Captain America watches silently as Tony Stark stares intensely at the computer monitor flashing pictures of Gloria. Steve doesn’t say a word. He just stands still and tries to wrap his mind around all that has transpired in the last few hours. Stark tower is left in shambles and everyone is a bit beat up but it’s not the physical wounds that trouble the Captain. It’s the emotional upheaval that has left the Avengers in pieces.
Steve had never been so relieved when he had seen Gloria slumped over by the bar in Stark’s penthouse. She was bruised but still breathing. Apparently, she had picked the lock of the utility closet she had been kept in with a bobby pin from her thick curls and managed to grab a knife from the bar and seemed ready to slit Loki’s throat before Hulk had got to him. She had passed out from the concussion she suffered on the helicarrier. Gloria had been taken to the infirmary of S.H.I.E.L.D’s main headquarters. She hasn’t woken yet but Steve knew they had a lot to talk about when she did.
Steve looks over at Tony and the man seems lost in his own thoughts. Tony looks so intently at the image of a young Gloria. “She looks just like her mother. Well, except for the nose. That’s my mother’s nose.” He says it almost like he’s holding back some tears. Steve’s not sure what to say to that. All he knew of Gloria’s past was that she never knew her father. She was raised by her grandparents.
“Why wouldn’t she tell me? I loved her. God, I would have walked through fire for that woman.” Tony can only guess that his father had something to do with Delilah’s abrupt departure from his life. One day they were planning their future and the next she was gone like a specter in the night. He knew his father didn’t approve of the single mother who was five years older than his son. Tony was so in love he would have given up everything for her. Maybe that’s why he never let himself get too close to anyone since Delilah left. She left him with a hole in his heart that no amount of partying, drinking, and women could fill. Only Pepper seemed to find that place that Delilah had left broken.
“I’m sure she had her reason’s Tony. You can’t blame Gloria for the decisions her mother and her grandfather made.” Steve’s not sure his counsel is needed but he can only try to offer some semblance of understanding of this situation. He’s not sure how he’d react to the revelation that he had a child out there somewhere he never knew about.
“Her name isn’t even Gloria. It’s Soraya. I guess after her murder spree she needed a new identity.” Tony cringed as he read the declassified file Fury had given him on his daughter. Daughter still didn’t feel right to him. He knew nothing about her and what he did find out wasn’t too good for a father to find out about his only offspring.
“We don’t know why she did what she did. I won’t judge her till I hear it from her.” Steve doesn’t like the pit in his stomach when he thinks about Gloria or Soraya or whoever she is now. He refused to read the file. He wants to hear it straight from her. They promised no more secrets between them and he doesn’t want to prejudice himself against her unnecessarily. This was a conversation that needed to happen face to face.
“You’re not at least a little worried that she’s some serial killing sociopath. We may share DNA but I don’t know a thing about her other than the string of bodies she left in her wake of rage she unleashed.” Tony rubs a shaking had over his face to try to erase the images of the dead men in the crime photos in her file.
“She actually flayed a man alive…who does that? She’s nothing like her mother. Dany was…she was…amazing and kind.” Tony’s not sure he can look at Gloria without thinking that she inherited the worse parts of him and turned out to be a stone-cold killer. Steve bristles at the attack of Gloria’s character. He knows she has skeletons in her closet and that she’s done things he would never do but he also knows she’s the most kind, clever, and good woman he has met since Peggy. He doesn’t know this Soraya but he does know Gloria. He wouldn’t love her the way he does if she was the monster Tony fears she is.
“Look, Tony take some time to rest and wrap your mind around everything before making any judgements. Give Gloria a chance to explain herself before you decide to cut her out of your life. She’s your daughter. Give her a chance.” Steve watches as several emotions play out over Tony’s face. He’s not sure he made a difference but he will always try to do the right thing by the people he cares for.
“Maybe your right Cap. Maybe I just need to take a few days to get myself right. This is all a little too much right now.” Tony walks away a little less conflicted but still very confused.
Steve goes his own way and decides to go back to his apartment in Brooklyn to wait for the call about Gloria. Maria Hill promised he would be the first to get a call as soon as Gloria regains consciousness. He needed this time to figure out what he wanted to talk to Gloria about and where their relationship would go from this point. Six hours later he finally gets the call he was waiting for.
Steve drives his motorcycle as fast as he can back to S.H.I.E.L.D’s HQ. He’s relieved to see her sitting curled up in a chair by the window. She’s dressed in black leggings and a long sleeved grey Henley that clings to her curves. Her thick black hair is unbound and hangs around her shoulders in a smooth curtain. Steve notices the stiches on her forehead and a bruise on her cheek. Steve can tell her bruised ribs hurt her as she turns to look at him. She gives him a watery smile and all Steve wants to do is take her in his arms and protect her from the world. He knows he can’t do that, at least not until they talk. A talk they both seem reluctant to start.
“How are you feeling?” It’s the only thing he can seem to say at the moment.
“I’m fine…had worse. Been better too.” Gloria seems tired and not just the physical tired either. She looks like her whole world has been ripped from her and it’s not the first time it has been done to her.
“Honestly I don’t know where to start.” Steve rubs the back of his neck awkwardly. She gives him a sad smile and motions for him to take a seat next to her.
“I know I can’t lie to you but I’m not sure I want to tell you the truth either. I don’t want you to think I’m some monster.” The tears spill from her honey eyes easily. This is the moment she has been dreading since she met Steve.
“I already told you that I would not judge you if you just tell me the truth. Trust me Ria. I want to understand everything Fury told Tony and me.” Steve can see her wince at the mention of Tony Stark. He gently grabs her hand and tries to give her as much comfort as he can. Gloria seems to relax a little as she clings to his hand trying to take strength from his mere presence.
“My grandfather was a good man. The best of men. He was my whole world…” She wipes the tears from her cheeks. “He had done work for S.H.I.E.L.D from time to time. He was the best at his job. My grandfather could track and catch even the slyest criminals. I wanted to be just like him.” A soft smile blooms on her bruised face.
Steve doesn’t interrupt her. He knows she needs to get it all out. “He taught me everything he knew and I was good just like him. My sister Angela never liked that I wanted to go into the family business. She said I had too much darkness in me.” Her jaw clenches for just a moment.
“I guess she was right. When those bastards took my grandfather…I was so angry. I’ve always had a temper but it was so much more than that. The rage was just all consuming, especially when I found him three days later tortured and murdered.” She closes her eyes for a moment to keep her emotions in check.
“My grandfather was eighty years old and he didn’t deserve to die like that. He should of went peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his family. Not butchered like an animal.” The tears are falling faster now and Steve reaches out to wipe them from her round cheeks. She grabs his wrist tightly in her small hand.
“I killed them. All five of them. I did to them the things that they did to my grandfather. It was all I could do for months. I tracked them and hunted them one by one.” The tears have stopped and the coldness he glimpsed before has returned to her hypnotic eyes. Steve is afraid to know what exactly she did to those men. From the look of horror on Tony’s face he knew it was nothing good. “What did you do to them?”
“I did what they did to my grandfather. I showed no mercy. I know it was wrong but I don’t regret what I did. If I had to do it again I would.” She pushes Steve’s hands away and gets up from her chair. Steve patiently waits as Gloria paces slowly around the room.
“I would never do those things again, especially not on an innocent person, but god help me I liked it. I liked watching the fear in their eyes. I liked knowing that it was Raphael’s granddaughter that would be the last thing they saw before they died.” She stops her pacing and rubs the side where her bruised ribs are. Steve wants to go to her but he’s not sure if she’ll let him touch her again.
“Why does Fury loath you so much?” Steve can understand that she has done some terrible things but he doesn’t understand why Fury dislikes her so much. Gloria lets out a bitter laugh.
“I saved the best for last. A real piece of shit. Slate Mathis, he was the ring leader and I knew Fury was protecting him. S.H.I.E.L.D had him in some safe house because he had information on some criminal, Kingpin I think it was…” Her face is stone cold as she mentions the despicable man that took her world from her.
“He was going to let that sadistic monster live the rest of his life in comfort in witness protection. I couldn’t let that happen. Most of the agents protecting him didn’t get in my way but there was one. Agent Jamerson was a protégé of Fury’s. He wasn’t going to let me take that bastard without a fight.” Gloria is getting angry just talking about that asshole that caused her so much pain.
“I didn’t want to hurt him but I was just so consumed with revenge I couldn’t stop myself. Jamerson got in the way of my knife and he lost the use of his legs. I paralyzed him from the waist down.” The tears come again and Gloria gingerly sits on her hospital bed. The anger leaves her and her ever present guilt fills her chest.
“I called 911 before I took Slate. Jamerson never got over the loss of his legs. He drank himself to death after his wife took the kids and left him. Fury has never forgiven me for that and I don’t expect him to. I don’t deserve it.” Steve goes to her and gently wraps his arms around her. Gloria lets out a loud sob and he can feel the tears dampen his shirt. Steve is at a loss for words. There is nothing he can say to make her feel better. All he can do is hold her as she lets all the emotions she has bottled up out.
“Tony, he told me you flayed a man alive. Did you really do that?” Steve pulls away from Gloria and tilts her face towards him. He can see that eerie coldness seep back into her eyes.
“I didn’t flay him completely. He died before I could finish his arm. His heart gave out from the pain. It was rather pathetic I think for such a supposed bad ass to go out that way. At least he begged for his life as I slowly peeled his skin like a grape.” Her voice is cold as she tells Steve the last of her secrets. Gloria pulls away and wipes her cheeks on the sleeve of her shirt.
“Don’t look at me like that. Like I’m some broken thing that needs to be fixed.” Gloria can feel her anger start to simmer at the pity in Steve's soft blue eyes.
“I don’t mean to look at you like that. I just don’t know what to say to all this.” Steve stands and lets out a deep breath. Whatever he was expecting this was not it. He knows that if he were in her same situation he would not have done the things she had did. Steve still cares for Ria but he’s not sure how to get past this part of her. There is a coldness in her that he has only glimpsed and he’s not sure what to do about that. Gloria walks up to him and places her small hands on his chest. She looks up into his blue eyes and gives him a sad smile. There is a bitter sweetness to the look on her face.
“I won’t blame you if you walk away from me now. I’m not proud of what I did but I don’t regret it. I’ll never apologize for the things I’ve done. Deep down I know my grandfather would have done the same for me.” Gloria can feel Steve pulling away from her. It’s not the first time this has happened.
Her sister Angela cut her out of her life when she learned of the things she did. She hasn’t talked to her sister in five years. She’ll probably never talk to her again. Gloria will never be a part of her niece and nephew’s life. It hurts more than she can put into words. She knows losing Steve will crush what is left of her damaged heart. Steve cradles her small face in his large hands. He presses his forehead to her forehead and tries to calm his racing heart.
“I don’t know what to do Ria. I…I…need time to figure this out. I can’t make any promises until I think this through.” She looks at him with shiny eyes and removes his hands from her face. She presses a small kiss to the corner of his mouth.
“I guess this is goodbye for now.” Steve sucks in a deep breath while he tries to keep his own tears at bay.
“I guess it is.” Gloria retreats to her chair by the window and despite the pain in her ribs she pulls her knees to her chest and rests her cheek on top of them. She looks out the window not wanting to see Steve walk away from her. The pain in her chest is unbearable but she won’t let him see her cry anymore.
Steve watches her for a few more minutes not sure if he should just forget everything he just said and take her in his arms and never let her go. He’s so confused now and knows that both need time to get their minds right before they can proceed with this relationship. Neither one of them is in a good place at the moment to take things to a more serious level.
He’s just getting acclimated to the present and it’s clear Gloria has a lot to deal with concerning her past and her connection to Tony Stark. Steve still has feelings for her and can admit that even with her past sins he still can see a future for them. He’s just not sure if Gloria can see that same future with him. He’s not sure if he’ll ever be able to conquer the coldness he can see creep into her honey eyes every so often. Maybe one day he could but not this day.