shuttles are being prepped to bring them on board, Sir."

"Shuttles?" Phil asked.

"Hulk does not fit in a fighter, Sir."

Fury resisted the urge to bang his head on his console.

"Hulk? Why not Dr. Banner?"

"Dr. Banner does not trust us so Hulk is coming until he sees Dr. Banner will be safe. Plus, Hulk does not trust anyone with Cupid." May pursed her lips to keep from smiling.

"Cupid!" Tony turned away from staring at the Valkyrie. "I have never met a Greek God."

May rolled her eyes. "Not the real Cupid. It is what Hulk calls the Guide Prime."

"Cupid? Cupid is an archer." Phil pointed to a picture of a man in a hawk's beak mask with a bow and arrow. "Hawkeye."

"Four." Hill said.

"By Thor's hammer, Hawkeye is Guide Prime! Whose Sentinel Prime … Black Widow?" Nick exclaimed.

"Unknown, Sir." May's tone was cool.

Agent May looked toward the flight deck.

"Your shuttle is ready, Sir."

"Hill you stay here. Coulson, with me. Stark?"

"No way I would miss this."

"Captain?"

Rogers nodded and fell in with Coulson as they followed Fury to the flight deck. A short flight and the shuttles sat down next to the winged horse. Iron Man landed, his great coat falling over his armor.

They watched as a group of cloaked people moved toward them. The Hulk carried two people on his broad shoulders.

"That is a lot of kilt." Tony muttered.

The two groups stood thirty feet apart. The Hulk gently set the couple on the ground. The figure with a bow moved to the front of the group. Two cloaked figures fell in behind him. As the small group approached, lightning streaked through the sky.

"Thor!" The Valkyrie threw herself at the Asgardian prince.

"This just keeps getting better." Tony rubbed his hands together.

Fury, Rogers and Coulson glared at the genius.

"Five … Maybe six or seven." Phil noted.

Thor turned toward the SHIELD personnel.

"NARI! We feared you had gone to your sister, Hela. Your family has grieved." He grabbed Fury up in a hug.

"Hela … Nari … You're Asgardian!" Stark practically squeaked. "Loki's kid!"

Fury's glare was nearly as hot as Thor's lightning.

"The Tessaract has called all." Thor said sagely.

Captain America started walking toward to group with the Hulk. There was something that was drawing him … Something he had not felt for 70 years.

"Bucky?" He asked confused.

The figure to left pushed back his hood and pulled down his mask.

"It is good to see you, Punk … Guide."

"Sentinel." Steve Rogers pulled his Sentinel into hug. "How is this possible?"

"Clint saved me from Rasputin." James answered quietly.

Keeping a hold of his Sentinel, Rogers turned to the hawk masked figure.

"Thank you, Guide Prime."

The figure dipped his head. The bow collapsed and disappeared under the cloak. The hood and mask were pushed away to reveal a handsome man with a warm smile.

"My name is Clinton Barton. I am one of the Guide Primes." He gestured to the figure on his right. "My Sentinel Prime ... Natasha Romanoff."  "James Barnes is my Alpha Sentinel ... Apparently his Guide is Captain Steven Rogers."

Clint held out his hand. A small gloved hand took his and stepped forward. The first thing they saw was the trademark red hair. The mask pulled down to reveal the beautiful face of the Black Widow.

"Yastreb and Zimny Soldat took me in when I severed my relationship with the Red Room."

"The rest of my tribe are Sentinels, Guides, and others who are called by the Tessaract to join us on your flying fortress, Director Fury."

"Come Aboard and Be Welcome." Nick Fury smiled and swept his arm toward the shuttles.

~ Fini ~