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The Ant and the Boot

A Child's Game.

I saw Natasha Romanov cry today, in the very early hours of the morning. It was one of the scariest experiences I'd ever had. Someone that aloof, that unbreakable should never be reduced to tears. I stood there pressed to the doorway, barely daring to breathe, listening. My heart broke in my chest as she sobbed, falling out of my ribcage and shattering on the floor along with her tears.

The crying subsided into silence after a while, only occasionally broken by the sound of a shifting bed.

“I'm done, kid, you can come in now.”

I blinked then, sheepishly, entered, slipping in and pressing against the wall. Natasha didn't have eyes that remained puffy, so within minutes she looked normal again save for her eyes being brighter than usual. I averted my eyes as she dabbed the last of the water from them.

“What are you doing out?” she asked me.

“Couldn't sleep.”

She laughed. “I wouldn't go roaming the halls. You might run into security, or worse a rogue Tony Stark.”

I laughed with her. “They don't have alcohol on this ship, do they?”

“No, they don't want drunk pilots, or superhumans. I even think the director did an extensive sweep just before Stark arrived,” she sighed, shaking her head. I came over and took a seat at the opposite end of the bed from her, crossing my legs.

“So,” I said, gesturing at her, “what happened?”

She looked away from me, the smile on her face faltering. It was sad to see it go, because she had such a beautiful smile and I think that was the only time I'd ever seen it.

“I talked to Loki,” she said, swallowing. “He has a friend of mine...”

“Agent Barton?”

“Yes, Clint.”

A smile, sad but genuine, returned to her face, brightening her features like lamplight in the rain.

“Loki has Clint under some sort of spell. He just... threatened me, and Clint,” she explained, motioning with her hand where words failed her, then shook her head when those didn't suffice either.

“He compromised me.”

I watched her face, noticing the pain that etched her brow and the lines that trembled at the corners of her mouth.

“You love him, don't you?” I asked softly, looking away.

“Love is a game for children.”

“But you love him. Just in the assassin way.”

She cast around for words for a moment, fingers twining together, before she relented.

“Yes,” she sighed, “In the assassin way.”

We sat in silence for a while, listening to the hum of the aircraft and machines. She then chuckled, lost deep in her thoughts.

“He saved my life when I was about your age, you know,” she said softly, smiling. I snorted.

“You were my age what, three years ago? You make yourself sound so old,” I teased.

“I'm turning thirty-seven in two months.”

I blinked. “Oh.”

She laughed.

“It's just hard to find someone who understands you, when you do what I do,” she confessed. “Who understands you and still loves you despite of it. He gave me a chance when I didn't deserve it. I'll never stop owing him for that.”

I wanted to hug her, but I knew that would make her close up again. She was a person who liked to stand alone, who didn't like to be touched by anything. Only Agent Barton could hold her right now, and no one else could act as a replacement.

“You'll get him back, Natasha,” I promised, giving her a half smile. Her look turned more grim, her hands tightening into fists.

“I know,” she whispered. “I'll bring him back.”

I knew she would, by any means necessary. I watched her, trying to read her face. What would Loki have had to have said in order to make her this broken?

Terrible things, I was sure. Anger flared in my chest, the sharp sting of injustice burning against my heart. I smiled at Natasha, patting her side of the bed.

“I'm going to leave you alone now, Natasha,” I said quietly. “Try to get some sleep, okay?”

She nodded. “Thank you, James.”

I blinked, but said nothing and left. I knew now, though, that a suspicion I had been having since I arrived was accurate: Natasha, either through S.H.I.E.L.D or otherwise, had known my father, and well enough to see him in me when I spoke.

But who exactly was my father? And what things of him – this possible agent, assassin, soldier – did she see in me?

[center]***[/center]

I stopped pacing at the sound of footsteps coming down the hallway. I looked up to see Dove, her long hair tied back around her head and her light clothing soft and loose on her body, striding toward my cell. I laughed as the door began to swing open with the characteristic hiss, giving her entrance.

“Well, this is a surprise,” I laughed, raising my eyebrows. What on earth had she come for? To try to change me, possibly coax out my humanity due to the lateness of the hour?

I spread my arms wide, welcoming her. I had been left in good spirits after Natasha had left, so I wasn't too terribly bothered by Dove's presence. As the door swung closed she looked up at me, her entire face illuminated by the single square of light left illuminated over my head.

I had only a moment to register the look of burning anger in the girl's bright eyes before a hot sting ran up through my cheek. I stumbled backward, shocked, trying to figure out what had happened. It wasn't until my vision focused and I saw Dove, brow knit in hot fury and hand raised, did I realize what had happened:

Dove, this mortal, human [i]woman[/i] had struck me.

“What the hell did you say to her?” she hissed, advancing on me. I stared at her until my shock gave way two boiling fury. I snarled, throwing my hand out and catching her where she stood.

“You [i]pathetic[/i] human, I am a god. How [i]dare[/i] you raise your hand to-”

“I don't care what you are,” she snapped, shoving my hand away. “How dare [i]you[/i] attack [i]her[/i]. I will never bow, no matter what you are. Not to a monster like you.”

We stood in stunned, tense silence for a moment, teeming, seething with rage. Her lovely pale locks fell loose from a tie in her hair, casting wildly over her shoulder, and her eyes shown bright with righteous outrage. I stared at her, the words stoppered in my throat my the anger that clawed up out of my lungs.

“You were right, Loki,” she whispered in a soft, deadly tone, “I will never be like you. I will never understand you. Not because you're better than me, or stronger than me, but because you are cruel and savage. You think you are better than us humans but you're so much of the same. You're made of the same scum as our scum, your vileness is the same rot as our rot.”

Her lovely lips dripped with anger and malice, her delicate features shaking with rage. She stepped up to me, so close that I could feel the warmth of her breath against my face and the brush of her fist against my hand. Her rage was mesmerizing.

“You are a hateful creature who feels nothing but the pain of jealousy and the pleasure of hurting others,” she continued her eyes narrowing in anger, her voice growing so low it was little more than a whisper, her beautiful, spiteful eyes staring into mine with unadulterated vidiction. “I don't fear you; I don't even pity you. You are repulsive and deserve nothing but -”

I was finished with this madness, forced too long to stare into that face without touching it. I seized her by the waist, closing the distance between us and silencing her with my lips.

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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