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Pete takes the whole thing about as well as you'd expect of someone who can arrange someone's transfer from the NHS to MI:13 in a matter of hours.

"What's wrong with helping people here?"

Nothing. It's simply not what she wants right now. What she needs. What she deserves. "I want to go where I will be most useful."

His sunglasses are a bit like gloves, sometimes. "Useful, eh?" When they come off, you know things are getting serious. (Or, alternately, if he didn't have them on to start with, that things already are and that someone will be along shortly with a new pair.) "You're not feeling useful as a part of MI:13?"

"Things have been pretty quiet recently." Dane, finally weighing in. On her side.

"You had to say that out loud?" Pete scowls. "If we're hip-deep in zombies by this time next week, I'll remember this conversation, Whitman."

"If we're hip-deep in zombies by this time next week, I'll be asking you how you could have missed the build-up of necromantic energies that must have been occurring over the past month, at the least."

"Fine, fine. Bad example."

"So can I go?" she asks, quickly, before the conversation gets too far away from its origin point.

They both look surprised. Surprised.

Oh. "That is to say - what I meant to say was - " I'm going.

"You're going," Pete agrees, looking just a little bit amused as he puts his sunglasses back on.

 

Telling Jac and Blade - Mr Brooks - Eric after is easier. Should be easier.

"Lady J and me've been giving some thought to taking a little trip ourselves, actually." She can't see his eyes, but the rest of his face looks happy, like a man in love - not just with a woman, but with life itself.

She's read bits and pieces about his adventures abroad, of course (who hasn't?) but until recently, she thinks she's seen him mostly as Blade, the Scourge of the Vampires. Grim. Deadly. A superhero.

"If it's a bad time, I can - " She'll be gone for months. She can wait a few weeks. Her resolve isn't so weak that a few weeks will change her mind.

"No, no. You go, girl, and let Pete worry about the roster." Jac grins. It's a good look on her.

"My father - " There is no cure. There may never be a cure. There is only this day, and the next one.

A compromise, Brian has called it, and because he's Captain Britain, she believes him. Believes that the compromise is worth fighting for, worth believing in, worth hanging on to.

Because Pete Wisdom is, apparently, a very influential and persuasive man, the British government seems to believe in it, too.

"I'm not going to tell you to let Pete worry about that as well." Jac and Blade haven't compromised, but then, that was different. Kenneth was different.

She hopes.

"Thank you."

 

She feels like she's running away. (She knows, deep down, that it's not true. She's faced down Dracula; she bears Excalibur, the sword of legend.)

'This isn't about Dad, mum.'

"Your first time flying?"

Hardly. The memory of the crash is still there - the moment when everything went white, then red, then black, then bright; the fall, and Dane's eyes. The impact that was and wasn't, because if it had been, she'd be dead now (and so would he).

She's sat on the back of a winged horse - born of science, not magic, although she would have believed that easily enough, too.

"Don't worry; it's perfectly safe."

She manages a weak smile that will hopefully do instead of an explanation. "Thank you. Just a bit of last-minute nerves, I think. I'll be fine."

'This is about me.'

 

They arrive bearing food and medicine and a promise.

We can make a difference.

She's seen battlefields, places ravaged by the Skrull, the vampires. The sword Excalibur is tucked away in her luggage, spelled to look (in the words of Pete Wisdom) 'inconspicuous'.

She wonders if he's had it spelled to remind her, too. Of what she is, now, of what she's done and seen. If he has, she doesn't think it's having the intended effect.

I can make a difference.

Doctors are warriors, too.

 

Days turn into weeks turn into months as she loses herself in the work. It's easy.

It's almost as easy as finding herself in it.

 

There's a war going on, but for the first three months, they're only working in its wake. They see few of the wounded - only the ones who survived long enough to make the trek to the camp. More often they deal with the diseases that happen when people are cut off from clean water, fresh food, a roof over their head.

Names and faces start to blur.

More food and medicine arrive, at intervals that are regular at first, only gradually becoming less so.

When the Skrull invaded, it was hidden at first - a secret invasion. Once their ships arrived, once the fighting started in earnest, everything went much faster. Westminster Bridge happened, and it was over. The country was saved, Captain Britain was alive, and all was well.

When the vampires attacked, things went even more quickly.

This is not like that. It's in people's faces, people's stories, the way they look at the doctors, the tents, the food stores. This, too, will pass, they're thinking. You're not going to be here forever.

Her presence is never taken for granted. She helps people, and many of them are grateful. Some of them may survive to live long and eventually happy lives. That has to be enough.

 

By the end of the fourth month, there are only six of them left.

There are not enough tents and not enough food and not enough water and not nearly enough doctors.

She wakes up one night and hears gunfire - distantly, but the fact that she can hear it at all still means it's much too close.

The sound is not loud enough to keep her awake.

 

She stays.

'Don't do the heroic sacrifice for real, okay?'

Not to die. To live.

 

Things get pretty bad, near the end.

They're short on food, short on water, way past short on medicines and tents. Not short on courage, but some might be running a bit low on hope, in her estimation as a medical professional.

It's a close call, when she hears the sound of running footsteps, voices calling out.

"The Avengers are here, we're saved."

She thinks: Dane, and that she should, perhaps, feel a little surprised that it's taken him this long, that he's been able to stay out of this (this mess, this war, this, her life) for so long.

Provided that he's brought supplies, she might find it in herself not to get too cross with him, to smile and say 'thank you' and mean it utterly. She might hug him, she realizes, if he's bringing food and water.

 

"Are you a doctor? Because you look like a doctor, and I'd just like to state for the record that, you know, I'm fine. It's just a scratch. I get worse cuts than this while I'm shaving."

It's not Dane. Tony Stark. Iron Man.

"Tony, shut up. If you could spare the time, ma'am."

Steve Rogers. Captain America. Who's just addressed me as 'ma'am'. It's slightly unreal. This place, this mission - it's not a superhero thing. Superheroes save the world from aliens and would-be evil overlords and vampires. Breathe, Faiza.

"I am a doctor. Please sit down there, and I'll take a look. I - "

'What did you want to say? "I'm such a big fan"?'

" - we're a little bit low on supplies at the moment, I'm afraid, but I'll do what I can."

Steve (Steve?) beams at her. "We hope to be helping you with that, ma'am."

"Miss," Tony says. "Unmarried woman, not in the military. You can call her 'Miss'. Or 'Doctor'. Addition of last name optional, provided it's provided, on which note: hi. Tony Stark."

"I'm Faiza ... Dr. Faiza Hussain."

"Sorry." Steve looks sheepish. If she steps outside - she's not sure what she'll find, what has happened, but she knows there will be something. He's not Brian, obviously, but he's still -

"It's fine. Call me 'Faiza'." He's got friendly eyes, she thinks. Like Dane's, only ... different.

"That was just for him, right?" Tony asks. "Is it the blood? Because I can find some water, clean up. I've been told I can look very ... civilized. Very attractive. Not to brag, but some people even consider me charming."

He was right about the cuts being shallow, although some of them still need cleaning.

"Is - is it just the two of you, then?"

"Oh, no. It's all of us," Steve says. "I just drew the short straw when we decided who should take Tony to be checked out."

"Thanks. That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Friendship, it's a lovely thing."

"If - if you were serious about wanting to clean up, you'd better have brought your own water."

"Not to worry." Steve grins. "We have."

"Although technically, it's your water now. I mean, we brought it for you, so ... "

 

They're not like Brian and Meggan, or Eric and Jac. A little bit like Pete and Brian, maybe. A little bit too different to not rub each other the wrong way, occasionally.

Perhaps it's time to go home.

"Steve's gone to talk to whoever thinks he's in charge around here."

Natasha Romanov. Black Widow. "Oh."

"If that doesn't work, Tony's going to either throw some money at them, or some weapons. And by 'throw at them', I don't mean he's going to hand them over nicely or anything."

But they're humans. People. Like us. "Oh."

"Or, if they are really rude to Steve, Clint and I get to have some fun."

Fun? "You mean you're going to kill people."

"Yes. That's what I mean." Natasha smiles, and it's a little soft and sad. "Don't worry, it usually doesn't get to that. Steve is very skilled at talking to idiots. We suspect it may be because he's been spending too much time around Tony."

"Good. Um, the probably not going to kill people thing, not the other one."

"I'm sorry that I'm making you uncomfortable."

"You're not. Honestly." Well, maybe the killing people thing is, a bit. "It's just - well, you're The Avengers. I'm kind of a fan." There, I said it.

"Thanks. Speaking of fans: when you see him again, will you tell Pete I said hi?"

 

I couldn't have done that.

The first night after Steve and Tony get back from wherever it is they've gone to, she's kept awak by the absence of noise. It's just too quiet. She's not used to this kind of silence anymore.

Her body insists that she should be ready to jump up at a moment's notice, to run.

I could never have done that.

 

"You know, it's not as easy as they're making it look," Natasha says.

Steve is talking to some uniformed (but seemingly unarmed) people, while Tony looks on, scowling.

"I didn't know you could read minds, too."

"Everybody's always thinking the same thing. You're right about it still not being fair, by the way."

"It's not about fair, is it?"

Natasha shrugs. "You spent six months in this area, doing what you could. Then they come flying in and fix things in two days. Why? Because they're Captain America and Iron Man, and everyone knows who they are."

"It's not like they fixed everything. It's going to take a lot of time and hard work and money to make sure these people all have homes and enough food and access to clean water. Clothes. Medicines. Books." Most of those things aren't ones doctors or superheroes can provide.

"Tony's probably going to take care of some of that money. He's meddlesome like that."

"He can't meddle everywhere, can he?"

"I think he might actually realize that. It can be a bit tricky to tell sometimes, though."

"So why did you come here, specifically?"

There's an obvious answer, of course. She could not ask, but then she'd always suspect - and she might be wrong. It might really be a coincidence.

"An old friend asked us to check up on you." Natasha sighs. "He also said to tell you that Excalibur is one of Britain's national magical treasures, which means it's at least partially his responsibility and some other stuff that basically boils down to a plea for mercy."

Not Dane, then, after all. She feels half-relieved and half ... something else.

It's definitely time to go home.

"And this is how you usually 'check up' on people?"

"It is when you've got those two along."

 

She can't quite seem to fall asleep on the plane, but she dozes for a bit. When they're about halfway there, Excalibur starts ... well, the word might be humming. A pleased sound, so soft it's barely audible.

It's probably a good thing she's on a plane where she doesn't need to justify having a sword with her. Whatever spell there used to be on Excalibur to keep it hidden has clearly worn off over the course of the past half year.

She hopes it will be a few days at least, before she'll need to use it. There's been bits and pieces of news from Britain - nothing alarming enough to make her feel they needed her.

 

"Hi there."

She feels dizzy and a little bit light-headed. "Hi."

"I heard you met the Avengers. That must have been fun."

"They were ... really something."

"I missed you." He makes it sound like a fact, a given thing.

She doesn't regret leaving. "It was good to get ... away for a while. I needed that, I think."

"Pete and Brian both threatened to sit on me if I went after you."

She doesn't regret coming back, either. "It's good to be back. To see you again."

"It's good to see you again, too, Faiza. Would it be presumptuous to ask you not to ever do something like this again, for the sake of my sanity, if nothing else?"

"A little bit, maybe."

"Nevertheless."