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The Ant and the Boot

The Face of Jealousy.

Natasha had told me to touch him. Her idea was that it if he could simply encounter the touch of a human – a true human, not a superhero or an adversary – the line between human and Asgardian would blur, forcing him to reconsider his actions. As a psychology student I found this conclusion valid enough to test, although I was terrified the moment the door swung shut and locked me in there with him.

I, perhaps, had overstepped my bounds. I knew that the moment my lips brushed his cheek, and as soon as I did I pulled away, whirling away before he could see my face. If he could see me, see my eyes, he might be provoked enough to peak his anger.

[i]Open the door, Natasha, open the goddamn door...[/i]

It swung open with a clang, grind, and a hiss, and I didn't look back as I exited, my feet flying over the threshold as if given wings. I didn't want to face the wrath of a vengeful god.

As I left I felt his fingers, long and thin, lightly brush my side, as if to grab me.

I didn't want him to. I had lied when I said I wasn't afraid. I was so scared that I almost broke down when he took the tray from me, my heart stopping when he stepped closer. I didn't want to be pulled back into his terrifying, beautiful eyes.

[center]***[/center]

I stood, shocked, my hand still reaching out to grab her. My hand closed on air, the emptiness jarring me in a way I hadn't prepared for.

She, like everything else before her, had slipped between my fingers.

I ground my teeth and straightened, not looking to face the camera. This was their goal, to throw me off-balance. Dove was no more than a pawn, a puppet, being pulled on by their strings.

It made no difference, I told myself. That girl was a human, therefore beneath my notice. A pet.

But I couldn't deny that her lips, though mortal, felt the same as any maiden's lips from Asgard.
Troubled and angry I resumed my seating, lifting my tray of food onto my lap. Despite the spices and savory meat I chewed unwillingly, my appetite suddenly, irrevocably gone.

[center]***[/center]

“Why the hell does the arch enemy get to kiss the cute college girl?” Stark demanded, jabbing a finger at me. I sat alone in the corner, hands pressed tightly into my lap. I didn't look up at them. They had been shouting for almost a quarter of an hour, not only about me but a lot of things. I didn't want to join them; their tempers ran so high that I worried I might get hurt in the crossfire.
Natasha's face darkened and she pressed her palms flat to the table, leaning over towards Stark.

“I didn't give her that order,” she hissed, “But it was a brilliant move. We got Loki to look more vulnerable than we ever have before.”

Stark moved to retort, but the Captain cut him off.

“She's right, we need to stay ahead of him. Thor, what's his play?” he asked, turning to the large demigod. Even in unnatural light he seemed to radiate with overabundant strength and he turned, facing the Captain.

“He has an army, called the Chitauri. They're not of Asgard or any world known. He means to lead them against your people. They will win him the Earth. In return, I suspect, for the Tesseract.”

The Captain raised an eyebrow. “An army. From outer space.”

“So he's building another portal. That's what he needs Erik Selvig for,” the doctor, Bruce Banner, said, thinking. He was a very quiet man, rough around the edges but very kind, very gentle. He was smart and more reserved than the others. I liked him.

Thor's head jerked up, something between fear and comprehension dawning on his face.

“Selvig?” he asked.

“He's an astrophysicist,” Banner explained.

“He's a friend,” Thor retorted. His face grew deeply troubled and he turned away, arms folding tightly over his chest.

“Loki has them under some kind of spell,” she explained. She swallowed, looking away. “Along with one of ours.”

“I wanna know why Loki let us take him,” Captain America burst in frustration, moving into the middle of the room from the wall where he had been standing. “He's not leading an army from here.”

Doctor Banner shook his head. “I don't think we should be focusing on Loki. The guy's brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.”

I didn't know if I agreed with Banner's conclusion. Loki might be a lot of things – misguided, violent, vengeful – but he seemed to be all there. He might be some kind of insane, but it wasn't a kind that I could put my finger on.

I shifted uncomfortably, swallowing back the words in my throat. I'd already fraternized with the enemy enough, I didn't want them to grow suspicious that I was changing sides. I wouldn't change, no matter what Loki said, threatened, or offered. I wouldn't turn to or permit his dark intentions.

Would I?

“Have care how you speak,” Thor warmed, “Loki may be beyond reason, but he is of Asgard. And he is my brother.”

“He killed eighty people in two days,” Natasha said blankly, folding her arms on the table in front of her. Both Thor and I blinked.

“He's... Adopted,” Thor muttered, looking away.

Okay, maybe Loki [i]was[/i] a few cards short of a full deck.

“I'm still trying to understand why we're letting the unarmed, pretty, young girl go in and spend time with the enemy,” Stark said, raising his eyebrows and propping his elbows up on the table.

“Because she's effective, Stark.”

“I think she can be better... effected.”

When his comment drew nothing but dark looks he sighed, smacking his hand down on the table.

“Come on, what if he hurts her? What if he puts a 'spell' on her like he did Selvig and Barton? I'm just looking out for the girl,” he said defensively, looking around the room. Natasha shook her head.

“Loki can't hurt her without his scepter. He's powerless without it.”

“He's still bigger than her. Seems like a bad idea. Did anyone else take physics in here?”

“She's [i]effective[/i].”

“She's going to get hurt.”

Natasha sighed, running her hand through her red curls. She then turned to me, sighing.

“Dove, take Loki a pillow or something. Maybe a blanket. I'll watch over and make sure he doesn't hurt you,” she ordered, pressing her fingers tightly to the bridge of her nose.

I wasn't going to argue with her. Not only because she looked like she might kill me, but because, after listening to their conversation, I realized I had an angle I could play that might help us all.

[center]***[/center]

I had begun to doze when the hissing of the vault door roused me. Dove came in, looking much the same as had earlier that day. In her arms she carried a bundle of blankets and a pillow. The door swung shut behind her, locking her in again.

“Oh, you mortals [i]are[/i] being gracious hosts, aren't you?” I said dryly, standing to my feet. I was beginning to feel the bruises of earlier in the day form across my skin. She smiled, though it didn't reach her eyes. Those remained distant and unfocused.

“We're human,” she replied. “That's human nature.”

I paused, then laughed, accepting the blankets from her arms. She didn't touch me when she passed them, giving me an odd feeling of isolation. Isolation had never bothered me before.

“Please, do try to make a play to my [i]humanity[/i],” I scoffed. This was rich. I thought Natasha knew better, trying to stoop so low as to almost beg for my mercy.

“You treat humans as much stupider, lowlier beings than they really are,” Dove replied, raising her eyes to mine. She was growing bolder.

I raised an eyebrow. “That's what you 'think', from your vast human intellect? Please, enlighten me.”

She cast her soft blonde hair over her shoulder absentmindedly, sighing. It glowed like white beach sand in the bright lights of the cell.

“I do 'think',” she said. “We might not live forever or be as strong as you are, but we can [i]feel[/i] like you. We can feel pain, betrayal, loss, heartache; joy, sympathy, love.”

She stopped, watching me.

“Some of us even know the twisting knife of jealousy of living in the shadow of a brother who will always distantly, hopelessly outclass us,” she added.

I saw that pain flicker in her eyes: that pain that for years had turned my heart dark, black with hatred and green with envy. That pain that had plagued me since boyhood even in the days I loved my brother, then turned into a thing of power when I realized I hated him.

I stepped closer to her, my soul growing hard again. I didn't want to hear this girl's lies. I gripped her arm, squeezing the warm, tender flesh.

“A [i]human[/i] will never be able to comprehend me,” I hissed, “Especially not a silly little girl.”
She watched me evenly, eyes growing cold.

“You're right,” she replied softly, “I won't understand. Because I'm not afraid of my brother. I don't hate like you do, Asgardian.”

She pulled herself free of me, turning her eyes away. The door opened and closed her again, stealing her from my view. As I stood facing the door, blankets tucked under my arm, I stood conflicted, unable to tell if I wanted to strike her down for her insolence or ask her to stay.

Notes

Thanks for reading! I would love to hear what you think (also I'm fueled by comments), so please leave me some comments in the comments section with your thoughts.

Have a great day, and see you in the next chapter!

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