Originally published 1/05/15
This story takes place not long after the “Onslaught” story line. The Avengers and the Fantastic Four are believed to be dead (when in reality, they were transported to an alternate universe by the powers of Franklin Richards. Natasha Romanov, aka The Black Widow, was the Chairperson of the Avengers team and distraught about the loss of her friends and allies, first attempted to recruit a new team of Avengers and then, when those efforts failed, decided to suspend team operations and officially disband the team. See The Avengers, 1999 Annual for details.
Among the heroes she tried to recruit were Warren Worthington III, aka Archangel and Bobby Drake. aka Iceman, who preferred to remain with their associates in the X-Men. Hank McCoy, aka The Beast, was offered a spot on a new team, but was struggling to find a cure for the “Legacy Virus” and declined as well. The Widow contacted Moondragon, who was willing to accept on the condition that she was made the team leader. Natasha declined her gracious offer. Scott Lang, aka Ant Man, fresh off a run with the Fantastic Four, was offered a spot, but declined when he noted how such a role would jeopardize the safety of his daughter, Cassie. Jim Rhodes, aka War Machine was offered a spot, but was unable to accept due to his efforts to hide the secrets of Tony Stark’s identity of Iron Man from Stark’s cousin who was attempting to take over Stark Industries. And finally, Natasha tried to bring Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk back into the ranks, but Jennifer had prior legal obligations that kept her from coming aboard at that time.
Thus, the Black Widow was left with a team of only two active Avengers, Hercules and Quicksilver. Quicksilver decided to resign after learning of an attempt by some politicians to pass a resolution to blame every mutant for the actions of the entity known as Onslaught. Thus Natasha was left with only the Olympian, Hercules, in the role of active Avengers. And Hercules, shattered over the loss of so many friends and allies, had turned to the power of alcohol to hide his sorrows, thus essentially rendering him ineffective.
In the original story, Natasha decided to officially dissolve the Avengers and turned control of Avengers Mansion over to the group known as SHIELD. But what if she didn’t disband the team. Yes, this is AU as we join Natasha, frustrated and distraught about the status of the team, going to speak to her long time ally and confident, Daredevil.
“I can’t take any more of this”, the Widow said as she stood on the dark roof.
“You seem tense”, the red-hooded man known as Daredevil said softly.
“I’m running out of options. None of my choices for membership are available… and I don’t have the time or patience to train a group of rookies. I never should have accepted command”, Natasha sighed.
“You can’t blame yourself for their deaths. Every one of them knew the risks involved. It’s part of the job description. We court and defy death every day”, Daredevil said.
“That’s little consolation, Matthew”, the Widow replied. “They died on my watch. Maybe I’m the last person who should be leading the Avengers. I was better off working alone. At least then, I was only responsible for myself.”
“Hmmm. I thought the same thing about myself until I met you. We may have gone our separate ways, but I’d still trust you with my life. Whatever you decide, if you need Daredevil, I’m there.”
“Would that include being part of new team? Being an Avenger?”, the Widow asked her former lover.
“If that’s what it takes, so be it. I said I’m there and I mean it”, Daredevil said.
“So that’s you, me and Hercules… if we can get him to sober up and quit being such an idiot”, the Widow said. “That’s a start.”
“I think I can deal with Hercules”, Daredevil said. “I’ll speak with him. So who else should we try to recruit?”
“I’m not entirely sure”, Natasha said. “But we need to move quickly… before I chicken out and change my mind.”
“You would never chicken out”, Daredevil said. “The Avengers are a much-needed force for good and like it or not, getting the team back in shape lies on your shoulders.”
“I’m not ready for this… but I have to do it. It’s my responsibility”, the Widow sighed once more.
Suddenly, there was the sound of an explosion that filled the air.
“It’s coming from three blocks to the south”, Daredevil quickly said as he used his radar senses to locate the source of the noises.
“Let’s go”, the Widow said.
And in a matter of minutes, The Black Widow and Daredevil came upon a battle taking place. The criminal known as the Rhino was on a rampage, swatting away police officers and just generally destroying property with his exo-skelton suit and super-human strength.
“Why couldn’t it have been The Toad?”, the Widow muttered as she used her Widow-line to swing down and snatch two small children out of the path of the rampaging gray piece of mass.
“That would be just too easy”, Daredevil answered as he nailed Rhino with a shot of his billy-club across the head.
“Get away from me”, Rhino yelled as he shrugged off the blow and swung at the red-clad hero, who just barely managed to leap away from the fist.
“You may as well surrender Rhino”, the Widow said as she blasted him with her Widow’s sting.
“I don’t think so”, Rhino bellowed. “Ain’t no way you two clowns can beat me!”
As he moved after the Widow, Daredevil sent his billy-club flying in front of the Rhino’s feet and caused the huge man to stumble and fall forward, flat on his face.
“You were saying?”, Daredevil smirked as he landed a heavy kick across the chin of the pissed-off thug.
In a blind rage, Rhino yelled out once more and started swinging wildly. His fists hit a parked car and sent it flying towards Daredevil, who easily dodged the dangerous ball of metal.
“We need to wrap this up”, the Widow said as she sent another blast of her Widow’s sting at the Rhino’s exposed face.
“I agree”, Daredevil said. “Any idea how though?”
“I believe I can help”, a voice called out.
Daredevil and The Widow followed the sound of the new voice and saw standing there a bald woman dressed in green.
“Moondragon?”, the Widow said as she recognized the woman. “What are you doing here?”
“Saving the day… as always”, Moondragon sighed as she levitated herself in the air. “Now stand back and allow me to use my powers of the mind to defeat this brutish creature.”
Moondragon turned her attention to Rhino, but he was quicker than she realized and before she could use her mental powers to mind-blast the man-beast, he quickly grabbed a metal bench and hurled it at the demi-goddess. Luckily, Daredevil realized what was happening and was able to move quickly, snatching Moondragon out of harm’s way before the bench could connect with her levitating frame.
“That almost… “, Moondragon gasped as Daredevil sat her down. “I…”
“Now”, the Widow said. “Let’s do this as a team!”
Quickly, The Widow and Daredevil moved into position, peppering the Rhino and his tough, armor-clad body with repeated blows from Daredevil’s billy-club and the Widow’s
“What are you idiots trying to do? You can’t stop or hurt me with your pitiful little weapons”, the Rhino roared. “”You’re just making me mad!”
“No”, Moondragon spoke up. “They’re distracting you… so I can do… THIS!”
A glow of energy formed around Moondragon’s head as a psi-bolt flashed and pounded the Rhino where he was the weakest… in the mind. In a matter of seconds, the Rhino was out cold.
“Let’s get him secure”, the Widow said to Daredevil, who quickly moved to secure the fallen man-beast. “Heather… Moondragon, we’re grateful for your help and arrival. I’ll take it that this means you’ve changed your mind about being part of our team?”
“I have”, Moondragon replied. “While I do feel that the team would benefit from my leadership, I am willing to take a lesser role as a member of the group for now. The Avengers are far too important a force in the overall picture and a necessary force for good. Their legacy must endure and if I must force myself to work with lesser beings to ensure that they survive, so be it. It’s a sacrifice that I’m willing to make.”
“Now just a moment”, the Widow started to reply, but Daredevil put his hand on her shoulder.
Natasha quieted at the touch of her long time friend’s hand and decided to bite her tongue (for now).
“Well, we are glad to have you back with the team”, she told Moondragon.
“But of course”, Moondragon replied.
“And now we have four”, Daredevil whispered in Natasha’s ear before she could reply.
And then there was a buzzing noise that echoed throughout the air. Natasha reached into a hidden pocket and pulled out her Avengers ID.
“Widow here?”, she answered.
After listening to a moment, she hit a hidden switch and turned to Daredevil and Moondragon.
“We need to get back to the Mansion ASAP! Jarvis says we have a visitor.”
“Did he say who?”, Daredevil asked.
“No, but I heard some familiar voices in the background”, the Widow smiled.
“Good news?”, Daredevil asked.
“We shall see!”, the Widow said. “We shall see!”
Quickly the three Avengers were on their way and back to Avengers Mansion. When they arrived, they were greeted by Jarvis and several members of the Avengers staff at the door. They could hear two male voices arguing from the library and the sounds of a female voice attempting to calm the men down.
“What’s going on Jarvis?”, the Widow asked as they headed towards the door.
“I’m sorry Madam”, Jarvis said. “Master Hercules appears to be intoxicated and most unruly. And when our guest arrived… well.”
“Who is it, Jarvis?”, Daredevil asked.
“The US Agent sir… and Mistress Tigra.”
The Black Widow, Daredevil and Moondragon quickly entered the library and there was the US Agent standing toe to toe arguing with Hercules. Tigra was standing between the two men trying to get them to calm down.
“That’s no freakin’ way to honor the memory of the Avengers! Being drunk!”, the Agent yelled.
“Have a care mortal… before I am forced to smite thee!”, Hercules grumbled back.
“Guys.. chill!”, Tigra was saying.
“Shall I calm them down”, Moondragon asked, preparing to call upon her psi-powers.
“No…”, Natasha said. “Allow me!”
And quickly Natasha moved between the two men and cut both of them a glare of near fatal intensity.
“Enough!”, she said. “What is going on here!”
“Well”, the Agent started to say, but Natasha cut him off. “Not you!”
“Aye, the Prince of…”, Hercules started to reply, but Natasha cut him off as well. “Stop!”
She looked at Tigra.
“Greer, what is going on?”, she asked.
“Well, the Agent and I arrived just a little while ago. Hercules came in to greet us and Agent made a comment about Herc being drunk and well… it kind of exploded from there.”
“I can only imagine”, the Widow sighed. She glanced over at Daredevil. “Matt, could you?”
Daredevil nodded and walked over to Hercules.
“Hey Herc, why don’t we take a walk?”, he said to the demi-god.
Hercules cast a glare at the US Agent and then smiled. “Aye, friend Devil. I can tell you about the time that I moved the Island of Manhattan using only the pure raw strength that is the Prince of Power and Lion of Olympus.”
As Daredevil and Hercules exited the room, the Widow turned to Jarvis.
“Jarvis, Moondragon has agreed to rejoin the team. Would you please show her to her chambers?”
“But of course Madam”, Jarvis said. “This way, Mistress Moondragon.”
“I think I’d rather stay here”, Moondragon smiled noting the obvious tension with The Widow, The US Agent and Tigra.
“Heather, please”, the Widow said coldly.
“Oh well, if you insist”, Moondragon smiled once more. And with that, she followed Jarvis out of the room.
“Moondragon?”, Tigra remarked. “Pleasant as ever I see. What is she doing here?”
“Amazingly, I invited her”, the Widow said. “With the Onslaught situation… and the… loss of so many of our teammates and friends… I felt it was necessary to attempt to put together a new team and well… she is powerful!”
“That’s one way to describe her”, Tigra agreed.
“So what brings the two of you here?”, the Widow asked.
“It’s pretty simple! The Avengers took a major blow and we need to regroup and pull together”, the Agent said. “While I may not have gotten along with everyone and may not be the most popular guy who ever served as an Avenger, it was still one of the proudest moments of my life. And when I heard what happened to Cap and Iron Man, Wanda, The Wasp and the others, I knew it was time to come here and see if I could help.”
“Yeah, what he said”, Tigra said. “I haven’t been an active Avenger in a while, but if you want me… us… we’re here and ready to help out.”
“I see”, the Widow said. “You don’t know just how glad I am to hear this. Things have been tough and I must admit that I’ve even had my doubts if we could even keep the group alive… but…”
“No matter what, the Avengers must go on”, the Agent said.
“Thank you”, the Widow said. “And welcome to the group. Welcome back!”
The Black Widow, Tigra and The US Agent had a group hug. And then the Widow stepped back.
“I have to ask… what was up with you and Hercules, Agent?”
“We showed up and Jarvis let us in”, the Agent said. “And Hercules was here, drunk as a skunk and reeking. He made some excuse that he’s been drinking to honor Cap and the rest, but I’m not buying that. He’s on some self-pity kick and trying to drink his sorrows away. That’s not honoring anyone.”
“With Hercules, you have to tread softly”, the Widow said. “Daredevil is talking to him and maybe he can talk some sense into him.”
“I hope someone can”, the Agent said. “A drunkard, especially with powers like Hercules, could be a major liability in a battle and end up hurting more than he helps.”
“Let me deal with that”, the Widow said.
“So has Daredevil joined up?”, Tigra asked.
“He’s agreed to help out so long as we need him”, the Widow said.
“Good deal”, Tigra said. “He’s a tough guy and has some great moves. It’ll be good to have him on the team.”
“And the bald lady?”, the US Agent asked.
“That’s Moondragon”, the Widow said. “She’s…”
“A bitch”, Tigra finished. “Good in a fight though, but a little overbearing at times.”
There was a knock at the door and Jarvis poked his head into the room.
“Excuse me, Madam Natasha. You have a phone call from a Mr. Lang.”
“Scott?”, the Widow said. “Excuse me for a moment please”, she said to Tigra and the Agent.
The Widow walked out to the hallway and picked up the phone.
“Yes”, she said.
“Natasha, this is Scott Lang. I’ve been thinking about your offer and well… if it still stands, I’d like to accept and take you up on it.”
“But of course”, the Widow said. “But what about your daughter? And your thoughts about putting her at risk?”
“Well, I don’t like the idea of putting Cassie at risk”, Lang said. “But this is a dangerous world we live in and I can’t always protect or shelter her, even though I wish I could. But that being said, I think I can do more good… to keep her safe as a member of the Avengers than I can just hiding away from the world.”
“I would hardly call it hiding”, the Widow said.
“Well maybe it isn’t quite that, but after all of that time being part of the Fantastic Four, it just doesn’t seem right to try to stay out of the fight anymore. I spoke with my daughter and she told me that if I didn’t take you up on this offer and be a part of the Avengers legacy, I’d regret it forever. And after I thought about it some more, I realized that she was right. So if you want Ant Man, you’ve got him.”
“Wonderful”, the Widow replied. “So would you be able to come by the Mansion in the morning and we can make everything official.”
“No problem”, Lang said. “I’ll come by after I drop Cassie off at school… would around 9:00 be good?”
“That would be fine”, the Widow said. “We can do everything we need to do then and you can meet your new team mates.”
“New team mates?”, Lang asked. ” I know Herc and Quicksilver, but who else?”
“You’ll see” the Widow smiled. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
After hanging up the phone, the Widow returned to the library where the US Agent and Tigra, now having been rejoined by Daredevil and a much calmer Hercules were waiting.
“Good news?”, Daredevil asked.
“I believe so”, the Widow smiled. “That was Scott Lang, also known as Ant Man. He’ll be here in the morning to join us.”
“The new Ant Man?”, Tigra said. “I don’t believe I’ve ever met him.”
“He’s a noble warrior who does the legacy of Henry Pym proud”, Hercules remarked.
“I’ve met him”, the Agent said. “Seems like a decent guy!”
“He is”, the Widow commented.
“So it looks as if we’ve got a full team”, the Agent said. “With you, Daredevil, the bald brain-god, Tigra, Hercules, Ant Man and myself.”
“It does seem that way”, the Widow agreed as everyone nodded.
“You got room for two more”, a voice came from the doorway.
Everyone looked and there stood Robert Drake, aka the mutant X-Man known as Iceman and Rachel Leighton, aka the former criminal turned hero known as Diamondback.
“Bobby… and Rachel?”, the Widow said.
“Hey beautiful boss-lady”, Drake said as he walked up and gave the Widow a hug and kiss on the cheek. “We had a long talk over at the X-Mansion… we being Cyke, Storm, Wolvie and the rest of the X-Men and the bosses that be, Cyke and Storm, decided that even though it might not be too popular with the public right now, it’s pretty important to help our friends and keep positive mutant images out there and all of that stuff. So if you want this merry mutant ice-guy, I’m here for you.”
“I’m very glad to have you here Bobby”, the Widow said. “By the way, Moondragon is here too!”
“Can I go back to the X-Men?”, Drake frowned.
“No”, the Widow said. “You’re ours now!”
“Damn!”, Drake smiled.
The Widow turned to Rachel Leighton. “And Rachel… we’ve been trying to find you. How are you?”
“I’m okay”, Rachel said. “Can we talk… in private?”
“But of course”, the Widow replied. “We’ll be right back”, Natasha said as they walked out of the room.
“So how do you know Diamondback?”, Tigra asked Bobby Drake as they began to talk.
“We met outside”, Drake said. “Jarvis knew her and invited her in.”
“She’s a friend of Captain America’s”, Hercules spoke up. “And a warrior true as well.”
“She’s got a mean left hook”, the Agent added.
“And how would you know?”, Tigra asked smirking.
“A battle with the Serpent Society before she went straight and hooked up with Cap”, the Agent said.
Small talk among the heroes continued until The Widow and Diamondback walked back into the room. It was obvious that Rachel had been crying and Natasha looked a bit flustered as well.
“Okay folks”, the Widow spoke up. “It’s getting late so I would suggest that everyone grab a room and settle in for the night. We can take care of the official business in the morning, including going over the team charter and arranging security clearances for our new members. Plus we will make an official announcement to the press tomorrow as well.”
“I’ve already arranged quarters for everyone”, Jarvis spoke up as he walked into the room. “Mistress Tigra, you and Master Agent are in your old rooms. Master Drake, I’ve put you in the suite next to Master Hercules. Will you be needing a room, Master Daredevil?”
“No, I have an apartment not far from here”, Daredevil said.
“Excellent sir”, Jarvis said. “Will the rest of you please follow me?”
As Jarvis led the new Avengers from the room, the Widow turned to Daredevil.
“It looks as if things have worked out far better than I could have hoped”, she said.
“You just needed to have faith”, Daredevil said. “Most of the people you wanted, plus a few otheres as well.”
“And does that include the ‘Man Without Fear’?”, Widow asked her friend.
“I don’t know… I will always be here for you but…”, Daredevil started to say, but Natasha cut him off.
“I know how a team enviroment plays havoc with your radar senses”, she said. “So if you want to back out, you can. I won’t mind.”
“How about a compromise?”, Daredevil said as he took the Widow’s hands in his. “I’ll stay… as a reservist. That way, you can have your team and I can still keep Hell’s Kitchen safe… but if you need me for anything.”
“I think I can live with that”, the Widow said. “Things are moving so fast now. They seemed so hopeless, but now the future looks much brighter and better.”
“The hardest work is still ahead of you”, Daredevil said. “Getting this team together was the easy part. Now it’s time to make them into a team worthy of the name Avenger.”
“It won’t be easy, but this is a group of experienced and battle-worn warriors. I think they… we can handle it”, the Widow said. “By the way, what did you say to Hercules? He seemed much better after the two of you spoke.”
“We just talked about personal responsibility and how much the rest of the team… the Avengers, need him and rely on him and how real heroes face tragedy and heartache by dealing with it and not hiding behind a drunken stubor all the time.”
“And he didn’t get mad?”, the Widow asked.
“He did… and I thought he was going to put me through a wall or something at first”, Daredevil sighed. “But he calmed down and admitted that I was right. And he promised to try to cut back a bit and behave.”
“And with Hercules, that’s probably the best we’re going to get”, the Widow laughed.
“Well, lookie there”, Daredevil smiled. “She can smile!”
“She can also kill you 39 different ways”, the Widow said, stern faced.
“Maybe”, Daredevil laughed. “I guess that I’d better get going. It’s late and we’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”
“Sure you wouldn’t rather stay?”, the Widow asked.
“Tempting, but no”, Daredevil smiled as he kissed Natasha on the cheek. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
And with that, Daredevil was gone.
The next morning,. with TV cameras and media assembled, The Black Widow stood in front of a podium as part of a press conference.
“The world, and the Avengers are at a turning point. When dealing with the threat of the being known as Onslaught, the world suffered a loss of imaginable proportions. We lost the team known as the Fantastic Four to Onslaught. And we lost several of our own, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, The Wasp, Prince Namor, Giant Man, The Scarlet Witch and The Falcon. As a friend told me recently, we court and defy death every day. It’s part of being an Avenger. And this time, the odds were just a little too much. And those heroes made the ultimate sacrifice to keep the citizens of New York, all of us safe. This has been a dark and trying time for all of us and to be honest, I wasn’t even sure if the legacy that is The Avengers should even continue. But the Avengers are more than a few heroes. It’s more than just a group of super-heroes. It’s about tradition and loyalty and honor. It’s about a legacy that must continue. And it will. It won’t be easy. Captain America and the others left some big shoes to fill, but we will do what we can to live up to their reputations, their characters, their legacy. The Avengers are then, now and forever. Please allow me to introduce to the world the newest line-up for the nation, the world’s first line of defense and protectors. Please come out Avengers.”
The Widow turned and watched as the assembled heroes came out and joined her on the stage.
“Please allow me to introduce our new Avengers line-up. I will continue as the Avenger’s Chairperson and from left to right, we have The US Agent, Tigra, Ant Man, The Iceman, Moondragon, Hercules and Diamondback. Acting as a reservist for our group is ‘The Man Without Fear’, Daredevil. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, The Avengers!”
And there you go. Instead of the Avengers disbanding, we have a new group with a mixture of old and new. So what do you think? Comments are welcome. Thank you.