The Ant and the Boot
My Father's Footsteps.
They were close to breaking. I could see it as they walked past, none of them meeting my eyes. Not even my brother, who had begun to frequent the area around my cage, said nothing to me. He just stood there silently, looking at nothing – not even me, though I followed him with my eyes as he paced before the control panel. [i]Was he trying to decide if he should send me to my death?[/i] No, my brother was too noble for that. He believed I would still come home, if given time to see his side.
My brother was naïve, as he always had been. I would not return with him to Asgard, not even if Odin agreed to lift my banishment. I was a Frost Giant, a creature that Odin had slain and conquered. I would not return just to be considered another of his conquests.
It was soon, now, before I made my escape. I watched the walls, wondering just how much time had passed. Days now, I assumed. I judged the time by the hours when the lights went dark, counting off a day for each darkness that passed.
Six darknesses. Six days.
I waited, watching their movements from here. I saw them fight, argue, plot. They were always alone, moving like blind men behind thin sheets of glass.
To his credit, Stark had returned me untouched to my room after I fell asleep on his bed. He was far nobler than he seemed, though I think he was loathe to admit it. The next morning he promised not to tell Director Fury what I had done, either, under the condition that I didn't approach Loki until I had sorted out my thoughts.
“I'm surprised you wouldn't tell the Director,” I said. “I'm sure that Natasha or the Captain would have run and told him before the night was out.”
“Eh, I don't trust him,” he shrugged. “Besides, no one likes a tattle tale.”
I nodded, looking away. Next to me sat a full S.H.I.E.L.D uniform for me to wear, folded neatly in black with veins of white and blue.
Stark walked in front of me, arms folded over at his chest. He nodded down at the uniform.
“Going to put it on?”
“No. I just don't know if I want to be one of them.”
“Sometimes you just have to stand up and put on the suit, regardless of what you want,” Stark said. “Sometime we just inherit things from our fathers that we really don't want, but you've just got to accept them.”
He laughed then, rocking back on his heels.
“Expectations, companies. Suits. Hell, I thought I was the worst thing to happen to my father. I didn't want Stark Industries, and almost dropped it just to spite my dad. But you've got to take up their mantles. Who knows, it might just fit.”
I looked up at him, seeing a different side of him that I had never seen before. All that selfishness and narcissism was stripped away, leaving a much more real, much nobler man.
“I'll be back in a moment,” I said, getting up and taking the suit with me.
It was hard to look at myself in the mirror after I'd pulled it on, even as I fastened my long hair high on my head. It did fit, almost as if it was made for me. Who knows, maybe it was.
I wondered if my father ever had this moment, staring into the mirror after he first put on the uniform. He was probably prouder than I was, feeling more deserving than I did right now. I looked like a different person, though: stronger, more mature. More like Natasha, though I could never compare to her stoic calm.
“I'm ready,” I called to Tony, stepping out of the side wash room. He wasn't there anymore, though, and instead the giant form of Thor stood there, pondering something. He still remained clad in armor even days after he had arrived.
“Stark was called below by Banner,” Thor informed. He looked to large for the room, even though he probably was shorter than most basketball players. He just seemed to fill whatever space he was in.
“Oh,” I said softly. “Thank you for telling me.”
“So, you're an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D now,” Thor said, gesturing toward the suit. I nodded.
“Something like that, yes.”
We stood in silence, then Thor coughed.
“I'm sorry for my brother's behavior,” he said, turning to me. “His actions of late toward you and your people have been inexcusable. I am sorry.”
I blinked, then nodded.
“Thank you, but your brother's actions, I think, are beyond you,” I smiled.
“Perhaps, but he is of Asgard and his actions toward you are to injure me. That is unfair.”
“Many things are unfair, I think.”
I looked up at him almost timidly. He had soft brown eyes that carried honor and honesty, even if they didn't fully understand me and my kind. He truly felt pain and responsibility for his brother's actions. He was a good man. I respected that.
“I'm sure that you are a great king on Asgard, Thor,” I bowed slightly. He gave me a half smile.
“Thank you, it is not something I hear often.”
He clapped me on my back – a motion strong enough that I almost fell forward – and walked away, leaving me alone in the room. I could see the pain that Thor carried on his shoulder, the responsibility and blame that he didn't deserve. He was the keeper of a brother who hated him yet he still loved.
I left the lonely room, walking tall in the soft boots of the S.H.I.E.L.D uniform. The official seal was stamped over my heart, thin and armored, and almost felt like a brand against my chest. At my hip was an empty gun holster.
I passed Tony in the hallway, who carried a small, portable computer in his hand and was typing something rapidly. He nodded at me and smiled, hitting me amiably on the arm.
“Looking good, kid,” he said.
I smiled back and thanked him as I passed. I wasn't a hero, so whatever meeting he was heading to was none of my business. However, Loki had made himself my business, and he was some business I had to attend to.
[i]Not yet, Dove,[/i] I heard Tony's voice in my head, [i]You promised.[/i]
I did promise. I sighed, turning away down a side hallway before I could walk to Loki's containment cell. I wandered, head bowed, until I found Natasha. I didn't know I had decided to go to her room until I arrived there, but there she stood, cleaning her pistols. She glanced up at me.
“Hey,” she said, her voice neutral.
“Can you teach me how to use one of those?” I asked, gesturing at the gun. She glanced at me again then put the gun into its holster on her hip.
“He got to you,” she sighed.
“Last night, after I left your room.”
She nodded, closing her eyes.
“Alright,” she said, her voice grim. “Come with me, Agent Lancaster.”
I had been right: one week would be enough. They were so close to breaking. I could see the splinters forming under their skin as they began to snap.
My food came and went, brought by soldiers who said nothing. Dove had been kept from my sight for three darknesses now, perhaps so terrified after our last encounter that she dared not look at me.
I missed my mortal. She helped me pass the days, occupying my thoughts. I hadn't realized how much I enjoyed those short visits until she was gone.
I looked up, into a glass room that hung over my cell where they could watch me like a pacing animal. The beast man was there most of the time, watching me or working. He was the only one who dared look me in the eye. He looked away though usually, I think because the anger inside of him rose up to his skin when he saw my eyes. Good. I wanted him to lose control. He was close, now – so close.
Now they were all there. I could see them fighting, their faces brushing close as they spat with anger. I smiled. Director Fury believed he could bond these poor creatures. I knew otherwise. None of these would ever allow another to stand with them.
I closed my eyes. Another darkness passed in silence, until I opened my eyes on the day of my armageddon.
They were fighting again, anger rolling off of them in thick waves so potent I could feel them through the thick walls of my cells. They had taken the bait: they had begun to question Director Fury, and now they had begun to see him for what he really was.
I laughed, turning away. My eyes fell to the ground, leaving them to bicker amongst themselves.
She was so close, and I hadn't even realized. She sat still, inches away from the glass, watching me with still eyes, their irises colored the shades of stormy skies and hurricanes.
“Little Dove,” I said, a thrilling rush running through my veins. I truly had missed her company, I suppose. I hesitated, though, looking at the tight uniform that adorned her. I had killed so many who wore those garbs. It didn't look right on her skin, something so dark draped over her glowing whiteness. It seemed to devalue her, dressing her like that. She wasn't one of them.
“Don't call me that,” she said. She was stiff, cold. Like Natasha.
Fury shifted behind my eyes. They were changing her in ways I didn't like. I would stop them before they could make her one of theirs, turning her completely away from me. I sat across from her, eye to eye through the layers of glass.
“Don't become one of them,” I ordered. “They are not what you think they are. They will ruin you.”
“You will ruin me, too,” she replied, her voice still calm.
[i]No, you fool, I will remake you,[/i] I thought, my hands, pressed together in my lap, curling into fists. [i]Remake you into a creature worthy of a god's affection.[/i]
“I will let your craving for identity and freedom come to an end,” I hissed. “I will make you whole.”
“You're lying. I've seen what you did to Natasha, to Thor. You will leave me broken.”
My eyes narrowed and I cast a glance up toward the glass window, where my brother stood with his back turned to me. I refused to let him win this fight. This girl, like the earth that she dwelt in, was mine.
“They are feeding you lies,” I growled. I drove my fist into the glass, feeling the cage supports threaten to drop me as I did.
“They feed you the same lies that the world has fed you. They think they know what is best for you, but there is no other path but subjugation that will lead to peace. I am the only one who can bring you peace, little Dove, can't you see that? Release me from here and I will show you worlds that you have never imagined -”
“Stop calling me '[i]little Dove[/i]',” she snapped, anger flashing through her face. She stood to her feet and I followed, my reflection superimposed upon her in the glass.
“All you do is lie and hurt, Loki,” she continued. Her breath turned the surface of the glass to mist. “I'm through with your games. I've made my choice: I am [i]Agent[/i] Dovesary Lancaster now, and I will follow in my father's footsteps to protect the world from men like you.”
“You are blinded, Dove -”
“Go rot in hell.”
I stared at her, rage swimming to the surface of my skin. My armor came around my shoulders, so angry was I. I opened my mouth to speak, to strike her down with my rage -
But any words I would have said were swallowed by the first explosion as my wrath came down upon them.
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Have a great day, and see you in the next chapter!