Chapter 1: Introduction
The kettle boiled as the steam escaped through the spout. The whistling hum filled the room. The man who was tending the kitchen turned off the stove. He placed the kettle in a tray and added three cups to it. He carefully carried it to the living room where an older couple were watching television. He gently placed the tray on the table and poured a cup for each. He had been living in their inn for quite some time. He knew perfectly well how they liked their tea. He gave the first cup to the woman.
“You know, you don’t have to do this for us, Tom” she said warmly at him.
“It’s my pleasure” he replied with a smile. He extended the next cup to the man who was intently watching the news. He gave Tom a polite nod as he accepted the cup. His attention was quickly grabbed by the television again.
Tom settled down with his cup of tea. He took the first sip and enjoyed the Earl Grey. The splash of milk and lingering sweetness clung to his tongue. His eyes slowly drifted to the TV in front of him. The old man was watching local news and they were reporting the recent work of a serial killer.
The voice of the reporter filled the room. “The death count has crossed twenty in both the Cedar Grove and Cascade. Ten in Sheboygan Falls and a striking thirty in Johnsonville. While the local police department assures the community that Elkhart Lake is safe, the peaceful population of the village are living in fear. FBI’s most wanted, the infamous Winchesters brothers, were spotted in Cedar Grove last night. Given this FBI had taken over the investigation from the Sheboygan County Sheriff this morning. Will they be able to solve the crime that has been threatening the peaceful life of Sheboygan? What gives them the cutting edge? Tune in for evening news.”
Chapter 2: Carry on my Wayward Son
Steve had decided not to get close with humans in his life. He had always held onto it ‘cause he knows it will end badly every time. But he made an exception when he met the Maximoff twins. He had grown fond of them both in a short span of time and cared for them like his own kids. Then the tragedy struck. He understood that it would take time for Wanda to overcome and he decided to be there for her.
Steve was there for her preparing food. He was there to hold her when she woke up in the middle of the night screaming. He held her as she cried her eyes out. He tried to be for her all the time. But his office duties were pulling him on one side.
After Coulson left, Steve made sure an ad had been sent out for the vacant position. Considerable number of candidates have applied and Steve hoped he would find someone suitable.
“Good morning, sir” wished Koenig bringing Steve out of his thoughts.
Steve smiled at him, “Morning, Koenig.”
William Koenig, known as Billy, worked as Steve’s temporary assistant. He had been recommended to the job by Coulson. The man was everything he could ask for. He was professional and had skills up his sleeve.
“Is the interview ready?”
“Yes, sir. Overlooked it myself.”
The two men went to the interview room. One by one candidates came and went. Steve wasn’t satisfied with anyone. Steve wondered how Coulson jumbled both the works and completed both perfectly. He needed someone to fill Coulson’s shoes.
“Koenig, sent a rejection letter to everyone please” Steve let out a sigh.
“Just one more candidate. If you ask me, he looks quite promising.”
As the last candidate walked in, Steve looked at Billy and shook his head chuckling. A man looking at the exact copy of Billy took the seat opposite to Steve.
“Okay. Introduce yourself.”
Steve's life went on. He was surprised when he got a call from Bucky. He didn’t know what to make of their position after their fight against Rumlow. Things weren’t the same between them, like they used to be but he didn’t force Bucky. The council meetings had been awkward in the beginning so Steve arrived late and left early. He wanted to give Bucky the space. The phone call was a pleasant surprise. Bucky said he wanted to speak and invited Steve for lunch. Steve agreed and they met the next day.
They decided to meet in the small cafe near Steve’s office. Steve arrived a few minutes early. As he settled into his seat, he saw Bucky enter the cafe. The two old friends gave their orders. As the waiter left, awkwardness settled in. Steve sipped his water, avoiding eye contact with Bucky. He wasn’t sure what to talk about. When Bucky broke the silence and Steve was grateful.
“I want to thank you for supporting the clan-less.”
“You’re welcome. But you guys aren’t clan-less anymore.”
“I know. But certain things are difficult to change” he gave a small smile. Steve smiled back. He didn’t know what to say back. After a pause, he spoke.
“But changes could be good. They let you start over again.”
“Yeah… But it is difficult to let go-” Bucky didn’t finish the sentence as the waitress placed their orders on the table. Neither did Steve want him to. So much has happened between them and certain words are best left unsaid.
“I understand, Buck.” Hearing the words Bucky gave a sad smile. They settled into silence as they sipped their coffee.
Seeing the slight change in Bucky’s demeanour, Steve decided to change the topic. “Any luck in finding a job in the city?” he asked, looking at his friend.
“Applied for head chef in some night restaurants. Tony helped me with some fake graduation certificates.”
“Great. Any opportunities yet?”
“Having an interview the day after tomorrow.”
Bucky grinned back goofily. Steve continued, “What about the others?”
“Hope and Scott are leaving soon to help Pym in his company. Sam is going to join as a paramedic in Jiaying’s hospital. And Peter went back to Tony.”
“What about Lincoln?”
“He got offers for doctor and spy. He still hasn’t made up his mind.”
“Lincoln? The blond kid is the one you’re talking about, right?” laughed Steve. “Doctor and Spy?”
Bucky laughed, “He went to medical school before he was turned. When Jiaying came to know about this she approached him. But I have no idea why Coulson approached him. One day, he turned up at the Den asking to speak to Lincoln.”
“I’m glad for him.”
“What about Coulson’s position in your company? Filled it yet?” asked Bucky in-between sipping his coffee.
“Hired a new guy. Sam Koenig. He looks promising.”
Bucky gave a nod and mulled over his thoughts for a few moments before speaking, “How’s Wanda doing?”
Steve’s face dropped at the mention of her and he started meddling with his cup. He turned away from Bucky trying to concentrate on anything else. Bucky felt that he shouldn’t have brought it up.
“She is… getting addicted. She is refusing to see a therapist. I’m just lost” Steve said, turning to look at the man opposite him.
The two men busied themselves with their coffee.
Bucky broke the silence again. “What about you?”
“I’m great,” Steve said with a fake smile. But Bucky was able to see through it easily.
“Steve,” Bucky said, looking concerned.
Steve sighed, not able to escape the piercing look of his pal. “I will be fine, Buck. Right now, I’m just trying to be afloat for Wanda.”
Bucky reached for Steve’s hand on the table and gave it a small squeeze. Steve shut his eyes and exhaled. When he opened his eyes again it was wet, but his face was calm.
“How’s council life treating you?”
“Great. Great. It is growing on me” chuckled Bucky.
“I have seen you more times in the library than the meeting room.”
“What can I say? I’m a sucker for knowledge”
Both men chuckled. The conversation flowed with ease as time passed. They finally paid the bill and went out.
“Want to grab dinner?” Steve asked expectantly.
“Uh… Steve. Sorry, I can’t” Bucky said apologetically.
“Oh… fine” Steve smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes. He mentally scolded himself for even asking. He shouldn’t have done it. Bucky had hinted that he wasn’t fully comfortable to start things over.
“Maybe next time” said Bucky oblivious to Steve’s thought. “I just have somewhere to go.”
“Need a lift?” Steve asked before he could think.
“No, Tony said he will send Happy over.”
“Tony?” Steve voice betrayed what his face was trying to conceal. He wasn’t jealous; he tried to reason with himself. But he couldn’t ignore the green monster tugging on his heart.
“Yeah. He said he wanted to show me something” Bucky said, still oblivious to how his friend was feeling. He was looking up and down the street trying to catch a glimpse of one of Stark's cars. He turned to look at Steve and his face fell in an instant.
“Steve, what happened?” he asked with concern etched in his voice.
“Nothing. I’m just leaving. Catch up with you later.”
Steve half jogged and half walked to his car and drove away. Bucky stood on the pavement surprised at the sudden change in attitude of his friend. His thoughts were interrupted by Happy honking the horn.
“Mr. Barnes, over here” he called out.
Bucky quickly got in the car and they drove to the Stark tower.
Chapter 3: Falling
Wanda woke up from her sleep screaming. She looked around her trying to figure out where she was. Slowly the reality set in. She cradled her head on her knees and started crying. She had dreamed of Pietro dying again. The pain was raw and powerful. Every time the pain felt like it was the first time. Every night she dreams of him dying in different ways. But always one thing was the same. She would be standing a few feet away. Not able to do anything. Useless. Her bedroom door opened and Steve walked in. He would always come when she woke up screaming. He sat near her and put an arm around her. She leaned into his touch on instinct. He held her as she cried. He never asked any questions. She sobbed uncontrollably till her eyes ran dry. She wanted to spend the whole day curled up in bed. She didn’t want to do anything.
Wanda had lost the will to care about many things in her life. Throughout her life, she and Pietro had been together. It had always been them against the world. Now she stands alone. She didn’t know who she was. They had always been ‘we’ and now suddenly she lost it. She felt she never knew the meaning of ‘I’. She didn’t know how to process that. She didn’t know how to accept that. She had lost a part of herself and nothing could make her whole again. She desperately wished for a second chance. If she could only travel back in time. Or if only this was a nightmare, she would wake up any minute now.
The passing of time didn’t bring any solace to Wanda’s situation. It’s been a month and there was no end to nightmares. Her abandoned phone lying on the night table caught her attention. She plugged into charge and switched it on. As soon as she opened her, the wallpaper of her and her brother filled the screen. She went through the gallery. It was filled with photos of her and Pietro. She couldn’t believe how much her life had changed. She, Pietro and Thompson regularly visited various bars. She lingered over the photo taken at Steve’s party. Her eyes started stinging. She kept scrolling and stopped at the photo they had taken two years back on their birthday. The twins had thrown a small party and invited their friends to Jupiter Disco. Something struck inside her as she pulled on a simple outfit and made her way out into the city. The cold evening wind stroked her bare face adding a red blush to her cheeks and neck.
Wanda entered the bar and looked around. She had no idea what made her do it but she went along. She perched on the bar stool and ordered a drink. She ordered drinks after drinks and drowned it. She didn’t know how much she had been drinking but the alcohol wasn’t bringing any solace. She wanted to relive the happy memories but her alcohol meddled brain felt numb. She wanted to feel Pietro’s presence. She wanted to be engulfed in his hug and feel safe. She wanted to hold him back and protect him. Her eyes started watering; she pressed back her tears and drowned her drink. When the bartender cut off her drink and replaced it with water, she wanted to shout at him. She got up from her bar stool but stumbled down.
Wanda woke up the next day, her head throbbing in pain. She saw a jug of water by her bedside table. She poured herself a glass and drowned it. She swallowed an aspirin with water. She made her way to the living room. It was deserted. Steve would have left for the company she thought. She went into the kitchen. She wanted to resist it but huger overcame her. She hadn’t eaten well for the past week. She went through the fridge looking for something to eat. She saw a sticky note saying ‘Breakfast. Please eat’ on the top of a covered bowl. Wanda opened it to see berry salad. She devoured the food, not minding to chew.
Having no memory of the previous night didn’t bother her much like it should have. She spent the day lounging on the couch flipping through various channels not interested in anything. She fell asleep on the couch only to wake up in the late evening. The house was plunged into darkness. She didn’t mind turning on the light as she went to her room. She pulled the first dress she could reach from her closet and changed. She locked the door on the way out and went to Jupiter Disco again.
Steve smelled the alcohol as soon as he entered the house. He found Wanda crying in Pietro’s room, hugging his shirt. He thought to talk to her about her new addiction to prevent it from growing but seeing the broken trembling figure in front of him he couldn’t bring himself. He was glad that she had found her way home instead of passing out in the bar like the day before. His heart pained when he saw Wanda in that state. He decided to talk to her the next day. But Steve became caught up in work in his office and was spending less time with Wanda. Her trips to the bar continued as she paid no heed to his words.
Steve got a call to pick up Wanda from the same bar. This time she was conscious and waiting for him. Seeing him she stumbled towards him, but was steadied by the woman next to her. She had blonde hair and a strand was coloured purple. Her eyes shone bright, showing that she was sober. She steadied Wanda and helped her walk.
“Steeeeeve, you came” Wanda drawled.
“Yeah, kid. Now let’s get in the car. Let’s go home” he said softly. He turned to the new woman and offered her thanks. He opened the door to the passenger seat to let Wanda in. As she was going to step in, she was stopped by the other woman.
Steve looked at her quizzically, trying to understand what is happening.
“I could only let her go, if you prove you’re her friend” she said sternly.
Steve took out his licence and extended it towards the woman. “You can check her phone; I will be in her emergency contacts” he offered.
The woman gave a nod and returned it. “I know. I was the one who called. Just wanted to make sure, she will be okay.”
Steve gave a small nod as he helped Wanda into the car. Wanda was almost passed out when he tried to talk, so he let it slide again. It had been about three months since Pietro’s death. Wanda was falling into the pit of alcoholism and Steve wasn’t able to stop her. It pained him to see her waste her life away. He had tried to talk to her multiple times about therapy but she always shuts him down.
As Steve came out of the café with Bucky, he can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy.
After parting ways with Bucky in the café, Steve drove home. On his way he got a message from Koenig that the manager of Jupiter Disco called. Steve arrived at the bar to see Wanted sitting in the side walk staring into the distance. The security was eyeing her warily. Seeing Steve, she jumped to her feet but lost her balance and collapsed down. She started laughing and didn’t try to move from the road. He quickly picked her up and supported her.
The manager came out and walked directly to Steve.
“Mr. Roger, I didn’t expect you to come in person,” he said sounding surprised.
“What’s the issue?”
The manager filled in on the happening. When the bartender had cut off her alcohol, Wanda had put on a fight. She had tried to punch him and grab the bottle from his hand. They had called the security to escort her out. Having discovered, she worked at The Roger’s Innovative, the manager had decided to give Steve a call before involving the police.
Steve’s anger grew with each passing second. He couldn’t believe that Wanda had gone to this extent and he partly blamed himself. He said to the manager that he will handle the situation. As soon as they got in the car, he wanted to shout at her instead he bit his tongue. He waited a few minutes to calm down.
“Wanda” he called her. His voice was neutral showing no emotion.
Wanda ignored him staring out of the window.
“Please don’t ignore me. I want you to listen to me” he said a bit firmly. She turned to look at him. Her eyes showed she was indifferent to his words.
Steve tried to push his luck to make her see the mess she was right now. He tried to talk sense into her but it was to no avail. She ignored him other than the occasional glances she threw in his direction. When they arrived at her apartment, she got out and quickly made her way upstairs. Steve wasn’t ready to give up so he followed her.
“Are you going to respond something?” he asked as he closed the apartment door. He tried to hide the annoyance in his words but it was slowly creeping in.
Wanda who had been silent the whole ride, broke down. She let her anger get the better of her. His pestering throughout the ride had been annoying enough. She hoped he would leave her alone once they arrived at her home.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO SAY? I DON’T THINK THERE IS ANYTHING TO TALK STEVE. YOU ASKED TO GO OUT AND LIVE MY LIFE. I AM DOING THAT. I AM HAVING FUN. IF YOU WANT TO STOP ME YOU CAN AS WELL TRY BUT I AM NOT LISTENING TO YOU”
“I’m telling you for your own good. You need therapy.”
“MY OWN GOOD? DON’T YOU FUCKING ACT LIKE YOU CARE ABOUT ME. I’M NOT READY TO ACCEPT THAT LIE FOR EVEN FOR ONE MORE SECOND. YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT ME. YOU DIDN’T CARE ABOUT PIETRO. YOU NEVER CARED ABOUT US. IF YOU HAD CARED ENOUGH YOU WOULDN’T HAVE LET HIM DIE. HE DIED BECAUSE HE TRIED TO SAVE YOU. IT WAS YOU WHO SHOULD BE DEAD. NOT HIM. Not him” she whispered the last part again as she sank to her knees.
Every word out of Wanda’s mouth stung Steve like million needles striking his body at once. He would be lying if he hadn’t blamed himself for Pietro’s death. He had come to accept that it was out of his control and he wasn’t responsible for the kid’s death. But her words still hurt him.
Steve softly rested his hand on her shoulder to console her.
“Don't,” she said curtly, jerking away. She got up and went to Pietro’s room and locked herself in. Steve decided to not follow her and give her some space.
Chapter 4: On the Road
The sun rays filtered through the window falling on the Wanda’s face stirring the sleeping woman awake. She felt as if her head was pounded by a hammer. Her whole body refused to move and begged her to lay down for some more time. She ignored it as she got up. The sudden movement brought a head rush making Wanda stumble backwards into her bed. She held onto the cot and took the water from the table and drank it. She popped two aspirins and drowned them with mouthfuls of water.
The sound of the wall clock filled the room with periodic ticks. Wanda stared at the moving hands of the clock but her mind was preoccupied elsewhere. After quite some time, she collected herself and walked out of the room to be met by Steve. She was surprised to see him as he would have usually left but the time she woke up. Is he was still in his previous night clothes she thought to herself. She didn’t remember much of the happenings last night. She didn’t want to hold a conversation so she quickly escaped to the kitchen. As she was ransacking the fridge looking for something to eat, the memories or previous night came back bit by bit. She remembered her behaviour at the bar and was embarrassed about herself. She wished that was her worst thing about last night. Unfortunately, her fight with Steve hit her like a train. She felt so bad and wanted to apologize to him. She hadn’t meant a word she said and she wanted him to know that. Over the past year, she and Pietro had started to consider Steve as their family and it hasn’t changed since. She wanted to apologize to him regarding her behaviour.
Wanda was brought out of her thoughts by Steve’s voice. She looked away from the fridge to see him standing in the doorway leaning against the frame. He had his hand folded in the front and his shirt was rolled up to his elbow. She realized that he hadn’t gone home. The bags under his eyes were prominent; it looked like he hadn’t properly fed for a long time. Before she could respond, Steve continued talking.
“Take a seat. I will prepare us a sandwich” he said as a matter of fact and walked to the kitchen counter.
Wanda stood awkwardly staring at him for some time before talking, “Steve, I’m sorry about last night.”
All she got was a small ‘Hmm’ from him. She let it go not wanting to pester him. Within minutes, the kitchen was filled in the strong aroma of cooked eggs and fried bacon. Soon Steve produced two plates of bacon and egg sandwich, setting one in front of her. They ate in silence; Steve indulged in his own thoughts and Wanda wondering how to repair her relationship with Steve.
After breakfast, Steve insisted that he will do the cleaning alone but Wanda convinced him she will do it. She started clearing out the dishes and deposited them in the sink.
“I will come back in an hour or two” he said which she responded with a nod. “Be ready,” he added.
Wanda turned to see a glint of a smile in his face for a small moment. “Ready for what?”
“Not going to reveal. Something casual is fine” he said walking out into the hall. Wanda heard the front door opening and closing.
Wanda took a bath and got into a pair of ankle length black jeans and blue t-shirt having a sweetheart neckline. She was trying to keep her mind occupied and think about anything but Pietro but it was in vain. Fortunately, Steve arrives a bit before two hours. He looked fresh and his beard was neatly trimmed. His eyes were bright for he might have recently fed.
“We are leaving. Call it a surprise” he smiled.
“Come on. Tell me”
“Just come along” he said, pulling her out of her apartment. On the way out he picked up her coat from the stand.
Wanda tried questioning Steve but never got a satisfying answer. She settled to enjoy the scenery as he drove to the outskirts of the city. But her curiosity kept nagging her.
“Where are we going?”
“I told you, we are going on a road trip?”
“You are serious?”
“Yeah. I have been saying this since we left your place.”
“I thought you were joking,” she replied. After a moment, she added with a frown “I’m not in the mood for a trip. Let’s go home.”
“Bear with me for one day. If you don’t like after that, let’s go home” he offered.
“Just for today, please.”
“I’m not so sure, Steve. It’s-”
“I’m not saying you should be enjoying this trip. Just give it a chance. Till the end of the day. If you don’t like we can head back. Deal?”
“Okay. Just till tonight.”
To say that Wanda wasn’t intrigued by this side of Steve would be a lie. She had always thought of him as a serious person, who meticulously plans every detail in his life. She liked this spontaneous side of him. She relaxed as the time passed.
“Hey! How are you not getting burned up?” Wanda’s voice was filled with curiosity
“One, this car was designed by the Starks. 100% UV protection. Two, your excitation about me getting burned up is little concerning”
Wanda rolled her eyes not saying anything. After a moment, she turned to him, “I’m sorry.”
Steve knew that she wasn’t apologising for the current situation. He smiled back, “Accepted. Let’s just put it aside and concentrate on this trip.”
“I could do that.”
After a short drive they arrived at the Oheka Castle. Wanda’s eyes widened in surprise looking at the big structure standing ahead of them. The lawn was neatly kept and the plants have been crafted with care and perfection. The water fountain glistened in the rays of the sun. The hundred-year-old structure was a mix of modern and old in a beautiful way. Numerous glass tinted windows littered the building’s wall and the polished wooden door shone bright. The pale colour of the castle was matched by the grey brick gable.
“Don’t tell me you own this place.”
Steve let out a laugh and shook his head. “I don’t but my friends do,” he chuckled.
Chapter 5: Leave the Myths Alone
Many kingdoms have risen and fallen over time. Some still remembered for their glory while some lying forgotten, living only in the memories of few who dared. Once such a kingdom was based in North America. The kingdom prospered under the rule of an intelligent man. He ruled for years and expanded the kingdom. His disciples were content and free. Everyone patronised him.
The trade prospered under his rule. In exchange for food, they exported fine jewelleries and craftworks. The king was a huge patron of live dramas. Actors frequented his palace. But like other kings his fall came.
The king had his shortcomings. The thirst for power and blood consumed him. He went mad; ravaging and plundering the nearby villages. His faithful disciples were torn between duty and morals. But one fatal incident made the choice easier for them. The mad king killed his own people in madness. This led to his disciples conspiring against him. They raged a war against him leading to more bloodshed but he stood. Everyone around him fell but he stood.
When everything seemed to be lost, his army general came forward. She provided the key to his defeat. She knew the mad king was too powerful for her. He was too powerful for anyone in the kingdom. But there was one man who could defeat him. His elder brother. She went in search of him. She succeeded in her mission. A battle started the moment the brother entered the kingdom. It ended with the elder brother stabbing the younger one through his heart.
The deeds of the mad king were so heartless and distant that people claimed even ripping his heart would not kill him. The legend spread that he was in deep slumber waiting to be awakened. When he does, even the sun wouldn’t shine for days.
The sky came to life with lightning. The clouds were dark and completely hid the moon from view. The shops were shut and the roads were deserted. The whole of Milwaukee was inside their homes; to stay safe from the oncoming storm. But the threat of the storm wasn’t scary enough for everyone. A group of teenagers roamed into the forest.
“Ruby, stay with the group” shouted Gabriel to the girl who was running ahead of her friends.
“Are you guys scared or what?” laughed Ruby. She strolled through the dense jungle like she owned the place. Her pace was fast and he navigated with confidence. Her eyes sparkled with delight. She knew she was going to find it. The grave was near and so was the mystical creature.
“Scared? Me?” laughed Ronny. “Maybe these two, not me.”
Gabriel frowned at Ronny but didn’t say anything. The three teenagers followed Ruby’s lead into the deeper part of the woods. They heard a sound of patterning on the leaves and a quick swish of wind.
“Maybe it’s not a good idea guys” stammered Werner.
“Scared of a little thunder, Weeny. Wanna run back to mommy?”
“Cut it Ronny,” shouted Gabriel.
“Will you all shut up?” Ruby shouted. They all silenced and turned towards her. “We have been searching for this vampire throughout our childhood. We are so close to finding it and you all are fighting among yourselves.”
“Ruby, this was supposed to be our childhood craze. Not something we go searching for into the woods. Those were just myths.”
“NO!” ruby screamed. “Those are real. I know that. If any of you don’t believe or if you’re scared fuck off.”
“You know what this is crazy. There is a storm coming and I’m not planning to get stuck here. I’m leaving. Come on Werner.” The two boys started walking back.
“Run away, Weeny. The woods are scary,” crooned Ronny and he broke into a laugh.
Werner paused looking at Ronny.
“You don’t have to prove them anything, Werner” persuaded Gabriel.
Werner looked uncertain. He looked between Gabriel and Ronny. He wasn’t ready to face Ronny’s taunts the next day. If he went back now, Ronny would always make fun of him. He finally walked towards Ronny. Gabriel sighed and shook his head in dejection. He turned and walked away.
The others continued their journey. Ruby was the first to see it. A small stone building stood abandoned. Weeds have grown in the cracks between the stones and the walls were covered with patches of algae. Cobwebs have accumulated in the nooks. A serpent symbol was mounted on the top of the structure. All the four sides were sealed and it seemed that there was no entry. Ruby circled the enclosure searching for an entry. The ancient structure was covered with writing and paintings. She looked in awe at the vampire’s painting, standing at his full glory.
“Guys, I think I found it,” shouted Werner. “This serpent brass handle on the side is rotatable. We can try that.”
Ronny came barging and pushed Werner out of the way. He rotated the brass. Suddenly, the sky came alive with lightning and the thunder rumbled through the forest. There were dark images in clouds trying to scare off the children. But they didn’t mind it. Ronny continued rotating the lever. The rain started pouring. It found its way between the branches of the trees and met the forest floor.
The rain made the brass handler slippery. Ronny’s hand slipped and he cut his palm on the serpent’s tail.
“Move away,” said Werner. He and Ruby held the brass serpent and rotated it. The downpour was heavy and they couldn’t see anything properly.
Ronny was irritated. Blood was dripping from his hand and the cut stung.
“Can’t you do any faster?” Ronny grumbled.
“You’re welcome to try” snapped Ruby.
The brass knob stopped. They couldn’t move it any further. They all looked with anticipation at each other. The stone door slowly parted ways revealing a dark staircase below.
“I’m going in first” said Ruby excitedly and skipped down the steps.
Chapter 6: Crackle with Electricity
Steve drove the car into the underground parking lot of Oheka castle. A chauffeur collected their car and the concierge greeted them. They called for the bellboy to bring their belongings but Steve waved him off saying they weren’t carrying anything. The concierge led them into the elevator. They were led to the front desk where Steve was met by a woman who resembled his now temporary assistant.
She was none other than L. T. Koenig, the eldest of the Koenig siblings. She had been Steve’s friend for a long time. When she had heard about Steve requiring an assistant, she had recommended her brother who wanted to expand his horizon. He took leave of his hotel duties to work in The Rogers Innovative temporarily. She greeted them both warmly and called the concierge to escort them to their suite.
Wanda was mesmerized by the grandeur interior designs. She loved the intricate artworks and the elegant art pieces. The stair railing was bronze; shining under the yellow glow of the chandelier. Wanda’s hand glided over the smooth metal as they ascended to the top floor. The corridors were also flushed by the same yellow lighting. The concierge opened the door to their room. To say the rooms were lovely would be an understatement. The antique designed white furniture matched well with the beige and gold wallpaper. The sitting area had a small dining table for two and a pair of sofa sets in the centre. A single plush chair overlooking the window was stationed. The wooden floor was pristine, clean and shining. The room had a pleasant aroma filling it.
Wanda crossed the sitting area to open the door to one of the bed rooms. A single king-size cot adorned the far corner near the windows. Another sofa was placed in one corner of the room, while the other was occupied by a table and a couple of chairs. Newspapers and the latest edition of various magazines littered the table. Wanda excitedly opened the other room to check it out. It was equally and beautifully matching the previous one. Wanda walked inside to open the bathroom door and stood there mesmerized. A single elegant bathtub made of culture marble, supported by the cast iron, stood in the far end. The outside was carved with small details of flowers. An ornate glass adorned the adjacent wall, above the sink. Three rods painted golden rose form the tub and supported an overhead shower. There were small yellow lights on every wall. Wanda looked up and she gasped in delight. Why the fuck is there a chandelier in bathroom she thought to herself.
Wanda returned to the sitting area to see Steve waiting for her. He saw the delight in her eyes and smiled to himself.
“So, what’s the plan for today?”
“We will be trying out personally tailored clothes in about thirty minutes” he said.
Wanda rolled her eyes, “You gotta be kidding.”
“I am not. We are going out tonight and there is a dress code.”
“Okay,” Wanda dragged.
Before she could ask Steve raised his hand silencing her. “No more questions. It’s a surprise.”
“Steve, the place you told? Is two hundred years back?” Wanda asked, checking out her reflection in the mirror. “Oh wait! Are we going back to your time?”
“Ha ha, very funny.”
After getting dressed up, Steve and Wanda made their way to the Pearsall park. The lush green grass and the neatly trimmed bushes were nothing but a dark outline visible in the dim lights of the park. The gushing of water in the fountain accompanied by the chirping of crickets filled the background. The duo made their way around the park making small talks. He had yet to reveal the surprise to her. He wanted to see the happiness light up her features when she sees it. He was afraid she would find from the late 18th century clothing but Wanda was more interested in making fun of Steve’s age.
They arrived at a small unmarked door at the far corner of the park. When Steve looked around, scanning the surrounding, Wanda realised they were the only one there. The following actions piqued her interest further. Steve knocked twice promptly on the door and waited for a reply. The speakeasy grate was opened to reveal a pair of eyes.
“Password” the voice said.
“Electricity” Steve replied.
The speakeasy grate was closed and the door opened quickly letting them in. The warm inside air was a nice change to the cold winds outside. The man escorted them to the inner room. Wanda couldn’t believe what she saw with her own eyes. The room was strange and weirdly beautiful. It looked like a science fair. A science fair out of the 1940s. Everyone was dressed in clothes belonging to that period. The crackling sound of electricity was heard from time to time in the background. Wanda realised that she was standing in the middle of a science speakeasy.
“Now I get why we are dressed like this” she smiled looking at Steve who returned the smile.
“Let’s check out the inventions,” he said, pulling her to the nearest table.
All the employees were dressed as Nikola exhibiting various inventions of the great scientist. In one corner an ungodly machine was stationed. It was staged to look like it was spewing out clones of the scientist. Near it a death ray was killing off the Tesla clones as they came out. The duo was lost in this new world, as they went from stall to stall looking at the various creations. They crossed the foyer to the dining room. The man led them to a table of two. They were provided with a menu containing equally intriguing dishes. The conversation flowed easily through the dinner. Before they knew it, it was time for dessert and they were on their way back to the hotel.
As soon as they got to their room, Wanda crashed. When she woke up, it was well past noon. This has been the first time she had slept peacefully. She sleepily made her way out of her room to see Steve drinking blood from a packet.
Wanda looked at him with curiosity, “Steve, I have never seen you drink blood. And sometimes you eat human food? How does it work?”
“Well it’s like we need blood for survival and healing. We can’t go for a long period without consuming it. We need it as much as humans need food and water. We sort of eat human food to blend in. But mostly to feel the connection with our past. It helps us keep grounded. It reminds that we were once human.”
“Ohh…” she said. “I was just curious,” she added after an awkward pause.
Steve smiled as he got up to dispose of the plastic packets. “Anything else you got in your mind, kid?”
“Yeah,” Wanda dragged the word. “I have never seen you drinking from a person. I mean-”
Steve chuckled, “I just didn’t want to freak you out. But we do have volunteers now and then.”
“Oh, good vampires” Wanda laughed. “So, what’s for today old man? Which time period are we going?”
Steve was bit taken aback by the nickname but didn’t show it in his face.
“Just get ready. You will love it.”
Chapter 7: Let there be Carnage
Ruby walked into the dark grave. The other two boys followed her. Their flashlights provided them enough light to see what was in front of them. But the tunnel was too dark to be impregnated with light.
“Oh ooooooo” hollered Rony. The sound echoed back to them. “We are finally here. Let’s wake up the old vamp and get turned and get the fuck out of here.”
The three kids came to the end of the stairs which led them into a long tunnel. They walked down the tunnel and arrived at a small room. In the centre of the room an ornate emerald green coffin was placed. Ruby tucked her torch into her coat and ran eagerly to the coffin. Golden lines streaked across it, beautiful patterns and gems littered it. But she wasn’t captured by it. She pushed the lid with all her strength but it didn’t budge.
“A little help here guys” Both the boys joined her. The three pushed the lid of the coffin.
Inside the coffin lied a handsome man. He wore a black and green leather armour adorned with gold. The gold gleamed in the torch light. There was a horn shaped helmet, on the top of his head perfectly cupping the sides of his face. It didn’t have much purpose than an ornament. His eyes were shut and he lay motionless. His cheekbones were the most prominent feature. His black hair cascaded till his shoulders. A stake made of white wood was plunged into his chest.
Ruby was the first to move. “This is it, guys” she whispered. The other two nodded without taking their eyes away from the sleeping figure. Ruby pulled the stake from his chest.
Nothing happened for some time. The three kids looked at each other not sure what to do. Slowly the man opened his eyes. The pupils were blood red. He turned to see who had freed him from his prison. The kids stood crowded together. He agilely got out the coffin. It seemed as if he floated instead of walked.
“I, Loki, First Born of Jean, am finally free” he said with a grin breaking on his stoic face.
Ruby spoke up. “We freed you, you have to change us. You owe us. Change us now.”
“Pathetic mortals.” Loki’s face broke into an evil grin. His fangs gleamed in their torch light. Ruby backed away.
“If it weren’t for us you will still be a corpse in the coffin” spat Ronny. He tried to act brave but his legs trembled giving him away.
“Yeah, we can work together. We can rule the world” Ruby offered, gaining back her courage.
“Foolish children,” Loki growled as snatched Ronny from the group and sunk his teeth into her neck. He screamed and struggled to get away from the predator but it was no use. The other two took off. They ran with all their might. Werner stumbled on the staircase. Ruby turned to see that the vampire was already making his way towards them. She left Werner to fend for himself and ran for her life. He got up to follow her but the vampire was upon him in a second. Loki blocked his path and cornered him. His fangs descended into the boy’s neck, sucking the blood. Werner met Ronny’s fate. But the ancient vampire’s thirst wasn’t quenched. He looked around him at the forest. He picked up the girl’s scent and ran in that direction. He saw the blond hair in between the trees. The rain didn’t hinder his sight. He leaped on the top of a tree and jumped in front of her. She stopped in her tracks and moved back.
“Please. Please let me live. I only wanted to be a vampire queen.” She said backing away. “I could be your ally.”
The vampire advanced towards her. She slipped on a stone and fell down. She looked up to see him cowering over her. She let out an ear-splitting scream as he bit into her.
Gabriel was on his way back home when it had started to rain. He couldn’t bring himself to leave his friends alone in the woods. Even though they were jerks, he grew up with them. He went back to find them. After sometime he heard an ear-splitting scream. Sensing it might be one of his friends he ran towards the sound. He saw a tall man towering over Ruby. Gabriel felt his hair in the back of his neck stand up. He watched as the vampire bit into Ruby and drank her blood. Gabriel ran for his life, the blood curdling cry of Ruby still ringing in his ears.
Gabriel turned around to see whether he was being followed. To his fortune, he was alone. Not seeing what was in front of him, he slipped down a slope. He tried to slow his fall but it was no use. The rain had made the soil slippery. His knees hit a rock on the path and he howled in pain. But his shouts were muffled by the rain. He came to a stop at the bottom of the slope. He tried to get up but couldn’t. His muscles and bones ached. His phone was probably already damaged by the rain. Even if there wasn't, there was no way there was a signal here. He prayed for a miracle.
Gabriel’s vision blurred from the blood loss. He was a figure coming towards him. He feared his end had come. Gabriel thought about his brother and wished he had a chance to say goodbye. He hoped Robbi would not be angry at him for being reckless.
The man came near Gabriel and pulled him into his lap.
“Please leave me. Don’t kill me” Gabriel begged.
“Gabe. What happened? It’s me” the man replied. But the words didn’t fall in the kid’s ears. He was delirious from the loss of blood and fright. He kept begging to spare his life.
“You are safe now. I’m Robbi” the man repeated.
Gabriel seemed to understand what he heard. “Robbi?” he inquired. His brother shook his head. Finally knowing he is in safe hands, Gabriel relaxed.
“Do you remember anything about the night?”
“You need to try and remember, kid”
“I will let you know if I do” Gabriel sighed as he relaxed back into the hospital bed. Robbi stood on the corner of the room frowning at the police officer questioning his brother. He was worried that constant questioning is making him relive the terrible night again and again. After the police closed the case, he decided to move to New York with his brother. He has been applying for jobs there. He hoped everything would turn out fine.
Chapter 8: Wake up on the other side of the World
Wanda was curious where they would be going next and it grew as they drove to the airport. After a short ride, they boarded Steve’s private jet which was waiting for them. Steve dragged Wanda to the cockpit and signalled her to take the co-captain seat. Wanda raised her eyebrows in surprise.
“You gotta be fucking kidding me?” she laughed.
Wanda gingerly got in the seat. Steve guided her through the basics as they lifted off. She loved the thrill.
“Can we do a barrel roll?”
“You are no fun.”
In little over 10 hours, they reached their destination. Wanda had moved back to the passenger seat after sometime and had fallen asleep. After landing, Steve woke her up.
“We there yet?”
Wanda wasn’t sure where they were or what time it was. She groggily followed Steve out. It was dark outside and the cool breeze cradled her.
“Where are we?” she asked him.
Steve chuckled at the surprised look on Wanda’s face. They were picked by the car waiting for them outside the airport. Steve gave some instructions to the driver and got in the back with Wanda. Wanda looked out through the window gaping at the beauty of the night. The city was flowing with vibrant colours. They drove through The Bund; along the bank of Huangpu river. Wanda and Steve were fascinated by the colours dancing on the water surface.
The car came to a halt near the Nanjing Lu, the biggest shopping attraction. Steve pulled Wanda out of the car and they both made their way by foot. They went to a nearby budget restaurant; cramping into the already overflowing place. Wanda wanted to try dumplings and her mouth started watering even before the waiter took the order. They stuffed their mouth with dumplings savouring the pork filling. After they had to their heart's content, they exited the restaurant to roam the streets.
Wanda loved the spontaneity in the trip. She could see through Steve that he is just planning the places only a few hours before leaving even though he acts like it was the plan all along. They wander around the streets, buying small souvenirs and trinkets. Steve suggested they need to buy some clothes as they left their old clothes in the jet. Picking up a casual pair of jeans and t-shirt for each they came out of the shop. It was well past twelve but it felt as if the time hadn’t passed. They called their driver to come pick them.
Wanda woke up late the next day too. She felt completely rested and at peace. She walked into the common sitting area to find it empty. Steve might be in his room she thought to herself as she knocked on his door. Within a few moments she was greeted by the sleepy brunette man.
“Hey sleepyhead. Where to next?”
“To my bed. I’m going to sleep my ass off for the rest of the day” he said turning around.
“What? Noooo… Let’s go out.”
“If I go out now, I burn down kiddo.”
“I’m bored,” she declared dramatically.
“Good luck” he smirked, closing the door.
Wanda passed the day, binge watching shows and eating from room service. By night, they went out to the Mr. X Escape Room. The bricked structure had a big board showing ‘Mr. X’ in block yellow letters. The door was crossed off with a bright red X mark. They first entered a room resembling a library. The decor was apt and none of the things looked fake. After solving it they move to an empty room. As the door closed, lasers came to life; zig zagging the room. At the other end, a vault was placed. After hours of brainstorming for clues, they finally managed to off the laser and open the vault. The vault room looked empty except for the entry door. They loved the thrill and excitement the puzzle provided. They broke out of the vault to enter the prison and finally found the secret passage to a futuristic looking lab. Solving the puzzles took them hours but they didn’t realise the time passing. The rooms were scary and captivating to keep the duo occupied. They thanked the in-house team and walked out into the night.
“It was awesome,” Wanda shrieked, hugging Steve.
“We should do it again sometime!”
“Totally” said Wanda pulling out her phone. She typed away and showed the search result to Steve. “Let’s go there,” she said excitedly.
Steve’s face slightly fell seeing the place. It was The Laboratory Escape Room in the Netherlands. He tried to hide his expression before Wanda could see it but he failed.
“What happened?” she asked, placing a soothing hand on his forearm.
“It’s nothing,” he said. “Where do you want to eat?” he asked, changing the subject.
But Wanda persisted in not letting off the topic.
Steve exhaled. “How could I ever forget how persistent you are?” he chuckled, shaking his head.
As they settled across each other in a small diner, Steve narrated her, the situation of Europe. His face turned serious as he remembered the dark times. “After the war, everything was chaos. The biggest mistake of vampire kind is taking part in the human war. They should have just stayed out” he said. He gave a pause lost in his thoughts. “As I was saying, the war led to the rise of the Legion in Europe.”
“Is it like The Council of Five?” Wanda asked without missing a beat. She was eager to hear the story. She didn’t notice the dark flash in Steve’s eyes. The glint of darkness was there just for a second as it washed over his features.
“We don’t know who is behind the Legion. We don’t know who their leader is or why they are doing what they are doing. But we know their agenda is to end every single one of my kind.”
Wanda had expected the vampire world to have its own set of dark secrets but she didn’t expect the Winchester brothers.
“They are not just hunters” Steve said as if reading her thoughts. “They are merciless. They are ruthless killers and they stop at nothing.”
“Wait. The Legion… Rumlow was smuggling weapons to them. Why would he do it to his own kind?”
“Don’t humans do that? Fight among each other?”
“Why can’t you all stand a united front and try to defeat them?”
“It’s not as easy as you say. There are resistance forces based in different parts of Europe leading the attack against Legion. Moving everyone into Europe to fight will make it an open battle and our secrets will be out in the open. And not everyone is a soldier. We also cannot move around in the morning which puts us at disadvantage. And most of them in Europe don’t want to move out as they are our first line of defence against the Legion.”
Wanda was silent mulling over the words Steve said, waiting for him to continue. But he changed the subject. “The food is turning cold. Let’s eat” he said cheerfully trying to hide the darkness in his eyes. Wanda’s innocent questioning brought back the old memories. He tried to shake out of it and look at the present.
Chapter 9: It's okay to reach out
After dinner, Steve and Wanda hired a cab to Huangpu river. Steve booked them a private boat tour for the two. They sailed the extravagant boat enjoying the scenery. Steve told Wanda about his childhood. To Wanda’s surprise there was barely a story without Bucky in it. She knew about their past but she didn’t think they were childhood friends. By the way Steve talked about Bucky, Wanda knew a part of him still like the ex-rebel. As she teased Steve about Bucky, he got flustered and started stammering.
“Awww, you turn into a 16-year-old kid at the mention of his name” she laughed. “Tell me more.” A smile was playing on her lips as she was curious to learn about Steve’s past.
“Well, there was one time when we were thrown off the theatres ‘cause I picked up a fight with a guy. He was catcalling a lady and I tried to punch him. I wasn't much of a fighter back then. I ended up getting beaten before Bucky saved me” he smiled fondly looking back at the memory. “The manager threw us out and made sure we would never come inside. We went back to my place where-”
“You guys kissed?” Wanda prompted. Heat spread across Steve’s face and blush crept across his cheeks.
Steve cleared his throat trying to regain his composure. “Well, he patched me up and yeah we kissed.” His face reddened more recalling the incident.
“You’re blushing” she laughed.
“Shut up” he shouted, pushing her away playfully.
After a good night’s rest in the luxury aircraft, the duo arrived at Townville, Australia. By dawn, they set out to the Great Barrier Reef. They got into their scuba gear and delved into the sea. The night sea was completely different from what one sees in the day. Wanda had always wanted to scuba dive but had never got a chance before. They looked as the reef bore countless eyes; gleaming in the darkness. The crustaceans crawled around as the night intensified. The Giant Trevally and the Moray eels swum around them unbothered. The reef sharks who try to avoid encounters with the land beings at any cost, scurried away. Everything around them posed a soothing scenery.
Steve gently nudged Wanda as he pointed a bit further. At first Wanda wasn’t able to recognise the unmoving creature on the seafloor, near the corals. Then she realised it was a turtle taking its nap. They swam slowly near it but stopped at a distance. After clicking a few shots, they were about to swim away but Wanda felt a small nudge from behind. She turned around to see a reef shark of about five feet bumping against her. She let out a small scream and the mouthpiece slipped away. She replaced it as she approached the new companion gingerly. It was curious as it was circling and bumping gently against them but soon lost interest and swam away. But they managed to take a few clicks with the curious creature.
The duo got in the boat after enjoying the beauty of the nocturnal creatures. Wanda got out of the scuba gear and sat in the bow overlooking the vast sea in front of her. Steve threw her a towel as he settled down next to her. They sat together admiring the dark sky littered with stars being reflected in the serene water below. As the yacht anchored in the pier, Steve and Wanda walked to the nearby beach.
They spread a picnic blanket and settled down facing the sea. The cool breeze had dried off their hair and clothes. Wanda laid down on the blanket.
“I wish I could take a sunbath here.”
Steve laughed, “I will pass.”
“Do you miss your human life?” Wanda asked, turning to face him.
“Who wouldn’t? Immortality has its perks but it comes with a price.”
“Don’t give me the ancient vampire shit.”
“What can I say? When you’re wise and old you gotta share it.”
Wanda laughed at his response. He laid on her back staring at the stars. The cool breeze cradled her tired and aching body and she slowly felt herself drifting into sleep. Later at night she was woken up by Steve. Sleepily they made their way to the airport where Steve’s personal pilot was waiting with the private jet.
When Wanda woke up next, they were flying 40,000 feet above land. She groggily rubbed her eyes and stretched in her seat. She noticed that Steve was sleeping in the seat opposite to her. She slowly got up and went to the kitchen cabinet. She snatched a couple of chips packets and returned to her seat. As she settled down, Steve woke up hearing the rustling.
“Hey” he smiled.
“Where to next?”
“I had another place in mind but we can’t right now. We will go some other time” he offered.
“Sure. What was the place?”
“You gotta be fucking kidding me” she exclaimed.
“Am not” he replied leaning forward as he snatched a chips packet and settled back in his chair.
“I have never seen you this laid back and” she paused. “Spontaneous” she added after a moment. “The Steve Rogers I know is insanely calculated and prudent.”
“I am taking that as a compliment” he said, smirking. “Anyway, what do you say about the trip?”
“You are fun but you chose to be boring.”
“What?” he whined. “That’s your take away? I’m never taking you anywhere after this!” he declared dramatically. Wanda laughed, shaking her head. She stared out of the window at the night sky. Comfortable silence settled between them as they admired the stars trailing the dark canvas.
“Steve” Wanda called looking at the man in front of her. “I will go to therapy.”
Steve didn’t reply anything as he smiled warmly. He crossed over to her side and pulled her into a sideways hug resting his chin on her head. Wanda smiled as she held him back.
“We need to bring in The Council of Five. They are out of control. They killed our man and appointed another one in his place” said Giyera.
“We can’t go butting heads with them. We need to make ATCU semi-public. And we need a diplomatic public face” replied the old man sitting in the chair behind the desk, his lit cigarette lying forgotten in the ashtray. Gideon Malick was a well-known name among the business community and politicians. He had influence over almost every act of the government and he liked the power. His father had left the business to him and his brother. After eliminating his brother, Gideon became the sole heir of the empire. And his daughter will take over one day.
The events of the past few months had completely hindered Malick’s weapon deal with the Legion. He didn’t just lose two of his best men, four months back. He lost an eye inside The Council and The Stark Industries. Trying to infiltrate their units is a tedious task which will take time he doesn’t have. So, he came up with another plan. If everything goes as planned, he can open the weapon smuggling in no time.
“Sir, do you have someone in mind?” asked Giyera, breaking Malick out of his thoughts.
“Her” he replied, tossing a file across the table to the man. Giyera opened it to reveal the file of a woman.
“Rosalind Pierce is right for the job” Malick said more to himself than to Giyera.
Chapter 10: To Begin Again
After the trip, Wanda had moved in with Steve temporarily. She had asked him for a place to stay as she didn’t want to go back to her apartment. Steve was more than happy to open his home to her. Wanda put on a simple t-shirt and blue jeans and made her way to the therapist office. She had an 11 AM appointment and she arrived 15 mins prior to it. She waited in the waiting room. She thought of walking away and returning to her remorse. Before she could put her thoughts into action, she saw a man in mid-forties step out of the hallway into the waiting room. He looked friendly and had a warm smile on his face.
“Hi! I’m Andrew” he said particularly to no one. Wanda instantly stood up from her place. This is her therapist she thought. Seeing her, he turned towards her as she approached him.
“I’m Wanda, Mr. Garner” she introduced.
As he led her through the hallway to his office he said, “Call me Andrew.” He gave a warm smile. Wanda nodded.
Steve went to his office after the trip. He dressed up more casual for the day letting go his usual attire. He had a simple button up light blue shirt matched with a fit beige pants. He had let go of the tie. As he entered the elevator, he found a familiar face waving at him to stop the elevator. He was accompanied by the woman he had met in the bar earlier. She pressed the floor key and turned towards him.
“Meeting with the big guy in the morning?”
Steve realised that she didn’t recognise him from the previous meeting. Also, she had no clue that he owned the company. He decided to play along with her.
“Yeah... sort of.”
“I heard he is uptight. Is it true?”
Steve was taken aback not knowing how to respond.
“I’m Daisy. Have we met earlier? I’m having difficulty placing you.”
“Few weeks back. You helped my friend in the bar. I came to pick her up.”
Daisy’s eyes widened in recognition. She had helped a woman named Wanda in Jupiter Disco. When asked about emergency contact, Wanda had handed over a guy’s number saying he was her family and he owned a big company in the middle of Brooklyn.
“You’re Mr. Steve. Rogers. Sir. Mr. Rogers. Oh shit.”
The elevator dinged signaling the stop.
“Your floor I guess,” he said with a smile.
Daisy got out wondering how to pacify the situation. As the elevator door closed, Piper came along.
“So, you got to finally meet Rogers?”
“Yeah and I called him uptight” Daisy sighed.
“Wow. Talk about good impressions,” Piper laughed.
Steve and Bucky went out to have dinner in the Italian restaurant near the Rogers innovative. It was Steve’s favourite place and he goes there often When Bucky asked him to meet him there Steve was elated. He was surprised when he saw Bucky. He had a new arm made of metal.
“Nice metal arm” commented Steve when he saw Bucky.
“Yeah, Tony fixed it up for me. I just wasn’t sure it was a right idea. But I’m glad I tried it” he said tilting his head towards his left arm. “It feels different though.” smiled Bucky.
The two men chatted while waiting for their order. Steve learnt that Lincoln had taken up Jiaying offers.
“He rejected being an agent?”
“Not everyone wants to spend the day picking up fights” Bucky laughed.
Steve feigned annoyance.
“You look relaxed,” Bucky noted with a soft smile.
“Well, I took a small tour.”
“With who?” Bucky bit his tongue as soon as the words came out. Did he say it faster he thought to himself. Steve was oblivious to Bucky’s reactions.
“With Wanda. Needed to bring her out of her shell”
“Oh… How is she doing now?”
The two men talked through dinner. Both didn’t want the night to end. But were too afraid to say aloud. Bucky picked up the courage at last.
“Want to come over to Shadow Den?”
“That… It would be great,” smiled Steve.
“There are so many new improvements and you would totally love it.”
Steve and Bucky drove to the Shadow Den. The location had been shifted to an old plot outside. The gigantic building stood magnificent before them. Bucky led Steve to the entrance. Unlike the speakeasy, there was a handprint sensor and an eye scanner.
“You went all the way for security,” laughed Steve.
“Still, some might be loyal to Rumlow. I didn’t want anyone to put anyone at risk.”
Steve nodded. The hall was painted in shale grey and windows were fitted with UV filter glasses. Some sofas and cushion were scattered around the room. Some had been pulled together to accommodate larger groups. Few were occupied with the clan members chatting and relaxing. Sam, Lincoln and Scott were playing fooseball.
“Wow! It’s two against one” commented Bucky. Sam turned around at his voice missing a goal. Scott scored one.
“That’s how you do it” he laughed in Sam’s face.
“Don’t get too cocky. You just levelled the score.”
Hope joined the crowd around the foosball table. “Hey Steve, nice seeing you”
“Hey, how you been?”
“I’m just standing here. You can say a hi whenever you want. No pressure or anything” Sam mocked.
“Cut the banter, Sam. I don’t want to lose to the grandma over there.”
Steve turned his attention back to Hope. “Bucky was telling you’re moving to San Francisco.”
“Yeah. Tonight. And we will be leaving now” Hope pushed Scott, “I’m playing the last one.”
As soon as the game started, Hope scored. Scott and Hope high-fived her.
“This is why we don’t play with her” Lincoln groaned.
“Take it as out parting gift. We let you win” Sam laughed.
“You let me win? Another match. You two versus me. Now”
“Babe, you dad is waiting.”
“Next time when we meet” Hope smiled at the Lincoln and Sam.
Hope and Scott said their goodbyes to the group.
“We are going to help them,” Sam said, winking at Bucky. He dragged Lincoln and left. Bucky hoped Steve hadn’t noticed the wink. But he wasn’t so lucky. Steve stood there with a quizzical expression on his face.
“A game of foosball?” Bucky asked diverting Steve.
Chapter 11: Healing
I'm so sorry for posting very late. I had exams. Lol It's still going on now but I wanted to post something. Hope you like this chapter.
As therapy progressed Wanda started regaining control of her life. One day, she decided to go back to her office. At the entrance, she was met by Davis who nodded his head sympathetically at her. She was hoping not to run into anyone else she knew. She didn’t want any more sympathetic nods. Fortunately, she didn’t see anyone. She got in the elevator and was about to press the button for her floor when a woman with loads of files in her hand rushed in. Seeing Wanda, she gave a grin. To be polite, Wanda returned her smile. Daisy recognised Wanda as soon as she saw, but didn’t say anything. She didn’t want to make her relive that night.
“Are you new here? I haven’t seen you before” Daisy said trying to keep it casual.
“No. I just... took a break. I’m Wanda, and you?”
“Daisy Johnson of your secret hacking division.”
Wanda raised her eyebrow at the funny introduction by the other woman.
Daisy laughed, “I’m intern at Comms”
“Great. How do you like it here?”
“Boring. So many rules and protocols.” After a pause, Daisy added, “Which department are you from?”
“I’m Mr. Rogers’ assistant.” Wanda smiled.
“When will you ever learn to keep your mouth shut, Daisy?” she spoke to herself. “Well. Then, I have a reason to come to the top floor” she winked at Wanda. Wanda was taken back and didn’t know how to react. The lift opened and Daisy got out, “See you later.”
The elevator continued to Steve’s floor. Wanda got out and made her way to her office. It looked different but it felt familiar. The office has been cleaned and some things have been moved. She checked the shelves and all her things were still there. As she settled into her office, she felt a wave of familiarity wash over her. She was in a known surrounding. Small steps at a time she said to herself.
On her way to the conference room, she bumped into the new Head of Communication, Billy Koenig. They made some small talk and went on their ways. Things have changed around her Wanda thought.
By afternoon, Howard came to visit her. Seeing him after a long time made her lose it. It reminded of the time when everything wasn’t messed up. She started trembling and crying. She was able to let everything out. The familiar presence by her side was warm welcome. He held her and consoled her till her tears subsided. When Wanda calmed down bit Howard had offered to take her home then but she declined.
“Then come over to my lab.”
“That sounds fine.”
They both went down to his lab. They talked the rest of the day. Wanda felt better at the end of the day.
Five months later
“I can’t come to the movies tonight. You guys go on. Maybe we can hang out some other time” said Carol. She was Steve’s chief advisor on Foreign Relations.
“Date night?” asked Piper.
“Yeah. I planned something sweet for my wife. I don’t want to postpone it”
“That’s cool. Other’s on board?” asked Daisy.
“Yeah,” said Davis. “And Carol, when is your wife due?”
“Two months from now”
“Decided on the name?” asked Piper.
“Yeah. Monica” Carol beamed.
“That’s cute,” said Wanda.
“What about you Piper? When are you planning to pop the big question? When are you planning on expanding the family?” Daisy teased.
“Guys. Guys, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I like how things are going with Becca. I’m not thinking much into the future right now.”
“What about you, Daisy? Met any new person.” asked Wanda.
Daisy laughed. “I don’t have much luck in the dating front. You know, one time …” Daisy started narrating a funny story. The group laughed and joked till they had to get back to work.
One months later
It was the last therapy session for Wanda. Andrew was satisfied with her improvement throughout the session. He asked her to keep in touch if any need arises contact him for any problem. Wanda thanked him and got up from the sofa.
“What plans do you have for today?”
“I’m moving into a new house.”
“Glad to hear that. Good luck, Wanda.”
As usual Andrew walked Wanda to the entrance before preparing for his next client. Wanda walked to her car and started it. She drove to her old apartment but paused at the entrance. She hadn’t gone back there for a long time. She didn’t want to go back. She feared it would open the closed wounds. She stood at the corner of the road, staring at the building. Steve’s car caught her eyes. She reminded herself that he was there for her and she doesn’t have to go through this alone.
Wanda climbed the familiar stairs and reached her old apartment. She went in to see Steve already packing everything. Seeing her he gave a small smile. She joined him.
“You don’t have to pack by yourself. You could have waited till I came back.”
“Who said I did by myself? The others are also here.”
Hearing the conversation, Natasha peeped out of her bedroom and gave a smile. Wanda smiled back. She went into the kitchen and saw Tony and Howard working together. She was surprised as she stood in the doorway and looked at the father-son duo. Sensing her presence both turned towards her. She gave a small smile and went back to the living room and joined Steve.
“Sorry guys. I’m late” they heard a voice by the door. They turned to see Coulson standing there with a smile.
“Hey, Coulson” Wanda greeted him. “It’s been long. How’s work going on?”
“It’s classified,” he replied with a smile. He joined the others to help them pack.
All the stuff in every room was packed except Pietro’s, Wanda opened the door and stepped in. She let out the breath she was accidently holding. She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see it was Steve. He was there to assure her that she doesn’t have to mourn alone. He was there to share her grief. Together they started packing his stuff. After they were done, the movers loaded it into the truck. The house felt different without the things. She went back to Pietro’s room to look at it one last time. Even though she stood alone she could feel her brother’s warm presence. She embraced herself and took one final look at the room. She walked out of the room and joined the others. They set out for the new place.
It was a cosy condo in the outskirts of Brooklyn near Steve’s place. Steve had suggested it to her when she asked him. She liked the place when she saw it first. When she took the tour of the place, she fell in love with it. It was fully furnished. The house looked elegant but not too extravagant for Wanda’s taste. They reached the new place and waited for the movers. After unloading the boxes, Natasha went out to pick up Bucky who was planning to join them for dinner. On the way back, they bought some take outs and drinks. The dinner was filled with quirky conversations and crappy jokes.
“I have an announcement. I’m going to Wakanda next month” Howard announced with pride.
“For how long?” Wanda asked.
“For about six months.”
“You know, Howard. You have to run these things by your employer first.”
“I forgot you were here. I thought you and Bucky were doing laundry” Howard snorted.
Steve and Bucky became red. The others burst out laughing.
Wanda thought about the first time they had hung out together. Everything was very different now. She thought they were just normal group of friends. Now she knew most of the group were vampires. Coulson is the Director of S.T.A.K.E. And she was ‘I’ now. But she knew she will be alright. As long as she had her friends by her side.
Two months later
It was a bright sunny day and the sun’s rays danced on the graveyard grass. The tomb stones shone in the light. The leaves rustled in the mild summer breeze. Wanda walked to the empty grave with flowers in her hand. Thompson accompanied her. They laid the flowers on the empty grave. Thompson walked away for some time to give her alone time with her brother. After she had talked, they sat near the grave and recollected the memories of Pietro as a token of celebrating his life. By afternoon, they decided to leave.
“I will wait in the car,” Wanda said, slightly gripping his shoulders for support.
After visiting Pietro's grave both of them drove to a nearby café. They ordered a coffee each and settled in an empty table.
“I’m sorry I didn’t contact you before. I was-”
“Hey, it’s okay. I understand. We both were not in a good place. No bad feelings” Wanda reassured him.
Thompson gave a weak smile.
Thompson opened his mouth to talk but Wanda intervened again.
“Oh wait!” she said “It’s classified” she said mimicking Coulson.
Both of them chuckled. “That wasn’t a very good impression of Coulson but I will let it pass” he laughed.
“We should do this often. Meet and catch up with each other” Thompson offered.
“That would be nice,” Wanda smiled.
Chapter 12: It's Time to Check Loyalty
Loki was the second vampire to come into existence. He along with four others have been transformed by Jean. The clan stayed together for a very short time and the circumstance forced them to split paths. Loki had travelled to the continent of North America. He saw the opportunity to establish his kingdom there. He rose an army and conquered the place. His disciples loved him. Among his kind, he was well-known and feared. He gave an adobe for many vampires in America setting his throne city in the east coast. It had been a dream life for him till his brother put an end to him. He had turned Loki’s followers against himself.
Now, Loki had been set free to roam the earth once again. He had been liberated from his eternal imprisonment. When he went down in the fight, he knew someone might be foolish enough to free him. He had hoped it would be one of his loyal disciples but it was a bunch of foolish kids. But it had happened finally. When he woke up only one thought filled his mind. Blood. He had wanted that metallic taste in his tongue for years. While his body was immobilised by the stake, his mind had wandered. When he woke up, he desperately wanted the taste of blood like a kid looking at the window of a toffee shop. He feasted upon the three children who had freed him. They weren’t enough. He needed more. He was famished. He set out in search of nearby human settlements.
Loki came upon a small village. The world was very different from the one he had lived. The rain poured down on the ancient being but he didn’t mind. The ferocious wind was enough to slow him down. The water cascaded down the leather and metal washing away the blood and dirt. The sticky trace of the red liquid in his hand was no more. His hair drenched in the rain stuck to the cape of his neck and laid on his shoulders. If anyone had dared to look out of their window during the storm, they would have thought he was a God. A God, majestically strolling down the road. A God filled with unspeakable rage ready to kill anything in their path.
Loki was a witch even before he had been turned. His witch powers integrated with his vampire strength made him deadly. But he too had his weakness. He wouldn’t be able to perform spells when he is weak. He needed to satisfy his hunger.
Loki broke the door of the random house and feasted upon the blood of the sleeping family. But they weren’t enough to satisfy him. He wanted more. He needed more to regain his strength. His hunger was insatiable. His mind screamed one word. Blood. He killed families after families to quench his thirst.
Once he was satisfied, he was able to think clearly. He looked around at the new world he knew nothing about. Loki kept travelling; going through the town; learning about the world he has woken up in. He stole money from two drunkards and booked a room at a motel. He stayed there and watched the activities of everyone around him. He always made sure to move to another town before any suspicion arose.
Loki stayed in an inn owned by an old couple in Elkhart Lake. The lady was kind and nurturing towards him. He too grew fond of her. She always brought him extra cookies and sweets. He rarely enjoys human food but he didn’t have the heart to tell the lady. He always accepted it with a warm smile. In the morning he keeps up the facade of writing a book. And he wanders out at night most of the time to hunt and sometimes to learn about his children. He always returns before sunrise even though the sun can’t hurt him.
One night while out exploring the world, he saw a struggle out of the corner of his eyes. He ducked into the alley to see a man dragging a woman. Loki pulled him away and trashed him against the wall. He pierced the man’s neck and drank his blood. He drained him completely and dropped the lifeless form to the ground. He turned to look at the woman who was too drugged to understand what Loki was. He snapped his fingers, making her disapparated to her home.
The following night he stayed in. He decided that it was time to learn about the fate of his kind. In his short time since he woke up, he hadn’t met anyone. He wanted to find out about his so-called followers who had taken his brother's side. The ones who were his own blood but had decided to betray him. The ones who had provided his brother with the key to his defeat.
Loki removed the carpet and kept it aside. Below the carpet a circle was present. Loki had drawn it when he had moved into the inn. He had collected the required ingredients patiently waiting for the right time. Now it has come. Inside the circle sigils were drawn leaving a space in the center. He sat in the center. He chanted the spells which would allow him to enter the dreams of others. As alluring as it was to enter Thor’s dream and scare him, Loki decided not to. Now is not the time he thought. He closed his eyes and started chanting spells. He entered a trance and felt himself floating above the floor. His mind wandered the dream world. He felt light weight as he felt his body in the material dimension and entered the mind dimension. Here, time and other laws that bind the material world doesn’t make sense.
Loki searched for the dream thread he was looking for. He found it and a victory smile tugged his lips. He entered Skurge’s dream.
“Did you miss me?” Loki grinned.
Skurge’s dream started disorienting. Loki knew from experience that his sudden presence has startled him and he was about to wake. Loki walked out of his dream and came back to the real world.
The next day, he prepared the same circle and chanted the same spells. He invaded Skurge’s dream. Skurge’s face went pale when he saw Loki.
Loki smiled, “Hello, Skurge.”
“My- my king”
“Tell me, how is everyone? Are you all prospering after killing me?” His deep voice was dripping with poison.
Skurge quivered in fear. He had never expected to see Loki ever again.
“You- you are back.”
“Do I sense disappointment in your voice?”
“No, My King,” he said, kneeling before Loki.
“Tell me, who is ruling over you now?”
“There is The Council of Five. They look over the activities after World War II. After you were gone, two major war happ-”
“Shut up. I’m not some peasant. I know what World Wars are. Tell me about this council.”
“They are set in New York. Thor left after he- he- I mean he left”
Loki raised his eyebrow doubting Skurge’s statement. Skurge noticed it. He quickly added, “It’s not like when you ruled, my King. Times are different now.”
“Find me in Elkhart Lake” Loki said and exited Skurge’s dream. He knew his follower would come for him.
The very next night, Skurge was in town. The old inn lady was reluctant to accommodate him since the inn was almost full.
“I am not sure, Tom. There are no extra rooms.”
“Please, my lady” Loki cast a charming smile.
“Always a charmer” the lady gave a soft smile. “You can stay here, Mr. Desmond.”
Loki promised that Skurge who was known to her as ‘Mr. Desmond Troy’ was just a visiting guest for few days and he would leave. He told her that Skurge was his editor.
Loki turned to Skurge and extended his hand expectantly. Skurge held him. As soon as they touched, Loki entered Skurge’s mind. He looked at the recent vampire history. After his passage, things have been kind of dull, he thought. But the last incident piqued his interest. The joining of a new clan. Loki had learnt that after he was killed, they had stopped making new vampires because no one was able to prepare ‘Draught of First Blood.’ The five clans have divided the left over among themselves. But the clan-less had certainly been around for years. They must have somehow replicated his draught. He exited Skurge’s memories.
“How did they get my draught?”
“No idea. Maybe The Council supplied it?”
“Idiot. I mean before they joined.”
“Oh” Skurge said, standing there blinking.
“Don’t just stand there. I want you to find out more about this clan-less”
“Actually, they were clan-less. Now they are a clan.”
Loki shot him a pissed off look. Skurge apologised and scurried away. “I will be back with more information, my king.”
Chapter 13: What Does The Future Hold?
I'm so sorry for posting this chapter very late. My exams finally got over and I'm free. Yay!
December 1945, Europe
A tall dark-haired person was sitting in the high stood of the bar sipping their drink. A man, in army uniform walked up to them and settled on the next stool. He ordered his drinks and tried to start a small talk.
“I haven’t seen you here much? New here?” he said. He English had an undertone of strong German accent.
“That’s none of your business” they answered. “You and your war” they muttered to themselves, glancing at the man’s uniform.
“You aren’t so better off,” he commented. He added, “Vielen Dank” to the bartender who set down his drink.
Anger burned in their eyes. “How dare you?”
“You have much more potential than sit alone in a bar and sulk over the past. You could create what your mentor always wanted. Fulfil your destiny.”
The words went straight to their heart as they looked at the lanky man in front of them. “How do you know?”
“Words travel faster now-a-days, my friend.”
The person’s mind waged a war on its own. To say they weren’t intrigued by this stranger would be an understatement. “You know bullshit” they said, their voices full of spite at the man, their eyes burning like fire. The person got up to leave.
He chuckled. “I should have expected this reaction. Let me put my offer on the table before you leave.” His eyes studied his companion meticulously. “I provide the resources; you hunt them and bring them to me.”
“Who are you?”
Present time, New York
Steve and Bucky had moved past their awkwardness and differences. They had finally decided to get back on dating. Given their history, they were afraid of how it would work out. But everything went smoothly for them.
The couple were seated in Bucky’s favourite diner waiting for their food. The conversation was flowing easily between the lovers. It was interrupted by the ringing of Bucky’s phone. He looked apologetically at Steve as he attended it. His face became paler with each passing second.
“Okay I will be there” he said ending the call.
Before Bucky could explain the situation to Steve his phone rang again. This time it was Pym’s assistant. He said he will be there as soon as possible and hung up.
“Hank had a heart attack. Hope and Scott have left abruptly and they aren’t responding. I need to- I’m so sorry. It’s just-”
“Hey, I understand. We’re good.”
Bucky hastily kissed Steve goodbye and left.
The Council of Five except Bucky landed in Washington DC. At the airport they were met by Rosalind Pierce, the head of Advanced Threat Containment Unit (ATCU). After the smuggling came to light, the government wanted to form a face organisation to deal with advanced threats. Rosalind Pierce, former MI6 and CIA agent was apt for that. She greeted them with a warm smile. They got in the car and left for ATCU headquarters.
“Our advisors are eager to meet you. Mr. Banks will show you to the conference room” she said once they arrived at the headquarters.
The Council of Five waited in the conference room. None of them were eager for the meeting.
“Do you think this is a good idea?” Steve asked, looking at Jiaying.
“They know about us. We can’t do anything other than make a treaty.”
“Pierce sounds fine. Let’s get on her good sides and renegotiate our terms.”
“I wouldn’t put much faith in her. She is still human”
“It beats me that you hate humans and still run a hospital for them.”
“I don’t hate them. I just don’t trust them” Jiaying said. Her voice had lost a friendly banter. Natasha noticed the sudden change in the ambience of the room.
“We can’t oppose them directly. But whatever decision we make, we will give a united front.”
Gideon Malick and Senator Ellen Nadeer walked into the room. Seeing the two vampires, Malick broke into a grin and shook their hands. But the Senator kept her distance with a disgusted look on her face. She took her seat without as much as greeting the others. Natasha rolled her eyes as she and Steve exchanged a look. The meeting hadn't even started and here they were showing hostility. Rosalind Pierce, Luther Banks, General Talbot and Colonel Rhodes joined them soon.
The group settled down to discuss the treaty between vampires and the government. To say it shortly, the meeting didn’t go well. The one person who was worth speaking to was Rosalind and the other two were pissing off The Council. General Talbot was a reasonable man to talk with but he wasn’t able to convince the Senator.
After the meeting, the Jiaying, Steve and Rosalind along with Luther Banks left to visit the Museum of Natural History. Jiaying and Steve planned to get to know their new ally better.
“Will it be okay if I ask you for the history tour?”
“Always glad to be of help, ma’am” smiled Steve
“I did History major in my college. I’m just curious if what is studied is true.”
“To say shortly, no. Most of the time the winners write the history. Most of the significant things don’t get recorded. While others get changed as time passes.”
“Then enlighten me.”
Talbot, Rhodey and Tony were walking out of the ATCU headquarters. They were talking about the new weapon deal and the budget. Tony was engrossed in the talk that he almost collided into the woman who just rounded the corner.
“Hi there,” he said without missing a beat.
“I’m Tony. Tony Stark. And you are?”
“May I ask what’s your role in ATCU?”
“To keep the President in the loop.”
“Does the work require you to fly to New York?”
“Does it?” asked Pepper, cocking her head.
“I think it does. Are you free tonight?”
“I am. Why don’t you give me a call?” she said, slipping her number card into his hand. “I got to run now. Having a meeting” she said and walked down the corridor.
Tony put the card in his pocket and stared at the retreating figure with a smile on his face.
“If you are done staring, Mr. Stark, we may to proceed to Smithsonian”
Rhodey snickered at the commentary which made Talbot frown. Tony and Rhodey enjoyed the evening. It’s been long since they had met and this provided a perfect opportunity to catch up.
“Let me pour you that scotch,” Stephanie said turning her attention away from the book.
Gideon settled in the arm chair near her chuckling.
“I should thank you for today. Your idea to go public could improve our stand.”
“One thing we need to learn from history. Never repeat the same mistakes.” Seeing the amused look on her father’s face, she continued. “Whitehall wanted to eradicate them. But he was too closed off to the world. Operating from castles and chasing them with a predator prey dynamic. If the world come to know about him, no government would openly support him for the fear of backlash.”
“So, we get to register them and keep a note on everyone. Once they slip up, we act the law enforcement to protect the people for the vampire threat,” Gideon finished.
Stephanie raised her glass. Gideon followed suit with a proud smile.
“To my daughter, who proved to a Malick.
Chapter 14: You Should be Afraid of Me, Darling
“Loki, don’t do that to your brother.”
Loki peaked out of his hiding place to see his mother, Frigga looking at him.
“Mother, how did you find me?” the five-year-old asked innocently, looking up at his mother. Frigga smiled at her boy. She loved how innocent and pure he looked.
“I’m a witch” she crooned, making the child giggle.
“Yes,” she said with a genuine smile.
“Will you teach me?”
“Certainly, someday. Now, come let’s get you to bed.”
Frigga tugged Loki into his bed. As she was about to put out the lamp, Loki called her.
“Mother, let me more about magic.”
Frigga smiled at her son. “Okay, you need to go to sleep afterwards. Promise?” Loki nodded eagerly. Frigga stretched her hand away from her and summoned a beautiful golden spectre. She placed it in Loki’s hand.
“This spectre contains branch of Red Oak ingrained in it. It enhances my powers.”
“Can’t you magic without it, mother?”
“I can, Loki. But with this I will be more powerful.” Frigga ruffled young Loki’s hair making him giggle. She continued, “I can produce water, quench fire, relight it” Her hands followed her words creating a small fountain in her palm. She stretched out her hand and put out the flame of the lamp then snapped her finger to relight it. “Create illusion.” A green snake materialized near to Loki who promptly reached out to catch it. When little fingers went through the illusion not able to catch it, he looked confused at his mother. She laughed warmly. “I can also do this” she said raising her hand making Loki levitate.
Loki’s eyes widened with awe. He giggled with joy as his mother bounced him in the air. Frigga gently dropped him into her laps and cuddled her boy.
Pym Technologies, San Francisco, Present time
Loki paid a visit to many renowned artifact dealers. He was determined to attain his prized possessions. His spectre. His mother’s spectre. And the book, Darkhold which held the unfathomable knowledge. Some dealers would point him the direction of a supposed lead but didn’t get any solid clue. Every lead turned out to be a dead end in his hunt. He felt being led on a wild goose chase. He controlled his temper and didn’t let his urges take over. For more than once, he had wanted to kill everyone just to get his hands on the spectre. But he remained serene. He needed a new plan to track the spectre. A new thread or new line to follow.
Loki sat down in his magical circle and entered the dream realm. It always did calm him down. He played harmless pranks on the sleeping humans. He jumped from dream to dream playing his role as the trickster and mischief maker. He saw into a kid’s dream where the boy was building new inventions with his half-brother. Something about the kid’s features rang a bell inside Loki. The red hair. Loki knew what he had to do instantly. He returned back to the material realm satisfied with his process.
Loki was more relaxed. He will make Skurge hut down the girl he thought. The girl bearing the bloodline. He laid on his bed and continued to read the book, ‘Sapiens.’ That author did amaze Loki.
To Loki’s luck, Skurge arrived with the information he had enquired before. He said that a renowned scientist named Hank Pym had duplicated the draught. Curiosity overtook Loki and he decided to pay him a visit.
Loki arrived at the Pym technologies. The receptionist smiled at him and greeted him.
"How may I guide you, sir?"
"I'm here to see Dr. Hank Pym."
"Do you have an appointment, sir?"
"Excuse me for my rudeness" he said with a smile. He pressed his forefinger to her forehead. Her eyes glazed over. She looked at Loki with a smile.
"That way, your highness" she pointed at the direction of Pym's office.
“Thank you” Loki smirked.
After Loki walked away, the receptionist blinked her eyes a few times not knowing what has happened. She remembered talking with a man with dark hair but suddenly he wasn't there. She looked around the area to check if he was there but couldn't get any sign of him.
Loki walked to Pym's office and was greeted by a surprised old man.
"Who are you?"
"I am Loki, the firstborn of Jean. Founder of First Vampire civilization. Fore-father of present-day Vampires. Inventor of Drought of First Blood"
Pym recognised Loki but didn't want to show it. He had heard stories about him from Sam and Bucky. "Enough with the chit chat. Why are you here?" Pym grumbled.
"I heard that you faked my antidote. I decided to pay a visit to the genius brain" Loki chuckled.
"That's me. You have seen him. You can go now" Pym waved him off.
"I like your ‘I'm not scared attitude’ human"
"Dad. Have you-" Hope who had entered the room stopped mid-sentence. She sensed her father's worriedness in his body language. She eyes the stranger with weariness in her eyes.
"Should I make him leave?"
"No, Hope. I will be with you shortly. Leave us alone now."
Hope was unsure what to do but she finally nodded and started to leave. Loki turned around and faced her. She recognised Loki and the blood drained from her face. She went pale with shock.
"Not so soon." He looked at Pym, "Now I understand why you needed to replicate my antidote."
He grabbed Hope's jaws as he spoke through gritted teeth. "From now on you will work with me."
"Yes, my king."
"Oh Hank, I can't thank you enough. This visit was just supposed to be a little side adventure for me. But you provided me a devotee.”
Loki smiled at Hank and walked out. Hope followed him not paying any attention to her father’s pleas. They walked to the exit and Hope beat up a security guard to provide way for Loki. Scott saw this from the opposite end of the hall. Confused, he ran towards her to stop her.
“Scott, no,” Pym shouted but it was late. Scott grabbed Hope by her forearm. She turned and kicked him in his shins and punched his gut. He doubled over in pain. Before she could deliver more hits, Loki stopped her.
“He might be useful,” Loki said and pressed his fingers on Scott’s temple. As soon as Loki touched him, Scott entered a trance just like Hope. They walked out of the door with Loki. Pym ran to the entrance to check on them. There was no sign of them. They had vanished. For a moment he was afraid they had dusted in the sunlight, but there were no ashes. Pym collapsed on the floor clutching his chest.
Chapter 15: Bloodline
Jean, The First Vampire transformed only five of her loyal subjects, Loki, Thor, Hela, Charles and Ororo. The five ancient vampires could never turn anyone like the First Vampire did. Whoever they turned would lose their mind and go feral in a few days. Loki came up with a solution. He knew about a human bloodline which ran parallel to the vampires. Loki had been tracking them ever since he found out. He had a hunch that they would find the solution.
Loki walked along the trodden path leading to the small adobe. The brick structure was the only building in the vicinity. The pastel paint was peeling off the walls and windows had accumulated dust. The bushes were overgrown around the house. There was smoke coming out of the chimney; the grey smoke mixing with the summer breeze. The woodcutter would have probably gone to the forest. Loki was glad about that as he didn’t want any witness to see what was about to happen. Loki knocked on the door of the house and waited for it to open. After a while, a woman in her mid-thirties opened the door. She looked friendly but tiredness was etched onto her face. Her dark red hair was tied up in a tight bun. Her clothes were worn out but clean. Seeing Loki her eyebrows furrowed. She wasn’t expecting any visitors.
“Who are you?”
“Pardon me. I’m Thomas, the neighbouring king’s messenger.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I just want some and water to continue my journey.”
The woman eyed Loki suspiciously. He continued, “My horse… My horse was washed away by the flood in the river. I walked the whole way here. Please. Yours is the only house in vicinity.”
The woman relented and allowed him to come inside. She went into the kitchen and fetched him some food and a pitcher of water. When she gave the offerings to him, an unexpected thing happened. Loki pulled out a knife and slashed her neck. She dropped the pitcher and the bowl as her hands cupped her neck. He produced a small cauldron out of thin air and collected the dripping blood. The woman tried to shout for help. But the action brought more blood. She gargled and choked as the blood poured out of her throat. Loki held her as her blood drained into the cauldron. After he had collected what he wanted, he pushed her to the floor. He snapped his fingers making the cauldron vanish. As he was about to leave, he saw a small figure lurking in the corner of the room. It was a small girl. Her features starkly resembled the dead woman.
Loki advanced towards the little girl making her cower back. “Don’t worry I won’t hurt you.” He kneeled near her and pressed his hands to her cheeks. Immediately, her eyes glazed over. When she returned to normal, Loki was long gone. And she remembered nothing of the incident.
Loki concocted a potion using the blood as one of the ingredients. The potion helped the new vampires. It stopped them from becoming feral.
Since then, Loki kept track of the bloodline and harvested a family member every once in a while. He had ensured the bloodline carried on to the next generation. He had always made sure one person was there to carry on the legacy.
Loki wanted to track the bloodline. She would hold the key to attain his spectre. He beckoned Hope and Scott. They curtsied before him and waited for their orders.
“I need you to find this girl,” he started. He filled his minions on the details and dismissed them with a wave of his hand.
Hope and Scott roamed the night city without any clue. They didn’t even know about that bloodline till tonight. They ended with many wrong leads. They were about to give up when a thought struck Scott.
“We could approach Luis. He had always been good at these stuffs,” Scott suggested.
“Are you stupid? We can’t endanger the work by confiding it with anyone else.”
“Okay. You go back and tell him we have failed”
Hope trembled at the thought. She didn’t want to anger the ancient vampire. And he had given them a task and they were going to complete it.
“Okay. Call Luis.”
The duo met Luis in a bar. The place was crowded and the music was pumped up to full volume. The three cramped into an empty booth.
“Hey man, I didn’t see you for quite some time. If you’re looking to get back into business, now is the good time” Luis started talking. He noticed Hope, “Is this the girl you were saying about?”
Hope frowned at the two men. “Before I punch him, make him shut up.”
“Luis, we need to find a specific person. You have gotta help us”
Scott and Hope filled Luis on the information they knew.
“You can find her?”
“Don’t worry, man. I have got your back.”
Scott and Hope heard back from Luis in a couple of days. They met him again in the same bar.
“Tell me about the tip.”
“Okay. I was in NYC last night. I decided to help myself to some good old smoothie. You remember the smoothie shop around the corner of our old office, right? As I was waiting in the line, I saw a couple of teenagers enjoying a smoothie in their car. I the remembered man, I had my first kiss with a girl was actually in a Smoothie parking lot. It was actually sloppy but good.”
“It’s the wrong details. It has nothing to do with the story. Go.”
Luis started narrating the story again with something slightly different. It was a long night before Scott got any useful information from him. Hope was still lost, giving up trying to follow the information.
When Luis finished another weird story narration, Hope turned to Scott. “What?” she uttered; her face crunched in confusion.
“The girl is in New York. She is working in Rogers Innovative” he said pushing a small piece of paper towards Hope. “This is all we need to know.”
Chapter 16: The Overdue Visit
Wanda entered her home; she tossed her footwear to the side and placed her bare foot on the floor. After a long day of standing and roaming around non-stop the feel of the cool floor against her feet was soothing. She turned on the lights and made her way to the sofa. She let out a shriek in shock. She saw a strange man sitting on her sofa in the middle of the room. She embraced herself as she took out a small blade from her purse.
“Hello, darling” the man said with a smile. “That won’t be necessary, I guess.” He flicked his hand and the knife disappeared.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
“It was very rude of me to not introduce myself” he chuckled. “I am Loki, First Born of Jean.”
The name rang a bell in Wanda’s head. Steve had mentioned him once. He had also mentioned that Loki went hell crazy before he had to be taken down. Wanda wondered how Loki had been freed and also why would he visit her.
“All your questions will be answered later, Ms. Maximoff. Now we have important business to attend to” he said with a dark smile as if he had read her mind. The evil glint in his eyes sent a shiver down her spine.
Wanda tried to back away but Loki was quick. He caught her elbow and held her in place. He pressed the forefinger of his other hand to her temple.
Wanda knew this sensation. She is entering into memories. Wanda suddenly felt her mind racing through time. She saw faces she never knew existed. She felt her head throbbing and her heart beat increasing. Every vampire’s memory was pouring into her mind and her brain was processing it all in a few seconds. She had no control over her mind. Finally, the whirling stopped. The surroundings became clear. It was a long corridor in a castle. She saw Loki standing near her. They saw a man with long blond hair walking away from them. Loki followed him.
“Hello brother, it’s been so long!”
The man didn’t hear Loki. He walked into the throne room. There a woman was waiting for the man.
“Do you have it?”
He nodded and took out a book from his bag. “Keep it safe and hidden.”
“Say no more.”
The world around Wanda started disappearing. The throbbing in her head started again. She wanted it to stop but couldn’t make it. She had no control over it. Finally, it stopped and they were standing in a meadow now. The moonlight light fell on the grass giving it a grey tinge. The woman who they saw earlier was standing there, gripping the bag in her hands. She kept looking on both sides, as if looking for someone. A stout man arrived at the scene. He gave a small nod. She returned the gesture. After a short while a bald man arrived on the scene.
“I’m giving you each an object to hide. Make sure it can’t be found for centuries to come” said the woman. She took out a spectre with a dull emerald green stone in it and handed it to the stout guy. She handed a hard-bound book to the other. Without any formalities, the three left the scene. The scene around them started to disorient.
Wanda and Loki returned to Wanda’s home. Wanda had lost her consciousness by then. She swayed and about to hit the ground but Loki caught her with his magic. With a flick of his hand, he settled her over the sofa.
“Just as I thought” Loki muttered to himself. There was a smirk playing on his lips as he cast a charm around her house.
Daisy arrived at Wanda’s house a few minutes after Loki left. She rang the bell expecting her friend to open the door. Seeing that there was no response, she took the extra key that Wanda had given her. She used it to enter her home. She called out to Wanda but there was no response. She went further to see her friend lying motionless on the couch. Daisy quickly checked her pulse and breathing. Both were stable. She sprinkled water on her friend to wake her up.
Wanda woke up with a headache. She felt disoriented. For a moment, she didn’t understand where she was. She checked around her to see Daisy.
“Daisy?” she inquired.
“Yeah, babe. You alright?”
“No. I don’t remember how I got here” Wanda said, looking around her again.
“Here. Have some water” said Daisy filling an empty glass with the clear liquid and extending it to Wanda.
Wanda gulped down the water. She tried her best to recollect what happened. Slowly the incident came back to her. When she fully understood the gravity of the situation, fear hit her.
“Shit” she shouted.
Daisy was slightly thrown back. “What happened?” she inquired.
“I need to talk with Steve, immediately.”
“It’s sort of private. I will be back” she said as she disappeared with her phone into her room.
Wanda dialled Steve’s number. The call immediately went to voice. She swore as she looked at the time. He must have boarded the plane. She called his number again but it kept going to voicemail. Howard had gone to Wakanda and there was no way he could come back in time. Natasha and Tony are also with Steve. She then dialled Coulson’s number. He was out of reach. Dejected, she paced the room, trying to find someone. Bucky’s name crossed her mind. She hadn’t even bothered to get his number even though he had warmed up to her in the last few months. It dawned on her that she was in this alone. She was panicking not knowing what to do.
Wanda made her way back to the living room to see Daisy, puzzled, waiting for her to explain. She decided she doesn’t have to be alone. She decided to confide in Daisy.
“I want to tell you something. But please don’t panic or… maybe think I’m crazy. Okay?”
“Wanda, you are acting strange. Is everything, okay?”
“So here is the deal...” Wanda started. She told Daisy everything except Pietro’s death and her power. Daisy does know about her late brother but doesn’t know the full story. Wanda decided to keep it that way.
Daisy sat there petrified not knowing what to say for a few minutes. Her face was of utter shock and disbelief.
“Tell me you’re joking.”
“I wish I was”
“Then let’s stop him”
“We can’t do it alone, Daisy. We need help.”
Wanda answered her door to see the guy that Daisy had said about.
“Yeah. Robbie Reyes, Private Investigator.”
“You are developing a catch phrase,” Daisy called out from the living room.
Robbie chuckled as they moved to the living room and settled on the sofa. Ash arrived after a few minutes. She was Daisy’s roommate in college and one of her closest friends. They called Piper and Davis too but both didn’t answer the call. Wanda had a sinking feeling that Loki had to do something with it. It increased her desire to stop Loki. Daisy filled them in about everything. She intentionally left out the vampire part and changed the story a bit. She and Wanda shared a look and nodded at each other. They knew the other two wouldn’t believe if they told them the whole truth.
“How are we going to stop the guy?”
“Good old school hacking, baby” Daisy grinned. Daisy tracked down the spectre which was in possession of ‘The Collector and Grandmaster’ in Costa Rica. She proudly showed off her skill to the other three.
“Costa Rica, here we come” commented Wanda.
“Wait, how did you figure this fast?” Robbie’s eyebrows were furrowed in confusion.
“I have my contacts” Daisy winked.
“By contacts, she means her own group of hackers” informed Wanda.
“You knew about them?”
“We ran a background check before you joined.”
Daisy smiled sheepishly.
“Matter at the hand, guys. The collector only meets people of high class. We need to pose as rich bitches to get a meeting with him” Wanda intervened
“We can either impersonate someone or create a false identity” offered Ash.
“Impersonating could go wrong. One simple search and we will be caught red-handed” said Robbi.
“False identity it is.” Daisy turning to her laptop. She started to create fake identity cards for four of them.
"Robbie and I will be your security escorts" Ash said “while you and Daisy are some mafia leader’ protégées”
“How did the spectre end up with the Collector?”
“Well, this man sold it to him two years ago.”
Wanda looked at Daisy’s phone to see the stout man she had seen earlier in the memories. The name Eric Koenig was written under his photo. She was wondering where she had seen him before. Seeing a modern photo, she was easily able to recognise it. The man in the memory, the man in the I.D. looked exactly like the new Head of Communications in Rogers Innovative, Sam Koenig.
The market place was stuffed with people shifting from one shop to another. The vendors were advertising their products grabbing people’s attention. Most of the shops had various leather goods making the whole street smell of leather. A couple shuffled through the other customers. The woman had long blonde hair, dropping below her shoulders. The man was dark skinned and had buzz cut. They stopped from time to time to examine the products in the shop but didn’t buy any.
“How are things between you and Hunter?” asked the man.
“Distance is our boon. Its going well recently” Bobbi chuckled. Her face retained the laugh but her eyes hardened, “Trip, 10 o’ clock.”
Trip casually took a wall hanging from a shop and made a show of showing it to Bobbi. It slipped from his hand and fell down. As he bent down to pick up, Bobbi pulled out her electric batons. Trip pulled out the gun he had hidden in his boots. The two advanced in the direction Bobbi had pointed out earlier. A man took a run seeing the two.
“Ward. Suspect is coming in your direction” Trip said into his comms taking after the fleeing man.
The two agents followed their target to a dead end.
Bakshi’s men had surrendered the duo. They advanced on them allowing Bakshi to escape. Bobbi striked the nearby man with her baton. She twisted his arm making him drop his gun. Trip shot two men with the I.C.E.R but more came flooding in. A woman tried to punch Bobbi from her side. Bobbi held her and kicked her in the abdomen. She hit her in the head with her baton. Another thug attacked her from behind. He locked her cutting off her escape. Bobbi thrust backwards with her batons electrocuting him.
“Ward. Backup” Bobbi said into her comms as he grabbed her I.C.E.R and shot two thugs.
Trip smashed the back of the I.C.E.R into a thug’s head. He grabbed the foot of another and pushed him to the ground. Trip delivered a punch to the opponent’s head. A person grabbed him from behind. He struggled to get away but he was overpowered. Suddenly, the grip loosened and Trip gasped for breath.
Ward arrived at the scene to aid the two. He saw Trip struggling against his attacker. As Ward went to help him, he was stopped by a woman. He fired her gun at him. He ducked and grabbed her arms. He twisted and locked her, making her drop the gun. Ward noticed two more thugs running at him. He fired his I.C.E.R at them. He knocked out the woman and ran to Trip. He pulled the person who was attacking Trip and took them out.
After taking down their attackers, the three agents boarded the quinjet. Bobbi took off the quinjet while Ward and Tripp settled down.
“I can’t believe we lost him, man.”
“Look who showed up on the radar,” Ward said, showing the tab to Trip. A picture of two men dressed in elegant silk clothing appeared on the screen. “Illegal dealer, known as Grandmaster and Collector”
“These two have resurfaced after a long time.”
“They purchased a golden spectre from a man called Koenig. We can retrace their activities.”
Bobbi called out from the cockpit, “After refuelling, we are following them.”
Ward, Bobbi and Trip went to the S.T.A.K.E base. They had wanted to talk with Coulson but he had done dark leaving Mack in charge. They showed their lead to him and he gave them green light for the mission. They left for the mission as soon as they refuelled. They had followed the lead and tracked The Collector to Puerto Rico. They checked into a hotel room and laid low. The first half of the day passed away eventless. Trip took up his position near the window to look out. His eyes perked up seeing the familiar face in the crowd below.
“Over here” he said, not taking his eyes away from the target.
Bobbi walked over and peered out of the window. She noticed Sunil Bakshi walking down the street. He was accompanied by another man. Ward too joined them. Ward noticed the armed men loitering the street. They were a few feet away from Bakshi but would come to his rescue if needed.
“This time he isn’t escaping us.”
Ward took the stainless-steel tray lying on the hotel table and jumped into the ledge of the window. He quickly descended down with the help of windows and rails. Bakshi had noticed Ward and took off running. As Ward crossed a street, he fired his icer taking out most of Bakshi’s men. He ran in the direction of Bakshi. He ran into the alley and was blocked by three men. As they fired, he held the plate blocking the bullets. He advanced towards them without a flinch. He threw the tray at one man. At the same moment, he pointed his icer in the direction of the third man and pressed the trigger, taking him out. He turned to the other man and fired. Nothing happened. He had run out of bullets. The man shot at Ward who ducked behind a parked van. He grabbed a broken bicycle lying behind the van and threw it at the man. The first thug had recovered. Ward grabbed and headbutted him.
Ward ran in Bakshi’s direction. He saw the fleeing man having nothing but two guards. Ward grabbed the lid of a dustbin and threw it at Bakshi’s feet making him trip. He took out the guards with a couple punches and kicks. He tied up Bakshi and dragged him in the direction of a hidden quinjet.
“Trip. Got hold of Bakshi” Ward said into his comms.
Chapter 18: Race Against Magic
“Don’t you think Limo is tad too much?” Robbie asked.
“We need to be in character” Wanda said without looking up. She was looking at the photo of Sam or Billy. She wasn’t sure what is real name was. Steve hadn’t mentioned Koenig as a vampire but he was in the memory.
“Who is paying for this anyway?” Daisy asked, pulling a champagne bottle from the cooler.
“Steve… But you’re aren’t going to drink now.” Wanda turned her attention towards the group; taking the champagne bottle out of Daisy’s hand and lacing it in the cooler.
“Hey” Daisy protested.
The limo pulled up the Collector’s place. As the gigantic building came into view, everyone braced themselves for the task in hand. The tinted glass and bronze adored the walls. At the entrance they were stopped by security personnel.
“I can’t believe they wouldn’t let us in.”
“I’m calling my dad. He wouldn’t be so happy about this” Wanda said in annoyance as she pulled out her phone.
“That won’t be necessary, Miss. Let me handle it.”
Ash stepped forward and showed the guard their IDs and The Collector’s invitation.
“House of M? I have never heard of that.”
“We like to keep it that way” Daisy quipped with a smirk.
“You either let us in or call your boss outside. Do you want him to find out that he lost potential customers because of you?” Wanda threatened the guard.
He wasn’t convinced but he let them in. He didn’t want to anger the brothers. Wanda and Daisy stepped in but the guard blocked the other's path.
“Only the customers can proceed after this.”
“They are our security detail. They go with us everywhere” stated Daisy.
“It’s The Collector’s orders.”
“My father will hear about this,” threatened Daisy.
The guard raised an eyebrow. After a moment he said, “One guard can go.”
Wanda, Daisy and Robbie made their way inside while Ash returned to the car. The gang waited in the longue waiting for The Collector.
“My father will hear about this? Really? That’s over the top, don’t you think?” Robbie teased.
“I only had a day to come up with this whole thing. Besides, if I let you write the script, no one would say anything” Daisy chuckled earning a frown from him.
The Collector made his dramatic entrance. His black leather pants and dark red shirt were matched by a black trench coat which billowed as he walked towards them. The collar was adorned with fur. Rich white hair styled perfectly sat atop his head. His eyes were adorned by black eyeliner and mascara. Equally dark nail polish was applied on his finger nails.
“Welcome. It’s always a pleasure to meet new customers” he smiled.
“That’s very kind of you. Can we get started with the business? I don’t like wasting time”
“But I must insist on a tour of my place. Maybe something else would catch your eyes” he chuckled.
“If you insist” Wanda smiled back.
The collector showed the trio around his exhibition with pride. The girls feigned fake interest and laughed at his jokes while Robbie remained stoic, playing his role as grumpy bodyguard. They were getting impatient. They needed the spectre and as they were afraid Loki would arrive any minute now.
Ash decided to wait in the car. She started to get nervous about her friends even though they had been inside only for a few minutes. About half an hour passed and a new car pulled into the driveway. The Collector stepped out. He wore a long silk robe with a raised collar. The robe was draped over one shoulder and the other arm had a ruffle sleeve. Underneath it, a bright blue shirt hugged his torso. He wore silver pants. He was accompanied by another man. She wasn’t able to identify the man but a warning bell went off inside her head. She lowered herself in the seat to not get noticed. The Collector’s voice echoed through her comms but the man was standing in front of her. She looked keenly and saw that it wasn’t The Collector but his brother, The Grandmaster.
Ash slowly got out of the car after they went in. She made her way to the back of the building and climbed the ledge of grandmaster’s office window. Luckily, the two men were inside. She tried to concentrate and overheard small bits of their conversation. Horror set in when she realised that they were plotting to kill her friends and acquire the spectre. After they left, she slowly opened the window and got in.
She spoke into her comm, “Robbie we’re fucked. I think Loki is here”
It was not a very fortunate night for them. The trio was walking down the long white tiled floor nodding along to the rambling of The Collector. On both the sides shelfs showcased artifacts of elegance and beauty. They noticed a couple of men round the corner and approach them from the opposite direction. One of them was similar to The Collector. The other man was Loki. He wore a formal shirt and pants complete with a tie. A black trench coat hugged his frame. His hair was gelled back. A gold and green silk scarf complimented his outfit.
Wanda's face froze in terror. She wanted to break out into a run but her feet seemed not to listen to her brain. She stood planted on the ground. She grabbed Daisy's hand to get attention. Daisy noticed the fear in Wanda’s eyes. She looked back and forth between the new man and Wanda. Fear spread across her features as well; realization dawned on her. The three friends looked at each other and exchanged eye glances.
The Collector and his brother who went by the name The Grandmaster talked in whispers. Loki was looking at the trio with an amused smile. Wanda was afraid he might have already got it. The two brothers terminated their talk. The Grandmaster left with Loki and the Collector turned towards them.
"Shall we resume the tour?" he asked.
"We are running later. Can we get our object now?"
"I insist on the tour first" he replied stressing the word ‘insist.’
They didn’t have any other option than to agree. Robbie was the first to notice that two securities had started to follow them. Soon more flowed into the corridor. They acted nonchalant; as if they had coincidently dropped into the corridor.
"I hope you enjoyed your tour" said The Collector as he stepped into the elevator. The elevator door closed, locking them with their doom.
Wanda, Daisy and Robbie were surrounded by the security personnel of the brothers. The guards advanced to capture them. Wanda kicked off her heel and sent it flying at the nearby guard. The distraction was enough for the two women to get the upper hand.
Wanda caught the nearby guard and slammed her knees into his stomach. He doubled over in pain. She deflected the punch of another and delivered two blows on his ears. She kicked him in his gut sending him to his knees. She threw punches after punches at the first guy till he was reeling back. Suddenly another guard caught her from her back, in choke hold. She slammed her elbow into his ribs. When his grip loosened, she freed herself. She grabbed the nearby vase and smashed it on his head.
Daisy was preoccupied with three guards. All came at her at once. She kicked a guy but lost balance.
"Fuck the heels" she screamed as she fell down. The other two took the opportunity to strike her but Daisy had already removed her heels, throwing them at her attackers. Each heel hit a guard in his face. She grabbed the nearby one and punched him on his throat; damaging his vocal cord. The other two have recovered and ran at her taking out the taser. She deflected their attack. She caught one guard's hand and twisted it. She grabbed the taser from him and tased the other. She slammed the guard into the nearby wall and dropped him on the floor.
The two women stood in the center of the pile of guards. Robbie was staring at them wide eyed.
"Who taught you that?"
They said at the same time.
The trio heard a sound from the air vent. Wanda and Daisy took a fighting stance readying for the attack. But Ash popped out of it. She had got into the air ducts and tried to locate the trio to warn them about Loki. The feeling of reunion was short lived. They saw Loki approaching them from the opposite side of the corridor.
"Quick into the elevator" shouted Ash. The four filled into the elevator. She pressed the button to the top floor.
"The ground is heavily guarded. The only way out is up."
They got out on the top most floor till which the elevator can go.
“There is one more floor above this. Take the stairs” Robbie urged.
Everyone other than Wanda immediately ran towards the stairs to reach the roof. But she stood planted to the ground, just outside the elevator.
"Guys" she called them.
The three turned around to see what she was looking for. They saw a small glass cubicle. Inside, a man was sitting in the corner. There was nothing in that cell other than him. Then they noticed the whole floor was full of glass cells holding people. The horror of the situation dawned on them.
They looked at the people who were exhibited as if they were objects. Some resembled human physique but some were different in appearance. Everyone had a collar around their neck.
“Who are they?” Ash asked.
“I don't care if they made a deal with the devil to get their powers. We need to save them.”
Wanda was captivated by the man in the first cell. He was sitting in the corner; dejected and miserable. By his looks it seemed he had been here for quite long. Wanda noticed the plaque, 'the wolf man'. Seeing them he raised his head. Wanda realised him instantly. He was world renowned scientist, Dr. Bruce Banner.
"Dr. Banner" she whispered. He seemed to hear her. Till now he was making a point of ignoring them. He looked directly at them when she said his name.
"We are here to save you" Daisy shouted through the glass.
"I can perfectly hear you" he replied normally. Daisy bit her tongue as she opened the panel near the cell. She tried to open the door.
"How long will it take?"
"I don't know. Jam the elevators. We don't want company"
Robbi and Wanda ran to the elevator. Before they could reach, the elevator door opened. Guards flooded onto the floor. The elevator on the opposite side of the building also opened, letting in more guards.
“We need to act soon” shouted Robbie. He, Wanda and Ash grouped together, standing back-to-back. They knew they were out-numbered and out-gunned.
Daisy let out a small sigh as the mechanism whirred and the cell door of Bruce opened. At the same time, they heard footsteps from above. Through the stairs a group of people wearing S.T.A.K.E combat suits entered. From the opposite side of the room, Loki emerged. He had the same evil glint in his eye.
“Let me,” said Bruce as he stepped between them and Loki. His back hunched as his body covered with fur. Thick, long claws protruded from his limbs. He tore away his clothes. He let out a howl completing his transformation.
“This explains the plaque”
Bruce ran towards Loki and pounced on him. Loki caught the wolf’s jaws and tried to rip it. He escaped Loki’s hold and winced in pain circling around the vampire. Loki materialised a dagger in each hand. He flung it at Bruce, who leaped out of attack and growled at Loki. He pounced on Loki from the side and caught his right hand in his mouth. The dagger felt out of Loki’s grip and he swore in pain. The wolf proceeded to attack Loki, catching him by his neck and shaking him like a rag doll. Then dropped Loki to the ground and circled him. Loki’s wounds healed quickly but he was shaken. Before the beast could attack him again, he cast a disappearing spell and vanished in an instant.
Ward, Bobbi and Trip had tracked down the missing scientist after facing many dead ends. Getting Bakshi turned their mission around. Few days of interrogation by Ward and May had him talking. They tracked down the two brothers and their cave for illegal activities. They laid low and waited. When they heard that The Collector will be occupied by two wealthy women for business, they decided to use the distraction to release the prisoners. The Grandmaster had too gone overseas for a business trip making it easy for them.
The S.T.A.K.E agents watched from their hideout; their mission being jeopardized. First shock came when Trip recognised the Director's daughter. Then Ash went sneaking around the building. Final blow to the mission was everyone present on the prison floor, putting their mission on line.
The three agents were cornered by the security guards. Bobbi pulled out her batons and motioned for them to come forward. She zapped the guards with the electric batons leaving them groaning in pain. A guard ran towards Trip ready to attack him. Trip quickly turned to the side and jabbed the guard’s throat. Ward snatched the gun from the nearby guard. He kicked the opponent on his torso. He smacked another one in the back of his head with the gun’s handle. The guards were no match to the three skilled agents. They quickly had everyone under control. Trip approached the group.
“Are you okay?” asked Trip.
“Yeah” Wanda nodded.
“We are Agents of S.T.A.K.E” he said pointing to his partners. “We are here to help you.”
“We are okay. Help them” said Daisy pointing at the imprisoned people. Ward and Bobbi set out to help them.
Bruce turned back to human form. He was tired and completely naked. The agents helped Bruce and the other prisoners to the quinjet. The Grandmaster had escaped with Loki but his brother wasn’t so fortunate.
Chapter 20: S.T.A.K.E. BASE (LOCATION: CLASSIFIED)
Wanda, Daisy, Robbi and Ash waited in the lounge of S.T.A.K.E base. They were intrigued and scared by the secret base. They passed the time by looking around the room. The room was casual; two sets of sofas have been pulled together to one corner of the room. Near the wall a fridge was place. On the other side, few chairs were scattered around. The brick walls were not painted over. The symbol of the organisation adored the center of the wall.
Coulson walked into the room and looked at the young people in front of him. He was angry and it clearly showed in his face. None the less he maintained a calm voice as he spoke.
“Anyone care to explain what you were doing?”
All the four started talking at the same time. They talked over each other to be heard.
“Daisy” Coulson stated, looking at her.
“We were just looking for some antiques to buy and got lost.”
“Do you have any idea how reckless your actions are?”
Coulson’s face remained stoic even though he knew it was a lie. Before Daisy to build up more lies Wanda cut in.
“We wanted to act in time. There was no one in the city we could ask for help. We did what we thought was right.”
“This is not your decision to take. There are people who work for this cause.”
“We did our research before we set out.”
“You four almost died trying. You were surrounded and out-numbered. There were supernatural elements at play. You had no idea what you’re up against.”
“If you knew, Loki is back, why aren’t you taking any steps?”
“What?” Coulson was puzzled but pulled a straight face again. “Are you sure?”
Wanda narrated the whole incident with Loki. Leaving out the mind reading part. She hoped that Coulson would understand it. He got that she was leaving out parts of the story. He called Wanda aside to talk privately to her and asked others to go to the medical centre for check-up.
“Now tell me.”
“Well, you remember one year ago.. on the streets.. the day P- Pietro turned into a vampire…” Wanda stumbled to find the right words.
Coulson nodded encouragingly so she continued, “The moment I touched Steve and Bucky, we three kind of blacked out.” She inhaled deeply before continuing, “I was able to look into their memories. The same had happened before with Howard. Steve and I thought it’s something… like I can see only vampires’ memories.”
Coulson remained silent, intrigued by her story.
“So, it seems I can access the memories even when I’m not touching them. Loki somehow entered my mind. He used me to see something that happened years ago. To read other vampires’ memories. I don’t even know who they are and they were hiding something that he needed. He used me to see that. I wanted to stop him before he gets his hand on what he needs.”
“What was he after?”
“A spectre and a book. Now he has the spectre.”
“Now where is the book?”
“I passed out. My brain was muddled when I woke up.”
Coulson called the agents above Level 6 to his office. Coulson switched on the screen implanted in the wall opposite to his table. The biodata and activities of Loki ran on the screen.
“We are now facing a threat which is common to both humans and vampires. Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking. Few of you already worked related to this a year back. Others, welcome on board.” Coulson looked amused at the shocked face of his agents, “The one particular vampire whom we are concerned with is Loki. He is trying to attain his powers back.”
“The rest of the required information is on these files” he said, placing a bunch of files on his table. “I need everyone to do their work. Find Loki’s weakness. Prepare for the mission.”
After the meeting Coulson went to the landing strip to see the Council of Five. After talking to Wanda, he called Steve to let him know about the situation. The Council rushed back from the capital. Bucky, who had learnt from Pym about Loki, met up with others. They had been picked up by the S.T.A.K.E’s quinjet and brought to base. When the quinjet landed, the vampires filed out into the base.
“We don’t have much time. Let’s directly go to my office.”
“If we hadn’t flown around in circles for about an hour we could have arrived earlier” commented Tony.
“Protocols” Coulson simply stated.
“In my office.”
As soon as they entered Coulson’s office, Natasha spoke.
“Is it true?”
“I believe so.”
Steve embraced Wanda in a tight hug. “You okay?”
“I’m good. I’m good” she convinced him.
Wanda filled the Council on what happened in their absence. She didn’t leave out any part of the story since everyone knew about her powers earlier.
“We need to find out what Loki is after” Wanda finished.
“It’s the book. The Darkhold” Natasha said. She looked at Jiaying who gave a sad nod.
“We need to get it before Loki,” Coulson said.
Steve who had been silent till now spoke up, “I have a contact. She would help us.”
Coulson nodded in agreement. “Two of my agents would also accompany you on the mission.”
“This is our fight. You can stay out of it” Jiaying spat in anger.
“Your fight would cost civilians lives. I’m doing what I have to do.”
The clock was ticking and they had to work with S.T.A.K.E. Jiaying hadn’t been fully aboard on this but agreed finally. Steve, Bucky and Natasha got ready for the mission. Bobbi and Hunter joined them. Steve had asked Wanda to stay in the S.T.A.K.E. base till their return. The team took the Zephyr since its cloaking mechanism might come in handy. They set out of the base, knowing that they will not only have to face Loki but the Legion too.
Shadow Den, New York
“I’m telling you Bucky and Steve are going to make out in this mission” Sam playfully started a fight with Lincoln.
“You sound so sure about yourself” Lincoln laughed it away.
“Whenever Steve is around, Bucky spends half of the time ogling at Steve.”
“Ogling?” Lincoln chuckled. “Come on, be serious.”
“I am. Wanna make this fun?”
“You want to bet? No way”
“Come on, man. Atleast, let’s make some money. Let’s bet $10.”
“Whoa! Someone is confident.”
Chapter 21: I'll be yours for a thousand lives
This chapter is pure smut other than a para or two about mission. Skip if you're uncomfortable but if you're in for some Stucky you know what to expect 😉😉
Mid-flight, the Zephyr was put on auto pilot and everyone gathered around a debriefing table. The three vampires have agreed to let the agents know that they are vampires. After the initial shock had worn out, Natasha gave out the specifics of the mission. She filled everyone in on the back information. The agents who were new to the vampire world hung to every word she said. Other than Hunter passing a quirky comment now and then, no one in the room spoke.
Bucky heard Steve’s tapping of fingers. At first, he didn’t think much of it but quickly noticed that it was morse code. As he listened to the message his face flushed red. He looked around praying that the others hadn't noticed. He saw Hunter who was eyeing him and Steve with wide eyes. Natasha avoided all eye contact with them while Bobbi wouldn’t even turn to their direction.
Bucky glared at Steve to make him stop. Having got Bucky’s attention, Steve suggestively prodded the inside of his mouth with his tongue. Bucky felt his face grow hot at his boyfriend’s obscene gesture. Steve slowly removed the bottle cap and lifted it to his mouth, all the while maintaining eye contact with Bucky. He slowly drank the water, taking his time to make the scene of swallowing it. As Bucky’s eyes followed the movement of Steve’s Adam’s apple, his breath hitched in his throat.
Bucky’s glare intensified which only made Steve smirk. He continued tapping his dirty thoughts in morse code. To Bucky’s luck, Natasha wrapped up the meeting soon. The three agents were eager to get out of the room. Steve winked at Bucky and left the room.
Bucky followed Steve into the cargo room. As soon as they were behind the closed door, Bucky crashed his lips on Steve’s who kissed him back with the same ferocity. Bucky snaked his hand around Steve’s waist pulling him closer. Steve rubbed his hips against Bucky’s. Both of them let out a moan at the friction.
Steve chuckled. “Someone’s impatient?”
“Do you blame me?” Bucky lifted an eyebrow. “After all the teasing you did during debriefing?”
“It was fun teasing you.”
“You know, naughty boys get punished Stevie” Bucky nibbled Steve’s ears making him moan.
“On your knees” Bucky said, removing the buckle of his pants. He slapped away Steve’s hand when he tried to undress him.
“Didn’t I ask you to be on your knees, baby” he asked sternly. Steve obeyed him and dropped down on his knees.
“Hold your hands behind. You aren’t allowed to touch me” he said.
Steve followed his orders looking at Bucky with innocent blue eyes. Bucky cupped his face. “Such a pretty mouth. Can’t wait to feel it around my cock. Do you want to suck my cock, Steve?”
Bucky took a sharp intake of breath at the word. His cock was already semi-hard from Steve's ministries. Hearing Steve call him daddy after made blood rush to his dick. He was fully hard in a second.
“Suck” he said, removing his pants along with his underwear.
Steve darted out his tongue and licked the tip of Bucky’s cock. He continued his torture making his lover moan with pleasure. He lowered his head and took in Bucky slowly. Watching his member disappear into Steve’s mouth made Bucky growl. Steve held Bucky’s eyes while continuing to bob his head.
Bucky pulled on Steve’s hair making him go faster. He thrust his hips into his mouth. Steve hummed in response making Bucky’s cock twitch inside his mouth.
“Baby, I’m close,” Bucky warned. Steve looked up at Bucky. There were sweat beads on Bucky’s forehead. He had his eyes close taking short breaths through his mouth. Steve sped up actions and Bucky came in his mouth. Steve swallowed everything Bucky had to offer. Steve got up and kissed Bucky’s face. He nibbled his ears and licked his earlobes.
“Was I a good boy for you daddy?” Steve whispered. Bucky growled in response. He cupped Steve’s crotch and massaged his hard dick through his pants. Steve thrust out his hips wanting more friction. Bucky kissed down on Steve’s neck as his hand continued playing with his lover’s dick. Bucky took his time removing his lover’s clothes. He teased every muscle. He kissed every exposed part. He pinched Steve’s nipples earning a moan.
“Always so responsive for me” Bucky chuckled giving Steve’s nipple another pinch. Steve squirmed trying to get away. Bucky pushed Steve against a wall and pinned his hands above his head and held it in its place by his metal arm. He continued attacking Steve’s nipples with his other hand. The nub perked up at the attention it was receiving. He rolled it between his forefinger and thumb and pulled. Steve groaned at the mix of pain and pleasure.
Steve grinded his hips to Bucky’s longing for friction. Bucky groaned kissing Steve deeply. He deepened the kiss biting Steve’s bottom lips. Steve moaned and squirmed against Bucky. Bucky lowered his head and continued to kiss the other man’s neck. He left a trail of kisses to Steve’s chest. He stopped at his nipples and paid special attention to them. Bucky’s warm mouth was a welcoming sensation for Steve’s reddened nipples. Bucky kissed Steve’s torso moving to his abdomen. He stuck his tongue out and licked the V-line. Bucky pulled down Steve’s pants along with his underwear and kissed his thighs.
“Buck, I need you” moaned Steve, not able to take his boyfriend’s teasing.
Bucky prodded Steve’s hole inserting his finger. He loved the feeling of Steve’s warm hole. The thought of his cock lying buried deep inside made his cock twitch.
“Bucky, use your metal arm,” he said between pants.
“This doing it for you” Bucky smirked, teasing him.
Steve received a sharp slap on his ass making him moan.
“What do you say?” Bucky prodded.
“Use your metal arm, please daddy” Steve pleaded. Bucky inserted his metal finger. The cold touch of metal made Steve groan. Bucky kissed Steve’s neck whispering dirty thoughts into his neck.
“More” Steve moaned. Bucky added another finger scissoring Steve’s hole. Steve groaned at the sensation. Bucky added a third finger making Steve gasp.
“Buck, I’m ready.”
Bucky removed his fingers from Steve’s ass. Steve whined at the loss of touch. Bucky lubed his dick with his spit.
“It’s going to hurt a bit, babe” he said slowly sinking into Steve. Steve groaned in pain. Bucky remained still waiting for his boyfriend to be ready. Steve nodded for him to continue. Bucky started with slow thrusts as glided his hands over his lover’s chest cupping the muscle. He pinched the nipples between his thumb and his forefinger. Steve cried out in pain and pleasure.
“You look so beautiful, love. Your greedy hole taking my cock”
Steve groaned at his boyfriend’s dirty words. Bucky speeded up his movements making Steve moan. He left his orgasm but wanted to hold on. He grabbed Steve’s cock and slid his hand along the length. He synced his thrusts with his hand movement. Steve felt his orgasm building.
“Buck, ‘m close”
“Yeah, cum for me baby”
Steve reached orgasm, spilling his seeds into Bucky’s hands. Soon Bucky’s thrusts became sloppy and erratic. But he continued hammering into Steve till he reached his climax. He came inside Steve.
They stood embraced in each other’s warmth as they came down from their high. Steve placed a sloppy kiss on his lover’s lips. They got dressed and shared another kiss.
“Wait, is this room soundproof?” Steve asked.
“Love, you should have thought about it before you dirty morse code” Bucky chuckled planting a kiss on the side of Steve’s mouth.
Chapter 22: History is filled with blood
Natasha and Bobbi were flying the Zephyr while catching up. Their profession gives them less time to catch up with each other. After two years, this is the first time they have been assigned to the case together.
In the main area, Steve was analysing all texts about Loki to identify his weakness. He had called his friend to let her know he would be dropping by. He was hoping to catch up with her since they haven’t seen each other since World War II.
Bucky and Hunter were readying the weapons in the weaponry. That’s when Bucky heard a sound. He was sure someone other than the team was on the airship.
“Can you hear anything?” asked Bucky.
“Oh yes, somebody just said, "Can you hear anything?" Hunter said with a straight face earning a frown from Bucky.
“I’m going to check,” he said, replacing the gun in its place. Hunter who was curious followed Bucky. Bucky approached the room behind the stairs and opened the door slightly.
Daisy peaked out from their hiding spot. Seeing the two men, she reclined back.
“The grumpy man and the British dude” she informed Wanda
Wanda pressed her finger to her mouth signalling Daisy to be silent. Bucky’s advanced hearing means trouble for the girls. They hoped that they wouldn't be caught. Daisy pressed herself more closely to Wanda not wanting to be caught.
“I heard you both. You can come out” called out Bucky. He was even able to hear their heartbeat and breathing, one of the perks of being a vampire.
Smiling sheepishly, they came out of their hiding spot. Bucky took them to the main area where Steve was reading about Darkhold. The more he read about the book, the more it worried him. If Loki lays his hands on the book, it means sure defeat for them. Hearing footsteps, he turned to look Bucky entering the room. To his shock, Wanda and Daisy followed him.
“Look, who decided to join us?” Bucky said.
Steve lost his shit when he saw Wanda. He had asked her to stay back due to the risk of this trip. He ran his hand through his hair.
“I asked you to stay back. What are you doing here?”
“I was the one who led Loki to the location of these two objects. I am responsible for stopping him. I should be here with you guys fighting not back there.”
“It’s not safe here, Wanda”
“It’s not like it’s safe back there. Loki is there.”
Steve pinched the bridge of his nose. “You don’t understand. Europe is not like America. Here the Legion rules. Their single goal is to destroy every vampire they come across” he said. “They don’t care about the humans dying in the crossfire” he added grimly.
“Stop treating me like a kid. I can take care of myself. I am trained by Natasha,” Wanda retorted. “Nat, tell him” she called out to the agent.
“Don’t involve me in your family drama” Natasha shouted from the cockpit.
Both of them ignored her comment.
“You’re acting like one,” Steve shot back.
Bucky intervened before Wanda could speak back. He looked at Steve, “Can I have a word with you in private?”
Wanda was sitting alone in the empty lab of Zephyr. Bucky knocked on the door gaining her attention.
“Are you here to give me advice?”
“I just wanted to check on you.”
Silence settled between as both waited for the other to speak.
“So, that’s just a myth” she said, striking a conversation.
Bucky looked up puzzled. Noticing that she was looking at his reflection he replied, “Yeah.” After a moment he added, “I’m sorry about what I said about you… back then”
“Sorry for calling you a bloodsucker.”
“It’s not a lie” Bucky chuckled. He continued, “We started off on the wrong note. Let’s start over again. I’m Bucky.” He extended his arm for a handshake.
“Wanda,” she said, taking his hand.
“I wish you could understand where Steve is coming from.”
“Before you waste your breath going blah blah blah let me say that I’m not angry at him.”
“So, I prepared a speech for nothing?”
Wanda laughed. Silence settled between the two. Wanda was the one to break it.
“I wish he could believe-”
“He does. But it’s not like we are going against a mafia gang now. Loki is a completely different element. Legion is a whole different story.” After a pause, Bucky continued, “I have been thinking about this for quite some time. I believe your powers are much more than looking at memories. You need to practice your powers.”
“You mean like…”
“You too are bonding. Something I thought I will never see” a cheery voice called from behind.
Both of them turned around to see Steve walking towards them. He smiled at them as he settled down.
“Steve, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, kid. I’m sorry too.” He smiled. “As Bucky said, it's good if you practice.”
“How would my powers be useful?”
“You can access memories which could give you clues or information.”
“Or block people from entering your mind.”
“Okay. We are going to train now?”
“We have hours to kill before we land, so why not?” said Steve.
“It’s okay, kid. Give it a try.”
Wanda held Steve’s hand and tried to enter his mind. She closed her eyes to concentrate and her mind to enter Steve’s but she wasn’t able to. She shut her eyes tight and pushed herself more. The more she pushed the more her mind refused to listen to her. Finally, she gave up.
“I can’t do it. It just seems impossible” she said, shaking her head.
“Just relax and make yourself comfortable. Don’t let your mind wander on its own. Try to organize your thoughts” Bucky said.
“Let’s try it one more time, shall we?”
Wanda agreed and held onto Steve’s hand again. Wanda first singled her thoughts and stopped her mind from wandering randomly. She slowly prodded it to enter Steve’s thoughts. A opened her eyes to see herself on a stairway. She saw Steve chasing a man up the stairs. He jumped over the railing and stood in front of him blocking his path. He was beyond recognizable. His hair was blond and matted with blood. His shirt was drenched with blood. His eyes were dark red.
Steve punched the other man twice on his abdomen and hit him against the wall.
“Is Sousa here? Tell me”
The man struggled to get his words out. Steve hit him against the wall again.
“Yes… yes… I saw him getting dragged here an hour before.”
Steve threw the man down and ran up the stairs. Wanda followed him not wanting to lose the connection. Steve took down everyone in his path ruthlessly killing them. Wanda had never seen him like this before.
Steve opened the door at the end of the hall. He closed his nose, unable to breath the stench. Wanda felt a weird feeling around her. It was bringing down her spirits. But she wasn’t able to understand what it was. Wanda peaked inside the room. Her stomach churned at the site in front of her. There was blood everywhere. He heard people groaning and screaming in agony. She retched but didn’t throw up as it was just a project of her physical form.
Steve, who had disappeared into the room, came back moments later carrying a man in his arms. Wanda observed his face but she hadn’t seen him before. She noticed he was missing a leg. She gasped, closing her mouth with her hand.
Steve ran down the stairs with the wounded man in his hand. Wanda followed him to his car. She boarded the car along with him. They arrived at a harbour where a docked ship was getting ready to leave. Crowds of people were rushing to get in but Steve wasn’t interested in the commotion. He kept looking around searching for a familiar face.
“Steve! Not getting aboard?” asked a man walking towards Steve. He had a slight touch of French accent in his tone.
Jacques Dernier was one of the members of the Howling Commandos. Now the war had come to an end and they needed to get back home. Jacques’ face turned serious as he took in Steve’s state. Then his face became pale looking at the state of Sousa in Steve’s hand.
“I will search for her.”
Jacques went off and returned with a woman. Peggy’s throat constricted looking at the pale figure of Sousa looking almost lifeless. Peggy ran to Steve hoping it’s not the worst.
Sensing her fear Steve answered even before she asked the question. “He is alive but he has lost a great deal of blood. I cannot stop anywhere for provisions. We were running out of time. There will be enough blood in the ship. Make sure to-”
“What happened to his leg?” asked Peggy, cutting him off.
“Even after this you’re going to stay here?” Jacques asked, looking concerned.
Steve passed Sousa to Peggy and avoided Jacques.
“Please, come with us Steve” Jacques urged but Steve walked away without answering
Wanda not only saw the memories. She felt the wave of emotions Steve felt and overloaded her. She was trying to make sense of the situation. She missed the connection with Steve, as he drove away. She got thrown out of the memory.
Chapter 23: I'll make this feel like home
Wanda was astonished by the memory of Steve that she had seen. It was something he had never talked about. He had shared with her many memories of him during the war but not this one. Sometimes she noticed that he would look sad while remembering the past but she had brushed it off as missing his old life.
“I’m sorry, Steve,” Wanda said softly, gently gripping his shoulder.
“It’s okay. It’s nothing” he said trying to brush off. Wanda noticed the small tear drop at the corner of his eyes. Steve blinked back to avoid crying. Bucky had also noticed the change in Steve’s mood but he was lost on what had happened. When he moved closer to console him, Steve excused himself and left.
“I’m going after him,” Wanda said looking at Bucky.
Wanda went out of the lab to check up on Steve. She found him in a small room. He had his head buried in his hands. Wanda sat close to him and enveloped her hands around his shoulders. He rested his head on her shoulder. After some time passed, he started talking.
“What you saw back there…”
“That’s before the Council was formed. After the war, a group of mercenaries were the sole power across America. Every one of us regretted fighting the war but some were enraged that they were made to fight. Due to the war many new vampires were created. The older ones despised the newcomers. They decided to kill off the newcomers and establish their own set of rules. Foreigners were allowed to escape.”
“Well, Peggy asked me to save Sousa. She was free to return to Britain while Sousa was taken to be executed. That memory… uh… the one you saw was…”
“When you saved him.”
“You did the right thing”.
Steve sighed and looked away. “If it were only that simple” he said more to himself than to Wanda.
After moments of silence, he started talking again. “During the war, I lost Bucky in a mission. Or I thought I lost him. The loneliness was maddening. When the mercenaries came afterwards, I stood against them. I went for days without sleeping or feeding properly. I roamed the streets like a mad man.” New tears streamed down his face. His voice was barely a whisper, “I hoped that one of the fights would be my last.”
Wanda held on to him tightly and let him cry into her shoulders. It hurt her to see him in this state. She consoled him and tried her best to encourage him.
“Jiaying found me one day. Knowing about the state in America she had come here. She saved me. She gave me a purpose. I’m glad I met her.”
“I'm glad that you met her too. Or else I wouldn’t have gotten you as my family.” Wanda kissed his forehead wiping his tears away.
“I’m also glad to have you, kid. And I don’t want to lose you” The words ‘too’ hanged on the air without being uttered.
Wanda roamed around the Zephyr in search of Bucky. She wanted to talk to him. She found him assembling the necessary equipment.
“Could I just stay with you?”
“Sure. I didn’t know you liked my company” he teased her.
“Well. Daisy is getting advised by Coulson and Steve and Natasha are busy.”
“I’m the last option? That hurts” he chuckled. Bucky closed the bag containing the field kit. He kept it aside and hopped on the table.
“Spit it out.”
“What?” Wanda looked surprised.
“You want to speak something.” It was more of a sentence than a question.
Wanda had wanted to talk with him. She decided to get it out. “It’s just whenever I look into someone’s mind, I end up bringing bad memories.”
“Don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s not something you are able to control”
“I can’t keep provoking everyone around me.”
“Then learn to control it. Whenever you had used your powers, the other person was emotionally vulnerable.”
“I think I’m done with this. The training was a bad idea”
“Two important things. First, I’m not going to allow you to give up on yourself. And second, the training was my idea. So, don’t blame it” Bucky said the second line with a mock insult making Wanda smile a bit.
“Give it another try, now” he continued.
“You are fine with it?”
Bucky nodded with a gentle smile. Wanda hesitantly took his hand in hers. She controlled her mind and tried to enter Bucky’s mind. This time it was easier for her. Wanda’s mind was filled with a similar sensation of cloudiness as she entered his mind. She found herself in an old apartment. She saw Bucky getting ready to go out somewhere. He was checking his appearance in the mirror.
“Come on, Buck. We are getting late” a voice called out to him. Wanda recognised that it was Steve. By Bucky’s clothes and hairstyle, she knew they were in the 40s.
Bucky and Steve shared a hasty kiss before they exited the apartment.
“Where are we going?”
They got into Bucky’s car and Wanda followed them. She had been to 40s memories before but only she was able to observe the things around her. She noticed that the street was filled with war propaganda pamphlets. The posters were stuck in every building. The street was filled with pedestrians rushing through their lives.
Wanda was intrigued by the board reading, ‘World Exhibition of Tomorrow.’ She was delighted when Bucky parked the car and the duo walked out to the expo. She excitedly followed to find that it was Stark Expo. She kept close to the couple not wanting to lose Bucky. They stopped in front of a large stage hosting a shining red car.
From the buzz, Wanda understood that they were waiting for Howard Stark. The crowd burst into cheers when the man of the hour walked onto the stage.
“Ladies and gentlemen, what if I told you that in just a few short years, your automobile won’t even have to touch the ground at all?” Howard continued, “With Stark Gravitic Reversion Technology, you’ll be able to do just that.” He smiled at the crowd as he pressed the button and pulled up a small level.
The car buzzed and lifted above ground. It hovered in the air making everyone gasp at the marvel in front of them. There was a fizzle followed by a small explosion and the car crashed down.
“I did say a few years, didn’t I?” Howard gave a charismatic smile.
The crowd erupted applauding the genius in front of them. Wanda hollered to show her friend.
“Imagine really living in the future where there are flying cars,” Bucky said looking at Steve.
“Wishful thinking, Buck”
“It’s time. I got to leave.”
“Yeah, I know”
“Don’t do anything stupid until I get back” Bucky said his face serious. He walked away slowly.
“How can I? You’re taking all the stupid with you.”
Bucky shook his head looking at his lover. He walked back and hugged Steve.
“You’re a punk”
“Jerk” Steve called out hugging him back.
The scene dissolved. Wanda felt herself being pulled out of the memory. She looked up at Bucky and gave a smile.
“That is a beautiful memory.”
“Yeah, it is” Bucky grinned like a fool reminiscing the past.
They noticed Steve leaning against the door, his arm folded in the front.
“Still standing here”
Both the men chuckled. Steve ruffled Wanda’s hair and slung his hand around her shoulders.
“Got stuck with her, uh?”
“Hey!” Wanda cried pushing him away. “It was him who convinced me.”
Steve laughed. He asked, “I was thinking of something. Instead of just looking into our memories, you can try showing one’s memory to the other.”
“Is that possible?” Wanda wondered.
“I get where he is going. Like Loki did.”
Steve nodded. “Yeah, he saw other’s memories with your aid. Then we could also do that”
“Okay” Wanda smiled with excitation. “So, who’s the scapegoat?” she asked, looking between the two men.
Steve and Wanda exchanged a knowing glance and turned their attention to Bucky.
“You have gotta be kidding me.”
“You agreed to help me.”
Wanda interlinked her hands with the two vampires. She first singled her thoughts and stopped her mind from wandering randomly. She slowly prodded it to enter Bucky’s memories. The Zephyr dissociated and the surrounding started getting clouded. She felt the familiar sensation. Wanda found herself in the back of a small van.
The place was crumpled and barely a place to stand. Various electronic gadgets were scattered around. Bucky and Sam were looking intently at a screen. Wanda noticed it was security footage of Scott going through a building. In the nearby screen, a static image was displayed. The realisation suddenly hit her. She looked back at the screen Scott was seeing. She recognised the place. She tugged on Steve’s sleeve and was surprised when she was able to make contact.
“You can hear me?”
“I did reply. So yeah.”
Wanda playfully nudged him with her elbow. She motioned to the screen and both of them turned their attention to the video of Scott. Steve’s eyes widened as he looked at the all too familiar corridor.
“What is he doing in my company?” Steve cried.
The duo followed Scott’s movements. He expertly disabled the alarms and set out to his destination. He came to halt at the back of the building. He accessed the secret panel in the wall which revealed a hidden door. Scott disabled the lock of the door and went in. He started working on the vault having the Draught.
“Draught of Frost Blood, here I come” Scott commented as he opened the vault.
“Wait! Isn’t it Draught of First Blood” Bucky intervened.
“What? No man.”
“I read it somewhere” Bucky shrugged.
“It doesn’t make sense”
“How does frost make sense?”
“Loki. Winter. Frost.”
“I agree with Bucky in this one” Scott spoke over the comms.
“Enough of chit-chat folks. Scott, take the vial and get your ass back here.”
Bucky playfully rolled his eyes and looked at the screen monitoring Scott’s moves.
“I knew Pym got lucky was just a bunch of bullshit” Steve swore.
Wanda chuckled. After we get out, it's going to be one hell of shit show she thought to herself. She watched Scott open the locker and take out two vials of Draught and pocket it.
“You never noticed the missing vials?” Wanda smirked.
Scott proceeded to close the lock and reset the alarm. He made his way out without any disturbances. Bucky and Sam high fived each other as Scott walked out of the building.
“Now everything is set,” Sam said, pressing some buttons. The original security video started playing and the loop was cut off.
Bucky climbed to the front of the van. Scott took the wheel.
“Where to?” Sam asked from the back.
“Let’s deliver it to Pym, then hit the bar,” Bucky said.
“I’m going to kill him once we get back,” Steve muttered, making Wanda laugh.
“What about our deal?” Scott asked eagerly.
“I will change you once Pym duplicates it” Bucky promised.
Wanda exited Bucky’s memory taking Steve along with her. They were back in the Zephyr sitting with Bucky.
“Steve, I can explain”
“You jerk,” Steve shouted, chasing Bucky around the lab. Wanda laughed at the playful fight between the two.