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Broken Strings of Fate

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The china cup slipped from Victoria’s nerveless fingers as she stared at the picture displayed larger than life on the tv. It had been more than ten years since she’d last seen that face, and it had been during the most harrowing time in her life.

Her life had been picture perfect before then. She was the beloved daughter of Victor Von Doom after all. The pampered princess, the sole heir to Latveria’s throne. Victoria had known from a very young age that she was in fact a clone. It had never mattered to her that she had no mother, her father gave her enough love for two parents. He’d given her everything she could ever want or need. And when she’d shown signs of incredible intelligence at a young age, he’d hired the very best tutors for her.

Victoria’s life had been perfect until the day that HYDRA had come for her. She found out when she’d returned to him that they had approached her father. When he’d turned them down flat and sent them on their way, they’d warned him that he would regret his decision. He’d been wrong to think that she was safe enough they couldn’t get to her. Because they were already close.

Her nanny, a woman who’d been with her since she’d been in diapers, was in their pocket. Had helped HYDRA snatch the 16-year-old when they’d been celebrating her graduation from University in Paris. She’d spent three years in their clutches until she’d escaped.

Victor’s arms coming around her broke her out of her flashbacks and she found that she had to lean heavily on him. Her legs wouldn’t hold her, and her fingers were tingling with the panic racing through her veins.

He was alive.

The last time she’d seen that face, it had been as the elevator doors had closed between them and a dozen armed soldiers closed in around him. She had been sure that he had died to get her out of their control. A man who had not remembered his own name had given his life to see her to safety.

“Victoria, darling, what is it?” Her father’s voice helped to ground her, helped to press the panic away enough to think. As the memories faded she was able to tear her eyes away from the tv. Glancing at her father, barely an inch taller than her, she had to swallow hard several times before she found her voice.

“It’s him, Papa, it’s Soldat.”

***

The next several hours saw them scrambling to locate him. Victor disappeared into his lab, burying himself into multiple monitors as he scoured satellite feeds, bank records, and CCTV footage. Victoria played to her own strengths, emails, and phone calls, trying to locate him via the network of contacts that stretched over all of Europe. She turned up nothing, though she was able to determine which of those contacts needed a reminder of why it was best to answer her questions when she called them. But that was a problem for another day.

Victoria had just slammed her office phone down in frustration when the door opened to reveal her father, more ruffled that she’d ever seen him. His short hair was sticking up at angles like he’d run his hands through it multiple times, his shirt sleeves were shoved up to his elbows, and there appeared to be a coffee stain on his chest.

“Papa? Anything?” She heard the desperate edge in her voice, but she refused to feel shame over it. This man had saved her in more ways than one all those years ago. His final words to her were an order to return to her father, an order that saved her mind. It had been a long hard fight back to herself, breaking the brainwashing had been hell. Even more than a decade later and she was still noticing little twitches that weren’t her own, lingering effects. Not to mention the nightmares and paranoia that would probably be with her for the rest of her life.

“He’s been living in Romania. I have about ten seconds of grainy but recognizable cell phone footage of him leaving the back door of a restaurant at the time of the bombing. Some tourists filming the sights. He’s being framed.” Her father’s words dropped a block of ice into her stomach. Her hands began to shake and she could feel her heart kick in her chest.

“Papa… Papa, they have a kill order on him. They’re going to shoot him before he even gets to deny it.” She swallowed hard as soon as the words left her mouth, trying to keep her suddenly roiling stomach under control. Victor’s hand on her shoulder both startled and settled her. She must have lost some time because she didn’t notice him cross the room to her side. But his touch allowed her to breathe deeply and calm enough to think.

“We will not allow that to happen. Come, we must pack quickly.” Victoria stared up at her father for a few moments, before rising to her feet. A quick curtsy to him was all she was able before he pulled her into a hard hug.

“He sent my little girl back to me, protected her when I could not. I am in his debt and I will help him however I can.” Victor’s voice was low, a deep rumble that made her feel safe, reminded her that she was loved. She allowed herself to wallow in that safety for a few moments before she pulled away and straightened her spine.

“Then we’d best hurry. What do you suggest we do?”

***

They were on the plane headed to Bucharest when the news broke. Captain America, The Falcon, Black Panther and The Winter Soldier had been captured in Bucharest and were being transported to the UN HQ in Berlin. Victoria knew that they owed a great debt to Captain America for interfering because if he hadn’t the German Special Police that had gone after him would have killed him on sight.

While Victoria was trying not to cry in relief that he wasn’t dead, her father went to the cockpit to redirect the pilot to Berlin.

They arrived only a few minutes before the prisoners, to be greeted by Deputy Task Force Commander Everett Ross. Who could not have been less interested in a single thing they had to say.

“Deputy Ross, I have shown you the footage, and you have seen for yourself that it hasn’t been faked.” Victoria had allowed her father to speak to the Deputy. He was the King, and her own degree in political science meant less to this man than her being a princess. In fact, up to that point, Deputy Ross had mostly ignored her.

“I am having a hard time understand why it is that you even care, Doom. Why would you show up in person to try and help a man that you’ve never met before in your life?” Ross’ tone was snide, and Victoria was beginning to become angry.

“I am running out of patience with you, Deputy Ross. I have told you multiple times that I have proof that he is being framed for the bombing, and yet you seem not to care that you have arrested an innocent man. Do you care so little about the law and so much for your revenge that you will ignore this?” Victor’s voice was clipped, a tone that Victoria knew meant that he was becoming very angry. When Ross opened his mouth once again, Victoria stepped into the conversation.

“Deputy Ross, we have presented you with evidence that he is innocent. You have ignored it. I am done playing this game with you. Here are documents stating that he has diplomatic immunity granted to him from Latveria, a member of the UN. He is to be released at once, or I will be filing a complaint against you.” Victoria handed the folder of papers to Deputy Ross and waited for him to read through them. They were older, a little yellowed from being in a filing cabinet for ten years.

Her father had granted the man who’d helped her escape HYDRA with the only thing he could at the time, diplomatic immunity. It had only been that day that they had been able to fill in his actual name.

Ross stared at the documents, and she could see him becoming upset the longer he read. He knew that he was in a corner, that there was nothing he could do but comply.

“I don’t like being strong-armed. I was going to have him released as soon as they arrived anyway. I just wanted to know why you were going through such lengths for a man you’d never met.” Deputy Ross said, closing the folder with a snap. Victor opened his mouth to reply, but Victoria’s hand on his arm stopped him.

“Deputy Ross, I was kidnapped by HYDRA more than ten years ago. They assigned a man to be my keeper while they held me. Up until today, I knew him only as Soldat. James Barnes is that man, and he helped me escape HYDRA when he couldn’t even remember his own name. My father granted him the only boon he could at the time. Now we are here to see that debt repaid. He’s being framed, and you really should be focusing on that instead of prying into our personal lives.” Victoria said it all very quickly, trying not to allow her emotions to overwhelm her. It was not an easy thing to speak of, even all these years later. Ross studied her for several long moments before looking to her father. Victoria didn’t have the chance to see what expression on her father’s face made Ross nod sharply because a convoy of vehicles had pulled into the garage behind them.

She turned to watch as three men climbed out of the first to be greeted by a blond woman, but her attention was drawn away when they opened the back of the large truck and used a forklift to remove a glass cage from inside it. Her heart jumped in her chest when she laid eyes on the man inside the cage.

He was there. He was alive.