Chapter Four: No Roads Home

During the week, Georges Batroc and his new accomplice, Justin Hammer, had flown to New York. The mercenary had found a cell of a cult known as the United Order that had sprung up after the battle in New York. Many people believed that the Chitauri weren't aliens but demons, and it was the Rapture the Avengers had stopped.
Justin was more nervous than he cared to admit while driving down the dimly lit street of the urban New York City neighborhood. Going to anything remotely religious was something he hadn't willingly done since he was a boy, and interrupting a cult meeting seemed somewhat risky.

The younger man in the passenger seat picked up on Justin's anxiousness before landing at JFK airport. "You're nervous." Batroc finally spoke, breaking the silence of the SUV. "Why?" Justin held back a scoff.

"We are interrupting a CULT meeting in the middle of the night in New York City's bad neighborhood. You tell me, Georgie, why am I nervous." Batroc laughed and pulled the 9mm off his hip, causing Justin to flinch.

Georges laughed slightly. "Relax," He assured him, passing him the pistol. "Ever shot a gun before?" Justin shook his head, amazed the mercenary had willingly given him a gun. It was either a sign of trust or that Batroc wasn't in any way afraid of him. Neither of which was a comforting thought. "It's easy." Batroc grabbed his thin hands and guided him on how to chamber a round and turn off the safety. Justin was perplexed by the younger mercenary. He had threatened to murder him a mere three days earlier and had made it rather clear that he'd kill him without a second's hesitation. Justin figured the man hated him the way Ivan Vanko had hated him, but now he wasn't sure what to think.

They reached a small warehouse, which had been abandoned years earlier. Georges cracked his neck before jumping out of the black SUV. "Hey, wait." Justin decided to let out his grievance with the plan truly. "Are you sure these zealots will be on our side?" Justin glanced at the dark building, his heart racing in his chest. "I mean, sure, they want to kill the Avengers too, but they think doing so will bring about the end of the world." Justin sighed. "These people aren't warriors; they're morons. And not exactly what comes to mind as a group to help bring down the Avengers." Batroc turned back to him.

"They're cannon fodder! I'll have a team of real mercenaries, but we'll need the numbers if we want to stand a chance against them." The cold, calculated mercenary showed through when he spoke. "They'll be useful because they don't value their own life any more than I value their lives." There was a silence between them. Justin wasn't a soldier, nor was he a killer, not a real one anyway. The thought of using people as expendable pieces in a plan to kill their enemies seemed... Evil. "You disapprove." Georges put his hands on his hips, taking a deep exaggerated breath of the cool fall air.

"Uh," Justin laughed, tilting his head at him. "Yeah, I'd say so. You're talking about using the religious fanatics to help us kill the Avengers, something I remind you that they haven't agreed to yet. KNOWING they'll die." The slight smile and look of amusement on the face of Batroc were both unsettling and insulting.

"And you had me kill the man who secured my release to tie up a loose end. You're having me kill a man you feel wronged you, yes?" Batroc asked rhetorically. "I understand you've never dealt with death first hand. But I've been doing it since I was barely a man." He paused with a sigh. He hoped he wouldn't have explained something that seemed so obvious. "I need you to trust me when I say this is how it must be. And hey!" He smiled, putting his hand on Justin's slim shoulder. "If worst comes to worst, I'll slaughter them myself. Deal?" He wasn't actually asking him. The one-sided conversation was over, so Justin begrudgingly followed the more experienced man into the dark building.

The inside of the building was filled with the pungent stench of rotting wood. There were voices echoing through the ruins from the upper floor, which they followed. Which creaked beneath their feet as they ascended to the second story. Justin pulled a cloth from his pocket and breathed through. He wasn't sure how Georges could stand the odor.
The voices grew louder as they approached a door. A dim light came from beneath the rusty metal door. Justin expected a brief meeting with his associate, but instead Georges swung the door open, to the dismay of 30 cultists. All but 2 of them were dressed in bright white robes and were circled around a man on a makeshift stage. "Bonsoir!" Georges switched back to his native tongue just briefly.

The obvious leader of the zealots stepped towards them, anger on his pale face. "You dare interrupt a holy meeting?" He questioned them. Batroc didn't speak, his eyes sizing up each member. They varied from the leader, a heavy-set middle-aged man with a shaved head, to a young woman who wasn't any older the 20 with beautiful curly brown hair. "Judging by your demeanor, you aren't here by accident." The man paused, glancing behind Batroc at Justin Hammer, who was visibly shaking and cowering behind the calm and collected Batroc. "You must be very brave or very stupid." There was an uneasiness among the cultists, who exchanged looks of shock. "Well, either way, you've found our place of worship, so I cannot allow you to leave." The man nodded to two men, who were dressed in black robes, which differed from the white robes that adorned the rest of the group. "Please, give the good Lord my regards when you meet him." Batroc cracked his neck, and pushed Justin back.

Georges approached the men, who brandished ball-peen hammers. Saying being killed with one of those would be a gruesome death is an understatement. The two men made the first move, swinging their hammers downward at Georges. "Predictable." He scoffed, jumping backward and countering with a swift front kick to one man's face. His boot broke the man's nose and several teeth when it landed. Causing the man to drop his hammer and clutch his bloody mouth and nose, letting out a muffled sob as he writhed on the ground.

The other man couldn't seem to peel his eyes off his comrade. Swallowing hard, he put on a brave face as Batroc scooped the hammer off the floor. Inspecting it briefly, he found the remnants of dried blood; they weren't the first to find this place. The others weren't so lucky, obviously. The two circled each other. The hammer the religious zealot was holding trembled in his grip. "Kill him!" The Cult leader commanded. Acting without thinking, he lunged forward, swinging wildly.
Batroc avoided the first few strikes with ease before finally catching him by the wrist. Batroc didn't kill him, choosing instead to sweep his feet and break the hand holding the hammer. The man let out a pained scream, cut short by Batroc's boot coming down on the man's neck.

With the only threat to him pinned beneath his boot, Georges turned his attention to the Cultists. "I have a proposition for you," Georges spoke to the leader. "You wish to kill the Avengers, but you lack the weapons and Intel necessary, oui?" Letting out an uneasy breath, he nodded. "We've come to offer you assistance." The room stayed silent, aside from Georges's adversaries' muffled sobs and groans.

"You're quite the fighter, but how exactly do you plan on killing ALL of the Avengers?" A fair question. The Avengers had defeated Ultron and his entire army of robots, and Loki, a demi-God and an army of alien invaders.

"My associate back there," He gestured back to Justin, who waved awkwardly. "Is Justin Hammer, founder, and CEO of Hammer Industries. He will provide you with weapons, and I will train you to use those weapons." His interest visibly peaked upon realizing who Justin was.

"And you?" The man inquired. "Who are you?" Batroc smirked.

"I am Georges Batroc, and I am a former member of the DGSE." He paused, noticing a look of confusion on the group's faces. Holding back a sigh, he tried to figure out a way to explain it to these people, most of whom had probably never even left the country. "Cher Dieu," he laughed, running his free hand over his shaved head. "I was the French Foreign Legion's equivalent to the Navy SEAL." he paused, thinking back on his years spent in the service. "I was the best. And I still am." The leader jumped from his place on the stage and onto the floor with one less than graceful motion.

"The invasion of the demons from the sky was supposed to be man kind's reckoning." The man spoke in a hushed tone. "The Avengers refused to bend to God's will, and then God sent Ultron, and again the Avengers defied him." He finally reached Georges, who was a few inches shorter than himself. Locking eyes, they both smiled, sizing the other up. "For this, the Avengers must pay. But, I must ask, why do YOU, want them dead? I know why Mr. Hammer wants them dead, but what is your reason?" Georges smiled and shrugged.

"Do we have a deal?" Georges wasn't interested in being mentally dissected by a cult leader.

With a smile, the man responded. "Do we have a choice?" Justin watched in shock. A few minutes ago, this man was trying to have them beaten to death with hammers, and now he was standing face to face with Georges Batroc. A man who, while the spoke, had one of his members pinned to the floor.

Georges chuckled. "Not really, no." He spoke honestly. If they refused his offer, he'd have to slaughter them.

"Then I supposed we have a deal."

It was late, or early, depending on who you asked, and Peter was reading through one of his adoptive Father's many journals. Richard Parker had been meticulous with his record-keeping, apparently. The man wrote down EVERYTHING, what he had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What experiments he was working on, his feelings, everything—all complete with a date and time, which Peter realized would be helpful. But even after sorting out the journals his Mom's identity couldn't be in, it still left him with 87 journals and video logs to search through.

"Peter?" Karen's concerned voice caused him to jump slightly. He'd put the mask on for Karen's company and forgotten he was wearing it.

"Yeah?" He responded, flipping to the next page.

"This isn't healthy, Peter. You haven't slept in nearly two days." Peter opened his mouth to argue but realized she was right. The days and nights had begun to blur together, and Peter's vision. But the young hero was determined to find out his true heritage; he'd sleep when he found what he was after.

"I'll sleep when I find her," Peter repeated the thought aloud, shaking his head to keep himself awake.

"Destroying yourself won't bring you to your destination. You need to sleep, and you need to go to school." Peter scoffed at that. He wasn't going to school anytime soon, and even Mr. Stark realized that when he'd offered to let him stay at the compound upstate. Peter refused and decided to stay at the apartment he shared with May. "The people of New York are worried about you, too." Peter cocked his head back, confused. "It's been a week since the last Spider-Man sighting. People are beginning to worry you're not coming back." The teen was losing himself, and she knew it.

Peter laid his head back, allowing it to hit the wall a bit harder than he'd anticipated. For an AI, Karen was surprisingly crafty. "Fine, I'll get some sleep, and then I'll take a night off from this, okay?" Peter reluctantly closed the notebook.

"Thank you!" Karen sounded rather pleased with herself. "Sleep tight, Peter." Peter removed the mask and climbed from his spot on the floor and into his bed. He hadn't realized how tired he was until he was in his bed. The weight of his worries seemed to be lifted from him as he slipped quickly into a deep sleep.

Peter followed the sound of a woman singing down a hallway he recognized but had no memory of. The voice was singing a soft lullaby in Russian, a language he had a passing familiarity with but couldn't speak. Finally, finding the source in an open room filled with small cots. When he entered the room, the woman stopped singing but didn't acknowledge him, her eyes fixed on the toddler on one of the beds. "Is-is that little boy... me?" He questioned aloud.

He squinted but couldn't make out any of her features. he was frustrated but remained quiet as he watched. "Mommy loves you, little one." The woman spoke English when talking to the boy. "Always remember that." There was a touch of sadness in her soft voice. Peter began walking towards her as she stood from the bed.

"Mom!?" He cried out as the floor beneath his feet was yanked out like a rug, the room extending. Peter face planted, but he quickly jumped to his feet and began sprinting after the woman. "That's her!" Peter thought, sliding around the corner into the hallway. "It has to be her!" Again, the room extended both in front and behind him, and again it pulled his feet from under him. Peter resumed running after the quickly disappearing silhouette, managing this time to catch himself.

"Wait!" He practically begged. "Please!" Peter was getting more and more frustrated. He wasn't making any ground as the floor became like a treadmill that he couldn't get off. Finally, he took two bounding steps and jumped as hard as he could, but the world around him faded away when he propelled himself after the woman.

Peter snapped out of his dream and back to reality just as his face met the closed door of his bedroom. "Ow.." Peter winced, knowing he'd have a bruise from that.

"What was that?" Peter questioned. That wasn't a dream. It was something else. Something more real. A memory, perhaps? Peter knew that place; he wasn't sure how, but that was more than just a dream.

Clint cherished sleep more than most anything else. Having spent years of his life on missions where he wouldn't sleep for days on end and then coming home to a young family made him appreciate it. And after welcoming Nathaniel to the family had made a full night's sleep a rarity. So saying being woken up at the crack of dawn to his cell phone ringing was agitating was an understatement. "Hello?" Clint answered the phone, his annoyance evident in his tired voice.

"Morning, old man," Natasha responded with a slight laugh. "You busy?" There was a moment of silence between them.

"Nat? You're sure no one's listening, right?" The tired archer stood from his bed and walked to the window. "I'd rather avoid scaring my family by having me get arrested in front of them." Clint's eyes scanned the grounds of his property, which was blanketed in a thin layer of fresh snow that'd fallen the night before.

She scoffed slightly. "Yes, Clint, because I'm going to call you from an unsecured line and get you caught. Way to have a lot of faith in me, partner." Natasha's feelings were rather hurt by that. "And you have to know that Tony knows where you are. Going home wasn't that surprising, old man." Natasha poked fun at her oldest friend and calmed for the first time in 2 weeks.

"Alright, watch it." Clint laughed, quietly exiting the room he shared with his wife. "What do you need?" He asked, knowing she hadn't reached out to him for the first time in almost a year simply to chat.

And just like that, the calmness she felt was again replaced with anxiety. "Can I come up?" She asked tentatively. "It's a lot to explain over the phone." She knew he'd say yes, of course. Clint had promised her when he brought her in to be there for her with whatever she needed, something he'd never failed to make good on.

"Uh, yeah, sure thing, Nat." Clint could hear the anxiousness in her voice. They'd fought aliens and killer robots, and she'd never once sounded nervous. Something was up. "Everything alright, Nat?" Natasha didn't respond at first, which made Clint worry.

"Yeah." She tried to mask her emotions. It was usually easy to hide how she felt, but Clint saw through her emotionless facade.

"So, how do you wanna do this?" He changed the subject, opting to wait till he saw her face to face to pry.

"I'll say I got deployed on another assignment and take a Quinjet." She spoke honestly, knowing the only person who might question it was Tony who was off in Baltimore. The two said quick goodbyes.
Clint returned to his bedroom and sat down on the end of the bed. "Who was that?" Laura questioned, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

"It was Nat. She's coming up." Clint was replaying their brief conversation in his head.

"Oh, that'll be nice. The kids miss her." His wife smiled at him, rubbing her tired eyes.

"She sounded nervous." Laura sat up, watching her husband curiously. "I've never heard her that nervous."

"It's been one week since former DGSE operative turned mercenary and pirate escaped from the maximum-security prison behind me. The police and FBI still have no leads as of right now and are calling on the public to come forward with information leading to his capture." Steve watched the news on an old TV in the barn Clint had converted into living quarters for him, Bucky, and Sam. Wanda had been given the spare bedroom in the house, something Sam had voiced his displeasure with. And Scott, well, he just said he wanted to go home, and if they needed him again, they'd be able to find him. Steve wasn't really sure what that meant.

Steve thought back on his fight with the Merc on the Lemurian Star. The only nonenhanced person to ever hold their own with him in hand-to-hand combat was back on the loose, which made Rogers very nervous. Not for himself. He knew no one would ever find this place. But Georges Batroc was one of the most dangerous men he'd ever encountered, and that's saying something. Cap's thoughts were interrupted by the barn door being pulled open, letting a gust of icy wind. Sam and Bucky both voiced their annoyance with it, tucking themselves further into their beds. "Morning, Cap," Clint announced his entrance, shaking the snow off his shoulders.

"You're up early," Steve remarked, noting he was usually up a few hours earlier than everyone else.

"Yeah, I just wanted to let you know that Nat's gonna be up here later." Steve raised an eyebrow at that.

"Stark coming too?" He asked the obvious question.

Clint shook his head. "No, just Natasha. If Stark really wanted another round with you, I doubt he'd bring Natasha along." Steve nodded. He was sure that if Tony had wanted to find him, he would have by now. That didn't mean Tony forgave him, but he wasn't actively trying to capture him, so it was a step in the right direction. Wasn't it?
The next few hours dragged by, and Clint was worried about Natasha. It was obvious by him sitting on the porch alone in the cold, waiting for the Quinjet to come. Finally, the Quinjet appeared on the horizon, flying just above the tree line before landing near the barn.
Natasha exited the Quinjet out into the cold air with a smile upon seeing Clint.

"You look like shit," Clint noted the fading yellow bruises and cuts on her face and the cast on her wrist. She looked like she'd been to hell and back.

"Yeah, yeah." Natasha brushed it off and gave him a warm hug. Clint allowed Natasha to take the lead as they walked toward a small trail near his home. One they'd walked together when she'd have nightmares about her past. "Do you remember when we met?" She asked, knowing he did.

He thought back on it with a humorless chuckle. "Of course I do." he thought back on the memory with fondness. "I was sent to kill you, and you knew I was coming. You could have killed me, but you didn't." The two spies looked at each other before speaking in unison.

"I thought SHIELD had more respect for me than this." They laughed, remembering how little she thought of Clint. She'd assumed when the US would come for her, something she knew to be inevitable at the time, that they'd send a team. Not one man armed with a bow.

"I never asked. Why did you spare me?" Clint sighed, knowing she'd ask this question one day.

"I joined the Army because of school, and I wanted a better life." Clint thought back on his days as an Army sharpshooter. "I had a choice to get out after my four years was up, but I stayed because I wanted to stay. I made that call." He let a small sigh. "But there you were, this kid who'd been forced to do horrible things and I saw the guilt and self-hatred in your eyes. The part of you that WANTED me to kill you." Natasha swallowed hard. Those feelings hadn't changed. She'd just gotten better at hiding them. "I saw it in myself every day, and I chose that life. But you didn't." Their eyes met. Clint had killed people, and even if he felt justified in it, taking another person's life eventually takes its toll. "You weren't evil; you were misguided. And I don't know," He paused, reflecting on it. "I thought maybe if I could save you from the KGB, it might atone for some of the things I've done." There was a silence between them. The unspoken truth that he'd saved her, something she'd never thanked him for because she didn't have to.

The two stayed like that for a long time, just walking quietly through the forest, enjoying the company of each other. "There's something I need to tell you," Natasha finally cut through the silence, her voice shaking a bit. Clint's eyes were on her, worry and curiosity on his face. "I should have told you about this a long time ago. But the little boy you rescued from the Red Room." Her voice trailed off as she reached into the green jacket. She handed Clint one of the old Polaroids she'd kept. "He was mine." Natasha was nervous about his response. She knew he wouldn't be angry, but maybe he'd be disappointed in her for not going to find him sooner?

Clint didn't respond, staring at the photo in his hands for longer than Natasha would have liked. Natasha couldn't have been any older than 17 in the picture, and there was a warm smile on her face, her eyes fixed on the little brown-haired boy in her arms.

"You're fuckin' with me." His eyes finally came away from the picture—a look of astonishment on his face.

"No," She laughed. "No, Clint, I'm not." The look of astonishment faded to a glimpse of happiness before quickly souring. Her heart sunk for a moment. What if he WAS angry? "You were the last person I know to see him, and you're my best friend, so I'm hoping maybe you could help me out," Natasha explained quickly, but getting more and more nervous the longer he was silent.

Suddenly Clint threw his arms around her and pulled her into the tightest hug she'd ever been given. He finally released the hug but kept his hands on her arms, a broad smile on his face. "Nat, you're a Mom!" The spy was overjoyed.

"Clint." Natasha tried to hide the smile that was spreading across her lips. This wasn't the intended result of telling him, and as happy as his excitement made her, it wasn't getting her any closer to finding her son.

"Right, sorry." He apologized, straightening out his blue jacket. "I gave him to a couple of SHIELD scientists who couldn't have a baby of their own." Natasha sighed. Nick had already told her that much. "I don't remember much about them other than the scientist's first name. Richard." Clint knew it wasn't much, and he wished he'd remembered more about them. Seeing the disappointed look on her face, he thought of what to say to keep her spirits up. "Nat, you'll find him." He tried to catch her gaze, but she kept her green eyes averted. "Let's head back and get some lunch, and we can figure out the next move, okay?" The younger spy nodded her agreement as they turned and headed back down the snow-covered path.

It was colder than Peter had expected when he'd set out for a night of hero work. It took his mind off his worries mostly, and a night and day's sleep had him feeling more like himself; more like Spider-Man. Peter knew a Wednesday night in Queens wouldn't be a hot spot for crime, so he decided to head towards Brooklyn.

After nearly an hour of swinging through the quiet streets of New York, he stumbled upon eight men hastily unloading a white van. "Karen, can you tell me what's in the bags?" Peter asked, noticing how much trouble they were having hauling the bags into the building.

"It appears they contain weapons." She quickly analyzed the bags. "The weapons are military-grade, so they're almost certainly stolen." Karen was quick to point out.

"Alright!" Peter quietly celebrated; he hadn't thwarted any serious crimes since stopping Toomes. Shooting a web across the street to the building they were carrying the duffel bags into, Peter swung down quickly and knocked one of the men off his feet and into the brick wall of the apartment building. "Evening fellas, getting in kinda late, aren't ya?" Peter quipped, webbing the two men in the back of the van as they reached for their weapons.

An alarm went off in Peter's head just as a boot connected with the left side of his rib cage, knocking him onto the cold asphalt. Peter's eyes came up to the man responsible. He stood in a boxer's stance with his hands up high, ready to engage with the famous Spider-Man. His maroon jacket stood out from the back the rest of the men were wearing, and he bounced on the balls of his feet, which suggested training. "Peter.." Karen's voice sounded oddly worried. "That's Georges Batroc." Peter became distracted for a split second. And his attacker noticed this and moved in for another attack.

Peter jumped off the ground and out of the path of the overhand right coming at him. But the man was fast and timed a spinning elbow, which connected perfectly with Peter's nose. Again, the boy was on the ground. This time he could taste blood running down the back of his throat, and he felt... Fear. Again Karen began to plead with him. "Peter! RUN!"

Author's Note: I'm sorry for the wait but here's chapter 4, and I'm gonna end it with a bit of a cliffy! The Cult idea came from thinking, "hey, I'm sure to the average person a giant whole in the sky filled with monsters might have some religious significance and would probably start a cult or two. And Captain America and Clint and his family will be featured in chapters moving forward if you were wondering. Oh and I wanted to expand on Clint and Natasha's relationship, because two people who spend the time they have together would have an incredible bond that I don't feel is shown enough in the MCU. And for anyone wondering Peter's dream takes place in the Red Room like Natasha's did because that's the last place they were together(Or so they think)