Phil hummed softly as he started to wake up, running a hand down the smooth skin of Clint's back. If he lifted his head just a bit he could watch Clint's skin turn to blue where Phil's fingers touched. The blue would slowly fade, only to brighten when Phil started the stroke again. Soulmates, Phil never thought he would find his soulmate and yet the man in his arms was his, Phil's soulmate, the man he was destined to be with forever or as long as either of them lived. Clint's skin turned blue whenever and wherever Phil touched it and Phil's skin turned purple. The color change never lasted long, though the color could and would darken based on pressure. Phil's chest would be a dark purple when Clint pulled away, but by the time Phil pulled his shirt and pants back on, his skin would already be returning to its normal paler hue.
"Think they'll need you to drive soon?" Phil asked, breaking the silence.
Clint snorted. "They're not going to risk coming up to ask me to."
Phil chuckled, looking over Clint's shoulder at the naked skin on display. There were old scars and a brand that were usually covered by Clint's clothing. This skin wasn't quite as weathered as Clint's arm or face, because for some reason Clint preferred to go sleeveless, except for a pair of bracers when he was expecting to shoot his bow. He was utterly gorgeous.
Clint shifted, buttocks flexing, which drew Phil's eye. He trailed his fingers, dipping lower over the swell of Clint's ass.
Clint hummed. "Not sure I can get it up again."
"Just admiring," Phil murmured softly.
He felt Clint smile against his skin and echoed it.
"How much longer until we get to this trade post?" Phil asked.
Clint sighed, pushing himself up and twisting to scan the horizon. "Should be there by tomorrow." He turned back, darting in to press a kiss to Phil's lips, which caused Phil to moan softly. "Hopefully, it's still controlled by the same overseer. We can get some supplies and keep heading north."
"We'll find 'em, Clint," Phil murmured.
Clint turned and looked at him, offering a half-smile. "I hope so."
Phil tugged Clint back down, wanting to cuddle a bit more. The only person that would ride the side of the Rig was Natasha, and when Clint and Phil had left, it had been Natasha behind the wheel. She might hand over the wheel to Kate or Wanda to come back here to get them, but more than likely, she would stop the Rig to give Clint and himself time to get dressed when she was ready for Clint to drive. They'd been willing to be share driving duties earlier with Phil, Wanda, and Kate, but the further they'd headed north into less familiar territory, the more Natasha and Clint insisted on driving.
"Are you going to check it out?" Kate asked.
"I'm thinking I will," Wanda said. "You?"
"Nah," Kate shook her head. "Natasha is going to show me a few moves, and how to do some repairs on the engine."
Wanda smiled; she was grateful that Kate had joined their group. Kate was eager to learn more from Clint and Natasha. Kate was a bit less eager to learn from Phil, but then she'd grown up with Phil. Meanwhile, Wanda was enjoying having Phil to learn new and different things from. Phil's focus was mostly on running a town, and what he knew of the history of the world, but it was a different perspective from Natasha and Clint’s. Pietro didn't seem overly eager to learn from any of them, but he moved from Natasha to Clint to Phil and back to Natasha with almost his usual speed.
She smiled at the back of their heads, where they were seated in the front of the Rig. Wanda had a feeling that Clint was already studying the tents, looking for the ins and outs, planning potential escape routes, in case something went wrong. She wondered if Phil was doing the same thing.
"What's that smile for Wanda?" Clint asked.
She glanced in the rearview mirror, catching his eyes. "Just thinking that I'm glad Phil and Kate are here."
She watched as Clint's eyes darted to the side. "Yeah, so am I."
"I'm not," Pietro said. "Personally, I'm tired of the asses of old men."
Clint huffed. "Told you, when the lookout is rocking…"
Pietro groaned and Wanda watched as Clint's smile lit up his face as he chuckled to himself. Phil just shook his head.
"You coming with, Pietro?" Phil asked.
"Yeah, I figured, I would bring supplies back and forth," Pietro answered. "Not at full speed, but…"
Clint nodded. "Good idea." His attention was focused on the Rig and Wanda could feel it slowing down. They were still out a ways, but with since Natasha and Kate were staying with the Rig, it was safe to leave it further out.
Clint pulled the levers that stopped the Rig and he, Phil, Pietro, Kate, and Wanda climbed out. Lingering by the front of the Rig until Natasha came down from the rear lookout where Clint and Phil often disappeared to for their private time. Pietro had had the misfortune of only catching them mid-sex, but Wanda had caught them twice when they were just holding the other, clothes on, voices low. Neither of them had expected to find the other and she knew that Clint had originally planned to leave Phil behind without telling him that they were soulmates. Clint wasn't willing to give up his search for his family, who had been captured and sold. Clint had thought Phil was too tied to his Haven to even dare to ask him to leave, but Phil had shown on the day they were leaving with a bag over his shoulder. Wanda had seen how Clint looked at Phil when Phil wasn't paying attention to something else, like he fully expected Phil to disappear. She could never begrudge their stolen few moments of happiness.
Wanda glanced at Natasha, who, as usual, was looking at Clint with fond exasperation. Natasha was Clint's partner and closest friend. She never seemed to be jealous, but then Wanda wasn't certain what Natasha wanted in or even if she wanted a relationship like Phil and Clint's. It only bothered her, because before Phil and Kate, it had just been her and Pietro. No sex was happening in the cab of the Rig; Phil and Clint kept their activities to the back lookout. Now, though, Wanda had caught Pietro looking at Kate and she thought she'd caught Kate looking at Pietro earlier, too. It made her feel like she was the ‘Natasha’ of the younger trio, which meant...
Well, Wanda wasn't a hundred percent sure what it meant, but it certainly didn't look good for her if she wanted something like what Clint had with Phil.
Pietro bumped her shoulder gently with his own, arching an eyebrow.
Wanda shook her head, glancing toward Natasha and Clint. Phil was standing a few feet away and smiling at the pair.
"Don't get distracted," Natasha was saying.
"I won't…" Clint objected
Natasha glared at him.
"Come on!" Clint whined.
"I won't let him," Phil said.
Natasha eyed the two of them, before sighing. "It's a good thing I trust Phil's judgement."
Clint's mouth dropped open and he made a noise of protest, but Phil was already pulling him away. "C'mon, the sooner we find what we need, the sooner we can come back and get distracted."
"She'll put us on guard duty, Phil," Clint grumbled.
Wanda hurried to catch up to him. "Yes, but Pietro and I can take first shift."
Clint grinned, wrapping an arm around her to pull her in. "And see, I knew there was a reason you're my favorite."
"Not Kate?" Wanda couldn't help but tease.
"Only when it comes to weapons," Clint responded.
Wanda smiled at that. She knew Clint loved all of them and would do anything for them (though he'd never admit to loving Pietro). It was part of what made Clint, Clint. He kissed her forehead, before loosening his arm, about to let her go, but she slid her arm around him to prevent that. Clint grinned at her, pulling her into a quick half-hug, before relaxing his arm and letting it stay.
They walked that way up to the first line of tents and then broke apart. The place was crowded and it wasn't possible to walk four abreast. Clint plunged into the lead with Phil after him then Wanda, followed by Pietro. They stuck close, going from stall to stall.
One stall had guzzolene, another food, some had seedlings, and some had clothes. They found a stall with a good selection of parts and Clint and Phil searched through the boxes to find the things they needed. Wanda watched as they haggled over prices, then tucked their purchased away before moving on. Clint and Phil were the ones to search the stalls for their list of supplies and even Wanda thought they were moving slowly with the searching and haggling. She talked with Pietro to keep the boredom at bay, which lasted until Clint handed Pietro a full bag and told him to take it back to the Rig.
Then Wanda was left by herself while the other two continued their search. Wanda glanced back, the way they came at the nearby stalls and and the sun reflecting off a piece of metal caught her eye. They hadn't stopped at that stall.
"Clint," she said, turning to look at him. Clint glanced up.
"Is it safe for me to go look at a nearby stall?" Wanda asked, gesturing the way they came.
Clint nodded. "Be on guard."
Wanda nodded. She didn't approach the tent that had caught her eye dead on, but she slowly made her way around to it, stopping to look at other wares, before stepping over to and into the tent of the one that caught her eye.
"Jewelry," Wanda murmured as she realized just what she was looking at. She thumbed the ring that she always wore, looking at the pieces on display.
"Oh, something pretty for a pretty lady," the stallkeeper said.
"Just looking," Wanda said. "They're beautiful."
"Yes, and they will even look more beautiful on you." He picked up a necklace. "Here, try it on."
"I couldn't, I don't have anything to trade," Wanda said, eyeing the metal necklace with red beads woven into wires.
"Try, let me see it on something beautiful."
Wanda couldn't resist. "Are you sure?"
"Quite sure," the man said.
Wanda slipped the necklace on. The stall keeper pulled out a mirror and Wanda studied herself in the reflection. It was beautiful, and she wondered if there were any spare funds. No, maybe after they'd saved Clint's family, the could stop back. If it was still here…
"It is lovely, but we have a long journey…" Wanda said, reaching back and trying to undo the clasp. She couldn't get it.
"Turn," the stall keeper said. "I will help."
Wanda turned, pulling her hair out of the way. She gasped as she felt something plunge into her neck. The world started to blur as she felt her knees give out. Two men stepped around blocking her view. She needed… "Clint!"
Phil opened his mouth to talk as he glanced around. "Where is Wanda?"
"She was going to look at some other stalls…"
Clint turned toward the voice.
"That was was Wanda," Phil said, coming alert next to him. "There." He was moving, Clint a moment behind him, reaching for his gun and wishing for his bow. He caught sight of Wanda laying on the ground as Phil suddenly jerked and collapsed. Two strings were in his chest connected to a strange gun held by one of the men standing over him. Clint fired, taking Phil’s assailant out without even thinking about it. He ignored the screams and aimed at the other man, before he felt the impact of two darts. Electricity flowed over him and as he squeezed the trigger. He dropped to the ground with his attacker.
Clint didn't see the third man come behind him with the garrotte and a fucking needle.
She was up here to get away from the stares and glares of the other people in the compound. They weren't quite sure what to do with her, still, even though it had been several months since Hive's hold had been broken and she was able to just be herself again. Not that many of them knew about her abilities, but a lot of them didn't understand the whole mind control thing and were waiting to see if she would betray the compound to some other force.
Those few that did know about her abilities didn't quite understand them since they were so different from Lincoln and Elena. Neither of whom had attacked Maria and only one of them had control issues. Of course, Lincoln, the one with control issues had also left, leaving Jessica as the odd one out, again.
She'd also gotten along better with Lincoln, slightly, probably because they'd commiserate and understood each other’s control issue problems. Normally, she and Lincoln would have disappeared into one of the condemned parts of town and worked on their control, but Lincoln had packed up a vehicle and left two days ago. He hadn't bothered to ask her to come with, though to be fair, she didn't really think she would have gone with Lincoln.
Guilt, Jessica knew was a strong feeling and she certainly felt it when she thought about what had happened here. While under Hive's control she'd hurt Maria who'd been nothing but friendly to her,. She'd accidently hurt others when she'd lost control of her powers. Jessica sighed to herself and dug a sandwich out of her pack.
She took a bite and considered options as she chewed. She could leave, she might be able to catch with Lincoln or make her own way and find a place where people didn't know her. The world was a harsh place and leaving would most likely lead to lots of pain and an early death. If she stayed, one day the others might accept her.
"Drew!" Maria's voice suddenly broke through her thoughts. She leaned over the edge, one hand catching and holding onto the surface as the wall and saw Maria at the base of the building, though not looking up at her, but scanning the others.
"I know you're around here and I know you can hear me," Maria stated, which Jessica only heard due to her enhanced senses.
Jessica hesitated before getting up and walking down the side of the building. Eating on her way down. Maria spotted her when she was halfway, and moved to take a seat in the shadows, but still fanning herself.
Once the sandwich was gone, Jessica twisted around, changing her position so that she could to climb down with a bit more speed.
"Show off," Maria muttered, placing her hands over her enlarged stomach.
"Didn't you have an appointment with Trip?" Jessica asked.
Maria sighed, waving her off. "He's going to tell me the same thing, that I need to do less and delegate more." She struggled to get to her feet. "Why did I think having a child was a good idea?"
"Because the human race won't survive without children?" Jessica offered as she helped Maria to her feet. Super-strength for the win, Jessica thought to herself.
Maria leveled a glare at her.
"I think you also said something about proving a woman can lead and have kids?" Jessica offered.
Maria's glare only intensified, but there was no real heat to it. Jessica was grateful for whatever reason. Maria was one of the few people that didn't hold what she had done while brainwashed by Hive against her. Jessica suspected Natasha and Clint had something to do with that.
Jessica offered a half-smile. "I think I recall you asking me if I was pregnant…"
"Which we would have found a way to terminate, if you were and it was what you wanted," Maria stated, heading toward the office.
Jessica blinked, before smiling. "Did you at least go see Trip?"
"I did. He can't tell if Little Cheese is healthy or not, we don't have the machines our grandfathers had to check on babies while in the womb," Maria stated. She shook her head. "We just have to wait and see."
"Soon now though," Jessica pointed out.
Maria smiled a hand resting over her stomach. "Sooner rather than later."
"You wanted me for something?" Jessica asked.
"I'm not stupid."
"I know that…"
"With Lincoln gone, you don't have someone to commiserate with about power control. Elena has control, and, if she does lose control, she's more likely to run into a wall than anything."
"You can come to me," Maria continued. "I know people are shy about your abilities, but I'm not."
"I know, but you're busy and you've got Little Cheese to worry about too."
"And you're my assistant, that hasn't changed and I kind of need you to be happy. Happy employees do better jobs. Plus you're a good person that got tossed into a shitty situation."
Jessica glanced down at the sand as she smiled. "Thanks."
A horn sounded. Jessica looked up as another blast sounded.
"Western wall," Jessica said and together the two took off. Maria launched into a light jog. Jessica kept pace next to her until they made it to the stairs and then fell back to climb up behind her. She couldn't help but notice that Maria was more out of breath than usual. Jessica thought she should mention it to Trip, because she wasn't sure if it was due to the pregnancy or if there was a problem.
"What do we have?" Maria asked as she pulled out her binoculars, finding Melinda on the walls.
"One vehicle," Melinda answered. "Small, can't be too many people."
"Any others?" Maria asked as she looked through the binoculars..
Melinda shook her head once. "It's the only movement we've seen in awhile.".
Jessica nodded. It had quieted down after Hive had been taken out of the picture. Raids were far fewer and they'd been able to go out and bring supplies back. The walls were better constructed, incorporating Clint and Natasha's advice from before they had left. Jessica had refrained from pointing out that she could still scale them with ease. It wouldn't be comforting to anyone, especially Fitz, who was so proud of his design for the walls.
"So we need to go out and meet with them," Maria stated, reaching out to grab the wall. Jessica glanced over in time to notice that Maria's skin was pale.
"Mar- ia!" Jessica's question turned to exclamation. She caught Maria before she even realized Maria was collapsing and slowly lowered her the rest of the way to the ground.
"Hill!" Melinda said, hovering over both of them. Her eyes narrowed briefly before turning toward where a group was training. "Elena! Get Trip up here!"
Jessica glanced over there to catch sight of Elena's dark hair streaming behind her as she headed toward medical.
"Why are you getting Trip?" Maria grumbled. "Why am I on the ground?"
"Because you collapsed," Melinda stated.
"I'm okay," Maria said. "Jess, help me up."
Jessica looked at Melinda, who nodded once. She helped get Maria to her feet. "Send Bobbi and Hunter."
"To get Trip?" Jessica asked.
"No, to go out there," Maria waved her hand in the direction of the other side of the wall. "We can't get let 'em get too close."
"I'll send 'em," Melinda stated.
"I should go, too," Maria started.
"No," Melinda said firmly. "Maria, we need you."
Maria met Melinda's eyes and nodded. "Alright."
"Take her to the infirmary," Melinda said, looking at Jessica.
"No, no, I don't need to go there," Maria said shaking her head. "My office."
Jessica glanced between the two. "Infirmary isn't too far out of the way."
Maria turned, shooting a glare at Jessica, who shrugged.
"Scared me, boss," she admitted softly.
Maria sighed. "Fine."
Jessica resisted the urge to carry Maria down the steps, but followed close behind, hoping that her reflexes would be enough in case Maria collapsed again. Jessica was grateful that Melinda had already sent Elena, which meant that they'd most likely meet Trip on the way.
Once on the ground, Jessica glanced back toward the wall. She wondered just who was out there and if they were at all friendly.
"Fighter," one voice said. "Took out two seepeeyus while being volted. Needed to hit the restart to take him out."
"Give him to the robomechanic, let his oil flow into those loyal to the Lord," a second voice said. Both voices were lacking inflection, they were almost lifeless in their tone.
The figures shifted again, revealing a familiar face on the other table. "Clint," Phil whispered, trying to see if Clint were still breathing, but he looked utterly lifeless on the table. Phil wasn't sure what they were talking about, if it meant Clint was dead or if he was still alive.
The figures turned at the sound of Phil's voice.
"This one," the second asked as they approached Phil. "Has turned on again."
"He was just volted," the second said. "He's missing an original part."
"Programmed or loss?" the second asked.
"No idea," the first replied.
Phil glared at them, though they kept their faces in the shadow. He wasn't about to tell them that he'd lost his arm, at least, that's what he thought they were talking about.
"Send him to the pits, we dare not give our Lord's robots inferior oil," the second voice said, leaning into the light. Phil would have pulled back as he realized that the person wore a metal plate over his face. No, Phil glanced at the edges, it looked like it almost looked welded on. Everywhere Phil looked, there was metal stuck to him as if welded. "He can mine for metal with the other Wretched."
"Yes," the first voice said. Phil could see that the plate was smaller, but it still looked like it was part of the man. There were less plates on the first one. Phil could see large swatches of pale flesh sticking out.
"What the hell did you do to yourselves?" Phil asked, eyes darting between them. "Where's Wanda?"
"He sounds like a wretched already," the second voice said. "Restart him."
Phil twisted to catch sight of the first one coming at him with a needle, which he stuck in Phil's neck. Phil fought to hold onto consciousness, but he was soon dragged down.
When he awoke, he was no longer strapped to a table, but lying on the cold hard dirt and there was something pulling at his boot. Phil kicked out, catching a person unaware as he sat up.
"I'm not dead," Phil growled.
"Not yet," a new voice said and one that Phil realized had actual inflection. Phil turned toward the voice, pulling his legs under him.
"Where am I?" Phil asked.
"They call it Sokovia," the voice replied. "I call it Hell."
"Hell?" Phil repeated
"Yeah," the voice agreed.
"Was there anyone else brought down with me?" Phil asked.
"No one," the other man said, at least it sounded like a man. "Should there be?"
"Yeah, a man and a woman."
"Well, if the woman is pretty, then she's probably getting married to the Lord."
"Course, a warlord needs to have plenty of sons to inherit what daddy has built."
Phil closed his eyes and hoped that Wanda had somehow gotten away. He couldn't be sure, but he also knew he couldn't leave her there.
"C'mon, you don't work, you don't eat."
Phil felt a hand land on his shoulder, pulling him along the tunnels. "Is it always this dark?"
"Darker," the man replied. "But Ultron doesn't care."
"Our lovely host," the man replied.
Phil nodded, storing that information. He would need as much information as he could, if he wanted to get himself and Wanda out of here. And Clint, if Clint was still alive.
Trip didn't seem interested in what Maria had to say. "Fainting is not normal."
"It was just one time," Maria pointed out.
Trip shook his head. "No, it wasn't, you've just been able to catch yourself. I know you lost a bit of time when you were with Simmons."
"Fine, twice," Maria growled at the doctor.
Trip regarded her and Maria sighed.
"You need bed rest, Maria," Trip argued. "You need to delegate more."
"I will," Maria said, pushing off the table where Trip had been examining her.
"Maria," Trip said, gently drawing her attention. "I'm serious. You could of hurt yourself and your baby."
Maria nodded. "I will, but we have outsiders."
"Should we call a meeting?" Trip asked.
Maria nodded. "In the…"
"At yours," Trip stated, his tone brooking no arguments.
Maria nodded, even though it was pretty much a done deal with Trip anyway. He wasn't going to change his mind and he'd be the one sending out the messages, or he'd have Jessica do it. Probably both, Maria realized. Jessica would listen to Trip, because she had taken a vested interest in Maria's health.
Trip was watching her when she looked over at him, his brown eyes filled with concern.
"We'll talk about more delegating tonight," Maria promised as she rested her a hand over her stomach. There was a slight kick in there. "You can just settle down now, I have people to meet."
She closed her eyes, missing Phil's calm presence for approximately the thousandth time since he'd left. She couldn't have asked him to stay, not with a soulmate, but she hoped he was safe and happy. He was supposed to have been here for this after all. She was supposed to have been able to give her duties to Phil to handle, but…
"I miss him too," Trip said softly. "Phil would have gotten you to listen to me."
Maria opened her eyes to meet Trip's. "How'd you know I was thinking of Phil?"
"Intuition," Trip shrugged. "He's a good man."
"A better friend," Maria agreed.
"Which applies to you as well," Trip pointed out with a small smile.
Maria smiled. "It was never a love match between us. We need children if we're going to survive, neither of us had a partner."
Trip nodded. "I know. I was there during most of the discussion for the two of you deciding to do this."
Maria smiled. "He'll be in for a bit of surprise when he comes back, won't he?"
Trip shook his head. "You should have told him."
Maria waved her hand at him. "Maybe, but you know my reasons." She didn't want to force Phil to stay not when his soulmate's family was in danger. It would have torn him apart to know that Maria was pregnant.
"I know," Trip said, opening the door. "Your guests are here, I'll let the others know about the meeting."
"Thank you," Maria said, following him out the door.
Bobbi and Hunter were both in the room, taking the far corner as the two men took a seat. She was surprised to see that one of the men was older, though he may have survived because the other man looked like a fighter and protector.
"Gentlemen," Maria said as she stepped out. "My name is Maria Hill and I'm in charge of this compound."
"Ms. Hill," the older man said. "From what little I was allowed to see, it looks as if you've built something special here. I'm Alexander Pierce and this is my nephew, Brock."
"Mr. Pierce, Brock," Maria said, taking a seat in her own chair. "Tell me.... What brings you here?"
"Well," Pierce started. "As much as I hate to admit, we're on the run."
"On the run?" Maria asked, looking over at Brock.
"Yes," Pierce answered. "And I hate to admit we're low on supplies. We might have some weapons we could spare for some guzzolene."
"You only need guzzolene?" Maria asked.
"Yes, we," Pierce started, before looking at Brock. They seemed to take a moment to communicate silently with one another. "We need the guzzolene and then we'll be on our way."
"We'd hate to accidentally bring trouble to your door," Brock added.
"Trouble?" Maria repeated.
"We were being chased," Pierce said.
"I think we lost them though," Brock added.
Maria frowned. "But you're not sure?"
Brock shook his head. "Sandstorm blew up, surprised we survived it."
Maria nodded, she could remember being stuck in a few of those sandstorms. "Why are they chasing you?"
"They want me dead," Pierce replied. "Nick… He was my protege and he went power mad. Tried to kill me in my sleep. Luckily Brock managed to get me out."
"Out of where?"
"The city I was in charge of," Pierce replied. "It was so peaceful until Nick decided he wanted to be in charge and then… Well, I never expected it of him."
"Sometimes, it's those you least expect," Maria murmured.
"This world is unfortunately cruel," Pierce agreed. "All we need is the guzzolene and we'll get on our way."
Maria glanced back at Bobbi and Hunter, who nodded. "I'm sure we can work out a deal."
"Thank you," Pierce stated, moving to get up.
Brock stood, getting up to his feet more slowly than Pierce.
"I'm so glad you're amenable to a trade," Pierce continued talking. He looked back at Hunter and Bobbi. "Thank you both for being willing to bring us here."
Maria's eyes were on Pierce as he turned back to her to shake her hand. She didn't realize anything was wrong until Brock was on the floor. Pierce jumped at the thump of Brock landing on the floor. "Brock?!"
Maria stood, not as quickly as she wanted and she needed to cling to the desk, so she didn't faint herself. Little Cheese was happily creating havoc with her body. Bobbi was already kneeling by Brock and Hunter was out the door, Maria could hear him yelling for Trip.
"He's bleeding," Bobbi announced as she pulled up Brock's shirt.
"Oh, goodness, he was hurt trying to save me," Pierce said, looking pale. "He said it was healing! That it was fine!"
"Looks like he was lying," Bobbi muttered as she pulled off her jacket to press it against the wound. "Or he re-opened it."
Pierce frowned. "The car needed work after the storm. I… I… ran the city, I didn't know what to do with the car. I'm not a black thumb."
Maria made her way around to him, resting her hand on his shoulder. "We're getting our doctor. He'll take care of him, I promise."
"Yes, but we need to get on the road…" Pierce said.
"Until he's healed, you'll have our protection."
"You have no idea what's coming after us though," Pierce pointed out.
"We've survived a lot here," Maria replied, thinking of Hive's attack. "I think we can handle it. We're tougher than we look."
"Are you sure? The last thing I want to do is put innocents in danger," Pierce replied.
"We can handle it," Maria answered with a nod. They could handle it, besides it wasn't likely that whoever was after Pierce survived the sandstorm.
She drifted, only becoming aware of being submerged in water, which was ridiculous. Who had that much water to waste? There were gentle hands on her with cloths. She whimpered when she felt someone touch her breast. There was a murmur of voices that sounded female, not like the soulless car-men. There was a note of amazement and pride in the voices. Her other breast was touched and she tried to squirm, but a strong voice in her ear gently told her to hush and she found herself drifting away.
When she came back it was different than the other times. Her throat was as dry as the wastelands. She worked her jaw, trying to get some moisture. It didn’t seem to work, she couldn’t work any saliva in her throat. Her head started to ache and she couldn’t help the groan as she tried to open her eyes. “Pietro?”
She wondered briefly who was calling for her brother in such a scratchy voice, but no, that had been her voice.
"She's awake," a female voice said from above her. It took her far more effort than she wanted to expend to force her eyes open to see three blurred figures above her. She blinked, trying to clear her eyes, but found the effort more than she intended and barely managed to reopen them again.
“Welcome,” a second voice said, coming from her left. Wanda could make out dark hair.
“Where?” Wanda croaked out, trying to remember everything. That hadn’t sounded like Kate and none of them had Pietro’s short silver hair. No redheads either and none with Clint’s short hair, or his build. Clint should be here and Phil. She could feel a whine in the back of throat, none of them looked right. None of them looked like they were from Haven either. This wasn’t right, something was wrong.
One of the women, reached out and rested a hand on her cheek as she leaned down. She gently shushed Wanda as she struggled to focus on the woman’s face. “Someplace safe.” A third voice.
Wanda glanced at the other women, but couldn’t keep her focus on them. “Safe?” Wanda repeated. She could almost hear Clint’s bark of laughter and voice declaring that nowhere is safe, some places are only safer than others.
“Yes, you have been chosen,” the woman attempting to comfort her agreed. The woman was older than Wanda, younger than Clint. Brown hair and dark brown eyes.
Wanda frowned. “For what?”
The woman smiled at her. “To be safe.”
“To be cared for,” the first voice said and Wanda realized that she’d left the bedside.
“To be treasured,” the second added.
“You will never have to worry about food,” the second voice added.
“Or water,” the third added.
“And in return,” the third woman, the one whose face still lingered in Wanda’s sight, slipping in and out of focus. “You will bear your husband’s heirs.”
“Husband?” Wanda repeated, trying to force herself up, but she couldn’t move.
“Yes, you will be a Wife with us,” the third said.
Brainwashed. She had heard Clint mention that were those who thought this was a better situation than the freedom of the road. She still couldn’t move her body. She felt the strap holding her down now, arms and legs. She reached for mer magic, but there was something wrong. It seemed too far away. “Something’s wrong.”
“That’s the drugs,” the second voice said. “Husband knows that a new wife may need to adjust.”
“A new wife doesn’t always know how much of a blessing his love is,” the third voice agreed, smiling at him. “But I’m sure you’ll learn quickly.”
There was a clang and the woman looked away from Wanda. She smiled. “Husband comes. No worries my dear wife. We’ve cleaned the filth off of you and prepared you for him.”
The water, Wanda dimly recalled, the female voices, but the car-men? Had that been a dream caused by whatever they drugged her with?
A warm breeze rolled over her, but she shuddered, forcing herself to look up as the sight of her “husband.” She could just see him in the entrance of the room. He was in some sort of suit of armor with a helmet. It's metal gleamed in the cavern. The three women had lined up in front of him. Now, Wanda noted the metallic look to their clothes.
“Jocasta,” Husband rumbled.
“Husband,” Jocasta murmured, the third voice said, stepping forward. “May I kiss your lips?”
“You may,” Husband answered. Wanda’s eyes slipped shut and she felt the strong desire to drift, but forced herself to come back.
“And my new wife?” Husband was asking.
“Here,” First voice said, sounding meeker than before. “We have prepared her for your wedding night.”
“Good,” Husband stated and Wanda could hear the clank of his metal footsteps.
“Husband, she’s young and the organic mechanic says she’s pure,” Jocasta said. “Perhaps… Perhaps for the first time she should be allowed the pleasure.”
“Do you not take pleasure in my touch, Jocasta?” Husband asked with a growl.
“Of course, I do, you are my husband. I have given you a son,” Jocasta said quickly. “She is inexperienced though and the first time… hurts. Don’t make her associate you with pain.”
“Her pain and her pleasure are in my hands now,” Husband stated as he stepped toward Wanda and more fully into the room.
“Yes, husband,” Jocasta said. “I’m sure she will earn her pleasure.”
Husband hummed, leaning in close. The helmet was still on only the jaw was free. Where metal met flesh was scarred and seemed to be one piece. His eyes were hidden by red lenses. Husband pushed a metal hand into her hair. “Yes, you are a pretty one. He smiled, a twisted look of scarred flesh and metal. His other hand came out to pull off the sheet that covered her to stare at Wanda’s body. “Unmarred and unmarked… For now.”
He looked back up at her. “And what do they call you little one? Or shall I name you as I named Alkhema.”
“Wanda,” she gasped out, clinging to her sense of self.
“Wanda,” husband repeated. “I am Ultron, I shall be your husband. You will give me heirs, preferably stronger ones than what the others have born and in return, you shall never go hungry or thirsty. You will be kept clean, away from those that would hurt you.”
“No,” Wanda said. She would not be complicit in this. “I don’t…”
Pain flared from the swift and sudden backhand. “you have no right of refusal. I am to be husband and a wife shall obey. Now, apologize and I will give you the drug that will ensure all you feel is pleasure.”
For a moment, Wanda was tempted to apologize. It was going to happen one way or the other. Would it be so bad to escape from what was coming next? No, she’d given in before and who know what the other drugs would do to her abilities. She’d need those if she wanted to fight and escape.
“Not…husband, never,” Wanda growled out, eyes narrowing.
Ultra regarded her, before smiling.. “So be it. Alkhema get the pleasure drugs anyway. I find they help break the feisty ones quicker.”
She slipped past Maria, who wasn’t moving anywhere near as quickly as she usually did. It was easy to grab one of the better chairs and pull it over to Maria’s usual spot. Fitz opened his mouth to complain, but fell silent when Jessica glared. His expression softened when Jessica helped Maria sit.
“Sometimes, I think you think you’re the father,” Maria grumbled at her.
“Maybe if you listened to Trip more,” Jessica argued.
Maria’s eyes narrowed as she snorted. Jessica knew that Maria thought she and Trip conspired against her and for the most part that was true. Mostly, because pregnancies were rare and sometimes Jessica had questions. Trip was happy to answer them. Unfortunately, it meant that Jessica had also accidentally alerted him when Maria had a problem.
She glanced around the garage. Fitz was there, but he was usually one of the first ones due to his relationship with Mack. Trip was there as well, his eyes were on Maria, assessing. Jemma was next to Fitz. Pretty typical of how they showed up to these meetings. Melinda, Bobbi, and Hunter were usually the last ones here, as they always had one last check to do, before coming in at a run.
Jessica took her usual spot out of the way on the hood of one of the pursuit vehicles. It gave her a view of the door, which banged open to allow Bobbi and Hunter in. They were arguing, off again, Jessica noted as Bobbi stalked over to her.
“Jessica,” Bobbi greeted with a nod of the head.
“Bobbi,” Jessica sliding over, so that Bobbi could sit next to her. Bobbi hesitated, before taking the offered seat. “Fighting with Hunter?”
“Yeah,” Bobbi agreed with a slight nod. “Unfortunately.”
Jessica hesitated, it wasn’t really her place, but she was attempting to be… friendly? “Do you… want to talk about it?”
Bobbi studied her. “That was painful to watch.”
Jessica sighed, looking down. “I’m trying to be a friend. I’m just bad at it.”
Bobbi nudged her with an elbow, giving her a smile. “We all have those days. Some more than others.”
Jessica managed a smile. “I can listen, I’d be happy to, if you need to vent to someone. It’s not like I’d have advice for you.”
Bobbi smiled at that. “I know, just maybe not now. After?”
Jessica’s eyes widened, before shaking her head. “I think it’s going to go long.”
Bobbi smiled at her. “Well, if it’s going to be a rough one, I’ll need to sparring partner and I think it’s time we started making sure you can fight, especially since you’re not Alex’s blushing bride anymore.”
“You want to train me?” Jessica asked.
Bobbi nodded. “You’ve had time to readjust and I know you’ll push me, while keeping an eye on my knee.”
“Still healing?” Jessica asked, glancing at the brace Bobbi now wore.
“Not as strong as it should be,” Bobbi admitted. “I think it’s been babied too much.”
There was something in how Bobbi spoke that made Jessica think it had something to with her argument with Hunter, but she wasn’t sure. She was about to ask when Melinda entered. Her eyes went to Maria who cleared her throat, causing conversation to come to an end by the time Melinda took a seat on a stool.
“I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re here,” Maria started.
“We have newcomers, not that surprising,” Fitz said with a shrug. “They long term-ers?”
“Not planning on it,” Maria said with a knowing look. No one had planned on staying, but it was about fifty-fifty on whether they would or not. “One is injured and in Trip’s care, the other is older. But they’re not why we’re here. We’re here because Trip has advised me to go on bed rest.”
“Several times,” Trip slipped in.
“So we need to do some re-shuffling of my duties,” Maria continued on, ignoring him. “I know we’re all pulling extra duties, since Phil left, but I think Jessica is ready for more…”
“Can we trust her?” Fitz asked. “I mean, she attacked you.”
“She was under someone else’s control.” Maria pointed out.
“That’s her story!”
Maria sighed, giving Jessica an apologetic look. Jessica gave her encouraging smile as the others launched into a discussion about what duties they could and couldn’t do. Jessica listened with interest, considering where she would assign them. She didn’t notice the door opening, until someone was clearing their throat.
Jessica glanced up with the others as they fell silent. She saw Pierce standing there, looking at them all.
Pierce smiled at everyone. “I’m sorry, if I was interrupting anything. They said I could speak to your mechanic here.”
“You can,” Mack said, straightening up. “I’m just a little busy right now. If you’ll wait outside.”
“Of course,” Pierce said with a nod, then paused. “I’m sorry again, I couldn’t help but overhear that you’re re-arranging duties?”
“I’m taking a partial leave due to complications with my pregnancy,” Maria said. “We’re just trying to decide who can do what.”
“Well, can I volunteer?” Pierce asked. “I used to run a bigger place than this. Brock and I can stay until you have the baby and then we’ll leave with some supplies. I can do all the administration, everyone can meet for all the major decisions.”
Maria regarded him for a long moment, before looking at the others. Jessica knew they were all pushing themselves filling in for Phil and Daisy. They were all more tired than usual, except for maybe Jessica (because not everyone trusted her) and Bobbi (because of her injury). “I think that could work, with Jessica’s help.”
Jessica smiled. She had a feeling that Maria meant for her to do most of the work and let Pierce be a spokesman. Build the trust between her and everyone else. Jessica nodded, catching the sight of Ftiz’s own nod and some of the others.
"Hi there, sunshine," a painfully cheery voice said. "Welcome to the donation center!"
"The fuck?" Clint grunted, opening his eyes to see a cavernous room filled with tall narrow cages that looked similar to the one he was in. His hands were tied behind his back and he had just enough room to kind of sit on the bottom. His feet were also chained together at his ankles, and the chain led to the top of the cage.
"The donation center, well, more like the take center," the voice continued. "Because they like to steal your blood, well, they also like to steal my organs, but that's because FRANCIS LOVES ME THE MOST!!"
The yelling caused Clint to wince. “Really?”
“Oh, sorry, headache? That’s the drugs they use. They won’t give us anything for it. At least they never give me anything, but then I heal and you’re… painfully normal.” The man laughed
“Shut up, please,” Clint begged.
“Well, I could do that, but then it’s boring.”
“If you have to talk, why don’t you tell me something useful. Like where we are?”
“Oh? I get to do the exposition?! Heh, this’ll be fun. Let’s see, you already know the apocalypse has happened out there. Bombs, death, nothing green, just dessert until you go further north and then it’s all ice. Did you know about the ice?”
“No,” Clint grunted. “Want to narrow your focus to this place?”
“I’m getting there, hot guy, I really am. I’m guessing by the brand, you’ve met a warlord before. Well, this one calls himself Ultron, which sound like the name of vehicle, but it’s actually a dude that’s like seared metal to his body and then wears armor over that. It’s crazy, but he’s basically got this whole vehicle worship thing and his minions want to be like vehicles as well and will metal up their skin. Honestly, I knew a guy that would fit right in, but I’m not sure he even exists in this world. Hell, I think I only exist in this world because someone loves me.”
The man laughed. “Not him. Someone else.”
Clint sighed, shaking his head, coming around. “Alright, anyone come in with me?”
“Not in here, oil bags only here. Well, that's the term they use, because vehicle obsessed.”
Clint closed his eyes and sighed. “Am I a fucking blood bag?”
“Yep,” the man said. “Have you been here before?”
“Not by this Warlord, but another.” Clint twisted to look at his companion. “Shit it looks like they ran you over.”
“Aren’t you sweet?” the man said, smiling at him.
“I’m Clint. You?”
Clint nodded. “I was with a guy, slightly older, prosthetic arm, and teenage girl.”
Wade frowned. “Ah Clint, was the girl pretty?”
“Yeah, they went for her first, drugged her,” he added as the earlier events came back to him.
“Well, then she’s probably getting married to Ultron. He keeps the pretty ones until they ain’t pretty.”
Clint nods, understanding the words not spoken. Shit, he needed to get Wanda out of there. But hell, the kid could probably save herself and save him as well.
“As for your one good arm, he’s probably down with the undesirables.”
“Well, Ultron is pretty ablest, so anyone that’s missing a limb or different cognitive abilities ends up down there, except if they’re his blood. He finds a place for them, because nepotism.”
Clint shook head, unsure of what he was supposed to do with that information. Warlords were awful people and had that tendency. “Alright, Wade, any ideas on how to escape?”
Wade snorted. “You really think I’d tell you my plans?”
“Well, I’d be taking you with me, so yes,” Clint replied.
Wade grunted, looking at him. “Kind of you to say that, but… I’ve tried, we got an army between us and freedom. I’m not sure you’d live that long.”
“Yeah, good thing, I still have three on the outside.”
Wade snorted. “Three isn’t going to do anything.”
“You don’t know Natasha, or Pietro when it comes to his sister. But I’d love to introduce you.”
Pierce brought her meals and came to discuss the events of the compound. There were usually one or two meeting scheduled, all very low stress.
Bobbi showed up in the afternoon to guide Maria through a round of stretches and also brought along various books to read. Together they worked Maria's arms and legs, avoiding her abdominal muscles too much. Everything was running smoothly, so very smoothly.
"Looks like things are working out," Maria murmured as she looked down at her stomach and patted it. She studied her belly for a long moment as she considered the state of the compound.
There was a gentle knock on her door.
"I'm awake!" Maria called out.
Bobbi appeared in the doorway. "Ready to move?"
Maria nodded. "Yes."
Together they shifted until she was up and moving through slow stretches. "How have you been?"
"Good," Bobbi answered.
"How's the knee?"
"Healing, I've been working with Jessica."
Maria smiled to herself. "I know, she's told me."
Bobbi smiled. "Hunter wants a kid."
Maria's eyes widened. "And what do you want?"
Bobbi hesitated. "I want to get back out there rather than being stuck here for another nine months." She sighed. "I know, I should have a kid or two or three, but..."
"You don't want to have them?" Maria asked.
Bobbi nodded. "I know we need to have kids and I should have them if we want the human race to survive, but I just don't want to do that."
Maria nodded. "Honestly, I didn't think I'd end up on bed rest. I thought I'd be able to be a role model and show that that I could work and have a baby. Unfortunately, complications happen. I've always said that it's the woman's choice. You have an important job to do here."
Bobbi was quiet. "If you knew there would be complications, would you still have gone through with it?"
Maria frowned as she considered it. "Probably, if I thought Phil would still be around, because he could handle everything. Even though we were never romantic, he was my partner in... just about everything else."
Bobbi hummed. "Hunter and I fight a lot."
"Because you care about one another," Maria pointed out. "There's a reason I haven't separated you two. You make a good team, on the job and off."
Maria smiled to herself. "It's your choice and there's always the option of Hunter finding someone else to carry his child. It's kind of why I'm carrying Phil's."
Bobbi snorted. "I thought you wanted a kid."
"And there wasn't a guy that I was interested in. I knew Phil would love to have a child, but there wasn't a woman that he was comfortable enough asking. Besides Melinda."
Bobbi smiled. "She's not over the loss of Andrew."
"I know," Maria nodded. "So I asked Phil, and we agreed. I got pregnant and his soulmate showed up."
"I still can't believe that his soulmate showed up."
"I can't either. It's why I didn't tell him." Maria hesitated. "Might have if I knew about the complications."
Bobbi was silent. "He might have gone anyway though."
"And would have felt bad about it. He would have felt bad about staying, too."
Bobbi nodded. "I get why you did it. I don't blame you. I don't think anyone does, but we miss him."
Maria leaned into her shoulder. "So do I, but we can make do."
"Yeah," Bobbi agreed.
There was a knock on the door. "I think you're up, because I hear a few voices," Pierce called from the other side.
"I am," Maria agreed.
The door opened and Pierce studied the pair. "I see I'm interrupting?"
"Afternoon stretches," Maria replied. "It was decided that it was too warm for me to walk during the afternoon."
Pierce nodded. "A good idea, I just wanted to let you know the meeting was pushed back until tomorrow."
"Thank you," Maria said, considering it, before frowning. "Oh, when? Trip is supposed to check up on me."
"Just after lunch," Pierce replied.
Maria sighed. "That's when I'm supposed to be meeting with Fitz. I can't reschedule with Trip, but it's the only time Fitz can fit me in." She bit her lip as she considered her options.
"I'll see if Fitz can reschedule," Pierce offered. "I'm sure it won't be much of an inconvenience to them."
"No, I'll have Jessica join you and you both can handle the meeting without me. She'll catch me up, or you can at dinner."
"Of course," Pierce agreed with an easy smile. "Are you feeling well this afternoon?"
"I am," Maria agreed. "Anything else for today then?"
"Afraid not," Pierce replied, shaking his head. "Do you want me to bring you anything? Maybe see if we could scavenge another book?"
Maria shook her head. "No, I'll be fine, maybe take another nap this afternoon. I've been feeling a little run down."
"Oh, I hope you aren't coming down with anything. I heard one of the buildings has had a cold going around. Part of why the good doctor is so busy..."
Maria frowned. "I don't see why I would be, I haven't had that many people come by. Though I should see about getting some people to go through the ruins to see if there's a cradle or any other supplies that I'll need. Though I don't think walking through old buildings would be that stressful."
"Maybe, we could get some people to bring it outside to you?" Pierce suggested. "I've heard those old buildings can be dangerous.
Maria nodded, accepting the compromise. Some of the buildings were dangerous to go crawling through, but they hadn't had a chance to tear them down yet.
"I'll make arrangements for that," Pierce offered.
"Oh, you don't need to, I'll ask Jessica," Maria replied, waving her hand. Jessica was more of her assistant anyway.
"Alright, I'll leave you to your stretches," Pierce said, stepping out and closing the door.
Maria looked over at Bobbi. "You have a little extra time?"
"I do, actually, especially since I don't think I've ever gossiped with you before," Bobbi agreed with an easy smile.
Maria grinned. Some little extra exercises and a little extra nap, she'd be just fine.
At one point, he'd wondered if Natasha would bother coming after him as well, but he soon realized that he was being silly and stupid. Of course, Natasha would come after him. She was his friend. Plus she'd do it, because that would be what Clint would want. She might be delayed, getting Kate and Pietro to safety though. Then again, Natasha just might come up with a plan that involved all of them. Pietro's speed and Kate's accuracy shouldn't be discounted.
Phil nodded to himself, they would come, of course they would. Until then he would gather as much intelligence on this place as he could, because the rescue might come in stages.
He headed toward the mines, pushing an empty cart in on the tracks. It was darker in here, he went around the bend and thought he saw Clint pushing out a cart. It was ridiculous thought. He knew Clint wasn't down in the mines.
The cart was loaded and Phil pushed it back out. Again, his mind deceived him and he saw Clint. When it happened a third time, he began to consider that he might be starting to lose his mind. It kept happening throughout the day. They were on opposite tracks, Phil saw Clint going in the opposite direction.
He started noticing the differences on the ninth spotting. His shoulders weren't as broad as Clint's. He was taller. When he caught sight of the man under a light, he noticed his hair was darker and had a reddish tint to it. He looked...
Phil stopped. "Barney." Of course, how could he have missed it? They had been looking for Clint's brother. He mentally berated himself as he dumped the load and headed back in. This time when he passed the other man, caught Barney's eye. "Barton," he said and nodded.
Phil knew he got a double take. He did it every time they passed each other and by the time Phil had earned his share of food, he knew the other Barton would be waiting for him.
The man's arms were crossed, not nearly as impressive as Clint's, but not so bad.
Phil found himself shoved up against wall. "Who the hell are you?"
"I'm a friend of Clint's."
Barney's eyes narrowed. "Yeah, and if you are where is he?"
"Don't know, they took him somewhere else," Phil admitted. "We came here looking for you and your kids."
"How do I know that you're my brother's friend?"
"Well, I would use soulmate, because while accurate, it’s far less believable," Phil admitted. "I don't think I believe it."
Barney's eyes closed.
"I earned some extra food, I'll share it with you and yours," Phil offered.
Barney eyed him for a long moment, before stepping back. Phil gathered up his food, he had worked a little extra to earn some extra food. Together, they made their way through the cave system. Phil didn't have anything in the area that he slept in worth taking.
"Dad!" a young girl yelled and scurried to wrap her arms around him.
"Hey kid," Barney murmured. He set her down, glancing back at Phil, who simply smiled at the display of affection. "Lila stands guard for us."
"Is she fierce like Natasha?" Phil asked.
"You know Aunt Nat?" Lila asked.
"I do," Phil said, dropping down to look at her. "She's been looking for you."
"Is she here?" Lila asked.
Phil shook his head. "No, but she's coming. Clint's here, you're here and your family." Phil nodded. "She's coming."
"And who are you?" Lila asked.
"A friend of your Uncle Clint's." Phil answered.
"Let's go in and talk," Barney said, gesturing them all deeper into the branch of the cave. There was a slightly older boy, who must be Cooper, he looked like his father and uncle. The young boy was watching over a sleeping toddler.
"Your wife had the baby?" Phil asked, spotting the toddler.
Barney nodded slowly. "Yeah, she did."
"Is she?" Phil hesitated.
Barney shook his head. "No, died giving birth to Laurence."
Cooper noticed them. "Who’s this?"
"A friend of your Uncle Clint's," Barney answered.
Cooper arched an eyebrow, clearly doubting Phil's story as much as his father.
"I know, kid, but he's offered to share his food, so we're going to give him a chance to convince us that he is friend's with Clint."
"I know the sequence to start the Rig," Phil offered.
"What rig?" Barney asked.
"The War Rig? That he drives with Natasha..."
Barney shook his head, before frowning. "Where'd he get that?"
Phil frowned. "Stark, but it was stolen and he had to steal it back."
Barney considered him for a long moment, before nodding. "Stark would make something like that."
Barney started distributing the food to his kids and Phil followed suit, sharing everything. While they were eating, Barney asked questions about how Clint and Phil had met and Phil filled him on the story. Everything he knew since the brothers had separated.
It was only after the kids had fallen asleep that Barney looked at him. "I'm going to trust you, because you describe my idiotic brother a bit too perfectly. So you know him and you know Natasha."
Phil nodded. "Thank you. We need to..."
Barney held up a hand. "I need to know my kids are safe. So this is what we're going to do. You're taking a different shift than me. You sleep and be here as extra muscle to protect our space while I work. I do the same while you work. Nothing goes missing, my kids stay safe, then we can talk about whatever plans you have."
Phil closed his eyes, before shaking his head. "You're trusting me with your kids though."
"I don't have much of a choice and my kids know the tunnels, I'm pretty sure they can lose you in them."
Phil nodded. "Wouldn't surprise me if they could."
"So that's how it's going to be. We have a deal?" Barney asked.
"Yeah, we have a deal," Phil agreed, trying to think of how this would work if a rescue attempt happened while one of them were in the mines, but it was clear that it would have to wait, at least for now.
She forced herself to get up and get dressed, before heading straight to Maria's quarters. She nodded at a few people, but no one was looking very good right now. Trip was busy with everything. Jessica should probably stop in to see him, but she needed to check on Maria and apologize first. Then she'd go find Trip and hope that he wasn't too busy for her.
Outside of Maria's quarters, Jessica came to a halt when she saw Pierce's nephew, Brock leaning against the wall outside of Maria's door.
"Excuse me," Jessica said, reaching for the door, only to find it in Brock's grip.
"You don't look so good," Brock said.
"Yeah, I'm going to keep my distance, but I need to talk to Maria first," Jessica said.
"Sorry." Brock smiled at her. She froze as she caught sight of the harshness in the smile. "I can't let you do that. Doctor's orders, no one with the plague in to see Maria and you... you've got the plague."
"It's a cold," Jessica defended. "And I'm Maria's assistant."
"Not while you're sick," Brock replied. "Pierce will assist Maria with whatever she needs today. You go down to the infirmary."
Jessica regarded him for a long moment, before nodding. She'd check in with Trip and then she'd come back, just not through the front door if Brock was out there.
The infirmary was already packed with people coughing and spreading germs. It took her forever to find out that Trip had fallen ill as well and that Pierce sent him for bed rest, before he could get worse. The nurse gave Jessica instructions, before kicking her out of the infirmary.
Jessica frowned as she left the building and considered everything that was happening. There was something off about the situation. She bit her lip as she thought, heading back to her rooms. She made sure to pay attention to where , so she didn't accidentally walk up a wall and freak someone like…
Simmons!, Jessica realized, her eyes widening. Simmons should have been in the hospital if Trip was sick. Granted, Jessica mused to herself, Simmons has some super secret project, but she always covers the hospital when Trip can't.
Jessica paused, debating going back to the hospital, but decided to go to Bobbi instead. Bobbi liked, or at least tolerated, Jessica. Simmons tended to side with Fitz on the whole 'Can we trust Jessica?' debate. Bobbi was the far better to chose to take her concerns to.
Jessica knocked on Bobbi's door and a few minutes later Bobbi opened it. Her eyes narrowed, but her skin was pale. "Jess? You shouldn't be here. I'm sick."
"Too late," Jessica waved her off. "I think there's something wrong."
Bobbi hesitated, before gesturing her in and closing the door. She went to the couch and dropped down onto it, pushing her hair out of her face. "I'm not sure how much help I can be. I feel miserable."
Jessica nodded. "I went to the hospital. They said Trip was sick and I didn't see Simmons."
Bobbi stared at her for a moment. "She could be out, could be checking on Maria."
"Brock wouldn't let me in to see Maria."
Bobbi nodded. "Wouldn't let me in either, but we're sick Jessica. We can't get her sick."
Jessica started to object, before reluctantly nodding. "I was late."
"She'll understand," Bobbi said with a wave her hand. "Maria is forgiving like that."
"Especially, since you were protecting her unborn child," Bobbi pointed out.
"I wasn't going to get close, just apologize and head out."
"I think I remember reading that the stuff that makes you sick can travel across the room. Best thing to do is stay away from Maria until you're feeling better. Okay?"
"I guess," Jessica said, trying to take comfort in what Bobbi was saying, but something still felt off. She slipped out of the room, not wanting to keep Bobbi up any longer.
She went back to her rooms, crawling back in bed for a few more hours. She didn't feel great when she woke up, but she was feeling hungry. If she was a normal person, it would be a shame that it was dark out, because the cafeteria would be closed. She wasn't normal though and it was easy to break in through the roof on the building, grab some food, and exit the same way. She paused, catching sight of two men in an alleyway.
Stashing her food, Jessica crawled down the wall toward them when she realized it was Brock and Pierce.
"Everyone's sick," Brock was saying. "I think we should move now."
"No, we need to be careful," Pierce stated. "I know, you want to cut loose, but this way we get everyone else's loyalty, which we'll need when those traitors come after us."
"No, do you think it's just going to be Rogers again? No, it's going to be everyone they can spare, which is a lot more now that Murdock's group is there to defend the city."
Brock sighed. "But..."
"That woman has to have her child. A child that we will then adopt when its mother meets her end." Pierce sighed. "Shame to kill off breeding stock though."
"The doctor has records, she can be replaced."
"We need as many breeding women as possible if we're going to re-populate this planet."
"It's one annoying woman," Brock growled. "I say we cut the little bastard out of her and see if it has what it takes to survive."
Pierce chuckled. "Not yet, they're hiding something. A project that they won't talk about in front me. I need to know what it is, before you go killing anyone. Let the disease run its course."
"Killing with a virus is boring," Brock grumbled.
"I know, but give it time, we'll be in control of this place before too long."
"Now, go check on the doctor. I'll make sure Maria stays undisturbed."
Brock grunted and started moving away. Pierce headed away as well. Maria quickly climbed back up the wall and considered how she was going to convince everyone that Pierce and Brock weren't on their side. Especially, when a lot of them still didn't believe that she was on their side.
Her abilities were still beyond her reach, but she reached often for them, wanting her power back. A part of her wondered if Ultron raped her without the pleasure drug, would the pain burn away the other drugs so that she could reach her powers? Would her anger? No, not her anger, because surely she'd be able to reach them now. She was angry, she just couldn't focus.
The door opened and Wanda reached, trying to gather her magic to throw at Ultron. It was doubly useless, not only could not reach her magic, but it wasn't even Ultron. She blinked as she stared at the new figure. He was wearing green and his face was red. It wasn't metal like the others, but some different substance.
"Vizh," Jocasta said, in greeting, going to hug the the man.
"Mother," Vizh murmured, wrapping his arms around her momentarily. The embrace was brief. "I have found a new book to share with you all. It's about how the world ended."
The three wives scurried into an alcove and pulled out three desks, which they took a seat in. Vizh looked over at her. "Ah, what about the new wife?"
"She is not ready for lessons," Alkhema stated.
Vizh hesitated, before nodding. "There are many different accounts as to how the world ended..."
Wanda could almost see the campfire, comparing notes with Phil. She smirked at the memory of Clint's theory.
"Aliens," Wanda drawled out.
The red faced young man looked at her, blinking slowly. "Excuse me?"
"Aliens did it," Wanda said, repeating Clint's words.
"Did what?" the man repeated.
"Burned the world. Clint told me so."
The women stiffened slightly, which was interesting. The red faced man frowned at her. "I'm not sure who this person is, but it sounds like they know nothing of what happened."
"Uh uh, Clint smart." Oh, the wives jumped again. "Almost as smart as Phil." Another jump. "Natasha." Nothing, male names then. "Pietro."
"Are you... What are you doing?" the man said.
"Ignore her Vizh," Jocasta said. "She is still learning her position."
"Most have learned their position by now," Vizh murmured.
"She has not," Nekra stated. "She is most stubborn. If she doesn't learn soon, Husband may tire of her and gift her elsewhere."
Wanda blinked at that, wondering who Nekra was speaking of. Perhaps they wouldn't drug her and then she could make them all pay. She just wasn't sure that she'd be able to find her way back to the Rig or even to Phil's haven.
"Or give her to his army," Alkhema added, looking at Nekra.
"Father will do what is right," Vizh stated.
"Didn't think he had a boy," Wanda said, trying to focus on this. "Wants heirs."
"I am not an appropriate heir," Vizh stated with little inflection. "I am not worthy of leading after my father. I will advice father's true heir."
"Unless your brother kills you," Wanda replied. "Proves his worth by killing the unworthy." Plenty of stories about jealous younger brothers killing the older brothers out there. Apparently, it'd been a long running joke between Clint and his brother.
"Father would not..." Vizh stated, looking away. No, he was looking at Jocasta. Wanda couldn't see her face, but she broke, looking away away from the man that called her mother.
Vizh's eyes closed and he took a deep breath. When he opened them, he looked at this three students. "As I was saying, the world ended..."
Wanda tuned out what he was saying, but she couldn't deny that his voice was soothing as he spoke. The three women listened to him intently, asking for clarification or for more detail which he would share or promise to look into.
When he was done, Vizh made his way over to the edge of the water, dropping down to be closer to her level. Whatever he was wearing, looked bumpy, almost leathery.
"I am Vision," Vizh stated. "I will be coming in to teach you. If there are any subjects that you would like to know about..."
Wanda considered him for a long moment. "How to counteract whatever drug your asshole father is using one me."
"It's not wise to speak of my father..."
"Don't care, plenty of assholes out there," Wanda stated. She forced herself to laugh. "Going to be one less when I'm free, gonna pull out his heart, gonna crush it." She made a crushing motion with her hand as she grinned fiercely.
Vizh stared at her wide-eyed. "I... I don't think he'd reduce your drugs, if... you... think that."
"Won't tell him," Wanda replied.
Vizh frowned. "If there are any other subjects."
"Hydra," Wanda said.
Vizh tilted his head. "The beast from greek..."
"Nope, the organization. They called me the Witch," Wanda said. "My brother was Quicksilver."
"Your brother is most likely an oilbag or in the mines," Nekra stated. "Which means he's as good as dead in either place."
Wanda smiled, because Pietro hadn't been there, but now, now she knew where Clint and Phil were. Neither of them were going to be taken out by either of those places. Clint had survived worse and Phil... Phil didn't look tough, but he was.
Vizh rose steadily. "Let me know..."
"Told you... Hydra, Witches, this drug..." Wanda replied.
Vizh nodded once. "I don't think I can do that. If there's something else though." Vizh nodded again before walking to the door. He said a good-bye to all in the vault, before being allowed out.
Wanda sighed, he was too nice to be Ultron's heir. It was going to get him killed unless she could get herself free of this drug first.
"Afraid not," Wade replied, sounding tired. "I've tried it all before. It doesn't matter now."
Clint paused, frowning. "What do you mean it doesn't matter?"
Wade looks away. "They killed everyone that matters to me."
Clint nodded. "So you've given up?"
"Kind of, I mean, if I got the chance I would escape, but... I've tried everything I can think of..."
"Plus there's no point, I can hear everything you chatterboxes are saying," a man said, striding in.
"Hey Francis," Wade said and Clint could hear just how brittle Wade's voice was. Fake it until you make it, seemed to be what he was attempting. "I was talking to my new pal Clint."
"The name is Ajax," Francis growled.
Clint snorted. "Ajax? I mean, I get the whole not wanting to be called Francis thing, but Ajax?!"
"Are you enabling his hatred of his first name?" Wade asked.
"Well, I'm not so fond of my middle name," Clint replied.
"Clint! Please tell me, you don't share a name with him?!"
"Wasn't by choice," Clint remarked. "So why is... Ugh, I can't call him Ajax and I relate too much to the avoiding of Francis."
Ajax glared at them, settling his gaze on Clint. "I'm coming for you the next time we need an oil bag," he muttered to himself. "Another fucking talker."
He hit a button on the wall, which caused the floor of Wade's cage to fall open, and Wade to tumble out. His descent was halted by the chain that was wrapped around his ankles. He swung freely upside-down as Francis walked over to him, pulling out a long needle and injected its contents into Wade's neck.
"Wade?" Clint called as Francis moved back over to wall.
Wade dropped the rest of the way, landing with a sickening crunch. Francis only laughed, grabbing the chain and dragging Wade out of the room.
"Wade!" Clint called after them, pushing himself upright as much as possible in the narrow confines as he watched Wade being dragged out of the room. There wasn't any movement of Wade's body that wasn't caused by a him hitting a rock or outcropping, all of which Clint's eyes picked out. "Wade!!"
Clint was left alone, wondering if he'd done something to cause Wade's death. He eyed the controls, following the chains to figure out which ones he needed to hit. Now he just needed something to throw. His hands were tied with rope and he'd already loosened those. He eyed the chains at his feet, trying to determine if he could pick the locks. Granted, he didn't have his lockpicks either, so he needed something to pick the lock. He mentally cursed.
A few hours later, Francis returned, dragging Wade's bloody body with him. Clint glared as Francis rehooked Wade into a cage. It gave Clint more ideas on how their mechanism worked.
"Not so talkative now," Francis said, heading out of the room, laughing to himself.
"What the hell?!" Clint growled, looking over at Wade's dead body. Wade didn't deserve that, he deserved better. Clint squatted down in his cage, taking deep breaths trying to calm himself down. Natasha would come, they'd save Phil and Wanda, they'd find Barney. He'd put an arrow through that asshole's eyeball. Clint growled.
Clint shook his head, because he could hear Wade's bad jokes.
Clint looked up finding and meeting Wade's open eyes.
"Hey there, Hot Ass," Wade said, giving him a bloody smile.
"What the fuck?!" Clint growled, though now he realized. "Inhuman?"
"Well, that's rude." Wade snorted and then coughed, blood dripping down the side of his mouth. "I'm human. Just..."
"Experimented on, changed," Clint said.
Wade looked at him. "Well, you're taking this remarkably well."
"I've got friends."
Wade blinked. "Well, best to keep them away from here then. Francis likes pulling out my organs to use to keep Ultron's people alive. I'm sure he'd love to have others."
Clint smiled, slowly. "I don't think they can heal like you."
Wade frowned. "Then what?"
"I'll tell you when Francis can't hear us, I promise. I'm pretty sure two of them will be involved in saving us."
"I'm not leaving you here."
Clint snorted. "Sorry, actually found my soulmate."
Wade blinked. "Seriously?"
Wade nodded. "How'd you manage to find him in this world? I mean, the chances were low before the World Ended and now..."
"Even lower, couldn't believe it myself." Clint smirked. "But he's pretty amazing."
Wade stared at him, shaking his head. "We're a couple of freaks, aren't we Clint?"
"Not sure, I'd use that term. Glad that you're not dead though."
Wade smiled. "Take a lot to kill me."
Clint nodded. They fell silent, waiting for something.
When the sun was high, Wade stirred, tilting his head. "I think I can hear him snoring."
"I need a rock and something to pick a lock," Clint stated. "I think I can get us out of this."
Wade stared at him. "Those buttons are impossible to hit."
Clint shook his head. "I can hit it and I can pick the lock."
"While hanging upside down? Because I don't think you could get enough force from inside one of these things." Wade kicked the bars of his cage.
Clint considered the it, before shrugging. "I think I can do it from in here, just trickier. Definitely from upside down, I'm flexible."
Wade stared at him, before nodding. "I'll see what I can do. I can't guarantee anything."
"That's all I ask," Clint replied. He'd prefer to meet Natasha on the way out, rather than hanging in a cage... again.
"Hello?" Maria called, eyeing the one bare bulb providing minimum lighting to the room.
There was a grunt and Maria followed the sound to see Trip sleeping on a small cot.
Maria's eyes widened. "Trip?!"
Trip opened his eyes and managed a smile, but now Maria could make out the bruise on his face. "Hey, you're awake."
"What happened?" Maria asked.
"Pierce and Brock are using the flu to take over," Trip remarked as he pushed himself up.
"You don't sound upset."
"I've been down here a while, I've had time to come to terms," Trip offered with a slight sigh.
Maria blinked, before shaking her head. "But why am I here?"
Trip arched an eyebrow and Maria sighed.
"Hostage or power play?" Maria asked. She shook her head. "Both."
"And I'm here to make sure that your child survives" Trip agreed. "When the baby is born, we're both dead."
Maria sighed, shaking her head. "This is fucked up."
Trip nodded. "I know, I know." He smirked, a shadow of his usual one. "The good news is this is a more enforced bed rest than anything I could get you to agree to."
Maria punched his shoulder and glared.
"Tell me, I'm wrong!"
"You're not," Maria agreed after a long moment.
Trip hummed softly.
Maria glared around the room. No windows, one door, the hinges were on the outside. There were two slots on the door. "The underground cells. Damn, how'd they find out about this?"
"Maybe they're from another former military post, and found plans, just like we did."
"Why do I have a feeling that they caused whatever trouble they're running from?" Maria grumbled.
Trip arched an eyebrow.
"I'm getting soft. Wouldn't have trusted them so quickly before my pregnancy," Maria grumbled more to herself.
"We all trusted them, we’ve had a good run of outsiders. Only problems we’ve had lately have been with those who have already been here a while."
Maria sighed. "Jessica isn't the problem. She's probably our best bet for getting out of here."
Trip nodded. "They don't know...?"
Maria shook her head. "Nope, kept that one close. Shouldn't know about Elena either."
Trip smiled. "Makes me wish Lincoln was still around."
"If you're going to wish for that, wish for Daisy," Maria replied.
Trip chuckled. "I miss her."
"Her and Melinda would have taken them down."
"Unless they don't realize that we've been moved?"
Maria considered that and mumbled a curse. "Shit with the flu going around they could! We're sick, they have to stay away to avoid spreading the disease."
"We're going to die of this disease, you know?" Trip asked, sounding morose. "Or at least complications."
Maria sighed. "Yeah, I know, makes it real easy to take over, if we conveniently die of whatever this sickness is." She closed her eyes and shook her head, because the 'complication' was likely to be a bullet provided by Brock. She doubted Pierce would dirty his hands that much. "Hell, I think Jessica is sick and I know Bobbi is..."
Trip frowned. "You think they're targeting the leadership?"
Maria considered it before shaking her head. "Would it be possible?"
Trip was quiet as he thought about it "Maybe if they had a sample that could infect us with, or if it's poison and not the flu... No, too many people for poison." He tilted his head as he considered it. "Could be a combination though."
Maria nodded as she considered the door. "We need a plan."
"I know," Trip agreed.
"I refuse to be in need of rescuing."
Trip nodded. "I'm open to ideas."
Maria studied the door. Unfortunately a plan wasn't coming to mind, she needed time. She needed to learn how they were operating and if they'd managed to convince anyone else to join them. She needed more information, and she was thankful that Trip was with her, because he was a good fighter and could follow a plan, even though he preferred to save lives rather than take them. They could do this, they could find a way out.
Once the food was gone and the kids were asleep, Barney turned to look at Phil. "What are you thinking?"
"We need to get out of here."
"And just how are we going to do that?" Barney asked.
"We need to find Clint and Wanda."
"We can't get to Clint, much less Wanda," Barney hissed. "I don't think we can get out of here! Not get out and survive."
"Natasha is out there."
Barney frowned. "That doesn't mean she knows where we are."
"She'll figure it out."
"Maybe, we should stay put until she comes. If we're both on the move, then it's twice as hard to find..." Barney replied. "I have to think of my kids, if you want to run, go. I won't stop you, but I'm not going to get them killed."
Phil nodded. He'd had a feeling that this was going to happen, especially seeing how Barney tried to protect his children. There was some safety down here, his kids could grow up, but for how long? Phil looked over at Cooper. He was getting older and stronger, it wouldn't be long until Ultron decided to add him to the army. So far Lila was healthy, which meant she'd attract someone's eye when she got older and Wanda's fate could her own. Phil shuddered to think about either option, but these people were deranged. Barney was worried about the short term, he wasn't thinking long term like Phil was.
Sighing, Phil got up and stretched. "I'll be back later. Get some sleep."
Barney nodded slowly.
Phil slipped out of the alcove and headed toward the mine. For a brief moment, he could see the stars. He looked up and wondered if any of his friends could see them. He wondered if Maria was looking at them in the compound, or Fitz thinking of schematics with Mack behind him offering suggestions for parts. Was Daisy out there with Robbie looking up? He glanced up at the mountain and had a feeling his daughter could topple the whole thing. She was strong. Phil stumbled as he realized that there had been no sign of Wanda's abilities. She should have been able to shake everything as well. Her abilities were different, but the red flows of her power should have been evident. Unless something was keeping her from using her abilities? But what...
Phil sighed, ducking into the mine as he considered the options. Something had to be affecting Wanda. He couldn't imagine anyone holding the girl against her will. Was she dead already?
The mine work was monotonous. It gave him plenty of time to think and notice things. Most were beaten down and it took only a few guards to ensure the work was done. There was a guard shift change halfway through Phil's shift. Guards only had to work half as long as the undesirables.
He was exhausted by the time his shift was over and Phil started trudging toward the sleeping caverns. He could see the horizon and couldn't help but look. His eyes narrowed as he caught sight of a blur. Yes, he could barely track it as it made its way toward him. Phil hesitated before jogging out toward the open wasteland. "C'mon Pietro, notice me," he mumbled to himself.
The blur stopped and Phil caught the glint of silver moving in the rising sun. Phil nodded, turning back to gather his food and head into the sleeping cavern. He took his time, knowing that Pietro would need to plan his route carefully to follow him unseen.
He gestured toward alcoves that he knew were empty, that Pietro could pause in, before sprinting to the next. None of the guards that patrolled the sleeping area noticed Pietro and they gradually made their way to Barney's. Phil ducked into their alcove and wasn't surprised to be hugged.
"Phil!" Pietro said, lifting him briefly. That woke Barney's family up quickly and they went on the defensive.
"It's okay," Phil said, waving Barney back. "He's a friend."
"Where'd he come from?" Barney growled.
Pietro set him down, peering over Phil's shoulder. "Looks like old man, doesn't sound like old man."
"Barney," Phil replied.
Pietro looked stunned before laughing. "You get captured and find the brother." He shook his head. "Where's old man?"
"Elsewhere," Phil said.
"We think he's an oil bag," Barney added, giving Pietro a suspicious look.
"A what?" Pietro questioned, looking between the two men.
"They like machines," Phil stated. "Blood bag is the term Clint's used before."
Pietro nodded, pulling out a protein bar and starting to eat it. "Wanda?"
"Wherever Ultron keeps his wives," Barney answered.
Pietro glared, but looked upward.
"She hasn't," Phil started, trying to indicate her using her abilities. Pietro stared at him like he was insane, before suddenly realizing what Phil meant.
"She should have," Pietro said, shifting his feet.
"Where are the others?" Phil asked.
"Away, but they'll be here soon," Pietro said. "I think think Natasha has a plan. You'll be ready?"
Phil nodded. "Of course."
Pietro looked at Barney. "You too. Old man will bitch if we leave you behind."
"Old man?" Barney asked, arching an eyebrow.
"Clint," Phil answered.
"You realize I'm older than Clint, right?" Barney asked, looking at Pietro.
"Then I guess, you're Older Man," Pietro replied.
"Two people against all of this?" Barney asked. "Are you insane?"
"Four, we've got Phil and Kate, Five when we find Clint." Pietro replied, looking unconcerned. He looked back at Phil. "I'll see if we can whip up some sort temporary prosthetic."
"Thank you Pietro," Phil said. "I take it you're leaving."
"I was supposed to get the lay of the land, but now I know where you two are, I can tell Kate how to get here with everything."
Phil nodded. "Do you have a signal?"
Pietro shrugged. "Tasha hasn't told me how we'll know. I assume it will be something that we assume is natural, but looking back we'll assume it was a sign. If it was Old Man, I'd think explosion."
Phil huffed a laugh before shaking his head. "We'll be ready. Have Kate get the Rig close to load Barney and his family. Once they're loaded, I'll help the search for Clint."
Pietro nodded and then disappeared.
"Where did he go?" Barney asked.
"He's fast," Phil said, shrugging. He looked at Barney. "I won't work tomorrow night. I have a feeling it's all going to go down then."
Barney considered him for a long moment before nodding. "Might be best for me not to go in today. Save our energy."
Phil nodded, glad that Barney had agreed with him. He hoped that everything would work out. All they could do was wait.
She was playing their game, but by her own rules. Trip was missing, but Pierce and Rumlow were claiming he was sick. She knew Maria was missing, but they were also claiming she'd fallen ill. They'd tried to get Simmons to come and check on Maria since she was the second best doctor here, but Elena had reported that Simmons had fallen ill.
Elena said she'd felt bad for a day, but had gotten over it quickly. She believed Jessica about what was going on with Pierce and together they'd be able to verify what each other said. It was just a matter of getting everyone together without letting Pierce or Brock get wind of it. Or at least having the meeting before getting busted.
Thankfully, everyone who knew about Jessica and Elena's abilities weren't talking to Pierce and Rumlow. Jessica was starting to worry about it though, because they were convincing others to join him. Pierce was imposing harsh new rules and saying they were coming from Maria, and far too many people believed him.
Jessica paused outside Bobbi's window and pulled it up, going through window in a roll, before coming face to face with two guns.
"Jessica?" Hunter asked. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"We've got trouble," Jessica stated.
Bobbi lowered her weapon, tucking it away. "Tell me about it. Maria's sick."
Jessica shook her head. "She's not. She's gone. Her room is empty."
Hunter looked back and forth between them, lowering his weapon but not putting it away. "What were you doing in her room? You've been sick!"
Bobbi glared at him. "She kicked it faster than any of us. How bad are things?"
"It's not just Pierce and Brock anymore. They've got the majority convinced that Maria is a pregnant bitch," Jessica answered. "Brock has been talking about how bad Melinda has been for the Wall, and how secretive Simmons is and..." Jessica shook her head. "And it doesn't sound like Pierce is happy with you either, Bobbi."
"How many people believe this shit?" Hunter asked.
"I'd say only the mechanics are still loyal," Jessica admitted. "But that's because when Mack was sick, Fitz was there and when Fitz fell ill, Mack was there and neither of them would hear ill of the other."
"Those two blokes are pretty much in love with one another," Hunter muttered to himself.
"I'll try and get a meeting called without Pierce," Bobbi said with a nod.
"If you can think of a place, we can have Elena deliver the message?" Jessica suggested.
Bobbi nodded. "I'll keep that in mind, especially since we're going to have to be careful."
"Thank you, Bobbi," Jessica murmured, grateful that Bobbi was taking it seriously.
Jessica grinned and slipped out the window, before heading back to her room, slipping in through the window on quiet feet. She climbed into bed, considering where Bobbi was in her recuperation, and where she herself should be. She'd need to start making appearances, acting still sick, but getting better. It would take time. She gradually drifted to sleep.
Jessica levered herself up out of bed to fake a shuffle to the cafeteria to get some food. She kept her ears open as she listened to the gossip, catching conversations. None of it was positive toward Maria, most people were discussing who was falling sick, who was recovering, and…
Jessica paused, when she overheard that someone had fallen sick again. She closed her eyes, hoping that a second round of the illness wasn't making its way through the compound.
“You’re looking better,” Brock said, appearing in front of her.
“Feeling a bit better,” Jessica replied. “I think maybe I could do some work. If Maria needs me?”
“Maria is sick now, best to stay away for a bit,” Brock reported.
Jessica frowned. “Is she okay? What about the baby? I know Trip’s been really ill…”
“We’re trying to find Simmons, since she’s recovered. Have you seen her?”
Jessica shook her head. “I just came down to get some food and go back to my room. Unless I was needed.”
“Of course,” Brock said, studying her.
Jessica hesitated, before tamping down control of her pheromones. She’d have to be too precise if she unleashed them. Just enough to get Brock to leave her alone and not fill the room, but she didn’t have that kind of control. Brock stepped aside.
Jessica hurried through the line, making sure to get a little extra for later, since she was supposed to be holed up in her room. She felt something in her pocket, but when she turned there was no one nearby. She scanned the crowd, spotting and meeting Elena’s eyes across the room. She raised her eyebrows, before leaving.
Jessica headed back to her rooms. She waited until she was alone in her room to read the note that Elena has slipt into her pocket. ‘Midnight in one of the buildings in the abandoned area of town.’ Jessica hated to waste the paper, but she destroyed it, just in case.
She ate some food and then took another nap. Once darkness fell, she slipped out again to do a bit more spying, before heading to the meeting. She wanted to know where Brock and Pierce were before the meeting started.
Once she knew where they were and what they were up to, she headed to the meeting spot. The building was at the end of row and she spotted Elena at the top of the street. Jessica kept to the roofs though, entering and climbing down into the interior. Everyone else was already there.
“We have to do something,” Simmons was saying. “I don’t know where Trip or Maria are and they know we’re hiding something. They keep trying to catch me alone!”
“Project Icebox?” Hunter asked.
Simmons nodded. “It makes sense if that’s what they’re after.”
“Project Icebox?” Jessica asked, as she landed.
The others jumped, looking at her.
“What? I don’t think I’ve heard any of the projects having names,” Jessica stated.
“It’s… none of your concern,” Simmons stated.
Jessica rolled her eyes. “Well, I’m pretty sure they’re after all of you, and the only safe one is Mack, because the mechanics are all loyal.”
Jemma blinked. “The medics?”
“I’m pretty sure Brock got to them first,” Jessica said with a shrug. “I know they have Watchers. They’re appealing to the men’s sexism. We women should be popping out babies.”
Bobbi made a face. “Seriously?”
Jessica shrugged. “I only listened in.”
“You spied on them?” Simmons asked.
Jessica nodded. “People don’t look up very often and they’re not aware of my abilities, so I used them. I know they have Trip and Maria locked up somewhere. I’ve tried to find them, but I don’t know where they are.”
“What else do you know?” Melinda asked.
“It looks like they’ve been signaling someone at night… I… think they have friends on the outside.”
“Where?” Melinda asked.
“Northeast of here.”
“Bobbi and I could try and scout there,” Hunter offered, looking at Bobbi.
Melinda shook her head. "We need back up…"
"Where are we going to get that?" Fitz asked.
"Phil was headed North, a quick bike might be able to catch up to him and get back."
"Lincoln went South," Jessica added.
"And Daisy went west," Ftiz replied. "The world is big, doesn't mean we're going to find them!"
"But we need to try, before we all end up dead," Melinda agreed, considering everything. She looked at Mack. "We have four bikes to spare?"
Mack nodded. "Three and the Mockingbird."
"You're kicking me out?" Bobbi asked.
"It's not safe for you," Melinda replied. "Not safe for me or Simmons either."
"Icebox would be safer if I was gone. It shouldn't be harmed too much if it's left on its own for a while," Simmons said.
"I'll go after Phil," Melinda replied.
"I'd be willing to go find Lincoln," Jessica volunteered. "Unless someone else wanted to."
"I'll go West," Simmons said. "See if I can find Daisy."
"Which way should I go?" Bobbi asked.
"Go east, see if you can find someone to help out." Melinda suggested. "We need help, thanks to us getting sick, they're entrenched. They've made friends and allies, so we need to find our own." She looked at Mack. "Think you can hold the fort?"
"I could with just Fitz and Elena, but you're also leaving me Hunter and he makes things more difficult."
Hunter glared at Mack, who smirked back at him. Melinda smiled and even Jessica could tell the mood was lightened by Mack teasing Hunter. Melinda looked over at Jessica and nodded. "See if you can convince Lincoln to come back."
Jessica nodded. "So how are we getting out of here?"
Melinda turned back to the group. "Anyone have any ideas? We're going to need a distraction."
“Wives,” Ultron boomed. “Another wife has presented herself to me, prepare her. I shall return in an hour.”
Wanda forced herself to open her eyes to see that the other wives had already moved to greet the new woman. Wanda caught sight of long red hair and frowned. She’d thought that maybe it was Natasha, but it apparently wasn’t. She let her eyelids droop and relaxed into it. Maybe, she’d be able to break free of the drugs, since Ultron would be busy with his other wife. It might be the opportunity she needed.
She opened her eyes again when she heard a slight whine and the thumps of bodies hitting the floor. A few seconds later, Natasha looked down at her.
“Hair,” Wanda said, snorting, because Natasha suddenly had a lot of hair.
Natasha laughed, pulling the wig off to reveal her usual closely shaved sides with the longer strands on top. “You okay?”
“Drugs, can’t…” Wanda shook her head.
Natasha sighed. “I’ve got two options for that, neither of them are great.”
“Tell me,” Wanda replied.
Natasha pulled out a syringe containing a red liquid. “It’s Pietro’s blood, he tends to burn through everything. His blood might burn through the drugs in your system.” Natasha held up her other hand with a bracelet in it. “This’ll shock your system. Some pain to get you to focus and force the drug out yourself. What do you want to try?”
“Blood,” Wanda replied.
Natasha nodded before coming over and plunging the needle into Wanda’s arm. Wanda was really fucking tired of needles. She tried to focus on the injection and it felt like something was happening. The sensation went from non-existent to a strong burning in seconds. Wanda couldn’t help her scream as the burning spread throughout her body.
Seconds, minutes, hour later, she felt clearer than she had in days.
Natasha was standing back, arching an eyebrow.
Wanda slid off the bed and reached for her magic, pushing the vault door open with a loud clatter. “It worked.”
“Clearly,” Natasha agreed, launching herself at some of the stunned guards.
Wanda drew her power and batted a group of guards into the wall as she strode out of the room. “Where’s Pietro?”
“Trying to find Clint,” Natasha answered. “Kate is bringing the rig in, once we give the signal.”
“Signal?”Wanda asked, looking at Natasha, who shrugged.
“Never quite figured that part out.”
Wanda huffed, before eyeing the broken door. “Are we high up or low?”
“Middle.” Natasha said.
“Which way is the wasteland?”
Natasha considered a brief moment, before pointing toward her left. Wanda gathered her power, then forced the the door in that direction, pushing it through rock and whatever else was in its way. She pushed until she could see the night sky and then let the momentum carry it even further.
“Let’s go find Husband,” Wanda growled. “It’s time he learns that it’s not nice to take what it isn’t his.”
“This a vengeance thing?” Natasha asked.
Wanda nodded. “I promised his son I was going to tear his heart out and crush it.”
Natasha considered it, before nodding. “Not like I was planning on letting him live.”
There was a blur and Wanda found herself being lifted up. She almost swatted at her brother with her power, but managed to rein it in. “You’re alive!”
“I’m alive.” Wanda agreed, smiling down at him. “Did you find Clint?”
“Old man has made a friend, I found them weapons, they’re very happy killing people, especially since they made him into blood bag.”
“Phil?” Wanda asked as Pietro set her down.
“Also given guns. Kids are safely in the Rig.”
“Kids?” Wanda asked.
“Old man’s niece and nephews. Barney is helping Phil take out guards down in mines. Do you need me for anything?”
“We’re going to eliminate Ultron,” Wanda replied. “But I think we have it handled.”
Pietro nodded. “Then I’m going to go help Phil, he’s going to get himself killed by offering people a chance to give up.”
Natasha shook her head. “Sounds like Phil.”
“What about Kate?”
“Killing anything that comes that comes near the Rig that isn’t with one of us.” Pietro answered, his eyes taking on a faraway look. “She’s…. amazing.”
Wanda smiled at him. “Go help Phil. Clint will be mope and pout if he dies.”
Pietro snorted, but he took off. He came back almost immediately. “No dying.”
“Same goes for you,” Wanda replied.
Pietro nodded and then ran off again.
“Ready to go kill a Warlord?” Natasha asked.
Wanda nodded, drawing her power to her, so that she would be ready. Ultron would regret forcing her to be his wife.
"Jessica," Melinda called to her gently. Jessica glanced over at her and Melinda arched an eyebrow.
Jessica arched an eyebrow as she looked over at her.
"You both know the plan?" Melinda asked.
"Still don't like it," Fitz muttered, under his breath.
Jemma smiled. "Have you come up with any better ideas for a distraction?"
Fitz scowled. "No?"
"Then we don't have a choice," Mack stated. "Elena will set the fire shortly and Bobbi is already out there."
"West gate is ours tonight," Melinda said with a nod, kicking the kickstand up, but not starting her bike. Jemma followed suit after one last hug for Fitz, before following her. Jessica glanced away, giving them a bit of privacy.
"Hey, Jess," Mack said.
Jessica turned and looked at him.
"You be safe out there too." One of his warm hands landed on her shoulder. "Maria is going to be pissed if she doesn't get her spidery assistant back."
Jessica managed a brief smile. "I will."
"Good," Mack said with a nod.
They made their way through the back alleys sticking to the buildings’ shadows until they neared the west gate. Jessica took a deep breath, breathing it out slowly.
"Nervous?" Jemma asked, looking at her.
Jessica nodded. "Yeah, you?"
"Terrified," Jemma said. "I… What if there's something worse out there?"
"There's always something worse," Jessica said.
"Not very comforting."
"Not to meant to be, but we're protecting something good. Sometimes we have to get through the bad to find something good, something that's worth saving."
"That's how you think of this place?" Jemma asked.
Jessica nodded. "I don't where, I don't know how long it will take me, but I'm going to find help and come back."
Jemma smiled and nodded.
There was a bang from the interior of the compound and Jessica couldn't help, but look back over her shoulder. It wasn't long before there was yelling and Jessica could catch the scent of burning buildings. Fitz hated to waste the material, but the building they'd selected wasn't going to much use to the wall.
Melinda climbed on her bike and Jessica and Jemma followed suit. Guards were slowly being called away until there were only a few left. It wouldn't have mattered, because Melinda had managed to fix the schedule so that everyone left on this gate was loyal to her rather than Pierce. They just had to wait until most people's attention was on the fire that Elenda was going to start and when Hunter thought it was the safest, he'd raise the gate.
"Come on Hunter," Melinda murmured to herself. "You know that those that can't help will get bored and wander back if we wait too long."
Jemma swallowed and Jessica couldn't help but reach over and pat her hand. "You got this."
Jemma offered a hesitant smile and nodded, strapping on her helmet.
The gate began to go up and Melinda started her engine. Once more Jemma and Jessica followed her example, waiting for her to leave before following her out. Melinda didn't slow down as she passed through the gate, but her hand came up, a gesture of thanks? A promise? Jessica wasn't sure what it meant, but she didn't dare look back to see if the gesture was being returned by the guards on duty.
They rode together for about an hour, before Melinda slowed down, coming to a halt. She looked at Jemma. "This is your last chance, the two of us can head north together and we'll send Jessica west. Two people have a better shot at survival than one." She looked at Jessica. "Or all of three of us can stick together."
"That's not the plan," Jessica stated. "But if Jemma would rather ride with you, I'd understand…"
Melinda nodded. "I figured you'd say that." She looked back at Jemma. "Well?"
Jemma swallowed, before shaking her head slightly. "I'm going west."
Melinda smiled and though she was typically tough to read, Jessica could see the pride shining through. "Good luck, both of you."
Melinda revved her bike and turned it northward, heading off into the night.
Jemma looked at Jessica, eyes wide.
"You got this, go," Jessica said, tilting her head westward.
Jemma nodded, starting her bike and heading off.
Jessica took a deep breath and studied the tracks that the other two women had left. There wasn't any way she could disguises that they split off here, not without wasting valuable time. Maybe if she had Daisy's powers, she'd risk lingering to cover the others' tracks. Instead, she climbed on her bike and turned south.
The goal was to drive as long and as far as you could without stopping to rest. She needed to get as much distance as possible. She had managed to take quick nap and a have good meal, before leaving the compound, so could travel further than if she hadn't.
She drove as the moon set to her right and the sun rose on her left. Stopping around midday when she found a spot that was tucked out of the way for her to get a few minutes of sleep and to eat. When she woke up, she drove on. After that, She stopped a bit more often to eat and drink something.
It was on the fourth night that she caught sight of a war party, and the war party caught sight of her. She mentally cursed, trying to avoid them, but they followed after her, chasing her down until she was forced to stop before she'd be too exhausted to fight. She found a spot where she might be able to stand her ground under a lone tree.
"Hope you provide some cover," Jessica murmured to it.
She pulled the guns out of her kit, readying them for the battle.
One car came to a stop as the others circled around her, fencing her in, and the driver got out. "What's a pretty thing like you doing out here all by her lonesome?"
"Looking for a friend," Jessica answered, raising her gun.
"I can be your friend," the driver said. "We can all be your friends."
Jessica thought she heard someone snort. She was paying more attention to the others getting out of their cars. "Not interested."
"You come nicely and we won't have to hurt you, be a shame if we did. You're outnumbered sweetcheeks."
"I can take some of you out." Jessica stated.
Jessica fired, putting a bullet in his shoulder.
"You're going to pay for that, I'm going to knock out all your…"
Jessica put the next bullet through his head. She should have done it in the first place. She turned, firing at one of the other men that was advancing and firing his own gun. Then another, trying to hit whoever was closest until she was hit, the bullet embedding itself in shoulder. She bit back a scream and tried to keep firing until one man was on top of her, kicking her gun away and punching her. He started to drag her away by her hair and Jessica felt the pheromones surge out of her body. He flung her head into the dirt and she groaned, fighting to stay conscious.
"Damn lady, that stench of yours..." a voice said from the tree.
She felt herself slipping away and forced herself to stay conscious. She forced her eyes open to find herself looking into a pair of beady black eyes looking down at her.
"Hey Cap'n, we got a fighter that needs medical."
"Who?" Jessica gasped out, thinking she must be seeing things.
"Don't worry, the Captain will protect you," the creature said as Jessica lost the fight to stay conscious and passed out again.
Clint blinked, looked back, and yep, Wade had swords now. He wasn't exactly sure where Wade had found those, but he was apparently proficient with them.
“Not often,” Clint replied, grateful that Pietro had brought his bow and a quiver full of arrows. If any of metal fused thugs came after them with any type of weapon, Clint was putting an arrow through them. He could pick out where the metal was the weakest.
Groups were difficult, but Wade was happy to hack and chop at their attackers as they made their way out. They moved together surprisingly well, covering each other’s back. The only issue Clint had was that Wade would occasionally…
“FRANCIS!! COME OUT TO PLAY!!” Wade yelled. “Getting tired of killing people that aren’t you!”
Clint sighed, readying an arrow, because they always charged after Wade yelled his a challenge. Francis had yet to show himself though. This time turned out to be different, neither of the thugs came after them.
“Where do you think he is?” Wade asked, grabbing a couple of guns.
Clint shook his head. “No idea. We need to get out of here though.”
“You know what he did to me,” Wade growled.
Clint nodded. “Wade…”
He trailed off as a tall woman suddenly appeared in the doorway. Clint blinked, but the woman didn’t move.
“Hey Angel,” Wade greeted. “Where’s your boss?”
“You know this lady?” Clint asked.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure her and Francis are fucking,” Wade replied. “She’s a little strong.”
Clint considered that, before lifting his bow and firing an arrow. He grabbed another one and fired it almost immediately, mentally counting down until the BOOM!
“Clinton!” Wade said, turning to look at him with wide eyes. “Was that a bomb arrow?”
Clint shrugged. “Yeah.”
“I think I want to have your babies,” Wade replied, staring at him.
“Uh, Wade…” Clint started, grabbing another arrow when Angel started to get up again. He also caught sight of a familiar figure. “Shit. I’ll handle her, you get Francis?”
“I don’t know where he is though,” Wade pointed out.
“Past the hole I just made,” Clint replied.
Wade looked at him and nodded. “We’re going to have a talk about how amazing your eyes are.”
Clint fired a few arrows to cover Wade, simple broadheads that stuck in Angel’s skin. She growled, turning and running at him. Clint jumped up, grabbing the cage and firing a tazer arrow on his way back down. Angel screamed.
Smirking, Clint realized that she was under a cage. He fired an arrow toward the mechanism on the wall, opening the cage and dropping the chain down. Then he darted forward, quickly wrapping the chain around her ankle. She grabbed him, but not before he fired another arrow, which started the mechanism to haul her up.
Angel grunted in surprise, losing her grip, and Clint flattened himself to the floor to make sure she couldn’t grab hold of him, before rolling away. Clint tilted his head. “Not the best shirt for when you're upside down.”
With that he took after Wade. He knew which way Francis had been headed. It wasn't too far before he caught sight of the splatters of blood and followed those. He rounded a corner and fired an arrow, even as he was just comprehending that Francis had Wade on the ground and was about to behead him a sword. The arrow was a distraction, giving Wade the chance to grab another sword that was on the floor and drive it into his attacker.
“Bastard!” Wade yelled as Francis died. Wade looked like he was ready to do something to the corpse.
“Wade, we gotta go. You heard Pietro.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Wade said, pulling out his sword and picking up the one that Francis had been using. “Let’s go finish saving your family.”
“Hey, think we need another vehicle?” Wade asked, looking a bit more perky. Emotional whiplash was something Clint was going to have watch out for with Wade. “I know where they keep them.”
Clint considered the question before nodding. There had to be something they could steal and with the kids the Rig was going to be even more crowded.
Wade grinned before taking off down the hall. They entered the garage. “We need something fast, durable…”
“Something easy and quick to steal,” Clint added, spotting a potential.
“Oo, Clint, look at this baby!” Wade yelled.
Clint turned and frowned at the vehicle. There was no hood to speak of and Clint wondered where the engine was. Wade was climbing in the driver’s door and…
“Wade!” Clint called out trying to stop Wade from starting it as he mentally crossed his fingers, 'Please don’t start.'
The vehicle started and Wade laughed. “Yes, I want to keep it! The back end is big, the kids can sleep back there or you and your soulmate!”
Clint sighed. “If this breaks down, I’m not wasting parts on fixing it.”
Wade climbed out, going over to grab some crates of who knows what to throw in and throwing them into back. Clint scanned the vehicle again. It looked untouched from before the World Ended and completely impractical in the wasteland. There were two doors on one side to open to the back and one long seat for a driver and the passenger. Clint could make out the the VW sign on the front, he’d seen it on other vehicles.
“Quit with the face, she’ll be fine,” Wade called as he rolled a drum over.
Clint sighed. “Sure, she will.” He eyed the drum. “What’s in there?”
“Guzzolene!” Wade replied, lifting it into the van. “I think we're ready!” He climbed in the driver’s side and shut the doors. Clint reluctantly climbed in on the passenger side as Wade drove out of the garage.
“Oh hey, sunroof, you can do your arrow thing,” Wade said, pointing upward. “Promise not to cop a feel.” Wade waggled his eyebrows at him and Clint forced it open, fulling expecting to feel a hand on his ass. He pulled a couple of bomb arrows and aimed at the top of their garage, causing the garage ceiling to cave in with boulders landing on top of their vehicles. Best to limit pursuit after all.
“Head toward the War Rig,” Clint yelled, gesturing to where they could see the Rig waiting on the horizon.
Clintlooked back and smiled, seeing Wanda propel herself through the air toward the Rig. The side door opened and closed, before Pietro slowed down enough that Clint could see the mocking salute, before speeding up.
“What the hell is this thing?” Natasha yelled.
“Where the hell did you come from?!” Wade yelled.
Clint sighed and wondered what the hell was his life, but the Rig was getting bigger and Clint could make out Phil standing outside and Kate on top.
Wade’s vehicle pulled to a stop in front of the War Rig and Clint clambered out. “Phil!”
They met halfway, pulling each other into a kiss. Clint cupped Phil’s jaw, deepening the kiss, then he pulled back. “Are you okay?”
Phil nodded. “You?”
“Didn’t have a chance to use me as a blood bag,” Clint commented, stroking Phil’s cheek. “Where’s your arm?”
“They took it,” Phil groused.
“We’ll get you another,” Clint promised, leaning in to capture Phil’s lips again.
“Yay, they’re making out… again,” Pietro commented from far too close for comfort.
Clint pulled away to glare at him, but found Barney instead. “Barney!” He moved to hug his brother, but found his brother grabbing his hand and looking from it to Phil’s cheek.
“How the hell did you find your soulmate?!” Barney asked, pulling Clint into a hug.
Clint laughed, squeezing him. “I have no clue.”
“We should move,” Natasha stated. “Get some miles, before stopping to rest. Rig is getting crowded. I’ll ride with your new friend.”
Clint nodded, moving to hug Wanda and Kate. “I can drive the Rig, I missed her.”
“I figured,” Natasha agreed. “Kate - take the lookout. Wanda and Pietro will ride with me.”
“Who said they’re allowed in my van?” Wade asked. “It’s my van…. Oh, that’s a nice knife. I guess I can make room, but only Clint and I are allowed to sex in it.”
Clint happened to catch the disgusted look on Pietro’s face.
“One, Ew, Two Wanda and I are siblings, Three - Ew,” Pietro stated. “Just to be clear the the Ew is referring to the Old Man having sex.”
“Old Man?” Wade asked. “You’re calling Hot Ass OLD MAN?!”
Clint laughed as he watched Kate make her way to the back look out and Phil climb in on the passenger side. Barney was already climbing up as well.
“Pietro, I’m tired,” Wanda said, climbing into the van and shoving crates and whatever else Wade had tossed in around. Pietro glared at Wade, before climbing in as well and closing the door.
Clint started to climb up before he realized he’d forgotten one thing. He dropped back down, quickly pulling Natasha into a hug, before she could protest, and then letting her go. “Thanks.”
“You’d do the same for me,” Natasha murmured.
“I would,” Clint agreed, walking backward toward the Rig. They climbed into two different vehicles to head away from the destruction left in their wake.
"Jessica has. The question is, will they listen to her?"
Maria sighed. "Hopefully they will. They're not stupid."
"But they don't trust her," Trip pointed out. "Especially, Not Fitz and Simmons."
"I know, maybe after this they will."
"Nothing like an outside enemy to bring everyone together?" Trip asked, offering a smile grin.
"Exactly," Maria said, pushing herself to sit up. She groaned at the sudden pain that rocked her lower body. "Shit!"
Trip sat up in his chair. "Maria?"
"Just a contraction," Maria grunted out.
"C'mon," Trip said, going over to help her up. "Let's do some laps around the room. That can help."
Maria latched onto Trip's arm and tried not to dig in her nails into him. When the pain suddenly got worse, she unconsciously did, though. It subsided once she was on her feet. She eyed his arm. "Sorry."
"S'alright, you're getting close." Trip said, guiding her away from the bed.
Maria sighed. "We may need rescuing."
Trip nodded. "Could be a false alarm. The body does that to get you ready for the real thing."
"And if it's the actual thing?"
"I don't know…" Trip admitted. "I just… I think they're waiting until you have the baby."
"Yeah," Maria agreed. "Women die giving birth."
Trip stopped. "You don't think…?"
Maria nodded. "I think we're both dead once this baby is born."
Trip eyed the door. "I can't think of any way to get out of here. Everything…"
"I know," Maria said with a nod. "We have to trust they have a plan."
"Makes me wish Daisy came back."
Maria smiled. "We wouldn't be in this mess if Daisy was around. Or Clint and Natasha's group."
Trip elbowed her gently. "What if they came back?"
Maria laughed. "I can't see either group coming back."
"Daisy was going to find herself, learn some control. If she learned control, why wouldn't she come back?"
Maria smiled at the thought. "She'll know what happened, if no one is left here that she knows. She'll level this place. We'll be avenged at the very least."
It was a somewhat comforting thought. If she died, the others would make Pierce and Brock pay. She hoped it wouldn't come to that. She hoped there was a plan, and that whatever it was - was going to happen soon.
"How long?" Maria asked.
Trip was quiet, but she could tell he was trying to figure out how long they'd been down here. "You could have the baby any time now, probably no more than a week or two."
Somehow, Clint had guided them to a small outcropping of sickly looking trees. But, Phil mused privately, that was because Clint was pretty damn amazing. The kids were given a chance to run around under Barney’s watchful eye. Clint was crawling all over the Rig in the fading light, checking on it. Natasha dug into some of their secret compartments to pull out blankets that were put in Wade’s van.
Phil side-eyed Wade when he declared that Natasha was making a “love nest!” Clint snorted his amusement. Phil glanced back and decided to check on Clint again. He could go and check on the others, but making sure Clint was all right was a priority. Plus, Phil wanted to drag him to the other side of the trees and…
Get smacked with a wet washcloth.
“You need to wash up,” Clint said, stripping off his shirt. “I thought you could help me.”
“Yes,” Phil said, pulling off his own shirt so that Clint would be able to touch and enjoy.
“Are they always like this?” Barney’s voice drifted from the campfire.
“Worse,” Pietro said. Phil could hear Wanda’s laugh and her voice, but couldn’t make out the words.
“We are so snuggling tonight,” Clint murmured.
“Only if by snuggle, you mean sex. I… I was worried about you,” Phil said softly, pressing the washcloth against Clint’s chest and wiping it clean.
“I’m okay.” Clint kissed Phil’s forehead. “Not the one that you should be worried about.”
Phil glanced back at the group, scanning them. “Wanda?”
“I know what Warlords do, Phil. She never… Nothing like that,” Clint murmured.
“She’s tougher than she looks,” Phil reminded him. “Remember, she was experimented on.”
“I know, I just… I promised myself I would protect her and I… I failed.”
Phil kissed Clint’s neck gently. “You tried, we both did. We were taken with her.”
“I shouldn’t have let her…”
“No,” Phil murmured. “She didn’t go far, she’s an adult. You can’t control her. You just need to give her the skills to survive.”
Clint smirked as he looked at Phil. “Really? I seem to remember you not being happy when Daisy left.”
Phil made a noise, about to object that it wasn’t the same, but he could see the parallels. between Wanda and Daisy.
“Pietro will keep Wanda grounded, just like Robbie will for Daisy.” Clint murmured. They’d apparently given up on washing, preferring to just drift close and touch. Clint was whole, he was safe and sound. Some part of Phil just wanted to drag him away, but not right now, later.
“We need to talk,” Natasha said, slipping between them. “But before that we should eat. Go hunt!”
“Nat,” Clint whined.
“Don’t care,” Natasha said, moving over near where Pietro had built a small fire, probably with Wanda’s help.
Clint sighed, looking at Phil.
“C’mon,” Phil stated. “If she’s doing this, it’s important.”
“Fine,” Clint relented.
Phil leaned in and kissed him quickly.
Clint sighed. “C’mon Kate! Let’s go hunting.”
“Can I come?” Wade asked.
“Can you be quiet?”
Phil smiled, heading over to the fire to check on the others. The kids were running around and Phil watched them with mild curiosity. Pietro was gathering wood, stacking it in spurts while playing with the kids. Wanda was curled up watching the fire and when there was a small pile, Phil saw it spark.
“I owe you an apology,” Barney said, dropping down next to him.
“Hmm?” Phil asked, looking at him.
“I didn’t believe that you were Clint’s soulmate, but… I was wrong,” Barney said, looking away. “I still can’t believe it, but… There’s no way to fake that color change.”
“I can’t believe it either,” Phil replied, shaking his head. “I’m a lucky guy to have him.”
Barney snorted. “You hurt him, I’m going to have to kill you, you know that right?”
Phil arched an eyebrow as he looked at Barney.
“He’s my little brother, I have to look out for him.”
“His friends just saved your ass.”
“You realize Natasha didn’t even try to do this ’If you hurt him, I'll hurt you,’ thing. If she’s not concerned, do you really think you should be?”
Barney shifted, looking away and radiating his discomfort. “No.” He looked back at Phil. “But he’s my little brother. I get to do this.”
Phil snorted and shook his head. “Sure.”
Once the fire was going, Pietro paused in front of Phil and twitched.
Phil arched an eyebrow, waiting for the younger man to say whatever he wanted to say.
“I-know-you’re-a-badass,-but-I-can-go-back-and-search,-if-you-want?” Pietro finally spat out, words running together. Phil stared at him and waited until Pietro repeated it with actual spaces between the words.
“Search for what?”
Phil bit his lip and he considered it. “How about we discuss it when Clint and Natasha get back? I’d like it back, but it’s not worth you getting hurt.”
“I’d be careful,” Pietro replied.
Phil shook his head. “We’ll talk.”
Pietro nodded again, before turning away and going to sit near Wanda. He could hear the rise and fall of their voices. It wasn’t long before Kate, Clint, and Wade came back and the others, including Natasha, went about their normal routines. It didn’t take long before the food was ready and everyone was able to eat. When they were finished, Barney took his kids to settle down to sleep.
“While he’s doing that, I have an idea?” Pietro said.
Clint and Natasha looked at him, arching an eyebrow together.
“Freaky,” Wade murmured, looking up from where he was cleaning his gun.
“I want to go back,” Pietro said.
Clint grimaced, as if he was tasting something disgusting. “Why?”
“Because Phil’s missing his prosthetic and I might be able to find it,” Pietro explained. “I know he can handle himself, but he’s used to having it.”
Nat and Clint looked over at him.
“I can manage, I don’t want him to get hurt. Not for this.”
Nat tilted her head. “I suppose, it depends on where we go next.”
“Starktown?” Clint replied.
“Or we go back to Phil’s Haven?” Natasha said. “Take a few days to recuperate, get Phil a new arm. This was a bit more trying than I thought; and Clint, we know what’s between us and Starktown.”
Clint considered it for a long moment.
“Phil's haven is pretty safe,” Natasha pointed out.
“Is this so you can see Maria again?” Clint asked, arching an eyebrow.
Natasha shrugged. “Wanda has been through something…”
“I’m fine,” Wanda stated. “I don’t need special treatment.”
“No, you’re not,” Clint said. “You might think you are, but you’re not.”
“Ultron is dead.”
“Loki is on another planet in space jail.”
Phil turned and looked at Clint, shaking his head. “What the hell does that mean?”
“I told you, Phil, aliens.”
Wanda let out a snort of laughter. It started small, but grew. Suddenly she was up and wrapping her arms around Clint. Clint smiled, tugging her close.
“What brought this on?” Clint murmured into her hair.
“I like your alien theory!” Wanda said, leaning into him. “I told Ultron’s son about it. It’s so ridiculous!”
Clint kept his arm wrapped around her. “Not ridiculous.”
“We got company!” Kate yelled, grabbing her bow and heading toward the Rig. They all moved, grabbing weapons and raising them.
Clint relaxed his bow first. “That looks like Melinda.”
“Really?” Phil asked, trying to determine if the motorcycle was indeed carrying Melinda. It took a few minutes before Phil dropped his own weapon as did Natasha.
“It is,” Phil agreed.
Wanda, Pietro, Kate, and Barney took a seat again while they waited for Melinda to arrive. She pulled off her helmet and smiled.
“Phil,” she greeted. “Didn’t think I’d find you!”
Phil stepped toward her and pulled her into a hug. Melinda returned it.
“What are you doing here?” Phil asked.
“We have a problem back at the compound,” Melinda said. She looked at Clint and Natasha. “We could use your help.”
Clint looked at Natasha. “And you said it was safe.”
Natasha rolled her eyes. “Ignore him, he’s just extra bitchy today. Of course, we’ll come and help.” She turned and looked at Pietro. “Don’t take any risks, we need you healthy. If you can find Phil's arm great, if not, we’ll deal.”
Pietro nodded, darting to the Rig and then zipping off again.
Natasha looked back at them. "As soon as he's back, we'll head out."
Phil gestured Melinda over to the fire so that they could get the full story. Natasha and Clint were already headed that way.
Melinda paused partway. “Phil, Why is the scarred guy singing to swords?"
"I don't know," Phil answered, looking over at Wade who was singing to his swords as he cleaned them. "He's Clint's new friend."
Melinda looked at him, a little smirk appearing on her face. “Something tells me you’ve had your own adventure.”
“We found Clint’s brother,” Phil replied. “It’s a long story, but yours is more important.”
Melinda nodded and took a seat. Phil sat next to Clint as Melinda launched into her tale. There was no choice, they were definitely heading back to the compound.
Jemma climbed out behind her and she nodded. "If there is anyone to meet."
"You got lucky finding us," Robbie noted, resting his elbows on the top of the car.
"Maybe they'll get lucky, too" Jemma stated.
Daisy hummed and leaned down and pressed her hand against the ground. Her eyes closed and she opened up her senses, trying to read the minute tremors in the ground. It was how she and Robbie had found Jemma. She'd caught the feel of Jemma's motorcycle as they'd been debating which way to go. They'd made the decision to try to protect a lone rider without even knowing who it was.
Daisy stood, brushing the dirt off her hands.
"Motorcycle, something bigger than that, something even bigger from the North," Daisy stated. "Hour or two."
"How much bigger?" Robbie asked.
"I'd say four wheels on the one, feels heavier than the charger, different shape."
"The other?" Jemma asked.
Daisy considered it, before shrugging. "I'm not used to reading the ground. I fully admit to that. It's like twice the size, more wheels, but…" She sighed. "I don't know what the War Rig feels like. I think that's what it is, but I don't know! What would they be doing traveling with a third vehicle?"
"Well, they were trying to find Clint's family," Jemma pointed out. "Could have picked up a vehicle for them."
Daisy glanced at Robbie. He shrugged. "Possible."
"Anything from the East or South?"
"Nothing close enough for me to feel," Daisy replied. "I've got limited range. I'll try again later."
"Plus she'll try to get a read on the compound," Robbie stated, looking in that direction. "You could drop the walls."
"Not sure that I could bring them back up though, and we need them."
"Gates?" Robbie suggested.
Daisy nodded. "I could go up and over. Doesn't help you though." She smirked at him.
Robbie smiled. "I think the Charger could take out the gates."
"Might leave a scratch," Daisy replied, meeting warm brown eyes.
"Oh!" Jemma murmured.
Daisy looked over at her. "Something the matter?"
"I…" Jemma started, looking away. "I didn't realize."
"Didn't realize?" Robbie asked.
Daisy glanced at him to meet his concerned look, before looking at Jemma.
"That you two were, uh,... together?"
Daisy looked over at Robbie, who shrugged. Daisy shrugged back before looking back at Jemma again. "Kind of."
"Should I… take a walk?" Jemma offered.
Robbie snorted. "Nah, we prefer post battle."
"Usually when we can find a bed. Not enough room in the Charger," Daisy agreed.
Jemma nodded, before falling quiet. Daisy changed the topic and they fell into conversation, waiting for the telltale rumble of the War Rig. She felt it before she saw it.
She smiled when she recognized the Rig. "That's the War Rig."
They waited until it came to a stop, but before it could stop completely, Phil was opening the door and jumping to the ground. "Daisy?!"
"Phil!" Daisy said, going and hugging him. She was lifted up and spun around, before being set down. His prosthetic hand stayed on her waist as his other went up to hair. "You cut your hair."
"Yeah," Daisy said, touching where she'd cut it off.
"You okay?" Phil asked.
"I'm good, I promise," Daisy said, turning to be pulled into a hug by Melinda.
"Daisy!" Kate yelled.
Daisy turned to spot her and blinked. "Kate! What are you doing here?"
"She stowed away," Clint commented, ruffling her hair as he passed by. "Good to see ya kid."
There were several more greetings and introductions before they settled down to discuss how to gain access to the compound.
"We need to know what's changed," Melinda sighed. "If we have any allies in there."
"We need someone to sneak in," Clint agrees with a slight nod. He scanned over Wanda, Pietro, Daisy, and Robbie.
"Oo," Wade said, raising his hand. "I could do that."
"No," Clint said. "You're in the rig. Or back here helping Barney protect the kids."
"You could climb the walls," Phil said.
Clint shook his head. "We need someone that can get in and out fast. Fitz took a lot of my suggestions for improving the defenses."
"So, Phil or I will be driving, Kate and Clint up top shooting," Natasha murmured. Her eyes landed on Pietro. "Think if you get enough speed, you could run up the walls?"
Pietro blinked. "That sounds like something Old Man would ask."
"Could you?" Natasha asked.
Pietro was silent as he considered it, before nodding.
"I could go," Wanda offered. "Pretend I'm seeking sanctuary. I'm still a little peeved from our last adventure. I'll make sure the signal to attack is obvious."
Daisy arched an eyebrow as she looked at Natasha, but the others seemed to know what she meant.
"Let's try it with Pietro," Phil said to Daisy. "You can be Plan B."
"Probably, because the Old Men like you more, want to keep you safer."
"Probably because she isn't an obnoxious pain my ass," Clint muttered.
Pietro turned to glare at him. "I got Phil's arm back."
"What?!" Daisy asked, looking between Pietro and Phil.
Phil looked at her. "Long story, I'll tell you later." He turned back to Pietro. "And we're very grateful. Your ability to get in and out of places is very useful," Phil stated. "But You and Clint do like to annoy one another."
"Clint has put you on the no-kill list," Wade added with a wide grin. "It wasn't even said with a wink or anything, so I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to kill you."
"Is there anyone not on that list?" Kate asked, looking at Wade.
"Well, he hasn't said anything directly, but based on Phil's reaction to Gauntlets, I'm assuming she's going to be on the list. Clint wants to make Phil happy, Gauntlets also makes Phil happy, Gauntlets gets to live."
"Gauntlets?" Daisy asked.
"Yeah, it was that or Flower. You don't strike me as a Flower."
Daisy stared at him before shaking her head, looking at Clint and arching an eyebrow, because seriously.
"He was helpful." Clint shrugged.
"We bonded over being blood bags!" Wade said. "Now I'm just waiting for Philly Cheesesteak to make a mistake and then Clade-time!!"
"Clade?" Robbie asked.
"It's our smushname: Clint and Wade. It's a lot better than Phlint, which is you know a rock."
"I'm not breaking up with Phil," Clint growled, glaring at Wade.
"For now," Wade said. "And because I'm a good person, I won't even try to sabotage your relationship. Mainly, because I'm pretty sure Natasha would find out and then you'd get all pissed at me."
"That doesn't sound like being a good person," Robbie murmured.
"Yeah, well I'm not even sure why you're here! That thing is way less impressive than my van!"
Robbie just shook his head.
"Alright, Pietro will attempt to scale the walls."
"I might be able to track him," Daisy offered. "Maybe if you hit the ground with something to signal us that you're in trouble we could be ready."
"You can do that?" Clint asked.
Daisy nodded. "Been working on it, not great at it, but good enough."
"Grab a bite and go," Natasha ordered, looking at Pietro.
"Garage was the safest place provided they're still loyal," Melinda added.
"I'd like to stay back, if you don't mind," Jemma said. "I don't think I'd much use in a fight."
A look was shared between Natasha, Clint, and Phil, and they nodded together.
Daisy leaned down to press her fingers into the dirt, but paused halfway. "Wait, are you two…?" She gestured between Clint and Phil.
Phil reached over and laid his hand on Clint's forearm, before pulling it back revealing a blue mark that was already starting to fade. "Soulmates."
"He make you happy?"
Phil looked at Clint, who was watching him with a curious expression. "Very." Clint smiled, leaning in to kiss him again.
"Well, Old Men are making out. Definitely time to leave," Pietro noted, before disappearing.
Daisy set her hand down in the sand and concentrated on trying to track Pietro. He was surprisingly light on his feet, and therefore hard to track until he stopped at the garage. The conversation fell away as she concentrated on what Pietro was doing, but she was sure that Robbie would fill her in later.
"Ready?" Daisy asked, swinging her arms and shaking her hands.
"I don't know if I can do this," Wanda murmured.
Daisy grinned. "You totally can do this."
Wanda nodded, then looked at Pietro. "Get me over the wall."
Pietro nodded, before glancing back to Daisy. "You sure I don't need to come back for you?"
"Nah, Robbie will get me close enough," Daisy said, sliding into the passenger side of Robbie's vehicle.
Robbie gunned the engine, taking off toward the citadel. His was the only vehicle getting close, in case they needed to get away, in which case whatever mystical connection Robbie had with his car would be invaluable. Wanda glanced back to where the the others were readying themselves. They'd follow as soon as Pietro came back, except for Jemma, Barney, and the kids. They were staying back with the vehicles.
"C'mon," Pietro said, picking her up. With that they were moving in a flash. Wanda closed her eyes against the wind and dust. "Wanda!"
Wanda opened her eyes just as Pietro tossed her. She grabbed the ledge with her hands, glancing down as her brother slid back down the wall. Too much weight, not enough speed, maybe. She couldn't see him, but she had a feeling Pietro was torn between leaving her there, so that he could come back with more momentum and make it all the way up and haul her over, or watching her back while she hung there.
She tried to haul herself upward and grumbled to herself. "Dammit Clint." He knew she'd eventually find herself in a position where her powers couldn't help, but she had a feeling that Clint had never pictured this.
The rev of an engine caught her attention and she saw Robbie's charger drifting to a stop, which allowed Daisy to come out. Daisy ran toward the wall and then was rising in the air. Wanda could see sand being pushed out away from Daisy’s quake powers. Wanda glanced down, and considered using her abilities, but no, better to try from the ground.
It didn't matter, Daisy was up on the walkway, leaning down to grab her and haul her up. Wanda waved quickly to Pietro, who disappeared to tell the others that they were in, and to get up the speed to get himself over the wall.
Daisy jerked her head toward the nearest gate and Wanda nodded. Together they made their way there, knocking a guard down to the outside of the gate.
Wanda was just about to blast someone else when Daisy pulled her hand down. "Easy. Hunter is on our side."
"Daisy?" Hunter murmured, pulling her into a hug. "Bobbi out there?"
Daisy shook her head. "She hadn't made it back yet. Soon though, I'm sure."
"You have any rope?" Wanda asked. "Pietro won't be able carry anyone else over. Clint and Tasha can probably scale the wall."
"Yeah," Hunter agreed, gesturing for them to follow.
By the time they had the rope and tossed it over, Clint was already at the top, helping to pull Natasha up. They waited for Wade, Phil, Melinda, and Kate to use the rope to climb up. By that time, Pietro was back and Robbie had made a lasso out of his chain and climbed up.
"Alright, we all know what we're supposed to be doing. Be safe and smart," Clint stated, looking at them all. Wanda caught the look between Daisy and Robbie before they split up. Daisy was going to look for Maria with Natasha. Pietro sped off, going to to toss whatever guards were on the wall off, and close the gates. Robbie and Melinda were headed to where Pierce should be located. Clint, Kate, and Wade were headed to the garage to get the mechanics involved. Wanda was going with Phil to take back the hospital.
Wanda and Phil shared a look and then took off at a light jog toward the hospital. They stuck to the shadows, darting from building to building. Phil came to a halt and Wanda slid behind him. He peered around the building and held up two fingers.
Phil sighed and made a face as he looked back at Wanda. There was no way to know if they were friendly or not. Pietro had reported that there were three camps: one loyal to Maria, one loyal to Pierce, and the third, the largest group, didn't seem to care who led. They just wanted some place where they could be safe, and Pierce was still promising safety.
Wanda nudged Phil aside to look for herself. She scanned the alleyway and smiled to herself. It was easy to grab a hold of a piece of metal and pull it loose. The men jumped, staring at the beam. She wrapped it around them. Then tore the collar free of their shirts and wrapped it around their mouths.
"Hopefully, there are a lot beams where we're going," Phil murmured.
Wanda smiled at him and nodded. "Let's go."
Phil nodded and let Wanda take the lead the rest of the way to the hospital. They came to a stop about a block away. There were two guards on the outside, but nothing nearby that Wanda could used to wrap them up. "Going with a knock out."
"Yeah," Phil agreed.
She grabbed a big rock from behind them and sent it careening into one's head and then the other's. Wanda kept her power ready to push the doors open as they charged in.
"Who the fuck are you?" a man said, sneering at them.
"We could ask you the same thing," Phil replied.
"Too young to match Pierce's description. Rumlow?" Wanda suggested.
The man's eyes narrowed as he brought up his gun. Wanda slammed it back down instantly. The man struggled against Wanda's powers.
"I think that's a yes."
"I have this," Wanda stated. "I'm still pissed about Ultron."
"Alright, we need information though," Phil reminded her.
"I intend to get it," Wanda growled, advancing on Rumlow.
Rumlow dropped the gun and pulled a knife, which was easier for Wanda to grab a hold of with her abilities and wrench away. "Where's Maria Hill?"
"That bitch, why do you care?"
"She's a friend," Wanda replied. "Well, Phil's friend, but Phil's friends are mine. So tell me or I'll make you tell me."
Rumlow threw a punch, which Wanda blocked with her powers, snapping his arm. She gathered her powers in her palm and pressed into his skull. Her eyes narrowed as she pulled images from his head. She pulled back and slammed her powers into Rumlow's head again, knocking him out.
"I know where Maria is," Wanda said, breathing heavily.
Phli nodded. "Change of plans, Go find Daisy…"
"Phil, Rumlow just sent a team to kill her and Trip," Wanda replied. She frowned, because there was something about a baby in Rumlow's mind, but Maria hadn't been pregnant when they'd left, had she?
Phil made a face, clearly torn between the plan and protecting Maria. "Send a power flare up, get Pietro to take you. I'll finish securing this place."
"Are you sure?"
"Save Maria," Phil ordered.
Wanda nodded, heading back toward the door. Once outside, she fired a little flare. Pietro should be done with securing the wall. She headed to where they were keeping Maria, fully expecting Pietro to catch up to her. He did not disappoint her.
"I thought you were securing the hospital," Pietro said.
"I know where Maria is and they're going to kill her," Wanda replied.
Pietro arched an eyebrow and nodded. "Where to?"
"Near the unusable buildings in a bunker," Wanda answered.
Pietro scooped her up and they were there within a few heartbeats. "Get Clint to back Phil up and then go find Daisy and bring her here."
"The sooner you go, the sooner I have back up," Wanda replied.
Pietro sighed and disappeared. Wanda made sure to leave a mark so the others would know which way to go as she made her way through the labyrinth that led to where they were keeping Maria. A flare of power and a guard went down, each and every time she spotted one. She smiled when she caught sight of a group of bad guys. Using her powers, she grabbed their guns and shoved them down, a few pulled the trigger on accident.
Wanda tsked, thinking of how Clint had drilled her. "No fingers on trigger until you're ready to shoot."
The men turned towards her. "Weren't you with that Barton character?"
"I was, I am. We heard you're looking for a male leader. Coulson's back, he's very disappointed," Wanda replied, giving them a tight smile. She yanked the guns away, pulling them towards her and ejecting the clips and the one bullet left in each chamber. Wanda’s hair fluttered forward.
"Daisy?" another man said.
"Asshole," Daisy replied and quaked them into the wall near a large door.
"That looks complicated," Pietro noted.
"Not that complicated," Natasha said, strutting toward the door. She tapped it twice, paused, and then tapped it three more times. She stepped back slightly to consider the door, before her hands moved over the door as she picked the lock. At least that's what Wanda assumed, which was confirmed when the door was swung open. "Maria, it's Natasha."
"Natasha?" Maria called back.
Natasha slipped in. "Well you look like shit. We're here to rescue you."
"We?" Trip asked.
"Others are outside," Natasha replied. "You ready to go?"
"Yes," Maria stated.
Wanda glanced at Pietro and Daisy, who shrugged. They waited outside until Natasha, Trip, and Maria carrying a bundle came out.
"Daisy!" Trip said with a wide grin.
Daisy moved to give him a hug, squeezing him. "So glad to see you."
"Yeah, so am I," Trip murmured.
Daisy stepped back, sharing a nod with Maria.
"Lead the way ladies," Natasha said. "Pietro, go check on Melinda and Robbie."
"I don't think it’s Robbie in there, but sure," Pietro said, before running off.
"Told you he'd be judging people," Daisy said.
"Should I be concerned about his judgements?" Maria asked.
"Only if they're guilty ones," Daisy replied. "It's… He's not like me or Jess. He's something different."
Maria sighed. "This world is only getting weirder."
"Sorry?" Daisy and Wanda said together.
"Don't worry about it," Maria said, waving them off. "Let's go see what Pierce and Rumlow did to my compound."
Clint scanned the crowd. Not everyone had bothered to show up for the trial, but there were enough. Barney and the kids weren't there, but they weren't part of this. Wade, Kate, and Natasha were all on the other walls. He couldn't help but feel that he should have put an arrow in Rumlow's eye before now, and let Wade take out Pierce. This wasn't his fight though. Pierce and Rumlow had gone after the women of this Haven, and it was up to the women to respond.
The murmur of voices fell silent and attention was directed to Rumlow and Pierce. Asking for a defense, possibly, Clint wondered. He'd ask Phil later, he was down in the crowd after all. Ask if they had even tried to defend themselves, because based on the silence Clint was assuming they weren't. Still he could feel there was tension rising. Maria really had two choices, kill them or exile them. There wasn't enough to spare to keep them alive and in the Haven. Clint's vote would be to kill them, but he wasn't in charge.
Clint could just make out that Maria had said something, but couldn't hear it. He saw Wade move, a katana in each hand and then run them through each man's chest. Quick, efficient, and relatively painless, a mercy in Clint's mind.
Clint nodded, turning his attention back to the horizon. Exile did come with a risk, because those two might have accomplices out there and they might come back with a stronger force. Later, someone would take the bodies out of the Haven and leave to the elements, but there were more trials to hold. Maria would probably be kinder with those that had once been loyal to her, blame Rumlow and Pierce as a corrupting influence.
It wasn't long before Clint heard heavy footsteps on the stairs. He didn't have to turn to know it was Phil.
"So…" Phil started. "I think we need to talk."
Clint glanced at him. "Yeah, I think we do."
"Maria was pregnant when we left."
"I heard she has a baby, she'd have to have been."
Phil nodded. "We never talked about our past lovers."
Clint arched an eyebrow. "Did I interrupt your and Maria's great love affair?"
"No," Phil said, quickly. "It wasn't like that. She… We both wanted a child and… with the population… It made sense…"
"Phil," Clint said, cutting off his nervous babble. "I get it. I'm not jealous. I can't exactly give you kids after all."
Phil sighed. "The baby is mine, you know?"
"Kind of figured. Trip and Jemma seem to be content with one another. Leo and Mack are together, but that kid is not Mack's. Hunter and Bobbi, well, asking Hunter would be asking for trouble, which leaves Maria's best friend."
"She didn't tell me, before I left. I…"
"You might not have come, if you'd known?"
Phil nodded, looking away.
"Phil, I get it. I… I owe Maria one for not telling you," Clint admitted.
Phil looked up, surprised by that.
Clint reached out to pull Phil in, pressing a kiss to his lips. He cupped Phil’s cheek, forcing him to look up. "She let you go, she gave us a chance. I got to spend months with you, looking for my family. I had your help them saving them. I owe her."
"I would have regretted not coming with, you know that? I would have been so torn, you know that? Even then."
"I know, I would have wanted to stay," Clint murmured, leaning in to kiss him again.
"What are we going to do?" Phil asked. "I…"
"I don't know," Clint said, nuzzling Phil's cheek. "I know Starktown is safe, I want to bring my family somewhere safe. I want to bring your family somewhere safe. I want us to be safe."
Phil sighed against Clint's shoulder. "Do we need to talk to Tasha?"
"Probably, she gets a vote. If she wants to go, then..." Clint trailed off. "Hell, we should ask Barney what he wants to do…"
Phil hummed, softly.
"Maybe ask Daisy and Robbie?" Clint said.
"Going to try and keep us together?"
"She kicked some ass, Phil, and she's your family."
"Then should let the Wanda, Kate, and Pietro have a say, to."
"Yeah," Clint agreed.
Phil sighed, pulling away. "I should get back."
"Hey, tell Maria, I can haul the bodies, if she wants, when she's done."
"I think the rest are going to be exiled or rationed," Phil replied. "All the other ringleaders were killed in the fighting."
Clint shrugged. "We did let whatever Robbie's creepy flamey skull thing is loose."
Phil huffed, a slight smile tugging at his lips. "I'll see you later."
"Yeah," Clint agreed, turning his eyes back to the horizon.
He understood why Phil would be torn, why he himself was torn. They needed support here, after everything, and Clint was tempted to stay. It would be risky going back to Starktown, but it would be risky staying. He'd promised Natasha that they would go back though.
Towards the end of Clint's shift on guard, he heard the footsteps coming along the wall and found Natasha headed toward him.
"All done watching?"
"Hunter took over, he's watching for Bobbi," Natasha answered.
"Think we should send Pietro out?" Clint asked.
Natasha made a slight face. "Maybe after he gets a chance to recover. He's fast, but he's not doing so good. Carrying, wears him out more."
Clint nodded. "So… Maria has a baby girl."
"I saw," Natasha said. "She needs to get a little older before I can teach her anything."
Clint snorted. "Did you know?"
"Did I know she was pregnant and that it was Phil's?" Natasha asked, moving to lean back against the wall and look at him. "I suspected, but it wasn't my place to say anything."
Clint nodded. "So… what now?"
"Barney likes it here."
"I promised to take you back to Starktown."
Natasha smiled. "Phil likes it here."
"I know," Clint agreed. "His daughter is here, possibly both his daughters."
"Starktown is safer, but getting back is just as risky as staying put," Natasha noted. "I could… I could stay here."
"You sure?" Clint asked.
"I wish we could tell them that we're safe."
Clint sighed. "Yeah, I feel the same way."
Natasha ran a hand through her hair. "Twins, Kate, and Wade will follow us. Whatever we decide."
"They don't have an opinion?" Clint asked.
Natasha shrugged. "Kate wants to see the world. Twins don't care, and Wade… Wade is your friend."
Clint huffed and shook his head. "Yeah, he is." He smiled to himself.
"I think he's your Clint."
Clint glared at her.
Natasha just smiled, smugly at him.
"I hate you some days."
"Today you don't."
Clint wrapped an arm around Natasha and pulled her into a hug, rocking a bit, because he knew she disliked it. "Yeah, I could never hate you." He was a bit surprised that Natasha didn't pull away as he stilled, instead leaning into the embrace.
"If we stay, you're less likely to get kidnapped… again."
Clint huffed. "Didn't mean to worry you."
"Yeah, at least this time, you had a better chance at resisting."
"Never doing that whole mind control thing again," Clint murmured, pressing a kiss to Natasha's forehead.
"Good." Natasha poked him hard, finding a tender spot between his ribs.
He yelped, letting her go, and she slipped out of his arms.
"I'll talk to the others. You going to be around for dinner?"
"Late, told Phil to tell Maria I'd take the bodies out."
Natasha nodded, heading down the stairs. "I'll have plenty of time to interrogate the others."
"Ask! Interrogation has negative implications," Clint called after her. There was no response and only when he was sure she was gone, did he rub where she had poked. That had hurt! Then again, he knew that Natasha had a limit on physical affection like that. He should have let her go sooner.
"Think Phil wants to walk you home," Mack said.
Phil could make out Clint's grin when he caught sight of Phil. It certainly didn't take long before Clint and Mack had changed places and Mack was taking the car back into the garage.
Phil smiled, stepping toward Clint now that the car was no longer between them. Except someone suddenly was; a large, blond man was in a crouch. He had no shirt but was wearing a tattered red cape and carrying a large ax. Clint blinked, staring at him.
"Odinson?" Clint asked, a slow smile spreading across his laugh.
The man laughed, dropping the axe in favor of picking up Clint and tossing him into the air and catching him again.
"Barton!" The man said with a booming laugh.
Phil wanted to object to the manhandling. He would have objected, but Clint was smiling, and seemed to have no problem with being tossed into the air.
"Huh?" Melinda grunted, suddenly appearing at his side.
"Huh?" Phil repeated looking at her.
"New guy is kind of dreamy," Melinda stated.
“Yeah,” Daisy said, appearing on the other side.
“He’s okay,” Phil grunted.
“No, Phil, he’s hot,” Melinda said.
Phil resisted the urge to defend Clint, because seriously his boyfriend was way hotter, but the two women would just claim he was biased. Still…
"Clint?" Phil called to him.
"Down, buddy," Clint said, patting the newcomer's overly large biceps. "Odinson, this is Melinda, Phil, and Daisy. Everyone, this is the Odinson."
"Odinson?" Phil repeated.
"Aye," the man stated. "The events of the Great War resulted in my being unworthy of my given name. I answer to Odinson until I am once again worthy of my name and the power that comes with it."
Phil glanced at Melinda, arching an eyebrow. She looked just as confused as Phil did, if you knew how to read Melinda, which Phil did. Daisy looked confused, but she wasn't able to hide it as well as Melinda.
"Well, I hope that happens soon?" Daisy offered.
"Mjolner has found one that is worthy and I will not take it from her. Jarnbjorn will serve me well until then."
"Sure," Daisy answered with a nod.
Clint smacked Odinson on the arm. "What are you doing here?"
"Hunting a man who attempted to turn us against one another, and his allies," Odinson stated. "We were told we could find him here, and that this…"
"Haven," Clint supplied as Phil offered, "Compound."
"Compound was suffering from his reign."
"Yeah, want to quit with the pronouns and tell us names," Clint requested, before pausing. "And how did you get here? You can't…"
Another person landed next to Odinson. This time it was a woman with a metal helmet that covered the top half of her face.
Clint nodded when he saw her. "Overshot, Thor?"
"Aye, but then I did not know where this city was," Thor answered, a slight smile playing on her lips. "It is good to see you archer. We have need of your aid in hunting two men known as Alexander Pierce and Brock Rumlow."
"Well, they've been taken care of," Clint stated. "Bodies are about five miles west of here, near a group of dead trees."
Thor looked in that direction, but did not move.
"So is it just the two of you?" Clint asked.
"No," Thor said. "The others are on their way."
"Others?" Phil repeated.
"Stark, Rogers, Banner, Wilson…"
"How'd you get Wade?" Daisy asked.
"Sam Wilson," Clint corrected, but looked back at Thor and Odinson. Did you leave anyone behind in Starktown?"
"The citadel has its Defenders," Odinson stated. "We would not leave it without those capable of mounting a defense."
Clint nodded. "Good."
"How'd you know to come here?" Phil said. "Odinson said someone told you, Who told you?"
"Bobbi Morse," Thor stated. "She rides in the Iron Rig."
Phil arched an eyebrow at Clint, hoping for a translation.
"She's riding with Tony in his War Rig. Wouldn't recommend it, because Tony can get annoying."
"She may switch to the War Machine or Rescue's Rig." Thor replied.
"Rhodey and Pepper are out too?" Clint asked, eyes widening.
"We figured we would try to aid Natasha in finding you and yours after we dealt with Pierce and Rumlow," Odinson replied. "Natasha is here?"
"Yeah, she’ll probably show up pretty soon," Clint stated.
"No, she knew I was coming to get you. Probably think we got... distracted," Phil said.
Clint grinned at him. "We do get distracted."
"And your family?" Odinson asked. "I would search with you, even if I did not have a debt to you for my brother's deeds."
"Already found them, and I told you to forget about that debt," Clint replied. "You're not responsible for your brother."
Odinson looked ready to argue.
"So, I should let Maria know that we're expecting more guests?" Phil asked.
Thor turned to look at him. "If that is your leader, then aye. They are headed here with haste in hopes of catching Rumlow and Pierce. I should tell them that the situation has been handled."
"Sounds like a good idea," Phil agreed, looking at Melinda and Daisy. Those two looked at one another, before Daisy sighed and headed off.
Thor looked at Odinson. "Do you wish to accompany me back to the main party?"
"No, I think I shall remain here and catch up with Clint and the Lady Natasha," Odinson replied.
Thor nodded, before starting to swing her hammer round and round until suddenly she threw it straight up and it seemed to drag her along with it.
Phil shook his head and looked back at Odinson and Clint. "Should we get some food?"
"Aye," Odinson said with a broad grin. He bent down to pick up his axe.
Clint smiled, wrapping an arm around Phil's shoulders. "We definitely need to find Natasha first. Then food."
"Sounds like a plan, care to join us, Melinda?" Phil asked.
"Sure," Melinda said, falling in step behind Phil and next to Odinson.
Odinson was already peppering Clint with questions about his family and his adventures. They gathered up Natasha, leaving the twins staring at Thor and looking confused at the sudden turn of events. Phil happily listened to the chatter of Clint and Odinson with Natasha's sparse commentary being added in when appropriate. Phil didn't have too much input as he was barely able to follow along. They talked about far too many different people for Phil to keep track of, and he couldn't find a way to interrupt to ask if who they were. He was pretty sure 'Cap' was a nickname for one of them and 'Stark' and 'Banner' were last names. He was sure Rhodey and Rhodes were the same person. Phil knew he'd get it straightened out soon enough, since it was mainly a discussion about who was on their way here.
Both Clint and Natasha were most curious about was who was left defending their home. Apparently, Fury was one, which had Clint frowning and looking at Phil, saying that Phil would have liked Fury. Phil had just smiled and nodded. Even he arched an eyebrow about who was left defending the town, because according to Clint - it was a blind man, a drunk, a nurse and two other badass women that would one day be as scary as Natasha (Clint's words), a guy that was bulletproof, a guy that liked guns too much, a guy that liked to punch things, and a zombie.
Phil didn’t comment on that, because Clint believed in aliens. So Phil wasn't surprised that Clint believed in zombies. Besides, Odinson had objected to the term as well. Phil figured Clint was exaggerating. Trip had managed to save several people from the brink of death after all.
For the most part, Phil watched Clint. He'd never seen Clint smile quite so easily, never seen those broad shoulders quite so relaxed. He was surprised that he wasn't jealous, but that could be because every so often Clint would look at Phil, and his smile would somehow get even bigger. Despite his confusion about all the different names, and references to events that Phil knew nothing about, he was happy that Clint was happy.
There was a bounce in Clint’s step as they headed back to Phil's old quarters where they could be alone and Phil smiled as he realized that Clint was excited. Clint’s friends were coming here, of course, Clint was excited. Clint bumped his shoulder. “You know what this means, right?”
“Hmm?” Phil said, just enjoying the elation coming from Clint.
“We can stay,” Clint said. “No regrets, no second thoughts.”
Phil blinked. “But…”
“They’re coming here, I can tell them I want to stay here with you. If Barney wants to go back, then… Well, there’s no safer way for him to go than with them. Same for Tasha and anyone else.”
“You’d give them all up for me?” Phil asked, as he realized just what Clint was implying.
Clint looked at him like he was stupid. “Yeah.”
Phil’s jaw dropped at how easy it was for Clint.
“I never got a chance to say good bye, which I would have done if you had stayed here. I would have found Barney, brought him back, said good bye and come back for you. All this means is if you want to stay, we’re staying.”
Phil shook his head, before pulling Clint into a long kiss, sweeping his tongue through his soulmate's mouth as he pressed him against a nearby wall. Clint moaned into the kiss, wiggling until he had a knee between Phil's legs.
Phil huffed slightly, knowing exactly what Clint wanted and yet… It didn't stop him from grinding against Clint's leg as Clint mirrored his actions until they were panting their completion.
"I love you," Clint murmured into Phil's skin
Phil hummed his agreement, resting in Clint's embrace for a moment.
"C'mon, we should move before Pietro finds us and it will Pietro."
"Could be Wade," Phil remarked as he stepped back.
"Then he'll pout or ask for a threesome."
Phil considered that for a moment, before shaking his head. "I don't really want to share you."
Clint smiled at him as he grabbed Phil's prosthetic hand and lifted it to press a kiss into it. "Same, Phil, same."
Later, when they'd cleaned up, when they'd settled into the bed and after Clint had touched Phil everywhere, and Phil had done the same. When they'd been drifting, not quite tired enough to fall asleep despite the multiple orgasims. In fact, too tired to sleep just yet.
"So, Odinson has super strength?" Phil asked.
"Compared to humans, yeah, but every Asgardian I've met has that."
"Asgardian?" Phil asked, running his hand along the bare skin of Clint's back.
"Yep, that's what Odinson's species calls themselves."
Phil sighed. "Are you trying to tell me that Odinson is an alien?"
"Total alien. Thor might count as well, I don't know, the magic hammer complicates things. I mean, Jane is awesome without the hammer and fucking smart, but she wouldn't last in a fight. Once she's holding that hammer though…"
Phil closed his eyes and shook his head, scoffing. He still couldn't believe that Clint was trying to get him to believe in aliens.
"You can ask Odinson tomorrow."
"Don't think I won't," Phil murmured.
Clint hummed. "Looking forward to you finally realizing I was right."
Phil resisted the urge to sigh. He loved Clint, but seriously there was no way Thor or Odinson were in any way aliens. They looked like normal humans. He doubted that actual aliens did exist and if even if they did, they would never come to Earth. They might have once, but Earth was a hellhole now. Maybe someday it wouldn't be so bad, but not now.
"I am Groot," something said.
"I am Jessica?"
"I am Groot."
"Yeah, you said that," Jessica said, reaching up to find her head bandaged. She glanced down and her jacket was gone. The shirt she was in was different than what she had been wearing and her bullet was wound had been patched up.
"I am Groot."
"Maybe I got hit harder in the head than I thought," Jessica murmured to herself.
"Unlikely, he says that a lot," a male voice said. "Hi, I'm Starlord."
The man sighed, turning to look back out of the room. "See, these are the reasons I didn't want to come back here! Planet hasn't gotten any better since I left it."
"Shut up Quill," a woman's voice said.
"What is going on?" Jessica asked.
"Peter is an ass," the woman said, stepping into view. Her skin was green and she was carrying a plate of food. "I'm Gamora."
"Gamora, you uh, inhuman, too?"
"Inhuman?" Gamora asked, setting the plate down. "No, I'm not from your planet."
Jessica blinked at her. "What?"
"It's a long story," Gamora said. "Eat. Captain will be down shortly."
"Not that long," Peter said. "I was abducted by aliens. You are an alien, but not one of my abductees. We found the Captain, Captain wanted to come back here. Ship crashed."
Jessica stared at him for a long moment. "I don't understand…"
Gamora sighed, before turning to look past Peter. Now Jessica could hear footsteps against the metal.
"Peter, go check on Rocket," another woman's voice said. "Stop confusing our guest."
"Yes, ma'am," Peter said, slipping back into the hallway.
Jessica could just make out a blonde woman stepped in, wearing red, yellow, and blue shirt that looked almost new under an old flight jacket. Her hair was cropped short and styled to look like a mohawk.
"I am Groot." the first voice said.
"You go, too. Try to keep them all from killing one another."
"I am Groot."
"I know, but I only ask because I think you can do it."
"I am Groot."
The woman stepped into the room and something moved behind her.
"Is that a walking tree?"
The woman shrugged. "Pretty much. He's called Groot. I'm Carol Danvers and you?"
Carol nodded. "There's not much out this way, what brings you out here?"
Jessica hesitated, before launching into the full story about what has happening at the compound. Carol and Gamora listened, asking questions here and there. "Could you help?"
"We could," Carol said. "But we'd only bring worse down on you."
"Worse?" Jessica said.
Carol shared a look with Gamora, before looking back at Jessica. "We're being hunted. If we help, we'll bring a War to your door."