Disclaimer: I do not own Avengers
Warning: Avengers AU
Alternative storylines/plot, Alive!Pietro, Neutral/Good! Loki, Neutral/Good!Ultron
Chapter 8: New World
They days progressed from then on with nothing major occurring during either of them. Eve stayed in the cell that had been assigned for her in case she attempted at doing something that could potentially result with devastating consequences, yet nothing happened. She stayed put, didn't put up any fight when the doctors would inject her with medicine which was crucial to her healing process, and didn't give them a hard time about anything.
Occasionally, Tony would arrive to ask her some more questions and she wouldn't hesitate to answer any of them with the exception for those she was unable to answer. Only when the name of her 'father' Jeraslovik was mentioned did she lose her voice. In any case, none of the answers she provided them with were completely worthless and it seemed like that her 'incapacity' for speaking was nothing more than herself deliberately keeping her tongue from running. She didn't seem like she was accustomed to speaking for long periods at a time.
A little while later, Tony agreed to let her walk freely around the room but on the condition that the binds around her wrists stayed on and restricted her abilities so that she couldn't cause anything to happen. At first, they both agreed that it seemed a little sudden, but eventually, they discovered that the girl hardly did anything in the room. The camera in the corner of the ceiling revealed it all, and there were rare occasions where she would do anything but walk around in the room, observing her surroundings, as limited as it seemed. Even so, the look in her eyes caused Steve to feel a little uneasy. From their perspective, his and Tony's, it looked like a blind person who had just been exposed to a world of colors. Or perhaps she was just feeling slightly relieved about finally being freed.
A couple of more days passed and Steve decided that it was time for him to meet her face to face again. What Tony had told him, about the John Smith person with the metal arms, could only add up to one individual that he knew of. Reaching for the handle outside the cell, there came a beep of approval before the door opened up and Steve let himself inside, arriving just in time to see Eve sitting on top of her bed, looking perplexed down at her wrists as if it was the first time she acknowledged the binds that were still wrapped around them. Albeit she wasn't restricted from moving around as she wished, Steve felt a pang of guilt in his chest at the sight. Being imprisoned wasn't a feeling he wished to inflict on anyone unless they had it coming. This wasn't someone who deserved it, he knew as much.
Her eyes snapped to him as she heard him enter and she froze, though her eyes didn't increase in size. She just sat there motionlessly, her dark eyes never leaving his. He offered her a sincere smile and held up a tray of food that he had brought, and he could tell that she was hungry. It had been a few hours since someone had last brought her any food and it wasn't hard to debunk that nobody wished to stay alone with a weapon of mass destruction more than a few minutes at a time. This time, however, he decided that he would sit and talk to her himself.
"Nice to see you again, kid," he said and sat down on the chair next to her bed, offering her the tray. Due to Tony's precautions, there was no cutlery on the side of her meal. Only a napkin. True, the only food on the tray was a few slices of bread, a plastic cup of water, and a bar of chocolate, but it would surely be enough to keep her for a couple of hours. In any case, he decided it would be best if he came by a little later so that she wouldn't starve throughout the night, and judging by her sick-looking physique, starvation was perhaps one of the last things she was in need of.
"Captain Steven Rogers," she acknowledged him, eyes narrowing at the sight of the food as if it was poison in disguise. Even though she was visibly hungry judging by the amalgamation of hunger and disdain she was looking at the tray with, Steve decided not to taunt her and put it down on top of the bed in front of her.
"Guessed you were hungry," he said, gesturing to the food. When she still didn't move, he said with a low sigh, "It's edible. I promise nothing's going to hurt you here."
"..." Eve still didn't say anything, though judging by the way her shoulder's lowered, it seemed like she was a little bit more at ease now. Hesitantly, she reached her hand forward to grab one of the bread slices, the one with strawberry jam on top. She seemed to study it for a moment like an exhibition at a museum before she took a small bite of it, hardly one at all, more like a half. Her face seemed torn between scepticism and curiosity before she proceeded to take another bite, a bigger one this time. Her face suddenly lit a little up and the closest thing to a smile fell on her face. Before Steve could even comprehend what was going on, the bread slice was completely erased from existence and Even proceeded to consume the next slices in less than a minute. True to his assumptions, she seemed like an animal that had been starved of sustenance.
Once all of the food was gone, including the glass of water, her hunger seemed to pause at the sight of the Hershel bar lying next to the plate the bread slices had previously occupied. The same cynicism had returned and Steve felt a little tempted to laugh at the sight, yet he refrained.
"What's that?" Eve suddenly asked, speaking for the first time since she had spoken his name earlier without looking away from the fascinating specimen in front of her.
"Chocolate," he affirmed.
"Chocolate?" She turned to look at him as if asking him 'what's that?'.
The fact that she didn't know what something as basic as chocolate was alarmed Steve a little bit, but he nonetheless reached forth and grabbed it, opening it and displaying the brown piece in front of her. She tilted her head slightly to the side and reached for it, grabbing it from him and holding it close to her eyes, inspecting it in similar manners like she had to the bread slices. If the sight of ordinary foods was such an uncommon occurrence for her…. Steve failed to keep a shiver from running up his back and his stomach churned internally.
Then she took a bite, and almost at once, her face lit up again. Like before, it was only a matter of seconds before the entire thing was gone from existence. The only things that proved that its existence had once been very real were the traces of chocolate on her face. Chuckling for the first time, Steve reached for the napkin and handed it to her, gesturing to the spots on her face. She merely tilted her head again and looked at him with nothing but curiosity, obviously oblivious towards the stains on her face. "You have some here," he said and pointed at her face just beneath her left cheek, but she didn't respond, he did something he would later come to regret.
"Would you mind it if…" before he finished that question, he reached the napkin a little closer towards her, aiming for the darkened spot on her cheek, but before it came as close as just a few inches, he felt her hand wrap around his wrist and prevent him from coming closer, almost threatening. He flinched and stopped instantly, looking at her. Her eyes were now shaped into an ice-cold glare which spoke murder at even a single wrong move. Knowing his mistake and internally cursing himself, Steve sat back down and rubbed the back of his head. "Sorry, I didn't mean it like…" he paused, unable to finish talking when he watched Eve draw a hand across her face, smearing some of the chocolate away but letting the rest remain. Her eyes never left his, though they were significantly more intimidating now than ever. He couldn't exactly blame her.
"Anyway," he tried slowly, tasting his words before speaking them aloud. "I wanted to ask you something if you wouldn't mind answering?"
"A question?" she asked, decreasing the intensity of her glare but not erasing it completely.
"Yes, it's about…." He hesitated for a second before he found the will to finally ask. "The person you called John Smith."
As soon as he said that name, her gaze fell to the floor but it didn't give off the impression that she was afraid for any reason. It didn't help that her hair was slightly shielding her face beneath it, but for whatever reason, he doubted that it was fear she displayed. "Alexander Pierce," she said hollowly. "John Smith was with him."
"I know that, but when was the last time you saw him? Is he still with Hydra? Where is he? Do you know it?" Steve asked a little hastily, threatening to get up from his seat at any moment if it meant that he could figure out anything regarding his best friend, if he was still alive, that was. He didn't doubt he was, but that answer wasn't sufficient enough.
The only answer he received, however, was a shaking head. She said nothing, and she didn't need to in order to confirm his suspicions. Eve didn't know where he was, and he felt what little hope he felt building up in his chest demolish. He sank back into his seat, hand over his forehead. So much for a little bit of hope.
He looked up at her, confused. "What did you say?"
"You called him Bucky," she repeated, looking with something akin to curiosity over at him. "What's a Bucky?"
"How did you…" Comprehension dawned on him as he remembered what had happened when she first woke up there. She had gone through his head, seen some of his memories, some of which included the 'death' of his best friend. The images still haunted him to the present date, but hearing someone other than himself mention that name felt somehow… relieving.
"He was my best friend," he said, exhaling.
"Yeah, the best in the entire world," Steve smiled. "I thought I'd lost him."
"Didn't you?" she asked.
"Nah, I didn't. But he lost himself, and I'm planning to bring him back."
Eve said nothing else after that, only continuing to stare at Steve as if he was a weird person. In one way, he supposed he was, but if it ever came to the measure of strength, he already knew by then that he had lost.
"Where are you from?" he found himself asking, deciding to change the subject. "Are you from Sokovia?"
"From home," she replied.
"Where is home, exactly?"
He sighed and decided to give up. "Tell me about your home, then? What was it like?"
She was silent for a moment before she said, "There was me, father, Baron, the Red and the Silver man, a lot of people in white clothes."
"What about your mother?"
"Mother?" The way she said that word could be compared to someone saying something from a foreign language with no prior knowledge. It seemed like it was alien to her, and that did little to ease Steve about her situation and the circumstances she had grown up under.
"You know," he tried. "A mother. It's like a father, just…. Female?"
"There's just father, always father," she said casually as if she was discussing the weather. She looked distant for a second, eyes averted from him and positioned on the camera up in the corner of the ceiling. "Where is father?" she asked, not looking away from the camera.
He should have seen this coming. "I can't tell you that, kid,"
"Is he alive?"
"I can't tell you that either,"
"Is he alive?"
"…. He is," Steve found himself relenting, not wanting to say or do anything that could anger the girl, yet something didn't match up. "But I don't understand…. Why would you want to find him? All he's ever done is to hurt you, even worse than hurt you, so why do you wish to return to him? We can help you, give you back your life, protect you."
The way Eve looked at him after he said that was unreadable but if he had to make a guess, it would be that she was looking at him like he was a fool. "Father loves me," she said, ignoring his bewildered expression as she spoke, completely calm and in no way incapable of controlling her actions. "He protects me, because of him, I'm alive."
"He doesn't…." Steve let out a sigh. "How can you say that? 'He loves' and 'he protects' you? After everything he's done to you?"
"He hasn't done anything to me," she said, apparently finding it far easier to stay calm than he did. "He would never hurt me."
"He already has,"
With that, he got up from his seat and headed over to the door. Looking over his shoulder one last time, he noticed that there was neither disdain nor contempt to spot amongst her features. Rather, her eyes were turned to the wall, as if expecting to see someone there. He couldn't exactly blame her, but for whatever reason, that alone was enough to give him an idea about how to make progress.
"I don't think that we're at any liberty to keep her cooped up for much longer," The evening at Tony's apartment became long and somewhat cold. After having explained to the rest of the group, including Banner for once, about what had happened during his visit to the girl, unsurprisingly, Tony was the first one to object to his suggestion towards moving her location sooner.
"When I agreed to the plan, I didn't mean it so soon," was all Tony had to say as he paced around the room with a bottle – an entire bottle of whiskey – occupying his hands. Natasha stood next to the couch which both Clint and Banner occupied alone, though it was evident that she was focusing on the situation to a higher degree than either of the two other men did. "We already have the United Nations looking over our shoulders if anything goes to hell, and letting an enhanced out loose just like that," He snapped his fingers.
"I'm not saying we'll let her walk freely out in the open," Steve contradicted him. "We'll let her stay here like we agreed, and keep an eye on her. She'll remain incapacitated from her powers. I have reasons to believe that she's not too accustomed to the world like we are."
"How do you know that?" Natasha asked, joining in on the conversation for the first time. Her eyes seemed intently fixated on something else, however.
"From what I discovered when I was with her, she's incapable of knowing the definition of certain words and certain items that would otherwise have been almost mandatory to know about. When I asked her about her mother, she looked at me as if she had no idea what I was talking about. She said that her father had been the only one there with her," He could feel his fists clenching and unclenching and the thought of what he had done to her. "Jeraslovik's brainwashed her almost completely,"
"Another reason which contributes to why we should keep her where she's currently at," Tony intervened, putting the bottle down and headed over to the table. "She's unpredictable, and what's more, she's dangerous to keep around. Seventeen years, Steve, think about what Hydra could've managed to put into her head during that time span. We spent so much time trying to find it, and now that we finally have, we have enhanced humans to deal with as well. The Maximoff twins are probably still in Sokovia and, believe it or not, I'd rather keep it that way."
"And Eve's just supposed to stay locked up like they did to her at the Sokovian facility?"
"I'm saying that there's a difference-"
"Really? Is there?" Bruce stood up from the couch and turned to his companion, glasses askew on his tired face. "Tony, keeping her locked up there isn't going to quick up the progress. It's not going to defuse her if she's as unpredictable as you say she is."
"Funny, I recall you having stayed at the lab for several weeks straight now and been making a ton of progress." Tony retorted, to which Steve narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
"Progress on what, exactly?" he asked.
Tony waved his hand dismissively. "Nothing of importance."
"If you intend on keeping her there," Clint began, not moving an inch from his seat. "How long are you planning on keeping her there? A month? A year?"
"For however long it takes," Tony threw his arms out, unconsciously spilling out a bit of the alcohol. "Until we're completely sure that she will pose no threat to us."
"Bet that keeping her there is very convincing," Bruce said, to which Tony scowled.
"Help me out a little bit here, guys. Look at this like I do: We have an enhanced teenager who's been brainwashed by her psychopathic mad-genius father and is not even one inch away from annihilating us all if she wants to. Then suddenly this guy," he gestured to Steve, causing him to roll his eyes. "Comes up with the great idea that we, hey, let her walk freely around like she sees fit without any plans in case she, I don't know, blows everything up."
"I'm not saying we let her walk freely," Steve was feeling his patience running out bit by bit. "All I'm saying is that we keep her under surveillance here, make sure that she's completely incapable of using her powers in any way, and maybe teach her a thing or two about the world."
"You're gonna be her teacher now?" Tony asked rhetorically, swinging the whiskey bottle to him and taking a generous sip from it. "Teach her about the virtues of humanity? Teach her to keep her powers in control like frickin' Frozen? From where I'm standing, it's like delaying a ticking time bomb by five minutes, maybe ten if we're lucky."
"It sounds a little better than letting a kid stay cooped up in a cell," Clint said, flashing Steve a look between agreement and perhaps scepticism. Being a father of two, soon three, he had a soft spot for children yet wasn't about to let that blind his judgement. "How's she contained again? How're her powers incapacitated?"
"With the help of the scepter," Bruce explained. "We developed binds around her wrists that erupt with mild electric shock if they detect anything even remotely similar to the source of their powers. Depending on the size of strength in her, the shocks will equalize to match them."
"That sounds like containing an animal," said Natasha thoughtfully, torn between approval and disapproval. "Though I do see the need for it."
Tony raised an eyebrow as if having heard wrong. "Did you just agree with me?"
She gave him an unimpressed look and shook her head. "Don't even start, Stark."
"Tony, come on," Steve pleaded. "Give it a shot. I'll take full responsibility if anything goes wrong, I told you that I would."
"And I told you that it will be too risky."
"When has anything we've done ever been risk-free?"
"Too little has been," Tony sagged down into a seat and let out a ragged breath. "But I doubt that it won't keep you from trying, will it?"
"You know me that much?" His lips curled up into a smile that wasn't completed before Tony abruptly continued.
"If I agree to this stupidity, there will be conditions, and if any of them are broken in even the tiniest ways, she's going back."
Steve didn't like the sound of that but relented. "Alright. What conditions?"
"She's to remain here at all times, the binds will stay on, and if even the slightest suspicious actions are committed by her, then it's out. Is that clear?"
"Understood." Steve nodded.
Tony sighed and turned to the other three. "You've been very helpful, by the way."
"That's what we're here for." Natasha snickered.
The next day, Eve awoke to the feeling of being gently nudged in the side. Fluttering her eyes open as she felt herself fully succumb to consciousness, she glanced up to see the face of Steven Rogers looking over her from the side of her bed. Out of instinct, she quickly got up and prepared to throw her fist at him, deeming any presence with the exception of her father's a threat, but she stopped just as it was an inch or so away from the bridge of his nose.
"Sorry to wake you," he said.
At first, she didn't understand what it was that required her attention immediately. Were there more questions? Had they decided to dispose of her now that her usefulness had expired? They could try, but she wouldn't let them if it ever came to that. As her eyes travelled down on him, they fell upon what she could only recognize as clothing. Several layers, in fact, which was on the contrary of the ones she had previously worn. She was currently wearing but a white, thin gown that was similar to what she wore earlier back at home, but it seemed like she was expected to be dressed much more now.
She cast the clothes a curious look before she glanced back at Steven Rogers, expecting an explanation.
"We'll leave shortly, but I guess that these will be much more comfortable to wear outside than the ones you're wearing now."
Outside? Were they headed for the outside world? Would she finally receive a glimpse of it?
"Outside?" she asked, tilting her head slightly to the side.
"That's right," he affirmed, placing the clothes down on the bed in front of her before he turned around and headed for the door. "Just come out when you're ready. I'll be waiting outside." And with that, he exited the room and closed the door behind him. Questions flooded through her head at this. Why was he leaving her alone? Wasn't he expecting her to try and make an escape? Looking down at the clothes, she began to suspect that they were involved somehow.
Eve grabbed the first layer of the neatly-folded fabrics. A color which she was unable to identify the specific name of, yet she recalled as something she had seen in the past. In fact, it held the same color as the bed. She held it up in front of her and watched it unravel into what looked like some kind of shirt, yet it stretched down until it almost reached the brink of the gown she was still wearing. It was long-sleeved and appeared to be something that was supposed to be worn by something much larger than herself. Putting it aside, she followed the same pattern with the other fabrics. The next one was something that almost stretched further down than the shirt did, yet it had only a single hole. How was this supposed to be worn? From her torso? She recalled seeing some of the female scientists back at the facility wearing something similar.
The next piece, however, shook her completely. It was a pair of something, and as she held them up in front of her to inspect them closer, she came to realize that they were shaped like her feet, yet they were hollow inside.
Lastly was a pair of shoes, then something akin to a coat of sorts, one similar to the kind her father wore, but it was shorter and in a dark color. Unbuttoning her gown, Eve discarded it on the floor and began to pull the shirt over her. It was cold, but she was already well-acquainted with the sensation to cause any reaction from her body. After she had put it on, she continued with the other long fabric she had found. After placing it down on the floor and stepping into the hole, she pulled it up until it was tightly wrapped around her torso. True enough, it was supposed to be worn like the female scientists, yet this one was much longer than theirs had been, as it reached the brink of her ankles. After that, she tried the feet-shaped garments. Like before, what she had initially assumed was proven correctly and they fit on her feet like gloves did to hands.
Afterwards, she pulled on the coat and put on the shoes. She instantly felt warmer than she had earlier and it felt somewhat comfortable to be able to wear something like that, yet she said nothing as she reached for the door handle, but then she paused. This didn't feel right. Looking down at the binds still around her wrists, she came to the conclusion that she was genuinely beginning to behave docile towards her captors. They had rendered her incapable of fighting back, and the last time she attempted to do so, she had experienced an immense pain shooting through her body. That alone had been nothing compared to what she had experienced in the past, but it was a feeling she would rather not wish to feel again. She had to keep going if she wished to ever be reunited with her father. That was her only reason for staying alive. He was her only reason for staying alive. Without him, she was expendable.
Eve opened the door and found Steven Rogers standing there, waiting patiently for her to accompany him. "Ready to leave?" he asked.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
This truly was no longer home.
This was the outside world, the one she had been prohibited from seeing. People, animals in leashes, buildings, everything flashed before her eyes as soon as she and Steven Rogers sat down inside the vehicle and it began to move. Everything felt so much larger now as if the world she once knew had been expanded tremendously, reaching for as far as her eyes could reach.
She sat there with her face against the window whereas Steve just watched her with a chuckle. It was almost sad how someone beyond such an age as hers had been deprived of the rest of the world, isolated and alone. He had been so for over seventy years but not because of someone else's choices but his own, yet this girl had been deprived of it all because she was valuable not as a human being, but as a specimen to appease the curiosity of Hydra.
Eve sat like that until they finally reached a building which said STARK on the outside and stepped out of the car. It was probably the largest building she had ever seen, as it stood superior over all of the others in the area. Uncertainly, she looked around with both skeptical and a bewildered eyes, but as soon as she found Steven Rogers standing next to her, she felt slightly more at ease about being susceptible towards potential enemies arriving. After all, she was already surrounded by her father's most hated ones.
Together, they stepped inside the building and took an elevator up, spending several minutes inside it before the doors opened to reveal a highly-advanced floor with technology similar, if not almost identical, to the kind Hydra had. However, these pieces of work felt more accustomed to the outside world like people were just using them for frivolous purposes only. It felt meaningless, but then again, what did she know? All she could think about was the scenery which laid beyond the grand windows at the back of the place. The rest was something she hardly could name, let alone know what kind of value they held.
However, before she as much as moved, Tony Stark came into view from the staircase above then and descended down to hers and Steven Rogers' floor, looking sharply at them both as if expecting either of them to do something which would without a doubt warrant hostility in return. "You didn't waste any time," he said, looking at Steven Rogers this time. "It's not even twelve o'clock and you called me at eight. When you said soon, I didn't think that you meant at dawn break. You weren't exaggerating."
"I'm a morning person," said Steven Rogers relaxed. "Besides, I thought you could use the wake-up. A morning to a productive day, wouldn't you agree, Tony?"
"Hmmm," he looked over at Eve as if having first acknowledged her presence then and there and gestured for her to follow him. "This way, kid. I'll show you to your room." When she didn't move at first, Steven Rogers nudged her in the shoulder and gestured for her to go along with him. Like before, she didn't move an inch, but slowly began to make her way towards Tony Stark and followed him up the staircase.
"Excuse Cap's fashion-sense. Don't take it personally." Said Stark, glancing over his shoulder as they headed down a corridor above the staircase, filled with several doors which lead to places that she didn't know contained. There was a room, however, just above the first floor which she noticed. The walls were transparent and thus she was perfectly capable of seeing through them. Inside there stood a man with a white coat, similar to the kind the scientists used to wear, and around him were all these… tools and mechanical pieces. One of those things included…. The scepter her father had been interested in.
When he heard her stop walking, Tony turned around and said, "Come on, kid. We can't linger around all day."
"That scepter," she spoke hollowly, not turning her eyes away. "You took it."
Tony didn't say anything else for the entire trip down the corridor until he stopped in front of one of the doors and opened them up, gesturing for her to enter. When she did, Eve found herself standing in a room that had been adorned with all kinds of things she had never as much as placed her eyes on in the past. One of the walls, the entire wall, was a window to the outside the world, and that alone caused her to remain oblivious to all else in the room.
"Glad to see that you like it," Stark said. "Just don't break anything or I'll put it on your bill, young lady."
She didn't say anything and continued to marvel at the sight of the entire city in front of her, beneath her actually.
Could it be true that the world was so… Beautiful?"