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Doc 362-E7 (Filing Number 1-B4)

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Chin resting in her palm, elbow propped up on a pillow. Face starting to slip, and bang- her head meets the keyboard of her laptop. She grumbles a few choice words and gruffly swipes at her forehead, yawning and returning to her screen. Only four hours left to send in her reports, and about 100 words to go.

Unfortunately, the words were refusing to type. It wasn't a matter of a device malfunction, but rather a mental one. Exhausted from her three weeks of intense training, there was nothing she wanted more than to curl up in her bed and sleep.

Her brown eyes shifted across the room to her doorway, just able to catch a flicker of light that rebounded off mirrors through the apartment and onto the wall outside her bedroom. The boys were home, and now she had no choice. If they caught her awake at 3 in the morning, she'd be on bedrest for the next few days.

Or rather, however long they could both keep an eye on her. If she was left alone for just a second, the remnants of her would be nothing but air. Not that she was super fast, just super determined.

Being a cop in a small town wasn't turning out to be as fun as she'd hoped. The only thing she had done since her accident was write reports, even during her "re-training" course that her captain had requested she take over and over. Every week she passed with flying colours, but the constant repetition was driving the poor girl mad.

Her roommates knew the captain was trying to wear her down, and they were all up for the possibility of her quitting. But quitting wasn't her thing, and she wasn't about to start now. The footsteps grew closer, the words were tapped out faster than the speed of sound, and her light flicked on.

They knew she was awake. Both boys had seen her asleep too many times to still think she was good at faking. Then again, even her mother couldn't tell the difference. Unsure if they should leave her or scold her, the taller of the two boys grabbed the covers that were messily spread across half her body.

He pulled them up to her shoulders and left, leaving his other roommate to be the affectionately nicknamed "Bad Cop".

She waited for the inevitable lecture, visibly sighing as he sat down on her bed. 'You've gotta stop putting up with this. It's killing you, and I'm not joking anymore.'

It wasn't that he was wrong, she just would rather be dead than admit otherwise. 'Your point? I can't quit, Jase. You know exactly how hard I worked to be here, I'm not giving it up.'

Jason could see there was no point arguing. There never was with Casey. She could argue until her voice cut out, something demonstrated more than once just to prove she could. Jason just stood up and turned to leave, trying to come up with any other solution that meant he could keep his best friend close and alive.

His brain didn't get all of the message, and he suddenly turned back with a delighted grin and ran towards Casey's bed. He didn't stop until he got to the foot of the bed, jumping and landing right beside her. She groaned and tried to shove him off, but the pure excitement in his eyes was intriguing.

'I have an idea,' he sang cheerfully, much too cheerfully for that time of the morning.

Casey sat up with a curious expression, waiting for something incredibly irrational or just stupid in general. 'Go on then, don't make me stay up later than I already have.'

Jason stood up and offered his hand, waiting not even a second after she grabbed it to pull Casey up and out the door. She skidded into the kitchen bench and scowled at her friend, regretting ever agreeing to listen to his ideas.

'Look at this brochure we got handed today- I think it was destined for you.'

A roll of the eyes earned a smack on the arm, but Casey agreed to read it. 'Science experiments? You have got to be kidding me, Jason.'

'I'm not kidding. It's an entire program, not just experiments! Come on, you love that sciencey shit,' he insisted, urging her to keep reading.

Under her breath, Casey mumbled, 'I love food too, doesn't make me wanna be the food.'

He was used to her sarcastic remarks, but was rather impressed at her ability to make them on practically no sleep. Jason watched on as Casey read the document, her face twisting and contorting with each different paragraph. Just as she reached the end, Casey scanned a picture rather quickly, but her eyes snapped back to it.

That was the last thing she remembered.

Six months later, the ground and every object on it glistened with snow. That included a strange shape, practically buried and invisible, if not for a distinctively black discolouration. The first one to spot the pile outside the entrance to Avengers base was Hawkeye of course, running ahead as usual.

He knew better than to get too close before letting someone else interact, should it be some kind of warfare or weapon that his mortal form couldn't survive touching. So he sprinted back to the others, only three of the group actually catching what he was saying.

'Just come look,' Clint pleaded, rolling his eyes and gesturing his arm to the entrance.

When they all finally saw the discolouration, Wanda was sent ahead to see if she could figure out what it was. Within a few seconds, her face crumpled and she released a weak cry. She took a few quick steps to reach the mound of snow, throwing it away in clumps with her bare hands.

'I need help over here! Vis,' Wanda called, 'whoever is in there is freezing to death!'

Vision quickly moved the snow as the Avengers gathered around, some verbally gasping at the sight of the young woman. Barely breathing, skin a rather pale shade of white, was a girl of about 20 years old. Her eyes were shut and she looked rather peaceful, apart from the bruising and scarring around her face. Her head was shaved, only a small amount of regrowth.

Steve was the first to touch the girl, fearing that she would have a much worse encounter with ice than his own, and quickly lifted her into his arms.

Chapter Text

They hurried her inside, Natasha being the last in. Usually she'd push in first, or at least before Clint, but she became distracted by a note beneath where the girl had been.

After finally reaching the main area of the building, Tony rushed off to find as many blankets as he could while Steve laid the girl on the sofa. Everyone had gathered around, against Sam's requests to give the girl some air. She hadn't woken up yet, but surely it would be startling enough.

Clint agreed with Sam, and everyone backed up. Tony returned with the covers and thrust them into Wanda's arms, instructing her to use her powers and not touch the girl. When Steve went to object, stating that he'd touched her and felt fine, Tony just held up his hand.

'Just go with me on this, she could be dangerous.'

'She's a kid,' Bruce insisted, stepping forward. 'But Tony's right, she could be-'

He stopped himself and glanced to Wanda, who had just finished completely covering the girl. Wanda knew what he was insinuating, but she ignored it. What currently mattered was keeping her comfortable and warm, so they all started suggesting options. Finally Nat rejoined the group, her face set in it's usual flat expression.

'She's Enhanced.'

The two words made everyone stop and turn, suddenly stepping just that little bit further from the cocoon of blankets. The only one who didn't seem quite as surprised was Wanda, who had done the initial scan. She hurried to the kitchen to try and cook up something warm, should the girl awaken.

The discussion in the dining room seemed rather heavy, Wanda refusing to listen in and distract herself in the kitchen. Nat wouldn't voice her opinions either, but Clint could tell what she was thinking. He wasn't the only one, though- Steve saw the glance between them when Sam brought up "previous enhanced experiments".

'They're shouldn't be anymore, we were told that no one else survived,' he argued.

Bruce jumped in, unsure as to why he was defending the stranger. 'She might have escaped. She might be on our side.'

'What if she's not?' Tony, the currently reasonable one, chimed in. 'For all we know, that girl is a ticking time bomb, and we just brought her into the nest.'

Clint had to try his best not to snicker, but the look in his eyes was enough to make Natasha lose her cool. The reason she started laughing was obvious, but the reason she couldn't stop was not. Even Nat seemed confused, looking to her friends for help.

The laughter seemed contagious, until the door between the living area and dining room snapped shut. Vision seemed to be the cure for the laughter, frowning curiously as everyone choked for air.

'That did not seem normal,' he commented, turning to face the glass doors and view Wanda. She didn't seem affected, which was enough for now. 'Miss Romanoff, would you please laugh again?'

Nat shrugged, unable to spontaneously start. 'Sorry, can't help you. I couldn't even help myself.' Something kicked her leg under the table, and she shot a glare directly at Steve.

'Don't give me that look, Romanoff. I kicked you for a good reason, and you know it!'

Squabbling ensued, almost childlike in the way that it captured all of them. Bruce and Tony were currently bickering, while Sam, Steve and Natasha scrambled for the fruit bowl in the centre of the table. Clint just sat back and watched, smirking to himself. Vision watched on, growing more and more confused.

The girl. The thought entered all of their minds simultaneously, but they didn't know where it came from. Each one stopped where they were, Natasha shoving an apple into Steve's mouth before returning to her seat.

'Vis?' Wanda called through the door, waving to the others. 'Open up.' The door slid open, and Wanda sighed. 'That was my fault, sorry. I was trying to go through her memories, but my mind was unfocused and they seemed to drift to all of you.'

It didn't seem like something Wanda could accidentally do, even if her mind was off balance lately. Her powers were out of whack, or her mind was playing tricks on itself. She seemed visibly upset, but before anyone could speak, she quickly sped off to her room.

'She needs a moment,' Vision noted, considering ignoring himself and going after her anyway.

Clint jumped up and marched straight back into the living room, crossing his arms as the others flanked behind him. 'Tony, can you call Hill and see if she or Fury know anything about new Enhanced showing up?'

Tony nodded and walked off.

'Nat-'

'Yeah yeah, I'm gonna go check the security cams to see if anyone dropped her off,' Nat finished, waving her arm and marching off.

Steve was clearly infatuated with the care of the girl, so Clint left him to that and turned to Bruce. 'You still got those contacts of yours? We're gonna run some tests on her. And Sam, can you-'

'I'm gonna call Thor,' Sam sighed, knowing exactly what Clint was going to say. 'I got you, bird-brother.'

Vision had floated off after Wanda, leaving Clint in charge of whatever the little witch had been cooking. Steve seemed focused, but he was still prepared to do something irrational. Against Tony's wishes, he placed the back of his hand against the girl's ice cold forehead.

The fact that she was still breathing was a good sign, but she hadn't warmed up at all. He began to think that something to do with cold could be involved with her enhancement, but there was nothing definitive yet. That was for Bruce to determine, with tests. Being a sickly child himself, Steve thought he'd try a few things that his mother used to do for him on the girl.

Anything to keep her alive, Steve thought to himself. Although, it was a strange thought considering he barely knew her. He frowned, curious.

Natasha scrolled through hours of footage on the security cams, two at a time. One going backwards from their arrival, one going forwards from their departure. Her eyes scanned both screens as intensely as possible, until she saw what she'd missed. A frustrated scowl towards the timestamps, and Natasha muttered quickly under her breath.

Although it was unsure why he was required, Thor was more than happy to attend the Avengers base with both Jane and Darcy in tow. Neither had seen the complex, but the latter was plenty prepared to move in permanently. Rather than fly Air Thor, Jane dragged her intern towards the airport and told Thor they'd meet him there in a few hours.

So Thor landed, right on the newly snowed upon grass, just where Sam was waiting. 'Hey, Thor. We've got a huge thing going on here.'

'Huge thing? Like some kind of large beast terrorising the complex?' Thor jumped to conclusions as usual, but Sam just shook his head.

'We found a girl outside the complex with a note saying she was Enhanced, like Wanda and Pietro we guessed. Problem is that,' Sam gestured to the white everything, 'she was almost frozen solid when we got to her. Kid hasn't woken up yet.'

Still confused but happy to help his friends, Thor followed behind Sam and entered the living quarters. They passed a rather agitated Nat as she sat in the control room, Thor calling out a greeting but receiving no response.

The same happened again with Tony and Bruce as the pair passed by the lab. One on the phone with a very bored expression, and one gathering what looked to be test tubes and other equipment.

'Where is the android?' Thor asked, hoping to at least get some kind of formal greeting from someone other than Sam. 'And that young sorceress who he is oddly infatuated with?'

The room seemed to go quiet, except for a sniggering from somewhere behind the sofa. It was quickly identified as Steve as he jumped to his feet to greet Thor, barely escaping the sizzling red electrical bolts fired at him by the quiet observer in the corner. Embarrassed to say the least, Wanda made an appearance mostly to ignore Steve.

Vision entered moments later, greeting Thor right after Wanda finished hugging him. 'Thor Odinson, it is good to see you, father.'

With that, there was an almost eery silence as everyone except Natasha filed into the room. After being questioned by his friends who were struggling to breathe, Vision was able to elucidate that he meant Thor as one part his creator, and creators in the human world were referred to as father or mother, depending on gender. Tony counted, too.

Thor himself found the joke rather hilarious, while Wanda received many a comment about things she'd rather not discuss. When Natasha returned with proof that the cams had been tampered with, things were serious once again. But, now free of something to do, Nat was stuck babysitting the icicle.

Before he left, Clint had the decency to ask Natasha if she wanted a drink. When she answered yes however, he responded idiotically. 'How about a frozen spider?'

Keeping the snide responses to herself was growing to be rather difficult, so she grabbed her headphones and turned up the music. Rather than stare at the girl like Steve, Natasha sat across from her and played around on her phone. The slightest movement would catch her eyes, but none of it came from the girl.

There seemed to be something about Avengers and their tendency to get frozen at one time or another. Nat snickered to herself at this thought, grateful that she'd already had her turn. She sighed after pushing away the memories of the Red Room, glancing up to see a pair or brown eyes staring at her.

Natasha stood up and stared at the girl, should she make a move. 'Maximoff, is that food ready by any chance?'

Wanda had just finished fixing Clint's corrections to her food, looking upwards to see the Black Widow's rigid position and less than friendly expression. Tony re-entered just on time, catching the staring contest between the girls in the living room.

'Your shift is up, Romanoff. And Thor wants to talk to you,' Tony noted, taking a place beside the girl.

She didn't even seem to be awake, but Wanda would soon see to that. The smell of food almost sent a wave through the frozen girl on the sofa, easily visible to Tony as her eyes finally shifted towards himself and Wanda.

'Wanda, can you see what she's thinking for me?'

The request didn't seem like Tony's usual demands, so Wanda obliged. She focused for a few seconds, twisting up her face as she tried to push harder. 'Nothing but ice,' Wanda announced finally, returning rather quickly to the kitchen. 'I couldn't even see if she was hungry.'

Vision's curiosity drove him to return to the main area, noticing rather quickly that Tony was close to their rescue. 'Has she awoken?'

The question seemed to lead everyone else into the main area, but once again, Wanda stayed quietly in the kitchen. Nat joined her, not wanting anything to do with the kid. Clint was a few feet from Tony trying to analyse the expression on the girl's face, then turned expectantly to Thor.

'Anything? Do you recognise her at all?'

Thor shook his head reluctantly. 'She is not of Asgard, nor of the other realms. She is Midgardian.'

'Has she said anything?' Steve asked kneeling down in front of the girl. His brain flinched when he caught her eyes, Natasha catching it from the kitchen.

'What's the matter, Rogers? Having a senior moment?' she teased, smirking off to the side.

'Ha ha,' Steve droned, rolling his eyes. 'No, I just felt like I recognised her for a moment is all.'

The others unanimously agreed, although none could place where from. Sam joined Nat in the kitchen and grabbed a few of the smaller things, taking them over for the girl. 'Hungry?'

She only blinked back at him, face seeming rather downtrodden.

'Maybe she can't talk,' Bruce suggested, a few of the group jumping from his sudden appearance. Tony and Steve moved out of the way, allowing Bruce to move closer. 'Blink once for no, twice for yes, thrice for don't know. Can you do that?'

After a few seconds and a confused look in the girl's eyes, Sam spoke up again. 'Does she even understand English?'

A few seconds of debate later, Nat was dragged back to repeat the same phrase that Bruce had used in as many languages as she could manage. Almost aghast at her abilities, the raised eyebrows of the men around her reminded Natasha why she did what she did.

She turned back to the girl and turned off her bored expression, focusing instead. 'You understand English perfectly.'

Finally, two blinks from downcast eyes. Muttering about the waste of her time in her mother tongue, Natasha left the main area and moved instead towards the bedrooms. Now that the girl was known to understand English, Natasha was no longer needed.

'I brought over some food for you, kid. Hungry?' Sam repeated, though his voice didn't seem agitated.

The girl seemed to relax with the gentleness of his voice, and blinked twice. Her mouth hadn't moved at all until that point, as though it would crack if she even tried to smile. A slightly worried expression came from Steve when she tried, but finally she managed to separate her lips.

A breath of relief sounded from the people around her, and the girl visibly shrunk down. Her eyes darted around all the faces, suddenly overwhelmed with the amount of strange men staring at her. She uttered a squeak and started shaking, squeezing her eyes shut and clenching her teeth down.

Tony was oddly enough the first to notice the problem, quickly trying to get them all to back up. 'Where are the Reds?' he asked, glancing to the kitchen to find it empty.

'Bedroom,' Vision replied. 'Both of them are in Wanda's.' Tony was about to start off after them, but Vision placed a hand on his shoulder. 'They do not wish to be disturbed.'

'This is important,' Steve insisted, ready to go himself.

Sam agreed. 'We need a girl to talk to her, and quick- she's still freaking out.'

They all turned to the sofa following a sudden silence, freezing as they saw someone in a large hooded jacket crouching beside the girl.

Chapter Text

Before Clint could pull his bow out from nowhere, the hood was pulled back to reveal an already mentally exhausted Maria Hill. 'Seriously?' she asked, gesturing to their current attack positions.

'We need a female to talk to this female as she appears to be in a state of confusion,' Thor stated, slowly realising that Maria was also a female. 'And how fortunate we should be that a good friend arrived just in time!'

'Nice coverup,' Clint muttered under his breath. 'Hey, Maria.'

She rolled her eyes as they all quickly tried to follow Clint's lead and offer greetings, each one being ignored. 'What did you guys do to this kid? Natasha sent me a photo an hour ago and she was asleep, now she's shaking and her entire face is clenched.'

Sam dropped onto one of the armchairs. 'Too many people at once, I'm guessing.'

'Too many men,' Steve corrected.

Maria decided not to pass up the chance, hiding her smile as she responded. 'Too many little boys trying to get her attention.'

Clint snickered, not bother to care if the statement was also aimed at himself. 'You got our call, and now you're here. I'm hoping that means you have some info on this kid?'

'Apart from what Tony told me, no. We have nothing on her,' Maria answered simply.

After coaxing the girl to open her eyes and sit up, a few of the guys left the room to give them some space. She ate a few small things, eyes wide open and darting around the room as though expecting an attack. Maria asked her a few questions after Bruce brought her up to speed with the communication system.

She left the girl with Steve and told her to lie down and get warm before doing anything else. The look Maria gave Steve was one to make sure he didn't do anything stupid, but he just smiled innocently back at her.

Another dining table conversation ensued, this time with Wanda joining in. Although, "joining in" may not be the best way to put it. She sat silently, trying not to make it obvious that her mind was elsewhere.

Unsure of the girl and her abilities, it seemed wise to request that a two person watch would change out every four hours. It was Thor's idea to draw them out of a hat, noting that Jane and Darcy would be joining them shortly and would add another pair to their group.

When suggested that Pepper also join in babysitting duty, Tony reported that she was incredibly loaded down at the moment and wouldn't be able to make it. Nat wasn't above joking about a god to his face, seconds away from making a comment about how Thor learned the "name in a hat" system. She kept quiet though, wanting to get it over with.

'Here,' Thor boomed, dumping a small pile of torn up paper on the table. 'The names are written, now we must find a hat to place them in. That is how it works, yes? No tricks or sorcery?'

The others all nodded, allowing a bright and childlike smile to appear on Thor's face. Nat nudged Clint under the table, signing a sarcastic comment to him. What's the bet Darcy did it to divide up chores? Clint smirked.

'May I do the honours, God of Thunder or Lightning or whatever it is you do?' Tony asked, producing Steve's Captain America helmet. The look on everyone's face was priceless, but not for the reason Tony first thought. 'He's either right behind me, or he's about to be.'

Vision and Thor nodded, the others all giggling or snickering under their breath. 'How about I do it?' Steve suggested, everyone nodding enthusiastically as he held out his hand for his helmet. 'Thanks.'

With each pair announced, there were both groans and cheers, among other things. Steve & Darcy, Clint & Natasha, Tony & Bruce, Jane & Thor, Vision & Wanda, then Maria & Sam.

The main groan was from Natasha, who was hoping that her name wouldn't be called at all. Technically it wasn't though, considering that the names, or rather nicknames, were written by Thor. They had to admit though, some were rather sweet or just plain hilarious.

The smile on his face when Steve read them out was both sweet and terrifying, as they each had to work it out. Steve read his own out first, closing his eyes for a moment and chuckling quietly.

'Captain of Stars and Lightning Sister.' He stopped and tried to think, the others all wracking their brains.

'Darcy!' Clint chirped, grinning at Thor as he nodded.

Steve once again dug his hand into the helmet, plucking out another two names. He quickly glanced to the ceiling in an attempt not to laugh, breathing shakily and clenching his fists.

The expressions around the table were mostly worry, except Thor of course. 'On & Off.'

Unsure whether to fly across the table and attack him or just sit there and laugh, Nat and Clint were unable to help themselves and practically fell off their seats laughing. Thor seemed delighted to have caused such a cheerful ruckus, looking around at all the other sniggering faces. It was probably one suggested by Darcy, being so pop-culture.

Then came the groan, obviously from Natasha. Steve plucked up the helmet again and reached for another two names, reading it out as though he was presenting an award.

'Tiny Stark and Angry Lettuce, congratulations.'

It was instantly clear who the pair were, Tony offering a hi-five to Bruce before realising the short joke. 'Not cool, Thor.'

'Future Queen of Asgard and "Me" with a smiley face,' Steve snorted, looking to Thor. 'I feel like you organised all of this.'

Thor shrugged. 'I don't see how, as you are the one who is pulling the names from the helmet. Perhaps the young sorceress is using her talents?'

All eyes turned to Wanda, who had only just started paying attention. 'What? I have nothing to do with it.'

They shrugged and waited for the next pair, instantly turning their eyes back to Wanda as she shrunk down in her seat. 'Worthy and... Sorceress of Wands.'

The fact that Wanda's codename was "Scarlet Witch" suddenly made sense, mostly due to the red cheeks and fiery sparks in her eyes. She avoided Vision's gaze, who seemed to be smiling to himself about her embarrassment.

'Read the next one, Steve, or I'll do it myself,' Wanda threatened, lowering her voice and glaring at him.

'Okay okay, no need for more violence,' Steve sighed. 'Rebellious Mountain and Metal Bird Boy. Okay, those have to be Hill and Sam, and I get Sam's...'

Maria appeared curious, intertwining her fingers and leaning towards Thor. He copied her pose, raising an eyebrow curiously to draw the others in slightly. 'It's her name. The meaning of Maria is to rebel, a rather popular name on your planet. Darcy has a sister by that name and was bringing me up to speed on the naming rights of Earth.'

She almost grinned, knowing that Fury would enjoy the fact. 'I like it. And does this mean I get to babysit with Baby Bird?'

The look on Sam's face screamed challenge, and they were both fine with that.

Darcy and Jane arrived soon after, and were filled in by an excited Clint. Everyone split off to go do their usual thing, leaving Darcy & Steve on their first shift. Bruce said that he'd wait until his shift to do the tests, considering that the girl's skin was still rather cold.

She could have been on the brink of death out there, and only one person really knew.

Steve was happy to watch the sleeping girl with Darcy, and being next to the guy who saved her grandfather and thus allowed her existence was plenty fun for her too. She was about to go snooping around for some kind of entertainment when Tony stopped by, dropping a pile of games on the table.

'No snooping,' he instructed Darcy, 'and no physical interaction,' he added for Steve's benefit. They both grumbled a reply, turning to the stack of board games.

Three hours of board games later, Darcy looked up from her current thrashing of Steve and saw that the girl was awake. 'Woah, she's awake.' Darcy crawled around the table and sat in front of the girl, offering a smile. 'Hey, I'm Darcy.'

The girl only stared back, but she seemed at ease to find that there were only two people in front of her. Steve sat next to Darcy, trying to figure out where he recognised the girl from. She sat up and pulled the blankets tighter around her shoulders, looking downwards.

'Do you recognise this guy?' Darcy questioned, receiving two blinks in response. 'Great, that saves a lot of explanation.'

Steve smiled at the girl. 'Have you met me before? Or was it just from tv?'

The girl frowned, wondering how she was supposed to answer both questions at once. She blinked once, then twice, hoping that it was split apart enough to come across as separate answers.

When Darcy finished her questions, her shift with Steve had just ended. Clint ushered them both out of the room, landing on the armchair and spreading out on it. Nat didn't exactly feel in the mood for babysitting, and asked Clint to cover for her.

Clint raised his eyes to the ceiling, where Nat was crouched in his usual perch, watching. Clearly, he'd refused. His argument was that he'd get her back in his sleep, in a way that only she would know what happened. Nat finally agreed, if she didn't have to be within five feet of her like the others seemed to enjoy being.

'Hey kid,' Clint turned his head to look at her, 'are you doing okay?'

The girl nodded. It was a nice change from the blinking responses, and Clint sat up. Nat's senses became alerted from her high perch, and she reached into the backpack Clint had left up there, grabbing the binoculars. It wasn't as though she was all that far away, but she wanted to analyse her partner's expressions.

He seemed relieved, so Nat calmed herself down and grabbed her radio. 'Hawkeye, this is Black Widow, come in- over.'

'Hey, BW. It's been forty seconds, so I'm assuming this is a check in- over.'

Nat smiled to the side, glancing down at him. 'Don't flatter yourself, Barton. I could still hurt you pretty bad from up here... I was just making sure the kid wasn't dying. Keep me updated.'

Clint waited a moment, raising his eyes to see his friend looking rather confused. 'Tasha? You okay up there? Over.'

'Fine... over.'

Clint returned to his comfortable position on the armchair, and Nat rested her back against the wall. She was obviously not fine, but he wouldn't get anything out of her in their current places. It was about two hours or so before anything interesting came to light, the time being passed by sarcastic comments and word games.

Clint looked towards the younger girl, her eyes vacantly staring. He stood up quickly, kneeling a foot away from her face and placing the back of his hand against her forehead. The girl's eyes moved up to meet his, her forehead knitting into a frown. Clint reached for his radio, glancing up to Natasha.

'What temp did Banner say the girl was at when we brought her in? Over.'

Natasha leant over the edge of the perch. 'Don't remember, something along the lines of cold? Over.'

'Not funny, Nat. I think she's starting to warm up- over.'

Rather than fulfil their final hour, Nat asked Clint to grab Bruce & Tony a little early.

Tony griped when Clint made the request, but Bruce was more than happy to get the tests out of the way. He wouldn't admit it, but he had been waiting to get the experiments done so that he could determine if she was harmless or not.

They had all been hoping the same thing, that she was safe, but none of them could deny that she could have held the same anger as Wanda and Pietro when they volunteered, if she volunteered at all. The only way to answer all the questions was to wait, and do tests.

'Where's Romanoff?' Tony asked, shuffling through the deck of cards he'd left Steve and Darcy. 'Crawling around under the furniture again?'

A stinging pain that felt like a slap came over Tony's face, and he glanced over his shoulder to see absolutely nothing. He rubbed the back of his head and shot a look to Clint and Bruce, both of whom were laughing.

Clint kept laughing through the glares Stark was giving him. 'You better watch yourself, Stark. Nat's just waiting for you to say something even more stupid so she can have a reason to kick your ass.'

'Let's just get these tests over with,' Tony mumbled, heading over to help Bruce.

By the time their shift was up, the science nerds had only just finished their tests and the girl was exhausted. Jane & Thor's shift was next, and Thor seemed delighted to discover more about the girl.

'Hello, I am Thor Odinson of Asgard,' he greeted with a wide smile.

The confused expression on the girl softened, and she almost managed to smile back. He was delighted and turned to Jane, his smile still beaming and her having to reciprocate. It was as though no one could help themselves, but some of the Avengers feared what would happen if Thor were to became angry.

Jane realised that Thor was probably waiting for her to introduce herself, since it was usually customary and she had been trying to bring him up to speed on such things. 'Hi, I'm Jane. Are you doing okay?'

The girl managed to nod, and a strange amount of movement led to her freeing her arms from the cocoon of blankets. It was clear she no longer deemed the amount of heat quite as necessary, and almost relieved that she could move a little more.

'Can you speak, young one?' Thor asked, rather curious with the condition of the girl and intrigued by her appearance.

Almost too scared to even try, the girl lowered her eyes and shook her head. She closed her eyes completely and ceased to move, and Jane turned to Thor.

'She's probably just tired from all the tests Banner and Stark put her through, she might wake up again soon and be ready to talk.'

Thor seemed a little saddened by this, but nonetheless managed to maintain his usual bright nature. 'Can I interest you in one of these Midgardian games the Man of Iron has left for our use?'

'Sure, which one?'

Chapter Text

When their shift had finished, Jane had fallen asleep and Thor refused to let anyone wake her, even Darcy who had promised to "be as polite as possible". He instead carried her to one of the bedrooms, leaving her to sleep in peace while he replenished his energy.

Vision had arrived right at the changeover, meanwhile Wanda waited around the corner for everyone to leave. She slowly made her way into the living room, sitting awkwardly on the spare sofa and avoiding Vision's face.

'Wanda, if you want to leave, I can cover for you.'

She raised her eyes with an almost shocked expression, her bottom lip dropping a little. 'I don't think that's necessary, Vis. But... thank you.'

He bowed his head politely, keeping eye contact. 'You don't have to worry about offending me, Miss Maximoff.'

'Miss Maximoff?' she repeated, huffing a breath and glancing up to the high roof. 'Why do I suddenly feel like you are hiding something from me?'

'Perhaps because I am,' Vision replied, lowering his voice and leaning forward. 'Might I also add that you have already apologised for what happened when Mr Barton came to rescue you?'

Wanda swallowed guiltily, knowing that apologising a billion times wouldn't make her feel any better about the situation. There wasn't really any way she could feel better about it, but when she'd returned to the compound after the rescue, it seemed that Vision was far more concerned with her mental & physical state than hearing an apology.

'Vis, I looked into your head the moment you had a consciousness, and I saw everything. I know you looked into mine too,' Wanda remarked, watching his expression change as she spoke, 'and I want to know what you saw in me. The good, the bad, and what you see now that makes you think I'm not how the people out there see me.'

He looked instead towards the sleeping test subject, then quickly to Wanda. 'I shall more than gladly do so, if you answer a question of mine afterwards.'

Seconds before the shift was up, Wanda rose from her seat and left for the front door, grabbing her thick jacket on the way. By the time Hill and Sam came to relieve her and Vision, there was no sight of either.

'Well then, looks like we're on night watch,' Sam joked, looking over to Hill.

She shrugged and gestured to the board games. 'Good, I don't sleep that well anyways. You up for a game?'

'Sure. What've we got apart from cards?'

The answer was quickly decided when Maria pulled Clue from the bottom of the pile, flashing her daring and rare smile. Each thought that they personally held the upper hand, and they would go to their graves playing rematches if it took that long to win fairly.

Although, "fairly" wasn't exactly a good adjective to use. After finishing the second game, Maria was shifting around in her place and trying to set the board up again. Sam smirked and started to help, taking the things out of her hands and nodding his head to the side. He received a raised eyebrow in reply, and he just grinned.

'Go on, that shifting around either means you need to use the bathroom or you're cold,' Sam commented. 'Extra blankets over there, bathroom over there.'

'Right. Thanks, Wilson.'

He chuckled as she stood up. 'Stop callin' me Wilson, and I'll stop callin' you Hill.'

As she headed towards the bathroom, Maria called over her shoulder. 'Roger that, Metal Bird Boy.'

Revenge would be sweet, but Sam wouldn't take it so far as to cheat without her watching him in plain sight. He reorganised the board and the tiny pieces, glancing sideways to see if the girl was awake. She was, but it appeared only just so.

'Morning. Hungry?'

It seemed that this one, rather than all of the others, was the one who constantly offered her food. Graciously accepting, Sam asked her to wait for his shift buddy to come back in case she needed something and couldn't call out for help.

She nodded again, moving her eyes upwards as she heard footsteps. Maria entered the room, and the girl seemed to completely relax. It was at least nice to have a female around, as a few of the others didn't seem all that interested in her. It was strange though, as though she could sense something odd about a few of them. Not all, just some.

While Maria watched the girl, she and Sam held conversation through the space between kitchen and living room. The girl listened, their bright voices almost cheering her up enough to smile and want to talk with them. The only problem was that she'd forgotten how, and felt her throat was still too frozen and might fracture.

As Bruce and Tony continued analysing the tests, only one more shift passed. There was so much to analyse, and there was an unfortunate situation. They hadn't fully seen the girl, but believed they saw enough. She was covered in bruises, scars and puncture marks, probably from needles and tests to allow the Enhancement.

She was healing rather well, but was weakened by loss of blood. Upon this discovery, Tony offered up the idea of using one of the group for a transfusion. When Bruce started to reject the theory, it was stated rather quickly that the chance of one of them matching would be rather high, considering there were so many of them there.

The last hour had been arguments back & forth, one saying that a few of them were not entirely human and therefore should not be counted, and the other saying that there was still a chance considering the girl wasn't so human herself.

Rather than ask the team, Tony sent the girl's blood type into the system and compared it to the other Avengers, against Bruce's claims of recklessness. The computer only took a few moments to scan, Dr Banner rubbing his temples the whole time.

Wanda had been hiding in her room, her mind jumping every time someone slipped past her door. Every second that passed, she believed she'd been found out. Something close by vibrated and she almost leapt into the air, red sparks firing from her hands and into the roof.

Her eyes widened as the room caught fire, a sharp cry catching in her throat. Next door, Nat bolted awake and scrambled from her bed, her heightened senses instantly detecting the smoke and sound of flames. She ran to Wanda's room, stopping outside the door and holding her hand up to feel the heat.

'FRIDAY,' she called, 'WANDA'S ROOM IS ON FIRE!'

The entire building was suddenly alerted to the presence of smoke, yet by the time Steve, Clint & Vision had reached Wanda's room, Natasha had gone in. The panic took a while to subside, especially since Nat and Wanda were both currently unconscious in the hallway.

Once they'd been dragged free and Friday began working on putting out the blaze, the strangeness seemed to grow. Everyone had been distracted and wanted to run and help, and when they returned with Natasha & Wanda to get them away from the smoke, someone was missing.

Darcy looked up from all the panic first. 'Uh, guys... the kid ran off! Someone has to go get her, right?'

Thor placed his hands on her shoulders and quickly scanned the room. 'I shall check outside. Do not fret, Darcy.'

He ran for the front door, Tony quickly suiting up and following after him to aid with the search. Vision laid Wanda down and scanned her, while Clint went for the panicked approach. He'd grabbed Nat before Steve could even blink, placing her on the sofa where the girl had been and trying to talk her into waking up.

'Come on, Natasha! A little smoke wouldn't knock you out like this.' He was worried, and rightly so. Bruce asked if he could take some of her blood to see if something else was in play, Clint shooting him a glare. 'It stays unmarked. You don't put anywhere that it's Nat's, got that?'

Bruce nodded and ran for his kit, the others panicking and trying to make sense of what happened. Wanda had only been unconscious for a few moments, but she was coughing and currently unable to speak. Steve stood by Wanda's bed, feeling a sense of deja vu. He looked above her doorframe, where the fire had started, and tried to determine why.

Maria passed by looking for him, only just able to spot the light grey t-shirt amongst the smoke that still resided. 'Rogers, the kid's gone and Romanoff won't wake up,' she started, clearly already exhausted from dealing with the others. 'Wh-what are you doing in here?'

'Trying to figure out why the fire started. Tony said this place was secure, I'm not feeling so sure about that at the moment,' Steve wondered aloud, glowering up at the burnt wall.

'Fair enough. Still, I wouldn't take too long. I think Barton's about to start a fire of his own.'

There was an air of uncomfortableness in the living room.

Wanda drank three full glasses of water, but still coughed as though the smoke was right there with her. Vision wouldn't leave her side, even if he could tell she wasn't entirely thrilled by the idea. Natasha was still out, despite the efforts of Clint to wake her. No one else dared to try, knowing that job was for Barton only.

Jane had dragged Darcy to the lab with Bruce to see if they could help in any way, and Sam had taken off to see if he could assist Thor and Tony in the search for the girl. Steve and Maria had rejoined the others in the living room, Steve growing much more concerned than he thought he would be.

'Nat's still out,' Steve stated, looking almost pitifully to Clint. He then shifted his gaze to Wanda, who was clearly avoiding eye contact with anyone. 'Wanda, you alright?'

She started to tremble, shaking her head and letting tears spill down her cheeks. The grimace on Steve's face was probably due to making a young girl upset enough to cry, and he knelt down in front of her.

'Wanda, what do you know?'

He received a rather strange look from the conscious few around him, Steve assuming it was because he was questioning her even though she was crying. Wanda forced her eyes up to Steve's, probably for the first time in a while.

'I know what she is. I knew... I knew it when I read her mind,' Wanda's voice was almost breathy, as though she didn't believe it all herself. 'I didn't recognise her at first, but she knew who I was, and she kept trying to tap into my powers and talk to me.'

Sam returned first, followed quickly by Tony and Thor with his arms full. 'Where can I place her?'

Wanda jumped up and offered her seat, backing away from the once again unconscious girl. As eyes drifted between Natasha and the girl, something seemed off. Jane ran into the room with Bruce at her heels, almost panting as she tried to gather her thoughts. Darcy entered last, carrying a stack of paper.

'W-we found... an anomaly,' she managed, turning to Bruce and grabbing the tablet. 'We were all thinking the same thing, right? She looks familiar?'

A sinking feeling revealed itself all around, and everyone tried to guess what was happening. Tony stepped out of his suit and walked over to Darcy, grabbing a few sheets of the paper and scanning it quickly.

'This doesn't make sense.'

Before Maria could snap and ask them what didn't make sense, Bruce held up his hand to gather the attention. 'We tested her DNA after finding out she needed a blood transfusion, wanting to see who was the best match. She ran away before we could administer it, hence why she didn't make it very far, and the conclusion is-'

'She's related to all of us,' Jane cut in, 'her DNA shows that parts of us became parts of her at some point, or she was created from an amalgamation of all our DNA. Well, except Vision, since he technically only has manufactured DNA, and Nat because she's... Nat.'

'Even yours and Darcy's,' Tony added, scowling at the paper. 'This can't be possible.'

Clint stood up and turned away from Romanoff. 'Stop saying what's not possible, and start trying to help me wake up Natasha!' He stormed off, heading for the lab and hoping to find something that he could at least try. Bruce followed him, knowing that Clint would stop at nothing to help his best friend.

Thor seemed concerned when he saw Clint's expression and outburst, turning to where Nat laid on the sofa. He wanted to help, but it wasn't only him at a loss. Wanda had nowhere to disappear to this time, and a few people wanted answers.

Steve turned back to her, trying not to seem angry or like he was pressuring her. 'You said you recognised her. Where from?'

Wanda glanced to Vision for a moment, glad that he was unable to notice as he studied the girl. 'It was in my village. A girl was brought to the orfelinat, younger than me and my brother, only a child. She was found in the forest alone, covered in blood. A few weeks later, she just disappeared. P... Pietro... he was the one who noticed she disappeared.'

'Why didn't you say something?' Tony questioned, glad that Clint was currently out of the room.

'I thought she was familiar, but I couldn't think where from. I tried to find a moment alone to focus my thoughts, and even that is harder than it used to be... That's why the fire started. I heard a noise and jumped, just as I realised, but my powers aren't how they used to be.'

Guilt passed between Steve and Tony, each believing they were to blame after their fight. Wanda had been placed in a straight jacket and shock collar, any use of her mind other than breathing or blinking causing the electricity to strike her. Maria was aware of what had happened, quickly turning off her emotions in order to find out what was going on.

'We need to get this all straightened out, okay?' she suggested, looking around. Clint and Bruce had just returned and were starting work on Nat, which meant that she and the girl were the only ones out of the conversation. 'You all recognise her- at least slightly, right?'

Everyone nodded, even Vision. That was the only strange thing, but Vision had previously noted that his mind was still partially linked with Wanda's after she'd first read his mind.

'Right,' Maria continued, 'Wanda saw her as a child- how long ago was that?'

Wanda quickly babbled a response in her mother tongue, Vision translating for her. She was having enough trouble articulating her thoughts, having to translate them as well was too much. 'They were thirteen, so it was over ten years ago.'

Steve tried to think, looking to Sam. 'That girl we bumped into, near the Washington Memorial. She had blonde hair and it was about three years ago, but looked like her.' Sam nodded in agreement, and the group turned to Tony.

'Maybe she was a student at a high school I lectured?' he tried, unsure. 'I don't know, I see a lot of kids on a weekly basis.'

They then turned to Bruce, who would be rather easy due to his lack of leaving the house.

'It must have been not long after Wanda met her. Just a kid, came in with her school to see our research lab.'

Jane and Darcy both stated that they'd met her during a city-wide science fair, and finally it was down to Thor, who seemed most confused about the situation.

He faced Steve, aiming a finger at him. 'You said she was blonde, which means yellow hair, yes?' When Steve nodded, Thor's confusion turned to an almost anger. 'She was at a feast in Asgard.'

Darcy looked over the sofa to the girl, pulling out her phone and taking a photo. They all jumped and went to grab her, but she threw up her hands quickly in surrender.

'I was just looking at her head, jeez. You guys were crowding around, I didn't wanna suffocate her.'

Jane moved over to Darcy and grabbed the outstretched phone, zooming in on the photo. 'I don't get it, what were you taking a photo of?'

'Well, Thor and Steve both said she was blonde... but her hair is growing out dark. See?'

Chapter Text

The girl was moved to the lab to be hooked up to machines, while Clint sat on the coffee table and waited as patiently as he could for Nat to wake up. Most of the others were sleep, except for Wanda and Bruce. Bruce was doing tests, and Wanda was fighting nightmares on the sofa opposite Nat.

She'd refused to sleep in any other room, saying that she'd prefer to be around when Natasha woke up to apologise. As she tossed and turned, Clint turned to her. 'Wanda,' he whispered, hoping it was enough to make her open her eyes.

One by one, Wanda's eyelids opened and she sat up. 'Did Natasha wake up?'

'No, I just need to ask you something,' he answered, swallowing almost heavily. 'Why do you need to apologise? There was a fire, Nat came in...' Clint stopped as Wanda glanced away. 'I'm sure it was an accident, kid. It's not like you tried to kill her or anything.'

Wanda's face read guilt, there was something more as she spoke. 'Don't take this the wrong way, but I think I may have. Not on purpose,' she added quickly, 'but my head was so messed up, and I was angry, and bad things happen when people like me get angry.'

'It was revenge for your brother,' Clint stated, his heart plummeting to the floor as he quickly turned back to his best friend. 'Wanda, tell me exactly what happened.'

She nodded, trembling as though she was frozen solid. 'I was trying to remember where I met the girl, but every time someone walked past my door... It felt like they were coming to get me. Then that stupid cellphone went off and I jumped, my powers sparked, the fire started. Tasha came in to get me out, I could feel her trying to help, but I couldn't control...'

He'd known her powers weren't doing so good as of late, but enough to snap out of control and purposely hurt someone she cared about? Clint moved momentarily away from his partner, pulling the terrified Wanda into his arms and trying to calm her. He didn't know what else to do.

'I need you to breathe and stay calm, I'm just trying to figure out a way to help her, okay?' Clint gently held her by the shoulders, not wanting to be as stiff with her as he would be with anyone else, and she nodded quickly. 'Where did the spark hit Nat? Did she bleed or anything?'

'It hit her in the side. When she was trying to pull me out, everything was blurry and I aimed... I aimed for her head, but I missed. She didn't bleed, but she hit her head against the wall. I am... I am so sorry, I don't even know why I was aiming at her. It was like...'

Before she could finish, Clint did it for her. 'Like someone was using you as a puppet.'

Against her wishes, Wanda was pulled close to Natasha. 'Barton, don't make me do this. It might hurt her more.'

'Wanda, you can do this. Who took down almost the entire team the second time we met? Huh? You did, with this gift that was awakened in you,' Clint insisted. 'I recall that the Hulk had a little run-in with a city, even against his "zen" thinking. You took down Thor the Norse God, Captain A-Freakin'-Merica, the infamous Russian super-spy Black Widow, and the first time you met Stark, he became a crazy madman. Granted, he was predisposed...'

She couldn't help the almost smile appearing on her face, behind the messy locks of hair dangling on her head. 'I didn't get you, though. You got me instead.'

'Yeah, Loki used the mind-control thing on me a while ago, not a fan. Then again, he was kinda an evil bastard,' Clint added, adding a dramatic frown for effect.

'So was I,' Wanda remarked.

The look on Clint's face wasn't embarrassment, it was odd. Instead, he looked like he was about to burst out laughing. When he finally did, it was as though Wanda could see Natasha smacking him over the back of the head. She then remembered that "evil" was relative, and Nat had once been one of the worst.

Clint was still laughing, enjoying his moment knowing that Nat couldn't make him feel bad about it. 'You think you were evil? No way, kid. Influenced, hurting- yes. Evil- no.'

After finally ceasing his laughter, Clint managed to remember what he was trying to do. He explained to Wanda what she was looking for and how to do it, leaving her almost sorry for him. The fact that he knew exactly how to get into someone's mind meant that he remembered Loki using him, and although she hadn't met Loki, she planned on returning the favour.

Wanda held her breath, closed her eyes and focused, while Clint sent out a mass text to alert everyone to stay where they were- especially Vision. Red seeping from her fingers, turning it's tricks and creeping into the mind of an unconscious Natasha. It felt wrong, but Wanda knew it might be their only chance.

Once she reached the inner point of Nat's mind, Wanda's body almost froze up and a strange look came across her face. 'I see her. She's waiting inside her mind, and she can hear what we say.'

Clint almost fell over himself as he scrambled close, facing Wanda. 'Can I question her?'

She nodded. 'Only if she gets to punch you,' Wanda smirked, eyes staying closed. 'That was her response, not mine.'

'Figures,' Clint muttered. 'Okay then- Nat, does this hurt?'

He flicked her ear, no pain crossing the unconscious body but instead appearing on Wanda's face. 'She said yes, and she's going to kill you. Look, are you two going to ask real questions, or do I have to do everything myself?'

'Fine, fine,' he snickered, grinning down at his partner's face. 'Can you wake up on your own?'

'She says no, she tried,' Wanda replied, her guilt festering deep down. 'Natasha, I'm sorry that I did this to you, I did not know what I was doing.'

Inside her mind, Nat just smiled back at Wanda. 'Not your fault, sweetie. I heard all the stuff you guys were saying, and I think the girl was sent here to tear us apart.'

Clint didn't want to scare Wanda and make her jump, so he tapped Nat's shoulder as a warning to both. 'Guys, I can't hear what you're saying.'

The unconscious Nat sniggered, Clint only knowing so when the reaction appeared on Wanda. She tried not to grin on her own, and repeated Nat's communication. 'She said that it's weird how you are just now getting this after spending most of your life deaf.'

'That's it, Natasha. I'm hiding all your shit.'

'She wishes you luck getting into her room,' Wanda replied. 'Can we get back to getting her out of her head? I am starting to lose my grip.' Both assassins agreed, Natasha asking Wanda to pass on what they'd worked out. 'We worked out that it's the girl causing issues. It seems she tapped into my powers when I was panicking, using me to hurt Natasha.'

That didn't seem to satisfy Clint. 'I don't think she meant to hurt us. She seemed more concerned when any of us seemed in danger, I could see it on her face.'

Nat had to agree, even though she wasn't about to shake hands with the girl. 'Maybe someone is controlling her,' she suggested, dropping onto the sofa in the room in her mind.

Wanda relayed it to Clint, who didn't respond. 'Barton, did you hear that? I'm not making a joke, I just-' Her hand reached out, and Clint was gone. Wanda's eyes flew open and her hand clasped to her mouth, she turned to the hallway and heard a clattering. 'We left Banner alone with her!'

The loud use of the word "Banner" seemed to draw everyone from their beds at a startling pace, some crashing into others as they scrambled for the living room, each looking a different way and trying to find out what was going on. Nat was still out, Wanda & Clint were gone, and a series of loud noises were coming from the lab.

'Hill, watch Darcy and Jane!' Steve shouted, gesturing down the hallway. 'Tap the end wall three times and don't come out!'

If she hadn't been so terrified, Darcy would have used one of her favourite jokes.

Unfortunately she was, so she just pulled her covers tighter around her shoulders and ran after Jane. Steve looked to Sam, Vision, and an already suited up Tony. They all ran down towards the lab, unsure if they'd yet need such drastic measures. They hadn't all entirely faced the Hulk, but surely he wouldn't be so hard to manage with all of them there.

Luckily for all of them, there was a sparking red sphere around a struggling Bruce Banner, who was starting to look a little green. Clint was trying to wake up the girl, thinking that maybe she had been faking her unconsciousness since her return.

'Wake up! Come on, kid!'

Sam had been standing in the doorway while the others stood around Bruce, telling him to fight the Big Guy, but he quickly moved over to where Clint stood. 'What's goin' on?'

'Nat, Wanda & me think the kid is controlling us with her enhancement,' he replied quickly, checking all the machines and seeing if there was something medical he could do. 'I heard that, ran to check on Banner just as he stated Hulking out, and Wanda came in to control him. She and Nat worked out after I left that the kid is being controlled.'

He seemed to be shouting a bit, but it was clear that the information was for everyone in the room. Sam turned to Wanda, who was starting to sweat and lose focus. Vision had been keeping his distance, but Clint growled out of nowhere about the girl needing all the help she could get.

Vision stepped closer to Wanda and focused his energy on her mind, tapping deep into the Mind Stone and trying to focus her powers with his own. It felt like an invasion of privacy, as Wanda would put it. The amount of times he'd floated through the walls made that statement rather clear, even though it didn't always bug her.

While Vision helped Wanda, Sam and Clint were still scurrying around the equipment and Bruce was still thrashing on the floor. Tony snapped out of his brain and into action, moving towards the kid's trembling form. She was no longer freezing cold, but almost sweating with the amount of effort she was being forced into using.

Tony grabbed one of the machines and pressed a few buttons, and the girl started seizing. It was enough of a break for Bruce to stop his transformation, but it took too long. Wanda crashed and fell to the floor, eyes still sparking with red as she tried to steady herself. Not only had she seen inside the Hulk's mind, but also Banner's.

Steve grabbed Wanda before she hit the ground, considering the fact that Vision wasn't able to since he had suddenly disappeared from the room. Sam watched the younger girl thrashing on the table, crying out in a painfully hoarse voice and squeaking as she tried to free herself. Her eyes burst open, golden flames swirling back to their natural brown.

Clint had been holding her down, easing up as she stopped wriggling and instead took deep breaths. Panicky and glancing around at every face, trying to gather where she was, the mission returned to her mind.

'I'm sorry,' she croaked, tears staining her cheeks as she fought to gain her breath back.

Bruce rolled around on the floor with his eyes shut tight, Tony helping him up and trying to persuade him to the kitchen. Sam followed behind, Steve further ahead with Wanda.

The second Wanda was placed on the sofa, Steve had somehow disappeared and returned with a glass of water and an apple. She forced a weak smile, looking over to Bruce as he was offered the same.

'I'd give you guys juice and a cookie, but that's usually for donating blood,' Sam commented, flexing out his elbow to show that he knew the process. 'Not that giving blood is the same as using powers, 'cause I have no idea what that's like.'

'Natasha hides all the cookies anyways,' Tony noted, 'from Barton mostly.'

A text pinged from the few phones in the room, Sam being the first to retrieve his cell. 'It's from Darcy to the Avengers chat. Wait, since when do we have an Avengers chatroom?'

DarcyL: Since now! Let us out!

Sam rolled his eyes and headed for the safe-room, banging on the door and stepping back as it opened, all three women quickly bursting out. 'I'm assuming you gals heard us trying to catch our breath?'

'Yeah,' Darcy started, 'but someone shut off all the power and the oxygen in there. I wasn't going to just patiently and quietly wait for death.'

'Quietly?' Jane remarked under her breath.

The four returned to the main area, Hill quickly assessing to see that Clint, Vision & the girl were nowhere to be seen. 'Where are the others? With the kid?'

'We left Barton down there with her,' Tony answered. 'Also the girl's awake, and being controlled by something else.'

'Great,' came a sarcastic response.

Steve stood up and stretched, pulling out the phone S.H.I.E.L.D had given him. 'What's a chatroom again? I dozed off during the lecture Tony sent me.'

'It's like a letter, but to a lot of people at the same time, and they can all see everyone's response,' Bruce explained, gulping down his third glass of water. 'Where did you say Vision went, Stark?'

Tony glanced around. 'I didn't. I only answered for Hawkeye and the puppet.'

They turned to Wanda a little too quickly, almost expecting her to know or sense him. She just looked to them blankly. Still too weak from the drain of containing the Hulk, Wanda wasn't going to be helpful any time soon. They had now lost contact with Nat as well, Wanda or Vision being the only possible ones that could read her unconscious mind.

Bruce was also powered down, and it seemed like not everyone was up to anything at that moment. Clint reappeared, as downtrodden as his friends and wiping blood from his hands onto a cloth he'd found.

'She started smashing glass beakers. I don't think it was up to her though, her eyes went that weird colour again.'

'And... the blood?' Darcy squeaked. 'You didn't kill her, did you?' She narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously, but he just shook his head.

Tony figured that he should probably go make sure Clint wasn't just saying that to assuage all their fears, heading slowly for the lab. Bruce would have gone with, but he had long passed out on the floor entirely curled up in a tight ball. No one had really gotten much sleep, and brain functions were starting to dissipate.

Thor saw Jane falling asleep where she stood, something she did a little too often. It was mostly Darcy that found her that way, and the amount of times Jane had almost been tasered was a number that neither felt like discussing.

Sam had actually slept, the stiff mattress that Tony had specially ordered being practically perfect. Maria spent most of the night listening to the odd breathing patterns around her, and the occasional mumble of words from the bedrooms. She had the option of tuning them out with Tony's soundproofing, but it made Maria not feel quite as alone.

Chapter Text

A few words from the living room carried in too, but she was positive that either Clint or Wanda was dreaming and the other was responding sarcastically. But now that she'd had her third cup of coffee, Hill finally realised that Wanda could go inside Natasha's mind and talk to her, probably relaying the messages to Clint.

Unfortunately, even five cups of coffee wasn't going to help their situation any further. Her brain was maxed out from all her thinking, and the others looked to feel the same way. The most spirited of the bunch was even exhausted, leaving the only one in a helpful state to be Sam.

'Wilson, can you bark the orders?' It seemed that Steve had been on the same wave length as those around him, and even he was physically drained. Nightmares, mostly of the torture his friends suffered at his fault.

'Yeah,' Sam replied after looking around. 'Tony's in the lab, but he's probably passed out by now. I'll take him back to his room, you all try and get as much sleep as you can manage. I can send Friday and some androids to look for Vision, then watch over Nat and the kid.'

It was off that Darcy was the first to protest, but she looked even more rested than Sam. 'I can watch one, no way we're letting you do both.'

'How... noble,' Jane noted, placing her hand on Darcy's shoulder. 'You sure you can do this?'

Darcy nodded quickly. 'Mm-hmm, I've babysat much worse than two unconscious people, and on less sleep. I got the most out of all you guys anyways.'

Thor reached over Jane and hugged Darcy, capturing both of them in a tight embrace. It took a few seconds of persuasion for them all to head to the bedrooms, every one of them soon to be filled. Sam found Tony face-planted on his desk, wondering for a moment how he was going to move him.

One of the Stark Compound rules was that each room had a secret, all revealed with three knocks. Knowing this was Tony's favourite room said something, so Sam knocked.

Sure enough, a bed popped out from the wall within a few feet of where it's usual occupant was sleeping. With an insistence from Sam, the bed pulled out just a little more to reveal that it was actually a double bed.

For Pepper, I'm guessing.

Sam sighed heavily and dragged his hands down his face, his eyes poking through so that he could see the girl. Breathing, lips no longer blue, but covered in blood. Whoever had control of her was a cruel person to put such a sweet-faced girl through that kind of ordeal. Then again, maybe that was the point.

Darcy watched tv while not-so-patiently checking her phone. Everything seemed normal, except for the ex-KGB agent a few feet away. Darcy's mind drifted for a moment, and she wondered if the icicle had ever been normal, or raised in a loving home.

Maybe she was snatched due to her proximity with a large amount of Avengers, or sent to each of them for a reason. It could all have been coincidence, if Darcy believed in such a thing. This, however, was a curious situation. When the girl next woke up, Darcy decided to take it upon herself to get some real answers.

Scrolling through her social media apps, Darcy crossed a news bulletin about missing people in the area. She snickered, knowing that "in the area" would have to mean the entire city, not just the large plot of land where the compound sat. Bored and with nothing else to do, she figured flicking through the pictures would do no harm.

One by one, unfamiliar faces brushed past her eyes. Redheads, blondes, brunettes, more redheads, the list going seeming to never end, until Darcy reached it. The slightly chubby girl in the photo may have been blonde for the photo, but no one could change the dark brown eyes or the freckles adorning her skin.

'Name- Casey,' Darcy stated out loud, wondering if Natasha was able to hear her. 'Age- 21. Occupation- Ex-cop. Wow, hear that?' she joked, turning to the unconscious Russian. 'I did not expect that at all. This says she went missing from an experimental testing site, reported by her roommates... Jason Donahue and Casey Marshall.'

Maria stretched as she entered the room, trying to keep her footsteps heavy enough that she didn't freak Darcy out. 'What are you looking at?' she yawned, moving behind Darcy to see her phone. 'Is that the girl?'

Darcy nodded. 'Yeah, she's in the missing persons list. But it's weird, her name is Casey...'

'Didn't you say one of the roommates was called that too?'

Another nod, and Maria knelt down to get a better look. 'Yeah, I think that's our girl. What else did the report say?'

Darcy repeated the information, handing over her phone. She hadn't even realised how many hours had passed until the others started leaving their rooms, each seeming dazed rather than exhausted. Bruce, Wanda & Tony were nowhere to be seen, understandably.

'We have a theory,' Maria declared. 'When she's unconscious, we're all safe.'

'But when she wakes up,' Darcy continued, 'she has no control over her own actions. It might have something to do with her using her energy to keep herself dormant, but occasionally her focus breaks, and she turns on us.'

Clint, probably still grumpy about his partner not waking up, was one of the first to question the pair. 'Another theory, huh? Well, since you're all so good at theories, why not try working on one to wake up Nat? Or have you all forgotten about the sarcastic, unconscious assassin, who has been through more hell than we could ever know?'

They all looked at him, almost with pity. 'Clint, we-'

'I don't wanna hear it,' he growled, stalking off to the living room and scaling the wall to his perch.

He knew what Nat was going to say to him when she woke up, but he couldn't think about that. All Clint knew was that he needed her, because something was driving itself into his brain and he couldn't do anything about it.

'Sam, did you find Vision?' Tony called from the hallway, all turning to face him. Sam shook his head. 'Okay, well- if someone watches the kid, I think I know where he is.'

Jane and Thor both offered at the same time, Jane smiling awkwardly as he presented his arm. 'Looks like we've got this handled,' she remarked through her grin, ignoring Darcy's kissy faced reaction.

Steve saw Sam about to offer breakfast, something that he had become accustomed to after all the sudden sleepovers at his apartment since Nat & Steve first had. 'Wilson, rest your wings. You've been up a while.'

Maria nodded insistently, and Sam sighed before slumping off to his room. Darcy couldn't help herself, grinning as unsubtly at Maria as she could. A quick shake of the head and the expression of denial on Hill's face clinched it, and Steve raised an eyebrow.

He didn't say anything, Darcy was doing that for him just with her hinting. After being told to knock it off for the third time, there was a swooping sound that silenced them all. Steve stepped out of the kitchen and looked to the living room, taking a few steps forward to reach the end of the sofa where Nat lay.

The noise had come from Clint, who dropped from his perch to Nat's side after seeing her face twitch. He felt a hand on his back, ignoring the voice that told him it was probably a reflex.

'You don't know her like I do. You haven't been on guard and watched her sleep for both your safety for the past ten years, knowing that at any second she could wake up and shoot you dead. Whether you're a few inches or a few feet away, you learn to know when she's going to wake up.'

'Okay,' Steve replied, stepping back. 'I just didn't want you to get your hopes up.'

Clint knew what Steve was saying, but for some reason he couldn't help but overreact. It slowly dawned on him that Natasha was the problem as well as the solution. He'd grown too attached, and worried too easily about her.

'Sorry, Rogers,' he choked out, frowning to stop himself from any other emotion. 'Nat's closer to family than friend, she's been through too much to disappear on me.'

Just as Steve went to turn, he saw Natasha's hand entirely hidden in Clint's, and then movement. Clint jumped back and stumbled over the coffee table, alerting Darcy and Maria to a change in their luck.

Darcy half wanted to run from the room in case Natasha spilled something about the conversation carried in her unconscious state, but she followed close behind Maria instead.

Nat's face scrunched up and she groaned, pain filling her body from head to toe. Clint was by the top of her head, not bothering to hide his relieved smile as she started to regain consciousness. She blinked a few times, waiting for the room to stop spinning before she fell off the sofa.

'Hey,' Clint cooed, helping his partner sit up and instantly changing his demeanour. 'Have a nice nap, Romanoff?'

'Shut up, Clint,' she muttered. 'Where's Wanda? I was talking to her, and she just ripped from my mind.' A look passed between them all, and Nat's face dropped. 'It's bad, isn't it?'

Darcy quickly nodded her head, not bothering to hide that Nat was right. 'She was a little upset with herself, then the thing in the lab happened. Uh, could you hear that in your... state?'

The subtleness of Darcy was like a train passing right in front of you, but Natasha could see that she'd clearly mentioned things in their "conversation" that she wouldn't like repeated.

Nat looked towards the lab, but saw no destruction around there. 'No Code Green?'

'Almost had one,' Steve chimed in, 'but Wanda used up the last of her energy containing it. I'm going to take a wild guess and say that you heard that the kid was sent here as a weapon?'

'To destroy us internally, right?' she smirked, then turned back to face her best friend. 'And don't think I've forgotten that I'm going to kill you, Clint.'

Satisfied that Natasha was back to normal, Steve & Maria returned to the kitchen and Darcy returned to her phone. She wasn't sure if they should call the boys who had reported the girl missing, just in case they were the ones who'd hurt her. So, Darcy did her own sleuthing around to find out as much about them as she could manage.

Clint, not quite as sure as the others, dropped onto the seat next to Nat. She still didn't look as though she felt one hundred percent, although looking that way was something she did naturally.

'You okay?' he asked, his tone still holding worry.

Her voice cracked through her reply, but she ignored it. 'I'm fine, Barton. Nothing to worry about.'

'She says as her words betray her,' Clint teased, grinning to see if she'd match the expression. She started to, but it fell short. 'I knew it, something's wrong.'

The eye roll he got in reply was met with a concerned frown, one that Clint had clearly been perfecting over the years. Nat stared into his eyes for a few seconds, a hesitant smile forming on her face. She quickly looked away, raising her eyes to the tv.

'Where is everyone?' asked the weak voice, neither of the pair looking at each other.

Clint sighed and tried to count them off. 'Tony is looking for Vision, while Bruce, Wanda & Sam are regaining their energy through sleep, and Jane & Thor are watching the kid.'

'Sounds like a party,' Natasha quipped, relaxing back into the sofa. 'Where did the android take off to?'

Darcy shrugged, leaving no point for Clint to respond. Neither cared that Darcy had been listening, she wasn't exactly one to start blabbering that the two universe-class assassins made jokes and quips more than everyone thought.

When Tony finally returned a few hours later, he looked about as delighted to see Natasha as he did to see the Hulk. 'About time you woke up, Спящая красавица.'

She blew an overly sarcastic kiss in response, Clint sniggering beside her. Tony swallowed his comment, just about ready to end both of their side-glances and smirks with a single blow. He held it though, waiting for just the right moment. It was unsure how long it would take for them to look at each other after he said it, but it would be worth it.

'Don't even think about it, Stark,' Steve called from the kitchen, turning around on the barstool placed beneath the bench. 'Not for their sake, but for yours.'

'Hey, where's the red guy?' Darcy wondered aloud, tilting her head back over the chair and up at Tony.

Tony flopped his arm towards the door as a cold gust of wind blew into the compound. The android appeared, looking as he usually did. 'Vision here thought he'd go for a nice fly around the country to let everyone cool off. Found him about two hours away.'

Not believing it for a second, Darcy turned her attention to Vision and tried to get a feel for what he could possibly have been doing. The expression gave away nothing, his clothes were barely touched by snow, and there was something else weird.

'Sounds like he didn't get very far,' Maria commented, exiting the kitchen with two bowls in her hands, passing one to Steve. 'Did he freeze up in the weather?'

'I don't think so,' Darcy called to them. Maria and Tony turned to see her about an foot away from him, reaching out her hand to touch his arm. Before they could shout for her to jump back, Vision turned on Darcy and harshly flung out his arm, sending her flying backwards.

Natasha saw the android's fingers twitch just before he moved, so her reaction was the least slow of everyone in the room. Just as Darcy was about to crash through the wall behind Nat & Clint, a hand grabbed onto hers and yanked her forward.

Chapter Text

Darcy hit the top of the sofa, sliding down behind it and groaning in pain. The others froze, the stiff and plain-faced expression on Vision's face quickly fading to a much more substantial panic. Nat jumped over the top of the sofa and landed beside Darcy, both grateful that the sofa was a few feet from the wall.

Natasha quickly pulled Darcy to her feet, something easier than she'd previously imagined, and tried to help her around to the other side. She was still awake, but in a whole lot of pain. Darcy's trembling hand reached behind her neck, and she pulled it back to see blood.

'Ow,' she trilled, more in surprise than in pain.

Vision's mouth opened and shut, trying to form a sentence. 'Miss Lewis, I... I apologise, although I do not see how you could forgive me for attacking you.'

She waved her hand pathetically, trying to stop her face from crumpling together in a frown. 'Happens all the time, I'm sure it's nothing,' Darcy insisted heavily, chewing on her cheek as Natasha tested her ribs for a fracture. 'Ow!'

Nat winced and clenched her teeth, mouthing "sorry" to Darcy for pushing too hard. 'I think she's broken something, we should probably take her to a hospital.'

'Can someone wake up Jane?' Darcy requested, her eyes scanning the room and trying to find a target to force her most pathetic pout on. The answer quickly became Clint, who was seated behind herself and Nat. 'If I disappear again, she'll throw a fit!'

'I got it,' he sighed, dragging himself up off the sofa and heading for the rooms. 'Wait... is she in the lab with Thor?' Clint groaned as Darcy nodded, his steps becoming more of a stomp as he made his way down there, muttering away to himself.

A snort came from Nat, who grinned her sly smile at the others as they raised confused eyebrows. Tony ignored it and instructed Vision to follow him, probably so that he could run tests and find out why he attacked Darcy. It wasn't much of a guess, but most of them figured it had to do with the girl and her controllers.

When Jane ran into the room a few moments later, she wasn't surprised to see the only one to jump was Darcy. A dismayed smile was forced across Jane's face as she tried to find something to say to her intern.

'I'll take her. Is she okay to move?'

Nat nodded and helped Darcy up, quickly explaining ways to walk and sit without causing too much pain or further damaging herself. Maria found the explanation rather helpful, taking mental notes in case she was injured on the job again. Steve, however, saw the darker side to Natasha's tips.

The only way she'd know how much pain certain movements caused meant that she'd probably broken her ribs several times before. He took a few moments to remember where she'd been brought up, a small crushing feeling causing his heart to sink. Vision had returned as they went to leave, and offered to help Darcy to the car.

She shook her head almost too quickly. 'No, I'm okay. Uh, thanks though.'

Vision bowed his head and turned, heading to sit in the living room. 'Natasha, Mr Barton fell asleep in the hallway.'

Unsure as to why he was telling her this, Nat shrugged and headed for the lab, trying to disguise the odd way she was walking from Steve and Maria. It would most likely be more Steve that noticed, since she'd probably spent more time with him than most of the others combined. There were only two exceptions to that rule, and one was asleep in a hallway.

Nat was tempted to take a photo of him, all spread out with his face twitching. She knelt beside his head, staring at Clint and waiting for a smile to crack on the hardened-by-experience expression. Sighing, Nat grabbed his ankles and dragged him into the lab where Thor and Tony worked away.

'A little help?' she called to them, gesturing obviously to the pile of Clint Barton on the floor.

Thor grabbed him rather easily, placing him on the emergency lab bed that Tony had left out. 'I would think that you should be able to do this on your own, Natasha. I have seen you exhibit rather extraordinary strength when required.'

She let her smile slip, waltzing out of the room and replying over her shoulder. 'I guess I'm losing my touch.'

Tony and Thor exchanged a look, one erupting in a burst of laughter and the other unable to control himself with an almost childish giggling. 'Okay,' Tony managed through his giggling, 'we should pr-probably see if the tests have come back on the kid yet.'

He had still been laughing through his sentence, making his way over to the computers and tapping a few keys. Finally breathing through his fit, Tony stopped for a second. 'A second lot of tests revealed that the girl is losing her connection to the people controlling her.'

Maria's head popped in, catching the results. 'Is it her fighting them, or one of those fancy preventative measures you've got in this fortress?'

'Could be either. I'll send...' he stopped, looking back to Agent Hill. 'I was going to say Vision, but I don't think that's such a great idea. Is anyone else awake that can scale a 70 foot pole and hack into a system created by one of the greatest technological minds of this century?'

'We have Steve,' she suggested sardonically, 'but if you're willing to put aside your egotistical pride, I can suggest Romanoff and myself.'

A large smile appeared from nowhere. 'Great. I'll run point down here, one of you lovely girls climb the pole outside. I'll contact you over the comm and say what I need.'

Thor made a strange noise behind them, his eyes shifting between them. 'I would gladly assist, however-'

'That's okay, buddy. Just watch the kid,' Tony informed him.

By the time Maria was halfway through asking Natasha who should go, the redhead ran from the room, returning a few moments later ready to go.

'All you did was put on gloves.'

Natasha gestured pointedly to the sweater that covered more than half of her body. 'And Steve's hoodie. You do recall that I was born in Russia, da?'

'Yeah, but I didn't think in Russia people would go outside in a sweater, jeans, and a pair of fingerless gloves,' Hill answered plainly.

As Natasha grabbed a comm and headed for the door, she turned to look over her shoulder at Maria. 'I'm not normal people.' With that, she headed outside.

Fair enough, Maria thought to herself, turning to see Steve with his forehead on the kitchen counter. Rather than ask him what was wrong, she grabbed an apple, passed it between her hands, then tossed it at him.

'Think fast!'

Steve's head shot up and he struck out his arm, catching the fruit only inches from his face. 'What was that for?'

She was trying to think of a way to explain what had possessed her to throw fruit at him, but he started laughing and bit into it. A low grumble came from behind them, and Wanda ambled her way into the kitchen with Bruce in tow. Vision quickly stood upon seeing Wanda, the worry quickly disappearing from his face and being replaced with relief.

It went unnoticed by Wanda, still partially exhausted from her display of power the day before. She dropped next to Steve on the bench and tried to take in her surroundings, her friends coming into view one by one.

'Cât este ceasul?' she slurred, her Romanian words causing a few odd looks. As Wanda realised where she was, she shook her head and tried again. 'What time is it?'

Maria held out the arm with her watch attached, wondering if that would be easier for Wanda to see numbers than to translate so early in the morning. Wanda stared for a second, then nodded a thank you. It was 9AM, but almost no one was awake.

Seeing her confusion, Steve pushed a list of who was where across the bench. 'Wrote it up for the next person that asked.'

He'd clearly fixed it in the past minute or so, since Wanda and Bruce had been updated to say "conscious". After her brain realised what the word meant, her eyes turned to the empty sofa.

'Natasha...' she whispered, scanning Steve's list for the name. 'Conscious, doing a job for Stark. What job is this?'

'Hack into the system, find out if it's an exterior source getting to the kid, or something inside her that they're using,' Maria replied, earning no more than confused looks. 'Nat's outside,' she sighed.

Bruce twisted away from the fridge, looking up through the skylight. 'In this weather? Who thought that was a good idea?'

The unanimous answer was "Tony", even Bruce answering his own question. He then asked if she was on a comm, Maria nodding and handing hers over. Natasha's face appeared on the watch-looking device, grinning at the faces on the other end. White was the only other thing they could see, and it was everywhere around her.

'Hey, Romanoff.'

'Hey, guys,' she smirked. 'What, you miss me or something?'

The numerous responses made sure the smirk didn't leave her face as she worked, when an idea sparked. Her eyes flickered down to the ground, a terrified shriek following. Nat detached the comm, shaking her arm as she did so, and dropping it to the ground as she screamed.

With a satisfied chuckle, Nat finished her work and slid down the pole. She'd only been up there for a few minutes, but it was clear that the system hadn't been hacked at all. Stark was rather thorough when it came to security, and no outside sources had entered the compound in the past week, except for the girl.

Ducking around the corner of one of the walls, Nat waited patiently for the others to run in a panic from the building into the snow. She didn't have to wait long, several of the cries and shouts being more so from the temperature than the lack of Natasha's body.

Tony span around, looking up and calculating possible distances she could have cleared had she fallen. He glanced up, locking eyes with the sly Natalia. A heavy sigh, and he turned away and headed inside. The others shouted for him to come back and help them look, one by one realising why he left.

'She's hiding,' Sam stated, looking up and jumping to the side in case she was about to launch an attack from above.

Nat was pleased to see that a few of them had been drawn from their slumbers, the changing schedules throwing off her own. Vision & Wanda hadn't made an appearance, one taking care of their rescue, the other watching the watcher. Steve was used to the cold, and it no longer affected him as much as it used to.

He ran around in his t-shirt and jeans, the only one apart from Thor without several layers of jackets and sweaters. Thor seemed to find the hunt enjoyable, launching himself onto the roof to get a better view. Maria & Sam split up and started on the outer skirts of the compound, deciding to work their way in.

Even Bruce was taking part in the game, missing the feeling of fun that he'd recently been denying himself. Clint was unimpressed that Natasha's usual antics had drawn him from his well-deserved rest, even though he had no memory of falling asleep in the lab at all.

'Tasha, I swear to Loki I'm going to find you.'

Thor turned with a puzzled expression, but Clint just waved his hand and walked off.

The game had begun, and Nat was more than happy to remain in her current place until found- if she was, that is. At least three of her friends had walked by, not even taking a first look at the strange patterns against the flat grey walls.

'Found her comm,' Sam called, holding it up. The others seemed disinterested, only Maria paying attention. He held it out to her, and she thought for a few seconds.

'If we're lucky, it was still recording her when she dropped it and ran. It might show where she ran to hide.'

They both looked over the screen, Maria trying to work out how to access the device's memory. Just before she pressed the button to play the footage, the sudden swoosh knocked the thing from their hands and obliterated it.

'Damnit,' Sam hissed, scanning the area. 'Where did that even come from?'

Clint was passing by as Sam thought aloud, leaning in as he slipped past. 'Twenty bucks it was Nat.'

Sam had thought that was kind of obvious, but Maria thought differently as Clint started wandering around the edge of the building. 'Don't give him anything,' she warned, gesturing to the swaggering Clint. 'Look- that mini crossbow and a few bullet-arrows shoved in his belt.'

'Protecting her, even when she's hiding from him,' Sam remarked, shaking his head and smiling.

'I think it's a loyalty thing,' Maria replied, grabbing the destroyed comm from the ground and heading for the compound. 'Loyalty is probably one of the biggest things to both of them. It's sweet.' After dumping the remains in the mailbox, Maria returned to find her search partner still smiling. 'What are you so cheery about? It's freezing out here.'

He shrugged, turning away and scanning up the pole to see if there was any way Nat was still up there. Maria rolled her eyes, turning to the forest. Forest... maybe that's where the kid came from.

'Stark, you think the kid came from over there?' she called up to the roof, Tony's head poking out a few seconds later.

Tony went to reply, but glanced down to his beeping comm and quickly changed his mind and answer. 'We can check that out later, Nat just sent something from Clint's comm.'

Everyone pulled out their own comms, except Thor who had to look onto Tony's. Nat and Clint were in the picture, white and nothing else behind them. It looked almost like a hostage situation, Clint appearing afraid and Nat holding an arrow to his throat. When she spoke, the accent became clear all too fast- Russian.

'Come and get me,' she teased, raising an eyebrow and flashing her daring grin. 'I won't hurt him... if you hurry.'

For extra measure, Clint whined and pleaded. 'P-Please! Black Widows are poisonous! I have a family!'

Nat cut off the transmission, and both of them started cackling. They didn't even care if someone did find them, the game of sardines had begun. Anyone who found them would be forced to join them in the hiding place, and stay there until the last person joined them.

Chapter Text

'You got the snack bag?' Clint yawned, resting his head against the wall. A satchel was shoved into his stomach, and he stuck his arm in to see if she'd grabbed any good stuff.

She used her hand to signal Clint, summoning him to hand over the food once he'd grabbed something. They each shovelled a few things down, tucking their knees up as they sat across from each other.

An hour or so passed, but no one had come close to finding the pair. One by one, the cold forced each of them to give in. Steve had called it quits early on, knowing exactly where they were after studying the video twice. Thor was the last to give in, almost defeated as he reentered the building.

There was a look of hope on most of their faces when Thor entered, hoping that perhaps he had found them. The dismay on his face was almost saddening, when a rather discernible laugh filled the room. Everything dropped as they stood.

'Split up! They're inside!' Tony instructed, everyone scrambling in a hundred different directions until they managed to choose one.

Wanda jumped as Sam slipped by the lab door, sliding along the floor and trying to regain his footing. She stared at him and gestured to the girl, who appeared as though she was starting to wake up.

'Sorry,' he hissed, 'looking for Barton & Romanoff. We were-'

'Hide and seek.' She stared downwards, sticking out her jaw and trying to hold back her own memories. A childhood of games hidden away, not forever, but until she had full control back. 'I would tell you where they are, but that would ruin the game. Mult noroc.'

Sam nodded and ran off in the other direction, leaving the three in the lab in peace. Little did he know that the connection between Natasha and Wanda hadn't entirely severed, and the message was more from Clint's partner than his adopted daughter.

Steve had returned to the sofa rather than join the commotion, occasionally stretching and looking upwards to where Clint's nest sat. There was a tower-like extension above the living room, a few windows around the top so that whoever was able to get up there could see outside from a high point.

An annoyed grunt came from above, and Steve felt a few crumbs drop into his lap and hair. 'If you two don't cut out your squabbling, I'm going to tell everyone where you're hiding.'

Above grew silent, but an argument quickly ensued and drew Steve's eyes skywards. It was a good thing he looked, considering the falling fruit dropping straight towards his head.

'Damn it, Hill,' he grumbled, snatching it out of the air. 'She told you about that, didn't she?'

Two heads poked over the edge, both grinning with the same level of malevolence. It was then that Tony, Bruce, Sam & Maria entered the living area, all giving Steve the same glare. Thor came in too, but he didn't understand what was so wrong with Steve was talking to things that the others couldn't see.

'Who ya talkin' to, Stevie?' Tony sang, taking a few steps forward.

The others followed behind him, all crowding around but not yet lifting their eyes up high enough to suggest they knew where the pair were hidden. Steve held up the apple as though it was a gift, tossing it to Maria.

'Ask Hill.'

Tossing it back and forth between her hands, Maria suddenly spun on her heel and pitched the fruit skywards, using the perfect amount of force to land it on the laps of one of the spies. They shot each other a glance, eyes wide open. A minuscule amount of movement to place it on the floor and roll it off the edge, and it fell.

Steve caught the apple for the second time, and Maria answered for him. 'I think that apples are as attracted to Rogers as anyone with sense.'

Flattered yet flummoxed, Steve was glad that his days of blushing were no longer. And all thanks to Nat, he thought light-heartedly to himself. Thor started to think, and slowly surmised the hiding place of two of his friends.

'To the roost of the Man of Hawks!' he bellowed, jumping onto the first layer of the tower and quickly climbing.

Nat & Clint looked over the edge, and to the best of their abilities tried not to be spotted as they noticed Thor climbing rather excitedly towards them. Below, a challenge was incited. It was a silent challenge, as though the game was to continue, and the last to reach the perch & hiding spot would lose. Steve quickly jumped to his feet, heading for the lab.

Bruce wasn't usually one to participate in such a game, but after quickly analysing Thor's route, he found a rather useful technique. They all stood in a circle below, Natasha wedging herself as much into the darkest corner as she could and Clint doing the exact opposite, and the climb began.

When Thor reached the perch, the corners of his lips completely turned up as he smiled. 'I have found you, friends! May I join you in your place of hiding?'

They nodded, and he slipped in rather easily beside Nat. There was more room than he had previously imagined, a few emergency exits becoming much clearer and revealing themselves to be one of Natasha's secret entrance points. He had been so close by choosing the roof to search for her, but had only just missed her.

When Bruce's kind face poked into view, Nat retreated further into the corner and Clint reduced the area he'd covered by spreading out. It was like a bird tucking itself up to sleep, and a spider hiding in the shadows, waiting for something to be caught in her web.

Her eyes appeared dark as each person joined them in the top, Sam beating Maria by a few milliseconds and Tony coming in last.

The stuffiness grew, even with the windows on the three sides furthest from Nat allowing the coolness of the winter air around them.

'I'm leaving,' Nat stated, tapping the roof twice and slipping out the hatch.

One by one, all turned to Clint and asked if it was possible to get down any other way. He stopped banging on his knees as if they were drums, reaching for the roof and pulling down a rope. Slowly clutching to the rope, he gave it a tug and the platform began to descend.

Natasha waited on the sofa below, waving her fingers to the others and dragging herself up from her seat. She heard a mass of tumbling, thumps and groans, flicking her hair over her shoulder as she twisted to see everyone except Clint had fallen from the platform.

Clint just sighed and shook his head, jumping off his perch and following after Natasha. It returned with no further assistance, leaving those who had fallen from it rather confused.

'Are we taking over for Wanda or just looking in?' Clint queried, taking a few quick steps to match Nat's pace.

'Take over,' she confirmed. 'And I have something I need to give her.'

Once Nat & Clint reached the lab, Wanda had just risen from her place and was talking to the girl. The odd thing was that she was getting a response, with fully formed sentences. It impressed the pair that entered, and suddenly the girl shut her mouth.

Wanda pulled out her notebook and passed it to Clint, Nat reading it over his shoulder. 'Is this everything she said in the past ten minutes?'

'Everything,' Wanda echoed. 'Natasha, I still feel as though I should apologise for the fire, and the things that happened after that...'

Natasha wasn't usually one for non-violent physical contact, but she reached forward slightly and hugged Wanda. 'It wasn't your fault, sweetie.'

The surprised responses from both Wanda and Clint made Nat feel uncomfortable, so she cleared her throat and moved towards the girl instead. Preparing a few questions in her head, Nat tried to think of the best one to prove that she wasn't the threat she often appeared to be.

'What's your name?'

Clint was about to note that they already knew her name, but Nat kicked her leg back just enough to knock him in the shin. Wanda stifled a laugh, covering her mouth and quickly exiting the laboratory.

Still unsure, it took the girl a few moments to answer. 'Nadia.'

Not the answer that any of them were expecting, it was only Nat's face that showed no reaction. Her attempts at drawing out the nature of the girl's accent were only just beginning, since her appearance was rather plain.

'This is Wanda and Clint,' she explained, gesturing to them each in turn. 'I'm Nat.'

'I know your names,' Nadia squeaked, her voice still hoarse from the freezing.

Clint stepped forward, eyes drifting over the fact that Natasha was holding the girl's hand.

He watched the girl as she cautiously turned her gaze to him. 'How did you get here? Were you brought, or did you run away from somewhere?'

Nadia held her breath, body shuddering as she did so. 'I ran away from an experimental testing facility. They were controlling me and I didn't know how to make them stop anymore, so I ran away instead.'

Before they could ask her anything else, Wanda quickly chimed in. 'Do you want something to drink? It will help your throat.'

'Yes, thank you.' Nadia looked back to Natasha, waiting for more questions.

Nat didn't feel entirely right about it, but it was the only way to get to the bottom of the whole situation. 'What do you know about us?'

'Everything.'

Clint took his turn next, trying his best to soften his voice. 'How did you get our DNA?'

'I didn't, they only implanted it inside me,' Nadia confessed quietly. 'It was another that gathered your DNA.'

Natasha & Clint still weren't entirely convinced, and Nat was the first to realise why. 'Nadia, did they get mine, too?' An unusual tone carried from her mouth, one that seemed to hold panic.

Nadia shook her head slowly, almost saddened by the fact. 'No, you were hard to catch.'

After a few more questions, Wanda returned to the lab and imitated Tony in his request for Clint's presence. Natasha was left alone with the girl, furiously scribbling notes into one of Bruce's notebooks. She'd filled about four pages in twenty minutes, giving Nadia's strained voice a rest.

'Miss Romanoff?' Nadia croaked, sitting herself up on the hard bench. Nat looked up from her scribbles, raising an eyebrow lightly in curiosity. 'They taught me things about all of them, but they didn't have a single thing on you. Once you released the S.H.I.E.L.D. files onto the internet though... they did.'

'It's okay-'

An insistent shake of the head made Nat stop talking, the younger girl's head fidgeting around on her shoulders. 'You're the only one they can't track and I can't control! They made me use Wanda to attack you, but you need to leave. They want you the most!'

Knowing the difference between a warning and a threat, Natasha shook her head. 'I can't. If I leave, all those idiots out there die.'

'Please, Natalia!' she cried, slipping off the bench and coming within a few inches of Nat's face, her voice turning to a whisper. 'If you survive, they won't want me anymore.'

The only thing Natasha took from the statement was that someone was coming, and possibly to kill them all. 'You were sent to tear us apart, and if that fails... they kill all of us.'

Nadia trembled as she nodded, wrapping her arms tight around herself and taking a few steps backwards to the bench. The equipment that she'd been hooked into all stayed in place, and Natasha thought of one last question.

'How did you not freeze to death out there?'

'The Enhancements and serums, anything they could find to make me stronger.' The girl stretched out her arm, squishing it between her fingers. 'And I'm lucky that I have a little extra around my edges.'

The lights were turned off, the equipment removed as carefully as possible (once ensuring it was no longer needed, of course), and finally Nadia was deemed safe to walk. Nat had found no reason to distrust her, but knew that Tony needed to update his security. It hadn't yet been discovered how the girl was being contacted, but Nadia had a few ideas.

She'd asked Nat for her backpack, only to learn that it hadn't been found with her when she was discovered in the snow. It had to be outside, meaning that it hadn't been through Tony's debugging doorway. The people who'd experimented on Nadia were contacting a device in her backpack, using it to break into her mind and fight the security system.

Nadia's arm was holding tightly to Natasha's waist, and she was grateful for the strange amount of trust between them. The Avenger she was told to be the most wary of, the one she'd once looked up to during her upbringing, stood at her side and trusted in her.

When the pair reached the main area, there was a flurry of excitement about the girl finally being able to move around. Nadia noticed rather quickly that the misinformation about her name had been worked out, and also that two people were missing from the crowd.

'Darcy and Jane?' she choked out, rather upset that two of the friendlier group members were missing. Nadia's heart rate quickly rose, and she turned to Nat. 'I didn't hurt them... did I, Natalia?'

The use of her birth name struck a chord with more than just Natasha, but Nat was the only one who swallowed it. 'Sweetie, you weren't in control of yourself. You didn't hurt anyone.'

Vision stayed silent, wondering if Wanda knew what he had done to Darcy. Even though it wasn't in his control, he'd hurt someone, and couldn't help the irrational thought that she'd never see him the same way again.

Chapter Text

'You got the snack bag?' Clint yawned, resting his head against the wall. A satchel was shoved into his stomach, and he stuck his arm in to see if Natasha had grabbed any good stuff.

She used her hand to signal Clint, summoning him to hand over the food once he'd grabbed something. They each shovelled a few things down, tucking their knees up as they sat across from each other.

An hour or so passed, but no one had come close to finding the pair. One by one, the cold forced each of them to give in. Steve had called it quits early on, knowing exactly where they were after studying the video twice. Thor was the last to give in, almost defeated as he reentered the building.

There was a look of hope on most of their faces when Thor entered, hoping that perhaps he had found them. The dismay on his face was almost saddening, when a rather discernible laugh filled the room. Everything dropped as they stood.

'Split up! They're inside!' Tony instructed, everyone scrambling in a hundred different directions until they managed to choose one.

Wanda jumped as Sam slipped by the lab door, sliding along the floor and trying to regain his footing. She stared at him and gestured to the girl, who appeared as though she was starting to wake up.

'Sorry,' he hissed, 'looking for Barton & Romanoff. We were-'

'Hide and seek.' She stared downwards, sticking out her jaw and trying to hold back her own memories. A childhood of games hidden away, not forever, but until she had full control back. 'I would tell you where they are, but that would ruin the game. Mult noroc.'

Sam nodded and ran off in the other direction, leaving the three in the lab in peace. Little did he know that the connection between Natasha and Wanda hadn't entirely severed, and the message was more from Clint's partner than his adopted daughter.

Steve had returned to the sofa rather than join the commotion, occasionally stretching and looking upwards to where Clint's nest sat. There was a tower-like extension above the living room, a few windows around the top so that whoever was able to get up there could see outside from a high point.

An annoyed grunt came from above, and Steve felt a few crumbs drop into his lap and hair. 'If you two don't cut out your squabbling, I'm going to tell everyone where you're hiding.'

Above grew silent, but an argument quickly ensued and drew Steve's eyes skywards. It was a good thing he looked, considering the falling fruit dropping straight towards his head.

'Damn it, Hill,' he grumbled, snatching it out of the air. 'She told you about that, didn't she?'

Two heads poked over the edge, both grinning with the same level of malevolence. It was then that Tony, Bruce, Sam & Maria entered the living area, all giving Steve the same glare. Thor came in too, but he didn't understand what was so wrong with Steve was talking to things that the others couldn't see.

'Who ya talkin' to, Stevie?' Tony sang, taking a few steps forward.

The others followed behind him, all crowding around but not yet lifting their eyes up high enough to suggest they knew where the pair were hidden. Steve held up the apple as though it was a gift, tossing it to Maria.

'Ask Hill.'

Tossing it back and forth between her hands, Maria suddenly spun on her heel and pitched the fruit skywards, using the perfect amount of force to land it on the laps of one of the spies. They shot each other a glance, eyes wide open. A minuscule amount of movement to place it on the floor and roll it off the edge, and it fell.

Steve caught the apple for the second time, and Maria answered for him. 'I think that apples are as attracted to Rogers as anyone with sense.'

Flattered yet flummoxed, Steve was glad that his days of blushing were no longer. And all thanks to Nat, he thought light-heartedly to himself. Thor started to think, and slowly surmised the hiding place of two of his friends.

'To the roost of the Man of Hawks!' he bellowed, jumping onto the first layer of the tower and quickly climbing.

Nat & Clint looked over the edge, and to the best of their abilities tried not to be spotted as they noticed Thor climbing rather excitedly towards them. Below, a challenge was incited. It was a silent challenge, as though the game was to continue, and the last to reach the perch & hiding spot would lose. Steve quickly jumped to his feet, heading for the lab.

Bruce wasn't usually one to participate in such a game, but after quickly analysing Thor's route, he found a rather useful technique. They all stood in a circle below, Natasha wedging herself as much into the darkest corner as she could and Clint doing the exact opposite, and the climb began.

When Thor reached the perch, the corners of his lips completely turned up as he smiled. 'I have found you, friends! May I join you in your place of hiding?'

They nodded, and he slipped in rather easily beside Nat. There was more room than he had previously imagined, a few emergency exits becoming much clearer and revealing themselves to be one of Natasha's secret entrance points. He had been so close by choosing the roof to search for her, but had only just missed her.

When Bruce's kind face poked into view, Nat retreated further into the corner and Clint reduced the area he'd covered by spreading out. It was like a bird tucking itself up to sleep, and a spider hiding in the shadows, waiting for something to be caught in her web.

Her eyes appeared dark as each person joined them in the top, Sam beating Maria by a few milliseconds and Tony coming in last.

The stuffiness grew, even with the windows on the three sides furthest from Nat allowing the coolness of the winter air around them.

'I'm leaving,' Nat stated, tapping the roof twice and slipping out the hatch.

One by one, all turned to Clint and asked if it was possible to get down any other way. He stopped banging on his knees as if they were drums, reaching for the roof and pulling down a rope. Slowly clutching to the rope, he gave it a tug and the platform began to descend.

Natasha waited on the sofa below, waving her fingers to the others and dragging herself up from her seat. She heard a mass of tumbling, thumps and groans, flicking her hair over her shoulder as she twisted to see everyone except Clint had fallen from the platform.

Clint just sighed and shook his head, jumping off his perch and following after Natasha. It returned with no further assistance, leaving those who had fallen from it rather confused.

'Are we taking over for Wanda or just looking in?' Clint queried, taking a few quick steps to match Nat's pace.

'Take over,' she confirmed. 'And I have something I need to give her.'

Once Nat & Clint reached the lab, Wanda had just risen from her place and was talking to the girl. The odd thing was that she was getting a response, with fully formed sentences. It impressed the pair that entered, and suddenly the girl shut her mouth.

Wanda pulled out her notebook and passed it to Clint, Nat reading it over his shoulder. 'Is this everything she said in the past ten minutes?'

'Everything,' Wanda echoed. 'Natasha, I still feel as though I should apologise for the fire, and the things that happened after that...'

Natasha wasn't usually one for non-violent physical contact, but she reached forward slightly and hugged Wanda. 'It wasn't your fault, sweetie.'

The surprised responses from both Wanda and Clint made Nat feel uncomfortable, so she cleared her throat and moved towards the girl instead. Preparing a few questions in her head, Nat tried to think of the best one to prove that she wasn't the threat she often appeared to be.

'What's your name?'

Clint was about to note that they already knew her name, but Nat kicked her leg back just enough to knock him in the shin. Wanda stifled a laugh, covering her mouth and quickly exiting the laboratory.

Still unsure, it took the girl a few moments to answer. 'Nadia.'

Not the answer that any of them were expecting, it was only Nat's face that showed no reaction. Her attempts at drawing out the nature of the girl's accent were only just beginning, since her appearance was rather plain.

'This is Wanda and Clint,' she explained, gesturing to them each in turn. 'I'm Nat.'

'I know your names,' Nadia squeaked, her voice still hoarse from the freezing.

Clint stepped forward, eyes drifting over the fact that Natasha was holding the girl's hand.

He watched the girl as she cautiously turned her gaze to him. 'How did you get here? Were you brought, or did you run away from somewhere?'

Nadia held her breath, body shuddering as she did so. 'I ran away from an experimental testing facility. They were controlling me and I didn't know how to make them stop anymore, so I ran away instead.'

Before they could ask her anything else, Wanda quickly chimed in. 'Do you want something to drink? It will help your throat.'

'Yes, thank you.' Nadia looked back to Natasha, waiting for more questions.

Nat didn't feel entirely right about it, but it was the only way to get to the bottom of the whole situation. 'What do you know about us?'

'Everything.'

Clint took his turn next, trying his best to soften his voice. 'How did you get our DNA?'

'I didn't, they only implanted it inside me,' Nadia confessed quietly. 'It was another that gathered your DNA.'

Natasha & Clint still weren't entirely convinced, and Nat was the first to realise why. 'Nadia, did they get mine, too?' An unusual tone carried from her mouth, one that seemed to hold panic.

Nadia shook her head slowly, almost saddened by the fact. 'No, you were hard to catch.'

After a few more questions, Wanda returned to the lab and imitated Tony in his request for Clint's presence. Natasha was left alone with the girl, furiously scribbling notes into one of Bruce's notebooks. She'd filled about four pages in twenty minutes, giving Nadia's strained voice a rest.

'Miss Romanoff?' Nadia croaked, sitting herself up on the hard bench. Nat looked up from her scribbles, raising an eyebrow lightly in curiosity. 'They taught me things about all of them, but they didn't have a single thing on you. Once you released the S.H.I.E.L.D. files onto the internet though... they did.'

'It's okay-'

An insistent shake of the head made Nat stop talking, the younger girl's head fidgeting around on her shoulders. 'You're the only one they can't track and I can't control! They made me use Wanda to attack you, but you need to leave. They want you the most!'

Knowing the difference between a warning and a threat, Natasha shook her head. 'I can't. If I leave, all those idiots out there die.'

'Please, Natalia!' she cried, slipping off the bench and coming within a few inches of Nat's face, her voice turning to a whisper. 'If you survive, they won't want me anymore.'

The only thing Natasha took from the statement was that someone was coming, and possibly to kill them all. 'You were sent to tear us apart, and if that fails... they kill all of us.'

Nadia trembled as she nodded, wrapping her arms tight around herself and taking a few steps backwards to the bench. The equipment that she'd been hooked into all stayed in place, and Natasha thought of one last question.

'How did you not freeze to death out there?'

'The Enhancements and serums, anything they could find to make me stronger.' The girl stretched out her arm, squishing it between her fingers. 'And I'm lucky that I have a little extra around my edges.'

The lights were turned off, the equipment removed as carefully as possible (once ensuring it was no longer needed, of course), and finally Nadia was deemed safe to walk. Nat had found no reason to distrust her, but knew that Tony needed to update his security. It hadn't yet been discovered how the girl was being contacted, but Nadia had a few ideas.

She'd asked Nat for her backpack, only to learn that it hadn't been found with her when she was discovered in the snow. It had to be outside, meaning that it hadn't been through Tony's debugging doorway. The people who'd experimented on Nadia were contacting a device in her backpack, using it to break into her mind and fight the security system.

Nadia's arm was holding tightly to Natasha's waist, and she was grateful for the strange amount of trust between them. The Avenger she was told to be the most wary of, the one she'd once looked up to during her upbringing, stood at her side and trusted in her.

When the pair reached the main area, there was a flurry of excitement about the girl finally being able to move around. Nadia noticed rather quickly that the misinformation about her name had been worked out, and also that two people were missing from the crowd.

'Darcy and Jane?' she choked out, rather upset that two of the friendlier group members were missing. Nadia's heart rate quickly rose, and she turned to Nat. 'I didn't hurt them... did I, Natalia?'

The use of her birth name struck a chord with more than just Natasha, but Nat was the only one who swallowed it. 'Sweetie, you weren't in control of yourself. You didn't hurt anyone.'

Vision stayed silent, wondering if Wanda knew what he had done to Darcy. Even though it wasn't in his control, he'd hurt someone, and couldn't help the irrational thought that she'd never see him the same way again.

Chapter Text

Wanda returned with Nadia a few moments later, both currently struggling. The full truth, or at least what Nadia knew, had been extracted by Vision and scribed into the Notebook of Nadia. That title was etched onto the front by Nat after starting it, Vision filling out the final pages.

'We have done more research, and think it is best that you all know,' Wanda elucidated, taking a breath before launching into the information overload. 'Nadia is an experiment who was made to look like another experiment- Casey.'

'Why?' Maria questioned.

Nadia took over as she leant against the sofa. 'Because she wouldn't hurt any of you. She had her memories taken, was placed a training facility for cops, and spent a few years as a normal girl until they needed her.'

The words flew like a story from her mouth, each detail making her struggle as she pitied the girl whose life she'd taken. Casey was born in Russia to one of the first Enhanced and his wife, her parents killed once she was born. She could see glimpses of the future, the HYDRA scientists raising and exploiting her powers to track future threats to their organisation.

As a child, she was sent to Sokovia to earn the trust of a pair of twins and gather their DNA. She had seen their future as HYDRA experiments, and the scientists wanted the twins' blood early to make sure they could handle the Enhancement.

Casey was sent to America to gain the DNA and information from the future Avengers, before being sent into Sleeper mode with her memories held back by a suppression drug and sent to train as a police officer. Her roommates had received a brochure which triggered her into action, but she refused to participate and was killed.

Nadia had always been a backup plan, and Casey's face & memories had been grafted to her over the past few months. Raised purely to kill and be controlled, Nadia was the perfect girl to send into the heart & home of the Avengers.

'I was forced to comply with them, whether I wanted to or not,' she confessed, knowing that there was no way any of them could trust her. 'If they find out I have failed, and that all of you know what I am, all they have to do is press their little button and I am gone.'

Steve knew what all of this meant, and had been recording it for those not quite able to catch it all. 'That's a lot to take in. Did Casey tell you any of this herself, or was it the guys who experimented on you?'

She quickly looked down, biting her lip. 'Casey did,' she breathed, avoiding meeting any of their eyes. 'They put us in the same room... they forced me to take over her mind, learn everything... and make her kill herself.'

For hours, the air was still and thick. Banner and Stark had kept themselves busy in the lab, trying to create a device to protect Nadia from the mind control. Vision lent a hand, on the off chance that the concept of such a device could be possible with all his understanding of the mind.

A few slept, others watched movies and read books, but all stayed silent.

Nadia was seated in the living room with the others, her chair reclined all the way backwards to let her sleep. No one had noticed each one of them drop off one by one, until only Maria remained. She allowed her eyes to drift around the room, scouring each individual's face before noticing the almost complete lack of breath from each of them.

She tried to sit up, her body almost numb with weakness. 'G-Guys... guys, wake... wake up!'

No responses, no movement. Struggling to even attempt to roll over, Maria fell harshly onto the floor and groaned. She tried to think, even with whatever it was corroding her brain, and managed to grasp the concept of calling for Friday's assistance.

'Friday,' she strained, 'turn off... air systems! Now!' Within less than a second of saying the last word, Maria had joined all of her friends and passed out.

It took a while for all the systems to shut down and the air to be flushed out, taking longer for the first of them to regain consciousness. Upon discovering everyone else unconscious and a chill in the air, Vision's panicked state caused him to fly around in a huff and search to see if any were dead.

They were safe, or alive at least. After finding no death, Vision tried his best to look around the building. It was dark, all the lights off, and the gentle hum that usually tingled through the air was missing.

'Friday?' Vision called, waiting for the AI system to reply.

However, he was met with silence. No one would wake up, all the systems in the compound were down, and even he had taken an unexpected nap. The crunching of snow beneath footsteps echoed from the tower, and Vision hovered towards the living room. He glanced upwards as shadows passed by, the sound of crashing glass following next.

Three dark figures descended from the roof, Vision flying off to hide behind a wall to ensure he wasn't spotted. He kept thinking to himself that he should have grabbed and moved those the living room, but he'd taken too long.

Just as the three figures untangled themselves and went to flick on their night-vision goggles, everything stopped for a moment.

Wind ripped past Vision and blew him backwards, and only by flying did he narrowly escape making a noise. Just as he was about to rush into the living room and knock out the three intruders, Vision scanned to see if they knew his position but was unable to get a read.

He stuck his head around the corner, but his plan had been foiled. The three were already knocked out and tied up, backs pressed together and seated on the floor. There was no one in sight, but someone had to have taken them out.

Rather than dwell on it, Vision took to removing the problem and discovering why they had arrived in the first place. Luckily, he wouldn't have to do it alone.

A disgruntled groan sounded from one of the sleeping figures, but as Vision searched for the source, he realised that all those who had been in the living room suddenly weren't.

The groan was obviously Wanda's, but it took another for Vision to realise she was behind him on the floor. 'Vis?'

'Wanda,' he breathed, quickly moving to kneel beside her. 'How did you get over here?'

She squeezed her eyes shut before opening them again, looking up at Vision. 'I was just about to ask you the same thing.'

After quickly filling Wanda in, the rush of wind that Vision had just described shooting past her. It was visible by the way her body shuddered, her eyes widening at the sensation. It was all too familiar, but ignored the impossibility of what it reminded her of.

Everyone else still seemed entirely out of it, and also appeared uncomfortable in the positions that they'd been thrown into. With the other as help, Wanda & Vision moved them back into their comfy seats in the living room. When they came at last to Nadia, the downhearted look on Wanda's face told Vision that she'd grown to care about the girl.

'I am sure she will be okay,' he insisted gently, reaching for the girl.

Once everyone had been deemed safe and unhurt, Vision dragged the intruders to the basement and secured them. He returned to the living room and found Wanda huddled up in her coat, trying to stop her teeth from chattering. It had taken her a rather long time, but Wanda shivered in the cold air.

'Why is it so cold in here?'

'The intruders broke in through the window in the tower,' he responded quickly, but Wanda awkwardly gestured upwards, forcing her lower lip into the upper. Vision looked to where she was pointing, the tower sealed off. 'Oh.'

Wanda nodded and leant back against the sofa, pulling her jacket tighter around her shoulders. 'It seals up automatically when the glass is broken, even if the systems are shut down.' A sudden tingle ran through her brain, and Wanda turned back to Vision. 'The systems are all shut down, which means there's no heat. No heat...'

'We freeze.'

Each room had a storage of blankets, divided up quickly for each person. Wanda covered those sleeping in the bedrooms, Vision taking those in the living room. They came together before heading into the lab, hoping and praying that Bruce & Tony hadn't fallen down on broken glass or hit their heads.

Stark was slumped over the workbench, and Banner half hanging off the bed against the wall. Wanda breathed a sigh of relief, releasing the furious grip she'd held on the blankets in her arms. Her knuckles had gone white, the colour returning to the usual shade as she placed the blankets one by one over Bruce.

He didn't even flinch, the chemicals that had been sent through the air taking every last ounce of energy from him. Wanda was still curious as to how she'd woken up so fast, disregarding the possibility of it being from her Enhancement.

If it was, Nadia would have woken up too. Wanda turned to Vision, curious.

'Did you wake me up?'

Vision seemed perplexed by the question, the burst of air racing past yet again. As Wanda span around and tried to see what it was, but saw nothing. Vision, however, noticed the first odd thing. A flower had appeared in her hair, and as he stared, Wanda's hand moved upwards to see what he was looking at.

He held out the mirror they'd used for Nadia, and she frowned almost angrily. 'Did you see what put this here?'

'No, I didn't.'

Under her breath, she muttered a word. It was quick and quiet, but the sparkling tears over her glassy eyes confirmed what Vision thought he'd heard. Pietro. She turned and left the room, Vision quickly following after her.

Upon reaching the living room, Wanda headed for the control centre and tried to reboot the systems to turn the heat back on. She jumped as it sparked at her, then scowled and raised her hand to it. Just before she could spark it and completely destroy the system, Vision caught her arm.

'Miss Maximoff, I... your phone,' he suddenly covered, holding it out to her. 'Fury would like to discuss something with you rather urgently.'

Wanda knew that wasn't what he'd planned on saying, turning quickly to Vision and almost crashing into him. She reached for the phone and walked away, reading Fury's message a few times before answering. She told him everything, updating the whole situation.

Fury: We'll be there in an hour, Maximoff. Hold tight.

When he arrived, he was surprised to find that the situation hadn't changed at all. The only problem was that it was even colder than Wanda had described, and she was shivering in one of the corners covered in blankets.

Even Fury was cold, and he headed to the control panel. After flicking a few switches, the lights flicked back on and the electrical hum filled the air. 'Should be warm again soon.'

'Thank you, sir,' Wanda chattered, trying to steady her voice and breaths. 'Will the others wake up?'

'I don't know,' he confessed, dropping into one of the armchairs, 'but I am curious. I get how the robot is walking around, but how are you and why is no one else?'

Wanda started thinking, pulling the blankets tighter around her shoulders. Nothing crossed her mind, so she turned to Vision. 'Vis? Any ideas?'

Vision focused for a second, turning to each of the people around him and scanning them for differences. 'It seems that the intruders released a drug into the air systems, shutting them off once everyone was unconscious. Whatever was in Wanda's system wore off earlier than everyone else's.'

The first thought was Nadia, but she was just as unconscious as the others.

Fury had stayed silent, the pair turning to him as he shuffled inconspicuously. He had been trying to breach the subject for a few months, not sure exactly how Wanda would take it, but he finally had no choice.

Chapter Text

'Miss Maximoff, several months ago, we fished the Insight heli-carriers from storage and rebooted a few old projects. One of those projects gave us back Agent Coulson, not long before S.H.I.E.L.D. was disbanded. We've been trying our best to get it working again,' Fury continued, watching Wanda slowly stand up. 'One week ago, we were successful.'

She swallowed, trying to grasp the possibility. 'What are you saying?'

Another gust of wind blew past, knocking Wanda backwards. She only fell a few inches before being entirely swept up into someone's arms, and it wasn't Vision.

'Pietro?'

Wanda dropped from his arms and squeezed him around the neck, hoping he stayed silent just long enough to let her enjoy part of the moment. He hadn't spoken, just holding her. It was Fury who first spoke, apologising for keeping the matter a secret. The observation period had ended, and she was the first to know apart from him that they were successful.

Rather than cry, Wanda just refused to let her brother go. Pietro seemed to feel the same way, both wondering if there was even a chance it was real. Wanda moved her eyes over to Vision, moving slightly back from her brother.

'Is he real?' she asked Vision, eyes pleading and searching him for the answer. If anyone was going to know, it would be him.

Pietro moved back and crossed his arms, sizing the android up. 'Who's this?'

'I am called Vision,' he offered, 'and yes, Wanda, that is the Pietro you remember.'

The confirmation was all Wanda needed, and she quickly pulled Pietro forcefully back into her arms. She was mumbling under her breath in Romanian, Vision catching one of the words and almost smiling to himself. But Pietro heard everything, and nothing at all he could do to make up for it all.

He'd been gone for so long, but he was back.

'And don't you ever do that again!' she burst, the final words being in English for the benefit of anyone slightly conscious.

'Calm down, sora mai mica,' Pietro snickered, a punch being delivered directly into his shoulder. 'Hey, that hurt.'

Wanda did it again, stepping away from him. 'Good.'

Fury had already grown sick of the emotional reunion in the air, head dropping into his palm. 'That's enough, I want answers. Was Miss Maximoff spared from the full effects of the drug because of your actions, Pietro?'

Pietro shrugged innocently. 'Possibly.'

After messing up his sister's hair and scolding her lack of judgement, Pietro tried to understand everything that had happened. The catch up only took a few seconds, but Wanda had no part in it. She stayed silent the whole time, Vision detecting panic, Pietro feeling her nerves.

They all jumped when those in the living room all suddenly bolted awake, some falling from their places and others gasping for fresh air.

'It's freezing!' Sam chattered, gathering the blankets tight and climbing back onto the sofa.

Upon seeing Fury and hearing his condescending reply to Sam, Maria jumped from her seat and stood to attention. 'Sir, I-'

'At ease, Hill.'

Grumbling and muttering came from the bedrooms and laboratory, the five missing Avengers making an entrance. Natasha was the only one not shrouded in blankets, simply yawning and stretching while looking over those in the room. She first saw Fury, then noticed the dead boy back before her very eyes.

Clint was staring at Pietro almost in awe, half believing that it was a trick of someone else, or his own mind. Vision once again confirmed that it was Pietro, the boy willing to prove it any way he could. Before anyone, especially his sister, could protest, Pietro started lifting his shirt to show the bullet hole scars.

'See?'

'Put your shirt down, Pietro!' Wanda groaned, preparing to use her powers on him.

He smirked, earning comments from every direction. All of them finally awake enough to understand, Nat & Steve were the first pair to run for the closet and drag out the now conscious and terrified intruders.

They were questioned, threatened, warned, and dumped outside. Nadia quickly spoke up before they were thrown outside, screaming at the top of her lungs a message for her previous captors. Pietro quickly became interested in the new girl, shooting his sister a raised eyebrow. She mouthed her disapproval of the idea, but was swiftly ignored.

He winked back at her and wandered over to the hallway, putting himself right in front of Nadia as she turned around. 'And who are you?'

'What's it to you?' she sassed, brushing past him and quickly attempting to subtly hide behind Natasha.

The tiny burst of confidence was enough, and Nadia was hoping not to have to keep talking. Pietro, however, was not deterred in the slightest. Suddenly feeling like it was his new mission, Pietro was tempted to have another crack at the girl. When Steve put himself in the way, the boy was only drawn that much deeper into his awful idea.

A few were starving and trying to ignore the awkward tension of the revived speedster, heading into the kitchen or distracting themselves with movies on the tv. After noticing yet another new girl, Pietro turned his attention to Darcy.

'No,' she stated, not even taking her eyes off the screen.

One word, and Pietro had been shut down twice in two minutes. He seemed appalled, gesturing obliviously to Wanda with his mouth hanging open. She shrugged, trying not to let on the warnings and stories she'd released about her brother.

Clint still seemed a little dejected, dragging himself upwards from the sofa and heading over to the kid he'd seen die all those months ago. 'Never got to thank you.'

'Never got to shoot me, either. I'm sure we're both disappointed,' Pietro remarked quickly, the humour drained from him at those words. Clint felt as though he was still to be blamed for the incident, until the boy struck out his hand. 'Never got to thank you.'

Hesitant, there was a brief moment where Clint almost didn't shake. But he did, although unsure as to why. 'What for?'

'For keeping Wanda alive.'

The words cut like a knife, Barton knowing that he almost got her killed as much as he tried to save her. Even so, it seemed that Pietro knew everything that had happened since his death. After moving past Clint, Pietro moved over to Wanda as she sat on the armchair and dropped half on top of her, asking her to move over.

As the children played, a few of the others dragged Fury into the kitchen and demanded an explanation for the zombie in their midst.

'It wasn't my call to make, and we had to be sure the project took. We tell you all and it fails, I got an angry witch on my hands.'

Tony tried to wrap his head around the concept, never quite grasping it the first time Coulson tried to explain. Bruce just waved it off and shovelled down two bowls of cereal, fruit being thrown around among other options for breakfast foods. Darcy called out for chocolate-chip pancakes, being shut down instantly by Jane and offered liquids.

Thor tried to dispute on Darcy's behalf, claiming the nutrients and benefits of a delicious breakfast may assist her recovery. When Darcy started to agree, Jane stared right back at her until she backed down.

'Juice is fine.'

Maria searched the fridge for any dinner leftovers that took to her fancy, ignoring the comments from Fury about her food choices. 'I work it off, don't I?' she sighed through a mouthful, the argument clearly not being the first of it's kind. 'Better than wasting all this food, anyways.'

'Hill's right,' Clint interjected. 'No one else here likes leftovers as much as Maria. It's all she's been eating the past few days.'

Steve quietly mumbled that he also enjoyed leftovers, lifting his eyes to meet the grin that Hill flashed to him. Thor held out a few things to Jane, each one making her shake her head and refuse as politely as possible. Darcy was the only one apart from the twins still in the living room, trying not to tempt herself with the delicious food smells.

Nadia was amused by all the conversation, not letting anyone catch her by keeping her eyes focused downwards. She stared into her empty cereal bowl, when it suddenly disappeared from her hands and caused her to look up. Bruce held it in one hand, pouring cereal into it with the other.

He handed it over to her and passed the milk, Nadia gently taking it from him. 'Thank you, Dr Banner.'

Sam created the next uproar, grabbing the milk after Nadia and tossing it over Tony's head to Thor. He caught it, looking curiously to Sam. 'This is from a cow,' he stated.

'Uh, yeah,' Sam replied, trying his best to sound encouraging. 'Have you tasted it?'

The new game that incited over the kitchen bench was everyone suggesting new things for Thor to try, most offered by Darcy. He gladly took each new item, a few he'd already tried before but still seemed perfectly glad to devour.

'Another!' Darcy bellowed from the living room, cringing inwardly as the pain seared through her ribs. She didn't make a noise, but the twins being the closest both caught the reaction.

'Darcy?' Wanda started, reaching out her arm. 'Are you in pain?'

She nodded, and suddenly a weight disappeared from her side. That was followed by the disappearance of Darcy, two separate gushes of wind accompanying Pietro's sudden movements.

A shout came from one of the bedrooms, Pietro racing back to the living room and trying to act as inconspicuous as possible. Thor and Jane both sighed, moving off towards Darcy and her confused comments.

'That kid is fast.' Although rather annoyed at being moved to her room, Darcy was grateful for the fact that she was the most comfortable she'd been in days. 'And he knows what he's doing.'

Jane sat with her, setting restrictions among other things as Thor pouted and fussed over their wellbeing. 'I feel that perhaps I should not have invited you to this gathering. It seems I have only brought hardships and pain upon you both, and I apologise for that.'

'Don't apologise,' Jane insisted, turning away from Darcy to face him. 'Darcy will be fine.'

'And you, dear lady?'

The moment was quickly broken by several disgusted expressions from Darcy, but Jane gestured to Thor and they left. She stopped him in the hall, not entirely wanting to go back out around all the people. Thor noticed her reluctance, reaching for her hands. On the off chance she might say yes, he asked if she would possibly consider a break in Asgard.

In the kitchen, Tony was entirely focused on his phone, typing away. It was clear who he was messaging, but no one was willing to confront him about it. The obviousness of it being Pepper was backed up by the quick smiles he tried to hide, the way his fingers flew over the keys to respond.

Sam tried not to keep looking at Maria as blatantly as he had been, unable to stop himself amidst her remarks and sarcastic replies to comments made by the others. Steve found it equally as hilarious, really letting himself laugh for the first time in a while. They convinced Tony to put his phone down for a minute and join in, causing Stark to roll his eyes.

'Oh come on, Stark! What team do you go for?' Sam asked.

The light conversation continued, the only dark air surrounding Nadia. Even Wanda had tried to relax and just focus on the happiness of having her brother back, but the knowledge of her future left Nadia with nothing left to do but sit.

When Thor and Jane announced their departure, they were given cheerful farewells and hugs upon hugs from their friends. Even Nat pulled herself out of her brain to wish them well, Wanda & Pietro knowing them nowhere near as well and staying back with Nadia. Both Jane and Thor had said goodbye to Darcy, surprised at her excitement.

Pietro continued trying to talk to Nadia, met only with suspicious glances. Wanda was doing her best to free the girl, finally helping her escape from the rather persistent boy and dragging her off to the laboratory.

Nadia sat on the platform, squishing her lips off to the side. 'You can go back and sit with your brother, Wanda. I know how much you missed him, really, I do.'

'How?'

Another confession would only waste this girl's time, so Nadia just shrugged. 'I missed my parents, but that's not the same as a twin. Twins are special, much more connected.'

Wanda let the topic go, seeing the gold flash in Nadia's eyes. 'Are they trying to control you again? Is that why you go to sleep during an attack?'

'Yes,' she croaked. 'They control me, I try to use my powers to fight back against them.'

As Wanda watched the expressions change and shift as naturally as they should, and there were no lies in her words. They returned to the living room as the others rejoined, Thor and Jane now gone. Pietro was delighted by the fact that Nadia had returned for more, but she passed by him without comment and headed for Natasha.

The weak smile that flickered across her face was all she needed to see, and Nat led the girl to the hall. 'Shower in there, I'll grab you some clothes.'

Chapter Text

When Natasha returned, Nadia was holding a towel tightly around her chest. All the dark smudges were gone, the colour returned to her cheeks. Nat presented the clothes and placed them on the sink, then turned to leave.

'Wait,' Nadia croaked, facing the redhead. 'I uh, thank you.'

Finally summoning the courage to ask her to wait outside, Nadia scrambled into the clothes. A large black t-shirt hung around her top half was hidden by an even larger hoodie, a pair of jeans beneath.

'Shirt is Steve's, hoodie is Clint's, jeans are mine,' Nat noted, fixing the crooked hoodie.

Not wanting to offend her, Nadia tried to phrase her question. 'Uh, where did you get them? I mean, did you ask them?'

Natasha snorted, shaking her head. 'They're previously stolen.'

The pair heard footsteps and looked down the hall to see Clint waving, both cautiously following. He pulled them aside before they reached the kitchen, glancing over his shoulder to make sure no one was listening. It seemed serious for a moment, until he started laughing over Nadia's current attire.

'Is that mine?' A snigger answered his question, Clint rolling his eyes. 'Fury's called an emergency meeting, wanted to make sure you two came.'

'Why?' Nat questioned, raising an eyebrow.

He came up behind both of them and started pushing them towards everyone else, even against their struggling. 'Because I don't wanna suffer alone.'

Fury was seconds away from starting when the three entered, giving them all his infamous glare. He rolled on for a few minutes, everyone only clicking into what he was saying when the word "separate" appeared.

'Wait, leave?' Steve chimed in.

'Split up?' Sam added.

The stiff nod answered their questions, and even Maria was slightly confused as to Fury's reasoning. She pulled him aside for a second, their usual secrecy causing the others to grow suspicious. When she crossed her arms and stared down, they knew it wasn't something good.

Tony took it as more secrets for bad reasons, rolling his eyes and setting his elbows on the kitchen counter. 'Would you two care to elaborate on your conspiracies?'

Pietro and Wanda had chosen not to be included in the conversation, one remaining in their seat and the other racing back and forth with information. She listened to as much as she could catch, finally grabbing her brother's arm and stopping him. Wanda tried to tap into his mind to express her concerns, holding herself back as to not go overboard.

He saw the strain she was putting herself under, a sullen look crossing his face as her hands began to shake. 'Wanda? What is happening?'

At his worried tone, the others hurrying over in a flurry. Questions flooded the air around her, Wanda trying to wave them off and claim she was entirely fine. 'Pietro is worried about nothing.'

'Not nothing,' he insisted determinedly, 'have you eaten?'

She rolled her eyes and pushed him away, moving out of the room and away from the commotion. Before he could race after her, Clint reached his arm out and coat-hangered him. Pietro hit the ground and glared upwards, rubbing his chest. Without anyone getting the chance to issue a warning, Clint leant down towards him.

'Didn't see that coming?'

Pietro's memories flashed back to the last conversation he'd held with Barton, surprised when his healed wounds didn't cause the phantom pain he expected. He instead took the outstretched hand, leaving all that had happened behind.

Bruce was the last to head over, clutching yet another full bowl in his arms and ambling towards the sofa. 'Guys, I think Fury was right about us splitting up.'

Even Fury was confused about Banner's sudden approval, looking over the others to see if it was something they were all up to. 'Why the change of heart, Banner? I saw you not so eager when I was talking.'

'It wasn't the idea I wasn't interested in,' he quipped, shovelling a spoonful of cereal into his mouth. 'I was looking at any mention of HYDRA in the last few weeks, and I didn't find anything specifically.'

Tony stepped forward, cutting in as usual. 'We did, however, find an organisation that bought chip-seeking missiles. Those same chips were uh, found in Nadia.'

'What?' Nadia squeaked, stepping through the cluster and facing off against the two scientists who had done so many tests on her. Her secret was out, and Nadia took off outside.

Natasha sent Vision after the girl, unable to run at that moment. Sam looked up from his phone, wondering just how many of them had somewhere to go. Clint had his family and Nat would probably go with him, Tony already planned his vacation with Pepper, leaving Steve, Maria and Bruce.

Since the twins were no longer separated, Clint would probably take them as well. Darcy had her own family, although she probably would have wanted to go with Jane and Thor if the offer had been made. Vision would probably be left at the compound on his own, until an idea quickly formed.

'Hill, Rogers, Banner, would any of you consider joining me at my house?' he offered, watching all the usual expressions appear. 'I'm adding Vision to the list, but he's not exactly here, so...'

'Sure,' Hill shrugged, 'I'm in. Rogers?'

Steve seemed rather keen, smiling up at Sam. 'Sounds good. Banner, you in?'

Bruce looked up from his food, raising an eyebrow. 'Uh, I was gonna take some time and go tour the country side and let loose a little. I could stop in, I guess.'

It quickly seemed agreed, but a few looked rather offended at the lack of their invite. Nat was quick to cover her disappointment, passing it off with her usual smirk and side eye to Clint. Even the Hawkeye wasn't handling something too well at the moment, the only person who knew doing their best not to blame themselves for the situation.

'You two are hiding something,' Fury commented, drawing attention to Nat & Clint. 'I think we all deserve to know what's going on.'

'No, you don't,' Clint affirmed, ready to shoot himself in the foot before dragging his partner or family into the mess.

He was ready to leave, the tension in the air starting to drag them all down already. A little space seemed like a better idea with each passing second, the team growing too big too fast. It hit them all at the same time, Nadia being almost entirely left out from the conversation.

While some assumed it would be a dispute between Sam & Clint, it was Fury who offered to care for the girl during the separation. They all seemed to know why Nick offered after the initial thought registered.

'You think they'll come after her again?' Pietro asked, leaning against the wall.

Fury released a deep breath. 'It was lucky I sent you here when I did, Maximoff, but yeah, I think they'll come after her again.'

HYDRA never exactly let their experiments disappear without a reckoning coming soon after, but this was the first they'd heard of seeker missiles. Revenge was one thing, taking her out was another.

When Vision dropped the girl back off at the compound, Fury took her into the lab for a rather in depth interrogation. The questions Nadia answered were the same ones she'd been answering the past few days, and several faces turned to the lab after crashing sounds were heard.

Tony groaned under his breath, muttering about the sudden rise in expenditures the past few years. By the time they realised Steve was laughing, the few of them were barely fighting their own urges to join him. Even Tony was laughing at that point, although not quite as much as Sam & Steve.

What they'd gone through in the wars might have a lasting effect, but their new family let them show the once lighter side in their lives. Vision had started to point out the two escapees from the conversation, but saw Nat dragging a finger threateningly across her throat.

Maria & Nat had slipped away, leaving only the men in the room. It took far too long for anyone else to notice among the various plans and ideas being thrown around. Clint suggested that Pietro and Wanda join himself, Nat and his own kids at the farm, an idea not that far-fetched and seemingly obvious to several others.

After thinking it through and offering a change of location every few days, Steve was left in charge of creating some kind of plan. He started to try and pass it off to Hill, who seemed much more organised than himself, but found that both she and Natasha were gone.

'Why do I have to?'

'Because you're the captain,' Sam snickered.

In the lab, Fury was just finishing up his questioning of Nadia. She had started getting upset when he made her lack of future incredibly clear, and found that her worldly experience was entirely limited to the past few days.

His phone vibrated in his pocket, and Fury sighed as he turned his attention from the sniffling child.

First Mate: When you're done, send the kid to the sixth bedroom on the left. -Hill

Clearly Tony had been changing everyone's contact names again, something he'd quickly deal with upon his return to the main area. As Fury started to deliver the message to Nadia, he tried to find her real age in her face. He was met only by blank stares and glassy eyes.

'How old were you when HYDRA found you?'

Nadia quickly wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, trying to think. 'Uh, about four.'

'They found you in the Burn Unit, correct?' Fury pushed, earning a cautious nod from Nadia. 'Romanoff told me, but she didn't say why. Care to tell me?'

'I was in a car accident and my parents were killed on impact,' she informed him. 'I was burnt all over, and the scientists came and took me away.' When she saw the raised eyebrow from Fury, Nadia knew exactly why. 'The doctors fixed my body, but my face was left until six months ago. They gave me Casey's, something they'd been planning, I guess.'

She seemed almost broken, although nothing on her figure except for bruises and bandages showed much. It was the eyes, not what Fury had first expected when being told about the girl in the first place.

'That's enough for now,' he concluded, shutting the notebook that Nat had asked him to use. 'I'll cover you and create a distraction, Hill wants you.'

Nadia quickly nodded, pulling herself off the lab table and quickly wiping her face clean of any final tears. 'Where do I go?'

'Sixth bedroom on the left. I'm sure they'll find you if you get lost.'

She nodded and quietly thanked him, following Fury's lead as they headed for the main area. Their presence was quickly noticed, all eyes on Nadia. It was clear she'd been crying, not that any of them would bring it up. As Fury took all the attention, Nadia slipped out of all their sight. At least, she thought she had.

A few feet away from Darcy's room, Nadia glanced up and caught sight of several hands summoning her towards them. She looked behind her, then slipped into the room.

Darcy was still in her bed, propped up how she had been when Thor left. It wasn't as though she had much choice, not that she'd move anyways. Natasha and Maria sat on either side of the bed and Wanda beside Nat, Darcy offering for her to sit on the foot of the bed. Nadia wasn't so sure, but finally gave in.

'If he made you cry, don't worry about it. He does that to everyone,' Maria informed, flashing a quick side-smile to lighten the mood.

Rather than call themselves the exception to the rule, Darcy and Natasha just nodded in agreement. Wanda didn't exactly feel the same, Fury's essence being enough on it's own.

'It's that easy to tell, huh?' Nadia sniffled quietly, swiping the fresh tears threatening to fall and give her away. 'Would... would the guys be able to see it too?'

Nat reached over and placed her hand on the girl's knee. 'Probably.'

Wanda sniggered, the action followed by Darcy, then Maria and Nadia, and finally Nat. By the time Pietro raced by to gather intel, the girls were all laughing and making jokes at the expense of themselves. He stopped running for a few moments, seeing the spark in Wanda's smile he'd been dying to catch since his return.

She knew he was there, they all did, but turning to him for that second and giving him "that" look. The one that meant she was going to be okay, and all she needed was a little time. It was plenty to wrap your head around, Pietro having his own concerns after being told what had happened to her in his absence.

He nodded, speeding back to the others. 'All good, they're not spying on us.'

'Don't be so sure,' Tony muttered.

'He's right,' Steve added. 'One's a spy, two are Enhanced, the other two are both terrifying and excellent with technology.'

Clint jumped in, trying to slip under the radar. 'You mean three spies, one ex-assassin, three expert hackers, two mind-readers, and Fury's Left & Right Hands?'

'Don't forget one twin,' Bruce noted, everyone then turning to Pietro suspiciously.

Additions to the game quickly grew, even Fury chiming in on the skills and leaving a few utterly confused. Each of the guys added in as many as they could think of, some trying to guess who was what. 

Chapter Text

As the suggestions grew more and more outrageous, Clint was barely able to keep himself from turning his comm off so that he could end the game and not be attacked by Nat. It was wishful thinking, his hand sneaking closer to his comm each second. Something hit his shoulder, causing Clint to look up as subtly as he could manage.

He caught sight of Nat in the perch, mouthing "No" incredibly insistently and gesturing to the comm wrapped around his wrist. Almost daring her to come down and stop him herself, Clint smirked and placed his finger over the button, looking away from Nat and towards the others.

'Okay okay, guess this one. Two of my children, two of my friends, two of my sisters, two of my partners, and five of my six favourite girls.'

Nat was about ready to drop down and fight Clint to the death, knowing that one of his statements was the end of part of his life already. If everyone worked it out, she knew the reactions of every single person. She'd be vulnerable to everything, and so would the others.

But she stopped, everyone guessing completely wrong. No one had caught it, a breath shuddering from her mouth as she tried to regain her balance. Unfortunately, that wasn't quite what happened.

Her hand missed, Nat's face dropping as she only met air. A few thoughts sprang into her mind, none of which helping with how she was supposed to land. It was too much of an unexpected surprise, and the only emotion she had as she fell was anger at herself.

A harsh breath left her mouth as she hit something significantly softer than her first expectation. Nat kept her eyes closed, trying to absorb the embarrassment before putting on her usual demeanour and slipping away unscathed.

Two hands grabbed her own, one definitely Steve and the other most likely Clint. Eyes still closed, Nat waited for her head to stop spinning as they pulled her to her feet.

'Nat?'

Gritting her teeth, Nat opened her eyes. She'd expected smirks and laughter or jokes of some kind, but there was only concern and a little panic. Within seconds, the Nat they all knew and feared had taken over and she stalked off, unable to think of a joke to make at someone else's expense and take the attention off herself.

'Uh uh, you get back here,' Fury instructed.

She was more than tempted to keep walking, but turned to face them all. 'I'm fine, okay? Landed safe, nothing broken-'

'We'll be the judge of that,' Bruce insisted, looking to Tony.

Nat rolled her eyes and prepared to walk away again, almost daring someone to try and stop her. 'Not necessary, I know when something's broken.'

He tried to restrain himself from mentioning it, but couldn't help it. 'Nat, you're bleeding.'

Clint gestured for her to turn around, Nat reaching to her back and revealing her now bloodied hand. She looked more confused than in pain, wobbling as she stood and almost falling to the ground. Pietro caught her yet again, trying to stabilise her.

Ignoring the furious glares and muttering to let her go, Pietro tried to help her down to sit in the living room. None of them seemed angry, not that she'd notice. Everything seemed fuzzy and black, her mind drifting in and out. Incoherent mumbling that was only translatable by Clint left her mouth, a string of Russian following after.

'Something's wrong with her.'

The agreement was unanimous, and Nat was quickly transported to the lab before she could blink. Pietro waited in the doorway as the others scrambled after him, wondering if his new position among the group was an ambulance. As they poked and prodded at Nat, it became clear rather quickly that something was stopping her from feeling much pain.

'Her back is torn open, maybe from something in the loft?' Sam suggested, looking at the others to see if they agreed. 'Or she scraped it on the broken glass from those guys that broke in?'

Before anyone could answer, Maria & Wanda came racing into the lab. 'We were wondering why Nat didn't come back. What happened to her?'

'We don't know,' Steve replied, 'she just fell from the tower. Pietro yanked us out of the way and caught her, dropped her onto the sofa. She tried to leave-'

'But Miss Romanoff almost fainted,' Vision interjected. 'Pietro caught her again after Mr Barton saw blood.'

Wanda turned to her brother and thanked him for catching their friend, while Maria turned to look over her shoulder. 'Where's Nadia?'

Everyone glanced around thinking it would be easy to find her, since the girl wasn't all that short. She wasn't in the lab, so Tony stuck his head out to see if she was in the living room. Just as he went to call out, she appeared in his view, holding herself tightly around the neck.

He ran from the room and straight for her, unsure if it was an invisible enemy, or herself. It was obvious once he reached her, the golden fire in her eyes a passionate fury as she struggled against it. They flashed another colour for a moment, and Nadia launched herself across the room and landed with a gruff thud.

The struggle was nowhere near over, Tony trying his best to free the girl from herself and pull her hands away from her throat. Unable to do anything, the others watched from a far distance. As soon as someone went to run forward, Wanda would drag them back or make Pietro do it.

'Tony, stop!' she shouted, stepping in front of her own threshold. He couldn't see the cocoon of power swirling around them, gold and green struggling against each other. 'You cannot help her! Get out of there!'

He looked up to the voice, Nadia taking that moment to drop the forcefield and use her powers to throw him out of it. There was no holding anyone back, the group rushing forward and dragging Tony out of the danger zone. He seemed fine, Nadia did not. She was still fighting herself, crying out every so often.

'Nadia! Nadia, listen to me!' Fury called through the forcefield, trying to find her eyes in the struggle. 'You can't fight them alone, let us help you!'

She slowed down for a moment, latching her dark eyes to Wanda and taking her over. Red sparks flew around inside the forcefield, Wanda unable to control or stop them, until they finally struck Nadia down. A sharp, desperate cry escaped Wanda, and Nadia dropped silently to her knees. The gold and green flames died down, and her eyes closed.

As the forcefield wound down, Steve ran in and tried to pick the girl up, his hand flying away with the unexpected feeling. She was frozen solid, just like the first time they'd met her. Her lips drifted from pink to blue, the rise and fall of her chest slowing to a complete stop.

Steve turned to his friends, no words to be said.

Nat struggled to sit herself up, against Clint & Bruce's complaints. 'I'm po- I mean, I'm fine! See?' She pulled herself off the bench and instantly wobbled, Clint steadying her.

'Oh yeah, I see,' he chided, sitting her back up on the bench. 'How'd you get hurt?'

She tried to think as Bruce sprayed her back, cleaning it. A stinging pain suddenly made her jump, the pain now setting in. Clenching her teeth and trying to hide it, Nat breathed slowly. 'It might have been crawling through the broken window. I didn't feel anything.'

'Was Nadia channeling you?' Maria asked from the doorway, her appearance startling Bruce and almost making him bump Nat.

The question was odd, but Natasha nodded. When there was no more response, Clint turned away from his partner. 'Where is everyone?'

Maria swallowed and left the room, preferring to keep her strong appearance rather than let her voice give her away. She kept walking past the sullen group surrounding Nadia, hiding away in the closet in her room.

A growl came from the lab, Bruce running a hand through his hair as he journeyed out the the others. He was about to ask what was going on, but he spotted the girl through everyone else.

'Dead?' he asked, the only word that would leave his mouth.

Wanda pulled her hands away from Nadia, slowly nodding. 'Yes.'

Bruce removed his glasses and held them tight in his hand, returning to the lab before Nat overpowered Clint and came to find out for herself. Tony dragged himself up with Sam's help, limping over to the kitchen and grabbing his tablet. He scanned through the security footage, attempting to work out what had led to her sudden actions.

Nadia appeared behind Maria and Wanda, freezing and sniffing the air curiously. As they kept walking, she crept over to the armchair which was covered in Nat's blood. Her head popped up, and she slammed a fist into her own face. Fighting and struggling with herself for what seemed like ages, until Tony saw himself appear, trying to free Nadia.

The flashes in her eyes became obvious as he kept watching, Tony glad that his security was in colour. He rewound to right before Nadia smelt the blood, eyes normal. The second her ears pricked up, there was a flash of gold. That was the colour of the scientists, their main reason for Nadia's creation being money.

As she fought back, there was green flashes among the gold. Green was Nadia, the purity of her once innocent soul fighting for it's return. As she fought herself, it was clear she hadn't meant herself to survive. She'd try and run for the closest weapons in the kitchen, only to be dragged back towards the living room.

Finally, after creating the forcefield to keep her protectors safe, Nadia dropped it to borrow Wanda's powers. The only freedom she could get from her captors was death, and she took it the moment it became available.

Powers associated with nothing but pain and anguish, Wanda curled herself up on the armchair and squeezed her knees tight to her chest. She wanted to leave her powers somewhere they couldn't be found, but there was nothing she could do at all. The damage was done.

'Wanda,' Pietro whispered, kneeling in front of his sister, 'esti foarte talentat, okay?'

She shook her head fiercely, tightening the grip around her knees.

A dull shouting sounded from the bedrooms, Vision sensing Darcy's panic after being left alone for so long. A quick scout mission, Nat had called it. Checking on her progress, Maria had insisted. Only a minute, Wanda had assured her.

Instead of alerting the others, Vision believed they were going through enough without having to repeat it, so he headed off towards Darcy's room alone. Delivering the news would be easy, but trying to keep her from further fracturing her ribs would be difficult.

Tony just stared at his screen in the kitchen, knowing why Nadia did what she did, but wishing he'd gotten there just a little earlier. Fury saw the look, knowing it rather well.

'Stark, you did your best.'

He snorted in derision. 'Actually, if I'd done my best, she'd be alive.'

They all wanted to argue, stressing that it was as much Tony's fault as it was their own, but each blamed themselves as much as he did. Pietro held his sister's hand, trying to get her to say anything. Just a few words and he'd ease up, but she wouldn't even say anything telepathically.

Sam stared at Nadia's stiff body, dropping a hand onto Steve's shoulder. 'She's free, Rogers.'

Steve nodded, again reaching for the girl's hand. She hadn't warmed up any, but the shock was gone. 'What do we do with her?' he asked, holding her ice-cold hand within his.

No one had a chance to think as a crack of thunder sounded outside. They'd first expected Thor to waltz in through the front door, but the sudden flashes of green alerted them to the presence of Loki.

Chapter Text

He strolled in as though he owned the place, stopping in his tracks at the downtrodden expressions all around him. 'Well, looks like someone has beaten me to it.'

'Shove it up your ass, Loki,' Fury snarled, not in the mood to deal with him.

Appalled, Loki's mouth dropped open. 'It was a joke, not that any of you would understand one of those.'

Sam was already annoyed by Loki, rolling his eyes and preparing to leave. Steve was usually not impressed by Loki's antics, but he was rather intrigued by the appearance. Rather than ask himself, Steve beeped his comm and alerted Tony, who was currently off in his own little world.

Tony looked up. 'Oh good, more trouble we don't need.'

'Come now, I'm sure I have been away long enough to assuage your collective anger towards me. There must be someone that I haven't annoyed directly, perhaps this white-haired speedster?' he prodded, looking to Pietro. 'Or maybe his darling sister?'

'Leave them alone,' Fury urged, glaring directly at Loki.

Loki rolled his eyes, taking a few steps towards them all. 'Look, this was my brother's idea. If you want me to leave, all Miss Romanoff has to do is ask.'

Clint appeared at the right moment, stepping out from the hallway. 'Miss Romanoff is out of commission at the moment, but she gave me permission to take her ass-kicking appointments.'

Threatened by the look in Clint's eyes, Loki was unable to help himself. 'Do you forget who I am? Do you forget what I've seen in your head, all those secrets you haven't spilled to a single soul?'

'No, I just don't care,' Clint quipped, ripping out his bow and aiming a knockout arrow.

It loosened from his bow and the arrow fired, striking the unsuspecting Loki in the chest. Not a single one protested, instead sniggering under their breaths as the self-proclaimed King of Asgard tried to stand himself back up. Clint turned and left, satisfied with himself.

'I have a message, and the next person to attack me will be imprisoned in Asgard!' Loki snarled, the others trying not to laugh. He sighed and ran a hand through his long dark hair. 'My brother has requested the presence of your newest friend. He believes that her safety can be guaranteed in his care.'

There was no response for a moment, silence saying all Loki needed to hear. He moved forward after seeing Steve's odd positioning, a disheartened look appearing on his usually uninterested face.

'It seems I've arrived too late. If I may?'

Although wary, Steve rose and allowed Loki to assess Nadia. He seemed incredibly concerned, holding his hand a few centimetres above her figure. After making a few mental notes, Loki's expression seemed to lighten.

Tony jumped off the barstool, heading towards the living room. 'What's that look?'

'Hope is not lost for this poor child,' he reported, a few mutterings quickly following the statement. 'Thor granted me two hours to convince you all of my... change of heart. Since the poor thing is rather incapacitated, why don't you all question me and determine whether you trust me or not?'

Finding the idea fair, Fury shoved Loki towards the kitchen. Steve and Tony joined the pair, wanting to get in on the questioning. That left Pietro taking care of his sister, and Sam trying to wrap his head around what had happened. The wounds from losing Nadia right before his eyes were still fresh, and Sam kept flashing back to when he lost Riley.

The look in their eyes was just the same, Sam shaking his head to loosen the thought.

Upon Vision's return to the main area, a short staring competition started between the android and Loki. They kept eye contact as Vision continued his path, heading for the laboratory upon Darcy's request.

'Miss Romanoff, Mr Barton, Dr Banner, if I may?' Vision enquired, poking his head into the room. Nat nodded in approval of his entrance, grateful he hadn't been any earlier.

Clint had just finished bandaging up her back, having to wrap the gauze all the way around her chest due to the extent of the damage. He turned to Vision, arms crossed as he leant beside Nat.

'How did Darcy take the news?' Bruce questioned.

'Not well, I'm afraid,' declared Vision half-heartedly. 'However, we have another problem to deal with.'

A strained grunt sounded, all knowing that it was Nat trying to silence her pain as she struggled to pull her shirt down, and all purposefully not looking to her. Clint had already explained that Loki had returned, but Vision had obviously brought fresher news.

'What's Loki up to this time?' muttered Banner, leaning over his tablet and scrolling through the message from Jane. It seemed legit, but Loki was known for his trickery.

They entered the kitchen together, Loki once again trying to insist that there could be a chance for Nadia, and there was nothing to lose. The only silent one was Natasha, who seemed to be dwelling on some thought drifting around in her brain. She stood against one of the walls, head tilted back against it.

The position was something she'd done often, usually helping her think. Whether it was something developed in her childhood or out of necessity, no one knew. After another sigh, Nat finally agreed to Loki's request.

'If,' she added, coming within a half metre of Loki's face, 'one of us goes with you.'

Loki instantly smirked, glancing quickly to Steve before changing to Bruce. 'If... the one who accompanies me is you.'

'No.'

'Yes,' Nat replied determinedly, overriding the few who had objected. She stared Loki down, knowing it would be him who first broke eye contact. It was terrifying watching the competition, each daring the other to look away for just a second.

Sam snorted, and Loki's eyes flickered to the sound. The corner of Nat's lips rose, a spark of defeat crossing the dark-haired Asgardian's face.

Wanda and Pietro had been listening the entire time, neither speaking or addressing anyone else. They'd kept their silence long enough, and Wanda shakily rose from the chair she had been seated in.

'You trust this man with her? The same man who tried to kill you all and brainwash Clint?'

Several of them shook their heads, including Natasha, leaving Pietro even more confused than he was previously. Rather than question his sister's motives, the boy stood behind her defensively.

'We don't trust Loki, Wanda, but we trust Thor,' assured Steve. 'Nat can handle herself.'

Nat winked at Steve, the meds that Banner had given her already disguising her pain.

As the time for Loki's return drew closer, all the phones in the room vibrated.

DarcyL: Can I leave the room yet? I'm going crazy down here.

Hill: No. Go to sleep, Darcy.

Although not present, Maria was the first to answer. Clearly, Nadia had much more of an impact on everyone than they wished to admit. Everyone chose to ignore the following messages from Darcy, knowing exactly what they'd contain. Wanda turned to Pietro with her worries, realising she could release herself to her emotions for once.

Her brother was there again, and he pulled her tightly into his arms and kissed her on the side of the head. Wanda closed her eyes, letting down the wall she'd been hiding behind. It wasn't as hard as she'd first thought, but everything started to fall.

Leaving them alone seemed like a good idea, Nat making a getaway to her room in order to gather a few things before her departure. Just as she reached beneath her pillow, Clint appeared in her doorway. Nat's eyes flickered over to him, grinning the usual cheshire cat smile.

'Hey.'

'Hey.'

A few steps away, but too far to do anything quick. Nat controlled herself, sliding the gun from beneath her pillow and shoving it into the satchel in her hands. 'Barton, you need to stop doing this.'

'How can I, Nat? You're being reckless lately. I mean, how many times have you almost been killed recently, huh? Three times in as many days?'

She rolled her eyes and continued shoving stuff into the bag. 'I'm not being reckless. I might need to start back on my routine soon, but-'

'We both know that's not a good idea,' he warned, voice suddenly clearer. As Nat turned away from her drawers, she almost bumped into him. 'You need a break, Tasha. A real one, not some Loki-sitting adventure.'

Unable to help herself, Nat brushed passed him but held the conversation with her back turned. 'Don't be jealous, Clint. I know we usually do this kind of stuff together, but-' He started to interrupt, Nat spinning around and staring him right in the eyes. 'Interrupt me again, it'll be the last time.'

He screwed up his nose, signing at her. She copied his expression, shifting the bag onto her shoulder and replying to his sign. They continued silently for a few minutes, Nat's comm buzzing with a call from Fury. She signed an apology, shoving a few more things in her bag before hugging him.

'I won't have too much fun without you, okay?'

Clint closed his eyes, nodding and letting her go. 'I expect a postcard, Natasha,' he teased, calling out after his partner as she waved her farewell.

A quick goodbye to everyone, and Natasha turned to Loki as they moved outside to the pickup zone. 'I wonder if Gods bleed,' she wondered aloud through her smile, watching his expression change from "sarcastic" to "challenge accepted".

Everyone was clearly worried about the pair being so close in proximity, especially since both had such large egos and kill-rates. Nadia had been transferred to a wheelchair that Tony had lying around, making her transport that much easier. As Loki and Natasha each held onto a handle, several rather interesting comments were aimed their way.

Clint stood at the back, grinning with each one. Nat blew a kiss to Loki, but the moment he turned away, made faces to the others. 'You're going to have to hold my hand,' Loki reminded her, causing Nat to think for a moment.

Disgruntled, she obliged and held out her delicate yet fatal hand. As the sky opened above them and strikes of lightning rained down, Natasha, Nadia & Loki disappeared.

Fury headed for Maria's room once the commotion was over, requesting her presence on his return back to base. She quickly gathered her things and mustered a goodbye, grateful for the escape route he'd provided.

As the group numbers dipped lower yet again, it seemed as though everyone was preparing to leave the compound. Clint grabbed a few of his own things as well as Nat's, knowing she'd be joining him upon her return. Pietro was about to ask what was to happen with him, when Wanda quickly explained that it had all been taken care of.

'Who will be there?' he asked Clint, not exactly wishing for a full house.

'You two, me, and eventually Nat.' That was all, and he held up Wanda's bag. 'Since you don't have anything,' he started, gesturing to Pietro, 'I guess you can borrow some old stuff of mine. Wanda, you wanna grab some of yours? I'll wait in the kitchen.'

She nodded and headed for her room, Pietro suspiciously tailing behind. When he reached the slightly fire-damaged room, his protective brother mode jumped into action. Questions and answers flew back and forth between the twins as Wanda packed her things, Pietro breathing through a panic attack at the thought of his sister being in any kind of danger.

Steve had contacted Darcy's family as she slept, Tony overhearing and being able to assist in her movement. 'Pepper and I are meeting in New Jersey, I'm sure my jet can fit Darcy. We'll get her home safe, I promise.'

Sam's offer to Bruce and Steve remained, and Bruce was too exhausted too pass up somewhere available to stay. The only condition was that he was not to be waken, not that it would exactly be a possible feat. Steve gladly accepted, and the three left.

As Wanda and her worried brother joined Clint and prepared to leave, there was an unspoken something lingering in the air. She turned to face Vision, eyes searching his face as though he was a lost puppy.

'You don't have to stay here alone, Barton has offered for you to join us.'

Vision lowered his head, unable to accept. 'That is very kind of you, Wanda, but I think it is best if I stay here. Something may happen, you never know.'

'Friday can take care of it,' Wanda replied quickly, almost begging him to join her. 'Come with us, Vis.'

He turned to the front door where Pietro waited, Clint already waiting in the car. 'You must go, they are waiting for you.'

Before she could say another word, Vision nodded to Pietro. He sped over and lifted Wanda into his arms, flashing a curt nod before racing outside. The door shut, and everyone was gone.

In Asgard, Thor waited with his fellow warriors in case Loki was up to his usual tricks. He nodded to Heimdall, and the Bifrost opened. It only took a few seconds for a few figures to come into view, the warriors jumping into action as they saw what the Trickster was doing.

His arm was tight around Nat's throat and his dagger dangerously close to her side. She looked to Thor as she choked, struggling against Loki's strength. Just as the warriors were about to pounce on Natasha's attacker, Thor held up his arm.

Chapter Text

'You two are not as funny as you often claim,' he scolded, 'but it is a lovely surprise to see you again, Natasha.'

Thor finally broke into a smile, holding his arms open to Nat as she grinned and moved away from Loki. Sif seemed rather unsure about the extra guest, but nonetheless welcomed her as Thor had instructed.

When he spotted Nadia's still form in the wheelchair, Thor's attitude made a snappy turnaround. He instructed Volstagg to get her to the healing room, then looked to Natasha for an explanation. She was about to start, when Loki not-so-subtly pointed out that the Black Widow herself was wounded.

'It's just a few scrapes,' she assured the worried god, 'I'm sure a visit to this legendary place will set me straight.'

As Thor and Natasha headed out onto the Rainbow Bridge, Loki followed behind with his escort of armed palace guards. As they began the journey to the palace, Nat explained Nadia's sudden meltdown after another mental attack.

'It is a good thing I sent Loki,' Thor breathed, trying not to let his brother hear. When Nat seemed confused at his choice of words, Thor glanced over his shoulder to make sure Loki wasn't all that close. 'We may still be able to revive her. Surely my brother would not have gone through the trouble to bring her here if there was no hope.'

He was right, the idea of struggling for the benefit of others wasn't exactly a characteristic of Loki's. Natasha nodded, finally allowing her eyes to catch sight of the beautiful city that lay before her.

'Nice place,' muttered Nat, nudging Thor with her elbow. 'How's Jane holding up here?'

'She is being treated as a queen, as she should be,' Thor chuckled. 'And you shall be treated just the same, I assure you.'

Nat smirked her approval, ignoring the dull pain that was starting to return.

As Asgard's best looked over Nadia, Loki requested permission to assist. Although wary, Thor granted his request. He only had one condition, which was Sif to watch him. Loki seemed pleased by the thought, despite the many threats she muttered under her breath as Thor asked the favour.

'If he so much as moves, I shall slice his skin with the speed of-'

Loki rolled his eyes, jumping as he saw the shine of silver flicker to his neck. He turned to Sif, this not being the first time. The simple action of rolling his eyes had interrupted her speech, and the glare she bore into his skull made her point rather quickly.

'As you wish, Lady Sif.'

Nat sniggered and left the room, Thor following after her and closing the doors. 'Natasha, I still believe you should let our healers examine you.'

'Oh, not you too,' she groaned, heading for the great hall. 'Look at me, I can walk, and-'

Out of nowhere, Mjolnir came flying past and caused Nat to fall to the ground. She glared up at Thor, whose only emotion appeared to be concern. He offered his hand, Nat taking a moment before pulling herself up and ignoring the gesture.

As she started to walk off again, Thor reached for her shoulder. 'It is not wise to hide a secret from a friend.'

'If you knew all my secrets, we wouldn't be friends.'

Upon reaching the feast Thor had prepared, Volstagg was sitting on the edge of his seat as he tried his best to be patient. Hogun wasn't helping, discussing the delicious smells and aromas drifting towards them. The moment they heard the clomping footsteps of Thor, Volstagg dived upon the food.

Jane was sitting close by him, wishing she'd instead seated herself beside Fandral. Hogun appeared to be enjoying the mess he'd started. As Nat slipped into the seat beside Jane, Thor sat across from them, his bubbly demeanour unfortunately flat.

'What's wrong?' Jane whispered, accidentally drawing the attention of Thor's friends to his lack of enthusiasm.

As the boys rambled on, Thor looked to Jane and subtly pointed to Natasha. Although she knew they were discussing her, Nat ignored them and continued eating. She didn't raise her eyes, nor did she bother listening in to the next three hours.

After the feast, Thor was attempting to find different approaches to converse with Nat. She was always quiet, but there was the snarky comments that often reminded them all where and who she was. There had been nothing of the sort since they sat down, and his flatness was growing closer to hostility.

'Asgard has many hidden beauties,' he started, gesturing to the balcony. Jane looked to Nat, who had only just started paying attention again.

'He's right,' Jane chimed in, 'it's gorgeous. And it can take your mind off anything.'

Nat knew what they were trying to do, but couldn't be bothered concocting another excuse to make up for her lack of appetite or speech. She followed the pair to the balcony, the lights below catching her eyes and illuminating her mind.

As guards marched below, Nat's eyes were drawn downwards. She stared there for a moment, trying to assess if a suitable escape route was to jump from where she stood. It was an escape route, just not the kind she was interested in at that moment.

Thor felt someone looking at him, looking over his shoulder to find Sif waving wildly. She didn't look excited, more panicked than anything. He whispered to Jane and quickly followed Sif to the healing room, leaving the two girls on the balcony. Natasha lifted her head and scoured the stars, then turned to Jane.

'He sure worries a lot, doesn't he?' she smirked. 'It's unfounded, really. Barton patched me up, I'm- I'm...'

'The faster you get checked out, the faster Thor will stop moping around and trying to make you.' With a simple look, Jane had stopped the redhead in her tracks.

It was the look she usually gave Darcy when she did something stupid (or was about to), but it rendered Nat entirely still. Nat started to protest, but her words fell short. She nodded and moved away from the balcony.

'Point taken.'

With that, Nat returned to the healing room. Jane breathed out and went to run a hand through her hair, stopping herself just as she remembered that her hair wasn't hanging on her shoulders like it usually was. She'd been dragged into a circle of young Asgardian girls, her hair taken and braided in the fanciest celtic knots.

She smiled to herself as she thought of the surprised comments from the girls, all giggling and happy to be granted such a fun opportunity. It wasn't long before Thor was dragged into the circle too, but his expression made it clear that it wasn't the first time.

After a few minutes, Nat released the air she'd been holding in her lungs and pushed open the door. Thor almost smiled when he saw his friend enter, but she did it first. 'Let's just get this over and done with, okay?'

Her eyes glazed over Nadia, suspiciously moving to Loki as his hands hovered over the frozen solid girl. Loki knew Natasha was watching him closely, and he allowed the corners of his lips to turn up into a sneer.

'Jealous?'

'In your nightmares,' she challenged, slipping by him and avoiding the temptation to kick his ass.

The healers didn't take their time as Nat had expected, not needing to do as much as Thor first believed. They asked question after question, a few causing awkward expressions and whispered answers. Had Loki not needed his focus, he would have listened in.

'The one who bandaged your wounds did well,' one of the healers commented.

Nat snorted. 'Are you sure about that?'

'Oh, uh... yes,' the woman replied, confused by the question. 'I only found one shard of glass, but even that was hard to detect. How did this happen?'

Thor looked to Natasha with his arms crossed, also wanting an explanation. She raised a sassy eyebrow to Thor, tilting her head to the side and grinning at the floor. 'It's not impressive enough to warrant all this. I just crawled through a broken window and scraped my back.'

She had clearly not wanted her first impression on the Asgardians to be so pathetic, and Thor felt he owed her due to making her go there in the first place.

'During one of your spy missions, yes?' he chimed in, eyes widening as he waited for her quick wits to catch up.

It didn't take long for the sparks in her eyes to start firing. The healers stopped, impressed as she quickly fudged the details to make it seem like a real mission, rather than confess what she'd really been doing.

As the story became darker and more daring, Natasha's mind drifted back to the real situations she'd gotten herself into since her graduation. Her voice started to grow dreamy and distant, Nat only realising as the faces around her came back into view.

Thor had heard a few of the stories of her past, but never in so much detail or with so much hiding behind the words.

Even Loki was impressed, not that he cared to show it. Sif had moved from her watchful position over Loki, looking over the deep gouges that had marked Natasha's back. They weren't the only marks adorning her skin, although most of the scars had turned silvery and invisible to most eyes.

Sif had her own scars, some impressive, others not so much. 'What's that one from?'

Nat looked over her shoulder, but couldn't see it properly. She looked to Thor, wondering if he could describe it for her. He quickly caught on to what she was trying to get him to do, nodding and moving around behind her back.

'It is shaped like a crescent moon.'

She knew exactly which one it was, trying not to take pleasure in the concerned faces around her as she smiled. 'Barton always leaves a lasting impression,' sniggered Nat, trying to contain as much of her pleasant side as possible.

Once told she could leave, Nat was already heading for the door. She made sure to check on Nadia before running off, catching herself just as she started her exit. Thor came up beside her, pushing open the door and holding out his arm.

'I shall escort you to your quarters,' he offered, 'then tomorrow, Sif will show you around Asgard.'

Although wanting to see the city more than anything, Nat started to decline. 'She doesn't-'

'She insisted the moment your back turned from her.'

They continued to Natasha's room, her nod of approval coming rather quickly. It was huge, a large window against one wall which she quickly perceived as an escape route, a large canopy bed that could fit two Hulks, among the other glorious things.

Nat slipped into the bed and shoved her gun under her pillow, not even waiting for Thor to leave before closing her eyes. He cleared his throat, causing her to open one eye and look over her shoulder to him. Thor's hand was outstretched, and he gestured pointedly to her pillow.

'I am afraid I cannot permit you to have that.'

'Well, I am afraid that you're gonna have to deal with it, big guy.'

He sighed, knowing the war was already lost. 'Does Barton ever have this trouble?'

The distant look in her eyes mixed with a flash of pain, and Natasha rolled back over and clutched the gun tight in her hand. 'He stopped asking. Goodnight, Thor.'

'Goodnight.'

Thor left the room, taking no more than fifty steps to reach his own. Jane had been waiting not so patiently, the slight panic receding as she hugged him around the waist. 'I thought Loki was going to keep you busy all night. Is everything okay?'

On Earth, Wanda and Pietro sat in the back of Clint's car as they drove to the farmhouse. It was a long drive, but none of them were complaining.

Pietro was partially an exception, making snide comments about how he could run himself and Wanda there before Clint made it another mile. Instead of replying, Barton flashed a look in the rearview mirror towards Wanda. She caught it and nodded carefully, holding tightly onto her seatbelt.

As usual, her brother found himself being thrown forward into something. Clint had slammed on the brakes and quickly started again, several grunts and curses following Pietro's head connecting with the chair in front of him.

'You helped him!' shouted Pietro, incredibly annoyed. He crossed his arms and continued griping, ignoring his sister as she stifled her giggling through her hand.

When they pulled up onto a dirt road, Clint had expected some form of comment from either of his wards. Neither remarked, and he didn't take long to notice why. Both were asleep, and planning how to wake them up was the most difficult task yet.

As Clint saw it, he had two options. Slam on the brakes again, or gently wake them. If Nat was with him there would only be one option, and Clint decided he probably shouldn't for his own sake.

'Guys, we're here.'

Pietro's eyes flashed open and he disappeared, Wanda taking a moment.

She didn't get much of one, Pietro suddenly appearing beside her to help her out of the car. He didn't race off like Clint had first expected, the boy taking his time for Wanda's- and his own- sake.

Anyone running that soon after waking up would trip, but carrying another person would be especially disastrous.

The three of them headed inside, no greeting called, no footsteps echoing on the wooden floorboards. Wanda was expecting someone to appear, or the smell of food to waft through the air, but everything in the house was still and stale. Pietro's head shifted around on his shoulders as he took in the house, stretching before taking off to search it all.

He returned moments later, silent and unwilling to make a single noise. Wanda slipped into his mind, but was met with a blank wall. He was obviously trying to hide whatever he had found, and Wanda dropped it.

Chapter Text

Clint stopped looking around his own home, almost surprised that it was still furnished. 'I guess you guys are hungry. There should be something in the fridge.'

'Will it be edible?' remarked Pietro under his breath.

The twins snickered, Clint ignoring them both. He headed upstairs with all their bags, dumping Wanda's on his daughter's old bed, and Pietro's on the bunk below it. Passing by his own bedroom was too much, and Clint returned to the living room with his stuff.

Pietro was seated on the kitchen bench, Wanda moving around the kitchen beside him and trying to find things that weren't out of date. Most weren't, which meant that it wasn't quite so long ago that the farmhouse had been abandoned. The only thing missing was the reason why, which wasn't instantly apparent.

'You guys find anything?'

Wanda jumped at the sudden question, hand flying to her chest. She glowered at Clint amidst her brother's sniggers, the expression alarmingly familiar. Clearly, she had been spending far too much time with Nat.

Pietro slipped off the bench and appeared right before Clint. 'We found some things.'

'Good. Eat it, brush your teeth, go to bed.'

His request was simple, yet effective. It went without question that the twins did what they were told, even though they were well into their twenties. Clint dropped onto the sofa and spread his hand over his face, dragging his fingers over his eyebrows.

Upstairs was silent for a short while, but his face relaxed as the comments between the twins quickly grew louder with each passing second. He'd missed the noise, but that time was long gone. Clint sighed and flopped onto the pillow at the end of the sofa, beating it a few times with his fist before closing his eyes.

He was the first to wake the next morning, moving straight outside to see what had been left behind. No animals, a few crops that looked on the edge of care, and a still broken tractor. There was work to do, and all the time in the world to do it.

'You want a hand?' a curious voice asked. Clint turned to the twins, who had changed and were ready to help.

Having one Enhanced would be plenty, but having two was all Clint could have wanted. 'I might be able to find something for you guys to do.'

Sam's apartment was full yet again, Steve taking the sofa before Bruce could even insist on himself. The spare bed was left all to Bruce, and he quickly spotted the few things Nat and Steve had left there after their last stay.

He returned to the dining room, holding up Steve's shirt and Nat's boots. Without even a word, Sam turned expectantly to Steve and crossed his arms. A low and solid groan sounded from Steve for several seconds, his head dropping back onto the top of the sofa.

'I made Nat take the bed, the shirt wasn't in my control,' he shrugged, earning two sniggers from both Sam & Bruce. 'She takes your shirts too.'

Sam looked surprised, while Bruce didn't seem quite as shocked. They just accepted it, none wanting to challenge Natasha's motivations or actions. Steve grabbed the tv remote and tossed it to Sam, making room for both him and Bruce on the sofa beside him. It didn't take all that long for Steve to pass out, not that either were surprised.

Bruce trudged off to the bedroom, rubbing the side of his head and dropping straight to the pillows. He rolled over and looked up at the roof, staring into the plain colours until they swirled to a black abyss.

Asgard was unusually exceptional in the mornings, something gentle in the air that woke everyone from their sleep with ease. That wasn't the case for Natasha, who bolted up and ripped the gun from it's place beneath her pillow. Her heavy breathing stiffened, a slow gust of air blowing from her nose and pacing her heartbeat.

There was no one in sight, but she had definitely heard something. The gun cautiously lowered and Nat sighed. She slipped from the silky sheets and moved towards the balcony, gun cocked and ready in her hands. As Nat neared the gently billowing curtains, she reached forward and ripped them away.

Only Asgard stared back, the streets empty but brightly lit. The sun had not yet risen, nor had anyone else. In that moment, it was only Natasha. Her eyes closed as she leant over the banister, cool air flowing around and lifting the wavy locks from her shoulders, sweeping back the sheet she had dragged with her.

She still wore the same clothes she'd arrived in, preferring her singlet and sweatpants to one of the extravagant robes she was sure Thor would offer. Nat let herself relax, the weight of the world only a chip on her shoulder. The way the stars moved about overhead was peaceful and serene, but it wasn't to stay that way for long.

Natasha's mind didn't fully return until halfway through breakfast, something tugging gently on her arm. She quickly looked to her side, a young Asgardian boy standing there. 'Hi there,' she croaked, her voice not quite as strong as she had hoped.

The boy's face lit up, and he reached behind himself to find another child's hand. 'Thor has told us stories of you,' claimed the boy excitedly.

'Stories, huh?' Nat repeated, looking sideways to Thor's eager face. 'What exactly did you hear?'

As the two children fought for Natasha's attention, she couldn't help but smile. Before she knew it, Nat had agreed to let the boy braid her hair and the girl choose her clothes for the day. The last time someone had tangled their fingers into her fiery red strands of hair was beyond her memory.

Perhaps it had never happened, except the odd occasion where Clint had no option. More than once Nat had been unable to do her own hair, leaving her partner the only viable option. It was a strange feeling, especially to Nat.

They were children, who seemed enlightened by her feats rather than terrified.

'Thank you,' she blurted as the boy tied off her hair. A braid unlike any she had ever seen draped around her head and over her shoulder, the natural curls she often straightened sitting delicately around her face.

'It is an honour, Lady Warrior.'

When the boy's friend scrambled excitedly back into the room, both children took a side of Natasha and dragged her back to her room. Sif waited patiently at the door, pushing it open as the trio came into sight.

Her lips formed a smirk as Natasha was dragged inside. 'I hope that you do not mind, Ria thought you would prefer garments that were both comfortable and suitable for battle. They are not old, although I have worn a few of them.'

Natasha quickly thanked Sif for the clothing, the gesture being more than what she had expected. Jane had told her of the not so warm welcome she had received, but it passed as Sif grew to know Jane as a friend.

The little girl grinned brightly at the two warriors, her curly blonde hair bouncing as she tried to refrain from giggling. 'Dasto and I shall remove ourselves, with your permission?'

Both warriors nodded, and Natasha turned to the outfit that had been prepared by two ten-year-old looking Asgardian children. 'Whose are they?' she called to Sif from behind the partition.

Sif had been answering questions for the last few minutes, as Nat tried to figure out how the pieces fit together. The whole time, the dark-haired warrior had been seated on the edge of the large bed offering advice.

'Dasto and Ria came to the palace several years ago. They had no parents, Thor found that they were exceptionally bright and skilled for their ages, so the children have stayed here ever since.'

On the verge of audibly snickering, Natasha fixed up the final piece of her outfit and stepped out to show Sif. 'So they're orphans?'

'We believe so,' Sif countered, moving up to tie the laces behind Natasha's back, 'they never talk of their families.'

When Sif and Natasha returned to the great hall, all eyes turned to them. Fandral, Volstaag, Hogun, Loki & Jane stood before them, almost shocked as the pair arrived. They seemed to have bonded rather quickly, and the way they both walked and presented themselves was all too similar.

It was then that Thor realised his mistake at introducing them, and it was not the first one he'd made regarding Natasha. However, it was too late to change anything, and everyone would just have to deal with the warriors.

Earth. Their home, their birthplace, but now something that was almost pathetic compared to the extravagance of Asgard. There was all of that and more, but Natasha couldn't wait to go home.

'How's the girl?'

'Impatient,' Loki griped, rolling his eyes and moving out of the way. Nadia's face popped into view, a smile lighting up her eyes. 'But she can tell you that herself.'

Nadia ran from behind the others and straight for Natasha, excited like the children who had fawned over her earlier that morning. Without even waiting, the young girl gripped Nat around the waist and squeezed her tight.

'They're gone. I hear nothing now.' There was a moment of silence as Natasha tried to understand what Nadia was doing, until finally the girl quietly whispered two words under her breath. 'I'm free.'

She was alive and healing, her hair almost growing before their eyes, and Nat could think of no place better for her. It was quickly decided that Nadia was to remain in Asgard, there being nothing left for her on Earth.

After panicking about not being able to communicate with the Avengers, Jane assured the girl that Darcy was already working on a system to allow them all to keep contact. Earth and Asgard would be joined through this, and Thor welcomed them all to stay whenever they wished.

Jane was unusually silent, not a single one of them noticing until Nadia pulled away from Natasha. Thor disappeared in an attempt to find her, and the remaining three girls turned to the Warriors Three.

'What are you staring at?' accused Nat, crossing her arms.

Volstagg said nothing, Hogun shrugged, but Fandral couldn't help but raise his eyebrows and grin. Sif barely refrained from rolling her eyes, instead grinding her teeth and marching over to him.

'Fandral, have you no shame?'

'Not at this moment, Sif, darling,' he chided, slipping by her and waltzing casually over to Natasha.

Loki's snigger attracted all sorts of attention, all of which he simply lavished in. 'It was not me who made that vulgar comment. If I had, I wouldn't be standing here as I am right now.'

He regretted his remark, as moments later he had been entirely flipped over Natasha's shoulder and planted directly into the floor. She knelt down beside him, flashing her grin as always, and jamming her elbow into his stomach.

Nadia watched on, eyes darting between them as Nat muttered several rather discernible remarks in as many as seven languages. Loki understood each one, and his gaze rose to the younger girl as she towered above him.

'Anything you would like to add?'

There was a flash in her eyes, but Nadia shook her head. Sif escorted the earthlings towards the palace doors, offering to show them around Asgard. The not-so-mortal warriors and Loki agreed to never mention the previous few minutes again, all vanishing from the great hall.

Jane still wasn't overly accustomed to Asgard's many twists and turns, meaning that Thor was rather quick to find her. 'Jane, have I offended you in some manner? If I have, I do apologise.'

'No it's not you, Thor. It's just...' she strained, grasping for words, 'everything.'

Although confused, Thor reached out for Jane's hand and tried to pull her closer. 'I may not understand what you mean, but I will do anything I can to help you.'

Not wanting to start a feud between Thor and his family, Jane tried to hold her tongue. The only problem was how compassionate and easy to talk to Thor was, and she couldn't hold anything back. It was only a small thing, but it was enough to make her want to leave Asgard and Thor behind forever.

'Your father doesn't exactly approve of me.'

Thor's forehead knitted together, and he looked over his shoulder with a rather grim expression. 'Jane, I am sorry, but-'

'Are you breaking up with me?' squeaked Jane, jumping in before he could finish.

'What? No, I could never think of anything worse than parting with you again,' he assured her, gently holding on to her hands. 'I would sooner part with my vision, my hammer, my title, and my life before I would ever consider leaving you.'

A smile crept onto Jane's face as she cast her view downwards, trying to hide the sudden flush in her cheeks. It faded before Thor could match it, the thoughts of Odin's disapproval returning to Jane's mind.

Odin had departed Asgard the moment he heard of Jane's arrival, offering his son a greeting before leaving for Vanaheim. There was no more and no less, yet Thor had mistaken the action for the same abruptness his father had always possessed. It was never predictable, but often came and went in bursts.

'I shall speak to the Allfather, but do not fret, Jane. If he so orders, I shall leave Asgard.'

Guilt was the last thing Jane felt before Thor ran from the room, calling for Heimdall.

There were many spare bedrooms in Clint's farmhouse, yet he still elected to sleep on the sofa. He either ignored the twins' questions or brushed them off, very rarely answering them with any kind of seriousness.

He'd been working them both less than he could have, taking the brunt of the work to keep himself distracted. Wanda noticed more than her brother, worrying about the way Clint had been treating himself over the past few days. Some of it was worry, but the rest was entirely indiscernible.

She flickered an eyebrow raise to her brother, lowering the things in her hands and nodding her head towards Clint. He shrugged and mouthed something back, earning only a glare from Wanda. Pietro grumbled and tossed the pitchfork he'd been holding towards his sister, the thing almost knocking her back as he raced off.

Chapter Text

'Hey, Barton,' Pietro called, pulling Clint from his work.

After wiping his forehead, he turned to the silver-haired boy and crossed his arms. 'Wanda has nothing to worry about, kid.'

'If you think I am going to fall for that, you are very mistaken.'

As they conversed, Wanda finished up her few tasks for the day and headed inside. She glanced behind her to see if her brother had made progress, rather downtrodden after noticing that both had the same stubborn look and crossed arms. Rather than deal with the situation head on, she wondered if briefly peering into his mind was too far.

Her judgement had gone askew, and Wanda swallowed heavily as she slipped in behind the door. Holding her breath and clenching her teeth, she carefully moved to the front window. Forgive me.

Tiny red sparks flew from her fingertips, and the depths of Clint's mind flashed briefly into Wanda's. It only lasted a second, her prying magic causing a shudder to travel through her body and entirely shock her. A breath escaped from her mouth in a panic and she jumped backwards, barely pulling herself out of the darkness in time.

However, it was not only the darkness she'd ripped herself away from. The few specks of light were small, but more than plenty obvious. It was enough that Wanda had invaded his privacy, but seeing what she had and staying silent was the punishment she would carry.

There was a flash and someone appeared at her side, the weak breath being enough for Pietro to panic. 'What is it?' pestered her brother, lifting up her chin. 'Wanda?'

She swallowed and forced a plain smile. 'It isn't anything. How did you go?'

While sleeping on Sam's couch, Steve's mind had been drifting towards overdrive. His memories flooded through his brain, going backwards rather than forwards. When Bucky's face appeared, as he was before the war, Steve bolted awake in a cold sweat. Watching him turn from bad to good was something both wanted, but for now, he was frozen.

The unfortunate circumstances could only get worse, when a sudden phone call made Steve jump for the second time that morning. He grabbed the phone he'd been issued and wiped his chin, the slight drool being ignored as Steve tried to remember how to answer.

'Steve.'

'Morning to you too, Rogers,' Nat drawled, filing her nails on the other end.

His face curled into an involuntary smile, and Steve leant back against the sofa. 'Good morning, ma'am. I-' The look that appeared on his face would have made a statue laugh, and Steve regretted opening his mouth. He could practically feel the embarrassment wash over him as Nat snorted, and he tried to shake it off. 'Just woke up.'

'Sorry to disturb your beauty sleep,' she snickered. 'I'm outside, wanna open the door and let me in?'

Steve dragged himself up, dragging a hand down his face as he ended the call. He took a moment to prepare himself for the never-ending parade of jokes Nat would utter, and opened the door.

'Welcome back to Earth,' he started, moving aside.

'I think you forgot something, sir.' She uncrossed her arms and shrugged her bag over her shoulder, following him inside and smirking at the confused look on his face.

All too late he understood, sighing and locking the door after her. 'You aren't gonna drop this, are you?'

The flicker in her eyes answered his question, but Bruce and Sam appeared before long and took the focus of the oddly pleasant Natasha. 'Morning, boys. Have a nice rest?'

Although terrified, all three nodded and fumbled answers. Bruce was still groggy, Steve was still confused about his own responses, and Sam didn't get anywhere near enough sleep. Natasha was far too chipper for that time of morning, and too chipper in general.

'Somebody got good news,' Bruce assumed, yawning and taking Steve's place on the sofa. He moved over so Sam could sit, already regretting waking up.

'You could say that,' Nat admitted, sitting at the dining table and kicking her boots underneath her chair, 'but the news isn't for me.'

Steve turned his head and raised an eyebrow, and Natasha nodded. 'Bucky?'

'Correct again, Rogers.'

Sam held up his hands and interrupted. 'Weren't you with Thor in Asgard?'

A longwinded explanation was summed into a few short words, filling the three men in as swiftly and accurately as she could. After being returned to Earth, Nat had received a call from Fury and was requested to return to Wakanda. She'd been filled in by T'Challa about Bucky's condition, then told to report directly to Steve before being granted leave.

'Fury will be here in three hours, try not to get yourself killed in the meantime?' Nat remarked, dragging herself up. 'Now if you boys don't mind, I've got a bird to catch.'

There was a look from Steve to Sam, and he mouthed "Does she mean a plane?"

Bruce and Sam both shrugged, trying to keep their jokes to themselves as Nat rifled through her bag. Even she found it hard not to reply herself, knowing exactly what Steve had asked. Once retrieving an envelope from somewhere scarily far down, she dropped it onto the table and turned to Steve with her more casual smile.

She moved to each of the boys and hugged them, slipping out the door as they scrambled to get ready for Fury's arrival, and their departure. When a harsh knock sounded at the door, Steve pulled back the blinds expecting to see Fury. Instead, Natasha stood on the other side with her arms crossed.

'Morning, Rogers,' she greeted, yawning and slipping inside. After looking at the confused faces of Bruce and Sam, she turned back to Steve. 'Where's Loki? I told him to wait here while I hired a car.'

When they didn't answer, Nat closed her eyes and sighed. Each tried to form an acceptable excuse, knowing full well that nothing was acceptable for letting Loki pass himself off as Nat.

'He was in handcuffs!'

Steve tried to rebut that, but realised that by changing form to someone smaller, Loki could have easily slipped out of the restraints. He called Nat out on it, earning a glare from the boys as well as Natasha herself. Little had he known that she wasn't aware of all Loki's tricks, but she wasn't one to confess her lack of information, even if it damaged her rep.

'We just thought Asgard had done you some good,' Sam cut in, trying to appease Nat and make her pull her hand away from her eyes.

She clenched her teeth and latched her sights onto him, stepping directly towards him and tilting her head with the same smirk she often used on her victims. 'What do you mean by that, Bird Boy?'

Steve's hand grabbed her shoulder, and he turned Nat around to face him. The scowl wasn't something he had shied from before, and he wasn't about to start fearing her then. 'You haven't been acting like you, Natasha. Admit it.'

'I admit nothing.'

Nat headed for the dining room table and snatched the envelope Loki had left, shoving it into Bruce's hand. She marched out of the room, resisting the urge to slam the door and shatter the glass. It was clear they were just trying to help, but her wellbeing was not their concern.

The car was gone before Bruce realised he was holding something, Sam and Steve moving to stand on either side of him as he opened it. Inside was a photo and a slip of paper with a single word, and Steve's sigh was the loudest one he'd ever done. The paper read "Ma'am", and the photo was of Loki and Nat looking far too chummy.

'Why does it say "ma'am"?' Sam queried, looking directly to Steve.

As Natasha drove away, Loki sat beside her criticising their plan. 'I do not understand why we simply confused them, and surely there could have been a better way.'

She ignored him, satisfied with her current holding over Steve. Loki kept pestering her with questions, each one being met with silence as the answer. Growing sick of the game, Loki sulked and crossed his arms.

'Finally,' she muttered. 'Look, I took the courtesy to drive you to the pickup spot, and just because you helped Nadia doesn't mean I owe you anything.'

The regret of opening her mouth came quickly, her hands tightening on the steering wheel as Loki's mouth peaked into a grin. 'Why Miss Romanoff, I do believe I have finally gotten to you.'

'If you'd gotten to me, you'd be dead, or about to be,' she warned. Just as Loki started to protest her claim, someone appeared in their backseat with a knife to Loki's throat. 'Your choice, Laufeyson.'

Loki held up his hands in defeat, and Maria lowered the knife. She and Natasha smirked, and suddenly the knife was shoved into his throat. He screamed and tried to jump out of the way, grabbing for his neck. Both of the women laughed as he realised there was no pain or blood, and Maria held up the trick knife.

'The blade disappears into the handle when you stab someone with it,' she explained, shoving the toy back into her backpack.

The stares that Maria & Nat received only made them grin more, but Loki's curiosity was peaked. 'You explained your motives for the other three, but if I may ask, why me?'

Maria started first, spreading out across the back seat. 'First, it's fun.'

'Second, it's payback,' Nat added. 'For Barton.'

Not so willing to fall into the Black Widow's trap for a third time, Loki kept his mouth shut. It didn't take as long as he'd expected to reach the pickup point, but his silence was driving him insane.

Both girls in the car could make him suffer just as much as anyone else on their team, if not more. Intricate skills and training were more than enough, but the mind games that he often used could be turned against him. As Natasha pulled the car over, Loki was out the door before she'd even undone her seatbelt.

After gesturing to a point where he couldn't destroy anything or be seen from the road, Nat looked around to make sure no one else could see what was happening. A deep breath later, and she looked up to the sky.

'Heimdall, Loki is ready to return!' she called, hoping that the magnificent Asgardian was paying attention. After taking a step back, the sky opened and sent a flash of lightning and rainbow sparks downwards. 'Bye bye, Grumpy Cat!'

He sniggered, then disappeared. Maria was in the driver's seat as Natasha returned, a grateful look on her face.

'You have your driver's license, right? Because if we get pulled over, we're gonna have to walk to Clint's stupid farm.'

Maria wasn't about to fall for Nat's tricks, but her mind drifted back to one of her previous conversations with Fury. Natasha didn't exactly hold a license, although she was much more capable than half the team. She'd passed all the tests, but was never able to take the photo because of her desire to keep her identities secret. No photo, no license.

All the fake ones she had created were taken away, none with her real name of course, and any driving she had done was both illegal, and to the knowledge of only Steve and Clint. The one time Nat was pulled over ended rather well, Clint unable to stop himself from bringing it up to her at every chance.

As Maria drove, Nat stared out the window and tried to push the thoughts of Clint's teasing from her mind. Bastard, she thought.

When the car pulled up, Clint had just stepped out the front door awaiting their arrival. He grinned and trotted down the stairs, both jumping out before he could even think about opening their doors.

'Welcome, ladies!' he greeted, grabbing their bags. 'I set up a room for you, Hill.'

She followed him and Natasha up the stairs, subtly looking around the farm. 'Thanks. I hope I'm not intruding, Fury thought it would be good for me. I can't seem to imagine why though,' she added sarcastically.

'You aren't intruding it all,' Nat insisted, practically claiming the farm as partially hers as she did so. Clint nodded in agreement, taking their bags upstairs.

Chapter Text

Nat showed Maria the downstairs rooms, waiting for Clint to go outside before taking her upstairs. Pietro scrambled from the room he'd been sleeping in, trying not to knock over his sister as he slipped past her and ran down the stairs. Wanda managed a quick hello, following Pietro to the kitchen.

He'd stopped in the doorway, remembering that there hadn't been much food in the kitchen since they'd arrived. Wanda, still rather drowsy after having just woken up, headed instinctually for the fridge and pulled open the door. It was more the shock of Pietro's gasp that made her jump, turning to momentarily scowl at him.

'There's food,' he defended, gesturing to the reason for his surprise.

Just as Wanda was about to reply, Nat beat her to it. 'Then shove it in your faces, we got a lot of stuff to do.'

The twins sat in the kitchen, shovelling down everything they could manage to fit. Pietro's curiosity about where the food had come from was starting to peak and he gently placed his bowl on the floor beside Wanda.

'Watch that for me.'

With that, he sped outside towards the other three. He returned moments later rubbing his stomach, and Wanda sniggered before handing over his bowl. 'I have warned you, do not sneak up on any of them. Those three are the worst to try and surprise.'

'Yeah, I got that,' he grunted, shoving another spoonful into his mouth.

Wanda didn't even need to guess who had landed the punch to her brother's gut. Natasha would have gone for his face, Maria would have kicked out his leg, which left Barton. Unsurprised, Wanda nudged her brother and decided to remind him of the few times he'd actually been unsuccessful in surprise attacks, even in their youth.

Her favourite example was when he tried to jump out in their home, but her closet door was open. He'd crashed into it and fallen down, only then able to see the triumphant grin of his twin sister through the slats.

'Aw, what a sweet story,' cooed a voice. As they both jumped upwards and tried not to drop the dishes in their hands, they saw Natasha leaning over the bench, propped up on her elbows. 'Don't mind me, I'd love to hear more about your brother running into things.'

Pietro was used to the subtle challenge, deciding to take the competition into his own terms. 'Why don't I tell her about the two times I caught you within one day?'

Natasha didn't even flinch, eyes never moving from Pietro's. 'Wanda, how many times has your brother crashed into something in the past hour?'

'Three,' she answered simply, an arrogant scoff coming from her brother. 'What? You did.'

The front door opened for the second time, but Clint wasn't exactly trying to hide his entrance. 'Stop pitting the kids against each other, Tasha.'

She shrugged and flounced off, grinning at Maria as she passed by. Since there was not all that much left to do on the farm for the day, the twins were confused as to Natasha's request for them to hurry and get ready.

The question was answered rather quickly, a whirring sound outside alerting them to the presence of a plane or helicopter. A few loud thuds later, and the bags that Pietro and Wanda had brought with them were dropped by the door.

'Fury's here,' Nat called, almost parading down the stairs to open the door. 'Morning, Sir.'

'Morning, Romanoff. Have the twins been briefed?' he asked, moving inside as she held the door open for him.

Pietro and Wanda curiously poked out from the kitchen. Fury shot a look to Nat, who gestured to Clint. 'I told him to do it, I've done enough briefing for one day. And thanks for the Loki-sitting adventure, I needed a workout.'

She dropped onto the sofa, and Wanda turned to Fury. 'Why do you need us?'

'We need to run a few more tests on your brother, and Stark has requested your presence specifically for a project he's been trying to handle.'

Wanda and Pietro grabbed their bags and followed Fury out to the helicopter, only Wanda saying goodbye. It was awkward enough that her brother was suddenly back from the dead, but he also didn't know the others all that well. She'd promised to fill him in on the attitudes and secrets to dealing with each individual, but he refused to make an effort.

'Pietro, you need to try.'

He was acting stubborn, more so than usual, and it was getting on Wanda's nerves. After her third attempt, Pietro quickly turned to his sister and hugged her. She almost froze, and the look on his face was devastating.

'I will if you tell me what is wrong with you,' bargained the concerned brother.

As the helicopter blades whirred rhythmically above them, Wanda tried to think of a way to answer without hurting him. Her thoughts were interrupted as a slight break in the pattern caught her attention. Wanda jumped up and moved to look out the window, the blades suddenly cutting out. She froze entirely, and the helicopter fell.

Thor felt a surge power through the air, it striking him harshly and almost forcing him over the balcony. Jane was barely able to catch the large man's arm, dragging him quickly backwards. He lasted only a small amount of time before reaching out his arm and summoning his hammer, taking off before Jane could mutter a syllable.

He reached Heimdall in record time, barely landing before taking his first steps towards the great golden presence. 'Heimdall,' Thor bellowed.

'You might want to return to Earth, Odinson. I sense that your friends may be in need of your assistance.'

The god bowed his head and moved back, waiting for the bridge to open. When he didn't move, Thor turned to Heimdall. 'Is something wrong, my friend?'

'Take the girl.'

Steve and Sam were in the middle of a movie when Bruce came running into the room, his face red and eyes panicked. Tony was right behind him with Pepper in tow, both looking just as concerned as Banner.

'What's goin' on?'

There's been an accident. Those words resonated within Sam and Steve, the only ones they could retain for the next few hours. Maria had arrived in an SUV not long after they got the news, driving them all and keeping her own silence. Pepper's hand tightened around Tony's and she quickly squeezed it, him squeezing back.

She usually wasn't able to contain her babbling, but this had shaken her entirely. They had no information, only those few words before Nat's panicked transmission cut out. She had just enough time to say that Maria was coming, but the stiff silence from Hill as she drove created nothing more than tension and fear.

Sam jumped in the front seat, hoping to get her to say something. Her eyes stayed focused on the road, and no words left her lips. Smoke billowing out from above the trees made everyone lean forward in their seats, some clutching onto their seatbelt and other's digging their nails into the palms of their hands.

Thor waited along the dirt road with Nadia held tightly in his arms; it was clear she'd been trying to fight him but had long since given up the struggle. Twisted black metal was scattered all around, the blades of the helicopter blown all the way into the barn. Clint stood below them, staring upwards and trying to understand.

It was silent as Steve, Bruce & and Sam assessed the damage, Tony trying to pull Pepper away from Maria, who was sitting frozen in the front seat of the vehicle. Her eyes were vacant, and she was refusing to do more than breathe.

Tony needed Pepper to hold him up as he moved closer to the helicopter, the broken compartment revealing the two passengers clutching each other's hands in fear. Natasha sat with them and fussed over the blood pouring from their various wounds, ignoring anyone who dared tell her that it was a fruitless act.

Nick was gone, taken by whatever it was that had attacked the helicopter, and left the twins to crash back to Earth.

'Natasha,' called Pepper, moving up behind the redhead. 'Natasha?'

Don't tell me to stop. All Nat wanted to do was save them, her body shaking with each passing second. The medics were taking too long, not that they could do much more than Nat was. She stayed on her knees as Wanda and Pietro were sped away, the others trying to gather the courage to leave the site and move inside.

Maria remained in the car, breath trembling as she tried to hold back tears. When she realised Sam had returned to sit beside her, the look in his eyes was enough to make her finally fall. Bruce was the first to go into the house, muttering to himself and trying to make sense of it all. He fell onto the sofa, shaking his head.

Steve's hands fumbled around as he stood in the kitchen, not knowing what he was making, but nonetheless keeping himself busy. Nadia squeezed her arms tight around her knees and tried to tap into Fury's mind, just to see if he was alive. The thoughts of Fury turned to Wanda and Pietro, and warm tears spilled down her cheeks as their minds slipped further away from her grasp.

Thor only watched the others, disappointed in himself for not being there fast enough. If only he'd explained to Nadia on the way rather than to stop, if only he flew faster or was more powerful, if only he'd taken them all to Asgard to keep them safe. Tony and Pepper saw the thoughts as they raced through Thor's head, but Tony said nothing.

It was Pepper who broke the silence, barely doing so. 'I'm going to the compound. If anyone wants to join me, say so now.'

Both Tony and Thor agreed, leaving Nadia in Steve's care. The three left, and Nadia rose from her seat. Legs shaking beneath her, she was only just able to make it to the kitchen bench before having to catch herself.

That caught Steve's attention. He was right beside the girl holding her arm, expression showing his worry. 'Nadia, you alright?'

She shook her head quickly, biting down on her lip to stop herself from crying out. 'I heard Wanda scream. I... I can't stop hearing it.'

Outside, the air was stiff and seemed to have frozen along with time. Not a single thing moved anywhere on the farm, but the possibility of the thought being peaceful was entirely wrong. Apart from Sam & Maria, the only two who remained outside were Clint, who hadn't moved his eyes from the barn, and Natasha.

Clint waited until he could no longer feel people standing around him, turning slowly to his partner. He swallowed and walked over, kneeling beside her and reaching out to her shoulder. His hand was slapped away, but she didn't budge when he tried again. Clint pulled her against his chest and held her there.

The last time they'd been genuinely that close was too long to count, and it was usually Nat that found an excuse to disappear. When Clint tried to find the spark in her that he often used to fire himself up, he found nothing.

'We need to find Fury.'

His futile attempt at giving her something to do actually worked, Nat shakily nodding her head and struggling to her feet. Words muttered under her breath as they headed to the house, Natasha's thoughts were fractured. The scream that came from Nadia didn't help any, nor the sound that followed.

Too many... too many crashes... too many booms...

And another scream. Wrenched, the five inside the house scrambled towards the noise. A figure was slowly dragging themselves across the ground, through the smoke, and away from the latest accident site. Steve ran forward as Clint held back the girls, Bruce staring into the disaster.

When Steve finally reached the blacked and bleeding figure, it took him a few moments to realise it was Hill. Bone was showing through the flesh on the right side of her face, and she outstretched her hand to him in an attempt to give herself closure. Just as he was about to grab her, Maria's entire body dropped to the ground.

In shock, he quickly fumbled to his feet and ran closer to the site of the explosion, jumping back and covering his face as he saw what was left of Sam. They lost two, and that was too many. Bruce had dragged himself away from the comforts of the house and ran for Steve as he tried to talk to Maria. No response at all, but Steve wasn't about to give up.

'Breathe, Hill. Breathe!' he insisted, almost immaturely. 'Breathe.'

Natasha dropped the slightest bit forward and fell into Clint's arms, leaving Nadia able to run past and see what damage had been done. She skidded to her knees at Maria's side as Bruce tried to pull Steve away, quickly assessing the odd pattern of burns along only the right of Maria.

Why only her right side? As Nadia turned her head back to the car and tried not to vomit at the sight, she saw the driver's side door much further away than the rest of the damage. She was snapped from her thoughts as Bruce and Steve's shouting broke through.

What they were arguing about seemed bad, but Nadia couldn't understand their words. It all seemed to go fuzzy around her, words drifting in and out and turning gold, and then she remembered. Sparks bounced around her fingertips, not the gentle waves that Wanda had, nor the vibrant strikes of lightning from Thor, but somewhere viciously in between.

As they began to take her over again, Nadia ran as far and as fast as she could, picking up momentum until her feet lifted off the ground and the golden fire around her propelled her through the skies.

The last word she heard from her protectors came from Fury, who was yelling for her to get away. I have to come get you. You don't deserve what they did to me.

Nat felt something trigger in her brain as she watched Nadia get snatched from the sky, and the redhead snapped. The weakness she'd been showing grew to be nothing more than strategy, and she turned to the house with a determination that Clint hadn't seen since he first met her.

She returned moments later with her backpack and headed straight for the barn, Clint chasing after and leaving Bruce to keep both himself and Steve calm.

'Hey, slow down!' Clint grabbed the front of the motorbike, trying to find Nat's eyes. The vacant look she gave back to him sent a chill down his spine. 'You need a helmet. And an archer.'

'Why do I need either of those things?' she replied, almost confused by the question. 'I haven't needed a helmet before.'

Clint barely contained himself from rolling his eyes, but saw that whatever was in her head resonated with him as the girl he first knew. 'Well for one, things are changing. We just lost five team members, Natalia.'

'I don't work in teams,' Nat croaked, voice betraying her. 'If they got themselves killed, that's not on me.'

As she went to start the bike, Clint stared her down. 'I won't slow you down, I thought you might need a second pair of eyes.'

The words were some he'd said to her before, a few of the first ones uttered between them actually. They were the ones that first made her trust him, at least enough to let him join her. He knew how dangerous it was going to be travelling with her, but it was down to Clint to keep up with the charming assassin.

'I'm a good shot,' he insisted, 'and if I fall behind, you can leave me there.'

'Don't worry,' she smirked alluringly, 'I will.'

That exact smirk was one she used against her prey, drawing them close into her trap before ripping them to shreds. But she allowed him to sit behind her, keeping the same expression as they pulled out of the barn.

Neither wore a helmet, Natalia wanting nothing more than to ask how he could insist she wear one, but not do so himself. They raced past Steve and Bruce without a word, Natalia winking rather obviously at both of them.

'Natasha?' both fumbled, turning to each other. Six, the count of those they lost had risen.

Chapter Text

Authorities arrived on Clint's farm, bomb squad one of the first. They were quick to make assumptions about what happened, Bruce listening in as Steve answered the same question for the billionth time by the third person that day.

'Looks to me like the door was blown back before the explosion,' one voice said.

That caught Steve's attention to, and he calmly brushed past the person who'd been questioning him. He stood beside Bruce and crossed his arms, both looking to the woman who had made the assumption.

'What makes you say that?'

She jumped and turned to them, eyebrows furrowed. 'Uh, the car door... There's barely any burns on it compared to the rest of the car, and it was further out than the rest of the blast radius. The only way it could have gotten that far was pre-propulsion, accompanied by the explosion itself.'

Steve looked to Bruce, both with the same expression. 'Sam kicked the door out.'

'That's a plausible explanation. He probably heard it coming, tried to minimise the casualties,' the bomb tech added thoughtlessly, flinching as she realised how harsh she must have sounded. 'I'm sorry about your teammates.'

Bruce had no idea what to do. He wanted to call Tony and tell him, but he was sure the situation was weighing down on him already. He then thought back to when Nat and Clint rode past two hours earlier, and the unapologetic smirk on her face.

After the incident with him disappearing in the jet, she'd been rather cautious around him, almost to the point of barely looking him in the eyes. But this was a direct smirk, flashed first effortlessly to Steve and then himself. There was no feeling there, just the training that had been practically drilled into her brain.

Tempted to piss her off and cause his favourite Natasha to return, Clint scanned the air around them and tried to escape his own thoughts.

'Don't think about pissing me off,' she warned, flashing a brief look over her shoulder. 'I'll knock you off, and I won't be coming back for your dumb ass.'

'I know you will, Tasha.'

The bike slowed a little, followed by a visible shudder from Natasha, and them suddenly taking off. As Clint started to slip, he realised what she was trying to do. Oh no you don't, Tasha. He tightened his legs around the seat and tried to inch forward, arms squeezing around her waist.

She revved the bike and was barely holding on herself, determined to get him off. Nat knew that she needed him there, but she still wasn't sure about him needing her. It was the worst part, not knowing her true worth to anybody and thinking they still didn't trust her.

A whistling sound started irritating her, Natasha yelling through the wind for Clint to shut up and give her a moment. Just as he was about to ask what she was talking about, Clint heard the noise too. It felt slow, what happened next. Natasha ripped on the brakes and spun the bike, throwing herself and Clint off it and sprawling into the fence and grass beside the road. The explosion rocketed the bike into the sky, incinerating it at the same time.

Natasha lifted her head and fought back the pain, turning to wake Clint. 'Clint, wake up.'

He didn't budge, and he wasn't breathing. Natasha's heart pounded so hard that it felt like it wasn't beating at all, and the next few moments were all she had to bring him back and keep him that way. Pumping her hands down on his chest, voice hoarsely crying out his name between each moment.

'Clint please,' she begged, grabbing his shoulders. 'Breathe goddamnit! Breathe!'

She hurried between compressions and mouth to mouth, not caring if the practice was no longer appropriate. There was nothing she wouldn't try to bring him back, nothing in the entire world. Each word that croaked from her throat grew more and more panicked, until a grating wheeze came from his chest.

Natasha's hands slowly rose from Clint's chest, trembling and entirely unable to hide the smile creeping onto her cheeks as her partner opened his eyes. He took a few seconds to breathe properly, trying to sit up straight away. As Nat went to hug him, Clint's hand stopped on the side of her cheek, and he pulled her into his arms.

Her face was buried into his shoulder, not caring if every single person in the world saw her at her weakest. All that mattered was that she had Clint back, and no one was taking him away again. She was almost screaming through her cracked voice, words making no sense at all.

Clint's hand moved to the top of her head, following the strands down to the ponytail she'd recently been sporting. 'Not to interrupt this beautiful moment, but I think we should go to a hospital,' he croaked softly, causing Nat to pull back and look at the blood on his hand.

The panic that crossed her face as she scanned him slowly faded, and her eyes drifted downwards to the wooden spike poking out of her stomach. 'This can't be good,' she replied, half-laughing in shock as Clint grabbed her shoulders.

She half-twisted and tried to try and sit down, screwing up her face. Clint shoved his hands into every pocket he could manage to find, eventually pulling out a very smashed up flip phone. The look from Natasha held two thoughts, one being "Seriously" and the other "I really hope mine doesn't look like that".

Before Nat could even begin to search the various pockets, she realised just how bad movement would be for her at that moment. Clint was almost nervous about fumbling around trying to find Nat's phone, not that it was the most awkward thing he'd had to do.

Luckily for both of them, Clint's first choice of search was exactly where the phone was. 'I guess I know you.'

'I guess you do,' she admitted shakily, watching his fingers twitch over the keypad. 'Can I lie down, or is this a Han Solo type thing?'

Clint's face screwed up. 'Too soon, Tasha. And yes you can lie down. Oh hi,' he quickly flashed a smile at Nat, responding to their usually discrete doctor, 'my partner and I were involved in a motorcycle accident, we need emergency assistance.'

He jumped up and filled in the guy on the other end of the line, only turning back to Natasha at the sudden noise she made. The phone dropped from his hand, Clint skidding across the dry grass and grabbing her hand. The words he screamed were heard by none.

Nadia's head rolled around on her shoulders as she started to regain consciousness, the last few minutes of overusing her powers taking everything out of her. The things she first saw upon waking made her jump and fidget, those familiar eyes hidden behind masks being those behind her inner destruction.

She started to talk, but found the ability taken from her. Not even her own body would fight the invaders, and she couldn't do so much as speak.

'Don't even try, 3A. It isn't worth it.'

3A. That was the most hated name she was ever called, taking away her status as a person and turning her into nothing more than a sleazy room at a shamble of a motel. It was also the last straw, because those few moments of entire freedom and bliss that she had felt on Asgard gave her reason.

Her mind turned to the scientist who had just talked to her, and her eyes started flickering as they caught his gaze. Without panic, he simply grinned back and turned up a dial. Before Nadia could think, hundreds of volts of electricity seared through her brain and sent her spasming back and forth.

'I told you, it isn't worth it,' he repeated, almost spitting the words as he sneered. 'I want to show you something, actually. It's a little movie, and I think you'll enjoy it.'

Fear that she often tried to hide made a ghastly appearance, a weak word falling behind her tight lips. A screen was shoved in front of her, but no matter how much she tried to pull away, Nadia knew that she would have to watch.

She saw bright red hair tied into a ponytail being blown back by the wind, the girl who wore it zooming past on a motorbike. Dirty blonde hair whipping around belonged to the guy on the back of the motorcycle, him looking slightly concerned as the girl yelled something.

They both turn to see what was chasing them, the brakes are slammed on all too fiercely and the bike flies into the air, the redhead is thrown into the fence and takes the thing down, and the guy gets knocked out against the ground not far away.

Nadia wished that she could scream, because holding it down was choking her. The last thing she saw was Natasha dragging herself to Clint, with a large wooden pole from the fence sticking out of her stomach, trying to revive him.

The desire to scream once again welled up, Nadia held her breath and crunched her teeth down. A scream drew up from inside her stomach, and finally, Nadia's body started fighting back. The electricity surging around her started sparking off, some firing down into her veins and returning to her hands.

Green and gold flames seared out in every direction as Nadia screamed every curse Natasha had taught her. The scientists were all blown back, each staggering to their feet as the girl freed herself and ran.

She crashed into walls and tried to escape the maze, head still ringing from the explosion of power forced from her. Just as she passed a door, six large men with guns jumped out.

'DON'T YOU THINK ABOUT IT, NADIA.'

Nadia scowled at the man in the white coat who shoved his way between them, coming forward to take her hands as though she were still a child.

'You aren't a child anymore, Nadia,' he insisted, voice low but heavy with breath. 'Look around you, look how far you came.'

Her eyes quickly scanned the hallway, and she caught sight of the same door she had used to escape all those weeks ago. Nadia's chest heaved in and out as she stood, but then she looked closer at the six guards who still aimed their weapons at her.

'Where is Nick Fury?' she hissed, turning her head at a slight angle as she stared down her creator. 'Free him, and you win.'

The snicker across his face told Nadia she just gave herself up, and her arms were snatched suddenly from behind. Instead of kick and scream, she just followed their lead. It wasn't as though she had any choice, but when she saw Fury strung up to the ceiling by chains, she saw what they were going to make her do.

Struggling now wasn't going to give her anything, and she knew she wasted her chance. If only she ran faster, or knocked them out, or never ran away. It was all down to her, and she was the reason the Avengers died that day.

As they strapped her to a flat metal table, tears streamed down Nadia's pale face and dripped onto the table. They splashed into the short hair she'd grown, against her still cold skin, onto the beautiful clothes she had been given in Asgard.

Nadia closed her eyes as the table was tilted upwards, not wanting to look Fury in the eyes as she took his final moments from him. His family would never know what happened, they would surely kill her after all the trouble she'd caused.

As tiny shocks made their way from Nadia's feet to her brain, she tried to find the strength to find the smallest amount of comfort to give her victim.

Bruce had passed out on the sofa of Clint's farmhouse, unfortunately for him. It made it easier for them to contain and drug him, restricting any and all possible transformations no matter how hard he tried. Steve had fought the countless hoards they'd sent until he slipped up, throwing his shield just that bit too high, and he was taken down.

Tony turned to Pepper and forced a smile as he saw what was waiting for them at the end of the bridge, holding out his hand. She seemed unwilling at first, not wanting to just lie down and die, but they could both see they were entirely surrounded with no way out.

Viruses had their effects on computers, even on Jarvis theoretically, if one was strong enough. However, mixing a virus with the removal of the Mind Stone while Vision was in shutdown mode entirely corrupted him. Left on the floor of the compound, his last thoughts were of a Hanukkah gift for Wanda.

Not bothering at all with Thor, they knew taking the mortals he loved would be more than enough, should he return. For this reason, Darcy was suddenly snatched from her family home in the middle of the night.

Was this all? Had the bad guys finally won, taking the pawns hostage, and killing the rest?

It seemed so, and the scientists made sure that Nadia knew she had played her part. They allowed Nadia to see a kicking and screaming Darcy being dragged to her old room, Pepper tied to a chair with violent images seared into her brain, Bruce flattened to a metal table with every kind of drug to dull his ability to transform into the Hulk surging into him.

His flesh sometimes flashed green at parts, but it would wear off too quickly to do anything for him or anyone. Nadia screamed for those she saw and those she didn't, knowing their pain and suffering and death was entirely her fault. If only she'd let herself die in the car crash as a child, instead of fighting as she always did.

This is everything Nadia saw as her last thoughts in the world, not that she was credited with anything else at all.

Then, Clint popped into her head. A single string of words, just as her heart beat it's last beat. This was no one's fault.

Nadia was gone, and she left the cruel world she'd been raised in with the brightest grin, that they would never ever find the meaning behind.

White sheets from the makeshift hospital bed had to be changed every few hours, Natasha's blood not stopping it's departure from her body. That didn't stop her from making the usual snide comments towards Clint as he panicked over her, and him panicking didn't mean he wasn't trying to hide it.

She'd been in surgery for two or so hours, Clint there the whole time. Natasha was glad for that, since the pain meds they used wore off too quickly and caused her to be awake for more than half her surgery. It wasn't so painful, but the moments that were, she was grateful to have someone's hand to break as she squeezed it.

'Sorry about your hand,' she commented, gesturing meekly to it and waiting for Clint to turn around and face her. When he didn't respond straight away, she frowned. 'We're the only ones that made it, aren't we?'

His shoulders twitched, and Natasha reached out her hand to grab his and sit him beside her. The look on his face said everything.

'Clint,' Nat started, sitting herself up as gently as possible, 'Clint, look at me.'

He couldn't, so she just sat her chin on his shoulder and let him brood. She knew that if she suggested going after them, Clint would refuse and tell her that they of all the team would be the least likely to make it.

Not because it was true, but because he'd say anything to stop her from going, and Natasha knew that he would never lie to her unless he really needed to. The only real option they had left was to run, not that they hadn't done that before. Clint's family had already been taken away from him, and Nat had nothing left.

To run seemed like the obvious choice, but it was never something that one should have to choose to do. They only had each other, any belongings long since destroyed by the hunters of the Avengers. The world was hopeless then, and nothing was to come next.

The next invasion would end the world, but would there be one?

A question often asked by normal citizens seemed to peak at this point. If there were no superheroes, would there be any threats against innocent cities? That would have to be answered by the absence of the Avengers, and the world would have to deal all on it's own with with answer.

'Natasha?' Clint whispered, looking to his best friend's face as her chin sat on his shoulder.

'Mm?' she replied, moving back a little to see his face properly.

He held out his hand and jumped up, sticking his hand out to Natasha. She couldn't help but grin, fighting back the burning tears behind her eyes and dropping her hand onto his. The pair slipped out of the room and grabbed what supplies they could manage from the underground burrow, shoving them into backpacks and running for escape.

'This is just like Budapest all over again,' Clint snickered, kicking open the door and letting Nat slip by him.

'You and I remember Budapest very differently,' Nat grinned.