An hour later, Thor and Loki returned from their errand, a gagged and manacled middle-aged man on a long chain trailing behind them.
"So, that's the Clairvoyant?" Fitz asked as Loki brought him into the lounge where the rest of the group had assembled.
Everyone stared at the prisoner. He was just so ordinary, almost boring. Average height, average weight, brown hair and eyes, black horn-rimmed glasses. You would pass on the street a thousand times and never even realize it.
"Yes, it is. It was quite easy to find him. They may have had a Clairvoyant, but we have a Heimdall." Loki turned to bow to Darcy. "Thank you again, my dear, for the suggestion."
"No problem." She grinned at Loki.
"Owww," Darcy said as Jane nudged her in the ribs. "What? He's hot."
"He's under a life sentence for multiple murders," Jane hissed softly to her.
"Half the guys I've dated have a rap sheet," Darcy said dismissively as Jane rolled her eyes.
"So, now what?" May asked. "I take it you aren't going to hand him over to S.H.I.E.L.D. custody."
"He is not of your realm. He does not belong here," Thor explained gently.
"What is he?" Simmons asked, clearly intrigued.
"A norn. They are usually female. He is the first male one I have ever come across. Norns have the ability to shape the future, change your fate," Thor said.
"Only this one does not possess the ability to change the future. He can only see it. That is why he was banished from his realm and disgraced. However, predicting the future does have its advantages, especially here. He had hoped that by injuring Skye, he would be able to ascertain the cause of Agent Coulson's regeneration," Loki explained
"If he can see the future, why wasn't he able to anticipate that Coulson was going to go to Asgard or that you and Thor were coming after him?" Ward asked.
"He can only focus on one realm at a time. The regeneration, his trip to Asgard, and Loki and I pursuing him all pertained to another realm. He was, quite literally, blinded to it."
"Where are you taking him?" Coulson demanded.
"You are unable to hold him successfully on your world. He must be kept on Asgard," Thor said patiently.
"You're letting Loki leave with him? What about Centipede? We need to interrogate him," Ward insisted.
"Without him, his organization is in a shambles. I will conduct a thorough investigation myself and relate any pertinent details I discover via the Bifrost," Loki assured him with a grin.
"Sir," May said quietly to Coulson, "are you sure it's a good idea to let Loki get his hands on someone who can tell the future? He could be a powerful weapon."
Coulson looked at both Loki and Thor. Against one of them, maybe they had a chance, but definitely not both. "It doesn't look like we have much of a choice."
Thor crossed the room to hold Jane's hands. "I must accompany my brother back to Asgard, at least for a little while, to make sure that the prisoner is secured and that Asgard is thriving under Loki's rule."
Jane nodded bravely and he gently leaned down and kissed her.
"Well, that's just great. You two are just going to go swanning off and leave us with this great big mess," Fitz complained bitterly.
"And what mess, exactly, are you referring to?" Loki inquired acidly.
"We are all about to get fired from S.H.I.E.L.D. over everything that we've done to help Skye. And Director Fury is, well, furious at us."
"Oh, Director Fury. How delightful. Do you have some way to contact him? I'd love to speak with him and sort this all out," Loki grinned.
Fitz looked over at Coulson, who just shrugged his shoulders and then nodded. Fitz spent the next few minutes patching a secure video call through to Director Fury.
"Now, what's this about Loki?" Fury barked at Coulson.
Loki stepped into view. "That's King Loki to you."
Fury visibly tensed. "What are you doing on Earth?"
"Just returning my daughter to her group of friends. It seems as though there was a bit of confusion I needed to clear up. I take it that you are eager that Asgard and Midgard remain on good terms. That we remain allies?"
"Yes," Fury said slowly.
"Excellent. Then, I am sure that you will not hold the actions my daughter's team took to insure her wellbeing against them. I am sure that you will fully reinstate them without any blemish on their record."
"Are you threatening me, Loki?"
"Not threatening, Director Fury, just making sure that if I leave my beloved daughter on Midgard she will be treated with all the care and respect royalty from Asgard would expect. That would extend to the rest of her team."
Skye tiptoed over to Loki and whispered in his ear.
"Ah, yes," Loki continued, "I am also sure that S.H.I.E.L.D. will authorize a pay raise for this team as well as fully fund Dr. Foster's research." Loki saw Darcy waving frantically off-screen and pointing to herself. He shook his head and bit back a laugh. "That, of course, includes paying for her assistant, Miss Lewis."
"Any more ransom demands?" Fury asked sarcastically.
"Oh, you wound me. I am merely trying to reassure myself that my daughter will be in the best of hands. I would not want to have to return to Midgard. I will have Heimdall constantly monitoring her to make sure that all is well."
"Okay. Fine. If that's what it takes to get you to leave," Fury bit out through clenched teeth.
"Excellent. I hope that we never need see each other again," Loki threatened darkly.
"Believe me. The feeling is mutual." Fury cut the connection.
"Thanks, dad," Skye said, tentatively as she approached him once again. It was the first time she had ever said it aloud to him.
"You are most welcome, my dear daughter. I meant what I said. I will have Heimdall watch for you to assure your safety." Loki gave her a brief hug. "You take care."
Then, he turned from Skye to Ward. "You have promised to protect her. See that you do."
"I will," Ward said curtly.
"Well, as much as I love long good-byes, we should be on our way," Loki said briskly to Thor.
Thor nodded to Loki and kissed Jane once more. They took the prisoner down the cargo bay ramp and onto the middle of the airfield. Jane, Darcy and the rest of Coulson's team followed, keeping their distance.
"Heimdall, if you will," Loki said.
There was a vibrant cascade of rainbow-colored light and the on-lookers had to squint at its brilliance.
"Thor?" Jane said as she saw that he had remained behind.
"You have got to be kidding me," Ward said, frustration written all over his face.
"He tricked me once again," Thor said in resignation.
"So, now Loki has the Clairvoyant and we've got no way to get back to Asgard," May pointed out.
They turned as a group and walked back to the Bus. "Well," Fitz said optimistically, "we're nearly done with our Bifrost device. Another four or five months or so and it'll be done and we'll be able to pop in on Asgard whenever we feel like it."
"Well, there is that," Dr. Foster agreed.
A few moments later, once they were all back on the Bus, they heard Simmons shriek from the lab.
The entire group jogged over to the room.
"He's destroyed everything. The device, the supplies, our computers, our backups, our notes," Fitz said, looking over at everything in horror.
"But how?" May asked. "We were with him the entire time."
"He created an illusion. An illusion of him standing there while he was wrecking everything. He kept an illusion of the lab in pristine condition until he left. Did you have anything backed up in the cloud?" Skye asked.
"No, the information was too sensitive. We were worried that it might get hacked," Jane said.
"We're going to have to start again. From scratch." Simmons sounded tired, resigned.
Jane turned to Coulson. "I know you guys just got reinstated for active duty, but you've got to admit this should probably take priority. We'll need at least five, six months to complete it. Maybe more."
Coulson nodded. "I'll clear it with Director Fury. I'm sure he'll be interested in making sure that Asgard can't just pop by without any repercussions."
"I must return to Asgard. I must be able to see for myself how it fares under Loki's rule." Thor expression was thoughtful.
"Well, it seems we're in agreement. I'll contact Director Fury and get it set up."
A few hours later, Darcy and Jemma sat down on either side of Skye on the lounge couch. Skye grinned. It was nice to be back. Everyone loved their gifts from Asgard. Fitz was in the lab at the moment taking the elven blaster apart.
Skye had missed hanging out with Jemma so much and she had to admit, even though she had just met Darcy, she really liked Jane's intern.
"So, can you do any cool stuff like your dad?" Darcy asked eagerly.
"Oh, yeah, look!" Skye said, excitedly. The room filled with smoke for a moment and then she let the illusion fade away.
Simmons eyes got wide. "Wow. I can't even begin to . . . I mean, to be able to manipulate light and energy like that. It's fascinating. I can't wait to study you."
"I'm not a guinea pig." Skye's tone was a bit sharper than she'd meant it to be.
"So, any cute guys on Asgard?" Darcy was clearly trying to change the subject and smooth things over.
"Yes, anyone you fancied?" Jemma leaned forward.
"Well," Skye hedged, acutely aware that Ward was standing at the bar, making himself a drink and listening intently to their conversation. "I did have one friend, Fandral."
"Robin Hood looking dude?" Darcy asked excitedly.
"Um, yes." Skye blinked.
"Dude, I totally made out with that guy," Darcy boasted.
"Wait; You, what?"
"Yeah, it was like two years ago. He and his friends came down to get Thor. He's a major hottie and such a flirt. Are you telling me you guys were just friends?" Darcy asked.
"Yep, purely platonic." At least mostly, Skye thought.
"Your loss. I mean, that guy had centuries of experience."
Skye smiled wanly at Darcy.
Jemma looked over at Darcy, "We should get dinner started."
"Sounds good. It's lasagna night. I have to make a whole extra one just for Thor. I swear, it goes straight to his muscles." Darcy stood up and stretched. She walked towards the kitchen area and Jemma followed.
Ward walked over to the couch and sat down next to Skye. "So, purely platonic?" he asked.
"Good." He gave her a self-satisfied smile.
"Good?" Skye asked tentatively as she searched his face for signs about how he felt about her. Maybe Loki was right. Maybe Ward did care for her.
"Oh, yeah, very good," Ward said, his voice husky with emotion, as he slowly leaned in to kiss her.
She smelled the scotch on his breath, tasted it on his lips as the kiss deepened. He slid one arm around her waist and trailed kisses along her cheek to her neck. She gasped as he tangled his other hand in hair and he chuckled softly into her ear, "Very, very good."
Coulson walked into the lounge area to see Ward and Skye on the couch, kissing passionately. His first instinct was to say something, but he decided to just turn around and walk back to his office. Their team had broken who knew how many protocols in the past month, one more hardly mattered. He consoled himself with the fact that at least he got Lola back in one piece.
When he thought back to it all, he realized, even with everything that had happened, with Loki, with Fury, he was glad that he did what he did, glad that he had paid the price. Having his team whole was worth it. Having Skye back was worth any price.
Author's Note- I hope you've enjoyed this little story.
Thank you so much for all of the follows, favorites and reviews of this story. Every PM from you has given me a huge smile. And to those of you who have favorited me or followed me as an author, I really can't thank you enough.
Now, my original plan was to make this a very short story and end it with Chapter 5, right where Loki tells his advisor that he's going to let Coulson twist in the wind over the favor for a few decades.
However, you, my dear readers, were amazingly supportive, your reviews were beyond encouraging and I ended up adding another 26 chapters.
So, I began to write and write and write. Between this story and "The Captain's Bride", I've been posting 9,000-12,000 words a week. Now that I've come to the end of this story, I have to admit, I'm ready for a little break.
On the other hand, I'm itching to write a sequel, dear readers. I've got dozens of ideas buzzing around in my head. Therefore, here's my plan. I'll take off for a couple weeks, rest a bit, and finish up "The Captain's Bride".
I won't mark this story complete and I'll just start the sequel on Chapter 32. If you are following this story, in few weeks you should get a wonderful little email in your inbox, letting you know that Chapter 32 has been posted.
So, dear readers, would you like a sequel?
If you liked this story, there are a few more stories I've written that you might enjoy.
If you like the interaction between Loki and Coulson, I've written a funny, extremely short one-shot called "Linguistics" you might like.
If you love the character of Loki and want to see more of him, I've written a series of Loki/Darcy stories, you might enjoy. The first one is called "Lima Syndrome". The next is "Stockholm Syndrome". The next ones in the series are "Loki's First Halloween", "Loki's First Thanksgiving", "Loki's First Christmas" and "Loki's First Valentine's Day".
For my Skyeward and Philinda fans, I have "They Think I Don't Know."
And, I have to put in another recommendation for my absolute overriding passion at the moment, "The Captain's Bride". It's an Avengers story (with plenty of Agents of Shield references). If you enjoyed the cliffhangers, mystery and romance in this story, you'll love "The Captain's Bride".