Avengers’ Isle: The Consultant

Hullo, everyone! It’s been coming for a while (and been delayed at least a month), but sadly, this is the last episode of Avengers’ Isle! 😦 Well, let’s see how this thing ends… For past Avengers’ Isle posts, click here.

“I want a full explanation,” Fury said.

Steve sighed and settled into a seat on the Quinjet. Bucky sat down next to him, and the others found places to sit or stand. Natasha was in the pilot’s seat, and she had reluctantly agreed to let Tony be her co-pilot. Somehow Thor and Bucky had managed to shove Red Skull’s limp form into an overhead compartment. Agent Barton was latched into one of the seats, his head lolling to the side since he was still unconscious. All Steve wanted to do was talk to Bucky, but that wouldn’t be possible until Fury’s fierce interrogation was over.

Bucky rolled his eyes towards Steve, who struggled to hide his smile. “Would you like an info dump, Director?” he asked politely.

Fury scowled. “How come I don’t know about you, if you really are an agent?”

“Agent Coulson is the one who picked me up. I don’t know why he wouldn’t tell you.” Bucky shrugged. “It wasn’t in my job description to question his decisions.”

Fury’s eyes lit up in understanding. “Ah, so you’re his consultant. Now everything makes sense.”

“Hey, I’m the Consultant,” Tony protested, twisting around.

Natasha smacked him. “Pay attention.”

Fury rolled his eyes. “Tony, you’re the consultant that nobody wants to consult.”

Thor leaned forward in his seat. “I do not understand.”

Fury sighed. “We needed someone unofficial to use on missions where we needed to do things… not quite by the rules. Coulson said he had a consultant he could use. For security reasons, I never met the agent, and Coulson never told me about him. Coulson was our go-between.”

Steve thought of the agent. Sadness welled up as he realized that he’d probably never get to sign those antique Captain America cards. They were probably at the bottom of the ocean.

But if Loki could survive after being in a glass nearly-unbreakable prison in the Helicarrier, surely Agent Coulson and the others could have made it out. Right?

“Why did my magic not work?” Loki asked, breaking his silence. He’d been surprisingly cooperative, but Steve couldn’t help but be wary of him. It was only about a week since the incident in Germany.

Bucky shrugged. “I’m not technology expert, but he used some sort of force field… thing… to protect the island.”

Thor leaned forward. “So now that we are not in the clutches of the island, I will be able to call Mjolnir again?”

Not while we’re on the jet!” Natasha yelled.

They landed in New York, right on top of Stark Tower, in spite of Tony’s grumbling. Thor called for his hammer, Tony yelled to JARVIS, and Steve helped Bucky drag Hawkeye out of the jet. Fury contacted SHIELD headquarters – made easier by JARVIS – and smiled after a little bit of talking. Steve couldn’t hear what was said, but he assumed it was good news. They headed down through the tower to ground level, where another quinjet landed. Steve was pleased when he saw Agent Coulson from the helicarrier. He gave Fury a warm smile and a handshake. “I’m glad to see you’re alive, sir.”

“You as well,” Fury said, the edge of his mouth turning up slightly. Then he looked solemn once more. “Hill?”

Coulson nodded. “Alive as ever.”

Controlled chaos ensued as several agents removed Red Skull. Thor convinced Loki of their need to return to Asgard, and after a last farewell (and a surprisingly emotional goodbye between Loki and Tony), they departed. Agent Barton finally regained consciousness, and although he was a little woozy, he got onto the quinjet, with help from Natasha . Fury and Coulson joined them, although Coulson reminded Bucky that he would need to report later. Dr. Banner looked lost, until Tony invited him inside to his lab.

That left only Steve and Bucky. Steve looked at his old friend, so different now. “Want to walk to my apartment with me?” Steve asked.

Bucky nodded, and they strode off down the familiar unfamiliar streets. They walked in silence, but not uncomfortable silence. They paused several times to look at what might have been familiar places. They reached Steve’s apartment too soon, and Steve lingered out front with Bucky.

“Coffee sometime?” Bucky asked. Steve could only nod as emotion welled in his throat. His friend reached over and grasped his shoulder.

“On the beach…” Steve swallowed. Dry throat. “The trail mix… was that you?”

Bucky nodded, and his lips twitched in a smiled. “I kind of stole it from the Director.”

Steve felt a smile come out in spite of himself. And then he was laughing. Soon Bucky was laughing too. Somehow, they managed to stop, and Steve blinked at his old friend. Just like old times.

And that, my friends is the end. If you’d like to cry, I have plenty of Kleenex, and if you want to bash me over the head, I also have frying pans. And apples, if anyone would like those. (Not you, Maximus!) Thoughts? Questions? Senseless blabbering? Comment away!

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Ditched – Part Two

The second part of Ditched. Click for Part One. Let me know what you think!

The sounds of bouncing basketballs and shoes squeaking on the court caused Crystal to lift her head. She stared dully at the players as they warmed up. She didn’t really have any interest in the game now, but she couldn’t help hoping that Valerie would come back to sit with her. She glanced around the bleachers and saw Valerie sitting a couple of rows down from her and two rows to the left. She was all by herself, but she had her headphones in and was absorbed with the movie on her phone. As the start of the game neared and the stands started to fill up, Crystal glanced more and more frequently at Valerie.

Everyone stood for the national anthem, and Crystal forced herself to stop looking at Valerie and to turn to the flag. Even so, she couldn’t help wondering if Valerie was looking at her.

More people filed in after the anthem. Crystal soon realized that Valerie probably wasn’t coming back. Many of Valerie’s other friends had found her, and they were chattering away. Crystal stared down at the basketball court, not seeing the game, just thinking.

“Is this seat taken?” a male voice asked from right next to her. She looked up at him vaguely and shook her head. She turned back to the court, still unseeing, although she felt him sit down in the seat that was formerly Valerie’s. She was unconscious of the boy sitting there, watching her as the people around them leapt to their feet, cheering wildly.

“You’re not really paying attention to the game, are you?” the boy asked, breaking into her thoughts. She looked away from the court, and, for the first time, noticed his red hair and sparkling green eyes.

“No,” she admitted, laughing a little nervously. “I guess not.”

He smiled gently. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

Crystal started her story hesitatingly, but she soon found herself pouring out the entire story. After she finished, she studied him. A look of compassion and indignation filled his eyes.

“That stinks,” he told her. “But it doesn’t sound like she was a very good friend. I mean, she didn’t listen to you, and she was pretty quick to ditch you.”

Crystal sighed, brushing her bangs out of her eyes. “Yeah, I know, but I don’t really have any friends. She was one of the few people who actually hung out with me,” she admitted.

“You deserve better,” the boy said, looking at her seriously.

Crystal gawked at him, lost for words. “Wh-what?” she finally stammered.

He gave her an awkward smile. “I don’t know you very well, but I still think you deserve better friends than Valerie. You’re God’s special child.”

She gave him an odd look. “You’re a Christian?”

He laughed. “Yes, I am. Don’t look at me like that.”

Crystal frowned. “You really believe all that Bible stuff?”

“Yes,” he told her seriously. “I believe every word of it.”

She looked at him curiously. “You’re really passionate about it, aren’t you?” she asked.

He nodded. “It’s my dream to become a youth pastor, if God wills.”

Crystal looked down at her hands shyly. “Do you think that you could tell me more about all this?”

The smile that nearly split his face made her heart leap. “Of course.”

“Thanks, uh,” Crystal hesitated.

“Zachary,” he finished, still smiling warmly at her. “You can call me Zach.”

Crystal smiled. “Nice to meet you, Zach.”

“You, too, Crystal.”

Weeks passed. Crystal hung out with Zach a lot, and even started going to his church with him, not just on Sundays, but on Wednesday nights, too. They didn’t go to the same school, but they often met up at games and hung out on the weekends. Crystal often saw Valerie in the halls at school, but her old friend completely ignored her.

Crystal slammed her locker shut at school one Wednesday and glanced over at Valerie’s locker. Zach had suggested that she invite Valerie to church with them that night, but she was nervous. She took a deep breath and headed over to her old friend’s locker.

Valerie was rummaging in her locker and didn’t see Crystal approach. Crystal waited awkwardly next to Valerie’s locker. Finally, she cleared her throat.

Valerie pulled her head out of her locker and looked at Crystal. When she saw who it was, she turned to go back to her task. Crystal grabbed her friend’s arm before she could start ignoring her again. “Please, Val,” she begged.

Valerie turned to her, her eyes flashing. “Forget it. We can’t be friends anymore.”

“Hear me out,” Crystal began, speaking fast so that Valerie would hear everything she had to say. “I want to say that I’m sorry. I should’ve listened to you. I hope you’ll forgive me.”

Valerie rolled her eyes. “Is that all?” she demanded, attempting to extract her arm from Crystal’s grip.

“No,” Crystal told her. She hesitated. “I was wondering if you want to come with me to church tonight.”

Valerie snorted. “No.”

“Why not?” Crystal asked.

“Why not?” Valerie repeated, sneering. “Because church is stupid, all that Jesus stuff is stupid, and you’re stupid.” She yanked her arm out of Crystal’s grasp and stomped away.

Crystal choked back tears as she turned back to her locker and gathered her books in her arms. As she went to class, she silently prayed, asking God to change Valerie’s heart. And she made a decision. She wouldn’t stop asking.

Eric – Part Two

Part two, and the final part of this story. Click for Part One. Again, so much fun to write. 😉 Guessed the significance of Eric’s and Jeremiah’s names? Here’s a hint: first letters of their names. Please let me know waht you think of this story in the comments below! 🙂

A mixture of rage and terror overcame him. He put his head in his hands as he realized the hopelessness of his situation.

As he sat there, he felt something change inside of him. Peace and calmness filled him, replacing the anger and fear. He stood up, determined to find his way home.

King Eric walked for days, carrying the blanket and living off of nuts and berries. His lack of weapons prevented him from hunting. He could only hope that he was walking in the right direction. Birds, squirrels, and other small forest creatures were his only company. His only thought was that his situation couldn’t get any worse. He was sure that he would eventually find a house or a cottage.

About two weeks after his advisors had abandoned him, he stumbled into a clearing. He froze as enemy soldiers surrounded him, just as startled as he was.

~~~

King Eric was kept in a tent surrounded by guards all night. The next day, the enemy unit began marching back to their castle. The king and about fourteen prisoners from his army were forced to march through thick, sloppy mud. They were surrounded by guards that taunted them from atop their war horses. Many prisoners tried to escape, but they were quickly shoved back into line, often by the crack of a whip.

At night, the prisoners were put in a huge tent with guards patrolling around it. Two guards were in the tent to keep the prisoners in order.

After the third day of endless marching, King Eric sat, exhausted, on the blanket he had been assigned. He felt no pain from the blisters on his feet, only a dull, aching sense of dread. He could only imagine the horrors of what might happen when they arrived at the castle.

He glanced, uninterested, at the two guards. One of them caught his eye. He was tall and strong. He removed his helmet, revealing his stunningly bright red hair. Eric’s eyes widened. In his entire life, he’d only seen one person with red hair: his childhood friend Jeremiah. His teacher had said that red hair and blond hair were both very, very rare.

King Eric watched as the red-haired soldier moved quietly behind the other soldier. The next second, his fist connected solidly with the other soldier’s head. The soldier tumbled to the floor, unconscious.

All of the prisoners stared as the red-haired soldier grabbed a coil of spare rope and tied the other soldier’s hands and feet. The redhead turned to face them.

“I am Jeremiah,” he announced quietly. “I am here to rescue you, but you must follow me quickly, quietly, and in an orderly manner.” He moved to the opposite side of the giant tent, turning to one of the men. “You must lead the other prisoners. I will be in the back of the line, and I shall tell you when to go.”

Jeremiah peered out of a small peephole in the side of the tent. A few minutes later, he guided the prisoners to a hidden hole in the floor of the tent.

The prisoners slipped out of the tent, unseen by any guards. King Eric stayed in the back, only a few steps ahead of Jeremiah. They rushed through the cool night air as quickly as they could without arousing anyone’s attention.

They heard a distant shout from behind them. Oh no, King Eric thought. They must have discovered that we escaped. The escapees moved faster through the thick woods.

“Run,” Jeremiah called, his voice loud enough to be heard by all of them, but quiet enough that it wouldn’t help the guards find their position. “Try to stay in pairs, but still split up,” he added.

The other prisoners quietly paired up, and they quickly took off. King Eric was paired with Jeremiah.

Eric and Jeremiah ran through the forest, dodging trees and listening closely. Soon they heard the hoof-beats of their pursuers’ horses.

“We’ll never be able to outrun them!” Eric panted.

“We can try,” Jeremiah replied.

The hoof-beats drew nearer. “You go that way,” Jeremiah called softly to Eric, pointing to the left slightly. “I’ll keep running this way and hope they’ll follow me.”

Eric frowned at him. “Are you sure?” he asked reluctantly.

Jeremiah nodded, dodging another tree. “Don’t worry about me. Just worry about getting back to your people, Eric.” He smiled.

Eric’s eyes widened, but he didn’t have time to reply. Jeremiah nudged him off toward the left. He ran slower, looking over his shoulder as he split off from Jeremiah. The hoof-beats now sounded like a pounding heart. A shot rang out, and Jeremiah thudded to the ground, clutching his chest.

Eric started to turn, but Jeremiah’s pain-filled eyes locked with his. “Run,” he mouthed.

The pain of an aching heart started in Eric’s chest as he turned and continued running.

~~~

Eric made it back safely to his people, and they eventually won the war. The advisors who had abandoned him were never found, and everyone believed that they were either killed or captured. Eric had a happy, long, and prosperous reign, and was well-loved by his people. He never forgot the sacrifice that Jeremiah, his true friend, had made for him.

A Maze of Lies – Part Three

The last part in the story of lies, deception, and wrong choices. Click for Part One and Part Two. I’d love feedback! 😀

The next week passed quickly. Spring break also flew past, and it seemed like there hadn’t been a spare minute to breathe for Hailey. On Saturday night, she headed over to Melanie’s house for an end-of-spring-break sleepover.

“Hey, Hailey, I’m in the kitchen!” Melanie called when Hailey came in. Hailey slipped into the kitchen.

“You’re the first one here,” Melanie told her, grinning.

“Well, that’s a first!” Hailey joked. She reached over her friend’s shoulder and grabbed a kettle chip out of the bowl on the counter. “Who all is coming?” she asked, crunching.

“Kaitlyn’s out of town, so she’s not going to be here, but Brenna is going to be able to make it this time.” Melanie grabbed her own chip out of the bowl and popped it in her mouth. And then grabbed a few more.

Hailey picked up the bowl to take it into the living room. “Too bad Kaitlyn can’t come. We had a lot of fun last time. When is she getting back?”

“Monday, but she’ll be back at school on Tuesday.” Melanie picked up a bowl of popcorn. “Maybe we’ll actually pull an all-nighter tonight.”

Hailey laughed. “Knowing Brenna, we will.”

~~~

Hailey strolled home slowly on Monday afternoon. She hadn’t been able to avoid the daily bullying scene. Jason had been on vacation until the night before, and he had got back late, so she had hoped that he wouldn’t be there. Unfortunately he had.

“Hailey, wait up!” She heard a voice call from behind her. She turned and looked. It was Jason.

“Hi, Jason,” she said when he caught up.

“Hi.” He grinned, shoving his blond hair back from his forehead. “How come I’m always running to catch up with you?”

Hailey laughed. “I guess I’m just a lot faster than you.”

He smiled. “So, did you go to church on Sunday?”

“Yeah.” The words popped out of Hailey’s mouth before she could even think. “I went to the youth group meeting thing.” Hailey couldn’t believe what she’d just said.

“That’s awesome!” Jason exclaimed enthusiastically. “So, did you like it?”

“Not really,” Hailey replied reluctantly. She couldn’t think of anything else to say. What had she done?

Jason’s face fell. “Oh,” he said resignedly. He suddenly looked at his watch. “I’ve got to get home. Let’s talk more later, okay?”

“Sure,” Hailey replied reluctantly. He turned away, his shoulders somewhat slumped. Hailey was overcome by a desire to run after him, to grab his arm, to tell him the truth about everything. She wanted to stop lying to him.

But she didn’t. She didn’t want to lose her popularity and her other friends. She didn’t want to lose Jason’s trust. And she didn’t want to lose him as a friend.

~~~

Hailey slammed her locker door shut angrily after her classes on Tuesday. Every time she had seen Jason, she had felt a pang from her conscience. She was completely tired of it all. She spotted Jason at his locker a few feet away and debated whether or not to talk to him.

“Hi, guys!” Kaitlyn called, waving to Hailey and Melanie. She expertly wove through the crowd of teenagers. She finally reached them, breathless.

“Hi, Kaitlyn! Did you have a good trip?” Melanie asked, hugging her friend.

“It was great!” Kaitlyn exclaimed, her voice loud and clear like Melanie’s, as usual. “How was the sleepover on Saturday?”

“It was awesome, right, Hailey?” Melanie replied.

“Yeah, it was,” Hailey agreed distractedly. She knew that Jason couldn’t help but hear everything, and she knew that this was going to ruin everything.

“It was great!” Melanie confirmed. “We ended up pulling an all-nighter. We totally slept until four. Hailey was the one to wake us all up.” Hailey gave a half-hearted grin.

“You slept later than the one two weeks ago, then?” Kaitlyn asked. “We only slept until two.”

“Yeah.” Melanie smiled and continued chattering. Jason’s eyes met Hailey’s. He immediately read the guilt on her face. Astonishment swept over his face and was immediately replaced by hurt and anger, and then sadness. He turned and walked towards a side door, probably so he could escape the daily bullying scene. Hailey felt sick as she realized the pain she had caused Jason. Ignoring the chatter of her friends, she gathered her things and took off after Jason. She had to make things right.

~~~

“Jason, wait up!” Hailey called after Jason when she spotted him walking down the street ahead of her. Either he didn’t hear her, or he was ignoring her, because he kept walking. Hailey finally caught up to him and grabbed his arm.

“Please, Jason,” she pleaded desperately. “We need to talk. I-I’m sorry.” She finished in a whisper.

Jason turned around to face her, pain and sadness filling his green eyes. Hailey gulped, knowing that this would be hard. “I’m sorry. I just— couldn’t stop. I wanted you to stop asking me to go to church with you. I didn’t want to lose all of my other friends because of going to church, so I just kept lying and making up excuses. It was like everything kept getting more and more tangled up, and I-I just couldn’t stop. It was like being stuck in a maze.” The tears started flowing down her cheeks.

Jason hugged her gently and gave a weak smile. “It’s okay, Hailey. I’m hurt, and I’m upset that you lied to me, but… I’ve already decided to forgive you.”

“But how?” Hailey asked, confused. “I mean, I lied to you so many times! How can you just – forgive me?”

Jason smiled again. “I can’t do it on my own. God gives me the power to forgive. He’s the only One who can help me to let go of the hurt.”

“Thanks,” Hailey said softly. “And maybe I can come to church with you sometime?”

Jason’s grin broadened. “That would be awesome. Jesus is the best way out of the maze of lies.”