10th May 2013, 5:18 PM
As the title suggests, this fanfiction will contain characters from Supernatural, Doctor Who, Avengers, and Sherlock, but with a TAI twist. Enjoy!
1. The Library
Kat’s eyes flew across the page, completely engulfed in the world she was reading about. She could vaguely hear noise outside of her little space in the library, but she was too caught up in the epic of Westeros to notice.
“The library will be closing in five minutes.”
She frowned, looking up from the battle scene she had been immersed in and checking her iPhone. It was only three in the afternoon. Why was the library closing so early? She sighed, shoving the book into her bag and standing up, making her way for the lower levels of the library. She had found a nice little reclusive spot near the offices to sit and read, far from others…
She stopped short as she reached the stairs, straining to make out the rushed voices…and then screams…of people below. No one was on the floor she was on…no one had heard…she jumped as a scream pulsed up the stairs, driving her away from the door. She frantically searched the offices for hiding places, finally finding a cabinet to hide in. She closed the door in front of her, holding her breath as shots started to ring out from the lower levels. She grabbed anything she could use as a weapon…the cane she found seemed sturdy enough. She gripped it tightly, listening with baited breath as she heard footsteps pound in the hallway outside of the office. They paused, then came closer. Just one person.
The steps grew closer, then stopped. The door to the cabinet was thrown open. Kat swung the cane with all of her strength, letting it connect with the side of the intruder’s head. With a thump and a loud groan, he fell to the floor with his head in his hands. She realized with a start that this was no intruder. When he sat up, she could see more clearly that he was a guy only a few years older than her, with red hair, a short red beard and mustache, and the deepest blue-green eyes she had ever seen. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry, I didn’t…” She was cut off by more footsteps in the hallway. He jumped up, stepping into the cabinet beside her and shutting the doors in front of them.
Kat’s heart bead wildly in her chest. The screams and gunshots she heard from below echoed in her head, threatening to overwhelm her. She was only vaguely aware of the guy she had almost knocked unconscious until he put a hand on her shoulder, gripping her tightly as he waited with held breath to see if the intruders would find them. He was tall, though, to Kat, everyone was taller…She was only an inch over five feet. He had to be a few inches over six…
Another gunshot rang out from the office beside theirs. Kat’s eyes widened. She had thought she was alone on this floor…apparently, not all of the librarians had left…Blood rushed in her ears as the footsteps got closer, stopped, then turned around. She realized that she had never gotten a glimpse of their attackers…just heard their aftermath…
Phil Coulson had had some rough days during his nearly three decades-long career at SHIELD…but this one seemed to top them all. As soon as the shootings at small library in downtown Manhattan had been reported across the radio, he had rushed to the scene, terrified for the victims’ lives…but most of all, the life of his adopted niece, Kat. Home for a short winter break, she had gone by the library to read while her friend Mike and Coulson were at work. And now, she was most likely trapped inside.
He swore when he realized the SWAT team the city had sent had not made a move to force their way inside. “What’s going on out here?” He demanded of the team leader, flashing his SHIELD ID in front of the man’s face.
The leader shook his head. “We can’t get in, sir.”
“Are they holding hostages?” Coulson prayed Kat was safe. This was a nightmare scenario for him.
“No, sir…we just can’t get in. There seems to be some sort of barrier wrapped around the building…”
Coulson didn’t ask clarification for this. As a member of SHIELD, he was used to such things…He thought a moment before stepping over to the side and dialing the number, praying that, for once, his friend wouldn’t argue before coming to the rescue.
They waited for a few more minutes until they were absolutely sure the intruders were gone before they stepped out of the cabinet. He stepped out first, motioning for her to stay there as he went to investigate one of the lower levels. Kat closed the doors in front of her, waiting for what seemed like ages for him to return. When ten minutes passed, and he didn’t come back, she slipped out of the cabinet, stepping back down the passageway towards where he had disappeared. She heard hurried footsteps, and he appeared in the doorway, a shocked look on his face. “No, NO!” He stopped her before she could pass by him to see what had surprised him. “Don’t go down there…”
Kat, however, had to see what had happened. Her gut told her nothing good could be seen in the lobby…but she raced down their anyway, gasping when she saw the bodies strewn across the floor, each lying in a pool of blood. She shrieked as she spotted the body of a kid who was no older than five…Numbness overwhelmed her until she felt his hands on her shoulders, steering her away from the lobby and back up to the offices.
“What’s going on?”
Coulson sighed, turning around and gesturing to the building. “Can you break it?”
“Yeah, I think I have something just for that.” Tony Stark lifted the suitcase he had snatched from his workshop a mere twenty minutes earlier. “What’s going on?”
“We don’t know yet…” Coulson paused, wondering if he should say it yet. Stark started setting up the device in front of the barrier…something sonic…”Um…”
“Um what?” Stark said, not looking up from what he was doing.
“Stark…Kat’s in there.”
Stark froze, looking up at him. “What?”
“Kat’s in there…in the library.”
“Why didn’t you say that sooner?” He snapped.
Kat slowly lifted her head, meeting his blue-green eyes. Shock still resided there, but it had eased a bit. Both of them had separated, sitting in different offices for close to an hour, trying to come to terms with what they had just seen. She took the cup he offered her, barely tasting the water as he sat down across from her.
He studied her for a few moments before asking, “I’m sorry…I don’t believe I’ve asked you your name…”
“Kat. Kat Coulson.”
He nodded. “Grayson Strauss.” Silence reigned for a few more moments before he spoke again. “I think they’re gone…” He shook his head. “I don’t understand why…they did this.”
“Maybe they were looking for something…” Kat mused. Grayson blinked, confused. She sighed. “My uncle works for a government intelligence agency…people like that…organized killers…they’re usually hired to either take down targets or acquire valuables. They killed too many people to have a target. They must have come here looking for something…”
There was silence before Grayson stood up. “We should probably find a way out of here…somewhere other than the lobby…” They stepped back out into the hallway, making their way opposite from the staircase. Grayson opened a door at the very back to a fire escape. “After you,” he said, letting Kat step through first. She stepped out onto the fire escape, then stopped short. “What’s wrong?” Grayson asked.
“I…I can’t take another step…” She reached out and placed a hand on the space in front of her. “It feels like there’s a barrier here…”
“How long is this going to take?” Coulson asked as he and Stark watched the sonic device start to destroy the barrier.
“About another half an hour,” Stark replied, his eyes on the library in front of them. Coulson studied him for a few moments before making another trip around the periphery of the library.
“Wait…wait…Uncle Phil!” Kat banged on the barrier. “That’s my uncle…UNCLE PHIL!!!” She continued to hit the space in front of her, but he didn’t seem to see or hear her. “He can’t see us…” She muttered, as he rounded the corner out of their site.
“Come on, let’s go back inside,” Grayson said, leading her back in.
“I just don’t know what they were looking for…” Kat muttered as they stepped back into the hallway. She started walking in and out of rooms. The final room was obviously the head librarian’s office. It was wood-paneled and very nice…until Kat saw the man’s body lying in the desk chair, a bullet-wound in his head. The room was a mess, papers and books strewn everywhere. “They were looking for something in here…”
Grayson had stepped into the room, but he hadn’t spoken for a few moments. Kat turned around to see that he was staring at her. “What?”
“It’s just…I don’t know whether to be absolutely disgusted at you being apathetic about all of those people dying…or to admire the fact that you’re working hard to find out why they were killed…” He paused. “…out of sympathy…”
“My uncle raised me to always strive to make things right…” She suddenly felt terrible. What if he did think she was apathetic…and why did she care so much about what this random stranger thought about her…?
“Good…” He gave her a small smile. “I was hoping it was the latter…”
She turned around, scanning the room. “What were they looking for…?” She spotted a hidden cabinet high in the bookshelves. “I think I found it…I just…” She blushed. “You’re going to have to reach it.”
Grayson ducked his head as he stepped up, obviously not trying to laugh at Kat’s dilemma. He opened the cabinet and withdrew a file folder and an empty box. “There must have been something in here…” He said as he handed her the file folder.
“Almost there…” Stark said, tilting his head up to the library.
“I don’t have to remind you that you need to be scarce when we get everyone out,” Coulson said.
“Yeah…of course you don’t want me to be around.”
Kat stepped closer to the head librarian’s desk, sliding what he was reading closer to herself so as to read it. She tried to block the scene of the dead man slumping in his chair out of her mind as she scanned the pages. “He was writing about something before he died…” She muttered. Grayson stepped up to look over her shoulder. Before she could read further, they heard a sound like glass breaking, then smashing to the ground.
“The barrier…” Grayson muttered. “We should go…”
Kat snatched up the book from the head librarian’s desk and the file folder, shoving both into her coat. Grayson nodded and smiled slightly when he saw this. Both of them made their way for the fire escape.
They were picked up by SHIELD agents and transferred to a building housing several of SHIELD’s offices. They were separated into two rooms to wait for questioning. Kat sat at the long table in her room, staring at her hands. The door opened, and she looked up.
“Are you okay?” Coulson asked as she sprang out of her seat. He gave her a big hug, then stepped back, repeating his question.
“Yeah…I am…” She nodded. “I just…do you know what they were there for?”
He shook his head. “Not a clue. But we’ve shut the place down…we’re investigating now.” He paused. “What do you know about this Grayson Strauss?”
She shrugged. “Nothing except that he’s British…he was just as freaked out as I was.” She paused, studying him. “Why do you ask?”
“Kat, you have to admit, it looks suspicious that only the two of you survived. I can vouch for you…but for Strauss…”
“No.” She shook her head adamantly. “He had nothing to do with this. He…couldn’t have…”
“Okay, I trust your judgment, Kat.” Coulson sighed. “Listen, why don’t you stay in here, take some time to calm down while I go and talk to him.”
“Sir.” Coulson turned to the agent standing behind him. “We found this near the building.” He held up a square box filled with wires.
Coulson swore. “Guy left it here?” He shook his head. “What was he thinking? You can just give that to me.” The agent handed it over, and Coulson placed it on the table and shrugged. “Don’t know what that is,” he said before leaving the room.
“I apologize for the inconvenience, Mr. Strauss, but we’re going to have to keep you in the country for questioning for the next few weeks,” Coulson said.
“Of course. I understand.”
“Good.” Coulson nodded. “We just want to figure out what happened as quickly as possible.”
“What are you going to tell them?”
“What are you going to tell the families?”
“The truth. That we don’t know what happened, but we’re investigating it.” Grayson raised an eyebrow. “You seem surprised.”
“I just thought you would…”
“Cover it up?” Coulson shook his head. “No. We’re going to get down to the bottom of this. Then we’ll tell the families what happened. Well…I will. SHIELD’s not too big on that.”
“Now I know where Kat gets her sense of right from.”
13th May 2013, 1:36 AM
2. The File and the Diary
“Kat’s not actually my niece. I adopted her after her parents died when she was young,” Coulson explained. “Which is why I have to thank you for taking care of her during this situation. She’s very special to me.” He paused. “If I were you, I would keep a low profile for the next few weeks, just in case.”
Kat sat at the table in the room she had been left in, staring at the device in front of her. The door flew open, and she jumped, looking up just in time to see a man easily in his mid-forties with black hair, beard, and mustache and dressed in a nice suit (obviously not SHIELD) rush in. He grabbed the device and turned back to the door. “Do me a favor. Don’t let anyone know I’ve been here. Okay?” With that, he vanished, leaving Kat stunned. A small piece of paper lay on the floor before her, and she picked it up, puzzling on the address and the access code written on it.
A few moments later, the door opened again, revealing Coulson and Grayson. “You can wait in here until I get the okay to send you home,” Coulson said, glancing at the table and frowning. “Seriously?” He looked at Kat, who shrugged. He rolled his eyes. “I’ll be right back.” He shut the door behind him.
Kat stood up from the table, withdrawing the file and diary from her jacket. “You take the diary, and I’ll take the file. We can’t let SHIELD know what we’re doing…not even Uncle Phil, understand?” She held the diary out to him, and he nodded, taking it and slipping it into his jacket.
“Here,” he pulled his phone from his jacket pocket. “I’ll give you my number…just in case I end up finding something.” She nodded, entering his phone number into her phone as he recited it.
Just as he finished, Coulson stepped back into the room again, looking from Kat to Grayson and back again as he shut the door. “Mr. Strauss, you’re free to go.” He paused, giving them each a long look. “If you happened to have found anything in the library, I don’t want to know about it.”
“I know you can vouch for him, Kat, but the fact of the matter is…you’ve only known this guy for a total of twelve hours. Who knows who he really is?”
Kat shot Coulson a glare across the dinner table, a very rare gesture on her part. “You know I’m good at reading people, Uncle Phil. I told you, he seemed as horrified as I was in that situation.”
“I just want you to be careful around him, Kat. I know it’s the general advice I always give you, but I truly mean it.”
“Okay…” Kat picked her plate up and took it to the sink.
“Done all your homework?”
Kat rolled her eyes. “Uncle Phil, I’m not in high school anymore.”
Coulson smiled. “Yeah, and you always did your homework in high school, anyway.” He paused before asking, “When do you want to head back to Atlanta?”
“In a few days…”
“Kat, you can miss some school given the circumstances…I can contact your professors and get you excused from some things…”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. Why don’t you take a few weeks off and see how it goes?”
She sighed. “I’m going to be awfully behind.”
“Not if I call the right people,” he said, smiling.
“Thanks, Uncle Phil.”
“Now, go do your homework.”
She spread the contents of the file out on her bed, picking up the first piece of paper and scanning it. It was a short history of a race called the Aquapolians. People with strange powers…who lived thousands of years ago on an island lost to time. The next piece of paper told about an ancient artifact of theirs called the Tesseract. It all seemed extremely mythical to her.
Just as she was getting to the last few bits of paper, her phone rang. She picked it up. “Hello?”
“Hi, Kat, it’s Grayson.” He seemed a little on edge. “Have you found anything?”
“Just stories about this ancient race called the Aquapolians…they read like myths, really. Did you find anything?”
“He knew someone was coming after him, Kat.”
“He keeps on going on and on about someone trying to find him, having to hide the book…He never outright states the name…”
“The missing book from the cabinet.” Kat shuffled around the pages, looking for any references to a book. “Wait! Here, there’s something about a book called the Book of the Chosen One.” She frowned. “It’s supposed to hold information about ancient Aquapolis…”
“Someone was after that book. He’s copied down some passages from it…but he says they’re in Aquapolian…Looks like English to me.”
She thought about it for a few moments. “So, they were after the book.” She frowned.
“Can you meet with me?”
She thought about it for a few moments and sighed. “I think so…”
“You can’t sneak out?”
“My uncle’s an agent in a spy organization. It’s hard for me to sneak out. I have a friend who lives a few blocks away. I can just tell him I’ve gone over there.”
She wrapped her coat tighter around her, shivering, as she made her way through Central Park, making sure to keep on the lighted pathways. He was waiting for her on a bench near the middle of the park. He jumped up, the diary in his hand. “Take a look at this,” he said, opening it to a page dated nearly a year beforehand and pointing to several lines of words. “Can you read that?”
“Yeah.” She frowned. “But he says it’s in Aquapolian.”
“Exactly. Also…I found this.” He flipped to a colored sketch of what seemed to be a cross pendant. “I thought it seemed familiar…but I couldn’t believe it when I compared them…” He reached into his shirt and pulled out a pendent nearly identical to the one in the diary. She stared at it for a little while before wrapping her hand around an identical pendent on her own neck. “Apparently everyone in the Aquapolian civilization wore one.”
Kat’s hand shook as she held it out to Grayson. “Can I see that?” He handed it to her, and she stared at the lines in front of her. “’The four must be gathered at the center of the universe.’” She shook her head. “Doesn’t mean anything to me.”
“But it’s in English to you, right?”
“Yeah…” She frowned, handing the diary back to him. He flipped through it some more as she paced in front of him. “So, in summary, the Aquapolian race had an artifact called the Tesseract…and a book called the Book of the Chosen One…but who was the Chosen One?”
“It says here that, in ancient legend, the Chosen One was an angel, the protector of the Earth…”
“So these guys wanted the book…and perhaps the Tesseract. Maybe the four need to stand at the center of the universe to get to this Tesseract…”
There was silence for a few more moments until he said, “Kat…”
She turned toward him. From the streetlamp nearby, she could tell his face had gone pale. “What?”
“I found a picture he found of the Chosen One.”
He stepped toward her, holding the diary out at arm’s length until it was right beside her face. “Kat…it’s you.”
“This picture of the Chosen One looks just like you.”
“Let me see.” She took the diary from him and stared at the picture in front of her. The sketch did look just like her, just in ancient-looking armor and a dangerous looking sword at her side. She shook her head, and they stood there in silence for a while.
“All of this…” He started. “Perhaps none of it is real…”
“The pendants. The pendants are real. And that book was real. Real enough to kill for.”
“So…what do we do now?”
“We can’t go to Uncle Phil about it.” She paused. “But I think I do know who may know some answers…”
The next day, Kat and Grayson met outside of the address she had found on the piece of paper dropped by the man who had grabbed the device back in the SHIELD room. They gazed up at the side of the building at the sign that said “Stark” in huge letters. “So he works here?” Grayson asked.
“Yeah…” Kat thought back to her encounter with the man and why he seemed so familiar. “Either that or he owns this place.”
“Do you mean…” Grayson started as they entered the lobby and walked up to the front desk. Kat read off the numbers to the lady there and was issued a temporary ID badge.
“Which floor is Mr. Stark’s office on?” She asked.
Kat and Grayson stepped into the elevator, and she pushed the button for the twenty-fourth floor. Grayson shook his head. “This is crazy. We’re going to get thrown out.”
“Not if we have this,” she said, holding the security badge up. Once they got to the twenty-fourth floor, they headed straight for Stark’s office. A secretary sat outside the large office, typing away on her laptop. She looked up as they approached, appraising them from head to foot.
“Can I help you?” She asked.
“Hi, yes, we’re here to see Mr. Stark,” Kat said. Grayson stood behind her, shifting his weight from one foot to another restlessly.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Um…no. When is the next available time for an appointment?”
“Oh…I…Mr. Stark is expecting us.”
She raised an eyebrow. “He’s in a meeting right now, so, apparently, he wasn’t. I advise you to leave the building now, or I’ll have to call security.”
Kat glanced over at Grayson, who nodded towards the exit. She sighed. “Okay. I’m sorry for all of the trouble.” With a quick look around, they left the part of the floor that housed Stark’s office and crossed over to the elevators. Grayson punched the down button, while Kat glanced down the hallway to their left.
“Grayson,” she said. “All of those rooms down there are conference rooms.”
She smiled. “He’s in a meeting, right? Maybe he’s in one of them.” She started to make her way silently down the hallway. Grayson sighed and followed after her as she peeked in the windows of each one.
“Kat, they’re going to call security…” He whispered fiercely.
“I found him,” she motioned to the large conference room in front of them.
“Well, we can’t just stand in the hall and wait for him.”
She turned around to the empty conference room right across from them. It had high windows on its doors. “There. We can wait and watch for him to come out.” Before he could stop her, she ran to the doors, opened them up, and stepped inside. With another sigh, he followed her in. “I am so going to get sent back to England for this.”
“Don’t worry, Uncle Phil will take care of things if we get caught,” she said, grabbing a chair from nearby and wheeling it up to the door. She climbed up on it to see out of the window. He could easily see out of it without assistance. He glanced over at her, raising an eyebrow. “Oh, shut up, we don’t all have the good fortune to be six feet tall.”
He threw his hands up in the air. “I didn’t say anything.”
She turned her attention back to the window, shifting her weight, but incorrectly. The chair rolled out from under her. She would have hit the floor if he hadn’t caught her just in time. She started laughing at her own clumsiness, and he frowned, worried. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said, straightening back up in the chair. He placed a hand on her back, holding her steady for a few moments…too long.
She glanced over at him, and he quickly withdrew his hand. “Sorry,” he mumbled quickly, turning back to the window. “Just didn’t want you to fall again.”
She turned her attention back to the conference room, where people were filing out. She watched the faces. Stark was the only one left in there. “I’m going in,” she said, jumping down off of the chair and pushing through the doors.
15th May 2013, 2:03 AM
3. Revelations at Stark Tower
Grayson waited out in the hallway as Kat stepped into the nearly-empty conference room. Stark was at one end of a long conference table, shoving some papers into a briefcase. He looked up as she stepped in. “Oh, wow, I wasn’t expecting you to come so soon.” He paused. “You must have a lot of questions.”
“Yeah, we do.”
Angry voices sounded from outside. She could hear Grayson’s voice trying to explain something to what sounded like security guards. She hurried to the door, Stark following after her. Several security guards had surrounded Grayson, who was desperately trying to say that he had a pass and was there to see Mr. Stark.
One of the guards turned around, and, seeing Stark, apologized. “I’m sorry, Mr. Stark, he says he’s here to see you, but he doesn’t have a pass.”
“He here with you?” Stark asked Kat.
“He’s fine. No problems.” The guards nodded, turned, and left. Stark led the way back to the elevators. “Yeah, I didn’t expect you to be coming so soon…or to bring your boyfriend with you.”
“I’m not…” Kat and Grayson started at the same time.
“Right…” Stark pushed the down button. The elevator arrive promptly. As it plunged to the lower floors, Stark turned to them, leaning against the wall and surveying them. “What did the intruders at the library look like?”
“We don’t know. Neither of us got a good look at them,” Kat answered.
“But now we know what they were looking for,” Grayson added.
“The Book of the Chosen One,” Stark said.
Both of them stared at him. “You know about the book?”
“I know a lot of things that might surprise you,” he said as the elevator doors opened again. “That’s one of the first of many.” He hooked a finger underneath a length of string hanging from around his nest, pulling a pendant identical to Kat’s and Grayson’s from underneath his shirt. “Guess I’m in the club as well.” He led them into a huge lab. On one side stood a glass case with several metal suits lined up side-by-side. Kat walked up to them, her eyes wide.
“Wait…” She gasped, turning to Stark. “You’re Iron Man?”
“Yeah, was going to make an announcement about that in a few weeks. Don’t tell anyone, though. Major spoilers. Now, about this book. Whoever killed all of those people in the library was desperate to get it, but one thing doesn’t sit right…”
“Why kill everybody in the library when only the head librarian knew about it?” Grayson asked.
“Good point, Holmes.” Grayson rolled his eyes. “Sorry, couldn’t resist. By the way, what were you doing all the way over here in a library in New York?”
“Researching for a paper I’m writing.”
“He’s a Shakesperean literature student,” Kat said, her eyes still on the suits in front of her.
“Are you serious?” Stark turned to Grayson, laughing. Grayson could see that another quip was forming in the billionaire’s mind. He turned his brilliant blue gaze to Kat, who instantly realized the error of her ways when the British man smiled.
“Yes, I am, but did you know that Kat is an engineering student?” Kat mentally swore to pay Grayson back for that later, scowling at him across the lab. A mischievous grin spread across his features, making him look even more good-looking than before. She swiveled back around to face the line of suits so that neither Stark nor Grayson could see her blush. She felt totally comfortable around Grayson, but sometimes his smile and his voice threw her off, making her turn into a stammering idiot.
“Oh really?” Kat grimaced at the interest seeping through Stark’s words. Telling Tony Stark that you were an engineering student was like walking up to Albert Einstein and telling him that you were a student of physics. If one didn’t want endless questions or to be embarrassed by the person at the pinnacle of one’s area of research, one did not reveal these things. “What area of engineering are you in?”
Kat sighed. Her area was pretty new and unheard of at that time. She had no idea what Stark’s reaction would be like. Not as if she cared about what he secretly thought of her. She just cared about what jokes he would make at her expense. She was not as quick-witted as he was, and she wasn’t prepared to enter a battle of words with the world champion of the sport. “I’m a biomedical engineering student.”
“Never heard of it. What do you do, make MRI machines or stuff like that?”
Kat was taken aback by how close to the truth he had hit without making a snarky comment or infusing his words with sarcasm. What had come out of Tony Stark’s mouth was a genuine, honest-to-God, I’m-interested-in-the-answer, question. It caught her so off guard that she stumbled over her answer entirely. “Um…yeah…medical equipment and…stuff…” Once she gathered herself completely, she added, “It was a team of biomedical engineers from my college that came up with the idea to adapt the arc reactor to biomedical purposes.”
“Well, looks like I have some people to thank up at MIT.”
Kat rolled her eyes. MIT and Caltech. MIT and Caltech. She had heard those two engineering schools get most of the credit her entire life. She had been accepted to both, but neither had the top-ranked biomedical engineering program she sought after. There was another engineering school in the South that had sent astronauts into space and pioneered engineering research. So, when she got her acceptance letter to Georgia Tech, she had instantly told Coulson that she wanted to go there. Their BME department was top-ranked, the campus was beautiful, and it was about as far away from SHIELD (who had bases in Washington and Los Angeles) as she could get without moving out of the country.
She knew that Stark had graduated from MIT and that most students from MIT and Caltech didn’t think twice about Georgia Tech students. But, with this subject, she was ready to go on the defensive. “Georgia Tech researchers were the ones to adapt the arc reactor, not MIT,” she corrected him.
His reaction was as she expected. “Oh, forgive me, I didn’t know Georgia Tech had a biomedical engineering department.”
“You didn’t even know what BME was until five seconds ago,” she pointed out.
“True…” He turned away towards one of his work benches, muttering, “Could have gone to MIT.”
Kat was finished with backing down from Stark’s game. So what if she didn’t have the verbal skills he did? No one, not even Tony Stark, spoke badly about her school. “We are top ranked in the nation for BME, thank you very much.”
“I know, just saying…”
“I got accepted to MIT, I chose not to go. For one thing, it was too close to SHIELD.”
Stark paused, turning towards her. “I understand why anyone would think being too close to SHIELD was a bad thing…but you were raised by a SHIELD agent…”
“He taught me to never trust SHIELD,” she said. It was true. From as far back as she could remember, Coulson had impressed that lesson on her. The only SHIELD agents she could trust were Coulson, his friend Walter White, and one of his trainees, Clint Barton. She was never to get in a car with a SHIELD agent without one of the three present or answer the front door…
“Good advice.” Stark turned to Grayson, who had been listening to the conversation with an amused smile on his face. His blue eyes had been on Kat the entire time. She turned away again, chiding herself. Really, she shouldn’t get herself worked up over just one guy… “Unless you haven’t figured it out yet, never trust a SHIELD agent,” Stark told Grayson. “In fact…I’m not so sure they’re far removed from what happened in the library.”
Kat spun around. “What?” Sure, SHIELD was untrustworthy…but would they really stoop that low to get what they want?
“You think SHIELD wants the Book of the Chosen One,” Grayson said. It wasn’t a question. As Stark spoke about SHIELD, Kat could see odd variations of fury and pain flash across his eyes. He must have had a past with SHIELD. They must have done something to him that he could never forgive…
“Think about it. SHIELD obtains the Book of the Chosen One. SHIELD finds out where the Tesseract is. SHIELD has one of the most powerful weapons in this realm at their disposal…”
“Realm?” Grayson lifted an eyebrow.
“What realm are we in exactly?”
“Midgard.” Stark said, looking shocked that Grayson did not know this reference. “Did you not do the reading?”
“I haven’t read the files yet. Kat has had them…”
“It mentions Midgard in the files, though…what does it mean exactly?”
Stark strode over to a clear board that had black marker writing all over it, wiping off a few equations and picking up the black marker, making a box with four squares inside. “This is the universe.” He pointed to the big box. “This is the realm of angels. Heaven.” He pointed to one of the four smaller squares. “This is the realm of demons. Hell. This is the realm of immortals. Asgard. And this is the realm we live in, the realm of mortals. Midgard. Each one balances another out. The Tesseract is one of the most powerful weapons in this realm. Fortunately, THE most powerful weapon in this realm is standing in this room.”
Kat frowned. “Who…?” She glanced around, realizing that both Stark and Grayson were looking at her. “Oh…me?” She shook her head and laughed. “Right, that whole Chosen One thing…ah…no…it’s just a coincidence that…”
“You look just like the drawing inside the librarian’s diary?” Grayson raised an eyebrow. “Kat, he took that drawing from a picture painted hundreds of years ago. And the eyes…” He trailed off, looking over at Stark.
“What about the eyes?” Kat asked. “What about my eyes?” Kat’s eyes had always been an unusual shade of blue. Coulson had commented on more than one occastion that they were not only an unusual color, but seemed to spark when she was mad, brighten when she was happy, and darken when she was sad. All things that could be said of others’…but the truth was that they really did change color with her emotions.
“Name one other person you know with the same color eyes as you,” Stark said. “One other person.”
She shrugged. “It’s just a rare eye color.” She really, really wished Grayson and Stark would not make a big deal about this. There was no way she was some thousands-of-years-old angel from an ancient legend of a race of people who may no longer exist.
“It’s not just a rare eye color…it’s THE rare eye color. Only the Chosen One has that shade of eyes…the same shade as the Aquapolian pendents…the rarest eye color on Midgard.”
“Will you stop calling it Midgard?” She snapped, silencing Stark. Instead of getting angry at her outburst, he seemed a bit shocked. She shook her head wildly. “I am NOT the Chosen One. I’m an engineering student, just some orphan from Washington…I’m Kat Coulson, nothing else!”
“But really…you’re not even that,” Stark muttered, his voice strained and sad. Grayson glanced over at him, trying to discern the meaning behind those words. As quickly as the look of sadness came to Stark’s expression, it left. He turned away. “Perhaps you should ask Coulson about all of this. I wonder why he’s told you to never trust SHIELD…Perhaps for your own protection?”
There was a moment of silence as Kat thought about Stark’s words. They made sense…they made so much sense…but she didn’t want to believe them. She didn’t want to believe that Coulson had lied to her all of those years. She looked up to him too much to discover that…
Grayson’s voice broke through her thoughts, the soft and clear tone it had taken during their ordeal in the library. “He’s right, Kat. Asking your uncle is the next step. He may hold answers…”
“He told us that he doesn’t want to know anything that we found out from the library,” she argued, though she knew instantly from the looks on Stark’s and Grayson’s faces that it was a futile effort.
“That just meant that he wanted us to be careful that our discoveries didn’t find their way back to SHIELD,” Grayson said firmly.
Kat didn’t know why she was repelled by these new facts. Why she didn’t want to learn about these new discoveries. Why she refused to believe she was the Chosen One. Something ominous surrounded all of this…but something in her heart told her that this was all true…and it scared her to death. Ducking her head so that neither Stark nor Grayson could see the fright in her eyes, she said, “Fine, I will.” Without another word to either of them, she headed for the elevator.
“Kat, wait…” Grayson started, but it was too late. The elevator doors slammed shut before he had a chance to stop her from retreating. He sighed, turning to Stark. “I apologize, but I think I need to go after her…”
“No, she’ll be fine,” Stark said, waving Grayson’s worry away. “I actually have something I need to talk to you about, anyway.” He turned to the clear board, his eyes focusing on the drawing on the four realms he had made. “There are a few things you should know about me and SHIELD…and a few things you should know about Kat.”
Coulson wouldn’t get home for another three or four hours, and Kat really didn’t want to wait around the house and ambush him when he arrived. Her thoughts traveled back to her conversation with Stark and Grayson back in Stark Tower, swimming with the new revelations the billionaire had brought to life. Something was off about Stark, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on exactly what. SHIELD had done something terrible to him, she could tell just by his attitude towards the organization. Regret filled her when she thought of Grayson. She really shouldn’t have walked out on him like that. He didn’t deserve it. Unlike Stark, who clearly had an ulterior motive to her speaking to Coulson, Grayson genuinely thought it was in her best interest.
She sighed. Kat had never been extremely interested in guys and dating and all of that. She had never particularly met anyone who caught her interest. But every once in a while, she would find her thoughts slipping back to Grayson. His eyes, his smile, his voice. But not just that. She physically flinched every time she thought about his comment in the library when she insisted on finding out why the intruders had killed all of those people. She blushed every time his eyes focused on her or he smiled or he laughed in a certain way.
15th May 2013, 2:53 PM
Kat sat down at the kitchen table in the tiny apartment she and Coulson had moved into after she had graduated from high school. Spreading the contents of the file out in front of her, she let her eyes wander over the ancient symbols and pictures that decorated the pages. Shaking her head, she sighed, taking out her iPhone and texting Grayson a quick message of apology for walking out on him like that.
A rush of nervousness overcame her as she heard Coulson’s key turn in the lock. This was it. She didn’t know how her uncle was going to react to her questions. He had always been the strong, quiet type. Kind to her. Encouraging. But still…
She looked up. Coulson’s eyes were on the files in front of her, scanning each and every page. He knew instantly what they were about…and it didn’t seem as if he was surprised. He had probably expected her questions from the very first day after she and Grayson had discovered the diary and file. He sighed, pulling a chair out from the table right across from her and sitting down in it. He laced his fingers together and looked her straight in the eye. His brown gaze shifted from sad to focused in a few seconds flat. She wondered how many years he had known this…how many years he had waited for the perfect time to relay this information to her?
“I’m sorry, Kat,” he said simply.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Kat asked, trying to keep the hurt out of her voice. Coulson, the man who had raised her, the guardian she had looked up to for years had been constantly lying to her. She couldn’t help but feel a little hurt, but from the look he gave her, she knew he felt extremely poorly about his actions.
“I had planned on telling you when the time was right,” Coulson said. “The events that occurred at the library hammered home the idea that you should be aware of your powers. I apologize that you had to discover the truth by yourself, though. I was still going through channels at SHIELD, feeling out whether or not it was a good decision to tell you now.”
“The tell me. Tell me the truth. Who am I?”
“You are the Chosen One, Kat. Quamachi. Protector of the Earth. The Warrior of Light. As you have read, the ancient Aquapolians were a race of mortals that once lived on Earth. Their civilization was vast and powerful, and they held elemental powers no human could wield. Three thousand years ago, their entire race seemed to vanish…but they still live on in the DNA of their descendents today. Those with the pendants…a secret that has been passed down for millinnia. There was a prophecy that the immortal Chosen One would be reincarnated. That is you, Kat. Soon enough, your powers will manifest…”
“And this is why I shouldn’t trust SHIELD?” Kat asked bluntly. This was not the night to tiptoe around hushed words. She was going to get to the bottom of the truth right away.
Coulson studied her for a few moments, then nodded. “Yes, Kat. SHIELD has been watching you for years. I’ve been able to keep most of the organization at bay…they’ve wanted to train you as an agent…most likely use some sort of mind-control to turn you into an assasain.” He paused. A conflicted look crossed his eyes, and she knew there was something else he wasn’t telling her. That he was struggling not to tell her.
“Kat, there’s something else you should know. Something you should have learned about a long time ago in addition to your true identity.” He barreled ahead, meeting her eye, but still seeming to flinch away at the same time. “I’ve told you your entire life that both of your parents died when you were a few months old, but that’s not entirely true. Your mother was killed by SHIELD in their attempts to claim guardianship over you, but your father is still alive. After your mother’s death, SHIELD tried to pin her murder on him, but he was eventually found not guilty. Seeing that SHIELD was going to appoint a guardian, I stepped in and offered my services. I was the original agent sent to guard your parents against people who would try to hurt you and them…” Extreme pain flashed through his eyes, but was quickly replaced by his stoic agent look. “I am so sorry, Kat. I failed all of you.”
Her heart went out to Coulson. He seemed to blame himself for her mother’s death and for everything that had happened since. He had stuck his neck out there for her…most likely put his life on the line to ensure she had a normal childhood. She reached out to place a comforting hand on his, feeling extremely ashamed at the very thought of being angry at him for concealing all of these secrets.
After a few moments, when he was sure he had composed himself completely, Coulson continued. “Your father is still alive. He’s been searching for you for years. I did a good job ensuring that he didn’t find you and risk putting both of your lives in danger…I promised him that one day I would find a way to return you to him.” The agent flashed her a wry smile. “And it seems that day is within reach.”
An unexpected burst of anxiousness and joy filled Kat. Her father was still alive! She wondered frantically who he was…what he did for a living…what he looked like. Further questions spun through her mind. Did she look like her mother or more like her father? What were they like…and how had her father been getting along all these years, searching for her?
“Kat…” Coulson’s voice brought her back to the present. “Your father is Tony Stark.”
A loud banging noise sounded on Grayson’s front door, startling him from his thoughts. After his talk with Stark, he had gone straight home and simply sat in the dark in his living room, his mind reeling. Getting up and walking over to the door, still in a daze, he opened it to see Kat, who had a similar stunned look on her face.
“Hi, Kat.” He lifted his phone. “I got your text message. Listen…I understand why you left…Oh, wait…please, come in…” He pushed the door open sheepishly, standing aside to let her step into his apartment. “I was just about to…um…well, I was just about to make something to drink, but I’ll just make some tea…”
“What were you going to make?”
She rolled her eyes. “It’s fine, Grayson. I’m 21…but I will take some tea if you don’t mind,” she said, her lips curling up into a smile.
He nodded, turning to step into his kitchen. “Don’t you dare make a joke about how much tea I keep in this apartment,” he said, opening one of the cabinents. Kat bit back a laugh at the sheer volume of boxes he had stuffed in there. “They don’t sell this brand in America.”
“Why do you look like you need something stronger than tea?” She asked, sitting down on the edge of one of the sofas in his living room.
“I’ll tell you if you tell me why you look the same way.”
She shook her head. “You won’t believe me when I tell you.”
“Try me, because I’m sure my news is a lot more unbelievable than yours.”
“Then why don’t you start off?”
She groaned. “I knew you were going to try that one.”
He laughed. “Did it work?”
“Okay, yes…” She took a deep breath. “I talked to Uncle Phil. Everything that we’ve discovered…it’s true. I really am the Chosen One.”
“So what are you going to do now?” He asked, leaning against the doorway between the kitchen and living room as he waited for the tea to brew.
Kat shook her head. “I don’t know yet. That’s not even the half of it…”
“Wait, so you’re not upset about discovering you really are the Chosen One?” Grayson shot her a confused look.
“Uncle Phil told me more than that…Apparently my father’s still alive.”
“What?” His eyes widened and he leaned forward.
“Yeah. It’s Stark.”
“My father is Tony Stark.”
He stared at her for a few moments. “Could you stay that again, please? I think I misheard you.”
She took a deep breath, hardly believing the words herself as they came out of her mouth. “My father is Tony Stark,” she said deliberately, as if that would make it more real, more believable to her own ears.
A few moments passed in silence before Grayson stepped over to sit beside her. He studied her with those almost turquoise eyes for a few moments before asking in a soft voice, “What are you going to do?”
She took a deep breath, annoyed that it sounded ragged, as if she were near tears. She would NOT cry in front of Grayson. There were dark times ahead, and…if she was the Chosen One…she needed to be strong. “I’m going to go talk to him. I have questions only he can answer. Then, I’ll go from there.” Desperate to turn his attention away from her problems, she asked, “So, you have news, too?”
Her question caught him off guard, as if he had completely forgotten what he was going to tell her. She had been acutely aware of his gaze the entire conversation long. He seemed genuinely concerned about her. “Um…yes…I spoke to Stark before I left. It seems as if he knows more than lets on.”
“What did he tell you?” Kat asked, watching him intently. What in the world could Tony Stark have said to Grayson to upset him so much?
“Well…it was somewhere along the lines of what Coulson told you…”
“Tony Stark’s not your dad, too, is he?”
Kat’s unexpected question made Grayson burst out laughing. “No, no…thank God, no…” He tried to stop and be serious, to tell her what he had learned, but his laughter was contagious. Kat soon found herself struggling to breathe. Both of them had been so stressed by what had occurred in the library, by what they had found there. This was a welcome relief…
When they were finally able to stop, Grayson’s expression turned serious again…maybe even more so than before. “No, he told me that I was adopted into my family in England. He doesn’t know who my real parents are…or at least he didn’t tell me. Or won’t tell me.” He frowned. “I get the feeling as if Stark is hiding some things from us.”
“Yes,” Kat muttered grimly. “A lot of things.”
There was a pause, neither of them knowing what to say next until Grayson got up and walked to the kitchen. Kat was confused for a few moments until she remembered taking him up on his earlier offer of tea.
“How do you take your tea?” Grayson asked.
“Cold with lots of sugar in it,” she joked. The look of confusion on his face made her laugh. “I grew up in the South, remember? We don’t usually do warm tea. Just put whatever you usually put in it.”
Kat was relieved to see the smile planted back on his face when he handed the tea cup to her. She was beginning to like him more and more. Kat usually had trouble talking to people outside of her school…she wasn’t very sociable, especially around guys as good-looking as Grayson. But she found him extremely easy to talk to, despite the differences in environment, schooling, everything. It was as if they had known each other before…and their meeting in the library was a reunion instead of a beginning.
“How much longer are you going to be in America?” Kat asked, taking a sip of her tea and watching as Grayson stared in his teacup.
“I had planned on only being here for another week, but…”
“You’re stuck here until SHIELD says you can go.”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it “stuck.”” He said with a smile that made her turn away before she blushed. “I’ve enjoyed my time so far in America…except for what happened in the library…and the sort of life-changing revelations about my birth and whatnot.”
“So, are you going to ask your parents about what Stark told you?” At first, she was worried that that was a prying question, but he had asked her her gameplan…she might as well ask about his.
He sighed. “My parents and I…aren’t exactly on speaking terms right now…at least my dad and I aren’t. We’ve never really gotten along. Actually, growing up…” He paused, thinking. “…there were many times I thought I was adopted.”
Kat really didn’t know what to say about this new information, but, luckily, Grayson kept on talking. “My father, you see, is a lawyer. His father was a lawyer….and HIS father was a lawyer. I come from a long line of lawyers…and I’m an only child, so, naturally, I should be a lawyer, right? I decided a few months ago to pursue my master’s thesis in Shakesperean lit instead of go to law school. He was extremely pissed off, even threatened to disown me. We haven’t really spoken since.” He paused, thinking. “I envy you in that way.”
She raised an eyebrow. “What? You mean having a father who’s been completely absent for the past twenty years?”
“No, I meant Coulson. He seems to care about your goals and dreams a lot. You’re lucky to have him.”
She nodded in agreement, glancing up towards the clock on the wall. It was around eleven. If she had any luck, Stark would still be in his office. He had always seemed the type to work late. “Listen…I should go see if I can catch up with Stark before it’s too late.”
The disappointed look in his eyes caught her completely off-guard as he took away her teacup. “I understand,” he said as she stood up. “Please let me know how it goes…I mean…” He paused. “It really isn’t any of my business, but still…I…it may be a clue to what all is going on.”
After he showed her to the door and she had pressed the button several times for the elevator, Kat knew instantly that she would call him later that night, whatever happened with Stark.
Stark tilted his head back, counting the tiles on the ceiling above him as he strode toward the elevator, so glad to be done with work that day. He hated the business side of Stark Industries. He was good at selling and creating a demand, but really, he would prefer to stay in his workshop all day, working on the technologies he dreamed about each night.
Once again, his mind drifted to his conversation with Kat and Grayson…He couldn’t get his mind off of the fact that, after twenty-one years of being apart…it had been so surreal to be standing in a room with her. The last time that had happened, she couldn’t even speak, much less discuss things with him.
At first, he had thought that he was hearing things, then he turned around to see Kat standing behind her, a guarded look on her face. He instantly knew that she knew. Coulson had to have told her. He hadn’t told Grayson…It was best to play as if he didn’t know that she knew. Perhaps they could avoid that conversation altogether.
“Hey, it’s pretty late. Why don’t you come back for official office hours in the morning?” That was the last thing he wanted. He wanted her to stay there. He didn’t want her to leave his sight again. For some odd reason, he was afraid that, once she disappeared from view, she may possibly disappear from his life once again.
“No, I think we should talk now.”
She reminded him too much like her mother. In looks and attitude. There was no use in playing games with her. “How much did Coulson tell you?”
“Everything.” She crossed her arms in front of her chest. His heart sank. How exactly did Coulson phrase things?
Stark didn’t know how to explain more, though. All of the facts were there. “Why didn’t you tell me when Grayson and I spoke with you earlier today?”
Christ, was that really only that morning? “It didn’t seem like the best time…” He started, but he knew that answer was weak. “You were already learning that Aquapolians were real and that you were the Chosen One…”
“Over the past week, I have survived a massacre, found out that I am an angel, and that an ancient civilization of people with elemental powers was and still is real. Rather than wait and tell me after everything’s calmed down, I’d rather get all of the surprises over with now.”
Stark would have argued. He should have yelled. He should have done something…but he couldn’t. All he could do is freeze as terror at losing her again overwhelmed him. “I’m sorry…” He said weakly, trying to gather together some argument to make her stay.
“So, you would tell a complete stranger that he’s adopted, but you won’t tell your own daughter that she’s your daughter?” Her voice was getting louder by the second, and those blue eyes were shifting from a bright sky blue to a dark midnight blue. Stark wondered if glass was going to start shattering now…he could feel the energy in the air.
“Kat…” He stepped forward, trying his best to look sorry, praying that this worked. “I just didn’t want to scare you away.” A shocked expression replaced the angry one in her eyes, giving him hope that this would work. “I don’t want to lose you again, Kat. Not after all these years…”
Kat dug around in her pocket, holding out a card towards him. “Take this back. I’m not going to need it anymore,” she said grimly. Still in shock, he took the card from her hand. Without another word, she turned and walked away. He watched her leave for a few moments before looking down at the card.
It was the security card he had issued her earlier that day.
“Where did you go last night?” Coulson asked the next morning at breakfast. Kat looked up from her toast and gave him an “Are-you-serious?” look. “I mean, why did you go the places you did last night?”
She sighed. “I went to go talk to Grayson about what you told me. Apparently, Stark told him that he’s adopted.”
Coulson studied her for a few moments before he said, in that soft way he had when he was concerned about her, “Kat, I think you should be careful around Grayson. We haven’t completely cleared him yet. Who knows exactly what his motives are?”
“But you trust him,” she said simply.
“I…” He sighed. “Yes, Kat, I do trust him…but we still have to be careful, okay?” He fixed her with his grey eyes. “Promise me you’ll be careful around him.”
“I will. I promise.”
“Good, now, I take it your conversation with Stark didn’t go well last night.”
“You slammed the door on your way in. One doesn’t do that if one has reconciled with their long-lost father.”
“I just…After all these years, and he didn’t tell me?”
“Kat…he is trying so hard. He doesn’t want to lose you again. Listen to me, Kat. You need to give him a chance.”
“What do you want me to do? Forgive him?”
“Yes, Kat. I do. I want you to forgive him.”
Being questioned by SHIELD was a nerve-wracking experience for Grayson, even though he knew he was innocent. Agent after agent came in and asked him questions ranging from what he studied as an undergrad at Cambridge to his childhood pets. He answered everything, not being able to get a reading off of any of the agents who interrogated him on how he was doing…if they suspected him or not. On top of that, he was itching to question every agent who came in about the information Stark had given him…but he knew that wouldn’t have been a good idea.
Kat hadn’t contacted him in several days. Not since the night she had left his apartment to speak with Stark. Something told him that that conversation had not gone well. He had texted her once or twice, but she hadn’t responded. For some strange reason, it made him extremely uneasy to think that she didn’t want to talk to him…or may never want to again.
He woke a bit from his thoughts and looked up to see Coulson standing in the doorway, a plain file with the SHIELD seal stamped on it clutched in his hand. Grayson breathed a sigh of relief. Now, Coulson, he could deal with…and perhaps he could get more information out of him about his parents…and what Kat was up to…
“I’m here to put the finishing touches on the interview process,” Coulson said, sliding into the chair across from Grayson and spreading the contents of the file out in front of him. Grayson could catch snatches on sentences about his birthplace and what he had studied in university. Coulson folded his hands in front of him and looked up, his grey eyes serious. Grayson’s heart sank. Had something happened? Had they found him guilty?
“At the end of the week, you’ll be given leave to leave the country if you wish. We’re still investigating what occurred in the library, but we’ve come to the conclusion that you were simply an innocent bystander along with Kat.” He paused. “That’s really all I wanted to bring you in today to talk about.”
“Th…thank you.” Grayson breathed a sigh of relief. SHIELD seemed like the kind of organization that could make a person disappear quite easily if they suspected he had anything to do with the massacre. As Coulson was gathering together the papers in the file, Grayson took his opportunity to ask, “I was recently informed by someone that I’m adopted.” He paused. “Any chance you can tell me if that’s true or not?”
Coulson paused, looking across at him and thinking for a few moments before answering, “It is true…but not in the way you think it is.” Grayson frowned at this cryptic answer. “And, by the way, I’m sorry that Kat hasn’t gotten back to you in the past few days. I’m sure you know by now her relationship with Tony Stark and that she went to speak with him the other day. Things didn’t go well and I’m hoping that you’ll help me with this one…” Coulson retrieved something from his suit pocket and slid it across the table towards Grayson.
He instantly recognized the security pass Stark had issued to Kat a few days beforehand. How had Coulson ended up with it? The agent tapped his fingers on the table, studying the young man intently. Grayson suddenly felt nervous. He meant no ill will towards Kat…it was quite the opposite…but if Coulson believed someone wanted to hurt with his adopted niece…he knew how to make bodies disappear.
“I went by Stark Tower yesterday to speak with Stark about Kat. We’re thinking of forgoing SHIELD’s usual policy of keeping Kat away from her birth father. She’s old enough now that I don’t think it would hurt. Stark, normally, would be ecstatic over this news. It’s something he’s worked toward his entire life.” Coulson paused. “I knew the Starks back when Kat was just born. I was their assigned agent to make sure they were protected. When I failed that task…SHIELD stepped in to take Kat from Stark…I had to spend the past twenty years simultaneously keeping Kat’s wheareabouts a secret and reassuring Stark that one day he would see her again.”
The agent tapped the card in front of him. “Kat gave Stark this before she stormed out of Stark Tower the other day. I suggested to him that I could find a way of convincing her to take the security card back and give him a second chance. And, I believe I know exactly how to do that.”
Grayson caught on instantly. “You want me to convince her to reconcile with Stark?” He shook his head. “What makes you think that I’ll be able to convince her of anything? We’re basically strangers…” As soon as he said it, he wished painfully that it wasn’t true.
“She’s taken a liking to you.” Grayson didn’t mean to react to this news, but Coulson was too observant to overlook the pleased surprise in his eyes. “And, from what I can see, you’ve taken a liking to her. I think you’ll be able to change her mind.” The agent pulled another small piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Grayson. “Make sure you keep this somewhere safe. This is our home address in New York. You should come by tonight and have dinner with us. A good excuse to talk to her about things.”
Grayson stared at the piece of paper as if it were the Holy Grail. “Okay…what time do you want me to be there?” He said, just managing to form a coherent sentence.
“Let’s say 6:30 and let’s also say we both keep this a secret from Kat, okay?” Coulson shot him what was supposed to be a warm smile, but was still a bit threatening to Grayson. This man still made him nervous…
“Kat! Get over here before the pizza gets cold!”
Coulson’s voice had a way of reaching her no matter where she was in their apartment, even through the music blaring through her earphones. She ripped them out of her ears and shouted a quick, “I’m coming!” before running down the hallway towards the kitchen. The apartment was small with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. It was plenty of space for the both of them, especially since most of the months of the year, Kat was away at school.
Kat could smell the pizza as she rounded the corner to slide into the kitchen…and nearly slammed into someone who was way too tall to be her guardian. “Woah, sorry!” She stammered at the unexpected obstacle before freezing in place. “Grayson? I…I didn’t know you were going to be here…” She glanced over to Coulson, who shrugged his shoulders as if he had no clue how the young British man had ended up in their apartment…when it was obvious that he was the only one who would have given Grayson their address.
“I stopped by for the last of my interviews today and Agent Coulson invited me,” Grayson explained, pulling out one of the chairs around the kitchen table for her to sit down in.
“Please, call me Coulson,” Coulson said, sitting down across from Kat. Grayson sat in between the two. Her guardian was only about a half a foot taller than she was, so Grayson looked like a giant in their living space. “Sorry about my lack of culinary skills. I worked late at the office tonight going over last minute details on your case so that you can leave the country.”
“You’re leaving?” Kat asked, trying and failing to keep the sad tone out of her voice. Of course he was leaving. He had school in England to get back to. Why would he stay? They could both investigate this Aquapolis thing from across the Atlantic Ocean. There were such things as Skype and email after all…
“Yes, I should be returning to London on Friday,” Grayson said. “That is, if everything goes well.”
“It should. We’re investigating other groups of interest right now. I’ll keep you informed if we find anything out.”
Grayson frowned. “Are you allowed to do that?”
“Technically, no, but I feel like you two deserve to know what happened.” Coulson stared down at his plate. “Between the three of us and Stark, though, we may want to keep all of this stuff about Kat being the Chosen One and the existence of Aquapolians to ourselves. Just in case.” The agent cleared his throat and checked his watch. “Sorry, I have to make an international phone call. Got a few agents in Russia who need to report in.” With that, he stood up and stepped out of the room.
Kat raised an eyebrow, wondering why her uncle was being so suspicious. It had looked as if, right before he stood up, Coulson had given Grayson a sideways glance as if they were planning something. She instantly put her guard up, prepared for whatever was coming her way.
Grayson, thankfully, cut to the chase. “Have you spoken to Stark since the other day?” He asked carefully, as if he expected her to tell him that it wasn’t any of his business.
“No, I haven’t.” She knew where this was going. Coulson had tried to convince her to speak to Stark…and now he had roped Grayson into it, too. Poor Grayson. While it could be argued that it wasn’t any of his business…since Stark was involved in this whole library mess, Kat thought Grayson should know about it…besides, she had already confided in him before. “I don’t know what I should do about this,” she sighed.
“From what Coulson has told me, Stark has worked hard to get to see you after all of these years,” Grayson said in that soft tone he had taken when they had first met. “I think you will regret it if you don’t give him a chance.”
Kat had to look away from his turquoise gaze. He was right, after all. She would regret it. Stark was annoying, hard to get along with, but that look when she practically threw the security card in his face…that had been true sadness and pain. She all of a sudden felt guilty…sick to her stomach. She would do anything to get that card back…
And then, suddenly, it was in her hands. She frowned, looking up at Grayson. “What do you say you give him a chance tonight?” He smiled. She sighed inwardly. There was no way she could say no to those eyes, that voice, that smile. A little trip by Stark Tower wouldn’t hurt anyone, right?
They turned to see Coulson standing in the doorway, holding up a dry cleaning bag with a tux in it. “I think I got the right size. If not, I’ll have another one here in no time.”
Now Kat was thoroughly confused. “Wait, what…?” She looked from Coulson to Grayson and then back to her guardian.
“Just make sure she’s back by three,” Coulson said.
“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Kat said, teetering a little bit on the heels she had not worn since her high school graduation. God knows she needed the height, but she still hated wearing the things…
17th May 2013, 2:51 PM
“Don’t worry, it will be fun,” Grayson said, reaching out to hold her arm so that she could climb more steadily up the steps to Stark Tower. Well-dressed partygoers swarmed around them, all eager to mix and mingle, talk about the stock markets and business. Kat hoped she didn’t have to talk too much about her studies as an engineer that night. Too many confused looks and questions amongst this high society crowd.
“Wait,” she stopped short a few yards in front of the door, which was manned by a tall, burly security guard with a list on a clipboard. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to get in…” She said, pulling him backwards a little bit.
“Leave this to me…I’m sure I can get us in…”
“Mr. Stark! Mr. Stark!”
Flashbulbs burst all around the front area of the entrance. Kat could see a swarm of reporters surrounding Stark, who had just apparently arrived at the party. Partygoers and paparazzi swarmed around them…and Kat realized that she and Grayson had somehow been thrust to the front of the line on either end of the walk. Kat tried to pull back out of the spotlight as Stark walked in front of them, talking to reporters around them.
“Hey! There you are!”
With horror, Kat looked up to see Stark standing right in front of them, a huge smile on his face as he looked from her to Grayson. “Come on and join the party! I’ll make you the guests of honor!” He said, winking at Kat. She couldn’t help but laugh and smile, enjoying the flash of pleasure that entered his eyes at her reaction. He nodded towards the entrance and held out his hand toward her. “Come in and bring your boyfriend!”
Kat thought of arguing with him about Grayson not being her boyfriend, but she thought twice as Stark took her by the arm and led her towards the entrance, Grayson awkwardly following behind them. She could hear the murmurs sweeping through the crowd, and her cheeks flamed up. Who was this girl whom Tony Stark himself singled out from the crowd?
“Don’t worry, they’ll have their curiosity satisfied soon enough,” Stark said low enough for only her to hear.
Suddenly, Kat felt a little dizzy. Things were starting to go a little fast. Stark was already planning on telling the press that she was his daughter? Was he planning on introducing her to people tonight? She cast a nervous glance back at Grayson, who gave her a reassuring smile. A little more confidant, she stood up straighter as more pictures were taken right before they stepped into the front lobby of the tower, where the party was being held.
“So, there a reason why you were trying to crash my party tonight?” Stark asked, releasing Kat’s arm and turning to address both her and Grayson.
“Well, it looks like we succeeded,” Grayson said. Stark flashed an amused glance at him. The billionaire was hard to get along with, but Grayson was able to smooth talk pretty much anyway when in the right situation. For some reason, Kat was super glad that the two of them got along.
“Then again, seeing as how you’re both invited to any function I host, you can’t technically crash any of them. I assume, though, you did come with a purpose tonight?”
“I’m going to go get a drink,” Grayson said abruptly, turning to Kat. “Do you want anything?”
“Um, no,” she said, growing nervous. She didn’t know that he was going to leave her to speak to Stark so early in the night. She wasn’t prepared for this…not yet…She watched as Grayson stepped away, then turned to Stark, ready to get it over with.
“No, but really,” he said, his voice growing serious as they walked around aimlessly in the large space. “I didn’t expect to see you here…or anywhere for that manner. You didn’t seem too keen towards the idea of seeing me ever again.”
“Listen, I’m sorry about the other night.” She paused. “Everything…it’s just been a really rough week, and I was caught off guard.”
“Considering everything that has happened to you over the past few days, I’d say you’re having the busiest week ever…” He trailed off, stopping and turning towards her. “I just wanted to know if you’re interested in making this work.”
She frowned, confused. “Making what work?”
“Oh, this relationship. Me seeing you on a regular basis…” He looked down at his shoes. “Basically being back in each others’ lives. Even if it’s not much. Just visits on holidays. That sort of thing.” He looked back up and shrugged. She could tell, though, he wanted more than that. And she didn’t blame him. After everything he had gone through…she would feel guilty to reject forming a better relationship with him.
“We can start slow,” he continued. “You know, wait for a few months before we let anyone else know…so that we can keep you and your boyfriend out of the spotlight.”
Kat sighed. Not this again. “He’s not my boyfriend.”
“Are you sure about that?” Stark asked, raising an eyebrow. “Because it sure looks like it to me.” He paused. “So, what do you say?” He reached inside his tux pocket and pulled out an iPhone. “Can I get your number?”
She had to smile at this as she recited her number out for him. He slid the phone back in his pocket just before a skinny-looking man with sandy brown hair and glasses stepped up to shake hands with him.
“I just wanted to say congratulations on the new tower,” he said, glancing over at Kat for a split second before continuing on. “Real nice. Let me guess, it’s powered by an arc reactor?”
“Biggest one we’ve built so far,” Stark replied. There was an awkward moment of silence as the man shot a questioning glance at Kat. Stark shot her an “is-it-okay-if-I-tell-him” look, and she nodded. “Ah, Kat, this is Jon Hammer of Hammer Corporations, one of the nation’s biggest weapons contractors. Hammer, this is my daughter, Kat.”
A look of confusion spread across Hammer’s face, quickly replaced with a smooth smile. “Ah…I didn’t know you had a daughter.” He shook Kat’s hand. “So, are you in the family business?”
“Um…not yet. I’m actually still an undergrad in college right now…” She stammered awkwardly.
“Let me guess…you’re an engineering student at your dad’s alma mater?”
“Actually, she’s a biomedical engineering student at Georgia Tech. They have the top BME program in the country,” Stark said. Kat raised her eyebrow at his defense of her school.
“Biomedical engineering? Thinking of giving a few more people the arc reactor technology for their hearts?”
“Yeah, well, if it can be developed for different heart problems, we’ll jump on that,” Stark said.
“Well, then, I have to go speak to Devon Corp. We have a new HUD screen we’re developing for the Air Force right now.” Hammer paused, nodding to Kat. “It was nice meeting you. Good to see that the future of Stark Industries is in good hands.”
“Well, then, that was sufficiently awkward,” Kat said when he was out of earshot.
“Yeah, well, get ready for the awkward times to continue,” Stark said. “Board members, press, etc.”
Kat sighed inwardly, but brightened up when she saw Grayson walking towards them. Stark shot her a “yeah-I-see-he’s-not-your-boyfriend” look, and she felt tempted to punch him good-naturedly. As soon as Grayson was within earshot, he nodded towards the dance floor where a band was playing for the partygoers. Several couples were already twirling around to the beat of the music. “Do you want to dance?” He asked somewhat awkwardly, but with that cute smile of his that made Kat want to simultaneously blush and hit him at the same time.
“Please, go ahead, don’t mind me, I’ve got some investors to talk to,” Stark said before Kat could even think about rejecting Grayson’s offer. She shot him a glare. She knew what he was doing. He smiled back and walked off.
She turned back to Grayson. “Sure,” she said brightly, following him to the dance floor. His hand on her back felt hot to the touch, and she had to avoid eye contact as they danced to prevent from bursting out into a blush.
“Forgive me for my extremely poor dancing skills,” he said.
She laughed. “No, I think it’s more about the extreme height difference. Even in heels, I’m still a foot shorter than you are.”
There was silence for a few moments, and she could feel his eyes on her. “We should keep in touch once I move back to London,” he said suddenly. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to do much research there…but I can see what I can dig up…and, you know…it would be nice to know how school is going…It seems very stressful…” He trailed off, as if he were going to say something, then stopped. The rest of the night, they danced, spoke with Stark several times, and simply talked the night away.
Kat sighed, throwing her suitcase down on her bed and picking her iPhone up as it pinged with a message. ‘Heard you were living town tomorrow. Mind swinging by Stark Tower before you go?’ She answered back that she would and started to pack shirts and jeans away in her bag. She could hear Coulson talking to someone in the kitchen, but thought nothing of it until she heard a knock on her door. She stepped over and opened it, surprised to see Grayson standing there. “I thought you had a flight to London earlier today?” She asked, confused.
“Yes, I did…” He trailed off. “But I contacted my masters advisor last night, and he said that I could stay in the country for as long as I needed to finish my paper.”
Kat brightened up. “Oh! That’s great!”
There was an awkward pause before Grayson said nervously, “I actually had a different reason to stay here…I wanted to stay here because of you.”
Kat felt a rush of guilt and instantly tried to wave it away with exclamations of excitement. “That’s amazing! We can continue investigating this Aquapolian thing…and perhaps we can learn how to use our powers if we have any…and…
Grayson gave her a patient smile. “That’s…actually not why I’m staying here…”
Before Kat could ask him to explain himself…or even before she could shoot him a confused look…Grayson bent down, tilting her chin up towards him and kissing her softly. To her surprise, confusion disappeared immediately, replaced with something familiar. She couldn’t help but feel a rush of happiness.
Grayson pulled away and gazed down at her with those turquoise eyes that unnerved her so. Mistaking her shock for her being uninterested, his eyes darkened a bit and his smile disappear. “I’m sorry…” He said softly, hurt edging through his voice. “I must have misread the signs…”
A rush of panic threatened to blind her as she practically shouted, “No!” Then, in a lower voice, “No…no, I’m just surprised…I…I was hoping…” Words failed her, and she facepalmed, not believing her inarticulation at a time like this. Grayson laughed, obviously relieved.
“I’m glad…” He said softly. “I was hoping maybe we could…” There was a pause while both of them contemplated over how awkward they were being in this encounter before both of them laughed nervously.
“Why don’t we skip the entire conversation and just assume we both said yes?” She suggested. If they tried to carry this out to the end, they could both be literally standing there for years.
He nodded in agreement before his eyes found the suitcase behind her. “You’re leaving for school already?” His voice was laced with disappointment.
“Yeah…” She motioned to the bed. “My winter break is over. I have to head back now. I’m actually leaving in the morning for the first flight back to Atlanta.” She sighed. “I’m going by to see Stark later on today before I leave.”
“How long will you be gone?” She could hear hope in his voice, and it saddened her that she was about to crush it.
“For the next two and a half months…that’s when my spring break is.”
“Oh…Georgia Tech is near downtown Atlanta, correct?”
“Yes…” Kat wasn’t sure where he was going with this, but she would play along for the time being.
“I…um…could probably do some research there…get an apartment off campus for a few months…”
Kat suddenly realized that he was suggesting that he move down to Atlanta exclusively on the basis of being close to her. For some reason, the fact that a guy would do that for her just didn’t compute. That he would drop everything and move somewhere for her. She didn’t know what to say. She was pleased, but speechless. Finally, she found some awkward words. “That…that would be amazing…I…but you don’t have to find an apartment…I…could ask my roommates if…”
“Oh, no, I don’t want to impose on them,” Grayson said quickly. “If they’re okay with it, I could just sleep on the couch…If that’s okay with you.”
There was another awkward pause until they burst out laughing again. “Wow, we are really bad at this, aren’t we?” Kat asked after they stopped laughing. “I guess…I don’t have any experience with any of this, so…” She blushed at her confession. Grayson had probably had tons of girls falling all over themselves to go out with him in England.
“To tell you the truth…I don’t have any experience with this, either…”
Another wave of surprise and non-computation filled her mind. “Are you serious? Why…I…why…”
He raised an eyebrow. “What’s so surprising about it?”
Kat didn’t know how to word at that moment, so she just gestured as she spoke. “Because um…you’re…um…with the smile and the eyes and the…um…” She nodded her head, cursing as a blush crept up her neck. “You’re perfect.”
He smiled at her nervousness and placed his hands on her shoulder to calm her down. “I’ll tell you another secret…I’m not perfect. Perfect is…boring.” She smiled in agreement. “So…why don’t you get in touch with your roommates and let me know if they’re okay with me staying over? I’m going to go speak with Coulson…” A look of nervousness spread across his face. “I guess I should also talk to Stark…”
Kat raised an eyebrow. “Why should you? He already thinks we’re dating.”
Grayson laughed. “Yes, that is true. It’s Coulson I’m more worried about…”
She waved his worries away. “Don’t worry, Coulson likes you.”
“Really?” Hope spread across Grayson’s features.
“Really, now go talk to him and let me text my roommates.”
A feeling of dread threatened to wash over Grayson as he stepped into the living room where Coulson was working on his laptop. The agent looked up. “Did you say good-bye to Kat yet?” Something in his eyes told Grayson that he knew that Grayson wasn’t here to say good-bye.
“Actually, no, I didn’t. I came to tell her that I’m staying in America for the next few months…” He trailed off, wondering if he should bring up Kat and his plans yet.
“That’s good. Are you moving down to Atlanta? You know she has school for the next few months, right? You could crash on their couch…it’s a tiny apartment, but I’m sure they’ll make room for you.”
Grayson was struck speechless. Not only did Coulson know their exact plans, but he also sounded like he approved of them. What was this? “Ah…yes…” He nodded. “Yes, hopefully that will work out with her roommates.”
“I’m sure it will. They’re really nice and one of their boyfriends is already living there, so I’m sure they won’t put up any protest.” Coulson closed his laptop and folded his hands together on the table. “Now, I know Stark has already made a few jokes about this, but I do have to remind you that he still cares about the safety and well-being of his daughter. Obviously, for him to joke about it, he already trusts you in the short amount of time he’s known you. You earned that trust by protecting Kat in the library. I’d be very wary about breaking it.” Coulson paused. “Stark and I would like you to know that if anything should happen to Kat by your hands, that your body will never be found.” He smiled. “Are we clear?”
Grayson was almost too scared to answer. Those grey eyes of Coulson’s unnerved him to no end. “Yes…yes…we’re clear.”
“Good. I know you won’t hurt her, but that’s just in case. Now, it’s getting close to suppertime, but I think Kat was planning on going to have dinner with Stark at the tower tonight. You should go with her…but I wouldn’t stay the whole time. He probably wants some time alone with her before she leaves.”
“All of my roommates said yes!” Kat exclaimed as they walked down the street towards Stark Tower. “So, I guess I’m going to have to catch you up on all of them so you aren’t left in the dark once you get there.”
“How many roommates do you have again?” He asked as he opened the front door for her to step in.
“Three…well, four including my roommate’s boyfriend. So, that makes five.”
“I don’t want to make the apartment too crowded…”
“No! No, you won’t, don’t worry! They said they’re excited to meet you!”
Stark was waiting on the top floor for them to come up, working away at one of the holographic computer screens set in the middle of one of the tables. “Oh, hey, come on in, make yourselves at home…” He checked the time on his screen. “Food should be here in about ten minutes. Ordered enough for the three of us. I figured you would come seeing as how both of you will be down in Atlanta for the next few months.” Kat sat down in a seat near his, and he turned to her, an eyebrow raised. “Called it, didn’t I?”
She sighed and rolled her eyes as he turned back to his computer screen. “Don’t roll your eyes at me, young lady. You just have to admit, I’m good at predicting these things,” he said as Grayson sat down beside her.
Kat glanced over to see what Stark was working on. She frowned. “What is that?” She asked, pointing to the schematics of a machine laid out on the screen.
“That is what a project team based at Georgia Tech has been working on for the past ten years or so,” he said. “It’s pretty much supposed to map Aquapolian DNA.”
“So there are people out there that know Aquapolians exist besides us, SHIELD, and those people who attacked the library?” Grayson asked.
“Yeah, I was thinking you two could stop by this laboratory and introduce yourself to the three main project leaders there. Dr. Eric Selvig and Dr. Bill Baron used to work with my dad years…decades ago. They and Dr. Bruce Banner are the first three Aquapolian biology and DNA researchers to exist. In fact…Dad was the one who started the project.”
“So that’s how you know all of this stuff about the Aquapolians?” Kat asked.
“More like I started researching it after you were born. Your myth, the myth of the Chosen One is the most important myth in Aquapolian culture…” He trailed off
After a few moments of him not continuing, Grayson said, “And…?”
Stark frowned. “And what?”
“And…aren’t you going to tell us the myth?”
“Wasn’t the myth outlined in that file you picked up from the library?” Stark asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah, but we would rather you tell it to us,” Kat said, shooting Grayson a conspiratorial smile. Stark rolled his eyes, but she could see from the way he glanced from her to Grayson that he was pleased. She wondered why he was trying so hard to get the two of them together. Then again, that took away another preliminary argument that could arise in their attempts to navigate their beginning relationship. She could imagine the snarky comments and sarcasm that would arise if Stark had not approved of Grayson.
“Aren’t you two a little old for bedtime stories?” Stark asked.
Kat shrugged. “Seeing as how I never got to hear you tell one, I would say no.”
As expected, this answer pretty much won Stark over to their side. She could tell any mention of her childhood or something like that would cause this kind of effect on him. She could also tell that he was struggling to try to make up for twenty-one years worth of being absent. That’s not want she wanted. She just wanted him to be there for her now, here in the present. She made a mental note to mention this to him later.
Before Stark could start, JARVIS spoke up, startling both Kat and Grayson, neither of which were used to hearing the computer’s voice. “The food is downstairs, sir. Would you like for me to ask one of the security guards to bring it up?”
“I’ll get it,” Grayson said, practically launching himself out of the chair. “Don’t start until I get back,” he told Stark before the billionaire could protest his having to go all the way to the lobby to pick up the food.
As the elevator doors closed behind Grayson, Stark turned to Kat. “If he needs a place to stay in Atlanta, I could find him somewhere near campus.”
And here starts the making-up-for-the-two-lost-decades portion of the program. She sighed. “No, that’s okay, he’s going to stay at my apartment on campus.”
“So, he’s giving up an apartment all to himself off campus to sleep on the couch in your tiny campus apartment?” Stark asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Wait, he doesn’t know…”
“I called him earlier today and offered to find him an apartment. He downright rejected my offer in that polite British way he has, and said he’s already found arrangements on campus with you. So, now all we have to ask is, what does that say about how much he wants to be close to you…”
Before Kat could speak again, the doors swung open, and Grayson entered with the food.
“Okay, so, the myth starts around three thousand years ago,” Stark said once they had taken a few minutes to eat. “The Chosen One, Quamachi, is the advisor to the king of Aquapolis. Odin, the king of Asgard, has invited her to spend a few centuries in Asgard as his guest. She does so. At the end of those few centuries, however, they have a disagreement over Aquapolis, and Odin basically has a ***** fit and banishes her from Asgard, at the same time destroying the bridge between Asgard and the center of the universe. This sets some things off balance and basically the entire country of Aquapolis is attacked by the Demon King of Hell and his armies. A good portion of the population is wiped out and Aquapolis falls, but not before a prophecy is made that one day, the Chosen One will be reincarnated on Earth and help to fight another invasion by the Demon King, and that, at the same time, the descendants of the ancient Aquapolians will come together to form a new country.”
There was a long pause before Kat said, “So basically, we’re supposed to be starting a new country?”
“Not us, you. But you can always ask for help.”
“Is there an exact date we should be looking at for the Demon King to attack?” Grayson asked.
“No, but I would guess that events are lining up soon…what with that attack at the library and such.”
“Do you think those were demons?” Kat asked.
“Honestly, I have no clue. I’m leaving that up to Coulson to investigate. All I know is that all of this went down years ago and now it’s going to happen again.”
Kat paused, then said in a determined voice. “That means that I have to learn to use my powers…all of us need to.”
“There’s no hurry…”
“Yes, there is,” she snapped. “If this is going to happen again sometime in the near future, I need to be prepared for it.”
Stark looked over at Grayson for support, but the younger man said, “I agree. We should at least be prepared for the next time we get in a situation like the library again. Surely, someone is going to try and stop us from fighting the Demon King.”
“Well, you guys can learn your powers. I don’t need to,” Stark said, turning away to look at something on the computer screen.
“What if you get caught without your suit with you?” Kat challenged. She was starting to get a little pissed off about Stark’s attitude toward this myth, but she didn’t know why. She had just learned about it a mere five minutes earlier, but it seemed so familiar, for some reason she felt connected to it unlike ever before. And now here was Stark, who had investigated all of this about Asgardian kings and demon kings and Aquapolian kings and who was not interested whatsoever in participating in the fight. As an Aquapolian, wasn’t it his fight?
“I’m glad you asked that question. Gives me a chance to show off these,” Stark said, pulling two cold colored bracelets out from underneath the table. He slid them onto his wrists, and they instantly shrank to fit. “Now, this is just the prototype. It only allows me to use the gauntlets and the lasers in the palms, but, one day very soon, I’ll make the entire suit completely portable through these.”
“How does it work?” Grayson asked, leaning forward to get a better look at them. Before their eyes, the bracelets expanded until the familiar red and gold gauntlets had surrounded Stark’s hands. He turned them around to show them the lasers in the palms.
“Fully functional as they were before. Once I get the entire suit done, I’ll mess around with how fast it deploys. Already pretty fast, but I want to make it almost instantaneous and be able to control which parts of the suit appear when,” Stark explained. Kat had to admit that she was impressed and a little bit jealous. She had nowhere near her father’s intelligence and ingenuity and being around him made her feel like a fraud, as if Tony Stark’s daughter had to be a genius as well.
The rest of the meal centered on random conversations about school, work, everything. To Kat’s relief, when she talked about her engineering classes, Stark only made small comments about the subject, not asking her how she did in any of them. He was only interested, to her surprise, in the fact that she enjoyed going to her school despite how hard it was. Also to her surprise, Stark had a good working knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays, which turned into a lively debate with Grayson for a good half an hour over a mere two lines in Hamlet that they interpreted differently.
After a few hours, Grayson excused himself, saying that he needed to make other arrangements to fly down to Atlanta instead of to London. “Wait, what? No, don’t do that. You guys can take the jet down there in the morning, no problem. I’ll just have my driver come and pick you up from Coulson’s place.”
“Wow, thank you,” both of them managed to say before Grayson finally bowed out, leaving Kat alone with her father once again. She helped him clean up…well, she tried to help him clean up, but he insisted on gathering up everything and running to the kitchen to throw all of the cartons away. While he was gone, Kat explored the large room, stopping in front of a table that held a few picture frames. She picked one up, studying it intently. The picture was of two young women in their mid-twenties. One had strawberry blonde hair and the other had blonde hair almost the exact shade of Kat’s. They seemed to be related. Both were tall and very pretty. Kat put the picture down and picked up another one, this time of just the blonde haired young woman holding a bundle of blankets…a baby nestled inside. It had been taken at a hospital…
Kat’s eyes glanced over to a picture of the woman and Stark, both only a few years older than Kat. Both looked extremely happy. It was the happiest Kat had ever seen her father…though she had only really known him for a week. As much as she tried not to, she couldn’t keep her eyes off of the woman and the baby in the hospital room. She stared at her face, trying to remember…something…some little detail of her.
“Caroline was always excited about the idea of being a mother. Can’t tell you how excited she was the day you were born.”
Kat didn’t take her eyes off of the picture, but she could sense Stark step up beside her, glancing over the photos strewn out on the table. “She used to complain that she never got to hold you,” he laughed. “I had this habit…after SHIELD came to tell us you were the Chosen One. Coulson, in fact, was the one who told us…”
“A habit of what?” Kat asked before he could distract himself and forget what he was about to say.
“Carrying you around our house in Malibu wherever I went. I use to hold you while I was working in the shop. That annoyed her to no end, but I couldn’t help it.” He paused. Kat could tell he was fighting to keep the emotion out of his voice. “When they told us that there were people out there who would want to take you away…well, I guess I subconsciously started carrying you everywhere thinking that I could prevent that from happening…” He took a ragged breath. “Turns out, I was wrong. I’m sorry.”
Kat sighed and placed the picture gently back down on the table. She was no longer angry or annoyed by Stark. This…this was a different man than everyone else knew. This man who pretended to care about no one but himself…had been broken once because he cared TOO MUCH. Because he had cared too much about his wife…it was so obvious he missed her a lot, even after all of those years…
And because he had cared too much about Kat. That was what made her start fighting back tears. It was painful enough to think about.
And then she had a terrible thought. What if he thought that she still resented him? That she hated him? No, no, she didn’t. She couldn’t deal with that.
“It’s not your fault,” she said, turning towards him so that he could see that she was being serious.
19th May 2013, 2:41 AM
Stark refused to meet her gaze as Kat continued. “I don’t blame you. All I want right now...is not to make up for lost time or find someone to blame…but to at least enjoy the time we now have together.”
After a few moments of silence, Stark nodded, placing a hand on Kat’s shoulder. Impulsively, Kat returned his touch with a hug, which confused him for a few moments, but, finally, he wrapped his arms around her, resting his chin on the top of her head.
“Make sure to stay close to Grayson,” he said before she left. “It looks like from here on out…it’s going to be dangerous.”
“I told you it was small,” Kat said as Grayson dropped his duffel bag on the floor of her room, looking around.
“No, it’s nice,” he said.
“Nice and small.”
“Well, yes, but...” He nodded. “I like it.”
“So, here are some extra blankets for you…and a pillow…I really hate making you sleep on the couch…” She said, handing him the blankets and the pillow.
“Kat…it’s fine. I’d rather sleep on the couch if it means I get to stay close to you.”
She had to turn away because of the blush creeping up her neck, but, apparently, she wasn’t fast enough. He laughed and pulled her back towards him, kissing her on the cheek in that sweet, affectionate way of his that he had when he found her “adorable.” At least, that’s how he put it.
“I have class at noon tomorrow, so I won’t be up as early,” she explained. “Are you sure you want me to drag you around to all of my classes?”
“Kat, what else am I going to do?” He raised an eyebrow. “As long as I don’t distract you, I want to go with you.”
“We’ll see about that,” she said before closing the door to her room.
“So, which classes do you have today?” Grayson asked as they walked from her apartment building to the main part of campus.
“Organic chemistry…conservation principles in biomedical engineering…statics…”
He grimaced. “None of them sound fun.”
“They really aren’t,” she said, stepping forward as the “walk” sign came on, allowing them to cross the street onto main campus. Halfway across, he grabbed her hand. Instead of blushing this time, she smiled as he continued to talk.
“Well, I guess I’ll work on my paper while you’re in class.”
“I thought you wanted to come to class with me?”
“I am. Just now I know the subject material won’t be interesting enough to distract me from working.”
During organic chemistry, Kat tried to focus on the lecture, but her attention continued to be drawn over to Grayson, whose head was bowed over a notebook, making an outline for his paper. She studied his intent face for a few moments, completely caught up in how attractive he looked…
“Is something wrong?”
Oops. She hadn’t noticed that he had stopped working and was now looking up at her, one eyebrow raised. “No, nothing’s wrong, I…organic chemistry…” She pointed to her notebook.
“Yes…that is organic chemistry…” He said, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. She sighed and returned to taking notes, this time completely embarrassed that he had caught her staring.
During her conservation principles class, she tried to pay attention to what the professor was saying about energy. Suddenly, she glanced over at Grayson to find that he was studying her in much the same fashion as she had been staring at him. “What are you doing?” She whispered.
“Why are you staring at me?”
“I’m not staring at you.”
“Yes, you are, you teased me for staring at you and now you’re doing the same thing.”
“Yes, but I have a better excuse for doing so.”
“And that is?” Kat asked, raising her eyebrow.
Grayson paused, lowering his voice as he drew closer to her. “Because you’re beautiful.”
She tried not to let the lecture hall door bang behind her as she made a face paced dash for the exit doors of the building, hanging on to one of her backpack straps at the same time.
“Kat! Kat, wait!” She made it as far as the secluded outdoor sitting area on the side of the building before Grayson’s voice reached her. “Kat, please!” Unfortunately, her short legs betrayed her, and he caught up to her, reaching out to impulsively grab her arm. She stopped, trying to control her vision, which was whirling around in circles.
After a few moments of silence, Grayson asked, “Kat? I don’t understand. What did I do wrong?” She turned towards him…and quickly looked away. Those turquoise eyes were filled with too much pain for her to meet them. “Kat…” He lowered his voice to almost a whisper, waiting for her to answer his question.
“I’m sorry…I just…” She took a deep breath. “You caught me off guard, that’s all.”
He frowned. “What?”
“I just…I didn’t expect it…I…” She took another deep breath and met his eyes. “To tell you the truth, I…I was extremely surprised when you…when you met me that day you were supposed to leave.”
“Because…” She fought back tears. She would NOT cry in front of him. “Because you’re perfect. You’re smart, you’re nice, you’re amazing in pretty much every way, and I…I have so many character flaws…You deserve better…”
Kat didn’t expect the intense reaction this garnered from him. His eyes darkened, and he stepped forward, grabbing her by the shoulders forcefully. “No, Kat,” he said in the most serious tone she had ever heard come from him. “Don’t. Ever. Think. That. Don’t think it for a second. Because I…Because that’s what I thought the first time I saw you in the library…when you started searching so avidly for that file. I thought…you were so determined to avenge those people. Those STRANGERS, Kat. I thought, there was no way someone had not already seen that…that beauty, that power, that fierce spirit you have…and already claimed you. And now I’m so happy that I took the chance to ask…Because, Kat…I’m not perfect…And I can promise you I have more character flaws than you do…” He took a deep breath and pressed his lips to her forehead. He smiled. “Now, I told you my excuse was better than yours…What was yours again?”
“I was staring at you because…”
“Because you’re pretty,” she blurted out. He threw his head back, laughing so hard that they could probably hear him on the other side of campus. She ducked her head, blushing as several students passed by, glancing over to see why he was laughing so hard.
“Thank you, darling,” he said after he stopped laughing long enough to compose a sentence. He leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek, making her smile. “Now, let’s make sure you aren’t late to your next class.”
The library on campus did not have near enough resources on Shakespeare for him to use, so Grayson had to make several trips to other campuses and libraries throughout the city to pick up books and articles. One day, while he was gone, Kat scheduled a lunch with two friends she had met a few semesters prior and had kept in constant contact with since then.
“I’ve got to tell you, THE most boring Christmas Break ever,” Darcy Lewis said, balancing on one leg as she and Kat waited outside of the aerospace engineering building for their third friend to join them. “Seriously, if it weren’t for the absence of snow down here, I would have stayed in Atlanta and just hung out, you know? How was yours? Get anything interesting from Uncle Phil?”
Kat shrugged. “Well, I don’t know. I’ll tell you more about what happened later, but…something DID happen,” she said, smiling.
“What? Come on, what?” Kat continued to smile until Darcy said, “No, way. NO WAY!” She punched Kat in the arm. “Are you serious? Why didn’t you tell us the moment it happened?! What’s his name?”
“Grayson,” she said, smiling and ducking her head.
“More details, please!”
“He’s tall. British. Goes to Cambridge. And he’s here for the semester.”
“Here in Atlanta?”
“Here at Tech.”
“Study abroad student? Oooh…” Darcy gave her a mischievous smile. “So, what’s going to happen when he moves back to London?”
“Actually, he’s not studying here…He came down to Atlanta to do research here in the States because he wanted to be closer to me.”
“Wait, what?” Darcy stared at Kat for a few moments before going, “Damn, girl, you got a guy to move across the ocean just to stay with you while you’re at school?” She shook her head. “How did you do it? Teach me your ways…”
“Maybe you’ll understand better once I explain what happened…” Kat said as the doors to the building swung open to reveal a girl with long brown hair and a frenzied expression on her face.
“Jane, it’s not even a week into the semester, and you’re already stressing out?” Darcy asked.
“Yeah, well, I’m trying to get together the trip to New Mexico over Christmas Break. They finally okayed Dr. Selvig to go with us, thank God.” She turned to Kat. “You should come, too. I know a week in the desert won’t exactly be fun, but…” She shrugged. “At least we can hang out. So, what’s up with you?”
“She got herself a boyfriend over break!” Darcy blurted out before Kat could even open her mouth.
“Really?” Jane smiled. “You have to tell us all about him over lunch.”
Jane shook her head, staring down at the food on her plate. “I can’t believe it.”
“Well, you sure had a…interesting break,” Darcy said.
“I can’t even sort out everything in my head sometimes,” Kat said. “Why would anyone do that?”
“Has Coulson found out anything more about who those killers were?” Jane asked.
“Not yet. I’ve called him and Stark several times since I’ve got back, but nothing…”
“Also…Tony Stark being your dad. What is up with that?” Darcy asked. Jane shot her a glare. “What? Mysertious father stepping out of nowhere happens to be a biollionaire genius. Take out the library part and you’ve got the makings of a Disney movie right there.”
“Take out the library part, and I would never have met Grayson in the first place,” Kat pointed out, her gaze wandering to the restaurant windows they were sitting nearby. She nearly jumped when there was a knock on the window. Both Darcy and Jane turned to see Grayson standing there, a big smile on his face. He waved and then motioned as if to ask if it were okay for him to come inside. Kat nodded in shock and he started to walk towards the front of the restauarant.
Darcy stared after him. “THAT is Grayson?” She turned to Kat, her mouth open. “You didn’t tell us he was HOT.” She shook her head. “Long lost daddy is a genius billionaire AND you found Prince Charming? You’ve turned into Aurora or something.”
“I think she matches better with Mulan or Merida,” Jane muttered, gaining a look of appreciation from Kat as Grayson stepped up to their table.
“I’m sorry if I’m intruding. I had to check out some books from a library a few blocks away,” he said, obviously hesitating to sit down.
“Oh, no, you’re not! Please sit down!” Jane said, motioning to the seat beside Kat. He sat down, shooting Kat a warm smile before she realized that she needed to do introductions.
“Grayson, this is Jane Foster and Darcy Lewis. Darcy, Jane, and I have known each other since the end of freshman year. Darcy, Jane, this is Grayson Strauss, he’s…”
“Your boyfriend,” Darcy interrupted. “Kat has told us a lot about you.”
“All good things, I hope,” Grayson said.
“Well, all good things about you personally,” Jane said, looking from Darcy to Kat. Kat shot Grayson a look that told him that he was free to say anything he wanted to about what happened in the library. “Actually, there was something I wanted to talk about with all of the team once we get everyone situated who’s going.”
“Going where?” Grayson asked.
“We’re going on a trip to New Mexico over Spring Break. It’s a research trip,” Darcy said, rolling her eyes. “But it will be fun. The three of us are going, plus one of our professors and Kat’s brother.”
“Wait…” Grayson frowned, turning to Kat. “Wait…you didn’t say…Stark has…”
“Oh, no, Mike’s not my real brother. We grew up together…we were both orphaned at a young age, so we were the only family each other had, really.”
“Oh…okay, that makes more sense.”
“Anyway, my research has to do with bridges and portals and wormholes throughout the universe. There is a specific bridge somewhere in New Mexico that, I believe, links us to an entirely new dimension,” Jane said.
“Yeah, apparently, it even has a name,” Darcy said. “A really cool name, but a weird one…”
“What is it?” Kat asked.
“Well, I had to look up translations from a lot of different civilizations, but…in the end…the common name is Asgard.”
Kat and Grayson glanced at each other, neither saying a word. “Interesting…” Grayson said.
“So, if you’re up for a fun spring break looking for the magical dimension of Asgard, you can totally come with us. Always room for more,” Darcy said.
“Yes…actually, that sounds interesting.”
“Awesome. One more for the expedition,” Jane said. Both Jane and Darcy missed the wary looks Kat and Grayson shot each other.
“You’re going to Asgard, and I’m not invited?”
Kat sighed. “No, we’re not going to Asgard…and the expedition will be boring for you, I’m sure, so…”
“No, wait, if there is an actual portal to Asgard that is still open, I’m in. We need to investigate this.”
“There’s a SHIELD unit about fifty miles from the site. I could get over there and spend a few days making sure everything’s clear for you to be there.”
Kat and Grayson were sitting in her room, door closed and securely locked, listening to Stark and Coulson talk to each other over speakerphone and a three-way call.
“Anyway, may I remind you that Selvig is probably riding along on this expedition for more insight for his Aquapolian DNA research?” Stark asked. “By the way, REALLY important for you to swing by that lab as soon as possible.”
“Yes, I know. I actually happen to be taking one of Baron’s classes this semester,” Kat said.
“Great. Just go up to him after class and say ‘hey, my grandfather used to work with you and by the way, I’m the Chosen One.’”
“I’m not saying that.”
“Okay, you can leave out the Chosen One part, but still…”
“We’ll go see him tomorrow. Happy now?”
There was a moment of silence as everyone mutually understood exactly how meaningful that one word reply was. Then, Coulson spoke. “I’ll set everything up for you, get contact numbers, clear you through the database. Also, I’m thinking of sending someone down to train all of you…the sooner we figure out your powers, the better.”
“ALL of us?” Kat asked.
“Yes, you, Grayson, Jane, Darcy…”
“How do you know that they’re Aquapolian?”
“I’m SHIELD. SHIELD knows who is Aquapolian.” He said this was some sort of foreboding in his voice. “And I’ll tell you right now…that is not good for any of us.”
After class ended the next day, Kat took a deep breath and walked down the sloping lecture hall towards Baron, Grayson a few steps behind her, his presence there a support for her. As soon as Baron was free for her to talk to, she stepped forward and introduced herself.
“Ah, how may I help you Kat?”
“I…well, I just wanted to introduce myself and tell you that you used to work with my grandfather.”
A look of surprise crossed his face. “Howard Stark was your grandfather?” She nodded. Baron paused before saying, “Why don’t you come by my office hours later today so that we can talk more?”
“This IS a surprise. I knew Stark had a granddaughter, but, from how we know the story, you disappeared a few months after you were born,” Baron said as he led Kat and Grayson into his lab. “It’s interesting, though, that you eventually ended up in engineering.” He chuckled. “Seems to be the family business.” He turned to Grayson as they entered the very center of the lab. “I heard what happened in the library, by the way. Terrible. Just terrible. However, we know of people who would do far worse to get their hands on information about Aquapolians.”
“Why would someone want this information?” Grayson asked.
“So that they could eradicate our race.”
All three of them turned to see a middle-aged man with brown hair and glasses emerge from behind one of the large machines that lined the area they were in. He took his glasses off as he spoke. “As soon as it hits public knowledge that there are people on this planet…an entire race of people, no less…that have these powers, don’t you think someone is going to panic? Think that we are a threat and try to cage us or eliminate us?”
“Bruce, unfortunately, is telling the truth. We already know of several groups of people who want to finish the job the Demon King started all of those millinnia ago,” Baron said. “Which is why we keep the Aquapolis project a secret to all but a few. Your father being one…those of us who work in the lab…and, of course, Agent Coulson.”
“Never trust SHIELD,” Banner muttered under his breath. Kat gave him a strange look. He corrected himself. “Well, never trust SHIELD…only trust Coulson.”
“When Jane told me a Kat Stark was joining the expedition, I didn’t know it would be THE Kat Stark,” said another scientist, a thick Scandenavian accent showing through his words. “Dr. Eric Selvig,” he said, shaking her hand.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Dr. Bruce Banner,” Banner said, awkwardly shaking hands with Kat and Grayson.
“So, why would Aquapolian researchers be interested in Asgard?” Grayson asked.
“You’re asking all the right questions…seems a loss for you not to be an engineer.” Baron’s statement made Grayson smile. “Anyway, Asgard and Aquapolis have been tied to each other for years…not the happiest of ties, but the distruction of the bridge to Asgard corresponds to the fall of the Aquapolian civilization. We could gain more information about ourselves…”
“No, no, no, you’re not going to class today.”
Kat sighed, trying to unwrap herself from Grayson’s arms. “I have to go. Baron knows my face, he’ll notice when I don’t turn up.”
Instead of letting her go, he pulled her closer to him, hugging her tighter, still half asleep. “He’ll just assume you’re getting ready for the trip. Just stay a little longer…” He muttered sleepily.
Kat sighed, glancing over at the duffel bags and suitcases that stood in front of the door. “Fine…” She yawned. “Fine…Might as well get sleep now. Won’t get much on this trip.”
“Good,” Grayson muttered, kissing her on the cheek. Kat drifted off in his arms for a few moments.
And then her phone rang.
Swearing, Kat tried to turn around so that she could grab her phone, but Grayson was having none of that. “Grayson…it could be someone on the team. Come on…Grayson…”
He sighed. “Fine…” He let her go enough to grab her phone and answer it.
“Hey, where are we meeting up?” It was Stark.
“In New Mexico.”
“No, like where in Atlanta are we meeting up?”
“What are you talking about? We’re meeting you in New Mexico.”
“No you’re not.”
“Yes we are.”
“No you’re not.”
“Yes…ugh!” She groaned. “Where are you?”
“Standing outside of your apartment building.”
“Just meet me down here in like five minutes. I don’t have access to the building, and I’m about to hack my way in…and I don’t feel like having a run in with campus security.”
The call ended, and Kat groaned. “I have to go let Stark in,” she said to Grayson, disentangling herself from his arms. He had ceased sleeping on the couch a month earlier. After the first few weeks of class, Kat had noticed he was falling asleep during class and at odd hours of the day. It took a few days to finally coax the reason out of him. One of her roommates had to get up early to go to PT in the mornings…and subsequently woke Grayson up as she left the apartment. After the initial awkward event of trying to decide how Grayson was going to fit on the same small bed as Kat, she found that she actually fell asleep faster and slept better in his arms.
And that he, like her, was NOT a morning person. At all.
When Kat finally got downstairs to let Stark in through the turnstiles, he made a great show of being left outside. She knew he was secretly peeved about being locked out of anywhere. “So, when do we leave?” He asked as they took the elevator back up to her apartment.
“Not for another seven hours,” she yawned.
“What? Did I wake you up?”
She glared at him. “Yes, yes you did.”
“Well, you can always sleep on the flight over.”
“We’re taking a CAR.”
“Why are you so confused about the details of this trip?”
“Because I’m supposed to be a surprise to everyone else on the trip. Like, surprise! Tony Stark is coming along! Isn’t that great? Therefore, I got NONE of the details, because, apparently, you either are embarrassed for your father to come along or don’t like surprises, I don’t know.”
Kat rolled her eyes. “It is way too early in the morning for this.”
“God, it’s eleven o’clock. You’re absolutely right.”
Grayson was sitting on the couch when they got back, still half-asleep as he spoke to one of her roommates, Karen….who also happened to be the roommate who went to PT in the morning. She was a morning person, so she was bright and energetic, and, therefore, carried most of the conversation with still tired Grayson.
“Oh, did I wake you up, too?” Stark asked in a mock tone of apology as they walked in.
“Yes, yes you did,” Grayson replied back.
“Karen, this is my father, Tony Stark,” Kat said, introducing Stark to her roommate. He lit up at this introduction, fully because she was introducing him as her father. He had waited a long time for her to be able to do that.
After Karen left for class, Stark turned to Grayson. “Aren’t you excited for our cross-country roadtrip?”
“It’s too early in the morning to be excited.”
“Why don’t we go and grab some coffee? Where’s the nearest Starbucks, on campus?”
“Yes, but we’re not taking you there,” Kat said.
Stark took on a fake hurt tone. “Why not?”
“Because you’re like the god of engineers. We’ll never be able to get out of here once they hear you’re on campus.”
“Well, we have to kill seven hours someway.”
“We did have a plan to kill seven hours until you came,” Grayson said with uncharacteristic grumpiness.
“Besides, you’ll ruin the surprise,” Kat added.
“So, why does Selvig get to call shotgun?” Mike asked as he helped throw bags into the back of Jane’s van.
“Because he’s funding the project,” Jane explained, running through her checklist.
Mike rolled his eyes as Kat and Grayson approached. Seeing Kat made him cheer up a bit. “Hey, sis!” He dropped the bag he was carrying and stepped over to hug her. “How’s it going?”
19th May 2013, 4:27 AM
Mike turned to Grayson, holding his hand out for him to shake. “You must be Grayson. Mike Ross. I’m Kat’s brother…well…I’m adopted.”
“It’s good to finally meet you,” Grayson replied.
“Yeah, well, I would threaten you as Kat’s big brother just in case you ever hurt her, but I’m pretty sure Coulson has that covered.”
“I don’t remember having another kid…”
They turned to see Stark and Selvig. Stark had a confused look on his face, as if he were really trying to remember if he had another kid. “I’m pretty sure I only had the one.”
“He’s adopted,” Kat explained.
“Oh, okay, whew, good.”
Jane stepped around the van at that moment. “Okay, if we leave here now, we’ll be there by Sunda….” She stopped when she saw Stark. Darcy stopped loading bags in the van to see what was up, then froze.
“Wait, I didn’t know you were bringing your dad along,” Darcy said to Kat.
“Yeah, sorry, I’m really going to ruin all of your fun. Curfews, rules, all the like. I’m just here for the science. I heard there was going to be science, so I wanted to be part of it.”
The rest of the team looked at each other, and Selvig just shook his head. “This is going to be a long trip,” he muttered to Kat before he took his place in the passenger seat.
“I don’t care what you say, Sean Connery has always been and will always be the best Bond,” Mike argued.
“No, you’re missing the point,” Darcy complained.
“You’re being biased,” Stark said from the very back of the car, where he and Mike had been relegated after everyone determined that Stark was getting on their nerves and Mike could not only stand him, but also get along with him the best. In the best teenage girl voice he could muster, Stark said, “You just like him because he’s pretty.”
Grayson, who was sitting in the seat behind the passenger’s side of the car and who had drifted in and out of sleep ever since they had left Atlanta, chuckled sleepily at Stark’s impression. Kat, who sat between Grayson and Darcy, turned around, lifting an eyebrow at her father. “Wow, you do that voice a little too well.” As usual, Stark’s response to her quips directed at him was an eyeroll accompanied by a smile that told her that he didn’t mind being ridiculed by her, that he was just glad to have her by his side again.
She rolled her eyes back at him, not even trying to imitate his own eye roll, but nailing it all the same. Mike busted out laughing, and Stark, in the best fatherly tone he could muster said, “Don’t roll your eyes at me, young lady.”
“Well, at least this is conclusive proof that the two of you are related,” Darcy said, turning around in her seat to where Jane was driving and discussing key data points with Selvig in the front seat. “Sorry to sound as if I’m tired of this party, but how long until we get there?”
“We’re still about three hours away from the station,” Jane said, eyeing the road ahead of them. Plains had changed to desert some time back. Kat had never been this far west before. Grayson hadn’t been, either, and, for the first hour, had stared at the desert landscape, remarking on how striking it was in that low, sweet voice he reserved for talking only to Kat. As she listened to him, she caught glimpses of Stark’s face out of the corner of her eye. Every time, he was watching them, a small happy smile on his face. Finally, when she caught him, he gave her a look that said “I called it. I TOLD YOU he was your boyfriend.” She simply glared back, gaining a smirk from her father.
“Are you really THAT tired?” Stark asked after, for the fiftieth time in a row, Grayson woke with a start.
“It’s a defense mechanism,” Selvig explained from his position in the passenger’s seat. “To deal with all of the noise that’s coming from the back of this van.” This caused all three of the girls to laugh and Mike and Stark to exchange glances as if they had no clue where all of that noise was coming from.
“Well, besides all of the research and work and stuff, this will be a fun trip, I can tell already. Especially since we brought you along, Kat,” Darcy said after the laughter had died down.
“Wait, I thought I was bringing the party?” Stark asked, looking hurt and offended.
“Well, if you put it that way, Kat brought the party because she brought you,” Darcy pointed out. As Stark tried to think of a comeback, which was odd because he usually thought of one in a few seconds flat, she continued, “Anyway, what I was talking about was that Kat came back from Christmas Break with a boyfriend and a dad. Who knows what will happen?”
After a night to recover from the road trip and a full day to gather together all of the equipment they needed, everyone except for Stark piled into Jane’s van to set out for the observation point in the desert. Stark stayed behind to work on some faulty wires in one of the suits he had brought along…just in case they needed one, which Kat doubted very much…
“I missed the stars,” Kat said from where she lay beside Grayson on top of the van. Jane was inside the back with Selvig, watching for any signs of activity on the monitors. Mike and Darcy had sat down on the hood of the car together, talking about random stuff and arguing every once in a while. “You don’t see many stars in Atlanta, but, before I graduated from high school, Uncle Phil and I lived in rural Georgia. You could see all of the stars at night there…”
“My family home growing up was in the countryside outside of London. I always missed the stars when I was in the city…though, if I had a choice, I would stay there instead of moving back home,” Grayson said.
“Uncle Phil moved us to New York after I graduated…” She turned to Grayson. “You don’t talk about your family much…”
“No, I don’t,” he said with uncharacteristic bitterness. Kat instantly realized that she should take this as a sign to drop the subject. He glanced over at her, and quickly added. “It’s okay to ask, Kat,” he said, wrapping his hand around hers. “I just…never got along with my father. He always wanted me to be a lawyer, hated the fact that I didn’t want that. I’m kind of jealous…you had Coulson…and now Stark. Stark wouldn’t care if you decided to do nothing with your life, as long as he could be in your life.” He sighed. “Once I have the chance…I’ll speak to them about this…being adopted…thing.”
There was silence for a few moments before Kat heard Jane and Selvig scramble out from the back of the car. She sat up a bit, hearing something in the distance. It sounded like wind. To the east, she could just make out a storm blowing up across the desert. “Come on, guys!” Jane shouted. Grayson scrambled down off the van first and caught Kat as she slid off. Everyone piled in and Jane took off, tires screeching as they raced across the desert.
Now, Kat had always been claustrophobic, which extended to being trapped in something that surrounded her completely, like if she was underneath the ocean. As soon as they entered the storm, wind and sand blew up around them, blocking out everything else. As Selvig shouted orders to everyone, Kat slid closer to Grayson as fear started to fill her mind. He slid is arm around her waste, his eyes set on the raging storm outside. Kat closed her eyes and buried her face in his shoulder, blocking out everything around them.
Until she heard a thump and the van came to a sudden violent stop.
There was silence for a few moments. The storm had stopped, the whirling sand had fallen away to once again reveal the desert sky. Everyone paused, breaths held, until Jane spoke up. “I think we hit something…”
“It sounded like we hit a body or something,” Darcy said.
“I…I can’t tell what it was…somebody want to get out and see what I hit?” Jane asked. Everyone was a little bit shaken up from the whirlwind of a storm combined with the sudden collision and stop.
Grayson unbuckled his seatbelt, the first to recover from the shock. “I’ll go,” he said, stepping out of the van and going around to the front, brushing sand from his eyes that was still being kicked up from the slight wind blowing by.
His froze when he could finally make out what they hit. Lying in the sand was a body. Tall, muscular, covered in dust. No blood, at least. There was, oddly, a dent in the front of the van where the man had hit it. Grayson stepped back around to Jane’s window to give her the news.
“Oh, my God,” she said as everyone scrambled out of the van to see what had happened and how badly injured the man was. Kat’s feet hit the sand as she stopped, staring down at what seemed to be a strange, but familiar, pattern in the desert floor.
There wasn’t time to investigate, however. With a groan, the man had stood up, spinning around to get his bearings straight. He had long blonde hair and a beard of the same color. Dressed in a plain blue shirt and jeans, there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about him.
Until he opened his mouth, that was.
“Oh my God, I am so sorry,” Jane said. “Are you okay?”
The man stopped and stared around the circle of people before waving his hand towards the van. “I’m fine,” he said in a deep voice, laced through with a British accent. “I’m fine.” He repeated, making his way…more like staggering his way…out of the circle.
“You should let us take you to the hospital,” Selvig protested before he could get too far.
“I’m fine!” The man barked at him, continuing his advance out of the circle. They hesitantly watched him go, no one quite sure of what to do. Finally, Kat cautiously made her way after him, Grayson close behind.
“Wait!” She said, circling around so that she stood right in his path. The man stopped, his eyes on her, his head tilted to the side. Realization suddenly appeared in them, which confused Kat. She had never seen this man in her life. He stared at her for a few moments before stepping closer to her. His size and height instantly made her nervous. He didn’t look as if he meant to hurt her, but she was still alarmed.
Grayson, apparently, sensed this alarm immediately and stepped up to put a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Listen, we just want to make sure you’re okay. That was a hard hit.”
Unfortunately, Grayson’s touch and words startled the man out of his staring contest with Kat, and he swung around. Before Grayson or the man or Kat could do or say a thing, the hum of electricity surged through the air, and before anyone knew what was happening, the man was on the ground, twitching a bit, two leads of a taser sticking to his shoulder.
Kat and Grayson turned around to see Darcy standing there, her hands on the taser and her eyes wide. “What?! He was creeping Kat out and he looked like he was going to kill Grayson.”
As Mike and Selvig loaded the guy’s unconscious body into the van, Kat and Grayson climbed back onto the top, Grayson carrying one of Jane’s project cameras in his hands. “Do these look familiar to you?” Kat asked, pointing to the circular pattern of markings on the desert floor.
“Yes…” He breathed. “These are the same markings in that file…” He took a few pictures before hopping back down off of the van. Before following him, Kat stared at the desert floor before lifting her head to the sky. She could make out the faintest hint of a rainbow nestled in between the cloud of stars above them.
“What was his name again?”
It was two in the morning, and the exhausted project team (minus, of course, Stark) was standing in the lobby of the town’s small hospital, checking the mysterious man in. He hadn’t exactly told them his name, but several times he had muttered someone’s name while unconscious in the back of the van. Darcy had picked up on it, though it sounded extremely strange.
“He said his name was Thor…” Darcy said slowly. “T-H-O-R.” Kat and Grayson looked at each other and raised an eyebrow. They had come across that name several times in the file. It was an Asgardian name. Jane had been so excited when they revealed this to her…so excited, she had nearly crashed her van again. Now, the problem was…what to do with this guy…
After they left the front desk, they stood in the waiting room for a few minutes, weighing their options. “We can’t just leave him here. He’s not from around here and won’t be able to find us again,” Jane said.
“Jane, we cannot stick around simply to interrogate the crazy Asgardian man who fell from the sky,” Selvig said with uncharacteristic sharpness in his voice. He had had a long few days, what with the roadtrip and dealing with six kids (yes, Stark did count as a kid) on this project team. Kat felt sorry for him.
“Why not?” Mike asked. “We could just bring him back to the shop and ask him questions there. Stark’s got his suit with him.”
“Look, why don’t we go back and get some sleep and pick him up in the morning?” Kat asked. “We left our phone numbers with them, so if he’s discharged by then, they’ll call us. I, for one, cannot deal with crazy Asgardians falling from the skies this late at night.”
After everyone agreed (albeit reluctantly on Jane’s part), they set off for the van. Jane backed the van up out of the parking space.
They heard another thump at the back of the car. Selvig swore loudly.
“Okay, so let me get this straight. You drive into a crazy tornado storm and run into a crazy guy who may or may not be either an Asgardian who fell from the sky or a crazy drunk homeless man. And you decide to bring him home?”
Stark addressed this question to Jane, who was fighting to keep her eyes open from her spot across the table. They had succeeded in dragging the once again unconscious Thor into the shop and onto a mattress in the back. Stark’s reaction when Kat ran in to ask him for his help in dragging the unconscious guy was priceless, Kat had to say.
“Well, in our defense, Darcy DID tase him,” Mike said, pointing this out.
“Good, good,” Stark said, giving Darcy a thumbs up. She smiled proudly, fooling around with her taser as he continued. “You see, that’s what you do when you run into crazy drunk homeless men in the desert. You taze them.”
“I’ll keep that in mind the next time I hit someone with my car,” Jane said, exasperated. Kat shot her father a warning look that told him that her friend was stressed enough without his input. Stark rolled his eyes back and retreated to Jane’s relief.
“Anyway, he’s going to be out for a good few hours, so we should probably get some sleep,” Selvig announced. “Although, we should put a guard on duty just in case he wakes up.”
No one volunteered outright. Stark stepped forward, hands raised. “Fine, I’ll do it. I was going to stay up and work on the suit anyway.” No one objected. Everyone was too tired from their ordeal, and Stark was slightly an insomniac anyway, so this worked perfectly. Kat joined Grayson on another mattress set up in one of the back storage rooms, and both fell instantly to sleep without another word.
“How can someone eat an entire box of Poptarts and still be this hungry?”
Kat looked up from her pancakes to see Thor practically inhaling the breakfast on the plate in front of them. He had woken up at around ten that morning, giving the rest of the team a total amount of five hours of sleep, which wasn’t too bad. He had instantly asked where the nearest eating place was, so the entire team made the trek to the nearest diner to eat. Grayson sat on one side of Thor, while Stark sat on the other side, watching Thor with an interested look on his face. Despite the fact that he usually stayed awake late at night, her father had drank just as many cups of coffee as the others had just so he could deal with Thor.
“I think you’re forgetting all of those pizzas we could practically inhale freshman year,” Kat pointed out. Mike smirked, though she knew he regretted not going to school near her. Tech had a pre-law program, but he had decided to head up to New York instead.
“You mean all of the pizzas YOU could inhale, Kat,” Darcy teased back. Kat turned red at this, glancing to see if Grayson had heard. “Seriously, for someone so small, you can eat almost as much as Thor can.”
“What is a pizza?” Thor asked, eying the cup of coffee that sat in front of him.
Most of the members of the team had decided to just roll with whatever Thor asked or didn’t know. Mike jumped in. “It’s bread with cheese, sauce, and meat on top of it. It’s really good.”
Kat was glad that someone had steered away from the topic of her ability to eat unholy amounts of food, but then Stark had to open his mouth and make her seriously contemplate patricide. “So, how many pizzas CAN you eat?”
Kat glared at Stark, and contemplated refusing to answer, but Darcy made her decision for her. “The last time we had it on record, it was two pizzas.”
“Oh, that’s nothing,” Grayson scoffed. “My friend John and I used to both eat three pizzas each,” he said, instantly smoothing over any embarrassment Kat had as well as giving her a teasing smile as if to offer her a challenge.
“So…” Selvig said, his eyes on the Asgardian in front of him. “Can you tell us a little bit about why you’re here?”
Thor paused from his feast to gaze around the table. His face suddenly grew serious as he put down his fork. With all formality and dramatics, he answered, “I am here to find my brother. He went missing from Asgard, and we believe he is here.”
Everyone nodded. This was easy to follow so far. “And, so…you think your brother’s in New Mexico?” Stark asked, one eyebrow raised.
“What is New Mexico?” Thor asked, confused.
Stark sighed. “Oh, boy, great…Someone else talk to him, because I don’t think I can handle this conversation without upsetting everyone in the general vicinity.” Kat gave him a look that told him she was impressed by his self-control. He shrugged as if to say it was no big deal.
“It’s the state we’re in right now,” Grayson explained calmly.
“The state? What is a state?”
“The region of the land that we live in,” Grayson said, avoiding saying “country” just in case Thor didn’t know what a country was, either.
“How long has your brother been missing?” Jane asked, trying to be helpful, though Kat highly doubted they would be able to do much in assisting the Asgardian in helping to find his brother.
Thor thought hard for a few moments, and Kat shot Stark a glare before he could comment on this. Finally, Thor answered, “As far as we can tell, he has been gone for around twenty-four years.”
Everyone just stared at Thor, even Stark, who was struck confused and speechless at the same time, which Kat thought was quite an accomplishment. “Twenty-four years?” Mike asked. “Your brother has been missing for twenty-four years and you are just now searching for him?”
“In my defense, on Asgard, twenty-four years is like a few hours to us. When you live as long as an immortal does, time passes a lot more slowly.”
“Twenty-four years…” Darcy mused, turning to Grayson. “Aren’t you twenty-four years old?”
He looked confused. “Yes…I am…”
Thor turned to him, studying him intently before narrowing his eyes at Grayson. “Say something.”
Thor thought for a few moments more. “That voice is familiar to me.”
“Yeah, let’s pick out the only other British guy in New Mexico,” Stark said.
“British?” Thor asked, confused. He turned back to Grayson. “No…I know now…you…”
Grayson smiled nervously. “I’m sorry, but it’s safe to say that I am not your brother…”
Stark looked from Thor to Grayson and back again. Something was up. Kat could tell he was hiding something.
“What are you hiding?” Kat asked as soon as they stepped out of the diner.
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re hiding something. I knew it…both of us knew it from the moment we met with you, and it’s not just about you being my father or anything like that. You’re hiding something else.” Stark looked away. She drew in a deep breath. “When you said Grayson was adopted…we assumed he was adopted here on Earth from parents FROM Earth…”
“Well, technically, he was adopted on Asgard, but…”
“Okay…Thor is right. Grayson is his brother. Something…something went wrong. Usually, immortals are reincarnated like you were. And he wasn’t supposed to be…but he was…He had a connection to you at one point…”
“What do you mean?”
“Back when you were both immortals. You know how I said Odin banished you from Asgard because he got into an argument with you?”
“Well, the whole reason Odin brought you to Asgard was to set you up to marry one of his sons, the guy who’s sitting in that café right now who doesn’t know what New Mexico is. Well, apparently, neither of you were interested in each other, and you ended up falling for the wrong brother…the guy sitting next to him. Thus, Odin got pissed off and banished you. The end.”
Kat stared at Stark for a few minutes before saying, “So, Grayson is the reincarnation of one of the sons of Odin.”
“Yeah, I know that…”
“No, like, I mean, ODIN adopted him. He’s technically not Odin’s son.”
“Whose son is he, then?” Stark looked away, refusing to answered the question. “Dad…Whose. Son. Is. He?”
Stark paused for a second before turning to her, a strange look on his face. “He’s the son of the previous Demon King…half Asgardian, half demon….” He said in a low voice, though he seemed totally distracted.
Kat processed this for a few moments until she realized he was still looking at her strangely. “What is it?” She asked, frowning.
“Nothing…” He shrugged his shoulders. “Just…” He took a deep breath. “That’s the first time you called me ‘Dad.’”
“Oh…well, um…would you prefer I not…”
“No!” He said a bit strongly, then repeated in a lower voice, “No. No, Dad’s fine…Dad’s great…” He looked up at the sky as if he were trying to keep the emotion out of his voice.
“You’re not going to start crying on me, are you?” Kat asked with a sigh.
“No, just…yeah,” he waved that away and got back on subject. “You might want to wait a bit…I’m going to call Coulson, see if he can get down here. He can explain the situation better than I can…In the meantime…why don’t you hold off a bit on telling Grayson that he’s a half demon, okay?”
Hesitantly, Kat answered, “Okay.”
By the time they left the café an hour later, Coulson was there. He pulled Grayson and Kat aside. “I need to speak with the two of you alone.”
The ride out to the SHIELD base was quiet. Kat stared out the window, trying to avoid Grayson’s looks of confusion directed at her.
“If you’ll both have a seat in here,” Coulson said once they arrived, pointing into a small interrogation room. They sat across the table from him, Grayson instinctively putting his hand on Kat’s thigh as if to reassure her that everything would be fine, even though he himself did not know this.
Coulson took a deep breath, choosing his words carefully and speaking clearly and calmly. “I apologize that Stark and I have kept so much hidden from the two of you over the years, but we thought it necessary as we tried to figure out exactly what was wrong. To explain simply, the events that are occurring right now are not supposed to be happening in the grand scheme of things. There are people missing. There are people who are on this Earth who are not supposed to be here.” He looked them straight in the eye. “Something happened to change the flow of time, which is putting everything off balance.”
“How do you know that?” Grayson asked. “Can you see the future?”
“No. I have some friends who are extremely sensitive to changes in time. Also, I can see what was supposed to happen.” He leaned back in his chair. “I can’t tell you. That would end disastrously. However, I do know that, since I can tell that there are changes, what happened wrong must have had something to do with me.”
“But you don’t know what went wrong,” Kat said for clarity.
“No.” He paused. “Everything I told about Kat was correct. Kat was supposed to be reincarnated. But you were not. You were supposed to remain an immortal in Asgard.”
Grayson’s eyes widened. “So Thor is telling the truth?”
“Every word of it. You are the adopted son of Odin. Your father was the previous Demon King of Hell. Your mother…we don’t know much about her other than that she was Asgardian. Your half-brother is the current Demon King of Hell, Adam. Don’t focus much on being a demon. You’ve long since proven that you are no demon at heart.”
There was a pause as Grayson pondered this. Then, he asked, “What is my immortal name?”
Coulson paused, as if Grayson’s immortal name held great power.
21st May 2013, 7:09 AM
The name had echoed in Grayson’s head the rest of the day. Here he was, sitting in a bar beside a man who was supposed to be his adopted brother, but whom he had never met in his life, and that name STILL rang through his head. And questions. So many questions.
Right from the start, Grayson had informed Thor that he had no memories of his previous life as Loki, but his brother seemed to have forgotten that, and was not expounding on an adventure they had had a few thousand years ago, complete with gory battle details and tactics. Grayson listened politely, watching as Thor laughed at an amusing part of the story. He seemed so excited to see his brother again. He had almost literally not stopped talking since he had discovered that Loki was actually sitting right next to him.
Grayson had no mortal siblings, and his father had never really paid much attention to him. The fact that a family member would be so excited to see him and merely to talk to him blew his mind. But now, as he watched Thor mimic swinging a sword towards a demon’s head, he felt a smile spread across his face. Thor didn’t care that he had dropped out of law school. Thor didn’t care that he refused to marry a girl from the London elite. Thor didn’t care that he had dropped everything to move into an American apartment with his girlfriend of a few months.
Thor only cared that he was, once again, by his brother’s side.
The immortal of thunder finished his story with a nod, turning to order another beer from the bartender. Grayson took the chance to glance down the bar where Stark and Selvig were talking in hushed tones. A glance right behind him would give him a look at his girlfriend and her friends packed into a booth together, trading college stories. Kat looked up at that exact time, met his eyes with those brilliant blue ones of hers, and smiled.
Grayson turned back to see Thor watching the exchange, a huge smile on his face. “You seem happy,” he said in a greatly pleased tone laced through with sadness. Grayson thought for a second that Thor was sad that he was happy here, apart from his family in Asgard, but his brother continued. “You have not been happy for a long time.”
“Why is that?” Grayson asked, slightly concerned.
“For the past three thousand years, you have been separated from her,” Thor said, nodding to Kat. “Yet, here you are, reunited during your mortal lives. Your reincarnation was a mistake, but it was a good one.”
Grayson thought about this for a few moments. Thor had brought up the fact that he and Kat had first fallen in love thousands of years previously. That would explain why he felt himself so drawn to her. As if both of them could remember those years apart. For some reason, an inexplicable stab of pain filled him, and he had to turn around to make sure that Kat was still sitting in the booth. He breathed a sigh of relief, not able to explain to himself why he had suddenly had that fear.
“So, what can you tell me about the timeline being messed up?” Grayson asked, turning back to Thor and trying to take his mind off of the mini-panic attacked he had almost had.
“I don’t know much about it. There are only a few people in this realm who would know the details.” He thought for a few moments. “The person whose timeline was originally changed. That would be the Son of Coul.” Grayson laughed. His brother watched him, concerned. “Did I say something wrong?”
“No, it’s just…having a name with the word ‘son’ in it doesn’t denote that you are the son of the person with that name. At least not anymore here on Midgard.”
“Ah…then your first name makes more sense now.” They both burst into laughter loud enough to gain a few looks from those nearby. Stark and Selvig stopped and glanced down the bar at them, both with amused looks on their faces, as if they hadn’t quite expected the brothers to get along so well.
“Coulson doesn’t know exactly what happened. We all kind of just have to go along on our daily lives until we figure it out,” Grayson said once they both stopped laughing. “Perhaps you can help us?”
“I’d be glad to.” Thor hesitated. “Except…” He grimaced. “As you know, the Bifrost is still broken…”
“Yeah…” Grayson grimaced along with him. “I had something to do with that, didn’t I?”
“Well, we both did,” Thor said, smiling mischievously. When his brother shot him a confused look, he continued. “When you and…Kat…made to leave Asgard for Midgard together, I was the one who helped disguise your escape. Unfortunately…it did not turn out well.” He stared into his beer. “Father had us both thrown in prison for a few decades after he banished Quama…I mean…Kat.”
There was a long silence. Grayson had been told the story by Coulson. How Thor had refused to marry Kat to satisfy Odin. He had sacrificed a lot in defiance of their father just for the chance that his brother would be able to live with the love of his life in another realm.
“What I mean to say is that I can only stay here for a few more da…”
The bar door burst open, revealing Coulson, a dark look on his face that told Grayson something had happened. He nodded outside for the entire group, letting them gather in the parking lot before he started heading for his car, a sign that everyone else needed to pile into Jane’s van. Kat ran up to him instead. “What’s going on?”
“SHIELD has got wind of Thor being here. He needs to go back to Asgard as soon as possible.”
“Wait, why would SHIELD present a threat…”
“Kat,” he said sternly. “There are three words you need to always remember. Never. Trust. SHIELD. Now, get in my car.” He turned back to the others. “Thor! Grayson! With me! The rest of you get back to the research lab and lock all of the doors.” Stark made a move as if to follow them, making his way almost to Coulson’s car until the agent stopped him. “Don’t. Even. Think. About. It. You go back to the lab and you barricade yourself inside. If anyone comes, THEN you use the suit. Kat is safe with me.” Stark shot Kat a look that told her to stay safe, and then reluctantly climbed into Jane’s van with the others.
Coulson’s car kicked up a sandstorm as he raced towards where the team had found Thor. No one said a word, not even the Asgardian. They stopped in front of the circle, everyone bailing out.
“It’s not time for my father to send for me yet,” Thor said, concerned, as they stood around the circle.
“That’s why I brought the two of them here,” Coulson said. “Grayson, you stand on one side of the circle. Kat, you stand right across from him.” They moved to either side. “Now, Thor, in the middle. HURRY, we don’t have much time.”
As Thor stepped into the middle of the circle, he asked, “Are you sure this is going to work?”
Coulson sighed. “I sure hope so. Okay, Kat, Grayson, I need you to focus. Close your eyes. Now, focus an image in your head of the cross pendants around your necks.” They did as he said. “Okay…” He stepped back. The circle was starting to fill in, the patterns turning from black to the strange blue shade that Kat’s eyes turned when she was excited or ecstatic. Thor looked around him in wander, turning from Kat to Grayson, and then back again. The light grew brighter.
Grayson struggled to see through the light to where his brother stood in the middle of the circle, making out a faint outline of the Asgardian.
The light faded as Thor’s words echoed in Grayson’s head. Both Thor and the pattern on the desert sad were gone, washed away by the blue light. He stared, blinking, straight ahead at where his brother had just been a few seconds beforehand. His gaze shifted to Kat, who was just as shocked as he was. She fell to her knees a bit clumsily, and he ran to help her up, only to have her collapse completely into unconsciousness in his arms.
“What’s happening?” He demanded of Coulson as the agent stepped up and knelt beside them. Coulson seemed cool and calm, but still a little concerned over Kat’s wellbeing.
“It took a lot of energy out of both of you to make that connection, which is why we can’t rely on using that as a bridge, especially with the pattern gone.” Coulson’s gaze traveled from Kat to Grayson, whose vision was starting to get blurry. “Don’t panic. I’ll get the two of you back to the research lab, and you can get some rest there.”
Those were the last words Grayson heard before he plunged into darkness.
The sunlight illuminated the back of the lab where Kat and Grayson lay on the mattress they had shared the previous night. They gained consciousness about around the same time, taking deep breaths to make sure they were both all right. Grayson gently pushed a lock of golden blonde hair back from Kat’s face, leaning in to kiss her on the forehead, so glad that she was safe.
After they both gained enough energy to stand up and walk, they joined the others in the main area of the lab, where they were having a quiet discussion about the next step.
“We need to evacuate the area now,” Coulson said. “It’s too dangerous for any of us to be here.”
“Did you desert from SHIELD?” Mike asked, which was an extremely good question. Kat froze, her breath caught in her throat. Deserters from SHIELD were in great danger. Coulson had told her horror stories of people who had deserted for reasons good and bad, and had been hunted down by the organization in order for it to keep its secrets.
“No, I’m still working on the inside. But, they’ll be coming around here, asking questions. All of you need to get back to Atlanta now.”
As they loaded up the back of Jane’s van, Darcy turned to Kat. “Well, it was an interesting break. We met Grayson’s brother and discovered that Grayson’s actually from Asgard.”
“Yeah, well,” Kat looked up at the sky and frowned. “Unfortunately the break’s not over yet.”
“We need to be ready to go to Phase Two as soon as possible,” Coulson said to Stark. They were alone in the research lab.
“What about Phase One?”
“Phase One won’t work now. We have people missing. There are people who aren’t supposed to be here. Phase Two is the way to go.”
Stark contemplated this for a few moments. “We don’t know half of the people in Phase Two,” he argued.
“Yes, but taking it off of American soil is the safest thing for us right now.” Coulson paused. “When the time comes…it’s their safety over keeping us all together here in the States.”
There was silence before Stark answered, “Fine. We’ll go with Phase Two,” before exiting the research lab.
“Are you sure you don’t want to drive?” Grayson asked Kat as he put the last of their bags into the trunk of the blue car they had rented. They stood in the parking lot near her complex a few days later.
“No, you look like you’re tired of riding around everywhere.”
“Hopefully, we won’t run into any more of my Asgardian relatives on this trip,” Grayson joked as they both slide into the car. “Now, um…where are we going?”
The trip to southeast Georgia was pleasant, warm, and sunny. For the most part, Grayson had no trouble driving on the correct side of the road, though he was constantly worried about drifting over to the wrong side.
They stayed the next few days in Kat’s childhood home, walking up and down the countryside and simply enjoying being together, SHIELD, Asgard, the worries of the past few months far away. They drove up and down the highway that wound through the county, laughing and talking about memories from their grade school days, both here in this quiet farming county in Georgia and in the countryside of England.
The night before they left to drive back to Atlanta, they drove past Kat’s old school. “Looks like they’re having a party,” Grayson observed, reading off the sign, “Welcome Class of 2010. Wait…” He turned to Kat with a mischievous smile. She groaned. “Weren’t you in the Class of 2010?”
“No, wait, Grayson…” She protested as he pulled into the school.
“Come, one. Just for five minutes. Five minutes, that’s all.”
“Grayson, wait!” She said as they both got out of the car. She chased him halfway across the parking lot. “Wait, Grayson, it’s just that…um…I didn’t really have many…I just didn’t get along with most…”
He slipped an arm around her waist. “Five minutes,” he repeated.
Kat was able to make conversation with several of her former classmates, who all seemed to be surprised and happy to see her there. They asked her about Mike and introduced themselves to Grayson, most with surprise over the fact that Kat had a boyfriend at all.
Kat caught the eye of a girl standing in the corner, and froze. “Um…I think we should go now.”
“What is it?” He looked to where she was looking.
“Nothing, I…we just had a falling out, that’s all…I think we should go…”
“I…” She shrugged. “We just had a disagreement.” She laughed nervously. “She told me I would never get a boyfriend at the rate I was going. That guys don’t really like smart girls.”
She instantly regretted those words. “We’ll see about that,” Grayson muttered to himself, dragging her in the girl’s direction, until she finally had to walk with him to make it look natural.
“Oh, hi, Kat.” The girl plastered a fake smile on her face.
“Hi, Taylor,” Kat said nervously. She was very aware of Grayson’s arm around her waist.
“I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Oh, it’s my Spring Break, so I decided to come back down to spend a few days at the old house.” Grayson was watching her expectantly, so she sighed and said, “This is my boyfriend, Grayson.”
Clear shock registered on Taylor’s voice, which grew deeper when he said, “Nice to meet you,” in that clear British accent of his. The rest of the conversation was awkward, with Taylor shooting Kat disbelieving glances.
“We really shouldn’t have done that,” Kat said as they walked across the parking lot to their car.
“I just don’t understand why anyone would have said that to you.”
She sighed. “I was…and still am…very nerdy, very awkward, and have very few friends.”
“Yes, however, at the same time, you are very smart, very kind, and have a group of very close friends,” he said, opening the door for her to get into the car. Once he slid in beside her, he muttered, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something,” he said with a smile. “After all, you are the Chosen One.”
It was early evening as they approached the halfway mark to Atlanta the next day. It was starting to rain, and Grayson was starting to get nervous. “Maybe you should drive,” he said.
“Okay, just drive for a few more miles, and we’ll switch at the next town,” she said calmly, though she always hated driving in stormy weather. The weather just got worse as the sky grew darker and the town grew closer.
“Kat…” Grayson clutched Kat’s hand tightly before returning it to the steering wheel. His face was pale. Everything was pale. In fact, everything suddenly became white.
There was a screech and a crash. Then everything went black.
Lights danced before her eyes as she tried to regain focus. Sounds started filtering in.
That was Stark’s voice. She forced the lights to stop dancing in front of her eyes. She tilted her head over until she could just make out her father’s outline in the chair next to her. Finally, her vision focused, and she could see the intense worry on his face.
“Where am I?” She moaned.
“The hospital. There was an accident. Drunk driver hit you.” Something was wrong. There was something in his voice that told Kat things were not all right. “You’re okay…a few stitches. You’re lucky. The car hit your side of the seat.” Some emotion showed through his voice.
Kat fought to focus her thoughts, but one stood out amongst all the rest. “Is Grayson okay?”
Stark avoided her eyes. “No, Kat…” He took a deep breath. “Grayson is not okay. He’s dead.”
23rd May 2013, 6:23 AM
The lights above Grayson’s bed slowly came into focus. For a few seconds, he was confused as to where he was before the sights and sounds of the hospital hit him. A few minutes after he woke up, the door opened, and Coulson walked in.
“Good to see that you’re up,” he said, standing beside Grayson’s bed. His face was somber. “You’re lucky to be alive. A few bumps and bruises, that’s all.”
Grayson groaned. “How long have I been out?”
“About three days.”
He paused for a few moments before asking, “How is Kat? Is she okay?” He waited, breath held, as he watched Coulson’s cold mask disintegrate for a few seconds into pain before building itself back up again.
Coulson took a deep breath, and said, “Kat is gone. She was dead before the paramedics arrived.”
Grayson could feel his entire world crashing down around him. “No…” He protested. “No…she can’t be…” Coulson looked away as panic struck the young man. “She can’t be, she was the Chosen One! How could she not have survived that crash?!”
Coulson paused before answering. “We’re not sure yet. We’re still investigating what happened. In the meantime…I know it’s sudden, but you should consider going back to London for the time being.” With that, Coulson left the room.
Grayson barely noticed his absence, staring up at the ceiling as his mind whirled through what Coulson had told him. Kat was gone. The girl who had burst out of the cabinet, who had tried to discover what had happened to all of those people, who had searched hard for the meaning behind it all was gone.
The girl with that bright smile, that laugh, that fake glare that she reserved for her father when he was teasing someone, which she thought was funny, but she couldn’t let anyone else know, was gone.
The girl with the brilliant blue eyes who had fallen asleep so easily in his arms was gone.
Feeling his heart start to break, Grayson placed his head in his hands and burst into tears for the angel he had lost.
Stark stepped back into Kat’s hospital room to see her fully dressed and sitting on the side of her bed, staring down at her hands. He stepped over, clearing his throat before saying, “I was thinking it would be a good idea for us to stay at the house in Malibu for a few days. School may be a bit much right now.” There was no answer, so he knelt down until his eyes were level with hers, his heart breaking. He had been here before. After Caroline’s death, the shock and pain of losing her was almost unbearable, created more so by the loss of his daughter. Seeing Kat go through this…he wished he could take all of the pain away.
He wrapped his arms around her as she burst into silent tears, holding her as she mourned for her lost love.
“I’m sorry to be practically kicking you out of the country, but it’s not safe for you here while SHIELD undergoes its investigation of the crash,” Coulson said as he led Grayson through the small airport. They stopped right before the terminal. “All of your things from Kat’s apartment have been loaded on board.”
There was a pause. “Is it okay if I contact Stark?” Grayson asked. “I know he probably won’t want to speak to me…”
“What makes you say that?”
“I was the one driving the car…”
“He doesn’t blame you, Grayson,” Coulson said firmly. “He just wants to make sure you’re safe. That’s what Kat would have wanted,” he said, his voice straining with emotion.
“The best thing for you to do right now is go back to London. Spend some time resting there. I’ll contact you when I can.” Coulson walked away, leaving Grayson to board the plane by himself.
Stark dropped Kat’s bag in the middle of the living room. “This is the living room. Kitchen. My room is over there. Yours is right beside it. The shop is downstairs.” He paused. She was in a daze, not quite sure what to do. He sighed, putting hand on her shoulder and leading her to her room. “Why don’t you get some sleep.”
“No…” She muttered. “I…” She looked toward the couch. Stark understood. She didn’t really want to go to sleep without knowing that he was still there. She quickly fell asleep on the couch as Stark searched for some blankets, laying one over her and giving her a hug before descending to his workshop below.
Punching the numbers for Coulson’s cell phone into the display on his workshop computer, Stark could practically feel the rage building up inside him. The past twenty-four hours, he had watched his daughter mourn. She barely spoke, burst into tears at random times, and her eyes took on a look of pain that Stark had not seen anywhere else except for in the mirror.
As the phone rang, Stark tried to contain the fury in his voice. Coulson knew what he was doing. He always did. Stark never really particularly liked any of the agent’s plans when it came to Kat, but they had always turned out to have the desired results. But this, this was cruel…Making Kat mourn over someone who was still alive, an ocean away, mourning HER death at the same time. He had had no contact with Grayson, which Coulson should be glad about. He knew how much Grayson had loved…no…loved…Kat…
He swore loudly, knocking off everything that was on the desk in front of him. A glass shattered, the alcohol forming a puddle in the middle of the workshop floor. Yes, Kat was mourning as he had…but Grayson was sitting on the other end of the Atlantic blaming himself for her death…JUST AS STARK HAD CAROLINE’S. He had the upmost sympathy for the young man, and it physically hurt him…Grayson probably had not called because he thought Stark blamed him for the death of his daughter, which he would not have done, but he understand why no call was made to him in the first place.
Finally, FINALLY, Coulson picked up the phone. Stark bit back all of his rage, opting for a terse, stern tone. “What is the next step?” He practically snapped as Coulson answered.
“Wait three days, then take her to London.” Coulson knew Stark was on edge. Best thing would be to keep the conversation short. Coulson had better be glad that he had earned so many points for Stark’s favor by raising his daughter, because now, Stark believed, he was really, really, considering strangling the agent the next time he saw him.
“What about Grayson?” Stark asked, letting a little bit of his fury lace through his words.
“We’ll get him there as well. Just hang on for three more days.”
“Yes, okay, I’ll hang on…continuing to watch my daughter break down the same way I did twenty years ago…yes, I’ll do that, THANK YOU.” Before Coulson could say another word, Stark ended the call, standing up and storming from the workshop. Grabbing his keys and leaving a note for Kat explaining where he went, he stepped out of the house.
And nearly ran straight into his assistant, Pepper Potts, whom he had not seen in a few months since he had moved his base of operations to New York.
“Oh, hey, I was driving by and saw that you were home, so I stopped by, is there…” She trailed off, noticing something was wrong immediately.
Pepper’s mother was a Rogers, as had been Caroline’s father. They had been cousins and went through college together, which was where Caroline had met Stark. Pepper had been the one to introduce them, and, after Caroline’s death, had taken her cousin’s place as Stark’s assistant. She was one of the very few people in the world who knew what he had gone through over the past twenty years, as well as one of the very few people who called him “Tony.”
Stark nodded inside, and Pepper quietly followed him as he led her into the living room. She stopped, staring at Kat’s sleeping form on the couch. There was no mistaking it. She looked so much like her mother.
“Oh my God…” Pepper whispered, turning slowly to look at Stark. He didn’t look as happy as she thought he should have been, considering that he had been reunited with his daughter. Yes, something was definitely wrong. They stepped back outside again, Pepper starting to get angry that Stark had not contacted her about finding Kat.
But Stark cut her off before she could yell at him. “I have to…have to go run an errand right now…and I don’t really want to leave her alone…” Pepper instantly knew from his strained voice where he was going.
“Tony,” she said firmly, knowing that drawing information out of him in situations took patience. “What’s wrong? You’ve been waiting for over two decades for this…and you’re acting as if…as if Caroline’s died all over again.”
Stark thought for a few moments before he spoke, “Kat was in a car accident.”
Pepper’s heart sank. “Is she okay?” Kat LOOKED okay. She wasn’t dead, and she was home from the hospital, but that didn’t mean she was mentally okay.
And then the dread turned to utter sadness as she watched the pain in Stark’s eyes as he spoke. “No. Her boyfriend was in the car with her. He didn’t make it.” He glanced over to his car, and Pepper knew he didn’t really want to speak further on the subject. She understood. His heart was breaking for Kat. He had known her pain.
“Go on…I’ll make sure she’s okay while you’re gone,” Pepper said softly. Stark nodded in appreciation and headed for his car. She watched him drive away, her heart going out to him.
Grayson stood in the middle of his London apartment for about an hour after he arrived, not sure what he was supposed to do now. The most pressing matter was to make his way to Cambridge and turn in his master’s thesis, but he didn’t have the heart to do that. He had finished it the week before, and Kat had begged him to let her read it. Grayson had assured her, once he handed it in, he would give her a copy. She had been so excited…
He gasped with pain at the memory. Trying to distract himself, he thought over the message that was on his answering machine. He had moved temporarily to America without telling his parents and had not called either of them in months. He could stand not talking to his father, but his mother had always been there for him…He wondered if they knew who he was. They probably didn’t…and the thought brought him full circle to Kat.
He contemplated calling Stark. No. It was too soon. He had wanted to go to her funeral, but Coulson had not contacted him with any details, so Grayson assumed that he would miss it. Finally, he decided that the next course of action was to go to Cambridge in three days’ time, which was sufficient enough time to prepare himself emotionally to hand in the paper that Kat had been so excited to read.
Not prepared to face the waking world without her, he decided to try and sleep. He spent a half hour tossing and turning before he realized how futile that was if he wasn’t truly tired.
Grayson had spent the last month or so sleeping with his arms around her.
Kat shifted to the side of the sofa, bleary eyed and searching for her father, who had been in the room when she fell asleep. She shifted to a sitting position, irrational panic rising in her. What if he was gone as well…?
“Would you like some coffee?”
The woman’s voice drew her attention to the kitchen. Tall, with blonde hair the same color as Kat’s, the woman looked tired and wary, as if she knew what had recently happened and wasn’t quite sure how to approach her. She tried to give Kat a small smile to comfort the girl.
“I’m your father’s assistant, Pepper Potts,” she said, introducing herself to Kat. “Your mother was my cousin and best friend growing up.” That explained the hair. The Rogers family hair color was that same golden blonde shade. “I’m…Tony told me about your boyfriend. I’m so sorry.”
Kat stared down at her hands. “Where is he?”
Pepper paused. “He…stepped out for a little bit. He left you a note…”
“Did he say where he was going?”
“No…but I know where he went…” She paused, and sighed. “Let me write down the address for you.
A loud knocking on Grayson’s door woke him up from his fitful sleep. Opening the front door, he was surprised to see his friend John standing there. “I didn’t know you were back…” He said, leading John inside. “When did you get back to England?”
John sighed. “About a week ago. I tried to look you up, but no one really knew where you were.” He leaned on the cane he was using to walk.
“Gunshot wound,” he said simply. “They discharge me…I’m renting a flat down at Baker Street now with probably the strangest flat mate ever…” He mused. “So…where were you?”
Grayson took a deep breath and looked outside. It was night out, but it was clear.
They walked towards the small park around the block. “I spent the last few months in America,” Grayson explained. “I originally went there to work on my thesis, but I ended up staying a few extra months.”
“Oh…any particular reason?” A pause. John was decent at reading people. “Did you meet someone?”
“Yes, I did.” Grayson’s tone told his longtime friend that something was wrong.
“Are you taking a break or did she break it off with you?” John asked as they stopped under a streetlight.
Grayson paused, pain clouding his eyes. Now John was certain something was wrong. “She…She died.”
John stared at him in shock for a few minutes until he finally said, “Oh my God…What happened?”
“A car accident. I shouldn’t have been driving…”
“Grayson, I’m sure it was an accident. Please, don’t do this…” There was a long pause before John spoke again. “She must have meant a lot to you,” he mused.
“She was…she was everything to me…”
Kat walked down the rows of the large cemetery, her eyes searching until she found the row marked “S.” About halfway down, she spotted Stark kneeling before one of the graves. Her heart sank as she stepped closer. He didn’t notice her for a while as she read the grave marker. Caroline Rogers Stark. Loving wife and gentle mother. August 31, 1965 to December 19, 1991. She had died exactly three months after Kat was born.
Kat knelt down beside her father, wondering what Grayson’s grave marker was going to look like. A mental image flashed in her head before she could stop it. Grayson Strauss. February 9, 1988 to March 18, 2013. She choked back a sob, trying to shake the image from her mind.
“His funeral is in three days,” Stark finally said in a low voice. “It’s being held in London.” He paused, asking, “I’ll take you to it, if you want.”
Kat sighed. “Yes…I…want to go…” She wrapped her arms around herself, shivering even in the Malibu heat. Father and daughter sat together in the cemetery for a while longer, both mourning the loves of their lives.
Grayson spent the next few days alternating between sleep and taking walks with John, who tried his best to comfort his friend, even though he knew the pain was too great to go away so soon. Finally, Grayson got out of bed, got dressed, and made his way to Cambridge to turn in his master’s thesis.
His faculty sponsor asked him if he had any plans if his thesis was approved. Grayson absolutely had no idea. Without Kat, even reading Shakespeare’s plays seemed hollow to him. Maybe he would return to America…but for what?
After leaving his sponsor’s office, he wandered around the campus for a while. Kat had wanted to come here so badly. She had never traveled out of the country before. Grayson had promised to take her to London that summer…
He turned to see a well-dressed woman holding a cell phone and wearing an exasperated expression on her face.
“Yes?” Grayson asked.
“I’ve been sent by Agent Coulson. He wants to see you.”
He was instantly suspicious. “How do I know he sent you?”
She sighed and held up her phone, pressing the speaker button. Coulson’s voice sounded over the phone. “Don’t worry, it’s me. You’re going to want to come to this meeting.”
Kat stepped into a nice wood-paneled office, looking around at the long table illuminated by the large windows. “Just stay here for a few minutes,” Stark said, motioning to the table. He seemed a bit off, but she sat anyway. Stark left, closing the door behind him and cross the hallway to another office, where a well-dressed man with a sharp expression sat, looking through several folders.
Coulson stepped into the room, looking from the man to Stark, who simply glared at him. The man sighed. “We’ll give them a few minutes to themselves. Then, we have a lot of explaining to do,” he said in a British accent.
Grayson stepped into the office he had been ordered to wait in. He could make out a long table, some chairs…the sunlight reflecting off of the polished wood…then his heart stopped. She was turned away from him, standing up, staring out of the window. But he knew it was her.
He rushed around the side of the table, alerting Kat to his presence as he threw his arms around her, burying his face in her golden blonde hair with a sob. She was just as shocked to see him. “Grayson…?” She whispered as they both dissolved into tears.
“I thought I had lost you…” He whispered, holding her tighter and kissing her cheek. They stood there, locked in each others’ embrace for a few seconds. He kissed her deeply, shock turning to relief. She was real. She was not dead. This wasn’t a dream…
The door to the office opened, and they pulled away from each other to turn to the two men entering the room. Coulson followed behind a man with rather stern and sharp features. Neither of them recognized him.
“Please, sit,” Coulson said, motioning to the two chairs on their side of the table. Kat sat across from the stern looking man, quickly grasping for Grayson’s hand underneath the table and lacing her fingers through his, as if if they lost contact for a while, this would all turn out to be a dream.
The stern-looking man folded his hands in front of him, studying Kat and Grayson before he spoke, “You’ve both traveled a long way to be here today, so we’ll try and keep this meeting brief.”
There was silence before Coulson joined in. “I want to apologize to both of you. We had to get you both out of the country without SHIELD noticing, but not at the same time…if either of you had known…well…we couldn’t guarantee you would have run away to find the other person. I’m sorry.” He fixed Kat with a sad look. “You know how much it hurt Stark especially to like about this. Please don’t blame him. It was our idea.”
Kat and Grayson were angry for all of a few minutes, but their relief was too great for it to last. The stern man leaned back in his chair. “I believe it is now time to discuss Phase Two.”
“Phase Two?” Kat asked, confused.
“Yes. The group who killed everyone in that library has been identified. A large portion of SHIELD is involved in a mission that is known as the Aquapolian Initiative. Stated simply, they wish to destroy all Aquapolians on the planet. They started two decades ago…and we created a response team, but, unfortunately, the timeline has messed up, so we’ve had to fill the gaps in the team.”
“And, it will be much more safe to form the team here on British soil, where SHIELD holds less power,” the stern man pointed out.
“Mr. Holmes is in charge of the British unit of this operation…or at least on getting us on the good side of the British government. We have a list of people…a group of people who will be making their way here over the next few weeks. Stark will finance us. Barton will train us.”
“In the meantime, you will need to sign this document placing you under the protection of the British government,” Holmes said, producing the documents from the folder he had with him. Kat gave him a defiant look. “I assure you, Miss Stark, this does NOT include placing you under our custody.”
“We’ve found an apartment for the two of you to live in,” Coulson continued as Holmes placed pins down in front of them. “Grayson, you can continue with your studies at Cambridge as we get everything sorted out.”
“And, Miss Stark, I’ve found you a position working here at the Diogenes Club. Several of the members of our group are patrons here.”
There was silence as Kat and Grayson stared down at the contracts in front of them. Kat looked from Coulson to Holmes and back again. “Who is going to be the leader of this team?”
“You are. As the Chosen One, you’ve always been the one who should lead us,” Coulson explained.
Kat nodded, taking up her pen hesitantly and signing the document, Grayson following suit. There were a few moments of silence before Kat asked, “So, what is our group going to be called.”
Holmes smiled. “The Avengers.”
25th May 2013, 2:48 AM
Kat and Grayson stared around at the apartment they had been dropped off at. It was an extremely nice, extremely modern penthouse in the middle of London. Everything was happening so fast that neither of them were able to fully comprehend what was going on. Finally, Grayson slipped his arm around Kat’s waist and she leaned her head against his shoulder, staring out at the dark London sky, illuminated by the lights of the city.
“Are you tired?” Grayson asked softly. Kat nodded. She was exhausted. He sighed. “I’m going to take a shower. Don’t…” He tried to smile jokingly, but she knew he was serious. “Don’t wander off, okay?”
Kat sighed and sat down on the sofa, only to jump up once again when a knock sounded on their door. She opened it, and Stark stepped in, not looking at her as he strode into the middle of the room. After a few moments, he turned around, pain glistening in his eyes. “God, Kat…” He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I…I didn’t want to do this…”
“It’s fine,” she interrupted a bit sharply, making him flinch. She softened her tone. “I don’t blame you. I know Uncle Phil and Holmes came up with this plan. Uncle Phil didn’t look too happy about it, either…and I know how much…how much it hurt.” She sighed. “I’m just glad…that he’s alive…”
Stark nodded. “So, I take it you signed the contract?”
“Yeah. Guess I’m not going back to America anytime soon,” she said, trying to smile.
“I have…some business to attend to here in London, so I might be here for a few weeks…or months…” He said, smiling a bit and causing her to give a genuine smile. “To hear Coulson talk about it, this team was supposed to be made of some serious hero-type people…now we’re just trying to dig up whoever will come and join us.”
“Join the Avengers,” she corrected.
“Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with that name. Coulson came up with it, I had no part in it.” He sighed, looking around. “So, I’ll call you tomorrow. You need sleep.” He hugged her good-bye before stepping out of the apartment.
Kat slid into bed a few minutes later, listening to the sound of the shower and the business of London. She sighed, slipping into a half-asleep state.
A few minutes later, she was woken up by Grayson gently wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close, trying desperately not to wake her up, but failing. She wrapped her arms around his chest.
“Just be real…” He whispered, pressing his lips to her cheek. “Just be real, and I’ll promise…I’ll read my thesis to you every night…I love you…” She drifted off to sleep, those words echoing in her mind.
Grayson was searching the kitchen for coffee the next morning when his phone rang. “Hello?”
“I’ve been informed that you’ve got a new apartment…” John said. “How does one move somewhere overnight?”
“Have you talked to anyone strange lately?”
“Just give me the address of your new place, and I’ll be over as soon as possible.”
The coffee maker was still going by the time John made it to the apartment. He looked around, an impressed look on his face. “This is nice…How…?”
“Oh, no, we’re not paying for it.”
“So, yesterday, my flat mate’s brother showed up and told us about this new team and mission and whatnot called the Avengers. Do you know what that’s all about?”
“Trust me, it’s a long story.”
John studied him, frowning. “Has something happened? You seem more…” He searched for the right word. “…happy today? I mean, not that you shouldn’t be, just…”
John turned to see Kat emerging from the bedroom, a large smile on her face. He frowned, turning now to glare at Grayson, who rushed to explain. “Oh, Kat, this is John Watson, my friend from school. John, this is Kat Stark, my girlfriend.”
“Oh…” John said as he shook hands with her, thoroughly confused. “…you’re not dead…”
She laughed. “Yeah, that’s a bit of a long story, sorry.”
“Are you by any chance related to Tony Stark?”
“Yes, I am, he’s my father,” Kat said cheerfully.
John nodded. “Back when Stark Industries did military contracts full time, my unit worked with an American unit that was supplied with weapons from the company.” He laughed. “Highly effective. I know he had his critics, but I do believe many American and British soldiers owe their lives to him.”
“You should tell him that the next time he stops by.”
“He…he’s in London?” John asked, wide-eyed.
“Yeah, he has business here for the next few months…mostly involving the Avengers.”
“Speaking of parents…” John turned to Grayson. “Your mum has been calling everyone on her contact list asking where you’ve been the past few months. You should probably call her back before she starts asking the police to find you.”
Grayson sighed. “I need to go out to the estate soon. I left some books there I need to pick up...and, I need to introduce you to my mother,” he said to Kat with a smile.
“Yeah, she’ll love you. Unfortunately, you won’t have that much luck with Strauss.” John and Grayson traded looks that said volumes about what they thought of the latter’s father. “Anyway, Mycroft informed us last night that we’re having a small team meeting at Baker Street, which is why I came to find you.”
“Let’s go, then,” Kat said, rushing back to the bedroom to get her coat.
“I have to warn you now about anything my flat mate says. He’s a bit blunt…and rude sometimes,” John said as they approached the apartments of 221B Baker Street. He unlocked the front door, shouting out, “Mrs. Hudson?! I brought company!”
Mrs. Hudson appeared in the doorway to the downstairs flat, giving Kat and Grayson a warm smile. “Please, come in, come in.”
“Kat, Grayson, Mrs. Hudson. Mrs. Hudson, this is my best mate Grayson Strauss and his girlfriend Kat Stark.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Kat said warmly.
“Oh, darling, your accent is precious,” she said, smiling. “Where in the States are you from?”
“Well, I was born in California, but I spent pretty much my entire life growing up in Georgia.”
“Please, please, make yourself at home. The meeting is upstairs. Would you like a cuppa, dear?”
Kat frowned, confused, until Grayson leant down and whispered in her ear to explain that Mrs. Hudson was offering her a cup of tea. She brightened up, “Oh, yes, ma’am, thank you!”
“Okay, I’ll bring it right up to you.” She paused, looking from Kat to Grayson for a split second before saying, “What a darling couple,” and disappearing into the kitchen, leaving both of them blushing in the hallway before they followed John upstairs.
“Now, don’t introduce yourselves just yet,” he said as they entered the living room upstairs. “Let him do his thing or he’ll be cross.”
Standing in front of the fireplace, staring at what seemed to be hundreds of crime scene photos tacked up around the mirror, was a man who seemed to be a year or two older than Grayson and John, with black curly hair. He was tall and lithe, but not as tall as Grayson. There were a few moments of silence before John cleared his throat. “We have company.”
“Yes, I know,” the man said, not taking his eyes off of the pictures. “Don’t tell me…” He closed his eyes, his back still turned to them. “One British man, one American girl. Both in their early twenties. We’ll start with him first. Well-spoken, comes from a well-to-do family, old money, most likely not reaching his father’s expectations when it comes to a career path, which mostly likely has something to do with the liberal arts instead of the practice of law. Very tall, at least a foot taller than the girl…and he’s older as well, by at least three years. They’ve been dating for, let’s say, no more than three months…they’re relationship has been strained lately, but with good consequences, you can tell that whatever happened forced them closer together. Family death perhaps?”
He didn’t even stop to hear the answer to his question. “Now, the girl. Early twenties, college student, mathematically minded, but not as intelligent as someone else in her family close to her…she’s afraid of whoever this is believing she is a fraud due to this. Raised in the South, mostly likely rural Georgia telling from the accent I heard in the hallway. She was not raised by her parents, but by a close family friend. Also comes from money, but new, not old. Likes animals, but does not own any right now. Well-read, but not as well-read as her boyfriend and is ashamed to admit it lest he think less of her. Small circle of friends, but extremely loyal to them. I could keep going on and on, but you’ve got the point.”
John sighed. Kat glanced at Grayson before stepping up to get a closer look at the pictures the man was staring at. “Kat Stark,” she said, introducing herself.
“Yes, I know.” He paused a few moments before saying, “Sherlock Holmes. And the man with you must be Grayson Strauss.”
Kat studied the pictures in front of her. The photos displayed victims hanging upside down from ceilings, their throats cut and blood pooled around what looked to be a pentagram on the floor. She shuddered. “Any idea who did this?”
“Yes. Unfortunately for us, it means bad news…whoever performed this murders is in league with the Aquapolian Initiative.”
She frowned. “How can you tell that?”
“Because all of these victims are Aquapolian…”
Kat could make out voices from the hallway as Mrs. Hudson stepped in. “Kat, your father is here.”
Stark stepped in behind her, taking one look at the forest of photos and saying, “Well, then, don’t know what to make of this.”
Sherlock made to begin talking, but John said, “No, don’t,” firmly enough to shut him up.
Sherlock sighed, turning around finally. “Is everyone here so we can get this over and done with already?”
“Wow, you really have team spirit, don’t you?” Stark asked sarcastically.
“Mr. Stark, I’m in the middle of a case that could very well prove to be essential to our own safety right now. If the…Avengers…was created to protect Aquapolians, this case is extremely relevant to our cause.”
“You must be Sherlock Holmes.”
“And you must be…what was it, you have so many names…Iron Man, genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist? By the way, how is that murder case coming?” There was silence as Stark glared at him. “It was the first that the Aquapolian Initiative performed, wasn’t it?”
“Listen…” Stark said, stepping closer and putting on his biggest smile. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to be working with a great mind such as yourself, but if you continue to do that deduction thing to me, I will punch you in the face.”
“Please?!” John blurted out before he knew what he was saying. Everyone glanced at him, and he cleared his throat. “Anyway, what should our meeting be about?”
“When is everyone else getting here?” Kat asked, her question directed at Stark.
“Coulson and Holmes predict over the next two weeks. There are three more members already here in London who will be brought in over the next week. Other than that, we’re on our own.”
“I’m sorry to ask, but what exactly are we supposed to be doing?” Grayson asked.
“Preparing ourselves, waiting for a sign, investigating SHIELD, etc.” Stark shrugged. “We’ll get a clearer picture once everyone gets together.”
“Whoever is killing these Aquapolians…once we find out who it is, we should see if we can corner them,” Kat said. “You’ll tell us if you find out anything, won’t you Sherlock?”
He looked up towards the ceiling with an exasperated look on his face. “Of course, I’ll tell you. A bit slow, though, we’d have to assemble the team all together…”
“Then just call us on the run,” Kat suggested, sighing.
“There’s just one question that remains.”
“And that is?”
Sherlock turned to fix her with his gaze. “How long until one of us plays the victim?”
Kat’s alarm clock sounded loud and clear. She groaned, reaching towards it to turn it off, hitting the top and groaning again, not wanting to get up out of bed. When she tried to get up, however, Grayson was holding on so tightly to her, she couldn’t get up. “Grayson…Grayson, I have to get up. I’ve got work,” she said, trying to free herself from his grasp.
“No…” He muttered, half asleep. “You’re staying here.”
She sighed, pulling his arms apart and finally stumbling out of bed and towards the bathroom. By the time she was finished showering and getting dressed, Grayson was up and standing in the kitchen, making coffee and toast. He looked up from what he was doing, looking her up and down. Mycroft had informed her that she had to dress well for the job, so she had chosen a business skirt, blouse, and high heels. “Wow…” He said, stepping forward and wrapping an arm around her waist. “You look good.” He gave her a gentle kiss before pulling away and offering her a cup of coffee.
Kat sighed. “I really just want to go back to sleep. It’s way too early for this.”
“I agree,” Grayson said, leaning against the counter. “But, it will keep you busy until we decide what we’re going to do.”
“I can keep myself busy without a job. I mean, I’ve never been to England before. You could take me to all of the cool places.”
He laughed. “We can do that on the weekends.”
When it was time to go, Kat checked to make sure she had her keys and phone and everything. Grayson was watching her with a concerned look on his face. “What’s wrong?”
“I…just be careful, okay?”
“Grayson…” She said softly. “I’m coming back after work.”
He nodded, placing both hands on her shoulders and kissing her as if he never wanted to let her go. “Have a good day at work,” he said softly.”
Kat stood in the lobby of the Diogenes Club, wondering exactly what she was supposed to be doing.
“Are you Kat Stark?”
The thick Scottish accent drew her attention to a young woman with pretty long red hair. She looked to be around Kat’s age and wore a nice black and green dress. When Kat nodded, she smiled, holding out her hand to shake Kat’s. “I’m Amy Pond. I’ll be working with you. Please follow me.” Kat followed her to the offices in the back. Mycroft was where he had been yesterday, sitting at a desk and reading the newspaper.
He looked up when Kat and Amy stepped in. “Ah, there you are. You’re late, Miss Stark.”
Kat frowned. “I was here at 8:00.”
“Tomorrow, be here at 7:50. Your internal clock must still be on eastern standard time. Now, Miss Pond here will show you around and give you a rundown of what your job will be here. I’ll see you at the end of the day.”
“Follow me,” Amy said, leading Kat into an office a few doors down. After settling in with some coffee, Amy began. “Now, most of what we do here is go through all of the books and archive, make sure we have the novels and tomes and whatever that the patrons want. We also do upkeep of the kitchens and bring them coffee, tea, brandy, whatever throughout the day. Also, in the main sitting room of the club, you are not allowed to talk. Tradition. They will have notepads to write on if they need anything from you. Also, most of them are prominent citizens. Don’t really speak to the patrons unless they speak to you first. Got it?”
Kat’s head was spinning, but she understood. “So, what do I do first?”
“We just got in a shipment of books from Cambridge. You need to set them up by content in the western library. Don’t worry, you can talk there.” Amy gave her a friendly smile. Lunch is at noon. Tea is at four. Stop by here at five till noon and I’ll show you a café a block away with the best sandwiches in London.”
“Yes, Mum. Yes, I was thinking of coming up on Saturday. I have someone I’d like you to meet.” Grayson was sitting at the bottom steps inside Baker Street. “Yes…yes, she’s American.” He frowned. “No, you don’t have to tell Dad yet.”
After ending his call, he sighed, looking up at the ceiling above him as John came out to sit down on the steps above him. “Don’t you have work to do?”
“Not until they give me word on the status of my thesis,” Grayson sighed. “Until then…with Kat at work…I don’t have much to do.”
“Good. Would you like to help me with my blog of anarchy?”
“Your what?” Grayson turned around to look at his friend.
“The Aquapolian Initiative already has the names of all Aquapolians worldwide, so why not get them all together in one place to talk about a rebellion of some sort?” John explained, showing Grayson the blog on his computer.
He frowned. “Once SHIELD sees this, they’ll tear it down.”
“Not if we have Tony Stark write the encryption…and only Aquapolians we pass through security checks that Coulson will operate will be able to access it.” John smiled. “We could post bulletins, stories, everything.”
There was a screech nearby, and Grayson pretty much jumped, turning to see Sherlock tuning his violin. “A support group for Aquapolians? It could be better used as an information network to catch this murderer that’s on the loose.”
John nodded. “You’ve got a point.”
“How is the case going?” Grayson asked, wincing as Sherlock tried a few squeaky notes out on the violin, completely ignoring his question.
John sighed. “You think Stark would be open to writing this program?”
“Yeah, it seems like something right up his alley.” Grayson continued to wince as Sherlock continued to play, purposefully playing out of tune. Grayson turned to glare at the detective, who didn’t seem too fazed by him. “Why don’t we go speak to him about that now?” The two friends left the apartment, leaving Sherlock to himself to think.
“Thought so. By the way, your eyes are gorgeous.”
Kat was taken aback by this compliment. “Wow…thanks…”
“Do they really change colors with your mood?”
“Pretty much. They get like electric blue when I’m pissed off.”
“Scary. Okay…um…my favorite color is yellow.”
“Oh, that’s a tough one. Argh. Um. Dracula.”
Kat laughed. “No, seriously, that’s an awesome book. Okay…I guess mine would be…ugh, you’re going to think I’m such a nerd. I really really really like the Song of Ice and Fire series.”
“No way,” Amy gaped. “I just started on that. Okay…” She thought hard, then smiled mischievously. “Do you have a boyfriend?”
Kat smiled. “Yes.”
When she didn’t continue, Amy groaned. “Could I have some more details, please?”
“Okay…he’s British. Tall. Red hair. Goes to Cambridge.”
“Is that why you came to England?”
“Yeah…yeah, it is…He came to stay with me in America for three months, though.”
“He’s a keeper.”
Kat nodded, glancing across the street and not believing her eyes when she saw Grayson and John walking down the other side of the street. “What are you staring at?” Amy finally asked. John happened to look their way and stopped, forcing Grayson to look over, smile, and wave. “Oh my god, is that him?” Amy pointed, gaping. “You didn’t mention how hot he was.” Grayson started to cross the middle of the street. “And how dead he’s about to be if he gets hit by a car.”
“We’re heading to Stark’s apartment to ask for his help with a project,” Grayson explained as soon as they were within earshot.
Amy looked expectantly at Kat, who did introductions. “Wait, if you’re not in a hurry, stay and eat lunch with us,” Amy insisted.
“We don’t want to impose,” John said. “Besides, isn’t it close to the end of lunch hour?”
“Oh, crap, you’re right!” Amy said, jumping up from the table. “We have to go, Kat!”
“See you at home,” Grayson said as Amy and Kat rushed back to the Diogenes Club.
“Isn’t Amy Pond on the list?” John asked as they continued their walk to Stark’s apartment. When Mycroft visited Baker Street to inform Sherlock and John that they were in the Avengers, he had let them briefly look at the list of names. Some of them hadn’t made sense at all, but Amy’s he remembered, mostly because there were only four girls’ names on that list.
Grayson thought for a moment as they rounded the corner and entered the lobby of a very nice modern-style apartment complex. “Yes, I think so. I wonder why she was added.”
John shrugged. “Maybe they just wanted normal Aquapolians for the team as well. Expand the cause beyond our group. Hopefully…” John mused as Grayson pushed the button on the elevator for the penthouse apartment. “…this blog will move the cause around the world.”
Kat sighed, sitting on the bottom run of the ladder she was using to put books on the top shelf of a large, gorgeous mahogany bookshelf. Any other time, she would have run her hands along the wood, breathing in the smell of the books and imagining that this must be what heaven was like. But with three more large boxes of books to alphabetize and shelve, Kat couldn’t see an end in sight. After a few minutes of rest, she forced herself to begin again, letting her mind wander to after work. Her mood brightened a little as she anticipated going home, sitting and chatting and eating and laughing with Grayson. They’d stay up a bit, reading or working or simply talking in the dark. And, finally, she would fall asleep in his arms, as she had for months, his arms wrapped around her protectively and her head resting on his chest, listening to his slow breaths…
“Excuse me, do you happen to have a Thoreau up there by any chance?”
Kat nearly dropped the book that she was trying to shelve. She hadn’t heard him come in at all, and his voice had startled her enough to make her almost fall off of the ladder. “Whoops! There you go!” He said, lunging forward to grab the ladder and steady it before she slipped off.
About as tall as Grayson, the man had brown hair that stuck up in all directions at the front of his head. Glasses perched in front of a pair of curious eyes, and a closer inspection would reveal that he was wearing tennis shoes with his suit, an odd combination that actually worked. He didn’t look or act at all like one of the usual stuffy patrons and he was a good twenty years younger than them as well.
He smiled once Kat regained her grip on the ladder. “I don’t remember seeing you around before…usually it’s just Miss Pond here.” He presented his hand for her to shake. “John Smith, at your service.” She couldn’t hold back her smile at his name, and he shot her a mock glare. “Hey, now, I’m being serious. And what might your name be?”
“Kat Stark,” she said, shaking his hand. “I just started working here today.”
A knowing smile spread across Smith’s features, but he quickly turned to conceal it. “Now, Miss Stark, please tell me if you see a Thoreau up there.” Kat wrinkled her nose. She always hated reading Thoreau. He and the other transcendentalists got on her every last nerve. He noticed this and laughed. “Not a very big fan of his, are you?” He looked back and forth and leaned in, whispering in a conspiratorial tone, “Neither am I, I’m just picking up a book for my brother. He’s awfully fond of the genre.”
Kat searched the bookshelf and sighed. “I’m sorry, there’s no Thoreau up here.”
“Well, that’s both good and bad. Bad that I have to keep on searching. Good that we don’t have any nineteenth century American authors hidden in our bookshelves. Awfully stuffy place for them to be.” Kat laughed at his joke, instantly feeling comfortable around him. For some reason, though, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she knew him at one point.
“Anyway, I bid you welcome to the Diogenes Club. I really have to go and find this book for my brother. I promised I’d bring it home.” Smith nodded to her and left with an exclamation of “Alonns-y!” and a salute.
“A revolutionary blog that will only be circulated to known Aquapolians who wish to bring down the Aquapolian Initiative and SHIELD. Anarchy at its most modern and finest…”
Grayson and John watched Stark muse over this for a few moments, John visibly nervous. Finally, after a few minutes, Stark said simply, “I like it. Show me what you have so far.”
Stark stared at the blog on John’s laptop for a few minutes before saying, “Yeah, we’re going to have to encrypt this. Right now Thor could break into it.” The joke was lost on John, but Grayson smiled in appreciation. “Send me the code. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Do you think we should tell Coulson and Mycroft about this?” Grayson asked.
“They’ll probably say no…so let’s keep it our secret for the time being before we can make a believable pitch to them.”
John’s cell phone rang. “Hello?”
“Meet me at the address I just texted you in twenty minutes.” Sherlock hung up before John could even ask why.
“Who was that?” Grayson asked.
“Sherlock. There’s probably been another murder.”
“Well, let’s see if we can find out anything from it, then,” Stark said, grabbing his coat and following John and Grayson out the door.
“I thought you were just bringing your roommate, not an entire team,” an inspector with grey hair complained as John, Grayson, and Stark walked up.
“Believe it or not, this isn’t the entire team. We’re only a fraction of the team,” Stark said.
“Who are you?”
10th June 2013, 5:51 AM
“The better question is, who are you?”
Grayson and John sighed, and glanced at each other, taking silent bets for how fast Stark could get himself in trouble with the British police. The inspector crossed his arms and gave Stark an “are you kidding me?” look. “I’m Chief Inspector Lestrade, and I’m supposed to be here.”
“And I’m CEO Tony Stark, and I just came here because I wanted to.”
Lestrade turned his look to John, who sighed, searching for words to explain. “This is Grayson Strauss. He’s a friend. And you met Stark. He’s…also a friend.”
“A friend of Sherlock’s?” Lestrade asked, not believing it for a second.
“Right now, we’re just at the acquaintance stage, though, if he stops being annoying for more than five minutes, we might eventually reach a casual friend stage further down the line,” Stark said, sparing John from explaining.
“Which means you’ll never get there.”
“Right,” Stark nodded. “Now, can we go inside?”
One of the crime scene techs ducked out of the room, looking confused at the three newcomers. “Are they supposed to be here?”
“I haven’t quite decided that yet,” Lestrade shook his head, about to say more before Sherlock’s voice coming from inside the room cut him off.
“They stay,” he said simply. Lestrade sighed, exasperated.
“Why do I get the feeling I’m going to be doing that more often in the future?” Stark asked Grayson.
“Believe me, you’re going to want to punch him by the end of the day,” Lestrade pointed out, leading them into the room.
“He’s already threatened to do that,” Sherlock said, not turning from what he was observing.
“Really?” Lestrade had a new-found respect for Stark., who simply nodded. Lestrade nodded back, impressed.
“Everyone out except for these three!” Sherlock barked. He was circling around the crime scene like a vulture, his eyes taking in every little detail. He seemed completely immersed in his own head, only shouting orders every once in a while for people to follow.
Lestrade sighed, but did as he said, saying to Stark, “Let me know if you actually carry out that threat. I’d like to watch,” before leaving the room.
Stark was about to say something, but Sherlock must have instantly sensed it, because he said, “I need complete and utter silence from you for the time being, Mr. Stark. Would you like it if I bothered you while you were working in your laboratory? THIS is my laboratory, and I need you for the time being to keep quiet unless I need your scientific expertise. The two of you may speak, but I doubt you’ll have anything to contribute.”
“Why do they get speaking privelages?” Stark couldn’t help but whine. John couldn’t help but smirk. Sherlock had met his match. Usually, he just annoyed people. Now, he was annoying someone who knew how to bite back.
“Because, frankly, Mr. Stark, you annoy me.”
“Right back at you, buddy.”
Sherlock turned for a few moments, a silent staring contest forming between the two geniuses. John could practically feel the tension in the room. Grayson, however, was too busy actually taking in what was in front of him.
It was a middle-aged man, plain t-shirt and jeans, hanging upside down from the ceiling by a rope tied around his ankles. His throat was cut, blood pooling on the floor around where his head dangled. Another pentagram was drawn in blood on the floor around him. It was a gruesome scene, but he couldn’t take his eyes away from it. His vision was starting to get blurry.
“I’m sorry…” He said, breaking through the staring contest that was going on at the moment. “I think…I think I’m going to go home. Kat will be home from work soon, and I want to be there when she gets back…” He said quickly, ducking out of the room and practically fleeing the scene. The other three stared at his retreat.
John frowned. “It’s never been like Grayson to be squeamish…”
Sherlock turned, studying the pentagram on the floor. “No…no, not at all…” He mused to himself, kneeling down to look more closely at it. “I do believe we’re going to have to wait until a few more members of our team….who are experts on these matters…arrive.”
“Ugh…” Kat groaned, flopping down on the couch face first and kicking off her heels. “I can’t feel my feet,” she said, a bit muffled by the pillow she was talking into. She squeaked when Grayson sat down on the arm of the couch, grabbing one of her feet and massaging it.
“How could you cause so much damage to your feet in one day?”
“I’m not used to wearing high heels all day and I was standing most of the day, plus I walked there and walked back.”
Grayson glanced outside. “Make sure you catch a cab if you walk back at night.”
“Yeah, sure, thanks for giving that advice to someone who goes to school in Atlanta.”
Grayson thought for a few moments as he grabbed her other foot, causing her to groan with pain as he tried to get feeling back in her foot. “There was another murder of an Aquapolian today. I went out to the crime scene with John and Stark. There’s something strange about those markings on the floor.” When Kat didn’t respond, he frowned. “Kat?” He looked over and sighed. She had fallen asleep. He poked her leg, waking her up. “Would you like to take a shower and change before you fall asleep?”
She groaned again, slowly sitting up on the couch and snatching up her high heels. “Fine…” She said, wincing as she tried to walk in bare feet towards the bedroom.
“Do you want me to carry you in there?”
“No, I…ack!” Without waiting for her answer, he scooped her up and carried her to the other room, practically dropping her on the bed.
“Now, take a shower, I’ll fix you something to eat, and then you’re going to sleep.”
“Ugh!” She said, stretching out on the bed.
“Fine, fine, I’m going…”
After showering and eating, Kat sat on the bed facing the large windows, inspecting the damage on her feet. “I wonder if I’m going to have to keep this job up for very long.”
“Maybe we can petition Mycroft to let you have a few days of freedom a week,” Grayson said, sitting down beside her. “By the way…John said that Amy Pond is on the list.”
“Really?” Kat asked with mild interest, sticking her legs straight out in front of her. They were so short compared to Grayson’s…even compared to Amy’s. She wished for the red-haired girl’s height, wondering if she and Grayson made an awkward-looking couple due to the extreme height difference between the two of them. “I wonder if she knows already…I’ll ask Mycroft tomorrow. Better not blurt it out right in front of her if Uncle Phil and Mycroft have a plan to tell her.”
Grayson grabbed her leg playfully, causing her to shriek in surprise. “Sherlock and John got a much better look at the list than we did…” He mused. “I’d like to see who else is on there.”
“Like I said…I’ll ask Mycroft about that tomorrow…” She sighed, flopping backwards on the bed and staring at the ceiling. “I’m too tired to even think about all of the training and planning we have ahead of us…We don’t even know how we’re going to tackle all of this.”
“One day at a time,” Grayson said softly. Kat always seemed to worry incessantly about the future. The months he had spent with her at school had taught him that Kat would freak out about an exam two weeks in the future, nervously pacing, her mind on how she would divide up her study time…and forget about her sleeping the night before. She would nervously toss and turn until Grayson tightened his grip enough on her to force her to lie still for the rest of the night. He had tried his best to comfort her, especially after an exam that seemed to go horribly.
“By the way…” He continued, not sure if this was the best time to bring it up. Another thing for Kat to worry about, really. He knew what he was about to say would make her nervous. “I’m going out to my parents’ estate this Saturday, mostly to visit with Mum. I was wondering…if you would like to go with me…?”
He waited with held breath as she pondered his question. To his surprise and relief, she smiled. “Sure…that would be great. I’d love to meet them.”
Unfortunately, he mused, his father wouldn’t love to meet her. He had been completely taken off guard when Stark adamantly encouraged Grayson to start dating his daughter. He had never seen any parent so enthusiastic about their children’s choice of partners. His father had tried to set him up with a daughter of one of his business associates, but that had failed no matter how hard the girl tried…What really had put Grayson off from her had been the fact that she was interested in the money he would inherit…not Grayson…
Kat was not disinterested in Grayson’s money because she had her own fortune to inherit…she was simply not interested because she cared about him more than his wealth. He wondered what his father would say once he told him that he was dating the heiress to Stark Industries. There was a difference between old and new money. The Strauss’s were from old money and tended to look down on those who were of new money, such as the Stark’s. Grayson thought that was stupid, especially since those with new money had earned their fortune in his eyes.
“We may need to put off your parents meeting Dad, though.”
Kat’s comment caught him off guard and he burst into laughter. After a few more seconds, the thought made her start giggling as well, though not as much as Grayson, who was trying to imagine his uptight father meeting Tony Stark. A few seconds later, he realized Kat had stopped laughing. He turned to see that she had fallen asleep, worn out after her first day of work. He sighed, gently sliding his arms underneath her and lifted her up, placing her head down on her pillow and pulling the covers over her before sliding under them beside her.
“New recruits coming in today. Look sharp at your posts.”
Coulson’s text went out earlier that day to all of the team members. Some of them shrugged, wondering what the new recruits would be like. Others simply disregarded the message, too caught up in what they were doing to care.
Dean, however, sighed as he flipped his phone shut. He hoped that this team wouldn’t be military-style, requiring training and orders and all of that. He and his brother had been called to England solely because their demon hunting skills were needed. He wondered if demons in England took on British traits. It would feel good to punch a tea drinking demon in the face.
They were fast approaching their first stop, a really nice hotel building in the middle of London. Dean would have preferred to drive everywhere in the city (what he would have MOST preferred was to drive his Impala around, but he had had to leave it in America), but walking proved to be more convenient at the time.
Pushing some of his floppy brown hair back from his eyes, Dean’s brother Sam looked up at the address printed on the building in front of them. “This is it.” He whistled. “Looks nice. This team must have some serious sponsors.”
“If it’s the British government, I’m bailing. If it’s the American government, I’m still bailing,” Dean said under his breath. “We aren’t contracting our skills out to people…”
“May I help you?” The man standing at the concierge desk asked. He was dressed nicely in a tailored three-piece suit. As Sam told him the specifics that they had been briefed on over the phone, Dean looked around, admiring the modern feel of the hotel. Mahogany, glass, full-length waterfall. Not his cup of tea, but it would be pretty awesome to stay here a few nights.
Sam and Dean took the elevator all the way to the penthouse suite. When they stepped out into the living room, Dean whistled. “Yep, we’re being sponsored by real money here,” he said, striding through the room, observing the chairs and the view out across the skyscrapers of London.
“You don’t find this the least bit suspicious?” Sam asked from his spot by the elevator.
“Of course I do, Sammy, I just think we should hear them out a bit…”
“And duck out on your opportunity to kill demons? That’s not the Winchesters I heard about.”
They turned to see Stark leaning against the entrance to the kitchen. Sam instantly knew who he was, but Dean didn’t recognize him. “So, are you our sponsor?” Dean asked.
“Of course he is,” Sam said. Dean shot him a confused look. Sam sighed. “Tony Stark? CEO of Stark Industries? Arc reactor technology?”
“Oh, yeah, no, no, I know who you’re talking about.”
“So, to answer your question, yes, I am your sponsor,” Stark said. “Well, the financial sponsor at least. We have some political sponsors as well.”
“Now, before that last part scares you away…” Dean and Sam turned to see Barton stepping out of the hallway from the other side of the penthouse. “Rest assured, we are not a government organization, nor are we run by a government. We’re self-financed, self-sponsored…In fact, we’re actually rebelling against a government organization.”
“Which one?” Sam asked.
“SHIELD,” Stark said. “Ever heard of it?”
“What is that, like the CIA?” Dean asked.
“More powerful than the CIA,” Barton corrected. “And ten times as worse. They’ve been killing Aquapolians throughout the US for decades. We’re here to form a response team to them.”
Dean’s hand instinctively went to the Aquapolian pendant hanging around his neck. “Yeah, so, what do demons have to do with this?”
“We believe demons may be involved in a recent rash of Aquapolian murders here in London,” Barton said. “We’ve found several devil’s traps, which seem backwards…we needed to call in some experts.”
“And we’re the experts? How did you find us anyway?” Sam asked.
“Bobby Singer,” Stark said. “He’s had connections with the good side of SHIELD…our side…for years. You don’t get into the demon hunting business without finding other demon-hunters…”
“Bobby recommended us? Why didn’t you just ask Bobby for advice on the phone?” Dean asked. “He’s ten times as qualified as we are…plus, you made us lose track of a demon we were chasing down in Florida.”
“Dean…” Sam warned.
“No, I don’t care who these guys are. We hunt demons, but we are not consulting demon hunters you can just rent out.”
“We send you back to America, what are you going to do?” Barton asked.
“See if we can re-track that son of a ***** in the Everglades.”
“No, I meant about SHIELD…They’re killing Aquapolians, and, as you can see, some of your contacts are on their list. You go back, you are sitting ducks. You stay here, you can fight on a better foothold.”
“What about Bobby?” Sam asked.
“He’s safe. One of our mutual friends in the department assured that,” Stark said. “Listen…” He said, mostly addressing Dean. “I’m not exactly one to encourage team spirit, but what we’re doing here may involve the biggest fight against demons Aquapolians will have faced since the Fall of Old Aquapolis. So, you can either be in on the action or wait for it to cross the pond.”
Dean thought about this for a few moments. “Fine,” he said finally. “We’re in. What do you want us to do?”
“Go to this address,” Barton said, holding up a business card. “From there, you will be sent to two more addresses. Final place is where you’ll get fully briefed on our mission. Understood?”
Sam took the card. “Understood.”
“By the way, did you bring any of your equipment with you?” Stark asked.
“So these are the salt rounds? How much damage can you do to a normal person with these?” Stark asked a few minutes later, picking up a large cartridge and examining it. He and Dean were standing before the small concealed arsenal in the back of the car.
“Meh, not too much, just like a beanbag round.”
“Unless you up the speed by a good amount.”
“Yeah, well, if you want to make a super cool new gun that shoots salt rounds at like three thousand miles an hour, go ahead, but that is overkill.”
“What’s up with the knives?”
“Pure silver.” Dean said. “Some of them Aquapolian forged.” He pointed to the symbols on the blades. “Our ancestors were the first demon hunters on the planet. Their language was good for exorcisms, too, just hard to learn, so we stick with Latin.”
They looked up to see Barton and Sam standing impatiently on the curve. “If you guys are done playing, the Winchesters have somewhere they need to be in a few minutes,” Barton said, raising an eyebrow.
“Can I borrow this?” Stark asked, raising the knife he was holding.
Dean raised an eyebrow. “What, are you going demon hunting tonight or something?”
“Nah, just have someone who can tell me what these symbols mean.”
“Fine, take it. Let’s roll, Sammy.”
As they drove towards the next destinations, Sam turned to his brother, giving him an odd look. “What?” Dean asked.
“How did you go from hating Stark to like hanging out with him in three seconds?”
“He’s a pretty cool guy once you get to know him.”
“You got to know him in three seconds?”
Dean shrugged. “Takes a cool guy to know a cool guy, I guess.”
They pulled up in front of the next address at Baker Street a few minutes later. Dean knocked on the front door. “Okay, what’s next?” He asked himself and Sam.
Mrs. Hudson opened the door. “Oh, they’ve been expecting you upstairs! Please, please, come on in.” They followed her into the hallway. “Would you like some tea or coffee?”
“No thanks,” both of them said at the same time.
“They’re both upstairs. Make yourselves at home.”
Dean and Sam walked up the stairs and into a small living room. Sherlock was staring at the crime scene photos from the last few Aquapolian murders, and John was sitting at his computer, working on his blog. He looked up as Sam and Dean entered the room, but Sherlock did not turn around.
“Oh, hi, you must be the Winchesters,” John said, standing up and shaking Dean and Sam’s hands. “I’m John Watson. I run the team blog.”
“We have a team blog?” Dean asked as Sam stepped forward to look at the crime scene photos.
“It’s more a blog to reach out to other Aquapolians in the area or in the US. It’s still a work in progress, but, eventually, it will help us fight the Aquapolian Initiative.”
After a few moments of studying the photos in silence, Sam said, “These are devil’s traps.”
“Yes, yes they are…” Sherlock mused without turning towards him.
“We must be dealing with a high level demon, then.”
Sherlock turned slightly towards him, only mildly interested in what he had to say. “Yes?”
“Well, in ancient Aquapolis, from what I’ve read, only two people made devil’s traps: Aquapolians who wanted to trap low level demons and high level demons who wanted to show off their handiwork in killing Aquapolians.”
“Jesus, so we’re facing up against high level demons as well?” John asked.
“Yeah, that’s why we’re here,” Dean answered.
“Ah, yes, the demon hunters,” Sherlock said, turning around. “Sherlock Holmes,” he said by way of introduction before he turned back to the photos.
“Wait, THE Sherlock Holmes?” Sam asked.
“How is it that you know all of these people?” Dean asked.
“I watch the news and read, Dean. He’s one of the most famous detectives in the world…the only consulting detective that exists.”
“So these were all done by a high level demon?” Dean asked, stepping forward to look at the photos. He whistled. “Looks like we’ve got a fight on our hands.”
“It’s more than one demon,” Sherlock said, turning away sharply from the pictures and grabbing his coat.
“Where are you going?” John asked.
“To follow the next lead on this demon,” Sherlock said before leaving without another word.
“Oh, yeah, bye to you, too!” Dean shouted after him, turning to John with a what’s-up-with-him look on his face.
John shook his head. “His mind is pretty much caught up twenty-four seven in his cases.” He rummaged in his pocket, retrieving another business card. “Here’s your next stop.”
“ANOTHER penthouse? Seriously, are we going to become this loaded once we join this team?” Dean asked as the elevator carried them to their next destination.
“Well, when you work with Tony Stark, you’ve probably got some perks…” Sam said as the doors opened up onto a small hallway. Dean knocked on the front door.
After a few seconds, Grayson opened it. “You must be the Winchesters.”
“Yeah. I’m Dean, this is Sam.”
“Grayson Strauss. Please, come in.”
“Man…nice place you’ve got here,” Dean said, admiring the glass and steel sleek modern look the apartment had. Sam stepped towards the floor to ceiling windows, admiring the view. Grayson joined him.
“I guess we don’t get to find out our true jobs yet at this stop?” Sam asked.
“No, I’m sorry, we promised not to tell.”
Kat stepped into the room. Dean turned around, smiling. “Dean Winchester,” he said, shaking her hand.
“Any relationship to Tony Stark?”
“Yes, he’s my dad.”
“That explains the apartment,” Dean smiled flirtatiously. “Could you set me up with one of these?”
Kat cringed. “Well, this is awkward.”
“It doesn’t have to be.”
“Well, it is.” She leaned forward, and, in a loud whisper, said, “My boyfriend’s standing right over there.”
“Oh, Jesus, I’m sorry,” Dean laughed, turning to where Grayson stood, an are-you-kidding me? Look on his face. “Dude, sorry. Should have put that together.”
Grayson shook his head. “No worries. Honest mistake.”
“So, um, what are your roles in the team?” Sam asked.
“Have you heard of the massacre in the New York library?” Kat asked.
“Yeah, a group of people came in an killed everybody. Why?”
“There were two survivors.”
Sam and Dean glanced at each other, realization sparking in their eyes. “That’s what started all of this,” Grayson said. “SHIELD was after some documents in that library related to Aquapolians. We were just lucky that they didn’t catch us.”
“So, you’re the two that started this team?” Dean asked.
“Not really, but, technically, I’m the leader of it,” Kat said. “Seeing as I am the Chosen One.”
“Called it,” Sam said. “I knew the Chosen One was involved.”
“No you didn’t. Stop lying,” Dean said. “So, we’ve got angels and Aquapolians fighting demons…”
Grayson cleared his throat. “An half-Asgardian and half-demon fighting demons as well.”
Dean looked at him in disbelief. “Are you serious? You’re a half-demon?”
“Hm. Never met a half-demon before…” He mused.
“Anyway, um, do we get a business card from you?” Sam asked.
“Oh, yeah,” Kat said, digging a card out of her pocket.
“How long have you been hunting demons?” Grayson asked Dean, who was slying pulling a vial out of his back pocket.
“Oh, since I was like maybe ten. Our dad was really big on the demon hunting stuff, so, we started early. Mostly motivated because our mother was killed by a demon when we were young…” Dean said, slowly unscrewing the top as he spoke. Grayson turned to talk to Sam, and Dean saw his chance, throwing the vial’s contents (water) in Grayson’s face.
“Dean, seriously?!” Sam asked as Grayson sputtered, a little surprised by the assault.
“Sorry, I had to. Guess holy water doesn’t work on half-demons, huh?”
“No, it’s okay,” Grayson said as Kat ran into the kitchen to get a towel. “I’m just getting used to the idea myself. I only found out recently…”
“Well, um, this has been fun,” Sam said as Kat handed Grayson a towel. “I guess we’ll go on to the next house…”
“You have got to be kidding me, man!” Sam said as they walked out to their car.
“What? I had to try it!”
“First time meeting this guy we have to work with, and you throw holy water in his face? What if you just insulted him?”
“Yeah, well, whatever, he didn’t look insulted, just amused. Let’s go to the HQ, okay?”
“The Diogenes Club?” Sam asked, reading the sign out front of the building as they walked up the steps.
21st June 2013, 10:25 PM
“What kind of club is this?” Dean asked as they stepped into the lobby.
“A club for intellectuals,” answered Amy as she walked into the room. “Amy Pond,” she said, shaking hands with each of them. “Please follow me and we’ll meet the others.” Amy led them into the back office of the club, where John Smith, Mycroft, and another man dressed in a tweed suit jacket and a bowtie sat around a long table.
“Ah, the Winchesters,” Mycroft said, barely looking up from where he sat. “Do please sit. Will you have something to drink?” Dean glanced over to where the two other British men sat. One, John Smith, was studying them with curiosity sparking in his eyes. The other’s eyes literally twinkled with amusement, as if her were at the edge of shouting a barrage of questions at them. This team was certainly a cast of characters, Dean mused, which meant that, at the very least, this job would be interesting.
After both of the brothers asked for tea (I mean, it was England, why not? Dean thought, though he stopped himself from making a snide remark about tea, it wouldn’t be taken lightly here), Mycroft looked up from what he was reading, regarding both Winchesters with a cool gaze. “I would like to introduce the other set of brothers on our team…so far, that makes three sets…and with Kat and Tony Stark on the team, it’s veritably full of family. Should be…interesting.” His tone of voice suggested that, to the contrary, it wouldn’t be. Sam shot Dean a look as if to say I-know-you-want-to-mess-with-this-guy-but-don’t-for-right-now. “May I introduce John and Mark Smith.”
“I’m John, this is Mark,” the older looking of the brothers said, gesturing to himself, then to the man with the bowtie. “Technically, we’re not brothers. We’re more like…eh…would you say adopted?”
“Yes…yes…adopted,” Mark said, nodding his head in agreement. “Not biologically related really at all…”
Dean gave them a friendly smile. “Well, I’m Dean, this is Sam. We are…biological brothers. Not adopted. No matter how much Sam claims he is.”
Sam gave his brother a look. “I do not claim that I’m adopted, Dean, I’m just a little different from the rest of the family, that’s all…”
Mycroft cleared his throat, causing everyone to look over at him. He turned to the Smith brothers. “If you would kindly give me a few moments with the Winchesters…”
“Oh, yes, of course!” Mark said as he literally sprang up from the table. Now that Dean saw him in action, he looked and moved like a gangly newborn deer. John nodded and stood up as well. He was taller and smoother than his brother, but his eyes were darker as well, as if he carried some hidden burden on his shoulders.
Once the Smith brothers left, Dean and Sam turned their attention back to Mycroft. “Now…to business. The team that we have brought together, most of which you have already met today, is called the Avengers. We are fighting against the Aquapolian Initiative…well, we will be…once we get a more precise look at their operations with demons here in London. For the time being, we are on call…You are free to do what you wish here in London until something happens…EXCEPT for the mandatory training sessions three times a week and a group session on Saturdays. Barton will be running those. We have a meeting tonight at Stark’s apartment. 8:00. Do not be late.” Mycroft leaned back in his seat, studying the brothers. “Any questions?”
“Yes, um, are accommodations included?”
“If you need help paying for accommodations, Stark would be glad to do so. He said that you may choose anywhere, as long as it is not in the same building as any other member of the team. We want to keep ourselves spread out.”
Dean turned to Sam, raising his eyebrows. “Anywhere?”
Mycroft sighed. “Yes, anywhere. I suspect that the two of you are used to low budget accommodations. I would suggest you take advantage of Stark’s kind offer.”
“All, right,” Dean smiled, “Let’s go Avengers!”
“Why aren’t Coulson and Mycroft showing up tonight?” John asked from his spot on one of the many couches in Stark’s living room.
“Because they’re just the sponsors…they aren’t actually part of the team,” Barton pointed out.
There was a knock on the door. “It’s open!” Stark shouted across the apartment from where he was standing in the open kitchen. The door opened to reveal Dean and Sam.
“Wow, I did not expect us to be early,” Dean said as they stepped in.
“Want anything to drink? We’re having pizza later,” Kat said from her seat on the arm of the couch John was sitting on.
“Pizza? Wow, you guys know how to party,” Dean said as Sam sat down on the couch between Kat and John. Dean took the offered beer from Stark. He turned to where Grayson was sitting in a chair beside Kat. “Hey, look, sorry about earlier…”
Grayson smiled. “Perfectly fine. I would have been curious myself.”
“What happened?” John asked.
Sam sighed. “He threw an entire vial of holy water into Grayson’s face.”
Sherlock, who was sitting on a couch by himself, and Stark simultaneously smirked. John burst into laughter, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“What are we kidding about? What’s so funny?”
They turned to see Mark and John Smith striding into the room. John wore the same suit he had worn earlier, but with a long brown overcoat thrown over it. Mark looked to be his cheery self. It was he who had asked about the laughing. Barton repeated what had been said. John merely chuckled, but Mark seemed to get a huge kick out of it. “Now, that is the Aquapolian spirit! Try things out, experiment,” he said, motioning to Stark, who was confused. “Oh, I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself to most of you. I am Mark Smith, John’s younger brother…adopted.”
Grayson smiled warmly. “Join the club.”
“Ah, yes, well, not in this life you aren’t…but your older brother is a bit…erm…more boisterous than mine. Still, though, grew up on separate sides of the Hall of Origin, family dynamic is still the same, huh?”
Kat at first thought it was the combination of Mark’s British accent and his fast way of talking that kept her from understand half of the words he said, but, as she looked at John and Grayson’s confused faces (and Sherlock’s barely-interested one), she reasoned it was just the fast talking that threw everyone off.
Amy was the last to arrive, introducing herself to everyone and taking a seat in a chair next to Sherlock of all people. “You work for my brother, don’t you?” He asked, barely looking up from his phone. Kat wondered if he was trying to solve his next case on it.
“Yes, for, let’s see…erm…five years now?”
“Scottish. Twenty-two years of age. You graduated from university, but not with…”
“Sherlock…” John said, a warning tone in his voice as Amy’s eyes widened, totally caught off guard and confused by what was happening.
The young detective sighed as if it were a great burden to hold back his powers. “Fine…yeah…sorry that you have to work with my brother day in and day out,” he said before returning to his phone.
“Well!” Kat exclaimed, catching everyone’s attention. “It looks like we’re all here, so let’s get started, shall we?” She felt a little nervous with everyone’s eyes on her. She was the Chosen One, right? This should go well, right?
John Smith cleared his throat. “Um, not to interrupt, but, after our official meeting and discussions and scheduled things, Mark and I have something we absolutely MUST discuss with the rest of you.”
“Okay,” Kat smiled. “Now, we’ve all introduced ourselves to each other…and we all know why we’re here.” Her voice automatically took on a grave tone. The scenes from the library flashed in her mind and anger and resolve swelled up. Those people who had killed all of those innocents…they were going to pay. “There are three major things we have to focus on tonight. First of all, investigations are currently underway to capture the demon or demons and/or SHIELD agents who are killing Aquapolians here in London. Sherlock, I believe, is working on that.”
Sherlock glanced up from his phone. “Close…” He muttered. Kat could tell that he was so focused on the case, he barely noticed what was going around him. Well, that was good at least…the killer would most likely be found soon.
“Do you mind if I help out?” Sam asked from his spot across from Sherlock. John raised an eyebrow. It was doubtful that a snide comment would not issue from the detective on behalf of this request.
Instead, however, Sherlock shrugged. “I could use someone who is well-versed in demon history, terminology, and…killing. Very well, then.” Sam seemed super pleased, but his new partner seemed barely interested.
“Well, that’s settled. Once Sherlock and Sam figure out who is committing the murders, we’re going to capture them…”
“Wait…so, we’re NOT going to the police?” Amy asked, a bit worried.
Mark waved that notion away. “The police? That would be boring. No, the police would have no chance against these killers. We’ll catch them ourselves.”
“With…a ragtag crew of…what? We only have one assassin in our group and a few hunters and…”
“Iron Man!” John Smith announced, grabbing everyone’s attention.
“Wait, what? You mean that superhero guy?” Dean waved that away. “Seriously, Iron Man?”
“Come on, now, Iron Man is cool,” Stark protested. Dean turned to him, raising his eyebrows in an “are-you-serious-right-now?” gesture.
“Oh, come on, it HAD to be you, didn’t it?” Dean threw his hands up in the air. “Of course, well, it makes sense, you being a genius and all.”
“Well, technically, being a genius wouldn’t have immediately drawn you to the conclusion that Stark was Iron Man, though he is. For example, Sherlock also qualifies as a genius, and, by today’s IQ standards, my brother and I do as well, but none of us clearly built the suit,” Mark pointed out.
Kat was worried that Dean was going to say something snide, but he simply shrugged. “Touché.” Mark had that effect on people. A genuinely happy person, he discouraged people from putting him down or raining on his parade.
“No, but, Amy, we’ll be fine. I believe that is the second item on our agenda?” Barton asked, glancing over at Kat. “May I take this one?” She nodded, and he strode out into the middle of the room, exuding deadliness and confidence from every pore. “Now, to face up against our enemies, we need to train…and train hard. Every one of you will turn in blood samples so that we can determine your element…and then we will train you to use your element. I will send out an email with individual training times this week. You will work in pairs. Saturday is group session time. NEITHER of these is optional. YOU WILL show up.” He turned to look at Sherlock.
Sherlock merely gave him a gesture that said “okay,” so Barton continued. “When the call goes out that Sherlock and Sam have discovered who we’re fighting against, we will make our strategy and go from there. Understood?” Every muttered agreement. “Okay, next to last item?” He asked, moving to the side to give Kat back the floor.
“Okay, Dad and John have set up what will be a website/blog for us to reach out to other Aquapolians…it will be encrypted enough to keep SHIELD from hacking in…they’ll give you your passwords later on tonight.”
“So, what, this is like MySpace for Aquapolians?” Dean asked, gaining a chorus of weird looks from the others. “What?”
“When was the last time you were within a few feet of a computer?” Stark asked.
“Okay, listen, I am busy HUNTING DEMONS. Sammy does the research, I do the killing. That’s how it works. Me and computers don’t get along, okay? Now, I’m sure I can navigate this blog simple enough, but that’s it.”
Before Stark could make another snide comment, Kat barreled ahead. “The Smiths? You had something you wanted to bring up at the end of our meeting?”
Mark and John looked at each other, obviously not sure which of them should speak. Mark cleared his throat. “Has anyone here heard of time lords before?”
Sam nodded. “Yeah, they were a sect of priests in ancient Aquapolis, Aquapolians who could control time and imbue objects with the power to travel through time and space. There were indoctrinated in groups of twelve…”
“Who needs the internet when you have Sam?” Dean asked.
“Exactly correct on all accounts, except for Dean’s comment, the internet is actually a very amusing place with its Wikis and its interesting facts, though I recommend avoiding Tumblr. That place is dangerous,” Mark said.
“Anyway, what Mark meant to explain was that we are time lords,” his brother said.
“You’re time lords?” Stark asked skeptically.
“Yes, we are time lords,” John Smith replied back. “Technically, our names are not John and Mark Smith. I am Ten and this is Eleven.”
“Those are numbers, not names,” Dean pointed out.
“Thank you so much for your wise insight, Winchester, we would have never figured that out,” Sherlock said, rolling his eyes.
“When you are indoctrinated into the Knights of Time…or sect…you forget your birth name and acquire a number one through twelve,” John Smith said.
“We would actually prefer that you call us by those names. Haven’t heard them in quite a while,” the man whom they formerly called Mark said.
“Okay, I don’t want to be a Doubting Thomas over here, but, could you please elaborate? Didn’t all of the time lords die out at the Fall of Aquapolis?” Barton asked.
“All but two of us,” Ten said. “We found an object we could create a mini-TARDIS out of…then we traveled until we could find a more permanent one.”
“What’s a TARDIS?” Amy asked.
“Glad you asked that!” Eleven exclaimed, turning to Ten. “Shall we show them?”
The rest of the team followed Ten and Eleven down to the basement of the apartment complex, where a blue police box stood. “I’m not an expert, but isn’t that supposed to be outside?” Dean asked Grayson.
“I actually haven’t seen one of those in years,” Grayson replied.
Ten unlocked the front of the box and swung the door inward. “Kat, would you like to be the first inside?”
“We’re not all going to fit in there,” Dean said, then turned to Sherlock. “I swear to God, I’m going to punch you.”
“I failed to say anything,” Sherlock said.
“Wow, two people on the team have already threatened to punch you. Must be some sort of record,” John mused.
Kat stepped forward, leaning inside to see what was there before stepping onto a metal gangway. She gasped. There was an entire large room with a control panel and everything in there. She disappeared in, followed by Amy and the rest.
“Ancient Aquapolian technology!” Eleven said as he practically danced in behind Stark. “No hurt feelings, but the inventions you make are kind of outdated…” He said. Stark gave him a look. “Though, really, they are almost exactly like the inventions ancient scientists created, though not as advanced.”
“Before you get upset…” Ten added. “The ancient Aquapolians were far more technologically advanced than humans today. Everything pretty much is outdated compared to that.”
“So…what does TARDIS stand for?” Grayson asked.
“Time And Relative Dimension In Space,” Ten and Eleven recited together.
“So, you’re saying, you can take this anywhere in time and space?” Dean asked. “Why can’t we just use it to go to the past and see what’s wrong?”
“Can’t use it that way…In fact, the controls are kind of…stuck,” Eleven said.
“Stuck?” Kat asked.
“Well, you know how you have a return button on your remote that lets you go back to the last channel you were on? Well, the TARDIS is stuck on that…we can only travel between here and ancient Aquapolis,” Ten explained. “And, no, before anyone asks, we’re not going back to ancient Aquapolis…too much nostalgia…”
“Too much pain…” Eleven muttered, uncharacteristically sad.
“Okay, just hold on a moment…” Stark said, backing out of the TARDIS. He examined the front of the police box. It seemed perfectly normal. He walked around to the side, then the next, then the next, knocking on the wood several times.
On the third knock, Eleven popped around the corner of the box, nearly giving Stark a heart attack. “Please don’t do that, it echoes inside pretty badly and takes some of the paint off,” he said, running a hand over the blue wood.
“How did you make this?” Stark asked, intrigued. There was a world of possibilities with merely the technology that made the TARDIS bigger on the inside than on the outside. The time lords could have their time and space travel. He was more interested in the dimension implications.
“Unfortunately, it derives from our own powers…Several scientists tried to duplicate time lord technology over the years…Didn’t work…in fact, one of them turned out to be one of our star generals during the Fall of Old Aquapolis. One of your relatives, actually, your I don’t know how many greats grandfather, whose name was ALSO Anthony Stark. They called him Anthony the Demonslayer because he beheaded over a thousand demons in his lifetime. Tried to replicate TARDIS technology, that failed, so he turned to other projects, including a precursor to the arc reactor. Wait, no that was HIS many greats grandfather. We actually had that technology a thousand years before the fall. Everything was powered off it. Self-sustaining, but you know that already.”
After this tirade of knowledge, which was delivered at Eleven’s usual fast pace, Stark sighed. “Do you have like a button that slows you down or do we just need to get you some medication or something, because I figured out the gist of what you just said, but half of it was still gibberish.”
“Oh, I should slow down, shouldn’t I?”
“Yeah, that would be a great idea.”
“Okay, let’s start again…”
“Wait!” Stark threw up his hands. “No, I got it. Anthony the Demonslayer. Arc reactor. Got it, we’re good here.”
Inside, Ten stepped over to where Grayson was studying the controls on one of the panels. “We tried fixing it, you know…” He said nonchalantly, running his hand over the console. “The bridge between Asgard and Aquapolis. We tried contacting you…but we failed…”
“Why me? Why not Thor or Odin or…”
Ten laughed. “Yes, let’s ask the king who shattered the bridge in the first place.” He noticed Grayson’s confusion. “I think it’s time for story time…I’ll let Eleven tell it…”
Back upstairs, the team gathered around beer and pizza to hear Eleven tell the story. He didn’t rush through it this time, thankfully.
“Okay, I’m going to start with an explanation of a few things about old Aquapolis first for those of you who don’t know. Please, no questions until I’m finished, okay?” Everyone nodded.
“Now, at the center of the universe is what we call the Hall of Origin. It is a large circular room containing the portals to the four corners of the universe, the only places where there is life in the universe. There is also there the Tesseract, the computer and sort of heart of Old Aquapolis. A blue cube if you will.”
“The four corners of the universe balance each other out. You have the realm of angels, Heaven. The realm of demons, Hell. The realm of immortals, Asgard. And the realm of mortals, Midgard. Right directly on the other side of the portal to Midgard is Aquapolis.”
“Now, the Chosen One, as we know, is the angel sent to protect Midgard, seeing as it has no immortals to do so. She served as advisor to our king as well as protector. One day, over three thousand years ago, she was invited by Odin, the king of Asgard, to stay in his realm for a few centuries.”
“Quamachi, the Chosen One, agreed. She could be gone from Midgard for a few centuries, which are like a few years to immortals. She went to stay in Asgard. Odin had a plan, however. He always wanted to take control of the Aquapolians despite the fact that it was decreed long ago that they were not to come under immortal rule.”
“His plan was to marry Quamachi off to his oldest son, Thor, right after he was named crown prince. Nevermind the fact that the Chosen One is completely out of his jurisdiction as king. She who bows to no one…and no one bows to her…Anyway, before the naming feast, Odin pulled Thor aside and told him to announce his betrothal to Quamachi.”
“Instead, Thor announced Quamachi’s betrothal to his younger brother, Loki. In turns out, they had fallen in love during the years Quamachi had spent there. Odin was furious. Thor alerted his brother and Quamachi, who planned to return to Midgard, out of Odin’s reach.”
“Unfortunately, just as they got to the portal, Odin’s soldiers caught up to them and they were forced apart. Odin was furious, and declared that he was banishing Quamachi from Asgard and tearing apart the portal between Asgard and the Hall of Origin.”
“Before she was forced through the portal, Quamachi gave him a warning, that he did not know what his actions would bring about. It turns out…she was right in her prediction that they would be disastrous. With the portal between the immortal realm and the Hall of Origin gone, the universe was out of balance.”
“Soon after Quamachi returned, which was when Ten and I were time lords, the Demon King of Hell attacked with his armies. The king of Aquapolis at that time, Uther Pendragon, sent his armies into battle to defend the country, however, after several years of fighting, he died, leading to his son Arthur Pendragon to assume the throne and continue the fight.”
“Arthur Pendragon was the last king of Old Aquapolis. He was mortally wounded on the battlefield and was just able to make it back to the Hall of Origin before collapsing. The Knights of Time had been reduced to just the two of us. With Quamachi’s aide, we succeeded in using Arthur’s sacrificed spirit to banish the armies of the Demon King back to Hell and place a time barrier around the capital of Aquapolis so that it would not crumble.”
“Unfortunately, a large percentage of the Aquapolian population was destroyed in the wars. They spread out to all corners of the globe, and Quamachi encouraged us to go as well. Just after we left, however, she was visited by another angel from Heaven with a prophecy straight from God.”
“The prophecy foretold of a time in the future when the Aquapolian race would be persecuted and hunted down by its enemies and the demons of Hell. There would rise a group of warriors to stop these enemies and help reestablish the kingdom of Aquapolis.”
“And, thus, three thousand years passed. At the beginning of the twentieth century, a German scientist discovered a formula that he hoped would reawaken the dormant powers of Aquapolian descendants. The formula created super soldiers…One of which, I believe, is a relative of yours, Kat.”
“Your mother was a Rogers, correct? Ah, Captain America, yes, he was the first modern Aquapolian to be able to use his powers. Soon after, one of the scientists on the project, your father, Stark, stumbled upon the Tesseract, which had relocated itself several times throughout the millennia.”
“The Tesseract remains locked to most people, EXCEPT for those of royal blood. While the Pendragons were the last line of kings, there was another line of Aquapolian royalty in ancient times: the Starks. Howard Stark was able to obtain a list of Aquapolian descendants.”
“Unfortunately, that list ended up in the hands of the Aquapolian Initiative. It’s that list that they are using to exterminate our entire race. Which is why…we need to stop them.”
The silence was so thick, so infinite in the room, that it nearly chocked Kat, who was already weighed down by the thought that she had, somehow, indirectly caused all of this. True, Odin was wrong to lose his cool and banish her. In the end, he was to blame for all of this…but if Kat and Grayson hadn’t fallen in love…
But no. Looking over at her boyfriend, she was surprised to see that he was staring at her, thinking, as if he were trying to decide whether it had been worth it or not to bring down Odin’s wrath upon their heads and start a war in order to be with her. She suddenly realized that this was it. Through all of her fears about Grayson one day waking up and realizing that the girl he slept beside wasn’t worth it…this was the final challenge.
No one could really say anything to add to Eleven’s story…or to summarize it. Everyone was shocked, even Sherlock, who tried hard not to let it show on his face. Finally, Barton stood up. “I think we should call it a night,” he said, making the executive decision that everyone secretly thanked him for. “We’ll regroup on Monday to start our training sessions. Everyone get some rest this weekend. We’re going to need it.”
Kat said a quick good-bye to her father, who was caught up in his own thoughts over HIS father and the fact that he was able to open the Tesseract. After a few quick words of farewell to the rest of the team members, she and Grayson headed back to their apartment, which was close enough for them to walk to without taking a cab. They walked in silence, neither of them speaking about what they had just learned. It was way too overwhelming…
The silence was almost too much for her as she lay down on the bed on her side, staring out the bedroom window towards the skyline of London. Grayson was still extremely quiet. She wished he would say something. ANYTHING. To put her out of her misery. Go ahead and tell her now so that she could pack up her things and move into Stark’s apartment. She would be devastated, but…
She rolled to her other side. Grayson was standing beside the bed on his side, his turquoise eyes worried. This was it. She inhaled sharply, holding her breath to await what would happen.
“Those few days I thought you were dead…I...I had never felt so much pain in my life…I can’t imagine, Kat, being separated from you for three thousand years and not being able to see an end to the separation in sight…” Grayson was actually tearing up. Kat hadn’t seen him cry much since she had met him, and her heart sank as she saw the tears pool in his eyes.
She wanted to make the pain go away so bad…She sat up on her elbow, tilting her head to one side, her eyes a dull bluish grey to reflect her mood. “It’s over, Grayson…” She said softly. “Those years of separation are over. Maybe…maybe it’s good we don’t remember anything of them…so that we can live without the pain…maybe this is our chance to start over and show people that we will never allow ourselves to be separated again…”
Those, apparently, were the right words in Grayson’s mind, because he instantly smiled and crawled into bed beside her, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close to kiss her deeply. As she wrapped her arms around his stomach and buried her face into his chest, Kat breathed deeply, enjoying the cottony smell of his t-shirt (kind of reminded her of her childhood home, which was situated near cotton fields). No, she thought to herself as she drifted off.
19th July 2013, 11:28 PM
Kat woke up the next morning, nervous as hell. She had searched through her closet to find some clothes from work that were presentable to meet Grayson’s parents in. Though he hadn’t told her she needed to dress up for the occasion, she knew from the way he spoke about his parents that it was most likely needed. She knew Grayson hated it as much as she did. Neither of them looked particularly happy with what they were wearing (though, Kat admitted, Grayson looked GOOD in the casual suit he was in) as they climbed into the car Grayson’s father had sent to pick them up.
Grayson tried to cram in at least three hundred years of family history into the thirty minute ride as he could, then desperately tried to tell her everything she needed to know about his parents. His mother Maria, it seemed, was the more laid back of his parents, and apparently loved animals even more than Kat did. His father Richard was a pretty big shot lawyer in the London scene and like the usual money-British things, especially family history. Kat tried and failed to name up to four generations of her family, and gave up as soon as Grayson remembered that she had just found out who her father was a few months earlier, so it was a fruitless endeavor.
Kat also started to feel self-conscious about her accent. Having grown up and lived in the South her entire life, she had a semi-strong Southern accent. Grayson loved it. Grayson thought it was cute. But what would his parents think? She tried unconsciously to talk a bit faster and not to round her vowels. Grayson laughed at first, thinking it was a joke, but, when he realized that she really was trying to train the accent out of her voice, he sobered up and gave her a stern look. “Kat, no, don’t do that. Don’t try to change yourself for them. That’s playing right by his game, and we’re not going to have any of that.”
Finally, the car pulled up in front of a very old looking, very nice looking mansion. It was the exact opposite of Stark’s house in Malibu. A very physical symbol of the differences between old and new money. Kat thought to herself that she liked her father’s house better. Some may say all of the glass and steel was cold, but she loved clean lines and the tech in his house. Though he could use an old-fashioned wood-paneled library….
Grayson knocked on the door, and Kat instantly tried to stand up straighter, tried to look taller than the 5’3’’ she was (two inches added on by her heels). Grayson wrapped an arm around her waist. He knew she was nervous, despite the fact that he had never had to worry about HER parents liking him. Stark had practically played matchmaker for Grayson and his daughter and was now dropping subtle (well, subtle for HIM) hints that an engagement should happen in the near future.
The door swung open to reveal a woman in her early fifties with short blonde hair. At least, Kat thought that she was in her fifties. From the way she was dressed, she assumed this was Maria Strauss. She looked at least ten years younger, and not on account of any plastic surgery or anything like that. She was just one of those people who stayed younger looking a little bit longer than everyone else.
“Oh, Grayson, it’s good to see you,” she said, instantly hugging her son. Kat decided she liked Maria Strauss as the woman turned to her and gave her the warmest non-fake smile ever. “You must be Katharine, it’s good to meet you.” And, instead of the handshake Kat expected, she was pulled into an equally warm hug as if she were already married to Grayson. She wondered if Maria would start dropping engagement hints as well, and she prayed that Maria and Stark wouldn’t be left in a room for too long. Grayson and she would be married promptly the next day if it were up to those two.
“I go by Kat,” Kat said, instantly removing any formal barriers she could. She couldn’t stand being called Katharine. Not even her own father called her that (though, really, would Tony Stark really call anyone by their full name?).
“Well, Kat, I’m Grayson’s mother, Maria Strauss. Please, please, come in, I think it’s about to rain.” Which was a good guess, since this was England. Kat was used to the torrential downpours of summertime in the South, but not to the constant drizzle of England.
The inside of the house was just what Kat expected. Victorian-style wealth at its finest. She didn’t want to touch anything or even brush up against the walls in fear that she would break something. They followed Maria into one of the back sitting rooms. “I’ll be right back with the tea,” she said before ducking out again, leaving Kat and Grayson to sit beside each other on one of the nice couches, close enough so that their knees touched. Kat laced her fingers through Grayson’s, looking around at some of the bookshelves to see if she could place any of the authors.
There were footsteps in the hall, and, a few minutes later, a man around the same age as Maria with grey hair appeared. He was dressed much like Grayson and had sort of a stern look to him. Immediately, both of them stood up as Richard Strauss nodded to his son. “Grayson.”
Grayson cleared his throat. “Father.”
Richard turned to Kat. “Richard Strauss,” He said, holding out his hand for Kat to shake.
“Kat Stark,” She said, shaking his hand.
“Stark…where have I heard that last name from?”
“Stark Industries?” Grayson suggested.
“Ah, yes, in the military contract business that company? Any relation?” Richard asked.
“Yes, sir, my father is the CEO,” Kat said.
Richard raised one eyebrow as if he were semi-impressed. “I didn’t know Tony Stark had a daughter.”
“Not many people do,” Grayson said.
Thankfully, Maria stepped back into the room with tea. Kat held her cup nervously in her lap, noticing that Grayson had placed a hand on her knee. Maria started asking Kat some questions as Richard glanced over at his son, who shot him a challenging look, daring him to say something about the girl he had brought home.
“So, Kat, are you in school? Grayson mentioned that you were doing your undergraduate studies.”
“Yes, ma’am, I’m a biomedical engineering major at Georgia Tech.”
“Engineering runs in your family, doesn’t it?” Richard asked.
Kat nodded. “As far as I know I’m the only biomedical engineer so far.”
He nodded as Maria continued asking questions. “Your accent, dear…is it from the South?”
“I grew up in Georgia, actually.”
Maria visibly brightened, as if she thought that was wonderful (which she probably did. She kept on shooting smiles at her son as if to say, “You brought home a winner. Why don’t we throw a wedding tomorrow?”). “I’ve heard the coastline of Georgia is beautiful this time of year.”
“Beautiful and hot,” Kat joked, earning a laugh from Maria and a smile from Grayson. Richard looked his unamused self. “It’s really good tennis weather, though. I used to play a lot, but with school, I’ve been too busy…”
A man appeared at the door to the room, causing Richard to turn from slightly unasmused to annoyed. Kat guessed from the man’s dress and posture he was the butler. “Master Strauss…” Seriously? “There is a man here to see you. An American, I believe.”
As soon as he said it, Kat’s stomach dropped and she turned to Grayson. His eyes were wide. Neither of them had expected this, and it was plain to see that Grayson had not invited this unexpected guest.
What made things worse, however, is that said guest had not remained at the front door (as manners dictated he should. But, really, whenever had he let rules of manner run his life?), but had slipped in after the butler had gone to get Master Strauss and had followed his voice to where they were gathered.
Kat shot her father a look that said she was seriously considering patricide at the moment. He gave her his usual mischievous grin as he apologized to Grayson’s parents. “I’m sorry for dropping in, but I was in the country and I wanted to introduce myself.” By then, everyone had stood up, the two youngest people in the room looking like they were about to murder the new guest, which confused Maria to no end.
Strauss could have exploded about someone entering his home uninvited, but, instead he merely looked annoyed. Kat hoped this wouldn’t come back to haunt them later. “And you are…?” Grayson’s father asked, raising as eyebrow as if he were not impressed.
But, ah, that was exactly her father’s game. For as much as Richard Strauss played the “I’m better than you” card, Tony Stark had raised it to an art form. “Tony Stark, Kat’s father.” Not “Tony Stark, CEO of Stark Industries” or “Tony Stark, genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” (God forbid). He had introduced himself as her father. Kat had to feel a little bit pleased about that.
“Richard Strauss,” Grayson’s father said, shaking Stark’s hand, though he still didn’t look too impressed. Most people were around Stark, but he didn’t let this throw him off.
And then what Kat dreaded the most happened. Maria Strauss looked extremely pleased to meet Stark as she introduced herself. “What a pleasant surprise! We didn’t know Kat’s family was in England.”
“Our family is really small, I’m afraid. It only contains the two of us.” Kat inwardly groaned at the silent “for now” Stark tacked onto the end of his sentence. What was worse…Maria picked up on it. She seemed to agree. Great.
Don’t get Kat wrong, she would marry Grayson in a heartbeat. He was her soul mate, her one. They were literally destined to be together. But she didn’t want to get rushed into a marriage, with all of the to-do and dresses and everything and…she would rather have something extremely informal. All she cared about was being together with Grayson.
Stark sat down in a chair between Kat and Maria (a much too dangerous place for him…The conversation centered around Stark’s work for a bit before Maria asked about Kat’s mother. Stark got that usual look in his eyes whenever someone mentioned his wife, dull grief combined with sadness.
“Kat’s mother, Caroline, and I went to college together. We met freshman year and started going out later that year. Once we graduated, we decided to go ahead and get married. It was a year afterward, when Kat was three years old, when Caroline died.” There was a pause. This was always the worst part of the story. “She was shot by an intruder in our home. She died trying to protect Kat.”
There was silence for a bit before Stark continued. “For Kat’s protection, I sent her to live with a SHIELD agent…up until a few months ago, I had not seen her since.” He gave a nervous laugh. “Guess I’m just glad that we’re back in each other’s lives again.” Stark shot Kat a small smile, and Kat silently swore at him for nearly making her tear up in front of her future in-laws.
“That’s wonderful,” Maria said softly. Strauss made no comment. The conversation continued back down that path, highlighting on what had occurred over the past few months (with the obvious bits taken out).
When the three guests finally said good-bye and stepped out the door, Kat quickly followed her father to his car before he could escape. She hit him on the arm. Hard. “Ow! What was that for?”
“What was that? Why did you come?”
“I just wanted to meet Grayson’s parents,” Stark protested.
“You weren’t invited.”
“So? I think it went well. I feel like I didn’t embarrass you at all. I even got an invitation to one of the balls they’re throwing in a few weeks…”
“There are a million ways that could have gone wrong.”
“And none of them occurred. I was on my best behavior, Kat…other than a few faux pas I committed at the beginning, I think I deserve some credit. You know about my manners.”
“You don’t have any manners.”
She sighed. “Next time, will you warn one of us before you do that again?”
“Fine, fine,” Stark said before opening the driver’s side door and sliding on his sunglasses. “See you tonight? Everyone’s gathering at my place. No business, just hanging out, drinking, getting to know each other better.”
Kat had to admit that sounded fantastic, especially after the nerve-wracking day she had just had. She glanced back at Grayson, who enthusiastically nodded, as if this sounded perfect to him as well. “Yeah, what time is everyone coming over?”
Stark shrugged and smiled. “You know me. Party time starts whenever.” Kat rolled her eyes and laughed as he climbed into his car and rolled down the window. “Get some rest. I know how exhausting it can be to meet the in-laws.” Before Kat could argue, he sped off.
“If you have the power to travel all throughout time and space, what possible reason do you have for staying here in 21st Century London for so long?”
Ten raised an eyebrow at Sherlock’s question. “Well, for one thing, after years and years of deciphering prophecies and such given by the Tesseract, Eleven and I found out why we were hitting a time barrier within this decade. Apparently, the Battle for New Aquapolis will occur sometime within the next ten years…mostly likely within the next year. We’ve seen all that the past can teach us, and we can’t go any further into the future. Why not stay here and see what exciting things this team can do in this time?”
Obviously, Sherlock had lost interest halfway through Ten’s speech, as his attention had slid to his phone about around the time the timelord mentioned the Battle for New Aquapolis. “Well…I’m sure we’re not half as interesting as ancient Aquapolis,” he said somewhat ironically.
“To tell you the truth, that is the case,” Eleven said, quickly looking around. “No offense to anyone in this room, but ancient Aquapolis was a thing of beauty. The city is still there…at least a large portion of it anyway….but the time has not come to return there.”
Dean sighed. “I’m getting really tired of all of this talk about time and space and ancient Aquapolis. I say we find out where these demons are, kill the leader, effectively breaking up their link with SHIELD, and ending the Aquapolian Initiative once and for all.”
“Yeah, well, that is the plan once we find where the demons are hiding out,” Stark said. Luckily, the living room of his apartment was large enough that everyone had a comfortable seat. They were quite a large group, but everyone had a comfy couch or chair to sit on, and, happily, people had switched up seating. Where Sherlock usually sat by John, he was now by Sam, who was sitting in the middle of the couch with the detective on one side and Amy on the other. Dean was hanging out by Ten, who had chill beside Barton. Kat was sitting on the arm of the chair her father occupied, while Eleven, Grayson, and John shared a couch on the other side of the room.
“Speaking of demons,” Sam cleared his throat. “I know we didn’t want to bring up business tonight, but Sherlock and I think we’ve found where their hideout is.”
“Know,” Sherlock corrected him, earning a sigh from Sam. “We know where their hideout is.” Everyone’s attention immediately turned to the two investigators. The only sound in the room was coming from the London traffic outside of the window. Barring that, Kat could actually hear the very faint sound of the arc reactor’s electromagnetic field turning in Stark’s chest.
“Is everyone familiar with the London Research Institute?” Sam asked. Kat glanced around to confused faces on most of her British friends…all except for John, who instantly recognized it the moment Sam mentioned it.
“Yeah, it’s a leading cancer research institute. I’d say it’s about…half an hour away from Baker’s Street.” He frowned, confused. “A pack of demons is making a cancer research facility their home base?”
“I wonder how many Aquapolians used to work there…” Barton asked aloud, though his eyes were on Sherlock as if he knew the detective had an answer.
“Exactly thirteen up until about a year ago. One by one they moved or disappeared. Exactly five of the murders in recent months with the devil’s star were scientists from the facility,” Sherlock said in his usual tone.
“So someone cleaned out all of the Aquapolian scientists, then proceeded to take over the facility as a headquarters. Wonder how many demons were recently employed there…it’s a rhetorical question, Sherlock,” Stark immediately snapped as the detective was about to answer his question of demon employment.
“We need to stake this place out,” Dean announced. “It’s close enough to Baker Street, we can use that as our temporary base if you guys don’t mind.”
“We’ll just have to warn Mrs. Hudson…we do have an extra few rooms if anyone needs to stay there,” John said. Sherlock looked like he may protest, but decided that this was probably the most convenient thing for him, so he didn’t speak up.
“Maybe the people on the next shift can stay there before they move out?” Kat suggested.
“Sounds like a plan,” Ten said. “We work in shifts for a week and see what we find out,” he said, a huge smile on his face, as if this sounded fun. “How long do we want the shifts to be?”
Sherlock cleared his throat, and Sam, who seemed to be the detective’s new official speaker said, “There’s something else that we found that’s important. A name kept coming up as we dug through the records of this facility. Just a last name…one that we haven’t been able to find much about…Moriarty.”
It didn’t seem to be familiar to anyone. “Then we’ll keep a look out for any mentions of that word…” Barton said thoughtfully. He withdrew his phone from his pocket, texting a quick message to someone…It was probably Coulson, Kat thought.
“Fine, then, back to the shifts. How about eight hours? So we can coordinate some sleep into this as well,” Dean said.
“And training,” Barton added, pocketing his phone as a chorus of groans rose from the crowd, especially comic ones coming from Stark and Dean. It was really scary how alike they were, Kat thought. At least they got along…
“Why don’t I type up our schedule, and we’ll start tomorrow?” The agent asked. Everyone reluctantly agreed. No one really wanted to train, but they had to start sometime. Kat wondered what they would find over the next week.
Barton formed groups of two with one group of three to stake out the institute and groups of four to train together at any one time. Kat received the following email of the stake out groups:
Group 1: Kat and Ten.
Group 2: Eleven and Stark.
Group 3: Grayson and Sherlock.
Group 4: Barton and John.
Group 5: Sam, Dean, and Amy.
The next morning, the alarm clock on her phone rang loud and clear. She groaned, opening one eye to look at the time. Six o’clock. Way too early for her taste. Grayson was scheduled for sleep at this time. Kat would kill to be able to sleep at that moment.
“You have stake out duty…” Grayson muttered sleepily from beside her. “Better get up and head over to Baker Street…”
“I don’t want to.” She was always irrational in the mornings. She was not a morning person. She turned over and wrapped her arms around Grayson, holding on tight as if this would stop her from having to get up and stake out a cancer research institute for demons who may or may not be trying to commit genocide.
Unfortunately, as much as Grayson hated Kat leaving in the mornings for work, he was not going to let her get off with skipping stake out duty. Instead of simply unwrapping her arms from around him, he sat up, slid out of bed, physically picked her up (after a loud squeak she issued after being totally surprised by this gesture), and carried her to the bathroom, sitting her down on the floor and shutting the door.
Taking her boyfriend’s hint, she grudgingly dressed and brushed her teeth, exiting the bathroom to see that he had gone back to sleep. She sighed, padding around the bed to lay a soft kiss on his cheek before putting on her shoes and walking into the living room.
A soft knock on the door surprised her. She carefully ran over and opened it to see Ten standing there, the biggest grin on his face. She groaned. Dear Lord, he was a morning person. How was she going to deal with sitting in a car with him for the next eight hours?
“Fancy some breakfast? We still have some time before we have to be over at the institute. Mrs. Hudson has already fixed us some coffee and a really big English breakfast.”
This cheered her up considerably. After grabbing her phone, she followed Ten to the elevator. “Not a morning person, are we?” Ten asked after he punched the button for the lobby. As usual, he was dressed in a casual suit with a trench coat thrown over and sneakers on his feet. His hair was sticking out in all directions.
Kat laughed. “Yeah, Grayson had to literally pick me up and throw me out of bed this morning. He’s not much of a morning person, either, so I’m lucky I didn’t wake him up completely.”
“Well, once we get some coffee in you, we will be ready! I haven’t seen some proper demons for the past few thousand years…I never really was a warrior, of course, but I can feel the stir in my blood. I guess now all Aquapolians get it…that feeling that they are in the presence of the monsters responsible for our people’s destruction.”
“I’m sure, then, that I’ll feel that times a good deal,” Kat said groggily. “You know, being an angel and all…” They exited the lobby and Ten called a cab, both of them hopping in, looking forward to a really good breakfast.
At around nine o’clock, Grayson finally dragged himself out of bed. Usually on Sundays, he and Kat would stay in bed until noon, dozing for a few hours at a time or simply enjoying lying in each other’s arms. He figured that he might as well go grocery shopping. They were almost out of everything.
Walking around the aisles in the shop nearby, Grayson tried to think of everything. Of course, they needed coffee…but what kind of tea did Kat say she liked again?
There was a crash of boxes behind him, and he turned around to see a man around his age with sandy brown hair holding his hands in the air as if to say they fell on their own, and it wasn’t his fault. “Ah…great…” The man muttered, picking up the tea boxes and trying to find their places on the shelves.
Grayson dropped his basket and helped the guy start re-shelving the tea boxes. “There it is!” He exclaimed, picking up a box of the herbal tea he just remembered was Kat’s favorite. “I was trying to remember which kind she liked…”
“Shopping for your girlfriend?” The man asked.
“Yeah…she hasn’t been drinking tea long, but she particularly likes this kind…”
The man raised an eyebrow. “I take it she isn’t British?”
He laughed. “No, she’s American. Where she was raised, they’re more used to drinking sweet ice tea.”
“The South, is it? Heard they’ve got a really good engineering school down there…”
“Yes…” Grayson said. “Actually…she goes there…”
“Their school of psychology is excellent as well. I used to work there. Worked with an excellent researcher there. Dr. Hannibal Lecter. He specializes in criminal psychology.” The man gave Grayson a friendly smile. “The criminal mind is especially interesting. The motivations especially so.”
Before Grayson could respond, he heard another crash sound out from the aisle behind him. He turned toward it, then turned back toward the man, only to find that he had disappeared. He walked out of the aisle, turned around, searched from him, but he was gone.
Ten tapped his fingers on the steering wheel, keeping a close eye on the street in front of him. Kat was furiously typing down the descriptions of the people who entered and exited the building to be cross-referenced against the employee records. She could definitely sense some underlying demon energy coming from the building.
“Have you enjoyed your mortal life so far, Kat?”
Ten’s question totally distracted her from the description of a man with thick glasses and grey balding hair who was trying (and failing) to hail a cab in front of the institute. “What?”
Ten shrugged. “You know…they say immortality is so great…getting to live forever is wonderful, right? But getting a chance to live a mortal life at least once…knowing that, one day, all of the friends and family and things of this life will die one day, and so will you…it makes you appreciate life more...at least I would think…” He pushed his glasses further up his nose, glancing over at her, his eyes, those eyes that had seen the fall of Old Aquapolis, plus thousands of years of history since, asking her a question she had no idea how to answer.
“I…I guess…If I remembered what it was like to live an immortal life…I might appreciate it more…” It was the truth. Kat knew nothing but this life. However, from what she knew about the past three thousand years of her immortal life, she had been lonely…stuck on an island in the middle of nowhere by herself.
“Yeah…But maybe it’s for the best that you don’t remember that life…or that Grayson remember his…” Ten stared off in the distance, his eyes on the third floor at the people in the offices there, doing various filing and work.
“Is it true that he wasn’t supposed to be reincarnated?”
“Yeah…we have no idea, though…no idea why history changed so dramatically. Coulson holds the key…but even he doesn’t know what it was. One day…one day, it will be revealed and everything will be set right.” He took a deep breath and exhaled, his tone turning from serious to cheerful in three seconds flat. “But…for right now, we just need to keep on keeping on. We still have a few hours left…”
Kat’s stomach growled. “Too bad we can’t get anyone to run some food out to us here.” They would just have to wait until their shift was over to get some lunch, she guessed.
“Ah…but…Mrs. Hudson thought of everything…” Ten smiled, gesturing to a cooler Kat hadn’t seen before in the backseat. She instantly perked up, smiling and nodding along with Ten as they planned out exactly when they were going to eat.
Things slowed down so much around two o’clock that Kat turned on the radio as she munched on one of the best sandwiches she had ever tasted in her life. She switched back and forth, annoyed that she couldn’t find anything she liked for Ten to listen to. He had insisted that she let him listen to some of her favorite music. Finally, she gave up and took out her iPhone, trying to decide whether or not she would play him a few songs from Linkin Park or Shinedown first.
10th August 2013, 2:29 AM
Grayson was still mulling over his encounter with the man in the store as he walked home, not paying much attention to the world around him until he heard the screech of tires and the sound of a body hitting a car. There were a few screams, and he turned around to the street behind him, dropping his groceries as the man who had been hit by a car stumbled to his feet. Slightly short with dark brown hair and blue eyes, the man wore a suit and a trench coat, very similar to Ten’s, but lighter in color.
Grayson ran up to him. He seemed to be in a daze, so he pulled him off of the street and onto the sidewalk. “Are you okay?” Grayson gasped.
“I’m fine. I just wasn’t looking where I was going,” the man responded in a deep voice. Grayson looked back at the car. The entire front of it was damaged. The driver had gotten out and looked pretty ****ed, but extremely confused as to why the man he hit was walking around as if he wasn’t hurt.
“You might be in shock,” Grayson said. “I should take you to the hospital…”
“No,” the man said, waving his hand. “No, I’m fine.” He stopped, staring at Grayson for a few minutes until it got too awkward for Grayson to bear.
“Are you sure…you got hit pretty hard…do you remember what your name is?”
Grayson frowned. “Castiel?”
“Yes. Castiel,” Castiel repeated, looking back at the car. “We may need to go somewhere else for right now. I need to talk to you.”
“What?” Grayson asked as they walked back to the spot where he had dropped his groceries.
“I was looking for you when I was hit by that car. I need to speak with you.”
“I’m sorry…have we met before?”
“No, but I’ve heard of you…”
Grayson stopped. “Who are you?”
“I said my name was Cas…”
“No, I mean, who are you…what are you doing here…why do you want to speak to me?” Grayson asked.
“I am an angel of the Lord,” Castiel said simply. “And I wish to speak to you and Quamachi as soon as possible.”
“Quamachi…” Grayson was confused for a few moments until he remembered. “Ah…yes, she goes by Kat now. And I go by Grayson. Are you sure you don’t need to go…”
“I am fine.”
“Um…Kat isn’t at home right now, but she will be home soon…you can wait there with me…”
“So you’re an angel like Kat?” Grayson asked once they got back to the apartment. He started to put the groceries away as Castiel strode to the large windows, looking out at the city below.
“No. No one is an angel like Kat. She is the most powerful angel in existence.”
“I meant…you’re an angel…”
“Yes. You don’t seem surprised.”
“No, I’ve come to terms with Aquapolians and Asgardians and angels and demons…I doubt much will surprise me anymore…Do you want some tea?”
Castiel paused before saying, “Yes, please.”
Grayson made some tea and brought it over to Castiel, who held it for a long time without drinking it. “I like this view,” he said simply.
“Yes, Kat’s dad chose this apartment because of the view…I guess angels are alike in that respect…you all love the sky…”
“Yes…we’re all also claustrophobic.” Castiel paused. “You said Kat’s father. Does he live here, too?”
“No, he lives a few blocks away.”
“I wish to speak with him as well.”
“Okay…I guess we can go over there once Kat gets home…”
Kat was exhausted when she got home later that day. She walked into the living room to see Grayson and a man she didn’t recognize sitting on the couch. “Oh…hello…”
The man stood up. “My name is Castiel.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Castiel?”
“Well, hi, I’m Kat. Nice to meet you,” she said holding out her hand for him to shake. He looked at it, confused for a bit, until he finally shook her hand.
“Um…Castiel wants to talk to us…and Stark. Are you okay with going over to Stark’s for a bit?” Grayson asked.
“So you’re telling us, you’re an angel?” Stark asked, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
“Yes, I am. Is that so hard to believe when your own daughter is an angel?” Castiel asked from his position on a seat across the room.
“What are you doing here?” Kat asked.
“As you know, something has gone wrong with the time stream. I am here to report my findings on the prophesied team of warriors.”
“Avengers,” Stark corrected him.
“We call ourselves the Avengers.”
“No matter what you call yourselves, you are the team that is supposed to bring about the age of New Aquapolis. I’m here to report my observations on the time discrepancy.”
“Would you be willing to join the team?” Kat asked. Grayson and Stark turned to her, a surprised look on their faces. “What? We could use another angel on our team.”
“I don’t think that is such a good idea,” Castiel said.
“I am only here to observe. I don’t think I can actually participate in the events.”
“Then why come to us at all?” Stark asked.
“I simply wanted to inform you why I was here. And why the events that are to come are so important.”
There was a pause until Kat asked, “Do you have somewhere to stay?”
He seemed confused. “No…”
Kat glanced pointedly over at her father. He sighed. “Okay, fine, the crazy angel can stay here.”
“Thank you,” Castiel said.
“We need to call a team meeting,” Kat said, pulling out her iPhone and texting Barton.
Everyone attended the meeting that night, even those who were supposed to be on stake out duty. Soon enough, Castiel had been taken into the group and even given a nickname: Cas. Ten and Eleven were late to the meeting, but as soon as they arrived, they recognized him instantly. “It’s been a long time,” Ten said with a smile as he walked up to Cas.
“It certainly has.”
“You guys know each other?” Dean asked.
“Castiel was there immediately after the fall of Old Aquapolis,” Eleven explained. “He was the one who brought us the prophecy of New Aquapolis.”
“You should join the team,” Ten said.
“As I told Kat before, that is not a good idea,” Cas answered.
Ten and Eleven seemed disappointed. After everyone left, Cas and Stark were alone. “Want a drink?”
“I don’t drink.”
“It’s never too late to start,” Stark said, pouring a drink for him anyway and handing it to him. “So…what was Old Aquapolis like? Ten and Eleven don’t really like to talk about it. Too much pain, I guess.”
“It was…beautiful. I’ve seen Asgard as well. As much as the legends praise Asgard…Aquapolis, to me at least, was much more majestic, powerful, a testament to how mortals could rise above immortals in technology and civilization. Unfortunately, I didn’t spend much time there at all when it was populated.”
“Yeah, Eleven said you brought the prophecy to us,” Stark said, sitting down across from Cas.
He took a deep breath. “Have you asked Ten and Eleven these questions as well?”
“Yeah, I just told you that.”
“No. Have you asked them these questions with the intention of finding out more about what Kat was like back then?”
“In that case, no.”
Cas looked up at him, his eyes dark. “When I came across the portal between Heaven and the Hall of Origin, I found her grieving for the people she had lost. She had forced Ten and Eleven to grab the TARDIS and flee from that deserted place. Things would have been a bit better for her…if…” He took a deep breath. “She was sitting in front of the broken portal to Asgard. She had lost her people and her friends…but most of all, she had lost him. I’m sure Ten and Eleven were happy to see that the two of them are back together again. I know I am.”
“So…what happened after that?”
“I delivered the prophecy, but she begged me not to return to Heaven. She had nowhere to go. She couldn’t get across to Asgard and Heaven is barred to her. I finally agreed that I would come back and stay with her every year out of one hundred. She was happy for even my company all those years…Otherwise, she was there by herself.”
There was silence, before Stark asked, “What was she like?”
“The same as she is now, but sadder. She hasn’t changed much at all. If you were worried that she would become a completely different person once she returned to being immortal, then don’t be. She’ll still be the same.”
Stark pondered this for a few moments until he said, “How do we fix this, Cas?”
“The secret…lies with Phil Coulson.”
By the end of the week, after stakeouts and training sessions, the team came up with their plan to invade the institute the following week.
“We’ll go in in three teams for the three floors,” Barton explained, running his hand across a blueprint of the building. “We’ll search the place for any records of what they’re doing there…including who the higher ups are. We steal their records…and burn whatever we can.”
“Sounds good. Who will be in the teams?” Sam asked.
“I want Stark and Dean…Me and Grayson…and Kat and Sam. The rest will remain at Baker Street with Ten and Eleven and the TARDIS. If we get into trouble, you guys are going to have to come and bail us out.”
Everyone agreed to the plan. And so began another week of training and preparing to invade the institute. There was something to look forward to, though. The Strauss’ had invited everyone on the team to their ball. Even Sherlock and Cas agreed to go. Grayson had to go early to greet guests with his parents, so Kat rode over with Stark.
“I hope this party goes over better than the last one I was at,” Kat remarked.
“I thought you loved that party.”
“It was okay. I just didn’t appreciate you dragging me along with you down the red carpet.”
He laughed. “Oh come on, that was fun and you know it.”
Kat rolled her eyes as the cab stopped in front of the Strauss mansion. Kat slid her arm around her father’s as they approached the man up front. Stark cleared his throat. “Tony and Kat Stark.”
Inside was a whirlwind of activity. To Kat’s delight, Sherlock and Cas had not failed to make it. She and Stark instantly walked up to the Strauss’s, whom they found talking to Mycroft. After greeting Richard and Maria, Stark walked off to the side to speak with Mycroft. “You know about what’s going down tomorrow?”
“Of course I do. It’s my job to know.”
“Nice job, by the way, showing up to all of our meetings.”
“Mr. Stark, I have told you this before, but apparently it bears repeating. I am the GOVERNMENT sponsor of this team…not a part of the team itself. Now, usually, the financial sponsor would not be, either, but given your investment to making sure these people are destroyed…”
“Have you heard from Coulson recently?”
Mycroft smiled. “Things are not looking good at the SHIELD head office. It seems as if they’re getting a bit nervous. I wonder why…”
“So they see us as a threat…”
“I’m sure you realize this could be both good and bad…”
Stark paused for a moment, thinking, before saying, “We’ve got a new possible recruit.”
“The angel? I don’t think he’s willing to join the team.”
“I assure you, he will by tomorrow.”
“I don’t see why we all had to come,” Dean complained, fidgeting with his bowtie.
“Why not have some fun before tomorrow?” Barton asked.
“This is your idea of fun? I don’t even think this is Stark’s idea of fun, and he’s used to going to these things.”
“You’re right, though usually my parties are a lot better than this,” Stark said as he walked up.
“After we’re done with all of the introductions and such, I say we go,” Dean suggested.
Sam sighed. “Come on, Dean. Mycroft managed to get us all invited. At least stay for a little while as a thanks to him.”
“Yeah, sure…hey, Ten…how do you say ‘this party sucks’ in Aquapolian?” Dean asked as Ten walked up to the group.
“Sonya qu sute.”
“I think I would rather Ten teach us Aquapolian for the rest of the night…” Dean muttered.
“Ah, you want to know more about the mother language?” Ten asked. “Because I can teach you at least the basics.”
“No one speaks Aquapolian anymore,” John pointed out.
“Yes, but they can always learn, and, soon enough, more people will be speaking it.”
“Say something else in Aquapolian,” Dean requested.
“Sai kyo na suna tere.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’m going to go dance.” And, with that, Ten walked off towards the dance floor.
After speaking with the Strauss’, Grayson asked Kat if she wanted to dance. She accepted his invitation immediately, though with some hesitation. Their height difference made it somewhat difficult to dance, but, at least, her heels helped with that.
“I’ve been talking with Eleven…he’s taught me a few words of Aquapolian…” Grayson said in a low voice.
“Well, your true name, Quamachi, means ‘Warrior of Light...’ and, apparently, I called you something different during our time together on Asgard.”
She laughed. “And what did you call me?”
“Aya.” He smiled. “Angel of Chaos. Some things never change…”
They were silent for a few moments, both enjoying each other’s presence. “Tomorrow may be it for one of us…” Grayson said suddenly, almost in a whisper.
Kat looked up to see his turquoise eyes shining with worry. “If it is…Ten says that, after we die, we wake up as immortals again a short time afterward.”
Grayson gave her a slow, happy smile. “Then, I shall look forward to spending eternity with you.”
Kat blushed as he leaned down to kiss her softly on the cheek. Looking up again, he sighed. “Father’s waving at me to go over and speak to someone…” He muttered, stopping and pulling away from her reluctantly. “I’m sorry…just give me a few moments.” He started to walk away, then stopped, stepped back, and gave her a long kiss before walking away again.
She sighed and looked around, wondering who she should talk to while Grayson was away. She saw Cas standing by himself in a corner, so she walked over to him, shooting him a friendly smile. “Want to dance?”
“I don’t know how to dance…”
She frowned. “Don’t they dance in Heaven?”
“Yes…but it’s different.”
“Come on,” she said, holding out her hand for him to take. “I’ll teach you.”
Soon enough, he had learned at least to do a few steps. As they shuffled around the dance floor, Kat tried to strike up a conversation with him. “So, what is it like being an angel? I mean…I don’t really remember my immortal life at all, so…”
“Being an angel in Heaven is a lot different than being your kind of angel,” he replied. “We are given tasks, and we perform them. That is all.”
Cas shrugged. “It is the way things are.”
“You aren’t given a choice? Who to love? What to do with your lives?”
“No. Why would we be given a choice?”
Kat stared at him. “I’m sorry…”
“I’m used to it by now.”
There was silence until Kat asked, “So…have we ever met before?”
“Actually, we have. Though you are barred from entrance to Heaven, I traveled down to Aquapolis after the Fall of Old Aquapolis. I gave you the prophecy of New Aquapolis…then agreed to come back and visit you every one year out of a thousand.”
“What was I like then?”
“The same as you are now.”
There was silence for another few moments until Kat asked, “So, you’re not going to help us fight tomorrow?”
“No. My job here is not to fight…” He paused, turning towards her. “But…I would like to.”
“We’re facing up against evil, Cas. Isn’t it your job to stop evil from spreading?”
He thought about this. “Yes…but…”
She smiled. “Then we’ll mark you down for the last minute hero…”
The dance ended, and Cas excused himself. Grayson was still speaking with his parents, and Stark was nowhere in sight. Kat searched for her other teammates, finally seeing Sherlock in a corner. It would take some convincing, but…She finally spotted her father and smiled, walking over to him. “Ten bucks I can get Sherlock to dance with me.”
Stark scoffed at this. “Yeah, right, you’re on.”
Kat raised an eyebrow. “You’re doubting my abilities?”
“No, just saying the day Sherlock Holmes dances is the day the apocalypse starts.”
Kat shrugged and walked away towards Sherlock just as Dean stepped up to talk to Stark. “What’s going on?”
“Kat bet me that she could get Sherlock to dance with her. I said no.”
“Are you kidding me? I think she could get him to do it.”
“Then you’re on. How much are we betting? A hundred?”
“Woah, hold on there, Bruce Wayne, let’s do twenty.”
“What are we doing?” John asked, stepping up beside Stark.
“Betting on whether Kat can get Sherlock to dance with her,” Dean said. “Want to join in?”
“No, I think I’ll pass and just watch, thank you,” John said, turning to where Kat was walking up to Sherlock. He was texting away on his phone as per usual and didn’t even acknowledge her presence for a good three minutes. Finally, he looked up.
“May I help you?” He asked.
Kat flashed him her biggest and friendliest smile. “Want to dance?”
He smirked. “No, I don’t think I’ll be doing any dancing today.”
“Well…” She stepped closer and lowered her voice. “Dean and Dad are taking bets on whether or not you’ll dance with me…and Dad’s betting no…”
Those were the magic words. Sherlock put on his biggest fake smile and held out his hand. “Shall we dance?”
“No, way,” Stark muttered, frowning, as Kat and Sherlock walked over to the dance floor. Dean burst out laughing, and John shook his head.
“You owe me twenty bucks,” Dean said, holding his hand out to Stark.
“I don’t carry cash on me.”
Stark rolled his eyes, retrieving twenty bucks from his pocket and handing it to Dean. “Enjoy the fruits of your scheming.”
“Hey, it was all Kat’s idea,” Dean said, the biggest grin on his face. Hearing this, Stark rolled his eyes again, but John could catch ever the slightest, proud grin on his face as he walked off. Meanwhile, on the dance floor, Kat and Sherlock danced around several times before Sherlock spoke.
“You’re worried about tomorrow.”
“It wasn’t a question. You’re worried about being on the front lines tomorrow.”
She sighed. “Yes, wouldn’t anyone?”
“Well, given that Stark has experience fighting…and that the Winchesters have experience killing demons…and that Barton is a trained killer…that leaves just you and Grayson as the inexperienced ones going tomorrow, and Grayson does not seem all that worried.”
“Gee….thanks for assuring me that I won’t get brutally murdered tomorrow.”
There was a pause, and an ever-so-slight change in Sherlock’s eyes before he glanced down at her, his eyes shifting from dark to light and back again as if he were confused…as if something about her confused his senses and deductive processes so thoroughly, that he could not make heads or tails of it.
“I’m not so sure…” He stopped, then started again. “I’m not so sure why…but I feel as if we are all right to place our lives in your hands…”
18th August 2013, 3:26 AM
Kat stared at Sherlock for a few moments as they circled around the dance floor, not quite sure if she had just heard those words come out of his mouth. “You trust me, then?” She asked, an unbelieving tone in her voice.
“Yes, why wouldn’t I? I’ve seen what you’re capable of in training sessions…and the appearance of another angel on the scene…To tell you the truth up until perhaps a week ago, I believed this entire prophecy to be untrue. After watching events unfold, however…It’s both relieving and terrifying at the same time.”
“Why is it terrifying?”
“Because…” His voice got low. “Because somewhere out there is an Asgard and two other realms…because somewhere out there is an actual Demon King who wishes to tear every Aquapolian apart…because somewhere out there, Aquapolis exists, a land that we all belong to in our hearts, but that we’ve never seen. And that is terrifying to me.”
She studied him for a few moments. “You’re right…it is…”
They remained silent until the end of the dance, where Sherlock nodded to her and smiled, striding off in happiness at the thought of Stark losing money over a bet. Kat turned back around to see Grayson speaking with someone who looked important. He shot Kat probably the most disappointed and sad look ever, as if he were a puppy dog who had just been kicked. It seemed as if he would much rather be dancing all night with her than be stuck speaking to all of these people. She knew that feeling. She would rather be with him.
“I know you’ve been on your feet all night, but I can’t pass up this opportunity.”
Kat turned around to see a man about around Grayson’s age with light brown hair and dark grey eyes. He gave her a smile. “May I have this dance?” He asked. Despite being British, he spoke very slowly, almost lazily.
“Um…sure…” Kat hesitated, then gave him a friendly smile. She glanced back towards Grayson, but he wasn’t looking her way.
“Oh…I’m sorry your boyfriend is so occupied tonight,” the man said as he took her hand. “But it gives me a chance to speak with you.”
“I don’t believe we’ve met…”
“No, we haven’t.” He gave her a knowing smile. “My name is Jim. Jim Moriarty.”
Kat’s heart nearly stopped. She told herself to breath and smile. “Kat Stark.”
“Yes…I know who you are,” Moriarty said, giving her a slow smile. “It’s an honor finally getting to meet you. You are just as beautiful as the legends say.”
She turned her head away, groaning inwardly. “What are you doing here?”
“As I said, I came to see you. I came to find out exactly what kind of person the Chosen One is these days…my…friend…has taken an interest in you.”
“Well, you’ll have to inform your friend that I am taken.”
He laughed. “Ah, yes, by a half-demon, that’s VERY interesting. What was it that Odin said before he cast you out of Asgard? I believe he said to Loki…” He lowered his voice almost to a whisper and leaned down towards her ear. “An angel and a half-demon? Now, that will never work. It will lead to ruin and destruction. Now…he was right, of course, but I believe he played just as much a role in it as the two of you did.”
“He’s not a demon.”
“No…I believe he is a HALF-demon.”
“I know what he technically IS. I’m saying that he is not a demon at heart.”
“That’s true.” He frowned. “Unfortunately, we realize this. There was once a time we tried getting Loki on our side, but that failed miserably. Someone just HAD to step in and remind him of all the good that was in his heart.”
Mycroft was speaking with Cas when the angel whipped around his head and practically growled. “Demon…” He muttered in a low voice. Mycroft turned to see whom he was looking at, raising an eyebrow when he saw Kat and Moriarty dancing. “Well…it looks like Jim Moriarty has shown up at last.” Cas took a step forward, but Mycroft put out a hand to stop him. “No sense in causing a show here, tonight, Castiel. There are too many people around. He wouldn’t dare hurt her.”
“I wouldn’t put it past him,” Cas growled, but did as Mycroft bade him. Though he hated it, the man was right. There was no sense causing a stir here. Cas knew that the rest of the team would want to know Moriarty was there before they formed a game plan to handle him, but he decided as soon as the demon stepped away from the party, he would confront him.
But now what was important was to get Moriarty away from Kat. Sliding away from Mycroft and over to where Grayson was speaking to one of his father’s coworkers, Cas cleared his throat. Grayson glanced over at him, pardoning himself from the conversation when he saw the urgent look on Cas’ face. “What is it?” He asked.
“A demon is here. See the man Kat is speaking to? High level one.” They turned towards where Kat and Moriarty were standing. From what Grayson could tell, either Kat didn’t know he was a demon or was trying to keep herself calm. She didn’t look too scared.
Without another word, Grayson made his way across the room, determined to ensure that Kat was really all right and this demon wasn’t going to hurt her. When he drew closer, he could hear their conversation better. “You’re going to lose,” Kat was saying. Grayson could see that spark in her eyes that seemed to him a remnant of her ancient warrior self. No…she wasn’t in need of saving right now. In a few moments, Moriarty would be the one in danger.
“Really? I look forward to seeing the outcome…” He turned toward Grayson, who froze, now recognizing the man from the grocery store. “Ah…” Moriarty smiled slowly. “We meet again…” He held out his hand for Grayson to shake, his grey eyes dancing with amusement. “Jim Moriarty.”
Grayson didn’t hesitate. “Grayson Strauss,” he replied, shaking his hand firmly and shooting the demon a warning look. The corners of Moriarty’s mouth curled up a bit at this threat as he pulled his hand away.
“It was lovely talking to you…” He said, bowing slightly to Kat. “I hope we meet again soon.” He was not at all worried. In fact, he turned around to where Cas was standing and nodded to him, as if the angel was no threat at all. Cas looked positively livid. Grayson wondered if this were the normal reaction an immortal angel had to a demon.
Moriarty made his exit, heading for the front doors of the Strauss home. A few moments later, Cas carefully followed after him, earning a confused look from some of their team members. Grayson slid an arm around Kat’s waist protectively, looking around to see if he could make out any more demons.
Outside, Cas crashed through the garden that surrounded the front doors of the mansion, eager to sink his blade into that demon’s flesh. How dare he show up at that party with so many of Cas’ team members present? How dare he even speak to the great Chosen One, much less think to dance with her? Cas could feel his blood pounding in his ears as he pushed past partygoer after partygoer…
His heart sank a bit when Moriarty’s demon aura disappeared. No…he had lost his chance. Growling with frustration, Cas turned back to the mansion, wondering if he should return and warn the others. To his relief, Kat and Grayson were making their way towards the parking lot.
“I lost him…” Cas muttered as they drew closer.
“It’s okay…we’ll catch him later…” Kat said. “We’re going to go on home now…Wait…I forgot to say good-bye to Dad.” She slid from Grayson’s grasp and started to make her way back to the mansion. Grayson and Cas both looked like they wanted to follow after her, but it was a straight shot back, so they could watch her carefully.
Cas was silent for a few moments before he spoke again. “I’m going to help your team fight these demons. I’ve made my decision.” Yes…it was going against his orders…but seeing Kat back to her ancient self…it had inspired him to fight.
Grayson gave him a friendly smile. A genuine one. Cas had to contemplate for a few moments how the young man’s life would have turned out if Kat hadn’t shown up on Asgard all of those years ago. Perhaps Cas would have been fighting him in this struggle as well. He was glad, however, to have Grayson at his side. Kat had told him years ago about Loki’s strength of character and determination to go against his nature as a half-demon, and both of these traits were alive in him to this day, even as a mortal.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Grayson said with a sigh of relief. “We’re going to need your help desperately.” They watched as Kat emerged from the mansion again, this time with Stark by her side. This was a man who intrigued and confused Cas. Though he had been the one to bring the prophecy of the Chosen One to Midgard, Cas could never have foreseen that her father would play such a role. There was a sort of strength about him that lay in the background to his arrogance and sarcastic nature, but it was there…and it was great.
“Well, that was an interesting party…” Stark said the moment they were within earshot.
“I’m sure it wasn’t as exciting as you’re used to,” Grayson replied. Cas had to laugh. Everyone turned toward him, surprised. He was even surprised at himself. When was the last time he had ever laughed?
“Oh…I was just thinking…um…the ancient Starks of Aquapolis…threw legendary parties…topped anything the kings of Asgard could muster…I’m sure it still holds true today…” Cas said, stumbling over his words.
Stark gave him an amused smile. “Sounds like I’ve got a reputation to uphold.” Kat rolled her eyes. Cas was struck how similar the two of them were. Kat existed thousands of years before her father, yet sometimes their mannerisms and spirits were so alike, Cas had to wonder how it was possible for her not to have inherited these traits from him.
“Anyway, I’ve got to get back. Business deals and stuff going on. Be careful getting home, I hear there are demons around,” Stark said, patting Kat on the shoulder. He walked back towards the mansion.
Cas turned to them. “Let me escort you home. Just in case there are any more demons around.”
When they got home, Grayson turned to Kat, an apologetic look on his face. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to dance with you much tonight.”
She gave him a reassuring smile. “It’s okay.”
“No, it’s not…” He thought for a second, before striding away to where his laptop was on the living room table. Before long, music extremely similar to that played back at his parents house started playing. Kat laughed as he stepped back over to her, holding out his hand. “Now, may I have this dance?”
With the lights out and just the moon filtering in through the large floor to ceiling windows of the living room, the moment seemed magical as they slowly danced, Kat’s head on Grayson’s shoulder, her eyes closed. He softly kissed her forehead. “It has been wonderful…”
“What has been wonderful?” She muttered, her eyes still closed.
“Being by your side all of these months…I can’t…I can’t imagine not…well, then,” he smiled sadly. “No, I know what it was like losing you…and the pain was unbearable…I lost my better half…and I don’t wish to go through that again…”
Kat was confused when she felt him pull away from her, but he was on one knee before she could even open her eyes. Astonishment crossed her fingers as he dug around in his pocket, pulling out a plain black box and opening it. Inside was the most beautiful ring she had ever seen. It was a simple white gold band streaked with ribbons of sapphire and Aquapolian crystal.
“Will you marry me?”
Kat burst into tears, unable to speak. Grayson’s face went from happy to worried as she broke down in front of him. He stood up, pulling her close into a hug as she shook with sobs. After a while, he sighed. “I didn’t think I was going to get tears…”
She laughed. “Joy,” she squeaked, burying her head in his shoulder.
He sighed with relief. “Oh, thank God…” Finally, she was able to stop crying enough to at least nod her head and squeak out a yes. He took the ring out of the box and slid it on her finger, leaning forward and giving her a deep kiss.
Kat stared at the ring on her finger as she held it up to the moonlight. She was lying in bed, Grayson beside her with his arms wrapped around her. “Where did you get this?” She breathed.
“I asked Ten and Eleven to get it for me. I originally wanted to come with them and pick it out, but they refused.”
She gasped. “Grayson…this…this is from ancient Aquapolis…?” She could feel the tears coming back.
“Yes…but please, don’t start crying on me again…”
She smiled. Grayson sighed and asked, “Now, how do you want to go about breaking the news to everyone?”
“I think we should just go with the standard “tell only Dad and let the others just find out as they see it and as Dad tells them” technique.”
“If we leave it up to Stark, the entire country will know by the end of tomorrow.”
Kat laughed. “He likes you, you know.”
“Kat…he was the one who set us up in the first place, remember? How he kept asking you if I was your boyfriend, and then referring to me as such BEFORE we even started going out?”
“Just imagine, though, if he hated you.”
Grayson thought about this for a few moments, then cringed. “Okay, yeah, NOW I’m glad he likes me. I’ll take him wanting to plan our wedding over wanting to kill me any day.”
Kat smiled and buried her head in his chest, happily drifting off to sleep in his arms.
“I’ll be right there!” Stark shouted at the knock at his door the next morning. He strode over and opened it, one of the suit’s gauntlets still on his arm. “Hey, what’s up?” He asked as Kat stepped in.
“I was wondering if you wanted to go to breakfast with me, you know, since we’re going out on the super end-all mission tonight,” Kat said as she strode into his apartment, nearly tripping over another piece of the suit. “Seriously? I though you had all of this tied up in the gauntlets?” She asked as she picked up the Helmut, turning it around in her hands.
“I do, I’m just testing them out to make sure everything’s in working order,” he said. “Where to for breakfast, because I am starving!”
Kat shook her head. “Between you and Dean Winchester, you could put an entire restaurant out of business.” Stark actually seriously considered this a bit until she rolled her eyes. “I should never suggest anything crazy in front of anyone on this team, should I?”
“Hey, it’s called accepting every challenge life throws your way,” he protested, slipping the gauntlet off and looking for the other one. “Anyway, other than the end-all mission, what’s the special occasion for breakfast? I mean, I don’t feel rejected or anything, just that we don’t have breakfast like every day.”
“Just gives us a chance to discuss the big news.”
Stark spun around. “Oh, God, please tell me you’re not pregnant.”
“Dad!” Kat gasped, making as if she were going to throw the Iron Man helmet at his head. He ducked down behind the couch as it flew across the room, smashing into the kitchen floor, but not with enough force to crack the marble. A few seconds later, he slowly emerged from behind the couch to check out her ****ed off look.
“It was a joke!” He protested.
“You know, Dad, most fathers don’t joke about their daughters getting pregnant.”
“Well, seeing as you’re like ten thousand times more responsible than most daughters, it’s a joke because it wouldn’t happen…” He explained.
She sighed, her anger dissipating into annoyance. This was just typical Tony Stark, so she forgave him. In the end, she had to laugh inwardly. Just a few months ago, she thought he was a self-centered, arrogant bastard. Boy, did the world have him wrong.
“No, Dad, that’s not the news.”
“Do I get to hear the news now or later? Because then you’ll have to deal with my reaction in public.”
He had a fair point. It was easier just to go ahead and say it. “Grayson and I are engaged.”
Kat had expected him to be happy, but she hadn’t expected the reaction she actually got. Stark literally leapt over the couch and threw his arms around her. Stunned, she was able to muster only a few words. “Okay…wow…I’m glad you’re happy.”
“How about tomorrow?” He asked, drawing back, his “I’m planning this already” look on his face.
“Dad, we’re going on a raiding mission of a top-secret research institute and possibly killing some demons tonight. I think we’ll be a bit tired for a wedding tomorrow.”
Stark thought about this. “Yeah…you’re right…maybe that’s a little early…”
“We were thinking more like a month from now.”
Stark nodded. “Okay, that sounds doable. So…here or in America…?”
Kat sighed, wondering just how much of the wedding details he was going to get himself into. The image of Tony Stark planning out flowers and arrangements and stuff made her laugh. Yeah, she would pay money to see that, as would Dean and Sherlock. “I think we should focus on the demon mission for right now…THEN the wedding.”
“Yeah, you’re right…okay, I’m starving, let’s eat.”
The rest of the day was consumed with the team going over and over their plans and several hours long training sessions. By seven at night, Kat was covered in sweat and ready to go home and take a shower. While Mrs. Hudson offered use of her shower at Baker Street, Kat wanted some peaceful time in her own and some quiet time alone with Grayson before it was time to head over to the institute.
She had to admit…she was worried. True, she was worried about the Winchesters and Barton. They were close teammates. Barton was a mentor to her and Dean and Sam (especially Dean) were like the older brothers she never had. It was Stark and Grayson she was most worried about, however. They could both hold their own in a fight, but what if one…forbid both…of them were killed?
She didn’t want to think about it. She knew both of them were thinking the same about her, and perhaps about each other. Stark didn’t want to watch her go through the same pain again upon losing Grayson, and Grayson wouldn’t want to lose someone he was looking up to as a friend and father.
Kat and Grayson were startled to find Cas in their apartment, standing behind their table, where two large boxes were placed. “I apologize…I hope you don’t mind that I teleported into here…I just didn’t want to wait outside with these.”
“Oh, no, it’s fine,” Kat stammered.
“I heard that it is customary to buy gifts for newlyweds, so…here are my gifts.”
“Cas…” Kat giggled as Grayson smiled. “Normally you don’t give the gifts UNTIL the wedding.”
“Oh…well…I can’t exactly return them, so…here you go. Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” Grayson said as Kat stepped forward. Cas motioned for her to open the box on the left, so she took the top off of it and squeaked. “What is it?” Grayson asked, stepping up beside her and laughing. Inside the box was a black as night, fuzzy kitten. When it turned around, Kat could see that it had the greenest eyes ever.
“It’s a boy,” Cas pointed out. “I just him because he reminded me of one of your earlier cats…one you found just after returning from Asgard…you named him Loki.”
Grayson opened the other box so that he had an excuse to turn away. He didn’t normally blush, but learning that Kat had named a cat after him…the second box was full of cat supplies.
“I think…I’ll name this little guy Loki as well,” Kat said, picking him up. “Thank you, Cas…” She whispered as the kitten snuggled up to her.
“Well…you had such an affinity for cats…I only thought it appropriate.”
Grayson smiled, watching as the kitten started climbing up her shoulder, purring the loudest he had ever heard a cat purr. Loki had warmed instantly to his new owner. Kat really did have a way with cats.
“I should go. You have…preparations…to make.” Cas said, nodding to the two of them, then vanishing.
“Oh, no!” Kat squeaked. “What are we going to do with him tonight? We can’t leave him here by himself!”
“Why don’t you call Mrs. Hudson and see if she would like to babysit him for tonight?” Grayson asked. Kat did so, and the kindly landlady said she would take in the little fur ball for however long they needed. With a sigh of relief, Kat left Loki with Grayson and headed off to take a shower. When she got out, she found Grayson taking a nap, Loki curled up underneath one of his arms.
Kat sighed, poking Grayson in the side. “We have to get going soon.”
He groaned. “Five more minutes.”
“Come on…” She said, trying to tug him out of bed. He groaned again and sat up, his turquoise eyes sleepy. They sharpened a bit as he turned to her, studying her intently. “What?”
She sat on the bed beside him. Wrapping one arm around her, he pulled her close, burying his face in her hair. “I love you…” He whispered. She was shocked to find that he was trembling.
Resting her head on his chest, she closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of being close to him. “I love you, too…” They stayed like that for a while, neither wanting to let go.
“Ah, I’ll take the little one. Everyone else is upstairs,” Mrs. Hudson said as Kat and Grayson stepped inside 221B Baker Street. She took the little box full of Loki’s things and picked up the kitten, who instantly climbed up her arm to sit on her shoulder. “What a dear thing…what’s his name?”
“Loki,” Grayson responded with a smile as they headed up the stairs. The living room was jam-packed. Everyone turned to say hello. “Congratulations!” Dean practically shouted across the room.
Kat sighed. “So much for our plans…” She shot Stark a glare. “You just had to tell everyone, didn’t you?”
He shrugged. “Hey, I thought everyone could use something nice to look forward to after tonight.” He was right. Everyone, even the people who weren’t going inside the institute looked tense.
“Where’s the TARDIS?” Grayson asked.
“In Sherlock’s room. We’ll be inside, ready to move at the signal,” Ten replied.
“Okay, we go out in groups of two…Dean and Stark are first, followed by me and Grayson, then Kat and Sam,” Barton explained.
“Good luck,” Amy said, a bit worried. Even Sherlock looked glum.
“Thanks,” Dean said, lifting up the shotgun he was holding. “I have a feeling we’re going to need it.”
About ten minutes after Dean and Stark left, Grayson and Barton got ready to follow after them. Before he followed Barton out of the door, Grayson pulled Kat close, kissing her gently. “I’ll see you later…I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she whispered back, fighting back tears as he slipped out of the door. Sam walked down the steps, his shotgun in hand.
“He’ll make it out alive,” he said in that confident way he had. “He’s with Barton…and I’ve seen him in training sessions. He’s a force to be reckoned with.”
“If anything comes after him…if anyone tries to hurt him, I will murder them,” Kat said firmly. Mrs. Hudson, who had come into the hall to see them out traded looks with Sam that said they were both a little scared for the demon who attacked Grayson Strauss.
Finally, she and Sam slipped into the London darkness, making their way across the street and around several blocks to the institute. “This is it,” Sam breathed, getting a good grip on his shotgun. Kat had her sword in a sheath tied around her waist so that it would not obstruct her from running.
“Let’s do this,” she said. They stepped through the unlocked front doors of the institute.
Dean glanced around a corner, checking out the hallway before he turned to Stark. “Coast is clear.” They stepped forward carefully, making sure there were no demons in sight as they headed toward some labs that looked completely disserted. They ducked inside, splitting up to check out what they could find. “Hey, Stark, think you can break into this computer?” Dean asked, motioning to a screen in front of him.
“Challenge accepted,” Stark said, stepping over and starting to type in passcodes. Dean kept time on his watch until the security broke down.
“Nice…thirty seconds…” He seemed impressed.
“Not my best time, but it will do for now,” Stark said with a smirk. “Now, let’s see what these guys have been up to…”
On the next floor down from Dean and Stark, Grayson and Barton explored several offices, not coming up with much. The lab space here had heavy security on it. “Ugh, passcode,” Barton grumbled. “Wish Stark was down here…” They had opted out of communication in case their frequencies were intercepted. “I’m going to go up and get Stark…he could most likely unlock this remotely. Stay here and guard the door.” Grayson was about to protest about being left alone, but Barton was already making his way quietly back down the corridor. Grayson sighed nervously. If he were ambushed here, he was done for.
A small electronic click sounded from the keypad in front of him, and with a creak, the door swung open a few inches. This was the start of every horror movie ever, Grayson thought. Then again, perhaps Stark had already deactivated it…or had deactivated the entire main frame.
In any case, against his better judgment, Grayson pushed the door open wider and slipped into the dark lab.
23rd August 2013, 5:39 PM
The air inside the lab seemed to spark with energy, though Grayson couldn’t quite identify its source. He carefully made his way around computers and various lab equipment, wishing that he had paid more attention in Kat’s classes. He couldn’t identify any of it. Lights blinked off and on on some of the screens, but most stayed completely black.
He finally reached the back of the laboratory, where another passcoded door stood between him and a another section of the lab. This one was open, too. Every cell in his brain was screaming at him not to go through, but it was as if some unknown force pulled at Grayson every step of the way.
This lab was filled with metal examination tables. Every single one was empty…except for the one right in front of him. Grayson’s breath caught. Underneath a white sheet was definitely the outline of a body. Luckily, he wouldn’t have to pull back the sheet to find out what had happened here. A plain metal clipboard lay at the head of the table.
Flipping it open, Grayson dug his flashlight out of his pocket, shining it on the page in front of him. He immediately wished he hadn’t.
Cause of subject’s death: Succumbed to extreme electroshock therapy.
Test results conclude not all earth-types are resistant to electrocution.
The clipboard fell from his hands with a clatter that echoed off of the walls around him. This was worse than what had happened in that library. At least those victims had died quickly…This was pure torture, plain and simple…
His mind immediately leapt to Kat. Forget the mission. He had found what they were looking for. It was time to grab her and get out of here before another repeat of the events in the library occurred…
“I’m sure your fiancé could tell you more about exactly what happens to the body when it is electrocuted.”
That voice…no mistaking it…Grayson spun around. Dressed in a smart black suit, looking his usual smug and proud self, Moriarty seemed to practically glow down here amongst this death and decay.
“How did you know…”
Moriarty shrugged. “I have my sources. And she was spotted wearing a very nice Aquapolian crystal and sapphire ring today, so I guessed.”
“Why are you doing this?” Grayson asked, motioning to the cadaver.
Moriarty raised an eyebrow. “Aquapolians…you are such an interesting people…however you’re not even Aquapolian are you? You. Are. Just. Like. Me. A demon.” He smiled.
“Where’s Grayson?” Stark asked as soon as Barton reached them.
“He’s downstairs. We need you to open the passcoded door on the second floor.”
“Done and done, hey did you know they’ve been running experiments on Aquapolians here?”
There was silence for a moment before Barton said, “I need to get back down there.”
The first floor was silent as Kat and Sam crept along, listening out for anyone or anything who might be there.
Grayson shook a bit as Moriarty continued. “All of you friends who are here…unfortunately, I don’t expect them to make it out alive…” Grayson instinctively looked towards the door, but it slammed closed with a click. “Oh, no, no, no, I thought we were having a nice chat.”
Grayson glared at him. “I am no demon,” he snapped.
“Is that what Kat tells you? Because you are…half-brother to our very own king…One of these days, you’ll be just like us…”
There was a crash towards the back of the lab where Stark and Dean were. Dean whirled around and fired a blast as a demon leapt over one of the counters and barreled towards them. She was in close range in an instant, slashing out at Dean with a razor-sharp knife. He bent backwards, sweeping his gun up to try and hit her with it.
Meanwhile, Stark had problems of his own. Another demon had burst through the doorway, gaining ground too quickly for Stark to aim a laser pulse at her effectively. Two gunshots rang out, and both of them dropped to the ground.
“Nice shot,” Stark panted, turning to Dean.
“Not nice enough, I’m afraid.”
Both men were blown backwards by a burst of energy. Stark went sailing into a computer bank, while Dean slid halfway across the lab. Stark sat up a bit to make out whoever had attacked them. A demon who seemed to be around Dean’s age, with Asian features and long black hair stepped around to kick Dean’s shotgun away.
“You two have literally walked right into the lion’s den…” She muttered. Dean tried to get up, but some invisible force seemed to pin him to the floor. She stepped around him, walking up to Stark. “And look who we’ve caught…” Stark fought to get up, but it was no use. “I’m sure the Demon King would pay a handsome reward to anyone who brings him your heart…”
She spun around. Several demons had appeared near the doorway. “What?” She snapped.
“The Chosen One is on the first floor!”
She smiled, turning back to Stark. “Then again…imagine what he would give the person who brings him the Chosen One…”
“Don’t you touch her!” Stark shouted, but it was no use. Mishil was already gone. Luckily, however, they were no longer pinned to the floor.
“One of my fellow generals is hunting your friends down now…” Moriarty said. “And I mean literally hunting. She finds it a sport to go after mortals in such a way…”
“What do you want from me?” Grayson asked.
“Oh…nothing, really. We would love for you to come over to our side…but that’s inevitable. One day, eventually, you will succumb to your demonic nature and…” Moriarty winced. “I would hate to know what you would do to your precious Kat.”
“I would never hurt her,” Grayson snapped.
“Oh? I’m not just talking physically…what about breaking her heart?”
Sam and Kat heard the demons before they saw them. They both barreled down the corridor, trying to find a defensive position to attack from.
Ten’s cell rang out loud and clear inside the TARDIS’ control room. That was the signal. He answered it. Immediately, he heard Stark shout, “First floor, third floor, second floor!”
“Okay, people, let’s move it!” Ten shouted. The entire team, including Coulson, was in the TARDIS. Eleven set his coordinates for the first floor of the cancer institute.
Sam fired off several shots, hitting some demons before some invisible force slammed into both of them, pinning them against the wall. He dropped the shotgun as Mishil appeared, smiling. “Hello, Chosen One.”
“You’ve done it before…remember that time when she thought you were dead?” Moriarty asked.
“That was unintentional.”
He shrugged. “There’s an island far from here…the home of the Aquapolians…that is where our final battle will be.” He smiled. “I hope we get to faceoff there.”
Before Mishil could advance any further, a whirring sound filled the air. To their right, the TARDIS appeared, and out jumped Cas. “BEGONE, DEMONS!” He shouted. A blinding white light filled the space. When it cleared, the demons had disappeared. Sam and Kat ran into the TARDIS with him.
“Or…I could just Shadowficate you and force you to act like your demonic self…speed up the effects a bit,” Moriarty said.
Grayson took a few steps back.
“Yeah, that would be fun…”
“The calvery has arrived!” Dean shouted as the TARDIS appeared. He and Stark burst in, followed by Barton.
“Where’s Grayson?” Kat shouted as they stormed in.
“He’s locked into one of the lab spaces below. We couldn’t reach him,” Barton said.
“Everyone hang on! We’ll retrieve him!” Eleven shouted.
Moriarty took a few steps toward Grayson, tilting his head to the side. “What would you be like if your demonic side came out to play, I wonder?”
Grayson was backed almost into a corner.
Suddenly, Kat was there, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him into the TARDIS. They slammed onto the ramp and rolled along as the doors slammed shut and Eleven started messing around with the controls. “Are you okay?” She gasped as Grayson sat up.
“Everyone is okay, no one was hurt, please spare everyone your relief that the two of you are alive to see your wedding day,” Sherlock groaned. Everyone laughed.
“Uh-oh,” Eleven declared.
“What?” Ten asked, making his way around to where Eleven stood at the control panel.
“Somehow…it got stuck…”
“How did it get stuck?”
“Are we traveling right now?” Amy asked.
“Yes…but we’re not going back to Baker Street…” Eleven mumbled. The control room shook violently, throwing people every which way. Kat slammed into Grayson sideways, and they both went flying towards one of the walls. He quickly wrapped his arms around her and turned so that his back slammed into the wall instead of her. He winced as pain shot through his back.
Finally, after was seemed like forever, the shaking stopped. Eleven and Ten were the only ones who had successfully held onto the control panel. Ten was staring at something with a bewildered look on his face. “How in the hell did it get stuck on those coordinates?”
“Where are we?” John groaned from his place beside Dean. Everyone was slowly making his way to his feet, testing to see if anything was broken. No one seemed to be hurt, and the pain in Grayson’s back didn’t seem to last too long.
“It can’t be…” Ten breathed, racing around the control panel and bursting out of the TARDIS’ doors. “IT IS!” He shouted, racing back in, the largest smile on his face, as if he had just discovered Christmas came twice a year now. He cleared his throat, and in an official-sounding voice, said, “Ladies and gentlemen, if you will follow me…”
Kat, Grayson, and Stark were the first three to exit the TARDIS. They had landed on what appeared to be a very tree-filled hillside. It seemed deathly quiet to Kat, but, at the same time, it felt very familiar. Once everyone had made their way off of the ship, Eleven jumped out, looking more energetic than ever. He ran to where Ten was beyond the trees. Kat decided it was best to follow after them.
The view beyond the tree line was breathtaking. Mountains rose to grand heights around them, and valleys that were practically emerald in color ran between the ranges. The sky was clear above them without a single cloud. It was daytime here…
“I present to you all…Aquapolis!” Ten declared.
“We…we’re in Aquapolis right now?” John asked. Everyone was awestruck by the scenery. Sherlock tried to hide his surprise, but Kat could see it in his eyes. He had never expected this…
“Ah, yes, and just as beautiful as ever!” Eleven said. “I’m glad we brought all of our supplies, though…The TARDIS is stuck…”
Everyone groaned. Just their luck. While Aquapolis was beautiful and all…what if they ran out of food? The Winchesters were hunters, but not that kind…and were there actually animals here?
“Not to worry. We have enough for a few weeks, and it’s only a three days’ journey to the city. We’ll be able to fix her there…” Eleven said, patting the TARDIS on the side.
“Why can’t we just take the TARDIS to the city?” Dean asked.
“It’s stuck in space, too,” Ten pointed out.
“Well, then, I guess it’s time for a road trip!” Eleven announced.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Dean exclaimed as they made their way across the valley. “Do you actually believe that?”
“Yes, wholeheartedly,” Stark argued.
“What are they going on about?” Sherlock asked Kat.
“Whether pie or cake is better.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes. Cas frowned. “Why would they argue that?”
“It’s Dean Winchester and Tony Stark. They could argue for days if we let them,” Barton pointed out.
Coulson shook his head. “I always wondered what it would be like to get them in a room together.”
“Turns out they get along a lot better than we thought they would,” Sam said.
Grayson seemed awfully quiet as he walked a little bit separate to the group. Kat slipped over to walk with him. He instinctively wrapped his arm around her waist, but didn’t speak. “Is something wrong?” Kat finally asked after a few minutes of walking like this.
“I’m a half-demon…”
“Yes…we know this…”
“What if, one day, I turn against you?”
Kat thought about this for a moment. “You can fight against it…I know you can…”
“But what if…?”
“Do you want me to die?”
Grayson instantly snapped his head around to her, his eyes wide. “NO,” he said emphatically.
“Then there we go. Case closed,” Kat smiled. Something about her smile reassured Grayson. He smiled back.
Finally, it was time to make camp. Everyone had their own tent, but Kat and Grayson shared one. Moriarty’s words still rang through Grayson’s head as he curled up beside Kat. He was glad to wrap his arms around her and hold her tight to him.
“We’ll probably be able to get a glimpse of the city from up here,” Eleven announced the next day as the team made its way through the mountains.
“That’s a nice view right there,” Dean said. Another entire forest sloped down on this side of the mountain.
“Brr,” Kat shuddered a bit, then jumped when her foot landed in snow. “Is there always snow in these mountains?”
“Yup,” Ten said. Kat sighed and started to dig her jacket out of her bag, shrugging it on. She was still a bit cold, though. She started to protest as Grayson wrapped his jacket around her as well.
“It’s fine…we’ll share…” Grayson said.
A snowball went flying across the group and hit Sherlock in the back of the head. He spun around to see Stark trying to contain a grin. “Childish…” He muttered, turning back to the trail in front of him. Then, he bent down to grab a handful of snow, turning around to let it fly into Stark’s face.
“Snowball fight!” Dean declared, packing a small bit of snow in his hands and letting it fly. Kat duck as it sailed over her head and into Grayson’s face. Amy pelted Dean good as Ten secretly started making an arsenal of snowballs. Cas watched as one flew over his head before he made his own, carefully choosing his target. Kat spluttered as snow hit her in the face. She shot a mischievous grin at the angel before racing after him. The entire team let themselves go, enjoying just throwing snow and racing after each other. Stark managed to dump a good amount of snow down the back of Kat’s shirt before she got him back, pelting him three successive times with snowballs from Ten’s arsenal. Finally, after a while, they found a cave to dry off in.
“Okay, now I’m cold…” Kat shivered, pressing against Grayson to absorb his body heat.
“That was fun,” Cas said, smiling. Everyone was surprised at the happy look on his face.
“How long is it until we get to the city?” Sherlock asked.
“Another day and a half,” Eleven answered.
Sherlock sighed. “Great…”
They decided to camp out in the mountains that night. Kat and Grayson shared a sleeping bag, both warm and cozy with the other nearby.
The team was making its way down the other side of the mountain the next day, when Cas stopped dead in his tracks. “What’s wrong?” Amy asked.
“Demons,” he growled. Everyone spun around, trying to see if they could spot any.
“Let’s make our way towards the city…” Eleven muttered. “Quickly, now!” Everyone started down the mountain at a fast pace. Suddenly, out of nowhere, two demons sprang from the tree line, slamming into Barton and Dean. Cas sent them both packing, but more came after them.
“Run!” Ten shouted. Now they barreled down the mountain, Grayson grabbing Kat’s hand and dragging her along beside him. The demons tore after them, but stopped short as the team made their way through another tree line.
“Okay, we can stop now!” Eleven shouted. Everyone came to a halt, shooting him questioning looks. “We’re past the barrier. The can’t get through.”
“We’re close…can’t you feel it?” Cas asked Kat.
It took another few hours of walking for them to make their way to a large gate. Through the gate and a dark passageway and out into the sunlight they walked…until Aquapolis came into view. It was a breathtaking city, all white marble and blue energy lines. The entire city pulsed with energy.
“This is it…” Stark muttered.
“I know everyone’s tired, but there’s a place we MUST stop by first,” Eleven said. Everyone followed him through the maze of a city until they came to a great library. A large archway separated it from a circular hall.
“The Hall of Origin,” Cas said simply as they stepped inside. “The center of the universe.”
Grayson stepped over to stand in front of the gateway to Asgard. All he could see was darkness. Kat stepped up beside him, placing a reassuring hand on his back. “I don’t know whether I should be homesick or not..” He muttered.
“Your home is here now…” Kat whispered.
He smiled. “You’re right.”
“There’s a legend,” Cas announced. “A legend that says when a representative from each of the four realms stands in this room, the bridge to Asgard will be healed again and all demons will be banished form the Earth.”
“Do we know who the representatives are?” Stark asked.
“No idea…” Cas said. “But we won’t be able to find out unless we get a demon in here.”
“I don’t count?” Grayson asked.
“No…but you may count as an Asgardian…”
“What if we need an Asgardian and he’s the demon representative?” Sam asked.
“Then…we hope that we can contact Asgard…”
“This place is beautiful,” Kat whispered. She and Grayson had found what was supposed to be her room from the ancient days high in the spires of Aquapolis. She was looking out at the night sky, the stars glistening brightly.
“When I first read about Aquapolis…I didn’t imagine this…” Grayson said. “That day in the library feels so far away now.”
“But now…” She took a deep breath. “Now, we can get revenge for those people…”
“Now I’m glad we took that diary and file.”
She sighed. “Ten, Eleven, and Cas have no clue what we should do now. I think Coulson is trying to think of what next…”
“Well, until then, we should consider this a vacation…I assume we’re not going back to London…”
“Yeah, no one argued that when Ten said it, not even Sherlock.”
“Even he’s amazed at this place,” Grayson laughed. Kat yawned. “Okay, it’s your bedtime.”
“But I want to continue gazing at the stars,” she protested.
“Nope. We can explore tomorrow. Now, it is bedtime.”
She started to protest more, but he picked her up and carried her over to their bed, dumping her in it and wrapping the covers around both of them.
“So. Many. Books.”
Kat and Grayson were not the only ones entranced by the huge library that surrounded the Cave of Origin. Sherlock had already delved into the shelves, looking for texts that had not been read in millennia.
“Oh, look, I found another book,” John said sarcastically as he picked a particularly thick one off of the shelf.
Kat and Sherlock were surveying a shelf together nearby. “So many books…” Sherlock whispered under his breath so only she could hear. “Only a mortal lifespan to read them all in.”
He glared at her. “You have an eternity.”
“I’m sure Heaven has better libraries than this one…that I don’t have access to.”
Sherlock shrugged. “I guess you’re right…”
“Nerds,” Stark muttered as he studied a group of shelves beside them.
“I believe you are the very definition of that word,” Sherlock said.
“Was that supposed to be a comeback?”
“That was supposed to be a fact.”
“Since you are an engineer and he is a consulting detective, I believe he has a point,” Kat added.
“Why are you ganging up on me? You’re supposed to be on my side!” Stark whined.
“Who’s up for some training?” Barton announced as he stepped into the library. Everyone collectively groaned.
“Come on, this is like vacation time!” Dean complained from another part of the library.
“Yes…but…” Ten paused. “We never know when the fighting will start…”
“Well, it’s probably not going to start today, so why don’t we put off training until tomorrow?” Stark asked.
“Kat!” She turned to see Grayson standing behind her, several books in his hands, his eyes wide.
“What is it?”
“They have volumes of Shakespeare in here.”
She frowned, confused, until Eleven stepped up to explain. “During out travels throughout time, we were able to come back and place books in this library. You’ll find some from nearly every era up until now.”
“Wait…you mean…these are from…”
“Shakespeare’s era?” Eleven smiled. “Why, yes…”
“Grayson, sit down before you have a heart attack,” Kat teased, tugging on his pant leg until he slid to the floor beside her, practically shaking with excitement as he flipped carefully through the pages. After Eleven walked away, she leaned her head on his shoulder, glancing over the old handwriting in those books.
“I don’t recognize some of this…” Grayson muttered.
“Oh, what did you pick up?” Ten asked excitedly, he had come around the other end of the bookcase. Studying the book, he declared, “Oh, no, no, no, that was nothing published…”
“I thought we had a rule!” Eleven said, appearing. “No unpublished books or diaries or personal writings!”
“I’ll have you know the Bard personally gave me that!” Ten shouted back. “It was a favor for helping him with one of his sonnets.”
“You mean…” Grayson started.
31st August 2013, 7:26 PM
“Wow, thanks, Ten, now he really IS going to have a heart attack,” Kat said, shooting the timelord a half-fake glare as Grayson carefully turned over one of the pages, pretty much shaking as he read sonnets in Shakespeare’s own hand. Ten shrugged and walked off, leaving the two of them in peace as Grayson tried to fathom what was really in his hands. Kat watched as he read, true wonder sparking in his turquoise eyes. She couldn’t help but to think back to the last time they were in a library…
They had come so far. At the time, she had no idea that the man that she nearly knocked unconscious with a cane and hid in a cabinet with would turn out to be the person she would wake up to every morning, with his warm smile, bright eyes that always found wonder in the universe, and a voice that always softened when she was around. Neither did she know that he was also an Asgardian immortal, torn from his world and placed in her own…and that this was actually the second time in history that their souls had crossed paths and found themselves in each other’s arms.
Some people say that we are destined to find our soul mate.
For Kat and Grayson, time and space did not matter. If they were reincarnated again sometime in the future with different names and lives, they would still find each other.
Quamachi and Loki were for forever.
Kat drifted out of her thoughts to discover that Grayson had turned to her, his eyes wide. “I never let you read that paper…” He whispered, referring to his master’s thesis that he had worked on during the entire spring semester they spent together in Atlanta.
“That’s true…once we get back to London, you can let me read it…” She murmured, though, if one thing was for certain, she was sure that the upcoming battle would end with both of them returning to their immortal lives.
“No, no…” He gently put the book down beside him. “I…it wasn’t very long…I think I can write it down by tonight…”
“You have it memorized?” She laughed with amazement. She couldn’t wait to hear it…she was sure that he was going to read it to her, in that voice of his he always took on when reading anything (especially Shakespeare to her). One time, about two weeks after they had started dating, Grayson had made a reference to Shakespeare that she hadn’t understood. Fearing that he would realize what a mistake he was making in dating someone so illiterate, she confessed that she had not read most of Shakespeare’s plays. Grayson had looked at her as if he couldn’t believe the words that had come out of her mouth, and she was sure that was the end.
Then, in a way that made her heart melt, he had smiled. “Good. That means I get to have the pleasure of reading them to you.” They had spent hours at night, curled up in bed as he read her Henry V, Hamlet, and Macbeth. She had always enjoyed the sound of his voice and, on many an occasion, fell asleep to it.
Now, back in the present, Grayson smiled. “Of course I have it memorized…I spent so long with the wording…and going over and over in my mind what I was going to say…”
Kat smiled, lacing her fingers through his. They sat there for a moment until he raised her hand to his mouth, kissing the back of her hand gently. Before he could lean over to kiss her, though, they heard a voice from the bookshelf behind them.
“Well, now, this is what I usually think about when I think about libraries.”
Kat groaned and turned to see Dean striding around the bookshelf. When he got close enough, she kicked him. “Ow! What was that for?” He shouted, jumping back. It really had hurt, but Kat was glad. That moment had been SO perfect until he showed up.
“That’s for violating the sanctity of libraries,” Kat snapped as she and Grayson rose to their feet, Grayson making sure he snatched back up the book before he forgot it.
“Oh, well, I wasn’t the one violating the sanctity – ouch!” Kat had kicked him again, harder, in the back of the leg. “Okay, okay, I get it! I’ll go annoy someone else, God!” Dean laughed. Sometimes, he seemed like the annoying, but caring, older brother she had never had. Especially given the fact that he was so much like Stark.
“Be careful, Dean,” Cas said as he strode into another aisle, Kat and Grayson following after him. “You should watch your language when you are in such close proximity to Heaven.”
“Whoops, sorry, God!” Dean shouted, half-joking. Stark, who was a few rows away, chuckled under his breath, earning a stern look from the angel.
“Have some respect, this is a holy place,” Cas snapped. Kat winced. She was sure Stark had not meant any disrespect. And the fact that Cas implied that he had was sure to make him a bit angry.
As she expected, Stark turned away from what he was doing (apparently flipping through an ancient inventor’s notebook), and walked up until he was facing the angel from a few inches. The angel was a good two or three inches taller than him, but that didn’t make Stark look any less intimidating. “Despite what you may think, I have respect for all of these legends and myths and such. May I remind you that my daughter is the Chosen One? That my wife died because of these legends? That my future son-in-law is from Asgard? I have respect. I may not show it half the time, but it’s there.” He stalked off, leaving everyone speechless for a bit.
“He’s right,” Dean put in. “I joke sometimes, Cas, because that is just who I am. Stark jokes because…because if he doesn’t, the pain comes back.” The hunter walked off in another direction.
After a few moments of silence, Grayson leaned down to whisper, “I’m going to go and find Barton to see what our schedule for tomorrow is.” He left as well, leaving Kat and Cas alone.
“What happens when we die?” She asked, a bit shaky.
“When you die?”
“Yes, what happens when me and Grayson die?”
He turned around, fixing her with that gaze. “You will go into a period of limbo. Your soul will leave your body until the period is over. When you return, you will be immortal once again.”
“What happens if something happens to our bodies while we’re away?”
“You’ll be gone forever. That’s why, if something happens to either of you…we need to ensure that you are pulled off of the battlefield.”
“So what happens when…the others die?”
“I don’t understand…”
“What happens when Dad dies?”
“Well, he will go to Heaven…he’s a mortal, so that’s what happens.”
“So, I’ll be able to visit him.”
“No, you won’t.”
There was a period of silence until she asked, “What?”
“As the Chosen One, you are barred entrance from Heaven. Once he dies, you will never see him again.”
Kat stared at Cas for the longest time until he said, “I’m sorry. This is probably one of the reasons why he is so adamant about you and Grayson staying together…so that you have someone to love and protect you while he’s gone.”
“Yes…I told him.”
Kat couldn’t stand to be there one more second. She hurried out of the library, leaving the angel to himself.
Later that day, Kat found Stark reading in his room. He looked up from his book at the knock on the door. “Yeah?”
“It’s me, Kat.”
“Come in.” He put the book aside as she entered, walking over to where he sat on the bed. “What’s up, sweetheart?” She couldn’t say anything for the longest time, until he realized what was wrong. He sighed. “Cas told you, didn’t he?”
“Why didn’t you bring it up?”
“Because it’s too painful,” Stark snapped. “Really, there is no way around this. The one comfort we have in our lives is that, once we die, we are eventually reunited with everyone we love. And it’s true, I’ll be back with Caroline again, but we will never, ever, be together with our child for the rest of eternity. And that is too painful…”
“Is that why you…”
“Yes…yes, that’s why I want to ensure you and Grayson stay together. That’s the only way I’ll be able to willingly leave you…is if I know someone will be there by your side for the rest of eternity.”
Kat started to cry. Stark stood up and stepped over to her, wrapping his arms around her. “Maybe one day…in the future…we’ll see each other after…After all, rules were made to be broken…especially by a Stark.” She laughed a bit through her tears. Stark sighed.
Grayson could instantly tell Kat was upset that night when she sat down on the bed beside him. Cas had told him of their conversation. He resolved not to bring it up at all. Wrapping an arm around her, he whispered, “Would you like to hear the paper?”
Kat needed to be distracted from her own thoughts, so she nodded. “Yes, please…” Grayson had no sheets of paper in front of him, instead he started to recite it word for word. After a few lines in, she realized it wasn’t a paper, but somewhere between prose and poem. About love and loss…he must have finished it after their car accident. Kat closed her eyes, listening to him for a few moments until realizing that he wasn’t just reciting it…he was reciting it to HER. She was the object and the subject and everything about this thesis.
That was why, when he first saw that she was alive, he had promised to read it to her, thinking she was a ghost, that this would make her more alive and bring her back.
Kat felt both at once comforted and overcome with emotion. He loved her so much…just thinking about it brought tears to her eyes. He didn’t stop talking until he had finished, then turned to see her reaction, a bit worried when he saw the tears flowing down her cheeks.
“Kat…” He pulled her closer. “I will never leave you. When the time comes…know that I will be right here. I always will be.”
This made her sob a bit more. He wrapped his arms around her, allowing her to cry all of her feelings out. He knew she needed to. She was in shock, too stunned and terrified about what may happen in the future. Losing Stark would shake her world to its very foundations. Grayson had no power to stop this from happening…
All he could do was be there to comfort her once it did.
Kat wasn’t quite sure at what time she fell asleep, but she woke up a bit later the next day, Grayson’s arms wrapped around her. He was sleeping softly, so she didn’t want to wake him. She lay in bed for a bit, wondering how and if immortals could get married by a mortal…
Suddenly, he stretched, yawning and pulling her closer. “We have training today…” He whined. Like most of their team members, he was not very fond of getting up and training while there was so much to explore in this city.
Kat started to wriggle out of his grip, but he playfully clung on to her. “I’m hungry…” She whined. He sighed and released her a bit, enough for her to roll over and slide out of bed.
“When will it ever be easy to get up in the mornings?” He groaned, rolling over and nearly falling right off of his side of the bed.
“Whenever we magically wake up and become morning people,” Kat said, trying not to giggle.
“This stuff isn’t that bad for packaged food,” John said at breakfast that morning.
“Yeah, well, the timelords said that they could get some more and better food soon,” Dean said, biting into a piece of bread.
“Where’s Ten?” Kat asked Eleven, who sat beside her.
“He and Cas are discussing something in the Hall of Origin. Something has occurred with the Tesseract.”
Everyone stopped eating and turned to him. “Like…what…for instance?” Sam asked.
“Not quite sure yet. They’re investigating it as we speak.”
“Should we be worried?” Amy asked.
“Nah…at least not yet…”
Everyone went back to eating. “How long until we return to London?” Sherlock asked.
“Not for a while yet.”
Everyone turned to see Ten and Cas walking towards them, serious looks on their faces.
“Oh, great, just great,” Stark said. Coulson looked up from where he was sitting. He hadn’t spoken much on this trip. Kat wondered if something was wrong.
“The prophecy will be coming true soon,” Cas explained. “The Demon King’s armies will be here within three days. A day from now, the Aquapolian army will reappear to help us fight.”
“So…we just need to train and figure out how we’re doing to hold the fort?” Barton asked.
Cas nodded. “That’s all we can do…If they take the Tesseract, all is lost.”
“Well, then…here’s to one of our last days before the war,” Dean said, raising his coffee for a toast.
Grayson shot Kat a slightly terrified look. Neither of them had been thrown into a fray like this before. Actually, she was pretty sure no one except for Cas and the two timelords had been in a ware before. She could tell by the slight shake of the cup that was in Dean’s hand that he was just trying to look positive in front of the entire team. Even Dean Winchester was nervous about this.
Okay, Kat thought, I think I’m up for some training right now.
Sherlock was a lot faster than Kat gave him credit for. His footwork and ability to predict his opponents’ movements allowed him to effectively strike hard and fast at the perfect times. Usually, they trained with wooden swords, but today, Kat and Sherlock were going at it in hand-to-hand combat.
Sherlock was a good few inches taller than she was, so she had to take advantage of her ability to throw all of her weight at him in an effort to knock him off of his feet. After a few unsuccessful attempts, she heard two wooden sounds knock against the marble floor they were training on. It seemed to Kat that every floor here was marble…
Before Sherlock could get the upper hand, she spun around, grabbing the makeshift sword and swinging it at his head, knowing he would duck. As he did so, she spun around, aiming a sidekick to his legs that caught him just enough off guard for her to shove her elbow into his stomach. Before he was able to go down, he reached up and slammed his sword into her shoulder. Pain flashed through, but it wasn’t enough to stop her. She knocked the sword from his hands, reaching up to grab him by the front of his shirt and toss him to the ground.
Yielding, he sighed as she helped him to his feet. “You seemed to get in a few good shots, there,” Sherlock said, which was probably the highest praise he could ever bestow on her. Feeling more cheerful, she smiled and handed him his sword. He spun it around a few times, turning around to see what all of the other groups were doing. Grayson and Stark had been set together, both of them surprisingly two of the best fighters in the group. Stark’s height disadvantage didn’t slow him down one bit.
The only person who was not fighting was Cas. He stood to the side, watching as everyone perried and exchanged blows. Seeing that Kat and Sherlock had stopped, he stepped over to them. “You’re bleeding,” he told Sherlock.
“Where?” The detective asked, examining himself to see where the supposed blood was coming from.
“Your head. You must have hit it on the ground,” Cas motioned to the side of his head. Sherlock touched it, his fingers coming away with blood. “Here, let me…” Cas stepped forward, ready to heal his teammate.
“I’m fine,” Sherlock snapped, flinching back. “I’ll just go wash it off.” He stalked off back towards the palace.
“He doesn’t like being close to people, does he?” Cas asked Kat.
“That’s an understatement.”
He sighed. “Only a few days to train…stay here until he gets back.” The angel stalked off in another direction. Kat did as she was told, practicing swinging her sword around until the detective returned, sans blood.
“How’s your head?” She asked.
“Nothing that will kill me,” he said. “I’ll have to wait another few days for death…”
She sighed. “Don’t be so dramatic. You’re not going to die.”
“What percentage chance does anyone on this team have of getting out alive? Well, let me ask this…those of us who have no battle experience…we’re good as dead, aren’t we?”
“No. You’ll make it out.”
“Is that Quamachi speaking?”
“No…it’s just a very assured Kat.”
The next day, Ten ran up to Cas in the library. “The army is here.”
The rest of the team were already gathering on the edges of the city, gazing down at the vast army that had seemed to appear overnight. “Who are all of these people?” Stark asked Eleven.
“The ancient Aquapolian army…the ones who all died during the last Battle of Aquapolis.”
“Nice armor…” Dean said.
“That will stop a good many attacks,” Barton commented.
“Do we get to wear armor like that?” John asked.
“Yeah, there’s some down in the old armory,” Eleven said. “We should go down and raid it before the army does.”
“Aw, yeah, this is an awesome sword…” Dean said, swinging around a quite nicely crafted blade.
“Be careful,” Sam hissed.
Barton tried out a bow. “Hm…not too bad…”
“Considering one of us doesn’t cut our hands off before we go into battle…” Sherlock muttered as Dean’s sword clattered to the ground.
“Oops,” the hunter said, picking it up.
“I wonder if I have enough time to make this into part of a suit,” Stark said partly to himself, examining the armor. “When does this little showdown happen again?”
“In two days,” Cas responded.
Kat slid a sword into its sheath, walking out of the armory with it still belted to her hip. Grayson followed after her, a bit worried at her sudden departure. “Are you okay?” He asked, when he finally caught up to her.
“Just a little nervous.”
“Everyone’s nervous, including the timelords and Cas.”
“Great…just great, if even they are nervous…”
“Kat…” Grayson said firmly, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Chances are…chances are, only one or both of us won’t make it out of here alive…but…”
“We’ll come back to life, I know that, but the others won’t…Dad won’t…”
“Then…I won’t promise you that they will be perfectly safe…but I will promise you this…” He took her head in his hands, tilting her head up so that she looked into his eyes. “I will never leave your side.”
She buried her face into his chest, wrapping her arms around his stomach. He sighed and wrapped his arms around her.
“Now, we need to go over what will happen if one of our immortal friends is killed on the battlefield,” Ten announced at training the next day. “During their time of limbo, we need to get them off of the battlefield and most likely into the Hall of Origin with a few of us to stand guard. Otherwise, if their body is destroyed, that’s it.”
Stark shot a worried glance over at Kat and Grayson, who were both listening somberly to what Ten had to say.
“How about the two closest people to them on the battlefield?” Dean asked. “We just have to make sure they have someone close by.”
“Yes, but we’re likely to be targets,” Kat pointed out. “I don’t want someone to be killed just because they’re nearby.”
“Then how about you two just don’t stray too far from the others?” John asked.
“That sounds better,” Grayson conceded.
“Okay, let’s get some rest. Tomorrow’s the big day,” Ten exclaimed. “We’ll be protecting the inner gate from any demons that get through the armies at the outer gate.”
“Who’s leading the Aquapolian army?” Sam asked.
“They’re acting by themselves given from their original marching orders,” Eleven said.
The group split up into groups, not everyone ready to go to bed just yet. “Good luck out there,” Sherlock said to Kat.
“Thanks. Good luck to you, too,” Kat said as he walked off.
“Tomorrow is demon hunting time!” Dean said excitedly, though she could detect a bit of nervousness in his voice.
Coulson seemed to stand a little bit apart from the others. Kat walked up to him. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just…don’t know how all of this fits into the original plan.”
“It seems like it’s going smoothly so far.”
“So far, yes…but what if this all explodes in our faces?”
Kat thought about this for a moment. “All we can do now is fight.”
“You’re right. I just hope that’s enough.”
Kat and Grayson couldn’t get much sleep that night. They lay half-awake in each other’s arms, every once in a while, one of them whispering something or kissing the other, reassuring each other that everything would be okay. Luckily, the battle was not to start until noon, so they did get a few hours of sleep before they needed to be down in the armory.
Amy strapped on the armor plates that went around her arms, fastening them tightly. Dean made sure that he had both his shotgun and his sword firmly secured to his belt. Barton tested his bow one more time before ensuring himself he was good to go.
Kat, Grayson, Stark, and Coulson stood outside the inner gate, waiting for the others to get there. All four were dressed in their armor, and Stark had even managed to put some additions into his.
They looked up to see Eleven standing on the wall. “Come on! You can see better from up here!”
He was right. They could see the Aquapolian army and the demon army spread out before them. “This looks familiar…” Ten muttered from his place beside Eleven.
“This time…it will not end the same way,” Cas said firmly.
“Let’s hope not,” Kat agreed.
Everyone gathered below except for Barton, who would be their eye in the sky. “Any speech to make, fearless leader?” Dean asked Kat.
Everyone was quiet as she continued.
“Just remember everyone whom we have lost to these demons. Remember the thousands of Aquapolians who were slaughtered by them. Remember the people in the library, Aquapolian and human, who were killed for the knowledge these demons wanted.”
Everyone nodded in agreement before they got into their battle lines. Kat stood between Stark and Grayson with Cas on Grayson’s other side and Ten on Stark’s other side.
The two lovers exchanged glances. Neither of them was sure that the other would survive this battle. Neither of them knew whether or not they would show up to their wedding as immortals or mortals. But what they both knew was this:
The terrible injustice that brought them together would now be set straight.
They would avenge every life lost in that library.
15th September 2013, 10:28 PM
There was a deafening roar unlike any that Dean had ever heard. He had positioned himself next to Stark, appointing the billionaire his battle buddy. If Dean had learned anything after all of his years of hunting, it was best to team up with someone smart. Brains and brawn made for a deadly duo. Besides, they had done so well together in training sessions, even Cas had admitted they would be able to take down quite a number of their demonic foe.
The roar was coming from the dark army as it bore down on the Aquapolian army right outside of the outer walls. It would take a few minutes for anyone to make it through the lines of well-trained soldiers. Dean would take those few minutes to get his mind and body in the game. He tightened his grip on his shotgun. Dean’s plan was to mow down a few demons as they slipped through the lines, then switch to his sword for close combat.
Stark had a similar strategy, except his incorporated a laser pulse cannon similar to the one in his suit. Dean was impressed at how little time it took the inventor to build these contraptions. He hoped he and Stark survived this war. Dean didn’t cultivate many lasting friendships, but he could see himself getting close with Stark.
He studied his battle buddy as Stark turned to Kat. The billionaire was looking away from him, but Dean knew he was worried about his daughter’s safety. Both Dean and Stark had had awful experiences with their fathers growing up, and Dean knew Stark was self-conscious about his own role as an absent father. No, Dean thought, Stark was an excellent one. Just from the short time Dean had seen the two of them together, he could tell Stark cared about the safety, dreams, and future of his daughter. That was something John Winchester and Howard Stark both failed at. Dean hoped that, if he were ever a father one day, he would be able to follow in Tony Stark’s footsteps.
Dean nearly jumped. He was so deep in thought, he hadn’t noticed Stark turning back to him. He nodded enthusiastically, raising his shotgun in a sort of salute. “Sure am, let’s go kill ourselves some demons!”
Stark laughed. “If I had known it was so fun before, I would have become a hunter a long time ago.”
Dean nodded, thinking about this. “You would have made a decent hunter.”
“Decent?” Stark raised an eyebrow, a bit taken aback. “Just decent?”
“Yeah, given enough time, you could be good,” Dean said.
“Here they come!” Cas shouted.
A wave of demons had broken through the lines at the outer gate. Dean shot several before they made it very far, and Stark incinerated a few more. Kat and Cas ran ahead, destroying some in bursts of light as the others ran to join the fight. Grayson knocked a demon’s sword out of the way, plunging his own into the demon’s heart. Kat ran another through nearby. Sherlock slammed into another demon, forcing him back a few feet before the detective killed him.
The fighting went on for another half an hour until a cry went up from behind them. “Retreat back into the inner gate!” Kat spun around to see Eleven running towards them. “Retreat back! We need to ensure the Hall of Origin is not taken!” Everyone started to run back that way, Barton taking shots at the pursuing demons from above. Sherlock and Eleven were the last to pass through the inner gate, where the time lords had set up an anti-demon barrier.
“This won’t last for very long…” Eleven muttered. They retreated a bit as two figures started to walk towards the gate.
Grayson nearly gasped when he saw one was Moriarty. The other seemed so familiar to him, but he couldn’t place him. Black hair, black eyes, tall…He carried himself much like…
“The Demon King Adam Laufeyson,” Cas said beside him, utter revulsion and disgust in his voice.
“You mean…” Grayson turned back to watch as his half-brother stepped through the barrier, eyeing everyone with a smug look.
“So this is the little hastily made team?” He raised his eyebrows, an impressed look on his face. “Interesting…a few timelords, a few angels…one half-demon…” He turned to look pointedly at Grayson. “It’s been a long time, brother…” Adam said, stepping towards him.
Grayson took a few steps back. “I’m not your brother.”
“Claiming Thor before me, are you? You don’t even remember him.”
“I got a fairly good impression from him when we met a few months ago.”
Adam nodded. “Fair enough. What you’re doing here, all of you, is futile. We will claim the Hall of Origin and destroy the Aquapolian race once more.”
“I don’t think so, demon scum,” Dean snapped.
He usually put up a good front against demons. After you learned how to kill one and had become adept at doing so, the fear seemed to disappear just enough so that you were both confident, but wary in a fight. Dean had a right to be angry at Adam. The Demon King had sentenced his entire race to its death, after all, but as soon as the words left his mouth, Stark shot him a look that said even he wouldn’t have been brave enough to say that.
Which meant, Dean had just made an incredibly stupid move.
Adam turned his gaze from Grayson towards the young hunter. All demons had black eyes, but Adam’s seemed the darkest of them all. They were obsidian, a void, the most ancient darkness Dean had experienced. It sent shivers up and down his spine. How in the hell had Grayson just managed to stand up against this guy? Dean had to give him props. At first, he had thought Grayson was a bit soft, a bit too intelligent, not a prime candidate for hunting. Now, Dean wasn’t quite sure…perhaps his teammate was much more deadly than he had thought.
“You must be one of the Winchester brothers.” Adam’s voice was low, calm, and collected, but something about it pierced Dean like a knife. He shook a bit, but tried to stay confident despite the fact that he wasn’t the only one there intimidated by the Demon King. Even Cas was wary around this guy.
“You complain about our persecution of your people, yet you massacre mine in droves. Hypocrisy at its finest,” Adam said, tilting his head to the side as if he were studying the mortal.
That fired Dean up. No, it wasn’t hypocrisy. Like hell he was going to let Adam get away with that. “This isn’t your realm. It’s OURS. Go back to where you came from. Aquapolis is not yours and it never will be.”
“That is where you’re so very very wrong, Dean. We WILL claim this realm. It’s only a matter of time.”
“You will knock the balance of the universe off center if you do this,” Cas reminded him. The timelords nodded in agreement. As the angel took a step forward, Kat instinctively followed him. Two angels were better than one, even if one of them were mortal. She wrapped her fingers around the pommel of her sword. If Adam made a move to attack Cas, she would back him up. A sort of protectiveness rose in her. She had no idea where it came from, but if Adam or Moriarty laid a hand on anyone in her team, she would slaughter them where they stood.
“Do you not think I’ve already considered that?” Adam asked. “The balance of the universe, Castiel, has been knocked off center for three thousand years when that fool of a king destroyed the bridge from Asgard. Now, of course, that was to our advantage…but the universe has not been the same for millennia. Who knows? Maybe it will return to its former glory if we control this realm?”
“LIES,” Kat said, stepping forward. “You’ll make it worse, and you know that.”
Adam smirked. “It’s been a while, Chosen One. So interesting to see that you walk beside one of the sons of the last Demon King you slaughtered.”
“Oh, please, SHUT UP about him being your brother, it’s obvious no one cares!” Sherlock snapped, rolling his eyes. A few of the Avengers cracked a smile at this. Grayson shot him a thankful look. Stark actually chuckled a bit.
“Please…let’s focus on what’s really at stake here…” Moriarty said. “The Tesseract.”
“You’re not getting it,” Ten snarled.
“Really?” As Adam spoke, Coulson started back towards the Hall of Origin. Several of Adam’s demon army had come up behind him.
“I DON’T THINK SO!” A blinding blast of white light swept across towards Adam, Moriarty, and the demons. Several of the demons were smited on site, but Adam and Moriarty seemed fine. In the meantime, the rest of the group attacked, covering for Coulson.
Demons surged through the gate. Kat turned to Grayson. “I’ll follow after him! He needs backup!”
“Everyone, spread out through the city, don’t let them through!” Ten shouted. Moriarty and Adam had already disappeared inside. Grayson could see Moriarty out of the corner of his eye.
“Stark! I need backup!” Grayson shouted. They broke away and ran after Moriarty.
Adam was fast. A few minutes after Coulson made it to the Hall of Origin, the demon swaggered through the gate from Midgard, a winning smile on his face. “Ah…this is so perfect…the very man who broke the timeline…”
“I’m going to fix everything!” Coulson snapped.
“Do you even know why it’s broken?”
“No…but I’ll redeem myself…somehow…” He glared at Adam, daring him to attack.
Grayson and Stark bared down on where they had seen Moriarty, over near the Temple of the Timelords. “I’ve got this,” Grayson shouted before going in.
“You need backup,” Stark protested. There was no way he was going to let Grayson go after such a powerful demon by himself. That was just letting him walk into a suicidal situation, and Stark would have none of that.
“This is my fight,” Grayson said. “I need to stop him, I need to prove…”
“You don’t need to prove anything!” Stark snapped. No, he wasn’t going to allow Grayson to start believing these demons. He could tell as time went on that his future son-in-law was having doubts about his true nature, about if he were truly not on the side of the devil. “We all know, hell, Cas, the timelords…KAT…what more do you need?”
“I need revenge.”
Now that, Stark had forgotten, though his whole life had centered around the concept. For years, he wanted to get revenge for his wife’s death. This battle would allow him to do so. But Grayson…he wanted revenge for people he didn’t even know. Stark knew this was for the people in that library. Grayson had taken that burden upon himself. He hadn’t needed to, he just did. Revenge for souls he had not known. Stark could not admit he would have done the same.
He felt humbled.
“Fine then,” he admitted. “I’ll be out here…in case you get killed. Someone’s going to need to take you to the Hall of Origin.” Stark suspected fighting would be going on there. He might just take Grayson as far as the library and stand guard over his body along with Cas or one of the timelords.
“Thank you,” Grayson said, turning towards the Temple. He took a deep breath before rushing into the cool darkness inside.
Kat wanted to scream, to screech profanities, to curse Adam from Heaven to Hell and back again.
The scene she arrived at in the Cave of Origin was brutal. Blood seeped across the once-pristine marble floor, running in rivers from Coulson’s body. He was still alive. Adam stood over him, pacing back and forth, taking pride in his work.
“GET AWAY FROM HIM!” She screeched, drawing the Demon King’s attention to her.
He gave her a slow, dark smile. “Wasn’t he the mortal who raised you? He did a fairly decent job. It’s a shame…all of those mortals…your friends, your family. Your father.” He grinned more as the shock hit her. “You’ll never see them again after they die.”
“Get. Away. From. Him.” She repeated.
Adam chuckled and started walking towards her, drawing his sword. “Very gladly, Chosen One.”
A few moments after Grayson snuck into the Temple, he heard Moriarty’s voice from in front of him. “I was hoping you’d come here.”
“You were the one who ordered the attack on that library,” he said, walking forward until he could see the demon clearly.
“Ah, yes, good job. I’m impressed. Did you figure that out without Sherlock’s help?”
“You’ve been running SHIELD all this time, too.”
“Bravo,” Moriarty clapped. “You got me. Yes, I’ve been running the show here on Midgard while Adam has been away. Now, answer me this…why are you here?”
“All of those people you killed…”
“Did I kill someone you knew?”
“They aren’t the only ones who have died.”
“So now you’re going to take revenge for your girlfriend’s mother as well?”
“For all of them. All who have perished underneath the Aquapolian Initiative.”
“Wow, that’s a big task for a mortal to take on. And to think, months ago, you were a mere literature student.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.”
Moriarty tilted his head to the side, intrigued.
“I’ve never been a mere literature student.” Grayson raised his sword. “I’ve always been an Asgardian.”
Moriarty laughed. “Well, then, show me your Asgardian fighting skills.”
Kat blocked what would have been a devastating blow from Adam, spinning around to strike at his head. He was fast, moving away just as quickly as she was able to think. For now, all she could do was defend.
“Kat is fighting Adam in the Hall of Origin!”
Stark spun around at the sound of Cas’ voice. “What?!” He demanded.
“She needs back-up, but…”
“No, NO TRYING TO FOLLOW THIS PROPHECY TO THE LETTER,” Stark snapped at him. “If she’s in trouble, we give her back-up.” He glanced back to the Temple of the Timelords.
“I’ll go,” Cas said. “You stay here in case Grayson is killed. I’ll protect her if anything happens to her.” He could tell Stark was torn between the promise he had made to his son-in-law and protecting his daughter.
“Fine, fine, go, hurry!” Stark waved him away.
Grayson swung at Moriarty’s head, narrowly missing slamming his blade into the demon’s skull. Moriarty tried to cut low, but ended up slicing through thin air. He was caught off guard for a second by how fast Grayson was, giving him enough time to slam into the demon full force.
Moriarty recovered and sent Grayson flying across the room with a burst of dark energy. As he slammed into the wall, he rolled to avoid hitting his head on the floor, then stumbled to his feet, racing after Moriarty again.
Kat narrowly succeeded in slicing Adam’s neck open. She was getting so close to dealing him an injury, she could taste it. Suddenly, her legs were kicked out from under her and her sword sent flying. She hit the ground hard as Adam raised his sword above her.
A clattering sound issued from her right as a sword spun across the floor to her hand. Out of the corner of her eye, Kat could make out Cas standing in front of the gate between Midgard and the Hall. She grabbed the sword and swung up to parry Adam’s blow, then pushed back, rising to her feet. She swung backwards so all his weight made him slide past her, then raised her sword to plunge it into his heart.
Moriarty paused for a second as if he were listening to some sound only demons could hear. Fear and despair slid across his face, replaced by a mock façade of confidence. He wasn’t fast enough to trick Grayson, though. Something had happened to completely shake the demon general to his core.
This transition happened for only a few seconds, but it was enough to give Grayson an opening. He rushed forward, swinging his sword hard enough to knock Moriarty’s from his hands. As the weapon clattered to the marble floor, its chimes echoing off of the ancient walls around them, Moriarty grabbed Grayson’s wrist, twisting it bad enough to send pain shooting through his arm as he heard the sickening crack of bone breaking.
Through the haze of pain that threatened to overwhelm him, Grayson reached his left hand to his belt, sliding out a knife and plunging it quickly into Moriarty’s heart. The demon was caught off guard by this action, giving Grayson a chance to plug the knife all the way through his chest, ensuring that he didn’t miss the demon’s heart.
Another wave of pain struck him as Moriarty let go of his wrist. Grayson dropped his sword, clutching his injured hand with the other, struggling to see through the blinding flashes of light that threatened to cause him to black out. Moriarty simply stood there, and for a brief, terrifying moment, Grayson was afraid that the demon would simply pull the knife out of his chest and rush him.
Then blood started trickling out of Moriarty’s mouth, which had turned up into a sad, finished smile. “It’s over…” He breathed, almost in relief, as if Grayson had freed him from something. “Three thousand years of fighting, and it’s all over…” He sank to his knees, his black eyes filled with pain and sadness. “We were doomed from the start…” He muttered, his eyes wide with surprise. “She’s injured him beyond repair…”
“Who?” Grayson breathed, though he knew the answer already. His mind was getting fuzzy from pain. He gritted his teeth, cursing. It was only a broken wrist.
“The Demon King is within his last few moments of life…and he has no heir…” Suddenly, Moriarty’s smile turned maniacal. “Of course, he DOES have a younger brother…”
Something welled up in Grayson, some unknown anger, blinding rage that overcame the pain in his wrist. He grabbed his fallen sword and plunged it into Moriarty’s neck.
Stark turned around as Grayson sprinted out of the Temple of the Timelords. “Moriarty?”
“Dead,” Grayson gasped. “We need to get to the Hall of Origin!”
Adam was still alive, clutching at the blade shoved into his chest as he stumbled backwards toward the gate to Hell.
Kat turned at Coulson’s mumbled plea. She knelt down beside him. It wouldn’t be long before he died. Tears filled her eyes as she clutched at his hand. “Uncle Phil…”
“Kat, listen…I know now…I know what should have happened…the disturbance in time…” He gasped.
“What?” She whispered.
“Stark…Grayson…they need to be here, too…”
As if Coulson’s words made them materialize out of thin air, Stark and Grayson barreled through the gate from Midgard. Stark took a step towards Adam, as if to finish the job, but Grayson held him back. “He’s as good as dead. Let him die.”
“It was me all along…”
Kat turned back to Coulson. His eyes were shining with tears. “I should have died…years ago…it was my failure to die, that caused all of this…There was a mission across Soviet lines…back in the late eighties…and I was hit by a bullet…almost died…but I didn’t…The prophecy tells of a mortal warrior who would become immortal before the Chosen One was reincarnated…I was supposed to be…It’s all my fault…”
“Uncle Phil, no…” She whispered. “You couldn’t help it. It wasn’t your fault that you didn’t die…”
“But now I will, and everything will be put straight…”
“The four keys…”
Grayson’s voice took Kat’s attention away from her dying guardian for a few precious moments. Her fiancé was staring at the gate across from him, the broken bridge to Asgard. “In the diary and in the Book of the Chosen One, it spoke about four keys that would unlock the power of the Tesseract, healing the four gates between the realms. Once the paradox is fixed we’ll be able to unlock it.” He shot Kat an apologetic look.
It was too late to save Coulson. Kat watched as he breathed his last, his Aquapolian pendent disappearing. She had read somewhere that, when an Aquapolian died, his pendent disappeared as his soul left his body. She choked back a wave of tears. Her grieving would have to be delayed.
“We have to do this fast!” Grayson exclaimed, grabbing her gently by the arm and raising her to her feet. “One representative from each realm needs to be here, and if Adam dies beforehand…” He said this in a whisper so his half-brother didn’t get any ideas. Grayson took her over to the portal to Heaven and motioned Stark to stand by the portal to Midgard. By the time Grayson was in place in front of the bridge to Asgard, a circle had been formed around Coulson’s body, which was exactly in the middle of the Hall.
With a clattering sound, Adam succeeded in pulling the sword from his chest. Kat could tell, however, that it was hopeless for him. The ruins that lined the marble walls of the Hall of Origin started to shine with the same light as the Tesseract, the effect making the room look like it was spinning. Even the floor underneath Coulson lit up.
“No!” Adam screeched as he glanced back at the portal to Hell. It was closing rapidly. He limped over, trying to reach it in time, but ended up collapsing just as it slammed closed. He let out another inhuman screech before dissolving into smoke and ashes. Kat had to place her hands over her ears to block out the sound of his voice vibrating off of the walls.
That’s when she started to feel as if she were blacking out.
Kat heard the sound of metal on marble as Stark fell to his knees, clutching at his chest. For a second, she thought something had gone wrong with his arc reactor, and made a move to go and help him. “No, Kat!” Grayson waved her back. “Don’t move!”
“He’s dying!” She screamed helplessly, watching as Stark collapsed to the floor. He desperately tried to sit up, turning on his side so that he faced her, his eyes wide with terror. He didn’t know what was happening, and she couldn’t run to his side to comfort him. This was pure hell.
“DAD, NO!” She screamed as the arc reactor died, the light leaving his eyes almost simultaneously. Kat couldn’t come to his rescue, though. She could feel gravity pulling her to the floor. As she sank down, she could see that Grayson had already collapsed. He had raised his head enough for her to see pain and sadness in those turquoise eyes.
For a second before she blacked out, she realized that was the last glimpse she would have of those brilliant, beautiful eyes.
Information raced through her mind. Bits and pieces of memories flooded her brain, overwhelming her.
A huge library, filled with golden books and a companion with just as much of a love for them as she.
Lakes so clear that you could see fish swimming at the bottom of them.
Feasts, dancing. Oh, those emerald eyes that saw directly into her soul, it seemed. They could be soft one moment and sharp the next. At first, they had been so full of sadness, but over time, they were so full of joy…
And then the pain of being forced apart.
Darkness for three millennia.
Someone was shaking her. That voice….she knew it from somewhere…
“Kat, please wake up.”
She opened her eyes wider, her vision swimming into focus. Her father’s face loomed over her own. He was trying to wake her by shaking her gently. Worry was in his eyes, and he seemed every bit his nearly fifty years.
She pushed herself to a sitting position. There was a groan nearby. They were still in the Hall of Origin. Coulson was pushing himself to his feet, but having quite a hard time of it.
“You’re alive…both of you…” Kat breathed. It was a miracle.
“Yeah…the legend of the immortals,” Stark chuckled a bit. “Guess I’m stuck with this arc reactor for an eternity.”
“I don’t understand…” She breathed, looking from her father to Coulson in shock. Then, her eyes drifted over towards the gate to Asgard. She could see the bridge between the Hall and Asgard shine brightly with all of the colors of the rainbow. The Bifrost…
The figure lying in front of the gate was dressed in Grayson’s armor. As Kat raced forward, her mind tried to comprehend that this was the same person. He had long wavy black hair and was much paler than her boyfriend. The figure wasn’t moving from facedown position. As Kat kneeled beside him, worry gripped her. She pushed him over onto his side, causing him to groan a bit. Good, she thought, at least he’s alive and conscious.
Smoothing his hair back from his face, she discovered it was exactly the same, except smooth, lacking the small amount of facial hair that Grayson usually had worn. She placed a hand on his cheek. No matter that, in appearance, this man was a stranger. Her heart knew he was still her life’s love.
Finally, he opened his eyes. Gone was that unique shade of turquoise she had grown used to gazing at, replaced by the most brilliant shade of emerald she had ever seen. Though his eyes had changed color, it was the same person staring back at her. He seemed confused, not sure why he had changed, who he really was.
She leaned forward and kissed him softly on the cheek, wrapping her arms around him to comfort him. He was still so in shock, he didn’t respond. Finally, after a few moments, she whispered the name that came to her mind. That name she hadn’t spoken in millennia.
8th October 2013, 9:16 PM
His eyes widened as he sat up. “What…?” He whispered, trying to understand why Kat was calling him that. His memories had flooded back, all of the time they had spent together and apart. But nothing had changed about his line of thinking. He was still Grayson at the same time as he was…
Kat held up her sword. The metal was so shiny, it served as nearly a perfect mirror. Grayson almost didn’t recognize himself. Emerald eyes, not turquoise, looked back at him. He pushed long, black hair out of his face. “That…I…” His voice even sounded a bit different, a bit lower than it usually was.
Kat placed her sword gently back on the ground and helped him to his feet. He was glad to see that Stark and Coulson both seemed to be well, then confusion set in. “What happened?” He asked Coulson. Surely he had all of the answers.
“Everything is back to normal,” the agent said with a smile. “The paradox is finished, and everything has ended as it should. Adam is dead, the bridge to Hell has been sealed, and the bridge to Asgard has been restored. Unfortunately…Kat and Stark were both meant to die in this war…however, part of this legend states that the warriors that fought beside the Chosen One would become immortal after their deaths.”
“What about the others? The ones who were supposed to be a part of this team?” Kat asked. She remembered Coulson saying something about the original members of the Avengers.
“I suspect they’re all here, waiting for us outside…all except for…”
Coulson stopped, his eyes widening as something behind Kat and Grayson caught his eye. A figure stood in the gateway to Asgard. For a moment, the light behind him was so bright, that she couldn’t make out who it was. Finally, he stepped into the Hall.
“Thor…” Grayson murmured. The Asgardian had a huge smile on his face. Kat realized that this was the brother he had grown up with, who he recognized. And finally, finally, he was back. She felt a bit of joy at the reunion. She knew Thor had missed Loki deeply.
“You are back,” Thor said, awe and happiness spreading across his features. Kat for a second thought he was actually going to run forward and hug Grayson, but he held back. “Everything is as it should be. The Bifrost has been restored.”
Everyone smiled, glad that this was finally all over. Thor turned to Grayson. “We’ve missed you on Asgard. Perhaps it’s time to come home?”
Grayson looked from his brother to Kat, indecision crossing his eyes. “I…”
Thor frowned. “Mother wants to ensure that you are okay. Perhaps only for a short time?”
“A short time…but that could be months here, Thor.”
Kat stepped forward, reaching out to take Grayson’s hand. “He’s right. You should go visit home for a bit. I have to stay here and make sure that everything’s okay…but…I’ll wait for you.” She gave him a sad smile.
Grayson sighed, looking a bit sad, but no longer indecisive. “Then I’ll try not to stay too long.” He turned and nodded to Coulson and Stark.
“Remember, you have to be back by next summer for a wedding,” Stark reminded him.
He laughed. “Of course.” He turned to Kat, leaning down to kiss her on the cheek. “I’ll be back soon, darling,” he whispered in her ear before pulling back. He and Thor stepped through the gateway to Asgard. Kat gazed after them for a bit before turning back to the others.
“Okay,” she sighed. “Let’s go round up the others.”
“I still don’t understand how the paradox was created.” Steve Rogers, Stark’s uncle, Kat’s great-uncle, and Captain America himself, said from his seat beside Bruce Banner, who had also found himself on the island.
“I’ve had time to think over the life-and-death situations I was in before Kat was born. There was a mission in Russia that I most likely was not meant to survive, but one of the Soviets dropped his weapon before he had time to shoot me. Whether he did it on purpose or not, I’m not sure, but I know for a fact, that if he hadn’t dropped it, I would have died,” Coulson explained.
“So, why are we here?” A young lawyer named Mike Ross piped up.
“You were originally supposed to be on the team. After the paradox was fixed, you were brought here to where you were supposed to be at the end of the Battle of New Aquapolis,” Cas explained.
“So what do we do now?” Dean asked.
“We fix things,” Coulson said simply.
Kat didn’t think it was so simple. From her spot beside Stark, she felt as if something was missing. For the first time in months, she was without Grayson. Without his way of sitting beside her, always maintaining some form of gentle contact, whether it was a hand on her thigh or an arm around her waist. Without his voice, soothing her to sleep or laughing over something John or Eleven had said. Without those eyes that always seemed to light up when she entered a room, as if she had been gone for years.
She sighed and shifted in her seat. She had tried to keep her sadness to herself, but it was clear to everyone else on the team that she missed Grayson badly, even though he was only to be gone for a few months. Kat twisted her engagement ring around, focusing on the happy future, when Grayson returned and they would be married.
But really should she call him Grayson anymore? All of her memories had returned, all of their time on Asgard back in her mind. He was Loki again, but he was still Grayson. Cas and the two timelords had explained time and again how their reincarnated memory system had worked. They had been motivated their entire mortal lives by the memories that had been lost to them, so, in truth, they acted the same as if they had still been Quamachi and Loki. It made her brain hurt just thinking about it.
The consensus was made that they should return to the TARDIS and back to London so that the team could part ways and regroup. Coulson had suggested that they give themselves a few months off, to rest and relax before the next phase started, when he would reform SHIELD around a new mission: to heal and protect the Aquapolian race. SHIELD would essentially become the Aquapolis Project, which would offer testing of Aquapolians to see what types they were and educate them about using their powers. In the future, Aquapolis may even be re-populated, he said, but one step at a time.
For the entire team practically had an eternity. Coulson had shared the news about how the Avengers would gain immortality and free passage back and forth from Heaven after their deaths. This meant they could carry on protecting the Earth for all of time. Kat was glad to have more Aquapolian immortals there. It had grown lonely over the millennia.
“Kat? Sweetheart? You okay?”
Kat broke out of her thinking. They were in the TARDIS, traveling across to Baker Street. She was leaning against one of the rails that ringed the control panel. Stark tilted his head, studying her. Her father had been the one asking her those questions.
She knew she couldn’t lie to him. “I know it’s silly, but I miss Grayson,” she murmured so that only he could hear. She expected a shrug of the shoulders, a reassurance that Grayson would be back soon, Stark’s typical nonchalant attitude playing out.
Instead, he placed a hand on her shoulder. “Once we get back, it may be a good idea for you to stay in New York until he returns,” Stark said in a low, caring voice, as if he knew that this was the best solution, that she would not feel fully, completely happy until Grayson returned. He knew how much she cared about her fiancé…and he knew what it was like to be separated from a significant other.
“Yeah…” She nodded. School was out of the option until the next semester started. And really, though, would it ever be the same? She glanced around the TARDIS, at the group of people chatting, sharing stories of the battle, trading phone numbers. If she had been told months ago that she would have found the love of her life, her long-lost father, two demon-hunting brothers, two timelords, a consulting detective, and an angel, she would have certainly waved that all away as a dream.
But now, she thought with a smile, she had acquired so many new friends and had learned so much about the world and the universe. She had had such great adventures, some of them a bit too perilous. Her experience with the Avengers would change her life forever. In fact, it would change all of their lives.
Everything that happened after the TARDIS arrived back on Baker Street seemed to be a dream. The team had already decided to split up, to head back to their respective jobs (thought as demon hunters, Dean and Sam were now out of those). As everyone said good-byes and left, Sherlock slipped away to somewhere else for a bit.
“Oh, Kat, don’t forget Loki!” Mrs. Hudson said, carefully picking the kitten up and placing him gently into his arms. The little black furball was ecstatic to see her again, purring furiously and rubbing his face against hers. Mrs. Hudson looked around a bit worriedly as Kat wandered off to sit on the steps and spend a few quality moments with the kitten. “Where’s Grayson?” The landlady asked Stark.
“He went back to visit Asgard,” Stark said. John’s eyes widened, not exactly surprised by the billionaire’s bluntness, but he wasn’t quite sure Mrs. Hudson knew anything about the four realms.
“Oh, yes, Amy told me that he is actually an Asgardian prince. I thought as much, he always carried himself like royalty.” Mrs. Hudson said cheerfully, turning to Kat. “I hope he returns soon. The two of you need to have that wedding!”
Stark slipped out to call a cab to the airport. As he did so, Kat said her good-byes to John and Mrs. Hudson, earning an “you are always welcome to stay here overnight” from the both of them. A little disappointed that she didn’t get to bid farewell to Sherlock, Kat started for the door, Loki cradled in her arm.
“Kat, wait!” She could hear feet pounding down the stairs behind her. She turned to see Sherlock rushing towards her. “Here,” he said, giving her a piece of paper. She frowned, confused, until she opened it up. “My phone number. Please keep in touch,” he said with a small smile.
“I will…thank you…” She was so touched, she couldn’t help herself. She hugged Sherlock, catching him off guard, but after a few seconds, he returned the hug, then pulled away.
“Good luck to you,” he said as he opened the door for her.
“Thank you. Good luck to you,” she said before stepping out to the cab. Sherlock watched her go for a bit, a smile still planted on his face before he shut the door.
The library was quiet. Very few people were there. Kat ran her hand along the back of a book, sighing. She picked it up, glancing over the title. Henry V. She cracked it open a bit, reading through, Grayson’s voice echoing in her head. She didn’t even look up when she felt that someone else was glancing at the bookshelf beside her. She was too caught up in what she was reading.
“An excellent choice.”
Her heart started racing as she looked up at the oh-so-familiar sound of that voice. Gone was the black hair and green eyes that she had last seen. Here was the Grayson that she had known for so many months, with the red hair and turquoise eyes. She nearly dropped the book, but he was fast enough to catch it.
He smiled, turning to her. “I expected that I would find you here. How often do you return here?”
“About once a week,” she said softly. “Not many patrons here these days, not after what happened…”
“Yes…” He slid the book back onto the shelf. “That day was hell, but…” He took a deep breath. “Several good things came out of it.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Such as?”
“An adventure. The strength to face up against Moriarty. You.” He smiled, then frowned a bit. “I’m sorry it took so long. They wanted me to stay there for a while longer. But…” He turned to her, placing a hand on her cheek. “I told them I had to attend a wedding soon.”
Kat smiled, placing a hand on his before she stood on her tiptoes to kiss him, savoring being close to him yet again after so long. Their kiss was long and filled with relief, hope, and joy. Relief that the fighting was over. Hope for a better future. Joy that they were together again.
Finally, they broke apart, Grayson giving her a gently kiss on the cheek for good measure before wrapping an arm around her waist. “Are you ready?” He whispered in that voice that always sent joy and pleasure searing through her.
“Ready for what?” She asked with a hopeful smile.
“For the rest of eternity.”
“Yes…” She replied, wrapping an arm around him. “As long as it’s with you.”