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Title: Avengers and Alchemists

Author: Lady Norbert

Genre: Fantasy/Humor

Rating: PG-13

Word Count: 6,291 (not counting the author's note)

Pairing/Characters: Team Mustang, Fuhrer Grumman, Clint Barton, Natasha Romanoff, Thor, Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Phil Coulson, Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Odin, Frigga, and of course Loki. Royai and Clintasha implied by the ending.

Warnings: This might not make a lot of sense?

Summary: Based on artwork by Sarlyne. Clint Barton pays a visit to his sister Riza Hawkeye in Amestris, in order to be on hand for Grumman's inauguration. But when Loki escapes Asgard, Amestris looks like the perfect place to hide, so the Avengers team up with Mustang's group in order to bring him to justice... again.

Author's Note: This is, quite obviously, an AU. For that reason, the details of Clint Barton's background will not be presented entirely accurately as they are known in the Marvel universe. I did review his history on Wikipedia before beginning this project, so there will be some details that are right and some that are not. I hope no one is too deeply troubled by the alterations. The ending might seem a little familiar to people who have read my other FMA works. It's possible that at some point in the future, I will continue this, but for now, please just enjoy the silliness. :)



Special thanks to my artist, [livejournal.com profile] sarlyne, for giving me such a fun piece to write about; to my friend [livejournal.com profile] tk31085, who helped me puzzle out a number of plot points over lunch; and to my wonderful and patient beta reader, [livejournal.com profile] bay115, for her many helpful suggestions. Credit for Grumman's first name goes to [livejournal.com profile] jellyjay; I stole it from her.



Oh, and Coulson lives. Because I say so.


~A&A~




Central City, Amestris



It was a well-documented fact in Central Command that there were, in truth, very few well-documented facts about the beautiful blonde enigma known as the Eye of the Hawk.



Some things were generally public record. She was the personal assistant, bodyguard and - it was rumored - nanny of Colonel Roy Mustang, the second youngest State Alchemist in Amestrian history. She was a veteran of the Ishvalan Civil War, where she had achieved her famous nickname thanks to her proficiency with various types of guns. And more recently, she was acclaimed as a hero of the Promised Day, when she'd helped her commanding officer and a few of their other friends stop something from destroying the entire country. (It was worth noting that only a scant few people had any idea what that something actually was, but a sufficient number of people of note had confirmed the story told by the conquering forces, and so the general populace accepted that the apocalypse had been canceled and they just had a minor disaster to clean up in its wake.)



Among those who were better acquainted with Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye than most, a handful of facts were additionally known. She wasn't really Mustang's nanny (well, technically speaking), she had a firm but gentle way of dealing with subordinates that made them feel like she really cared about them, she preferred tea to coffee, and she prized the companionship of her black and white Shina Ibu rescue pup, Black Hayate. Apart from Mustang himself, she was closest to her academy roommate, Lieutenant Rebecca Catalina, and to the four male subordinates who followed Mustang most directly - Heymans Breda, Vato Falman, Jean Havoc, and Kain Fuery. As she was understood to have no other family, this small group, with the tertiary additions of the brothers Elric, executed that function in her life.



Following the Promised Day's misadventures, however, a new fact came to light. The incomparable Hawkeye did, to everyone's surprise, have family of her own. General Eli Grumman, possibly the most eccentric of the high-ranking officers, was her maternal grandfather. This remarkable truth had hitherto been known only to Hawkeye herself, Grumman himself, and Mustang. When it was decided that Grumman would be placed in the top spot as leader of the country, though, it was observed that he was a widower with no living children. With her consent, he made their relationship known publicly, and she found herself (somewhat reluctantly) accepting the mantle of the First Granddaughter.



The news was broken to her own small group first, before it was placed in the newspapers. Riza was calm and rational about it, stating the facts simply and without embellishment. "He was my mother's father. They had a falling out when she married my father, and they never saw one another again."



"And you never told us?" asked Breda, incredulously.



"I never told anyone because we agreed we didn't want anyone believing my career had any roots in nepotism," she replied. "Only the Colonel here ever knew, because he was my childhood friend and my grandfather's protege."



"Huh." Fuery seemed slightly dazed. "And now you're the First Granddaughter. Wow. Wow! Uh - ma'am - that's not going to stop you from coming east with us when we make the transfer, will it?"



"No, not at all. The Fuhrer, that is to be, knows that my place is with my unit." She allowed them one of her rare affectionate smiles. "Though it will mean that I'll have to come back to Central now and then for state occasions. For better or for worse, I'm going to be the executive mansion's official hostess, in default of a First Lady."



"That's pretty cool, honestly," said Havoc, grinning lazily around a cigarette.



"I'm glad you think so. Meanwhile, there's another minor development at hand, and I think I'd better bring you all into our confidence about that as well."



The heads of Rebecca and the four men swiveled expectantly in Mustang's direction, and too late Riza realized what they were all thinking. "Not that kind of development," she said with forced patience.



"That is coming, isn't it?" Rebecca asked. It was almost a whine. "You promised I could be your mai-"



"Enough, Catalina," Roy barked. "I assure you that if and when any such development should happen to occur, you will be among the first to be notified. However, I'm as in the dark as you are as to what Hawkeye is referencing." He gave his adjutant a quizzical look.



"Well, the inauguration is scheduled for a few weeks from now," Riza said.



"I imagine that as First Granddaughter, you'll be somewhat centrally involved in the formalities and festivities?" Falman asked.



"Yes. I'll be part of them, and... so will the First Grandson."



There was an almost audible pause. Finally, Roy spoke.



"Who??"



~A&A~




New York City, New York, United States of America



As long-standing as their partnership was, Natasha Romanoff had always supposed there were truths about Clint Barton's past that she didn't know. She was fine with that, really. There were things in her history that he didn't know either. The important things about each other, they knew.



Still, she hadn't quite been expecting it when he'd told her about his grandfather being inaugurated as the leader of some remote country she'd never even heard of.



"And they actually call him the Fuhrer?" she asked incredulously. "Do these people not have any understanding of Nazi Germany?"



"No, to be honest, they don't. Amestris... how can I put this?" Clint scratched the back of his head, thinking. "It's a bit like Thor's Asgard. It's not on this world. That's probably the best way I can explain it."



"Then how do you get there?"



"There's a small connection point - an overlap, if you will - between that world and this one."



Natasha paused, but on balance, that didn't sound so implausible. Especially compared to some of the things they'd seen just in recent weeks. "So you're going to this Amestris place for the swearing-in ceremony, then?"



"Yep. I plan to leave Saturday afternoon, right after Thor takes Loki back to Asgard." Following the thwarted invasion by Loki and his bastard alien allies, Director Fury had agreed that the hodge-podge group of warriors called the Avengers were entitled to a bit of a vacation.



"Convenient timing. What, did he send you an invitation or something?"



"Yeah. There's..." He paused, thinking it over. "To put it in shortest form, I'm able to send and receive letters. I can visit too, but I haven't done that in years."



"So explain this to me." They were in Clint's quarters aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, and she sat down on the cot. "You were born there?"



"Right. I'm Amestrian by birth - well, half-Amestrian, half-American," he clarified.



"I thought you were born in Iowa."



"No, I just lived there when I was little. Some of what I've told the others about my background is obviously not all that true." He began inspecting his bowstring, though she suspected that was more of a diversion for his own focus than anything else. "Some of it is. I did have a brother named Barney and we did join the circus after our parents died, which is partly where I learned to do the things I do."



"Okay, that much I knew. How did you get from Amestris to here, then?"



"My father was American. My mother was Amestrian. I guess the simplest way to explain it is this - one day my dad accidentally stumbled through that connection point I mentioned, and he met my mother. She was beautiful, with long blonde hair and deep brown eyes, and it was kind of a love at first sight deal. He figured out how to move between the worlds deliberately, and they had a whirlwind courtship which resulted in me." He shrugged. "From what I've been told, my mother was terrified of her family finding out, so she gave me to my father to raise here in America."



"She managed to have a full-term pregnancy without her family finding out?" Natasha's suspension of disbelief was being challenged.



"Yeah, that's what I said. All I know is that my grandfather said he never knew. Then again, he's military, so it's possible that he just wasn't home very much, and my grandmother was blind."



"She must have been, to miss that."



"No, I mean literally, she was blind."



"Oh. Sorry."



"So Mom had me, and who knows how she concealed that from her parents, but she was able to give me to my dad. She begged him to leave and never come back, apparently. He brought me back here to America, and moved us to Iowa to get away from the memories. He married my stepmother, and they had Barney, and then they both died when I was little."



"How old were you when you found out? How did you find out, anyway?"



Clint put the bow back in its case. "My mom got married, in Amestris, to a man my grandfather sort of hated. They ran away together, and later she got very sick and died. Before she died, she sent her father a letter confessing the truth about my existence. Meanwhile, she'd also given my dad a letter to give to me, which his lawyer had sent to me when I was sixteen. It told me how to find the connection between the two worlds. My grandmother was dead by then, but I got to meet my grandfather - and my little sister, from Mom's marriage to the guy my grandfather didn't like. I've been writing to both of them ever since."



"That's some story." Natasha had no doubt that it was the truth; as a general rule, she and Clint never lied to each other, no matter what falsehoods they had to give to anyone else. "Does Fury know?"



"He knows the generalities, not the specifics. So this is all a pretty roundabout way to ask this, but you wanna come to Amestris with me and watch my grandfather get sworn in?"



"I suppose someone's got to keep an eye on you. Besides, it'll be pretty boring here without you." She smirked slightly. "Do I get to meet this little sister?"



"Eh, she's not little anymore - she's only about seven or eight years younger than me. But yeah, definitely."



"What's her name?"



"Riza. Riza Hawkeye, believe it or not."



"Hawkeye? Now you're having me on."



"Nope. That's actually where I got the idea for the name. It really is her last name."



"What does she do?"



He grinned. "She's... a bit like you, if you want to know the truth. A sniper."



"A sniper?" Natasha repeated. "So this shooting thing runs in the family?"



"Possibly. She's military, to be precise. A sniper and also a personal bodyguard to her commanding officer. She talks about him a lot in her letters."



"Well, it should be interesting to meet her." Natasha stood up. "Saturday after the Tesseract hand-off, then. Oh, Clint? Where is this connection between the worlds, anyway?"



"In Central Park."



~A&A~




Central Park, Central City, Amestris



"So this is where we'll be meeting your brother?" Roy inquired dubiously. He had more or less insisted on accompanying Riza to meet with her newly arriving half-brother, but he hadn't expected the meeting place to be Central Park.



"On the rare occasion that he's been able to visit, this is always how he comes from his world." Riza shrugged. "I admit it's strange, sir. It took me some time to believe that it was even the truth. Why do you think I never told you?"



"All that time living in your dad's house, though... never even a photograph..."



"I didn't know about Clint then. It was only later, after I met Grumman and found out who he was to me, that I learned I had a brother. You know, it's funny," she admitted. "The thing I always found hardest to accept about the story was the idea that my mother could have given away her only son. How could she have feared someone as gentle as Grumman more than she loved her child?"



"You know him as a gentle guy. People change," Roy pointed out. "He might have been different when he was younger - maybe losing your mother cause him to mellow and become the gentler person you know. Anyway, he's not that gentle," he added wryly. "Certainly not when he's sitting in front of a chessboard."



"If you weren't so stubborn about never sacrificing your queen..."



"I was almost forced to do that once. I won't ever allow it to happen again, metaphorically or otherwise." His eyes had a determined gleam.



Hers, by contrast, softened. "Yes, sir." It wasn't worth arguing that particular point.



"So how does he get here, exactly?" Roy asked, changing the subject. "Is there a tree that's secretly a door, or something?"



"There's a Central Park in Clint's world," Riza explained. "Rather famous, in fact. There's a group of statues that represent figures from well-known children's literature from their world, and one of them can be manipulated in just the right way to open a passage. You have to know it's there in order to find it, from what Clint told me. His father found it accidentally, but that was before the statue that hides it was constructed."



"And where does it open on our end?"



"There's a small storage facility near the playground area. At least, that's what it looks like. Grumman had it built there specifically to make it easier for Clint to visit," Riza admitted, brandishing a key. "It's locked the rest of the time, but there's a small post box inside the building. That's how he and I send letters to each other."



"Do you like your brother?"



"That's an interesting question," she said after a brief pause. "Yes, he's on the whole a very likable person. A little... quirky, but I suppose you could say he takes after Grumman in that regard. He's a weapons enthusiast in his own right. Oh, and he's not coming alone, sir."



"Oh, no?"



"He has a partner, of sorts, named Natasha, and he invited her to accompany him on this visit. She's - if I may be blunt, sir?" Riza's expression was inscrutable. "Clint and I are alike in several ways, and one of them is that neither of us attaches to other people very easily. We don't open up well. I think... I think you could say with some accuracy that Natasha is to my brother something very similar to what you are to me."



"I see." He gave her a curious look.



They had reached the passage's hiding place, and tried to look as inconspicuous as two well-known defenders of the public could look. After a few minutes, a knocking could be heard from inside the building, a series of raps in an obviously prearranged pattern and rhythm. Riza, in response, put her key into the lock on the door and, with a quick glance around to make sure they weren't being watched, opened it.



"Hey there, baby sister," said Clint, emerging.



Roy observed him in a mostly approving sort of way. He had an air of style around him that, although it looked somewhat out of place in Amestris, nevertheless made him look sharp. There was an alertness to his person that was very reminiscent of Riza, and while the siblings didn't look very much alike, there was something very similar about their carriage and body language.



"Clint." Riza embraced him. "I'm really glad you could come - Grandfather will be too. I think he's missed you more than he wants to admit."



"I've missed the old goat myself," the newcomer conceded. "Ah - Riza Hawkeye, Natasha Romanoff, the partner I've mentioned. Natasha, this is my sister Riza." An absolutely gorgeous and curvy redheaded woman was emerging from the passage, which Riza quickly locked after she came out.



"It's nice to meet you at last," Riza said. "Clint's said many good things about you in his letters. Welcome to Central City."



"Hi, likewise."



"And this must be Colonel Mustang, am I right?" Clint turned his hooded eyes on Roy, then seized his hand and shook it vigorously. There was a shade of something mischievous in his expression - he was pretending to be an embarrassing older brother. Roy was amused. "So glad to finally meet you!" Clint continued. "My sister told me everything about you! My name is Clint 'Hawkeye' Barton, I work for the assassins' guild, S.H.I.E.L.D., and... I like to shoot people!" He laughed. Riza's expression grew pained.



"Shooting, yeah?" Roy was trying not to laugh, for his lieutenant's sake. "So is that a family thing, then?"



"You're so funny, Colonel!" Clint finally released his hand.



"Why don't we go get some lunch?" asked Riza, a touch weakly. "Afterward we'll show you around Central Command and introduce you to our friends."



"The ones from your letters? I can't wait," said Clint. He saw the look on her face and laughed again. "Okay, okay, I'll stop."



"It's just... so unlike you," she said.



"I'd have to agree," said Natasha. "I never saw you act so much like a ferret as you did just now."



"I was not acting like a ferret."



"You were completely acting like a ferret."



~A&A~




The city of Asgard, on the world of Asgard



"Thus the Tesseract is brought safely home," said Thor, "and now, Father, I have told all there is to tell of my recent days on Midgard."



Odin, the Allfather, nodded gravely. "All that remains, then, is to pass judgment upon your treacherous brother."



Thor sighed. "He has done terrible things, Father. And yet... he is my brother. Though his blood is of the Frost Giants, you reared us both as your sons, and my memories of our boyhoods together are fond. I would find a way to help him, if I could."



"You have your mother's mercy, my son, but what Loki has done has almost wrought destruction upon the Nine Realms. This cannot pass unpunished."



"I understand."



"Where is Loki now?"



"He is being held at the gate of the Rainbow Bridge. I brought the Tesseract to you alone; I believe Mother has gone to see him."



Odin grimaced. "I once thought that Loki might yet be redeemed, through his love of the Allmother if naught else. But it is a hope I dare not cherish any longer. Too many have been his missteps; too many are the lives he has destroyed. Midgard must rebuild itself; it must be allowed to do so without the fear of his return."



"Nevertheless, I long to see it again myself," Thor admitted. "My allies in battle, and the woman I love, await me there, as do coffee and Pop-Tarts. The son of Coul was grievously injured; I hope when I return that I will hear glad tidings of his recovery."



"I thought you said the furious one claimed the son of Coul was killed by Loki."



"T'was naught but a trick, meant to galvanize the rest of us and incite us to join forces. I deplore the deception, but the manuever was most effective."



"These humans are strange creatures, my son. You are different every time you come back to Asgard." Odin seemed somewhat amused, somewhat perplexed.



Before Thor could decide how best to respond, they could hear footsteps running through the corridor beyond Odin's throne room. Father and son turned to see Frigga, Queen of Asgard, appear in the doorway. She looked stricken.



"Loki is gone," she said. "He has broken his bonds and eluded his guards. He has escaped - I was too late to stop him."



"The aliens to whom he promised to deliver the Tesseract may still be looking for him," said Thor, thoughtfully. "Perhaps he feared they would follow him even here."



"Then where would he have gone to hide?"



"I do not know," he admitted, "but I believe I know who can find out."



~A&A~





Central City, Amestris



Grumman was delighted to see his grandson once again. Having long since come to terms with his late daughter's deception and later elopement, he had taken both of her children into his heart.



Quite a lot had happened in both of their lives since Clint had last visited, and so the first order of business was to bring everyone up to speed.



"So you just had to battle a huge army of invading forces led by a guy determined to become the god of your world?" asked Roy, having listened to Clint and Natasha's version of things.



"That's a bit of an oversimplification, but yeah, essentially."



"Huh. Us too, what are the odds?"



"With the help of some really weird allies, right?"



"Yeah, in some cases. Setting aside the regular soldiers and the alchemists like me, there was a kid soul-bound into a suit of armor, and a weapons specialist driving an ice cream truck, and a foreign prince with a split personality," he said, counting on his fingers. "Oh, and a couple of guys whose genes were spliced with animals. And a housewife. You?"



"The Norse god of thunder, a scientist who turns into a green giant when he's sufficiently ticked off, a super soldier who's technically old enough to be my grandfather, and a guy who built a flying metal suit that lets him beat the snot out of almost everyone," said Natasha. "Plus the two of us, and some help from the New York police and fire departments. Also Director Fury and the other agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."



"Fury - that's funny, one of our soldiers is called Fuery too," said Riza. "He's our communications specialist. You'll meet him and our other friends soon, probably tomorrow." Clint and Natasha were both staying at Riza's apartment until the inauguration, which was still a week away.



"All your guys have fairly amusing names, from what I hear," Clint remarked. "I mean, come on - Havoc? Is that really his name?"



"It really is."



"That almost seems a little bit too clever. Tony Stark - our guy in the metal suit - would probably love to have his last name be Havoc."



"Well, he raises enough of it," said Natasha wryly.



~A&A~




Director Fury's Office, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, somewhere above New York



"Let me get this straight," said the eyepatched director. "You took Loki home. You returned the Tesseract to your father. And while you were debriefing Odin on recent events, Loki slipped his leash and took off for parts unknown?"



"That... yes, that would be an accurate summation."



"We have a rogue hostile who could be anywhere in the galaxy. You realize what this means?"



"I'm not entirely certain that Loki represents a threat at the moment," Thor protested. "From what we have been able to learn from the guards he subdued, his attitude was one of anxiety, of fear - not vengeance."



"You think he thinks that those aliens are going to come after him?"



"For some reason, they genuinely terrify him."



Fury sighed. "I've got enough going on with helping to rebuild the city after his last escapade. What do you need from me, Thor?"



"If you can just help me find him, that will be more than sufficient. I will find him and persuade him to come home to the Allfather's protection."



Fury's lips twitched, though whether in amusement or annoyance it was difficult to say. "What if your father's protection isn't enough to keep these freaks away from him? I can't risk further damage to - what do you call us? Midgard?"



"Midgard, yes. But Odin's wrath is mighty and terrible," Thor insisted. "Our prison is the safest place for Loki to hide. Already he is stripped of his powers. He has no means to bend others to his will."



"Somehow, I'm not entirely comforted by that. I don't trust your brother as far as I can throw him, and I can't throw him that far."



"Please. Please, help me find him."



Fury sighed again. "Let's see what we can do. Hill? Can you put out some sort of feelers to track him down?"



The raven-haired woman, efficient as ever, touched a few places on various screens. "Our sources confirm that he's not here on Earth; it's harder for me to specify anything beyond that."



"What's going on?" asked a new voice. They turned, and Thor had to smile at the new arrival.



"Son of Coul. It is good to see you."



Agent Coulson wasn't walking entirely right, still, but he was in decent shape considering what Loki had done to him. "It's good to see you too, Thor. Did I hear correctly? Loki's escaped?"



"Unfortunately. And I don't know where else to conduct my search - he is not on Asgard, nor here on Midgard, and so he could be anywhere. I assume he is still within the Nine Realms, but I have been able to neither confirm nor deny that."



"Where are the other Avengers?" Coulson asked.



"Stark, of course, is at what remains of Stark Tower. I think Banner's with him," Fury mused. "Cap's gone on a road trip on his motorcycle, but we could recall him if we absolutely had to, I guess."



"What about Barton and Romanoff?"



"They're... harder to track. I know where they are, more or less, but I have no way of contacting them."



Coulson's brow furrowed briefly, but his expression cleared almost at once. "Oh, do you mean they've gone to visit Barton's sister?"



Fury had turned to study Hill's screens, but he turned back to Coulson very sharply. "How do you know about that?"



"Barton gave me coordinates some time ago. I know how to get to where he is."



"You're kidding."



"Excuse me," said Thor. His tone was polite, if a bit impatient. "I was unaware that Hawkeye had a sister, but is it so unusual that someone would know how to contact him at her residence?"



"She doesn't live around here, to put it mildly," said Fury.



"There's a gate," said Coulson, helpfully. "It leads to another world. Hawkeye's mother came from that world, and his sister still lives there. He doesn't visit often, but there's a way to reach it and he showed me how."



"I have a feeling he's not going to like us interrupting his vacation," said Hill, wryly, but Fury waved her off.



"Wait a minute." He turned slowly to look at Thor. "Barton was under your brother's control for days. By his own admission, his entire consciousness was laid bare to Loki's scrutiny."



"And?"



"That would include the existence of his sister."



"Oh, no." Coulson blanched. "Do you think Loki might also know how to get there?"



"It stands to reason. Dammit."



"What is this other world of which we speak?" Thor demanded.



"Best name I could give it would be an alternate Earth," said Fury. "It bears some resemblance to our world, but very little. The geography, ideologies, history, they're all different."



"It may well lie outside of the Nine Realms, then... which would make it a perfect place for Loki to hide from his enemies. Including us."



"There's another problem," said Fury grimly. "The whole reason Barton's gone home at this particular time is because his grandfather is about to be sworn in as the newest leader of the country where his sister lives. They're experiencing a lot of political upheaval."



"Which makes it a perfect canvas on which Loki can paint new mischief." Hill groaned. "Great."



"Coulson, you're absolutely certain you know how to get to where Barton is?"



"It's a hidden place inside Central Park. He showed it to me some time ago, but I remember," Coulson replied. "He didn't really want to tell me about it, but he said it might be really important someday, if the world ever went too far to hell in a handbasket, to completely seal off the contact between the two worlds. But as far as Barton was aware at the time, no one else knows about it."



"Something that I suspect has changed in the interim. All right." Fury closed his visible eye and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I hate to say it, but assemble the Avengers. Thor, we need to send you all over there to stop your brother before he finds some way to screw up another world."



"Stark and Banner are easy enough. It's Cap that I'm concerned about," said Hill. "We can find him, but it's going to take some time to actually retrieve him."



"Then we need to get started. Let's land this thing. Coulson, you feeling up to a visit to Stark?"



"Whatever you need, Director."



"Good man."



~A&A~




Central City, Amestris



So far, Natasha was having a reasonably good time.



Not that it was easy to tell, mind you. Her expression was usually a pleasantly neutral one, with the occasional rare smile. But she liked Clint's sister well enough, liked her boss, and the guys who made up the rest of their team all seemed like decent fellows. The tall one called Havoc (it really was the guy's name, go figure) wasn't around too much, but apparently he had to have a lot of physical therapy - he'd lost the use of his legs during their recent conflict and was still working out the bugs of it. The redheaded chess addict they called Breda, evidently Havoc's best friend, was usually with him for this therapy, either encouraging or harassing him into recovery. It was hard to say which.



Their Fuery couldn't have been much more different from the Fury Natasha knew if he'd been actively trying. While the director was tall, dark, and very imposing, the communications specialist was small, bespectacled, and boyish. According to Riza, he'd grown considerable backbone while serving on the front lines, which made Natasha wonder how skittish he'd been before the fighting.



The remaining member of the team was absent. He'd been transferred to a unit in the northern part of the country, and while it was evident that Mustang and his troops missed the guy and wanted him to come back, he'd found some reason to remain where he was. He was scheduled to return for the inauguration, though. Also expected to arrive was a group of three from the eastern region, a trio of golden-haired teenagers. Riza hadn't offered too much information about them except to say that the two boys were brothers, and the girl was the unofficial sweetheart of the elder brother.



There was plenty of celebrating in the days leading up to the ceremony. A parade wound its way through the streets of the spiderweb-shaped city, all the way to the park where Clint and Natasha had first arrived. There, a carnival had been set up for the week. It was simplistic, at least compared to what she'd grown used to in the United States, but it had its charms. There were rides for the kids, games, contests, and wandering characters in colorful costumes.



And that's why, she reasoned later, it was perfectly understandable that she initially didn't realize that the Avengers had infiltrated the city.



She'd gotten so used to seeing people dressed in weird outfits that at first, the man in the flowing red cape didn't really attract her attention. A second look made her think that he seemed kind of familiar. And so did the three men who accompanied him. And as they got closer, it became ridiculously obvious why that would be.



"Clint."



"Hm?"



"We've got company."



He turned, did a Hollywood-worthy double take, and groaned. "I knew I shouldn't have told Coulson where the gate was."



~A&A~




Central Command Headquarters, Colonel Mustang's Office



A meeting was shortly convened, in which the Avengers were brought face to face with Mustang's group. "There's little time for proper introductions," said Steve, gravely. Rebecca looked like she was hanging on his every word.



"We'll keep it short, Cap," Clint assured him.



Moments later, everyone had at least heard the names of everyone in the other group and was fervently hoping there wouldn't be a quiz anytime soon. "On behalf of my father, King of Asgard," said Thor, as they all looked at each other, "I wish to apologize for what has happened. It was unforeseen."



"What exactly has happened?" Roy wanted to know.



"It's my brother, Loki. He was to be imprisoned for his recent transgressions against the people of Midgard -"



"Or as the people who live there call it, Earth," Tony interjected.



"- but he slipped his bonds and fled here. We fear he means to disrupt the proceedings and perhaps try to subjugate your people."



"I don't see how he could," Natasha said. "He doesn't have any powers left, does he?"



"He still has his tongue," said Bruce grimly. "If he starts talking, who knows what he can persuade someone to do?"



"We need to warn Grandfather about this right away," said Riza firmly. "He should be in his office. Let's go."



They trooped through the halls of the command center, mostly in silence except for Rebecca, who was trying to chat up a storm with Steve. "So you're the super soldier that Clintasha told me about! Oh, haha, I called them Clintasha, I didn't mean to do that, but you know who I mean. It's so exciting to meet you in the flesh. I mean, in person!" He smiled, and made polite sorts of noises, but he clearly didn't quite know what to make of her. In spite of the gravity of the situation, Clint was hard-pressed not to laugh.



"Please tell the Fuhrer-elect that his grandchildren are here to see him," Riza told the secretary.



"You can go right in. He's popular today - he's already got company," she chirped.



Clint and Riza exchanged glances. "You don't think..."



"Could he have already...?"



They hurried into the room and stopped dead, which caused something of a thirty-superhero pileup behind them.



"Hello!" Grumman said cheerfully, waving at them from his desk. "Don't mind me, kids, I was just having a game of chess with this young man who arrived a little while ago." He gestured to his opponent, who turned slowly in his chair to smile crookedly at them. "This is Loki of Asgard, and he is burdened with glorious purses. At least, that's what he says, but I don't see any, do you?"



"Purpose, sir! I am burdened with glorious purpose!"



"My hearing must be going," Grumman noted blandly. He caught his grandchildren's gaze and smirked just the littlest bit.



"Do you ever feel like you're in a movie," Tony muttered to Bruce, "and every so often, something happens that makes it seem like you've wandered into the bloopers reel?"



~A&A~




Central Park, Central City, Amestris

Eight years later




"That didn't really happen," the red-haired boy objected.



"Of course it did! Would I lie to you?"



"Grandpa..."



Grumman chuckled, and took off his spectacles to polish them. His great-grandson looked nonplussed.



"Why would Loki come here, anyway?"



"He was hiding from those aliens, just as Thor suspected. They found him, of course. And your parents, and your aunt and uncle, and all their friends had to join forces to stop them. It was quite the extraordinary feat."



"So you really expect me to believe that there are aliens?"



"My dear boy." Grumman placed the glasses back on his nose, then peered over the edge of them. "That's hardly the most peculiar thing you've ever been expected to believe in your short lifetime."



"I guess."



"Besides, I didn't even get to tell you the good parts yet. Like the first time I saw Dr. Banner change into the Hulk and he had a flex-off with Alex Louis Armstrong. Or Mr. Stark allowing Mrs. Elric - well, she wasn't Mrs. Elric yet then, of course - to tinker with one of his spare mechanical arms."



"Well, those I can believe."



"What if I told you that Captain America's later romance with Rebecca Catalina almost caused us to go to war with Xing?"



"Now I know you're making things up."



"Maybe one or two. It happens when you get to my age." Grumman chuckled. "You've spent too much time with Edward, you know. You're only six years old, you should not be quite this cynical."



"He gets it from his mother," said a new voice, as Clint dropped onto the grass beside his son. "Also his aunt."



"Where is Riza?"



"Feeding the baby."



"You know that their men call him the Mustang foal behind their backs?"



Clint snorted. "That was Stark's idea, if you want to know the truth."



"That explains a great deal." Grumman chuckled. "Ah, it's always good to have you and your friends come and visit us."



"So what happened to Loki?" interrupted Andrew.



"Loki? Grandfather, don't you think he's a little young for that story?"



"Nonsense! Now, where was I... Clint, I might need your help with some of the details, so do stick around..."




~Fin~

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Lady Norbert

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