He leaned low over the front of the bike as he roared through the snowy forest. The sounds of gunfire and explosions boomed all around him. He followed close behind the tracks that Natasha and Barton were leaving in their jeep. He snarled in fury as he snagged one of the HYDRA soldiers out of the air, slamming him into a tree.
A near inhuman snarl emerged from his mouth as he hurls his shield at one of the firing HYDRA soldiers. Ever since the fall of HYDRA and the rebuilding of SHIELD, the Avengers had been battling with the terrorist group, trying to rescue one of their own.
Sy. His ward, his teammate, his friend. His sister in all but blood. The seventh, final and youngest member of the original Avengers team. She’d been held prisoner within HYDRA for nearly nine months after having been captured the previous September. Guilt clawed at him as he used an embankment as a ramp to jump over a squadron of enemy soldiers. It had been partially his fault that she’d been caught by the terrorist group. He, Tony and Bucky had been fighting and forced her to intervene. In the aftermath of the fight, HYDRA had attacked while they’d been weak and vulnerable.
And they took her.
Now they were going to get her back. He landed hard, pulling around to roar down the road in the opposite direction. The Hulk roared as he tore through soldiers. Steve and Bucky raced on either side of an open air jeep that Natasha was driving as they advanced on the HYDRA base. The whirring of machinery behind him signaled to Steve that Tony and Sam were behind them, providing aerial support. The crackle of lightning and the green mist filling the air were their two resident gods. Everyone they knew, every ally they had, had come together to help rescue the youngest Avenger.
He and Tony had been forced to work through or put aside all of their problems over the last few months. Finding and rescuing Sy took all precedent. He jumped over another embankment, shield swung defensively in front of him as they cleared the final major lines of defense that HYDRA had set up.
Steve swerves hard, avoiding the fierce fighting as he focuses on the goal. She was being held in one of the final major HYDRA outposts. That outpost was the Sokovian fortress he finally had in sight. He threw his shield at another group of soldiers, knocking them off balance so that Bucky could pick them off easily.
“Shit!” Tony’s voice suddenly echoed through the comms unit.
“Language.” He commented without thinking.
“JARVIS, what’s the view from upstairs?” Steve asked. The cool automated British voice answered immediately.
“The central building appears to be protected by some sort of energy shield. Strucker’s technology is well beyond any other HYDRA base we’ve taken.”
“She has to be here. Strucker wouldn’t have bothered to mount such a defense without her.” Thor growled through the earpiece. Steve wove through the trees, wheels skidding over snow as he sped towards the fortress.
“This is Chitauri enhanced technology. She must be here.” Loki added, fear and anger evident in the trickster’s voice. The god and Sy had a close friendship that Steve didn’t fully understand. It had something to do with debt and control. At first he’d thought that the trickster was in love with Sy, until he walked in on the god giving her a serious lecture on the dangers of men and how she would be best to swear off of them entirely. It had been pretty entertaining to watch her chew the god out over letting her make her own choices and how her dating life was none of his business anyways.
Loki blamed both him and Tony for her capture and had yet to forgive either of them. It made for tense mealtimes most days. Not that the god was wrong. Steve wasn’t sure if he could ever deserve that forgiveness, and he didn’t think he would ever forgive himself . But none of that mattered anyways; forgiven or not, he just wanted Sy safely at home in New York.
“At long last, we will bring her home.” Thor muttered. They were all feeling the same jittery anticipation of finally bringing their friend home.
“At long last is lasting a little long boys.” Natasha reminded them. Steve frowned, gunning the bike even harder. He punched another soldier, and grabbed his buddy out of the air, tossing him into another flying HYDRA soldier.
“Yeah, I guess we’ve lost the element of surprise.” Clint voiced sarcastically. Steve heard an explosion through the comm’s mike. Tony piped up again.
“Wait a second. No one else is going to deal with the fact that Cap just said ‘language?’” Steve almost smiled at the familiar banter that had nearly disappeared after Sy had been taken.
“I know.” He groaned good naturedly. Steve grunted as he turned the bike in a tight circle before leaping off. He lifted the entire bike up, tires still spinning, and hurled it at the oncoming HYDRA soldiers. The resulting crash caused the tank to flip over and burst into flames. He stood up slowly, ears ringing from the crash.
“It just slipped out.” He said helplessly. Bucky snorted through the comms unit.
“Sure it did.” Steve glared at the sky, since his wayward best friend was fighting somewhere else. He noted the Iron Legion flying overhead; Tony’s way of minimizing civilian casualties.
“Buc- James you’re different. You can’t use curse words as commas. Not when we were kids and not now.” He shot back as he threw his shield, catching it when it came back. Steve sprinted through the forest, battling his way towards the massive fortress.
“Yeah yeah yeah.” Bucky mutters back.
“Clint!” Natasha cries over the mike. Something slammed into Steve, nearly knocking him over. A blue and white blur vanished into the woods.
“We have an enhanced in the field.” He related to the rest of the team.
“Clint’s hit! Somebody want to deal with that bunker?” Natasha snarled through the mike.
“The big guy and I got that.” Sam said. A minute later a huge crash echoed through the forest.
“Thank you.” She quipped distractedly. Steve nodded to nobody in particular as he fought his way ever closer, reassured that the most of his team was still ok. He hurled his shield, hitting a group of soldiers. He turned and his fist connected with a satisfying thud against another one. The soldier flew back and crashed into one of his buddies.
“Stark. We really need to get inside.” He panted. Tony’s response was clipped.
“I’m closing in.” No matter how much the two of them have worked to patch up the problems in their relationship, Steve couldn’t help but still see the gaping hole that remained. A Sy shaped one.
Steve glanced up to see Thor and Loki fighting side by side in perfect harmony. Steve fights his way over to the two brothers.
“Drawbridge is down people.” Tony announced. Steve summons his shield back with a magnet. He jogs over to the godly duo.
“The enhanced?” Thor asked. Steve sighed.
“He’s a blur. All the new players we’ve faced, I’ve never seen this. In fact I still haven’t.”
“Clint’s hit pretty bad guys. We’re gonna need a second evac.” Natasha reported. Steve felt irritation well up inside of him. Who knew what kind of shape Sy would be in when they got to her. She’d been a prisoner for months. But almost immediately he felt guilty. Barton was down and needed the evac. It happened in battle. People get hurt, and it wasn’t Clint’s fault he got hit.
“No. I’m fine, I want to help. I want to get her out.” Clint rasped through his own comms unit. Steve could hear the pain laced through his voice. Steve shook his head and glanced at the two gods. Thor nodded at him.
“I’ll can get Barton to the jet. The sooner we’re gone the better. You and Stark find Sy.”
“Copy that.” Steve replied nodding sharply. He glanced over the ridge, where a dozen soldiers and a tank were advancing on them.
“Looks like they’re lining up.” Thor commented blandly. Loki looked annoyed.
“No. Don’t do the thing. Don’t.” Steve raised his shield up in front of him, angled towards the HYDRA agents and Thor began to whirl his hammer.
“Well, they’re excited.” Steve replied casually.
“ And they’re doing the thing.” The trickster god sighed, backing away and raising a magical shield in front of him. A resigned expression crossed his face as the trickster braced himself. Thor hit Steve’s shield with his hammer, and the two of them recreated a much more controlled explosion than the one they’d made all those years ago when they’d first met. The blast sliced through the HYDRA ranks, clearing Steve and Loki a path towards the fortress.
“Find her. Bring her home.” Thor intoned before flying away; the smell of ozone the only trace the god left behind.
“And for gosh sake watch your language.” Tony added in sarcastically. Steve let a small smile slip across his face at the tease. Even if it was annoying progress, he wouldn’t have traded the barbs for almost anything after the months of tense and overly formal behavior between the two of them. After last fall, his and Tony’s friendship had taken a hard hit. This small sign of hope was all he needed to fuel him.
“That’s not going away anytime soon.” He groaned before sprinting towards the fortress imprisoning one of the most important people in his life.
The sound of gunfire woke her up. The alarms sounded frequently, so she tended sleep through them. Or rather continue drifting in the world behind her closed eyes; only ever half awake. She hurt less that way. She rarely slept, and rarely woke. She just drifted.
But these alarms sounded different. More urgent. Then came the gunfire and the shouting and the explosions.
She drifted higher and higher, closer to the surface and with a soft gasp her eyes opened and she surfaced from the deep waters that filled her mind.
She could hear men shouting, orders being called out. The deep rumble of engines and the blast of explosions. Somehow the sounds of fighting was comforting. It meant that they were close to her.
Whoever this they were slipped her mind. She forgets a lot. But she knows someone will come for her. And as her mind sluggishly wakes up, more and more cohesive thoughts fill her. She knew that she was beginning to remember too much, and soon they would put her in the cold place under the bright lights and take them all away again. Or try too take them away. They never quite succeed.
Something inside her makes her stronger. Helps her remember. Keeps her from letting the guards too close. Keeps her from letting the girl near her mind. Keeps her singing and humming for freedom long after they’d gagged her. Sometimes she wonders if they made her like they made the twins. Other times she knows that she was born this way, and that was why they clip her wings so she can’t fly. Why they steal all sorts of bits and pieces from her for their tests and experiments.
It was for tests to make more of the twins. The twins don’t know about her though. Only the witch has ever seen her and only the once. She doubts the witch suspected a thing; or if she did decided that she didn’t care.
A sudden explosion surprises her from her thoughts. She knows that they are coming.
The door slides open. The secret one. The one they use to take her away. She tenses. She will not let them take her away when freedom was so close.
A familiar shape is silhouetted against the light. A face that she only ever dreamed about, the name just out of reach, descends the steps. He’s scanning the room, but has yet to spot her in the dark corner, strapped down to the table. The experiment room was too full of other interesting things to look at. Like the big whale turtle thing on the ceiling. Or the machines she fueled with the things they stole from her. She tried flapping her wings, struggling against the metal bands around her limbs. Anything to gain his attention.
“Sy.” The word comes out like a breathy sigh. A name. Maybe hers? She doesn’t remember, but it sounds right. She isn’t sure though. Relief had filled his features as he approached her.
Suddenly her eyes widen. The witch was behind him. She screamed through the metal gag she wore, trying to warn him of the danger. She thrashed and cried, but he didn’t notice.
“I’ve got eyes on her.” He murmured quietly, and she could taste the sweet relief filling his voice as he raced towards her lonely platform. She tried to warn him again, but all that came out was a garbled cry. Suddenly a flash of red light exited the witch’s palm, and the man’s eyes flashed the same color. She sobbed brokenly, as the witch glanced up towards her. Anger flashed through the woman’s expression when she looked at her. But a moment later he gasped, his eyes clearing of her magic. The witch retreated quickly, the anger on her face gone as quickly as it came. The man’s face hardened with determination as he raced up the steps.
She heard the burst of wind that heralded the other twin’s arrival. She screamed again, her wings beating wildly against the restraints. She strained at the cuffs, desperately.
“We’re just going to let him take it?” The brother asked coldly. The woman held him back.
“Her. He can take her .” She whispered. In the next blink, the twins were gone. A red blur of metal affixed itself to the man’s hand. She finally looked back up at the man, soft brown eyes wrinkled with concern even as he clearly struggled to keep the fury out of his voice. She cried brokenly at him through the gag. She was so happy to see him, even if she couldn’t remember why .
“Shh, shh. It’s ok, I’ve got you. I’m gonna get you out of there.” He soothed. A white hot beam of energy emerged from the gauntlet. Blind panic suddenly consumed her. She needed to be free, she didn’t want to hurt anymore. She didn’t want to lose her mind again, lose her memories. She needed those to stay free. She needed to remember . The man turned it off quickly, sending her back into the safety of the darkness.
“Sy, Sy. I need to get you out of these restraints ok? I need to cut them off.” He pleaded, desperately trying to calm her down. She knew that he was trying to help her. He was safe. But she would not let that white light near her. They would not take away her mind. A second set of footsteps pounded into the room. The man that came skidding to a halt at her platform was even more familiar. Warm safe feelings filled her as tears gathered in her eyes. Even though it was tinged with bitterness, she felt better just because this man was here. He would protect her from the bright lights and the torment of the cold room. Blonde hair and wide angry blue eyes stared down at her.
“God, what did they do to you?” He whispered brokenly, his voice rough with grief and regret. The new man knelt down next to her, holding her hand gently, the other hand tracing over the heavy restraints. She let him. He glanced up, worry creasing his brow. Then he nodded shortly, his expression resigned. He looked back down at her, squeezing her hand again gently in reassurance. She relaxed, trusting him to take care of her.
Then she felt the needle. Betrayal rushed through her as she looked up at the first man. Remorse filled his expression, the empty syringe in his hand. She screamed muffled obscenities at him, fighting with everything she had. Both men held her down firmly. The familiar faces were a trick, and they were going to take her away now.
“I’m sorry Sy, but I promise this is for your own good.” The first man said, one hand stroking her hair soothingly. She ignored him. She screamed and heaved and thrashed and fought as whatever it was rushed through her. She could feel herself slowing down. Falling asleep. But she wouldn’t go without a fight, no.
She was a fighter. She remembered that. She had always fought back.
They wouldn’t win.
She would keep her mind, her memories.
Those are hers and they can’t-
Happy Valentine's Day!
She woke up slowly, each sense coming back to her one at a time. First was sound, a slow steady beeping, the soft uneven breathing of more than one person, the rustle of sheets under her body. She could hear footsteps moving around, distant and muffled by a barrier and distance; the honking and beeping of cars. She tuned out the extraneous noise, letting it fade into the background. The exercise felt practiced, but she didn't let herself think about it too hard.
Then came touch. She was warm for the first time in a long time, a blanket gently tucked around her, a large calloused hand gripping hers tightly. She tried pulling her hand away, but the grip tightened with a mumbled "Bucky, no." Something about that statement felt important, so she let the hand hold onto her.
She also registered the distinct lack of metal around her arms and legs. Then came the taste of her mouth without the bitter metallic tang of the hated gag, a kind of fuzzy feeling. Morning breath . The word floated vaguely through her mind. The sharp smell of antiseptic assaulted her nose.
Slowly she blinked her eyes open to a dim hospital room. Curtains were pulled across the window; allowing only a little of the soft yellow sunlight to filter into the room. Scattered throughout the room was an eclectic collection of sleeping people she recognized. A red headed woman sat with tightly crossed arms in a chair next the door, her head dropped on the shoulder of a man with salt and pepper hair, glasses crooked on his nose. A man in armor and long hair sat on the floor, a dark haired man with equally long hair in a crisp black suit next to him, sitting so close they nearly touched. Both had their heads tipped back, mouths identically slack. They radiated power, the feeling of them pressing against her mind. The pressure was familiar, and almost comforting in its discomfort. A man with a metal arm slept sitting directly across the doorway, like a sentry on guard. The man who had sedated her before was sleeping with his head buried in his arms at the foot of her bed. A blonde man who inspired the warmest feelings inside her slept with his head at her side, one of her hands gripped tightly inside his own.
A soft knock at the door startled her. It also startled the rest of the room, everyone jumping to wakefulness in various stages of defense; the red haired woman and the one armed man the most ready. A sunny young teenager stepped into the room, unperturbed by the weapons that had leapt into hands, ignoring the aggressive stances.
“Good, you’re awake. I was getting worried Sy.” She watched him warily, before nodding once. The boy smiled again encouragingly at her before turning to the others in her room.
“Alright, everyone out. Doctors orders. Go bother Helen and Clint now.” With different levels of reluctance almost everyone filed out. The man holding her hand stayed and so did the one who sedated her. That man didn't feel dangerous anymore, but still didn't think she should trust him after the sneaky needle he'd injected her with. The metal armed one hovered in the doorway silently. She was glad that they stayed, even while she wished for them to leave.
“I’m not leaving her.” The one holding her hand insisted. The blonde doctor shook his head.
“Then go wait in the hallway. I will not evaluate her with an audience. You want her to get better? Stop holding me up.” The sunny look grew colder. The man opened his mouth to argue again but the other man cut him off.
“Come on Steve. Let’s check on Barton and then come back.” After a long moment, he squeezed her hand gently before letting go.
“I’ll be right back. I promise.” She nodded at him and watched them leave. The sunny boy closed the door behind them.
“Be honest. You don’t remember any of us do you?” The abrupt question surprised her. So much so that she nodded honestly. The boy sighed, a sad smile on his face.
“Do you remember anything at all?” She shrugged. She remembered feelings, emotions. Faces, a beach and moving fireworks, the smell of strawberries in the heat and the soft cacophony of a hundred piece orchestra playing in perfect harmony. But nothing particularly specific. The boy sat down on the chair the blonde man had vacated.
“My name is Will. I’m your doctor and your friend. My dad is Apollo, and my siblings are praying to him to come down from Olympus to help you. Mr. D tried to help, but you’re not really that crazy. You're just more slightly brain damaged. That’s my dad’s specialty. Does any of this sound familiar?” She thought for a moment and nodded. The names were familiar and the words he said made an odd sort of sense in her mind, even though they probably shouldn't.
“Your name is Syrinx Melos, and your mother is Calliope, leader of the Muses. Still good?” She nodded again. Will smiled happily at her.
“We removed the oxygen mask while you were still sleeping, do you want to try talking?” She started to nod, but stopped. She opened her mouth for the first time in a long time.
“My name is Syrinx?” She rasped carefully. It sounded odd to her. Her name. It wasn’t quite right. The boy, Will, grinned at her.
“You prefer Sy. It’s good you remember that kind of stuff on your own. That means your memories aren’t completely gone. Now that you’re awake, I want you to have a little ambrosia ok?” He held out a golden square of something. It was familiar, and her mouth watered. But she took it apprehensively. Something warned her to be careful with the ambrosia. She took a small bite, and instead of the sweet pastry she was expecting to taste, the buttery salty flavor of popcorn flooded her mouth. She took a few more small bites, feeling strength pour into her.
Sy looked over at Will, a small smile fixed on her face.
“Does this mean I’m stuck on bed rest for the foreseeable future?” She complained jokingly. The son of Apollo let out a loud whoop of joy, leaping up from his seat while punching the air.
“Thank Apollo that worked! We’ve been worried about the memory thing.” She laughed at her friend’s antics before finishing the square of ambrosia. The floodgates had broken, and memories poured back into her. Names and faces and events flashed through her mind. She experienced all of her pain and happiness and love and sadness and joy. More and more emotions and feelings began flooding through her body and she doubled over with a gasp. She was vaguely aware of a hand rubbing her back soothingly while she laughed and cried and what else, she wasn’t sure.
Will settled her back down on the bed carefully as she started to calm down.
“I’ll let the others inside in a moment. Sy, the ambrosia will have released everything. You’re gonna have to be prepared for some nasty memories to crop up.” She nodded through her tears as her mind divided itself into the present and the past.
She flashed through her early years at home with her dad before she ever learned about being a demigod. She remembered learning to play the piano on his lap and practicing violin at the conservatory with Ms. Adelaide while waiting for him to finish teaching. She remembered coloring in the sun at central park and the cancer treatments and the ice cream trips after chemo. She remembered the pain and confusion of coming home from school to find him on the kitchen floor. She remembered arriving at camp, remembered training and making friends. Remembered the overwhelming joy of getting claimed and the crushing disappointment of staying stuck in the rundown and over crowded Hermes cabin.
She remembered the storm that heralded Percy Jackson’s arrival, and the battles and war that followed after him. She remembered meeting Nick Fury for the first time in the middle of the conflict against Luke and his armies. Remembered crowding into the elevator to Olympus to see New York City asleep. The end of the war and the first missions she ran for SHIELD blurred together. She remembered the panic of Percy Jackson going missing, begging Fury to look for him with SHIELD resources. Remembered the fear when the gods learned of what SHIELD had learned from her, the relief of her new position. The pain and freedom of gaining her wings. She remembered the Roman threats, border patrols and tense evenings in the mess hall. She remembers seeing Gaea rise from the soil, the terror of the ancient primordial being filling her core. She remembers being thrown from Olympus after Fury betrayed her and the months of wandering and fighting before she returned to New York. She remembered the formation of the Avengers and staying with Steve and concerts and parties with the mortal heroes and then that final snowy day in the safehouse.
Then came the memories of her imprisonment.
She barely registered Will’s return to her room, the powerful godly presence in his wake barely distracting her from the barrage of increasingly painful memories. The divine power pressed against her mind, finally dragging her focus away from the torture she was reliving in her mind. Apollo's presence was far more overwhelming than the two norseman ever were. She wasn’t sure if it was because she was used to them, or if the Olympian’s really were that much more powerful. But as the god settled in next to her, she let the welcoming feeling of oblivion pull her away as the god of medicine got to work.
Three days. That was all it took for Sy to get a clean bill of health. Physically speaking, she was completely fine. After a surreptitious visit from Will’s father, she was healed. The hospital had kept her for a few days of quiet bed rest and careful monitoring from a few rotating demigods as a precaution. In those few days he’d occasionally spotted a pudgy man in a loud hawaiian shirt speaking to her in low dismissive tones. Steve noticed she was always just a little bit brighter after those visits, eyes glittering in amusement or victory, her lips twitching into a smile. After the third visit from the mystery man, Sy had finally been allowed to go home to the tower with him having been pronounced healthy once again.
But Steve knew she was far from okay. She was quieter now, more reserved. Prone to staring off into the distance, speaking as little as possible. He knew that the Sy they got back was far removed from the vivacious musician they’d lost.
She spent a lot of time with Bucky. Er, James. He knew Tony didn’t like it, still didn’t trust James’s shaky control, especially with Sy as vulnerable as she is.
Some days The Asset woke up instead of Buc- James. But they all knew that the winter soldier was one of the best people to help her. The terrorist organization was brutal to their prisoners. James was the only one who could relate to Sy's imprisonment and the things HYDRA did to her. In some places, Steve could see matching scars. Afterwards he always made his way to the gym, anger simmering under his skin, so volatile that he worried that one day he would lose control again. Like in the safehouse last winter.
The extent of the experimentation that Tony was uncovering was unbelievable, and it made Steve wish he’d let Strucker stay in Loki’s custody longer, rather than releasing him directly to SHIELD.
On the other hand, he still wasn’t to sure what he felt about the twins. He’d meant what he’s said to SHIELD Director Maria Hill; the twins believed that they were at war, and that was why they’d allowed Strucker to experiment on them. But he wasn’t sure if they believed in HYDRA, or if the terrorist organization was simply a means to an end; power. Power to fight the enemies they saw, even if they weren’t necessarily an enemy to be fought. The elevator dinged and the door slid open. He shook his head, clearing away his idle thoughts.
Steve stepped out of the elevator, striding quietly down the hallway to Sy’s door. Tony was throwing a victory slash welcome home slash goodbye party that evening. Steve wasn’t entirely clear on its purpose, only that everyone was expected to attend. He smiled as he heard the soft strains of violin music floating through the hall. Sy had been avoiding her music almost as much as she avoided talking. Tony had privately shown him the footage from the day HYDRA had welded the muzzle to her face. Steve might have broken a few things when he saw the footage. Maybe it was a desk. Or the lab. Whatever it was, Tony had banned him from the research levels for a while.
At his knock, Sy called out a quiet ‘enter.’ He stepped through the door, and a wide grin crossed his face when he spotted her. Pride and love and an unnameable something filled his chest. He imagined this was the same feeling his mother had gotten when she’d seen him in his first suit before his confirmation. He’d been so sick, they didn’t think he would live long enough to be confirmed.
Sy was in a simple but elegant black dress, hair twisted back from her face neatly. She swayed in place, the violin tucked under her chin, and music filled the air. Her hand shook with vibrato notes, and her bow arm moved steadily. Steve stood in the doorway, watching her. His soul rose and fell with the song, emotions flicking through him. Most of them weren’t his. He could feel the line she’d drawn, the stark divide she’d built to protect him. He experienced, but he didn’t feel. It was Sy’s own way of sharing without speaking her apprehension she was feeling preceding the party. She wasn’t sure she could be happy. Steve waited for her to carefully set the violin down before wrapping her in a tight hug. She squeezed him back before pushing out of his grip. She didn’t like touch so much anymore either. Steve felt something inside him break a little as she left his grasp.
It was an almost physical pain to not be able to hold her. He’d had her in his grasp when a HYDRA soldier had slammed into him with a truck, breaking his grip. Touch reassured him that she was really home, that Sy was actually safe. Losing her like that, it was like losing Bucky on the train all over again.
Steve refocused himself onto Sy. She needed him now, more than ever.
“What if I’m not ready?” She whispered, facing away from him. The uncertainty in her voice made his chest tight. Once, she’d been the one boosting him , helping him gain bearings in this new world. Now, she needed help gaining bearings in her old world as a new person.
“Then we come back here and watch one of the movies on our list while eating more popcorn and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream than is good for us. But you’ll only ever know if you go down there.” Sy nodded slowly, turning to the door. She took a deep shaking breath.
“Ok. Ok, lets go.”
The party was easier than she thought it would be. Steve stuck by her side, watching her carefully out the corner of his eyes. The rest of the team were all doing it too. She appreciated how they tried to pretend that they weren’t hovering over her now that she was out of the hospital.
Music played over the speakers, which usually would drive her crazy, but Tony’s tower was special. After she had moved back to New York last year and had been spending so much time in and out of the tower, Tony had noticed her wincing whenever he played music in the tower. When she finally told him about the feedback issues that made listening to recorded music more annoying that relaxing he’d set to building speakers and headphones she could use and enjoy. Eventually he’d succeeded. Nothing could ever beat live music, but if she had to listen any other way, it would be with Tony. He’d even modified the frequencies that the speakers played at, so that it wouldn’t hurt her enhanced hearing and still play at a normal volume for all the normal people.
Sy glances over at Steve, who was walking around with her like a stoic guard dog. She internally groaned, because as much as he needed him, Steve should not be responsible for her all night. It would just ruin both of their nights. Sy forced herself to work up the courage to wander off without him, taking deep breaths as subtly as she could. As she started to walk away she nudged him towards the other WWII vets playing pool in the corner he’d been glancing towards wistfully. He tried to follow her for a moment when she fixed him with a stern glare. With one last glance towards her, he joined the pool game. As it was, he checked on her every thirty seconds or so; his eyes searching her out of the crowd.
“Look who’s back! If it isn’t my favorite mini me.” Sam’s voice came from behind her. Sy flinched in surprise before turning around. To try and cover up Sy launched herself into the man’s arms for a hug, sending Sam stumbling back a couple steps. Steve had told her he’d been on the mission that had brought her home, but had been away on a different mission for the last week while she was recovering in the hospital. Sy had smiled wryly when she'd heard that. For a happily retired veteran, he’d jumped on board the SHIELD train pretty quickly after the events in DC a year and a half before. He worked with Colonel Rhodes as a conduit between the partially independent Avengers and the restructured intelligence organization.
“Hi Sam.” She said with a smile. Talking was still hard for her. Sometimes she still felt the cold metal of the muzzle pressed against her face when she opened her mouth. But if anyone here besides James would understand, it was Sam. After all Sam was the one who’d been helping James so much since they’d brought him in from the cold.
“How are you doing kid?” He asked her more gently, concern written across his face. She just shrugged, unsure how to answer. Sy didn’t even have the energy to reject the kid nickname. Sam took her silence in stride, walking quietly alongside her as they navigated the party.They passed Tony and Thor bragging about Pepper and Jane respectively. She and Sam rolled their eyes simultaneously, even while Director Hill and Assistant Director Coulson walked away with Rhody.
Sy was still bitter about Coulson and Fury’s lies about the man being dead. Or brought back to life. She didn’t really understand the story, but since everyone involved was still alive, she assumed Coulson hadn’t ended up in a Greek afterlife. Otherwise Hades would have killed or cursed them all. Cheating death is a big deal; none of the gods she knew or had heard about would forgive such a thing lightly.
By the time they came back across Steve she was feeling more comfortable, so Sy left the two of them to chat and decided to find someone else to hang out with. She talked with a few Stark industry employees, chatted with Dr. Cho, who had helped Clint recover. She found Clint for a while, sat with him silently in a corner to take a breath. They watched Bruce and Natasha flirt awkwardly at the bar, and she had to grip her sides tightly to hold in her laughter. Clint didn’t bother trying to hold it in, and let out a loud HA . When Natasha glanced over at the sound, Clint quickly turned to her, pretending like Sy had said something funny. By the death glares the archer was receiving from his partner, his ploy didn’t work. Sy just shrugged vaguely at the former assassin, a wide grin still stretched across her face. Bruce was clueless, and as good an actress Natasha was, she had no idea how to behave like a normal human being when she wasn’t undercover. It was funny.
The party wasn’t so bad. Nobody was pushing for her to talk, or be with her, but she also wasn’t alone. Tony eventually stumbled his way over to her, much less drunk than he was pretending to be, and coerced her into playing the piano. She was thankful for the excuse, because now she didn’t need to work up the courage to play on her own; even as she’d been stealing glances at the baby grand sitting in the corner all evening. Sy smiled and sat down, letting her hands drift over the keys for a moment before settling in. The room quieted down, everyone’s eyes on the musical prodigy that Steve Rogers had adopted. Most people there had no idea she was the seventh Avenger. They just thought she was there to spend time with Steve after a successful mission and after spending the year abroad. That was the cover SHIELD and the Avengers had invented for her disappearance, although apparently Steve's public appearances had to be cut down to almost nothing to keep up the cover. Tony turned off the music drifting over the speakers, and Sy smiled at the pure silence that had settled over the room.
With a single deep breath, she began. Sy let her fingers fly, notes flowing easily. Sy felt her mood lift as she played, the music soothing her shattered pieces. Swaying gently in the seat she let everything around her filter away into background noise. She lost herself to the music, even as the background chatter of the party slowly picked up again.
She’d been afraid of playing ever since she got back. It wasn’t as bad as talking, but she didn’t want to touch her powers of influence at all. Not when they got her into the mess with HYDRA in the first place. Then after she was captured, they couldn't save her. And after her escape attempts failed, her powers had gotten a gag welded over her face. She didn’t like the risk her powers came with anymore, even after she was safe. But ever since she picked up the violin that day, the release playing had always brought her came rushing back. It was like an itch she couldn’t help but scratch. She didn’t even notice the party dying away. She just lost herself to the music, music flowing from her fingertips easily, the anxiety slowly melting away as she eased into the music and nothing bad happened.
Sy smiled, the music warm and familiar and comforting. She whispered a prayer to her mom as she played, and sacrificed part of the song, the first time she’d done so in months. She was home.
She laughed as Clint nearly poked himself in the eye for the third time that evening with the chopstick he was twirling around. The best part was, if it had been an arrow in his hand, he’d have no issues at all. Put a bow in his hand he was the most graceful human being on the planet. Take it away and suddenly he was the clumsy idiot who occasionally walked into door frames. Clint scowled playfully at her, and she stuck her tongue out at him in playful retaliation.
The party was mostly over, but the core group and a few friends had ordered in chinese food and were lounging on the couch in a relaxed continuation of the party.
“It’s a trick!” Clint insisted again, beginning to twirl the chopsticks around again. Sy just stabbed at her chicken with a sensible fork. She wasn’t going to make a fool of herself with utensils she couldn’t use. She was hungry .
“No, no. It’s much more than that.” Thor assured the archer, passing Steve a beer. Sy sipped on her water. She was barely twenty, and as such, according to Steve, was still banned from the liquor cabinet and the wet bar. Tony had winked and tried to slip her a drink, but they’d gotten caught. As punishment she couldn’t even have soda. Just water. Sy had rolled her eyes at the fake punishment. He knew as well as she did that she didn't drink soda.
“Oh, so, ‘ whosoever be he who is worthy shall haveth the power .’ Whatever man! It’s a trick .” Clint dramatized, gesturing wildly. Bruce scooted away a little to avoid losing an eye to Barton’s lethal chopstick. Thor chuckled lowly. Loki rolled his eyes from his place next to her. He’d only joined them after the main party had ended. He still wasn’t a very popular figure to the world; even if his attack on New York only happened because he was brainwashed.
“He’s never going to be able to lift it.” He muttered quietly. Sy nodded. Godly weapons with magical properties were serious business. The worthiness clause was ironclad. And it had very little to do with actually being worthy; everyone at the table was a hero in their own right. It was about which worthy person the hammer liked. And the hammer had picked Thor already. The whole system was not unlike wands in the Harry Potter series. It was unlikely that Thor's hammer would allow another person to lift it, even if they were worthy.
“Well, please. Be my guest.” Thor challenged. The room goes quiet for a moment.
“Really?” Clint asked, the apprehension disappearing almost as quickly as it appeared.
“Oh this is going to be beautiful.” Rhody jokes.
“Clint you’ve had a tough week, we won’t hold it against you if you can’t get it up.” Tony needled. Everyone but her chuckled at the comment. Sy was worried. Even though Thor had given his explicit permission, messing with a god’s symbol of power was still a good way to get vaporized.
“Are we sure this is a good idea?” She asked Loki. The trickster god shrugged, indifferent to the consequences in favor of the potential entertainment value of the game. She groaned in irritation, but leaned forward in anticipation anyways.
“You know I’ve seen this before right?” Clint blustered before wrapping a single hand around the handle of the hammer. He yanked up with a slight grunt, and shock and mild embarrassment crossed his face when nothing happened. He stepped away with a half hearted chuckle, shaking his head.
“I just don’t know how you do it.” He joked, stepping away. Tony smirked.
“Smelling the silent judgement?” Clint’s expression grew flinty.
“Please, Stark. By all means.” Clint challenged. Tony with all his usual flair, rose from his seat and swaggered around the table. He flicked at the lapel of his much to expensive sports jacket before rolling up his sleeves.
“I’m never one to shirk from an honest challenge.” He boasted. Sy rolled her eyes. This was coming from the man who refused to compete against Pepper in anything. Ever. And he cheated at Monopoly. Honestly, how he ever managed to successfully run a multibillion dollar company escaped her. He was hopeless at the board game.
“It’s physics.” Tony began to explain as he slipped his wrist through the leather strap and gripping the handle. Sy and Rhody scoffed at the same time. Loki just groaned, hiding his face in his hands; no longer amused by the game now that nobody was even slightly singed. Tony glanced up at Thor once more.
“Alright, if I lift this, I then rule Asgard?” He asked.
“Yes, of course.” Thor said, completely nonchalant. Loki leaned over to her again, his voice pitched to a low whisper.
“He’s not going to do it. But if he does, I’m staging another coup.” Sy snorted, even while she kept her eyes focused on Mjolnir. Tony nodded surely as he braced himself, wrapping both hands around the handle.
“I will be reinstituting prima nocta.” He blustered before straining. Sy nearly leapt out of her seat in anger. Loki and Steve each grabbed an arm and hauled her back. Subconsciously she knew that Tony (who was failing miserably at lifting the hammer) was kidding. But it wasn’t a funny joke. Prima nocta was the supposed right of a ruling monarch to have sex with any subordinate woman; primarily on her wedding night. It was legalized rape . She snarled wordlessly at the two men, pulling away from them both. She got up and plopped back down next to Natasha, deciding to ignore them for the rest of the evening. By that point Tony had gotten out one of his Iron Man gauntlets, trying to lift the hammer.
Tony’s worthiness was now up for debate, she thought to herself vindictively. She did not however, attack her teammate the way she had wanted to earlier.
“Rhody?” Tony glanced up at his best friend. Less than a minute later the two of them were using combined War Machine (Iron Patriot?) and Iron Man gauntlets to try and lift the hammer. They failed. Bruce gave it a try, and when he failed, roared jokingly as though transforming into the Hulk. Which Sy remembered from the helicarrier all those years ago; couldn’t lift it either. Bucky tried, using both his human and metal hand, but the hammer wouldn’t budge.
Steve went next. Sy exchanged shocked glances with Loki when he lifted the hammer enough to shift it an inch or so; having temporarily forgotten her anger at the god. Thor looked incredibly relieved when Steve gave up. Sy suspected Steve didn’t really try. He wouldn’t take that from Thor, even in the testosterone fueled test. He might want to have proved worthy, rub it in the team’s (Tony’s) face, but he wouldn’t take this away from Thor for something so petty.
“Widow?” Tony offered. Natasha laughed lightly, taking another sip of beer.
“Oh, no. That’s not a question I need answered.”
“Sy?” She shook her head even before the question was finished being asked.
“Mixing pantheons is always a bad idea. Might accidentally blow up the place.” Tony shrugged dismissively, clapping Clint on the shoulder.
“In all deference to the wouldn’t be King, but… it’s rigged.” The billionaire pronounced.
“You bet your ass.” Clint muttered bitterly, but Sy knew his ego had been assuaged by the string of failures that had followed his. Director Hill spoke up with a smirk plastered across her face.
“Steve, he said a bad language word.”
Steve turned to look at the team in shock. Sy snickered slightly at his bewildered expression. Bucky had filled her in on the whole language debacle during her rescue while she’d still been in the hospital.
“Did you tell everyone about that?” He asked Tony in playful disbelief. The billionaire ignored him, and everyone seemed to ignore the tension that rose a notch in the room. Sy tensed slightly, remembering a snowy cabin and a video stuck on loop. Everyone else seemed to shake it off after a moment.
“The handle is imprinted. Like a security code. Whosoever has Thor’s fingerprints, is the literal translation I believe.” Tony joked. Thor just smirked, standing up.
“Yes, well. That’s a very very very interesting theory. But I’ve a simpler one.” The god lifted the hammer up easily, tossing into the air and catching it again one handed. He pointed it around the table.
“You are all not worthy.” Loki groaned and rolled his eyes. He leaned across the table and snatched the hammer from the air as his brother was tossing it around.
“They are also neither gods nor asgardian. It would take a more than a simply worthy mortal to wield the hammer.” Loki mimicked his brother, tossing the hammer in one hand casually before tossing it back to Thor. The thunder god groaned in irritated defeat before sitting back down.
“Must you take all my fun?” Thor asked his brother.
“If I didn’t, you would have been dead a thousand times over brother.” Loki replied sarcastically. Suddenly Sy screamed in pain, clapping her hands over her ears, curling in on herself. Steve practically leapt across the table to check on her, even as Natasha and Bruce both turned to check on her from their positions sitting beside her. A moment later the rest of the group groaned, as the feedback she’d registered first became audible to normal ears. A mechanical whirring was audible, even while a heavy stomping approached the group.
“No. How could you be worthy?” Came a deep gravelly voice. A familiar voice. Sy stood up, shaking slightly. It was one of the projects that Strucker had been working on recently. It had something to do with her but she’d always been to groggy from drugs to be sure of what. Even with her restored memories, most of her time in HYDRA had been spent drugged. Even without the brainwashing, her memories would have been clouded.
“You’re all killers.” The robot accused as it stepped into the light. Sy squinted, looking at the Avengers logo on the broken chest plate, even as the junkyard reject moved ever closer.
“Stark.” James asked coldly, his metal arm wrapping around her shoulders securely as Steve stepped out in front of her defensively.
“JARVIS?” Tony snapped back. The lack of response from the calm british voice was unsettling.
“Sorry, I was asleep. I was a… dream.” The machine continued. Steve shifted even further in front of her, trying to hide her behind his bulk. Sy shook James’ arm off, edging to the left, aiming for the piano. The ex assassin glanced over from her to the piano and reluctantly let her go.
“Reboot, JARVIS we’ve got a buggy suit.” Tony muttered, tapping away on the thin glass tablet in his hand.
“And the noise . I was tangled in… strings….” The robot seemed completely unaware of what it was saying or doing as it stumbled about. But at the same time, it seemed oddly… human .
“I had to kill the other guy. He was a good guy.” The robot muttered. Steve’s expression hardened.
“You killed someone?” He asked, his voice hard and uncompromising. It was his captain voice.
“Wouldn’t have been my first call, but down in the real world, we are faced with ugly choices.”
“Who sent you?” Thor asked, his hand clenching tightly around his hammer. Sy was halfway to the piano now. Suddenly the sound of a tape winding fills the room. Tony’s voice echoed in the recording.
“I see a suit of armor around the world.”
“Ultron.” Bruce said, understanding crossing his face. Sy was still confused.
“In the flesh. Or no, not yet.” The robot, Ultron, replied. The machine was still moving in an awkward fashion, jerking harshly with every movement. Tony and Bruce shared a horrified look, while the others slowly got their weapons ready. Sy tensed, still a couple feet away from the piano.
“Not this… chrysalis.” Ultron said distractedly, looking down at the broken body it was inhabiting.
“But! I’m ready. I’m on mission.” He said decisively.
“What mission?” Natasha asked. Sy heard the distinctive click of three separate gun safeties being turned off. Director Hill stood up, and so did James, both of them hiding the guns in their hands. Sy dove for the piano as the robot made its’ final chilling statement.
“Peace in our time.”
Sy heard the Iron Legion before it burst through the walls. She heard the sounds of fighting begin even as she crossed the final few feet to the baby grand piano. Lunging across the bench, she slammed her hands down on the keys, sending out a musical shockwave that repelled the first wave of robots, metal crumpling under the force of the sound waves.
The sound of glass shattering and bullets firing filled the air as her hands settled into a desperate pace. But there was nothing to manipulate, they were machines. Not something with soul or inner power; not under any god's direct domain. Nothing to convince, influence or control. Just metal shells. All she could do was send out waves of sound, breaking the robots. The problem is that sound isn’t a controllable attack. Sy dove under the piano, rolling away from the attacks, desperately looking for a weapon of any kind. Her hand closed over a bottle opener that had been knocked to the ground. Her hand closed around it just as a metal hand caught her by the foot, dragging her into the air. Sy screamed in defiance, twisting her body up and around the mechanical monster, stabbing the metal implement into the junction between the robot’s head and shoulders. It took a few tries but she ripped the head clean off. She dropped to the floor when another one grabbed onto her.
“Where is the stone? Where is it?” It asked her mechanically. Sy just growled and attacked.
“Sy!” Steve roared from across the room. She didn’t bother looking over to know that at least three people were charging to her rescue. But Sy was a demigod and an Avenger. She didn’t do damsel. She stabbed the next robot through it’s faceplate, and the one after that she managed to rip out a bunch of the wiring in the neck. And she continued like that, battling the machines, back to back with Steve or ducking under Mjolnir or leaping over Natasha’s back. The biggest problem was that they weren’t fighting something that was alive. You could tear it apart and the separate pieces could get up and keep fighting.
Steve flew across the room, and Clint fell through some glass. Natasha and James were protecting Bruce while firing from behind a large stone column. Sy ran to cushion Tony’s fall when Clint shouted from across the room.
“ Cap! ” Steve’s shield sailed through the air, the famous red, white and blue disc flashing in the light. In a single fluid motion Steve caught and threw the shield, destroying the the second to last robot.
“That was dramatic.” Ultron’s disembodied voice said dismissively. The broken robotic body began to pace haltingly.
“I know you mean well, but you just don’t think it through.” Sy growled as she propped Tony up carefully, seating him on the stairs. How a mechanical voice could be so condescending she wasn’t sure. But it sure as Hades was annoying.
“You all want to protect the world, but you don’t want it to change.” It continued. Sy slowly got to her feet, almost entranced by the words Ultron was saying. It brought horrific echoes back to her from when Kronos used to whisper in her sleep, trying to persuade her to fight for the Titans. Sounded like Luke when he’d tried to recruit her for the Titan’s cause. It had been painful to say no then. Now it was just a painful reminder of everyone they's lost.
“How is humanity saved, if it’s not allowed to… evolve?” Ultron mused.
“Is it with these? These puppets?” Ultron asked disgustedly, crushing the head of one of the destroyed drones.
“No. The only path to peace is… the Avengers extinction.” Ultron snarled. Thor hurled his hammer and shattered the final robot into pieces. But instead of feeling relieved, Sy just felt her apprehension build.
“I had strings but now I’m free.” Came a final ominous sing song tone before the machine finally powered off.
“What in Hades just happened?” Sy demanded, rounding on two suddenly very guilty looking teammates.
Sy stood in the doorway of Tony and Bruce’s decimated lab with her arms crossed, a virtual storm of emotions raging through her. The rest of the Avengers team hovered around; everyone else had been sent home. Although it had taken a lot of work to get Director Hill to leave. They only got her to leave the tower because Steve promised (through Sam) to keep her updated. The Director had in return promised what resources of SHIELD's the slowly rebuilding organization could afford.
“All of our work is gone. Ultron cleared out, used the internet as an escape hatch.”
“Ultron.” Steve muttered softly, his face a stony mask. Natasha looked up from her place at the computer monitor.
“He’s been in everything. Files, surveillance, everything we took from SHIELD last year. Probably knows more about us than we do about each other.” Sy glanced up at this. She wasn’t sure what her status was with Olympus and the Avengers anymore, but if information on the mythological world got out, that was still on her.
“Olympus?” Sy asked worriedly. Tony shook his head.
“You’re the only one he couldn’t touch. You records are all paper copies; handwritten and any imagery was developed on physical film. Anything that might have once been online was deep sixed years ago. Nothing on the internet. You’re in the clear.” Sy let out a small sigh of relief.
“He’s in the files, he’s in the internet. What if he decides to access something a little more exciting?” Rhody interrupted, beginning to pace the room.
“Nuclear codes?” James asked stoically. Rhody nodded once at the Winter Soldier.
"Nuclear codes. Look we need to start making some calls, assuming we still can.” Rhody said resignedly.
“I told Maria I would keep her updated. We gotta figure out if we can make those calls or if I’m going to have to buy some carrier pigeons.” Sam added. James nodded towards Rhody.
“I have some other options we can use if we have too.” The colonel nodded back gratefully.
“Nukes? He only said he wanted us dead.” Natasha commented.
“Dead? No, he said extinct.” Steve growled, moving towards Sy, wrapping a protective arm around her. She leaned into him, taking comfort from his solid presence. Her whole world had flipped too many times in the last week for her to feel safe. She wondered vaguely if it would have been better if they had left her to rot in Sokovia.
“He also said he killed someone.” Clint pointed out.
“Kill someone? There was nobody left in the building to kill.” Loki scoffed lightly. Tony’s face grew somber, grief flashing in his eyes.
“Yes there was.” The genius tapped his tablet at the air, activating a huge holographic screen. Scattered golden pixels filled the air. Sy took in a sharp breath as she surveyed the destruction, unease spreading in her gut as a nervous hunch formed int he back of her mind. Bruce stepped across the floor, arms held out as if he could gather all the broken pieces and heal the missing member of the team.
“This is insane.” He breathed out, horrified.
“JARVIS was the first line of defense. He would have shut Ultron down. It makes sense.” Steve said softly. A small shiver worked its way down her spine, as the loss of the previously omnipresent AI echoed through their dysfunctional team.
“No.” Bruce broke in roughly. Sy glanced over at Tony, noting the blank stare on her friend’s face. She also hadn’t missed the tension between him and Steve. She doubted that either of them have actually worked out their issues in the time that she’d been gone.
“Ultron could have assimilated JARVIS. This isn’t strategy, this is… rage.” Suddenly Thor stormed across the room. The blonde god grabbed Tony by the throat, lifting him clear from the floor. Loki flicked a hand, and green magic filled the air, holding them all back. Rage wasn’t a strong enough word for the look on Thor’s face.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Steve broke in, trying to push through the barrier.
“It’s going around.” Clint commented blandly, a carefully blank expression on his face as he studied the infuriated aesir. Sy hummed under her breath, gathering power, before punching the godly magic. It shattered, allowing her and Steve to attempt to intervene, even as Loki stepped in front of them as a barricade. The two brothers may not get along, but they tended to back the other unthinkingly.
“Come on. Use your words buddy.” Tony choked out, his face turning red. Thor let out an ugly snarl into the billionaire’s face.
“I have more than enough words to describe you Stark.”
“Thor! The legionnaire.” Steve snapped out the order, pushing around Loki. Sy hummed again, pushing out an aura of calm. She felt the terror and fear of being gagged again seep into her head, as her friends both relaxed and tensed at the sound of her music. Somehow she kept herself in the present, taking deep breaths as she focused on her immediate world. Her friends needed her, and she wasn’t going to let them tear themselves apart. There was nothing she wouldn’t do to protect them. Nothing. Thor dropped Tony to his feet as he replied, not giving the billionaire a second glance.
“The trail went cold about a hundred miles out, but it’s headed north. And it has…” Thor stopped himself abruptly, glancing nervously towards her. Loki’s grip suddenly became less restraining and more comforting. The rest of the team's expressions changed dramatically, but the anger in the room was palpable.
“Has what?” She asked, the urge to vomit suddenly presenting itself. All her fears and stress and anxiety suddenly surged forward. Sy could hear her pulse thundering in her ears, her breath came shorter and she began to shake. Steve quickly turned away from Tony and took her from Loki, enveloping her in his arms.
“Sy, you don’t need -” He started.
"Has what?” She demanded softly. Tony sank into a chair, massaging his throat gingerly. The genius was studiously looking at a point right next to her ear, rather than her face.
“Sy, when we rescued you from Strucker we also confiscated parts of the equipment, pieces of different experiments, anything that looked immediately dangerous. Most of the data. One of the things we found was… well it was you. Not you, you, but your blood. It was part of this fuel cell that was filled with energy from Loki’s scepter. Loki and Clint both confirmed it was the same force. And your blood was powering it or feeding it or I don’t even know. That was how we were eventually able to track you down; we’d been following the blood. We found at least several hundred fuel cells. Most of the cells had been damaged or destroyed during the fighting. But, there was one left. And…. we took it. Figured out it has most of the same properties as the scepter does.” He delivered the information almost gently, even though his tone was completely robotic. Sy turned away, lunging for the trash can underneath the desk. She heaved violently.
She knew that she’d been used, that HYDRA had exploited her. She’d always known that demigod blood was powerful, and logically knew that HYDRA would have taken advantage of that too.
But to hear it so clinically, to understand exactly how much they’d taken from her. To understand what they had used her to do. How she had been a personal battery for the new and increasingly dangerous weapons employed by HYDRA to spread their agenda across the world. It was horrifying. She vomited again, only vaguely aware of Steve’s voice irritated in the background, while Bucky’s voice was in her ear murmuring something. She could feel the cool metal of his prosthetic rubbing rhythmic circles on her back. Sy sat back up, wiping her mouth gingerly, tears dripping down her face.
“We need to get it back.” Sy insisted clearly, even though all she wanted to do was lock herself in her room and have a good long cry. Then lock the door and never emerge again, so that she could never be used like that ever again.
“The genie’s out of that bottle. Clear and present is Ultron.” Natasha countered, green eyes looking at her sympathetically, even as her words tore through Sy.
“He can’t have it. We can’t let Ultron have it.” Sy repeated, her breaths coming shorter as panic began to consume her. Buc- James continued to whisper to her, and she latched onto him, desperately attempting to anchor herself before she loses it entirely.
“I don’t get it. You built this program. Why is it trying to kill us?” Sam asked, poking at the twisted scrap metal that had been Ultron’s first body. Tony suddenly began to laugh, the sound growing increasingly hysterical by the minute. Sy wondered offhandedly through her panic if the man was drunk.
“You think this is funny?” Loki asked scornfully. The laughter stopped immediately. Tony glances up, expression completely sober and serious in a manner that was unlike the mask the genius usually showed the world.
“No. It’s probably not, right? Is this very terrible? It is so… it is so... It is. It’s so terrible.” The words were callous and cold, tossed down like a challenge. Sy wondered where her warm, irritating, but loving friend had gone. She couldn’t believe that was the same man as the one who stood across from her right now. Sy knew she was shaking, but she didn’t particularly care. Anger and fear and panic were blending inside of her to create a potent cocktail.
"This could have been avoided if you hadn’t played with something you don’t understand.” Thor growled, pacing across the floor to confront Tony again. Tony didn’t back down.
“No, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, it is funny. It’s a hoot that you don’t get why we need this.”
“Tony, maybe this isn’t the right time to -” Bruce tried to break in, glancing over at her, but Tony was on a roll and bulldozed right over him.
“Really? That’s it? You just roll over and show your belly, every time someone snarls?” He snapped.
“Only when I’ve inadvertently violated one of our team members to create a murder bot.” Bruce snapped back, gaining some of his own growl.
“We didn’t. We weren’t even close. Were we close to an interface?” Tony shot back. Bruce got up into the inventor’s face.
“No, but we didn’t tell Sy. And it’s her blood that powered that thing!” Bruce roared, green tingeing his face. Tony fell silent, guilt crossing his expression as he finally looked over at her position crouched on the floor. Sy pressed a hand to her mouth, the urge to puke coming back. She hadn’t even thought of that part. Steve stepped in front of her, arms crossed tightly across his chest.
“Well you did something right. And you did it right here. The Avengers are supposed to be different than Fury’s SHIELD.” Tony scoffed, stepping away from the circle of disapproval.
“Anyone remember when I carried a nuke through a wormhole?” Tony asked.
“No. It’s never come up.” Rhody said, sarcasm dripping from his voice.
“Saved New York?” Tony continued, ignoring his best friend.
“Never came up.” Rhody bantered back, anger radiating from the air force colonel.
“Recall that? A hostile alien force came charging through a hole in space - no offense Loki - And we’re standing three hundred feet below it. The seven of us, against millions. Trying to protect the whole goddamn planet. We’re the Avengers, we can bust arms dealers and terrorists all the livelong day, but that, up there? That’s… that’s the end game. How do you guys plan on beating that?” Tony gesture wildly towards the sky, his expression calm even though fear had filled his eyes. Sy could taste the panic, and the last vestiges of the witch’s magic, in the sound of Tony’s voice.
“Together.” Was Steve’s response. Sy gripped James tightly, and forced herself to her feet.
“We’ll lose.” Tony responded matter of factly, Sy shook her head.
“No. We won’t. Forty demigods and maybe two dozen odd allies held Manhattan against Titans and their army of thousands for a week. Seven demigods battled and defeated an army of giants in a day. Two camps, a few hundred campers, enemies, banded together and defeated an army of thousands and an ancient primordial goddess. Two magicians stopped Apophis on his home turf in the Land of Demons. Seven of us held off the Chitauri.” Sy took a shuddering breath, struggling to stay on her feet.
“We’ll win because we have to. Because we fight together. Because there are forces and allies on this Earth more powerful than us who can and will help us. Because humanity would never go down without one hell of a fight. You forget; the Avengers might have held New York. But the battle was also fought by its citizens. Yeah, we saved a lot of people, evacuated the city, but there were more than a few normal New Yorkers who decided to spit death in the eye and fight back just as hard as we did. And they didn’t have the advantage of being trained or armed or prepared or enhanced or experienced. Tony, just admit it. The witch scared you. And that fear controls you.” Sy sank back down into a chair that had magically appeared behind her. She squeezed James’s good arm in thanks. Tony looked at her dumbfounded before turning away, an unreadable expression on his face. Most of the other Avengers were staring at her too. Steve was the first one to shake himself out from his reverie. She’d probably spoken more in that little speech than she had in the past week combined.
“Thor’s right. Ultron is calling us out. And I’d like to find him before he’s ready for us. The world is a big place. Let’s start making it smaller.”
Sy walked down the hallway unsteadily, her wings trailing behind her, a lyre held loosely in one hand. Luckily, Tony in his usual over the top way, had filled her room at the tower with her belongings from her old apartment and then some. She now had upgrades to most of her instruments and a variety of other things she had a feelings was Tony's way of trying to buy his way out of his guilt. Pepper may have broken him of some of his worst habits, but there were still a few persistent unhealthy mechanisms he clung too.
She rolled her shoulder uncomfortably, working out some of the tension in her muscles. She'd slept poorly again, and she was waking up stiff from tossing and turning all night.
Apollo and his kids really had fixed everything, from the anemia she'd developed in captivity to her clipped and weakened wings. But what Apollo cannot fix is the mind. And Mr. D won't straight up fix that unless she'd been struck with true madness like Chris Rodriguez had been all those years ago. He had told her the only way it was meaningful was if she worked through the pain. He would only help ease the process. The grouchy camp director appeared in her sleep, before, after or even during her nightmares and dreams and they held intense therapy sessions. Thus the tossing and turning.
Sy knew in the back of her mind they would help her.
In the meantime, however, she was waking up sore and exhausted.
Last night had been especially brutal. After their usual session, she'd talked to the god about the Ultron threat and what she had learned about what HYDRA had been doing with her blood. As a member of the Avengers she was already tasked with handling the Ultron crisis, but now Olympus was watching too. The threat to the Mind Stone could not go ignored, and the fact that godly blood had been spilled and exploited by mortals? Unforgivable. Mr. D had warned her that Olympus was likely to lay the guilt at her feet, even though she'd been the one captured and tortured. But that was how godly justice was often met out; harsh and uncompromising. Sy had woken up anxious and afraid. She'd prayed to her mother for protection and to Dice, the goddess of justice, as well as Athena. She would need all the help she could get.
Sy pushed open the door to find the room filled with boxes.
"Nobody waited for me?" She asked playfully, covering her exhaustion with a small smile as she navigated the stacks of boxes, files and random sheets of paper piled about the room in no obvious order.
"Saving the world doesn't operate on your recovery schedule." James teased quietly as he wandered past her carrying another armload of files, dark hair hanging in his eyes. Sy makes her way into the room and plops down next to an overwhelmed looking Tony. She runs her fingers along the strings of the lyre she'd brought with her. Ever since the helicarrier, any kind of research had included the soft melodies of her mother's sacred instrument.
"Since when have you advocated for going back to the stone ages?" She bumped Tony's shoulder jokingly, even as she tried to repress the uneasy feeling Tony was currently triggering inside her. She still wasn't sure how she was going to deal with the way he had so flippantly violated her trust. But he was her friend and he was manipulated and they were in the middle of a crisis so she knew she was going to have to shelve all those nasty emotions for later. Not that her nightly sessions with Mr. D would actually allow her to do that for very long.
"Since Ultron erased all our digital copies on Strucker, we don't really have much choice." Sy paused her playing and reached over to pick up a stack of files, curious.
"How many forests did you guys kill?" She asked mildly, as she shuffled through them, unsure of what she was looking for. Her heart stopped for a moment, when she caught a glimpse of Strucker in a picture. Sy quickly set the files down and resumed playing, letting the music sooth her battered nerves. She couldn't bring herself to look at his face. He visited her nightmares often enough.
"And why do we care about Strucker? Besides the human rights violations and the experimentation and the torturing me parts." She asked as flippantly as she could, trying to cover the tremor in her voice. Tony glared at her out the corner of his eye. Not that he could talk; it was through their rather morbid senses of humor that any of them coped with the traumas of protecting the world from the threats it can't handle. Tony's was probably the most well developed out of all of them.
"Don't joke about that kid. And we care because Ultron murdered him. Oh and on a slightly related note, the twins, the Maximoffs? They've joined up with Ultron."
"Oh." Sy said faintly, the new information throwing her for a loop. Her music took on a more anxious note and she had to focus harder to twist the song away from her own volatile emotions, and back to the more serious business of inspiration. Music was both prayer and motivation, cool logic and burning passion. It needed to be focused to its purpose, or else it would serve as a distraction rather than a boost. Sy focused on the music, even though she was still aware of what the others were doing.
"Wait!" Sy flinched at Tony's shout. She glanced down at the photo that had spilled out of the file she'd dropped back down on the table. The photo was labeled Ulysses Klaue.
"I know that guy. From back in the day. He operates off the African coast, black market arms." Steve glared at Tony. Sy just examined the picture closer, her fingers still drifting along the strings even though the music had grown softer. Something about him seemed familiar to her too. Something in the eyes, maybe? A little crazed, a lot violent. She wasn't sure though.
"There are conventions, alright? You meet people. I didn't sell him anything. He was talking about finding something new, a game changer, it was all very 'Ahab.'" Tony defended irritably. Sy sat up suddenly as she took back the file. She looked closer at the image and everything snapped into place in her mind.
"Get me a rainbow." It was a credit to how well they knew her that the only person who looked confused was James. Less than a minute later they had a rainbow going. Sy fished around her pockets, expression growing increasingly frantic.
"I don't have any drachmas anymore. Anyone have something annoyingly healthy? Like macrobiotic jerky or something?" When everyone shook their heads Sy groaned.
"Clarisse is so going to kill me." She muttered as she made the call.
"Oh Iris, goddess of the rainbow. Please accept my prayer. I'd like to make a collect IM to Clarisse La Rue at the University of Arizona." The rainbow shimmered for a moment, as though in irritation, but a moment later it connected; a familiar scowl appearing in the rainbow.
"Collect? Really?" The daughter of Ares groused. Sy shrugged.
"What? Did you really expect the terrorists who captured me to not take any godly currency I had on me at the time? 'Sorry, here's your drachma back. You can keep the shiny gold while we drug, torture and experiment on you.'" Sy said as nonchalantly as she could. A wordless snarl erupted from the other demigod's mouth.
"Prisoner?" Sy nodded once, her lips tightening. Clarisse ignored the look on her face, even though Sy knew the daughter of Ares was likely dying of curiosity. She just kept talking, a small kindness.
"So what did you want? Not like you to check in on people ever since you joined up with those mortal heroes." Sy glared playfully at her semi-friend.
"No, just wanted to check something." She held up the picture, flashing the image at Clarisse.
"Am I wrong?" She asked, even though the look on the other demigod's face was answer enough. Clarisse sighed, scrubbing a hand over her face.
"No. Definitely one of my dad's. Met him once or twice. Definitely inherited from dad's bad side, but what can you do? Didn't pick sides in either of the wars, but was a sympathizer for the other side the first time around. Don't think he cared much either way the second time. Watch out for him ok?" Sy nodded before swiping her hand through the rainbow, cutting the connection. She turned back to the bewildered room.
"Ulysses Klaue? Son of Ares. We're going to have to be careful with him." James still looked confused, and Sy made a note to talk with him later. She hadn't had much of a chance to explain the demigod part of her life before she'd been captured. Thor frowned as he peered closer at the picture.
"Look at this." He muttered. Tony barely even glanced down.
"Uh, it's a tattoo. I don't think he had it..." Thor interrupted him.
"No, those are tattoos. This is a brand." Bruce typed in a few commands to the computer and began searching for the symbol. A moment later he got a hit.
"Oh yeah, it's a symbol in an african dialect meaning thief. In a much less friendly way."
"What dialect?" Steve asked, leaning against the back of her chair.
"Wakanada? Wa... wa... Wakanda." Bruce said, glancing down and squinting at the screen in front of him. Sy frowned. Wakanda had their own powerful deities, it was another realm of influence; not unlike the Egyptians or the Norse. It could complicate matters for them, especially because the Avengers have such public ties to the Greek and the Norse in the mythological world. Loki and Thor aren't subtle, and neither was Zeus. It could make things difficult for them down the line.
"If this guy got out of Wakanda with some of their trade goods..." Tony started talking then trailed off, his eyes widening at the information he was reading over. Steve stepped away to read over Tony's shoulder. His eyes grew wide too.
"I thought your father said he got the last of it?" He muttered. Sy sat up, the wonder and shock in Steve's tone surprising her.
"I don't follow, what comes out of Wakanda?" Bruce asked, confused as he walked over to join the team crowded around the conference table. Steve glanced over at his shield, propped innocently against the wall.
"The strongest metal on Earth." Sy glanced up at Tony, understanding dawning on her.
"Where is this guy now?"
She stood on the ramp leading to the jet, a new and unfamiliar sword in her hand.
It was a near perfect replica of her celestial bronze one, only this one was forged from folded steel. Designed to maim and kill mortal enemy combatants. She's always owned weapons capable of harming mortals; but never one designated solely for that purpose. Before, it had solely been about defense, protection against mortals who might want to take advantage of an orphaned demigod on her own. That had been changing rapidly over the course of the past few years, to purposefully seeking out and fighting human enemies. She wasn't sure if she was ok with that.
The sword felt wrong, even though it was perfectly balanced. Tony had outdone himself, it was a flawless piece of work. She had a feeling if she cared to look closer there would be modifications to the weapon added in here and there, but Sy didn't look. She knew how to use a sword, and she'd prefer to stick with what she knows. Or at least, with what she used to know.
Loki silently came up next to her. She flicked him, her hand passing easily through the illusion, and the image wavered for a moment like the static on a faulty television. He just sighed, and settled down again, watching her intently. Sy gave in.
"It's been awhile since I've fought. Or trained. Or done anything but lay passively on a cold table in the dark." She confessed quietly, bitter anger for her helplessness while in HYDRA captivity spilling into her tone. Last night her nightmares had been particularly bad, so much so that Steve (who'd apparently had Tony rig up some kind of baby monitor style program in her room) came crashing in, worried that something had happened. He sat with her all night while she'd shook with fear, all her lights on until it was time for them to start getting ready for the mission.
"And I'm not even here. Yet I am talking to you. Granted I'm speaking to you from the comfort of Stark's lovely bar, overlooking a city filled with people who either love me obsessively or hate me with burning passion. We all have our burdens to bear. You are a godling. Fighting is like breathing for you. It's going to be fine." Sy nodded. Loki smiled at her briefly.
"Besides, not unlike my thick headed brother, you are incapable of being passive. You fought back that entire time Sy, and don't you dare forget that." A moment later the image faded away. A rush of pride filled her for a moment, and even though she could feel the ghost of metal over her cheeks, she found that for once she wasn't struggling to breath. She'd earned that gag after her music had helped her to escape one to many times. She may have never gotten close enough to see sunlight, but she had fought back. Her music still worried her, but the heavy weight in her chest loosened slightly. She contemplated the sword in her hand for another moment, light glinting off the metal.
Sy sheathed her sword properly and picked up the violin at her feet before heading for her usual seat.
She is a demigod, battle tested and determined. She can do this.
She sat on top of the quinjet, her violin balanced across her knees, listening to the ongoing battle. They'd purposefully landed within range of her heightened hearing, so that if necessary she could fly in as back up. She'd had to physically force herself to not leap into the fight when it began, reminding herself why they'd decided that it was a better idea for her to stay by the quinjet with Bruce. The most important reason being that she was the only person on the team who they knew couldn't be mind controlled by Wanda Maximoff.
Sy knew that with the mind control, someone would need to stay coherent to fight Ultron or the twins if the need arose. So she stayed away, tears slipping down her face as she let her friends suffer. A soft whoosh of wind set her on alert.
"I want to finish the plan. I want the big one." The thick sokovian accent of the witch was much too close all of a sudden. Sy glanced across the field to the see the twins among the wreckage in the junkyard, not even a hundred feet away from the jet. She scrambled to prevent Bruce from leaving the jet, shouting a warning to stay inside as she dropped over the side of the plane. But she wasn't faster than the brother, and Bruce had already let the ramp down.
Sy hit the ground with a thud, staying balanced on her toes. Dust flew into the air as Bruce changed, the Hulk roaring in fear and anger. She had to force herself not to flare her wings aggressively as she reached for the knives strapped to her belt. Sy didn't want to give them away if she didn't have too.
She didn't have time to go for the violin she'd left on top of the quinjet, and she didn't want to kill if she didn't have too. Sy sang a soft melody, her powers considerably stronger now than it had been all those years ago on the helicarrier. She only kept half her focus on the twins, who were watching the Hulk with an odd mixture of fear and satisfaction. Sy kept singing softly, trying to calm her friend as she edged towards the twins. Hulk roared again, but didn't go anywhere. Suddenly, she was struck from the side, a force slamming into her. She hit the ground with a grunt, both of her knives knocked from her hands. Sy scrambled to grab for them when the white blonde man picked one of them up and waved it tauntingly at her.
"Looking for this?" He mocked, holding it out in front of him aggressively, his grip on the hilt all wrong. The other one was in her hand in a flash, Sy staying in a loose and relaxed stance, poised for action. But regardless of his inexperience, she knew that the brother moved too quickly for her to be able to fight like this. If he really wanted to, he could kill her before she could even try to counter his attack.
"Pietro, don't." His sister snapped, one wrist flicking out, red power flashing through the air. The Hulk roared and took off, whatever the vision she had implanted in his mind driving him away. Pietro hesitated, looking towards his sister. Sy took advantage of their distraction and and took off, her wings flapping hard. She snagged her violin as she soared past the quinjet before taking off as low and as fast as she could, dodging towards the tall grass to stay out of sight. She heard the confused shout as the twins realized she was gone. Sy ignored them both as she shot off in the direction the Hulk had disappeared in.
Sy's eyes widened as the city of Johannesburg came into view. She didn't have any time to waste, evaluating the danger of the situation as she landed lightly behind her friend. The Hulk stood at the top of the ridge overlooking a city, chest heaving wildly as the panicking Hulk tried to breath. This would be her only chance at stopping him before he attacked the unsuspecting populace of the South African city.
"Hey!" She shouted. The Hulk's head snapped in her direction, eyes red and bloodshot from magic. He was twitching and suddenly his face contorted into a vicious snarl. Sy ignored the thrum of fear in her stomach and she quickly drew her bow across the strings.
She'd been briefed on the Lullaby Protocol before the mission, so the first thing that came to mind as she played was... a lullaby. A memory of her dad singing to her when she was little flashed through her mind as the first soft notes of Elvis's Can't Help Falling in Love floated across the wind and Sy slowly dropped back down to the ground, her wings folding back into her spine. She felt power flare around her as she imbued the notes with feelings of calm and safety. She felt the music float through her, and channeled it into the Hulk. As the first song ended, she seamlessly switched to Brahms lullaby. And when that ran out she moved onto Somewhere over the Rainbow. She drew on every positive, warm, calming emotion she had. She let the humanness of her own anxiety and fear seep through, along with her tentative acceptance of those emotions. The Hulk began to sway in place, the red slowly vanishing from his eyes.
Sy heard him before he touched her. The only problem was that she couldn't get out of the way fast enough. She tried to dodge and keep up the music, but Pietro Maximoff caught her by the wrist and yanked her around. The music stopped, her violin flying out of her hands, smashing to the ground. Luckily the Hulk was calm enough to not go rampaging down the mountain towards the city. Instead he only saw her and Pietro. The Hulk let out an enraged snarl and pounced. At the last moment, the twin whisked her away. In one blink to the next, she was far enough away that she could barely hear the Hulk racing back towards the marina to her rescue. Sy ripped her second knife from its sheath on her side and moved to stab him, but before she had the chance, she found herself dumped to the ground.
"Wanda made me promise not to hurt you. She said Strucker hurt you." He drawled lazily, watching for her reaction. Sy growled and stood up.
"Take your pity and shove it." She snarled, holding the knife in front of her defensively. She reached to her back and finally drew the sword Tony had made her. The brother let her, openly curious as he studied the weapon she wielded like an extension of herself.
"Why do you fight with them? All they do is destroy." He asked her, curiosity reflected in his voice. She couldn't detect any real hostility in his voice, no sense of danger from him. Just endlessly bitter, like the raw olive Malcom had once convinced her to try. She cautiously lowered her weapons a little. Still ready, but less confrontational.
"Because they try. And they try a lot harder than most anyone else in the world." He considered her answer, his forehead crinkling as he thought. His next question wasn't surprising, but the whiplash topic change did surprise her.
"How did you shatter my sister's power? No one has ever resisted her." Sy smiled grimly.
"I was born into this world. You and your sister have barely dipped in a toe. There are things in this world far more powerful that you could ever imagine." Sy tucked her weapons away. She could hear the sound of the Iron Man suit, knew that Tony was coming for her, knew that Pietro would be gone in the next instant.
"So what?" He asked her, his tone carefully indifferent. She could still taste the fear in his voice. Sy smiled and removed her helmet. She pulled her braid out from the collar of her armor and dropped all her emotional masks. She let the music and power inside of her rise to the surface. The grass whispered in the wind and it sounded like the ghost of a song.
If Pietro Maximoff was even half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd recognize what she was showing him. And hopefully he would appreciate the trust she was extending him.
"Because I am one of those things."
And in the next moment he was gone.
The jet was somber. Even though she'd managed to contain the danger that an out of control Hulk posed, the world was still outraged at the destruction they'd brought to the shipyard and the damages Tony and Ultron had caused to the outskirts of the city before the threat had finally been neutralized. The fear visions that the girl, Wanda Maximoff, had induced had crushed team morale. Steve could hardly stand to let her move out of arm's reach, and he kept glancing down at his compass, his longing painfully clear to her.
Sam was appraising them of the PR nightmare they'd found themselves caught up in. Not even SHIELD could help them at the moment, considering that the Avengers were essentially an independent trouble shooting team, the rebuilding counterintelligence organization was publicly distancing itself from them. Coulson was helping them under the table as best he could, but SHIELD was still on a short public leash, leaving the Director with her hands tied. Sy sat next to an upset Bruce, who was drenched in sweat as he tossed in his sleep. Whatever it was that Bruce saw had really shaken him. The what ifs were also torturing him.
"How's the team doing?" Sam asked. Sy glanced around the jet, knowing that Tony was noting the same blank expressions on everyone's faces.
"Everyone's... we took a hit. We'll shake it off." Tony admitted quietly. The white lie, and the desperation fueling it, left an acrid tang in Sy's mouth. Sam sighed.
"I hate to have to tell you this, but for now I'd stay in stealth mode; away from the tower. Loki and James are bad enough PR, but to have them plus the team after what just happened.... I don't know man." Tony sighed, shaking his head.
"So run and hide?" He snapped. Sam shrugged.
"SHIELD is on the ground now, doing damage control, but the world needs some time. And until we find Ultron, I don't have anything else for you. Neither does Maria, err Director Hill." It was a sign of how bad things were that Tony didn't immediately leap on the presented opportunity. He just sighed, shaking his head.
"Neither do we." Tony hung up. Sy leaned her head onto Steve's shoulder, settling down to try and sleep. She was exhausted.
"Hey, you want to switch out?" Tony called to the front. The last thing Sy heard before she drifted off herself was Clint's assurance that he was taking them to a safehouse.
She woke up to Bruce lightly shaking her shoulder. Sy groggily stood up, shaking her stiff wings out before pulling them in tightly against her spine. She followed behind Steve, her armor glinting in the fading afternoon light as they walked across the field they landed in. Clint was leading them towards a farmhouse, not unlike the Big House at camp.
"What is this place?" Thor asked warily. Tony shrugged.
"A safehouse?" He offered skeptically. Clint didn't even turn around as he responded.
"Let's hope." He muttered. The front door creaked a little as he opened it, carefully supporting Natasha inside the house. They all follow him into an open plan living and dining space filled with homey touches. It didn't look much like a SHIELD safehouse, but Sy knew that looks could be deceiving. But if it was just a safehouse, even a potentially compromised one, Clint wouldn't be this nervous.
"Honey, I'm home!" Clint called. Sy's jaw dropped when a heavily pregnant woman cautiously emerged from around the corner. Her own shock was mirrored across the rest of the group.
"Hi. Company. Sorry I didn't call ahead." Clint apologized sheepishly. The woman just smiled and leaned up to give him a kiss.
"Hey." She answered easily, even though apprehension had filled her voice.
"This is obviously an agent of some kind." Tony mutters to her and Thor, still in complete shock. Sy felt herself coming around to the idea, suddenly understanding why Clint so rarely spent his down time with the rest of the team in the tower; always vanishing off to some mysterious other place.
"Everyone, this is Laura." Clint said proudly, one arm wrapped around his wife. Laura let out a nervous half giggle.
"I know all of your names." Sy raised an eyebrow at Clint, who just gave her a kind of half shrug. She rolled her eyes, but didn't say anything. She doubted Laura would be the reason the greek world was exposed to the mortal world. Sy's head snapped around when she heard the sound of pounding feet. A minute later two kids came racing down the staircase.
"Ooh, incoming." Clint muttered, pride already lighting up his eyes. He wrapped the boy and the girl into a huge hug, lifting the younger daughter into the air.
"Dad!" came the excited shouts.
"I see her! Hey buddy...." Clint and his family's bliss made her grin, even though a small kernel of jealousy wormed its way into her heart. She loved the Avengers, and she loved Steve. But nothing compared to the way her dad used to make her feel. Before camp and monsters and war and aliens and spies; when it was just her and him against the music. And as much as Camp and the Avengers were her family, it just wasn't the same.
"And these are smaller... agents." Tony muttered, pulling Sy out from her melancholy thoughts. She let out a sarcasm laden snort, leading Tony to shoot her the stink eye. Sy stuck her tongue out at him in retaliation.
"Did you bring Auntie Nat?" The little girl asked. Natasha grinned, instantly covering the pain and exhaustion that had been etched on her face a moment before.
"Well, why don't you hug her and find out!" She teased, swinging the little girl up into the air, peals of childish laughter filling the air.
"Sorry for barging in on you." Steve said slowly, confusion still furrowing his brow. Tony broke in, bewilderment and slight hurt coloring his tone.
"Yeah, we would have called ahead, but we were busy having no idea you existed." Clint shrugged, holding his family close to him.
"Yeah. Fury helped me set this place up when I first joined. Kept it off SHIELD's files, Maria's done the same. I'd like to keep it that way. I figure it's a good place to lay low."
"We won't abuse your hospitality." Sy promised. Suddenly she hears a crunching sound. Both her and Steve glance over at Thor, who had just accidentally destroyed someone's lego creation. Sy caught the tail end of the conversation over the Barton family's incoming member when the little girl walked over to them. Thor stared down at her uncomfortably. Suddenly, Thor's eyes flashed red and the god shook his head hard, stumbling slightly. Sy crouched down with a grin, distracting the girl while Steve carefully ushered Thor outside, away from anyone or anything he might accidentally damage.
"Hi kiddo, what's your name?" She asked her awkwardly. She wasn't entirely sure how to deal with a mortal kid. She'd always dealt with demigods; who rarely came to camp this young. Even when they did, those kids had been hardened by the life being a demigod brings them. She didn't know what to do with so much innocence. She was terrified of accidentally ruining that.
"Lila." Came the short response.
"My name is Sy." Lila scrunched up her nose, wide brown eyes staring up at her.
"Your name is funny."
"Lila." Clint's wife reprimanded. The little girl frowned, not looking the slightest bit ashamed. Sy just laughed, relieved by the familiar reaction.
"It's ok, I think it's kinda funny too. My whole name is even sillier though, it's Syrinx. But I like Sy better. I like to play music, what do you like to do?" She asked gently.
"That is silly. I like to color. Will you come color with me?" Sy nodded and stood up. Lila took her hand and dragged her away.
As she colored with Clint’s daughter, passing brightly colored crayons across the worn and well used table top, Sy let everything around her filter away into the background. She could hear the distant murmurs of her friends, their whispers, the sounds of their fears and worries and doubts. She felt her heart rate rise while Natasha and Bruce plotted to run away, Clint and Laura fretted over the whole team like worried parents and Tony and Steve fighting again. She heard their subtle accusations, the carefully formulated responses, designed to cut deep. Tears pricked her eyes as she listened to the overly polite verbal war they fought with each other, pushing and pushing until they both shattered into a thousand pieces.
Sy couldn't hold in her stress anymore, her hands shaking, as she heard Steve's strained admission that his temper had always been his weak point, and after the formula, it had become one of his most dangerous and easily triggered flaws. How in his vision, he couldn't help but see that he'd never truly go home from the war. How he never would. Her breathing hitched loudly at Tony's painful confession to his uncertainty in the team's, and his own, ability to protect the earth. That the team isn't enough, because they can hardly get along. How he couldn't trust himself, let alone the rest of them.
"In another world, without Sy, we would never be friends Rogers. That kid is the only reason we can all stand to be in the same room as each other. Because when we all met, she was a teenager, and our fighting got her hurt. So we learned our lesson. But we're a team. Nothing more. Especially without her. And that was the point. Rogers. To end the fight. So we can go home. So that kid that holds us all together, can go home. So that she doesn't have to fight anymore." Sy flinched at the sound of snapping wood.
"You think -" Steve started to snarl back, when Laura interrupted. Sy was shaking, staring down at her half finished drawing, when a small hand landed on her arm.
"Sy? Are you ok? 'Cause you kinda look like Daddy does after the carnival came to town that one time and the music was really loud and there was this weird guy and-" Sy took one long deep breath and smiled down at Lila.
"Yeah, I'm ok. Just had some... funny thoughts. Nothing to worry about ok?"
"Ok." The seven year old chirped, and she immediately launched into a different story about some of her friends from school. Sy forced herself to just focus on the bright stream of nonsensical chatter from the vivacious seven year old, tuning out the various other conversations going on around the house. She just nodded and smiled and asked different questions about her friends, her chores, the pets she wanted.
“I’m going to make Auntie Nat a butterfly.” Lila declared to her suddenly. Sy smiled at her, glancing at the little girl's freshly colored in page. There were already several completed crayon drawings scattered around the little girl, and the newest piece of paper had the shaky beginnings of the new picture.
“I’m sure she’s going to love it. Can you pass me the yellow?” Lila grinned at her, handing over the yellow crayon before picking up the previous topic; getting her parents to agree to a puppy. Sy lightly colored in the smiling sun she’d doodled onto the construction paper. The team's voices continued in the background, but she kept them in the background, like white noise.
The sound of the front door opening caused Sy to glance up, her hands flinching instinctively towards the currently empty holsters on her side. A familiar set of footsteps creaked along the floor. She launched herself out of her seat towards the door before Fury even got to the kitchen. With a slight grunt, the spymaster caught her, wrapping his arms securely around her body.
“Syrinx.” He said, relief coloring his tone.
“Hi Nick.” She mumbled into the sweater he was wearing. It was strange to see him out of his usual leather, but it was nice to see him. She’d missed him when she’d woken up in the hospital, her memories nothing more than a colorful blurs in her head, but knowing that in the crowd of familiar strangers, one was missing.
“How are you holding up?” He asked her quietly. She just shrugged, still hugging him tightly.
“Sometimes I almost think it would have been better if I’d never remembered.” She whispered, knowing that Fury would have heard the details of her condition and mental state when they pulled her out of Sokovia. Nick squeezed her once more before gently pushing her away.
“But you know better. You’ll get through this. You’re a tough kid, always were. Would take a whole lot more than Strucker to break you. Although I certainly would have liked to have been the one to shoot him.” Sy folded her arms around herself. Tony and the others might have made themselves scarce, but they were all definitely listening. She didn’t really want the whole team to know about what she was feeling at the moment, so she deflected instead.
“You’re not here for me, are you? Something else has happened. What is it Nick?” She asked, forcefully pushing all her issues away for a later time. Fury fixed her with a knowing look, but he stayed quiet. He always did have a knack for knowing when to push and when to just let her be. It was how he'd gotten her to work for him in the first place. And now, he knows, in the middle of an emergency, he'd be better off helping the mission, than pushing her stability.
“I'm always here for you Syrinx. But no, that's not why I came here today. I thought it was about time I made myself useful again. I’ll tell you all about it after dinner. For now, you need to rest.” Sy frowned at him. He just shrugged back at her, his expression carefully neutral. Sy knew he wouldn't let her in until she was ok. But Sy wasn't sure that would ever happen.
She shook her head at him, the team melting back into the room. Lila raced back into the room, Laura trailing behind her apologetically, and dragged her back to the table to color. She could feel the smug look on Fury's face burn into her back.
She sat on the floor, her legs crossed as she helped Lila put the finishing touches on her butterfly. Fury stood at the sink washing the dinner dishes, and Clint was making Cooper pick up his toys. Tony was playing darts in the corner. The whole scene was almost domestic. Almost.
The dinner conversation ruined it completely.
“Ultron took you folks out of play to buy himself time. My contacts all say he's building something. The amount of Vibranium he made off with, I don't think it's just one thing.” Fury continued as he dried a glass. Sy stacked the crayons into their box as Lila bounced into the dining room and handed Natasha the picture. The assassin smiled and gave the little girl a hug. Sy followed behind her more slowly, easing down into a seat between Steve and Nat. Steve frowned at Fury’s comment, one hand squeezing her knee as she sat down. They all did that, brushing against her, ruffling her hair, patting her wrist whenever she joined them. It was like they needed to reassure themselves that she was really there. The touching made her jump, even as she craved the contact. Sy needed the reassurance too.
“What about Ultron himself?” He asked. Fury shrugged.
“Ah. He's easy to track, he's everywhere. Guy's multiplying faster than a Catholic rabbit. Still doesn't help us get an angle on any of his plans though.” He set down the glass, before picking up the next one, hands moving rhythmically. Clint walked in to take over the dishes, the former director of SHIELD conceding his place easily. Sy felt almost relaxed, even with the Ultron threat. Something about Homestead, the quiet domesticity of Clint washing dishes, all her friends - her family - around the table, the low murmur of Laura’s voice in the background, sending the kids to bed. It felt the closest thing to home she’s found since her dad died. Even camp never quite had this feeling; the children of minor gods might have had a safe haven, but for Sy, it wasn’t much of a home.
“He still going after launch codes?” Tony asked, throwing a dart. It landed with a satisfying thud.
“Yes, he is, but he's not making any headway.” Fury shrugged, leaning against the counter. Tony scoffed, setting down his last dart.
“I cracked the Pentagon's firewall in high school on a dare.” He said, sounding almost offended. Sy wondered if it was because his creation; murder bot or otherwise, couldn’t do something he did as a kid.
“Yeah, well, I contacted our friends at the NEXUS about that.” Fury continued.
“What’s the NEXUS?” Sy asked, confused. Steve closed his mouth with an audible click. She likely beat him to the punch by a half a second. Tony shot her a surprised glance, almost like he was disappointed in her lack of knowledge. Sometimes being a demigod was annoying. Especially when she worked on a team as technologically reliant as the Avengers are. Steve at least was learning, and learning quickly. He may not be an expert, but he could use pretty much any of the equipment Tony or SHIELD provided on missions without help now, along with most anything available to the public. Plus he had the whole from the past thing going for him when he did struggle. Sy could barely use her email.
Not that any of the - highly legitimate -excuses stopped any of their teammates from teasing them both.
“It's the world internet hub in Oslo, every byte of data flows through there, it’s the fastest internet access on earth.” Bruce clarified quietly from his place in the back corner. Ever since they’d arrived the quiet scientist had been distancing himself from everyone, interacting with them as little as possible, speaking even less. It was like her friend had become a fragment of himself. He’d flinched away from Clint’s kids, a pained expression on his face as he backed away from them. Now he was sitting as far away from everyone as he could get and still be in the same room. The near miss had really rattled the scientist.
“So what'd they say?” Clint asked, the dishes clattering in the sink. Fury shrugged, taking a piece of cake from the cutting board.
“He's fixated on the missiles, but the codes are constantly being changed.”
“By whom?” Tony asked, pulling his dart off the board. A suddenly thwack startled the room. Clint just shrugged at the irritated Tony, a smirk plastered across his face. A single dart was embedded deeply in the bullseye, less than an inch from Tony’s nose. The mechanic glared at the archer; Clint just grinned back, going back to drying the dishes.
“Parties unknown.” Fury answered slowly, surprise coloring his tone. Sy could taste the acrid irritation in his voice, the bitter knowledge that someone was better than them and he didn’t know who it was. If there was anything in this world that would upset the former SHIELD director, it would be not knowing something.
“We have an ally?” Natasha asked, turning to face Fury.
“No, Ultron has an enemy. Those are two very different things.” Sy answered, glancing towards Fury for confirmation. The former spymaster shrugged, approval glittering in his eye.
“I'd pay folding money to know who it is.” Was his carefully neutral response. Tony sighed.
“I might need to visit Oslo, find our ‘unknown.’” Natasha frowned, sighing as she turned to her former employer.
“Well, this is good times, boss, but I was kind of hoping when I saw you, you'd have more than that.” A bitter smile crossed the red head’s face. The rest of the room turned to Fury, the tension rising. Fury shrugged, biting into a cookie, looking completely at ease.
“I do. I have you. Back in the day, I had eyes everywhere, ears everywhere else. You kids had all the tech you could dream of, and someone to take the hits when things went wrong. Now SHIELD can’t help you, the two of you are barely affiliated, and after the mess HYDRA made, they can’t afford to be seen anywhere near your mess until Ultron is handled. So, here we all are, back on earth, with nothing but our wit, and our will to save the world.” He paused, walking over to the table. They all sat silently, chewing over the fact that the untrusting, faithless spy just declared his faith and trust in them.
“Ultron says the Avengers are the only thing between him and his mission. And whether or not he admits it, his mission is global destruction. All this,’ Fury gestured to the room at large, ‘laid in a grave. So stand. Outwit the platinum bastard.” He finished, sitting down carefully in a chair. Natasha grinned suddenly, seizing her opportunity.
“Steve doesn't like that kind of talk.” She teased, glancing back at Steve. Sy giggled at his exasperated expression. The best part of it was, with the exception of Bucky, Steve had the worst potty mouth out of the group. And James didn’t talk enough for it to be that obvious.
“You know what, Romanoff?” Steve groused back good naturedly. He got a cheshire cat grin in return for his troubles.
“So what does he want?” Fury asked slowly, carefully annunciating each word. Sy glanced around the room before answering.
“To become better. Better than us. He keeps building himself new bodies-" Tony interrupted, the look in his eyes telling her better than anything else that his mind was racing.
“Person bodies. The human form is inefficient, biologically speaking, we're outmoded. But he keeps coming back to it.” Tony insisted, his voice twisting into the sour-sweet of anticipation. The genius was close to something, and he knew it. Sy had to resist the pull of his voice, the compelling force of his expectation.
“When you two programmed him to protect the human race, you amazingly failed.” Natasha commented sarcastically. Bruce ignored her, coming out from his shadowy corner, his gaze fixed on Lila’s butterfly drawing at the former assassin’s elbow.
“They don't need to be protected, they need to evolve . Ultron's going to evolve.” He muttered distractedly.
“How?” Sy asked, not seeing where Bruce’s mind had gone. He glanced up, oddly still.
“Has anyone been in contact with Helen Cho?” The room froze as the implication of his question sunk in. Then the room burst into a flurry of movement. Sy and Clint speed stacked the dishes onto the counters while everyone else ran to grab their gear. Sy dashed into the sunroom, her armor stacked neatly next to the made up couch she definitely was not going to have time to sleep on.
“I’ll take Natasha and Clint. You should take Sy, I don’t want her fighting him.” Sy overheard Steve say as she stepped into the hallway, tightening the last straps of her armor. She heard the magnet engage as Steve placed his shield on his back. She laughed sarcastically, startling both men, as she joined them. The three of them headed to the door.
“Yeah, me in the biggest internet hub in the world. I see that ending well. I might as well just wear a neon sign saying ‘eat me, tasty demigod here.’ I’m going with you Steve.” She snapped. Steve frowned, concern etched across his face.
“Sy, you were a prisoner a week ago. You’re barely out of the hospital and then get thrown into this mess. James got free a year ago, and he’s barely mission ready. Maybe you should go back to New York. You can still help, just somewhere with less risk.” Both men looked at her with concern. Sy felt something inside her slip and crack. Was she really that broken? The consequences of the work that they do meant that the whole team was damaged, they all carried their baggage, wounds weeping as they marched into battle. It was just part of the job. But was her’s so obviously heavy that they thought she couldn’t continue?
“I need to be there Steve. I can’t sit at home twiddling my thumbs. James was prisoner for seventy years, it’s different for him. I was healed by a god . And another one ensured I was stable. Tony might have designed Ultron; but I made him. He’s powered by my blood. My power. I’m coming with you.” She stated firmly, glaring at them both. Tony broke first.
“Alright, but strictly recon.” He ordered stiffly, Steve looked like he wanted to argue, but didn’t. Sy on the other hand, did.
“You’re funny if you think I need your permission to fight.” Both men glared at her, but she glared right back. She was an adult, and could make her own choices. Besides, they needed her, and they knew it. Tony fiddled with his watch as he finished his original thought.
“I’ll hit the NEXUS. I’ll join you as soon as I can.” Sy nodded, hooking her sword onto her belt.
“If Ultron is really building a body…” Steve trailed off. Tony looked at them both, his expression more serious than she’d ever seen on the billionaire’s face.
“It will be more powerful than any of us. Maybe all of us.” He glanced over at Sy, his brow furrowed. He opened his mouth, then closed it, holding in the thought.
“An android designed by a robot.” Sy muttered. Tony nodded sharply.
“Exactly. He could run every iteration, every possible flaw in seconds, access every online journal, thought or idea and build the closest thing to perfection. He could be unstoppable.” Sy felt the blood drain from her face. It was the worst possible nightmare for a demigod. A monster that would summon more monsters while she fought it. Technology and evil mixed up into one entity. And this one was powered by her blood. Tony might have accidentally designed it, but she's the one who brought Ultron to life.
“You know, I really miss the days when the weirdest thing science ever created was me.” Steve said grimly. Sy only just barely managed to hold in her snort. He might be a weird science experiment. But most of her family were divine figures (plus their offspring) who were powered by human belief. She used to fight storybook monsters. Now she fights things out of a comic book. Life was always weird.
“I’ll drop Banner off at the Tower. Check in with Hill.” Fury abruptly interrupted them, walking down the hall to where they were standing.
“Didn’t I tell you that you didn’t have a place in the new SHIELD?” Sy asked him irritatedly. Fury just smirked at her. They'd both known that no matter what happened, Fury was always going to be interfering. The former SHIELD director may not be much of a hero; but he was still a good man.
“What are you going to do?” Steve asked the former director. Fury just grinned at them, his one eye dancing with mischief.
“I dunno. Something dramatic I hope.” Sy groaned, but hugged him goodbye anyways. The three of them followed him out the door into the cool morning. The ramp to the quinjet lowered as they approached. Natasha was already in the cockpit, one immaculate eyebrow cocked as she waited for them. Clint was the last to join them.
“Let me guess. It didn’t work?” He joked when he saw Sy sitting in her usual spot. She swung around and glared at the rest of the team.
“You were all in on it?” She growled. Natasha's expression was as blank as always, although Sy detected a small note of amusement when she hummed noncommittally. Steve sighed, while Clint had the decency to at least look guilty. Tony smirked at them before walking back outside, his suit assembling itself onto his body. His expression grew serious as the mask slid over his face.
“I’ll come as quick as I can. Be careful.” He warned them before taking off. Sy hit the ramp controls and soon enough, they were in the air.
OH MY GOD.
Endgame has completely wrecked me and Marvel/Disney owns my soul.
Also I totally called some of the details in that film.
Please no spoilers in the comments, even though the ban from the Russo brothers has been lifted. I have a friend who hasn't seen it yet because life keeps getting in her way, and someone almost spoiled it for her and it's just rude, even if the movie has been out for a couple weeks now.
She and Steve raced through the destroyed lab, desperate to find any survivors. A small groan sent them both scrambling through the back room filled with broken sparking equipment.
Dr. Cho was slumped in the corner of the lab, her shoulder bleeding heavily. Sy dropped to the floor, ignoring the broken glass that immediately dug into her knees. With both hands she gripped the hemorrhaging injury, putting pressure on the wound. Steve passed her some bandages and gauze to help stem the blood flow, Sy’s hands moving quickly in well practiced motions.
Camp, and the Apollo Cabin, had drilled emergency field medicine into everyone’s heads over and over again. Plus, SHIELD had a mandatory first aid course she’d taken a couple of times over the years.
Those skills had definitely saved her life more than once, and on occasion she’d also used them to help others. They were definitely useful now.
“He’s uploading himself into the body.” Dr. Cho whispered hoarsely, her hand reaching up to grab at Sy’s wrist. She has to physically stop herself from flinching at the sensation. Based by the expression on Steve’s face, she didn’t succeed well enough. Sy pulled her hand back as quickly as she could, continuing to pack the wound. If she focused on that task, she could ignore the fear pounding in her chest.
“Where?” Steve passed her some medical tape and she used it to secure the bandages. Sy stood up, her hands and bracers coated in blood. She flexed her hands uncomfortably at the feeling of the sticky liquid on her skin. Dr. Cho grabbed Sy again, and this time she did jump; ripping her arm out of the injured woman’s grasp. Steve carefully nudged Sy out of the way. She took a half step back, her eyes wide and breathing uneven. Sy fought with herself to calm her racing heart and to clear her head of the wild panic threatening to take over. She wasn’t broken. She wasn’t.
“The real power is inside the cradle. The… gem… or whatever it is, the pieces of the fuel cell and something more…. Its power is uncontainable. You can’t just blow it up. You have to get the cradle to Stark.” She insisted to them between her stuttering, gasping breaths.
“First we have to find it.” Steve promised her quietly. Dr. Cho pushed them both away weakly, relief and urgency coloring her tone.
“Go.” They turned and raced back the way they came. Steve talking to the others through the headset.
“You guys copy that?” Sy listened in, her head tilted in Steve’s direction to catch the voices through his comm set.
“We did.” Was Clint’s grim reply.
“I’ve got a private jet taking off across town.” Natasha added. Sy glanced at Steve and shook out her wings, the celestial bronze plating rattling softly.
“Are you sure?” He asked her quietly, neither of their paces faltering. She just shot him an unamused glance, not bothering to answer him. He sighed heavily through his nose, but didn’t ask her again. They burst out the doors onto the roof. Sy spread her wings and leapt off the building. Steve was two steps behind her, taking his own flying leap off the rooftop. Sy spun around in the air, catching him easily. Just as she had a dozen times before. It was almost like she was never gone. Adrenaline poured through her, her anxieties pushed away but the thrill of the upcoming fight.
“No manifest. That could be him.” Natasha continued, her voice small through the comms unit.
“There,’ Clint said, ‘It’s a truck from the lab. It’s right above you two. Three with the cradle, one in the cab.”
“I’m on it.” Sy muttered, beating her wings hard. This part was harder than she remembered, the strain on her out of shape muscles pulling on her shoulders unpleasantly. Sy gritted her teeth, and strained harder.
“I could take out the driver.” Clint offered. Sy and Steve shouted at the same time.
“Negative! If that truck crashes, the gem Ultron made from the fuel cell could level the whole city. We need to draw out Ultron.” Steve insisted. Sy forced herself to fly faster, angling her wing tips to take advantage of every draft she could as they sped through the sky towards the freeway ramp. Sy glanced down and spotted the truck.
“On three.” Steve ordered. She nodded and began to drop lower. They shifted so that Steve was now dangling awkwardly beneath her. She started to swing him gently, Steve pumping him legs to help build his momentum.
“One, two…. Three.” She grunted and dropped him. Steve fell through the air for only a second before landing on top of the truck. Her heart skipped a beat when he tumbled backwards, but then he caught himself. Sy soared back up into the sky, carefully circling the truck in a holding pattern, keeping careful watch over Steve.
“Leave me ALONE!” Ultron’s angry roar echoed just as a bright white plusing beam of energy blasted Steve off the roof of the moving truck. Sy dove. A second blast emitted from the truck, the bright plasma beam breaking the doors of the truck. They dragged on the asphalt behind the truck, sending up bright orange sparks. The wind howled in her ears, but she still caught Clint’s brutally honest remark and the sarcastic thanks Barton Steve muttered back to him before she swooped down and picked him up.
A concussive blast just barely missed her, but the resulting force still sent her spiraling over the side of the highway. Sy beat her wings wildly, just barely regaining control before the two of them ended up as bloody smears on the pavement. She flew back to the freeway, dropping Steve off on top of a different truck, leaving him to make his own way to the cradle. Ultron was now hovering in the air, shooting high energy beams at them, desperately trying to protect the cradle and the body being built inside of it.
Sy muttered a quick prayer to whatever deity had granted Percy Jackson his luck, beat her wings hard twice and slammed into Ultron, carrying the robot over the side of the highway. The robot roared in anger and ripped her away, tossing her through the air. The force of his throw sent her tumbling half a dozen yards up. Sy spun through the air for a moment, and dropped a couple of feet before she used her wings catch her.
“Do you know what’s inside that cradle? The power to make real change. You should know that better than anyone; according to HYDRA you’re the one who made it all possible.” Sy just snarled.
“What’s inside that cradle is just another product of my hell.” She drew her sword and spun out of the way of a second blast aimed at her.
“You’re just as afraid of change as the rest of them.” Ultron growled at her, disappointment lacing the robotic voice. Sy snorted.
“I’ve seen the kind of change you want to bring before. I didn’t like it then either.” Sy tilted her head to the side, a familiar sound whistling through the wind. She grinned as Steve’s shield slammed into Ultron. She lunged forward, working in sync with Steve to push back the robot. For a few glorious seconds, it even seemed like it would work. Ultron was on the defensive.
But Ultron quickly became too much for them. One minute the out of control AI was retreating, and in the next, a powerful block sent Steve’s shield skittering down the highway and Sy got slammed into the side of a building by a well timed backhanded blow. She hit the ground with a soft grunt. Sy stood up slowly, rubbing her tender jaw. That was going to bruise. She shook herself off and took off again, barely sparing the staring crowds behind her a second glance.
By the time she caught up with the cradle again, Steve had his shield back and Natasha had shown up on a motorcycle. Ultron’s drones opened fire on the pursuing Avengers. Sy dove down in front of Natasha, a celestial bronze shield opening from a secret compartment in her bracers. Thank the gods for Cabin Ten and Leo Valdez. The blast battered the metal of the shield, but the meager protection the bronze disk offered held. With the godly metal repelling the blasts, Sy advanced. She quickly dispatched the first robotic drone, and kicked the second one out from the truck. Natasha promptly ran it over. It was clear that Ultron prioritized one or two bodies, and the rest of the drones, the rest of himself, was simply disposable metal. Extra hands, or cannon fodder to distract them with.
She heard a loud crash from outside the truck. Sy ran to the doorway to look at what was happening.
Ultron and Steve had crashed into a train, a massive hole gaping in the side of the car. She glanced at Natasha. The spy just shouted one instruction at her.
“Go!” She didn’t hesitate.
Sy dove through the hole in the train, barreling into Ultron for the second time that day. The force of her entrance slammed him into the side of the train car. She knew later she as going to pay for tackling a metal robot twice in a single day.
The robot got back up quicker that she expected, and Sy barely dodged the retaliating blow. She wasn’t able to avoid the second punch, and that one sent hers skidding into the seats. Causing her to land awkwardly on her back. She stood up and folded her wings, pulling them in tightly against her spine. In such close quarters, they were a hindrance not an asset.
“Protect the civilians.” Steve shouted at her as he leapt up, attacking Ultron. A distraction to give her some time to protect people, even though he was getting his ass royally kicked. Sy reached into a pouch hanging from her belt. From inside, she pulled out the plastic recorder she’d borrowed from Cooper before they’d left Homestead. She wished she had a different instrument, but anything bigger would have gotten in her way or have already been destroyed in the fight. She screwed the three pieces together and brought the instrument to her lips.
The melody she played focused on conveying a warning, pushing any civilians in earshot to move into the compartments furthest away, as quickly as possible. She also threaded elements of strength into the music, trying to help Steve. She wasn’t sure if it would be enough.
Sy heard him before anything else happened. But in the span of one note to the next, a blur slammed into Ultron, rescuing Steve from the beating he was receiving.
Pietro Maximoff stood at the end of the car. As Ultron got to his feet, red energy bent metal ripped from the walls of the train into a flimsy barrier, stopping him from going after Pietro. The witch, Wanda, stood behind her and Steve, red light wreathing her hands and filling her eyes. The robot stumbled to a shocked halt.
“Please, don’t do this.” Ultron begged softly to the twins, something not unlike grief filling the mechanical voice. Sy helped Steve to his feet, recorder slipping back into her belt. She’d promised to return it, and she was a Greek. They weren’t in the habit of breaking promises; usually because it ended up biting them in the ass when they did. She drew her sword again. It was four of them in an empty compartment, and Ultron. Sy liked these odds.
“What choice do we have?” Wanda asked, her voice shaking slightly. Sy could taste the bitter sincerity in the other woman’s voice. Ultron turned and blasted the train, sending Pietro diving out of the way. Sy lunged for the robot, but Ultron was faster, flying off in the distraction he’d created.
“I’ve lost him! He’s heading your way.” Steve shouted into the ear piece as they sprinted down the length of the train. Sy could already see the conductor laying across the panel, dead. She glanced back at the twins.
“This train can’t stop on its own. It’s up to you.” She ordered before leaping out of the train herself. Her wings beat wildly, the wind from the moving vehicle making it more difficult than usual for her to take flight. She pushed herself hard, racing to catch up with the red glow of Ultron’s flight. She heard Natasha cry out, just before the cargo container exploded. Sy raced to catch the robot, her friend hanging limply in his grasp. Ultron turned midair and sent out three consecutive blasts in her direction.
Sy was too tired, too worn, and too out of shape to avoid them all. She dodged one then the other, but the last one caught her full in the chest. The resulting shock wave sent her plummeting out of the air. The last thing she was aware of was the wind roaring in her ears as she fell.
Her eyes blinked open to a bright light shining into her eyes, and a pair of arms wrapped tightly around her.
Sy threw her body up, heaving against iron bonds tightening against her skin. Metal circled her wrists, covered her chest. Sound exploded against her ears, overloading her. Her back slammed back down onto a hot, rough surface. For some reason, the stench of hot rubber drifts through her senses, before the overwhelming scent of chemicals take over.
She's back in the lab and it's not safe.
Fear sends her hearing wildly out of control in a way they haven't been since she was a little girl.
It's too freaking loud.
Dozens, hundreds, no millions of unfamiliar heartbeats, filled her ears. The sound of blood pumping steadily in irregular, off beat rhythms through chests quickly grew overwhelming. Her hands made fists and claws as she fought back. Harsh panting, heavy breathing, the woosh of air from moving vehicles. Static noise. Screams, cries, the clatter of stones, the crunching footsteps. Screeching brakes, clunking, hissing machinery, bird feathers rustling mid flight in the wind. Fabric brushing against skin. Sirens wailing. Rubber crunching and the click click of shoes against pavement.
So many voices, all different sorts, all different notes and pitches and tones and languages and accents and She just knew she was in danger. She needed to escape.
Fear crashed over her head, and panic snuffed out every rational thought in her head expect the blind animal instinct to get out.
Music rose up inside of her, crawling under her skin. She opened her mouth, but the sudden sensation of heavy metal pressing against her lips made her gag and retch. Her music was gone, sucked away with her voice, and the metal pressing in on her was just another sign of her capture. Sobs broke out of her chest, her pride shattered and gone. Let them see her fear, the only thing She knew was that she needed to get out.
Jerking against everything holding her down, she broke free.
Suddenly She was moving.
Her eyes were wide as She stared around herself. The door. She broke into a sprint for the door, metal jangling from her wrists, footsteps unbearably loud. She needs to get out. Freedom is so close she can taste fresh air in her mouth, and feel grass under her feet and music rises inside her like a warm draft lifting her in flight. Hope so bright it's tangible.
She collided with a solid figure, and the sound of two bodies meeting, of her crashing to the metallic ground with an ear shattering clang, the vibrations of sound around her became too much. Hope shattered inside her and nothing but pure unadulterated rage was left.
She screamed and screamed and screamed, clawing at herself, at anyone who was reaching for her. She fought off the hands, fought the restraints around her body, fought against the red light filling her vision, fought the explosion of wind. For a few brief moments, she was untouchable.
She'd promised to fight.
But she was tired and everything in her ached with defeat. There was so little left to fight for anymore, her mind have gone and whatever was left was clouded.
A hazy face drifted into her mind. Wide blue eyes creased with fear, she reached towards the dream. Fight.
"No, you can't be here. You aren't." She begged him. They stole everything from her, but She didn't want them to have him. She'd fight back, get him out, keep him out. They can't have him. Only her. They can have only her. Fight.
Red light wreathed her, stabbing at her defenses. She fought, kicking, screaming. Noise. There was too much noise. Shouting and fear and so much more that she wasn't processing any of it. There was no way to identify all the different sounds out of the chaotic cacophony assaulting her ears.
A soothing voice broke through the racket. Like a single beam of sunshine breaking through a storm. Warm and bright and safe.
"Sy. Sy. It's ok. You're safe. Sy, you're going to be ok. They can't hurt you." The man with the blue eyes and the safe feeling he carried with him whispered in the back of her head. She knew if she opened her eyes he would be there. She didn't want to see him in this place. In this hell. Her breathing was growing ragged, exhausted and uneven.
"No, no, no, no." She moaned. "They can't have that too, they can't have you." She begged him. Tears pooled in her eyes and she shook her head, ignoring the increasing pressure building behind her temples. He had to listen to her. He had to go, leave. it wasn't safe. Fight.
"Let us help." A new voice asked her, and two more hands grabbed onto her. Her breathing was out of control and she was fighting, fighting like she promised.
But it was hard.
Nothing was working right. Her limbs had grown heavy and uncooperative. She needed to fight but she had nothing left to fight with. She tried to scream around the metal pressing down on her, pressing down on her face, on her hands, on her chest, around her wings. But she couldn't breath in. Everything was too tight. Too close, too tight, too loud, too much.
Danger. She's in danger. And She always fights. That much she remembers.
"Sy, it's ok. You're safe now. I promise." The voice is desperate and warm and almost comforting.
A single lightning bolt of clarity shot through her mind, and she managed to reach out a hand, closing it over a warm wrist. She desperately tapped on the inside of Steve's wrist. ...---...
But her sudden mental clarity wasn't enough as she choked on air, her chest heaving, her mouth gasping desperately for oxygen she wasn't receiving. And Sy was drowning again, in sound, in light and in memories.
Red light washed over her again and this time Sy drifted into a cold, almost comforting, blackness.
Sy woke up to a soft bed, and a white ceiling. The sound of Steve's familiar breathing pattern, and his warm hand gripped tightly in her own immediately soothed her. She turned her head slightly to see him sitting in a chair next to her. She glanced around the room, taking stock of the space before alerting him to the fact that she was awake. Her armor was sitting in pieces on the ground, the leather straps neatly sliced through. Sy noticed that in a few places even the metal had been broken through. They must have cut it off of her.
It was odd. Usually they waited for her to wake up and take it off herself.
She blinked slowly, trying to grasp at her hazy memories. The last thing she remembered clearly was a desperate flight, and Natasha hanging limp from a robotic grasp. An explosion. Being blasted out of the sky.
After that, very little made sense in her head. Mostly she remembered flashes of red light, and bleached blonde hair. Steve carrying her. A lot of mismatched noise that she didn't understand.
Her throat was more than a little sore, and she swallowed a couple times tightly before she squeezed Steve's hand gently, getting his attention. The super soldier seemed startled, pulled from whatever broody trance he was in. Sy peeked up at Steve's expression pensively before letting out a low groan. She knew what the look on Steve's face meant. His eyebrows were furrowed in just the wrong way. She's so in trouble.
"Don't say it." She warned resignedly.
"I told you so." Steve grumbled at her, even as worry faded from his eyes at the sight of her awake. She glanced over to the doorway, where the two Maximoff siblings were hovering. Both of their hearts were beating in a slightly erratic manner, each expression containing something both entirely unreadable while also being uncomfortably close to pity. They both left as soon as she caught Wanda's eye, guilt briefly flashing across the older woman's face. Sy turned back to Steve. She tried to shoot him a wry smile, but based on the look on Steve's face, it probably came out more like a pained grimace.
"And you said it."
"I told you to stay away, that you needed to recuperate. And now-" Sy interrupted him, frowning down at the bed.
"What happened?" She hated not being able to puzzle out her own memories. There wasn't anything in her head that was useful, and she felt a slight panic rise at the realization that there were blank gaps in her mind. Memories missing from where they should be. She ruthlessly stamped the fear down, focusing on Steve's response to her question.
"Ultron hit you, and you fell. Pietro Maximoff caught you before you hit the ground, slowed your momentum. He... probably saved your life. When you woke up, you were completely disoriented. You flashed back to HYDRA, Sy... it was all we could do to keep you contained. You were hyperventilating, and eventually you passed out. You woke up a couple of times, in a complete panic. We had to cut your armor off of you. The metal, it... it scared you." Steve told her quietly. Sy's whole body ached, like the pain had been baked deep into her bones. She could still feel the phantom tremors running through her body, and she could almost hear the echoes of her own pained screaming. She knew Steve was keeping the full extent of her panic from her, trying to protect her from the knowledge that he was right; Sy wasn't stable. She wasn't strong enough to be in the field with them. The realization hit her like a ton of bricks. Her shoulders tensed then relaxed, and she took a single breath.
"I'm sorry Steve... You were right. I'm not ready to be back." Sy stated, her hands fidgeting in her lap. She started to pick at her nails, gathering her thoughts.
"But you still need me. We may not be at war, but the situation is still pretty damn dire. Thor is gone, probably took Loki with him. Nat is captured by the enemy, and the team barely functions. You. Need. Me." She swept the blankets off her legs, and surprised herself with the grace with which she had managed to do that. On the other hand, her whole body ached in protest of the movement. She reached towards the bag next to Steve's feet, but her pseudo big brother beat her to it.
Opening the bag he pulled out a square of ambrosia and the thermos of nectar. Steve handed her the godly food, watching her carefully. Ever since she'd warned him about the potential spontaneous combustion side affects, he was reluctant to trust the healing food. A few bites and a sip later, she was feeling much better.
"We don't know where Ultron is, or what his endgame is. Only that he has Nat. The Maximoffs think Tony is.... That he's going to..." Sy glanced up at her friend sharply. The fact that the two men didn't get along was no secret. But the battlefield trust in each other hadn't faltered.
At least, not until now.
"What are you saying Steve?" She asked him softly. He just shook his head, his expression carefully blank.
"Let's just hope they're wrong." Sy just shook her head as she got out of bed. There was no way. Tony wouldn't hurt her like that again. He wouldn't.
"Tony wouldn't do that to us. Not again." Steve sighed as he wrapped one hand around her shoulder, steadying her. Sy let him anchor her for a moment before shaking off the contact. She barely gave her decimated armor a second glance, unable to look at the ruined metal. She wasn't ready for human conflicts. And she didn't want to be. Sy took a deep breath and brushed away her thoughts. Decisions like that could be made after they defeated Ultron, not before.
Steve's next words chilled her to the bone.
"Yes he would. He would do it in a heartbeat if he thought it would save us."
“This framework is incompatible.” Sy’s eyes widened as she picked up conversation from inside the lab. And it was not the kind of conversation she wanted to hear.
“Oh you have got to be kidding me.” She muttered, picking up her pace.
“Really?” Steve huffed out behind her, disappointment clouding his tone. She nodded once sharply. No matter what Steve had said, she knew that they’d both been holding on to the fragment of hope that Tony would not repeat his mistakes. No matter how great a hero he is, Tony was far too prone to abusing his intellect; falling prey to his own hubris and unable to see fault in his thinking. The burden of genius, seemed to be a fairly spectacular lack of sense, common or otherwise. Bruce also tended to fall in that same category, case in point; the Hulk. Sy prayed this was one of those days where Bruce’s level head won out over Tony’s wheedling and his own dangerous curiosity.
“The genetic coding tower is at ninety seven percent. You have got to upload that schematic in the next three minutes.” Sy let out a defeated moan at the sound of the second voice.
“Bruce too?” She whined. Something inside her tore a little at the sound of her friend’s voices. Of everyone in the world, the team were who she should be able to trust the most. And yet, here they were walking into a confrontation she doubted any of them would be willing to back down from.
It’s one thing to play at being a mad scientist; it’s another thing entirely to actually become one. Tony and Bruce already created one monster, Sy was not about to let them build another. Especially using her blood.
“What did I tell you?” The witch muttered behind her. Sy gritted her teeth. She is so not in the mood for an I told you so from someone who had sided with the same monsters who had tortured her for months on end.
The four of them burst into the lab, and quickly crossed the floor to the blue lit platform where their resident idiots with massive brains were working.
“I’m only going to say this once.” Steve started, a low growl punctuating his words.
“How about nonce?” Tony quipped, glaring at Steve.
“Shut it down.”
“Nope. Not going to happen.” Tony shot back in the same tone of voice five year olds use when saying you’re not the boss of me.
“Tony, how could you?” Her voice cracked on his name. She was dangerously close to tears, and Sy clenched her hands tightly to prevent them from shaking. The overwhelming hurt of betrayal was rushing in, her body flushing hot even as a cold sweat broke out on top of her skin.
“You don’t know what’s coming kid.” He said callously, derision filling his tone. Sy physically recoiled at the truth in his voice. The one he believed in with every fiber of his being. Rage clouded her vision and she crossed the lab, getting into Stark’s face. She couldn’t recall the last time she’d ever been this angry with anyone. Her whole body vibrated with the force of her emotions, and music curled under her skin. Sy might be a musician at heart but she is a demigod to the core. A demigod who has fought in wars against beings more terrifying than the great Ironman could even imagine. She has battled monsters from myth and survived torture at the hands of HYDRA.
Tony Stark couldn’t even conceive the power she has at her fingertips, can't understand the battles she’s fought. Comprehend the wars she’s won. He couldn’t even understand how dangerous she is, not flinching back as he stands in front of her. An arrogant expression plastered across his face, looking down his nose at her. The temptation to fight him was strong, to swing her fists at this mortal man until he bowed beneath the weight of her power rather than allow him to belittle her to sooth his own anxieties. He has never carried the weight of the world on his shoulders; she’s seen the strain that leaves on a person. She's seen the strain in Percy Jackson's eyes on days when the camp shudders from his nightmares, the tension in Annabeth's voice after something startles her in just the wrong way. Other major players at camp were the same way. Thalia, the huntress, Piper from Cabin 10 and a few others. The Roman demigods hide it better, but Sy's hearing is really good. She can hear and taste the pain and stress and trauma destiny has left on her fellow demigods.
The Avenger's have protected people, even fended off an invasion. But that doesn't even come close to touching the basic everyday struggle of survival demigods fight. The battles they win and lose to protect the world without thanks, without recognition. Battles that get them labeled as troublemakers, criminals and terrorists. She hardly noticed that her hands began to glow with the power of Tony and Bruce’s combined inspiration; white gathered around her fingertips, repulsor energy filling her palms.
“And you have no idea what you’re doing. The power you play with. That’s my power you’re using. My blood. My trauma. Ultron was born the last time you thought divine power was something you could understand.” She snarled at him. A blast of energy was released from her hand, scorching the floor. A little bit of fear seemed to have wormed its way through his mind at the reminder of her power. Stark took a half step back, his hands raised in a placating manner. The expression in his face belied the gesture, his forehead creased stubbornly the same way it always when he plans to do whatever he wants regardless of what anyone else says. Not even Pepper can get through to him in this state.
Sy stalked forward, not willing to let him run away. He couldn’t just walk all over her, abuse her power for his purposes. There are consequences to actions; and she was going to force Stark to face his if she had too.
“How do you know she’s not in your head.” Bruce asked harshly, glaring at the witch. Disgust was etched into every line in his face.
“She can’t get in.” Sy snapped, still glaring at Stark, the two of them standing off in front of the cradle. She ignored the surprise that crossed several of her teammates expressions at that statement.
“I know you’re angry.” Wanda said cautiously, her anxiety leaving a sour taste in Sy’s mouth. She took a half step away from Tony, turning away from him.
“Oh, we’re way past that. I could choke the life out of you and never change a shade.” Bruce went on bitterly, his own truth flaring across Sy’s taste buds.
“Banner, after everything that’s happened-” Steve tried to reason with Bruce again, but Tony interrupted him, pushing past Sy to confront Steve; the object of his anger and mistrust for months.
“You don’t know what’s coming.” He snarled.
“Then tell us!” Steve roared back. “Tell us, instead of hiding away preparing in secret for an outcome none of us can imagine. We’re on your team just as much as you’re on ours. Tell us so we can help you. So we can all be ready.”
“So help me. We need this Steve. This will keep us safe.”
“No Stark. You need this. The rest of us are in the dark; we don’t know what we need.” Tony just turned away from Steve, his expression dark.
“You don’t understand-”
“And you don’t understand what’s in there! The creature that-” Pietro vanished into a blur as his sister stepped into the argument. The sound of his sudden movement startled Sy. She tried to cover the movement by turning to face the room, but she could still feel the burning gaze of Steve in her back, and see Stark monitoring her out the corner of her eyes. She swallowed down her panic, and studiously ignored them both.
In the span of a heartbeat he was on the other side of the room, a cable in his hand. Monitors began to flash wildly as the recently disconnected machines stopped transmitting information. Everyone’s attention snapped to the Sokovian.
“No, no. Go on. You were saying?” He mocked. Sy wrinkled her forehead as she listened, there was a soft click that seemed out of place. Eyes widening she reacted a fraction of a second before it happened; stumbling back at the sound of the firing pin hitting the bullet. The ear shattering boom echoed through the room as glass shattered. Sy tucked into a backwards roll, stopping in a low crouch as she pinpointed the location of the gunman below them. Pietro fell through the floor, shock filling his face as he disappeared.
“Pietro!” Wanda cried out as Clint quipped an insult at the older Maximoff twin from the floor below.
“What, you didn’t see that coming?” A monitor flashed and alarms blared, warning them of a critical power loss. But before Tony could reroute the power, Steve threw his shield, destroying several monitors. The room devolved into chaos, everyone lunging for something or someone. Bruce had vanished then reappeared behind Wanda, whispering a menacing threat into her ear. Sy took her own opportunity and lunged forward, her sword flashing towards the cradle when a shock wave of energy slammed into her. She was sent tumbling to the floor, sword clattering out of her hand. A flash of yellow appeared in the corner of her vision, but she ignored it, entirely focused on the machine in front of her.
“Stop, stop, STOP!” She screamed. The room froze. Sy reached out a trembling hand to the cradle and hummed. The warm metal pulsed against the pads of her fingers. Something was coming from the cradle, but she wasn’t sure what it was. She pushed herself to her feet and knelt next to the metal contraption. Familiar energy was pouring out of the box, warm and comforting. Phantom music rose around her, and her hand twitched for a pen as sudden inspiration filled her.
Brilliant yellow white light poured into the room, glowing through every pore in her skin, lighting her up from the inside out. Her skin was translucent, every blood vessel held in red lines across her hands, weaving up her arms and her face. Bone created dark shadows in the light and she looked up at the ragtag dysfunctional mess of people scattered around the room.
“Reconnect it.” Sy ordered softly. She could almost feel her mother’s divine presence in the room. She got to her feet, one hand still planted firmly on the metal cradle. The world around her fell away, the light that was glowing under her skin filling the room, covering everything in her sight until there was nothing but her and the cradle. Yellow light poured into the room, swirling around them, as nebulous stars and worlds and galaxies exploded and formed and died, birds sang and a symphony of musicians played and a baby giggled while an old man crooned a lullaby, metal pinged as a hammer struck tin and wind rustled through the leaves of a tree and lighting struck, waves raged, thunder boomed and Sy stood in the eye of a storm, watching the cradle. Inside it carried something powerful and strong and innocent. Something unique and filled with potential. Something that felt part of her, inextricably linked to her soul.
“What?” Came four utterly bewildered voices behind her. The world that had swirled to life in her minds eyes cracked and collied and flickered and died. The dim blue light of Tony’s lab lit everyone’s face from below, like a kid holding up a flashlight under their chin to tell a scary story. It cast shadows across everyone’s faces, outlining the various expressions of shock.
“Do it now!” She cried urgently. Sy couldn’t explain it, but whatever it was that her mom had tried to show her, she knew it was important. Besides, Sy knew better than to refuse a goddess. She turned back to face the cradle and song both living and dying on her lips, music filling her mind and rising higher and higher as she reached to try and revive the flickering something in the cradle.
Ozone filled the air, and the room crackled with energy. A familiar godly presence collided with her senses as Thor slid into the room, his face a mask of determination. He leapt on top of the cradle and lifted his hammer. Lightning filled the room, the windows blowing out as streams of blue electricity streaked into the building, wreathing Mjolnir. He slammed the hammer down on top of the cradle. Sy screamed as she was blasted backwards, energy rippling out from her voice as she slammed into a wall. Her fingers twitched uncontrollably as electricity coursed through her body. She could smell something burning, and when she looked down, Sy noticed that the hair on her arms was singed and smoking lightly.
“SY!” Steve crashed to his knees next to her, his hands hovering over her body. Sparks of electricity jumped off her body, causing the super soldier to flinch back, even as blue eyes roved over her body in wide eyed horror.
“Wait!” Bruce cried out, releasing Wanda in his shock. Monitors flashed all sorts of warnings and both of their resident scientist sprinted to the machines. Sy’s head spun as she shifted her weight, trying to sit up. She batted Steve’s hands away from her, and she pushed her way up the wall until she was in a semi-sitting position. The warm presence was getting stronger. She turned her head, making eye contact with Loki as he strode into the room, green streams of power preceding him. The two sets of godly power cause the room to shake and Sy screamed, the painful pressure in her head combined with the electricity still popping on her skin overwhelmed her. White light began building, new light, pouring from the two gods. She slumped against the wall, relaxing as the warmth of her power expanded and changed. She closed her eyes against the divine power flowing into the room. She hoped the others had the sense to look away too.
The light glowed so brightly the red veins in her eyelids were seared into her vision. Music rose in her mind, reaching a soaring crescendo before falling away. The light faded away and the room was silent and still.
Sy cautiously opened her eyes. Nobody was vaporized and was silently watching the cradle. Thor stood up and took a small step back, even as both Sy and Loki tried to move closer. The energy that had been flowing though the room had vanished, leaving behind a gaping emptiness that could be felt like an aching hole.
Nobody dared to even move.
Sy shifted to stand, her eyes still firmly fixed on the cradle.
Something yellow flashed in the corner of her eye.
The cradle exploded.
Sy was blown back, her head slamming into the wall behind her head. Steve slammed into her legs when he lunged in front of her as he tried to shield her body. There was a high pitched ringing in her ear, and when she first looked up there were yellow and black spots dancing in her eyes. She blinked hard, trying to focus her gaze. As the spots cleared, she saw there was a man-shaped something, radiating power, crouched on top of the destroyed cradle. A yellow stone sat in the center of his forehead, glowing with a familiar power.
But it was different, stronger; shattered apart then glued back together and fueled by divine power. Two pantheons fused by the power of the Mind Stone. Unprecedented. Unstable. Dangerous.
And irrevocably, undeniably, hers.
Sy, and the others, stood up slowly, watching to see what the new player would do. It looked around the lab, its gaze moving slowly across each face. In a blur of motion it lunged towards Thor, but the god slammed it away with a massive sweep of his hammer. The red and silver android was thrown through the plate glass lab window overlooking the living room.
“No!” She cried out; not entirely sure who she was yelling at. Thor ignored her and he flew after it. They all raced after him, her, Loki and Steve moving the fastest. With a massive sweep of her wings, she landed carefully behind Thor. She could hear Steve and Loki both jumping down behind her. Yellow flashed in the corner of her eyes again, but this time she knew better than to look for it again. She knew what it was now.
What they made, the being they brought into this world, he, it, whatever, is innocent. Her mother had sent her a sign, and delivered her blessing. The being that had emerged from the cradle was built from Sy’s power. She needed to protect it. They'd made for themselves hope. Spun their own piece of chance, and with a roll of the die, they might win. And that was something worth defending.
It was floating silently, staring out the window. One hand rose, as though reaching for something. Sy stopped Steve from raising his shield, as the four of them watched it float in the air. She reached forwards and dug her fingers into Thor’s wrist above the hammer. The god didn’t acknowledge her in anyways except for the slight loosening of his grip on the weapon’s handle. The god set down the weapon, and took a few cautious steps forward.
He, it, whatever, turned around, a darker layer of something growing over his skin. Almost like clothing. The others slowly filtered into the room, Bruce slowly coming to a stop near the stairs and a burst of air signaling that Pietro Maximoff survived his fall through the floor. Clint wasn't too far behind the enhanced Sokovian. Sy let go of the god.
“I’m sorry. That was… odd.” A familiar voice came out of the red and silver skinned not a man.
“Thank you.” He continued politely, nodding in the vague direction of the two gods. He paused, examining the three of them closely, before a golden cape descended from his shoulders, similarly to the two norsemen, even as the designs on the metal clasps changed to look more Greek. He came floating down to the floor in front of her, startlingly human eyes looking down at her. Sy lifted her chin, meeting the man-thing’s gaze steadily. Whatever this being was, whoever it would become, he was hers.
“You helped create that?” Steve growled. Sy didn’t need to look to know that the super soldier would be practically vibrating with worry. She was standing too close to a powerful new unknown for her pseudo older brother’s comfort. Loki responded with his usual casual indifference.
“Thor and I went on a vision quest. In the vision, we saw a whirlpool that sucks in all hope of life and at its center, was that.” He gestured forcefully at the yellow stone in it’s forehead.
“What, the gem?” Bruce asked, confused. Sy inhaled sharply as she finally recognized what they had done. What her mother had shown her, what her instincts had guided her to allow be created. The warm pulse of energy that had filled the room before now settled into a low hum in the background. The yellow gem glowed softly. Sy could feel the divine power radiating from the gem they had made from her blood.
The power cell that HYDRA had built using her blood and the mind stones power was now fused with the power of Loki and Thor, and divine inspiration supplied by her mother. Loki continued to answer Bruce, even though the god’s focus was directed towards his brother and the android they’d infused with their power.
“No, what it emulates. The Mind Stone, it’s one of six Infinity Stones, the greatest powers in the universe. Unparalleled in its destructive capabilities. This stone, it is a mere shadow of the true Mind Stone, and even so it’s more powerful than anything you can even imagine.”
“Then why would you bring it to life?” Steve asked with a heavy sigh. He didn’t even seemed surprised at the insanities the Avengers tended to create around themselves anymore. Just resigned to them.
“Because Stark is right.” Thor snapped irritably. It seemed to be a thunder god characteristic to dislike admitting when someone else was right. Especially admitting someone they don’t like is right.
“Oh, it's definitely the end times.” Bruce muttered. Sy stifled the urge to giggle.
“The Avengers cannot defeat Ultron.” Thor said plainly.
“Not alone.” It said, stepping forward. Sy felt drawn to it, her power singing so oddly outside of her body. It was amplified by the other two gods, but at the same time is was nothing like anything she’d ever felt before. It wasn’t truly divine power anymore, but something else.
“Why does he sound like JARVIS?” Sy asked curiously, stepping forward to continue her intense scrutinization of the man like thing she helped create.
“We… we reconfigured JARVIS’s matrix to create something new.” Tony said distractedly. The billionaire was utterly transfixed by the android. But Sy also tasted something like grief in his words. She suspected that they’d uploaded JARVIS into the, the… the Vision, expecting to have simply given the AI a body, but instead had made something else entirely. And Tony had just lost his closest confidant.
“I think I’ve had my fill of new.” Steve commented cooly.
“You think I’m a child of Ultron.” It, the Vision, stated calmly.
“You’re not?” Steve asked skeptically.
“I’m not Ultron. I’m not... JARVIS. If anything, I am a child of hers.” He stated nodding towards Sy, but a confused look crossed his face.
“You’re a what?!?”
“But I am…. I am.” He finished, a strange sort of certainty settling across his neutral expression. Sy was still reeling from what he’d said. Child of hers? His power might be hers, and he might be part of something that belonged to her… but that did not make her his mother! That was not what she meant to do when she’d helped them make Vision.
“I looked into your head and saw annihilation.” Wanda accused. Her expression was dark, and ever muscle in her body was tense. The witch was prepared for a fight, even one she would lose.
“Look again.” It challenged her. Clint scoffed.
“Yeah, her seal of approval means jack to me.”
“Their powers, the horrors in our heads. Ultron himself, all came from the Mind Stone.” Thor insisted.
“And from our lovely Sy. We mustn't forget that brother.” Loki drawled uncaringly, having plopped himself down lazily onto the couch. Thor ignored his brother as he paced the room. Sy glanced outside and noticed the gathering thunderclouds.
“We may not have the stone, but that gem, it’s as close to a copy of it as anyone besides a Primordial being could create. With it on our side-”
“Is it? Are you? On our side?” Steve broke in. He looked at the Vision, his expression carefully blank, waiting for It’s answer.
“I don’t think it’s that simple.” It mused quietly.
“Well it better get real simple real soon.” If Clint has a weapon in his hand, it would be pointed directly at the android. Sy didn’t need her gifts to see the irritation and anger in her teammates eyes.
“I am on the side of life. Ultron isn’t. He will end it all.” Each word is enunciated carefully, as though it, he, was trying to convey more than just the word to each of them. Like every sound and syllable was vital for them to hear and understand.
“Then what is he waiting for?” Sy asked.
“You.” He said. Sy knew he was talking to the group as a whole, but he was looking directly at her while he answered. A shiver ran down her spine, almost like someone had just walked over her grave. She had a feeling that this next showdown with Ultron was going to be her last one; for better or for worse.
“Where?” Bruce asked softly. Clint spoke up, pacing worriedly.
“Sokovia. He’s got Nat there too.” Sy glanced at her friend sharply. When had he gotten in contact with Natasha? And why hadn’t he mentioned it earlier?
“If we’re wrong about you. If you’re the monster that Ultron made you to be…” Bruce trailed off, letting the threat hang in the air.
“What will you do?” He, it, the Vision, asked obliviously. Sy felt something inside her wrench, even as she chose her side. She might feel an unusually powerful bond to it, him, whatever; but if she had to, she would stand with the team. The Vision looked around the group, each expression stony and cold. Understanding dawned on his face. If he was a threat, if he betrayed the group in anyway, they would kill him. The android looked away, and something similar to sadness crossed it’s face.
“I don’t want to kill Ultron. He’s unique. And he’s in pain. But that pain will roll over the earth, and so he must be destroyed. Every form he’s built, every trace of his presence on the net. We must act now. And not one of us can do it without the others.” Vision paused for a moment. Sy could taste the sincerity in his voice. She wholly believed him. He looked down at his red hands, examining them closely as he continued.
“Maybe I am a monster. I don’t think I’d know if I were one. I’m not what you are, and not what you intended. But I am not what Ultron intended either. I am something else. There may be no way to make you trust me. But we need to go.” He reached down and picked up Thor’s hammer, handing it over to the god. The room was frozen in shock as he, it, walked away.
“Right. Umm. Well done.” Thor said uncomfortably, clapping Tony on the shoulder, before quickly leaving the room. Loki let out a loud slightly hysterical laugh before following after his brother, green cape billowing out behind him. The trickster god’s giggles echoed down the hallway, fading as he and his brother vanished into the depths of the tower. Steve glanced around at the rest of the room.
“Three minutes. Get what you need.”
Despite the fact that Steve destroyed her armor while he work to get it off her, it didn't take her very long to get ready. Five years spent living at Camp Half Blood had taught her how to be battle ready quickly. And to always have spares of everything.
Tony had built her a ridiculous locker in the armory, along with everyone else. The locker was more like a walk in closet, every shelf and drawer filled with everything she might ever need. Not just extra armor, but weapons, knives, swords, even guns. There were also dozens of instruments and sound systems and anything that could help weaponize her gifts.
She didn't touch anything in the armory.
Everything in there was made from mortal metals, built by mortal hands. Things that, no matter how well intentioned he'd been, Tony had built for her to use to hurt and kill people with. They were the weapons of a mortal war. Something Ultron was not part of, and a war Sy did not want to fight. Demigods are not meant to harm mortals.
Sy strapped on her extra breastplate and sat down to out on the rest of her armor. She'd stored the extra set of celestial bronze armor in the back of the Tower room Tony had insisted she move into over a year ago. It felt so much longer that they'd begun their crusade against HYDRA, looking for justice for the events at the Triskelion, and answers for the holes in James's memories.
She also hooked a leather pouch with extra ambrosia and nectar in it over her belt. She lifted up her sword, the celestial bronze glowing faintly in the light. She may not be ready to fight, but Ultron is a threat that can't be ignored. A threat that as unwilling as she'd been, had been partially her fault. Sy ran her hand down the length of the blade before sheathing it carefully. She remembered the day she'd gotten it. It had been a few weeks after she'd been claimed, and Chiron took her aside. He'd carefully unwrapped the sword and handed it to her, the celestial bronze gleaming in the light.
"Use it only for emergencies." His voice echoed in the back of her head. "And only against monsters. Celestial bronze will pass through mortals, but other weapons will not. No hero should harm mortals unless absolutely necessary."
The sword was a gift from her mother, the leader of the muses.
It was also a message. A reminder of who she is.
Of all the gods on Olympus, the muses spend the most time with their children. More time than Dionysius and he lives at Camp Half Blood with Pollux. The patron goddesses of the arts had high expectations of their progeny, and the consequences of disappointing any one of them were steep. The arts were unforgiving in their discipline, regardless of what they studied. Any half blood descended from a muse learned that, and more, quickly.
By the end of her first summer, Sy had mastered several instruments, had a basic understanding of classical history, a working knowledge of astronomy and was already working on pointe in ballet her hands and feet bleeding from all work she put them through. The nightly dreams and training with the muses had begun from the night she was claimed, and beyond the training in the arts, it had been drilled into her and her cousin's heads that any new skills they came across, they were expected to master it. The sword had been a reminder of that expectation; and of Sy's failure to live up to it. By the time her second summer at camp had rolled around, she'd made sure that was no longer the case.
She took a deep breath, shaking away all thoughts of her unusual summer curriculum as she unscrewed the cap to a flask of nectar and took several sips. The energy that came with the godly drink poured through her body, healing her. The bruises she'd gotten from the explosion in the lab faded away, and so did her headache. Most of her aches and pains from her crash landing in Seoul vanished as well.
But the question of mortals still hovered over her shoulder; and she could practically feel the centaur's disapproving gaze burning into her back. Sy shook her head, dispelling the ghost of her mentor. She grabbed her violin and a speaker system, slinging them over her shoulder as she headed to the hangar. While the instrument may not be useful while battling an evil murder bot powered by her blood, it would be helpful with the evacuation efforts.
There is still a battle to be won.
She boarded the plane ahead of most of the team, knives strapped to her hips, celestial bronze sword on her back. Celestial bronze would kill Ultron and his drones just as effectively as the steel sword that Tony made for her, without the extra weight on her conscience. They were fighting robots, not people. And she needed that distinction in her life. She needed the clear lines, the sharp boundaries. Ones to remind her the difference between dream and reality, HYDRA and now, right and wrong. Hero or villain. Control and suggestion. Sy didn't want to dance on those lines anymore. Ends cannot justify her means, the world is made up of a thousand and ten shades of grey, and there is no clear stopping point. But Sy knew that somewhere there has to be. And if she can't find them, she was going to draw them for herself. She would not cross those lines anymore. She couldn't. Not if she wanted to stay sane.
Setting the violin and speaker down, she sat down next to Steve. Sy set her helmet on top of the violin case and leaned against his shoulder. Steve reached out a hand and she took it, squeezing it tightly once for comfort.
"This isn't going to end happy." She whispered to him roughly. Steve nodded.
"People are going to die today. Probably a lot of them. The world is angry enough... what will it look like after this?" He just shook his head. The Avengers were a team created to fight threats the world had never, could never, have imagined. A group of remarkable people brought together in a desperate hope that they would to become something more, to fight the battles that the world couldn't face.
The side affect of that team, their team, fighting those battles, is a very human consequence. Damages from the Chitauri invasion were nowhere near healed. Tony's battle with the terrorist the Manderin left deep scars in California; Loki and Thor fighting the Dark Elves destroyed a good chunk of London, and the destruction of the Triskelion still fills the daily news cycle. The world is angry; especially because Ultron had been created in the heart of the Avengers team, and none of them had realized it until it was too late. Sy isn't sure how the team would manage to endure the fallout this time.
"Promise me to be careful?" She begged him. Steve just gave her a grim smile, squeezing her hand one more time before dropping it. She hadn't really expected any different. They all lead dangerous lives, and promises of safety and long lives had never really been on the table for any of them. It didn't stop them from trying, from begging each other to be careful, to keep themselves safe. From hoping. Sy's hand clenched, and Steve bumped against her knee. Looking up at him, they shared equally grim smiles.
Tony and Bruce's footsteps echoed through the hangar bay, the two genius's joining them on the ramp of the quinjet. Bruce dropped down next to her, his expression creased with exhaustion.
"If we all make it through today, it will be a miracle. If even one tin soldier is left standing, we've lost. There's going to be blood on the floor." Tony asserted, echoing Sy's previous sentiment as he sat down.
"I've got no plans tomorrow night." Steve joked. Sy poked him in the side, fear surging through her. She couldn't lose him. And Steve, the big lug, had a bad habit of sacrificing himself for others. In a lot of ways, he reminded her of the Son of Posiedon; loyal to a fault.
"No gallows humor. Not right now." Sy whispered, her voice strained. Bruce bumped her shoulder gently, the solid warmth of him next to her comforting. Paper crinkled as they spread out a map of Novi Grad on the floor. Sy's fingers hovered over the blue and green ink that already stained the worn map; battle lines from when the team had been to Sokovia to storm Strucker's castle. Her hands shook, and her chest tightened. Her vision tunneled and narrowed on the castle on the map. It took a near physical effort, but Sy forced herself to focus. Her fingers tapped an erratic rhythm against her thigh. She turned the paper, and traced out the edges of the city on the map with her hands. Their chosen battleground. For better or for worse, this was going to be their major stand against the murderous AI.
"I get first crack at the big guy. Iron Man's the one he's waiting for." Tony sighed. Vision walked down the hall behind them, the gold cape swirling behind the android. He had been up on the roof, chatting with Thor and Loki. Only Zeus knew what they'd been talking about, and Sy had the distinct impression she did not want to know herself.
"That's true, he hates you the most." Tony's expression broke, guilt and self recrimination swirled across his features before he got himself under control. Sy exchanged a loaded glance with Steve.
She was still angry with Tony, especially about Vision. Even though she ultimately agreed that the android needed to be created, she was beyond furious that the tinkerer had gone behind the team's back a second time. Tony had a habit of collecting guilt, while still failing to learn the central lesson.
But at his core, Tony Stark was a good man. And he shouldn't carry the weight of Ultron's actions on his shoulders alone. In some ways, they were all responsible. The Avengers are a team; and are responsible for each other. They should have balanced Tony out before Ultron had been created, and he should have talked to them instead of going around them so many times.
"Tony… promise me that you won't do anything stupid?" The billionaire tried to hike up one of his signature grins, but it fell rather flat.
"I'm a genius remember? Not exactly prone to being stupid."
"Tony…" Steve sighed. "Tony, Ultron, as flawed of an idea he was… as unfortunately he turned out… I understand why you wanted him. Why you though the world needed it. And it's a nice idea in theory. But what you tried to accomplish? That's not safety. That's control. It's what we stopped SHIELD and HYDRA from doing just a few months ago. And Tony? You're better than that." Tony shook his head and looked away. His face took on the expression he wore only when he was thinking about Afghanistan. He bowed his head, elbows resting on his knees. Tony's fingers tangled into his own hair, knuckles growing white enough that Sy worried that he might rip out his own hair.
"I can't… I can't waste, my life." He muttered finally. "I promised Yinsin that I… that I wouldn't, waste it." He shook his head, eyes screwed tightly shut; like he was trying to block out the whole world. Sy reached out tentatively, but Bruce pulled her hand away, shaking his head silently. She resigned herself to tapping her fingers on the inside of her leg, trying to calm the energy in her hands.
"He, he, he... died trying to help, help me escape the Ten Rings. The mach one, the original suit… he helped me build it. Originally, I'd only built armor for myself. I didn't get him protection, didn't even think to give him something, anything... in case something went wrong. And he died and I was allowed to live." His hand let go of his hair and he looked up at them all desperately. Searching for an absolution none of them could give to him.
"I had the chance to build the world a suit of armor. So I took it." he shook his head, his features twisted up with self loathing. "Instead I built a grenade, and pulled the pin." Steve sighed, and leaned forward, resting on hand on the older man's shoulder.
"You…you have a good heart, Tony. You just don't know how to use it sometimes." The four of them sat together in silence, trying to absorb the enormity of the situation. Ultron was their mess. The time to play the blame game had long since passed. They were a team, and so they would take responsibility as a team.
Footsteps echoed down the corridor. Sy sucked in her breath, tilting her head in the direction that the others were coming from. Like a switch had been flipped, all four of them straightened up and began preparing for take off.
"Ultron knows we're coming." Steve continued as if they'd never detoured into Tony's deep emotional scars, his expression carefully neutral. The others began to file aboard the jet, the twins whispering softly to each other, while Clint fingered his bow. Vision simply strode aboard, moving with smooth purpose. Tony sniffed and sighed, fiddling with a few things in a side compartment, deliberately turned away from her.
Sy moved to take her seat on board the jet, but Tony stopped her. He handed her a comms unit, an expectant expression on his face. She glared at him, the small black ear piece laying innocently in his hand.
"Come on. You're going to need it." He wheedled her. Sy took it hesitantly. She didn't put it in, simply held the technology in her hand. It was one thing to vaguely wish she had one, and it was another thing entirely to be handed one. Sy may be able to be around technology without it being too much of a threat to her, but she couldn't use it anymore than a Big Three kid could. The risk of monsters… it was trained into her to avoid technology. Her apartment doesn't have a TV or a computer for that exact reason.
The twins were the last to board the jet, and within minutes Clint was lifting off. Steve kept talking, turning to face the group. Sy sat back, breaking the huddle that they'd made. The engines growled, and the wind began to roar outside the small plane. Sy tuned it out, paying attention to Steve, and the team's reaction to his pep talk. Her knee bounced to a silent rhythm, and her fingers tapped out a matching beat on the seat next to her.
"Odds are, we'll be riding into heavy fire. And that's what we signed up for. But the people of Sokovia, they didn't. So our priority is getting them out. All they want is to live their lives in peace, and that's not going to happen today. But we can do our best to protect them. And we can get the job done. We'll find out what Ultron's been building. We'll find Natasha. And we'll clear the field. Keep the fight between us." Pietro Maximoff seemed startled by Steve's reminder of their priority to evacuate civilians.
Steve paused for a moment, before the sound of him walking to the front of the aircraft started up again. He glanced down, and Sy could taste the salty tang of sorrow in his voice. She knew he was looking at Peggy's picture inside his compass. He always looked to her when he needed direction. She was his North Star, never mind that she's been missing since the nineteen seventies.
The compass clicked shut decisively as Steve continued.
"Ultron thinks we're monsters. That we're what's wrong with the world. This isn't just about beating him. It's about whether he's right." The plane fell silent but for the sound of the engine, everyone wondering the same thing.
Were they monsters?
The question echoed in Sy's head. They tried to protect people, tried to help the planet. But what were they really doing? When the Chitauri invaded, thousands and thousands of people died. More died during the rampage of Manderain, and Tony's subsequent crusade to stop the terrorist. When she and Steve brought down the Triskelion it killed dozens of SHIELD agents and brought massive destruction to the DC metropolitan area. Thor's battle in London caused billions of dollars worth of damage and killed a few dozen people there too. That doesn't count the dozens of mini skirmishes various members of the Avengers have gotten involved in on the side; overpowered bank robbers, crazed scientists, terrorists with alien technology, HYDRA. It was adding up, fast. And no matter how rich Tony was, not even money could solve all the problems they were involved in. Sure their intentions were good; but wasn't that how the saying goes? The road the hell is paved with good intentions. Or Hades, in any case. Sy fiddled with her seatbelt, trying not to think about all the mortals she's hurt or killed, either directly or indirectly.
Thirty minutes later, Sy was still fidgeting in her seat, unable to sit still. She wanted to play, the way she always did before a mission. But something about having three unknowns on the quinjet made her uncomfortable. Her music is a reflection of herself, a brutally honest confession of her sins before she dove into a battle to commit more of them. It felt too personal to share. Besides, the jet had fallen into an almost peaceful silence since Steve had finished talking.
Sy wanted to punch something. Frustration was boiling over, tensing her muscles and she was compulsively opening and closing her fists, tapping her toes. She'd never had a problem with playing for strangers before, not even personal music. In fact she'd relished the audience. But nothing about her was the same anymore.
"Stop that." Pietro snapped at her. Sy shot to her feet, itching for a fight. To do something, anything. She couldn't sit still and do nothing, all her tension and energy bottled up with nowhere to go. The Maximof brother would be a nice outlet. Her hand drifted to her hip.
"Sy." Steve said sharply, forehead creased with worry even as his tone ordered her to stand down. She registered the burning stares of everyone in the jet; even Clint was watching her warily through the mirror from the front of the plane. Sy turned away, trying to cover up the huff that burst through her nose. Frustrated didn't even begin to cover the bitter turmoil that was churning in her gut and burning through her chest. She walked to the farthest point of the quinjet she could (it wasn't far) and slammed a fist into the wall. The painful sting was satisfying. Without pause she switched hands and slammed the other hand into the metal, the painful crunch and slide of damaged tendons under her skin doing nothing to deter her. The warm buttery taste of nectar soothed the injuries, repairing the damage she'd just inflicted on herself. To Hades with the rules and using godly food only in emergencies.
Sy ignored Steve's worried shout, and the mixture of noise indicating the team getting out of their seats as she formed another fist. By the gods she needed an outlet, and she wasn't about to let anyone from stopping her from using the one she found. But when she moved to hit the wall again, something warm caught her hand.
Pietro Maximoff was standing next to her, one hand wrapped carefully around her balled up fist.
"Let go." She snarled at him, ripping her arm away from him. When he didn't let go, Sy lunged at him. Her other arm swung wildly, her focus too scattered to aim properly. The blow glanced off his cheek as the Sokovian dodged her fist. In the process his grip on her arm loosened and she managed to pull away.
"What are you doing?" He growled right back. Sy just scoffed, turning away. She faced the back ramp, unable to turn to look at the team. Unable to face the disappointment she was sure would be lacing their expressions. The worry. The pity. She didn't need any of that from them. Didn't need to see it. Or hear it, or acknowledge her own instability in any way, shape, or form. Sy finally cracked, whoopie. What else is new?
"What is wrong?" He asked her more gently, coming to a standstill behind her. She slumped down to the floor and buried her head in her knees. The armor plating on her boots dug uncomfortably into her forehead. Tears pricked at the corners of her eyes.
"I don't know. Nothing. Everything. It's a mess, and I don't know how we're going to get out of this one. Ultron… Ultron is mine. Tony might have designed him; but I birthed him. My power, my blood. You and your sister too. And it's just…" She gestured vaguely at the air before dropping her hands into her lap with a heavy sigh. She pulled out the comms unit from her pocket, glaring at the small piece of metal and plastic.
"Tony thinks I should wear this. But if I do, I could bring worse enemies down on us at the same time. My enemies. Enemies you guys can't fight. But if I don't… and Ultron gets away because of it…" Pietro Maximoff sat down on the cold metal ground next to her. She pretended not to notice him signaling the others to stay back. She was too gods damned tired to fight him on handling her at the moment.
"I don't know about Ultron, or other enemies or whatever it is you are that relates to making me. But I do know battles and war. I've been fighting all my life. Against invaders, the Avengers, Ultron. But the worst ones are always the ones I fight in myself. I am here, on this plane with the one man I hated more than almost anything on this earth. Because I know I must right a wrong I was a part of. Whatever you need to do, you do. But make sure it is the right thing." Sy stared at the comms unit for another long moment before tucking it into her ear, leaving it switched off. She would turn it on at the last possible moment.
Sy let herself get helped to her feet. She made her way back to the seat, shooting Steve a reassuring nod before turning to the black case at her feet. She knelt down and pulled out the violin. She tuned it slowly, taking a moment to center herself. She could do this. Ultron was waiting for them in Sokovia, and Sy had one last role to play. She survived Titans and Giants and insane gods and monster attacks and alien invasions and HYDRA. She could help kill one murderous robot and it's minions. Demigods were born for battle, blood staining bared teeth, a war cry on their lips and a weapon in their hands. This is her birthright, the never ending fight against annihilation on behalf of Olympus and its' gods.
But so is her music.
Sy closed her eyes. Her bow hovered in the air. Suspended in space.
Music filled the air, soft and low.
The quinjet hovered over the city, the ramp lowering down. Ice cold wind blasted through the space as Sy carefully settled the violin into its special harness before attaching it to the speaker system Tony had built for the occasion. Thor grabbed Bruce and leapt from the plane, flying away without a second glance. Loki followed closely behind him, green light wreathing his hands while muttering darkly. The god hadn't wanted to experiment with his magic, but it hadn't taken much arguing between the two brothers from the younger god to cave in. Sy waited for both gods to disappear from sight before walking towards the ramp, adjusting her armor so that when she unfolded her wings the metal won't pinch the delicate skin attaching the wings to her back. She rolled out her shoulders in preparation of her jump.
"Wait." Pietro Maximoff came up to her, gripping at the rails so he wouldn't fall off the ramp. Sy glanced over at him. His hands were fidgeting, twisting something around in his hands.
"Here. This is yours." He held out his hand. Sy's eyes widened. In his hand was the knife he'd stolen from her in South Africa. The matching pair to the one strapped to her hip, it's sister holster hanging limply beneath it, empty.
Sy reached out and took it back, easily spinning the knife between her fingers before sheathing it.
"Thank you." A small smile crept across her face, her face burning in the cold. He gave her a sharp nod, a smile of his own playing across his lips. Pietro turned back around, gripping the rail on the wall of the jet as he made his way back to his seat. Sy just backed down the ramp, moving closer and closer to the edge. Two identical worry lines crossed both twins foreheads. Adrenaline burst through Sy, the sudden thrill of a fight coursed through her system. A pure, unbroken laugh broke out of her, burbling up through chest and was lost to the roaring wind.
"See you on the ground!" She called out, a wild grin lighting up her face. She relished the surprised shouts from the twins as she lost herself to the fall. She reached up and switched on the comms unit, already preset to the correct channel. Her wings snapped out and she soared in a wide loop, rushing up past the closing ramp of the quinjet. She spotted the disbelief on the team two newest allies, and the vague exasperation on Steve's before she turned her flight path down towards the city.
When she was about a hundred yards above the unsuspecting populace, she switched on the speaker, twisting the volume up as high as it would go. She pulled the violin up, tucking it under her chin and set her bow to the strings.
Sy took a deep breath, carefully visualizing the music in her mind. She gently plucked at the D string as she centered herself, gathering her power. As her bow finally began to move and the music began to spin out from the speaker, Sy forced herself to focus only on evacuation. On suggestion. She was not going to brainwash the mortals into doing what she wanted.
Soon dozens of people began to leave their homes, the flight response to Sy's danger signal kicking in. She circled slowly, focusing only on the music in her mind, and the section of the city she was responsible for evacuating.
Out of the corner of her eyes she noticed the flare of green magic flare up from another section of the city. Sy kept her bow arm steady, her fingers moving precisely to instill a sense of order in people, even though they were evacuating their homes. After another few minutes, Sy hear the quinjet's engine cut out after it landed on the far end of Novi Grad. A distinctive flare of red magic begins to flow through the southwestern section of the city.
The main thoroughfares of Novi Grad began to clog quickly, but Sy just adjusted her tune, taking more control to help keep the flow of traffic moving smoothly. She began toeing the jagged line she'd once drawn for herself, but Sy pushed forwards anyways. She focused harder, fluttering down to a rooftop, and swaying in place. She needed to concentrate only on the music. They could evacuate the civilians, save them. Protect them.
That's the mission.
That's her job.
She should have known better than to think it would stay easy.
Tony and Vision had been desperately trying to stall Ultron while they evacuated, burning him out from the internet and trapping the murderous AI into its physical forms. But based on the fight she could hear echoed through the comms in her ear, it wasn't working nearly as well as they'd hoped it would. A strange growling noise came up under the earth, a weird tearing sound as rock crumbled and a gleaming silver hand punched its way out of the soil.
Thousands of robots burst through the earth, crawling out from every nook and cranny. Sy snarled and played a quick etude, her fingers flying in detache. The shockwave of sound shattered a dozen robots in every direction; but it also caused her to lose her grip on the now panicking mortals. She resumed playing, trying to get them out quickly, encouraging them to take anyone they could with them. The rest of the team's desperate shouts echoed her own, chivvying as many people out of the city as they could.
The sounds of hollow clanking and metal creaking was her signal to move. She glanced over the edge of the building to see that the drones that couldn't fly, could climb. Metal fingers dug gouges into stone and clawed their way up concrete.
She took three steps back, giving herself a running start. She spread her wings, the rustle of her feathers magnified by the shiver of the celestial bronze armor covering them. Sy leapt off the building, violin tucked under her arm as she flapped hard pushing herself higher into the air. As she coaxed the Ultron drones into following her, she tucked it back under her chin. Desperation forced her to play on instinct, fingers flying; alternating between blasting the robots and evacuating the citizens. The deep drone of flying robots sent heavy vibrations through her skull, until Sy could swear she could feel her teeth rattling. A wave of machinery hissed and clicked menacingly behind her.
The earth shook with an ominous rumble. Sy froze for a moment, stuttering in the air. Muscles tensed and her hands shook, and cold fear stole through her veins. Gaea's rise on the beach at Camp Half Blood played in her mind. Horror beat wildly in her chest as she remembered the pure terror of the Earth Mother's rage coming to life in a twisting column of nature shaping her body. The earth rose up against them, an ancient being's fury melting the soil under feet, grass twining around her legs to pin her like a butterfly while enemies poured in from every side. She couldn't tear her eyes away from the rising city, and she was struggling to anchor her mind into Sokovia rather than the battle against Gaea. Sy's breath caught her her throat as she dragged her mind back to the present.
Which, somehow, was much much worse.
The entire city was lifted into the air, tearing away from the ground.
Sy's distraction cost her. The only warning she had before she got hit was a bright blue flash in the corner of her eye. She managed to twist away and the blast only glanced off her shoulder. But it was powerful enough to knock her out of the sky. Sy slammed painfully into the roof of a car, metal folding under her, glass shattering in to the road. She bit back a few choice words, groaning instead as she rolled off the car. She looked mournfully at the splintered remains of the violin, strings curled up on themselves, the dark polished wood shards gathered in the center of the sizable dent she'd made in the car.
"Sy?" Steve's worried voice crackled through the comms unit her ear.
"I'm good." She grunted back, ripping the ruined speakers off her belt and tossing them carelessly to the side. She pulled a shard of metal that had embedded itself into her shin. A thin trail of blood trickled down her leg, but the cut was shallow and her pants would hide the damage for now. There were more important things to worry about at the moment.
She glanced over the side of the now floating island, her eyes wide in disbelief. The mechanical whirring reminded her to focus. The floating city would need to be solved, but first she needed to focus on the more immediate threat; Ultron.
Sy opened her shield, and advanced on the enemy.
A terrible voice echoed across the city. Sy paused to listen, leaning on her sword while panting. Her chest heaved with exertion,
"Do you see? The beauty of it. The inevitability. You rise, only to fall. You, Avengers, you are my meteor. My swift and terrible sword, and the earth will crack with the weight of your failure. Purge me from your computers, turn my own flesh against me. It means nothing. When the dust settles, the only thing living in this world… will be metal." Sy wheezed out an exhausted laugh, her heart beating wildly. Natasha had been right; Tony and Bruce had failed spectacularly at building a protection program. Sy lunged forward, slashing through one of Ultron's many bodies, destroying it.
"Cap. Incoming." Came the bored warning. Sy jumped, unused to the voices of her teammates so close in her ear. Usually they were a muffled shout, if she heard them at all. Now she could everyone's voices with perfect clarity directly in her ear. A wheeze and a groan came through the comm unit.
"Incoming already came in." Steve groaned. A sigh of relief made it through her lips even as she took a hit. Sy snarled and stabbed one robot through the head with her knife, slashed another in half with her sword, and kicked the last one into the side of a building where angry civilians quickly descended on it. The machine didn't stand a chance.
"Stark you worry about getting the city down safely. The rest of us only have one job; to tear these things apart." Steve ordered through the comms. She turned to face the street, covering the civilian retreat.
"You get hurt, hurt it back. You get killed? Walk it off." Sy stopped moving for a moment, tensing. Nobody she cared about was going to die today. Not if she had anything to say about it. Sy whispered a quick prayer to Ares and Athena before plunging back into the fight.
"You're captain is a tough one." Pietro said casually. Startled, Sy whirled around, her sword flashing. It plunged through his neck, slashing through his body like it wasn't even there. She narrowed her eyes at him, carefully bringing the sword down to her side. His blue eyes were wide with shock, his face completely drained of color. Not that he had much to begin with. The boy, man really since he was older than her, had the complexion of printer paper.
"My sword won't harm mortals." Sy said by way of explanation, turning and killing another robot while she spoke. She had to hide the smile on her face. She doubted it would make the Sokovian feel any better to know she was laughing at him in the middle of his first real battle.
"Oh." He said faintly. Sy spun in a circle, her sword plunging into the side of another drone, her focus entirely on the battle ahead of them.
"Focus. There's a battle to be won. Everything else comes later." She ordered shortly. Clint had given the sister, Wanda, a similar speech. Although he'd been much nicer about it. Sy had laughed when he'd muttered about his bow, and the flying city. But he was right. This was Wanda and Pietro's crucible, and this would define them as either heroes or villains for all of history.
She glanced over at the still shocked Sokovian, her sword held out defensively. He shook his head, not unlike a was a burst of sound and suddenly every robot on the street collapsed, broken. Pietro reappeared by her side, slightly out of breath, a smirk plastered across his face. She managed a faint smile back, and as Sy studied him she could still see his fear.
'Good. Fear will keep him alive.' She thought to herself. Pietro's smirk widened into a proper smile at her slight approval.
"So-" Sy whipped around, holding up a hand to cut him off. A faint scream echoed in her ears.
"Civilian. Hold on." And without another warning, Sy grabbed Pietro by his arms and launched herself into the air.
She grinned at his surprised shout. His hands quickly scrabbled at her arms, looking for purchase. Sy tilted her wings to better access a warm draft and soared to the ground, dropping Pietro off before tumbling through a window herself.
Sword drawn she slashed forward, cleaving a robot in half.
The two of them worked surprisingly well as a team. She had the experience and he had the speed. And somehow they managed to completely clear a few blocks over the course of the next ten minutes.
"Ow." Clint's voice surprised her. Sy really didn't like the comm unit in her ear. She ducked, but the wind from the passing robotic arm warned her how close a call that blow had been to a concussion. The fighting had gotten intense enough that the usual quirky one liners and sarcastic banter had vanished from the airwaves. She slammed her shield through a drone's head.
"Getting tired old man?" Sy teased through the comm without thinking about the consequences. She yanked her hand away from her ear like she'd been burned. Sy glanced around the street, half expecting a monster to attacker her right then and there.
The pointed silence over the comm unit was more than enough of a response. Sy snickered as she imagined the irritation on the archers face. Three drones landed hard, cracking the road beneath their feet. Sy readied her sword.
Pietro appeared next to her, metal falling to the ground behind him in pieces. His speed was convenient; more than making up for his lack of fighting skills.
"We're all clear here!" Clint called through the comms. She glanced at Pietro.
"Go." He was gone before she could blink. She tentatively pressed her hand to her ear, activating the microphone in the earpiece.
"We're clear here too."
"We are not clear! We are very much not clear!" Steve shouted through the comms unit sounding vaguely panicked.
"On our way." She reported, before launching herself into the air.
Suddenly, something huge and heavy slammed into her, dragging her in the opposite direction she's intended to go.
"You. You're annoying me." Sy couldn't do anything but scream.
Ultron brought her to an abandoned church in the center of the city. He dropped her inside, and then sent a concussive blast at her as he landed. She was slammed backwards into the wall, the concrete crumbling under the force of her blow.
"Who are you? What are you? You made me, but I don't know what you are." Sy laughed bitterly, standing up slowly. She grasped the part of her consciousness that she'd spent the last week listening to and told herself to shove it. She looked up at the metal monstrosity.
"Me? My name is Syrinx Melos. Daughter of Calliope, leader of the nine muses, goddesses of art, science and inspiration. And you have something of mine. I'd like it back now." Sy drew her sword and reached for the power laying curled inside of herself. She'd always imagined it the same warm bronze glow of her sword. Her awareness expanded, and she could see the bronze glittering in fragments across the city laid out like her own personal map of Ultron.
She reached for her power that was threaded through Ultron's consciousness and pulled. Her sword slashed through empty air as Sy reclaimed what had been stolen from her, smoothing over the jagged edges inside herself. She hadn't even realized how wrong, how incomplete, her own power had felt until she took it back.
The robot screamed with an almost human pain, and the sound echoed across the city, amplified by a hundred thousand voices. She released her breath, slumping back a little as she processed the feeling swirling through her gut, the not quite wholeness inside her being gently repaired. She was still missing parts of herself, but it was no longer a gaping wound.
Ultron lunged forward with a wordless snarl, and Sy didn't react in time to dodge the backhanded blow. She went flying across the room, barely pulling her wings in time before smashing into another wall. Her head snapped back, colliding with the concrete with a solid thunk that echoed in her skull. She looked up as three blurry images of Ultron advanced, the fight over before it even began. Her sword was less than two feet away, but it was still to far. There's no way she could reach it before Ultron dealt a fatal blow.
Sy lifted her chin defiantly, reaching for her knives. She isn't going out without a fight.
Green light flashed through the air, and the robot launched himself at thin air. Loki appeared in front of her, rage fixed across his features. Green magic flared around them, temporarily holding off the robotic menace.
"My debt is paid godling. Now go, battle awaits." Lightning crackled in the air as Thor's hammer smashed into Ultron. The robot turned around, anger flashing across the metallic face. The two beings collided in a flurry of motion and shattering concrete. She glanced up at her friend, glancing between the two Loki's wondering which one was real and which was her concussion.
"You boys sure you've got this?" Loki snorted.
"Ultron is beneath me. I am a god you insolent halfling." He winked at her, and she laughed. Lighting crackled and snapped, and Ultron went flying through a wall. Loki knelt down next to her and removed the flask of nectar from her belt. He unscrewed the cap and held it to her mouth. Sy downed most of the nectar, feeling the concussion she'd sustained vanish quickly. Loki yanked the drink away from her, capping it before helping Sy to her feet. Sweat broke out on her forehead, and she fanned herself lightly. She'd probably overdid the nectar a little bit, but she needed to be in fighting form. As long as she didn't spontaneously combust, it didn't matter.
Energy rushed through her, and Sy shook out her wings, feeling mostly renewed.
"I'm headed for the city center, you keep the big guy distracted." The god nodded at her and she launched herself away.
Sy landed with a thud, her shield up to protect Natasha's unprotected back from a blue laser blast.
"Thanks." The spy called to her as they worked back to back. Sy threw herself into a forward roll, bringing her sword up to slice through three robots in a single arc. She turned and threw one of her knives to stop one from sneaking up on Wanda. Pietro waved at her in thanks, as he blurred around the battlefield destroying drones.
Flapping into the air Sy let loose a sonic whistle, blasting back a group of flying robots. The air got quiet, and the dust slowly began to settle. She slowly came back down to the ground, her sword still drawn. It seemed as though they won that round. When nothing else happened, she cautiously started helping civilians get clear from the battlegrounds.
Her comms crackled to life in her ear, startling her.
"The next wave is going to hit any minute. What do you got Stark?" Steve asked. Sy turned around, having heard his voice twice. She spots him through the gloom and waits for him to help a couple inside one of the more stable buildings before launching herself into his arms for a tight hug. He squeezed her gently, then let go. They both turned around, moving back out to get as many people to relative safety as they could.
"Well, nothing great. Maybe a way to blow up the city, that would keep it from impacting the surface, if you guys can get clear." Tony said softly, resignation lacing his tone.
"I asked for a solution, not an escape plan." Steve snapped back.
"Impact radius is getting bigger every second. We're going to have to make a choice." Tony reported back. Sy stumbled over a piece of rubble she hadn't noticed. The facts of the situation slammed into her gut, a chill stealing over her body.
"Cap, these people are going nowhere." Natasha reported, making her way over the rubble to where they stood.
"If Stark finds a way to blow this rock…" She trailed off, the assassin's vote clear. Sy looked over at her friend. The red head's expression was more solemn than usual.
"Not until everyone is safe." Steve insisted. Sy frowned, looking up towards her brother.
"Steve, everyone up here, verses everyone down there? That's not math. That's right and wrong. I don't like it either, but I don't think we have a choice."
"I'm not leaving this rock with one civilian on it." He snapped. She exchanged a glance with Natasha before the two of them looked back up at Steve. Their choice was made.
"I didn't say we should leave." Natasha said. Sy stepped closer to her friend, threading their arms together. They were willing to go down with the ship. That was the job wasn't it? Fight because others can't. And when you finally can't, you don't run away. You give as good as you got, and then it's time for someone else to step up. Twenty was pretty good for a demigod. Sy knew she could die today complete.
Steve looked at the two of them in shock. Natasha shrugged, glancing out over the horizon line.
"There's worse ways to go. Where else am I going to get a view like this?" Natasha joked weakly. Sy smiled tiredly, leaning her head on her friend's shoulder. She reached out and took Steve's hand. His face had gone blank, blue eyes carefully observing both her and Natasha.
She'd always loved the sky, from the moment she'd gotten her wings, nothing brought her more joy than the freedom of being in the air, with nothing but the horizon ahead of her, blue skies and the occasional cloud around her. To die in the air... Natasha was right, there are much much worse ways to find her way to Hades kingdom.
A soft crackle in her ear made Sy flinch. She was never going to get used to the comms unit, with everyone's voices projected so directly into her sensitive ears. A familiar voice came through the comms.
"Glad you like the view Romanoff. It's about to get better." A massive helicarrier slowly rose out of the clouds. Sy laughed, a smile she couldn't stop even if she wanted to spreading across her face. It was their own personal miracle.
"He did say he would do something dramatic." Sy commented dryly.
"Nice right? Pulled a few strings at SHIELD, got her out of the mothballs. She's a bit dusty, but she'll do." Steve laughed in disbelief.
"Fury, you son of a bitch." Sarcastic laughter drifted over the comms.
"Ohh, you kiss your mother with that mouth?" Steve rolled his eyes good naturedly.
"Really? Even Fury knows about that?" Another familiar voice drifted over the line.
"Who do you think told him about it?" James' voice laughed down the line as Coulson's voice drifted through, telling them that they had reached eighteen thousand feet of altitude, and they were still climbing. Sy grinned as she spotted the Lifeboats coming towards the flying city, the sound of the thrusters ringing happily in her ears. She pulled away from both of her friends as Pietro walked over from the bridge where he'd been staring at the helicarrier.
"This is SHIELD?" He asked in amazement.
"Yeah, this is SHIELD now." Sy replied.
"This, is not so bad." He commented, a small smile playing across his face. She smiled back.
"Let's load them up." Steve ordered. She turned and ran towards the buildings where they'd been sheltering civilians. A blur of blue moved alongside and ahead of her. The Lifeboats landed, and with a whir of metal the doors opened.
The people watching from inside the building began to stream out, racing towards the promise of rescue. Sy guided a Lifeboat's landing, meeting up with orange vested SHIELD agents who were moving quickly to load the lifeboats or manning machine guns as they scanned the skies for more drones. Above them Sam, Rhodey and Tony were battling robots that were trying to target the helicarrier while exchanging rapid fire jokes in a way that only good friends could.
She glanced up at the sky for a moment before turning away. Her friends could handle it, she was needed here. They had thousands of people to evacuate. James nodded at her as he got off one of the incoming Lifeboats, rifle in one hand, ushering people aboard.
The first of the Lifeboats began to fly to the helicarrier when the second wave of robots began to trickle out. Her comms unit crackled to life.
"Thor I got a plan!" Tony shouted urgently, a groan slipping through the mike. Sy glanced up to see him supporting a damaged Lifeboat to the helicarrier.
"We're out of time!" Thor roared.
"Ultron is coming for the core." Loki added.
"Rhodey, Bird Brain, Bionic Wonder, get the rest of those people on board the carrier." Sy glanced at her teammates, drawing her sword. Steve met her eyes from across the field, smoke drifting through the air. Tony's voice echoed in her ear.
"Avengers, time to work for a living."
Sy landed through a hole in the roof of the church, her wings flared behind her. The celestial bronze plating on her wings reflected light across the walls of the church, turning the inside of the nearly destroyed building a glittering gold color. The light fragmented across the walls, highlighting the dust floating in the air until she’d mostly retracted her wings.
She turned to face the entrance of the church, pretending to not notice Pietro’s slack jawed stare, or Wanda elbowing her brother. Steve glared over her shoulder, the arm with his shield rising slightly. The cold expression on his face was aimed somewhere behind her. Clint nudged Thor, who poked Loki, and three identically smug grins stretched across each of the three faces. Sy hid a small smile of her own. Tony glanced over at her, the impassive face of the Ironman mask hiding his expression. But not even the robotic hiss of the speaker in his suit could hide the mirth in his voice. Sy could taste the sweet lemony tang of cheerful happiness splashing through his tone.
“Good, Sy’s here. Romanoff, you and Banner better not be playing hide the zucchini.” Sy groaned. She did not need that visual.
“Relax Shell-head, not all of us can fly.” Natasha responded with her usual poise. She tumbled into the room after leaping off a dump truck covered in the remains of what looked like a dozen ex-Ultrons. Hulk arrived shortly after, turning to face the group with a half hearted snarl.
“What’s the drill?” Nat asked, not even out of breath. Tony pointed to the huge silver contraption in the center of the church.
“This is the drill. If Ultron gets his hand on the core, we lose.” Everyone sobered up, nodding as they drew weapons and arranged themselves silently in a loose defensive circle around the core. There was too much at stake for jokes now. Sy easily twisted her sword in a practiced move, centering herself as she activated her shield, the celestial bronze locking into place.
Ultron’s main body landed in front of them, the dark metal glinting as it walked towards them alone.
“Is that the best you can do?” Thor taunted. Loki smacked himself in the face. Then followed up that move by smacking his brother in the back of his head.
“Did you really have to ask brother? It never ends well.” Ultron raised his arm, and thousands of robots came running and flying up behind Ultron. His army. Sy found a small piece of rubble caught in her hair. She threw it at the back of Thor’s head. She missed his head but got him in the ear. The god glared back at her. She stuck her tongue out at him, completely unafraid of him after all this time.
“This is the best I can do.” Ultron intoned. The robot smirked, red eyes narrowed and flat mouth twisted up in the corners.
For a hunk of metal, Ultron was incredibly expressive.
“This is exactly what I wanted. All of you, against all of me. How can you possibly hope to stop me?” Tony sighed. He glanced towards Steve.
“Well, like the old man said. Together.”
Hulk’s defiant roar was their battle cry, and Ultron’s army swarmed over them. Sy moved without thinking, instinct and adrenaline driving her. Explosions sounded around her, the squeal of the drones being torn apart, metal colliding against metal.
She wasn’t even sure where she was at times, in the air or on the ground, her wings flared out, the celestial bronze deflecting the blasts of energy coming from the machines. At some point she was back to back with Wanda, red magic flowing around her, the power filling the air familiar. Then she was alone, slashing first one drone in half then ripping the wiring out of another. Steve came out of nowhere, smashing a drone behind her and she whirled to slice down another one that was about to catch Clint unawares.
Lighting crackled through the air, Thor wielding Mjolnir with all of his millennia of deadly skill while Wanda’s red magic crashed over the enemy lines in destructive waves. Sy could feel Loki’s much more subtle magic flowing around them, deflecting shrapnel and hiding the god’s true location. Tony’s repulsor beams heated the air, blasting back drone after drone. Above her, Vision battled with Ultron’s largest form, the two powerful beings colliding in the air. She glanced up to watch them grapple, a tug in her stomach pulling her gaze towards them over and over again. Something about both of them drew her towards them.
Sy felt the power before it emerged. It was a tidal wave, brutal and unstoppable. A hurricane, powerful and destructive. Earthquake, shaking the very foundations of science and divinity as it tears apart what was to become a new and unfamiliar landscape.
A golden beam of pure energy shot out from the stone in Vision’s head.
The ghost of her music filled the air, an ethereal symphony a thousand instruments strong, a million songs played. She heard the notes of the classics, Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. She heard modern pop music, and hard rock and lullabies. Her own personal compositions, songs her mother taught her. And so much more. The energy sang in harmony as it blasted Ultron out of the church. Sy slashed forwards with her sword, lunging to cover Thor’s vacated position as ozone filled the air outside the church. Tony disappeared too, and the sound of his repulsors could be heard under the symphony that was Vision’s power. She smashed another robot in the face and whirled around to face another, but found herself facing nothing more than empty air. The few dozen drones that had survived the onslaught were abandoning the fight.
“They’re trying to leave the city!” Thor cried out. Sy glanced wildly at the ragged team. Not even one could escape, or all of their hard work will have been for nothing. The destruction of the city would be for nothing. Ultron could not be allowed to escape.
“We need to stop them.” Wanda said desperately. Sy nodded tiredly in agreement.
“Not even one can escape. Rhodey, Falcon?” Tony asked urgently.
“On it.” Rhodey confirmed over the comms.
“Already there.” Sam added. Sy could practically hear the smirk on the man’s face, even as she heard explosions through the earpiece. Sy shook out her wings, ready to join them. Steve turned to the team.
“We’ve got to move out. Even I can tell the air’s getting thin. You guys get to the boats, I’ll sweep for stragglers. Be right behind you.” Sy scoffed, her wings twitching in irritation. The delicate metal armor encasing her wings
“Steve, if this air is getting thin even for you, then you are not going to sweep for stragglers. Head back to the boats and help with the final evacuation efforts. I’ll sweep for stragglers, this altitude is nothing for me. I’ve flown higher before.” Steve opened his mouth to protest when Clint interjected.
“What about the core?” He asked.
“I’ll protect it.” Wanda volunteered. They all looked at her in shock. The dark haired Sokovian glanced over at Clint.
“It’s my job.” Some kind of understanding flowed between the two of them and the archer nodded.
“Nat? This way.” Clint gestured, something in his movement both deeply sarcastic, but also gallant. The former assassin nodded. Ever since Sy had met Clint’s family, so much more of Natasha and Clint’s relationship made sense to her.
The two of them turned to leave. Sy spread her wings, watching Steve. The noble idiot wouldn’t leave unless she gave him a push.
“Head for the boats Steve. Make sure the whole team gets out. I’ll see you there.” She promised him. Steve strapped his shield to his back. He pulled her into a tight hug.
“Be careful Sy. Come back in one piece.” Sy squeezed him once before pushing him away in the direction of the Lifeboats.
“I’ll do my best.” She promised. He nodded and left. Sy turned to Wanda and stretched out a hand. Wanda looked at her suspiciously and slowly lowered her hand to rest on top of Sy’s outstretched palm. Sy hummed as she focused, hoping she was right.
Warmth crept through Sy’s chest, and she knew that she was. A look of wonder over took the older woman’s face. The witch felt it too. Sy felt for the remnants of her power inside the other woman, the bronze light inside Wanda responding to Sy’s call. She pushed at it, molding the light, and dying it red. She doesn’t need it back, not really. So Sy let it go.
“What are you doing?” Wanda asked softy, pulling her hand back slowly. Red mist filled Wanda’s palm, bronze lights flickering in the center of the red magic. Sy stopped humming, and the bronze faded away. The red in the witch’s hand pulsed brighter and dripped from her fingers. Sy shrugged, unsure of how to explain it.
“They stole from me to make you. Now I’ve given it to you freely. It... belongs to you now. With power, my kind of power, ownership is important. Stealing doesn’t make a thing yours.” She paused trying to come up with a better way of explaining it. She couldn’t. Sy shrugged.
“It’s complicated.” She finished vaguely. The red light wreathing the witch was brighter than it had been before. Wanda’s eyes widened in wonder. Sy heard a familiar sound and turned around to see the older twin.
“Get the people on the boats.” Wanda ordered her brother. Sy sheathed her sword, watching the interaction.
“I’m not going to leave you.” He said.
“I can handle this.” Wanda snapped. She threw out her hand, and red light flashed as it slashed through another Ultron.
“You are faster.” Pietro commented in shock. His sister smiled toothily, nodding towards Sy.
“Thanks to her.”
“How?” He asked her skeptically. She shrugged.
“It’s complicated.” Sy repeated herself, spreading out her wings. She rolled her shoulders, stretching her exhausted muscles in preparation for flight.
“Come back for me when everybody is off. Not before.” Wanda ordered her brother. Pietro rolled his eyes, speeding to the other side of the church. He grinned as he taunted his sister.
“You know I am twelve minutes older that you.” Sy laughed as she flapped her wings, sending flurries of dust and grime into the air. She caught Wanda’s eyes one last time.
“It’s yours now. Use it well. Protect the core.”
“What?” Both women ignored Pietro. Wanda nodded grimly.
“Go. I’ve got this.” The snap of displaced air signaled Pietro’s departure. Sy turned and took off, wings beating steadily. They had a city to save.
So... I kinda wrote the scene between Steve and Tony while they were at Homestead, and that not-argument they had. The one Sy sorta overhears. I'm not sure where I would post it, but let me know if that's something y'all would want to see and I can put it out there for you guys.
Also if there's anything you want to see upcoming, let me know that too. I haven't quite decided what will happen with the ending of this one, theres a few options I'm playing with so I'd love feedback!
Sy touched down at the landing pad. Between her and Pietro Maximoff they managed to cover the entire floating rock. They'd checked every house, cleared every apartment. She landed carefully, herding the small crowd of terrified people towards the Lifeboats. Pietro bumped into her shoulder playfully and she smiled at him. Loki materialized next to her, walking with them towards the boats where Thor, Steve and James were loading the last of the civilians.
"Is that the last of them?" He asked. Sy shrugged, watching the sky warily. Since Ultron's retreat at the drill, it suddenly felt too easy. Ultron wasn't going to give up this easily. The maniacal AI was too angry, too arrogant not to fight to the last drone.
"Everyone we could find." She answered wiping her forehead. Her hand came away streaked with grime. She huffed, shaking her head. If they make it through the rest of the day, Sy was going to take a very long, very hot shower. And a nap. For at least a week.
She scanned the sky again, keeping her ears open for trouble. Natasha and Hulk were a little ways away, lullaby in progress. The harsh murmurs of fearful russian from the refugees in the Lifeboats. Wind rushing around the rising city. If the situation was less dire, Sy might have enjoyed the sound of the wind.
"Thor, I'm gonna need you back in the church. Maybe Loki too." Tony's voice crackled over the comms. Sy could almost say she was used to the staticy machine now. Even though it made her uncomfortable, she had neither the time or the energy to waste being afraid of its consequences. Sy decided that as long as no monsters attacked while they were still fighting Ultron, she can handle the consequences later.
"Everyone?" Steve asked her, standing anxiously in the middle fo the square. She knew he wouldn't board without her. His feet shuffled under him, and his hands gripped the edge of his shield tightly. Sy had a hunch that if it hadn't been made of vibranium the metal would have been shredded under the force of Steve's enhanced strength.
"Everyone but the team is on a boat." She reported. Steve sighed and swung his shield securely onto his back. She nudged him as she lead the way towards the Lifeboats.
"You know, if this works, we maybe don't walk away." Tony warned.
"Maybe we don't." Thor agreed grimly.
"It's going to work." Steve asserted, his arms folding across his chest. As if his belief would make it reality.
"You better make sure the entire city is completely vaporized Tony. Even if it doesn't land as one huge meteor, the impact from the falling debris will still kill thousands of people. You have to destroy it all." Sy warned darkly. Her heart pounded in her chest, and something prickled at the edges of her consciousness. Tony's response faded away completely as she focused on the faint sound of singing. She took a sharp breath at the sickeningly familiar tune, her head snapping up to scan the skies again.
She was never going to be able to watch Pinoccio ever again. Not with Ultron singing that godsdamned song all the time.
The Avengers quinjet hovered menacingly, a black dot soaring through the sky a couple buildings away. A red glow under the plane made her blood run cold. Gunfire filled her ears.
Run. Hide. Fight. Fear crawled through her, and she tensed to run. But the field wasn't clear, stragglers still staggering their way towards the safety of the Lifeboats. The team also scattered across the plaza, escorting the injured, the young and the elderly. There's not enough time.
"EVERYBODY TAKE COVER!" Sy screamed desperately. Her chest filled with power, boosting the volume of her voice, carrying across the square.
The reaction was immediate. People began sprinting towards the Lifeboats, desperate for the shelter they offered. A few people dove under rubble, others hid beneath overturned cars. Anything that offered even a little bit of shelter. Screams and cries filled the air, desperation filling her mouth with a heavy rancid taste.
Sy activated her shield, raising it over her head when she noticed Clint in the open carrying a little boy.
Sy is too slow and too far away to reach him in time. She glanced towards Pietro, who had noticed the same thing.
He's much closer to Clint than she is. And faster than her. But a hailstorm of bullets isn't something that could necessarily be outrun. Especially when focused on a separate goal.
The grim expression on his face spoke volumes. He had come to the same conclusion as her. And he was going to go for it anyways.
Somewhere along the way, they picked up a few extra Avengers. Heroes. The least she could do is make sure that these heroes live.
Or at least have a fighting chance at survival.
Sy started to hum, unstrapping her shield from her arm. She tossed her shield at him, the celestial bronze spinning through the air. He grunted as he caught the round celestial bronze disc, staggering slightly under the weight. Pietro hesitated, glancing from the bronze in his hand to her. She stopped humming for a moment, glaring at Pietro when he still didn't move.
The gunfire is closer now. She could hear the bullets ricocheting off metal, concrete shattering, the earth exploding. There's no more time to waste.
"You'll be faster, now go." She ordered him sharply, before returning to her song. She hunted for her power inside of him. He nodded at her once then took off, blurring. A rush of wind blew through her hair and Pietro seemed to vanish entirely as he moved.
The bullets were getting closer, explosions of yellow dust flying everywhere. She kept singing, her eyes fixed on Clint, and Sy spread her wings. Celestial bronze is a divine metal, mined from Olympus itself, forged in the fiery heart of Mt. Etna and cooled in the Lethe's waters. The armor covering her wings should protect her. Probably.
Sy looked up at the incoming quinjet. Tears pricked her eyes. She twisted away from the bullets, ducking down into a tightly curled ball, her wings wrapped around her as best she could. She could almost feel the burning sting of bullets raining down on her already. Sy's been shot before, blown from the sky, and had her wings mangled nearly beyond repair. She can survive this. Sy braced her arms over her head.
A quiet voice in the back her head whispered that the metal covering her wings wasn't strong enough to protect her. Sy told that part of her brain to shut up. Besides, either way it was the right thing to do.
A heavy weight crashed down on top of her, slamming her into the ground. Her right wing creaked in protest, the hollow bones straining under the sudden pressure. A hollow pinging, along with the roar of gunfire filled her ears and Sy had to resist screaming at the pain in her ears. A hand curled around her shoulders, hugging her tightly. Sy clasped her hands over her ears, the deafening tsunami of sound unbearable to her sensitive hearing.
A loud snarl echoed against a building and Sy clearly heard the sound of ripping metal and the wail of another Ultron body being broken apart.
The gunfire stopped.
She shifted uncomfortably, pushing at the body above her. Steve rolled off of her limply, groaning quietly. His shield clattered to the side. She glanced around the field, noting how people were cautiously standing up and making their way to the Lifeboats.
"Steve?" Sy pushed herself to her feet, shaking out her wings. The pressure of his body might have cracked something in her right wing, but as she stretched it out, she knew she could still fly on it. It would hurt, but she would manage.
Clint and a little boy are ducked behind a car, ten yards away from where they had been standing. Bronze glittered on the ground, next to a prone body. Her heart stuttered for a moment, but Pietro pushed himself up to a sitting position and she let out a sigh of relief she hadn't noticed she'd been holding.
She didn't need enhanced hearing to hear the swear words streaming from his mouth while he clutched at his leg. Clint quipped something at him, but they were both alive and that was the important thing.
Sy turned to check on Steve, worried by the distinct lack of grumbling that should have been steadily flowing from the supersoldier. Usually after something like that Steve grumbles about the insanity that was the twenty first century, followed by half hearted wishes for the simpler days of fighting in the war.
Sy dropped to her knees next to Steve, her breath recatching in her throat, her heart beating wildly in her chest. Steve was pale, and still sprawled limply across the ground. Blood seeped into the earth around him, flowing freely from an injury she can't see. Sy dropped to her knees, her heart stuttering erratically in her chest.
"Steve?" Her voice cracked over his name, shaking his shoulder. Steve's eyes stayed closed, his face slack. She ran her knuckles against his sternum and got nothing. Not even a flinch. Sy's heart began to race as she called Steve's name again, his lack of response more terrifying than any of her nightmares. After all, she wakes up from those. This is real life.
She can't lose him. Not Steve. Not her Steve, who watches movies with her, who never complains about her endless practicing, who is so enduringly patient and kind and far far far too good for this world on all the days that end in -y. Not her Steve, who took her in and cared for her and helped her and was more family to her than any god or goddess on Olympus.
She needs him.
They both should have fit under his shield. Steve had thrown himself over her, protected her like he always does.
They both should have fit. They've fit before. Survived far worse, been hurt far less.
Tears pricked at the corner of her eyes. She needs him to wake up.
"Steve!" She sobbed, her hands shaking as she checked his torso, his arms, his legs. She moved towards his head, hunting for the source of the blood on the ground.
The only thing that kept her from breaking down completely was the slow rise and fall of his chest. As long as he's breathing, he can be fixed. He can heal.
Steve has to survive. She refuses to consider the alternative. She can't live in a world without him. She's barely getting by now and he's been with her for every step.
Her hands fluttered over his neck, and something warm and sticky flowed covered her palms. Her hands came away bloody and she recoiled from the sight, panic over taking her suddenly. The coppery stench filled the air, and Sy repressed the urge to vomit as she choked on the smell.
Sy managed to rip off the cowl off where it attached to the collar of his suit, and found the source of the blood. Her hands shook as she examined the injury, pressing her filthy grime covered hands over the torn flesh.
The side of his neck was gushing blood. Something must have hit him; a stray bullet, a fragment of rubble, maybe some shrapnel. But whatever it was, it did it's damage.
Brilliant red arterial blood gushed through her hands.
"Steve's down! I need medical here now!" Sy half sobs half snaps into her comms as she leaned against his neck. He coughed, blood gurgling up through his lips and she eased up the pressure. Sy didn't want to crush his airway, but he needed the blood he was losing. Steve might replenish blood faster than most people, but that didn't mean he could't bleed out from injuries like this one. Tears started to blur her vision, and the world narrowed to red, covering her hands, his neck, his suit, the soil under his head.
Thor appears next to her and lifts Steve into his arms and Sy jumps, choking out a protest when he gently separates her from Steve's bod- from Steve. Loki catches her around the waist, and leads her after Thor, but his words are lost to the haze of panic filling her mind. She races behind Thor to the nearest Lifeboat, her hands and the front of her armor soaked in blood. A group of medics move towards them with a prepped gurney. Steve is carefully laid down and orders were being barked, blood bags hooking up and they're moving again to load him up so they can get him to a real hospital.
"Maximoff got hit too, I'm gonna need a second medical team over here." Clint's voice is distant as Sy's hands clenched into fists. She hears the rattle of the second gurney moving over rubble, and Tony's mechanical call for help from the two gods. Loki squeezes her shoulder once, whispering something she doesn't hear, before walking off.
Ultron is going to pay.
Thor whirls Mjolnir around in circles as he takes off, Tony's voice a distance whine in her ear, flying away. Loki followed suit on foot, a loud stream of reluctant complaints trailing after him.
Sy takes a slow breath. Rage whites out everything else in her mind. She's tired of this. Blood and death and pain. That's all she has. And that's all she will ever have if she doesn't end Ultron. But after Ultron, she wants something else. Something more.
She's ripped out of her thoughts when a warm hand caught her wrist.
"You are right. I am faster." Pietro rasps from his place on the gurney, a bloody tourniquet around his thigh. A small smirk quirked across his face, and Sy felt something inside her crack a little. She managed to return the smile, turning to take the little boy from Clint. The archer shook his head, glancing meaningfully at her bloody armor. He sagged down against the side of the gurney, cradling the little boy to his chest. He reached out one hand, wrapping it around Sy's shoulder.
"Cap is going to be fine Sy." He assured her calmly. She took a deep rattling breath and nodded. Steve is strong. He's going to be fine.
Something ancient and primal inside Sy snarled, and she smiled at the bloodlust pouring into her limbs. Sy shook out her wings.
They still have a job to do.
Sy watched as Clint passed the little boy - apparently named Costel - to his sobbing mother. The relief in her voice was like over sweetened tea, soothing but grainy. She peppered the boy with kisses, tears rolling down her cheeks as she cradled the shaking child to her chest. A well of bitter longing filled Sy.
When she dies, her mother would mourn her; the muses had fewer children than the other gods, and tended to remember their progeny. But Calliope will never worry about her like Costel’s mom is right now. She will never pepper Sy with kisses, or hug her tight when she’s scared. She won’t sing her lullabies, or wait up late into the night for her to come home from a quest like Sally Jackson does for any demigod who passes through her apartment. Her dad died half her lifetime ago. He will never do any of those things for her again. He will never coach her through a difficult composition, never make her soup when she’s sick, or mumble awkward reassurances after a nightmare. He could hardly do those things while he’d been alive, and while Sy had grown up loved, Cade Melos had no idea what to do with a little girl. By the time he’d started to figure it out, he’d been too sick to do anything about it.
All she has left is Steve.
Steve who sits with her when she wakes up screaming from inky black dreams with glowing red eyes and the excruciating remembered pain in her shoulder. Dreams about the empire state building crumbling to ash, and a cruel golden glow washing over the land, killing everything it touches.
Steve who understands what it’s like to be lost in the outside world. Steve who watches movies with her, throwing popcorn at the screen when the characters make dumb choices.
Steve who rescued her from the hell of HYDRA.
Steve who never gives up on her, even when he probably should.
Steve with his warm hugs and warmer laugh and ridiculous hero complex, with his shield that would be gaudy if it was anyone else wielding it. But somehow, on Steve, it makes perfect sense.
Steve who isn’t a perfect soldier, but a good man.
Steve who is her family.
Sy drags her eyes away from the helicarrier, where Steve had been evacuated to, wiping away the tears that started to fall. She turned around to see Pietro sitting up on a gurney, a medic working on his bleeding leg, eyes glazed over as the pain medication started to work.
Clint is trying, and failing, at waving his own medic away; Sam strong arming him back onto the bench every time he tries to get up. The archer had also been hit by a bullet, leaving a deep graze along his hip, along with dozens of other smaller injuries. He also looked exhausted. The kind that reaches into bone, and aches for weeks. She snorted at some of the more creative threats Sam was coming up with to keep Clint under the stern gaze of the medic who had moved on from his hip to the many other abrasions and cuts that littered his skin.
Sy sometimes forgets how human most of the team is.
That Clint is just a mortal with freakishly good aim. That Natasha underwent training so cruel it ripped her inside out and broke her into a thousand thousand pieces before putting her back together again to turn her into the Black Widow. Tony is basically a genius in an expensive tin can and Sam is a retired Air Force veteran with fancy equipment. Rhodey is somewhere in between Tony and Sam, and even Bruce, who has Hulk, is still a relatively ordinary mortal.
Mortal. And utterly utterly breakable because of it.
She finds her last crushed square of ambrosia, her flask of nectar long lost somewhere on the battlefield Novi Grad had turned into. She wolfs down half of the godly food, breaking the other half into smaller pieces to smear along the larger injuries on her wings.
Sy walks over to Pietro, the armor covering her wings glittering in the light behind her. Movement jostled them uncomfortably, sending pain shooting through her back with every step. The feverish warmth of ambrosia coursed through her system, and the pain slowly started to numb back into a tolerable ache.
He grabs onto her arm, ignoring the blood coating her hands, a desperate look in his wide eyes.
“Wanda. You must bring her here.” His words ran together, slurring into a single breathless plea, but he is more coherent that she expected him to be. Vinegar invades her mouth, along with the salty tang of fear.
“I’ll bring her back.” She promised, spreading her injured wings. The bronze of her armor glittered in the cold light, feathers bent and broken out of shape, her right wing opening crookedly. The ambrosia had taken care of the worst of the damage. Sy twisted her wings to straighten her feathers out by dragging her fingers through her wings, adjusting the celestial bronze where it bent out of shape.
She would need to preen and take care of them properly later. But for now, her slap dash finger detangling job would have to do. Fancy maneuvers are out of the question, but Sy is more than capable of a quick flight to pick up the other Maximoff.
“No, your wi-” Pietro started to protest. She ignored him, taking off with hardly a second glance, beating her wings hard.
Sy desperately searched for drafts, knowing that eventually she’d have to face the pain that came with pushing her body while it was this injured. Plus she’s tired.
Sy soared above the city, hunting for any sign of the other Maximoff sibling. A flare of red, along with a warm flare of familiarity led her to angle her flight to the southeastern section of the city. As helpful as it was to have her sudden inner homing beacon on the things that borrowed her power; Sy moved to the top of her to do list getting rid of that link.
Sy touched down with a stumble, pulling in her wings as she turned to face a half destroyed train car. Deja vu flooded her at the scene in front of her; only the body of Ultron that had been built from vibranium was the body on the ground, only steps away from being nothing more than a pile of scrap. Wanda knelt next to it, a crushed piece of metal gripped tightly in her palm. She dropped it to the ground as she turned around Sy, tears glittering on her cheeks. The other woman looked visibly shocked by Sy's bloody front, but Sy marched forward waving away the concern. She didn't want to think about the fact that Steve bleeding out over her hand might be the last time she gets to see him alive.
That he might die because he was protecting her.
“Wanda, we have to go.” Sy scanned the other woman for injuries, trying to find the source of her pain. Wanda shook her head, slumping against the side of the train car.
“No. Pietro, he’s gone.” Her voice cracked over her brother’s name. Sy took a half step back, head shaking slightly. No. He’s not, he might not be able to run for a while, but he was fine. The bullet wound wasn’t that serious. Not like Steve. A deep puncture on the back of his neck, the bright red blood -
She can't think about that right now.
“No, he’s going to be fine Wanda. He got shot in the leg. It's serious enough that he’ll need surgery, and probably quite a lot of therapy, but he’ll be fine.” Brown eyes widened in shock. Wanda lurched forward, gripping the straps of Sy’s armor that sat snugly over her hips.
“How? I felt his pain, his fear. Then nothing.” Sobs choked Wanda’s throat, her desperation cloying and the vinegar flavor of the emotion making Sy recoil at the taste. Sy stopped down, gingerly hugging the other woman back before carefully extricating herself.
“I swear to you, barring some insane unforeseen circumstances, he is going to be fine. You’re powers are dialed up, and you probably haven’t adapted yet. I also helped him, like I did for you, so his... signature, probably feels different now.” Wanda took several deep breaths, visibly pulling herself back together. Sy held out her hand and hauled the other woman to her feet.
No sooner had they exchanged shaky smiles with each other, the world dropped out beneath them.
Rubble rose around them as Novi Grad fell. Wanda watched the world around them, her expression a cross between morbid curiosity and abject terror. Sy’s heart skipped a beat, the rush of choice flashing in her head clearly mirrored on Wanda's. But she promised Pietro to bring back his sister. And she'd promised Steve to be careful. And Sy wasn't in the habit of breaking her word. It's a dangerous thing in her world to break promises.
Sy made her choice.
She scooped Wanda into her arms, launching the two of them into the sky. Wanda screamed, her arms instantly reaching to circle around Sy's shoulders, burying her head into the space between her elbow and Sy's shoulder. Dust plumed into the air, plunging her world into darkness. Concrete and rocks and random planks of wood were nothing but shadowy shapes, looming out of the dusty grey roar that currently encompassed her world. She gritted her teeth and plunged through the destruction, wings beating unsteadily as she pressed through the clouds of debris.
Dodging debris definitely count as fancy maneuvering. Something her wings really can’t handle at the moment, especially while carrying a second person in her arms. She twisted to avoid a flying chunk of building, her shoulder wrenching as when she overextended in order to accommodate her decreased maneuverability.
Red light flared around them as Wanda created a protective barrier around them, deflecting some of the debris away from them. It wasn’t perfect, but it let Sy focus on flying them out of the destruction, rather than dodging so much. It also had the added benefit of increasing Sy's visibility, pushing the dust away from them and leaving clearer air directly around them.
A bed slammed into her side, and Sy dropped couple feet. Her grip on Wanda loosened for a second, shock nearly forcing her to let go, but Sy redoubled her grip and pulled the witch even closer to her body.
“Sorry.” Wanda muttered. Sy just shook her head, flapping harder. She didn't have the extra breath to talk right then. She spotted a small gap in the dust, sunlight filtering in, with clear skies just above them. She summoned all the energy she could, and somehow managed to force herself to fly faster. They shot through a thick cloud of dust, emerging into bright sunlight, coughing up building. Her wings were caked in a heavy layer of grey and black dust, her feathers coated in heavy dirt.
Her comms unit crackled in her ear, making Sy wince. Tony’s voice came through, heavy breathing breaking up his speech.
“Thor on my mark.” He ordered stiffly. Sy glanced down to the earth below, at the trees and forest and buildings and all the little towns dotting the area. Thousands of people who they evacuated from the city are still nearby. Thousands more who lived in the crash radius. Sy pressed her head against her shoulder, activating the mic in her ear.
“Tony, remember, you have to destroy everything!” Tony’s response shook her to her core. Her wings ached as she flew clumsily. She desperately needs to land.
“We don’t have time! Thor, NOW!”
Sy flew after the city, her muscles burning with strain. Wanda’s weight grew heavier by the second, and Sy was already at her limit. She flapped determinedly, wings straining.
“Wanda, can you do anything?” The other woman peeked out from under her arm, and Sy felt a tremor of fear run through her body as she absorbed how high up they are. An arm reached out from around her shoulders, and red flared around the witch’s finger tips.
Sy screamed, Wanda nearly ripped out of her arms as a red light encircled the falling city. The fall of destroyed city fell didn’t slow, but the cloud of debris was contained. Mostly. Sy roared in pain, Wanda’s scream matching hers, as she dragged them both to the right, trying to center the falling debris over the gaping chasm the city had pulled away from.
Lighting flared up beneath them, and the sound of Tony’s repulsors firing was almost comforting. Yellow destruction also flickered into view, Vision flying around the edges of Wanda's bubble and Loki's green magic streamed out from the deck of the helicarrier. Huge swaths of the city turned to dust, vaporizing under the concentrated effort of the four Avengers. Wanda let out a sob, the muscles in her arm corded with tension.
“I can’t-” The red light flickered and died, Wanda going completely limp in Sy’s arms. She shot up several feet at the sudden change in pressure, the force of the city no longer pulling on Wanda; and consequently on Sy. The thunderous roar of the falling city hitting the ground filled the air as Sy spiraled down to the deck of the helicarrier.
She landed with an exhausted stumble, Wanda tumbling from her arms with a grunt. Sy collapsed to her knees, coughing and hacking. She was so tired she felt nauseous, every inch of her body burning. Her wings lay open, draping over her back and on the ground. Wanda was completely passed out, blood trickling down from her nose. Sy crawled over to her and pressed two fingers under her chin, finding her pulse. Relief rushed through her that the other woman was alive. She almost let out a giggle as her adrenaline started to crash, leaving her hands and knees weak and shaking.
SHIELD medics sprinted out to them with stretchers. Sy allowed an orange jacketed woman help her to her feet but refused to get on the stretcher. A certain supersoldier is waiting for her in a hospital bed somewhere.
Steve better be ok when she find him. She refuses to accept any other alternatives.
But Sy does let herself relax, shooing away the medics as she stumbled towards the doors leading inside the carrier. A small smile crosses her face.
Ok, we're almost to the end of Age of Miracles! I've decided that the extra scene between Tony and Steve will be uploaded as a bonus chapter after this story is finished.
Please keep commenting, they really fuel me and always make my day!