chapter twenty one

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21 x show down at buckingham

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Pietro remained on evacuation duty after that, pointing people toward me. I stood closest to the street, the direction where there were police waiting to usher the civilians to safety. I was there because the others were trying to eliminate the last of the agents; I was keeping up a telekinetic barrier between the other Avengers and the civilians.

I offered a kind word or an encouraging smile whenever anyone looked my way, grateful that we were just a little bit closer to finishing this ordeal. I could feel Pietro's eyes on me as I monitored the civilians, and every once in a while I'd glance his way, just to receive a half-smile from him.

I knew he was nervous, and I knew it was because of me. I also knew that no matter how many times I told him I was fine, and that there was nothing for him to worry about, the chances of him listening were slim to none. And I was betting on none.

Instead of focusing on that, I turned my attention to the fighters. They were all doing fine, but it was fun to watch. Tony was focusing on a handful of agents and eliminating them steadily; Natasha had just taken down the last man near her with grace; Clint was just about out of freezing arrows but making it count; Bucky was joining Tony in helping finish the last of them off.

The Avengers, I had already decided, were impressive. Sometimes relationally bizarre (okay, most of the time) but still. They were incredible. They pulled together for a fight, and boy did they know how to fight.

"Miss?" a small voice asked me from behind, causing me to tear my gaze away from my team. It belonged to a girl no older than ten, and from the accent I'd heard when she addressed me, I gathered she was a local.

"Yes?" I asked, smiling affably as I bent at the knees to come closer to her level.

She wrung her hands together in front of her, dark hazel eyes volleying between myself and the Avengers behind me before focusing in on me. "Are you going to stop the bad man?" she asked quietly.

I had to force the smile to stay on my lips. I reached out and squeezed her shoulder lightly, tilting my head somewhat toward the direction the others were going. "Of course we are, sweetheart. We're the Avengers. It's what we do. Can you go with everyone else to the police now, for me?"

She nodded slowly, a small smile on her own lips. "Okay . . . yeah. Good luck!" she said with a small wave before she rushed off to follow everyone else.

I twisted back toward Pietro then, in time to see him arch an eyebrow at me. He mouthed, "Everything okay?" and I nodded quickly, giving him a thumbs up.

I turned away from him just in time to see Tony take down the final Extremis-enhanced agent.

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[ Third Person POV ]

"Vision!" Steve called as his team entered the palace, "I need you to isolate the royal family to one area."

Vision nodded, and within moments was gone, his interface hooking up to anything available in the palace, searching for the royal family. He bypassed the bulk of the invaders in the process.

"Thor, Wanda, I want you on elimination," Steve said then. "No mercy. Try not to break anything, ah, too important," he added as an evident thought. "Sam!"

"Yeah, Cap?" Wilson asked, turning toward the captain with raised brows.

"Fly where the ceilings are high enough- other than that . . . shoot 'em up," Steve directed, tossing his shield toward a man who was a little too excited to face them.

"Let's hope I have enough ammo," Sam muttered before rushing at the enemy.

The only problem was, the Extremis agents weren't their biggest issue. There were a dozen of them at best - the real problem was the half dozen others with various unique characteristics. Steve would've guessed they were Inhumans, but there was no way that AIM could get their hands on that many. His next best theory was that they were either experimented on, or mutants.

That didn't make them any less of a problem.

Steve handled a few of the agents with no difficulty before turning his attention to one of the specialized ones. From the looks of it, her thing was energy blasts. Steve figured that since Thor was busy with a man who was eight feet tall and made of stone, he could probably handle this one.

Vision had returned and was helping Sam with a man who was emitting a weird black ooze, meanwhile Wanda was dealing with two ladies, one on fire, the other stretching in unnatural ways.

Steve had just blocked a powerful burst of energy with his shield, and was thinking that maybe the Avengers were a little too equally matched, when a familiar voice rang out over the chaos.

"Sorry I'm a little late, the Bus had to do a U-turn."

Steve looked over his shoulder in time to see Coulson, a girl with long, curly brown hair next to him. "You sure about this, AC?" he heard the girl ask, before he saw Coulson nod.

"You've got this, Skye."

The girl, Skye, then took a few steps toward the Avengers, and shouted, "You might wanna move!" before she lifted her hands and let out a nearly invisible surge of power that knocked everyone in it's path over.

Steve straightened up and turned toward the SHIELD agents then, expressing moderate surprise as his brows rose. "Coulson," he greeted. "Good to see you."

"Always a pleasure, Captain," Coulson grinned widely.

"He talks about you a lot," Skye said then, flashing a smile at Steve. "Though I'm sure he's already told you he's your number one fan."

Steve laughed, shaking his head. "So I've heard. It's a pleasure to meet you, Skye. Pretty neat trick."

"Aye," Thor said, coming up beside Steve, absently catching Mjolnir as he faced the others. "It was highly impressive. It is good to have you on our team, Miss Skye."

Skye's smile brightened noticeably, and Steve could've sworn she was blushing as Thor took her hand and pressed a small kiss to the knuckles. She stuttered for a moment as their hands parted, before shoving her hair out of her face and giving a jittery laugh. "Yeah, I mean-yes, it's . . . it's great to meet you all. Coulson speaks highly of you. I'm glad I can help out." She nodded toward Thor and Steve then; "You might want to duck," she warned, and both men crouched obediently.

As Skye knocked several more of the threats off their feet, Steve grinned to himself. He slipped around Skye as she headed deeper into the fighting, and he watched her exchange words with Wanda before standing beside Coulson. He briefly threw up his SHIELD as another blast came veering their way, before looking to the director.

"Back up's always appreciated," he said.

Coulson chuckled. "I figured protecting the royal family was kind of a big deal."

Steve nodded. "Everyone else is trying to find this death ray."

"That definitely explains Stark's absence," Coulson observed. "Is Megan with them too?"

"Yep," Steve agreed. "She's been doing well. Despite a, uh, minor issue."

Coulson raised a brow at that, but Steve didn't have time to elaborate. The fighting was continuing, and he had to get back in there. He wasn't really surprised to see Coulson joining in - and he could've sworn he recognized the weapon the director was wielding as that odd gun that he'd used to take out Loki . . .

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