- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- Abuse - Child
- Dark Themes
- Death - Child
- Death - Minor Character
- Discussion - Child Abuse
- Discussion - Murder
- Discussion - Other Trigger Topics
- Discussion - Suicide
- Discussion - Torture
- Disturbing Imagery
- No Beta
- Permanent Injury
- Suicide - Attempted
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Violence - Graphic
- Action Adventure
- Alternate Universe
- Fix It
- Rule 63
- Science Fiction
Author’s Notes: Man this chapter is long!! One of the longest I have ever written. O.O. Thank you to Jen for commenting and everyone who liked this story so far. For this part I did revise it somewhat and it made me realize that I should do that with the other chapters, but right now I’m riding the inspiration for this story for as long as I have it, so I don’t know when I’ll get to that. I hope this chapter is to your liking. I’m creating icons for this AU in case anyone would like to check them out. You can find them, and all my cover art with story summaries and links to ones I have posted here: https://watersoter.deviantart.com/gallery/
Art by WaterSoter
I need to get the I.T. department two tons of cheetos. Don thought wryly as he stood by a floor to ceiling window. Watching a normally breathtaking view of New York city and Manhattan as a whole. Maybe a case or two of red bulls.
They had certainly earned it. Don stood in something that looked like a hastily put together conference room. Except there was nothing hasty about the circular, metallic table at the center. Don was no expert but he thought that the small, barely noticeable dots on the table and on the ceiling were meant to create some kind of holograph.
The chairs were thickly upholstered with a soft material. And what looked to the naked eye as just the typical metallic gray was something else entirely. Don had ran his hand over them and he didn’t know of any kind of alloy that was comfortably warm to the touch. All of it placed in a raised platform.
More than that, it was the way everything in the room was placed. A long, wrap around couch near the windows, sunk into the floor. A glass and mirrors mini bar to one side and a set of tables with what he thought were frame of those hologram computer screens. Purposeful, comfortable, made for a team and not for a bachelor. Set a few floors down from the penthouse which in the original blueprints, not the official ones, was Stark’s personal playpen. Not like his personal lab, or the many other spots where he went to break the laws of physics and engineering.
He looked out the window, at the horrible destruction that even after three weeks, were like deep scars in the city. It was bad enough seeing it from ground level but up there, removed by stories and distance, it was somehow worse. Empty spots where buildings stood. Cranes doing repairs or prepping for demolition.
Don touched the cool glass. 1,237 and rising. People in comas, critical condition, missing and bodies still being pulled out of ruble and collapsed subway tunnels. Dani should be out there, Don thought. With her matter manipulation powers she could had saved a lot of people. And exposed her and her family to people they really didn’t want knowing what any of them could really do.
Thought of Gracie and little Jackie, what people would and could do with mutant kids with those kinds of powers. Shook his head. It wasn’t going to happen and Don needed to stay focused. Especially when the ding of elevator broke the silence of the room with all the subtly of a bomb. Equally subtle was the parade of mismatched people that was spit out.
Don didn’t turn around, instead watched through the window’s reflection as Steve Rogers led the way, shield in hand and wearing something his grandpa would had worn. And then only over grandma’s dead body. The lady always picked his clothes and the man either liked it or he was sleeping on the couch.
Flanking him on his right was Stark in a ratty, grease strained t-shirt. How a guy with that much money wear something even the homeless wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. On the other side was Thor and Don needed a moment to take him in. The guy was a prince, near immortal in a pair of jeans, a t-shirt two sizes too small. His hammer in one hand and a pop tart in the other.
Behind him were Clint and Nat, putting completely at the rear and completely hidden by built and height. Don caught Clint’s eyes, the twitch of surprise in them, turning cool with suspicion. It stung, he could admit that, to have someone he considered as close as a brother look at him like a potential enemy. Par of the course at SHIELD but Don didn’t have to like it.
Natasha was perfectly poised and calm. Nothing out of place. Not her curled red hair nor her perfectly applied make-up. In that Toni and Nat were a lot alike. Both used their looks and appearances as a pretty deadly weapon. But while Toni would had smirked in a nasty way seeing him there, Nat showed nothing. No tells unless you knew her well enough.
And Don did.
It was in her body, the line of her shoulders, the slight, barely imperceptible jerk when she recognized him. In the way her fingers moved just so closer to one of the many weapons hidden on her person.
When the doors to the elevators slammed shut, then, and only then did Don turn around. That brought Rogers short. Probably had been ready to pound his head with that shield of his before he noted the suit and badge. Was that the original?
“Nice suit. Does Fury buy in bulk or is this some fashion fab that’s been going on since the fifties? Because I gotta tell you, boring is so out this season.” Stark said he waved the hand around that wasn’t covered in a million dollar gauntlet. And, incidentally, a blaster that could probably cut him in half with a flick of Stark’s wrist.
Don didn’t roll his eyes at the worn pun. He also didn’t stare, pointedly, at Stark’s ratty clothes. The ones that looked like one good, stiff breeze could easily shreds to pieces. Instead, channeling Coulson’s bland, professional tone he said, “I’m Agent Don Eppes from the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division,” He couldn’t help the face he made at the mouthful. God, couldn’t someone had come up with something better? Or at least shortened it by now?
“and I’ll be your -” He hesitated on the word handler, pretty sure the word wouldn’t go down well with this particular crowd, “- liaison with SHIELD.” And the DoD, the DoJ, the Army, the WSC, and anyone else that wanted a piece of them, which, currently, was everyone. The last brief he’d gotten had included alphabet agencies in places Don couldn’t even pronounce. Wouldn’t know where they were even if someone gave him a map with big, fat red xs marking each one of them.
There was a charged silence that lasted way more than Don expected before Rogers and Stark exchanged glances. Stark shrugged and went off to the side to the mini bar, leaving Rogers standing in what was probably the most awkward position Don had ever seen. Unbelievable.
At least the rest of them weren’t complete assholes. Thor clapped Rogers on the back before he too went to grab something out of the mini bar. Banner slumped at the farthest seat in the room without either melding into the wall or getting back onto the elevator. Clint and Natasha joined him after a second of that creepy eye to eye communion they did. It wasn’t as bad as Toni and Clint, or Toni and Scott or any combination of the three, but still.
“So, is this Fury’s incredibly unsubtle to satisfy his BDSM fetish? Oh don’t look at me like that. The whole leather therefor I am was a how-to of dressing for the life.” Don didn’t know what face he was making but he was sure it must’ve been somewhere between disgust and the kind of horror that would make lesser men jump out the nearest window.
Point in fact, Don considered asking for a lobotomy to get that image out of his head. “But no, seriously. Because I gotta tell you, the whole chains and cages really doesn’t appeal to me. Neither, I’m afraid, does someone trying to get at my good stuff, if you know what I mean.” Don wanted to have a moment, because this was worse than the time he caught him mom and dad in the kitchen doing things that he never wanted to know they did. Ever.
A muttered “BDSM?” from the Captain had Don feel a well of sympathy for the guy. What it had to look like, almost a full century later, just with the technology advances that had been made. Don had grown up with the steady streaming of computers and cell phones and internet. He still froze, even after seeing it with his own eyes, at the sci-fi inspired stuff that kept propping up every year.
“Trust me, cap, you don’t want to know.” Clint muttered, those eagle eyes of his intent on Don. And Don got it. He did. For a handful of them, there was equally a small number of people that would be sent to deal with them. If they ever went off the rails, went rogue or some higher up decided that they needed ending.
Don watched him right back. Noted how sunken his eyes looked, the dark circles around them that made him look like a raccoon. The pallor. How he held himself unnaturally still and not like when he was on missions. Or on his nest. This held too much tension, rigid even as he tried to make it look natural. Slumped against the table the way he was, it would had. If Don hadn’t known Clint.
“No, Mr. Stark. This isn’t about some fetish,” Don nearly chocked on the word. He glanced over at Stark. Captain Rogers still looked confused but at least he was hiding it better. “the director may have.”
He looked right at Clint, “I was sent here,” He added the special emphasis on sent and saw as the realization hit home. Saw Clint nearly slump as the tension left his shoulders. Natasha place her hands on the table away from her many hidden weapons. Good, message received. “to help SHIELD work with you. And you with them.”
He motioned to the room, at them, outside where a lot of people were still looking for loved ones that might never be found. Or not found in any recognizable way. “This invasion is probably not going to be a regular thing.” He hoped it wouldn’t be a regular thing, “but it sure as hell put us on a map we really didn’t want to be on.”
Rogers, quick even as Banner muttered a few things under his breath, cleaned his glasses. As Stark downed the contents of his glass. Thor nodded sharply, arms crossed and was that a pop-tart on his other hand? Rogers said, “Fury thinks there’s going to be more attacks.”
“Earth had been previously an unknown, but what my brother has put in motion would no doubt call upon mighty warriors and enemies alike upon you.” Thor took a bite of his, yes, he was eating a pop-tart. “Why have have assembled upon Stark’s dwelling, if not to deal with these threats as they come?”
“Easy there, point break,” Stark seemed ready to prepare another drink, then thought better of it. Dumped the glass on the bar with a hard smack. Don winced, and wondered if the surface had cracked. “before we go off on one of Fury’s crusades, I would like to know what exactly is in it for us? Well me in particular but here’s me trying for the whole team thing, go us!”
“It’s not the director’s crusade, Mr. Stark,” Don stepped a little closer to them, hoping that it would made it seem like this was less a us vs him situation. When no one stepped back or got aggressive, Don figured it was as good as he was going to get. “But there’s a lot of bad guys out there and while we’ve kept them in the down-low so far, no one thinks that that’s going to continue after this.” Don pointed at the still healing New York skyline for emphasis.
He went and grabbed at a tablet Toni had given him. It was supposed to be able to sync up with Stark’s tech so he handed it over to him. “Three days ago, off the coast of Somalia a giant, mechanical, squid robot came up and tore seventeen fishing boats to shreds.” Curious now, Stark placed the tablet at a table and with a flourish, sent the information into several computer screen that Don could swear hadn’t been there. “It killed seven people and left eight more injured.”
“Huh,” Stark muttered, then when Banner went over to him, the two got lost in their world of techno babble that went so over Don’s head they might as well be on Mars.
Don left them to it. “Two weeks ago someone set off every nuclear weapon in China.” That had been pleasant, according to Toni. Three agents got exposed to enough radiation to need regular cancer check ups for probably the rest of their lives. “I can keep going but I think you get the gist of it.”
Rogers nodded, “So what exactly does Fury want with us, Agent Eppes? None of us are exactly spies or assassins.”
“Ah, you forgot Legolas and our very own crimson Widow.” Added Stark then went back to studying the footage, this time of a dozen golden spiders the size of small cars.
“Right,” Rogers finally placed the shield down, on the table with a strange sounding ding. Then he crossed his arms over his chest and Don could understand why people followed this man into impossible situations. The way he looked at Don, with an air of authority that his dad would had envied, but mostly an air of expectation that demanded that Don answer and be straight with him. How the hell had Fury managed to lie to this guy’s face again?
“I know this might be hard to believe, Captain, but the director just wants you guys to keep doing what you guys are doing.” At the incredulous and almost simultaneous snorts from the geek squad, Don shrugged, “There’s going to be information packages, missions, but it’ll be up to you guys to decide if you go or not.”
Don waited as they exchanged glances. Clint and Nat would be in. He wasn’t too sure about the others. Even the man who had represented the red, white and blue throughout his entire childhood.
After a moments’ hesitation, Steve came forward, extending his hand. “No offense sir, but I think we’ll want that in writing.” Don nodded and took the strong grip, shook it. Had a completely fangirl moment in which Don wanted to encase his hand in acrylic and promise never to wash his hand again. The moment passed then he was shaking arms with Thor, who nearly took his arm off.
Don nodded, sharply. His mind already on the very limited number of people he could trust with something like that. Even less since he didn’t even know who was still around and who had either retired, or been taken out in the recent attack.
With an internal sigh he realized he would have to cash in a few favors he’d hope to keep under his hat for a bit longer. Worse, one of them was someone that could make dealing with Stark seem like a cakewalk. Stark at least wasn’t an expert in interrogation and mindfuckery that she loved to use with friend and foe alike.
Don resisted the urged to run his hand through his hair. Looked at this team team. A volatile mix of personalities and not even a solid common goal to hold them together. About the only silver lining in this mess, was that the second person that he would need help with was one that would readily give it. And the kid at least would do it without making him jump through a dozen hoops just because he could.
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