When she went about the task of wiping everyone’s names off the records, including the secret Hydra records, the few that there had been to leak, because Hydra had done its best not to generate its own records, she’d known that if the list of Hydra’s twenty million targets for assassination was among them, she’d have to at least delete Coulson and May’s names from it, because there was no way those two wouldn’t be on it. She hoped no one would actually go and count those names up, if there was actually supposed to be exactly twenty million of them, but she supposed it was probably around that number of names, not that number itself.
It was kind of an educational experience, actually, seeing how many times those two names kept popping up. Fitzsimmons’ too, although in their case it was mostly quick mentions of some breakthrough or invention from the labs. Ward and Trip also had done plenty of things, but their names still came up least.
She was actually feeling pretty sad by the time she reached the Hydra files, having to erase all those accomplishments. But at least, she told herself, there would be much less grief in erasing Coulson and May’s names from a list of targets, and she even found herself smiling slightly as she entered all their names into yet another search command. She supposed Ward or Trip might be on that list too, or it was even possible Simmons would be, though they knew Hydra had wanted Fitz alive, so that was unlikely.
When the list of targets ran results, a shock ran through her, and her knees nearly collapsed beneath her. The search had found three hits on it. One was among the Cs, and another among the Ms, as she’d expected, and sure enough, there was Coulson, Phillip James, and May, Melinda Qiaolian. But the third hit wasn’t among the Ts, or the Ws, or even the Ss.
It was in the Ps. Leaning over the console to keep her balance, Skye found herself looking at a cross-section of names, and right in the middle, highlighted by the search engine, was Poots, Mary Sue AKA Skye.
It was actually the first use of her legal name she’d even seen in the leaked databases. Not that it had never been there otherwise; after learning her history from Coulson she’d managed to retrieve the records of her being moved around, but they had been deleted about a year after she’d run away from St. Agnes; she supposed they’d given up trying to find her and had then seen her name in their records as only something that would attract whoever had been killing the people around her. She’d entered herself simply as Skye on all of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s paperwork, and they’d let her. Had they had time to build up an extensive profile of her that probably would’ve mentioned her legal name, but they hadn’t gotten around to that. She’d even considered finally doing the paperwork to have her name legally changed to Skye, and had decided against it only because she now had such serious hopes of learning her real one.
Had someone in Hydra seen her 084 records before they’d been deleted? Had she been identified as a threat to them then? Had they continued to track her even during the time period she’d been off S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar? Had they even possibly marked her as a threat needing to be crossed off if possible as soon as she’d been found as the only person alive in that Chinese village, back when she’d been no more than a mysterious baby? Chills ran down her spine at the thought.
Or, she thought, they might have instead targeted her because of her history in the Rising Tide. They'd obviously been planning this from way before she'd been recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D, and Hydra probably wasn’t a fan of people that worked to expose secret organizations or powerful people. She’d started her hacking career before she’d left St. Agnes; perhaps she’d attracted Hydra’s interest that way as early as that, although that seemed unlikely, given how limited her activity had been at first. At some point, she might check the list for the names of her former colleagues.
Or, of course, they might have added her to their list after she’d joined S.H.I.E.L.D. She was associated with Coulson, after all, and from early on she’d developed a particular loyalty to him and made no attempt to hide it. She’d also been an idealist, and one with access to S.H.I.E.L.D. and their secrets, and anyone associated with S.H.I.E.L.D. Hydra saw themselves as having absolutely no chance at recruiting and who didn’t have unique skills they needed was probably someone they felt a need to take out.
She ought to be proud of this, she supposed. Well, except for the part where she wasn’t even sure Hydra had targeted her because of anything she had done, if they’d done it because she’d been the dangerous 084. But even discounting that…when she’d been 20 years old and hacking into government servers, she’d sometimes fantasized about being someone the government went after, although those fantasies tended to involve unrealistic daring stunts of escape that kept her from ever being captured. Even when S.H.I.E.L.D. had pulled her out of her van half a year back, the excitement of the whole thing had kept her from being nearly as frightened as she could have been before she’d been made aware they hadn’t quite grabbed her for the reasons one would’ve thought they had.
But this, the reality, being a target for cold-blooded murder, possibly for years, without any idea of it, to know she could have been shot down without any ability to stop it…and she was pretty sure all twenty million of she and her fellow targets had come pretty close to dying, that when Captain America had brought those three ships down, he hadn’t done so with much time to spare. This wasn’t fun. This wasn’t romantic. This was terrifying.
She looked at some of the other names. Potts, Virginia Anne was visible near the bottom of the screen. She supposed all the Avengers were probably on the list too. On the other hand, they were used to this kind of thing.
And so was she going to be, she supposed. Skye pressed her hands down on the console and pushed herself back up, ready to set to working erasing. She might never know why Hydra had identified her as a threat to them, but she did know one thing. They’d been right to.
“I assume you’ve looked at Hydra’s hit list by now,” said Ellison as he came in. “You know I’ve just looked for everyone’s names on it. Only yours. Only other local press name anyone spotted is J. Jonah Jameson, and he drives everyone crazy, Hydra probably included. No, you’re not getting a pay raise out of it.”
That got a chuckle out of Ben. Although honestly, the whole thing didn’t seem like a laughing matter. Sure, he’d had death threats in the past. And there were times when he thought it more likely than not that some powerful person might be plotting to kill him. But he’d never had confirmation of someone planning to, let alone this kind of close call. He wasn't sure if the impersonalness of his being one of twenty million made him feel more or less shaken.
“I’ve been discussing this with a couple of the others,” he continued. “We agreed you should have first crack at this story, about the hit list specifically, I mean; we’ll be talking about S.H.I.E.L.D. too, but that’s a different article. Do you want to do it?”
“You really think I should?” said Ben. “I can’t exactly be impartial, reporting about people who planned to kill me.”
“You think any of us here can be? These assholes went after one of our own; trust me, Ben, we all want to give them a good hard punch over that. Even Terry; that she doesn’t like you doesn’t matter there. But that you were targeted means the Bulletin has to talk about it. And you don’t need to be impartial. Not about this one. Nobody with a sense of basic decency is going to dispute that Hydra were the evil bad guys here.”
Ben shook his head. “You’re not getting any sensationalism from me. I’m not going to engage in histrionics about nearly being murdered. If that’s why you want me to write this…”
“No, no,” sighed Ellison. “But I think this story would be more effective coming from someone who was threatened. And as I said, we agreed you should have first right on it. You want to refuse…”
“You know I’m not going to refuse because I’m so traumatized, either,” Ben pointed out. “I’m not that shocked, you know.”
“Yeah, I figured. Look, you don’t have to give me an answer right this moment. Take an hour to think about it? Sorry I can’t give you more, but…I’ll be back then. Unless any new developments break first; I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, especially with Captain America still MIA last I heard.”
When he was gone, Ben turned back to his computer and took another look over the list. It was too many names, impossible to read through, but he had to figure out how to gauge them somehow. It was an important thing to consider, exactly how far Hydra had been willing to take their quest to eliminate anyone who might rail against the public order. They hadn’t been completely without limit; had they really been determined to kill every potential rabble-rouser in the world, Doris would have been on that list too. But it wasn’t as if Ben himself had been someone with a big sphere of influence. Jameson didn’t have much influence outside New York City either.
He had a brief mental image of himself trying to interview Jameson about this. Granted, it would be very, very far from the first time he’d dealt with such a character, but Jameson was Jameson, and Jameson having found out via the internet that someone had attempted to assassinate him…well, the quotes would be as juicy as anyone could want. And Jameson’s speculations as to why he had been a target were unlikely to be correct.
Although if Ben himself had to take a guess at it, he would think it might have been because Jameson was someone who didn’t bend. When he thought about the reporters of the big TV networks and the Associated Press, he couldn’t help but think that had Hydra come to power with enough frontmen, they probably could’ve manipulated them into not threatening the status quo too much with their reporting. Jameson, on the other hand, who had presided over the only New York newspaper to criticize the Avengers in the days immediately after the Incident and had remained unfriendly to superheroes ever since, who had made clear his paper would never just make use of any press releases that came from either they or S.H.I.E.L.D., and who, it was said, had once been visited, before the Incident, by a man in a suit, and had yelled him out of his office and possibly boxed his ears, well, maybe the man in question had put him on the hit list out of a personal grudge, but more likely Hydra had seen someone high ranking in a big city that they couldn’t control.
Probably the reason they’d targeted Ben himself too. He was happy to admit he too had caused powerful people trouble every now and then.
He couldn’t help but smile at the thought of how Ellison would react if he tried to write that story, praising Jameson like that and hinting that other people, like Ellison himself, lacked his important qualities. Although maybe if he phrased the words right he could get away with it.
Perhaps, too, he thought, it might be worth it to check for other names. Anyone in involved in the media in larger foreign nations, especially if they’d already been the type to persevere in the face of danger from their own governments. He wasn’t sure if he be able to find that many his own equivalents in other cities, but if he could find one or two of them and then identify them as targets, that would be informative enough. He might also check for any of the less persuadable political figures he’d ever heard of, of any political persuasion. Activists too; Doris wasn’t on the list, but he’d be stunned if none of her friends were.
He would write this, he decided. And he would do so with a recognition that he himself being a target was significant, because it said something about who Hydra had been targeting, and he would impose the full gravity of what they had tried to do, without hysterics, although maybe some honest emotion could go in there. And all the time, he would give thanks to God that yet another threat to himself hadn’t come to anything in the end.
When Ellison came back in an hour later, bearing some useful statements with him from some of the congresspeople who had been targeted, he found Ben with a notepad out, names scribbled down, checking off those he had found on the hit list. “I sent an email to Jameson asking for a statement,” he said to him. “He hasn’t released one yet. I’m sure it will be colorful when it comes. I’ll at least quote it.”
“Yet another outrage!” Jane and Darcy looked up from the latest email from the Australian Astronomical Observatory as Thor stormed into the apartment. He was so mad he had forgotten not to stomp his feet like that; their downstairs neighbors were not going to be happy with them. “I must see it with my own eyes!” They watched as he nearly yanked the laptop apart and furiously entered commands. A few minutes later he shook his head. “Hydra would have murdered you as well, my love!”
“What, she was on that list too!” Darcy sounded equally shocked as she leapt to her feet. Jane followed, her own heart hammering with terror at the thought-but strangely, she didn’t feel shocked at all, even though she knew she should. Especially since she had already heard it reported that there were “surprisingly few” scientists on Hydra’s hit list.
Her mind was already flying to logic, and the most obvious possible explanation could easily be investigated. “What about Dr. Selvig?” she asked. “Was he on it?”
“I…did not look,” said Thor. As the two women peered as the screen as best they could with him standing in front of it, he went back up to the top of the screen to access the Seg-Sel section of the great list that someone had put up on a multipage website for more easy reference. He then started calming scrolling his way down the vast list one click at a time, until Darcy lost her patience and wiggled in front of Thor, saying, “Here, let me,” and yanked the scroll bar down to the bottom. There they saw Selvig, Erik Huje.
“For the record,” said Darcy, “Ian and I are not on the list. He looked us both up as soon as it came out. We didn’t think to look for you, though, Jane. Maybe we should’ve. I mean, you’re the one dating an Avenger.”
“It might also be because the two of us have knowledge about traveling between realms,” said Jane. “I suppose the other realms should be glad apparently Hydra had no interesting in invading them. But that means a place like Asgard contains nothing but a threat to their power. They probably want as few people as possible around who know how to easily get between Asgard and Earth. I’m actually kind of surprised you and Ian aren’t on the list, Darcy, but maybe they figured you didn’t know enough.”
Thor gave a dark laugh. “They think my killing you and Dr. Selvig, my love, that they could escape the wrath of Asgard? Indeed, they might just increase it. They planned to kill me, of course, and my father, when word reached him, would have rained terrible wrath upon them for it. I admit, I am not certain his rage would be increased by your death, Jane, but I do know there are others on Asgard, great warriors, whose respect you have won. And even this terrible Project Insight could have done nothing to prevent them from coming here to Midgard. Indeed, I am amazed they did not know that.”
“Maybe they hoped word wouldn’t reach your father?” Jane suggested. “He wasn’t expecting you back anytime soon, was he?”
“It might indeed have been a while,” said Thor. “But still, sooner or later, surely…” He sighed. “But what does it matter, why they would have done what they would have done? I could not have saved you…”
Jane pulled him into a hug then, and this just brought the whole horror of it home, the fact that he was shaking with fear. Not something he’d ever felt very much of, which probably just made it harder for him to deal with it now, especially when there were no actions for him to take in response to this.
After a minute or so, Darcy, maybe trying to lighten the mood, said, “Well, they would’ve regretted it in any case, wouldn’t they have? When a bunch of revenge-mad warriors came for them, whenever they happened to show up?”
“Yes,” said Thor, and Jane could tell that did give him some comfort, the thought that they would have eventually been avenged. “And perhaps you would have joined them, Darcy. They would have come looking for you, as someone who once vanquished me.” That couldn’t help but make Jane giggle, especially as she remembered the reaction of some of the Asgardians she’d mentioned Darcy to. Apparently she was a bit of a legend on Asgard, thanks to the whole business with the tazer.
It was okay, she reminded herself. Hydra hadn’t killed them, and she certainly wasn’t sorry S.H.I.E.L.D. had gone down with them either.
Except then, in the middle of the night, she woke up with an even more terrifying thought. She never woke up without waking Thor up too, unless he’d absolutely exhausted himself the day before, and it amazed her how rapidly he could sense her distress, saying, “My love? What is the matter?”
“I just thought of something,” she said softly. “I mean, it’s as you said, it would be kind of weird for them to not think of the fact that Asgard could still easily come here. And Red Skull certainly had interest in other realms, and what he could get from them, so it does seem kind of strange, to think this version of Hydra didn’t. But what if…what if they did? What if they had some kind of plan, something or someone powerful they were planning to bring here? What if they weren’t planning to kill me and Erik to keep us from opening portals to other places, but to prevent us from stopping them from doing so? They’d probably see Darcy and Ian as much less capable of doing that, so their not bothering with them makes more sense that way….”
“Ah,” said Thor. “A dark thought indeed. There are many things in the Nine Realms, dark things and creatures, they could be after, some of which you have even learned about, and some of which you have not. Let us be all the more glad they are vanquished, my love.”
“I don’t know,” said Jane, as she accepted his embrace and lay back down against him. “The big part of them’s down, sure, and they couldn’t pull off a stunt like Project Insight now. But I somehow doubt that every Hydra agent that was out there has been killed or arrested yet….” She drifted off, seeing if Thor would tell her anything.
He did: “The other Avengers think the same way. In fact, I may soon have to take leave of you to go after them, to destroy those who would destroy you, Jane.”
“I know,” she said, because, yeah, part of dating a superhero. “But my point is, if they do have a way to get to who knows what…that would take a lot fewer of them to pull off.”
“I will contact Heimdall, then,” said Thor. “Tell him to be even more on the lookout. If there is still a battle to be fought, we will fight it. At least we know of it now, and that might be the most vital thing towards giving us victory.”
“Jessica, I just found the most interesting thing. Come over here and look at this.”
Jessica got up from where she had been sitting on the other side of the living room, walked across it, sat down next to Kilgrave, who was scrolling through his StarkPad, and looked at what it was displaying. It appeared to be a long list of people whose last name was Jones, and her own was there, in between a Jennifer Sarah Jones and a Jessica Pauline Jones. “This is the list of all the people Hydra planned to kill,” he explained. “They planned to kill you. They must have known about your powers.
I’m actually not on this list,” he continued. “I feel rather insulted by that, you know. What do you think I’m not on this list? Tell me, Jessica.”
“They didn’t know about you,” said Jessica; that was the most logical explanation. She was kind of surprised they’d known about her, but maybe she had done enough things before…
“No, I guess not,” he said. “Although you know, they probably would have killed me anyway. Collateral damage. They never would’ve had any idea.”
She continued to sit there as he flipped idly through more names, occasionally drawing her attention to the various famous people in whose company she had been. He sounded seriously jealous. “Does it excite you?” he asked her at one point. “To think how narrowly you’ve escaped death? I admit, it excites me, even if I wasn’t actually their target, and maybe I would have just ended up in the hospital. Tell me if you’re excited now, Jessica.”
“I’m not,” she said.
“Oh, pooh. Go change into your black dress and let’s go out.”
As Jessica went into the bedroom to get the black dress out of the closet, she thought about the details on how her murder might have been done. The media report she’d seen explaining the whole thing had implied the victims would've all be hit by missiles, although one would think drones would be more appropriate. Either way, it was as Kilgrave had said, he might have been killed with her or he might have just ended up in the hospital, probably making the medical staff neglect the other patients(of which there obviously would have been a number) while they went to ridiculous lengths to save him.
She supposed it was a good thing the flag-waver and the other good people around him had foiled Hydra, and prevented twenty million people from being killed, probably even more so if they then would’ve taken over the world afterwards. But she kind of wished that they’d someone managed to just let one little missile escape and come for her. Preferably at a time when she was in close enough proximity to Kilgrave that it would have instantly killed him too, but she would have settled for one that had just killed her.
As she slipped into her heels, she considered not putting on any jewelry, but then Kilgrave would just send her back to put on jewelry of his choice. It didn’t even matter to her much, because she hated all of it, but she grabbed all the pearls and put them on.
She came out to find him still sitting there, absorbed in the StarkPad, probably looking for other famous names. “Sit back down here for a moment,” he said, and she walked over and sat down. “Here’s another interesting thing I found, two more people whom Hydra was planning to kill, but thankfully, especially in her case, they are still alive. Pity this list doesn’t have more than their names on them…” He pointed to a Cage, Luke Carl and a Cage, Reva Misa. “I’ve been looking for a Reva Misa Connors for a while,” he explained. “Annoying thing, isn’t it, when a woman gets married and suddenly you don’t know her last name anymore. You see, Hydra might not know about me, but it seems there are some secrets we both know about. And I think I’ve heard the name Luke Cage somewhere…have you heard it? Tell me.”
“Possibly,” she said. It did ring a vague bell. She feared that if Kilgrave told her to think back on it, she’d remember more.
This was a bit of a spy thriller cliché, but when Hank went and sat down on the designated park bench, he felt more amused than anything else. Strange, how learning you were nearly murdered by an evil organization everyone had thought had been taken down long ago could put a little pep in the step. It helped that they’d completely failed at it, obviously, but he found it flattering that, unlike some people, Hydra still thought him a threat, despite his age and having been deprived of his company.
He was also feeling extremely smug about the truth about S.H.I.E.L.D. He truly had been right back in 1989. In fact, he’d been proven right about S.H.I.E.L.D. beyond his wildest dreams.
There were just two things that upset him. Namely, two of the other names on that list.
Darren Cross had been on it. That seemed downright strange to Hank, considering how many scientists in the world one would think would also be on such a hit list and weren’t. It was possible that Hydra simply had all of them allied with them, even the ones who’d had nothing to do with S.H.I.E.L.D., and were still picking off any powerful technological CEOs who weren’t, although that by itself was a pretty scary prospect. It was also possible that they’d seen Cross as competition; there were quite a few people on that list whose being bad people could not be disputed, and were likely included on those grounds. But a man like Cross seemed more like one they’d target for manipulation. It irked him that they had somehow ruled out that possibility. It made him worry that very few people indeed might see what that man was.
He wondered whose decision it had been, to just off Cross. He hoped there’d at least been some arguing over it.
But his feelings over that were nothing to how he’d felt when he’d looked through the Vs, and seen his daughter’s name on that list. Intellectually, he was aware there were logical reasons for it, especially if they were already targeting Cross, but ever since Janet had met her fate, all Hank had wanted for Hope was for her to not be the one in danger. Now he had to face that she had been, and he couldn’t even talk to her about it, because it would just result in her blowing up at him. Again.
He’d been on the bench a few minutes when Hope walked over and sat down next to him. “How are…” You, he badly wanted to finish it. ‘”…things?”
“About what you’d expect given we just found out we were both on a hit list.” She spoke calmly, almost icily so. “Darren’s interviewing extra bodyguards for both of us. I don’t think they’ll stick around forever, but they might for a few months. I’ve been refusing to use them so far, but I may have to at some point; we may have to skip a meeting or two.” She didn’t sound at all like she minded this.
“What about the suit?” he asked. “Has he made any more progress on that since last month? Will this slow him down any?”
“Not significantly, and maybe,” she shrugged. “He’s also worried about Hydra possibly hacking into our computer banks and stealing his schematics from him. He’s started doing things on paper. Again, not something I think he’s going to keep up for too long.”
The idea that Hydra might have done just that made Hank shudder too. It was hard enough for them to be trying to stop one man. “You think you could get away with destroying his papers?” he asked.
“Eventually, perhaps,” she said. “But now while he’s actually using them.”
“Do it when he forgets about them, then,” he said, thankful when she didn’t snap at him about not giving her orders, especially when he continued: “I’d rather we not take any extra actions right now, if you think he and the company may be less guarded in the future than they currently are. Until then, we need to slow him down however we can.”
“I’ll see what inconveniences I can engineer,” she said dryly. “What about you? Are you getting anywhere?”
“Not this month,” he said. “But I’m going to look at some of the S.H.I.E.L.D.’s leaked files, see what I can find in them. I’ll email you at the normal address once I’ve taken a full scope of that.”
“Good,” she said, and rose. She’d walk away without any further words if he didn’t say anything else, and he was pretty sure she was hoping he wouldn’t.
But he was her father, and that meant he had to speak up. “Hope…” he started softly.
“Yes?” she asked tersely, stopping, but not turning around.
“Just…please be careful?” he finally asked.
Then she did turn, looking at him for the first time since she’d gotten here. Her face was hard, just like it almost always was around him now, but he thought he saw something in it soften as she said, “You be careful too.”
Clint was safely home within five days of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s fall, by which time, if the children didn’t exactly know everything, they still knew a lot, including that multiple people had tried to kill their father. “But no one tried to kill us, right?” Lila had asked. “Because no one knows about us.”
“That’s right, dear,” Laura had said to her. And it had been true. Clint had been on that kill list, of course, but she and the two of them had not been. Seeing all the files leaked had still made her a little anxious; even if their existence was never directly mentioned anywhere in them, she was still worried that someone might notice irregularities in Clint’s records and figure out he was spending a lot of time somewhere not recorded. It didn’t help matters that more than one government figure was currently out for blood; Clint had told her, as soon as he’d been able to get away from his exposed undercover mission and contact her, that he wanted to lay low at the farm for a while for more than one reason.
He showed up in the middle of the night, waking up his family and giving his wife a moment of pure terror when she realized someone had just come into the house, before he heard Cooper’s overjoyed, “Daddy!” and hurried out of the bedroom to find Clint bear-hugging their son, which within the next minute to would do also to first Lila, than to Laura herself. On that last hug he sighed into her hair, “I was so frightened for the three of you, even though I knew they didn’t know, that they might somehow find out…just now I was afraid that I’d come in here and find…”
“It’s all right,” she whispered. “Even if there are any loose Hydra agents still around, surely they have other priorities over people they don’t even know to exist.” That had been the truth she had been fiercely clinging to since the news had reached her.
Even then, Laura didn’t think either of them relaxed completely until Natasha finally arrived about a week after that. They’d watched her face the music on CSPAN, and she came in, early in the morning when they were all eating breakfast, looking weary and bearing news, some of which she refused to tell anyone but Clint, and declined their invitations to join them in favor of crawling upstairs and falling asleep in the master bedroom. When Clint and Laura discovered her there, he shook his head and signed, “Looks to me like she hasn’t slept for at least 15 hours, probably longer. Might’ve forced herself to stay awake so she could be absolutely sure she wasn’t being followed.”
So they left her up there and took the children outside that morning, and ventured upstairs again only late in the afternoon, where they lay themselves on either side of Natasha, which woke her up. She shifted herself onto her back so she could see both of them easily and put her hands in front of her, and signed, “Mind if I stay here a while?”
“Good idea,” signed a grinning Clint. “Did you tell Steve what I said?”
She nodded. “Anyone wants you, they call me. I even got a burner phone; that’s the only number anyone has for us right now. All my other devices are destroyed.”
“Haven’t been quite so thorough,” Clint admitted. “I don’t want to think how Lila would react if I destroyed the phone she picked out for me. I’m looking to get its number changed, though, if it can be done remotely-I won’t leave the farm or bring anyone here just for that. The other ones are all taken care of.”
Laura hesitated a moment, then raised her own hands and asked, “How safe do you really think the five of us are here?”
Clint and Natasha looked at each other, engaging in the kind of communication they could do with only their eyes, an understanding to which even Laura was not privy. Finally Natasha signed, “I don’t know how safe anyone is anywhere right now. But this is the safest place any of the five of us can be. That you weren’t on that kill list makes us pretty sure of that.”
“If you had been,” Clint added, “I think we’d currently be packing our bags. We might have even tried to resettle the three of you in another country.” That was pretty extreme, but under those circumstances, Laura doubted she would have objected.
Still, it was enough to shake her a little, the thought of how serious that would have been. She found herself thinking of it again the next morning, when her head was so full of thoughts she tried to join Natasha for her morning run just to clear them. That, of course, ended with her collapsing to the grass and resting until Natasha had finished her laps and halted beside where she lay, by which time she had enough of her breath back that she suddenly found herself asking, “Natasha, were there any children you know about on that kill list?”
“A few,” she said, matter-of-factly. “Most of the royal family of Wakanda was on there. Children who would inherit something valuable, or looked like they might inherit their parents’ careers. I don’t know if Hydra would have targeted Lila and Cooper…and of course, there’s an argument they wouldn’t have even bothered with you, which means, I suppose, we can’t even be sure…but that there were three of you who might eventually want revenge makes me think they wouldn’t leave that situation be. That’s how ruthless these people are.”
She shivered then, felt just a little unsteady when Natasha helped her up. “I suppose I signed up for that, though, when I married a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.”
“You shouldn’t have had to,” said Natasha. “If Steve were here, he’d give a whole angry speech on that. And he’d take it to the point of ridiculousness, but he’s still right, especially if we’re talking about your children as well.”
They didn’t say anything more, but came into the house to the smell of scrambled eggs, which made them both smile in anticipation. “We’re lucky to be here, the five of us,” said Natasha softly. “We all are.”