The man at the head of the operation was captured. It seemed definite that the problems would now be over. Natasha shackled him and they shoved him into the very back of the car.
As soon as they arrived at SHIELD, Fury had Danielle summoned to his office. She turned to see if Steve was coming, but an agent had pulled him aside. She heard the words 'we've got a lead on his location' and saw Steve's eyes light up momentarily. She gave him a puzzled look before turning back and following Natasha down the hallway.
"Lead on who?" Danielle asked, jogging to keep up with the super spy.
"An old friend, I'm guessing." she replied as they arrived at the office. "It's a bit of a long story."
Fury opened the door to his office, letting Danielle in and motioning her to sit.
"Miss Shaprosa, I just felt the need to brief you on today's events." he said as he took a seat in his own huge leather chair. "The man, a one Doctor Einhelm, who made an appearance this morning in Rogers apartment - was the head of the operation out of Canada we now know as SteamCast. It turns out he was working on mutated humans and animals for years, funded by various underground forums, and employed a hacker to look into the experiments done in Spain." Fury explained as she sat in front of him.
"You know all of this already? They... just got him." she said, confused.
"We had an informant contact us earlier today. Didn't forewarn us about his visit to the apartment, I'm afraid. In fact, we were on our way to arrest Einhelm when it happened. As for the vials, they are still missing. We're searching Einhelm's lab and known associates for them now, but we'll deal with that when it happens."
"Well. Doesn't that wrap up things nicely." Danielle sighed. "Is Dr. Banner returning?"
"As far as I know." Fury said. She smiled.
"I owe him my life." she said. "I just mean to say thank you."
"I'm sure you'll get an opportunity. And for now, you can have your life back. We'll keep in touch, in case we ever need you again. We would fully appreciate the help you could offer us. And I'm...sure you and Captain Rogers have grown...close." he rubbed his forehead, sighing. "It's none of my goddamn business and I'd like to not think about it as I'm having a good day." he cleared his throat. "What I mean to say is that I'm sure we'll be seeing you around, Danielle. And we thank you for your patience."
Steve was gone when Danielle walked from the office, she was surprised to hear from Natasha. She felt her stomach drop into her knees. Maybe she'd been wrong about everything.
"He's going to call you as soon as he has a chance, to explain himself." Natasha said, but she could see that Danielle didn't quite believe her. Natasha frowned, and took out a pen, grabbing Danielle's hand. She scribbled a number on it. "If you need anything, call me. I briefed your manager, and you should be set to be back at work tomorrow. Just like normal."
No. Danielle thought but she smiled at Natasha. It won't ever be normal again.
There was a voicemail waiting for Danielle when she returned to her apartment. Cassidy was gone, which meant one less person to talk to. She'd completely forgotten about the dress, which she was sure was still crumpled on the floor of Steve's apartment. Her stomach lurched.
She pressed the voicemail button, and was taken aback to hear Steve's voice play over the speakerphone.
"I am one hundred percent sure you're going to not believe me when I try and explain myself to you. All I need you to know is that I'm so sorry I left without saying anything, but someone...something. There was an emergency. I'll try and text you. Okay, maybe not. I'll try and call you, at the very least. I'll be back in just a couple of days, but it was extraordinarily...stupid for me to just leave. Especially after...just, I'm sorry, okay? And that won't matter right now but I will make it up to you. Please give me a chance to do that. I'll see you in a few days, I promise Danielle."
The message ended. She sighed, opening the door to her room, to only be greeted by five dozen vases of red roses, covering the floor and all over every piece of furniture. Every inch of the room was red. I'm still betting on this the single note on the bed said.
She covered her mouth, laughing, tears forming in her eyes.
6 days later.
Danielle, somehow, had returned to a somewhat normal existence. She tried to push away any thoughts of Steve, although she hadn't succeeded much. She didn't hear from SHIELD, but she kept Natasha's phone number with her at all times, just in case. It was radio silence. Three days of chaos, of everything happening to her all at once, and then nothing. All she felt was numb.
On the 6th day, before the sun was even up, there was a pounding at the door.
"It's me!" she heard a familiar voice on the other side call. She stumbled from bed, slightly groggy, opening the front door to see Natasha wearing a skintight black dress and high heels. Danielle gave her a bewildered look, but Natasha brushed past her.
"Banner's missing." she said quickly. "Been missing a few days. We thought he was taking a quiet spell, which he does sometimes, but he's not on the island, and as far as we know, didn't return to our base as he was going to."
"I'm sorry. How exactly do you guys loose a Hulk?" Danielle asked.
Natasha shook her head. "I honestly...I." she put her fingers on her forehead. "Somethings wrong. I wasn't going to come to you, I promised myself I'd let you get back to your life. But Kiara has been removed as the second in command for the SHIELD Labs since Banner's disappearance. They've just brought in a group of private contracted scientists, and they've put out a warrant for your return to SHIELD."
"That's fine, I told Fury it would-"
"No. It's not fine. They're concerned you could be a potential threat. This isn't Banner, they don't understand because they have not experienced it. They want to run tests. Not like Banner's, either. They want to test you to your limits, Danielle. I saw their plans."
She swallowed. "I'll be fine." she said. "I'll heal. It's what I do."
"I'm giving you an out. They sent me here to collect you and I will help you get out."
For some reason, Danielle shook her head. "I can't run. It's not in my nature."
"Danielle, you don't need to be self destructive."
She shook her head. "No. I need to see what I can do."