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the horse in my dreams

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“You have 2 new messages!”

Darcy tried really hard not to lunge at her phone; Jane was still there after all.

But she had messages, two new messages.

She looked at the clock surreptitiously, 2.45pm. She deflated immediately. Of course it was just Nene and Bells’ updates. Meh.

Every day since the dawn of time Bells would wake up, bat her cute blonde eyelashes and rise with her golden wings. The sun would rise and Nene would lower the moon and… possibly get into bed? She had never asked what they did after that. It wasn’t even a difficult job, they just needed to give the things a light push. The sun and moon were as self sufficient as her dawn.

She reached for her phone slowly, tapped in the pin and slammed her thumb on the ‘Gate’ app with more force than necessary.

It was a simple app, with just a big red button in the center, and it was exactly that.

Like the useless box, Gate consisted of a button that was created to be pressed at will without any real use. Unless you were Darcy, of course.

She counted the minutes slowly, and as soon as the display signaled the go ahead, swished her thumb again on the red button. A question popped up immediately. Would you like to proceed?

Well, yes, or Bells will destroy me… she sighed. Confirm.

“Dawn successful.”

Yay… job done. Was she supposed to feel proud? Like, yay, you pressed the correct button, dawn is coming and humanity will not suddenly wonder why the sun is up at night?

Three more messages had come her way checking if everything was okay.

Darcy huffed.

‘No one panic, all is okay!’ and then she felt guilty, because she wasn’t any more patient than they were. So she added a quick ‘how’s everyone doing?’

The first replies came from the family gods, followed by a slew of ‘I’m okay, how are you?’ from all the minor critters. The big Kahunas didn’t peep at all, but they were always busy (case in point, she didn’t remember the last time they met all together?) . Sometimes she wondered what it was like, always being needed and wanted.

Oh, Darcy did have her glory days, back when there were no cars and the only way to move were horses. Ah, the glory of being the goddess of horses during the past five thousand years.

Those times were over, though, and horses were nothing more than a luxury now. She still had to oversee them once in awhile, but now her duties were exclusively composed of ‘making dawn happen’ and ‘protect the heroes’.

And because never let it be said that the Zorya of protection didn’t know how to do her job, she’d planted herself right smack in the middle of it all, at Avengersland.

Okay, it had been completely accidental, but come on! No one should question her methods, seriously.

Avengers Tower was the best place. She’d lived all over the world and in every kind of abode , but this really really took the cake. Well, live was a big word, she mostly crashed into Jane’s apartment. She had her own flat, far from JARVIS and Tony’s prying eyes, but still. Jane wasn’t complaining about her company and she got to cook for everyone in the mornings and have the best view of the city.  

“Darcy?” Jane’s voice roused her from her thoughts. “Have you seen Jacob the spectrometer?”

“...You killed Jacob two days ago, Janey. Cannibalized to build Jack, the new and improved version.”

“Oh.” Jane blinked. “And where is Jack?”

“I’ll go fetch it for you.” Darcy huffed. She needed to text a bit more anyways.


 

‘I need you to step in the Red Zone a bit tonight.’

Darcy gaped.

Reread the message.

Nope, it was still the same.

Her jaw clenched a bit and she clicked her tongue twice.

Had she been in a less public place, she’d have screamed. But she wasn’t. So she waited the end of the day with the same grimace painted on her face.

The moment the door of her apartment closed behind her, however, she wasted no time pressing the ‘recall’ button.

“Hello, you have reached Shira’s voicemail, please leave-”

“Don’t you even dare, you sugary porcupine!” She threatened slowly.

“a message after the beep.”

How dare she!

Darcy hung up and took a big breath. This was not the moment to freak out.

It wasn’t the first time the goddess of immortality, the pink confetti porcupine (who would forever be called ‘slave driver’!), sprung a sudden switch of shifts on her, but this was taking it a bit too far.

One, the Red Zone was in Europe, and she was totally not.
Two, it was already night in Europe!

What was she thinking? There was no way she could be in Europe in two seconds without borrowing some serious wind power-up, and she owed the Buyany one favour too many.

No, going in person to patrol the areas between Russia and Austria was not an option.

The only option left was… No. Nope, no.

They had apps now for this, no regalia was necessary to do their job. Heck, she’d dumped the giant shield and double-bed-sized cloak the moment Toth developed the Gate.

As if summoned, the Shield vibrated from its hiding spot in the sealed trunk under her floorboards, making the flat shudder a bit. The neighbours woke up with a gasp, wondering about earthquakes.

Darcy was too classy a god to giggle. Nah, who was she kidding?

But the problem wasn’t solving itself. And the more she waited, the longer the Red Zone would be left unchecked, and this wasn’t ideal.

She checked her phone. Nope, Gate was closed until 2 pm for her. Rude.

She groaned. She’d have to do it ‘old school’.


 

List lied.

They all did.

All these people with their ugly minds and their disgusting paws and their beady eyes.

Wanda was done with them.

She put her hands on the wall that she shared with her brother’s prison and pressed her face into it. They didn’t let them talk to each other, they couldn’t even see each other.

But these mad men watched. They saw everything.

Pietro and Wanda’s rooms were glass cubes for Hydra, the only walls separating them from each other and from the outside. She supposed she was lucky. Her room had a tiny bolt hole that made it possible to look outside. It almost made up for the lack of toilet or privacy.

...Who was she kidding.

She was seventeen, and these soldiers and scientists had seen her in various states of undress, they’d stared at her as she ate, probably ogled her while she slept.

She fought a wave of nausea.

Suddenly the little window at the top of her cell seemed the only good thing of this place of torture.

Liberation Front for Sokovia my ass, she despaired.

She and Pietro had thought this was the answer. They were finally doing something for their country, this was what their parents would have wanted.

But it wasn’t true.

They’d been played like the kids they were and now it was just them out of over 200 candidates for the List procedure, the remaining 198 killed by the Sceptre.

The Sceptre. She shivered.

It had shown her everything, a new life and a purpose. It had given her powers.

But it probably didn’t intend to give her such a power, because she could see and feel its machinations behind the kind words, and after a while she stopped responding to them.

She didn’t show it, lest they start torturing her again, but she was free.

And she was going to free her brother too.

Wanda watched with trepidation as the last of her handlers fell asleep. They usually did that. Sleep and presumably wake up when she was asleep. They never bothered with security cameras either, since the whole cage was all glass panels and there was nowhere they could hide.

No matter, tonight, she was going to peek from the window and plan her escape.

Only, there was no light outside, no moon to show her the way, and her cubicle was so bright the contrast didn’t really allow for any kind of visual.

She cursed in Sokovian and refrained from spitting on the floor.

It was then that she saw it.

A magnificent, shining horse, as big as the mountains surrounding her beautiful Sokovia, trotting slowly across the forest with his huge legs. He was made of smoke, or wisps of light, she didn’t know, but he was silent as a grave and his hooves didn’t make the ground tremble after him.
Maybe she was dreaming, after all.

But it didn’t look like a dream. It didn’t feel like one.

And before she knew it , the horse became rosy and red and golden, reached the horizon line, and it was dawning already.

She lowered herself to her cot, pleased that no one had noticed, and contemplated the exceptional event.

There was only so much her brain could have made up. If, and it was a big if, she wasn’t dreaming, if this was real and the horse had been real too, there was only one explanation that made sense.

It was a very shaken Wanda Maximoff that, for the first time in years, curled into a corner and prayed.


 

Thousands of miles afar, Gate was opened again.


 

“You have one message.”

Huh.

That was weird. Like, really weird.

Darcy glanced at her clock, it was still obscenely early for Nene to start bitching at her, he should be recharging the moon in… five hours? Six, maybe? She was totally not responsible this time: dawn was not happening for another good fifteen hours.

It wasn’t Nene, or Bells. It so wasn’t.
Darcy almost dropped from the chair she was sitting on, attracting Jane and Natasha’s attention.

“Is everything alright?” Natasha asked, sipping at her drink with an elegance one wouldn’t give to a Russian with vodka.

Evening drinks between girls were the shit, seriously, and Jane was a STEM major, she had the best friends and the best recipes when it came to experimental alcohol.

“Yeah, yeah.” Darcy laughed nervously. “It’s just… Nothing, nothing!”

Natasha looked at her curiously for a moment longer, but then went back to talking with Pepper about Tony and apparently, that was that (she didn’t believe that for a second, Nat had a perfect track record at being inconspicuous. She’d have to warn the dreams god, just in case).

But this… this hadn’t happened to her since, well, at least since cars were invented, maybe even earlier!

Someone had prayed. Like this was an honest to ...could she even say ‘honest to God’? well, anyway, this was an official request, a 100% legit message. For her!

She could think of nothing else all night long, and it came almost as a relief when everyone bade each other good night and they all went their separate ways (‘I’m taking a cab, Nat, I am not going home alone, promise!’...As if).

She swiped her hand over the Gate, excited for the first time to open the dreaded app. Of course, the excitement lasted for all of three seconds. She had expected a prayer for a horse, maaaaybe a thank you for the most beautiful dawn of all times, but her stomach bottomed out in panic when she read the three words.

‘Please, save us.’

It was signed as ‘Wanda Maximoff, 17’ and followed by an information overload about her whereabouts and past. Toth had done his job alright with this app, she hardly had to do anything at all to find the believer.

Darcy’s heart broke at the story behind the girl… Young woman, she amended. One doesn’t suffer this much without becoming a woman, and she wished she could solve all of her problems with a simple waving of her hand. She couldn’t.

There had been a time, when she’d been the strongest of protectors, when she could have wielded her Shield and instilled terror on the assailants of the poor and weak, when she could have taken her Cloak and protected everyone. These times were long over. No one asked for this kind of help anymore, no one fed her with power to do it.

But the idea of leaving this girl, who had probably swallowed more pride than she was allowed to, and that was probably scared witless with no hope to escape, to die cold and alone made tears spring to her eyes (and she was not a pretty crier, despite what the bards had said about her and morning dew… yeah nope).

Her Shield rattled from under her floor. The lamps flickered.

No, she couldn’t abandon Wanda and pretend nothing had happened. “I… suppose I could ask Nene for help… He’s bound to owe me one in the next few centuries.”

With a nod she moved her bed and the wooden planks that separated her from her trunk.
The Shield was too impatient, however, and with one last rattle, ecstatic to be so close to its master, broke free of the containment measures put upon it and rolled at her feet.

She huffed and stroked it affectionately. It hummed a bit, as if purring.

“You impatient little thing”, she scolded him playfully. “Looks like we’re going into battle once again.”

“Oh? Are you?”

Crap.

“Ah!” She jumped at the sound and scrambled on her feet.

“So,” Clint started out from the window he was perched on, “Nat tells me to check on you because you might have gotten in some trouble and here you are, with a ...is that a Shield at your feet?”

“...If I told you nothing is happening and that even if I don’t come back by tomorrow everything is cool as cucumber, would you believe me and report these exact words to Nat?” His eyebrows reached the hairline of his incredulous face. “Yeah, didn’t think so.” She gestured vaguely at the bed, “Come in, it’s already a mess without you falling from the windowsill.”

Clint pouted. “There’s the fire escape under the window, I’m fine.”

“Right.” She deadpanned. “We’ll just say the last four times were all calculated.”

His pout cleared and he shrugged, but he still entered her room and sat on the bed.

They looked at each other in silence for a few minutes.

And a few minutes was already too much time she was losing there.

“Look.” She started awkwardly, “if you’re done staring, I really need to get goin g. I’ve got an appointment to sell m y soul, yeah?”

That shocked him into moving again. “Sell your soul? To who?”

“Nene.” She replied absentmindedly. The trunk was still unlocked under the floor, so she reached forward and physically dove into it to look for her Cloak.

“Who’s Nenay?”

Darcy’s head poked from the lid of the trunk. “Nene.” She repeated, louder. “He’s the god of the moon.”

Clint blinked.“...Okay. Why are you selling your soul to the god of the moon?”

Darcy huffed, closed the trunk with a snap (no trace of her Cloak, go figure, prissy thing) and looked at him, then made a ‘ta-da’ gesture with her fingers. “I don’t… think I’m going to sell my soul, like, whole soul, but man I’m going to owe him after tonight.” She looked meaningfully at the trunk. “If I manage to leave somewhere in the next century.”

“Why are you selling your soul?” He looked serious now. Whole body forcefully relaxed and eyes fully focused on her.

“...Fine.” She sighed and ruffled her hair. “I received the first real prayer since… I don’t know, maybe 1760? Ish? Later? I can’t remember, but I didn’t have believers at all and this girl needs my help and I need to reach the other side of the world tonight and unless I sell my firstborn to Nene there’s no way I’ll be able to penetrate an enemy base and leave with two mortals.”

“You’re a god.” He was… very cool about it, considering the last ‘god’ he’d met was an Alien prince that wanted to kill mankind.
She nodded. “I... I’m just trying to do my job. I need to do my job. And that girl needs me.”

He mulled it over a bit, and then clapped his hands. The bed bounced with his sudden movement. “Okay, where are we going?”


 

Reasoning with Clint about party members’ veto was like championing to discuss reason with a goldfish. Useless and counterproductive.

“You’re not going” turned into “You’re not going alone” and then “Oh my God okay you’re coming but only because Nat is coming too” and again “Fine, but there will be no blowing up stuff.”

He wasn’t extremely cooperative on that point, either.

In the end, Darcy was persuaded that waiting another day would not kill the poor girl (she had received another two messages from Wanda in the last three hours, so far the situation hadn’t changed… much) and that Natasha’s expertise with Hydra (who was not dead, apparently!) and the Red Zone would be invaluable while planning a rescue.

Rogers and Tony were away from the base and it was best not to bother them, Thor was who knew where and Bruce was best left in the Tower in case they needed a ‘doctor’ of the Avengers variety upon their return.

Natasha was supremely unconcerned with Darcy’s weird request, like being asked to reach a country to storm a base where children were tortured was hardly a Wednesday activity. Considering who the woman was, she was probably right.

They hit the first snag when Clin t said the words ‘stealing a jet’ all in th e same sentence.

“We’re not stealing a j et,” Darcy said with finality.

The two spies looked at her sideways. “Darcy,” Natasha started slowly, “if you want to keep this op under wraps, not announcing it on paper is the safest idea. We can always make up a story later.” She added reassuringly. Clint was nodding beside her.

“No no no, no one is stealing anything to get to Sokovia. We don’t need to anyways. It’s night.

Natasha looked at her with sudden understanding. Her eyes widened a fraction and flitted all around her.

“...And just how did you plan to get there?” Clint said challengingly.

“Are you an immortal?” Asked Natasha at the same time.

They looked at each other and there was some kind of silent conversation there, because Clint raised his hands and Natasha started with her questions again.

“Are you immortal?” Darcy nodded. The spy nodded back.
“Are you able to guarantee your package complete immunity?”

Darcy thought about her Shield, which was not able to withstand a bullet barrage but was very willing to try, and her Cloak which was indeed able to resist such a thing, but wasn’t willing to leave the trunk at all , and shook her head.

“Okay, we need contingencies for this.”

“Are we going to address how to get there?” Clint asked loudly.

“We’re using the horse, of course.” said Natasha immediately.

“What horse?!”


 

The horse, as Nat had playfully called it, was at least ten time s the size of a quinjet. Who was he kidding, it was probably as big as a mountain.

Wispy and evanescent, the horse of the goddess of dawn was truly a majestic thing.

Unfortunately, Clint had no idea of how to pet it… he was barely as tall as its hooves.

Darcy, or whatever she was called, he supposed, was openly laughing at his awestruck face.

“Don’t worry,” she winked. “He can shrink.” She raised a hand, and the horse became smaller. Still big, for he was as big as an elephant, but definitely more manageable than what he was before.

The horse’s intelligent eyes darted all around, looking for threats. Finding none, he started chewing on the grass (or tried, because evanescent ghost horses could not eat real world grass, apparently).  

“How is a horse of this size even going around unnoticed?”

Darcy’s smile dimmed a bit, “no one really believes in us anymore, Clint. We’re myths.”

Oh.

“...Are you going to disappear if this ‘only prayer’ dies?”

Darcy shr ugged. “Nah. The universe needs its order. You can’t kill one of us without killing everyone else in the process, and there’s always someone believing in Life or Death, if not in a superior God that is Good versus Evil. It’s an all or nothing kind of thing.” She seemed extremely dismissive of the possible disappearance of her species, but Clint supposed it was fair.

Despite believing there was no God, no one could deny that Death was very much a thing.

That’s…convenient .”

The goddess flashed him a smile and preened a bit. “We try. We did invent an app to do the job for us, after all!”

She put a hand in the horse’s mane, prompting him to turn his head, and stared into his milky white eyes. “Fly fast, my dearest, sali sali sali.”

The horse neighed loudly, and maybe it was him, but had the wind picked up?

“Come.” Darcy’s voice sounded different, and when had she mounted the horse anyway?

She extended her right hand to Nat and helped her climb up.

“Come, Clint.” She said next.

Well… he’d never been horse riding before.


 

Flying was always awesome.

Pity she couldn’t do it often, what with being very busy and all.

They were flying as fast as her horse’s magic was carrying them, invisible to anyone under the thick cover of his misty fur. They’d reach Sokovia soon enough, and hopefully before Nene and Bells had reasons to complain (‘they’re the big shots in my line of work, okay? like… ugh. Yeah, the jerks.’).

“Wasn’t the creature following the Sun supposed to be a dog?” Asked Natasha from behind her.
“Ah… maybe? Then again, I heard stories of me being married to the Sun, who is my father, and carrying his spawn .” That was the story, right?

“Isn’t it true?”

“Nope.” She popped the p. “The ‘Sun’ is a girl, she’s very much not interested into a relationship with me, she’s got a kid who I’m pretty sure is a vampire… and last I checked I didn’t have kids. I do, however, have the cutest dog called Baker!” she added.

“Huh, you kept that dog from New Mexico.” Clint mumbled from behind.

“Yeah yeah… and hey, look, we’re here!”

“We’ve barely flown for one hour!”

“...Have we? Damn, I’m going to owe the winds my firstborn.”


 

Ten minutes out, two guards in, two guards out, ten minutes...

Wanda Maximoff was going crazy.

But she couldn’t stop counting for a second, or she’d lose the all important moments once again. Every four hours and thirty two minutes, the guards would switch and make a slightly longer round  across the lab, and that was the moment she had to strike.

She pressed her hands together. If only her powers were consistent and controllable in any way.

In the cell beside her, she heard her brother scream as another bout of whatever the Sceptre had done to him attacked him.

Pietro.

She may not be the eldest, but she was done waiting for these madmen to kill them or brainwash them into compliance. She’d save her brother herself.

Seven more seconds and the shift would be over. Six… Five… Four… Three

BOOM.

Strucker’s castle shook with force and everything around her trembled.

The walls behind her creaked in agony and she gripped at the solid bars of the tiny bolt hole she’d used as a window.

The guards had all left shouting in languages she didn’t understand.

Outside of the castle, the huge horse of mist stood proudly in front of List’s and Strucker’s men, mockingly unruffled by the pellets and bullets he was being shot with.

How was it even possible that they could see him so clearly when just three days ago they hadn’t batted an eye at his passage.

The grunts of someone outside her cell had her whirl around.
She should have been running already!

But it was a Hydra henchman who was grunting in pain, as the well shaped thighs of a redhead in an expensive tac-suit choked him from behind.

A man with strong arms and a petite woman wielding a shield bigger than her followed suit.

“I said no explosions Clint, it wasn’t hard!” The tiny woman was grouching in English. Wanda’s English wasn’t great, but she could get by. These were not Hydra, she could tell.

“Who are you?” She called in accented English , her hands sparking a bit with her power. If they meant harm, she’d deal with them.

The woman’s head whirled toward her and her face transfigured into an expression of pure joy. “Wanda? Is that you?”

Wanda frowned. “You know me?”

The woman nodded fervently, so fast it looked like her head might detach from her body at any minute. She studied the glass cage in front of her, prowled around it like a lion, then pressed her lips into a thin line, brandished her shield with both of her hands, and just… hit it.

And the glass in front of her broke to bits and she was free.

“Yes!” The woman’s arms embraced her and Wanda couldn’t understand why. “Of course I know you! You sent for me!”

Wanda’s eyes widened, because this woman, she couldn’t possibly be…

“I’m Darcy.” Darcy smiled. “Patron of horses, dawn and protectors. It’s so good to meet my most important -and only- believer.”


 

Life continued and soon everyone was back to their routine.

Pietro and Wanda had settled in nicely, Clint being a constant presence in their life and probably best moral compass they could find, especially until they managed to fully control their powers.

For her part, Darcy kept her jobs of Avengers-herder and divine powers as she had.

The fact that she now had a couple of faithfuls didn’t really change anything (yeah, she’d hoped in something… more?), apart from the weirdest messages.

“You have one new message!”

Darcy didn’t even look, this time. She swiped her cell phone and pressed on Gate absentmindedly.

The gate was closed.

She frowned and looked at the time. Yeah… it was a bit too soon to start her job. Whoops.

She checked her phone and smiled.

  • Dinner with us? Pietro is cooking. Wanda