In a last ditch effort to rehabilitate Loki, he is magically bonded to a telepathic human, in the hopes that being forced to feel her emotions, will make him face the horror of his actions. Sent back to Earth with Thor as his bodyguard, things become complicated, when the Hulk attacks Stark. Having gone to NY to help, Thor then disappears. Will Loki help the Avengers find his brother, or will he leave Thor to his fate?
Norse proverb: An ill-tempered, unhappy man, ridicules all he hears, makes fun of others.
Lisa tried to remember why she had agreed to do this but right now, none of her reasons sounded very convincing.
"Lady Mason, are you ready?"
She looked into Thor's eyes and he smiled as reassuringly as he could. It didn't help.
"No." her voice sounded small and weak. She hated the sound of it. "But I will be." She tried to inject more feeling into her words than she felt but was only partly successful.
Thor however, obviously fell for her bravado as his smile widened. While everyone else around her was nervous, Thor was completely relaxed. Did he really not foresee the numerous possible difficulties?
"Good." He clamped a hand to her shoulder which although meant to be a comradely gesture, almost knocked her off her feet. "Take my hand."
She looked at the hand he held towards her, much as she might if it were a venomous snake.
"You don't have to do this," Natasha spoke up.
"She's right, you don't," Clint agreed.
Erik Selvig, stepped up behind her and leaned in.
"I would echo their sentiments, but I know that you believe you must do this," he said softly.
"It's the only way," she told him, looking back over her shoulder.
He nodded in understanding. "You'll be back here soon; Jane and Darcy will be waiting for you and Thor will look after you."
She gave him a grateful smile. "You think I'm insane, don't you?"
"Doesn't matter what I think, what matters is what you can live with."
She nodded, considering his words. "You're right, thank you."
"It's just cold feet," Stark quipped. "Don't worry, I'd be nervous too if I were marrying a genocidal demi-god. In fact, I'd be worried about you if you were looking forward to this."
Lisa glared at him.
"It is not a marriage-" Thor began to explain but Stark cut him off.
"Empathic connection, blah blah, whatever, same difference."
"Maybe someone should go with you," Natasha suggested.
"No, no need for that," Lisa said, taking Thor's hand, she didn't want to inconvenience anyone. "I'm ready."
"Hold tight." Thor pulled her in closer and wrapped a hand around her waist. Looking to the sky, he called, "Heimdall?" and a bright light enveloped her.
The sensation was rather like a rollercoaster, where she was pushed, buffeted and turned around so often that she hardly knew which way was up, so it took her a few moments to regain her footing once they landed. Thankfully, Thor's strong arms held her upright.
Had it not been for the upcoming events, she might have enjoyed the ride but now, it just made her feel queasy.
Once she had her bearings, her eyes alighted on Heimdall. She had done a lot of reading in preparation for this but even if she hadn't known his true nature, she would have seen the wisdom in his kindly eyes.
"Welcome to Asgard," he said in a loud, deep but oddly soothing voice.
"Thank you." She managed to say but her dry mouth meant it came out as more of a squeak.
Thor took his arm from around her when he thought she steady enough to walk under her own power.
"Come, the horses are waiting." Thor strode from the unusual chamber, leaving Lisa little option but to follow him.
"Sorry," she said to Heimdall, as if she were supposed to remain and make small talk. Small talk was probably a human trait though, not something Asgardians had to worry about.
Thor stood ready to give her a leg up into the saddle and although she was perfectly capable of mounting a horse, she let him help her. The horse gave a soft whinny as she settled herself and she patted its neck. "Good boy."
Thor had mounted his horse and with a nod to her, set it to canter over the rainbow bridge. Lisa followed suit.
Odin observed her from his throne and Lisa did her best not to fidget. Thor had introduced them but Odin hadn't spoken since. She wondered what he was thinking but unusually, she couldn't tell. That probably couldn't be a good sign though.
"You have our gratitude for agreeing to this arrangement." Odin finally proclaimed.
Lisa nodded, unable to speak at the moment.
"Thor will take you to our healer to be prepared."
'Like a stuffed turkey,' she thought. 'Or a sacrificial lamb, that might be more accurate.'
She followed Thor through the halls of his castle, her eyes alighting on many beautiful objects as they walked yet later, she would be unable to recall a single one.
She was ushered into a room with a servant and told to change. She could see nothing wrong with the jeans and shirt she was wearing, but reasoned that perhaps the metal in zippers affected the procedures or something.
It felt very odd to have someone helping her dress but when she saw the armour like breastplate, she realised she would need help. Thankfully she was able to keep her underwear on and that small piece of home comforted her.
Once dressed, she was escorted to a medical bay and was told to lie down on some kind of medical table, which was cold and uncomfortable. She watched silently as a woman, who introduced herself as Eir, worked some kind of holographic machinery that formed above Lisa. Thor watched proceedings from the side-lines, looking contemplative.
"There, she is strong enough withstand the bonding," Eir said after perhaps ten minutes.
"You're sure?" Thor asked the healer.
"Good, then we will take the chance for some sustenance before the ceremony begins." He held out a chivalrous hand for Lisa, who accepted and allowed him to lead her from the room.
"I think I'm too nervous to eat," she admitted.
"Then drink. We have fine ale that will give you, what do you mortals call it, Dutch courage?"
She nodded. "Got anything stronger than ale?"
Thor laughed, thinking she was joking.
She watched as Thor ate, trying to ignore the stares she was getting. She kept her hands wrapped around the tankard she held, as if she were warming her hands on a hot beverage.
"Do you have any questions?" Thor asked.
"No. I don't think so." She did but she just couldn't think of them right now.
"Do you know what happens?"
"Just a little," she admitted, so he explained the steps to her as she sipped her drink.
Odin's throne room was massive, easily the size of a football field and looking to be made mostly of gold. It reminded her of Donald Trump's New York home, and no, that wasn't a compliment. Lisa preferred simplicity to ostentation.
There were only about a dozen people there, all standing on ceremony, either side of Odin's throne. The trek to reach them seemed to take forever but once standing before the Nordic God, she suddenly wished the walk had taken longer.
"He is on his way," Odin told her, well probably Thor, but she nodded her understanding regardless.
She wondered why his throne was set so high. It was an expression of power, people had no choice but to literally 'look up' to him but in her experience, those with true power did not need grandiose statements to reinforce their position.
She looked around those gathered here. As well as Odin on the dais, there was Thor and his four warrior friends. Two guards stood either side of their king, two stood halfway down the grand hall and a final two stood by the entrance. The guards stood absolutely still, not moving at all and with their ostentatious armour and helmets, they reminded her of the red coated, mounted Queen's Life Guard in London. It was like a little piece of home on this strange planet.
She suddenly looked to the female warrior, Sif, who was contemplating Lisa and her motives, thinking her some kind of pervert. Lisa didn't care what these strangers thought of her and didn't bother to correct the woman. Fandral however, looked at her with pride and offered a small smile when she caught his eye.
The metallic clank of chains distracted her and she turned to see the war criminal, Loki, God of Mischief, being led in to the chamber, his hands and feet shackled with chains. Ten guards surrounded him and at the rear of the party, came a man she didn't know.
Her hands began to tremble and she clasped them behind her back.
Loki eyed her with contempt as he approached but quickly looked away, dismissing her.
"Father," Loki said with disdain as he drew to a stop.
"Loki. It was your mother's final wish was that you be rehabilitated and unbeknownst to me, she had consulted many sources to help with that endeavour. I did not believe her, until I learnt of the aid you lent Thor in dealing with the Dark Elves. You risked your life for your brother and protected his mortal. I took comfort in the fact that you had died with honour, and I regretted not listening to your mother."
Lisa risked a glance at Loki, who was standing almost opposite her. He looked bored but she could detect interest in his father's words.
"Then I awoke to find that you had used your trickery to fool everyone and tried to claim the throne from me."
Loki smirked, pleased with himself.
"I have tried everything I know to get you to take responsibility for your crimes, yet you refuse to see the truth in your actions."
"Please tell me that an execution is on the cards," Loki interrupted. "I'm honestly not sure how much more pontificating I can stand."
"No, Loki. I made your mother a promise, the last one I made to her, and I will do everything I can to keep that promise. As such, I sentence you to five years living among the people of Midgard."
Loki seemed to like that idea.
"You will be bonded to a human during this time and it was your mother's express hope that she and the people of earth, will finally teach you empathy and humility."
Loki's eyes cut to her for a fraction of a second and the anger she felt frightened her.
"Define 'bonded'." Loki said.
Odin didn't, instead he gestured for the unknown man at the back of the party to come forward.
"You're going to magically bond me with a human?" Loki scoffed. "Please."
"You and I will return to Midgard with her, Loki," Thor spoke up. "You will be as good as free."
"'As good as free' isn't the same as actually being free," Loki said with contempt.
"Still, it is better than a cell in the dungeon," Thor reminded him.
The magician pushed his hood back to reveal a wizened face. He held a hand out to Lisa who, after a quick glance at Thor for reassurance, stepped forward and took his hand. He held his hand out for Loki and after an eye roll, a scoff and a sigh, he gave the magician his hand.
"You could at least buy me a drink first," Loki teased her.
Lisa kept her eyes averted.
Taking each by the wrist, their hands were held upright then brought together, palm to palm and some kind of magic was used to bind their wrists with a black silk rope. Lisa kept her eyes on the old man, unwilling to risk looking into Loki's eyes in case what she saw there frightened her off. Once this was over there was no going back, so she just have to keep her nerve long enough to get the ceremony over with.
"Bondage isn't really my thing but I suppose I could be converted."
Lisa gritted her teeth and tried not to issue the sharp retort that was on the tip of her tongue.
The magician walked around them and repeated the procedure with their other hands. Loki's hands were cool to the touch but not cold, and his skin was far more calloused that she had expected. Didn't princes live lives of luxury? Why the callouses?
The old man reached up then, and placed a hand on the back of both their heads, turning them so Loki and Lisa were facing each other. Lisa still kept her eyes down, avoiding Loki's gaze. With a little gentle pressure, he brought their heads together until their foreheads touched; an oddly intimate gesture for two perfect strangers. The old man was reciting something in his head and Lisa gasped as the silk bonds at her wrists tightened, merging into the skin and leaving her wrist discoloured for a few moments, until it finally faded away and her wrist looked normal again.
It wasn't normal of course. For the next five years, she thought that little about her life would be normal but the hardest part, the decision, was over now. Sink or swim, there was no going back.
The magician stepped away, turned to give Odin a nod, then resumed his position at the rear of the guards.
"Remove the shackles," Odin said, and Lisa was a little shocked to realise that although the ritual was over, she hadn't moved.
Self-consciously she stepped back, rubbing her palms against the voluminous skirts of her robes, as if to rub Loki's touch off.
The two guards who had been holding Loki's shackles stepped forward and removed the cuffs from his wrists, feet, waist and neck.
"Don't worry, I'm a very considerate lover," Loki assured her.
Lisa glared at him. "In my experience, if a man has to say that, it usually means the reverse is true,"
Thor gave a bark of laughter and Loki glared at her. If looks could kill, she would be long gone now.
"The ceremony is designed to create a firm bond between lovers but the purpose here is not romance, Loki." Odin explained. "You have been bonded to this woman so that you can feel her emotions."
Loki's pale face turned ashen.
"Any pain she feels, you will feel too, any joy she experiences, you will also share."
Lisa almost asked why he didn't explain that the bond worked both ways, but then she realised that Odin didn't care about her; whether her experience was good or bad, she simply had to suffer through feeling Loki's emotions. Considering that Loki was being punished for crimes committed against the humans of Midgard, Odin himself didn't actually seem to care very much about humans. She had already realised that part of the reason Thor was returning with them, was to give him time to get over Jane Foster. Odin believed humans to be beneath Asgardians and she was quite sure that if the Earth stood between Odin and a foe, he would slaughter millions more than his son had, without a second thought.
Still, she hadn't agreed to this because she liked Odin.
"And what happens at the end?" Loki asked.
"That depends on you. Go now; Thor will keep me informed of your progress."
Loki flexed his hands to restore the circulation and smiled coldly at his father. "Then this is goodbye. Don't worry, Father, I'll send you a postcard."
Loki and Thor took a step away but Lisa stayed where she was, panicking that Odin had forgotten her side of this bargain. "Sir!" she said with as much bravado as she possessed. "What of our deal?"
"You will address me as All-father, Your Highness or My King."
"But I'm not your subject, Sir, and I already have both a father and a Queen."
She could almost feel Loki smile but the truth was, it was fear making her sassy, not an insubordinate nature.
Thor stepped up behind her and the hand he placed on her shoulder made her jump.
"Father," he said, his tone earnest. "She does not know our ways, she does not understand that our word is our bond and only seeks reassurance. She has done us a great kindness this day."
Odin narrowed his eye at her but his murderous look had dissipated at his son's words. "Eir will accompany you back and make the necessary arrangements."
"Thank you." She curtseyed, since that was how one showed respect to her royalty. With her luck, it was probably an insult here or something, so uttering another "Thank you," she turned to hurry from the room as quickly as she could.
"Thank you," that one was aimed at Thor.
"It was nothing," he assured her. "We are very grateful for your sacrifice."
She felt Loki's anger at his comments. On the one hand, she could understand it; his family thought him so awful, they were grateful to anyone who would agree to be his friend (she wasn't his friend but she was sure that's how she'd think in his shoes). On the other hand of course, he was a megalomaniacal, would-be tyrant, who had needlessly slaughtered New Yorkers, so why would anyone want to be his friend?
She had a feeling that it was that mixture of resentment and self-loathing that caused his aberrant behaviour, but she felt it would be wise to keep such thoughts to herself.
Their mounts were waiting outside the palace and Thor again helped her on. She felt a stab of jealousy as she thanked the warrior, but Loki was insane if he thought Thor was her type. First, and perhaps most importantly, he was head over heels in love with Jane Foster, and Lisa was not the sort to ever make a move on someone else's man.
Secondly, Thor always seemed to be too damn jovial and cheery. Lisa wasn't some depressive, emo type, who enjoyed listening to Billie Holiday's version of Gloomy Sunday and contemplating suicide. However, she also wasn't Miss Chipper, full of cheerleader-like pep either and if she was honest, perennially happy people annoyed her.
They waited until the healer joined them, then Thor and Eir took the lead, while Lisa's horse naturally fell into step beside Loki's, although she carefully kept her eyes averted from him, unwilling to start a conversation since she had no idea what to talk about.
Two guards followed the party at a distance and up ahead, Thor was busy chatting with the doctor.
"Are you always this nervous?" Loki asked suddenly.
"No. Are you always this angry?"
"Please, you're practically seething with rage," she scoffed.
"I have my reasons."
"I don't doubt it but from the sounds of things, this is your first day of freedom for a while, why not try to enjoy it."
"Being tied to a mortal and guarded by my brother, does not constitute freedom."
"You're a real 'glass half empty' kind of guy then." She sighed and dropped the subject.
"Better than the eternal optimist, thinking the glass is half full."
"I prefer to think of myself as a realist," she answered.
Loki smiled and she could feel his mirth through their new connection.
"What?" she asked.
"I was just thinking that it's better to be like me; while the optimist, the pessimist and the realist are arguing about the state of the glass, the opportunist sneaks in and finishes the drink."
She couldn't help but smile at that, especially since he seemed so pleased with himself. She wasn't foolish enough to think that he would be good company or that this would be an enjoyable experience, but maybe it might not be as bleak as she originally thought.
"Why did they pick you?" he asked.
"The only one fool enough to say yes, I suppose, and they made me an offer I couldn't refuse."
"Among other things."
"What things? What is this deal you struck?" Loki demanded.
"That's none of your business."
"A healer is returning with us. Are you sick?"
"No." She wished he would stop asking.
"I will find out, you know."
"Probably," she admitted. "But I granted you access to my emotions, not my soul."
Loki laughed. "Your soul? Please don't tell me you believe in a God."
"Says the man who came to earth claiming to be a God."
"Fair point, but I am real, your God isn't."
"I know, that's why I'm an atheist."
"Then what is this 'soul' that I'm not allowed access to?"
"Are you always this inquisitive?"
"Always," he confirmed.
"This is going to be a long five years."
"It will go a lot quicker if you just answer my questions."
'Fine. They approached me because I'm on the index,' she thought
Loki looked over at her. "Did you just-"
'Telepathically project my thoughts into your mind, yeah.'
"Is this a side effect of the bonding ritual? I wasn't aware the connection was so… powerful."
'This is my power, nothing to do with that BDSM show we put on back there. This is why I'm on SHIELD's index.'
'And can you hear my thoughts?'
'Only when you intend me to, or I'm trying. Or when you're emotional; people's thoughts are louder then. I try not to listen in most of the time.'
'Why? You could learn so much.'
"Have you ever eavesdropped on someone?" She went back to speaking since she felt odd using her gift, not only did she spend much of her time hiding it, the few people who did know felt very uncomfortable about her reading their minds.
"Who hasn't?" Loki answered.
"95 percent of what you overhear is drivel. Now imagine listening into the thoughts that people don't give voice to as well, that goes up to 99.99 percent. The fact is, most people aren't as interesting as they'd like to believe, and their thoughts are even less so."
He conceded her point with a nod of his head. "And this index?"
"You know SHIELD, right?"
"Yes," he said darkly.
"They keep a database of people with gifts, like me. Your brother approached them with this idea and after a lot of coaxing, they agreed to it."
"What kind of coaxing?"
"I don't know the specific terms, but Thor is working for them now, which probably has something to do with it."
"And how did they choose you?"
"They wanted to use one of their agents but Thor worried that a normal person's mind wouldn't be able to handle the bond, so they trolled their list for people with mental abilities that would make their minds more… plastic."
"And you just said yes?"
"Hell no. No offence, but you're worse than Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden rolled into one."
"A dictator and a terrorist."
"You flatter me."
Even with the emotional bond, she couldn't tell if he was joking or not.
"So what did they offer you?" He asked again.
"My family, my friends and my life before I met you are off limits, okay?"
"Because I don't trust you," she answered honestly. "I won't give you any information that you could use to find them, in case you try to hurt them."
"Why would I try to hurt them?"
"Why would you want to rule Earth?"
Loki smiled as they reached the bifrost, which was rather disconcerting. "We'll continue this later," he said, dismounting.
'No, we won't.'
Loki grinned in reply.