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The Hunters and the Prey

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“But,” Daisy Coulson protested heatedly, “we want to help!”

The last thing Ianto Jones had expected that day was to have Novice Daisy and her ‘gang’ – now including the young Maximoff twins – at his door, wanting to speak to him about the hunt for Hydra, especially within the school grounds. 

It was alarming that someone had given Werner von Strucker access to the Quorum, and it had to have been one of the Wizards who’d attended.  There was also the idea that Hydra could have been fomenting discord among the students and teachers at the school that really had Ianto getting angry at the whole thing.  He and Jack hadn’t yet discussed how they were going to handle the hunt, wanting to get their daughter’s input as well; Eirlys, being Baroness Gateway, would most likely have her opinions on the subject as well, since the school fell under her jurisdiction.  Plus, there was Stephen and Phil who, as Grand Masters, would also need to sit in on any decision that was being made. Especially Phil, since it was his own Order that was suspect.

He’d planned on inviting Stephen and Phil over for dinner, to talk about this very subject.  However, that had been before these seven students had shown up out of the blue, determined to help in any way they could.

He thought it was wonderful, this mixed bag of students working together, but he knew it was too dangerous.  Daisy had already been kidnapped once, and they couldn’t risk her again.

“I know you want to help,” he said conciliatorily, “but at this moment even we don’t know what we’re going to do.  So, there’s literally nothing for you to help with.”

Daisy had her arms crossed, the metal gauntlets she wore flashing in the sunlight from the open window behind Ianto’s desk.  Surrounding her were the Elves, Jemma Simmons and Leo Fitz, both Great Wizards; another Great Wizard, Lincoln Campbell, who was also Daisy’s boyfriend; a Void Novice, Antoine Triplett; and of course the two Maximoffs, Wanda and Pietro, and they all looked as if they were ready to take on the world.  Including their dragons, who hadn’t immediately tumbled into the dragon pile that every single dragon did when in gatherings of more than one.  It seemed as if they knew just how important things were just as well as their Wizards did.

If Ianto hadn’t already been proud of them before, for standing up to the entire Void order for Master Phil Coulson, this would have tipped him over the edge.

“But sir,” Novice Antoine – Ianto believed he’d heard people refer to him as Trip – said respectfully, his rather large green and brown dragon peering at Ianto just as respectfully, “any sort of plan needs to be put into place now…before whoever it was who let von Strucker into the Quorum gets away.”

He had a point, but...  “I doubt the Wizard who did that is even still in Gateway.  After the Quorum, every one of the gathered Wizards left for their homes.”

“We should have done something to stop them!” Jemma exclaimed. 

“Now we might not figure out who it was,” Leo added behind her, finishing her thought as Ianto had seen them do before.

“At least let us talk to von Strucker,” Novice Lincoln suggested.

“I would do more than talk to him,” Wanda spoke quietly.  A red flicker of her magic – and Ianto had never seen that color of Void magic before, chalking it up to what had been done to her by King Wolfgang while being his prisoner – twisted about her mobile fingers as if in response to the anger in her eyes.  Her dragon, a deep red lady whose head reached her Wizard’s chest, hissed a little.

Myfanwy, who had been curled up on the sofa, ignored the temper tantrum, which meant she wasn’t at all concerned about the other dragon actually doing anything that needed her to intervene.

Pietro didn’t say anything, but the curl of his lips spoke volumes.

“Now,” Ianto sat forward in his chair, lacing his fingers on the top of his blotter, “while I understand you want to contribute, I really have to put my foot down.  Each and every one of you are students at the school, and you have parents that we will have to answer to if anything happened to you.”

“But, Ianto – “ Daisy protested.

He held up a hand.  “The last thing I want to do is piss off a man who eats Void Points for lunch.”  That act had had Ianto vaguely wondering if he couldn’t do the same to a Cardinal Point, but wasn’t about to even attempt it, simply because he didn’t want Jack yelling at him and threatening to withhold sex.  Sure, that would more than likely hurt his husband more than Ianto, but Jack would do it anyway.

The pride she felt for her father warred with sheer stubbornness, the two emotions flickering in her eyes.  “You can’t just ask us to step aside while Hydra’s out there!”

“I’m afraid that’s exactly what I’m going to have to do…for now,” he quantified, seeing her gearing up to argue once more.  “I promise you, once we have a firm plan in place, we’ll find something that includes you all.  But, until then, you all have your studies, and I expect everyone to work just as hard as they would have if this wasn’t breathing down our necks.  Do I make myself clear?”

There was some grumbling.  That was to be expected.  Ianto knew how he felt when he had to sit and let someone else handle things, and he was an adult.  For children, it would be even worse…especially for Daisy, who’d been through so much in the last several days.  Wanda and Pietro as well; after all, their history was just rife with people doing evil things to them, and they would certainly empathize with Daisy more, perhaps, than her older friends.  Who were determined to stand beside her and kick whatever arse they could find. 

Honestly, he wished he’d had such friends when he’d been growing up,  It was quite wonderful to watch.

These students were the future.  Ianto couldn’t have been more proud and excited for it.

Daisy didn’t look happy, but even she couldn’t argue with Ianto.  She made a disgusted noise, then capitulated.  “Alright.  But we really want to help.  They could come after Dad again and none of us want that to happen.”

Every single member of the group of friends nodded.  They’d all stood up for Phil in the Quorum and, now, they were doing the same thing for him with Hydra…and with Ianto himself, really. 

“We’ll do all we can to keep that from happening,” he assured them.  “I might not have known your father long, Daisy, but I already count him as a friend.  And we’re going to be friends for a very long time.”

Daisy’s shoulders slumped.  “I know.  I just…”

“You want to protect him, and that’s a credit to you.  But, you’re not alone in wanting to make sure he’s alright anymore.  At the very least, Clint will be there for him.”

The young Wizard nodded.  “But you’ll definitely let us know when we can help?”

He couldn’t help but notice she said, ‘when’, instead of ‘if’.  “You have my word.”

There were traded looks amongst the students, and Daisy was about to say something when Myfanwy suddenly perked up, let out an excited chirp, and was off the sofa like she’d been propelled from a crossbow.  Ianto could feel her happiness and excitement as he stood up to follow her, figuring out just what had set her off the moment his foot crossed the study door threshold.

Toshiko had made it home.

His friend was kneeling in the foyer, greeting a joyous Myfanwy, her bow already leaning up in its usual corner when she was there.  Her ageless face was grinning as Myfanwy pounced all over her, and Ianto leaned against the wall laughing at the image. 

“I’ve always said that my dragon likes you best,” Ianto said in greeting. 

Toshiko’s dark eyes lighted on him, and she smirked at him.  “She just shows good taste.”

She’d left with Jack and the other two members of their team, but she’d stayed with the others when Ianto had called Jack back about the Hydra mess.  Toshiko had been his first friend among the people his husband seemed to be able to gather around him, and despite being almost two hundred years old the Elf didn’t look a day over thirty. 

As if her voice had somehow summoned them, every other dragon in the house was suddenly in the foyer, all looking at Toshiko with varying degrees of devotion.  Raising her eyebrow in Ianto’s direction, she happily greeted the newcomers, not bothering to hide her confusion at seven dragons being in the house besides Myfanwy, who seemed perfectly content to share Toshiko with the others.

“Allow me to introduce you,” Ianto offered.  “To the dragons as well as their Wizards.”  He didn’t even have to look behind him in order to know the students had gathered as well, brought by the unexpected exodus of dragons from the study. 

“And this,” once he was done with all of his visitors, “is Lady Toshiko Sato, of the Nippon Enclave.”

“Hullo,” Toshiko said, smiling.

“Tosh is as close to me as a sister, and she’s my husband’s Second in his troupe.”  He turned back to Toshiko.  “I didn’t expect you quite so soon.”

“We were pretty much done,” Toshiko answered, “and I’ll admit to curiosity as to why Jack had to teleport back as soon as possible.”

“I’ll be happy to explain, but let me see my guests out first.”

Ianto met Daisy’s eyes, and she nodded in reply.  Confident that he’d gotten through to her, he ushered the students out of the door, bidding them all a pleasant goodbye and then closing the door behind them.

Sparks, Lincoln’s dragon, had managed to stay behind in order to demand more attention from Toshiko.  Ianto told him off and sent him back to his Wizard, laughing internally the entire time.

Toshiko was very amused by these events.  “I’d ask if you were taking Novices again, but there were only two Cardinals in that bunch.”

Ianto didn’t mention that Pepper really wanted him to take on Pietro Maximoff.  Mainly because she’d tell him what a great idea that was, and then go off to plot with Pepper about it. 

‘That’s a part of what’s been going on,” he said instead, motioning her into the study.  “Can I get you anything?”

“Do you have to ask?”  She took the chair in front of Ianto’s desk, crossing her ankles and letting Myfanwy settle her head in the Elf’s lap.

He couldn’t help but smirk.  “I’ll be right back…or it may take longer, if Jack drank the entire carafe already.”

To his surprise, Jack hadn’t drank all the coffee yet.  Ianto would have to reward him for his restraint.

It really wasn’t Ianto’s fault that all his friends were addicted to his coffee.

Alright, so maybe it was.

He fixed them both a cup, then left the kitchen and went back to the study, where Toshiko was waiting. He gave her the coffee – perfectly prepared to her tastes – and then perched himself on the edge of his desk, giving her a bright smile as he took a sip from his own cup. 

“I’m really hoping this is a good enough story to have made Jack leave just in time to saddle me with Wade Wilson.”

Ianto flinched.  Jack was about the only one who could handle Wade with enough patience; the man may have been one of the team’s best contacts in the United Kingdom, even if he was certifiably mad.  “I’m sorry about that, but yes…it really was that important.”

The Grand Master went on to explain everything: about Master Phil Coulson being approached by a new Void cabal calling itself Hydra; how they’d claimed to want to recreate the Deathless – which had Toshiko gasping in sheer disbelief, because she knew as well as anyone that that was impossible; to Daisy’s kidnapping, Phil being the Dark One, and how they’d come to discover that the Master Void Wizard was actually Ianto’s own counterpart.

Toshiko looked devastated, even though she’d never once met Phil Coulson.  “That poor man.  I get that he was a criminal and did a lot of bad things, but that…I’m sorry, Ianto, I know you’re the same way, but you have Jack.  He doesn’t have his own version of the Deathless to be his partner throughout time.”

He could understand her sorrow.  While she wasn’t magical herself, Toshiko was one of the most attuned people he’d ever met, and knew it had more to do with her Elven nature than being exposed to magic herself.  She’d studied it as well, enough that she’d been able to hold her own in conversations about the various Laws of Magic, back when Ianto had been new to the traveling mercenary business.  It had been his first trip with Jack and his team, and Toshiko had befriended him almost immediately. 

In the years since, Toshiko had made it her duty to learn all she could about magic, and Ianto had been glad to teach her.  She’d been an unofficial Novice while she wasn’t Jack’s Second, which Ianto did miss at times, when they were all out on the road and him unable to ride along with.

“We’re going to be there for him, when it’s time.”  He’d already promised Clint that, and Ianto would never deliberately go back on his word.

“I know.” She gave him a sad smile.  “But having such a close bond with the Void…it really is a form of punishment, isn’t it?”

The Wizard had to agree.  “The Void isn’t taking mitigating circumstances into consideration.”  He told her about how Phil had become the Dark One, and he watched as her sympathy turned to rage.

“Has anyone offered to track down those parents of his and  give then a piece of their mind?”

Ianto chuckled.  “With that sort of thinking…I’m not so sure that would actually work.”

Toshiko leaned forward just enough to set her coffee cup down on the desk, then leaned back in order not to rest too heavily on Myfanwy’s head in her lap.  “I’m looking forward to meeting him.”

“I think you’d like him…him, and his lover, Clint Barton…who’s an Elf as well.”

That had Toshiko laughing.  “Good.  An Elf will be able to stay with him for a really long time.  He’s going to need someone like that.”  Her head tilted.  “And that was why you were entertaining so many students?  Daisy Coulson…that was his daughter, the one with the magical gauntlets, correct?”

Ianto nodded.  “She and her friends stood up for him when it came out in the Quorum that he was the Dark One.”

“That’s really impressive.”

“But I’m jumping ahead of the story.”  He continued with their escape from Hydra, the closing of the Void Point, the Quorum, and Werner von Strucker.  He finished with Wanda and Pietro’s testimony.  “And up until Baron Nicholas saying anything, I was one of those who thought the Dark One and his crew had gone into Buda-Pest and deliberately burned it to the ground.  I had no idea that King Wolfgang was torturing magical children.” 

That had scared him, and Ianto couldn’t help but wonder if there were other children out there who were in the same straits as Wanda and Pietro had been, and if they’d ever know if there was.  It could be a real danger, one that wouldn’t leave his thoughts for long.  At least the Quorum knew it was possible, and they could start taking steps to keep such a thing from happening again.

“So,” Toshiko said, once he was done, “it does sound like it was a good enough reason to have Jack teleport back.  It also sounds like we’re all going to be busy for a while, cleaning up.  We can also get word out to all the mercenaries out there, to keep an ear out for anything hinky going on with magical children.  There are a few out there – and I’m going to count Wade in on that, although he’s rather barking mad – who wouldn’t hesitate to report in anything they might hear.”

That sounded like an excellent idea.  While the Council of Barons for the Western Lands and the Wizard’s Guild could put out all the alerts they wanted, there was no guarantee that the members of Hydra they knew of wouldn’t just go deep underground, where they could just vanish and keep on plotting.  Letting the various mercenaries know what they were looking for, that would open up that entire under-society to their search. Ianto also made a mental note to inform Their Majesties about it, as well.

Also, there was the Widow.  Baron Nick was very confident of her ability to find out things, or else he wouldn’t have sent her out to look for signs of their quarry.  He wasn’t all that aware of her reputation; but then, Jack’s team wasn’t really into the mercenary life anymore, plus from what he did know the Widow was based out of the Western Lands, although that hadn’t stopped her and her companions from traveling through the United Kingdom and other areas of the world.  They’d just primarily been across the ocean. 

He mentioned that to Toshiko, who nodded.  “If Jack doesn’t know much about her, then I certainly don’t.  However, if she was involved with what happened in Buda-Pest…damnit, Ianto, why didn’t we hear about that before it got so bad that the Dark One had to go in and raze the place to the ground?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.”  Yes, he was upset about that.  Children shouldn’t have had to suffer just because they were budding Wizards.

“And you say those two young Wizards that were here with Daisy Coulson were Wolfgang von Strucker’s victims?”

The Wizard nodded.  “Wanda and Pietro.  They’re twins…one a Cardinal, and the other a Void.”

Toshiko whistled.  “That’s unheard of.”

“It is.  You can understand why an unscrupulous person would have been interested in them.”  Once again he didn’t mention about his considering taking on Pietro on.  Not really necessary at this point.

“It still shouldn’t have happened.”

“Agreed.  The problem is,” he set his own cup down, leaning a little forward on his perch, “Wizards have only been around for just about a hundred years.  We don’t yet have the network that was available back in their heyday, a thousand years ago.  Even when it was just Greats around, they still had more connection with the people than we do now.  It’s allowed rumor and innuendo to spread, and it leads to too much oversimplification and downright disinformation to run rampant.  Just look at Phil…his parents so firmly bought into the idea that Voids were evil – because of their connection to what we call the Deathforce – that it completely wrecked his life.  Suzie tried to help him, but by the time she took him on as teaching Master, it was too late.  He was damned from the moment he was Tested.”

Ianto remembered Suzie despairing of her final Novice.  She’d taken him on, when she should have retired, because she’d seen something in him that had reminded her of herself.  She’d once been an assassin, a daughter of assassins, before she’d met Jack and redeemed herself…however, she hadn’t stood a chance against an evil, sentient artifact and had attempted to kill Ianto. 

They’d made up during the events of Canary’s Wharf, and Suzie had discovered that she was, in fact, a Void Wizard.  She’d spent some time within the Void itself, and it had terrified her, until Ianto had helped her deal with the power she’d suddenly gained.  When the school had opened, she’d gladly become a teacher. 

Then, she’d met an angry young man named Phil Coulson and, instead of being able to help him like Ianto had once helped her, she’d lost him…to the Dark One. 

Although, Ianto wanted to believe, she’d be proud of the man as he was, now. 

Toshiko’s mouth fell open a little.  “Wait.  That young man, the one Suzie took on and was so certain she could help…he became the Dark One?”

“It wasn’t general knowledge,” the Wizard admitted.  “Suzie didn’t want it getting around, out of fear of retribution against him.  After all, he’d taken on the persona of the Dark One, and she firmly believed that the mercenary and the student weren’t the same person.  She wanted to give him the chance to come back into the light.  I just wish she’d lived long enough to see it finally happen.”

“I miss Suzie, she was an amazing teacher…and an amazing friend.  I know you and she got off to a rocky start…”

“That was all water under the bridge, Tosh.  Suzie and I were almost as close as you and I are now, at the end.  It was an honor to know her and call her my friend.”

“I know.”  She smiled and reached over to clasp his hand.  “Despite her tough exterior, she really cared about all of her students.  I just didn’t put together Novice Phillip with Master Phil Coulson.” She sighed, leaning back and letting go of his hand.  “I really want to meet him, now.”

“And you will.  I plan on inviting him and Stephen to dinner tonight, in order to discuss plans on how Phil is going to be cleaning up the Void Order and the Hydra situation.  You’re more than welcome to sit in; after all, I’m certain Phil will be bringing his young Elven friend with him.”

“Did I see Toshiko’s horse out front?” Jack’s voice interrupted. 

Ianto glanced up.  His husband was leaning into the room, a big grin on his face, cloak flopping around his ankles.  “You did,” the Wizard confirmed.

Jack was in the room and scooping the Elf up into a large hug.  Toshiko laughed.  “You only saw me five days ago, Jack.”

“Five days too long, darling Toshiko,” he exclaimed.  “You planning on hanging around for the mess we seem to be neck deep into?” He let her go, except for his hands resting on her shoulders. 

“Try and keep me away.”

“Excellent.  What about the rest of the team?”

Ianto listened as they chatted, slight smile on his face.  Toshiko might not have been related to them by blood, but that didn’t matter.  She was his sister, and she was home.