“Damn, damn, damn, Doll, oh so good, yes, ah.” Clint finished inside of his girlfriend, the last vestiges of her orgasm milking the final strains of release from his tired cock. He rolled from her, bringing her to him again.
“I’m never going to get tired of this,” he said to her, tangling his fingers in her hair. “You are so sexy, do you know that?”
“No. I honestly have no clue,” Hermione teased, and he pinched her lightly. “Hey! Don’t get me started or I’ll wear you out again.”
“Oh, hell no. Not tonight. Three seems to be my limit, and that was my limit like twenty years ago. So at some point, I’m going to go all ‘old man’ on you, and you’ll have to be satisfied with two.”
“Hm. I can think of other ways we can play.”
Clint perked up, propping himself up on one elbow and head on his hand. “Tell me. Because I don’t know what’s better than this. The real thing or nothing.”
Hermione frowned. “You really think that? You’ve never experimented with toys, or lotions or anything?”
“Nah. Who needs it?”
“I do,” she answered quietly. “Adding ‘extras’ can be a whole lot of fun.”
“You replacing me already?” he joked, but with a serious note to his tone.
“Hardly. It’s not a threat to your manhood or anything. In fact, if it makes our sex life richer, don’t you want to give it at least a try?”
Clint thought about it. Just because he was what some of the guys called ‘Vanilla,’ didn’t mean he wasn’t open to trying new things. His ex-wife hadn’t ever suggested it, so he never brought it up. Clint wasn’t happy when he’d found a vibrator twice his size in her underwear drawer but figured it was better she stuck that inside herself than some other guy’s prick. That was one thing he’d always been thankful for; they had both been very faithful spouses.
“I – uh – well. I don’t know much about that stuff. You got anything you want to try now?” her lover asked apprehensively, and she laughed.
“Oh, not at the moment. But I can come up with some stuff. And if you prefer natural, I can do themes.”
“Nothing wild or really kinky like ropes and shit, Doll. I – I’m not sure I can get into that.”
“You like to hold me down, don’t you?”
Clint got a sexy gleam in his eyes and leaned over to kiss her, their tongues entwining until he was kissing her breasts, pulling, pinching, then lowering himself to pleasure her again with his mouth, holding her thighs down and licking and sucking her clit, finger fucking her with three fingers, curling them upwards until she cried out and rode his face, utilizing his nose, mouth, and chin to stimulate her as much as possible.
Moving up when he was done, he wiped himself off using the sheet and tossed it off the bed. “Does that answer your question?” he said to her, his tone low and sexy, still idly playing with her breasts.
“Affirmative Sergeant Legolas.”
“Aw, Doll, PLEASE don’t bring Stark into the bed with us. He was such a prick, the way he set us up.”
“But aren’t you glad he did?”
“Sure, just, don’t mention him, okay? Talk about limp dick syndrome.”
Hermione snorted, then laughed, grabbing her middle. “Oh, fucking hell Clint, that’s funny! ‘Tony Stark, Proprietor of Limp Dick Syndrome.’ I think I’m going to pee. Shit, I gotta go, hang on.” And she streaked into the bathroom, still laughing.
Clint smiled and laid back against the pillows. Wow. Life was pretty good right now. It sure was wonderful to get away with his new Doll for a while, hole up and pretend the rest of the world didn’t exist. The nagging tension headaches and irritable mood swings had vanished, replaced by the replete satiation of a well-fucked man. Oh yes. Life was good. And what was even better? He didn’t even have to use condoms with her. Just to prove to him she was clean, Doll had gotten a clean bill of health, so he’d done the same. It loosened a knot of worry in his stomach he hadn’t realized was there until they decided to just get it over with. Who knew he’d be dating an actual witch, and she didn’t even have any warts?
He snorted at his own joke and closed his eyes. The bathroom door opened and closed, but he was just starting to fall into a light doze. Hermione slid in behind him, pressing her warm breasts against his back, and he held his arm up for her to place one of hers around his middle, then covered it with his own and fell asleep.
Mornings always sucked. It didn’t matter where you were. They just generally sucked. Clint got up first, never able to sleep much past dawn whether he could see the sun or not. His body clock had always been that way, so even if he stayed up late, he got up at the ass crack of dawn, but damn, was he good at the power snooze. Good thing or he really would have been bitchy.
Hermione slid into the shower behind him, and they helped one another cleanup. As much as his morning wood begged for relief, he was still getting used to keeping up with a woman ten years his junior, and the old jolly roger needed to toughen up yet. He’d fucked her three times a day for three days straight, and eaten her out a good deal more and she still wanted more. Maybe toys would save him some skin down the line. If he didn’t rest, there wouldn’t be any left by the end of the four day weekend.
Hermione pushed herself back against the tile, looking up at him, sexily from under her wet lashes. Her hand snaked out and grabbed his tender cock, and he winced and danced away. “Sorry, Doll. No can do. He’s all tired out.”
“Oh, really? He looks pretty ready to me,” and she licked her lips in the direction of his straining prick.
“Doll, I would love to fuck your pretty pussy again. But it’s not happening.”
Hermione pouted a little, and he shut his eyes. “I’m not as young as I used to be. And my body’s been through a lot of hard shit. You gotta give me a break, I’m sorry.”
Hermione got a wicked idea and said, “I’ll be right back, don’t go anywhere.”
He shrugged, hoping she wasn’t going to try and beg him using a different technique. When your dick was done, it was done. Or so he thought.
The shower door pushed open once more, and he stood there, soaking up the spray, eyeballing the two vials she had in hand. He’d made no bones about it that he was a little wary of some of the ‘wizarding’ stuff she talked about, and wasn’t sure he was ready to experiment with potions or the like, even though she’d patiently explained, in-depth, how they were made and what they did. So seeing those little vials sent a shiver through his belly.
“Drink these for me. I know they make you nervous, but they’ll help with the soreness, ache and all of that.”
“I thought we discussed this –“
“No, I tried to discuss it with you, but your mind was made up long before I finished talking. I can tell. Your eyes glaze over and wander everywhere but at me.”
“You’re serious? I – I’m still a little nervous about this magic stuff, I mean, I know Loki and a couple others like Strange can do it, but I like keeping my feet on the ground, thanks.”
“This isn’t magic, Clint, not really. It’s like the pills you take for a headache, without the nasty side effects on your stomach and liver. And it has therapeutic properties.”
“You really wanna get laid again, don’t you?”
“What can I say? You turn me on, and I’m making up for the dry spell.”
“I’ll say. I went through a pretty long dry spell myself, but I feel like I’m caught up for a bit.”
“It’s either these or the toys. There is a great shop down the road that sells magical toys. I’ve got enough wizarding money with me to get a really nice vibrator.”
“You drive a hard bargain. I’m going to remember this. Blackmail.”
She smirked at him sexily. “Bottoms up.”
Clint took one in each hand and eyeballed them again, sighed, and chucked them back at the same time. Oddly, they weren’t too bad. A bit minty, a smooth sensation in the back of his throat, and no aftertaste. He startled a bit when the ache in his knees was suddenly gone, and he felt – stable – solid – like he had when he’d worked out to keep in top physical condition before significant assignments. Oh – that was nice – his libido had kicked in again. Shit! He felt like a new man! His erection felt like steel, balls heavy, an intense lust settling over his brain.
“Doll. I don’t know what was in those things. But if they make me feel like this every time I think I’m done, I’m going to wear you the fuck out.”
“You’re not supposed to take them all the time, but a couple of times a week doesn’t hurt if we end up wanting that much sex.”
“I’m never going to be able to get enough sex with you. I wish I could keep my dick in you twenty-four hours a day.”
“Wow, thank you, I feel the same way. Not the dick in you part, but you know, your dick in me part. Never mind.”
Clint just grinned at her. “I know what’cha meant. Did you take a couple of those medicine potion things too?”
“I might have.”
“Come here. We haven’t christened this shower yet.”
But he moved into her space, lifting her quickly, no preliminaries as she rubbed her pussy along his hardened shaft. “Shit, Doll. That’s so hot, going to fuck you until you can’t walk.”
“Make my day, Archer,” she teased and yelped when he slapped her ass.
“You want me to take a little control? You got it. Gonna fuck you so hard I’ll bust a new hole through your back.”
And he sucked in a deep breath, lining up with her cunt. But he didn’t slam in. That wasn’t his style – usually. He eased her onto him, inch by inch, teasing her, holding her slippery body tightly, so he owned all of the control of movement.
“Clint! Shit! Faster!”
“Mm, in a little bit. I’m enjoying the feel of your sexy body riding the hell out of dick. I honestly never knew what a hot screw felt like before I met you. I’m not going to dig into my past, things were – okay – in that department. No complaints. But sex with you – blows everything out of the water I’d ever experienced before. And I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface.”
“If you don’t start fucking me harder I’m going to blow something.”
“Don’t tempt me Doll. At the rate I’m feeling, I don’t know if I’d be able to keep from choking you with it.”
Hermione tightened on him at those words, and he was astounded when her vaginal muscles clamped down, a slow, rolling orgasm shaking her in intense waves. Clint cried out and pistoned into her, amazed at the things that turned her on. And she was right, what turned her on, turned him on, because of her pleasure. He’d do anything for her – almost anything – sexually – if she just let him work up to it a bit at a time.
She came down and clung to him, allowing him to slam into her over and over, the hot water starting to go cold, but neither noticed as it was really only hitting their feet and Clint’s lower legs at this end of the bath.
They didn’t need words as he grunted, lifting and lowering her, then holding her in one place, working his hips as fast as he could in that position, balls slapping beautifully with each thrust, and she felt him start to come undone, the hitching of his breath, tightening of his arms and fingers, biting down gently on her collar bone.
“Doll. Doll. Gonna blow soon. If you’re gonna come, do it quickly.”
“Fuck me as hard as you can. I think I can go over with you.”
“Shit! Hold on!” And like a marathon runner, he went into overdrive, hunching up into her, legs bent, fucking her for all he was worth, cock reaching deep inside of her, hitting her G-spot perfectly, and just as the girl screamed he blew his load inside, slamming tight against her, shouting how perfect she was as her high pitch said his name over and over. And when the rush ended, he literally dropped to the tile, catching her in his lap, ravaging her mouth and laughing when the water was suddenly ice cold, and they needed to get out.
“Damn, damn, that was so hot. We gotta do that again.”
“I agree. But next time, let me charm the water heater, so it doesn’t run out.”
“That’s a massive waste of water.”
“Are you complaining?”
“Fuck. To the NO. I’ll let Niagara Falls go down the drain if I get to bone you like that again.”
“Bone me?” Hermione burst out laughing but saw he was serious.
“Yeah. I feel like a sick old fucker talking to you like this, but you’ve corrupted me. Brought out a nasty side I didn’t even know existed. And now that it’s here, I can’t get enough. I feel addicted to you, and it scares me a little.”
Hermione’s eyes softened, and after they were dry, sat down on the edge of the bed and just held him. “You know I won’t smother you if you need space, right?”
Clint nodded but felt a few tears forming in his eyes. What the fuck was wrong with him? He had a hot naked chick in bed, and he was fucking crying. He tried dashing them away, getting angry at himself, but she stopped his hand.
“Don’t. Everyone cries. It doesn’t make you less of a man because you have emotions. We just shared a really intense experience, and sometimes this happens.”
“Not to guys like me.”
“Well, guess what Barton? It just happened to you. Did you feel like something busted loose, and it’s floating around and feels bloody great but scary too like a ride when you were a kid?”
“Yeah, yeah. Almost exactly like that. Like, like, I know I’m never gonna be able to control it, and I’m terrified I’m out of control, but it feels so fuckin’ great. But I don’t deserve to feel that good, you know?”
She tilted his head towards her. “But you do. You do deserve it, and it’ll take time, but I’m going to convince you that you’re worth it. Because you’re mine, and I love you, and I’ll spend as much time as you need giving you space, wiping away your tears, fucking your cock, or bringing you soup if you’re sick. You. Are. Worth. It.”
Clint thought he was going to start crying again, he was so lucky to find this woman, so instead, he took advantage of his dick’s happiness and took her to bed again. And after that, they slept like the dead, because even potions can only carry you so far before you turn into a zombie.
Chapter 2: Hotel Interlude, the morning after "Getting to Know You"
I've decided to make this into a multi-chaptered fic instead of a series of works, although, this will simply be moments in time as Clint and Hermione's relationship progresses, dealing with everyday things, work, his family, and the usual stuff when the newness wears off and reality sets in. I don't have a set number of chapters, it'll just keep getting added to as I feel like it.
The next morning they were interrupted mid-coitus with a call from Clint’s cell buzzing. He reached over and checked. “It’s Laura, I have to take this.”
“No problem,” Hermione smiled. “Family first.”
“Thanks, Doll. You’re the best,” he smiled, gave her a quick peck, and rolled off of her to take the call. Naked, he strode to the opposite side of the suite.
(Clint on the phone with his ex-wife, The end of each sentence designates her speaking on the other line, then him the next sentence, but you will only see his side of the convo.)
“Laura, hi. Yeah. I’m downtown. On business. No, I’m not really busy, was going to tie up a few loose ends today. Did you need something? Today? Sure. Let me make a couple of
calls. I can have someone else deal with the details and uh, I’ll be out there this afternoon. Well, I have to take a flight. Standby I can probably get there in a few hours. I need some time to pack up, shower and make calls, I’m near the airport. Okay. See you. Bye.”
Hermione had already got up and pulled on her robe, pulling together their stuff for the shower.
“Doll, hey, where are you going? We weren’t finished!”
“It sounds like your family needs you. I’m going to shower and make myself scarce.” She started for the shower, but Clint grabbed her around the middle.
“It's nothing that can't wait. Kid stuff. Stay. I’ve got a couple of hours, I don’t really have any loose ends to tie up, other than taking care of you.”
She looked over her shoulder and gave him a kiss. “You sure?”
“Yeah. Now, where were we?”
“Right about…..” She shucked her robe and bathing supplies and reached for his cock. “Here.”
“That feels about right. Oh, Doll, give it to me, this has gotta last the rest of the week. After I fly out, I’m on assignment for a couple of days.”
“Me too. I’ve got experiments running that Banner’s been keeping an eye on, but they’re reaching critical status, and he doesn’t know the next steps. You know, magic and all that.”
“I’ll just make some magic with you while the world waits,” he said softly, backing her towards the bed again.
She giggled when he fell on top of her, dragged her bottom to the edge of the bed and stood in-between her legs, hooking them up over his shoulders, him grasping her hips and sliding in.
“Oh, yeah. That’s the ticket.”
His phone buzzed again, and he swore. “Dammit!”
“It’s fine, check it.”
“No, I’m busy. Whoever it is can wait.”
“Clint, what if it’s important? You only have your phone set to notify you if certain people call you.”
“You’re right. HOLD TIGHT. Don’t go anywhere, I’m not finished with you.”
Clint spent another ten minutes on the phone with Laura, this time arguing in a low voice, so she was unable to hear. The mood had evaporated for the second time, and she really wasn’t up to being interrupted a third time, so darted into the shower, well into her bathing routine by the time he slipped in behind her.
“You don’t have to run every time the ex calls.”
“I’m not running. It just spoiled the mood a bit. No big deal.”
“It IS a big deal. When I’m with you, our time is special, Doll.” Clint wrapped his arms around her soapy middle, bent at the knees and pushed her forward, so she had to brace herself against the shower wall, then entered her with another long sigh.
"I feel bad hogging you when it's important."
"It wasn't important. She just wanted to nag me."
"Money. I thought we agreed not to talk about this stuff when we're together?"
Hermione wondered when would be a good time, as he was spending a lot of time arguing on the phone with Laura, and she felt he needed to just fly home and deal with some of it, but wasn't going to push him, so she let it go.
"Yeah, we did. No interruptions then?"
“I turned off the phone, so we can have ten minutes of peace. Then I’ll let you get all squeaky clean and go face the real world. Gonna miss having real breakfast with you. All I've had was a stale roll and coffee.”
“Mmh, this is all the breakfast I need, if you fill me up.”
“Shit. I’m going to fill you up real good.”
He played with her tits from behind, and Hermione reached down between her legs to stroke herself, loving the full stretch of herself around his sizable dick.
“You feel so good, Clint. I feel like a junkie.”
“I’ll never get enough of you,” he panted, closing his eyes and speeding up, this position providing exquisite stimulation to push them both over sooner rather than later.
“Clint! Oh, shit!” she cried out, contracting around him and he muttered something, working her through it.
She came down and moaned as he worked towards his release, seeming to be unable to get there. After about fifteen minutes, he huffed and pulled out. “Dammit. I don’t know
what’s wrong with me.”
“I do. Your ‘juju,’ as Tony likes to call it,’ was interrupted. You need a little TLC.”
“What did you have in mind?”
Sliding to her knees, Clint tried to stop her and get her to stand up, but the stubborn witch smiled and pushed his hands away. “Let me. You’ve hardly let me do this since the first time we met.”
“It’s – degrading, Doll. A girl shouldn’t have to get on her knees like that.”
“You have some really – different – ideas about sex, I’ll give you that. How about this. I love sucking you off. It turns me on. Please let me suck your dick?” She batted her eyelashes up at him, and he groaned, throwing his head back.
“I cannot say no to you. If it turns you on, then go for it. But I ain’t gonna ask you to do it unless you want to.”
“Deal. Do you like it?”
“There, that was easy. Now give me some sugar, sugar.”
And she took him to heaven and back with her mouth, finally able to get over the peak when she forced herself further on him and gagged, that little extra bit of stimulation blowing his mind and his load. Clint was amazed she took all of it, showed it to him, and swallowed it down.
“Shit, you’re a nasty girl. I love it. I’m so lucky.”
“And I’m lucky. Now, let’s finish washing and get out of here. The sooner you get your work done, the sooner I can do that again.”
“Well, if that isn’t an incentive, I don’t know what is.”
Hermione was surprised he seemed to have no problem French kissing her immediately after he’d unloaded in her mouth, then thought back to when he’d eaten her with their combined fluids and figured it was kind of the same thing.
“I love you, Clint Barton.”
“I love you, Doll.”
They mostly dressed and got ready to depart in silence. It was so difficult to separate, but she knew she needed to let him go. The longer he kissed her, the more neither of them wanted to leave.
“We have to go,” she told him between kisses and nips.
“I know, just a few more minutes,” he argued softly, running his tongue down to the vee of her blouse.
“You said that five times ago.”
“I’m so hard again for you, Doll.”
“Clint! We’ve already showered!”
“Do your hocus pocus. I don’t care. I need to leave you with one last load, for the road.”
Hermione giggled, Clint really came up with the silliest sayings sometimes.
“Can you make it quick? You’ll barely make it to the airport for your standby.”
“Hocus pocus me there.”
“Okay, first you want nothing to do with wizarding stuff, now you’re using it as an excuse to fuck me.”
“Are you telling me you don’t want my hard dick inside of you?”
He pulled away and lifted his brows, and she rolled her eyes.
“Fine! A quickie!”
“Yes!” Barton spun her around and hiked up her skirt, fumbled with his pants, slid aside her panties and went to town, pumping hard and fast, clutching her ass cheeks from behind.
They were so heated already from a full half-hour of petting he was able to zone in only on her, imagining some sordid, twisted things he wanted to try on her but hadn’t had that courage to voice just yet. She didn’t come, but within a few minutes, he was biting down on her blouse, muffling his shout in her shoulder as he shot another orgasm into her hot cunt.
When they finished, she cleaned them with her wand, passionately kissed him for a while longer before pulling away and playfully threatening to stun him, then grabbed their bags and pulled him into Side-Along with her.
That was probably the last time he allowed her to do that for a long time. As soon as they landed, he puked up any remaining roll and coffee in his stomach, and dry heaved for several minutes, finally catching his quivering stomach and holding back any further gagging.
“Dammit. I wish you would’ve warned me.”
“I did warn you. You didn’t listen.”
“Okay, okay, um no more of that shit.”
“You’re the one who wanted to –“
“-and it was worth it, but hot damn, I am NOT doing that again unless absolutely necessary.”
“You get used to it.”
“Nuh-uh. Fuck that.”
They hugged for another few minutes, stole some closed-mouth kisses and sadly waved goodbye, Clint turning to wave at her until he was entirely out of sight.
Hermione slumped against a terminal wall. “Oh, fucking hell, I’ve got it bad.”
Chapter 3: Moving Forward
It's taking time for Hermione to fit in with the team, and some take issue with her relationship with Clint. Our favorite archer starts letting some of his rougher edges show around his new lady love.
This is one of those fics I hadn't intended to keep on writing, but it wants me to. This one is NOT finished and is just kind of ongoing. I DO finish the ones I plan out from the beginning. But this one and one other continuing at reader request will not have super fast updates like some of my other chaptered fics that I whip out. I spend a ton of time writing and editing in order to just throw up most of a multi-chapter fic at once. The reality is, there would be a lot of time between updates if I posted just chapter by chapter. My restraint is what allows you to get those quick updates once I post. I just wanted to put the blurb here, that while I generally do finish fics first before posting, this is an exception to that rule, but do not despair, there are probably about five more chapters already written for this, I just have to put some filler material in and do some re-writing/editing.
Hermione groaned, wanting nothing more than to sink into an honest-to-God hot bath, some wine, and a good book. She’d scourgified herself so many times her skin felt like sandpaper. And every muscle in her body ACHED. And she missed Clint like a motherfucker.
“Granger! I’ve got another assignment for you!”
She grit her teeth and started walking faster, knowing she could just Apparate away, but not wanting to aggravate Tony more than she already had with her disappearing ‘hocus pocus,’ as he coined the term.
Tony panted, running after her with a stack of papers. “Dammit, Granger, would you slow down?”
Hermione sighed and stopped, slumping. “I just finished with the last one, can I catch a break? I wanted to meet up with Clint.”
Tony caught up with her and looked apologetic. “Sorry. It’s from the top, and it can’t wait. I really am. Please don’t kill the messenger.”
She sighed. “Okay. Give it here.”
Flipping through it, she studied it intensely. “This could take weeks.”
“I really am sorry.”
“Just – don’t worry about it. I knew this job would take me away from everyone for days to months to years at a time. No time to start crying about it now.”
“I knew I could count on you.”
She wandered away, lip-reading silently. Tony knew the feeling. When you got an assignment, it tended to consume you.
Hermione’s cell rang a short time later as she was packing her duffel. A quick shower and strong black coffee were all she had been allowed in order to meet her ride on time.
(On the other line)
“Hey, doll, I’ll pick you up at about eight, is that okay?”
“Actually, I can’t. Tony just handed me another assignment.”
“What? Is he trying to fuck us up now that we’re together?”
“It’s from the top. He told me not to kill the messenger.”
“Well, alright, then. I don’t like it, but it’s not like we have a choice. Call me when you get back.”
“I will, and Clint?”
“I love you.”
“Love you too. Later.”
She hung up and sighed again. God, she wished she could make love to him just once before she had to leave, but as always, it was top secret, so she apparated to the roof and took off in the Quinjet with Nat.
They sat in silence while Nat piloted, looking her over a few times. They’d gotten a bit closer, but she could tell Clint’s traditional partner wasn’t sure about her.
“I don’t have a lot of background on you. Your magical community likes to keep things locked up tight.”
“Fury has access to it. It’s in the contract between the MLE and SHIELD.”
“Magical Law Enforcement. It’s where I got my start, that and fighting in the war.”
“You fought in a war?”
“I guess there is a bit more than the official file.”
“I’ll say. Does Clint know all this stuff?”
Hermione gave her a side-eye, wondering where she was coming from. “Some of it. We haven’t had a lot of time to spend together after he went to see Laura and the kids. It’s either been this assignment or that, obligations. I know he’s got family. I’m cool with it.”
“Do I what, Nat?”
“Look, I’m not sure what your angle is, but I’m not divorced – never been married. No wizard pining back home. Well, an ex that might be pining, but that’s his problem, not mine. No kids. No affairs. I’m pretty clean in the relationship department.”
“Good to know. Clint’s got a lot of baggage for a girl your age. You sure you’re up to it?”
“Are you questioning my commitment to Clint?”
Nat put the controls on autopilot for a bit and turned to her. “I might be. He’s been my partner for a long time. The only person who gave me a second chance when he was sent to kill me. I don’t want to see him used and get hurt. So, if you’re just out for kicks, I suggest you move on.”
“Tell me how you really feel,” Hermione deadpanned, but Nat just gave the other woman her best death glare, so the girl huffed. “Fine. I’m serious. I don’t just fall into something and not follow through. If anything were to happen, it wouldn’t be me reneging on the deal.”
“Clint wouldn’t do it either without good reason.”
“I’ll be sure not to give him one.”
“Good. That’s all I wanted to know.”
Nat went back to piloting. The air was pretty thick with tension, so the spy attempted some light conversation, but it flopped. The rest of the ride sucked, but there was nothing for it. Now Hermione knew that Nat had an angle on her, not wholly trusting Hermione, and it was NOT wise to go into a mission with that onus hanging over your head. Shit. Nat wished she would have held questioning until after. Old habits died hard. In this business, when you got close to someone, you tended let out the claws when the slightest perceived threat popped into view.
They landed, cloaked, deep in a forest, and Nat and Hermione caught a few hours of sleep, waiting for nightfall.
They woke at almost the same time, a tapping coming from the underside of the plane, which should NOT be happening since no one was supposed to know where they were except for those that had assigned the mission.
Raising and lowering her hand, Nat went into stealth mode, clipping on her gear in record time, slipping out of the sleeping quarters and down the hatch. Hermione slipped into her gear and up to the top, pressing a few buttons to angle the discreet cameras at the source. Nat had a watch tuned into them, and she kept a close eye on her wrist while Hermione zoned in on the sound.
They both let out a groan when a tree branch scraped the bottom of the craft.
“Fuck’s sake,” Hermione muttered, leaning back.
“Let’s eat,” Nat encouraged her. “Be glad it wasn’t something else. I’d have killed just to be interrupted before dinner. And I have to pee.”
Hermione tried and failed not to snicker at the Black Widow, saying something as mundane as “pee.”
“What. Brits, don’t pee?”
“Um, we do. I’m still getting used to superheroes being normal people.”
“If you think I’m normal, girlfriend, you’ve got a weird sense of normal.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Actually, I don’t, but I’ll take a pass.”
Hermione was starting to get the vibe Nat didn’t want to be on this mission with her because her answers sounded flippant and annoyed. But she let it pass, needing to focus. It seemed like a simple job, but it was tricky. A lot of surveillance, and if certain people showed up, the pair were to take them into custody for questioning. If other events took place, they were to follow, record, do reconnaissance, whatever was necessary and hoof the intel back to HQ.
Her magical senses were tingling, and Hermione supposed it was what Spiderman felt like sometimes when he just seemed to know what was going to happen before it happened. Nat had an uncanny ability to do the same but fell slightly short in that category compared to Hermione. Who knows, it may have irked the Widow a bit. She was highly competitive.
They sat for hours, entirely still. A crick developed in Hermione’s neck, but she ignored it. The cold seeped into her bones from where they were sitting about twenty feet from the cloaked Quinjet. Whatever had activated her magical sense had long since waned by that point. From experience, she knew it could have been something as simple as an approaching storm, a predator, or as significant as a big scary bad guy.
It was becoming clear there was no point in this mission, whatsoever. Even she could tell this place had been long deserted and refrained from rolling her eyes and huffing. Nat was like a statue, black against black, a tree branch, or boulder in the night. Impressive.
Hermione gripped her wand and carried on. Finally, she stepped out of position, irritated when Nat gripped her wrist tightly, training her wand on the woman and retracting it as Nat reached out to take it.
“Don’t you EVER point that damn thing at me,” Nat hissed, making a face.
“Then let go of me. There’s nothing here. Training dictates we report back. We’re wasting time.”
“Sometimes, you have to reach beyond your training, Granger. I get the feeling something is going to happen.”
“Yeah. The deer over there are going to start making babies after they fight over that doe. Come on.”
“You will stay here, Granger. I’m the senior OP.”
“Nat. What’s your problem? I trust my instincts, too, and they’re telling me to ditch this place. The only thing that’s going to happen is you sniping at me for not being subservient enough to you, or good enough for Clint. I understand you’re the senior OP here. But I’m the expert on this assignment so that technically places me in that spot. And expertise tells me this is a waste of time. I’m leaving.”
“You’re not taking the Quinjet without me.”
Hermione shrugged. Her orders had specified to follow up on any threats, and there were none. In her mind she was astoundingly grateful, now maybe she’d have time to catch up with Clint! But she addressed Widow first, the irritation in her voice breaking through. “Fine, Nat. I don’t know what your issue is, but this wasn’t part of the assignment.”
Then she did something Nat wasn’t expecting, she Apparated just as Nat opened her mouth to bitch her out, then allowed it to snap shut, exclaiming, “Well, fuck. That’s not what I was expecting.”
Listening, she took off at a trot in the direction of the old building, keeping low to the ground, slipped inside, and disappeared.
The Avengers, as a whole, was not immune to the ills of salacious workplace gossip, as pristine as the press made them out to be at times.
Hermione was unsurprised at the whispers and stares she received upon entering the team’s main break area after she returned from her mission with Nat, although the assassin still hadn’t returned. Grabbing a donut and a coffee, she ignored the few at the table and walked back out. It had gone dead silent when she went in, and whispers were resuming when she walked out. Rolling her eyes and sighing, she backed up, and of course, the noise stopped again.
“Does anyone have anything they want to say to me or ask me? Because I’m only going to go over this once. And once you’ve heard it, I’m not repeating myself.”
Thor, immune to the social constructs of polite society on earth, to a degree, toasted her with a paper cup that looked like a doll’s thimble in comparison to the hand he held it in. “My Lady, you and the valiant Hawkeye have become a couple, yes?”
She nodded once. “Yes.”
He smiled brightly at her and nodded back. “Best of wishes to you both. May the Norns bless your relationship and journey together.”
Thor was so sweet. “Thank you. You are very kind. Anyone else?”
Tony was keeping his head down. Either that or he was sleeping behind his sunglasses. It was a Monday, after all.
Steve Rogers stood up, out of costume, and walked over to her, looking her up and down. She didn’t know Steve really well, but certainly respected his bio and the work he’d done for others. He seemed like the right sort that didn’t judge too quickly.
He lifted his chin and cleared his throat. “You, uh, you doing okay?”
Hermione smiled sweetly and narrowed her eyes. “In what way?”
“Um, are you settling in here alright? Got everything you need?”
“Yes. Anything else?”
Steve swallowed and reached around to scratch behind his head. “Just, uh, I don’t know you well, but you seem like a sweet kid. And Barton – well, he’s been through a hell of a lot – not that you haven’t! – It’s just, I’d hate to see him get hurt, you know? I’m not sure he was ready for a new relationship. He’s not completely over Laura.”
Hermione nodded slowly, keeping eye contact with him. “Anything else?”
“No. Uh, that was it.”
“Have a nice day, boys,” she threw out, gave a little wave to Thor, who waved back while his brother rolled his eyes and let the rest of the team's non-reaction slide off her like water off a duck’s back. It was up to Clint to share with her what he chose to. At the moment, it was hot sex and more hot sex in between duty and a little bit of heavy stuff on the side when he needed to deal with family. She knew they had a very long way to go, and wasn’t putting all of her chips in one basket, but wasn’t going to dump the guy because he might still love his ex-wife. In fact, she HOPED he still loved her on some level. It would be kind of creepy if he hated Laura's guts, and wanted nothing to do with her, or if he treated her like complete shit or talked trash about her. And he didn’t.
Clint seemed to be one of those rare guys that had genuinely liked his ex and was doing his best to get along with her. There was undoubtedly a money issue going on; she wasn’t entirely privy to, and that was fine. Hermione wasn’t after Clint for his fame or money – she had plenty of her own. But she did care about him, and knew better than anyone, that how someone treats their ex might be how they treat you down the line.
The tell-tale rumble of the Quin-jet touching down sounded throughout the building as Nat disembarked, pissed off.
“Hey, Nat! I was wondering when you would get back.”
“Yeah? Well, Granger just fucking left me in the field.”
Tony just stared at her. “So?”
Nat crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at Tony. “That’s against regs. Everyone knows that.”
“She made a judgment call and left. The file put her on the mission as the expertise. Did you have a different conclusion than the one she came up with?”
Natalie hated being called out on it and reminded, again, that the girl was technically senior OP despite her junior status, but dammit, Tony was right. Granger had made the call nothing was going on, even though Nat had stayed for another full twelve hours.
“Then you’ve got nothing to complain about. Say, I and Clint and a couple of others are going bowling. Wanna come?”
“Seriously, Stark? Bowling?”
“Yeah! Sure, why not? I get tired of doing the same old same old. What do you say?”
“I’ll take a hard pass.”
Hermione rolled over, digging her wand into the throat of whoever had helped themselves into her bed in the tower.
“You’re going to kill me with that one of these days, aren’t you?” Clint drawled in her ear, and she huffed, shoving the length of wood back under her pillow.
“Bloody hell. How did you get in here? I put up wards.”
“You didn’t change your password.”
“Fuck a duck.”
“I’d rather fuck you.”
The archer poked her in the side with his hard cock, and she rolled over away from him. “Go to sleep.”
“Aw, c’mon, doll! I scored a 70 average at bowling. Doesn’t that count for something?”
“I’m not celebrating your bowling score. It’s been a really long day.”
Clint flopped onto his back and started stroking himself, grinning when only a few moments later, Hermione flipped back over. He could feel her eyes on him in the dark.
“You’re really going to make me do this, aren’t you?” she asked rhetorically, and he shrugged. “Because there is no way you were just about to get yourself off in my bed without taking care of me first.”
“You told me to go to sleep. What can I say? Rubbing one out helps me sleep.”
“Come here, you big jerk,” she grumbled, pulling him on top of her and trapping his naked waist with her legs around it.
“Damn. No panties?”
“A girl has to be prepared.”
“Prepared for what? Or, who, exactly?” he growled, circling his groin and pressing it against her wet heat.
“There’s only one Avenger that I want,” she teased, pressing back, reaching down to grab his ass and pull him tighter to her.
Clint shoved her flimsy nightgown up, and she wriggled out of it, his head lowering to capture a nipple between lips and fingers.
“Oh yeah? Must be a lucky guy.”
“Who said it was a guy?”
“Oh, ho!” he laughed into her chest. “I’m telling Nat you have the hots for her bod.”
“You do, and I’m wearing granny jammies to bed from now on. And putting wards on my bed you don't know the password to.”
“You do that. I’ll just find a way around it.”
“I’d like to see you try it.”
“Don’t tempt me, doll. If it means I get a piece of this hot ass, I’ll choose you every time.”
“You know how to flatter a girl.”
Words faded into memory as their bodies took over, and he slid easily into her heat, making love to her slowly and thoroughly. When they lay together, sweaty and sated, she asked him, “How did things go with the kids?”
Clint blew out a hard sigh, hands behind his head. “My teenager is giving Laura some trouble. Threatened to run away a couple of times. I had to talk to her. Lila isn’t happy with it, but I convinced her to go to counseling with her mom.”
“What else?” she asked, lying on her side and stroking her fingertips across his stubbled jaw.
He turned toward her in the dark. “I didn’t say there was anything else,” he replied but knew his girlfriend wouldn’t let it drop. Somehow, she was always able to tell when something more was bugging him. “Alright, alright. Um, Lila told me – and this is in confidence, I didn’t want to upset Laura because I told Lila it wasn’t going to work – but um, she expressed a strong desire to come live with me.”
“At the tower?” Hermione laughed, going silent when his solemn nod allowed her to feel it through her fingers on his jaw. “Damnit.”
“Yeah. I told her it’s not that simple. I mean, she would miss all of her friends, starting over at a new school. She’s got it in her head she can do this online thing, researched it and everything. I told the kid I can’t protect her if she’s living here. The tower is one of the most dangerous places for her to be. Yeah, sure, she’d be surrounded by some of the strongest people on the planet. But we’re also a bad guy magnet. If someone found out she was here, well, put it this way; Lila doesn’t understand she would never be able to set foot out of here. It would be too much of a security risk.”
“You did well. That must have been a tough conversation.”
Clint grabbed her wrist and kissed the inside of her palm, slowly starting to rise off the bed and kiss his way up her arm, growing hard again when Hermione let out a low moan. “Yeah, it was. I’ve got a feeling she’s not going to listen to me.”
“So, you’re having her watched.”
Clint didn’t say anything, and she pushed his chest lightly to get him to answer her. “Fine! Yeah, I am. She can’t just go running off like some stupid teen just because her mom and I split up, and she’s got delusions of superhero life running through her head.”
“Clint, she’s so isolated out there. There’s what, ten kids in her school? How many of those is she close to?”
“None,” he admitted, pushing his hand through his hair. “I mean, she’s fond of the younger ones, but the older ones are twin brothers, and all they do is tease her.”
“Tell me about it,” he responded, but she could hear the grin in his voice. “Okay, so she’s lonely. What am I supposed to do, up and relocate her? That wouldn’t be conducive to keeping them safe.”
“You might not have a choice. How’s Laura going to feel if Lila runs away, and she’s got the two little ones to worry about and no one to help her look after them while worrying herself sick about Lila?”
“Fuck, doll, you know damn well Tony would have the entire team out looking for her.”
“Right, but that isn’t going to solve the relationship issues. She’s obviously craving your attention.”
This pushed a hot button because Clint jumped up from the bed, flipping on a lamp, agitated and pacing. “What the hell do you want me to do? I’ve got a full-time job – a contract – I’m on call pretty much all of the time. I can’t just go running every time my kid threatens to run away.”
“Maybe you should take a leave of absence,” Hermione suggested, and he just stared at her like she was nuts.
“You’re not joking.”
“No, I’m not. Family first, remember?”
Reaching in, Clint dragged his girlfriend up from the bed onto her knees, kneeling and kissing her with a desperation that confused and thrilled her. “You’re my family now,” he told her, his voice husky with arousal again.
“Yes, I am,” she agreed, “But they were in your life first, and should come first. I’m not saying your kids don’t come first so shush!” she told him when his lips opened to protest, holding one of her fingers over the lush flesh and giggling when he kissed the pad of her index finger. “Blended families, especially those involving superheroes, spies, agents, and all of this hidden, classified bullshit, don’t mix well. Coming into this, you knew it was going to be incredibly difficult. Hell, Clint, you didn’t even tell the rest of the Avengers about your house and family until they needed to use it to hide out.”
He tried pushing her down on the bed to overwhelm her with his sexual physicality, but she wasn’t having it, and neatly slipped his grasp, twisting her body until she bounced out of bed, grabbing her sweats and slipping them on while he just leaned with both hands on the mattress, head down. “Where are you going?” he asked, and she could hear his disappointment.
“To the gym. You can stay here if you want, but I don’t think I can sleep.”
“Please come back to bed.”
“No, you need to think about this and take it seriously.”
A hot rush of adrenaline coursed sharply through Clint’s chest, and he spun quickly, hands clenched at both sides, shouting at her. “I DO take it seriously! Otherwise, I wouldn’t have flown out to see what was up with Lila! I wouldn’t be discussing this with you at all!”
Hermione noted how heavily he was breathing, sweat beading on his brow despite the coolness of her rooms. “If it’s a chore, then don’t bother,” she returned. “There is an issue here that you need to work out, and it isn’t something that has to do with you and me. It’s between you and your family. I am going to request that you do not shout at me, or take out your frustrations on me because you’re having a hard time handling your emotions and priorities.”
Clint locked his jaw squarely, grinding his teeth. “You need to go, or I’m going to say something I’m going to regret.”
“Right, I’ll just be off, then. See you tomorrow?”
He ran a shaking hand through his hair and turned away from her. Feeling her heart drop a bit with confusion and sadness, she shook her head and went down to the gym, working herself into utter exhaustion, but feeling much better for the outlet. When she returned to her room, Clint had left her a note apologizing and telling her he was requesting leave. She smiled softly, fingering the note and mouthing the words, “Luck, my love.”
Chapter 4: Waiting for the Other Shoe To Drop
Things are quiet at the Avengers compound, which makes Fury nervous. Keeping the team on the premises, the Avengers find time for training, games, and banter, not all of it friendly.
Things were quiet around the compound for a couple of weeks. The atmosphere of camaraderie improved. Hermione missed Clint like crazy but texted back and forth regularly. He apologized again and sent her flowers, which earned her a ribbing from Tony, but she only gave him the finger this time, so he got off easy.
It appeared Clint was working things out with Laura and Lila, but didn’t say what arrangement they had come to, just that there would be more time adjustments in his schedule, and had been tricky, but was thankful Hermione had pushed him to go the extra mile.
Hermione trained hard, upping her game to keep up with the others. She was physically fit, but not at razor’s edge like the majority of the team. Bruce was probably the only other one not more fit than she was, so naturally, she challenged him to train with her in the gym to get him out of his lab. At first, he’d balked at the idea until she noticed he was getting tension headaches and felt immediately a thousand times better after a good sparring session.
While Bruce was turning into a good buddy, Thor was the only other one that didn’t seem to dance around her, avoid her, treat her with kid gloves, or act like she had the plague. Well, Bucky wasn't too bad either but seemed to ping-pong between shy, wary, and friendly. It seemed very juvenile, how the rest of them were acting, or not acting, preferably, but there was nothing for it except endure, deflect, confront, and work through it until they got to know her, and she, them. Well, Loki was an exception. He didn’t seem to give a shit about anyone except for himself, or how something benefitted or inconvenienced him.
Hermione asked Tony if there was any work. He said everything was unusually quiet, but that they were under orders not to wander too far. Fury was paranoid the ‘other shoe’ would drop at any moment, and they’d get bombarded, so wanted the team to train and do ‘team-building’ activities, whatever that meant. So far, nothing had been sicced on the group, and she put it out of her mind.
A new training schedule rolled in just when the routine was getting stale, and Hermione was forced to trade partners. It was an excellent opportunity to assess her strengths and weaknesses against the others. Finally, she was also allowed to use her magic once they had figured out how to erect wards that didn’t fry all the equipment. Tricky, but do-able, and it earned her recognition with MACUSA and offers from back home to take up additional research, which she politely declined, happy with where she was at.
The very first person after Bruce she was pitted against was Loki. Oh, that smug, arrogant smile of his. He was obviously used to intimidating those who didn’t know him. Still, he didn’t know her very well yet, or she, him, and they would both be unwise to underestimate the other. Unsure of where to start, Loki sauntered in twenty minutes late, trying to spook her during her warm-ups, but she merely turned and kept on, saying, “You ready?”
“Eloquent, as all Midgardians, I see,” he sneered, losing his expression when she turned her back to him again and began another set of warm-ups, ass pointed towards him. Up and down, up and down she went, his eyes following, tilting his head sideways.
“When you’re done staring at my ass-ets, can we get going? I’ve got other plans today besides kicking your ass.”
“You wish, mortal.”
“Are you going to do anything constructive or just run your mouth?”
Oooh, this one had claws. He rather liked that. Well then. Stripping to a tight black t-shirt and loose jogging pants, going barefoot as she was, he shook out his limbs, rolled his neck from side to side, and cracked his back.
“Let’s ‘do this,’ shall we?” he beckoned as she turned around, motioning to her with a ‘come and get it.’
Hermione whipped out her wand, stunned him, and blew him into the opposite wall. She blew on the tip of her wand like it was a smoking gun, waiting for him to extricate himself from the crumbling mess. “Tony isn’t going to like that!” she called out. “Probably take it out of your pay!”
“You will PAY DEARLY for that, wench!” he growled across at her, shaking the dust from his black attire. With a flash of his hand, his Seidr went into high gear, and there were suddenly multiple copies of him running right at her.
Hermione cast a room-wide stunning spell that had him slamming back into the wall again, this time on the opposite end. “I’m waiting!” she yelled. Folding her arms, she yawned, letting her wand dangle from her fingertips, waiting for him to catch up to her, knowing he was going to reveal a trick or two in three, two, one…
Loki APPEARED to be still walking toward her, when very strong, whipcord-thin arms flung themselves around her middle, effectively immobilizing her when one large hand clamped both of her arms together with ease, and the other one stuffed something into her mouth mid-yawn, so she couldn’t speak.
Hermione was impressed. She had figured Loki was no slouch but wanted to get the full measure of what he could do, knowing he would hold back if she didn’t give him some incentive, due to Thor’s nagging that they could seriously hurt someone if the brothers weren’t careful.
A little thrill ran through her as Loki’s sinfully masculine voice stroked her eardrum. “What’s the matter, darling, cat got your tongue? Not so cheeky now, are we?”
He shook her arms, hard, making her wince from the strength he engaged, and she was forced to drop her wand. The duplicate Loki caught up to them, raised its hand, and stroked down her temple, over her cheek and around to her chin as if inspecting her.
“You weren’t expecting that, were you, little kitten?” he hissed, then licked the shell of her ear.
Okay, that was a little too close for comfort. Instead of kicking out or struggling, she closed her eyes and ground back into his groin, making him groan. The duplicate Loki vanished as his concentration wavered.
“What do you think you are doing, hmm? I don’t think your archer boyfriend will react well when I inform him of your wanton flirting during a training exercise.”
Nevertheless, Loki took advantage and ground into her backside, although no arousal was evident - yet.
“Oh yes, if you want to dance with a God, let me instruct you how to do so properly, you luscious little tart.”
And then, Hermione was gone.
Loki blinked as his arms slammed back into his chest the instant she disappeared from his grasp. He whirled around to strike and found the tip of her wand pressed into his jugular.
“If you want to dance with a mortal, you need more practice, my LORD,” she teased, then lowered the tip of her wand and bowed to him slightly.
Bringing his hands up into a slow clap, he stalked forward until he was in her personal space, towering over her. To his irritation, the intimidation tactic didn’t work. “How did you get away from me without your little stick?” he asked in a low voice.
“That’s for me to know, and you to never find out,” she grinned, then dared to turn her back to him and walk out of the gym. “Come up with some better moves next time! I want an actual challenge!”
Loki narrowed his eyes. Oooh, she’d just upped the stakes significantly. No one one-upped Loki Odinson and got off scot-free. Oh no. Especially not an upstart Midgardian witch. Archer boyfriend or no, he would make sure she paid in spades at their next training session.
Disappearing, he portaled back to his quarters to contemplate the tricky little thing that had outsmarted him.
Hermione showered and changed, feeling spunky after her little victory over the God of Mischief. She wasn’t so foolish as to believe he wouldn’t pay her back somehow, but it kept things interesting. If he’d wanted to, Loki could have already hurt or killed her, of that she was sure. He was one of the more interesting characters around here. He wasn’t afraid of her, not that any of them were, but he didn’t hide and also didn’t make any overt attempts to get to know her better, either. Loki wasn’t a gossip, as much as he threatened to tell Clint. If he did, it would spoil their little game they’d started.
Wandering into the main kitchen area, she dug around in the fridge and frowned. Noise was coming from the common area, so she walked over to see who all was over there and put her hands on her hips. “Really, guys? I bought that to make dinner and dessert, not for you to chow on as a snack. I guess you’ll have to find your own food then for later.”
Thor, Steve, and Bucky gave each other ‘the look,’ slowly putting the food down, but she just waved them away. “No. Go ahead, I don’t mind, really. Just, next time you see something marked ‘off limits,’ maybe respect that?”
Having permission to resume chowing, Thor picked up the pre-cooked chicken and saluted her with it. “Thank you, my Lady! You are most generous!”
“Yeah, I guess so. I think we need to up the grocery order, though. Or I need to get a mini-fridge for my quarters. I’m sensing a pattern with you guys that nothing is sacred when it comes to food and a common kitchen."
“Hey, we were hungry, can you blame us?” Bucky asked her around a mouthful of taco shells and cold pre-cooked hamburger.
“You remind me of my ex-boyfriend,” she told him, placing her backside on the very end of the couch next to Steve.
“Really? Uh, thanks!” he responded, and she smiled sweetly. “That wasn’t a compliment.”
Steve laughed and slapped Bucky on the back, practically making him choke. “You walked right into that one, Buck,” he teased.
Thor leaned over and offered her the bowl of cold chicken slices, and she just raised her hand. “No, thanks. You need it more than I do.”
“Again, you are most generous.”
“I know. And you love me for it.”
“I do!” Thor boomed, merry as ever. He picked up the remote and changed it to a wrestling program from the football game that had been on.
“Aw, man, come on!” Bucky complained, trying to snatch the remote from Thor, who held it above his head, waving it around out of his reach.
“I tire of grown men throwing a ball across a field and tackling one another over it. Now, this is a real sport. A bit on the weak side, but with the basic principals we employ on Asgard with full bodily contact sport.”
Hermione glanced at the TV, incredulous Thor was referring to professional wrestlers as ‘weak.’
Apparently, Steve had the same thought because he voiced it just before she could comment. “You think those guys are weak? Look at’em! Sure, they aren’t as strong as you, but they are far from weak!” Munching on graham crackers and pudding, he glanced guiltily up at Hermione, who only upped the corners of her lips in a small smile and shook her head, indicating she really was fine with it. His attention returned to the God of Thunder as the man sand the praises of his own prowess.
“I could easily beat any of them in combat,” Thor boasted, and Hermione could tell he was trying to wind Steve up, finally giving up the remote to Bucky, who promptly switched it back to the football game.
“I’d wager you could not best me in a wrestling match, friend,” the blond God goaded, and Hermione was amused when Steve tensed.
“Is that a challenge?”
“If you wish it. But if you are afraid you will lose…”
“You’re on Muscles. Tomorrow, training room, you and me. Count of three pinned down, winner. We’ll settle this once and for all.”
“You honor me. I accept your challenge.”
Thor reached over, and they shook on it. Hermione rolled her eyes. “Men,” she muttered.
“Are you leaving already?” Thor boomed after her, and she nodded. “I’m allergic to this much testosterone. It makes me gag.”
“Well, excuse us for setting up a little competition, miss High-and-Mighty,” Steve slipped out and growled when Bucky elbowed him hard in the side. “Hey!”
“Don’t talk to her like that, punk!” Bucky hissed.
Intrigued, Hermione hung out in the doorway to hear it play out, Thor’s eye waffling between the two friends and Hermione.
“I’ll talk to her; however, I won't trust her. She shouldn’t even be here. Don’t you see how she’s screwing with Clint? I watched her training with Loki awhile ago, and she cheated, rubbing her ass up against the guy. There’s something not right about her, and I’m going to find out what.”
Hermione took that as her cue to make him even more uncomfortable. “When you find out what it is, let me know! I’ll talk to my therapist about it!”
Steve tensed again and muttered, “Shit. I thought she was gone.”
“She is now! Bye, Bucky, bye, Thor! Good riddance, Steve!”
Bucky just shook his head at Steve. “I don’t know what your problem is. She’s a sweet kid, and Clint’s in love with her. Leave’em be, will ya?”
“She’s got an angle, I’m telling you,” he responded but grew silent when Thor stood up and stared down at him with anger rolling in those blue eyes.
“I do not appreciate how you speak of the Lady. I’ve seen nothing untoward with her, and she has been on assignment with Natasha. No reports have been filed of misconduct. You best watch your words, lest you eat them.”
Thor left the room, slamming the door on the way out so hard it fell off its hinges, and he just left it there.
“I’m not hungry anymore. Get a grip. Don’t make an enemy of her. The team doesn’t need it.”
“The team doesn’t need HER!” Steve tried to reason, but Bucky abandoned Steve as well, disgusted with the turn of events.
Blowing out a hard sigh, Steve gathered all of the leftover food in front of him and settled back to watch the rest of the game, pleased to have all of the food to himself. It made an excellent before-dinner snack.
Chapter 5: Tea with Thor
Hermione pursues a thoughtful, enlightening and not entirely pleasant discussion with Thor. And Tea. The God of Thunder makes excellent tea.
This will be my last update before my daughter's surgery next Friday. I already have the next chapter outlined, and I will probably end this part there and make it into a series. I've got most of the next part outlined already and some of it written. I just need to tweak it for some changes I've made to the course of the plot. Any suggestions on what to call the series? I can then link the works together so they're easier to find.
Sparring between Thor and Bucky the next day was quite entertaining if a bit bloody and brutal. Neither enhanced man nor God pulled punches. Although Bucky came away worse for wear, his aggression had been momentarily sated. Thor looked pleased as punch, waving off attempts at help as he strolled back to his quarters, swinging his hammer around.
Opening the door to his living space, he hesitated, not looking back. “Do you wish to speak with me, my Lady? I wish to cleanse my body of combat first if you do not mind waiting.”
“I don’t mind,” Hermione agreed pleasantly, following on his heels and settling herself into his massive couch and taking in her surroundings. Fiddling with her wand, she waited until he emerged, clean and dressed, admiring his muscular physique before focusing on the topic at hand when he gave her an expectant look, toweling off his hair.
“What do some of the others have a problem with? Is it me personally? Is it Clint? Or just the fact that we’re together, and I’m a newer team member?”
Without answering, Thor gave her a side glance and went into his kitchen area. “Tea?” he offered, and she accepted with grace, patient enough for him to let his thoughts simmer with the water.
At last, he joined her, and she could see why the couch was built so sturdily. If it had been ordinary furniture, it definitely would have had its limits tested, although the tower’s common room furniture didn’t seem to suffer too much. But then, Tony sprung for only the best, she mused.
After fixing their tea and sipping quietly, he turned towards her slightly. “I did not take you for one to avoid a direct consultation with those that aggrieve you,” he stated calmly.
She nodded once, setting her cup down on the table in front of them. “Normally, I go straight to the source. Except the source is coming from multiple directions, and I’m having a hard time keeping up with the relationships between those in the group. Some avoid me, others won’t answer my simple questions, and the most I get out of even those I’m familiar with, such as you, don’t give me more than everyday, light-hearted topics to discuss such as the weather or duty. Why is that?”
Thor rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “’ Tis true, I suppose. I hadn’t thought of my approach in such a manner. You speak fairly. In answer to your question, it is complicated.”
“I figured as much, and I don’t expect you to know all of the answers. But I would like a few. What we speak of in here will be kept in the strictest confidence.”
“You sound as the Midgardian counselors do.”
She smirked a little back at him, picking up her cup again. “I’m pretty well-rounded.” At his confused look, she clarified, “It means I’ve had a bit of training or study in nearly every discipline. If you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit of a bibliophile.”
“Ah, yes, as is my brother. I often see you or him wandering the halls or basking in the commons with your nose in some fairly weighty tomes.”
“Right. So, just start at the beginning. The people most suspicious of me seem to be Captain Rogers and Agent Romanoff. I kind of get why Natasha is suspicious, being a former spy and assassin, and a very close partner to Clint. But Steve? He’s an enigma. I don’t think I’ve given him any reason to hate me.”
“He does not hate you,” Thor quickly clarified, draining his cup and staring into space. “He is reticent to trust after doing so blindly when we've welcomed new, untried team members into the fold."
"But I'm not untried, green, as it were. I have loads of experience under my belt, and what I lack in, I'm getting the training for. Hell, I'm even pursuing more than what's required of me. What more do they want?"
Thor looked thoughtful, continuing his line of thought. "Trusting blindly has almost cost the team our lives, the trust of one another, or simply hurt one another to the extent it’s broken up the Avengers on more than one occasion. What we have here is built on a foundation of such pain, comrades in arms battling, sometimes to the death, next to one another in glorious combat. We’ve been taken to task by Midgard’s world leaders. Led astray more times than I care to count. At any time, Loki or I may be called back to Asgard. Peace in the Nine has always been tenuous at best. Perhaps he dares not extend you the courtesy of trust until you have earned it. As to what more of you they wish to see, or expect? I know not.”
“He’s looking for me to prove myself, is that it?”
“Maybe it was a bit naïve of me to accept this position and assume I’d just be welcomed into the fold. I mean, it makes sense. Sometimes I can’t see what’s right in front of me because I get so caught up in more cerebral pursuits.”
Thor put a big hand on her forearm and smiled. “Aye, but that is what friends are for, are they not? To help one distinguish, what is it, you say? To see the forest for the trees?”
She put her opposite hand on top of his and smiled back. “Are we friends?”
“Aye,” he confirmed once more, withdrawing from her to stand and take their empty cups to set in the sink.
“You make a wonderful cuppa, Thor. Thank you. I might have to come by more often and take advantage of your mad tea-making skills.”
“You are most welcome anytime to visit. It can be rather lonely, at times. We all are pre-occupied, as of late, one of which the topics are you and friend Clint.” He stood at the sink, head down, avoiding looking at her. Hermione figured it was easier for him to say what needed to be said without looking her in the eye at that moment, so she afforded him that.
“I would be lying if I told you that I do not have misgivings about inter-personal relationships of a carnal or romantic nature in our place of work when they are pursued between team members. Such liaisons rarely end well for either party. Yet our ability to form bonds outside of a strict and demanding work environment is such that we are unable or highly unlikely to do so anywhere other than where we reside. It is a puzzle; a job hazard, if you will.”
Hermione leaned against the island counter and hummed her agreement. “I truly don’t want to be the cause of discord amongst the team. Really, I don’t.”
“You are not.”
“You just said so yourself that I am a source of trouble between the team, big guy,” she teased gently, and he turned, looking at her seriously but smiling, leaning on his large forearms on the opposite side of the counter from her.
“I suppose I have. Do not feel you must change who you are for the sake of other’s misgivings.”
“Is my relationship with Clint the only thing the team is worried about?”
Thor’s eyes darkened just a bit, and his lips pursed slightly.
Hermione just nodded. “I guessed as much.”
“But I’ve told you nothing!” he protested, eyes going wide.
“I’ve experienced this my entire life. A magic-user doesn’t need anyone else to tell them when they are feared, misunderstood, or at the very least, not trusted. It’s normal not to trust what you don’t understand. After a while, people get pretty easy to read. Call it a sixth sense, but using magic so often hones all of the senses. One can't help but notice when the 'vibe' between themselves and another person is off. Nine times out of ten, if the other party is unfamiliar with magic and knows that you wield it, that's where the uncomfortable dynamic comes from. People just don't trust me.” She shrugged as if it didn't bother her, although clearly, it did.
“I trust you!” Thor protested. Softening the boom in his voice, he amended, "I do trust you. Loki has expressed much the same perspective you've put forth, although not as plainly put. I often thought he complained to hear his own voice, that he was reading intentions and attitudes that were not there. I regret that I ignored, even vexed him with taunting words, such that he's turned from me to the point he no longer sought me out on matters of a personal nature. Especially those involving anything non-physical."
She reached across the island. She tangled her fingers in his, letting him idly examine the delicacy of her bone structure. “I believe you when you say you trust me. I trust you, and each and every one of the Avengers.”
“You honor us with unwavering, stout faith, my Lady.”
“It’s more than that. Far more. If we can’t trust one another, there’s no point in being a team. You said it yourself; any rift in the team could bring it down. It seems as if I’m the weakest link.”
“You are not!” Thor contended once more, imploring her with both hands now wrapped around her petite one. “Do not say such things!”
Gently pulling away from him and standing up, wrapping both arms around her middle, she stared at him but not really seeing. “I came here to ask you for the truth. You’ve provided that brilliantly.”
“No. No! I will not allow you to leave the team because of some personal problems the others have with your abilities!”
“I don’t plan on leaving the team. But I need to speak to Tony. When I worked directly for SHIELD, my magic abilities were a boon to them, but then, they had my entire file. Perhaps I need to petition the higher-ups to reveal all of it to all of you, so a fair judgment of my character and ability to fit in can be made. Right now, all they see is someone that is keeping secrets. It wasn’t my decision to keep my file sealed, and I’m not exactly forbidden to tell anyone about the contents. I’ve always – um – just naturally been a bit secretive due to events in my past.”
Thor sidled around the island and opened his arms. “Come here, little one. Partake in comfort as a brother would offer to his sister warrior-in-arms.”
Feeling a bit bereft and alone, she took him up on his offer, ridiculously short next to his colossal stature but feeling relieved when he pulled her into his side. Her nose buried itself into his shirt, and she allowed one arm to unfold and hug him back around his middle. They stood in a side-arm hug for a few moments before parting.
“Thank you. I needed that, I think. Clint and I – well, we didn’t exactly part on the best of terms. I’m starting to think what you've told me people are thinking is right. We started our relationship based on sex, which I admit isn’t the wisest way to go about starting out with someone. But we clicked. We really did, and I felt like it was enough.”
“Now, you are allowing others to color your perspective.”
Looking up at him, she searched his face, genuinely concerned. “Isn’t that just it, though? In the heat of a new relationship, you look at the world with rose-colored glasses.” Correcting herself hurriedly at another slight frown, she amended, “What I mean to say is everything is new, and it seems as if nothing is wrong. You overlook all of one another’s flaws. It’s not until everything settles down that you start noticing your partner picks their nose, leaves their wet towel on the bathroom floor, or steals the covers at night. But for those that are outside of your relationship that know your partner better than you do, well, they don’t see things that way, do they? Maybe what they’re seeing is a truer representation than what I’m seeing. I need to think about this is all.”
“You will break friend Clint’s heart if you end things with him.”
“I have no intention of breaking up with Clint!” she retorted indignantly, pushing his shoulder without much effect. What saddened her, though, was that Thor looked genuinely relieved, revealing he believed she actually would have done something like that over mere speculation.
“Your other idea bears merit. It should not be so, but if you were to reveal your past, it would go a very long way in securing the bonds that need forging between you and the team.”
“Or it could drive an even bigger wedge into the rift between them and I.”
“Is your past so terrible?” he asked, motioning for her to sit again, which she did, this time in a chair opposite the couch, also massive. She looked like a doll sitting in it, perched on the edge.
“Some of it. I’ve killed people.”
“We have all killed people.”
“True,” she mused. “Magic isn’t something the general population understands. Some people look at it like a genie. In stories –“
“I am aware of the conceptual stories of the genie in the lamp. The Captain has been most helpful in helping me catch up on Midgardian folklore and ‘pop culture'.”
She smiled at him. It was weird hearing the God of Thunder say ‘pop culture'. “Alright. Well, my magic is obviously different than Loki’s.”
He nodded. “No one’s magic is quite like another’s.”
“Yes. You understand, good. Well. Other people are just afraid of it, and they don’t trust it. Magic has the potential to be good or bad; the intent of a spell or action the defining purpose. Where someone is more likely to trust an attractive, smiling face telling them what they want to hear, you don’t get an advantage when using magic. In the magical world, it’s just accepted, like eating and sleeping and breathing. But the concept in the Muggle world, as we call non-magical folk, is so foreign and blown out of proportion by our media, it’s not one they can get behind very easily. We are automatically villains with evil intent. Guilty until proven innocent, unless it benefits the public in an incredibly tangible manner. Even then, the coverage of using magic isn't often flattering.”
“Another excellent observation. My brother Loki is called 'Silver Tongue.' He's bewitched many a maiden into his bed and has been sent as the mouthpiece of Odin on minor diplomatic missions. He wears many masks, one of which he puts forth as being the polished, genteel statesman. Others much older than he, with more experience, should lead such missions, but Loki's charm wins far greater benefits with most dignitaries and foreign governments than the plain-looking, dull old advisors."
On Asgard, magic isn’t taken for granted, but it is a normal part of life. Much of our culture relies on such to keep up day to day operations of the kingdom, and the Realms eternal. It did not occur to me how much I, myself, took for granted until I’ve come to live here. For a while now, I’ve seen how others have treated Loki. I’ve thought it was not only for past actions he’s taken but atoned for but also because of his title, the God of Mischief and Lies. You’ve brought me an additional perspective to reflect upon.”
“My files will explain a lot, and I hope they help. Unless and until there’s an attitude shift in general, at least within the Avengers, towards the use of magic, then a true partnership can’t be reached. Loki is much more powerful than I am, but again, our powers are different. He can withstand a great deal of pain and injury, healing quickly. Despite being a powerful magic wielder, I’m still just a human, with the same frailties we all have. That’s why I’ve been training so much.”
“Surely they cannot expect you to attain the level of skill the others have had years to hone! It’s simply not done!”
“I’ve had my use of magic constantly challenged since I set foot in here the day Tony hired me. I don’t need my wand to conduct magic, but that’s not a fact I like to advertise if you don’t mind,” she cautioned, accepting his solemn nod. “All the same, I leave my wand behind or in my workout bag with it unzipped so I can summon it in an emergency. It’s seen as a crutch, an aid, and their fear is legitimate that I’m not very strong without it. Although I work constantly to strengthen my wandless and non-verbal magical ability, in truth only decades of discipline can attain the same level of skill one has with a wand unless they have a natural affinity for it. Training in physical modalities such as strength, weapons, stealth, and so much more, is adding a valuable skill set to round out my abilities, and I’m grateful for the Avenger's efforts, even if they are hard on me. I'd rather they didn't pull their punches.”
“They are much too hard on you. It is not right.”
“Because I’m a woman?” she challenged, bristling a bit.
“Not at all. There are women warriors on Asgard. The Lady Sif fought from commoner to great warrior all of her own mettle. She earned the respect of others through blood and sweat and tears. One starting out training should not be so harshly treated. This is not a competition of perfection, and their treatment of you does not broker the trust they seek.”
“They’re not looking for me to trust them, they’re looking for a way to validate their mistrust in my abilities. Being with Clint just seems like an additional reason for them to cling to their lack of trust like I have some ulterior motive.”
“Do I what?” she asked, confused.
“Have an ulterior motive?”
Hermione just sat there, stunned, leveling Thor with an intense expression of disbelief. After all of the camaraderie he’d extended her, and the lovely tea and talk and comfort they’d shared as friends, the bottom line was he’d shown his hand; digging for information that she’d already freely given, and he’d seem to take her at her word, but now was proving otherwise.
A deep sting of mutinous anger welled up at the question when she realized he didn’t trust her either, not truly at heart, or he would not have asked the question.
Traitorous tears fell from her eyes as she stood, angrily dashing them away. “I’m not even going to dignify that with an answer. If you don’t know and believe what I’ve already told you, then nothing I say now is going to make a difference. I thought you were my friend. I’m a fool, in any world,” she snapped, turning on heel and marching out of his quarters.
“My Lady Hermione! Wait! I – what have I done? What have I said to upset you so? Please, come back so we may discuss this further!”
She turned around at the door, glaring at him so hard he stepped back a full stride, intimidated by the blaze of anger in her eyes.
“Figure it out!”
“You ARE my friend. Nothing has changed!”
“Hasn’t it? You just asked me if I had an ulterior motive for having a relationship with Clint. You may be able to fool yourself, but you’re just like the rest of them if you can ask me something like that and then wonder why I’m angry.”
“I don’t see why-“ Thor caught himself and thought, really thought as she stared a hole into him. The realization came crashing down, and his face sank into a remorseful study of angst. “No! I did not intend to-“
“Shh. It’s alright,” she told him, much more gently now that he’d caught his error. “Your response was honest. You’re one of the only people here that’s been honest with me, and I appreciate it. I guess I just thought you were different, and that I didn’t have anything to prove to you.”
“You do not! I did not mean it that way!”
“Didn’t you?” She smiled sadly, some of her anger evaporating as a melancholy resignation set in. “You are one of the most open people I know. Maybe – maybe I need to rethink my assignment. I guess I should thank you. You’ve made clear a few points I was blinder to than I thought I was, and I have been so defensive about other’s attitudes, at least in private, I never considered they were right.”
“Right about what?” Thor inquired cautiously, unwilling to misstep again.
“That I’m not to be trusted, and am a liability. I – I need to think about this. I’ll see you later at dinner, yeah?”
“You shall,” he replied, watching the witch stride down the hall to her own quarters, only closing his door when she entered her abode and shut the door firmly behind her.
Electricity started to crackle, storm clouds gathering outside. Thor knew he needed to get away from the tower to expend the pent up frustration and energy that was building to dangerous levels within him. “JARVIS. Open skylight windows and close them when I am clear. I wish to depart for a few hours.”
“Skylight windows opening.”
Calling Moljnir, he set his teeth in a snarl and whirled it around, taking off through the skylight in the side of the building put in just for that purpose, streaking away as the storm clouds followed him. Once over the ocean, he quickly scanned the area for ships or planes. Finding none, he let loose with a mighty roar, letting electricity stream from him in every direction, lighting up the sky in a brilliant display of power.
He raged for well over an hour. Finally, he was spent, then allowed himself to travel to an uninhabited part of the shore, dropping his hammer to the beach, sitting next to it cross-legged. He lowered his head into his hands, letting the lapping waves on the shore calm him, even though the storm in his heart still brewed, his mind troubled and spirit restless. He must make amends with the Lady. He MUST.
Finally, the God of Thunder headed home, skipping dinner in place of ordering food to his private quarters and avoiding all attempts by his comrades to get him to join them in the common area.
Hermione showed up at the main table, ate quietly but barely tasting anything, and distantly noted the rise in chatter when she left the table and turned the corner out of the room. With a deep sigh, she went to find Thor, and not getting an answer, returned to her own quarters.
Tony watched her come and go with troubled eyes and cast them down at his plate. He knew something was wrong but didn’t know what to do about it. His track record with women wasn’t the best, and he figured she’d come around, or come to him if she needed anything.
Clint’s texts went unanswered as Hermione soaked in the bath and let the tears fall. Would she ever fit in anywhere?
A/N I am experimenting with a technique new to me called storyboarding. I am using it with all of my current posted WIP's, to enhance the quality of storyline, detail and intrigue, and to avoid plot holes, etc. Thank you for reading, and your patience while I'm updating.
Gentle reminder my child is having surgery and I am hosting Christmas, so updates may be slow through the end of December.