The Ant and the Boot
I stumbled back from him, eyes wide. His hands still held fast to my arms and his armor, returned to his body after I had struck him, was cold against my skin.
“Be [i]silent[/i], mortal,” he ordered. I was so. All the rage that had boiled to the surface a moment before had been shattered, scattering to the winds the moment his lips touched mine. Now I didn't know how I felt. Confused, maybe. Very confused. Stunned. Scared.
I tried to will my anger back, wearing it like a suit of armor, but it didn't return. I wanted him to let go of me, to let me run away. I wasn't [i]made[/i] for this, not like Natasha or Stark or Banner.
But he didn't let go. He stood there gripping me, watching me. Waiting for something.
I swallowed, looking away from him. Some part of me realized that, to him, a kiss was probably just a kiss, not a gesture of affection like it is here on Earth. He probably didn't even realize what he'd done to me – what signals he sent with his gesture, consciously or unconsciously.
Or he knew and it was an attempt to hurt and confuse me. In that case, it had worked. I had come here... Well, I didn't know what I had been expecting to do. I just felt at the time like I had to do it.
He gripped my chin, lifting my bowed head. His eyes held me there, breaking me open and peering inside. I felt like an insect under a magnifying glass, pinned down with thin needles so I couldn't escape. His hands were the needles; his eyes the magnifying glass.
“What do you want from me?” I asked, trying hard to keep my voice calm, though it still trembled. His expression remained calm, scrutinizing me beneath an emerald green spyglass. His cloak, a heavy mantle of silk and velvet, brushed against me as he leaned forward.
“I want you to stop fighting me, girl,” he whispered, his face bruisingly close to mine. His pale cheek was still red from where I had hit him, his breath as cold as his skin.
“Stop fighting. Give up these games. I am a god, child. If you stop struggling now I promise I will treat you well once the world is mine. Perhaps you can stay with me by my throne, and I will fill your heart's every desire,” he whispered softly, tenderly, brushing his hand over my cheek and soothing the doubt away.
“Human's are petty,” he murmured, leaning so close that his lips almost touched mine again.
“You know it's true; you've seen them. These people, they will betray you.”
His lips pressed softly to mine once, fingers twining into my hair.
“I am a god. I will [i]never[/i] betray you.”
I felt myself breaking. I couldn't fight against my heart that hammered in my chest or the feelings that all clamored over each other in my mind. I shouldn't want this – I [i]shouldn't[/i] want it – but I felt an overpowering need to just melt down against his armor and stop fighting. I didn't feel that my mind could rebel against this man, dark as he may be. He was bewitching, and I had been bewitched.
“James Lancaster, May 1st, 1960 to April 18th, 1992. Died in the line of duty in Budapest, Hungary. Mission: Classified – though I'm sure I can get into the file given another minute.”
I whirled away from Loki, his spell broken. Tony Stark stood in a Black Sabbath shirt and dark sweatpants, looking down into a Manila folder. He thumbed his way through a couple more pages, scanning the contents.
“Oh, here we go,” Stark said cheerily, setting his index file on a passage. “Served from 1985 till death as loyal operative of S.H.I.E.L.D. Family has received medal of honor for his clandestine service and his widow and child, Anastasia Kuznetsov and Dovesary Lancaster, ages thirty-eight and two months respectively, will be put under S.H.I.E.L.D surveillance and protection for a duration of five years and/or the widow is remarried.”
Stark snapped the folder shut with a soft clap. He looked up at me with dark eyes.
“So, now you know. Your father was a S.H.I.E.L.D agent. And a damn good one, apparently,” he sighed, tapping the folder against his open palm. “What are [i]you[/i] going to do? Give up and go with him, or follow in your father's footsteps?”
I stood there for a moment, looking at Stark and looking at the folder in his hand. He raised his eyebrows and shrugged, giving me a half-smile.
“Your call, Miss Lancaster.”
“Open the door,” I said, my voice stronger now. I didn't look at Loki as the vault door swung open – I didn't even glance back when Stark led me away, still drumming the Manila folder against his fingers.
I almost drove my fist into the glass after they had vanished. Almost, but didn't. I had already struck it once tonight when I spoke with Natasha and I didn't want to take my chances with its reaction mechanism. I stepped back from the glass and paced, back and forth, grinding my teeth.
Damned Stark. I was [i]so close[/i] to winning her over, [i]so close[/i] to breaking her... Now it would be only that much harder to bring her back to me, now that she had a reason to fight back.
They were playing me for a fool with her, even as I wound them tighter and tighter to their breaking points. They truly were using her as a puppet and she didn't even see. Did she realize when I used her against them, too? She was a pawn to both sides, changing color as she moved across the chess board.
I would make Stark pay for this. He, with his arrogant smile and strong words, who had ripped this moment for me just as I was on the cusp of victory. I could have used her against them, weaponized her and let her be the one to tip the scales. Instead she had been turned against me, breaking my focus and leaving me with nothing but the taste of her upon my lips. On my hands I still could feel her sweet softness, see before me her trembling eyes...
I kicked the blankets on the floor before me with a shout of rage. I would claim her yet. I would catch Dove in my own birdcage the moment she flew away from them, and from then on I would never let her go.
“He's using you, you know.”
Stark stood in his bedroom, door closed. Apparently he'd snuck in his own bourbon and he poured me a drink, passing me the amber liquid.
“Here, it's for your nerves,” he said. He sat down across from me, sighing as he leaned back against the wall.
“I know he's using me. I... I didn't mean for that to happen,” I said, shaking my head. I drank deeply from the drink, letting it warm up my insides.
“Well of course. We never [i]mean[/i] to get riled up by the super villain, but dammit, it always seems to happen,” Stark replied, his voice chipper.
I sighed. “I'll get past it. I'm just confused is all.”
“Would sex make it better? I hear it's very relaxing.”
“I'm not drunk yet, ask later,” I replied, laughing. He shrugged.
“It was just a suggestion.”
I raised an eyebrow. He just smiled.
“How about another drink?” he asked, already standing to pour himself another. “What should we toast to? Crazy, manipulative demigods preying upon pretty girls?”
The bourbon tinkled against the side of the glass, the ice popping around it. He refilled mine, too, and I smiled.
“To crazy, manipulative demigods preying upon pretty girls,” I agreed, and lifted my drink to my lips.
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Have a great day, and see you in the next chapter!