Raina knew she shouldn’t get involved. Damn it, she
it was a bad idea. Her, in vicinity of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, would
bring about anything good. There was a reason SHIELD had said they couldn’t use her. There was a reason she couldn’t hold down a job long enough to get through the training week. There was a
she kept a twenty foot distance minimum from people when she could help it.
But then again, she had never been very good at controlling her impulses. Plus, Loki had destroyed her favorite pizza place. It was the only place in the city you could get two-dollar slices of pizza. Where else would she find something like that in NYC?
Oh, what the hell.
So, she staggered to her feet, tugged her pack onto her back, and pointed her weathered shoes towards the street, where not four-hundred yards away, the Avengers were taking on a super-powered demigod with a talent in sorcery. Well, at least she could never say her life was boring.
Raina walked down the street like she owned the place. Technically, it was her home. She’d been bunking in various alleys on this market street for the past month. It was her home turf. Well, it was. With Kermit Kong smashing everything within sight to throw at the super villain, there wouldn’t be much left to take shelter under anymore. After this, she would have to move. Again.
Well, first things first, she sighed.
No one noticed her on the sidewalk. The Avengers’ backs were turned, and Loki was too focused on escaping Stark’s line of fire to worry about civilians. That is, at least, until he noticed her closing the distance between them. A vicious smile flitted across his face, and he dissipated into the air, earning a curse from Iron Man.
Raina would like to say she didn’t flinch when the man popped into existence in front of her. But, hey, she’d also like to say she had a boyfriend and a family. So, yeah, of course she flinched. Who wouldn’t? It was her turn to surprise Loki though, when he suddenly found himself inside her bubble. At first, the god didn’t seem to notice anything. He grabbed her wrists and twisted them behind her back, but instead of breaking them as he intended, he found it was actually hard to withstand her weak pulling.
He didn’t have time to contemplate it, however, as the attention of the Avengers turned towards them. He plastered a smile on his face again.
“If you want this mortal to live, I would suggest setting down your weapons immediately,” Loki purred, taking his hand that wasn’t holding her wrists to tenderly swipe a lock of black hair behind Raina’s ear. She stiffened at the contact, looking towards the Avengers, trying to decide the best course of action. Even with her powers being what they were, could she take on the man alone?
It didn’t take all that much decision making to decide she didn’t like being between a barrage of weapons and Loki. She’d been a human shield before, it wasn’t fun.
“Brother, release the mortal, this is not her fight,” Thor boomed, hand still wrapped tightly around Mjolnir.
“No,” Loki laughed, “I think I’d prefer some company as I make an exit.”
That was enough to make up Raina’s mind for her. Like fuck she was going anywhere with Loki of all people. She couldn’t even stand most regular humans for more than five minutes.
Her wrists broke free of the god’s grip easily, and she could feel her power warp the air around her. Without a doubt, her eyes would be green right now. As she spun to face her captor, she heard Loki gasp behind her. For a brief moment, she wondered what it felt like to be on the receiving end of her shit storm. The breathless, haggard appearance of Loki’s pale face told her it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable experience. Taking a deep breath, Raina used the exhale to wind her invisible chains tighter around the figure before her. Within moments, he was writhing on the ground, trying to escape the heavy atmosphere encircling him. Narrowing her eyes at him, she watched as the demigod’s eyes fluttered closed, and he sagged against the pavement.
Raina couldn’t help the triumphant smile as her heavy grasp floated back into her. Soon, it was just her normal bubble, the one she couldn’t retract. She could feel the Avengers pulsing on the edge of it, and tried to will it smaller. But already, she was too weak. A coolness coursed through her body as her eyes faded back to their normal clear gray, and she only barely managed to catch her head as she sagged to her knees, hearing Tony Stark’s voice as if through a tunnel.
“Well, that was weird.”
Just putting up a warning that I like short chapters. It lets me update more often, and move much more quickly than I would otherwise. You can click the "Entire Work" button if this annoys you. :)
Chapter 2: Whispers of Emptiness
What. the. heck?
What just happened? Steve couldn’t explain what he had just seen. Loki had been holding onto the civilian, using her as a shield, and then suddenly he was on the ground, unconscious. It had barely taken three seconds. All the girl had done was look at him, and Loki had collapsed. Loki!
Now, the girl was sitting on the wet ground beside the demigod, shivering despite her heavy coat. The kid looked bad, but she hadn’t been very well off before all of this, either, it looked like. Her faded jeans and torn coat had the well-worn look of someone who owned no other clothes, and slept outside. It definitely wasn’t the first homeless person he had seen in the city, but it still bothered him nonetheless. There were never enough shelters, it seemed, and women on the streets were always prime targets for, well, everything.
“Miss,” he found himself asking, “Are you alright?”
The woman didn’t respond, just hugged her arms around herself and shivered harder as he approached. It was only then that Steve noticed blood dripping down the front of her jacket from where her head was folded over it.
“Miss, you’re hurt. I’m just going to take a look, okay?” he said in his best Captain America voice. He wanted this woman-
- to know she was safe. She groaned as he approached, but didn’t say anything.
The closer Steve got to her, the more he felt his skin prickle, though. Something just felt wrong. The air around him was colder than it should have been, and it felt like it was sucking the life out of him. All at once, he was reminded of being surrounded with ice. A shudder forced its way through his body, and he saw the girl shudder at the same time. More blood dripped down onto her coat, and for some reason, the sight made the Captain queasy. Something about this, all of this, was just…..
“Please,” the girl whispered, cutting off his thoughts. There was no power behind the word, nor was there fear. If anything, it sounded like a warning.
“Please,” she said again as she sagged closer to the ground, shivering uncontrollably. The sight would have been pathetic were it not for the fact that with every step towards her, Steve felt even weaker. A hopelessness settled itself in the pit of his stomach, and he had to swallow past a lump in his throat to speak.
“I’m going to get you some help, just hold on,” he said as she settled onto the ground beside her. Tentatively, he reached an arm out to lay it on her shoulder. The girl stiffened, and Steve felt a fire surge through his blood at the same time as she collapsed into him, still shaking. With a quaking finger, Steve turned her face up towards his own, trying to see where the blood was coming from.
And suddenly, he was looking into his own reflection. Two pools of lightless eyes, so gray they were almost white, gaped up at him, rimmed with blood around the corners. The girl was crying tears of blood .
What the hell?!
Chapter 3: Debriefs Never Go Well
Steve hadn’t spoken on the quinjet, he just sat staring at the face of the woman lying on the gurney beside him, who had fallen unconscious only a few moments after Steve had caught her. The pretty boy looked uncharacteristically pale to Tony, who had never seen him without his trademark blush.
Maybe he forgot to put on his make-up today.
Tony almost snorted out loud. Almost. But for some reason, he didn’t really feel like laughing. The minute he had gotten close enough to hear the girl’s uneven breathing from where she was dangling in Steve’s arms, he had felt almost depressed. It was like he was dying again, but he just chalked it off to a long day. After all, they had battled Loki today.
He still had no idea what had happened, and he couldn’t summon enough of his thoughts to puzzle it out. It was like he was thinking through a fog. If he had to describe it, he would probably say it felt like he had a normal IQ at the moment, even though he couldn’t really tell someone what that felt like. All he knew was that he felt drawn to the girl in some way, and at the same time he wanted to throw her out the window and be rid of her presence. Yeah, just a long day.
By the time they reached the helicarrier, no one in the quinjet was really in a talking mood. Everyone but Bruce looked like they just kicked a puppy, and even Banner wasn’t wearing his usual calm face. If anything, he looked tired of life. Although, he did just suck up a Hulk, so maybe that was the reason.
No one said anything when they stumbled off the ramp. All of them were exhausted, even Steve, which would have made Tony worried if he had enough presence of mind to do so. The Captain pushed the girl on the gurney instead of carrying her, like he usually preferred. He never had patience for equipment when he could get victims to the medbay in half the time. When they made it to the elevator, a team of medical staff jumped out to take the gurney from Steve’s grip. He looked strangely grateful as he watched them wheel her onto the elevator, though he still filed in behind them. The rest of the Avengers stepped in after him, automatically clustering in the corner furthest from the gurney. Despite the number of bodies in the small space, Tony couldn’t help but shiver.
The elevator stopped one floor down, allowing Fury to step on before they continued their descent to the medical floor. He took one look at the weary Avengers, his eyebrow raised in surprise.
“We have Loki secured in a specially-built cell, he won’t be leaving anytime soon. But does anyone want to tell me how the hell you managed to knock him out? Because that is a method that would be worth repeating,” the director said, his baritone voice cutting through the thick air with an established authority.
Wordlessly, Natasha pointed to the girl on the gurney. Fury seemed to notice it for the first time, tearing his eyes away from the worn heroes to survey the other side of the elevator just as they reached the medical level. He stepped out of the way as the medics rolled her past him and around the corner. Immediately, a warmth settled in Tony’s chest, and he felt life roll through him. His thoughts came sharp and clear, and his limbs buzzed with energy. Well, that was interesting.
“That girl took Loki down, somehow, sir,” Steve said from behind him. Tony noticed that the soldier’s voice was back to his normal assured tone.
“You mean you don’t know how?” Fury's voice was doused in disbelief, his eyebrow raising even further, if that was possible.
“Well, believe it or not, Nicky, we can’t all be geniuses,” Tony quipped, earning a glare from the director.
“Alright then, genius , you wanna tell me what happened out there?” Fury leaned back on his leg, focusing his single eye on Stark as he crossed his arms over his chest.
“We were fighting Loki one second, and then suddenly he teleports somewhere behind us and grabs this girl out of nowhere. He threatens to disappear with her, and she breaks free and stares him down until he passes out. Bing, bong, Bob’s your uncle. Can we go now?” Tony replied back with a shrug, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Truth be told, they had probably all seen weirder.
“I don’t know what reality you live in, Stark, but in mine, super villains don’t just randomly
when a civilian looks at them,” Fury snapped, and Tony knew he had no patience left for anything. Inwardly, he smirked, ready to reply with another sarcastic line, when a voice piped up from behind him.
“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?” the soft voice said, “She’s not a civilian.”
“Then what is she? ” Fury growled, and Tony couldn’t help but smirk. No one liked debriefing with the Avengers, Fury probably least of all.
“She has a power, somehow. We all felt it. When we got near her, or were in an enclosed space like the jet or the elevator with her, we all felt weak, fatigued, drawn, and experienced negative emotions. Even Rogers couldn’t keep his strength to support her weight for long. She affects our powers, somehow, for those who have them, and makes anyone who doesn’t feel uneasy,” Bruce explained, tone much more patient than Tony’s would have been. Seriously, it was common sense. Cause and effect. They teach this crap in elementary school. At least, he assumed they did. He’d never actually been to a regular elementary school.
Chapter 4: Kindred Spirits
Bruce was exhausted, like he usually was after a Code Green, but somehow, he felt rested, too. For the short time in the elevator, the Other Guy had been blessedly quiet. The space in the back of his mind that usually acted like a cage had been relieved of the pressure, and the constant headache he usually felt had abated to nothing but weariness.
“Banner, if what you say is true, we have a problem. I'm going to need you, Romanoff, and Rogers to come to the medbay with me. The rest of you can go home,” Fury said finally, face scrunched with an irritated look. All three followed him a few steps off the elevator.
“Sir,” Natasha interceded as the elevator doors closed behind her, “If I may, what do you need me for?”
For a moment, Fury ignored her as they followed the hallway towards the medical wing, but finally he replied when they neared the door.
“Because, Romanoff, you're the only one here who has any sort of fighting skill that doesn't rely on superpowers. So if this girl becomes a threat, it's up to you to neutralize her.”
“Do you really think it’ll come down to that, sir? She stepped into the battle willingly to help us,” Steve reminded him. Bruce shot him a thankful look, one he didn’t see because he was looking at the girl through the medbay window. She was still on her gurney, a blanket tossed lightly over her, dark skin dully shining in the bright lights. Asleep, she looked even younger. He could tell from the state of her wild, curly ponytail and the dark rings under her eyes that she was living on the streets. That had been him, for years, moving from one place to the next. Because she didn’t belong. Because his presence triggered some sort of primal fear in other people’s fight or flight. Because there was nowhere to go.
Hearing his name, Bruce turned suddenly, only to find the others looking at him expectantly.
“Sorry, what?” he mumbled, pushing his curls back with his hand and giving them a sheepish smile. He was too tired for this.
“Fury asked you to go take a look at her, and try to see what’s wrong,” Natasha replied, gesturing towards the kid with a flick of her head. She gave him a small, reassuring smile at the same time.
“With all due respect, I don’t need to see her to know what’s wrong. She’s exhausted. If she does absorb energy, it’s probably easy to say that her system was….I guess overwhelmed would be the right word. Loki had a lot of power, and it was too much for her body to handle,” Bruce said with a shrug, directing his answer towards Fury.
“Well, if that’s the case, then there’s nothing we can do for her. I’d feel a lot better if you put her back where you found her,” the director said, casting a nervous glance towards the window. The scientist in Bruce found his reaction curious. This power could be useful. The human in him understood perfectly why he’d want to be rid of such a foreign, disconcerting presence. After all, how long had it taken him to stop looking for a cure?
Chapter 5: A Helping Hand
Steve couldn't help the surge of anger that coursed through him at Fury’s words.
“Put her back? She's not a stray, sir. At least let her recover here, since she was injured when helping us,” he snapped.
“She’s not injured, Captain. She's tired. And she can sleep it off in whatever alleyway you found her in. We’re not a shelter, and I don't know anywhere else that will take something like…..that.”
Fury’s tone got even Bruce’s eyes to narrow, but the scientist said nothing, and Steve felt reassured that the man trusted him to do the right thing. Natasha, like always, was watching the scene with detached interest and an unreadable expression.
But what could he do? Convincing Fury didn't seem like an option, but throwing an unconscious woman back onto the streets of Manhattan wasn't either. There really was only one course of action.
“ Fine,” he practically snarled, brushing past Fury to push open the medbay door. The girl hadn’t stirred, and no one had even bothered to clean the blood off of her eyes. She did, however, have a “Biohazard” sticker on her bed. Steve had to remind himself not to throttle Fury. She wasn't affiliated with SHIELD and she could be dangerous, he supposed, a trick of Loki’s, but that was a risk he'd have to take.
Carefully, he took a step towards the bed. The closer he got, the more the ice surrounded him, just like before. But now, he knew why.
By the time he got to the bed, his whole body was begging for something to punch, while all of his strength had melted away. It took all of his willpower and remaining strength to lean over the bed and pull the girl into his arms. She was a deadweight, hanging limply from his grasp. Slender as she was, it was like trying to carry her with his pre-Serum body.
He shifted her carefully to bridal style, trying not to notice how far back her head fell. She'd probably wake up sore, if she wasn't going to from her earlier exertion.
To his surprise, Bruce met him at the door, looking towards him with a weary smile of thanks before hold his arms out expectantly.
“I can take her, if you’re struggling. Carrying patients was one of my many duties before all this,” he offered.
Steve gratefully handed the girl to him, glad to back away a few steps finally. Like a few drops of water slipping past a broken faucet, he felt a portion of his strength trickle back into his limbs. Bruce bore the burden easily, even taking a moment to position her head on his shoulder, preventing it from flinging back and hurting her neck. If the scientist felt any of the negative emotions overwhelming him like Steve did, he didn’t let it show. Instead, his face was passive and almost speculative as he studied the face of the young woman.
His curiosity didn’t surprise Steve. He wouldn’t have believed this slight woman could have taken down Loki, had he not seen it for himself. Suddenly, he found himself reaching out to grasp her thin wrist, noticing with distaste the lack of meat on the limb. The contact shot a rod of ice straight into his heart, but he kept his hold long enough to fold her arm over her stomach. It’d probably be much more comfortable than having it flop back and forth with every step.
“How does she look, doc?” he couldn’t help but ask, noticing that Bruce was still surveying every inch of her limp body.
“Like shit,” Bruce said, “Not from the fight, though. Still, I’ve seen worse. She’ll recover fine, depending on where we’re taking her.” Steve caught the underlying question in his words, and sighed.
“To the quinjet, for now. From there, we’ll have to decide.”
Bruce nodded, neither smiling nor frowning at the Captain, content to trust his capability of making the right decision. The Captain felt the same rush of emotion at Banner's trust, it had been hard-earned and the man himself was highly judgmental of any morality-based decision, for good reason.
A glance to the hallway confirmed that Fury had left, and only Natasha stood waiting for them. As they approached, she propped the door open with one arm, allowing them to pass before dashing ahead. The entire walk to the launch pad, she stayed a good distance away from Bruce, and the bundle he carried. Neither commented on it, though. Steve would have preferred to maintain his distance too, had it been an option; but he needed to show that he was still reliable and on top of the situation, even if inside he was still drowning.
Chapter 6: Tony Finds His Heart
“No, absolutely not. Take that thing back to Fury. My limit for crazy chicks on the team was full when Zeus joined,” Tony said, watching Steve continue buckling their foundling into a seat as if he hadn’t even spoken. Natasha just smiled to herself, enjoying the clueless expression on Thor’s face. Sometimes, his innocence was almost childlike.
She was sitting only a few seats down from the scene, close enough to see how much care Steve was taking to keep the blanket wrapped around the girl’s shoulders, and to make sure he didn’t inadvertently pinch her skin between the metal clasps of her seatbelt. Still, even at almost ten feet away, the teen’s presence had a strong effect. Natasha could taste anesthetic, and feel strong hands pulling at her legs. Plus, she couldn’t think of anything to say to Tony, which was rare for her. She always knew just what to say. Somewhere in her mind, she knew it had to do with the girl’s strange powerset. Fury had been right, though. She was the only one of the team whose fighting skills weren’t affected. The kid may have downed Loki, but she was no Hulk. In this fight, Natasha was confident in her skill.
Once the girl was firmly secured in her seat, head flopping loosely onto her shoulder, a few kinky strands pulling free of her ponytail to float around her face, Steve signaled they were ready for take off. A sudden whooshing vibration throughout the hull told them Clint had started the engines, and they would soon be in the air. Steve and Bruce headed for a seat, with the Captain ending up, surprisingly enough, next to the stray. He buckled himself in without complaint, but Natasha could see how much he was struggling not to let his emotions show. Inside, she knew that he was just like her, wanting any excuse to be anywhere else. Somehow, through this all, Tony was still ranting, refusing to back down or move from his spot in the middle of the floor.
“Need I remind you that it is still my tower? It does say my name on the side of it, doesn’t it? I’m not running a bed and breakfast here, especially not for creepy hobos that show up out of nowhere and take down super villains. Uh uh, no, not a chance. Take her back to Fury,” he repeated, seemingly oblivious to the face that everyone was ignoring him (as usual), or to the fact that they were already in the air. Natasha, however, was a little too close to said hobo to have any patience for his particular brand of bullshit.
“Fury was going to toss her back out on the streets, Stark. Where exactly do you want us to put her? Because if you say back on the streets, we’ll just give her your room,” she snapped, making the ranting man jump and click his mouth closed mid-complaint.
“Look, Red, I’d like to piss in Fury’s coffee as much as the next guy, but I’d be lying if I said he was completely in the wrong here. We know nothing about this… girl, except that she can take down a god just by blinking.”
“Demigod,” Bruce corrected, earning himself a glare. He caught it with his own wry smile.
“Oh, that makes it so much better. Nevermind, complaint withdrawn,” Tony deadpanned. Bruce just shook his head before continuing.
“Besides, you weren’t exactly saying that when you took in the man who houses the Hulk against Fury’s recommendation. If I recall, your exact words were, ‘No one deserves to sleep outside because of something they can’t control.’”
Had Natasha been emotionally capable of laughing right then, Tony probably would have smacked her. Still, she couldn’t help but wish she had a camera so she could frame a picture of Tony’s expression. He looked equal parts guilty, exasperated, indignant, and pleading. It was the look of a cat you had just yelled at for trying to eat your dinner.
“You’re paraphrasing,” he said.
“No, I’m really not,” Bruce replied with a chuckle. It wasn’t very often he got to remind Tony that he was only the fifth smartest man in the world, a full notch under Banner himself, who had the sharpest memory of them all. He would never say it out loud, but everyone knew Tony was fully aware of it and pissed about it. Had Bruce and Nat switched places, she would have never let him forget it.
“Tony, we aren’t tossing her back out on the street. It’s the least we can offer after what she did for us,” Steve said, encouraged by a nod of assent from Bruce. Tony looked to Steve, back to Banner, and then to Natasha. Finally, his eyes settled on Thor, who had remained silent throughout the ordeal, abnormally so. Nat figured he was probably just enjoying the show of watching “mortals” try to figure out the best course of action. Or, perhaps he was preoccupied by the fact that his younger brother had tried to kill him today. Again.
God, Natasha was so glad she didn’t have siblings. No one on the team had anything good to say about them.
“Thor, help me out here,” Tony pleaded. The demigod looked up at him with clear blue eyes, the corner of his mouth turning up into almost an imperceptible triumphant smirk.
“I place my vote with the good Captain. As hero of the battle, we owe this maiden our deepest gratitude. If we are in a position in which we might be of assistance, we should pursue it.”
“Ok, first off, don’t call them maidens. Totally disrespectful in today’s vocabulary-”
“And ‘creepy hobo’ isn’t?” Natasha asked, tone dry.
“Irrelevant,” Tony acknowledged before continuing, “Second off, we can get her a nice card and maybe a box of chocolates or a coupon for a hotel or something. Since when do we give a key card to everyone who helps us?”
The billionaire broke for a breath, looking like he was about to go on, until he found himself caught in a warning look from Captain America. Desperately, he turned to Bruce.
“Tony,” the scientist implored gently, fixing the inventor with his own look. Natasha could almost describe it as puppy-eyed.
“No…..No, we…” Tony tried.
Bruce raised a single eyebrow, and Tony groaned, covering his face with his hands. Nat found herself nervous, hoping he would allow it almost as much as she hoped he wouldn’t. The air in the cabin pulsed with anticipation, all eyes focused on Tony. He said nothing for the span of a heartbeat. Two. Thr…..
Chapter 7: Off to a Bad Start
Angst in this chapter, because reasons. Also, on a side note, is Tony/Bruce called Brony or Truce? Cause both of those are hilarious. :P
Raina was warm. For a while, that was all she could feel. Solid warmth around her, enclosing her in its comforting embrace.
Eventually, the weariness and pain crept in. Not as much as she was expecting. But why was she expecting pain? Her mind was a blur, she couldn't recall anything, just a few memories of voices she couldn't make out and someone's face that she didn't know. And blue eyes, warm blue, if that was possible.
Suddenly, someone smacked a brick into her temple. At least, that's what it felt like. Pain flooded into her head like a crack in Hoover dam. Like someone unlocked the floodgates. Like she had taken someone down with her powers.
Who had she hurt? What had she done? Was it more than one? Why did it hurt this much? She felt her mouth open and a groan vibrate out of her throat. Fuck, whoever it was would know she was awake now. Was there even someone with her? Was she in a hospital again? An alleyway?
No, no one ever woke up warm in a hospital, and it definitely wasn't cold enough for an alley. A bed, then. Somewhere. Panic clawed at her chest like a caged animal, threatening to chew its way to safety. That is, until someone placed a hand on her shoulder. Huh. How long had that hand been there? How long had she been able to feel her shoulder?
“Easy, you're safe. I need you to focus on my voice, and slow your breathing. Can you breathe in deep for me? In, two, three, four. Out, two, three, four.”
Raina tried to do as it said. She could hear the voice breathing with her, showing her how to do it. She followed the inhale, ignoring the sharp stab of pain in her head when she released it.
“Good, good,” the voice commended her.
It sounded like a doctor, but she wasn't in a hospital. Now that she could feel her limbs, she knew she wasn't in a hospital bed, their blankets were never this soft.
“Can you talk?”
Could she? She hadn't tried. Willing her throat to cooperate, she managed to make some sort of strangled squeak.
Great, I can do impressions of a brain damaged mouse.
“That's a good start. Can you try telling me your name?”
Was it just her, or did the voice sound like it was laughing slightly?
She managed to get a few more half-moans and consonants out before giving up. Her throat burned, and she couldn't control her tongue.
“It's alright, we will try again later. For now, why not try opening your eyes?”
Now that she could do. All it took was a little bit of willpower and a lot of mental threats to herself, and finally she got her eyes to open a crack. The light was like a sword going through her skull, but she got them opened. For whatever reason, the lights suddenly dimmed and she was able to open her eyes fully.
Well, she was officially screwed. She had no idea where she was, it was some sort of fancy looking room, maybe a hotel? And the man beside her was wearing a lab coat and had the bedside presence of a doctor, but looked much too tired and haggard to actually be one. His salt and pepper curls hung over his face wildly, just an inch beyond unruly, getting in the way of his brown eyes. The man pushed them out of the way with a large hand and smiled at her, white teeth peeking out from his tan skin.
And then, she suddenly realized that she was sitting in a room, alone with someone. Someone who was three feet from her side and smiling at her. People didn't smile at her.
Something must have shown on her face, because the man leaned even closer as if to prove a point to her.
“Do you remember what happened?” he asked. All Raina could do was shake her head, and pretend that she wasn't basking in the warmth of having someone so close. Her circle pulsed with his every movement, and she knew he could feel it. There was no way he couldn't.
“You stepped into battle with the Avengers to help take down Loki. I'm not quite sure what your powers do, but I think you absorbed…something from him. And it was too much for your body to handle. You're probably feeling a lot weaker than you would normally after this happens, right?”
Raina’s head spun. So this man knew about her powers, knew she took down Loki (how did she not remember
? All she could feel now was the memory of his magic
in her veins before he had finally collapsed), and still sat beside her, close enough to touch.
Somehow, she managed to nod. The man smiled at her again, not backing away or coming closer. For a moment, they sat in companionable silence, as if he knew she needed time to adjust. She felt her muscles untense the slightest fraction, and the moment passed.
“I’d like to check a few things, if that is alright with you,” he said, leaning a bit closer, warm smile still crossing his features. Underneath the tiredness, Raina could see the effect she had on him, after all. Despite his smile, his movements betrayed his unease, and he was unnaturally calculated, as if each action down to the bending of a finger needed to be announced lest she frighten and attack like an animal. This. This was what she was used to, a mixture of fear and instinctive distrust. This man was just better at hiding it than others.
Something must have shown in her features, because the man automatically backed off. A rush of cold air encapsulated her, sending goosebumps over her arms.
“I know you must be confused right now. If you let me take a look at you, you can go back to sleep. Then, when you’re rested, we can talk things over.”
Talk things over? Had she done something wrong? There were a million things she wanted to know, and the last thing she wanted was to sleep. Her head swam with exhaustion, but the only way she would sleep now was if someone drugged her. And this man, with his smile hiding wariness and his answers to questions she hadn’t asked….. Who was he? Where was she?
Awareness clicked in like a flick to the forehead. All Raina could process at that moment was that she needed out. So, that’s what she did.
Her field rippled, narrowing in on the man like a dagger. She could feel him fighting it, but instinct kicked in, and he finally backed away. Ten feet. Twenty feet. Palms raised in a gesture that was equal parts comforting and defensive. There. She could see the door.
A quick kick sent the blankets flying off the bed, only briefly getting wrapped in her legs. She tried to roll off the bed, but her body refused to obey her commands. The man was coming closer again, hands reaching out to calm her, steady her, or perhaps grab her. She would never find out, as at that moment, the air sparked, her veins fizzled with energy, and the man was driven to his knees. He didn’t seem to be fighting it, instead he was trying to say something, but she couldn’t hear anything through the fog wrapping itself around her head. The very air hung on her like a heavy quilt, forcing her to move through a pool of molasses to the door. Her field pulsed and quivered with every breath from the man, but still, he didn’t seem to be fighting it. No more force was necessary. A band of power pressed against the back of his neck in a wordless threat, and it was enough. As he faded from her consciousness, the door slid shut behind her, and no footsteps sounded behind her own.
But this wasn’t a hotel. She was in some sort of living room, it seemed. And sitting on the couch, eyes trained on her, were none other than the Avengers.
Thor was the first on his feet, and her eyes narrowed at the same time as her field extended, air hot and weighted with warning. Raina could feel them all, like five points of heat, buzzing with energy as it was sucked out of them. And it was too much. Too much power. Too much to process. She couldn’t run anymore. She wouldn’t be able to dodge around them and try to find the right door out of here before they got her. These were heroes out of her league. She got lucky with Loki, and still felt the effects. In short, she was too weak.
And she had never felt so wholly inadequate.
Someone took a few steps closer, and the fire built up in her like someone had doused it with gasoline. Pain seared her head, branding her eyes with its imprint of agony. With a hiss, her shield retracted, all the fight gone. The others still sizzled on the surface of it, bright pinpricks of danger she couldn’t fight. The one who had approached her was now standing in front of her line of sight, a towering mass in blue jeans and a gray t-shirt. And eyes so blue they almost soothed the flames growing in her, frying her to a crisp.
The figure knelt next to her. Somehow, she had ended up on the floor, one knee down, leaning heavily on her arms, as if about to start a marathon. She could feel her wrists shaking.
“You’re safe, we are friends,” he said. His voice was soft, caring, but commanding. Demanding to be respected while at the same time promising that he would earn that respect. That he was worthy of it. She knew that voice, it was Captain America. War hero. Leader of the Avengers. Super soldier. The man who had knelt beside her after she took down Loki, too. A calming presence if there ever was one for her.
But, safe? There was no safe around her. She was the very definition of danger. Still, if anyone would be safe around her…maybe... But, was she safe around them?
Chapter 8: Decisions
There's no way this could go wrong..... Right?
The ice was back, but this time, he was prepared for it. It wasn’t nearly so overwhelming as before, as if its source had been depleted. And somehow, that seemed like an accurate assumption.
The girl was crouched on the hardwood floor in front of the door to the bedroom. The moment she had walked into the room, the ice had returned. But now, stripped down to just a black undershirt and ragged jeans, the girl didn’t appear anywhere near threatening. He could feel the threat, though, around him. The warning to stay still. Even as he sat next to her, mimicking her pose, he could feel the power envelop him. Still, his superpower was his strength, not his compassion. He couldn’t help but try and reassure her. Because under the power in the air, under the promise that she wouldn’t be an easy fight, Steve could almost
the terror constricting the girl’s heart.
In the seconds following his words, nothing happened, and he almost wondered if the teen was deaf. But finally, her head began to raise.
Two pale, colorless orbs met his stare in a wide, frightened gaze. There was no blood this time, no red pooling in the corner of her tear ducts, no green swimming in her irises. Just a washed out, hazy glare practically daring him to give her a reason to fight.
“You’re safe,” he tried again, and almost sighed in relief when he saw recognition flicker across her face. The girl’s muscles relaxed in the slightest of motions, but at least it was something.
“Wh….. Where?” she asked in a rough, strained voice.
“Stark Tower. It’s where we live,” Steve replied, gesturing back with one of his hands to the others standing behind him. The girl didn’t look, though. Instead, she just held his gaze unflinchingly, if but a tad less hostile.
“If I give you a hand, do you think you can get up?”
She looked at his offered hand like an otherworldly object, eyes flicking back and forth between his eyes and the palm of his hand. Finally, in a touch that was almost feather light, she slid her hand into his. Once she gave an almost imperceptible nod, Steve curled his fingers around her own. At the contact, the ice shattered like glass, replaced by an odd feeling of warmth rushing through his veins. Whatever it was, he almost preferred the ice.
She pulled heavily on his grip as she rose to her feet, entire body quaking with the effort. Despite the discomfort and helplessness that quelled his thoughts, Steve was glad they didn’t leave her to work her own way through this in the middle of an alleyway.
“What’s your name?” he couldn't help but ask as he guided her to a recliner sitting adjacent to the sofa. It was usually Bruce’s seat, but he doubted the scientist would mind. Speaking of which, where was the man? He looked up briefly as he helped the woman lower onto the seat, meeting Tony’s eyes and seeing they were thinking the same thing. Without a further word, Tony made his way over towards the typically unused bedroom. Steve wanted to go with him, to check on the doctor, but he had another problem to deal with then.
Although it wasn’t really fair to call her a problem. The minute her back touched the soft fabric of the recliner, the girl stiffened and curled in on herself at the same time, knees to her chest in a defensive pose, colorless eyes surveying the room as if both daring them to and pleading with them not to do something to make her take them down.
“Raina,” she finally murmured, seeming to have assessed the threat level and found it lacking, at least for now. She met his eyes clearly, without a hint of apology or submissiveness. For a moment, Steve found himself lost in that gaze. Lost to the despair that plagued him, but also to the fire around and inside him. While he was getting more accustomed to it, he still couldn’t describe the girl’s presence as enjoyable. And she seemed about as offputting as her powers, to be honest, despite the fact that she looked much too tiny to be anything formidable when curled up in the massive recliner.
“Raina what?” Natasha asked, eyeing the girl- Raina- with a mixture of respect and threat.
“Does it matter?” came the snorted reply. While her voice still sounded strained, she was beginning to lose the weak, desperate tone she’d had before.
“What do you remember?” Clint prompted, trying to assume his best father voice, even though he had no experience with teenagers. Still, he hoped she would respond well to some sort of authority. Some people found parental figures comforting.
“I remember Loki,” Raina replied with a shrug, as if taking down demigods was all in a day’s work for her. For a moment, Steve almost laughed. She’d fit in well. If she was staying.
“What about before him? Is there someone we can contact for you? A friend? A parent? A boss?” Natasha offered, trying to give the girl a bit of a smirk, but only succeeding in frowning deeper.
“No, there’s no one. Can I go now?”
All of their eyebrows shot up at that. The kid thought she was being interrogated. Inwardly, Steve sighed. She was probably used to hearing the rough, harsh tone from people, but he had been trying to come off as comforting. This was going to be harder than he thought.
Somehow, they would have to stuff their negative emotions down long enough to establish some actual trust.
“You wish to leave?” Thor scoffed, seeming to have no trouble finding his grin. Raina’s eyes flashed to his, all frost and fire.
“Not that I don’t enjoy playing twenty-one questions, but I need to find somewhere to sleep this off before nightfall,” she snapped.
“What if I said you don’t need to worry about that?” Steve replied, finally making some leeway with keeping at least an even tone, if not an inviting one.
“I’d ask what hole you crawled out of and tell you this isn’t My-Little-Pony-ville,” came the automatic response. Now Steve truly found his laugh. It was more of a huffed breath, but it was something. This kid could give Tony Stark a run for his money, and that was saying something. The guy was a billionaire, after all.
“What I mean to say, is that you’re welcome to stay here,” he amended, taking a tentative seat on the edge of the couch closest to the recliner.
“While I thank you for the offer, Captain, you don’t have to do that. You barely know me, and I know well enough by now that I don’t make for a nice house guest. Honestly, I’ll be fine after I sleep this off,” Raina replied, her defensive tone shifting into an easy, reassuring smile pulled out of nowhere. The complete one-eighty almost had Steve reeling. Either the kid was a good actor, or she had been taking conversation lessons from Bruce.
“You’re free to leave, of course, if you like, but I’d take the offer,” Clint interjected, earning a smile of thanks from Steve.
“Aye, I too would consider accepting the offer of shelter, if but for the night,” Thor added.
The kid looked to Natasha, as if asking her opinion too. All she got was a nod, but apparently, it was enough.
“Alright, one night.”