After dinner (Thor ordered pizza via phone- I was told it was quite funny, and the audio tapes do not disagree), everyone was regaled with tales of my archery lesson (Natasha was shocked to the point of actually showing it.)
My dad looked every bit the proud father, the same look when I built a circuit board at five and built – yes, built – a puppy at six, and then donated said puppy to the local children’s hospital.
I never get tired of seeing that look.
Anyways, the rest of the team offered their congratulations, but seeing as they didn’t really know the significance behind me being as good a shot as Hawkeye, I could see their hearts weren’t in it.
But they did gather in the living room with the promise of a movie and ice cream, which never happens anymore, for a – what I like to call – celebratory movie night. There was a small debate between archer and soldier over what movie to watch (Saving Private Ryan vs. Die Hard), but then the spider stepped in, and Grownups was put on with no complaint.
I curled up against my dad as the title graced the screen, intent on doing nothing but join my fellow teammates – dare I say friends? – for a funny movie and digging into a huge bowl of Cookies n’ cream ice cream.
And that is exactly what happened.
No missiles this time.
Once the ending credits came, I untangled myself from my dad – who had fallen asleep about an hour into the movie - substituting myself for a pillow as I walked to the kitchen to put my bowl in the sink.
On my way back, I was met with a scene so peaceful, I had stop and stare.
And snap a few pictures.
The living room was ninety percent covered in sleeping superhero.
Steve had sprawled on one on the recliners, spread eagle style. His head was tipped back, mouth slightly open, and he was making sounds like a dreaming puppy.
Captain America in all his glory.
Bruce was spread on the other recliner, face down in a pillow, one leg and arm hanging off in odd directions, glasses pressed against his face in a way that will leave a mark in the morning.
Thor was standing – er, lying – in for our rug, lying on his back and snoring like a freight train. Someone had obviously given the god pop tarts, because wrappers littered his chest and the floor around him.
Natasha was curled into one of the couches, her knees tucked into her chest and her head resting on her arms. She looked as peaceful as a Black Widow can get.
Clint was draped across the top of the same couch, one leg hanging off the back, fingers brushing Natasha’s spine. He looked so adorable when he slept, hair mussed up and so soft looking, I just…
Cue mental slap.
My dad was curled up on the last couch, still hugging the pillow I had slipped in after I got up. His head was at an odd angle on one of the armrests, and I mentally checked for Advil because he’d have a cricked neck in the morning.
I made my way back over to my spot next to him, stepping gracefully over Thor and any pop tart wrappers in my way.
I moved the pillow and curled back into my dad, completely content for the time being, finally relaxing now that Zygones weren’t trying to kill us at the moment.
Life was good. Life was peaceful.
And they say pride comes before a fall.
I was woken up the next morning by someone frantically shaking my shoulder.
The first thing I noticed was the palpable tension in the air, and this made me sit bolt upright.
“Finally, you’re awake.” my dad exclaims as I blink the last of the sleep out of my eyes, “take a look at this!”
My attention turns to where he points, the T.V., where a frantic new reporter was gesturing towards a crime scene.
So I do.
“- night. Onlookers reported seeing scaled beasts with tusks like walruses plowing down Fourth Street. They say these mysterious beasts tossed aside cars like they were plastic and mowed down buildings like they were Legos. Five people are reported dead, ten others are being flown to local hospitals. SWAT teams and the National Guard are on scene, and they seem to be taking down monsters sufficiently enough. But questions still stand: what are these creatures? Where are they from? Why are they here? More at eleven.”
And then commercial.
“Does that scream ‘Zygone’ to anyone else?” I enquire as I look around the room for the first time.
All peacefulness that coated the room last night is gone, banished and replaced by tension so thick one of Clint’s explosive arrows couldn’t do anything.
Steve stands behind the couch to my left, straight-backed with hands folded behind his back, obviously in full ‘Captain’ mode, studying the tape again and again in his head, looking for important information, details, anything of use.
Thor is over by the kitchen entrance, tense armed and with hands wrapped white knuckled around his hammer.
Bruce has a slight emerald hue to his skin, pinching bridge of his nose and grasping for some amount of control so he doesn’t destroy the living room.
(And, yes, he does have a slight, red, glasses-inflicted mark on his cheek)
Natasha stands farther back, feet squared, shoulders back, and face blank. Her right hand is rested – probably subconsciously – on the grip of one of her guns, and she looks ready to shoot someone.
Clint is just to her right, arms crossed, both fists and jaw clenched, glaring at the T.V. like he wants to grab his bow and put an arrow through it.
I would gladly help him.
My dad is still next to me, hunched over slightly, elbows on his knees, his gaze dark and flickering between me and the T.V.
Deep breath in…
“Where was this?”
“Some small town in Kansas.” My dad replies in a monotone, flat voice.
Deep breath out…
I turn around, stiffen my back, and go into ‘Iron Beta’ mode.
“Captain, what’s the plan?”
“SWAT and National Guard have the beasts under control. They do, however, have a body of one of the beasts, one we can use to find out more on what they are where they came from. Widow, you’re going to be with me. Once there, we’ll talk to people, see what they know. Iron Man, you and Doctor Banner – not Hulk – will be collecting data and samples from the body. Thor, Iron Beta, and Hawkeye have the perimeter – keep an eye out for more Zygones or other threats. Look for details from above. Iron Man, Iron Beta, you’ll fly there. Understood?”
“Good. A Quinjet is on the roof, suit up and be up there in five.”
We all disperse. I start to head to my room to get dressed, but Clint stops me once we’re alone.
“I’m bringing that bow and a quiver for you. You probably won’t need them, I’m hoping you won’t, but better safe than sorry.”
I nod. “Be careful.”
He smirks – an adorable smirk, and –“Always. You too.”
Another nod, and he walks out to get his suit and our weapons.
I watch him go for a second (no I was not staring at his butt. I wasn’t!) before sprinting in the other direction.
Once I’m dressed, I head out to the landing platform to get suited up.
“What took you so long?”
“Sorry,” I drawl with heavy sarcasm, “I couldn’t decide what shoes to wear.”
We both laugh, and that feels good because nobody knows what we’re going to see in the next hour.
Just as my holo screen turns on I hear the roar of jet engines overhead.
“And there they go. Come on!” my dad rockets off the platform with me hot on his heels.
“Jarvis, take us to Kansas!”