She enters the old saloon, sparsely furnished and darkly lit to set the sullen mood. The air is fragrant with cologne, dirt, and beer. There are two old televisions above the liquor shelves and a dusty jukebox in the far corner. The bar is dotted with several high round tables with mismatched chairs.
She wears a sleeveless jade dress, cut low enough along the neckline and high enough on the thigh to be notably licentious. The hem of her dress is trimmed with silver studs. Her bodice is framed by long spiraling waves of jet black hair. Her heavy black suede boots reach clear up to her thighs, the wedged platforms putting her just over six feet tall. Her curvaceous hips are wreathed with a stout, seamed silver belt. She wears a similar necklace of smaller silver squares and dangling earrings. Her black leather jacket is padded in the shoulders causing them to jut out slightly. She scans the bar with vivacious green eyes and finds her quarry seated at the counter. He is alone. She approaches. Her confidence is inhuman.
"Pardon me," she begins. Her velvety voice is uncommonly pleasant to hear. The brawny figure turns towards her, fixing her with sad blue eyes. His chiseled jaw clenches reflexively. His blond hair is parted towards the side and neatly swept back in an old fashioned wave. He wears a plaid button-down and flat ironed, pleated khakis. His brown bomber jacket accentuates the build in his shoulders. "Captain America, isn't it?" she prompts disarmingly, as though she does not know his identity already. Her voluptuous lips curl into a sultry smile.
He smiles back. "Yes ma'am. Guilty," he answers bashfully, fingering the jagged cut of his crystal glass.
As she slowly twirls a strand of hair around her finger, "I apologize for disturbing you. You see, I saw you on television after that terrible incident in Manhattan." She touches her collarbone. "You were incredible." Her eyes dart to the counter, lips pursing uncertainly. "I wonder, is there room for two?"
Seeming slightly unsettled, as though shaking himself from a stupor, he stands and pulls out the stool beside his. He motions to it generously. "Of course."
She smirks victoriously and sits down, kicking her leg up to cross it over the other. He sits too. She drops her clutch on the counter and orders a glass of peach brandy on ice. The bartender fixes it in a jade tinted lowball. "Steve Rogers," he introduces, extending a broad hand towards her.
"Lola Lancaster," she replies, gently taking his hand and giving it a deceptively tender squeeze.
"It's a real pleasure, Miss Lola."
"Likewise, Captain." With impeccable posture, she curls her arms on the edge of the counter, enhancing certain things any man cannot help but notice. "The Man out of Time…" she swoons. "You know, I think it very admirable for anyone to fight the way you do, and forego what you have. To exude such devotion and give so freely to God and country... You should be very proud." She takes a careful sip of her drink, slanting one dark eyebrow expectantly.
He shakes his head, fisting his own glass of whiskey on the rocks. "Just doin' my job, ma'am. There are plenty of good soldiers out there who do exactly the same thing on a daily basis."
"Oh. I highly doubt that. But your modesty becomes you." She chuckles coquettishly, accustomed to different reactions from less humble men. "So… those others you fought alongside… do you really form some sort of team? Everyone is calling you The Avengers - like our own personal squadron of superheroes." Her eyes sparkle excitedly.
"Yeah, I guess that is what we call ourselves. I am afraid I can't tell you much more than that though. We're pretty much restricted to what the press leaks. Hearsay and all that… Everything else is classified."
She blinks, feigning surprise. "Oh." Immediately, "So it is a government initiative?"
"Yes," he hurriedly corrects himself, "I mean… we work for the good of the country. Naturally, we obey government leaders like The Commander and Chief. He's the bossman."
She bats her luscious lashes and hooks her hair behind her ear. "Naturally. I understand." She backs off as not to instigate cause for suspicion. "So, what are you doing in a place like this?"
He shrugs. "Hankering for a bit of the old times, I guess."
She pouts sympathetically, "Nostalgic?"
He nods. "And I know it does no good. I just feel out of place in the modern world, even with modern people most days."
"I imagine it is hard to carry on a conversation with anyone when everything mundane to them is so unfamiliar to you." She watches as he swirls the ice in his glass with musical clinks, managing a strangled smirk. She touches his arm. Encouragingly, "But look how well you're doing now. None would be the wiser."
He shrugs it off. "If that doesn't give me away, my clothes will do the trick. Seems my taste is a little outdated."
"Nonsense. I think you look sharp." She smiles warmly and winks. They laugh together for a moment. "If it was not already evident, my parents were much the same way."
He turns on his stool to better face her and she knows she has him. "I definitely recognize the name Lola."
She nods. "My mother wore polka dot dresses and aprons trimmed with lace unto the bitter end. My father owned a drive-in cinema."
"Move theater," he smiles.
His eyes light up. "I remember those too. You know what I really miss about those good old days?"
"Those days of soda and pretzels and cheers?" she smiles radiantly, watching his smile grow when he recognizes the song. "What do you miss, Steve?"
His smile slants, giving it more of a wistful look. "Honestly? How dang cheap everything was. Nickelodeons, 5 cent cokes… in the classy glass bottles, none of that aluminum stuff, full service gas stations... I miss the general friendliness of the world and the people in it. Even the air feels different here…" He continues to talk, but Lola's attention is suddenly drawn to the door. Three stocky figures push through and enter the bar. They loom imposingly, their close shaven skulls sporting similar swastika tattoos. Their size and ink however, are not what alarm her. They all wear the same purple medallion on a dark chain around their necks. The yellow flecks in their eyes glow abnormally in the soft light.
"Oh dear," she mutters. This is not part of her ingenious plan. She suspects these men come from offworld. Roger's presence puts her in a terrible predicament. She did not expect bounty hunters so soon after her escape from Asgard and her persistent "brother". Word travels much too quickly these days. Her test session with Rogers will have to be postponed.
"What's wrong?" Steve asks, frowning.
She faces him, adopting a blithe smile. "Oh, nothing. I didn't realize how late the hour was. I should take my leave. It really was a pleasure, Captain." She touches his knee. "I'm sure we'll chat again soon." In effort to retain the authenticity of her cover, she cannot depart as she normally would. She quickly collects her bag, being careful to conceal her face by feigning interest in a television program. She makes for the back hall, framed by restrooms and a back door to the outside for the staff in need of cigarette breaks.
Although she is galactically renowned for her impressive fabrications, Rogers is not buying it. He turns towards the door and watches as the three men advance in her wake across the groaning wooden planks.
When she rounds the corner, Lola starts to mutter a spell, but before she finishes, there is a meaty hand on her shoulder. It wheels her around and shoves her against the wall, rocking the sign hanging above the Ladies restroom. In spite of the jarring bump, she is nearly ready to knee him.
The bounty hunter says in another more guttural tongue, /You're coming with-/, but Rogers lays into him before he can conclude. Lola, too surprised to lower her knee, blinks. Her assailant lays in a limp heap on the floor at her feet. Steve situates himself in the midst of the cluster, standing over the fallen fiend, strategically placing himself in front of her. The other two snarl in rage and advance on them.
After the abrupt termination of her less than consensual connection with Barton, she seeks an alternate source of inside information. Rogers seems like the ideal candidate – unattached and isolated by his old fashioned ideals in an otherwise contemporary age. Her talents with manipulation make him an easy target. Her plan is perfect. At least, it was perfect until these hunters unceremoniously spoil everything.
Lola is plainly stunned, the irony of it all leaving a foul taste in her mouth. Only her divine grace saves her when Steve grabs her wrist and pulls her swiftly through the back door and down the squat loading platform into the night. "Come on! Keep your head down."
Her wits wade through the riotous rush of her thoughts. She stammers for a moment and accidentally fills her lungs with the fetid air from the dumpster. Her expression and mood sour. "I most definitely do not require your assistance!" she shouts, trying to pry her wrist from his iron grasp. She wants to get away from here without creating a scene.
Rogers is too busy pulling her towards a rusted orange Dodge Challenger. "Ma'am, I believe you may be too close to the situation to see things clearly."
Lola balks and scoffs as she hurries along behind him. Indignantly, "Ridiculous! You do not understand. Unhand me immediately!" When he does not, she plants her feet, incensed. "I will not be ignored!"
Rogers hooks his steely fingers under the catch of the trunk, not bothering with the keys jingling in his jacket pocket in his haste. He wrenches the compartment open and seizes a circular disk from the darkness. He wheels around, tugging her behind him just in time to deflect a crackling plasma ball with his shield. The second hunter fires a blast from a monstrous slug gun. That shot hits the rear bumper, simultaneously knocking them aside and blowing a hole in the vehicle. She drops her clutch in the commotion.
"Now it's on. I loved that car!" Rogers regains his footing and hurls his shield at the duo.
The stouter skinhead lifts his hand... and catches it. He grins contemptuously.
Lola watches from the corner of her eyes as Roger's eyes widen in shock. He realizes these men are not normal thugs. He cants his broad body towards Lola, clasping her by the elbow. "I don't know what sort of trouble you're in Miss Lancaster, but you better go quick!" he insists, urging her away. "Run, I'll hold them off."
Although the thought of Captain America protecting her is nearly too paradoxical to entertain with a straight face, Lola does not require him to reiterate his courageous order. This is one command from a "mortal" that she does not mind following. She pivots and bolts, crossing the parking lot towards a chain link fence. She takes a short moment to commend herself for not donning the glossy stilettos she thought might be more aesthetically appealing. The boots are a more practical choice after all.
To maintain her cover so she may use it at a later date, she must be out of the Captain's sight before she can call upon her abilities, which makes everything most inconvenient. Preserving her identity is absolutely essential during these times as an interplanetarily wanted felon.
However, regardless of her predicament, she fully intends to continue being her mischievous self.
She jumps up and hurtles over the fence into a storage yard. Adjoining units line both sides of a rough asphalt street. Beyond the yard, she can see a construction site and the skeleton of a new office building. She should be able to lose the hunters in there.
One of them is tailing her, having apparently penetrated Roger's line of defense. She thinks him even more incompetent than before. She can hear the rattle of the fence and hard footfalls on the ground, but she does not dare look back. Instead, she breaks into a sprint. Her heart races. There is another fence ahead of her, but it is made of wrought iron bars, spiked nefariously at the tips. Deeming her distance adequate, she thrusts her arm out and flings a pale blue volt at the padlock. It instantaneously freezes. She shoulders through the gate and shoves it aside, breaking the lock. It swings open with a piercing screech and clangs hard against the fence.
Dodging orange barrels and construction equipment, she careens across the dirt yard, barely making the jump over a wide, steep trench in the ground for the septic system. She lands on the opposite side, casting a breathless glance over her shoulder. The hunter is closing in. Her eyes flash and she uses magic to pitch several hulking orange barrels at him. He evades most of them, but they do slow him down.
She ascends the short step up to the concrete foundation of the building and dashes onward over the stone. She can hear his scraping steps behind her. She weaves through the steel beams, trying to avoid any loose gravel. God or not, one wrong step will mean the end. Her body is light and her legs agile, but despite her fleet footed abilities, the gap between them is steadily shrinking. Whatever his birth species is, it is uncannily fast, faster than she is. She veers leftward and locks her hands around a metal beam. Using the considerable momentum built up from the run, she swings around the beam and slams her heels into his chest. The hard impact rattles her bones, but she manages to knock him down. She lands in a crouch, stands, and turns to run. Instead, she falls with a fierce smack of her palms to the concrete. His hand is fastened around her ankle.
/You think you know pain?/ echoes a malicious voice in her head. Her own fear chokes her. The Chitauri will tear her limb from limb. She cannot be caught. She MUST NOT be caught.
She flips over and kicks up, delivering a vicious blow to his jaw. His head snaps back, but he does not relinquish his hold. He reels her in, dragging her over the rough ground. She reaches into her coat and produces a small knife. She flips it into an offensive hold and slashes at him. He catches her wrist. His grasp, like steel pincers, is so uncomfortable that she drops the weapon. It falls just out of reach. She squirms and lashes out in desperation, entangling her free hand in the medallion around his neck. Hoping she can use it to choke him, she pulls harder than she means to. The links snap. The medallion clatters to the floor.
Her assailant's face begins to ripple, his body contorting violently. In the madness, he lets her go. She crawls backwards quickly. The medallion serves to disguise his identity. Soon, she will see his true face. The hunter is changing rapidly, growing, his body distorting, ripping through his clothes. Spikes lining his spine erupt from his back. His human face merges with something more reptilian. He is Eudorian, a cousin species to the Chitauri. She does not stay to see more. She scrambles to her feet and flees.
Lola turns to fling an occasional volt of magic back at the creature, hoping it will strike him on Allfather's good graces, which she has unfortunately fallen far from.
/There is no where you can hide from us,/ the same bloodthirsty voice threatens in her memory. The flashbacks are doing nothing to buoy her confidence or curb her terror.
The dark mass dodges her volts. The magic blasts rebound and hit support beams, freezing them, rendering them brittle beneath the weight of the building. She races on.
Rarely if ever is Lola afraid. The unfamiliar feeling is making her act irrational and erratically. She can hear the alien creature charging behind her. From the sound of his thunderous pursuit, he is gigantic. Lola concentrates and projects doppelganger images that splinter off, running in opposite directions. Her hunter is not deterred by such trickery. He is locked onto her. She can hear support beams and concrete pillars crumble as he smashes through them. The earth rumbles beneath her feet, unsettling her steps. She can feel warm breath on the backs of her legs. He is too close.
/Thor,/ she wants to shout. But she doubts Thor will aid her now in light of the numerous evils she has committed, covert relations notwithstanding. Her last attempt on Odin's life, just after her escape, will not go overlooked. She can hear great creaking as the unstable building groans above her and the rumble of more falling masonry in the distance.
She leaps, clutching an overhanging beam and hoisting herself up in the same motion. The fierce snap of jaws just barely flanks her feet. She jumps again just as the creature barrels up through her bar, capturing the second overhead beam. She hauls herself up, scampers aside, and presses her back tightly to the vertical support. Below, she can see the creature leaping up with gnashing jaws, trying to scale the beams to reach her perch. Luckily, his muscular legs so deft at running are not built for climbing. This position will work to her advantage, but not for long.
Her normally clever mind is racing, grasping wildly at plausible courses of action. She throws more volts at him. Seeing him up close, she realizes his body is covered with strange scales, reflecting the starlight. Her attacks ricochet off the plated armor. This creature has been specially selected for her case. Enraged, he roars. The Eudorian, maddened from frustration, begins to rush headlong into the same vertical support beam below.
The bolts holding the horizontal beam in place rattle loose. She tries to brace herself, but her feet are slipping. She cannot obtain a solid enough foothold to jump again. The beam gives way. The creature leaps up. Her fall towards his waiting jaws is short lived. She is jerked to a stop. His jagged mouth snaps shut a breath away from her boot. Lola looks up.
Rogers holds her suspended by the wrist, squatting on the beam above her.
She is filled with a mix of relief and rage, but she has little time to muddle through the conflicting feelings. More beams are falling around them. He hoists her up and loops an arm around her waist before she can protest. The entire world quakes violently. Below, one of the structure's plummeting beams strikes the hunter and he yelps shrilly, dazed as he stumbles aside. Soon after, he is struck with another that impales him through the neck. He lays unmoving on the ground.
"Hang on," Rogers warns, a second before he jumps down. They land on the concrete floor and stoop low. He pulls her as close as he can, bent over her, holding his shield above him. Noise and dust rise around them in thick clouds. The riotous booming culminates in a final hellish crescendo. Much to her chagrin, she tucks her knees in and presses against him, squeezing her eyes shut, her hands knotted in the fabric of his shirt.
The dust is settling. It is quiet. Lola opens her eyes and sees that they are surrounded by debris. She glances up. Roger's shield is the only thing impeding the crushing weight of several steel beams and concrete blocks, balanced precariously above him. His arm shakes slightly, clearly exerting all of his strength to hold them up. Lola gestures discretely with her hand. The tower tumbles aside. Rogers opens his eyes, his noble brow beaded with sweat. He is covered in scrapes, dust, and chalk. She imagines she looks no better.
Still catching his breath, he looks at her. She stares back at him, suddenly hardening her expression, fixing him in a deliberate glare. Realizing she still clings to him, she quickly releases her hold, as though she touched something unpleasant. She wonders if he saw her using magic. She does not dare to breathe.
His brow knits together, displaying a nauseating level of concern. "Are you okay?" he asks.
"Quite," she quips curtly, taking to brushing and batting the dust off her boots. She can feel his eyes lingering on her, as though they burn. He says nothing about her abilities, so she reasons he believes she is still only a civilian.
"… You're crying," he says too gently. Lola recoils, disgusted by the outrageous accusation. She touches her cheek suspiciously. It is damp. He is right. She promptly wipes her face, swallowing her shock, appalled at herself and embarrassed beyond belief. "It's alright now," he reassures, as though the pathetic statement rectifies everything. Rogers stands and helps her to her feet. She shies away from him again, adjusting her dress accordingly. She begins fixing her hair, twisting it over her shoulder, attempting to comb her fingers through the hapless mess of tangles.
Frazzled, "That was the pinnacle of stupidity on your part. Why would you risk your life for anyone you've known but five minutes?" The question is purely rhetorical, but to her surprise, he has an answer.
Rogers reaches behind him for something tucked away under his coat in his belt. He extends her dusty clutch. He smirks charmingly, quirking a confident eyebrow. "You forgot your purse."