I don't believe in heroes

Chapter 32

The Winter Soldier quietly and carefully entered the apartment, leaving the door not quite closed behind him. It would allow him to make a quick escape once he had what he came for. His boots barely made any noise as he moved across the wooden floors, opening doors quietly until he found what he was looking for. The red headed woman was breathing slowly and in steady intervals, clearly she was asleep. When he got closer, he observed the smattering of freckles across her cheekbones and the bridge of her nose accompanied by a silver scar. He pulled the syringe from a pouch on his waist and uncapped it, tapping the glass once then shoving the needle into her arm. She whimpered and almost sat up but he hushed her as he pushed the plunger, the sedative inside easily dispering in her veins. When he was satisfied that she was completely under the drug's influence, he gathered her in his arms and carried her out of the apartment and to the waiting van outside. Mission complete.

-0-

Bruce was tapping away on his computer, still trying to work out the kinks in the procedure they had performed on Ellie two days before. He stared at the screen with raised eyebrows when he realized that there was a mistake in their process and her body would compensate for the loss of the serum and Tesseract energy. It was part of her DNA and would treat the loss as an injury then would replenish the loss, making her Electra once again. He called Tony into the lab and the pair decided it would be best to call Ellie back in and they could monitor the process. But when they called her cellphone, there was no answer.

-0-

He had his orders. He was to watch over the redhead and make sure she didn't harm herself or any others when she woke up. His arms were crossed over his chest, the metal of his left arm slightly chilling the skin of his right forearm but he disregarded it. He was used to the discrepency by now. Leaning against the wall of her—for lack of a better word, cell—the Winter Soldier watched the woman as she slept. Thanks to the dosage of the sedative she received earlier, she would probably be unconcious for the rest of the day and most of the night. She surprised him when he heard her groan and a moment later, she rolled over. The woman tried to shake the effects of the sedative out of her head, trying to clear her mind when she noticed him. "Who are you?"

He didn't answer.

"Where am I?" She tried again, her voice hoarse.

He nudged his head in the direction of a pitcher of water with a glass next to it and she moved to get a drink. When her thirst was quenched, she put the glass down and said, "You look familiar. Who are you?"

"Ah, she's awake." Jason Sitwell appeared in her cell and chuckled. "Phil's going to be so relieved to know that you're all right. He heard about your abduction."

"What's going on, Jason?" Ellie asked, clearly defensive and upset at the prospect of Phil being in danger.

"If you'll come with me, I'll debrief you and send you on your way." Sitwell smiled at her and gestured for her to walk in front of him. Ellie was unsure but exited her cell and allowed the agent to lead her down the corridor. She was led to a room with an exam chair and some very intimidating equipment surrounding it, along with at least half a dozen men in lab coats. Ellie's bad feeling grew as she tried to turn and get past Sitwell but two armed guards grabbed her and shoved her into the chair. Metal restraints held her in the chair as a machine enveloped most of her skull and a mouthgard was shoved in her mouth. Then there was nothing but blinding, excruiating pain and her teeth clamped down on the mouthguard as her back arched off the chair, screams muffled only by the mouthguard. She had no idea how long it went on for, seconds, minutes, hours or weeks but eventually it stopped and she tried to catch her breath, her cheeks wet with tears.

Stillwell glanced at the Winter Soldier. "Make it look convincing then dump her where they can find her."

The Winter Soldier nodded once, acknowledging the order.

-0-

For the second time in a year, Ellie was laying in Simmon's lab, unconcious and bruised. Phil had found her in his office, slumped over the desk with a cracked skull and a wrist that was already bruising and twisted at an unnatural angle. Now he was watching her as Simmons and Fitz examined her, mentally kicking himself for not returning her phone calls and keeping her safe. "Is she okay?"

"Broken wrist, a hairline skull fracture," Simmons examined the scans they took when Fitz spoke.

"No sign of sexual assault." Fitz received a glare from Phil at this point. "What? We needed to cover all the bases."

"Can you tell me that my wife is okay?" Phil asked, an underlying growl clear in his tone. He took small, menacing steps toward Fitz, towering over the smaller man. "Can you tell me that my best friend and a member of the Avengers is going to be okay?"

"She should be fine." Simmons chirped with a smile, trying to diffuse the situation. "There's no head trauma and we can take her to your bunk to rest until she wakes up."

"Do it." Phil ordered. "I'll stay with her."

"Yes, sir."

Ward carried Ellie's to Phil's office, placing her carefully in the bed that Coulson had already made up for her. Ward left Phil and Ellie alone, closing the door behind him quietly. Phil sighed and scrubbed his eyes with his palms, wanting to kick something but not wanting to startle Ellie.

Wow. You really screwed the pooch, didn't you?

"Shut up." Phil told himself.

Your wife was attacked and left in your office. Yet you have no way to know how she got here.

"I've got Skye working on it."

Ah, Skye. She's a pretty one, isn't she?

"I haven't noticed."

Ha! You're married, not dead.

"I should've answered her calls. This is my fault."

Right. Because you should have known that she'd get jumped while hanging out with Captain Rogers. Where the hell was he, anyway?

"That's a good question."

Somebody has to ask the right ones.

Phil sent his voice to its quiet place and resumed watching his Ellie as she slept. Her hair was back to its natural, vibrant red and had fallen in her face, her breath moving it a few millimeters with each breath. His eyes fell to her lips, the lips he had wanted to kiss since the wedding. The fact that they had been fighting was irrelevant. She was his great love and while she was okay this time, she might not be so lucky next time. If he had his say, there wouldn't be a next time.

"Sir?" Simmons knocked timidly and waited for Phil to allow her to enter. She was carrying a tablet and looked either confused or concerned. "There's an inconsistency with her bloodwork."

"What kind of inconsistency?" Phil asked, curious.

"The serum levels in her blood and the Tesseract energy levels are signifigantly lower than they should be." Simmons showed him the display and the blood results.

"What does that mean? She's losing her powers?"

"I don't know without speaking to her but it is something we should monitor in the meantime."

"Is that something we can do from here?" Phil was referring to his bunk.

Simmons nodded. "Of course, sir."

A/N: I want to apologize for this update being so late. I meant to have it up last week but I've been sick. I hope you all enjoy this chapter. Leave a review on your way out, darlings. :)

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