Template:Featured Articles/21-2016

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Moment of Awesome - Everett Thomas/Synch: Three former SHIELD agents get together to talk about what has brought Ev back to the mansion.

"They've certainly beefed up security over the years. I was a student here in the mid '90s. Started just before Professor Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr had their . . . falling out, I guess. Whatever you'd call it." Big messy breakup, he'd joked back then. "So, yes, quite a history here."

Natasha laughed. "Not surprising considering the personalities involved. Probably wasn't the last epic falling out. The personalities this place attracts," she waved a hand at the walls, "must be a powder keg more times than not." She pulled the bag with the eggrolls toward her and took one for herself. "Your move as permanent as mine? Or part of a long con? 'Cause Coulson can only make excuses for the growing horde of SHIELD agents currently residing here for so long."

"She's not wrong," Clint pointed out, pausing his quest for the lo mein so he could raise his brows at Ev.

There was no easy answer to that easy question, and the expression on Ev's face made that clear. He was silent for a moment as he considered. "I don't know," he finally admitted. "I don't know if SHIELD is safe anymore. If what happened to my team happened to you, too . . ." He left the thought hanging.

"Yeah," Clint said, frowning. "Phil's on it, at least. Or sort of on it. As on it as he can be. And we have to keep in mind, what happened to you and what happened to Tasha could be entirely unrelated. We haven't had a chance to do much digging into her side of things yet. What about you?"

"Stonewalled at every turn." Ev poked at his rice with this chopsticks. "There's something going on. I can feel it. I just can't prove it. Or figure out who's behind it. Or why they'd do it."

Natasha finished off her eggroll then excavated her box of sweet and sour pork from the bags. "Extremely compartmentalized shadowy government organization? That seems par for the course. Between the three of us, our contacts, and the resources here, we should eventually find a loose thread to pull upon."

"I haven't tugged on any threads yet," Clint said. "Not really. I mean, I basically did what that dude did when he quit the airline. Y'know, blew the emergency water exit and slid down the slide, then strutted off. And got sued later or something, I dunno. That metaphor got unwieldy. Point being, whatever got the two of you, whether related or not, doesn't seem to've come after me. So I can maybe do something somewhere."

"If there is something and I'm not just being a paranoid psycho, then it might not have gotten into SWORD," Ev pointed out. "Yet. So I'd be careful about poking my nose into SHIELD. And regardless, I have to think that Fury knows something. He always does, and he never lets on."

"I got no desire to play poker with that man," Clint said, shaking his head. He'd never actually tried to track Fury's microexpressions, figuring it'd be about as useful as tracking Coulson's. "Still, best to keep our options open, right? The best plan's an adaptable one."

"Just, whatever risks you take, keep them away from here." Maybe unnecessary to say out loud, but Ev felt better for doing so. "If you so much as suspect someone's onto you, then stop. Our first priority has to be to Professor Xavier and this school."

Clint gave the other man a mildly unimpressed look. "Duh," he said. "There are kids here."

Natasha gave Ev an identical look to the one Clint was giving him. "That goes without saying. They didn't sign up for our fight and we won't pull them in."