Disclaimer: The Avengers universe and all its characters belong to Marvel. Likewise with Harry Potter.

Beta: Michelle T.

Chapter 8: Four Minutes to Save the World

"Are you willing to die for the cause Natalia?"

"... yes."

"Are you willing to kill yourself for the cause, Natalia?"

"Is there a difference, Ivan?"

"Enormously. And it's Petrovich here, Natalia. The devotion to command your own death is different… far different… from the one that takes to wait for your death to be delivered by another's hands. Are you willing to kill yourself for the cause, Natalia?"


- Conversation recorded in Red Room facility, 1943 -

"Four minutes. Tops."

The God of Mischief must have heard it too, because he wasted no time. But that was fine by Natasha.

06:76 sec

Loki lunged. The light of runic activation at Natasha's back. She stayed perfectly calm in the face of approaching danger, studying him as she would a puzzle. Combat was not a competition of brute strength but a battle of cunning for Natasha. It had always been so. Like a game of chess, and here was the opening move.

Timing and economy of movements will decide the winner, she determined.

10:12 sec

The scepter swung. Even Loki did not want to test out Chitauri tech against Evans's physics defying power. That made his movements predictable.

"Left leg." She yelled.

11:00 sec

She felt the shift through her body. Evans's left leg bent, his body swerving fluidly while still keeping his hands on top the runic field. Natasha's body mirrored him in reverse. She moved as if she were his shadows given form and together they dipped. The change was minimal but it was all it took for a successful dodge.

11:07 sec

Loki shot past them by a hair's breadth.

12:02 sec

He's off balanced. Natasha observed. He doesn't fight well standing vertically. He's not used to it. And the rain… the rain is messing him up.

Whatever it was that enabled Loki to hang onto the wall, it was clear that it was nowhere near as stable as Evans's and that the God of Mischief was paying for it dearly.

12:25 sec

Natasha smiled coldly, eyes trailing as Loki tried to stop the momentum of his overcharge, flailing clumsily as his body fought the pull of gravity on the slippery surface of wet concrete.

13:01 sec

With the barest exertion of her back muscles, she slipped half her body off James Evans.

14: 25 sec

The force of gravity on her body fought Evans's magic and with it she flung, pivoting around the alien sorcerer to bring the frying pan flying into Loki's left leg.

16:20 sec

The sweet sound of bones almost cracking was music to her ears.

17:50 sec

With only one leg supporting him, Loki crashed. His purchase on the vertical wall broke and he went plummeting again.

19:05 sec

Natasha came to the end of her mid-air rotation, her back once again glued to Evans's. Facing down, she saw Loki holding onto a protruding ledge a couple feet below with only one hand, eyes glaring venomously at her.

20:00 sec

'I won't be able to take him out.' She thought. 'He'll be back. He's Asgardian so he's sturdy. He's also a magnificent bastard with a diva complex, so he won't give up.'

21:00 sec

'But I don't need to take him out'. Her inner biological clock kept the pace, ever moving forward to the four minutes crunch line.

24:00 sec

"You are going to lose you know." She said, her face warping into mocking disdain. That was elementary she knew. Loki was bound to shrug that off like a duck shrugging off water. But the next line was what delivered her sweet punch.

"You are shit at fighting… unlike your brother."

29:00 sec

She perceived the slightest widening of his eyes, a flutter of something savage breaking through the carefully blank mask that was Loki's face, and laughed inside. The beauty of psychological warfare was that no matter how simple the attack, no matter how basic, pitched against the right victim, it was always effective. There was no such thing as a trained capability to control emotional responses. Even when the victim himself well knew he was being baited, being attacked, he can't help but let his emotional buttons be pushed, be swayed, be played with. He could try to mitigate the effect and control his actions, but no creature alive, unless they were machines without emotions, can truly rein in the irrational beast that was their id.

30:00 sec

"You are a coward." She drawled, smiling a cold, mocking smile, her face composed with the expression of aristocratic disdain, the like of which she had no doubt Loki had seen directed at him, the unfavored second son of a much loved monarch, many … many times before. "No wonder the Asgardians didn't want you as their king even when their other choice was a disgraced bullheaded buffoon of a prince."

She pummelled him, not letting up for a single second. "All your cheap tricks and your lies. Smokes and mirrors. They are nothing more than cover to hide the coward behind them. You never take a fight head-on because you just don't have the guts to. Poor little Loki, put in a kingdom of brutish warriors. You never fit in. Yet you wanted so much to earn their respect, to be acknowledged by your father. You started a war for him and he threw you away."

40:05 sec

Surprised? He should be. Unlike her brutish Avengers counterparts, Natasha studied up on her opponents. She knew more than anyone that in terms of pure physical strength, she was completely out of her league. But all warfare had basis in deception and strength wasn't just calculated on pure brute force alone. Winning or losing didn't necessarily depend on fighting prowess. Loki was only as strong as his greatest weakness and that was all in his head. He wasn't the only one in the house who liked to screw with people's brain. Natasha was adamant to remind him of that fact.

41:02 sec

There was movement. Loki's face was tight, as if his skin was strung out across a slab of rock. His eyes burned like dark embers. She could see black rage simmering beneath, barely held back… but she was not yet done.

42:05 sec

"You're gonna lose. It's in your nature." She said, echoing Phil Coulson's line right before his near death.

"Am I?" Said the God of Mischief in perfect recall of his own conversation of a SHIELD agent whose name he never even cared to remember.

How ironic it was for someone like Loki to be able to dish out abuses but not able to take it himself. Natasha thanked Odin's disastrous fathering skills for Loki's thousands of years of mounting insecurity complex.

45:00 sec

"Damn right you are. And you know why?" She didn't wait for a reply. "It's because you are not weak enough."

A sliver of disgust intermingled with amusement flashed by Loki's face and he opened his mouth to sneer at the stupid human. Even Evans stilled for a single second in bewilderment at her seemingly absurd statement, but Natasha trudged on.

"Surprised? You, the big bad nigh-immortal god. Loki the prince of Lies and Deceit. Loki the Silvertongue. Loki of the Many Faces. What can the puny humans with their limited life, their fragile mortality, and their primitive weapons do to you? We can't even hurt you much less stall you from taking whatever you want from our world. Yet how strange it is that every time you stand against us you lose without fail. How strange is that?" Her voice was thin and reedy now and only barely carried over the constant buzzing of the night rain, but the air was taut with an attentive tension that let not a single sound from her mouth escape unheard. "It is because you do not understand weakness. You were born with power and you were raised with power. Power is in your blood. The right to rule is in your blood. Whine all you want about your non-existent kingship over the Asgardians but the fact is that you were born and raised on the same height that many would die to reach at the end of their life."

The look on Loki's face was suddenly less sure, as if he was hearing something he couldn't decide was the profound truth or absolute hogwash.

"Let me spell it out clear for you." Said Natasha, hands gripping the pan handle. Her metaphorical claws sunk deeper and deeper into Loki and she wasn't letting go. "Those who have known power all of their lives will, one way or another, lose respect for that same power that made them great. But those who understand weakness, who are born from weakness and live in weakness, those who who have no choice but to fight every day for the mere right to live will never dare lose their respect for strength. Do you understand now?"

The vehemence behind her own words surprised even Natasha herself. There was more truth in those few words than she was normally comfortable with revealing. But the situation was anything but normal. In her bid to stall and blindside Loki she was straying a bit too close to home. But Loki wasn't called the Prince of Lies for nothing. If she so much as breathed one dishonest word he was liable to sniff it out in the blink of an eye and the whole thing would come crashing down on her head. To truly seize him where he stood, nothing but the profound truth would do.

"You stand before me in a fight." She said to a stockstill Loki, her hands quivering in anticipation. She felt the edge of her fire coming on. Loki watched her like a hawk. The doubt in his eyes had long since vanished and in its place was black fury, his body taut as drawn string. "But your head is not in it. This is but a joke to you. You do not see me as a threat, and for that reason you will fail. Because while you are merely playing, I am waging war. Today…" She pointed with one finger. "... you will lose. I will absolutely not let you lay a finger on James Evans. This…is… my war of survival and I will not fail."

192:00 sec

A breathless moment where Natasha watched the anger boil over in Loki's face with anticipation. Then...

"Silence, witch…" With these words, delivered calmly and cooly from a coldly raging Loki, the standoff broke. He lunged forward.

192:45 sec

"Now, you pissed him off." Evans said quietly from her back.

193:03 sec

No. Now I've pushed him off-balance. Now he's angry and not thinking clearly. Now he's concentrating on me and not on James Evans. Now he's not thinking about his he's vulnerable.

Now I can defeat him.

194:30 sec

When the first blow came, she was ready. The force of an angry god on a super weapon was a terrible one but it was not one that could defy the basic law of physics. Natasha sent it and Loki careening off course with a textbook Jujutsu swipe. Her graceful form, hard earned through thousands of practice hours, directed all that force—all that energy—into itself and off of her path. Evans's body moved in tandem with her own without needing a word of instructions. His wet-worker experience matched up perfectly to her own espionage agent and assassin training.

199:02 sec

Here was the rationale behind Natasha's plan. One on one against Loki, she would lose hands down. No way around it. He was stronger, physically more durable, had better reach and… discounting James Evans's made-in-China frying pan, better weapons.

The key to winning then was to never go against him directly. The key to winning then was to turn his own power against him.

Any mindless brute could win on sheer power. It took a master to triumph over strength with only weakness in her hands.

203:12 sec

The principles of both zero gravity and aerial combats lent themselves very well to the guiding philosophy behind Jujutsu… or any other gentle Martial Arts for that matter. The existing conditions, with Natasha dangling precariously in the air while fending off one pissed-off Asgardian demigod—her only anchor being James Evans and the invisible magic that glued her to his back—was in no way pure zero-grav nor aerial combat, but they were close enough for her to ruthlessly exploit Loki's obvious lack of experience in non-traditional ground-based combat.

205:25 sec

She sent Loki tumbling a second time. She could feel the rage boiling off of him in invisible waves. Despite how calm he sounded at the start of the fight, he had already sunk far too deep in his fury to notice that Natasha was playing him like a puppet… just as she did that first time they met face to face on the Helicarrier.

208:32 sec

Third time. His movements were erratic. He had no control. Despite their obvious physical and technological (magical?) superiority—as she had learned in her research and from all collected data from the Thor incident a little over a year ago—it had become overwhelmingly clear to SHIELD tactical departments, and by extension Natasha, that Asgardians had little to no concept of modern warfare past the usual charge-the-frontline-and-smash-the-enemies-to-smithereens approach that even cavemen could use.

The liberty their power and nigh invulnerability gave them, at the same time, blinded them to the higher forms and finesse of tactical combat. Once their powers and their fancy weapons were removed from the equation, Asgardians and their Frost Giant counterparts were mere children in the art of warfare.

212:05 sec

Normally, this complete lack of tactical knowledge wouldn't have mattered in the face of the sheer power disparity between a normal human and an Asgardian. But now, restricted to a couple of square meters and suspended in an otherwise non-normal combat conditions, with the full destructive power of the scepter tied down by Evans's tech-negating brand of magic, the power gap that had had SHIELD bending over in its constant effort to level the playing field was no longer so impassible.

All it boiled down to was a matter of skill versus brute force, mind versus matter. A battle waged within the expanse of mere minutes.

220:21 sec

An energy charge flew past her ears, glowing iridescent blue in the night rain, then crackled out noisily against Evan's barrier. She felt Evans himself tensing for a split of a second behind her back. He had come to the same conclusion as she.

Loki's control… and patience... were coming to shreds. He swung the scepter in his arms wildly, now no longer reining in the pulsating energy within the alien artifact.

She didn't need to know zilch about either Loki or Evan's adacadabra brands to know that mixing the two, theoretically polar opposites, was a recipe for disaster.


Her movements slowed an imperceptible degree. What to do? Only a couple of seconds left, but in a fight against someone like Loki and with so many things riding on the conclusion, seconds could be as long as hours. If she did nothing, something bad was bound to happen. If she did something….

222:32 sec

Abandon the defensive position. Go on the offensive. Lock Loki's movements. Prevent him from unleashing the scepter's energy attack.

That was the text-book theory anyway. But doing that meant surrendering her tactical advantage and once again exposing her to Loki's Asgardian brute force power. And how far could she press her advance? How far did James Evans's magic extend? Two meters? Three? If she pushed Loki too far back, would Evans's magic give out and leave her to plummet to her death?

222:43 sec

She was suddenly thrown off James Evan's back in a physics defying upward drop, as if the force of gravity had suddenly decided to move house from the earth to the sky, when Evans dodged a sweeping blow she didn't see from Loki. She would have dropped even further, past the upper ledge of the museum, if it weren't for the hand shooting out and snatching her collar as she flew past.

223:03 sec

"Focus." Said James Evans, his eyes locking onto hers, sweat intermingled with rainwater beading down the plane of his face. An energy blast shot past above his head, cracking angry blue. It connected with the translucent ledge above them, blowing up in a spectacular explosion.

224:23 sec

'Focus' The voice was in her head this time. Evans looked… tired. The otherwise normal expression (all things considered) seemed out of place on him, who had until now remained unflappable even in the face an angry Asgardian thunder god. If it weren't for the rain, the collar of his shirt would be damp with sweat by now. He kept one hand glued to the center of the rune circle. The string symbols around his feet were nothing at all like the previous three switch sites. They ran in intricate oval shapes, elaborate curlicues looping like vines, incomprehensibly complex. It was clear he was at a delicate phase in his work.

225:05 sec

'Focus' The voice in her head again.

226:00 sec

'I need more time.' Evan was huffing, eyes downward on the softly glowing runes. A translucent bubble shimmered into shape around him just as an energy bolt bounced off it. 'Keep that brat off me and I'll get us both out of here in a minute.'

229:23 sec

A full minute? Natasha frowned, but Evans didn't give her time to think. With a heave, he threw her over his shoulder… right into a snarling Loki.

234:08 sec

All thoughts stopped in her head. Her body moved with reflexes ingrained from thousands of hours of practice. Unrolling, legs together, arms to the sides, playing gravity to her advantage, frying pan forward. She met Loki head on, the butt of the pan she borrowed off of James Evans making a resoundingly satisfying bang against his face.

239:02 sec

There was no place for worry or doubt now. The only thing she could do was trust that Evans would keep her floating and alive.

245:26 sec

She rolled over Loki, using him as the replacement fulcrum to catapult her up and over his head. She could still feel the pull of gravity—which was good because true zero-grav combat was hella tricky to work with for the sheer reason that the little theory there was was still in theory only—but her body was surprisingly buoyant. As if someone had filled her up like a balloon and she was bouncing, floating on top of the wind currents.

251:05 sec

She hooked her hands… and the frying pan… around Loki's neck like a sling, letting gravity do her job. She slammed her feet into the back of his knees, knocking his legs out from underneath him. She heard the sounds of Loki's croaking right behind her head.

265:35 sec

They fell in strange bouncing, highspeed barrel rolling motions, Evans spell fighting against the foreign weight it was not designed for. Natasha kept her chokehold.

272: 09 sec

The movements on Loki's shoulder and back alerted her to the incoming elbows aiming at her back. She moved around them expertly, then used the disruption caused by Loki's thrashing to canopy roll both of them over, disorienting him for a couple seconds more.

Schatten Forgen. The tracking shadow. A basic and entirely defensive technique that centered around the practitioner moving only within the target's blind spot, i.e. the back, in order to dodge attacks too strong for physical counters.

That was Natasha's one lifeline now. She had no delusion about her strength against Loki. If she so much as let him gain a hold of her in this non-existent distance, this fight would be over within a split second.

293:19 sec

Then came the energy bolts, shooting wildly through the night rain. With how pissed off Loki was, none of them even strayed near their intended mark. In reply, she hooked her legs around his, locking them in an awkward back curve that put the pain on the demigod.

305:21 sec

Loki's arms were a problem. They were free, unlike the rest of him which she had rendered up immobile with a combination of joint locks and a choke hold. She didn't have the leverage and position needed to lock them also, not without exposing herself to a situation where Loki's Asgardian strength could finally come into play. He needed only turn the Chitauri scepter right through the side of his torso and fire… and Natasha would have little room to maneuver out of the scepter's range.

312:12 sec

In response, she started swinging her weight counter-clockwise, creating a rolling motion that continually disorient Loki and prevent him from taking proper aim. Even more than before, the gap between their tactical experience showed through.

325: 22 sec

She managed to hold him for only a couple more seconds. The first sign of trouble was when he stopped struggling altogether and started aiming his scepter, not at her, but right in front of him…

…. and shot….

326:01 sec

The shot blared up a brilliant blue, visible even behind Natasha, its light ricocheting off the million glass panels on various office buildings throughout the blocks. The explosion right after was mere meters away and the force it generated blew them both against the barely visible museum wall.

329:03 sec

Unable to get out of her own body lock or reverse their positions in time, Natasha took the full impact with the front of her body. Her breath was knocked out of her lungs. Stars in her eyes.


She felt more than see the slightest loosening of her right hand. The pressure on Loki's neck lessened a tiny, almost insignificant fraction, but that was all it took. With a mighty thrash, Loki shook himself free of her lock. He was learning on the fly it seemed, and doing a pretty damn good job at it too.

334: 16 sec

Natasha reacted on trained reflex. Staying near Loki without a lock and while she was still disoriented was tantamount to suicide. Immediately she let go, grabbed the wall in front of her and started running for all she was worth to the opposite direction of gravity's pull.

340: 19 sec

Evans's magic held her as she rushed up the vertical wall. Rain drops splattered on her face. Her hearing came back five seconds later, then her sight. She kept on running. Without turning back, she knew she was being pursued.

"Witch!" Loki shrieked behind her, his pent up fury finally having an outlet.

She kept her mouth shut and kept running. Loki was faster than her, but with James Evans's aid Natasha's balance on the slippery straight-up wall was better.

345:01 sec

They didn't fall that far down. With every step she took, the blot in front of her, James Evans and his runes, grew larger and larger.

Just how much more time did he need?

347:31 sec

The question was irrelevant of course. Natasha skidded to a stop, turning around to a face a charging Loki. Her job stayed the same regardless of how much time he needed.

348:00 sec

Loki crashed into her scepter first, the weight of a raging demigod bearing down upon her slight five-four and a hundred and thirty five pound frame, sending her skidding backward.

Amazingly, Evans's frying pan held against the scepter.

350:07 sec

She put her weight on one foot, twisted her body, letting the spiralling force guide her arms. Textbook Taijijian form. The created inertia twirled the pan in her hands, dragging Loki's scepter into a spiralling motion trap. She sent him flying again, turning his own strength against him.

356:11 sec

It was different this time of course. She no longer had Evans's support at her back. Pound for pound, she was the better fighter. But pound for pound meant little when Loki was perfectly capable of swatting her entire weight off like a fly.

Instead of flying off as he was supposed to do, Loki took two stumbling steps before coming back with a vengeance.

358:05 sec

Once again, she found herself locked in a mortal game of diversion. Do not take him head on. Divert all force. Break his balance. Use his strength against him. Repeat.

But Loki was relentless this time. He was a quick learner it seemed and without Evans she was in a far more precarious position. Step by step she found herself being pushed further back, the blows raining down on her intensifying in force and number.

… Until one broke through her defense, smashing right by her right shoulder.

370:13 sec

A mere glancing blow, but coming from the like of him it signified the end of the game. She took three steps back, then another for good measure, her motion still calm and precise, but she knew it was over. From the tip of her shoulder, a chilling numb spread. Her right hand was rendered useless and without it, she was as good as powerless against Loki.

371:12 sec

Something must have shown on her face because Loki smiled suddenly, a cold and savage smile, before pressing an advance on her.

"End of the line, witch." He raised his scepter, eyes glowing a malevolent green-blue.

372:00 sec

No, it's not over. Came the thought in her head like a thunder. It's not over until I'm dead and so is he.

372:05 sec

She roared, screamed, shrieked like a banshee. A thousand motions bursted forth from her, like a mad beast suddenly unleashed, she charged right into Loki.

Unlike her earlier grace and poise, she was now reckless, unheeding, uncaring of her own safety. She smashed into him with flying arms, legs, and frying pan. With a crack, the bones in her shin broke with the impact. The ones in her right forearm followed soon after. Broken and battered, her entire body was woven around Loki in a tenuous full body lock, but that was all she needed.

She felt more than saw Loki's dumbfounded face and it made her smile.

"Are you willing to die for the cause Natalia?"

"... yes."

"Are you willing to kill yourself for the cause, Natalia?"

"Is there a difference?"

"Enormously. And it's Petrovich here, Natalia. The devotion to command your own death is different… far different… from the one that takes to wait for your death to be delivered by another's hands. Are you willing to kill yourself for the cause, Natalia?"


The cyanide pill is an awfully messy and inelegant self destruct mechanism. Natasha had always thought so. She never disputed its purpose of course, for it was indispensable in a trade as brutal and delicate as theirs. What she disputed was the method of delivery. Crude, and easily tampered with. It also left behind a body. Despite the commonly held sense of dead men telling no tales, a lifetime serving in espionage and armed intelligence forces had taught Natasha that dead men did, indeed, tell tales, and far more honestly than the living ones too. Much information could be gleaned from the body of a dead agent. Things such as bio status, health history, origin, technologies used. The body could also be used to implicate or bait the mother organization or anyone relating to the agent. Messy! The cyanide pill was nowhere close to the fool-proof last resort mechanism it was supposed to be. Ocular nerve flashbangs activated on trained biopulse patterns were far better. More expensive and not every agent can be trained to utilize it yes, but in terms of effect and dependability, it was without peers.

Back in the time where she was still serving in Russia, she quietly detested the use of those clumsy little pills. It was a surprise later on when she defected from the KGB that the higher-ups of SHIELD apparently agreed with her.

Even more than agreed with her. They went one step further than Natasha's prefered ocular nerve flashbang.

A miniaturized limited scope bomb operating on the same principles.

Her heart clenched, fluttered, beating an erratic pattern ingrained into her mind though countless hours of training and experimentation. She was among the few who could truly utilize the device, one among the few orphans harvested from that Nazi camp under Red Room operation in the 1940s, her body forever changed by their bioaugmentations.

The device activated. Her spy suite hardened by a process of rapid chemical carbonization, locking her limbs around Loki, preventing him from escape. A quiver broke free from her chest, a sound, a beat under the drumming of her suddenly so very human heart, a cry, a song.

And it sung…

Three… twoooo…

The flash caught them all by surprise. Like a star going supernova in the night. She went blind momentarily.

The museum disappeared, taking their footing along with it. The magical force field surrounding it crashed, now no longer needed. Immediately, a cacophony exploded in the air, sounds of people moving, shouting, the statics and distorted noises of onsite military radios, the whoop-whoop-whooping of helicopter wings. At the same time, she felt strong, sturdy hands weave around her waist and good arm, effortlessly disentangling her from Loki.

"Miss, you really are something aren't you?" James Evans's voice came a millisecond after the flash, right behind her ears.

The flutter in her heart stopped cold. The device lay quiet, forced to a sudden stop. Loki snarled, but his snarl was cut short by the sole of Evans's dress shoes smashing right into his face. He fell like a rock.

"Brats these days." Evans muttered, holding her tight with one hand as they gained altitude, soaring in the midnight skies.


…. everything disappeared. The noises, the buildings, the neighborhoods, the helicopters, Loki, SHIELD field agents, everything.

Evans kneeled, one knee down, on a vaguely familiar beach, cradling her head and broken body in his arms. The sounds of waves rushing and the luminous moonlight.

The mission… All of a sudden Natasha found she could do nothing. She could not move an inch or utter a word from her mouth. She was frozen stiff. The same spell Evans used on her at the start of the operation.

She lay still on the sandy beach as he regarded her silently for a moment. She was feeling incredibly calm and contented.

"I must thank you for helping me get out of that mess." Evans said, moving to untie his pink kiss-the-cook apron. "But I'm not forgetting the fact that you are a little miss hardass spymistress sent after me by a military organization I know little about. Now you lay here nice and quiet and…"

He noticed it then. The tranquilize needle sticking out of his arm. It was small, only a couple inches in length, but as he pulled the halter of the apron off him, he couldn't help but notice it.

There was a second of quiet disbelief before Evans turned to her, shock and a hint of… something… on his face.

"Amazing…" He said softly. "You are the first after several centuries who managed to catch me off guard." Then he moved to pull the needle from his arm. A flash of worry went through Natasha's mind - was the dosage, specifically designed for James Evans's constitution, not enough? Was he truly and completely immune to chemical tampering then? - but the resigned look in Evan's eyes put it to rest.

With dignity she couldn't remember ever seeing from anyone before, Evans laid the needle to the side, as if it hadn't spelt out the inevitability of his capture, and kept on going about his task. He pulled the apron free, rolled it up then laid it under her neck, keeping her head elevated.

"Let me guess. You got me when I was busy saving you from that Mister I love leather and horns, while I was distracted with the army… your army…. going wild right in front of my door, even before I froze you with a full body bind. Of course you did. You looked so beaten up that I made the mistake of thinking you were harmless… relatively speaking… then. Well… more harmless than the couple hundreds people with guns in a frenzy around me. Mere seconds were all it took. I was so distracted then I never even noticed. All these years and Hermione is still right. My saving people thing will come back to bite me in the butt some day. Well I guess it just did."

He set her broken arm and leg, taking care to straighten them out without hurting her. When he spoke next, she could finally hear the tranquilizer in his voice.

"They… they really trained you well. A professional soldier, sticking to your objectives... to the … end."

Then he turned, angling his body clear off of her for the imminent fall.

"I guess… I guess, you deserve to win… this time." He smiled, eyelids drooping under the influence. "Well played, kiddo."

Then he fell face first into the sand, and he lay there quietly beside Natasha on the beach.

End Chapter 8

1/ I should stop giving promises on update time. My life and work always conspire to make me break them. But here is the promised chapter 8. Better late than never right?

2/ A large part of this chapter was written in a frenzy with me scribbling away on my note book (paper note book for you whiz kids out there) while having a mental meltdown courtesy of work stress and locking myself in a public toilet to get away from my chief editor… who was banging on the door and yelling for me to get out and write that damn end-of-the-year special feature already! My chief editor is rabid… nothing will stop him except for a locked public toilet door.

3/ Next chapter: Holding an alien wizard prisoner is no simple thing. For once, no prison can hold him. It's as simple as popping his way out. The Avengers discuss what to do with James Evans and how to keep him from Loki. Bruce is not at all happy.

4/ All of a sudden I was bitten by a plot bunny bug with an idea for a Mass Effect / One Piece crossover in which sniper/infiltrator Shepard wreaks havoc in the human auction house and meets Law and Kidd pirates there (and nearly whoops their collective asses for being in the way of her prison break + blow the auction house sky high plan)! I don't even have time to sleep nowadays much less time for yet another story.

But the plot bunny, it won't leave me alone!

What should I do?

Wuhuhuhuhuhuh *cries*

- Sythe -

Also, before I forget…. Happy New Year every one! Wishing you a glorious year to come! Play video games, watch movies, and read a lot! And kids, if you are still in school, remember to study hard too! Studying hard and landing a good job is a certified route to more funds for video games, movies and oodles of good books/comics/stuffs (I kid! I kid! Parents please don't kill me for my bad influence on your kids!)