The Ant and the Boot
I didn't cry. I wanted to, but I didn't. I forced the tears back, pretending to be strong. I did this by going to a calm, quiet place in my mind, closing my eyes and shrouding myself in the darkness that reigned behind my eyelids. Nothing could touch me. Not the lightning flashing outside, not the superhumans around me, not the man who had held me hostage only minutes before. All of them vanished, hidden behind my thin veil of darkness.
The thunder rolled around me. The superheroes talked while Loki and I remained silent. It was almost as if neither of us were there. As if none of this had ever happened.
“You might have missed a couple things, y'know, doing time as a Capsicle,” Stark said offhandedly to Captain America. The Captain didn't respond.
I opened my eyes slowly, trying not to let too much in at once. Across from me was still Loki, though he was looking up uneasily. I followed his gaze and saw nothing.
“What's the matter, scared of a little lightning?” the Captain asked, watching Loki. Loki didn't look at him, still watching the ceiling warily.
“I'm not overly fond of what follows.”
A thud crashed down on the roof of the plane, shaking the whole vehicle. Loki winced noticeably – I'm sure I did too, though more out of shock than real dread. The Captain and Stark jolted up, Stark immediately going for his suit. It was incredible how fast it attached to his body.
But that didn't mean it was fast enough. When he ordered the air lock open, the thing that flew in was monstrously huge, hurtling in as if some creature formed out of the lightning. It seized Loki before anyone could react, and, with no more than a backward glance, jumped back out into the storm.
I had only a moment to look at the beast. It wasn't a beast at all, really, but a man, strong and beautiful and shining in armor and glistening rain. For a moment I thought of Prosper, but Prosper didn't look like he jumped off the pages of a mythology text.
Stark ran to the air lock, staring out into the storm and cursing. The Ironman mask closed over his face, the suit flickering into light. The Captain followed behind him, trying to hold Stark back.
“Stark, we need a plan of attack!” he insisted. Stark glanced at him before turning back to the airlock.
“I have a plan. Attack.”
And then, suit whirring, Stark threw himself into the gale.
I sat there paralyzed, the skirt of my dress whipping around my ankles from the blasting wind. I pushed my hair out of my face, watching in a mix of awe and terror as Captain America strapped a parachute to his chest.
“I'd sit this one out, Captain,” the pilot, a slight, red haired woman in a black suit and unshakable calm, advised, glancing back at him. “These guys come from legend, they're basically gods.”
[i]Gods.[/i] So Loki hadn't been lying.
“Ma'am, there's only one God, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't dress like that.”
All I could do was sit and stare as he, too, threw himself into the storm to battle.
It was then that I knew I could never be a hero. I just didn't have the guts for it.
Pain shot up the length of my arm as I slammed into the rocky crags of a hillside, rolling almost over the ledge. I pushed myself to my feet, grunting from the pain. My side burned.
I was so close. I just needed to get to S.H.I.E.L.D. Damn my brother, getting in my way again.
I had heard about the Avengers Initiative from agent Barton. He was a useful resource, telling me everything I would possibly need to know about S.H.I.E.L.D.'s plans and members, including the lovely murderess Natasha Romanov, who I had the pleasure to meet earlier this evening. Barton was sure that the Avengers were being assembled once Stark was called in to S.H.I.E.L.D as a consultant, and from there Barton was able to give me a projected list of who they would call upon.
The general idea of getting into S.H.I.E.L.D was the idea that, if I played the game right, I could stomp the Avengers before they grew into a weed. Once they were out of the way all the opposition I might have faced would crumble, and from there the Earth would be easy to overtake.
But, as always, my brother stood in my way, staring me down brutishly with that damned hammer.
“Good to see you, too, brother,” I hissed, gaining my balance. I shouldn't have bothered, since
my brother seemed intent to keep me on my knees.
I would not fall before him. I would remain standing, until finally the day came that he would be the one on the ground before me.
“What is the meaning of this, brother?” Thor demanded, his voice booming like the thunder that rolled overhead. I didn't flinch this time, instead just laughing. I had gotten used to his shouting. That was all he did, shout. I remained unfazed, even as he pleaded with me to abandon my plight, forsake my road to victory.
“Come home, Loki,” he implored me.
“It isn't mine.”
I felt cold from more than just the rain. I turned away from him, grinding my teeth together. I smiled, then, glancing back at him.
“I'll make this world my home now, now that father has left me none of my home.”
Thor's rage flashed across his face like the streaking lightning. He edged me closer to the ledge of the hilltop, a low growl building in his chest.
“Brother,” he hissed, his voiced turning low and dangerous, his hammer held in his fist with tight knuckles, “You listen to me-”
I never found out what my brother was going to say. A streak of red and gold light collided into him, knocking him down into the dense forest below.
I smiled, leaning forward to the empty space where my brother had been standing a moment before.
We circled overhead, the pilot and I. It wasn't hard to find them: the explosions and falling trees and flashing lights were as brilliant as a wildfire. I came up and stood by her, looking over the edge down hundreds of feet below.
Her name was Natasha Romanov, though she went by Black Widow. She didn't say much, completely focused on her job, but she told me enough so that I wouldn't panic.
“We can't let you go home yet, kid,” she said. It was strange, since she was only a few years older than me. “We've lost the time to take you home.”
“That's alright,” I replied softly. I didn't feel scared anymore. I think that my mind had hit a ceiling, where the shock had grown so great that my mind has gone numb. Maybe that's how heroes were made, by becoming so scared that there wasn't more space to be any more afraid, so eventually you just had to shut off and accept the cards dealt to us.
I peered down, my eyes circling the ground. In a flutter of silk I noticed a green wave cloaking a glint of gold. I pointed down towards to the green flicker, calling Natasha's attention.
“There,” I said. “That's Loki, right?”
“Good eye,” she nodded. Clicking a button on her head set she briskly said, “I found Loki. Descending and picking the fugitive up. Yes, we're also bringing the Asgardian, too, and Stark and the Captain.”
There were two other men standing by that I didn't notice, so still and stiff that they seemed to blend into the walls. I jumped when they moved, their dark glasses glinting and their mouths turned down.
“You two,” Natasha said without even looking at them, “Apprehend the fugitive. Stark and the Captain will take care of the Asgardian.”
Her eyes flickered over to me. “You, kid, what's your name?”
“Dove,” I replied, swallowing. She regarded me evenly, looking me up and down.
“Can I put you to work?” she asked.
“I want you to watch Loki when we get him in. We might need the men to help get the Asgardian in, but I still want a pair of eyes. I think that if there's a woman between the two, the gods will stop fighting long enough for us to transport them,” she said. Then, smiling slyly, she added, “Besides, a woman tends to get a group of men on their best behavior.”
I nodded slowly, even though my fingers twitched nervously. I clenched my fists, stopping the movements.
“I can do that,” I replied.
“Good. Now go hold onto something, we're going in for a landing.”
My stomach rolled and the plane whirred loudly as the plane fell. I gripped the handle of a nearby seat, kicking off the delicate heels I wore. It felt good to have them off, the floor humming under me cold and rough. My hair whipped up in front of my face again as the airlock opened again, the two men walking past me and leaning down at the opening. I didn't turn, didn't watch. Didn't meet the eyes of Loki. I didn't want to see him kill them, as I knew he would, just like those other men.
No screams came. No fighting. The blue glow of Loki's scepter entered, and I could hear the sound of heavy armored boots falling against the ground, but nothing happened. I heard him sit down. The two men returned, standing again behind Natasha as she drew down to the wreckage on the ground.
They'd done their job. I was up.
I took a deep breath, steadying myself. Then, with all the calmness and poise I could muster – which was considerably more than I'd had before, now that the shoes were off and I could feel the cool ground under my feet – I strode over to Loki, carefully settling into the seat next to him, folding my hands in my lap over my dress. I noticed that it had torn in a couple places. Mother would have screamed under any other circumstances, but I think she would forgive me this time.
Loki didn't say anything, though I could feel his presence, his eyes burning into the side of my face. I looked away, ignoring them until I couldn't anymore, until I knew I had to face him. I turned, hardening my eyes as I met his.
Loki's eyes didn't burn mine, or even scorch me. Instead I stared into eyes that were hard, yes, but uncertain and probing. He turned away instantly, but before he had I had a moment of being swept up in his eyes of a brilliant, stunning green.
I didn't know if I could hate him, despite what he had done. I was afraid, but any anger dissipated instantly. How could I hate someone who, when I looked in their eyes, didn't look like a monster?
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Have a great day, and see you in the next chapter!