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Budapest is chapter seven. Avengers events from chapter ten on.
Summary: Loki and Natasha show down. Hulk and Natasha show down. Natasha and Clint show down. with inside bits of what is really going through Natasha’s head as everything happens.
NOTE: A lot of this is taken directly from the avengers script, and might seem like a rerun of the movie. I did my best to show the motives, and emotions behind everything and explain things deeper than the movie did. I did not write a good 90% of the actual dialogue in this chapter. it came from Joss Whedon and is the base of this story. I am just expanding on what happened before going back into original territory. I just felt all the scenes were necessary to show what Natasha is going through. Nat and Clint will be in the same chapter again next time, instead of just focusing on one of them.
Something about him made her skin crawl. Somewhere between the waxy pallor, the shark toothed grin, and the sharp eyes, she knew that Loki was, without a doubt, the most sinister person she’d ever met.
Except he wasn’t a person. He was a god. A god of chaos, magic, and trickery. Three things she had no tolerance for and big reservations about going near. And here she was, walking towards the suspended cell housing the maddest of men, the spy who’s past made her suited for his kind of evil, in attempts to save the world, and just maybe get her partner back. Though her priorities were not in that order.
“There are not many people that can sneak up on me.”
“But you figured I’d come.”
“After,” his slippery voice crooned. “After whatever tortures Fury can concoct, you would appear as a friend, as a blam. And I would cooperate.”
She didn’t want to waste precious time, “I want to know what you’ve done to Agent Barton.”
“I’d say I’ve expanded his mind,” the wide mouth cracked into a smile that made Natasha’s stomach turn. All the things behind that smile were what Clint had been subjected too, and she could see that as clear as day.
“And once you’ve won, once you’re king of the mountain, what happens to his mind?”
That smile somehow got brighter, Natasha wanted to put a bullet his teeth. “Is this love, Agent Romanoff?”
Love is a complicated thing to Natasha Romanoff, and Clint Barton knew that. They would never say the words, it was forbidden. But both knew, undeniably, what they shared was true love. And that was theirs to know and theirs alone.
“Love is for children. I owe him a debt.”
She took a deep breath, sitting down on the single chair in the room, “Before I worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. I… Well I made a name for myself,” she looked into the cold eyes, “I have a very specific skill set. I didn’t care who I used it for. Or on. I got on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar in a bad way. Agent Barton was sent to kill me, he made a different call.”
She could still remember the way the smoke of the collapsing building was making her eyes sting. Her hands were slippery with blood, and shaking. Her gun clattered on the ground. There was an arrow staring her in the face. She tried to think of something clever to say. She opened her mouth and the only thing her blood stained teeth could manage was, “Please.” She fell to her knees, she was going to die at this rate whether he shot her or left her. She didn’t care anymore, but something about that man felt safe. Even though the arrow was still aimed for her eye socket. She didn’t want to do this anymore. She didn’t want to kill. She didn’t want to go back to the Red Room. She just wanted to get high and spar and read. She wanted to die or she wanted to be a new person. Anyone that could give her the first, could surely give her the second. But she wasn’t going to plead. “Actually, never mind. Fuck off.” She said before dry heaving on the floor. He laughed. A full, hearty laugh that made her cheeks tingle.
“Would you like to live?” he had asked.
“Not especially.” He watched her, grasping for her guns, coughing and bleeding out.
“Would you like a reason to live? I know some people who can help you, Miss Romanov.”
This time she laughed, she held up her hands, covered in sticky red, “No one can clean up this much red in my ledger.”
“Why don’t you come with me and find out,” he said as he lowered the bow and held out a hand instead.
She had no reason not to go. She was probably going to die either way.
Loki’s voice snapped her back, “And what will you do if I vow to spare him?”
“Not let you out,” she replied. If it were up to her, she’d kill him instantly as soon as she got Barton back.
“Ah, no. But I like this!” he said cheerfully. “Your world in the balance and you bargain for one man?”
“Regime’s fall every day. I tend not to weep over that, I’m Russian. Or, I was,” she shrugged.
“And what are you know?”
“It’s really not that complicated,” she shrugged again. “I’ve got red in my ledger and I’d like to wipe it out.”
Fear is red. Hesitation is red. Anxiety is red. Vulnerability is red. She wanted it gone, now.
“Can you? Can you wipe out that much red? Drakov’s Daughter, Sao Paulo, The hospital fire? Barton told me everything,” he sneered. “Your ledger is dripping, its gushing red, and you think saving a man no more virtuous than yourself will save anything?” He laughed cruelly, “This is the basest sentimentality. This is a child at prayer. Pathetic! You like and kill in the service of liars and killers. You pretend to be separate, to have your own code, something that makes up for the horrors. But they are a part of you, and they will never go away.”
She fought the urge to take out her gun and shoot at the glass. She wasn’t upset. No, she was beyond that. She was beyond mad. She could have taught Bruce Banner a thing or two about rage in that moment. She wanted to slice Loki into a million little pieces, fuck her code. The horrors were a part of her, she knew that, she had grown to accept that. But she knew how to control the things they did to her, and made her want to do. But currently, she wanted to let them all out with Loki as a target.
But that isn’t an option right now, so with every ounce of self-control Natasha Romanoff has, she’s pushing that aside, and feigning tears. Her lip is quivering, and she’s pretending to try to hide it. And the king of lies buys it. She considered a career change to acting, maybe she could call herself Scarlett.
“I won’t barter for Barton,” he continued, “Not until I make him kill you. Slowly, intimately, in every way he knows you fear.”
She shivered, but it wasn’t fake this time. She channeled her anger into twisting her face in horror.
“And then he’ll wake long enough just to see his good work, and when he screams, I’ll split his skull!”
She turns away, she can’t stand to see his face. She wants his head on a platter. She wants to use his body for target practice. She wants his teeth on a necklace.
“That is my bargain, you mewling quim!”
She fakes tears to cover the teeth grinding and fists she’s making, “You’re a monster,” she adds for effect. In her head, she tacks on “and I will destroy you.”
“Oh no, you brought the monster.”
She smiles, Loki’s flaw was narcissism. This whole exchange had been about him, and the fear he could bestow, so she let him attempt to bestow it. That’s the thing about narcissists; they want everyone to appreciate their work, their brilliant plan has to be recognized or there is no joy in mudville.
“So, Banner? That’s your play?”
A brief hint of anger flashes over his features before adopts mere annoyance at her, “What?”
“Loki means to unleash the Hulk. Keep Banner in the lab, I’m on my way. Set the door locked,” she relays into her mic. She looks at him, and if looks could kill, Natasha would have melted the god into oblivion, “Thank you, for your cooperation.”
“Lady Romanoff,” Thor said in passing, “What’s the rush?”
“Your brother is planning to use the Hulk, follow me.” The blondes face hardened, and he followed wordlessly.
She could feel the tension before she even entered the lab. One of the many screens in the room, the one they were all surrounding, showed “PHASE TWO” and schematics for missiles. Missiles filled with glowing blue energy they all could doubtlessly recognize now.
“Did you know about this?” Banner asks the second her foot crosses the threshold.
She knew that there was a reason Fury wanted the Tesseract. And since they were a defense program, she wasn’t entirely surprised; in fact she had suspected it was for weaponry. But WMD’s were far from their jurisdiction, and completely immoral, but she could discuss this with the director in private. Now was not a time to cause a fault line in the structure.
“You wanna think about removing yourself from this environment, doctor?”
“I was in Calcutta. I was pretty well removed,” he spat.
“Loki’s manipulating you.”
“And you’ve been doing what, exactly?”
“You didn’t come here because I bat my eyelashes at you.” She wanted to smack him, but that would really put a fault in the structure.
“Yes, and I’m not leaving because you suddenly get a little twitchy!” he turned to Fury, “I’d like to know why S.H.I.E.L.D. is using the Tesseract to build weapons of mass destruction.”
The Director gave him a stern look Natasha had seen many, many times. “Because of him,” he said pointing to the blond God.
“Last year Earth had a visitor from another planted who had a grudge match that leveled a small town. We learned that not only are we alone, but we are hopelessly, hilariously out gunned.”
“My people want nothing but peace with your planet!” Thor protested
“But you’re not the only people out there, are you?” Fury countered. “And you’re not the only threat. The world’s filling up with people who can’t be matched, can’t be controlled.”
The air in the room was roiling with mistrust and anger. Natasha could feel the balance slipping, the tables turning, not just on Fury, but just end over end. The room was filled with chaos.
“Like you controlled the cube?” Steve said with crossed arms.
“Your work with the Tesseract is what drew Loki to it and his allies. It is a signal to all the realms that earth is ready for a higher form of war.”
“A higher form?”
“You forced our hand. We had to come up with something!”
Tony piped in, “A nuclear deterrent, cause that always calms everything right down.”
She wanted to smack all of them. Put them in Loki’s cage and drop them all.
“Remind me again how you made your fortune, Stark?” The leather clad man quipped.
“I’m sure if he still made weapons, Stark would be neck deep—“
“Wait! Wait! Hold on, how is this now about me?” The billionaires jaw set.
“I’m sorry, isn’t everything?”
Natasha had to hand it to the Captain, he could dish it out. She kept her mouth shut though, she knew she couldn’t say anything to make it better, but they were losing control fast.
“I thought humans were more evolved than this,” Thor lamented to himself.
“Excuse me,” Fury mocked, “did we come to your planet and blow stuff up?”
Everyone was pointing and in defensive posture. She stood on the fringes, ready to fight. She didn’t know who’s side she was on. She’d probably choose whatever side Captain was on. He was a go getter, and she appreciated that.
“You speak of control, yet you court chaos!”
Banner’s shoulders were tense, “It’s his M.O., isn’t it? I mean, what are we, a team? No, no, no. We’re a chemical mixture that makes chaos! We’re…We’re a time bomb!”
Natasha wanted to step in between and separate them all, but she didn’t feel particularly like getting hit.
“You need to step away.”
“Why shouldn’t the guy let off a little steam,” Tony said, clearly on Bruce’s side.
“You know damn well why! Back off.”
Stark puffed out his chest and aimed his anger at the captain, “I’m starting to want you to make me.”
The machismo in the room was laughably palpable, she muttered, “just fuck already” under her breath.
“I’m starting to want you to make me.”
“Seriously?” She said, still unheard.
“Yeah, but man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?”
“Genuis, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist,” he retorted.
She had to admit, as much as he annoyed her, Tony Stark had an impressive resume.
“I know guys with none of that worth ten of you,” the blonde hero glared. “I’ve seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You’re not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.”
“I think I would just cut the wire,” he shrugged.
“Always a way out. You know, you made not be a threat, but you better stop pretending to be a hero.”
“A hero,” he laughed “like you? You’re a laboratory experiment, Rogers! Everything special about you came out of a bottle.”
“Put on the suit, let’s go a few rounds.”
She rolled her eyes. There was more testosterone than a wrestling teams locker room. They were really starting to piss her off.
“You people are so petty, and tiny!” Thor laughed like he was drunk.
“Yeah this is a te—“
“Agent Romanoff, would you escort Dr. Banner back to his—“
“Where? You’re renting my room.” he snorted cynically.
“The cell was just—“
“just in case you needed to kill me? But you cant! I know, I tried!”
Everything in the room stopped. Steve’s face expressed stern concern and disapproval. Tony’s looked shattered. Fury’s look scared. Thor’s confused. And Natasha, Natasha was utterly horrified. He had absolutely no control. This broken, angry man was so different than the man she’d talked with on the plane. She wanted to comfort him, but she was too afraid to move.
“I got low, I didn’t see an end,” he continued. “So I put a bullet in my mouth, and the other guy spit it out! So I moved on, I focused on helping other people. I was good until you dragged me back into this freak show and put everyone here at risk. You wanna know my secret, Agent Romanoff? You wanna know how I stay calm?”
Natasha, Fury, and Thor’s hands were all slowly creeping towards their weapons. Natasha wasn’t planning on shooting him, she was planning on shooting herself. She knew he couldn’t be killed, and she was the current focus of his rage. Tony’s eyes were wide in horror. In Bruce’s skilled hands, was the sharp, devious scepter. It clicked in Natasha’s head at once, that this was all Loki’s doing. This was his plan. She was going to fillet him alive.
Steve was the only one who still looked calm, “Dr. Banner, put down the scepter.”
The tracking computer beeped. Banner hesitated for a moment, but put the weapon down and walked towards the computer. “Sorry, kids. You don’t get to see my party trick after all,” he said dryly.
“Located the Tesseract?”
“I can get there faster,” Stark said valiantly.
“Look, all of us—“
“The Tesseract belongs on Asgard. No human is a match for it.”
Tony was headed for the door, and the Captain grabbed at him, “You’re not going alone!”
“You gonna stop me?”
“Put on the suit, let’s find out.”
“I’m not afraid to hit an old man,” Stark quipped.
“Put on the suit.”
Natasha can see the screen, at the same time as Bruce realizes something.
“Oh my god!”
There’s an explosion and the world is tilting, everyone is falling.
“Put on the suit!”
“Romanoff, stay with Banner! Thor, make yourself useful! Banner stay here!” Fury shouted as he made his way off the floor and down to the bridge. Thor stalked off.
“Bruce, I’m so—“
Another explosion cut her off.
Her ribs hurt, her body was twisted uncomfortably, and her ears were ringing. There was a sharp pain in her leg. She could see Banner hunched on the ground.
“Doctor?” she called. “Bruce, you gotta fight it. This is just want Loki wants. We’re going to be okay!”
She tries to pull her leg free. Some well-meaning deck crew make their way over to help, she frantically mouths “get the fuck out,” as Bruce struggles with the other guy.
“We’re going to be okay. Right?” She was trying to convince herself as much as him. “I swear on my life I will get you out of this,” and she meant it, she liked Banner. “You will walk away, and never—“
“Your life?!” the monster growled at her.
She struggled against the rubble harder as his form grows and twists. His skin bleeding into green. Bruce, the real Bruce looks at her sadly before turning away and continuing the unstoppable transformation.
She broke away from the rubble, her heart is pounding against her bruised ribs. She can feel her leg swelling already. She hears a roar of pure rage and the ground pounding. She can’t help but look back and immediately regrets it.
She jumps down stairs, hoping he can’t fit down the stair well. He smashes through it. She runs through passages, trying to escape. Trying to gain leverage. Trying to gain control. But Natasha Romanoff knows, this time, she’s probably going to die. Loki is going to win. Clint is going to die. And the earth is going to be enslaved.
She pulls out her gun and shoots. Bullets simply bounce off him and ricochet around the room. She runs faster than she ever has in her life. There’s glass shattering around her, her feet are slidding on the tempered pebbles, and he—it’s gaining on her. An image of Clint flashes through her head, the moment from Budapest during their vows. Smiling, covered in blood, dirt, and sweat. Fingers wrapped around a bow string pulled back to his cheek. It was perfect. She didn’t want to die with her bones puncturing her organs as the Hulk crushed her to a pulp. If she was going to die at all, she wanted to die next to Clint in battle. A warrior’s death.
Her foot slipped on the broken glass, and she fell. This is it, she thought.
Suddenly a streak of red and blond was smashing into the green beast. And Natasha crawled away.
She had lost all control again. She’d been inches from death more times than she could count, but always, ALWAYS she had control. This time, this time she had none. She couldn’t stop shaking. The face of the monster flashed in her eyes and she could hear the destruction from Thor and Hulk going at it. But she couldn’t distance herself from it. She couldn’t move.
She lost track of time. She heard all the comm chatter. Felt the ship going down. Heard the Hulk tearing through the ship. But she couldn’t make herself move until, “It’s Barton, he took our systems. He’s headed for the detention lab. Does anybody copy?”
“This is Agent Romanoff. I copy.” she stood on her swollen leg, and ran, once again straight at one of the few things that could kill her.
There he was. Unharmed. Looking more vicious than ever. Eyes the deadly blue of Loki’s mind control. And now, pointing an arrow at her.
“Clint,” she started, but was cut short by the small reflexes of his hand preparing to let go. She kicked him away. Her hand found her gun and she brought the butt of it down on his wrist. He countered and sent it flying. He pulled a knife from thin air and sliced at her. She blocked and dodged. He was fast, but she was faster, and more flexible. She ducked under him and swept his legs out. His head hit a bar. He fell to the floor on his knees, the knife clattered on the grid of the walkway.
The blue in his eyes flickered for a moment, “Natasha?”
She kicked him hard in the head. Harder than she wanted to. But it was her only hope.
“I’m sorry, Clint.”