“… on the other hand your genes seem to have excellent compatibility match with magic.” Doom had her cornered, she could feel his breath over her skin. Leah´s heart rate increased as she tossed restless in her dream, she was helpless.
Suddenly Doom raised his hand to caress her cheek.
“You know you are trapped.” He mocked her.
“No!!!” Leah screamed in her dream waking herself up, she immediately sat up shaking, her breathing was accelerated, cold sweat enveloped her. Suddenly she was acutely aware of her surroundings, it wasn´t the Avengers Tower, where was she?
Loki had woken up when he heard Leah scream and swiftly wrapped his arms around her, it wasn´t the first time she had a nightmare but she never screamed herself awake before. “Leah, you are all right. It was only a dream” He tried to comfort her.
Leah was startled by his touch, out of reflex she tried to wriggle herself out of his embrace scared. “Leah! Leah, stop fighting! It´s me Loki.” He raised his voice as he hold her closer.
“Loki?” Leah turned her head towards the sound of his voice. “Loki! Thank god.” She turned to hug him.
Loki could feel her shaking as she hold him tightly, he could even hear her heartbeat running fast.
“What happened?” she asked him, but before he could answer her question she quickly asked him more, “Where are we? Where´s Eerika? What happened with Fury?”
Loki hold her by her shoulders as he looked into her eyes he asked her. “What´s the last thing you remember?”
“Fury wanted to arrest me for stabbing Doom …” Leah doubted for a moment. “I pointed an arrow against him, he draw his gun at me, but why would I do that?”
“And before that?” Loki asked hopeful, maybe her memories were starting to come back.
Leah frowned as she tried to remember, there was a big gap she couldn´t fill in; finally she told him “Doom was pushing me to get into his aircraft and I fell. She looked at him dubious, she had a feeling her answer was wrong.
Loki sighed disappointed, her memories were still incomplete; he proceeded to explain her what happened during her quarrel against Fury, where they were and Eerika’ s and Clint´s current whereabouts.
“Can I see her?” she asked him anxiously, she longed to hold her in her arms.
“Sure, she´s probably asleep but we can go to the nursery if you want” Loki agreed with a smile.
As Leah moved a sharp pain came upon her, it was her chest, she had no memory of her broken ribs.
Loki cursed himself mentally for forgetting about her wounds as he told her “Wait, let me help you with that” A green aura travelled from his hand towards her wrapping her up completely.
Leah looked surprised, the pain was gone. “What did you do?” She asked as she touched her chest to make sure it didn´t hurt any more.
“I only speeded nature´s course” He answered glad she wasn´t in pain any more.
Soon they were on their way to the nursery which was only a door from their room, Leah admired amazed the golden letters in the door. As they walked in they were met by Clint who was in a rocking chair cradling a sleeping Eerika in his arms. He put a finger on his mouth cautioning them for silence as he whispered “She just fell asleep a few minutes ago.” Then he added. “I´m glad to see you back on your feet, I´m guessing Loki healed your wounds.”
“Yes, he did.” Leah whispered back as she watched her daughter attentively.
“Do you want to carry her?” Clint asked with a smile.
“I …” Leah started to extend her arms when flashbacks invaded her mind of Eerika crying while falling from the Avenger´s Tower, of Eerika crying while she left her over Loki´s chest; she quickly withdraw her hands. “I … don´t want to wake her up. Maybe in the morning.” She nervously answered. Even if she tried to hide it both Loki and Clint noticed something was wrong, she suddenly had paled up but neither of them said anything at the moment.
Leah looked at Eerika one more time with longing as she excused herself. “I´m still tired, maybe we should get some rest before it´s morning”
“Of course, you need to rest.” Clint agreed, he hoped it was only weariness, but he feared it wasn´t.
Loki looked intrigued but even so agreed. “Maybe she does need to rest” He thought. “We´ll see you in the morning then.” He told Clint as he followed Le3ah out.
“What happened?” Leah asked herself, why hadn’t she hold her child? The flashbacks, she had tried to protect her from Doom but she had the nagging feeling she had failed to do so, only Loki can protect her; you are too weak to keep her safe she scolded herself mentally.
As they both went to their room Loki looked at her worried “Are you sure you are all right?” He asked while gently caressing her cheek.
Inadvertently for him his loving gesture triggered an unpleasant memory of Doom that flooded Leah´s mind for a second. She shivered for an instant but decided to hide it from him.
“Sure, I just need some sleep.” She lied with her best smile.
Loki wasn´t fooled at all but decided to let it slide.
“Come then, let’s get some sleep.” He invited her into their bed. Leah climbed up reticent, she felt anxious, that if he touched her she would be overwhelmed with flashbacks and then she wouldn´t be able to hide just how weak she felt. “I really want to sleep.” She volunteered nervously.
“All right” Loki nodded kindly as she carefully climbed next to him.
“Good night” She said with a swift kiss as she turned her back to him and closed her eyes.
“Good night” Loki answered worried by her behavior; I was almost as if she was scared of him. Maybe her nightmares would explain her behavior, he would ask her in the morning; she didn´t seem to be in any disposition to talk for the moment. So he closed his eyes ready to sleep but not before taking another look at her, she was alive, that was all that mattered.
Leah tried to fall back asleep but she couldn´t, she tosses restless all through the night, she kept relieving the day before; she blamed herself for being weak, for not killing Doom when she had the chance.
When daylight broke through their window Leah sighed frustrated “So much for sleeping.” She thought. “Maybe If I take a hot shower I´ll be able to relax. I´m sure there must be a bath here somewhere.” She carefully stood up making sure not to wake Loki up, there wasn´t anything on her side of the bed except for a small nightstand, maybe on the other side. “There it is, a door.” She smiled as she turned the door open, it was dark, she reached for the lights switch when she finally found it she could see it was a large dresser room, on the other end of it there was another door. She walked in admiring the clothes, dresses, suits, jackets, shirts, blouses, shoes, when she reached the other door and opened she smiled, it was the bathroom. “Great, now I need some clothes, let´s see what I can find.” She ran through the drawers and finally found lingerie in one of them, next she choose some jeans and a blue baseball jersey, she didn´t understood the sport completely but she loved the jerseys. “I never thought he noticed that.” She thought to herself, also everything was the right size “He knows me too well.” She acknowledged. “Better that I know him.” She wryly added. “Stop complaining.” She admonished herself mentally.
She kept opening the cabinets until she found some towels, without further thought she undressed and step into the shower, as the hot water touched her skin she sighed with relief, it felt so good. She washed her hair but when she started soaping her body she found a circular scar on her chest above her right breast near her shoulder, she froze disquiet, what was that? What could´ve happened to her? And more importantly why she couldn´t remember when she got it? She knew it was a life-threatening wound, it didn´t make sense, she should remember something like that. “What happened to me?” Trembling scared she reached with her left hand over her shoulder and blindly touched her back in search for something she hoped wouldn´t find.
As the water from the shower fell it sound awoke Loki, he drowsily looked for Leah by his side; when he couldn´t find her he raised his head and recognized the sound of water falling. “She must be in the shower” Then he stretched lazily before sitting on the edge of the bed yawning, he directed himself to the bathroom; he could see her through the glass door. She was washing her hair, he quickly pulled some clothes out and began to undress ready to join her in the shower when he heard her gasp as he turned concerned he saw her reaching her back with one hand, suddenly she froze, her breathing became a panting, something was wrong. Still with his underwear on he ran to her, even under the hot water she was trembling, she didn´t even noticed him walking in. Loki hold Leah by her shoulders and shook her slightly trying to snap her out of her trance “Leah! Leah! What´s wrong?”
She looked up at him extremely confused, she frown preoccupied as she asked him. “This scar … how …”The moment she touched it again to show it to Loki a violent flashback hit her, a white bright light and an excruciating pain she raised her hands to her face protectively, it was as if something had hit her; she couldn´t find her breath.
“Leah! What happened? You saw something?” Loki kept trying to make her react, he couldn´t let her fall into panic.
Finally Leah pull herself out of it, between ragged breath she stutter her answer “I … don´t … know … a bright light and pain” Shaking still she searched blindly for the security of the wall behind her and slid to the ground. Loki knelt worried in front of her.
“Why can´t I remember?” She suddenly asked without raising her head.
“It will come back to you, just give it time.” Loki tried to reassure her.
“What happened to me?” She finally raised her eyes to meet his as she begged him “Please, I need to know.”
“All right, but let´s get you dress first.” Loki agreed as he helped her up.
Leah nodded her head affirmatively, she felt weary; as Loki wrapped a towel around her he noticed her fatigued gaze. “Did you get any sleep?” He asked concerned.
“No, I … I tried. But I just couldn´t.” She confessed. After a few moments of silence she spoke again. “It was all my fault, right? Because I didn´t kill him, because … I was weak.”
Loki was busy wrapping a towel around himself when Leah´s question made him turn to see her; he was shocked, he just couldn´t believe what he just heard, how could she think it was her fault?
“No! Leah, no! How can you even say that?” He hugged her tightly against his chest “It wasn´t your fault, nothing that happened was your fault.”
“But I should´ve killed him. I don´t know why I didn´t.” She told him between tears “I should´ve ended right there. Why won´t you say it? It was my fault, Doom did this to me and I let him do it. It´s my own fault I got injured, that´s why I can´t remember. Just tell me!” She pleaded in despair, nothing made sense to her anymore.
Loki leaned his head into hers, he hated seeing her like that, as he sighed he told her. “It wasn´t your fault, you have to stop blaming yourself. You did more than you should´ve done, you saved us, you saved Eerika, and you saved me. We would be Doom´s prisoners if it wasn´t for you. I don´t blame you for not killing him, I´m grateful that you didn´t. You are not a killer, and there´s no shame on that.”
Leah dried her tears as she listened to him, she wanted to believe him, but she refused to do so, suddenly her stomach growled loudly.
“I´m hungry …” She told him weakly, she just didn’t wanted to argue any more.
Loki looked into her eyes, he could see the doubt in them. He ran his hand through his wet hair as he bit his lip he nodded in agreement. “Let´s go to the kitchen then.” She was right, she hadn´t had anything to eat for over 24 hours; he admonished himself mentally for not remembering it when she woke up during the night.
They quietly dressed lost in their own thoughts. As they finished Loki guided Leah towards the kitchen where they found Clint sipping a cup of coffee while a baby´s monitor rested on the table.
“I´ll fix you something to eat” Loki offered Leah.
“I can cook myself something” Leah spat angrily. “And stop looking at me as if I were a wounded deer.”
“Do as you wish then” Loki growled angry, what in the nine realms was wrong with her?
Clint observed them without saying a word, her behavior confirmed his fears, Banner had gone ahead of himself with his diagnosis; something other than physical wounds was affecting her.
Leah started to cook her own breakfast when suddenly she became lost in her own memories leaving the handle of the turning spatula to close to the fire, when she absentmindedly retrieve it she slightly burned her hand. As she complained surprised nursing her burned hand Loki approached her concerned. “Leah, be careful. Let me heal that.”
“No” She dryly told him retrieving her hand from his. “It will serve me as a reminder to not be so clumsy next time.”
Loki was furious but before he could say anythi8ng Clint intervened. “All right clumsy, there´s a training room five doors to your left, go and practice your aim. For what I heard it´s as lousy as your cooking.”
Leah turned white with rage “Fine!” She yelled as she walked out of the kitchen.
“Why did you told her that?” Loki snapped at Clint. “Can´t you see she´s not all right?”
“I know Loki, sit down. We need to talk.” Clint told Loki calmly. “Has she been acting like this since she woke up?”
“Mostly” Loki answered shrugging his shoulders.
“Tell me everything” Clint requested.
As Loki finished telling Clint everything that had happened he grunted displeased.
“She´s having ASD” Clint finally told Loki.
“She´s having what?” Loki asked worried.
“Acute Stress Disorder, sometimes when a person is subjected to a traumatic experience they can´t cope with it. Leah is exhibiting all the signs, her inability to remember certain events, mood swings, feelings of guilt. I´ve seen it happen before mainly with rookies that accidently get caught in missions that turn out to be more than anticipated.”
“Can you help her” Loki asked in hope.
“Well, we´ve been playing psychologist with her all year. I think I can give it a try, but you´ll have to help. Basically she has lost her confidence, she feels weak and vulnerable but don´t treat her like that or it will blow out in your face as it just did. She´s probably scared of it happening again and not being able to stop it; that could be the reason she keeps blaming herself for not killing Doom. We need to reassure her that even if Doom is alive she doesn’t have to be scared of this happening again.”
“Isn´t that lying?” Loki asked Clint confused.
“You want to tell her that we can´t promise her that something like this won´t happen again?” Clint replied with irony.
“I guess not” Loki acknowledged “So we lie to her?”
“No, we shouldn´t lie to her, just don´t give her all the details. We don’t want to scare her more than she already is, which is probably the reason she didn´t carried Eerika last night, I can only guess but she probably thinks that she´s unable to take care of her or something along those lines. Frankly I´m surprised it took her this long to break down.”
“What do you mean?” Loki frowned intrigued.
Clint looked at Loki trying to decide if he should tell him or not, “Well Loki in less than two years she has lost all her family including her unborn son in an accident, then all of a sudden she became aware that you weren´t a dream and that she was pregnant again. Since then she´s face both her and Eerika´ s death in at least 3 occasions. She fought Venom to keep him from killing Steve among other stuff … and don´t you forget most of us gave her hell for escaping after you sent her back because you weren´t ready to accept your feelings and responsibilities to her. And the cherry on the top she faced Doom alone more than once; he menaced her with rape and your death. God only knows what he did to her while we were away that made Doom willing to kill her if he couldn´t have her.”
Loki nodded in agreement displeased. “You are right, I should´ve realized my true feelings for her before; but I can´t change what happened.”
“No, neither of us can.” Clint agreed. “But that´s not important right now. What´s important is to help her deal with what happened.”
“Tell me what to do.” Loki offered.
“We need her to talk about what happened, I´ve always had the feeling she´s not telling us everything. But she has to be willing to talk, we can´t force her; she´ll shut down if we do.”