Twisting the Hellmouth: https://www.tthfanfic.org/Story-30966/MarcusRowland+Birthday+Honours.htm
Archive of our Own: http://archiveofourown.org/works/3334724/chapters/7292075
by Marcus L. Rowland
London, Friday Afternoon
Steve Rogers found his way back to the lounge, where Darcy and Ian were working their way through a stack of papers. "Do I smell coffee?"
"There's a filter machine in the kitchen," said Darcy, "cream's in the fridge, just help yourself. If you want something to eat there's plenty of leek and potato soup in the slow cooker, and sandwich stuff on the table and in the fridge. Give us a couple of minutes to finish this page and I'll show you."
"No need." Steve went through, and helped himself to a bowl of soup, some rye bread, and a mug of coffee. There was a patio outside the window, and small birds were circling a feeder, helping themselves to nuts and seeds, while a larger green bird was perched on top of it and seemed to be trying to tear the feeder open.
"If any of your neighbours have lost a parakeet it's outside," he said as he went back into the lounge.
"They're wild," said Ian. "They've always been good at escaping and the population exploded in the nineties, probably because we've had a lot of warm winters. They're all over London and most of southern England."
"The last time I was here it was mostly sparrows and pigeons."
"No pterodactyls?" asked Darcy.
Steve grinned. "We ate them all. There's good eating on one of them there flying lizards, and chicken was rationed."
"And the score is Lewis nil, Rogers fifteen," said Ian, imitating a BBC sports commentator.
"Blame Tony Stark," said Steve, "he's already made every fossil and dinosaur joke you're likely to think of. Repeatedly."
"If he's so interested in dinosaurs, you should give him a coprolite for Christmas," said Ian.
"Fossilised dinosaur ...um… dung. Some of them are quite pretty, especially if they're polished. Give it to him as a paperweight, but don't tell him what it is until he makes another joke."
"That might actually work," said Steve, "especially if I can trick him into licking it or something."
"Eww," Darcy said appreciatively. "That's evil. Whatever happened to the boy scout thing?"
"Darned if I know, I was never a member. The uniform was too expensive and I was never well enough to go to camp."
"Another illusion shattered."
"You try telling that to the youth of today," said Ian, faking a Yorkshire accent, "And they won't believe you."
The Python explanation that followed took most of the next hour.
Alderney, Friday Evening
"We could send a drone down there and fly it around the cave," suggested Skye, toasting a marshmallow over the barbecue.
"I really wouldn't like to try that yet," said Xander. "Whatever that thing is, I'm guessing it's trapped inside wards, or something of the sort. If you fly too close it might break the spell."
"And that would be bad," said Andrew.
"Define 'bad,'" said Coulson.
"Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light."
"That's crossing the streams," Coulson said calmly. Andrew pouted, and winced as Caridad gently (for a Slayer) slapped the back of his head.
"More realistically," said Xander, "whatever that thing is might be able to break out and we'd be at ground zero. Not my idea of fun."
"So what's your plan?"
"Wait for Willow to get here, she's our heavy hitter for this sort of thing. She and Giles will be here on Sunday and they're hoping to bring Thor, he ought to know more about this thing."
"And Captain America!" Andrew said excitedly.
"Oh..." Coulson looked uncertain, and Xander wondered why.
"You don't like Captain Spandex?"
"Actually I helped design his current costume. But he probably thinks I'm dead, if he remembers me at all. Loki stabbed me through the heart during the Chitauri attack. Although Thor might have told him, a couple of other Asgardians know."
"If he doesn't know it's a good opportunity to put him right," said Caridad. "Secrets always come out sooner or later, if you tell him now he won't think you're a ghost or the First Evil if you meet unexpectedly."
"She's right," said Xander. "Keeping that sort of thing secret is never a good idea. It can get people killed. You, if someone gets the idea you're a zombie or something."
"Did we rule that one out?" asked Skye.
"Definitely zombie free," said Caridad. "Believe me, we'd know."
"How did they do it?" asked Xander. "Magical ritual, or twenty thousand volts and a mad scientist shouting 'it lives!'"
"More of the latter, I think," said Coulson, "but I don't remember much about it."
"You can get Willow to check you magically if that'll help."
"Rupert Giles ran some quick tests after the canal incident, I think he's sure that there's nothing supernatural about it. Just some very dubious science."
"Well, if you need to talk to someone about it try Buffy, she's been there so many times she owns the T-shirt factory."
"If it becomes a problem I will. Now, getting back to the cave…"
London, Friday Evening
"Ceiling Cat is Heimdall, of course," said Thor, helping himself to another portion of lamb Rogan Josh, "but the symbolism of some of the other icons escapes me. Why do the voices tell the small cat to kill us? Why is there an invisible lawnmower?"
"Those are good questions," said Vi, who as usual was sticking to vegetarian options. "Though I think Heimdall is more like Nyan Cat. You know, flies along trailing rainbows."
"It's conversations like this that make me really glad I don't write real people fanfic," Darcy murmured to Ian. "Put this in a story and nobody would believe it."
"The drawn cats have their own symbolism, of course," Thor continued. "It was many months before I found the cat that symbolised my brother, but by then he was dead so I could not show him."
Steve mopped his plate with naan bread. "Okay, I'll bite, which one was it?"
"The small white cat with the hair-bow whose name contains his name, of course."
"Um… something Loki something?" said Ian. "Do you mean Hello Kitty?"
"I only realised when I learned to read your language. It has Loki's name, and the name of his child Hel."
"I always thought she was creepy," said Darcy. "The kitty, I mean, I never met Hel."
"Makes sense to me," said Vi. "If you dig deep enough the franchise is part owned by one of the demonic crime families, though they're more into loan sharking than summoning anything. Maybe they wanted to appease him to be on the safe side."
"The sad part is she's not kidding," said Jane. "I thought we had enough problems with evil elves and Hydra, but no."
"Most of the things I deal with would never come near any of you," said Vi. "Demons live in the shadows, you guys are just too high profile and dangerous to make good targets."
"Good to know," said Steve, pouring more beer into his glass.
"Doesn't mean Hydra aren't trying to recruit demonic powers, of course."
"There were rumours that they tried that during the war, I don't think it went well for them. I think your boss is supposed to be talking to us about it over lunch on Sunday."
"Damn, I knew I'd forgotten something. About that, would you mind if we moved the meeting? We've got a team excavating a wartime Hydra base in the Channel Islands, we were hoping you could both come out and take a look."
"They've got a meeting with some spies in the afternoon," said Darcy. "Not going to leave much time for a trip to Jersey."
"Alderney. Don't worry, Willow will be providing the transportation, it will only take a couple of minutes each way."
"Teleportation?" Jane said excitedly. "Do you mind if I come along too, and bring a few instruments?"
"I'll check, shouldn't be a problem."
"Us too," said Ian, "if she'll stretch to it. Someone's got to keep track of the data." Darcy nodded agreement.
"I remember there were rumours of a Hydra base there," said Steve, "but we never got confirmation."
"It's something that turned up in old Watcher's Council records when we went digging for info on Hydra. We're still trying to figure out what they were up to, Giles and Xander think you might be able to help."
"Xander?" said Jane.
"Sorry," said Vi. "Xander Harris. He's from Sunnydale, been fighting demons since he was a kid, back when there was only one Slayer. Helps run the Council now."
"He must be a doughty warrior," said Thor.
"Back in oh-three he stood between a bunch of us and a demonic preacher, gained time for some of us to get clear. Caleb gouged out his eye, but he was back fighting when Sunnydale went down."
"It will be an honour to meet him." Thor went to pour more beer, realised that the jug was empty, and held it up, roaring "Another!"
* * * * *
"…the blokes who came after us in May were the real thing," Ian said in the flat an hour or so later, "A couple of them had poison pills and used them before the police questioned them. But since then it's been amateur hour, someone's hiring thugs who aren't part of Hydra at all. Now my theory…" he paused and hiccupped "is that it's a bluff. They're trying to make us think that Hydra's left London. The reality…" He gestured meaninglessly with his beer bottle "…is that they're still here somewhere. Wouldn't surprise me if they've got something planned for tomorrow."
"Not saying you're wrong," said Darcy, "but I think you've had enough booze for tonight. We've got a queen to meet tomorrow."
"I wouldn't rule it out," Steve said thoughtfully.
"You can be pretty sure the Brits are on to it," said Vi, "they take the safety of the Queen seriously. I haven't heard anything specific, but a couple of the girls said that Spitfire is in town, she gives off a kind of vampire vibe so we always know when she's around. Wouldn't surprise me if some of the other British superheroes are here too."
"Spitfire? Related to the heroine in the war?"
"Same person. She got bitten and rejuvenated a couple of times, that's part of the reason why we sense her as a vampire. You know her?"
"We worked together a couple of times in the war. I hadn't realised she's still alive."
"Sheildra probably didn't want you meeting up and comparing notes," said Darcy. "SHIELD never had much of a presence in Britain officially. There's a lot less about Britain in the files you guys dumped than I would have expected, so maybe the Brits had an idea that there was something weird going on and took some precautions. She'd probably be part of that."
"I have met her," said Thor, "She is a formidable warrior."
"She kicked my ass when we sparred," said Vi, "Faith too. That takes major talent. You ought to invite her out while you're here, Cap."
"I doubt that there'll be time," said Steve. "And it's been seventy-odd years, it'd be a little weird."
"You're superheroes," said Ian, "of course you're weird" and hiccupped again.
"And that's enough of that," said Darcy. "C'mon, lover boy, let's get you to bed before I rethink that whole boyfriend thing."
"Maybe we'd all better turn in," said Steve, "tomorrow's going to be a busy day."
"Amen to that."
RAF Northolt, 1.15 AM
Normally quiet at night, the ground crews at RAF Northolt on the outskirts of London were hard at work preparing aircraft for the fly-past that would be part of the Queen's birthday celebration. The civilian part of the airfield was quieter, but still active.
Spitfire was waiting when the grey Starkjet landed and taxied to one of the civilian hangers, and watched as a platform loader rose to the boarding hatch and descended carrying a wheelchair and its occupant. "Professor, it's good to see you again."
"Always a pleasure," said Charles Xavier. "Let's hope we won't be needed."
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