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Safe Bet

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It happened when Agent May was transporting the prisoner to a higher-security facility. HYDRA agents were after her again, still upset over that little incident when Melinda left eight of them duct-taped to the outside wall of a police station.

This time, though, she wasn’t expecting them. She came within a fraction of a second of taking a shot to the head.

Luckily, her prisoner had spotted the sniper and pulled her to the ground.

Her deadly, villainous, League of Assassins prisoner.

Backup arrived soon after, and soon the HYDRA agents were on the run.

“Thanks,” Melinda said warily, giving the woman a hand up. “But you know I still have to bring you in.”

“It’s okay. I figured.”

Agent May stared at her for a moment, then gestured for them to get moving.

A few minutes before they arrived at the facility, May turned to her. “You could switch teams, you know,” May said.

Sara gave her a little smirk.

“I mean, you could ally yourself with SHIELD.”

“Yeah. SHIELD’s going to recruit an assassin who works for SHIELD’s enemies,” the woman said, a bitter hint of a laugh.

“I’ve heard of it, actually.” Okay, not often. But it happened at least once, with Romanov, who was now one of SHIELD’s most respected agents.

“What makes you think I’d want to?”

Melinda hesitated. Then: “You were fast back there. Too fast for it to be calculation. It had to be instinct.”

“You think so?” the woman said. She sounded … mournful.

“Yeah. I do. If I had been shot, you could have gotten away. You put my life above your escape without thinking. I’ve seen you in action. I know you’re good. But maybe you’re not really cut out to be an assassin.”

Melinda waited for the counterargument, for the woman to sneer and laugh and accuse her of being naïve, for her to snap that she loved blood and blade more than anything, and the usual nonsense that she would expect from a League true believer.

Instead, the woman’s jaw clenched. She looked like Melinda had broken something in her and she was just trying to keep it from falling.

Finally, she smiled at Melinda, sad. “Here’s what’s going to happen, Agent May. You’re going to deliver me to the facility. By the end of the week, someone will break me out, and then I’m back to work. That’s happening. And there’s nothing either of us can do about it.”

“Either of us?” Melinda asked.

The woman looked away.

They walked quietly the rest of the way.

Right before Melinda handed her over, the woman said, “What you said to me? About what I’m cut out for?”

“Yeah?”

“Hearing that, it’s only going to make it harder for me.”

Melinda stared at her for a long time. Finally: “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. I’m glad you said it.”

The woman turned away then, going with the other agent without resistance. Melinda watched them walk away, staring at the back of the woman who was plodding, tired, toward a cage. Right before they turned the corner, the woman looked back at Melinda, neither a smile nor a frown, and for a second all Melinda could think was that she looked so young.