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Walk The Fire

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Chapter 1


The tiny brunette stands in the doorway of the retro styled gym for a moment just watching as Steve Rogers "AKA Captain America" pounds the punching bag with all his brute force.  The first time she had seen him in action was a sight to behold.  It was no wonder that men like her grandfather and her boss Agent Coulson were so in awe of him.

“Letting off a little steam I see.”  Gloria watches with mild amusement as Steve startles just a bit at the sound of her voice. 

“Ma’am…I didn’t notice you there.  I suppose I was lost in my memories again.”  Steve walks to his duffle bag and begins to unwrap his hands as Gloria follows him.  He seems more agitated than usual.  His broad shoulders are rigid with unresolved tension.

“Are you up for your lessons today?  I’m sure Agent Coulson won’t mind if we cancel.  I can always come back another day.”  Gloria smiles softly not wanting to further agitate the first avenger.  The tiny Latina has learned to gauge the captain’s moods after spending so much time with the man.

“I’m fine Miss Ria. I just need a moment to clear my head and get cleaned up.” Steve gathers his things and makes his way quickly to the locker room to take a quick shower.  He didn’t like being unkempt when a pretty lady was around and Gloria is a very pretty lady.

Gloria drags a folding table from the corner and two chairs.  She sets them up before laying out several books, magazines and newspaper articles as well as her laptop.  Her boss Agent Coulson has personally asked her to help Steve Rogers acclimate to the new world around him. 

On top of her regular duties as Agent Coulson’s personal assistant, or as Tony Stark likes to refer to her as Phil’s mini Pepper, would now include spending several hours each day taking Steve out of his comfort zone and into the real world as well as catching him up on what has transpired in the years following his crash into the artic.

Steve showers and dresses quickly in his typical slacks and tucked in button up shirt outfit reminiscent of what he use to wear back in the day.  Steve grabs his duffle bag and makes his way back into the spacious gym.  Gloria has already set up the table and chairs and is sitting and reading something on her laptop as she waits for him.

Steve watches her for a moment.  He remembers the day he first met the tiny brunette.  Six weeks ago Commander Fury had stop by to check up on him and Gloria was with him.  She was there to gather any information for Coulson and to get whatever Steve needed to be comfortable in his new life.  She was to handle all his shopping and errands until he felt comfortable enough to make his way out and about in the city.

At first glance Steve thought that S.H.I.E.L.D had sent her to try and mess with his mind.  Gloria looked like those pin up girls in the pictures that his buddies kept in their racks.  Her shapely hour glass figure was hugged perfectly by her black and pink wiggle dress.  A dress aptly named for the way her rounded hips swayed as she walked closer to Steve.

The captain couldn’t take his blue eyes off of her.  She was a living breathing pin up complete with vibrant red lips, soft barrel curls and a large pink orchid placed delicately in her glossy black tresses.  Steve seemed to be mesmerized by the rich honey irises of her large doe eyes lined with a simple black cat eye and framed by thick black lashes that kissed the tops of her rounded cheeks.

Fury promptly interrupted his not so subtle appraisal of the young woman before him.  The intimidating spy made the simple introductions and Steve had still been at a loss for words as he noted the modern touches to Gloria’s retro style.  A small sparkling stud stood out just under the left side of her full pouty red lips, a Monroe piercing she had called it.  The captain had also noted a tattoo of swirling letters adoring her right collar bone.

A bonding moment between herself and her sister.  The simple phrase "Chance made us sisters…love made us friends" etched into the smooth caramel skin on the front of her shoulder.  Gloria just smiled softly as the shock of a lady having ink and piercings on her body was evident on the captain’s handsome face.  Steve had been just as taken aback when she had simply said she had several more in places he was not privy to.

“You sure clean up nice, soldier.” Gloria’s raspy soft voice brings Steve from his thoughts.  A slow smile spreads across his face as the diminutive beauty waves him over to the small card table.

“Sorry for my rudeness earlier.  You look very pretty today Miss Ria.”  Steve enjoys the way Gloria’s face lights up when she smiles. 

The Latina beams and runs her small hands over her soft black and white polka dotted swing dress trying to smooth away any wrinkles.  When she first met Steve she had to assure him that S.H.I.E.L.D was not making her dress this way.  Gloria has always loved the pin up girl and rockabilly style of dressing.  Everyone who has ever met her has always told her she was an old soul. 

“Thank you.  So did you get the chance to look over the books and movies I left you yesterday?”  Gloria knows that the people outside of S.H.I.E.L.D think she is nothing more than a glorified secretary but she takes her job seriously.  Agent Coulson chose her for a reason.

Gloria may look like she belongs as a receptionist at a tattoo parlor but she has a master’s degree in public relations with a minor in world history.  She was top of her graduating class from the University of Buffalo.  While she may not be a genius she certainly has a high enough IQ to stand out and an uncanny ability to handle the weird and unexpected.  This is why when Agent Coulson had been on the lookout for some new recruits to bring to S.H.I.E.L.D he luckily stumbled upon the talented young woman.

Agent Coulson offered her a job starting out as his assistant and eventually being groomed to be the liaison between S.H.I.E.L.D and the Avengers.  Her job is to make sure when the Avengers are assembled that they are taken care of and kept on task.  Gloria’s first assignment is Captain America.

“Yes Ma’am.  The nineties seem like an interesting time for a swing music revival.”  Steve was pleasantly surprised to discover that the music and style of dance he last remembered had made a comeback.

“Oh…yeah I fell in love with swing after watching Swingers and Swing Kids.  I totally learned how to swing dance in high school because of those movies.  I guess that’s when I started dressing like this too.”  Gloria’s slightly raspy voice always makes Steve’s stomach flip.  She’s an intoxicating mix of modern and vintage.

“I never learned how to dance.”  Steve says with a touch of regret and sadness lacing his words.  Gloria takes in his melancholy face and knows that his mood change has to do with some unfinished business.

“I could teach you if you would like to learn.”  Gloria watches as several emotions play out over Steve’s all American boyish face. 

“I…I would very much appreciate that Miss Ria.”  Steve smiles despite the awful pang in his chest.  The ghost of the woman he once promised his first dance to seems to loom in the back of his mind.

Gloria quickly gets up and takes a sleek smart phone from her black clutch purse and connects it to the small Wi-Fi speakers she brought with her. Steve watches her closely and suddenly the dulcet tones of Moonlight Serenade carry through the spacious gym.

“Glen Miller…I’m surprised.”  Steve stands as Gloria softly strides right up to him.  She’s wearing four inch wedged heeled black Mary Jane’s and she still only reaches the middle of his chest.

“I like all types of music Cap’.  We’ll take it slow and work our way up to full out swing.”  Gloria takes Steve’s large hand in her small one and leads them out to the middle of the gym.  Gloria has to contain her smirk as the fearless Captain America suddenly looks like the shy kid he once been.

Gloria wordlessly takes Steve’s hand and places it gently on her waist.  Steve marvels at how perfectly his hand fits the indent of her soft womanly waistline.  Just as smoothly Gloria takes his other hand in her own small one and places her free hand on his broad shoulder.  As the music softly plays the tiny Latina gently leads Steve in a simple box step.

He follows her movements like an obedient soldier and he stumbles just briefly before his inhuman reflexes catch up with him.  After a few minutes of swaying softly to the music Steve becomes more confident and chances a look down at Gloria.  He can’t help the blush rising in his cheeks as he notices the ample cleavage peeking out from the dip of the neckline of her pretty dress.

Gloria smiles widely at the sheepish look on Steve’s face.  He looks like the kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  Gloria ignores his bashfulness and places his other hand around her waist and gently lays her head on Steve’s sculpted chest.  They continue to move back and forth as if they were two middle school kids at a dance.

Steve swallows roughly and Gloria can feel his heart racing in his chest.  “You smell really nice…like oranges and fresh rain.”  Steve doesn’t know why he says that but his mind can only register the softness of her curves pressed close to his body and the smell of her glossy black curls.

Gloria lifts her head and looks up at the captain with an unreadable expression.  She knows she’s supposed to keep these meetings with Steve strictly professional but the time they have spent together has made it impossible to not feel something for the man holding her in his strong arms.

Coulson is going to have a conniption fit if he ever finds out how much in over her head she is in with Steve.  It’s taken all her will power not to kiss him on several occasions.  It’s not like she went into the assignment expecting to feel this way.  It just slowly and ordinarily crept up on her. 

After spending hours talking with him and taking him to movies, dinners, museums, and shopping it was inevitable that feelings would start to bloom.  Steve is always a gentleman with Gloria.  He never lets her pay for anything even if it is on S.H.I.E.L.D's dime.  The Captain opens doors for her and stands when she walks into the room.  Steve may have not been consciously trying to make her fall for him he just naturally did.

The music keeps playing soft jazz tunes but the two of them have stopped swaying to the beat.  They seem to be locked in their own personal bubble as they look at one another intensely.  Steve watches as Gloria’s honey colored irises dilate as she blinks softly while her thick lush lashes kiss the tops of her smooth cheeks. 

Steve tightens his grip on her soft fleshy waist and instinctively leans down as he watches Gloria bite her bottom lip softly.  That simple action sends an unfamiliar thrill down the captain’s spine.  He pulls her up gently till she is standing on the tips of her toes and her lips are barely touching his.

“Am I interrupting something Miss Gonzalez?” Nick Fury in all his glory manages to break apart the pair before Gloria can do something she will likely regret later.

A flustered Gloria smooth's the wrinkles from her dress and adjusts the small black cardigan she is wearing.  “No sir. I was just teaching Cap here how to dance.”  Nick Fury eyes Gloria menacingly with his good eye.

Steve takes a deep calming breath and tries to steady his racing heart.  He can’t believe he almost kissed Gloria.  Something he won’t admit that he has thought of more frequently as they spend more and more time together.

Fury’s eyebrow arches as he looks between the two.  Gloria fidgets under his intense stare.  “Miss Gonzalez, Agent Coulson needs you immediately.  I suggest you head over to HQ with your go bag.”  Fury’s dismissal is obvious and Gloria quickly packs up her things and disappears without a word.

“Fraternization is frowned upon.  Just so you know.”  Fury watches as Steve keeps his blue gaze focused on the retreating form of the tiny Latina.

Steve takes his eyes off the swinging doors of the gym and looks at Fury with thinly veiled frustration.  “Are you having trouble sleeping?”  Fury can see the tension in Steve that has nothing to do with the pretty assistant.

“Slept for seventy years Sir.  I think I had my fill.”  Steve walks away from Fury and collects the books and other reading material Gloria has left for him. 

“Then you should be out celebrating and seeing the world.”  Fury with his hands clasp behind his back watches the captain closely.

“Isn’t that what Miss Gonzalez is here for? Didn’t you send her here to teach me about everything I missed?”  Steve’s frustration is rising with each passing moment.

“Oh she’s supposed to catch you up on current events but what I walked in on earlier is not a part of her tutorials. It’s not what she is getting paid for.”  Nick Fury’s words are sharp and his duplicitous meaning is not lost on the captain.

Steve swiftly grabs Fury by his shirt and leather coat with both hands and brings him dangerously close.  “Miss Ria is a lady and should be treated with respect a lady is due.”  Fury is impressed with the show of restrained fierceness from the Captain.

“My apologies.”  Fury doesn’t mean the words he says but he does it to placate the inhumanly strong man in front of him.

Steve lets Fury go and goes back to packing up his things.  Fury waits patiently for Steve to calm down enough so that he can continue with his purpose for coming.

“You here with a mission Sir?”  Steve doesn’t even raise his blue eyes to look at Fury.

“I am.” Fury pulls a folder from the depths of his long black leather coat. 

“Trying to get me back in the world?”  Steve zips his duffle with more force than necessary as he eyes Fury with apprehension.

“Trying to save it.” Fury says plainly as he hands Steve the manila folder.

Steve looks at a picture of the glowing cube that got him into this mess in the first place.  The unresolved anger surfaces faster than Steve knows how to deal with it.  Why does it always have to come back to that damn cube?

“Howard Stark fished that out of the ocean when he was looking for you.  He thought…we think that the tesseract can be the key to unlimited sustainable energy. That’s something the world sorely needs.”  Fury almost sounds convincing but Steve knows that S.H.I.E.L.D always has its true intentions hidden.

“Who took it from you?”  Steve hands Fury back the folder and tries to get his overwhelming feeling of dread under control.  The last time he dealt with that cube he lost seventy years of his life and he wasn’t willing to do that again.

“He’s called Loki…He’s not from around here.  There’s a lot we have to bring you up to speed on if you’re in.  The world has gotten even stranger than you know.” Fury smirks a little as the last words leave his mouth.

“At this point I doubt there is anything left to surprise me.”  Steve says plainly, grabs his duffle bag and slings a hefty punching bag over his shoulder. 

“Ten bucks says your wrong.”  Steve ignores Fury.  “There’s a debriefing packet at your apartment.” Fury watches as Steve continues on his way without a word.

“Is there anything you can tell us about the tesseract that we ought to know now?”  Fury follows Steve’s silent form towards the gym doors.

“Should have left it in the ocean.” Steve deadpans as he makes his way out the doors without a glance back to Fury.

“Oh…Captain you should really have a talk with Miss Gonzalez.  She’s not as sweet and lady like as she seems.  Just ask her about the five hash marks tattooed on her forearm.  It’s a very interesting story.”  Fury’s face gives away nothing and Steve just stops for a moment and glares at Fury before leaving.

Fury sighs heavily and grabs his cell.  He dials his trusted right hand man.  “Coulson…you need to have a talk with Miss Gonzalez.  It seems she’s taken a personal interest in the Captain.  It won’t end well if you know what I mean.”  Fury ends the call just as quickly as he begun it. 

Nick Fury isn’t a man to hope but all he can do now is hope that when his team comes together they won’t end up killing each other before they can stop the Asgardian god of mischief from brining war to their world.  

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Gloria's stomach is in knots as she approaches Coulson's office. She is a hundred percent sure Fury has informed her boss of her inappropriate behavior with the Captain. Nick Fury has never been fond of the idea of having her working for S.H.I.E.L.D because of her past. Agent Coulson is one of the only few who have really believed in her despite some of the things she has done.

Gloria paces nervously outside Coulson's office door. She has no clue how he'll react or what exactly Fury has said to him. Before she can talk herself into running the other way Coulson whips open his door and motions for Gloria to enter. His face is blank and gives away nothing. Gloria is terrified.

"Phil I'm sorry…" Before she can continue with the speech she has formed in her mind Coulson cuts her off.

"I don't even know where to begin." Coulson eyes Gloria with a look of parental disappointment. It's worse than the anger she was expecting. Gloria wordless takes a seat in the black high backed chair in front of his neat glossy desk and folds her tiny hands in her lap trying to look as repentant as possible.

"This is Captain America…I sent you to take care of him for a reason, The Avengers Initiative, not to fall in love while dancing to Moonlight Serenade." Coulson's voice is calm, cool and full of his disappointment. Gloria can only look at him with large honey eyes full of guilt.

"Ria, you know how hard it was for me to get you this position. I've never had to fight Fury on anything but you. Don't give him the ammunition to send you packing." Coulson manages to turn from disappointed parent to concerned friend in a matter of moments.

"I know you stuck your neck out there for me because of your friendship with my grandfather and I promise I won't screw this up. I didn't mean to feel anything for just kind of happened." Gloria's pleading eyes have always softened Agent Coulson's heart towards her.

"New rules…You're no longer working with the Captain. You'll be assigned to Dr. Banner when the Widow brings him in. Also no more alone time with Mr. Rogers, and finally don't tell him about your past. He's a little smitten with you and he doesn't need to know what those mean. I don't think his sense of morality could take it." Coulson eyes the small tattoo near Gloria's tiny wrist.

Gloria swallows down her hurt and aggravation. She knows better than to question Coulson's reasons for hiding her past deeds. Gloria's slate isn't exactly pristine. She runs her thumb along the marking on her smooth skin and knows deep down she'll never regret the meaning behind it despite what Fury and Coulson think.

"Dr. Banner? Are you serious?" Gloria stands up quickly and tries to keep her composure. Putting her and the Hulk together could be disastrous for both parties.

Gloria only recently has been able to control her simmering Latina temper. When she was younger the sweet demure pin-up had been full of volatile anger her grandfather warned would get her into trouble. He wasn't wrong.

"It could be Mr. Stark if you don't follow orders." Coulson knows he has Gloria right where he wants her. She'd never want to voluntarily work for Tony Stark. Something about the man rubs her the wrong way.

Gloria shoots Phil a glare before nodding her head softly. She knows she's getting off easy for her improper fraternization with Steve. The brunette just hopes that she can handle Dr. Banner and his alter ego without any trouble.

"Good…grab your go bag and the files for The Avengers Initiative. Wheels up in thirty, you're coming with me to get Stark in the loop and then we're heading to the Helicarrier." Coulson dismisses Gloria and the Latina hurriedly downloads the files she needs from her computer to a tablet and grabs her black go bag.

Gloria tries not to fidget in the elevator of Stark Tower but she's never been at ease in confined spaces.

"We won't be here long. We just need to deliver the files." Coulson continues to fiddle with his cell phone as the elevator takes them straight to the top of the looming skyscraper.

Gloria takes a deep breath and grips the tablet with the files in her small hands tighter. She taps her stiletto clad foot nervously as the elevator takes them higher and higher. Suddenly Coulson is on the phone talking to Tony Stark when the elevator abruptly opens reveling Mr. Stark's penthouse.

"Security breach." Tony quips as Coulson hangs up his cell. Pepper smiles warmly and greets the two S.H.I.E.L.D employees.

"Phil, Gloria, come in." Pepper stands and walks over to welcome them into the penthouse. Gloria notices that both Tony and Pepper are casually dressed and suddenly Gloria feels very over attired in her black high-waist pencil skirt, white sheer puff sleeved secretary blouse, and shiny black stilettos with back seem nylons. At least Coulson is in his ever pristine suit.

"Phil? Ahh…his first name is Agent and this one over here is mini-Pepper." Tony swiftly gets up from the sofa and follows Pepper.

"I do have a name Mr. Stark." Gloria rolls her honey eyes at the frustrating man in front of her. It's not that she dislikes Tony Stark, Gloria just doesn't like the way he looks at her. It's not lecherous or demeaning, just questioning and intense.

"I'm sure it's a lovely one too Doll face but since there isn't any info on you that I can find that S.H.I.E.L.D hasn't blacked out from your file I choose to pretend you have no name. Besides according to S.H.I.E.L.D Gloria Gonzalez doesn't actually exist anyway, it's only an alias." Tony smiles widely at the tiny pin-up beauty.

Ever since Gloria has showed up with Agent Coulson, Tony Stark has been intrigued by the personal assistant. Something about her seems almost familiar but he just can't seem to place her. His curiosity has been further peeked by the fact that Gloria Gonzalez is a fake name. Tony just doesn't know why Coulson would go to so much trouble to hide who this girl really is.

Gloria glares at the billionaire before turning her attention back to Phil and Pepper. Maybe Phil was right putting her with Dr. Banner. Gloria's pretty sure she'd end up killing Tony Stark before the night was over.

"We can't stay. I just need Tony to take a look at these as soon as possible." Coulson goes to hand Tony the tablet with the files that Gloria has put together.

"I don't like being handed things." Tony grimaces at the sleek tablet while Pepper rolls her eyes playfully.

"That's fine because I love to be handed things." The tall willowy strawberry blonde takes the tablet with a sweet smile and then hands it to a snarky Tony Stark.

"Official consulting hours are between eight and five every other Thursday." Tony smirks widely at the two S.H.I.E.L.D employees who don't find him remotely funny.

"This isn't a consultation." Coulson replies in his cool calm way.

"Is this about the Avengers…not that I know anything about that." Pepper is quick to try and cover her tracks but it's no secret that Tony Stark shares everything with her.

Tony takes the tablet with the files and walks towards his workspace. "I thought the Avengers Initiative was scrapped. I wasn't even right for it." Tony continues to connect the tablet to his own network, JARVIS.

"If I remember correctly I'm volatile, self-obsessed and don't play well with others." Tony says nonchalantly.

"I knew that." Pepper jokes with an easy smile.

"This isn't about personality profiles anymore." Coulson is stoic and firm but deep inside he just wants to strangle the frustrating billionaire.

"Whatever…Miss Potts, can you come here." Tony motions for Pepper to join him while he goes over the files. The two of them put their heads together and quietly converse about the images that pop up in front of Tony's face.

"Do you think he'll join the team?" Gloria softly asks Phil as her boss keeps a keen eye on Ironman.

"Fury is banking on it and I'd be a fool to say that we didn't need him. The man is infuriating but he's one of the best heroes we have right now." Coulson glances quickly at Gloria and the tiny brunette reluctantly agrees.

Pepper says a few private things to Tony before kissing him goodbye so that the genius can study the files on the tesseract. The trio takes the elevator down to the waiting black escalade that will take them to the airport. Gloria quietly stands off to the side as Pepper and Phil chat about the cellist he's been seeing socially for the past few months.

Gloria can feel the awkward tension in the cabin of the transport jet that Coulson, Gloria and Steve are in heading to the Helicarrier. Steve keeps looking at Gloria with concern. The Captain doesn't understand the change in her once warm personality. She's been cold and short with him since they arrived at the airstrip.

Coulson keeps a close eye on Gloria as Steve keeps looking at her like a love sick school boy. "Did I do something to offend you Miss Ria?" Steve is genuinely concerned and Gloria can feel her heart break just a little bit more.

"Of course not Mr. Rogers." Gloria avoids looking into his soulful blue eyes that currently look like the ocean after a storm with so much emotion whirling around in them.

Steve doesn't like the way Gloria seems to be pushing him away. She's never once called him Mr. Rogers. It's always been Steve, Cap or Soldier. She's giving him the cold shoulder and he's pretty positive that Fury is behind this.

Coulson can see that the situation between these two is increasingly becoming much too awkward. Coulson hands Steve a tablet with some information about Dr. Bruce Banner hoping to take his mind off of the woman sitting across from him.

"So this Dr. Banner was trying to replicate the serum that they used on me?" Steve isn't too sure if he likes that idea. Sure he is everything he's always dreamed of being but sometimes he thinks he's paid much too high a price for it.

"A lot of people were. You were the world's first superhero." Coulson is barely able to keep his awe of the Captain in check. He's a major fan of the iconic hero.

Steve swallows roughly and takes a long look at Gloria. She's trying not to look at him but the pull to see his blue eyes is always one she's never been good at ignoring. The pin-up girl's honey colored gaze locks with the all American hero's blue eyed stare. Coulson can practically feel that tangible something between the two of them and he curses Fury for ordering him to keep them apart. Agent Coulson has always been a romantic at heart.

"Banner thought that gamma radiation was a way of unlocking Eirkson's original formula." Coulson tries to keep Steve's attention on the task at hand and not on Gloria.

"Didn't go his way, did it." Steve looks seriously at the tablet in his hands as the images of the Hulk destroying Harlem flash before his eyes.

"Not so much…but when he's not that thing the guys like a Steven Hawkings or something." Coulson subtly grins at his own joke. Steve looks at him with confusion written all over his handsome face.

"He's like a smart person." Coulson says lamely. Gloria just hides a smirk of her own behind a file on Agent Barton as Steve just nods his head unsurely.

Coulson takes a deep breath and Gloria flashes him a look. Uh oh…she knows he's going to go all fanboy on the Captain.

"I gotta say it's a real honor to officially meet you…in person. I mean I sorta met you, I watched you while you were sleeping. " Gloria is horrified…Good lord he sounds like a stalker and the diminutive beauty is trying to not so subtly get his attention by smacking him on the arm with her file before he makes an even bigger ass out of himself.

Too late… "What I mean is I was present while you were unconscious from the ice." Coulson is failing at coming off less creepy than a serial killer. Gloria just buries her face in Agent Barton's file and hopes to get off this plane before Steve files a restraining order on her boss.

"You know it's just a huge honor to have you on board." Coulson recovers a little bit of his cool while the Captain broods silently as he watches the clouds pass by in a blur.

"Well I hope I'm the man for the job." Steve is far more somber than Gloria has ever seen him. She wants to reach out and say something to ease the weight of the world on his shoulders, but she has her orders that she can't disobey.

"Oh you are…absolutely." Phil is very firm in his faith in the Captain. "We've made some modifications to the uniform. I had a little design input." Phil is very proud of that fact.

"The uniform? Isn't the stars and stripes a little old fashioned?" The skepticism radiates off of Steve. He's feeling a little obsolete. The world around him has changed so much that he doesn't know if he ever can find a place for himself in it.

"With things the way they are now people might just need a little old fashion." Phil glances to his girl Friday and Gloria beams happily. She's never been prouder of her boss. Steve glances between the two and he thinks Coulson just might be right.

Gloria sighs softly as they exit the plane. She's never been happier to be on solid ground even if she is on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean. Gloria sees Natasha waiting for them with a meek looking Dr. Banner at her side.

The man is unassuming with his disheveled salt and pepper hair, ill fitting clothes and thin wire framed glasses. She finds him kinda cute in a nerdy professor sort of way.

Coulson makes the introductions before disappearing to the bridge leaving Steve, Gloria, Natasha and Bruce awkwardly looking at one another.

"Dr. Banner I'm Gloria Gonzalez. I'll be your personal assistant during your stay on the Helicarrier." Gloria flashes her most reassuring smile as Bruce tentatively shakes her delicate hand.

Dr. Bruce Banner isn't sure what to make of the pretty brunette clad in a rockabilly outfit. A pair of cropped black pants, a fitted belted red gingham blouse, and red shiny ballet flats complete with a bedazzled skull as a belt buckle stand out against all the sleek black uniforms passing him by. Even her glossy black curls pulled up high with a red scarf in a cascading ponytail with a large victory roll on the front of her head makes the girl seem like she belongs in a different time and place.

"An assistant? I…I didn't know I would be getting someone to work with me." Bruce isn't comfortable being confined in a small space with another person.

"I assure you Dr. Banner that you won't even know I'm there. Use me how you like...I can stay out of your way without any trouble." Gloria really hopes he doesn't refuse her assistance. She really needs a way to keep herself from being alone with Steve. She knows that if the Captain corners her she just might spill all her secrets.

Gloria doesn't like lying to Steve but some things can't be undone or unsaid. She knows that if he knew about what she has done he would never look at her the same way. Gloria doesn't think she can bear for him to not look at her with the sweetness that is always aimed her way.

"It shouldn't be a problem Miss Gonzalez." Bruce chances a look at Captain America and the tall blond man doesn't look too happy about the situation. The Widow just silently observers the three of them before taking Steve to get situated in his quarters.

Steve's never been a jealous fellow except that time he thought Peggy and Howard were more than just friends. His feelings about Dr. Banner being near Gloria were not just jealous ones but also fear for her safety. The Captain wasn't too keen on having his best girl spending too much time with an unstable anger filed beast.

The Widow has to practically drag him away from Gloria and Bruce. "He hasn't had an incident in over a year." The redhead calmly says as they make their way through the maze of hallways in the Helicarrier.

"Is that supposed to make me feel better because it doesn't." Steve really wants nothing more than to go back to Gloria and scoop her tiny form into his arms and disappear with her.

"You know she's a lot more capable of taking care of herself than you think." Natasha is one of the only few to know the truth behind Gloria's past.

"Why does it feel like that everyone else knows something that I don't?" Steve clenches his jaw as the Widow just blankly looks at him. Her pretty face never gives away anything.

"Look Captain, I can't tell you a lot about Gloria. You're going to have to ask her about certain things. What I can tell you is that she was raised by her grandfather. She didn't know her father and her mother died in child birth. Other than that you'll have to discuss it with her." Natasha shows him to his quarters and tells him to get some rest before the debriefing on the bridge.

Steve knows that he should be worrying about this Loki character but he doubts that he'll be able to do anything but think about the mysterious female that has stolen his heart.

Gloria knows everything about him but he hardly knows anything about her past. Sure he knows Gloria's present life and definitely wants to be a big part of her future but the missing pieces of what makes her who she is has him question everything.

Can you really walk the fire for someone when you really don't know them? He needs her secrets…he needs a sign…something to give him reason to walk the fire for her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3


Gloria strides swiftly down the steel passageway leading to berthing compartments where her private quarters are located.  The debriefing on the bridge was awkward to say the least.  Fury doesn’t like her much but her presence was necessary as Agent Coulson’s assistant and liaison for Dr. Banner.  Fury doesn’t trust her but as long as she has Phil in her corner there isn’t much he can do about it.

Gloria leaves Dr. Banner on the medical deck where his lab is located to do his work on finding the tesseract.  He doesn’t need much, just some chamomile tea and a decent meal and he is more than happy to let her get some of her other work done.  Gloria has been too distracted by Steve to really push her services on Dr. Banner.  The Hulk knows where to find her if he needs anything else.

What Gloria needs at the moment is a quiet few minutes to just catch her breath.  She’s been on the go ever since Loki emerged from the portal to wreak havoc on their world.  It’s been a long seventy two hours.

Gloria makes it to her small nondescript compartment.  The sleek steel of the walls and floor chills the space.  Gloria prefers rich warm tones and eclectic pieces of art to enhance her living space but this room is just down right depressing.  The uniformity of it makes the fiery Latina sullen.

She places her files on the glossy metal table in her quarters next to a small picture of herself, her grandfather and her big sister smiling brightly at the camera without a care in the world.  Sometimes Gloria wishes she could go back to those times when life seemed so much simpler.  When she was the princess in the castle and the dragons were slain by the hero, the king of her world, her grandfather.

He’s gone now and her sister Angela hasn’t spoken to her in five years.  The penance she pays for her sins she supposes. Now the monsters from her fairytales have come out from the dark and into her real world.  Gloria will do what she can to help slay them, to bring honor back to her Grandfather’s name.

That’s why she works so hard for S.H.I.E.L.D to clean her slate.  To prove that she can be a team player and to let her anger, her pain and her desires for vengeance go.  To show her sister that she is indeed worthy of forgiveness despite the things she has done. Gloria also wants to prove that she just might be good enough for a man like the Captain.  A man her grandfather had admired so much when he was alive.

Gloria freshens up and decides on catching an early meal before delving back into her work on organizing the data from phase two.  She taps a few reminders on the touch screen of her high tech computer courtesy of Stark industries.  A few holographic images pop up and Gloria makes a few adjustments before saving her work.

Gloria looks about her room and suddenly her stomach is growling loudly reminding her how hungry she is.  Gloria loves food but the cuisine on this craft leaves little to be desired.  How she longs for some of her grandfather’s arroz con pollo.  She hasn’t had any since his death that could be considered good.

The tiny brunette resigns herself to the idea of lackluster meals until this whole Loki situation is taken care of.  Gloria makes her way to the galley and grabs a blue plastic tray.  Gloria falls into line behind the other agents trying to catch a quick bite to eat.  Everyone seems to be running on three hours of sleep or less.

She stands out from the sea of sleek dark uniforms in her white eyelet strapless full skirted dress that falls just below the knee.  The navy blue cardigan she wears over her dress is short sleeved and cropped.  The simple dress hugs her coke bottle shape while her navy blue t-strap wedges add a few inches to her five foot one frame.   Gloria’s glossy black hair is waved softly and pulled back from her round face with a simple pearl comb.

Gloria studies the choices in the food line with a frown when a large figure appears besides her.  She can tell by the simple clean scent of sandalwood and soap that the Captain is in line next to her.  He’s not the type of man to douse himself in cologne to make an impression on the ladies.  It reminds her of her grandfather and a time when men were men and didn’t spend more time grooming themselves than she did.

Gloria takes a quick peek at the man next to her and she can’t help the giddy feeling bubbling inside her at the sight of him in his dark charcoal slacks that have a very light plaid pattern and crisp blue short sleeve button up.  His shirt is neatly tucked in and his dark brown leather belt matches his nicely polished shoes.  This is what a man should look like.

Gloria can feel her pulse start to race the way it always does when she is around Steve.  She’s done a good job of avoiding him the last eighteen hours but for some reason like two magnets the pair always seems to drift towards each other. 

She silently grabs a ham and cheese sandwich, a cup of grapes and a side salad before moving down the line to grab a bottle of iced green tea.  Steve follows her as he takes the same items and quickly catches up to her as she takes a seat at a small table. 

“Is this seat taken Ma’am?”  Steve is hopeful that she’ll let him sit with her.  He hasn’t been able to catch her alone since they arrived on the Helicarrier.  Both have been busy preparing for the inevitable battle with Loki and his minions.

“No…uh…you can join me if you want.”  Gloria knows she’ll catch hell for this later if Coulson or Fury finds out about this but technically she isn’t alone with Steve.  There is a mess deck full of S.H.I.E.L.D employees to attest to that fact.

“How have you been Miss Ria?”  Steve is really trying to keep this thing between them going.  He’s far too smitten with the mysterious woman to pretend they are just friends.

Gloria’s full lips spread slowly into a soft smile.  She’s missed these types of moments with him more than she thought.   “I’m good Cap. Just a little tired but you know how it is with everything that is going on.”

Steve beams brightly at the use of her nickname for him.  “I understand.  It’s been a strange few days.”  Steve’s smile turns slightly into a smirk.   “The scuttlebutt around here has you sweet on the good Dr.” Steve chuckles deeply at the shock on Gloria’s face.

“Seriously? I swear people have nothing better to do on this damned carrier than to spread rumors.”  Gloria pouts fiercely and stabs her salad viciously before taking a large bite of the leafy greens. 

“Are we good now? It’s just that I miss you and I thought we were friends.”  Steve takes a deep sip from his drink and watches Gloria closely. The conflict is clear in her honey colored eyes. He says these things so simply and earnestly that Gloria doesn’t want to hurt him.

“It’s not you. It’s just complicated but we’re good.”  Gloria’s voice is soft with a slight rasp that Steve finds endearing.  She’s everything he always wanted and never knew until now.  

The pair sits in companionable silence as they finish their meals.  Gloria is still fuming over the supposed affair between her and Dr. Banner.   It’s not fair that just because she is different than most on this team she is the constant source of salacious gossip.  According to most people working for S.H.I.E.L.D she’s been involved with everyone from Coulson, Barton, Stark and even Commander Fury himself.

Steve the ever reliable gentleman insists on walking Gloria back to her quarters.  Gloria is still silently fuming as Steve guides her small frame through the long passageway to the berthing compartments with a gentle hand on the small of her back.  Gloria abruptly stops at the hatch of her compartment and turns her wide golden gaze on the Captain. 

“I don’t…I mean…I’m not interested in Dr. Banner like that.  He’s a nice man, a little skittish but he’s not my type.”  She doesn’t know why she is telling Steve this but she really doesn’t want him to think that she’s interested in the Hulk.  They’re both too volatile for anything to ever pass between them but friendship.

Steve scratches the back of his neck nervously.  “It’s good to know that Dr. Banner doesn’t appeal to you in that way. Not that I would have a problem if he did.”  Steve finishes awkwardly.  He’s never been good at courting pretty ladies, especially ones as complicated as Gloria.

Gloria’s smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes and she feels like she’s in middle school all over again waiting for her crush to circle yes or no on a note passed in class.  Steve suddenly and gently reaches out and twirls a glossy ink black curl around his long finger.   He can’t help but want to know what she’s thinking. 

“Do you want to come in for a moment?”  The question is out of her mouth before Gloria can over think anything.

“Oh…”  Steve is honest to god at a loss for words.  This is the first time a beautiful woman has invited him into her sleeping quarters.  He suddenly feels a little hot under the collar.

“Don’t worry Cap I’m not trying to steal your virtue.”  Gloria can read the nervous look in his blue eyes.

“I didn’t…I wasn’t expecting that.”  Steve is flustered and he can feel the heat rise in his cheeks.  Only this tiny lady can make him feel like a lovesick school boy, unsure, nervous and utterly enchanted.

Gloria girlishly giggles and looks about the passageways making sure they are alone.  She quickly opens the steel hatch and pulls a nervous Captain in behind her.  Steve shuts the hatch and pulls the lever locking them inside her small compartment.

“Don’t worry Fury and Coulson are probably on the quarterdeck going over strategies.”  Gloria says as she pulls her cardigan off and drapes it over the back of her chair.  She toss off her wedges making her seem even smaller in comparison to Steve who is well over a foot taller that her.

Steve watches her with curious eyes.  “I just needed to get comfortable.  I have a lot of work to catch up on later.”  Gloria pulls her soft curls into a messy bun revealing the smooth caramel skin of her shoulders.

“Take a seat Soldier I don’t bite.”  Gloria is happy that despite the last awkward few days she still feels utterly comfortable in Steve’s presence.

Steve smiles despite the nervous energy coursing through his body.  Gloria turns her back and taps a few icons and the hanging computer monitor in her room.  Steve walks up behind her and dwarfs her short curvy frame.  Gloria should feel a little bit intimidated by the sheer size of the man standing behind her but his presence is comforting and safe.

She sends a quick message to Dr. Banner letting him know where to reach her in case he is in need of anything.  Steve reaches out and lightly traces the intricate cherry blossom branch tattoo that starts at the top of her left shoulder and dips down under the fabric of her cotton dress.

Gloria shudders at the light touch but allows Steve’s silent perusal of her tattoo.  The Captain shamelessly wonders to himself just how far the delicate scrawling branch goes.  He can image the soft pink blossoms embracing the indent of her hour glass shape.

Gloria looks over her shoulder and watches with simmering eyes as Steve seems to be absorbed in some less than innocent thoughts.  At this moment she doesn’t care about what Fury or Coulson think or that she is less than deserving of someone so good, all that matters right now in this moment is the way Steve makes her feel.  She’s always been kind of selfish like that.

Steve pulls his hand back reluctantly and looks intensely at Gloria as she turns around to face him.  “I didn’t mean to take such liberties with you but…I want to know everything about you.” 

Gloria looks away as she blinks back her tears.  “I’m not good Cap.  I’ll only hurt you.”  She gently wipes the stray tears away from her rounded cheeks.

“What do you mean you’re not good?”  Steve can hardly believe she would think so little of herself.  “You’re incredible.  I’ve never met anyone quite like you.”

“Steve there are things…things that you don’t know about me, things that I don’t want you to know. You’re too good to get mixed up with someone like me.”  Gloria manages to keep her tears from falling.

Steve takes an angry step back and clenches his strong jaw.  “Why do you do that?  Why does everyone put me up on some pedestal?  I may be Captain America but I’m man too.” 

“You not just any man Steve.  You’re the original superhero.  My grandfather looked up to you because you represented everything good and pure in people.” Gloria lets out a shaky breath. 

Steve walks right up to her and invades her personal space.  “I’m just a man Ria.  A man with the same wants, the same desires, and the same needs as any other man.”

Gloria feels ten degrees warmer as the low slightly husky tone of his voice wraps around her in a way that makes her stomach flip deliciously.   Steve presses his forehead against Gloria’s and gently places his hands on the swell of her round hips.  Gloria leans in closer and fists the soft fabric of his blue shirt in her small hands.

“I want you.  All of you.  I don’t know any other way to say it.  Good or bad I want it all.”  Steve places a soft kiss on her temple, and then her cheek, and then the corner of her pouty lips right where her sparkling piercing sits. 

Before he can kiss her lips fully Gloria pulls away slightly.  “What would you do for someone who was your whole world?” Her eyes are so full of pain that Steve vows he’ll do whatever it takes to ease what is hurting her.

“I’d do everything I could.”  Steve watches at Gloria’s honey eyes shine with unshed tears.

“Would you fight for them?”  Her voice is low and broken at the tears begin to fall.

“Yes.”  Steve doesn’t know what Gloria is trying to say but he knows she has to get this off her chest.

“Would you die for them?”  Her eyes are intense as the tears come faster.

Steve simply nods his head.  He knows all too well what he would do and has done for the people he cares about.        

“Would you kill for them?”  Gloria’s eyes turn stone cold as she watches Steve closely.  The Captain is a little stunned at the last question. 

“If it came down to that and I didn’t have any other choice than yes.”  His words are careful and measured.  Gloria closes her eyes and the last of the tears cling to her thick lashes. 

“What did you do?”  There is no accusation in Steve’s words, just simple curiosity.

“I had choices Steve…I just didn’t care about anything else except my own anger and pain.”  Gloria takes a deep calming breath and leans up on the tips of her toes.

Gloria wraps her arms around Steve’s neck and pulls him into a passion filled kiss. She needs him to feel all of her love in this kiss and never to forget it.  Because she knows when she tells him her secrets he won’t look at her the same way.

The Captain momentarily forgets the conversation and wraps his arms around her curvy waist.  Steve holds Gloria closer and kisses her just as desperately.  He's fearful that he'll lose her. A foreboding feeling has settled itself deep in his gut. Everyone that he has ever loved has always been taken from him.

Gloria manages to maneuver them onto her small bed that barely fits the two of them.  She relishes the feel of his weight on her body.  Their kisses are becoming increasingly hungry. 

Steve buries his face in Gloria’s warm neck. His breathing is labored and his skin flushed. "I…I'm not…I don't…" He's embarrassed at his lack of experience and Gloria can sense his distress by the heat in his cheeks.

The first and only time the Captain ever did anything other than kissing a girl ended with him having an asthma attack before things could get really started.  The girl, Mary Ann Jamerson, had taken pity on him and let him get to second base as a favor to his buddy Bucky.

“Shh…it’s ok.  Just kiss me.” Gloria’s voice is but a whisper and sends chills down his spine as she breathes the words against his ear. Steve gently kisses along her shoulder as his hand travels down the soft cotton of her dress until his hand reaches the smooth skin of her bare thigh.

Gloria bites her pouty bottom lip while Steve stares intensely at her. The startling blue of his irises are just a ring about his inky black pupils making his so much more desirable.  Gloria grips his shoulders tightly and leans up to kiss his delectable lips.

Before Steve’s hand can discover what the skin on the inside of her supple thigh feels like, a loud blaring warning signal goes off.  The two pull apart at the alarming blast of sound.  Both scramble to get themselves composed before heading to the bridge. 

Gloria tries to smooth out the tangled mass of black curls her hair has become while Cap takes a few deep calming breaths as he rights his crumpled dress shirt.  The two look passable but at closer inspection Steve has a small hickey blooming on the crook of his neck and Gloria’s face is flushed and her lips are swollen from Steve’s deep kisses.

Gloria knows that as soon as she takes a seat at the large circular glass table everyone will be able to tell she totally made out with Captain America.  She’s hoping that everyone will be to absorbed in this new threat to care about what her and the Captain do alone together.   

Gloria unlatches the lock on the hatch and goes to open the door.  Steve stops her by grasping her elbow in his large hand.  “We still have a lot to talk about.  You can trust me Ria.”  Steve places a tender kiss to her forehead.

“No more secrets.  I promise.”  Gloria knows that she can’t walk away from him now.  She’s into deep and it’s about time she lets go of her past and move forward.

Gloria takes a deep breath.  “How do you know that this will work between us?”  She still doesn’t understand how he can be so sure about the two of them, especially with her baggage.

“Because someday you’re going to forgive yourself, I just want to be there when you do.”  With those words Steve strides down the passageway with a new pep in his step leaving a bewildered Gloria to stare after him, the man she is falling irrevocably in love with.

Her comm ear piece beeps loudly from her bedside table and Gloria quickly places it in her ear.  “We’ll talk about you and the Captain being alone in your room later.  For now just get your ass over to Dr. Banner’s lab.  Things are about to get interesting.”  Coulson’s calm cool voice holds no room for negotiating.

“Yes sir.”  Gloria slips on her wedges and tosses on her cardigan before grabbing her tablet and heading over to Dr. Banner’s lab.  The pretty Latina practically skips down the passageway towards the medical deck. 

Despite her impending scolding by her boss and the inevitable liberation of the skeletons in her closet to Steve, Gloria can’t help but want to giggle like a school girl with a crush .  She totally made out with Captain America and it was awesome!










Chapter Text

Chapter 4

Darkness, utter darkness surrounds Gloria.  Her throat burns and her lungs are screaming out from a lack of oxygen.  Each breath she takes is painful from the bruising of her ribs. The tiny Latina’s head is so heavy that any movement is near impossible.  Her mind is muddled and she hardly can recall what has happened.  Her eyes are closed tightly and she suddenly fears to open them.

The chocking scent of smoke and the coppery smell of blood cling to her skin and clothes.  Gloria tries to move but the cool smooth surface she is laying on provides a much needed relief from the pain in her side.  She attempts to clear her mind and focus on opening her honey doe eyes.

With a shaky breath Gloria blinks her eyes to focus the bleary images her brain is trying to process.  Honey irises meet icy blue and suddenly everything comes rushing back. 

“I was wondering if you would ever wake.  I hadn’t realized just how hard you hit your head.”  The icy tone makes the tiny brunette shiver.

“Loki…”  Gloria’s heart pounds a relentless tattoo in her chest.   It’s all coming back to her now.  Hazy moments flashing through her mind of Tony and Steve bringing Loki and Thor back to the Helicarrier.

Suddenly the tears burst through her eyes.  “Phil…you hurt Phil.”  She raises her small hands and the red stains are still there.  She tried to stop the bleeding but something or someone had knocked her away.

“You didn’t let me say goodbye…”  Her voice is low and broken.  The tears stream fast from her eyes falling carelessly into the tangled dark curls under her head.  She lay there crying despite the burning pain from her bruised ribs. 

The god of mischief watches her prone form and wonders how this broken little human can be the fierce huntress she is made out to be.  The marks on her slender wrist prove otherwise.  Loki slowly walks around the crying girl and examines her with cold ice blue eyes.

Gloria swallows roughly and blinks away her tears.  She lets her pain swell in her chest.  She lets the anger replace her tears.  She lets herself unlock the part of her that she has tried to keep from tainting her new life, the part that likes revenge.

“I will kill you if it’s the last thing I ever do.”  She lay motionless on the ground.  Her voice barely a whisper but the promise of her threat laces each word.

“There she is my huntress.  I will enjoy breaking you and then I’ll make you mine. When this war is over and I am king you shall be my queen.”  Loki smirks widely.  He enjoys the fire in this human.  He’ll enjoy it even more when he stomps it out.

The asgardian disappears just as quickly as he appeared leaving Gloria safely locked away from the rag tag group of pathetic heroes.  The tiny Latina wills her tears away as she tries to figure a way out of this mess.  She’s resourceful and quick on her feet. 

The five tally marks on her wrist proves that when Gloria sets her mind on something she won’t stop until she makes the bastard pay for what he has done.  She’s always been good at revenge.

 Some hours earlier…

Gloria taps away on her tablet as Dr. Banner continues with his work.  Something Gloria can barely understand.  She’s smart but nowhere near as smart as the man in the room with her.  It’s quite and Bruce has hardly needed her for anything.  It's been nice just sitting quietly without the stress of the past few days bearing down on her.

Earlier Loki’s face had been identified at some gala in Germany.  Clearly he’s up to something if he wasn’t even trying to hide himself.  So, Cap has been sent to apprehend the god of mischief while everyone else tries to figure out what Loki could be up to.

Bruce takes a moment and studies the young woman sitting in his lab.  She’s pretty, young, and smart.  He can see why Captain America would be so taken with the girl.  It wasn’t hard to see Steve Rogers’s feelings.  His face expresses everything so easily.   One look at him while Gloria is in the room and it becomes very obvious how he feels for her.

Gloria looks up from her work and catches Dr. Banner’s eye.  He’s watching her and something akin to recognition flashes in his dark chocolate eyes.  Gloria suddenly feels very exposed and she doesn’t like it one bit.  She can see the other guy lurking behind the deep brown eyes of the good doctor.

“Is there something I can do for you Dr. Banner?”  Gloria’s face is sweet and calm but she nervously rubs the small tattoo on her slender wrist, a nervous habit that isn’t lost on Bruce.

“Well…I…ahh…I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather.  He was a good man.”  Bruce notes the surprised look on her round face.  He had an inkling of who she really is the moment he laid eyes on her.

“I don’t know what you mean.”  Gloria tries to play off her surprise but she knows when she’s been found out.  The exposed feeling is terrifying.

Bruce sets down his own tablet and turns to face Gloria fully.  The small brunette is sitting rigidly on her stool and he can see the desire to run in her wide honey eyes.  He’s had that same look many times over the years.

“He consulted on my case several years ago.  The only man to come truly close to finding me without me knowing he was coming.”  Bruce smiles subtly at the memory of the tall dark tanned skinned man with a head full of gleaming white hair and mischievous hazel eyes.

Gloria looks away from the Hulk and blinks back her tears at the mention of her grandfather.  “How did you know?”

Bruce goes back to tapping away at the hanging touch screens in his lab.  “When he caught up with me in Puerto Rico we had a long conversation before the other guy came out.  Your grandfather showed me a picture of his two granddaughters, you were younger then but your eyes are the same honey color.” 

Gloria just stares at the man in front of her.  Her grandfather never told her he was hired to find Dr. Banner.  She guesses he didn’t want her to worry about him.  Her grandfather also knew that she would never pass up a chance to hunt The Hulk.  Tracking is in her blood.

Gloria’s grandfather was the best bounty hunter in the country.  He taught her everything she knows and provided Gloria with the skills to take care of herself.  Skills that have become useful to the tiny brunette when seeking revenge.

“Please don’t tell anyone.  Only Coulson and Fury know who I really am.”  Gloria pleads softly.

“It’s not my place to say anything.  We all have secrets.”  He eyes the small tattoo on her wrist.  Some secrets are better left unsaid.  Bruce quietly goes back to work and Gloria tries to calm her racing mind.

The two work in companionable silence for a few hours.  Neither sure of what to say to the other.  Gloria is even more on edge now that Bruce knows who she really is.  

A sudden burst of commotion in the steel passageway catches both of their attention.  Walking briskly by the large glass wall of the lab is the asgardian god handcuffed and surrounded by numerous S.H.I.E.L.D agents armed to the tee.   Both Bruce and Gloria can’t help but to watch the scene unfold.

Loki leisurely walks by with an arrogant smirk upon his lean face.  He looks as though he is the cat that caught the canary even though he is the caged bird.  The hair on the back of Gloria’s neck rises.  Something about his presence on the Helicarrier seems off.  It’s as if he is happy to be captured and brought here.

Gloria and Bruce quickly make their way to the bridge where Fury, Coulson and the rest of the team will surely be waiting.  Gloria takes a seat next to Steve and she can feel the butterflies in her stomach.  He looks all too appealing in his Captain America uniform.  His fine physique is hugged in all the right places and Gloria can only focus on the memory of how the weight of him felt while he was kissing her.

Tony Starks waltzes onto the bridge as if he owns the place and begins his usual long winded commentaries.  Gloria hardly pays attention to Ironman as he and Bruce talk in scientific terms about the tesseract.  Steve is not entirely sure they should be focusing on the cube.

“Loki didn’t put up much of a fight.  Anyone else find that strange?”  Steve clenches is jaw as Tony disregards his concerns.

“I think Cap has a point.  When Loki was being escorted to his cell he walked by Dr. Banner’s lab with a smirk on his face.”  All eyes turn to the tiny brunette.

“Loki is locked up right now.  This is the time to focus on finding the tesseract.”  Fury leaves no room for arguing.

Steve gives Gloria an appreciative look.  He’s glad at least someone shares his concerns.  Tony smirks as he watches Captain America make moon eyes at Coulson’s assistant.  It’s kind of reassuring to know that the original Avenger is just like any other man.

After a tense discussion with Thor about what to do with Loki the Avengers take their leave of each other.  Gloria accompanies Dr. Banner and Tony Stark to the lab.  Ironman isn’t sure why Fury insists on having Gloria in the lab with them but he’s pretty positive it has something to do with Steve Rogers.

“I still haven’t quite figured you out Mini-Pepper.  Fury must really not like you if he’s stuck you with babysitting me.”  Tony grins wickedly as he watches Gloria roll her large honey colored eyes.

“Is there anything I can do for you Mr. Stark other than divulging my private business?”  Gloria chooses to ignore his penetrating stare and flashes him a saccharine sweet smile. 

“I’m going to figure you out sooner than later.  I always get my way Dollface.”  Tony is suddenly struck at how familiar the look of amused vexation is on her small round face.  He can’t quite place where he’s seen it before.  Bruce eyes the pair warily.  He’s in no mood to get involved with whatever these two have going on.

Gloria quietly goes back to her data and half pays attention to Bruce and Tony as they talk about things that she barely understands.  Steve purposefully strides into the lab and for just a moment his serious mask gives way to a tender look between him and his best girl.  Captain quickly composes his self as Tony catches the private moment between the two.

Before long Tony and Steve get into a disagreement about what S.H.I.E.L.D is up to.  Bruce tries to stay out of it but Stark manages to get him to voice his own concerns and observations.  Gloria can tell that Steve is weighing all his options but his main concern is the safety of everyone on the Helicarrier.

“An intelligence agency afraid of intelligence is never a good thing.  Something is up and soon I’ll have all of S.H.I.E.L.D’s encrypted data thanks to the program I’ve had JARVIS running since I got here.”  Tony looks all too pleased with himself and Gloria’s stomach drops.  There is no telling how much information about her he will have access to.

“And you wonder why they didn’t want you apart of the Avengers.”  Steve doesn’t like all the deception surrounding him.

“Steve you got to admit that this situation with the tesseract seems a bit off.  What is S.H.I.E.L.D doing in the energy business and why didn’t they include Stark?”  Dr. Banner raises a few good points. 

Gloria feels guilty as the three of them continue to argue over S.H.I.E.L.D’s motives.  She knows about phase 2 but is not at liberty to discuss it.  Fury would have her head if she told them about S.H.I.E.L.D’s plans for the tesseract.

Captain storms off with renewed purpose.  He’s determined to find out what is going on here.  “I can’t believe that’s the guy my dad never stopped talking about.  They should have left him in the ice.”  Tony’s words make Gloria’s blood boil.

“Is being honorable and courageous a bad thing?  At least Steve is a man of decent principles and shouldn’t be put down because he has the conviction to do the right thing when the situation calls for it. At least he can be depended on to be there when it counts.”  Gloria unclenches her fists and doesn’t even bother to listen to Tony’s response as she storms out the lab with her gleaming black curls bouncing wildly behind her.

Gloria takes a few deep calming breathes and pulls herself together.  She won’t let Tony Stark bully her.  Gloria stoically returns to the lab and her previous work.  Tony and Bruce don’t say another word and lets the tiny diva brood in the corner.

Just as a semblance of peace is achieved all hell breaks loose.  Fury appears and Tony’s accusations start flying as all of S.H.I.E.L.D’s encrypted files begin popping up on the numerous screens in the lab.  Just as Tony questions Fury about phase 2, Steve bursts into the lab and unceremoniously drops a large weapon on the counter.

Somehow between Tony and Steve questioning Fury, Thor and the Widow show up.  The tension in the room is mounting as everyone seems to be talking over each other.  Gloria doesn’t know what to do when suddenly Tony turns his attention on the pretty pin up.

“And exactly what is the reason for this girl to be here?  She knows all our secrets but we know nothing about her expect she is Coulson’s gofer.”  Tony for some reason just can’t let his infatuation with Gloria go.

All eyes turn to Gloria and the desire to run flares up furiously in her.  She hates feeling like a caged animal.  Gloria’s temper has always showed itself when she has felt cornered.  Bruce looks at her with sympathetic chocolate eyes.

“Coulson has his reasons for her being here.”  Fury gives away nothing but Tony can detect the dislike beneath his blank expression.

“He has his reasons but you don’t like it.  Why is that?  What can you possibly need a tiny girl like her for?  What are you hiding?”  Tony is like a dog with a bone and his questions are relentless.

“Just drop it Stark.”  Steve doesn’t like the insinuation that Gloria has less than honorable intentions towards this team. 

Tony swiftly grabs Gloria’s slender wrist and exposes the five tally marks tattooed on her smooth skin.  Gloria snatches her hand back and blinks back the traitorous tears that threaten to spill from her large eyes.  

“Why must we concern ourselves with this little female?  Her fragility is only a hindrance.”  Thor gives Gloria’s five foot one frame a dismissive look.

“Don’t let her looks fool you.  She’s a lot more dangerous than you give her credit for. I suppose being the granddaughter of Raphael Garcia Perez would guarantee that.”  Fury knows all too well what Gloria is capable of.

“Did you just say Raphael Garcia Perez?  The Raphael Garcia Perez, the best bounty hunter in American history.”  Something seems to click in Tony’s mind.

“Yes…he’s trained her pretty well too.  The trail of five bodies she left behind her can attest to that fact.”  Fury watches as Gloria’s small body becomes rigid with her anger.  Steve looks at Gloria but he cannot catch her stony honey gaze.

Tony turns his dark eyes towards Gloria.  He’s trying to picture the vicious killer Fury makes her out to be.  Suddenly a stray thought hits him. “That would mean Danny is your mother.”  Stark’s expression is unreadable. 

“That’s right Mr. Stark.  Delilah Garcia Perez was her mother.”  Fury watches closely as sudden realization dawns on Ironman’s face.  Gloria remains quite as Fury continues to expose her darkest secrets.

“No…no…that’s not possible.  Danny left without a word.  She would have said something.”  Tony takes a good look at Gloria.  She suddenly seems so much like her mother, a woman that left a mark on Tony Stark’s heart and disappeared as if she were a figment of his imagination.

Gloria stares at Fury and Stark not sure of what is happening.  Fury is smug in his ability to know something that Tony Stark doesn’t.  Gloria tries to ignore the questioning eyes of all those in the room.  She especially tries to avoid Steve’s blue eyes.  She can’t bear the thought of him looking at her like she’s a stranger.

Suddenly a beeping sound from one of the monitors goes off breaking the odd tension in the lab.  Before any answers can be gotten a horrendous blast rips through one of the engines of the Helicarrier.  Everyone is tossed about violently and the crunching and tearing of metal drowns out any other sound.

Natasha and Bruce fall through the gaping hole of the laboratory floor while Tony and Steve are flung against the wall.  Fury is knocked down as well as Thor.  Gloria is slammed hard into a counter before hitting the ground with a loud thud. 

Chaos takes over as everyone aboard the Helicarrier is in a state of emergency.  Steve helps Tony up and the two quickly make their way to the damaged engine where Ironman will try to fix the destruction.  Gloria eases herself up and she can feel the burning pain of her bruised ribs.  She’s suffered worse but that is a memory she is not too incline to remember.

“Find Coulson and make sure the precious cargo is taken care of.  Use those skills you’re so famous for Soraya.”  Fury uses Gloria’s real name for the first time and the tiny brunette glares at the man in front of her.

Gloria takes off as quickly as her short legs can take her.  Agents are scrambling everywhere and Gloria hurriedly makes it back to her quarters.  She grabs a box from under her bed and grabs the small well-worn leather satchel which contains the tools of her trade.  Gloria swiftly unties the leather straps and reveals the sharp and shiny collection of knives her grandfather taught her how to use.

Whoever said never bring a knife to a gunfight didn’t know Soraya Garcia Perez.  Gloria’s former self knew her way around a blade and could take down a target from twenty paces.  This skill combined with her natural talent for tracking proved very useful when she needed revenge against the five men who took her grandfather’s life.

Gloria grabs her knives and hastily makes her way to the holding cell where Coulson told her through the comm ear piece that he was headed.  Gloria doesn’t understand why he would be so foolish to go there but she won’t let her boss do anything rash.

Gloria makes her way to Loki’s cell.  The tall lean asgardian stands still with his hands clutched behind his back as if he has been waiting for her.  His smirk is dangerous and cold.  Gloria takes a deep breath despite the pain in her ribs. 

“The huntress has come.  I can say that you’re not what you seem. But I guess we are all not what we would have others believe.”  Loki likes the fire in her golden eyes. Her temper makes them like two liquid pools of warm honey.

Before she can say anything Thor barrels into the space ready to take on his adoptive brother.  The two gods regard each other wearily as the cell door slides open.   “NO!”  Thor’s voice booms loudly as he charges his brother.

Loki’s image fades quickly leaving Thor the one locked in the Hulk’s cell.  “You always fall for that brother.”  Loki is calm and cool as ice.

Thor looks like a caged bull ready to bust down the glass and wreak havoc.  Loki smirks widely as his attention turns to the beauty in the white dress.  The pristine whiteness of her dress is marred by the soot and debris of the explosion but adds all the more to her tousled beauty.

Loki stalks towards her with his preternatural feline grace.  Gloria holds her ground.  She will not be intimidated by him.  Loki takes one of Gloria’s hands in his own large one and studies it carefully.

“Such tiny hands.  You hold so much power in these little hands.”  Gloria snatches away her hand from the frosty hold Loki has on her.

Thor watches furiously as he is helpless to do anything but watch Loki corner Gloria like a predator and his prey.   Coulson abruptly shows up wielding one of the weapons that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been creating since Thor’s appearance in New Mexico.

“I don’t know what this does but I’m sure we can find out.”  Coulson despite his unassuming persona can be quite brave and determined when the need calls for it.  Gloria takes out a long sharp blade and wields it just as fiercely.  She won’t go down without a fight.

Thor pounds brutally on the glass with his hammer cracking it just a bit. Loki finds this all too amusing as he turns his attention back to Coulson and Gloria.  Time suddenly seems to stop as Loki uses his scepter to stab Coulson in the back. 

Gloria viciously sinks her blade deep into Loki’s shoulder causing the god to strike her violently sending the petite brunette roughly onto the ground. Phil uses his last bit of energy to pull the trigger on his weapon.  Loki is blown through the metal wall with a loud bright pulse of energy.

“So that’s what it does.”  Coulson rasps as his eyes droop from the loss of blood.  Gloria scrambles over to Phil’s slumped form and tries to ease the flow of blood from his wound with her navy cardigan.  Before she can provide any real help she is knocked away hitting her head on a metal railing.

Gloria lay dazed and unable to move.  Gloria looks around but her eyelids feel so heavy.  A sudden whooshing sound and a blast of cool air let her know that Loki has managed to drop Thor from the Helicarrier.  Gloria tries to fight the darkness that is threating to take her under like a dark wave.   Her vision blurs as she is being lifted from the ground and the last image she sees is Agent Phil Coulson slumped over and barely breathing and then there is darkness, utter darkness.                            

Chapter Text

Chapter 5


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.