Chapter 9: Alight
As he had done many nights now, Loki heeded the pull, tumbling into the subconscious of the Midgardian woman.
He found her as he always did, prostate on the forest floor, soul flayed open from the lash the insolent boy had brought down upon her with his words, leaving her broken and bleeding as she stared after him. Weak, he had thought during the first encounter, but he now knew that to be false. No sooner had he taunted her for her lack of strength did she turn, a glare burning with the strength of a thousand fiery suns searing through him. Her gaze flooded him with unprecedented heat, his frozen form minutely thawing and for just an instant, Loki had almost lost himself in her eyes and melted before her.
Not weak, he’d conceded as they exchanged barbed insults, but certainly bound by her morality. She was chained by her convictions and a wicked thought had him mentally rubbing his hands together in mischief – how delicious it would be to shatter those chains and free her of the confines her conscience boxed her within. What an entertaining pet she could make…
As he saw her now, her spine stiffened and he knew she sensed his presence though she did not tear her gaze away from the trees. Far beyond denying their connection, annoying though it may be, Loki confessed to himself a small amazement at the strength of it. The imprint of her followed him into consciousness and he often received flashes throughout the waking day of her and her little compatriots. He was convinced it was the same for her though in her feeble mind he was nothing but a dream.
How surprised she would be when she found out otherwise…
“Why do you stare after him so, a pet yearning for its master?” he taunted, enjoying the way her shoulders shuddered before stiffening again. So stubborn, this woman… such a contradiction of soft steeliness within her.
“I don’t yearn for him, but a way to make him answer for his actions… I am no one’s pet,” she spat, at last turning from the trees and fixing him with her burning glare.
A strange fluttering feathered against his chest, but Loki ignored the sensation with a smirk. “Yet here you sit, night after night, kneeling in subjugation… Perhaps he is not the master you are prostrating yourself before,” he hinted at their connection while purposefully insinuating her inferiority.
She did not disappoint.
Surging to her feet she marched fearlessly up to him, halting just a scant few inches from their bodies touching. Loki smiled as he quirked his head down at her in mocking humor. Inferior his height may be for the Frost Giants, Loki still stood impressively tall and he enjoyed the way she had to tilt her head back to look up to him.
A single finger rose to his face and while a part of him simmered at her nerve, his amusement at the act proved stronger and a smirk teased his lips upwards.
“I am my own master,” she hissed threateningly.
His cold grin widened as he leaned down, the fabric of her mundane clothes brushing against him ever so slightly. “We shall see, little human.”
She did not surrender or quail before his own threat; instead, she stood straighter still, the heat of her gaze brushing against his face as she ground out, “Yes, you will see,” and her finger made contact with the center of his chest in a sharp jab.
Fire consumed him, a conflicting blaze of hate, desire and fury. Despite all their meetings, this was the first time they’d ever made physical contact and the gesture scorched him, the small point on his chest searing with a heat that spread like a wildfire all the way down to his toes. His soul was alight with her fire.
The woman jerked away, taking two large steps back. He saw her arm lower and the way she flexed the fingers on the offending appendage as it once again rested safely at her side. Without fail, he knew she had been burned too and he glared at her, angered by her daring and his own confusion over the phenomenon.
He knew not why his magic had sealed him to this mortal woman, but Loki resolved to find out the reason and if at all possible, he would sever their connection and be free of her confusing fire once more.
When he woke, her fire lingered at the small point of his chest, her brand upon him, staining and marring his person. Infuriated, his resolution solidified and he went to the Titan in furious determination. She so dared to set him under her siren’s call and now he would answer it. He would show her – show all of those Midgardian peasants – who the real master was, no matter if it required his submission to The Other. A small price to pay, his fury swayed him.
That was the day the Fallen Titan known as Thanos placed the scepter into his hand, the violent blue fire of the Mind Stone it secured promising both vengeance and victory. That day, Loki siphoned his magic through the scepter, activated the tesseract and followed the pull to the human woman.
That was the day his reign dawned – irrefutable and indomitable – though he knew a small few would challenge.
As he kneeled a moment, the tesseract a glowing beacon across the room and reminding him of his goal while he caught his breath. Loki looked up, eyes scanning the room until they landed on his siren. He smirked.
Let them try.
For a moment, time was frozen and they were all nothing more than a painting done in pointillism Bella was too close to make out. If she’d been further away maybe she could have deciphered the tableau they made, but from where she stood she could barely make sense of the portrait, too immersed as she was.
Her heart slammed against her rib cage like one of those rubber balls tethered to a paddle being repeatedly smacked. Adrenaline was coursing through her and Bella found herself thankful for Clint’s arms still like steel vises around her, supporting her shaky weight even as she could feel his own heart hammering at her back.
Taking a steadying breath, her mind slowly caught up with situation and she took in each individual point in order to decipher the picture…
Her dream man kneeled at the opposite end of the room and the tesseract was silent again, it’s blue energy silently humming an innocent tune as though nothing had happened. Erik and his scientists looked a cross between amazed and horrified as the man scanned the room, eyes chilling as he took in each of their forms, lingering ever so slightly on her and Clint’s arms around her waist.
His lips quirked up into a sneer and in response, Clint’s grip tightened.
The man rose from his kneeling crouch and it was then that Bella noticed the spear in his grip, crowned by a dark blue gem glowing with an inner fire that had her shivering.
“Sir,” Colonel Fury called out as the man’s fingers tightened around the weapon, his own hand hovering over his sidearm strapped to his thigh. “Please put down the spear.”
A mocking breathless laugh sounded. “Oh, I think not…”
When the man turned to her again, she was finally able to take in his features. Chin length black hair and frozen, ice blue eyes… He had an otherworldly beauty not unlike the vampires Bella had known, but where they had the marble hard features of a Greek statue, this man radiated a deadly attractiveness like a black cobra coiled to strike. He was cold, dark beauty that made her feel sinful just from staring at him.
Despite the small quiver of fear he ignited deep in her gut, Bella had to consciously keep herself from moving to him, her weight shifting anxiously from foot to foot. The tug at her chest was calmer than it had ever been yet still insistent, promising relief only when she was at his side. His eyes pierced hers and it felt like he was gazing into her soul, stripping back all the layers of her psyche one by one until she and her making was laid bare before him, naked only to his eye.
The right side of his mouth quirked at her before he released her from her stare, Bella nearly going limp in relief. His eyes traveled down her form and settled again on Clint’s arm around her.
“You would do well to release her,” he said, an unspoken threat lurking in the subtle command.
Clint’s arms tightened and in a smooth protective motion, he pulled her behind him, blocking her from the man’s sight. Bella was simultaneously grateful and saddened, wanting to weep for the loss of his gaze.
“Who are you and what do you want with my sister?” Clint asked, his voice unlike anything she had ever heard before. She’d heard her brother angry, protective, threatening and every shade in between, but the raw authority with which he spoke now, threatening swift and sure punishment should he go unanswered, had her gripping his shoulder. Whether to hold him back for his own protection or the man’s, she didn’t know.
The man’s cold voice sounded amused and dripped with condescension. “My name is Loki of Asgard,” a subtle sneer lingered on ‘Asgard’ as though it left a bad taste in his mouth. “And I am burdened with glorious purpose.”
“Loki,” Erik mumbled to himself though it echoed in the solemn room. “Brother of Thor.”
Loki spared Erik a brief glance before saying, “I come with glad tidings of a world made free.”
He gave them all a chilling smile before turning back to Clint who asked, “Made free of what?”
Bella peeked over her brother’s shoulder and saw the man smirk. “Freedom.”
Oh god, she thought, fear and adrenaline making her thoughts strangely sharp and quick as they circled around her addled mind, each one nipping the heals of another in a never-ending loop. Loki – Norse God of mischief – brother of Thor who Erik delighted in telling her stories about. Loki, a small footnote Erik mentioned in passing mentioning his desire to end his brother and claim their family throne for himself.
Her mind hovered on the last thought and pulled up their many conversations in her dreams, the anger shrouding an emotional wound and the utter lack of concern for who got caught in the crossfire in his mission to rule.
Finally, it seemed her thoughts snapped her into focus, catching up with her body as her fear from learning her dream man was real was at last overruled by the familiar fire he sparked in her.
An indignant fury surged within her breast and Bella stepped decisively out from behind Clint, shrugging him off as he tried to pull her back with a sharply hissed, “Isabella.”
“And do you presume to rule us, then?” she asked, glaring at him challengingly.
“Isabella,” he drew out her name, having just learned it from Clint, his voice sliding over her like a soft caress to the skin. She shivered again. “The siren,” another mild sneer as he tilted his head back to look down his nose at her as he claimed, “It is my pleasure and burden to rule over humanity – to be the master you all unknowingly crave. This is a kindness.”
Any shred of doubt lingering within her evaporated; somehow, someway she’d met this man in her dreams – this arrogant, handsome man who sought to be master of all because he’d been so emotionally crippled by those he had trusted. Betrayed, the word haunted, her heart aching for them both and the similar scars they bore.
This was a man she saw the worst of herself in – what she could have become had she allowed her anger and sorrow to devour her, deluding her into visions of superiority and entitlement.
This is what revenge looks like, she thought as she continued to gaze upon him. Desperate, angry… hurting…
But she’d had Clint and her new friends to support her, keep her from succumbing to that darkness that still hovered along the edges – who did Loki have, she wondered. No matter her empathy, however, Bella knew before her was a dangerous being about to lash out with a violence that would shatter the world as they knew it.
“This is foolishness,” she countered, conscious of Clint sidling up beside her, a show of protection and support. “And you are insane if you think otherwise, Loki.”
His eyes flickered as she spoke his name aloud for the first time before he stiffened and they hardened upon her once more. “Insane, am I?” he hissed, fist flexing around his spear.
“Put down the spear,” Fury commanded again, his firearm now withdrawn though pointed at the ground. Bella thought he looked like a coiled spring, ready to pounce into action.
Loki swung his head to Fury, fixing him with a dismissively haughty glance before looking down at the spear in question, tilting his head as if to ask, What? This spear?
He smiled again, lifting the spear and jerking his arm, releasing some sort of energy that shattered the computer equipment behind Fury.
There was no hesitation. A reign of gunfire responded and Clint tackled her to the ground, flipping a table over for cover while barking out a harsh – stay here – before he was up with his bow drawn, moving into the fray.
It was impossible to make out what was happening and while the urge to peek over the table was strong, Bella was not near stupid enough to do so. She could hear grunts of people being hit, shouts and yells overlapping and the crashing of equipment followed by what sounded like a light bulb being burnt out only infinitely louder.
Not even a minute went by before the flurry of movement halted, sparks cascading from the busted computers and groans of pain echoing in her ears.
“Clint,” she whispered, popping up to her feet, heedless of any remaining danger.
Turning to find him, Bella started when she faced a broad chest. Her eyes flicked up and met Loki’s, who stared down at her with his head quirked.
“Now you will see who the master is,” he murmured, raising his spear. He hesitated as the point of it hovered above the skin over her heart and Bella felt a vicious tug that nearly had her crashing into him.
Loki stiffened, gritting his teeth as though he had felt the same pull.
Determination burned in his eyes and hardened his features as he resolutely brought the tip to her heart, touching it there with surprising gentleness.
Ice washed through her and she expelled a frosty gasp. Tiny frozen fingertips skimmed over her and as unsettling as the alien caress was, it was strangely soothing. The ice finally centered on her mind and threatened to take over before it abruptly receded and Bella was left gasping and glaring up at Loki, a hand clutched tightly to her chest.
“What the fuck was that?” she gave a breathless grunt.
Loki cocked his head. “Curious,” he mumbled, but before he could say anything else, Clint was attacking him from behind and Bella was being pulled to safety, Colonel Fury’s grip unyielding as he moved her back from the scuffle.
Bella looked over her shoulder and saw Clint’s fist caught in Loki’s hand.
“You have heart,” he stated. With a vicious glance at her, he smirked again, bringing the spear to her brother’s chest.
Clint shuddered, his eyes going startling black before they glazed over, an icy blue veil settling over them. His arm lowered and he holstered his firearm.
“Clint,” Bella frowned, stepping towards him only to have Fury pull her back again.
As Loki moved around the room, repeating the gesture to several others, Fury slowly brought her to the tesseract and tugged her down to kneel with him as he removed it and placed it into a some sort of briefcase. Once locked, he handed it to her.
“Whatever has happened and whatever will,” he told her sternly, voice barely an audible whisper. “Loki must not get the tesseract, no matter what. When you get your chance, you take it and run. Do you understand, Isabella?”
Her eyes filled with tears and flicked to Clint who just stood there zombie-like, watching as Loki touched his spear to several agents and scientists lingering in the room.
Fury tightened his hand around her wrist. “No matter what, Isabella,” he repeated fiercely, his one eye boring into her.
Steeling herself, her hand tightened around the handle of the case. “No matter what,” she agreed, a tear trailing down her cheek.
They rose to their feet and Fury used his body to shield hers, slowly moving to position her to face the nearest exit.
“Please don’t,” Loki said without looking at them. “I still need that and I’m not done with her.”
Fury turned his head and held up his hands. “This doesn’t have to get any messier – we have no quarrel with you or your people.”
“An ant has no quarrel with a boot,” Loki said.
“Are you planning to step on us?”
Loki grinned. “I have come to rescue you from life’s great lie of freedom – once you accept that, in your heart, you will know peace.”
He turned and brought his spear to Erik’s chest.
“Erik,” Bella gasped and Loki turned to her, his cool gaze unreadable.
“You know the truth of my words, Isabella.”
“I know you believe the lie you readily speak but only because you’ve forced yourself to,” she countered, glaring at him.
“Sir, Director Fury is stalling,” Clint strode up to Loki, breaking their moment. “This place is about to blow and cover us all. He means to bury us alive.”
Fury tilted his head and admitted, “Like the Pharaohs of old.”
“He’s right,” Erik confirmed. “That portal is going to reach critical mass in about two minutes and explode.”
“Well then,” Loki smirked. “Shall we?”
At the prompt, Clint drew his firearm and shot Fury in the chest without even a hint of hesitation. Bella gave a muffled gasp of horror as she watched the man Clint held such respect for fall to the ground.
Before she could react, Clint was in front of her, staring her down with those odd blue, vacant eyes.
“Hawkeye,” she whispered. “Please, it’s me. It’s Eyas.”
But the cherished nicknames of their youth held no sway over him as he lifted an arm and backhanded her. Bella collapsed beside Fury with a pain-filled grunt, struggling to keep her grip on the tesseract’s case as Clint mercilessly twisted her wrist and tore it free.
He marched away from her fallen form, already forgetting her presence. The gesture brought her mind back to when Edward had left her as nothing more than a shredded butterfly upon the forest floor. Her wings plucked and the flight stolen from her heart.
Tears blinded her as she looked up to the retreating form of her brother – her brother who had always put her before everything and everyone, even himself – now nothing more than a stranger, a blank puppet subject to the whims of a madman.
Her eyes turned to Loki as he walked towards her, sparing her a brief glance as he seemed to almost hesitate as he drew beside her, only to gather himself and smirk – he too walking away.
For some reason his rejection burned almost as bad as Clint’s, both of their cut directs making Edward’s feel like a small paper cut in comparison. The pain of it welled within her chest and rose to her throat, nearly choking her as she tried to swallow it down and focus.
Focus, Bella… focus, she told herself as tears rained down her cheeks.
She snapped into motion, crawling to Fury, relief making the lump in her throat slightly more bearable when she saw the bullet proof vest.
He clutched her wrist. “Go,” he coughed. “I’ll be behind you. Try to alert the others.”
The order gave her something to focus on and with a determined nod she left him on the floor as he pulled out his communicator, running out of the room in the path her brother and Loki had taken.
Her heart slammed against her chest and her mind wanted to whirl around the implications of what was happening, what her life had now become, but Bella resolutely forced those cutting thoughts away and focused on trying to find someone to help her stop Loki. Stop Clint.
Focused as she was on turning off her emotions, shoving them down into a mental burlap sack that she drowned with distraction, she nearly ran into a hail of gunfire, barely managing to catch herself around a sharp concrete corner, dropping to the floor next to a female agent.
“Is it Clint?” Bella wheezed, trying to catch her breath.
“Yes,” the agent confirmed.
“We have to stop him.”
The woman nodded, peered around the corner and went into action. “Let’s go,” she said, and Bella followed her to the line of jeeps, hopping into the nearest one and taking off after the contingent of cars that held her brother and Loki, as well as the tesseract.
“You are Isabella, yes?” the woman asked, turning the wheel sharply as she floored the gas. “I’m Maria Hill.”
Bella gasped as her body slammed into the side of the jeep. “I’d say pleasure to meet you but…”
Agent Hill gritted her teeth, her hands tightening on the steering wheel as the ground began to shake under them. “Understandable,” she bit off before tossing Bella a gun. “It’s my understanding you’ve had some training. Shoot at their tires, I’ve got the rest.”
The weight of the gun brought Bella into reality. Natasha had been teaching her hand to hand while Tony had taught her some technical and science quirks relevant to S.H.I.E.L.D. ops or were just generally cool to know. Clint, however, had taken it upon himself to begin weapons training.
She knew the gun was a Beretta 92FS, a standard military firearm that had been surprisingly easy for Bella to get used to. While Clint had tried her on the bow again, it had been quickly clear that time had not improved her skills with it. So it had been a shock to them both when he had started teaching her firearms, handguns in particular, that she had been relatively competent.
But that had been target practice and paper bulls-eyes… to actually put it to use against someone, her brother of all people… It made the gun feel like an anvil in her hand.
Still though, she gritted her teeth. She didn’t have it in her to actually aim at any of the people – they were under some sort of mind compulsion, after all – but it was her duty to try and stop them from leaving with the tesseract. Clint would want her to stop him.
Gritting her teeth, Bella took a firm grip, aimed low, and pulled the trigger.
She was conscious of Agent Hill firing too, as well as a voice – Coulson maybe – speaking to them over the radio. They caught up to the car Clint was driving easily, Bella running out of ammo and bracing herself as the jeep lurched, her eyes unerringly catching Loki’s who sat in the bed of the jeep in front of them.
“Hold on,” Maria shouted as they lurched again, her hands spinning the steering wheel as a car flipped in front of them, forcing them to veer off path. Bella hadn’t even been aware of other agents joining the chase.
Somehow they ended up along a side-way, cutting away from the chase, but while that worried Bella, Maria appeared unconcerned. Her hands expertly navigated them down a tunnel and before Bella knew it, they were cutting in front of Clint’s car, Maria pulling the parking brake and the car lurching into a one-eighty that had them nose to nose with them.
“Holy shit,” Bella screamed as Maria threw them into reverse and they were essentially being pushed back by the car.
Maria started shooting out their windshield and screamed, “Duck!” as Clint returned fire.
She pulled the brake and spun again, ending up alongside them for a second until Clint veered into them, forcing them into the wall. Slowing down just enough to break free, they ended up behind them again, Loki once again catching her eye and smirking.
“Give me another magazine,” Bella spat, glaring at Loki and accepting the mag Hill tossed over, reloading her Beretta with a sharp click.
But before she could aim and fire, the ground rose beneath them, almost slamming them into the ceiling. Dirt, rock and cement crumbled beneath them until a boulder fell in front of them and they hit it dead on, their movement coming to an abrupt halt.
Clutching the strap of the seat belt cutting into her chest, Bella’s head snapped up in time to see another boulder coming loose and about to crush them.
Closing her eyes, she braced herself for impact knowing that they’d be lucky if they survived it. There was a loud crash, but she was confused when several small thunks rained down them like the sound of golf ball sized hail hitting the roof.
Opening her eyes, she realized the boulder had been blasted apart. Frowning, she looked to where Clint was still speeding away, Loki in the bed of the jeep his spear extended out to them. Slowly, his arm lowered and he turned forwards again, him and the jeep fading away into the distance.
He blew up the boulder, she realized. He crashed it to smithereens, breaking it apart into harmless lumps of rocks, saving their lives.
The ever present tug in her chest reappeared and Bella rubbed at it, unclipping her seat belt and leaning forward to brace herself against her knees.
“You okay, kid?” Hill asked.
Bella shut her eyes and shook her head before forcing herself to catch her breath and correct, “Yeah, yeah I’m good. You?”
Maria’s radio flickered to life and Bella half-listened, vaguely relieved when she heard both Fury and Coulson over the line, but her mind was unable to process much beyond that.
“I’ve got her,” she heard Maria saying, though her voice sounded faint like it was coming from the end of a long tunnel. “She’s going into shock.”
“Keep her with you… back to base… level 7… at war…”
They were all words she knew, but Bella was unable to make sense of any of them, her mind stalling as it circled around the image of her brother hitting her and staring at her with those cold, alien eyes…
As well as the image of Loki’s icy gaze searing into her, setting her soul alight.
(A/N): Phew! It’s done – they’ve met! I know many of you have been waiting for this big moment, wondering what I’d change and what I’d keep. I hope it lived up to your expectations. Please, please let me know what you thought!
Terms for this chapter:
Thanos – a titan, the big bad you may recognize from other Marvel movies now. In control of the Chitauri and the one who gave Loki the scepter/spear (which we know is a modified version of Odin’s spear).
Mind Stone/Gem – one of the gems that fit into the Infinity Gauntlet (more explanation later on that). It is widely believed the stone in Loki’s scepter is the mind stone, but while it hasn’t been confirmed, I’ve decided to go with it as – given the nature of its power – it fits rather nicely.
And in case you forgot, Eyas is a term for a baby hawk…