A Call to Arms
From one perspective this story might have begun with a boy and a girl, as many stories do. Or perhaps when the boy's best friend died by the boy's own hand. But this story begins some time after those events. It began when it was not only himself and his friends that were under threat, but his entire graduating year. When the boy picked up a lightly polished length of wood, his hand slipping easily into the grip as he lifted it. His other hand taking a stick and notching it against the oiled twine that ran taught between the ends of the longbow.
One breath, to clear his mind, letting the world fade. It was deceptively easy to stop thinking about anything.
One breath for the draw, pushing the bow away as he drew the arrow back to his ear. His arms growing taught as he held it, the ache in his arms barely recognized as he took-
Another breath, and his goal was remembered, a straw bale appeared before him, 45 feet away. He adjusts up slightly, aim for the heart, nothing else will do the job. All he needed to do now was-
"You're taking too long," an irritated girl spoke from behind him and he was suddenly jolted back to reality, his focus broke and his wrist twisted, the burn in his arms turned into sudden pain and the arrow flew off, glancing off the hay bale and lodging in the bark of tree it rested against.
"Gah, don't do that!" Xander whirled on Buffy brandishing the bow at her. "Did you not see the bow? Or the fact that I had an arrow ready?" He was a tall boy, easily gracing six feet, he was lean and evenly muscled, or would be when he shed the weight that he had from eating far too much junk food. He was wearing a simple t-shirt and jeans, a brace along the inside of his arm to protect from the evil lash of the bow he had been using. Buffy on the other hand was easily more stylishly dressed, a short blonde who's strength and speed were truly deceptive since she had become the Slayer.
"Xander is right Buffy. You should not startle someone with any sort of weapon. You of all people should be aware of that." The English Watcher lightly scolded his charge.
"But he was taking too long," she pointed at the target. "And he missed."
"This time," Giles reminded her. "Xander has demonstrated an aptitude with the bow that is quite unexpected. And since I do not have enough crossbows to arm the entire class he has opted to use the bow instead. This does not mean he doesn't need practice and yes, occasionally he will miss."
"Us mere mortals do that sometimes," Xander reminded her as he took another arrow from the quiver and tried to get back into the zone. He had nearly had it that time.
"We're out of time," she reminded them. "There isn't any more time for practice." She gathered the crossbows that had been left by the students who had been practicing earlier. Xander reluctantly lowered the bow and set the arrow aside before he went to collect his earlier arrows from the target.
"Don't despair Xander. You've made remarkable progress. It may save lives tomorrow," he patted Xander's shoulder before going to join the Slayer.
He had spent so long trying to get that feeling that Giles talked about. Feeling and being the bow and the arrow. What would it take to feel that again, to be in the zone?
What it took, as it turned out, was a scream.
The assault against the Mayor's demon form was only going moderately well. The arrows being fired from the crossbows and his bow were merely annoying the massive serpentine form, but it was what they needed for Buffy to press his buttons and lure him into the trap. But there was more. The vampires were more plentiful than they had expected and students were being put in danger. Then he heard the scream. He wasn't sure who it had been or even if it was male or female, but it was one of pain and fear. Xander spun as he drew his latest arrow. And everything slowed.
He could see them all, each of the vampires within his view and he was aware of the people between. But he didn't hesitate. A breath and the arrow flew, the meager gaps between people might as well have been city streets as it passed easily between them with a whisper of sound. He was reaching for a new arrow even as the first vampire turned to dust. He drew with a breath, held for aim and as he released the breath the arrow flew true once more and a second vampire went down, screaming with an arrow through an eye.
A few more shots and he was unaware he had even run out of his first quiver. A breath and he took an arrow from another student who was pulling them out and handing them to Xander as fast as he could fire them. He barely even held the breath as he aimed and the exhale started a mere instant before the arrow flew.
Students shouted in alarm as arrows flew among them but none were as loud as the vampires screams of pain or surprise before they were reduced to dust as the wood shafts found their mark.
He reached for an arrow but there was none to be had and as he turned to see why that was the student, Larry, shook his head. "There aren't any more, Xander, and I think it’s time to go!" Xander became aware of the situation and didn't bother any further when he saw that the transformed Mayor had departed along with his favorite Slayer.
They just made it away in time, urging the students who lagged to a more expedient exit by reminding them of what was about to happen. Something of the fondest dreams of any student, but this time, an act of survival, with a certain amount of satisfaction as the entire school erupted in flames, a catastrophic explosion eradicating the threat of the Mayor once and for all.
When it all settled the students disperses safely, the largest graduating class in nearly a century, and with a great deal more satisfaction in a job well done than the average high school grad. The Scoobies gathered together and shared a few words but mostly basked in their survival. Xander for one leaned against a car with the unstrung bow resting against his leg. The crossbows and other weapons had been hidden quickly, but the bow was easily concealed by the removal of the string which held it in its distinctive shape.
"Alright, I'll admit, the shooting I saw, pretty impressive." Buffy admitted as she leaned against the car with him.
"Yea, it was kinda scary, all those arrows, you nearly hit me twice mister." Willow scolded him, but then brightened immediately. "But you didn't. You didn't hit anyone but the vampires, it was..." She groped for a word and looked to Oz, a man of few but perfect words.
"Heroic." The werewolf supplied with a smile and Willow nodded eagerly.
"It was just shooting a bow guys. I didn't blow up the Mayor, or the school." He blushed under their praise. "Buffy's the one who gets the credit on this one."
"Don't undersell your accomplishment today," Giles looked at him and then at the others of their small group. "All of you faced this together and saved lives, perhaps the world." They all took those words to heart but Xander fingered the bow in his hands and afterwards he approached the Watcher about it.
"Hey, G-man. I'm going to be going on my road trip for the summer. You mind if I take borrow this for the time?"
"Normally I would be concerned with giving you any sort of weapon on long term loan. But I think you've more than earned this. Take it, with my blessing." Giles paused and went to Oz's van where the weapons had been stored hastily and pulled out a quiver of arrows. "You'll probably need these too."
"Thanks Giles. I'll bring it back in one piece." A promise he would not be able to keep.
It was in Oxnard where he first ran into Her, though it wasn't the first time she had seen him.
The Cupid exclusive show ran for three weeks once his erstwhile employer found his talent with a bow, though how he found out was beyond Xander. At first it was something to add to the strip show so he could make enough money to fix his junker of a car that had died on him. Stringing the bow on stage while mostly nude was an anatomy lesson that few women would miss, and drawing the bow without an arrow to strike a pose caused the muscles along his arms to define themselves in ways that could only be called delicious.
When someone finally did to challenge him to fire an arrow he tried to play it off. But then She stepped up. The redhead looked up at him with bright green eyes and he knew he was doomed. The Soldier wanted to salute, the Hyena wanted to claim her and he wanted to turn into a jabbering mess. The more disciplined soldier won and he gave her a nod before looking at the owner by the bar who took one look at her and gave Xander a look which clearly said "Your neck, kid."
Xander called for one of the waiters to get the quiver from his booth in the back and he proceeded to dance while She watched. There was some recognition between them and Xander couldn't place it. But when the quiver was presented she had somehow gotten a slice of lime from behind the bar.
"If you can hit this, in the air. I will pay you two hundred dollars." Her accent was slight, but Xander had seen enough James Bond movies to recognize the Russian edge.
Xander drew several arrows from the quiver and checked them before getting another dancer to hold them for him. He had been practicing every evening with the bow, and settling into the perfect mental state was easier now. And he didn't lose track of his environment so much anymore.
The woman didn't even rise from her seat as she tossed the circle of citrus into the air. He let it crest before he hit with the first arrow. Pinning it back to an empty space in the wall between two posters. But he wasn't done. Something about this woman made him want to show her what he could do. He took the second arrow and it followed the first, sliding right in next to the first, then another on the opposite side, and two more above and below making a tiny cross of five arrows. The sixth arrow was drawn and shot before the fifth had even stopped fully in the wall and the woman found it buried into the chair right between her legs, pierced through her short skirt perfectly so it didn't even graze her skin as it pinned her in place.
Silence reigned and then the women went nuts, cheering and throwing bills up onto the stage. Xander walked off the stage and up to the woman, slowly wrapping his fingers around the shaft of the arrow and giving it a little twist. "Looks like it found something," he remarked quietly and the woman's smile stilled before he drew it out with a jerk and the women cheered once more. The Woman smile slowly returned to normal as she pulled out her purse and drew out not two but three hundred dollar bills and a card that she wrote something on in a perfect script before folding it into the bills and tucking it very pointedly into the waistband of his rather limited undergarments.
Her hand wasn't the only one there by the time he made his way back to the stage, the arrow clutched between his teeth, there were plenty of bills on the stage as well. He gathered up his earnings and made his way back to his booth. It was only when he sat down that he realized his hands were shaking. Every instinct told him she was dangerous, those honed from a life in Sunnydale, the Soldier even the memory of the Hyena admitted she was a predator. And he had nearly shot her.
Not his brightest moment. But not his worst either.
He shook out his head to clear his thoughts. Then shook out his underwear to clear the bills. He had made quite the haul today, especially with the bonus from the redhead. He might even be able to get his car fixed and get himself out of the fix he was in. And with any luck he would NEVER run into the redhead again.
He picked up the bills and found the card tucked into the hundreds. It was a cross street in town, a date with time, and an order. "Be there," he read aloud and had to fight the urge to salute the card. He was going to have to get better about that. He checked the schedule and it just happened to be a few days from then, on his day off. It was starting to add up to a conclusion he didn't like. He was definitely going to bring his bow. And then he frowned and realized that yes, he would be going.
Xander waited in his car, newly repaired. His bow lay unstrung in the seat beside him, an arrow spinning between his fingers. He had been waiting for a half hour now and was growing impatient. He was about to start his car again when the muffled explosion rattled the entire street. He knocked his head against the steering wheel several times in an attempt to wake up, but to no avail. He got out of the car to see if anyone was hurt just in time to see the robbers burst out of the bank.
He got a look at them and for a brief moment thought they were demons before he realized it was just the Halloween masks they wore to disguise themselves. Each had a bag in one hand and a gun in the other a large duffle bag, probably with the contents of the bank.
Xander looked along the street in the direction they were running and spotted the getaway car because it was the only car where the driver was wearing a similar mask. He took a bare moment to string the bow and pull out his quiver. His first two shots took out the tires of the car before the third went through the window and pinned the driver's hand to the steering wheel.
Alerted by the scream of pain the other two robbers looked around and spotted him. A longbow isn't exactly inconspicuous after all. He ducked behind his car as the first thug fired in his direction.
"Your car and driver are useless," Xander shouted between shots.
"Yours is still good!" one of them shouted back and Xander cursed. He had just gotten the rust pile fixed and now some idiots in Halloween masks were going to jack it? No, just no.
"Yea, you're welcome to it. If you can take it from me, before the cops come. Oh, and you might want to get your driver buddy. But you'll have to help him out. He's got a mighty big splinter in his hand." Xander slipped sidewise along the side of his car, drawing another arrow as he did. Keeping the bow horizontal kept him from drawing it to its full length, but it was more than enough at this distance. One of the thugs was trying to help the driver out of the car. He grinned and loosed his arrow. It flew between the cars perfectly and right into the calf of the uninjured robber, sinking into the side of the car and pinning the robber's leg in place. That didn't stop him from falling and crying out in pain as the arrow twisted in his leg.
Unfortunately for him the third robber had time to come around the car and took several shots at Xander. Xander managed to roll out of the way between his car and the other parked one, but the bow got caught and one of the bullets hit the end of the bow enough to shatter the wood there. The string snapping and catching Xander across the shoulder. It stung, even through his shirt but didn't break the skin.
"You broke my bow," Xander murmured, staring at the shattered end. He had grown quite fond of it over the last month. And while he knew it belong to Giles, deep down he thought of it as his bow.
"Great, then you can't shoot us anymore," the remaining robber jeered and Xander could see his shadow from his position, coming towards him.
"And what makes you think that's a good thing?" Xander gripped the remaining length of well oiled yew and came up from the space between the cars to bring his improvised club up hard against the gunman's hand, sending the gun flying. And before the gunman could recover Xander pressed his advantage and used the bow to whip the tough length of twine that had been his bowstring around the gunman's neck and catch it to pulled it taught with his other hand. "Now, you die or we wait."
"Wait for what?" the gunman rasped but Xander could see the fear in his eyes.
"For me," Xander hadn't seen her arrive, but that accent was unmistakable. "Let him go Mr. Harris, it is over." But Xander didn't release the man.
"How do you know my name?" He had never told anyone at the club his last name, in case anyone tried to find proof that he had been a stripper.
"Because its ,my job to know, and she works for me. Just like the robbers work for me, and the bystanders, well actually, the only person on this street right now who doesn't work for me is you," A black man in a trench coat stepped out of a nearby cafe and Xander's inner alarms turned up another notch. "Now let him go before you get in real trouble." The man walked behind the would be robber so Xander could see him, and his face was warn and raged with a patch over his right eye.
"Everyone?" Xander's disbelief was evident, until everyone on the street pulled out guns and aimed them at him. Even the mother pushing the stroller pulled a riffle out of the bassinette. "Okay, everyone." He slowly released the robber who sagged in relief and stepped away.
"Get those stupid masks off, I said Mardi Gras, not Halloween," the black man surveyed the street as the bystanders who weren't started moving with more purpose, clearing evidence of the events and setting things back as they were. "Get those two medics. I'm going to have a chat with Mr. Harris here." He strode off towards the cafe he had come out of and the Woman walked past Xander to follow him.
Xander's brain that had been on the verge of shouting at the world to make sense, shut down at the sight of her clad in a black material that looked like Kevlar and was obviously armored, and she was armed as well, but the way she filled out the suit and the way she moved... that was what dreams were made from.
She turned and gave him an icy look which immediately snapped his mind back into the present and he followed after her. Mind you, after what he had just seen he would probably follow her to hell. Which, once he saw the black man with the eye patch again he might have found preferable to what was about to happen.
"That was some pretty nice shooting out there, Xander," the man grinned at him and a waitress with a handgun in a holster brought him some coffee. "I'd love to have seen what you could do with a real weapon. Xander sat down across from him in the booth and set the broken bow down on the table.
"Never used a gun before," Xander watched as the redhead sat down across from him with the black guy.
"Not entirely true from what my psychic just told me. But I didn't mean a gun. We'll get into that later through." He watched as Xander's expression shut down and after a moment he raised a brow. "You just shut out my psychic. Now there's a trick I wouldn't mind less people who didn’t work for me knowing.”
“Who are you people?”
“My name is Nick Fury. This is Natasha Romanoff. I’m the director of an international, UN sanctioned, special opps division that specializes in Super Human incidents.”
“So that stuff with the Hulk a few years ago was you?” Xander’s raised brow was not exactly thrilled with that prospect.
“No, that was the US Army, they botched it big time.” Nick frowned. “We try to handle things quietly. Have been for many years now.”
“Alright, so what is this about? I’m a kid that can shoot a bow that barely made it out of high school. Oh, and my bow is broken. Let’s not forget that.”
“What this is about is recruitment. You show talent, Xander. You’ve been fighting alongside a mystically powered girl for three years now, so you know about the things that go bump. You’ve gone through the school of Hard Knocks. Now you just need some formal training. Military preferred.”
“You want me to join the army?” Xander’s disbelief was more than evident.
“Not the Army, you saw how they handled the superhuman issues with the Mutants and Hulk.” Fury shook his head. “I mean special forces, Rangers, Seals. Heck I’ll even take a Marine or an Airborne. Get you trained up, and then, after a year or two, you get some transfer papers, and you come work for me.”
“Or you get in your car and have your little road trip. Get stuck in a series of dead end jobs and lose what self respect you’ve got.” Xander frowned at the man as he pulled out a few files which he lay down on the table, pictures of his friends on the covers. “And your friend Buffy gets arrested for the murder of Deputy Mayor Allen Finch. But that’s nothing on top of aiding and abetting terrorism with Rupert Giles, Willow Rosenberg, Daniel Osborn, a number of others. And yourself of course.”
“Terrorism? We never-”
“Blew up the school, during graduation, with students and families gathered…”
Xander shut up, but attempted to glare a hole in the man’s remaining eye.
“If I wasn’t so certain she could break my arm in seven-”
“Eleven.” Natasha corrected without emotion.
“Eleven places before I could move, believe me, I would have punched you by now.”
“You wouldn’t be the first, kid.” He sipped his coffee. “So? What’s it going to be?”
“I don’t have a choice.”
“Sorry kid, but when the world is at stake, I don’t have time to play around. Romanoff thinks you’ve got promise, and from what I saw today, I agree.” Xander glanced at the woman but her face was entirely blank. “But know this. I need the best. So you don’t get to go sign up and get booted out of Basic for bad behavior. You give it your all you train your heart out. So when I come for you, and I will come for you, you will be just the type of soldier I need.”
“And what type is that?”
“The best, kid. The absolute best.”
***Three years later***
“Anyone seen Harris?” Sgt. Jacobi asked some of his men gathered around a grill in the base. Some started to stand from their banged up lawn chairs but he waved them down.
“Saw him come back from his run earlier, Sarge. He’s probably at the range then.” One of the men gestured with grilling tongs towards the firing range.
“He still usin’ that thing?” The man exchanged looks and nodded. “Damned if I know where he keeps gettin’ them.” Harris and his bows were something of a legend, even after such a brief period of service. When he first showed up to boot camp there was a bow waiting for him. And it wasn’t some wooden bow, it was a high tech piece that was beyond anything any of the others had seen in hunting magazines. When it was confiscated he got a slip giving him not only permission, but orders to use it.
When the orders checked out, he got his bow back, and people quickly understood why. He was good, better than just good, he was unbelievable. And it wasn’t just the bow, but any of the firearms. He was a sharp shooter extraordinaire. He had an attitude on missions which said that he could not fail, not that it wasn’t possible, just that he could not allow himself to. He was a driven soldier to the point that other people in his unit worried about him snapping. But when he wasn’t on active duty he was a smart ass prankster who was never caught. Whenever something unlikely happened. His drill sergeant’s shoes getting filled with Jell-O, the replacement of someone’s car engine with no less than 20 live rabbits, and the perfect disassembly and reassembly of an armored humvee into his CO’s office in a single night, on his own.
But the bow was always what stood out the most. For one thing he used it, perfectly. The other was that was that wherever he went there was one waiting for him. He was never seen packing or ordering one, but wherever he was deployed there was a bow waiting for him. The models would change sometimes, but they were always top of the line. On the first mission his squad mates made fun of him for bringing along the cumbersome piece. Until he pulled it out and took out a sentry more silently than any others could manage at any range. From then on they gave allowances for his bow, and when he saved a squad mate’s life with it they welcomed its addition to his equipment.
"Something up, Sarge?"
"Some people looking for him." He waved off further questions and headed off towards the range. He found Harris in the range, and a quick check found a target down range with a smile made from arrows and Harris was drawing another when the Sergeant walked in and stood behind him.
"You in some trouble I should know about Harris?" The soldier glanced at Jacobi and shook his head. He didn't salute or stop his bow practice. But the Sergeant was known for his easy going manner when of mission.
"No more than normal, why?" He sighed along the arrow as he drew it back.
"Some people looking for you. The sot of people you do not piss off." If he wasn't watching for it he might not have spotted the way that Harris' ears perked up.
"These people have names?"
"Nick Fury," and with those words he saw something that he had never seen while working with Harris. The kid missed. The fingers twitched and the arrow flew wide, striking just outside the left ear of the human shaped silhouette.
"Nick Fury," the boy repeated slowly as he drew another arrow with deliberate slowness. "Old black guy with an eye patch?" The sergeant grunted that this was true. "He have anyone else with him? A woman?" He loosed the arrow, striking dead center in the target's right eye.
"Yea," the Sergeant watched a second arrow strike so close to the first it might as well have been one arrow.
"Yes." Another arrow joined the other two and the Sergeant couldn't tear his eyes away from the target as he realized what he was seeing.
"Body that wouldn't quit?"
"Yea," he watched the fourth arrow hit its target. "Look, Harris, what have you gotten yourself into?" He watched as the soldier hit a button on the side of the shooting booth and the arrow heavy target was brought to him so he could collect the arrows. He pulled out the set he had fired last and handed them to the sergeant. And while it is impossible to split a wooden arrow, it is wholly possible for a carbon fiber arrow to become lodged inside another if it strikes the back end forcefully enough. But for it to happen, even intentionally was exceptionally difficult to achieve. Holding the set of four arrows forcefully bonded together into one single shaft the Sergeant wondered if Harris had something else going for him.
"They're late," he growled a little as he took the arrows out of the target and checked them before putting them into the quiver that he had kept by his side. The sergeant followed him out of the range a few moments later, but instead of heading off towards the command center where his visitors were waiting he headed off towards the barracks.
"Where do you think you're going Harris? These aren't people you leave waiting."
"I'm going to pack so they won't have to wait, Sarge. It was good serving with you." He shot off a cocky salute before jogging off and the Sarge cursed idly.
"Where is he Bates?" Nick approached the captain as he returned to his desk, fiddling with the joined arrows one of his sergeants had just given him. "I didn't come all this way to sit and sweat. Hurry up and wait is not my motto."
"I sent word you were waiting. I was just given this and told he was packing." He set the arrows down on his desk. "Harris is a damn good soldier. You're waltzing in here and just going to take him away. I've heard about you guys. But the way I hear it, the soldiers don't know what they're being picked for. Now Harris seems to have an idea what is going on and I want it too."
As a response Fury took out a badge that he tossed down onto the desk. The captain took the badge and looked it over slowly then very slowly handed it back. SHIELD. That answered all the questions, but raised some grave concerns as well.
“And Harris knows about this?”
“I joined up knowing about this,” the man in question stood in the doorway with a duffle over his shoulder. “And they’ve been keeping tabs on me.” He held out the bow by way of explanation. “I’ve been waiting for this day. And practicing.” He pointed to the collection of conjoined arrows.
“You’ve grown up.” Fury noted as he looked at Alexander Harris.
“And you’re late. You said a year or two. I just finished my third.”
Something flashed through the air from the woman’s hand and in a motion that the captain found very difficult to follow Harris had drawn an arrow and loosed it, catching the spinning ring in the air and pinning it to the wall behind the captain’s head.
“So,” Harris turned towards Fury while the captain slowly turned to look at the arrow in the wall and the ring it captured. “Am I what you need?”
Fury shared a look with Romanoff and then turned back to Harris.
“What’s your call sign?”
“Welcome to Shield, Hawkeye. You’re going to Arizona.”Authors Note:
I cannot begin to describe how hectic this past month has been. I'm nearly ready for Balance 11 to be posted, but there are some things to iron out. And given that it is my main story, I want it to be perfect.
Anyway, threw this chapter together in a day or two, a fun idea that I I thought fit rather well with Hawkeye's cameo in Thor.
Disclaimer: I don't own Marvel, or any associated items. Damn but wouldn't it be cool if I did?