A Siren's Call
Title: A Siren's Call
Disclaimer: We don't own anything belonging to MARVEL and we're not making any money from this fic
Summary: 49th in the Redeeming Grant series.
Authors: Hope1iz and BlackFox12
Warning(s): Spanking, mentions to past rape, mind-control, death of minor 'extra' characters.
The willowy woman stood to the side of the entrance of an apartment building, watching occupants come and go. She had one particular person she was interested in; just one. Unfortunately, while she knew what apartment they lived in, she'd no real knowledge of what they'd looked like. She had spent the last several days observing their apartment, though and thought she had the right person. When Jane Foster next exited the building, she'd learn first hand what a bad idea it was to set one's eyes on a prince of Asgard.
Darcy bopped along to her iPod as she tied her tennis shoes and grabbed her wallet. She'd skipped both breakfast and lunch and was famished. Unfortunately, the fridge had nothing edible in it. Take out it was. If Jane were home instead of at the observatory in London, she might have ordered delivery. Alas, Jane wasn't due back for another three weeks and Darcy was on her own. She was going to the Chinese restaurant two blocks away.
Locking the apartment and heading downstairs, she stepped out onto the sidewalk and glanced around before heading to the left. Nodding at a clean-cut, boyishly good looking man, she began a brisk walk toward her dinner of choice.
She didn't notice the willowy woman following her. Not until the woman suddenly was pushing her into an alleyway.
Odin was currently walking the streets of Midgard. Since his sons were currently looking at one of the missions the family went on, he'd been given the opportunity to do something he never would have had to do on Asgard... shopping. Rather to his surprise, Coulson's oldest daughter had appointed herself to accompany him... and he was watching his honourary niece as much as the Midgardians wandering the streets around them.
"Is there something you wanted to ask me?" Natasha asked finally.
"I just wondered why you insisted on coming with me." Odin's voice was calm and only curious, rather than suspicious or accusatory.
Natasha shrugged. "I gather intelligence." She left unsaid if the intelligence had to do with her uncle... or if it was more to do with potential HYDRA activity. Or one of the other many enemies they had.
Lincoln had smiled at the brunette when she'd come out of the building. It wasn't until he'd noticed her being followed by another taller brunette that he thought he might better follow her, however. He was glad he had when the taller woman shoved the shorter one into the alley.
"Hey! What are you doing?!" he yelled, hoping that realizing someone else was watching would discourage whatever plans the attacker had in mind.
"I'm teaching this mortal not to steal men I have interest in. You will help me." Lorelei's voice was clear and melodious. She grinned as she noted the young interloper attempt to withstand her command.
Darcy, meanwhile, had managed to catch herself before she fell to the ground. She turned flashing eyes on the woman who had attacked her. "Listen here, Skank! I don't steal men from no one! I'm not even dating anyone! But if you lost your man, it's probably because you're a jealous shrew!" She glanced toward Lincoln. She had been relieved that he was there, as a witness made it less likely crazy lady would do anything, but there was a strange look on his face. As if he was fighting with himself. And then the other woman had reached over and touched him and it was like a switch was turned, because the would-be hero was suddenly grabbing her and helping witch lady drag her further into the alley. "Oh! Hell-to the-NO!" Darcy yelled and began fighting.
Lincoln winced as the shorter woman was knocked to the ground and scraped her knees. He didn't want to be doing this, but couldn't seem to stop himself. He'd been fighting the urge, until his goddess touched him. He gave Lorelei an adoring look. "Where will we take her?" he asked.
Lorelei frowned. "I was given a storage shed...we can go there. We must walk. Keep her quiet please."
Darcy's eyes widened right before Lincoln knocked her out.
Natasha had quickly turned back when she'd heard the sound of someone yelling... in time to see some figures disappearing into the alley. She was quick to palm one of her guns and headed in that direction, assuming Odin would either come with her... or stay behind, where it was safe.
Odin was dressed as a normal Midgardian, but he was still a warrior... and he wasn't prepared to leave his niece alone against whatever threat she'd spotted. It didn't take long for him to catch up to Natasha... but it wasn't until he followed her into the alleyway that he realised exactly how much danger they were in.
Natasha recognised the unconscious woman and was quick to train one gun on Lorelei, while she flexed and caused a second to land in her free hand, aiming both weapons at the two who were standing. "I don't know what you're doing, but step away from her."
Odin came up beside Natasha. He knew he could resist Lorelei's voice... but he was careful to make sure she couldn't touch him. He didn't know how well he could resist that. It was also worrying to see that the Asgardian woman had escaped from her cell, but he couldn't waste his breath in asking questions. "That is Lorelei." He knew he didn't need to tell Natasha any more to warn her.
Natasha narrowed her eyes, but didn't lower either gun. Even if she could guess the young man was an innocent person caught up in this... someone who was brainwashed was just as dangerous as someone who wasn't. But she was definitely aware that Lorelei was the biggest threat.
Lorelei's eyes widened as she realized Odin was in front of her. This...complicated...matters. Turning toward Lincoln, she demanded, "Protect me from her."
Lincoln immediately threw himself at Natasha, heedless of the guns.
Lorelei skirted around quickly, leaving Darcy on the ground. She would have to get Jane Foster another day. Until then. "You want to let me go, All-Father..." She smiled her most beguiling smile, in her most beguiling tone. "In fact, you want to come with me...help me...in whatever way will benefit me..." She wasn't sure her voice would work...there were some that required her touch as well and she believed Odin was one such. Because of that, she reached out her hand and touched his hand, despite it putting her at risk for him to grab her. "Help me..."
Natasha wasn't actively prepared to shoot someone who was brainwashed... not unless there truly was no other way. As soon as Lincoln moved, she was as well, transferring her guns to one hand as she dodged to one side and got the young man in a headlock.
The voice was easy to resist... Lorelei's touch harder; but Odin was more powerful and experienced than any of the others the Asgardian had attempted to use her power on. His hand turned and grabbed her, pulling her off balance towards him so he could get a firmer grip on her clothing, rather than put himself more at risk through the skin-on-skin contact.
Lincoln was still under Lorelei's sway and began to fight Natasha, despite the fact it put him in danger of injury.
Lorelei's eyes widened as Odin suddenly had hold of her. "No! Let me go!" she demanded, still trying to exert influence. She felt a moment of fear. If she couldn't control Odin, then he'd have control over her. And given the fact she'd just tried to control him twice, no one would question it if he killed her as punishment. They likely wouldn't question him doing so even if she hadn't tried to control him. If only she hadn't come to a deserted alley to capture Jane Foster! She would be able to influence some passers-by to assist her. Frantic to get away from the one being in the universe powerful enough to stop her, she began to squirm and fight.
Natasha adjusted her grip on Lincoln, but she was considering knocking him out so there wasn't any risk of him hurting himself even more trying to fight a battle he couldn't win. It wasn't like she knew who he was... but he'd got himself involved with people he wouldn't be able to keep up with; and it was fairly clear he'd been trying to do the right thing. "Sorry about this." She caught him with a glancing blow to knock him out.
Odin's grip tightened on Lorelei. He was reluctant to actually kill her, even knowing what she could do and what she had done. Not without at least giving her a chance for redemption... not seeing how the Midgardians who had accepted him and his sons had willingly given second chances to those who had wronged them. At the same time... he couldn't risk letting her go. And he couldn't risk her using her voice to control any others. "Natasha. Can you access your comm?"
Lincoln went out like a light. While he was in shape; and had taken self-defence classes, which had made him think he could at least subdue a human woman who was attempting to hurt another one... he wasn't to Natasha's level of physical fitness and experience.
Darcy had woken and been watching everything with wide-eyes. "How is this my life? And I'm so glad you two showed up when you did, but how did you know I needed help?! Jane didn't ask you to keep an eye on me, did she?"
Lorelei was still struggling to break free of Odin's grip, but when she heard Darcy's words and realized that she'd attempted to grab the wrong woman, she lost what little reserve she had left and began fighting like a wild animal. It was one thing to be captured and subdued in a failed attempt to get Jane Foster. It was another to get captured and subdued in a failed attempt to get someone who she didn't even know the name of. She didn't even attempt to use words on Odin, resorting to kicking, clawing and even doubling over and biting him. She didn't know where she'd bitten, but she bit hard.
Natasha carefully lowered Lincoln's body to the ground, taking out her comm and quickly sending a message to the residents of the tower. "We need backup to our location." Glancing at Lorelei, she was quick to add, "None of the guys."
Odin winced at the bite, but pulled Lorelei closer to himself and wrapped both arms around her to hold her tight against himself, keeping her arms trapped. He glanced at Darcy, recognising the woman. "This was merely an instance of being in the right place at the right time."
"You can't do this!" Lorelei growled. "We are not on Asgard and you have no right to enslave me here, All-father!" She conveniently ignored the fact she had made the first offensive move.
Darcy narrowed her eyes as she watched Lorelei. "Why would you try and kidnap me?!" she asked in a demanding voice. "I don't even know you!"
"Jessica, Bobbi, Skye and I are on our way. Do you need more people? If so, I can ask Kara and maybe one of the other girls who have been practicing self-defence." May's voice came back over the comm.
"You are the one who attacked me first," Odin replied. "And as an Asgardian, you are my responsibility." He glanced over at Natasha, hearing May's voice over the comms. "I don't believe any more will be needed."
Natasha nodded and relayed that information to May, taking a step closer to the unconscious young man almost without thinking.
Still holding onto Lorelei, Odin looked at Darcy. "I'm afraid this was a case of mistaken identity. She believed you were Jane Foster."
"Why would you go after Jane!? She's like the most reserved, non-threatening person I know...how would you even have met her?!" Darcy was angry now that the fear had worn off and she knew she had help.
Lorelei blushed, still struggling ineffectively against Odin's grasp but not willing to answer. She couldn't even look at any of them. This whole situation had become one big humiliation; the fact it had happened because she'd misidentified her target was the icing on the proverbial cake. If she could just loosen Odin's grip enough to slide out of it... With that thought in mind, she went into a frenzied tugging, pulling session again before suddenly going limp and lifting her feet off the ground in the hopes that Odin would drop her.
Odin didn't let go of Lorelei or even loosen his hold on her. When she went limp, he simply swept his arm under her legs, lifting her up off the ground and into his arms. "I'm glad you came here." His words were simple and calm. "It saved me the trip to retrieve you."
Natasha crouched down beside the young man, having put her guns away... but she was still on her guard, in case the brainwashing hadn't worn off.
Lorelei whimpered when her plan to get loose didn't work and she actually found herself more entangled in the All-father's arms than before. His words gave her pause. "If I'd known I'd run into you, I would have stayed far away..." she finally said, in what could only be thought of as a pouting voice, her reactions not that far off from those of a child that had been thwarted and captured by a stern parent. She was a few years younger than Loki and had been friends with Odin's son when they were both very young. Some of Loki's mannerisms had rubbed off on her and stuck.
"Ugh...Did someone get the license plate number off the bus that hit me?" Lincoln asked with another groan in an attempt at humour...then wincing as the tiny huffs of laughter he'd let out caused his head to pound.
"Is he alright? I dunno what she did, but he was trying to help me until she touched him..." Darcy moved closer to Natasha and Lincoln, staying well away from Lorelei and Odin, since she didn't trust the other woman, and gave the man a concerned look.
"I would have found you." Odin's voice was serious, stern... but the grip he had on the 'young' Asgardian was tight. "But by coming here, you have saved me a journey... and I will not let you out of my sight."
Natasha, used to her father's parenting, gave Odin a look difficult to interpret then turned her attention to Lincoln. "How are you feeling?" She figured her cousins would be able to check him over fully... but at least she could make sure she hadn't hit him hard enough to cause any lasting damage.
Lincoln paused and took a mental evaluation of himself. "I think I am alright. I'm not seeing double, there isn't any ringing in my ears...I don't feel queasy or dizzy. I just have a hell-of-a headache. I should be ok..." He glanced up at Natasha and smiled crookedly. "I'm Lincoln Campbell...med student by day- and sometimes night when I'm on rotation- failed super-hero by afternoon..." His grin turned rueful and he shot Darcy an apologetic look.
Darcy shook her head. "No...you were trying to help. And even if she did whammy you into helping her instead, you did slow her down enough that Thor and Loki's daddy and the Black Widow could come and rescue me. So thank you for trying to be my Knight-in-shining armor. This is the last time I don't turn around and retrieve my taser when I accidently leave it on the kitchen table, though..."
Lorelei's eyes grew big at Odin's tone and words. The last time she'd heard that tone from him had been when she was still a child and Loki still played hide-and-seek with her among Idunn's apple trees. The last time she'd been captured and put into a cell, it had been Sif who had captured her and locked her up. The All-Father hadn't even come to look in and glance at her. If he'd decided she was enough trouble that he had to step in and take a personal stake in incarcerating her; well...what if he decided incarceration wasn't enough? What if he decided she needed to die for her crimes? There were many on Asgard who had called for her death even before she'd done anything wrong, just because of the power she had. She couldn't help but tense up in fear at the thought that she might have pushed things too far and she would die this time.
"Natasha Romanov," Natasha replied. "And I'll feel better if you at least get checked out by one of my cousins. There's no harm in a second opinion, even if you are a med student." She gave him a slight smile. "I didn't hit you as hard as I could have done." There was a slightly teasing note in her voice.
Odin could feel the tenseness in Lorelei's body, but although he had a lot of thoughts on the path she was going to take now, he was reluctant to say anything while it wasn't just them. He did tighten his hold on her, trying to provide at least some measure of reassurance.
"I'll let your...cousin? Check me out," Lincoln easily agreed. If there was something wrong, he'd rather it be caught.
"I'd like to go with all of you. I want to know why witchy-poo over there wanted to get hold of Jane!" Darcy declared.
Lorelei glared at Darcy when she heard the nickname, but there really were more pressing matters on her mind, such as getting away as soon as Odin loosened his hold or put her down. Currently, his grip was too secure; although the way he was holding her was more gentle than she was expecting. It was comforting, even if she couldn't bring herself to admit it. She'd expected a bit more harsh treatment, considering her past actions. She finally looked up into Odin's face, her eyes uncertain and filled with fear despite her attempts to be brave.
Natasha nodded. "Some of my family members are on their way... when they get here, we can head to the tower. Do you have to call anyone to let them know you'll be late?"
Odin couldn't help but respond to the obvious fear in Lorelei's face. Since repairing his relationship with Loki and gaining a new son in Mack, he found it easier to deal with them as a whole. He placed a hand gently on Lorelei's hair, stroking it. "You're not going to be executed. I'm not going to imprison you again," he promised.
Lincoln shook his head. "Today was actually my day off...I should be fine."
Lorelei bit her lip at Odin's words, a hopeful yet disbelieving look in her eyes. "If you don't execute me or imprison me, you'll have to let me go..." She wiggled to see if Odin would put her down, although she didn't really believe he would.
Natasha nodded. "Then it won't be a problem to wait for them to get here, I'm sure." She glanced at Darcy. "I'm glad you're insisting on coming. Means I won't have to drag you home to get checked out as well." Even though her tone was slightly teasing, the look on her face was serious.
"I'm not going to let you go," Odin replied, his voice firm, though he continued to gently stroke her hair.
Darcy was about to respond to Natasha's comment when a van pulled into the alley. Melinda May hopped out of the driver's spot. She was about to ask what the situation was when she saw who Odin was holding. "Well, I guess she answers my question..."
Lorelei recognized May and found herself gripping Odin, suddenly afraid he'd let her go like she'd been attempting. May would hurt her. She was positive. She cowered against Odin's chest, hiding her face against him.
"She's under my protection." Odin's voice was calm and he didn't so much as loosen his hold on Lorelei. While he planned to explain the situation to them, his first priority was to get Lorelei settled somewhere. There was a lingering look of worry on his face as he glanced at Darcy, but considering what had happened, he didn't try to approach her.
Natasha helped Lincoln to stand and looked at May. "I need Bruce or Jemma to check over Lincoln here and Darcy."
"As long as you keep her in hand..." May said calmly to Odin, before gently helping Lincoln into the van.
Darcy quickly hopped in as well.
Bobbi got out and opened the back. "I can stay with her if you want to sit up front, Uncle Odin."
Lorelei whimpered at the idea Odin would let anyone else get hold of her.
Natasha was quick to slide into the van next to Lincoln. "Have you got any family you need to contact?" she asked.
"It is all right. I will keep hold of her," Odin said simply, before carefully climbing into the van without loosening his hold on Lorelei.
"I don't have anyone..." Lincoln gave a crooked smile.
Bobbi closed the door after Odin was inside and had his burden secured, then ran around and hopped back into her seat.
Soon, they were on their way, Darcy keeping up a long commentary with Jessica and Skye.
Lorelei kept silent, becoming more and more withdrawn as her position became more obvious to her. She had no clue what Odin had in mind. As afraid as she was that she would be executed, his words that she would not be imprisoned had her thinking of the only other option; he was going to permanently collar her again so she could not use her power.
That scared her worse than the thought of execution, since the collar that had been used the last several times had caused her to feel like she was an empty shell. The emotional pain was worse than any physical pain could have been. Of course, she'd never tell anyone that; it would ensure that the collar would be used. What better way to punish her than something that left no physical harm or scars behind, but was still painful? Why, oh why, had she attacked this woman? She could have remained free and no one would have known. She was a fool!
Whimpering again, so softly only Odin would hear, Lorelei curled up more tightly against the older man. If her voice and wiles wouldn't work, maybe she could appeal to his memories of her as a child and stir some small protective feelings in him. He wouldn't want to cause her pain if he cared, would he?
Natasha glanced at him. "No one at all? That must be rough." She wondered if this was how her father had felt when he'd met her and her siblings... the connection that seemed to spark to life almost immediately.
Odin still held onto Lorelei as they headed back to the tower. It was automatic to stroke her hair, in an attempt to soothe and reassure her.
"Yeah...well..." Lincoln shrugged. "I've learned to adapt...and it made me determined to become a doctor. Maybe I can prevent someone else being made alone..." He smiled sheepishly.
Lorelei would have denied it loudly if anyone asked and she would have been embarrassed had she realized what was happening; but it had been a stressful few months since her escape and a very stressful three years since her last capture. The fact that Odin hadn't known of her escape indicated her guards hadn't realized she was gone yet.
It had been a lonely existence; no one wanting to get close enough to risk her using her voice on them...or just plain not caring. She had regular times for food delivery, but no interaction with any sentient being and definitely no physical touch, let alone affection or comfort. Odin's gentleness with her and physical contact? It eased something she didn't know she needed; the easing and the releasing of her stress caused a bone deep weariness. She fell asleep, her ear pressed against his chest.
Darcy noticed and gave Odin a wide-eyed, 'WTF?' look.
"Well, you don't have to stay alone..." Natasha spoke almost without thinking, but the smile she gave Lincoln was sincere.
Odin looked down at Lorelei and gave a quiet sigh, then glanced apologetically at Darcy. "She's not a bad person." His voice was low, not wanting to risk waking up the young Asgardian.
Lincoln smiled back. "I have today off, but I do need to return to my residency tomorrow evening; I'm very close to receiving my doctorate and then I can either start my own practice, or look into being given a more permanent position in the hospital..."
Darcy's 'WTF?' look turned more sceptical. "I saw the news last time she was here...if she's not bad, then something went terribly wrong somewhere along the way..." she whispered, so she wouldn't wake the other girl up either.
Jessica leaned around the seat she was sat in. "Bobbi says to let you know that the others have a secure, soundproof room to put her in until you decide how to handle the situation..." She gave Lorelei a curious yet suspicious look. She'd seen the news, too and after what she'd gone through with Kilgrave, anyone with the ability to control someone else with their voice made her nervous.
"We have a medical team at the tower, if you wanted to take a look at other options," Natasha said. "Barring a background check... we have enough family members that we could always use more medically trained people." And there was a big part of her that would like Lincoln to stick around. But even though hardly any of her family members would find that surprising, she didn't want to risk scaring him off by putting voice to that.
Odin still held onto Lorelei, but he addressed Darcy... and Jessica, too, by default. "She discovered her powers too young, with no one to teach her how to control them. I'd intended to work with her on Asgard, but... I am sure you are all aware of what happened then." He knew Darcy, in particular, had more personal experience with it.
"I'll keep that in mind..." Lincoln nodded cheerfully. "First I need to finish residency and get my degree."
Darcy gave a sad smile. "Wars and diplomatic crises and it was easier to forget a young orphan girl- I'm assuming she was orphaned or abandoned if she had no one to help her- it was easier to forget her than your own son who was also going through big issues." Darcy left unsaid the many years that Loki had felt forgotten as the rule of Asgard took all his father's attention. "I'm guessing she wasn't any more liked than Loki..." Darcy sighed.
Bobbi called out from the front of the van. "We'll be there in five minutes..."
"How long do you have left on it?" Natasha asked, after indicating she'd heard her little sister's response.
Odin knew he shouldn't have forgotten Lorelei, but he nodded in response to Darcy's words anyway. "It's why I am not going to allow her to be imprisoned or executed. I can focus entirely on what she needs now."
"Only a couple of months, actually. If I can finish out the next two months without incident, then I'll have finished the last requirement to receiving my degree. And then the job search- or a search for a location to open a practice- begins," Lincoln said, a hint of nervousness in his tone. Not that he wouldn't be able to complete the requirements, but because after years of working toward his goal, he'd almost accomplished it and what happened after was completely unknown.
Darcy sighed. "I hope that works for you, sir. I'm not sure how you hope to help her when she's done so many things that people will insist she be punished for and you seem to be the only male in existence that can withstand her wiles. I mean, it isn't safe to let her run around free with her powers...but if you aren't imprisoning her...how are you planning to keep her from whammying people?"
Jessica looked back again. "And again, I have to remind you of the sound-proofed room that was set aside to hold her. I'm sure if Uncle Odin wants to work on rehabilitating her, Tony could be convinced to expand the soundproofing to a whole apartment. She wouldn't be imprisoned exactly; although her activity would still be curtailed." She shrugged. Unless Lorelei did something to hurt the family, Jessica was perfectly willing to give the other woman a chance.
"And we're here..." Bobbi called back again, as the van pulled into the garage and parked. Soon, everyone that had come with May was exiting the vehicle and moving to the back to surround Odin; just in case Lorelei somehow managed to get control over him after all.
May quirked an eyebrow at that, but didn't say anything. After what had happened to Grant, she wasn't quite as forgiving as the All-father. "Come this way and I'll show you where to put her."
Natasha didn't really tend towards the touchy-feely emotions... only really with her family; which, of course, was now growing in strength and number. But she climbed out of the van and then moved to help Lincoln out. "My cousins will be able to check there's nothing more seriously wrong than the bruise that's going to come up."
Odin nodded, not trying to argue the point with May; or any of them, really. They were going to have to make up their own minds about Lorelei. He went with May without comment, though. Once he was certain she wouldn't attempt to control him, he'd ask Loki to come and spend a bit of time with her.
"Thank you." Lincoln smiled again as he was led to the elevator.
Everyone else followed, sticking close enough that if Lorelei tried anything and succeeded, they would be able to stop her. When the elevator stopped on the medical floor, May motioned for Odin to follow her while the others went in to see Bruce. "Tony set the soundproof room up on this floor...in case she ever needed medical attention, we could bring the equipment to her instead of risking her walking around. At least until you have her under control enough that we don't need to worry." May quickly showed Odin how to open the door then smiled. "Tell Veronica what code you want to use. The door will be keyed to your voice and the code you pick. I'm going to go check on Darcy..."
"Thank you," Odin replied, before opening the door and carrying Lorelei inside. He set her carefully down on the bed and then addressed the AI. "Veronica, would you please inform my sons that I will be staying with Lorelei for the time being and that anything they need should be relayed through you? At least until I can be sure she will not attempt to control them."
"I have informed them, sir. Ms. Pepper is requesting that you make a list of any items you have need of and she will deliver them personally. She also indicated that there was a simple shift and undergarments in the top drawer if you would like to get your...guest...changed. In case you need to search for weapons or magical trinkets or just to wash her clothing. Ms. Bobbi is in charge of dinner tonight and will bring enough for both of you." The AI relayed the information as if it had been planned days in advance, instead of spur of the moment once they realized who was in their midst and that Odin was taking charge of her.
Lorelei began to stir when she heard the voices, stiffening up when she realized that not only was she still in Odin's arms...she had fallen asleep in his arms like a very young child. She couldn't help but blush and turned towards his chest to hide her face in embarrassment.
Odin gently stroked Lorelei's hair. "Once you're ready, you can get changed into the clothes put out for you," he said, not sure how much she'd heard, but wanting to make sure she knew what was going to happen. "We'll be staying in here for the time being... it's soundproofed, so your voice won't be able to reach anyone outside." His voice was gentle, but serious.
"You are staying with me?" She hadn't meant to sound so shocked...or childishly hopeful for that matter...and bit her lip when that's exactly how her question sounded. Swallowing, she risked a glance up into Odin's face. "Must I change? Are...are you going to search me for magical trinkets?" Her voice was quiet at the last.
"Yes. I will be staying with you," Odin replied firmly, before adding, "And I believe you will be more comfortable if you get changed. But I would prefer to be certain there is nothing I have missed."
Lorelei swallowed again, looking at the ground then nodding. "Very well," she said in resignation and began to strip. As she had numerous blades and magical trinkets secreted on her person, it took longer than normal. Finally, she stood naked and held her arms away from her body. "I have removed everything you would object to me having. But check for yourself if you believe me a liar..." she said challengingly. She had one magical trinket still on her, hidden behind her ear where none would see it unless they examined her. She waited to see if Odin would bid her dress due to being embarrassed at her lack of shame; she doubted he'd actually believe her.
"I would like to believe you are telling the truth... but we are only just feeling our way around each other." Odin's words were simple but firm and he stepped closer to Lorelei, reaching to feel his way through her hair and over her head... well aware there were numerous places a person could hide something small.
Lorelei held still and tried not to shift when he got closer to the tiny 'ladybug' situated behind her ear. It would enable her to escape from most locked areas, something she would need if Odin ever left her alone long enough to escape. Assuming it would work on these particular locks, anyway. Odin's lack of response to her shamelessness had the unusual result of her feeling embarrassment at her actions, almost ashamed of herself, and she suddenly wished she'd gone into the tiny bath area to change and put on the flimsy shift she'd been provided. She didn't understand the reaction though.
Odin knew she used her body to get what she wanted as much as her voice. Just because he didn't react like every other male...her memory flashed to when she was a child and tried to wheedle her way out of trouble when she and Loki had taken their mischief too far. Odin had never been swayed by her voice, nor had her pleas and tears swayed him when she'd been truly naughty. She should have remembered that. She'd been very much more than naughty for many years now. And Odin was still immune to her spell. She swallowed and tried not to fidget.
Odin found the item and removed it, careful to make sure he didn't tangle it in her hair or catch her skin. "While there is temperature regulation here, I suspect you will be more comfortable clothed." He picked up the clothing and held it out to her.
"Thank you," she ground out in a whisper. Swallowing again, her gaze falling toward the ground because she couldn't meet Odin's eyes, Lorelei took the offered clothing. She quickly pulled the shift over her head before shimmying into the pants. As thin as the garment was, to prevent her hiding anything in it that she shouldn't, it was thick enough to provide some warmth and modesty. It was actually more chaste than she normally wore. It made her feel much younger than her years, which did nothing for her confidence. "Are you trying to make me feel like a child?" she muttered petulantly, tugging on the hem of the garment.
"I am trying to make you feel safe," Odin replied. "I meant what I said to you before. That you will not be imprisoned. Or executed." He didn't say that she wouldn't be wearing the collar again, figuring the fact it hadn't been put on her would make that clear. If not, he wouldn't hesitate to reassure her.
Lorelei was about to argue that if he wanted her to feel safe, he'd let her go. She realized, as she opened her mouth to say such, that she actually didn't feel unsafe. He hadn't put the collar back on her yet, though...once it was replaced, she knew she wouldn't feel safe. She'd feel like she was being emptied...her whole being torn out of her and filled with nothingness. Truth was, she was more afraid of being collared again than death. "When will you collar me?" She winced as she asked the question. She hadn't planned to say anything and now she'd reminded him of it.
"I will not be," Odin replied. "This room is soundproof, which means that you cannot use your voice to control any of those who reside here... which makes it unnecessary to place the collar on you as well."
Lorelei looked up at that, unable to hide her relief and gratitude at the answer. But the confusion clouded her face. "But...if you are not going to collar me, or execute me...then the only option is to imprison me...does that mean I am never to leave this room from now on?" She glanced around. "I must admit, it is a better prison than I had expected, but you have also said I would not be imprison me and I cannot think of any other way you would punish me. Are you letting me go?" Her confusion carried through in her tone. She didn't believe they would let her go, which meant either Odin was lying, or...or they had found a punishment she couldn't imagine. She found herself tensing up in fear again...her imagination was quite vivid and brutal, so if they'd found something she couldn't imagine then her punishment must be horrible.
Odin reached out to place a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently. "Up until now, you have had no one willing to give you guidance and correction... to show you how and when you should use your power; to be responsible for you. I regret that it has been something I have been unable to concentrate on until now."
"I did fine on my own!" Lorelei protested, not quite offended; more as if she didn't really believe her words, but didn't want Odin to think she had needed guidance or correction. If Odin thought she needed someone to be responsible for her, he might put her under Sif's control. Or worse, some Midgardian woman.
"I believe you have survived on your own, but not thrived," Odin replied. "I am sorry it has taken me so to act, but now that I have you here with me, I will not let you go."
Lorelei shook her head. "Th...that's all very nice, but it still does not tell me what is to be done to me. What is to happen. I cannot believe you are letting my actions go unanswered..." Her voice shook slightly at the end, to her chagrin.
"Your actions will not go unanswered," Odin replied. "But I will respond to them as I am claiming you... as part of my family." He'd made the decision back in the alley... now all that was left was making it clear to her.
Lorelei blinked in confusion that turned to consternation as she realized she didn't understand what that meant. After all...When Thor had last been punished, he'd been exiled to Midgard with his powers removed. Loki had been imprisoned. She'd heard rumors that Odin had changed his methods somewhat in regards to his sons, but as she had been isolated with no one willing to speak to her, she'd never learned what those methods were, or if the rumors were even true. She felt completely at a loss, not understanding what Odin seemed to think she would understand, and it made her feel stupid. "I...I do not understand you!" she finally blurted in frustration, her temper frayed and her emotions on the edge; she would either start screaming and fighting...or crying...in a moment, if she didn't learn exactly what the All-father had planned.
Odin still had his hand on Lorelei's shoulder and he used that to draw her into his arms, holding her close. "The Midgardians have a specific punishment that is used among family members and is used in this home. It is called spanking and although it is painful, the pain is temporary and there is no lasting damage. Much of the discomfort comes from the emotions experienced."
"You...you used to do that to Loki when he and I got into trouble as children...he told me..." she whispered. "He always said I was lucky because I never had to worry about bring spanked..." She blushed. She had to admit her memories of Loki's reactions when a child didn't fill her with confidence now.
Odin gently ran his hand over her hair. "At that time, it did not feel like my place to step in with you. Now I realise it is." His voice was simple and sincere. He didn't loosen his hold on her.
"What if I refuse? I can fight!" Her voice came out only a little belligerent, but more nervous than she'd like. She knew her physical strength was no match for Odin's and since her voice powers did not work on him, she knew, no matter how much she protested or fought, if he believed this was the best course, she'd be getting spanked.
"You can try, but we both know I am stronger than you." Stroking her hair, Odin added, "And it will prove to you that I am serious."
Lorelei swallowed hard at his words. Would it? Would it prove he was serious? She supposed so, although she never doubted that he'd do what he said at least in this respect. How and why she hadn't started trying to get away before now, she didn't know. Of course, there really wasn't anywhere she could run. The bathroom was the only other room she could go to. Still.
Before she could think on if her idea was wise or foolish, she'd yanked out of his grip and begun to run toward the small bath. She'd just lock herself in there till he gave up and left. She couldn't submit to such an indignant punishment...she wasn't a child! She may be brought low, but she still had her pride. Besides...she didn't understand what he planned to do and she didn't like not understanding. It scared her. That had to be the worst thing of all.
Ready and prepared for anything (it would have been a shock if Lorelei had submitted willingly), Odin was quick to move after her. He wrapped his arms tight around her before she could get to the bathroom, pinning her against his chest.
"No! You can't! You never did before! You always sent me away before! I'm not a child! I'm not your child! You can't!" Lorelei was fighting and struggling worse than she had when they'd originally caught her. She couldn't let this happen. If she let this happen...if she submitted... she didn't know what would happen after, but she knew it would change everything for her. She'd never done all that well not knowing what was going to happen. She twisted and writhed with abandon, which was most likely not terribly effective; she wasn't aiming or planning her strikes at all, just hitting and kicking wherever she could. She was too scared of the unknown to focus or listen.
Odin tightened his hold on Lorelei, easily holding her close. He knew she was unlikely to listen fully to him right now... but as he gently led her over to the bed, he had to respond. "I am not going to send you away ever again. I want you."
"No...you can't want me! You never did before! You told Loki not to befriend me! I was a bad influence! How could you want me now when I am so much worse? When I am so much more bad? Don't lie! You don't want me! Let go!" She might not have been making much progress in gaining her freedom, but that didn't stop her from trying.
"You are not bad. I made mistakes with my sons and with you... mistakes I hope to remedy, from now on." Odin reached the bed and took a seat, keeping a tight hold of Lorelei as he guided her across his lap.
Lorelei was beside herself by this point, just repeating 'no', 'you cant', and 'please', all while kicking and squirming like a cornered wildcat. She wailed as she was pulled over Odin's knee.
Odin wrapped his arm around Lorelei's waist, drawing her close against his stomach. Knowing she wasn't going to listen to anything he said, he didn't say anything, instead baring her and bringing his hand down in the first firm smack that he then repeated.
Lorelei at first didn't even realize she'd been bared and Odin was smacking her bottom...too frantic in her attempts to get away. But once she did realize, she began to struggle even harder, thrashing about in an attempt to get loose from Odin's firm grip, even if it meant throwing herself onto the floor and possibly being hurt in the process.
Odin's grip tightened on her. "I'm not going to let you fall... I'm not going to let you go." He pulled her in closer and tighter, continuing to swat, going down to her thighs before he started over from the top.
Lorelei didn't give up her struggle, though it became difficult not to react to the swats as a second circuit was begun. She began to let out broken sounds of distress as she alternated between demanding she be let go and trying to keep from crying. Spankings hurt!
Odin completed the second circuit and began a third one, swatting a bit harder and faster and beginning to speak. "This is not going to be easy. I do not expect it to be easy. But I am not going to let you go. I am not going to send you away. Not ever."
Lorelei choked on a wail, unable to answer Odin, even to disagree. She thrashed even harder, trying desperately to get away so that her bottom could get some respite. It hadn't been unbearable before, but the sting...the pain...had built enough by this point, she didn't know how she would ever sit again. After one particularly harsh twist failed to gain her release, she threw a hand back to cover her bottom in a desperate bid for relief.
Odin moved Lorelei's hand out of the way, holding it against her back, and began to focus more swats to her sit spots, keeping a tight hold on her so she wouldn't fall from his lap.
By this time, Lorelei had worn herself out with the frantic struggling. That didn't mean she would give in, though. Instead of struggling, she began to hold herself as stiffly as possible, attempting to not react at all, swallowing her tears and holding her breath so she wouldn't cry vocally.
Odin could tell she was trying not to react and he let his hand fall a fraction harder and a little bit faster. "I know you are reluctant to trust me and I don't blame you. But everything I have said to you is the truth. You will be staying with me... and when I can be sure you won't attempt to use him, I will encourage Loki to come and see you, but I do not believe he will need much encouragement," he added.
Lorelei blinked at that and found herself asking, before she could stop herself, in a voice that was full of a child's pain, disbelief, hope and uncertainty, "You'd let him visit? Even though I'm bad and lead him into trouble and am unseem...unseemlingly fo...forward and don't know my place?" The words were too specific not to have been uttered by someone at some point and it was obvious by the way she cringed after saying them that she hadn't been meant to hear them...that she'd been eavesdropping. The only thing not clear was when she'd heard them and how long she'd been carrying the hurt of them around; though it was obviously a long time. The momentary weakness she'd experienced from the words had caused her to let go of some of her control over her reactions- she'd begun twitching and wiggling her bottom again in a futile attempt to avoid the punishment's smacks and without realizing, she'd begun to whimper softly each time Odin's hand landed with terrible accuracy.
Odin paused... not the spanking, but his words. It took him a second or two to find his voice. He knew he would have preferred his then-youngest son not to get into so much trouble with his childhood friend, but he'd never voiced the words coming from Lorelei's mouth. He hadn't felt it was his place to step in and correct her... not wanting to scare the wild child away, even if he'd begun looking out for her the same way he did his sons. But just like Loki had been hurt by the words of others, it was clear his son hadn't been the only one targeted by the Asgardians. "You are not bad. While I would have preferred you both to curtail your mischief, I am well aware that Loki was as much responsible as you for that." He took a deep breath, slowing the swats a fraction. "Is that why you stopped coming?"
Lorelei felt a short bit of surprise at Odin's question. It indicated that he hadn't been responsible for what occurred. She took a shaky breath, only the fact Odin had slowed the painful swatting enough for her to think enabling her to answer in a shaky voice. "I...it was Loki's tutor telling him...explaining why Loki would be taking more lessons and training and why I was not allowed to join in them with him. Loki became too busy for me and...he was the only one who tolerated me. I stopped coming because it hurt being forgotten again..." Her voice caught as she tried to keep from crying. Lorelei closed her eyes and tensed up again, embarrassed and ashamed at having admitted such a weakness.
Odin sighed. "I am deeply sorry I did not think to seek you out. I missed you when you stopped coming, but you were so skittish, I worried stepping in would drive you away. I know I am late in making amends, but I would still like to try."
Lorelei didn't know what to do with that information. Odin hadn't stopped spanking, and she'd been expecting admonishment and scolding, and dire warnings if she didn't behave better. Not apologies and concern and a request to make things right. She tensed up even more, afraid to accept the overture. "You don't mean that. The first time I make a mistake you'll send me away..." her voice shook with the effort not to start sobbing. Her bottom hurt so badly! Her heart hurt worse though and it was his words that were breaking her down. She couldn't submit. The moment she did, he'd have all the power and control and she'd be the same scared, lost, and lonely child she'd been years ago when she'd believed she'd lost her only friend.
"I do." Odin's voice was filled with nothing but sincerity. "I will not send you away. No matter what happens, I will take on responsibility for you and it is a responsibility I will never throw away or discard," he promised.
"B...b...but why?" Lorelei didn't understand it. For the longest time, she'd wished that someone- anyone- would care about her and not be afraid of her. Would help her. She'd even imagined what it would be like to have someone correct her and get after her for using her powers the way she was doing. No one ever had. After Loki had got too busy for her, no one had even wanted to be friends, let alone stand up for and protect her. So much of what she'd used her powers for in the early years had just been so she could survive. Now that she no longer needed such protection, suddenly Odin was interested in being there for her? It was upsetting and even though, deep down, she knew she still was that young girl who wanted someone to care about and take care of her, she wasn't about to admit it to Asgard's king. "I don't need you! Just...just lock me up like everyone wishes and you can stop the pretence," she said waspishly. Her fear and longing were hidden, but still carried in her voice.
"I will not." Odin's voice was serious and sincere. "I will not lock you up. I will not take your powers from you. I will be here. I will be responsible for you. Because I want to be. I want to take care of you. I want you."
Lorelei didn't know what to say. She wanted to argue. She wanted to believe him. She wanted to get away from him and go back to the way things usually were; the way she was used to them being. She wanted him to hold her close and hug her and prove what he was saying. That need, more than anything, scared her above all else. That after so many years, just a few words and promises of not being left alone and she was ready to cave and give in and do whatever he asked of her. How could she be such a fool? Stiffening her body yet again in an effort to ignore the painful swatting- although she had to admit he wasn't smacking as hard as he had been- she held her breath and tried to will her desire for family away. Tried to will her desire for a father out of existence. Just because his words had weakened her heart and her resolve, did not mean she should give in.
"I do not expect you to believe me straight away," Odin said. "I have made a great many mistakes... in particular when dealing with those in my family and those who I would have in my family. But I hope to rectify those; to prove you have a place to belong... with me and my other children."
Lorelei was finding it more and more difficult not to just give in. Her bottom felt like it was aflame and while she couldn't actually see the damage, she was certain it was scarlet. She let out the breath she'd been holding in a whoosh and drew in another ragged breath. She wasn't going to say anything. She wasn't. If she said anything else, she knew she'd capitulate. She'd humiliate herself by giving in. Clenching her hands hard enough to leave nail imprints on the palms of her hands and clenching her teeth hard enough that the grinding of them could be heard, she closed her eyes and forced herself to remain still and stubborn.
Odin didn't stop spanking, although the smacks were more like pats than swats by this point. He gently rubbed her back with his other hand. "It doesn't matter how much you fight this... fight me. I'm not going to stop or let you go."
It was the gentleness, along with the punishment, that finally broke her completely. That, along with his words of not letting her go, made her think that maybe he was serious. She hadn't had a lot of comforting affection in her life. Oh, she'd had plenty of physical encounters that were masked as affection, but it was hard to trust such things when the majority of your encounters with men were coerced by your own powers and women just didn't like or trust you at all. Even her mother hadn't been terribly affectionate, the woman blaming her for the fact her father had run off and left them. The novelty of it caught her by surprise and then it just felt so nice and comforting that she found herself relaxing her rigid control over her body despite herself. And she could tell that, despite the fact it still hurt terribly, the smacks weren't more than pats at this point. Odin wasn't being abusive and he was trying not to harm her. She knew this instinctively. And he kept repeating the same thing over and over how he wasn't going to let her go and he was going to be there for her and he wanted her... Lorelei let out a tiny whimpering whine, then a tiny huff of breath that quickly became a soft cry...and once she'd lost control, it was all over. She began sobbing, broken and aching with a need she had pushed down deep and tried to ignore. She wanted what Odin was offering so much, but her fear was crippling and all she could do was go limp over his knee and wail.
Bringing the spanking to a stop, Odin was quick to gather Lorelei into his arms, settling her on his lap and holding her tight against him. He stroked her hair and just held her as tight as it was possible to.
Lorelei grasped at Odin, tangling her hands in his shirt and then holding on like she was terrified he'd leave her. And she continued to sob, unable to say or do anything but let all the pain and loneliness that she'd felt for the last many years out. She couldn't even apologize or make promises, because her mind seemed to have just gone on vacation; she couldn't think. She couldn't plan. All she could do was feel and what she felt was afraid. Afraid and guilty; she'd known for a long time that her way of doing things wasn't the best, but she'd not seen any reason to change. If everyone was hateful and distrustful of her when she hadn't done anything wrong, she'd figured she'd prove them right. But she knew she'd been wrong and knowing that, she was still afraid that Odin would leave her; would lock her up somewhere that she couldn't hurt anyone else and forget about her. So she held on tightly and wouldn't let go
Odin didn't so much as loosen his hold on Lorelei, gently stroking her hair as he spoke in a soft voice. "I'm here. You are not alone anymore. I won't leave you," he promised, knowing she would believe actions more than words... but still wanting to tell her.
Lorelei didn't know how long she cried, but it was long enough for her throat to become sore, her eyes to burn, her head to pound and her body to throb. She took deep, shuddering breaths, letting them out in quivery whimpers. She didn't pull away from Odin once she'd calmed down. Instead, she burrowed against him like a needy toddler, still whimpering and gripping his shirt in the death grip she'd had. Shifting caused her bottom to ache and the whimper turned into a moaning whine, leading her to still unnaturally, reluctant to shift and cause the pain to reignite.
She still didn't know what to say. Should she apologize and promise to be good and obedient and do whatever Odin said? Should she return to her belligerent denial of anything Odin said to her? Did she have to say anything? All she wanted was to be held and comforted by the All-father and if she said something, that might end.
Odin continued to hold her tightly to himself, gently stroking her hair and back, having no inclinations to let her go any time soon. "You will never be alone again," he promised.
"B...b...but I'm bad..." she whispered in confusion, even as she gripped more tightly. After centuries of being distrusted and facing suspicion in every small thing she did, she knew what she was. And how Odin could want to associate with her, let alone take her into his family- for that's what he was more-or-less offering- was beyond her comprehension. She still couldn't say sorry...although she was beginning to feel such. She didn't think she'd be believed if she apologized now.
"No." Odin's voice was firm, even though it carried a trace of sadness. "You are not bad. But you have lacked the structure and guidance you've needed throughout your life... structure and guidance I will provide, with everything else you need."
Lorelei finally got control of her emotions, but she didn't pull away from Odin. "You'll take care of me? If...when I mess up...you'll still keep me? Y...you'll help me be better?" She didn't ask how; she suspected he'd employ spankings again if necessary. The thought didn't bother her like she thought it should. Still... "It hurts..." she whispered, but it wasn't whiny or accusatory. There was acceptance in her tone, indicating she knew she'd deserved every swat. It wasn't just her bottom that hurt, either, but she didn't elaborate on all the tiny pains her own stubbornness had got her. She just wanted to let him know. To see how far his caring would go.
Odin placed his hand against her cheek, gently stroking. "I know. The physical pain will fade fast... the emotional pain, I will help you with. I will not give up on you. I will not abandon you. No matter what," he promised.
Lorelei took another quivery breath, a tiny whimper escaping then pressed her head against Odin's hand with a moan. She hadn't cried so long and hard since the day she'd overheard Loki's tutor saying how unsuitable and worthless she was. She'd cried so hard she felt ill. She was too tired to fight her immediate responses or urges any longer and suddenly loosed her grip on Odin's shirt, only to wrap her arms around him in a tight hug, tentatively snuggling against him. It was a novelty receiving affection that she hadn't coerced and she wanted more. Moving caused her to whimper again, but she said nothing. She deserved so much worse than a sore bottom.
Odin wrapped his arms tightly around Lorelei, gently stroking her hair. "For the time being, we won't be leaving this room," he said, his voice gentle. "There will be food brought here for both of us, though... and if there is anything else you need or want, it can be arranged to have that brought here."
"Ok..." she answered in a tiny voice, relieved that he didn't just move her off of him. At least he seemed to be telling the truth about caring about her right now. She felt like she should get up, find the panties she'd kicked off during her struggle...but the shift she wore had fallen down to cover her and she didn't want to move...was finding it difficult to do anything, really. A bone deep weariness overcame her and she closed her eyes.
Odin continued gently stroking Lorelei's hair, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. He was certain she needed the rest and he hoped she would feel comfortable enough to fall asleep with him.
"Don't leave me..." Lorelei pleaded, her voice hoarse and very childlike in her neediness. She snuggled some more, putting her head against his chest. "Please don't leave me... " she said again in a whisper, as weariness overtook her and she fell asleep.
Darcy had followed Natasha and Lincoln, hopping up onto a bed. Bruce was already checking Lincoln over, so Jemma came to help her, cleaning up any cuts and scrapes she had from being dragged into the alley. She hadn't been hurt too badly, luckily enough.
Bruce did a scan of Lincoln and then did a physical exam before nodding at the younger man. "Your self diagnosis was correct. You don't have a concussion or any dangerous wounds. I think it would be good for you to stay with someone tonight, though...just in case. Do you have any friends you could call?"
"No..." Lincoln winced. "A few work colleagues, but I don't really feel comfortable asking them to crash on my couch...or letting me crash on theirs."
"You don't really know me that well," Natasha said, "but I feel responsible for you, considering I was the one who knocked you out. Why don't you stay with me? If you're reluctant, you can always meet my uncle... Captain America. He can vouch for me." She smiled, but there was still a note of concern in her voice.
Lincoln grinned bashfully, hesitantly. "If it won't be a bother...if you really feel it's necessary for me to stay with someone..." He directed the last to Bruce, who quickly affirmed that he believed it necessary. "I'd appreciate it..." He looked back at Natasha.
Natasha smiled. "There are a couple of spare rooms on my family's floor... we normally eat altogether, but there's a lot of us, so if you'd rather stay on the floor, I'll eat with you."
"I am not against joining the rest of your family. I normally eat alone, so it might be nice to not have to..." Lincoln said quietly.
Darcy piped up. "Well...I don't particularly want to go back to an empty apartment when Jane is going to be gone for several more weeks. Do y'all mind if I stay here? Hang out or something?"
"I don't mind..." Jessica shrugged.
Bobbi nodded. "Me either."
"Well, we have space..." Though Natasha had to admit, it was beginning to get somewhat crowded. Maybe it would be worth talking to everyone about moving sooner rather than later. She smiled at Lincoln. "Don't say I didn't warn you about how many of us there are."
"Great!" Darcy chirped happily, following the other women out and heading to the common floor.
"I'm not bothered by crowds." Lincoln smiled. "Just show me where to go." He followed Natasha out.
Natasha slowed her steps to walk next to Lincoln. "Is there anything you need overnight from your apartment?" she asked, as they headed to the elevator.
Lincoln nodded. "A change of clothes. My laptop... if you wouldn't mind taking me, I can pack a small bag."
Natasha nodded. "That won't be a problem. I'll check and see how long it'll be until we eat. Veronica, can you confirm with Bobbi what time she expects the food to be ready?" she asked the AI.
"She said within the next twenty minutes, Ms. Natasha," the AI reported.
"Thank you." Natasha looked at Lincoln. "It might be best to wait until after we've eaten to pick up your things, otherwise we're likely to be rushing to get back in time."
Darcy had waited till Veronica said it was safe for her to go to the cell- the reinforced room- that Lorelei had been taken. She'd got a basket with dinner in it for the two Asgardians, as well as some snacks and several bottles of water. She stood outside the door to the room and put the basket down. "Veronica... please let Thor's daddy know I've left a basket with food for them?"
"Of course, Miss Darcy," the A.I. answered, doing just that.
Satisfied that Odin would get his food, Darcy left to go find the rest of the family.
As soon as May had told him about Lorelei's presence in the tower, Coulson checked with Veronica where Grant was and then headed to his son's bedroom. Pausing outside the door, he knocked lightly.
Grant called out softly, "Come in." He was sat on his bed, knees drawn up to his chest, arms wrapped tightly around his legs.
Coulson opened the door, wasting no time in stepping into his son's bedroom. He didn't bother closing the door, walking immediately over to the bed and sitting down, wrapping his arm tightly around his son's shoulders.
"They have her secured?" Grant's voice was quiet and devoid of emotion. He wasn't certain what to think of this development. His uncle Odin deciding that Lorelei could and should be rehabilitated was in line with what all the family had done at one point or another, giving second chances. From what Loki said, the woman hadn't been treated well growing up and wasn't evil at her core. Still...what she had done to him was such a personal thing and had left him questioning himself and his own mind for months after. Only the therapy he'd gotten after his father rescued him had enabled him to face what had actually occurred and realize it wasn't his fault and he'd done nothing wrong. Now he was facing the woman who had hurt him. He wasn't certain how to handle it.
Coulson wrapped his other arm around Grant, pulling his son in tight enough that he was almost on his lap. "There's a soundproof room where your uncle Odin has her, but if you don't feel able to stay here, I can take you to the mansion and we can take a few days there... with your siblings, too..."
"I don't want to run...I'm not afraid of her...not exactly. If Uncle Odin has her under control, I can stay here..." Grant licked his lips. "I don't think I can face her just yet, though."
"You don't have to." Coulson gently squeezed the nape of Grant's neck. "Whatever you need... whatever will make you feel better... I want you to tell me."
"After we eat...maybe we can just come back to the apartment? Or maybe we can just have the family eat in the apartment tonight?" Grant glanced up at his father hopefully.
Coulson kissed his son's forehead. "I'm sure we can arrange for the family to eat here... though I think your older sister is forming an attachment," he commented.
Grant blinked at that. "What kind of attachment?" he asked curiously, not sure where or when any of his sisters had the chance to meet someone. "I didn't know she'd had time to meet anyone. If you think we should eat with everyone else and then return to the apartment..."
"We can do whatever you feel comfortable with," Coulson replied, tightening his embrace. "It seems Natasha met a young man who tried to help Darcy," he added. "I haven't seen much of them, but it sounds like she's become attached to him in the same way Clint did with Wanda and Pietro. His name's Lincoln."
"I want to help him feel comfortable if this is what Nat wants. Besides...it isn't like I have to be in the same room as Lorelei." Grant sighed. "I don't hate her...and while it was against my will, she didn't hurt me. Not physically anyway. I should be able to move on, shouldn't I?"
"Being used like that isn't something you can just move on from," Coulson said gently. "You can't decide how you feel. But you can be certain I will always be here for you."
"Thanks, daddy..." Grant swallowed. "I really don't know what to feel. I'm so angry at what she did...but then I keep thinking that maybe I really did want it...maybe I asked for it because I put myself in that back alley, by myself, even though I knew it was risky. It doesn't help I keep hearing John congratulating me as if I had accomplished some big thing..."
Coulson gently pulled Grant into his lap, his whole focus on his son. "Being forced into it was not right, son. Just because you took a risk, it doesn't mean you were asking for her to control you or wanting it. It was something you were forced into; something you didn't give your permission for. And that means it wasn't okay." Kissing his head again, he added, "And all I can do is apologise for not making sure you got the help and support you needed at that time."
Grant curled up in his father's arms. "I don't blame you, daddy. Things were hectic. I don't think anyone thought about what her actions actually were until later and by then...I was the enemy." His voice was soft and resigned.
Coulson stroked his hair gently, his arms tight around Grant. The use of the more juvenile word made it clear how much turmoil his son was in. "Now... I'm not going to leave you alone," he whispered in Grant's ear. "I'd like you to stay in my room with me... for tonight at least, but I think you should be with me for the next few days."
Grant twisted around so he could hold onto his father more tightly. "Okay, daddy...I'll stay with you as long as you think I should. I...I think I need to..."
"You know you can always stay with me whenever you need or want to anyway... but this time, I'm going to insist." Coulson cuddled his son tightly. He knew how upset his son was, even if Grant tried not to show it so strongly. "I love you."
"I love you too, daddy..." Grant visibly relaxed as he realized that his father understood and was taking care of him. "Thank you..."
Coulson kissed the top of his head. "I can ask for the food to be brought here for us," he suggested softly, wondering if Grant would feel better to have it just them... and have Coulson's entire attention on him.
"What about meeting Nat's potential boy?" Grant asked quietly.
"There'll be plenty of time for that later," Coulson replied. "You come first."
"If you don't mind, then I think I'd rather eat here, just you and me..." Grant admitted.
"That's absolutely fine, son." Stroking Grant's hair, Coulson addressed the AI. "Veronica, would you please ask Bobbi to send some food up for me and Grant?"
"I have done so, Director. She has indicated she will plate the food up now and bring it to you immediately," Veronica answered.
"Has Bobbi said anything more about the fact she and Lance are still married?" Grant asked, in a not so subtle attempt to change the subject off of himself.
"I think, even though they would both deny it, they're actually reluctant to get a second divorce," Coulson replied, not commenting on the fact that Grant was changing the subject.
"Yeah...I guess the thought of doing that would be unappealing even if the second marriage hadn't been intended. The fact they still obviously care a great deal about one another probably gives them pause, too. Think they'd both be happier if they admitted it to themselves, but...don't think my saying anything would come across well." Grant sighed. He carefully extricated himself from his father and sat up, then stood up, and walked to the door. Looking back, he gave his father a smile. "Let's go eat...?"
Coulson stood and walked over to join his son, wrapping an arm around Grant's shoulders and pressing a kiss to his head before guiding him out of the bedroom.
Bobbi was putting the plates of food on the table along with cutlery when they made it downstairs. "What would you both like to drink?" she asked with a smile and a slightly worried, curious look. She hadn't been around when Lorelei came through the first time and had been too preoccupied with hiding her own secrets to snoop too far back into her brother's files when she'd first joined with the group; and after she had joined the family, it had felt wrong to snoop through old files about him. If he wanted her to know things, he'd tell her. Unfortunately, that meant that sometimes, while she could tell when something was wrong, she didn't always know why.
Grant smiled. "I'll be fine with water, but I can get it. You should eat your own meal before it gets cold..."
Bobbi looked torn between staying and going. She didn't like leaving her family when one member seemed distraught...at the same time, her older sister seemed to be developing a relationship with someone who might become family and she thought she should be there to welcome him as well.
Able to see how conflicted his daughter looked, Coulson stepped over to Bobbi and squeezed her shoulder gently. "Why don't you join the rest of the family for food? And then afterwards, you and the others can come here for the evening," he suggested.
Bobbi looked happier about being given some directions that she could follow and nodded quickly. "Ok, daddy... I'll get everyone together after we eat and come here. Do you want me to have Veronica give you a heads up before we come?" She glanced at Grant again, still obviously worried.
"What do you think, son?" Coulson asked gently, wanting Grant to feel as comfortable as he could.
"Yeah...please have Veronica let us know?" Grant said after a moment's thought. He figured he would be alright, but if he suddenly got clingy again and needed to be held by his father, it would be easier if he didn't have the whole family trooping in and catching him. Not that he minded them see him cuddling with his dad- they all did it- but if Nat was truly interested in bringing this new person into the family, he didn't want to scare them off before they figured out how the family worked.
Bobbi nodded. "I'll do that, then." Impulsively, she leaned over and gave her brother a bear-hug, holding on tightly for long enough for Grant to begin worrying that she was upset about something. Pulling away, she gave a crooked smile, hugged her father for just as long as she'd hugged Grant, and then quickly head for the elevator.
Coulson pressed a kiss to Bobbi's head before she extricated herself, then turned to Grant with a warm smile, waiting for his son to indicate where he was most comfortable and that he was ready to eat.
Grant watched as his baby sister left then glanced at his father, smiling back. "I can't help but feel like she's hiding something..." he muttered, before shaking his head in bemusement and going into the kitchen to get two bottles of water. Returning, he handed one of the bottles to Coulson before sitting down at one of the plates and waiting for his father to sit down at the other one before beginning to eat.
Coulson took the bottle and sat down with his son. "I suspect she's worried about you," he said. "She knows something's wrong... but not exactly what."
Grant nodded. "Part of me feels like I should let the rest of the family know why I'm...acting so oddly. The other part thinks I shouldn't tell them what happened, because it might influence how they feel about Lorelei; and if Uncle Odin is wanting to rehabilitate her, it might be easier if not everyone in the family was completely suspicious and disapproving of her. Still..."
Coulson reached across the table to gently squeeze Grant's hand. "We'll handle it however you feel comfortable doing so, son. But everyone here knows already what she can do, so saying something isn't likely to make much of a difference."
Grant nodded. "That's true. I'm not sure if it would make them worry more or less if they had more details. I don't think it would help me or make things worse for me either way; I don't know when I'll be able to be in the same room as her without remembering and feeling..." He shrugged, not sure how to describe his feelings other than using the word 'confused'. As often as he told himself that he hadn't asked for what happened, he still felt like somehow it was his own fault it had occurred. Learning that so much of what Lorelei had done was in response to how she had grown up also caused a sense of empathy toward the woman that didn't help in his confusion at all.
"Don't force it," Coulson said gently. "You can't control how you feel and trying will just hurt you in the long run. Lean on me... and on the rest of the family... and let yourself heal gradually, instead of trying to force yourself."
"I'll...I'll try, daddy. Leaning on you is the easy part..." Grant smiled crookedly, reaching over and squeezing his father's hand before resuming eating.
Bobbi had returned to the common floor, where everyone who wasn't Coulson, Grant, Odin or Lorelei had congregated. She glanced around the room, noting Clint with Wanda and Pietro and Nat with Lincoln. She walked over and stood next to Raina. "So it looks like the family is going to be getting bigger again..." she whispered.
"It would appear so," Raina agreed calmly. "Not just for our immediate family, either..." Raina glanced toward where Loki, Mack and Thor were huddled close to Darcy. The three were obviously making sure that the younger girl was alright. They were probably also asking her if she'd spoken to their father, since none of the three had been able to do so before he locked himself in the soundproofed room with Lorelei. "Far be it from me to say that someone is beyond redemption and that Odin shouldn't try, because I think it has been proven in my own case, as well as several others, that if given a chance, people can change. But somehow, I don't think the next few months are going to be easy on anyone."
"Yeah. That's what I'm afraid of..." Bobbi sighed softly, before glancing around and catching sight of Lance.
Lance had been in a rather animated conversation with his father and brother... though it was clear that he was aware of the tension in the room. Aware of Bobbi's appearance, he glanced up, catching her eye, and waved her towards one of the empty seats next to him.
Smiling gratefully at Lance, Bobbi gave Raina a quick hug before moving over to sit next to her best friend in the world. "Hey..." she whispered, before smiling at Bucky and Bakshi. She put a little bit of food on her plate; just enough that, if her father asked any of her uncles, they would say she'd eaten.
Bucky eyed the tiny amount of food and then just gave her a 'look'.
Huffing slightly, but giving her uncle a sheepish, if good natured grin, Bobbi continued adding small bits of food until he nodded at her and resumed eating himself. "Shoulda known I couldn't get away with anything just cuz daddy's not here..." she whispered even more quietly to Lance in amusement.
Lance grinned at Bobbi. "You know you won't get away with it with the amount of uncles who have the same hands-on approach as our dads." He nudged her gently and then a more serious look came over his face. "How are you holding up?"
"I'm doing alright...I'm worried about Grant, though..." she admitted quietly, not wanting to draw anyone else's attention to the fact her brother was hiding out, even if they'd likely already realized it themselves.
Lance nodded, speaking in a voice that was just as quiet. "Your dad's with him, though... so whatever it is, Uncle Phil will help him work through it."
"I know..." Bobbi smiled again, leaning over and bumping shoulders with Lance before kissing him on the cheek. "Thanks..." she said, the smile getting bigger.
Lance wrapped his arm around her shoulders and hugged. "Any time." He was smiling, but his tone was serious.
Bucky was watching his son and niece (or daughter-in-law, if he wanted to confuse matters) and smiled to himself before turning back toward Bakshi. "Sunil...have you made any more progress in trying to find out information about when you were at the police academy?" He knew that his son and nephew, at least, had been working on getting more information, but it had been a while since either one had mentioned it.
Bakshi finished chewing his mouthful of food, giving the question serious thought before answering. "I've hit kind of a dead end," he admitted. "Me and Blake weren't at the academy at the same time... but we did find out I was training to be a medic. Of course, we already got that information..." he added. "Blake's been looking into any potential disappearances or crooked police officers who started out at the academy."
Bucky nodded. "If there's anything I can do to help..." he offered. Research really wasn't his area of expertise, but he was willing to do anything for his son.
Bakshi smiled. "I know, Dad." He shifted close enough to Bucky to lightly lean against his dad.
Bucky wrapped an arm around his son and squeezed his shoulders. "Did you get enough to eat?" he asked both Bakshi and Lance, including Bobbi in the group.
"I think you might have realised if we didn't, since you watch us like a hawk." Lance grinned, teasing his dad.
Bakshi nodded. "More than enough, I think."
"Guilty as charged." Bucky chuckled. Leaning back, he glanced in his daughter's direction, noting that she'd finished all her food as well. He'd made sure she'd had enough before sitting down. "I think the family is splitting up into smaller groups tonight; so as soon as all of you are ready, we can head back to our apartment."
Bobbi smiled. "And that's my cue to go join my big sister and head back to daddy." She gave Lance a tight hug and another kiss on the cheek. "See you tomorrow..."
"Be good." Lance grinned and waved at Bobbi, then stood to gather his family's and his own plates to wash them up. "Be back in a bit."
Bobbi waved back and winked, then turned to focus more fully on Natasha and the newest possible family member.
Bucky motioned Patsy to come closer. "Come here, Sweet Pea..." He grinned impishly at his daughter, patting the seat next to him that Lance had vacated. "Let me know what you'd like to do tonight...It's just going to be us and your two brothers..."
Natasha smiled at Bobbi, glancing around for the other family members. "Are we heading back to our floor?" she asked, then glanced at Lincoln. "You've still got my father and one of my brothers to meet..." She didn't mention why Grant and Coulson weren't there, even though she knew Grant's history with Lorelei.
Patsy didn't waste any time in sitting next to Bucky and wrapping her arms around him in a hug. "I don't really mind, Daddy... maybe we could watch a movie?" she suggested.
Bucky nodded. "Movie it is. Let's go help Lance with the dishes and we can go back to our floor and pick one out. C'mon, Sunil..." he said to Bakshi, before smiling at both his children then standing up to head into the kitchen to help Lance.
Bobbi nodded. "I believe we are. As long as everyone is ready."
"I'm good to go..." Raina said quietly, shifting closer to the group.
Clint nodded, pulling Wanda and Pietro behind him. "Yeah. We're ready too."
Lincoln, still a bit shocked at how quickly he'd been accepted into this group and the fact that Natasha seemed to want him to move in with her family- and he suspected more, but wasn't entirely sure he was reading the situation right- just nodded. "Ok. Are they ok?" he asked, not sure what to say and not sure why the two men hadn't joined everyone else.
Natasha stood, angling so she was stood closer to Lincoln than the others, even though she wasn't prepared to 'force' any contact on him he wasn't comfortable with. "Sometimes emotions run a bit high and it's a little harder to be with so many people," was all she said... though her words were also to reassure Raina, Bobbi, Wanda and Pietro... since they didn't have the same knowledge about Grant's past she and Clint did.
Lincoln nodded. 'Yeah. I can see that. There are a LOT of people here... And you are all family?" He seemed a bit overwhelmed.
Natasha smiled. "We are, yes. It means that no one's alone... unless they need a little bit of space." Even though she didn't say it, the words were directly linked to Lincoln's comments about not having anyone. She didn't want to scare him off. At the same time, she didn't want to hide that she felt drawn to him.
Lincoln nodded. "It...everyone seems happy at least..." he said quietly, waiting for someone to take the lead, since he had no clue what floor they were going to.
"Well...speaking for everyone else because I'm sure they won't disagree with me," Clint smiled impishly, "we are happy."
Bobbi laughed. "Yeah. He's right."
"I should disagree with you just to protest you talking for me..." Raina sniffed with her nose up in the air and a tiny grin on her mouth.
"It wouldn't take much to prove you wrong," Natasha teased Raina, before placing a hand very lightly on Lincoln's arm, prepared to move it if he indicated he didn't want or like the contact. "We'll go in the elevator." She started in that direction, knowing the others would follow.
Lincoln glanced at Nat's hand on his arm but didn't pull away and actually moved closer when everyone piled into the elevator together. Soon they were getting off on the family floor and he was following her into the entertainment area. He saw two men who he hadn't been introduced to yet- the younger one sitting fairly close to the older one.
Grant glanced up, then stood as the rest of the family came in and smiled crookedly. "Hey..." he said to Natasha, giving Lincoln a curious look.
Coulson stood with a warm, welcoming smile, looking over each of his children and grandchildren in turn.
Natasha smiled at her brother and father. "Lincoln, this is my brother Grant and my father, Phil Coulson," she said to him.
Lincoln found himself giving his own shy smile to the two men. "Hello..." he said quietly. "Pleased to meet you..." he added, before glancing around. "Thank you for letting me stay here..." He meant in the building, since he wasn't entirely certain where he was going to be staying.
Coulson smiled warmly at Lincoln. "It's good to meet you. There are a couple of guest rooms that you can take your pick of... I'm sure Nat will show you where they are."
Lincoln found his smile growing at Coulson's words, the warmth helping him relax and feel welcome as much as his greeting did. "What do you all normally do in the evenings?"
"Depending on how everyone feels... we watch a movie, or play games, or just sit around and talk..." Coulson replied, glancing at Grant to get an idea of what his son wanted to do.
"I'm good for talking; I mean...I don't really know any of you and apparently, I'm going to be staying at least long enough for Natasha to be positive that I'm not going to have residual problems from what happened early this evening..." Lincoln chuckled, still having a hard time believing that someone would care enough about him to want to keep an eye on him. Especially when they just met him.
Coulson nodded. "We can all move into the living room," he suggested. "You can learn about us... and we can learn about you."
Lincoln nodded and waited for someone to head there first so he could follow. He wasn't surprised when it was Grant that led the way. The other man seemed like he wanted to tell his family something, but wasn't sure how to go about it and had been shifting nervously back and forth in place. At Coulson's words, Grant had taken off for the living room like he was being pursued. Not reacting to the strange reaction of Grant, Lincoln just followed quietly.
Bobbi bit her lip and followed Lincoln, having also seen Grant's odd reaction.
Clint gave Nat and his father a concerned but resigned look. He knew what had happened and he knew it might be a long time, if it ever happened, that Grant would feel comfortable having Lorelei anywhere near the family. Which, considering Odin had brought her here and didn't seem to want her to go, could possibly be a problem.
Natasha paused to allow her father to catch up to Grant and then walked next to Lincoln. Her own expression was worried... but she didn't say anything. If Grant wanted to tell the other family members what had happened, he would; she knew their father and the rest of them would be there to support him.
Wanda looked worriedly at her uncle and leaned on her father, able to see there were conflicts, but not understanding what had caused them.
Clint wrapped his arm around Wanda and tugged her closer, kissing the top of her head. "He'll be ok..." he said softly to her, before leading her into the other room and sitting on a couch, then pulling her down onto his lap.
Grant knew his family was worried about him and he didn't want them to worry. He wasn't sure he could temper his emotions or actions enough not to worry them, though; and since they didn't know what had happened, he knew they were confused. He decided he really needed to tell them what had happened, so they would understand. He didn't need to go into detail. Just let them know the basics. At least that way, they wouldn't be blindsided if he had to hide away for a bit. He looked at his father and nodded slightly- hoping Coulson would understand that he was going to let everyone else know what had happened.
Bobbi sat down next to Grant, noting her father was sat on the other side. Raina moved to sit next to Pietro.
Coulson sat next to Grant, wrapping his arm around his son's shoulders and hugging him tight against his side.
Wanda curled up on her father's lap, cuddling in close to him and putting her head on his shoulder. Her eyes were fixed on her uncle, though, as she was clearly worried.
Natasha waited for Lincoln to sit and then settled next to him, seeing everyone else was being supported and not wanting Lincoln to feel any more of an outsider.
Lincoln glanced around the room, feeling a bit uneasy at the sober and nervous looks on everyone's faces. Grant clearing his throat caught his attention and he quickly looked at the other man.
"I know you are all worried about me...about the way I'm acting strangely; for a reason you don't understand..." Grant began. "There is nothing wrong with me...but...something did happen...before we all formed our family, before HYDRA even made their move… that I had pushed down in my memory and is now front and center. And it wasn't something that was easy to deal with. I pushed it down for a long time without dealing with it at all; and really, the only people I've talked to about it are dad and my therapist..." he admitted softly.
Natasha placed her hand on Lincoln's arm once more, the touch gentle and undemanding... even though her gaze was on her little brother.
Coulson tightened his arm around Grant's shoulders in response to his son's turmoil. He didn't say anything, just letting his son feel that he was there, so Grant knew he could lean on him.
"See...today wasn't the first time Lorelei has been on Midgard in recent years..." He swallowed. His gaze shot around the room, then fell on Lincoln. "And forcing Lincoln to help her wasn't the first time she'd...manipulated men to do her bidding using her voice or touch. I know they tried to keep it out of the news as much as possible the last time she was here...they didn't want people panicking. But she caused a lot of problems and heartache. Some people died. What happened to me really paled in comparison to that fact..." He ran a hand through his hair in agitation.
Coulson took Grant's hand in both of his, squeezing gently. "What happened to you shouldn't have happened." His voice was a low whisper in Grant's ear, as he didn't want to reveal anything his son wasn't ready to.
Natasha reached across and gently placed her other hand on her brother's knee, though she didn't say anything.
Grant looked down and swallowed again, before taking a deep breath, trying to figure out how to continue.
"She forced you to do something..." Lincoln said quietly, not exactly encouraging Grant to say more, but knowing that could be the only reason Grant would have been so upset at her being brought back to the tower.
Grant nodded. "Thing is, Lorelei...she's really beautiful...and under other circumstances and if she hadn't been trying to take over the world in her own way...I would have been flattered she chose me..." He winced. "...John seemed to think I was really lucky and acted like some damn frat-boy, congratulating me on it. But she was trying to take over the world. And the circumstances...I didn't have a choice in the...with what..." He took another slow, deep breath. "...She may not have physically forced me...but she took my will from me and..."
"...She raped you..." Bobbi's voice was a whisper, but it was firm in its declaration.
Grant gave his baby sister a startled look, but didn't deny it, even though he looked like he wanted to.
"That's what she did." Natasha's voice was quiet, but still certain. "You were forced. You didn't choose."
"She took the choice from you," Coulson said. "And you have every right to feel hurt and upset."
Lincoln had a firm, steel-eyed look on his face. "I was hesitant wanting to be around her with what little she forced me to do. I can't imagine how you must feel having her in your home..." It was obvious he didn't fault Grant for his feelings at all.
"What was Uncle Odin thinking...?" Bobbi muttered to herself, running a hand through her hair before wrapping her arms around Grant and holding on tightly.
Grant had a sad, resigned look on his face. "He was thinking that, deep down, she isn't really bad and that he can help her...help her be better than her actions indicate she is. Given everything I've done wrong in my life, including murder, I can't fault him for that. And who am I to say she isn't save-able? I just...I can't be around her right now. Maybe...maybe later. But...even if she didn't physically hurt me...I can't really explain it..."
"Just because she didn't physically harm you doesn't mean she didn't hurt you," Clint said, with a hint of frustration; but it was at the situation, not Grant.
Coulson had his arms wrapped just as tight around his son from the other side, unable not to respond to Grant's pain. "None of us expect you to be okay with this situation, son. You shouldn't force yourself to accept it when you're not ready to."
Wanda was quiet, knowing that she could be seen as having the same kind of power as Lorelei. She shifted slightly on her father's lap, not sure if her uncle had made the same connection.
Clint hugged Wanda more tightly, realizing the connection she'd made, although he didn't think Grant had thought about it at all in terms of his niece.
Bobbi swallowed. "You know...you and Jessica...and Hope...you could probably help each other a lot..." She hesitated saying so, but the similarities between what happened to her brother and what happened to Jessica and Hope because of Kilgrave were too similar not to remind him that he wasn't alone in what he'd gone through. She said it quietly and tentatively, not wanting to upset him.
Grant blinked. "You...you're right. We probably could..." He glanced at Bobbi, wrapping an arm around her to let her know he wasn't upset at her observation. If he was honest with himself, he hadn't even thought of his two cousins having just gone through the same type of situation. The only difference was the one who had mind controlled them was dead now. "They might have had it worse, to be honest. Lorelei was selfish, thoughtless and careless in what she did; more like an overgrown child. Kilgrave was certifiable." He winced again. "Maybe talking to them isn't the best idea. I don't want to bring up bad memories for them..."
Lincoln had leaned back slightly, staying quiet because he didn't feel he had a right to say anything. He shifted closer to Natasha without thinking about it.
Coulson tightened his embrace around his son. "Talking to them might bring up bad memories, but it might also help them to heal as much as you."
Natasha responded automatically to Lincoln, letting her arm settle around his shoulders... demonstrating physical contact she only ever showed with her close family members.
Pietro glanced at his sister, but although he was worried about her, he was also worried about their uncle and he looked at Grant. "I'm sure there are places we could go if you need to be out of the same place as her..."
"I...I will think about talking to my cousins..." He glanced at Pietro. "And I know there are...right now, she's being kept in a room, so I won't have to face her. Maybe by the time Odin feels she is able to roam further, I'll be more able to adapt and handle it. Thank you..." He glanced around the room. "Thanks all of you. Just knowing you've got my back is making things easier..." He nodded at all his family, making sure to smile at Wanda. While her powers were of a similar nature to Lorelei's, she'd more than proven she could be trusted and he wanted her to know that he did trust her.
"Does Uncle Odin know what she did to you?" Bobbi hesitantly asked, not sure if she should ask. "If he doesn't...do...do you think he should? So that he can better understand why you don't want to be around her or be welcoming? I mean, we were all worried because it was so unlike you to not be willing to give a chance to someone the family decided to try and save... When he finally notices..."
"I...I don't know if he knows. And he probably should know." Grant winced. "I don't think I have it in me to tell him though. It was hard enough telling all of you..." he admitted.
Coulson stroked Grant's hair. "If you think he should know... but you don't feel able to tell him... I can tell him what you need to," he offered.
Wanda relaxed a little as Grant directed his attention on her... but she didn't move from her father's lap, wanting the comfort and not ashamed of it.
"Thanks, dad...I...I appreciate that," Grant responded, leaning more heavily into his father, pulling Bobbi along with him so that she was curled up against his side the same way he was curled up against Coulson.
Lincoln watched the family quietly, leaning more heavily against Natasha. The family was very affectionate, physically and verbally, he'd noticed. Rather than make him uncomfortable, he found himself responding in a way he hadn't expected; he wanted to be included somehow. Which was odd. He wasn't part of their family.
Raina sighed softly and, seeing that the only one not cuddling up to someone was Pietro, she dragged her nephew over to her and hugged him.
Coulson stretched his arms out so he could hold both his son and daughter close to him.
Natasha gently drew Lincoln in closer against herself, still careful not to push him too far... even though she wanted to demonstrate some kind of affection to him.
Although not entirely used to Raina being physically affectionate, Pietro willingly hugged her in return.
Raina, really not used to being physically affectionate (although she didn't mind and actually quite liked it, she just never knew how to respond) looked around the room at all the cuddling family members and couldn't help but giggle-snort.
Grant glanced at his other sister with a raised eyebrow. "What's funny?" he asked, slightly amused.
"Just wondering how and when did hugging get to be contagious?" She grinned impishly. "Even the new family has caught it..." She pointedly looked at Lincoln, who was snuggling Nat by this point and didn't even seem aware of the fact.
Lincoln blinked, giving Natasha a sheepish look, but not pulling away. If she didn't want to hug him, she'd let him know. "...New family?" he had to ask, even though Raina's observation made him rethink the last few hours and realize something that he hadn't paid attention to before.
Natasha didn't loosen her hold on Lincoln, figuring the fact he wasn't pulling away... even after it had been pointed out... meant he was quite happy with it. "It doesn't normally take that long to decide someone's wanted in our family," she said. "I knocked you out... I figured that works as an introduction. But I feel drawn to you. And I want you." Her voice was open, frank and honest. If she scared him off? Well, it was bound to come out sooner or later.
"Can't say I don't feel drawn to you...I do. Wasn't expecting to find a family in that alleyway, though..." Lincoln teased, feeling a little overwhelmed, but not so much he was running scared. Sometimes things just felt right and this did. "How does it work, anyway? Us becoming family?"
Grant grinned at his- he was fairly certain it would happen- future nephew. "If Nat's got hold of Tony's lawyers? Quickly and efficiently..." He laughed.
Natasha smiled. "Like my brother said... it's happened enough times here that we've got making it legal. There are other things we should probably discuss as well," she added, knowing it was better to discuss the other things... like familial punishments... straight off the bat.
"I understand you might have your own place to live, but we've found, as a family, staying together is helpful and beneficial," Coulson put in. "If it's something you want to do... becoming part of the family... you might want to consider whether you want to move in as well."
"What type of stuff?" Lincoln asked curiously. He glanced at Coulson "...And I wouldn't be against moving...if you preferred..." He looked back at Natasha.
"That might be a conversation best had in private," Natasha said, not wanting to risk embarrassing Lincoln... or the other family members. Of course, he'd find out it was the worst-kept secret eventually. "And I want you," she added. "That means wanting you close, too. If you have a lease, I'm sure we can figure out getting you out of it."
Lincoln's eyebrow went up at the mention of the private conversation, but he didn't say anything. "It was a short term lease, since I didn't know where I'd end up finding work after my residency. If I'd stay on the area or go elsewhere."
Natasha nodded. "We can go via your apartment tomorrow... pick up what you need. I'm sure there are clothes here you can borrow for tonight."
"Ok..." Lincoln easily agreed. "I'm sure someone here is my size."
"I think I have something you can wear," Grant offered.
Natasha smiled. "There you go. That's sorted for tonight. And after breakfast, we'll get everything you need."
"Alright..." Lincoln smiled. "I guess we...what? Watch a movie now? Or you show me where I'm staying and explain the stuff you said I needed to know?"
Grant chuckled. "Or both?" He grinned at his older sister.
"I can show you the room and we can have that discussion while everyone else picks out the movie," Natasha suggested.
Lincoln just nodded again and stood so Natasha could show him the way.
Natasha stood and led him out of the living room area, walking next to him rather than in front as she headed towards the stairs.
"So...one of these rooms going to be mine?" Lincoln asked quietly, beginning to feel a little nervous at this big, life altering step he was about to take based on a spur of the moment gut feeling. His gut feelings usually didn't steer him wrong, so he wasn't really worried. Still, it was a big step and it was only natural for him to wonder if he was making the right decision.
Natasha gave him a reassuring smile, shifting so her arm could brush gently against his. "For the time being... there's been talk about moving to another area, but that's all it is right now. Talk. We have two guest rooms... one of them is nearer to mine. If you're comfortable with it, I'd like you to take that one." As she spoke, she led him to the room.
"Yeah...sure. I have no problem with it. Will give me a chance to get to know you better..." Lincoln gave a sheepish smile, knowing his sudden nerves were very obvious. He followed her into the room and glanced around. Only seeing one chair and not wanting to be rude and take it, he moved to the bed and sat down on it.
Natasha didn't hesitate in sitting next to Lincoln, not wanting to put any kind of distance between them. "As soon as you're ready, I'll want to ask my cousin's lawyers to draw up the paperwork so you're officially mine," she said without any preamble. "But one of the reasons this family works so well together... there are rules. Nothing bad or out of the ordinary. Let someone know where you're going. Don't do anything dangerous that could get you or someone else hurt. But there are consequences... family consequences... if something does happen."
Lincoln slanted his head. "Sounds like basic common sense and respect...not hard to do..." He shrugged, a curious look in his eye. "What kind of consequences?"
"You'd be surprised," Natasha murmured, with a trace amount of amusement, before adding, "For most things... if you do something you shouldn't, you'll get spanked. Sometimes grounded along with that... although that's more about being kept close and reaffirming the relationship." Even with Steve's more severe grounding of Tony, it had been clear it was as much about keeping him close and healing them both as outright punishment.
Lincoln blinked owlishly, waiting for the punch-line. When he realized she wasn't kidding, his mouth dropped open. "You're serious?" he couldn't help ask. "You'd spank me if I ever just went off somewhere without telling you where I'm going? Or if I did something you considered dangerous?" If he'd been wondering if he'd jumped into this situation without giving it enough thought, he now wondered if his gut was steering him wrong for the first time in memory. He was only a few weeks away from becoming a full-fledged doctor; title and everything. One would think, by that point, he'd be considered adult enough not to be punished, let alone punished in such a manner. He didn't immediately get up and storm away, despite his shock. There had to be a reason for the way the family handled things that he just wasn't aware of yet.
"Doing something dangerous for the sake of it is a far cry from doing something dangerous with a good reason," Natasha replied. "There are exceptions. And no punishment is given without making sure the person involved understands and is in agreement with it. If you're concerned about that kind of punishment... I've found the majority of people know what Tony's behaviour was like before Uncle Steve came into the picture. There have been issues... but on the whole, Tony is happy and thriving with someone who cares enough to pull him back when something happens."
Lincoln slanted his head. "It's become common knowledge that Steve Rogers adopted Tony Stark. It's also pretty obvious that Tony Stark has been a lot less... volatile? Reckless? He just seems better adjusted all around if the news is anything to go by. If the family rules is even part of the reason for that, I guess they can't be a bad thing..."
"It's not just the rules to follow," Natasha said. "The whole family... we help and support each other, even outside of our smaller family groups. There will always be someone to have your back. You will never be alone. Good times and bad."
"I haven't had that in a very long time..." Lincoln admitted. "That would make it all worth it."
Natasha placed her hand on his arm and squeezed gently. "The rules and consequences here aren't a secret, but no one here is a tyrant. The fact is, spanking works. It might be emotional, but it's over fast and no one here resents being taken in hand when it's necessary."
Lincoln nodded. "Well...it's not like I expect to be going out and doing dangerous things anyway. I plan to help people- heal them- no reason that should be dangerous and if it is, chances are it won't be because I was deliberately taking chances...so..." He shrugged. "I'm not worried. I mean. I might be a little worried about the fact I decided to join a family of complete strangers without giving myself even a day to think about it; that seems a little bit rushed even for me and I tend to do things without too much deliberation...but it feels right. So I guess as long as I don't discover this is a remnant or result of my being mind-whammied, I won't be regretting it at all."
Natasha smiled. "I don't think you'll end up regretting it. No one else has." She nudged his shoulder gently. "You've had time to get to know us at least a little. And I feel drawn to you. That feeling hasn't changed, except to grow stronger."
"Does the family often form attachments this quickly?" Lincoln asked.
"For the most part, yes," Natasha replied. The exception was Grant... but then again, that had been a more unique situation. "Dad adopted my brother Clint after he broke into his house."
Lincoln choked on a laugh. "Seriously? Huh...so most of the adoptees were found because they needed help of some sort..."
Natasha nodded. "You could say that. I know Lorelei wasn't someone you'd expected... but it still allowed us to meet."
"Unexpected is an understatement..." Lincoln smiled. "Is there anything else I need to know? Or do you want to go back and join the others again?"
"I don't think there is anything else," Natasha replied. "You've already seen there's nothing wrong with being physically affectionate... everyone here tends to need it, so no one sees anything wrong with it."
"The Doctor in me approves of that... it's proven that affection plays a large part in helping people get better." Lincoln shrugged. "What...what should I call you?" he asked hesitantly.
"Whatever you feel comfortable with," Natasha replied. "Eventually... when you're comfortable with it... I'm adopting you, so 'Mom' would be preferable." She smiled, trying to show she wasn't attempting to push him into something he wasn't ready for.
Lincoln blinked then gave a hesitant grin. "Okay...I...I can do that now if you really want..."
Natasha's own smile grew bigger. "I do," she said, her voice filled with sincerity.
"Ok...Mom..." Lincoln's smile grew and he blushed faintly. "Shall we go back and join the others?"
Natasha nodded, standing up and reaching out to help her son up. "I'm sure they've picked out a movie by now."
Lincoln took her hand, following back down.
Jessica walked into the apartment she shared with her family and glanced around at the rest of the family. "So...Uncle Odin's really keeping her here?"
Steve was sitting on the sofa next to the one Tony was on with Pepper and Harry, shifted over enough so that his arm was resting against his son's. When Jessica entered, he waved her over to sit next to him. "He's seen something in her worth saving."
"I guess..." She sounded sceptical, but didn't comment further, walking over and sitting down next to her father and snuggling close.
Bruce sat on a couch with Jemma, Leo and Peter surrounding him. "I'm sure he has good reasons for believing so."
Steve wrapped his arm around Jessica, drawing her in close and kissing the top of her head. "A lot of the family has done things they regret."
Pepper nodded. "All of us have done at least one thing," she agreed with her father.
"I guess... it's right to give her a chance..." Leo sounded very unsure, though. He'd been one of those who had seen what had happened to Grant; and although he didn't plan to say anything to the other family members, he couldn't help but feel a slight grudge towards Lorelei.
"I'll give her a chance...but I'll be watching her. No one should be able to control someone that way..." Jessica muttered.
Steve kissed her head. "For the time being, she's where she can't affect anyone," he said. "Once your uncle decides it's safe for her to come out... we'll discuss any measures we might need to take in case something does happen."
Jessica nodded, snuggling closer. She'd been slowly integrating into the family; not really highly affectionate like the others, but not pulling away when Steve initiated a hug or anything. The knowledge that there was another person capable of controlling people through their voice, even if they only targeted men, had unsettled her a lot. She wasn't able to rant and rave about it, though, because her uncle was attempting to tame the siren. Without her usual means of coping, Jessica found herself resorting to the method she'd noticed the other 'children' used to cope. She gravitated toward her father and got physically needy. She was as close to being on his lap as it was possible to be and still be considered not on his lap. "I'm not sure I like it..." she said softly. All she could think of was Kilgrave...and the fact she was a murderer twice now because of him...even if the second murder was Kilgrave himself.
Steve tightened his arms around Jessica. "I know," he replied softly. "I think it'll be hard for everyone to get past what she can do... but most people here have been given second chances and now it's impossible to imagine the family without them."
Jessica just nodded and snuggled closer. She couldn't argue what he said. As one of the newer members of the family, she knew he was right. "What about those of us who haven't actually joined yet?" she asked hesitantly, reminding Steve she hadn't been adopted yet...that she'd been reluctant to commit when he first took her in. It had been several months and now she was wishing she hadn't held back. She wanted it to be legal. She just didn't know how to bring it up to tell him.
"It doesn't need to be on paper to be real," Steve replied. "Making it legal just helps to reaffirm your place in my life." He didn't hesitate in making it personal to the woman he claimed as his daughter... with or without the paperwork.
"I think it does a bit more than that..." Jessica smiled crookedly. "It gives legal rights to step in if something happens and...I can't make decisions..." she said quietly. "I...I want you to have those rights..." she whispered, looking down at her feet.
Steve's arms immediately tightened around her, a sense of happiness and relief filling him. "I'm glad," he whispered. "We can get the paperwork taken care of as soon as you're ready." It didn't need to be said that he'd already had it drawn up... in the hopes Jessica would want to make that step.
"Can we do it now?" Jessica glanced back up at Steve, a hesitant yet hopeful look on her face. "It's...I think I've waited long enough. I don't want to wait any longer..." It was the truth. It had been several months since she'd been brought in. She knew she wanted to be Steve's legally...and finding out about Lorelei had brought up memories of Kilgrave and she was feeling very unsettled and needy. If she weren't afraid of looking like a baby, she'd ask to stay with Steve that night.
Steve smiled and kissed her head. "Of course." He stood up, helping his daughter stand as well. While repairing things with Tony had made him much happier... it was clear how much he wanted this with Jessica.
Tony glanced at his father and younger sister with a smile. "Need any witnesses?" he asked brightly, genuinely happy Jessica had finally given in to what they all knew was inevitable.
Steve smiled at Tony. "I'm sure we could do with some." He left unsaid his desire to continue keeping Tony close.
"Great!" He motioned around the room at the rest of the family. "C'mon, gang! We're going to dad's office to witness legally getting our baby sister!" He winked at Jessica, who couldn't help but laugh happily at the apparent excitement of the rest of the family. If she'd been worried about them being reluctant to accept her, this would have cured her of her worry.
Steve wrapped his arm around Jessica's waist, waiting for everyone to get up and join them... which didn't take long. "We should do something to celebrate," he commented.
Peter perked up. "What about paintballing? Or laser tag?"
"I can deal with either," Tony's grin was cocky and almost shark-like. He didn't talk about it much, but being a weapons manufacturer for so long had resulted in him being very skilled with guns.
Pepper smiled indulgently. "I'm sure you can, sweetheart. You and dad both. Perhaps it should be all of us unskilled civilians on a team against you all?" she teased, grinning at Jessica. It would be nice having a third girl in the family.
Jessica grinned, snuggling closer to her father.
Harry shifted so he was next to Peter, looking interested. "I could do either of those. Not anything close to even your level," he teased his cousin, "but compared to before... well..." He shrugged. The training all the family members went through had taken an effect. Harry had always been confident in his intellect... never in his physical strength.
Peter blinked, then grinned and nudged Harry. "Maybe me and you should be on a team together," he suggested.
By this time, they had reached the office where the paperwork was located. Jessica snuggled close against Steve and waited for her father to get the documents. "Maybe we should do the contest tomorrow, since it is late. We can watch a movie tonight..."
Steve nodded. "That sounds like a good idea." He retrieved the paperwork and passed it to Jessica, pausing to allow her to read it through if she needed or wanted to.
Jessica quickly signed, not bothering to read. She trusted Steve and if anything had been put in there that normally people might question, then she figured he would have had good reason for it. As soon as she'd signed the last spot requiring her signature, she let out a deep, long and relieved breath. "Should have signed a long time ago," she admitted softly. "Something's felt wrong for weeks now, but now it feels right."
Steve wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tight. "It's a big step to take... it wasn't a surprise that it took you a while to give in." His voice was gentle, but held a slightly teasing note to it. He hadn't had to fight Jessica on this nearly as long as he could have had to.
Jessica's grin turned sheepish. "I don't trust easily...still. You managed to get me to trust you almost immediately. A little over three months of debating with myself but it really...I knew I'd always give in. Don't know why I fought even as long as I did..."
"Stubbornness is a trait you share with most of the family members," Steve replied, a fond note in his voice.
"I'm lucky that you are more stubborn..." Jessica laughed lightly, moving under Steve's arm so he could hold her close. She smiled at her brothers, niece and nephews and sister.
"We're all so lucky dad is more stubborn," Pepper agreed solemnly.
"I know when I want someone and nothing will make me let go," Steve answered simply. That had never held more true than when he'd wanted to pull Tony back to him.
Tony grinned and wrapped his arms around Pepper. "Dad has to be more stubborn to keep up with all of us."
"No kidding..." Bruce snorted.
Jemma laughed. "Shall we go watch the movie now?"
"We'll go and make popcorn." Peter indicated himself and Harry.
"I'll help take care of drinks," Leo said. "But we might want to put our two cents in for the movie first," he joked.
It hadn't taken long and soon everyone was in the family room watching an old James Bond film, alternately making fun of the villains names and how far-fetched everything was, or giving each other worried looks when Tony wondered aloud if he could make a certain contraption. Jessica smiled up at her father and snuggled closer. Yeah...it had taken her over three months (which, in this family, was a long time), but she'd eventually come to her senses. Better late than never...
Kara sat on her family's sofa, a tiny frown on her face. Brock came in and sat next to her for a few moments, just watching, before clearing his throat. "What's up, Kar-bear?"
"They didn't take me. Didn't even consider it. It can't be because I'm not strong enough; I've been at top form for a while now and am at least as capable as Skye, even if I don't reach Nat's level. It wasn't because I could be controlled. It wasn't because I have been controlled and they aren't sure of my reaction; Jessica would have been left behind if that was the case." She seemed worried and a little stressed, trying to figure out why she wasn't good enough to take on the mission with the other women.
Brock winced, not knowing what to say. He wasn't with those making the decisions and all he knew was he couldn't go for fear of him being whammied. He glanced toward the door, hoping their father came in soon...Brock knew Fury was not far behind him.
Fury had reached the living room in time to hear his daughter's last sentence. He didn't waste any time in moving over and sitting down on the other side of Kara, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. "It's never a good idea to send everyone trained or supposedly immune at once," he said. "If everyone trained had gone and it had turned out Lorelei had a way of controlling women as well... we could have ended up with everyone out of action."
"So...I was back up?" Kara perked up a little at that thought. She knew it was a good idea to have people in reserve just in case. She snuggled closer to her father.
Fury nodded, wrapping both arms around her and hugging her close. "Exactly. It will probably be switched out next time and you'll be in the first team."
"Okay..." Kara agreed and put her head on her father's shoulder. "How is Grant doing?" she asked curiously.
"I haven't seen him, but your Uncle Phil was with him during the meal," Fury replied. "I expect the whole family's surrounding him now."
Kara nodded. "Good." She didn't say anything else, content to snuggle with her father.
"When Trip gets here, perhaps we could play a game," Fury suggested.
Brock nodded. "Sounds good to me."
"Me too," Kara agreed.
Trip chose that moment to walk in. "What's up?" he asked curiously, noting his sister snuggling with their dad and Brock looking relieved.
Fury smiled as his 'oldest' walked in and gestured for Trip to join them. "We were talking about backup in missions... now we're talking about playing a game of some kind," he said. "Does anyone have a preference?"
"Trivial pursuit?" Trip asked, knowing it helped his brother and sister with their memories.
Fury nodded. "That's fine with me." He waited for the agreement from his daughter and other son and then moved to start setting up the game.
There was no question Darcy would come to the floor Thor shared with his brothers and father. Thor had paused long enough to confirm with Bruce that Darcy didn't need any extra medication for her injuries and had then joined his brothers and the young Midgardian woman in the elevator.
"I need to call Jane and let her know that I'm staying with you all. I'll tell her about Lorelei, but I'm not sure I should tell her I was attacked because Lorelei thought I was her..." Darcy frowned thoughtfully. "She'll feel responsible then and it wasn't her fault at all. What do you think?" she turned and asked Thor, in a tone of voice that suggested she really didn't know what to say and would follow his advice.
"I believe that is a conversation better had in person," Thor replied. "Tell her what happened, but that Lorelei is where she cannot hurt anyone. She will likely still worry, so perhaps it would be better to use that 'Skype-Chat'?" He'd clearly been talking to Tony.
"Listen to you being all tech-savy!" Darcy grinned teasingly at Thor, giving him a playful punch on the arm. "Yeah. You're right. I'll tell her enough so that she won't feel I'm hiding things from her, but the specifics can wait till she gets home and can see for herself that everything is alright and there is no reason to worry or fret."
Loki smiled crookedly at Darcy. "When does the Lady Jane return?"
Mack was listening closely as well. All of them cared about the Midgardian scientist because Thor loved her, but also because she had accepted all of them as a part of Thor's life. She was as much a sister as she could get without taking the final step of marriage or adoption. Darcy was just as important and like a sister as well...so it was a relief that she hadn't been hurt worse in the altercation.
"I believe she is due to return in two weeks," Thor replied. As much as he missed Jane... he was comfortable being surrounded by his brothers; and now that he knew Darcy was safe, he could relax even more.
"Just wondering...I mean you had me come stay here to make sure I was alright. But they were targeting Jane. Maybe...maybe we should convince her to move here with you, where there can be extra security..." Darcy bit her lip, worried for her friend.
Thor had already been concerned about Jane being a target... not just because of him, but because her work could draw the attention of the wrong people. He nodded to Darcy's comment. "I believe it would be preferable to have her move here."
"I'll help you convince her." Darcy nodded emphatically, before glancing around. "So what now?"
Mack smiled. "Movie?"
"I believe that would be best, as Lady Darcy should continue to rest till her injuries are completely healed," Loki said.
"Oh! Please! Just Darcy...we're practically family!" She shook her head with a smile.
"As you wish..." Loki nodded toward her, but his eyes were thoughtful. She'd said practically, meaning they still weren't, even though they were close to being family. He glanced at Thor, wondering if he'd noticed the qualifier. If his brother realized the distinction Darcy felt.
Thor really was better at picking up on subtlety than most people outside the family would assume. He met Loki's eyes for a moment, but didn't comment on it... not right away, anyway. "A movie does sound good," was all he said instead.
"Great!" Darcy's smile grew. "I'm in the mood for something exciting but still with a touch of romance..." She gave Thor, Loki and Mack a side-eye. "You guys alright with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves?"
Mack laughed. "I'm fine with that. I found the Sheriff of Nottingham amusing in that movie."
Thor nodded. "That is fine with me," he stated... knowing that the movie was good, but having it on would give him the opportunity to watch his brothers and Darcy, in case any of them had been more deeply affected by the day's events than they realised.
Loki nodded. "I am alright with it as well. I have not seen it, but I have heard it mentioned..." Loki said quietly. He kept his eyes on Darcy, obviously watching for any side-effects from the ordeal. He seemed a bit quieter than normal; and since he was often quiet, that was saying something.
Thor edged nearer to Loki, placing a hand gently on his shoulder. "Perhaps we could find something to eat and drink while you and Darcy set up the movie," he said, directing the latter half of his sentence to Mack.
Mack glanced at his older brothers. "Sure thing, bro. Popcorn and soda would be great!" He grinned then motioned Darcy to follow him as he went to retrieve the movie. "There any other movies you interested in?" he could be heard asking, as they disappeared into the family room.
Loki looked at Thor curiously. "Did you wish to speak to me, brother?" he asked quietly, glancing at the hand on his shoulder briefly, but not moving away...in fact moving a little bit closer.
Thor gently squeezed Loki's shoulder, guiding him into the kitchen so there was less chance of them being heard. "You are quiet, even for you," he declared, his voice soft... at least for him. "This is not the first time I have noticed you are troubled by something."
"I was just thinking." Loki shrugged just enough to indicate there was nothing wrong, but not enough to dislodge Thor's hand. "Lorelei and I were friends a long time ago..." He sighed. "And then I started more intense training and stopped hanging out with her and...it has been so long, but I heard rumors. Maybe if I had made an effort to remain friends, she would not have done what she did..." The added reminder that not all his family was as long lived and could be hurt so easily hadn't helped. But he didn't remark on that. It was a fact of life; Midgardians would die so much sooner than he and Thor and their father. His family would die. The thought always made him sad, regretful and wishing he could find a way to stop it from happening. To slow time.
Thor doubted that was all that troubled his brother. Lorelei had only just reappeared, after all, and Loki had clearly been upset by something for a number of months now. He wrapped his arm around Loki's shoulders, drawing his brother in close. "It is always easy to think about what might have happened if you had only done things differently." His voice was calm, but there was a slight underlying note of sadness that indicated he was thinking about his own actions more than any others. "I believe she did not have a guiding force in her life... even if you had remained friends with her, you would not necessarily have been able to take on responsibility for her."
"Not responsibility...I doubt I'd have been able to do that. I know part of the reason I was given more training was to try and help me be more responsible for myself. Together we got into entirely too much mischief. Still..." Loki sighed softly. "Maybe if I'd made more of an effort to remain in touch, she'd have had a chance... Or not. Given how many mistakes I made and I did have a chance."
"But you can try to help her now," Thor said. "Once Father deems it is safe for you to do so... I know he would not wish to endanger us or her."
Loki nodded. "I suppose you are right. If she will allow me to." He sighed, knowing that his feelings about Lorelei were likely compounded by the fears he had about his family growing old and dying while he did not. He gave Thor a crooked smile. "Father has his work cut out for him, I warrant. Lorelei was always more stubborn than even me."
Thor smiled. "I believe Father will be able to outlast her... helped in great deal by his reconciliation with you."
"Aye...Father was always the most stubborn of all." Loki laughed gently at the memories. "Shall we go join our 'practically' sister and our little brother?" He gave Thor a knowing look.
"We should not return empty-handed..." Thor collected the popcorn and the soda.
Loki grinned, grabbing his own armful of snacks. Soon, they were on their way back out.
Even though his body still hadn't quite adjusted to some of the food here on Earth, Drax had eaten without too much difficulty. Stepping into the elevator with Peter, he glanced at him. "Is there anything you would like to do this evening?"
"I'm curious about this new hot alien chick that Uncle Odin has locked himself up with." Peter grinned like a frat boy. "Maybe we can go see them..."
"That would be a very reckless action to take," Drax replied. "You already have a weakness for women, no matter which planet we find ourselves on. You would not be able to put up even a token resistance were she to attempt to control you."
Peter frowned in annoyance. "I'm not that pathetic..." he protested, but didn't actually argue that Drax was wrong. "But if you really are against the idea..." His voice trailing off indicated that if Drax outright told him no, he'd listen, but Drax had to actually tell him no. Otherwise, he'd try to find some way around the older man's concerns without outright defiance.
"I am against you doing so," Drax stated. "If you attempt to go near her before it is indicated safe to do so, I will spank you."
"Alright...alright...no need to threaten me. I'll obey you..." Peter pouted, ignoring the fact that if he'd thought he could get away with it, he wouldn't have listened; and Drax wasn't stupid at all and knew that he wouldn't have.
"If there is anything you would like to do that would not risk harm to yourself or anyone here, I will consider it." As he spoke, Drax stepped off the elevator onto their floor.
"I don't know what I wanna do...but I'm boooored!" Peter whined. He really was like an overgrown child sometimes- even if he was a very responsible adult when lives were on the line or people needed him to be.
"I understand you have been trying to 'catch up' with movies during the time you have missed. If there is something you want to watch... I will sit through it with you." Drax didn't really enjoy or understand the pleasure in watching things that were made-up... but he didn't have to understand it to know Peter liked it.
"Really?" Peter gave Drax a sceptical yet hopeful look. He knew the other man didn't really enjoy movies...but Peter didn't really like watching alone and despite Drax being so bossy (Peter knew it was only because he cared), he really wanted to spend time with his father. That's what Drax had become, after all.
Drax nodded. "I do not understand the human fascination with movies, but I understand you do enjoy them. I would be happy enough doing something you enjoy with you."
Peter almost beamed at the answer, before biting his lip and asking hesitantly, "Is there something else you'd rather do? Cuz I don't have to watch a movie...just...you know...hanging out with you will make me happy..." he said, almost bashfully.
Drax took a step closer to Peter, close enough to be in physical contact with him if the younger man didn't move out of the way. "I will be willing and happy to do whatever you would prefer," he said.
Peter didn't move away, instead almost leaning into Drax. "We can watch a TV show instead...they are shorter. Plus, if we watch a documentary, you can learn a little bit more about Terra...Earth." His voice was soft and thoughtful, wanting Drax to enjoy whatever they did together.
Drax placed his hand on Peter's shoulder. "I would like to learn more about this planet. I understand it is important to you... and I hope learning about the planet that was your home for the start of your life will help me to know more about you."
Peter's smile was boyishly pleased at Drax's comment. "Okay...great! Let's do that, then!" He shifted so he could slide under Drax's arm; not quite snuggling, but close.
Drax responded by settling his arm more comfortably around Peter's shoulders. "Would you like anything more to eat before we sit to watch?"
"Naw...I'm good...dad..." Peter gave Drax a look from the corner of his eye, checking again to make certain Drax wasn't bothered by his use of the title; as he'd done for the last several months since they'd landed on the roof of the tower and Drax took charge of him.
Drax nodded. "Very well, son." He responded the way he always did; using the word that indicated he viewed their relationship exactly the same way as Peter did.
Smiling again happily, Peter snuggled a little closer before letting his father lead him into the family room where he turned on the History Channel. "So let's see what parts of Earth's past we get to learn about..." He grinned again, sitting down and leaning into Drax. He never got tired of the familial affection; the fact he didn't have to act like he was too 'manly' or 'grown-up' for it a relief. He'd missed his mother's warm hugs and his grandfather's gruff shoulder squeezes. Now that he had that type of affection again? He didn't want to give it up for anything.
Drax wrapped his arm around Peter's shoulders, drawing his son in close against his side. He'd missed out on affection with his other children after they'd died... now that he had a son in Peter, he didn't tend to hold back when it came to affection, not shy or holding back on it.., not that he ever held back or was shy about anything.
"Thanks..." Peter said in almost a whisper, hoping that Drax would understand what for without him having to explain. Drax had helped heal something in him that he hadn't even known was torn and in need of healing; years of ignoring his loneliness and need to 'belong' to a family, need to have someone he could 'look up' to and actually trust to have his best interests in mind... he'd just ignored those needs as weaknesses that could be exploited if he allowed himself to think about them too much. Drax had taken care of all of those and had done it in a way that made him stronger, not weaker. He didn't say any of that, of course. He just snuggled closer, wrapping his arms around his father's waist and hugging tightly.
"You are welcome." In response, Drax tightened his own embrace around his son, to the point Peter might as well have been on his lap. Most of his attention was on Peter... but as the show began, he glanced at the screen... having been absolutely serious when he'd said he wanted to know about what was important to his son.
Peter smiled again, shifting those last few inches that would place him completely on his father's lap and more firmly in his arms. He then focused on the documentary; which happened to be on the fall of the Soviet Union. Since he'd been gone when that occurred, he was actually interested in it.
Sam stepped off the elevator, sticking close to his son and daughter, enough so he was in constant physical contact with both of them. "Is there anything either of you would like to do?" he asked.
"We could play cards," Karen suggested. "Although I get the feeling Matt wants to play twenty questions about Odin's new guest..." she teased.
"Hey! I'm not the only curious one!" Matt protested with a laugh.
"I'm sure you're not," Sam replied, smiling. "But I won't be able to help you very much there. I know about as much about her as you do."
"Yeah. You think Uncle Odin will have a family meeting?" Karen asked curiously.
"I'm sure he will, once he's determined what he's going to do," Sam said, guiding his son and daughter into the family room.
"Sounds good," Matt commented. "Alright...prepare to be hammered!" he boasted with a grin.
Karen laughed then teased, "Isn't that Thor's schtick?"
Laughing, Sam settled his children then retrieved the deck of cards. "Either of you want drinks or snacks while we play?"
"M&M's," Karen declared, then elaborated. "We can play poker and use those instead of money."
Matt grinned. "You just want to eat the currency."
"Guilty as charged..." Karen giggled.
"M&Ms it is, then." Sam gently squeezed each of them on the shoulder and headed to the kitchen to collect said candy, along with drinks.
Karen made sure Matt was situated then went to help her father. She paused beside him to put ice in the glasses. "I know I'm not super woman or trained as much as everyone else, but if they need help with this Lorelei, I hope they realize I am willing..."
Sam nodded. "I'm sure they do," he replied. "I'm certain knowing there are others willing to step in, if needed, will be a big help to your uncle."
Karen nodded, appeased. Taking the snacks while her father took the drinks, she went back in to join Matt.
Sam sat down between his son and daughter, handing each a drink before he started dealing.
"Do I need to have Foggy bring paperwork over, you think?" Matt said, in an off-handed manner.
"That's likely," Sam said. "There seemed to be one adoption well on the way over the meal."
"Nat and Lincoln made up their minds quick..." Karen nodded. "Darcy seems really close to Thor, Loki and Mack too; although I didn't get the feeling any of them wanted to adopt her."
"Perhaps as a sister," Sam suggested. "Who wants to share out the M&Ms... equally?" he teased his daughter.
"Lemme divvy them up, then..." Karen smiled, before starting to pass them out.
Hank stepped into the elevator with his son and daughter, waiting for it to reach their floor. "Are you busy tomorrow?" he asked both Scott and Hope, figuring if they weren't, they could do something together.
"I have a virtual meeting in the morning," Hope answered. "But apart from that, I'm free the rest of the day."
"Cassie has school and then is visiting her grandmother, so I'm free the entire day; unless you have a project for me?" Scott gave his father a hopeful look. The days he couldn't see Cassie at all...even for five minutes...were hard on him.
"I'm sure we can find something," Hank commented, as the elevator's doors opened and he stepped off onto their floor.
"Can we do something together?" Scott asked quietly.
"That's what I was hoping for," Hank replied honestly.
Scott grinned happily. "I have an idea for a project...if it works, it could really help the family...but I don't know how feasible it will be, so if I tell you what I have in mind..."
"What's your idea?" Hank asked, genuinely interested in what his son had to say, as he walked with both his son and daughter into the family room.
"Well, there's this machine that I can engineer just fine...but to work, it needs your expertise in molecular structures and spacing... the ant suit is very useful for me to do missions with the team...but what about missions where there are more than one team member we would like to sneak in...could it be possible to shrink a vehicle with people inside...?" Scott bit his lip. "Do you think that would be feasible? Or even useful?"
"It would definitely be useful," Hank replied. "As for feasible... we'll work on it together and see what we come up with. But it's a very good idea." He placed a hand on his son's shoulder, squeezing gently.
"Great!" Scott sounded relieved and happy at once and leaned into his father's grip.
"After I've finished my meeting, I can help," Hope offered... though she didn't want to intrude on their time together.
"Perfect!" Scott turned his grin onto his girlfriend and gave her a chaste kiss.
He was pretty sure it amused both Hank and Hope...but he had a difficult time showing any overly amorous affection to the woman he loved in front of her father. He knew it was stupid; Hank knew they were together and had sex. He couldn't quite shake the feeling that it wasn't 'proper', though. His grandmother - rest her soul - had been a sweet, unassuming lady with very specific ideas about proper conduct; and while he'd completely disregarded most of those 'outdated' societal rules, this particular one he fell into automatically. It was a bit frustrating, really. He blushed faintly as he pulled away.
Hope smiled and kissed Scott's cheek, not commenting on him holding back. "I can get us some drinks," she offered.
"Thanks...that'd be great. Anyone want a snack?" Scott asked quickly, wanting to do something for his family.
Hank nodded. "I could do with one."
"Me too," Hope agreed.
Scott clapped his hands together. "Okay! I'll get some fruit and cheese and crackers together... want to meet in the family room? We can hang out there till Hope has to leave for her meeting.
"That sounds good to me," Hope agreed. "I'll get the drinks ready if you want to go and wait for us, Dad."
Hank nodded and gently patted each on the shoulder before heading in that direction.
It didn't take long before Scott was heading into the family room, a tray of snacks in hand. "I...I'm so thankful for both of you..." His voice was quiet, but full of conviction.
Hank smiled at his son and patted the seat next to him on the sofa, having moved along enough to allow Scott to sit next to him and Hope sit on the other side of her boyfriend. "I'm thankful to have you in my life," he said seriously. "Both of you."
Carefully placing the tray where all of them could reach it, Scott sat down, leaning into Hank for a small second like an affection starved puppy before straightening again and taking Hope's hand and squeezing gently. Even if Cassie wasn't with him now, he realized- he was happy. He wasn't alone. He was content.
Hope sat down on the other side of Scott, squeezing his hand gently and beginning to draw him into conversation about general things, Hank interjecting into the conversation where it was appropriate.
They continued their conversation until Hope had to leave and then it was just Hank and Scott. Scott began to clean up the mess they'd made, glancing at Hank as he did so. "I figure we can wait to do the major changes when Hope is back, since she was interested in helping out. But maybe we can run ideas off of one another..."
Hank stood to help his son clear up the mess. "That's fine with me," he agreed, happy to do anything with his son. He just enjoyed spending time with Scott. It didn't matter, to him, what form that took.
Scott's smile grew larger and he eagerly began to explain his ideas to his father.
It had been a couple of weeks since Lorelei had been 'caught' and she'd done everything in her power to avoid going over Odin's knee again. The fact she couldn't control him, at all, had become quickly apparent, so she hadn't tried, not wanting to risk him deciding to 'train' her through her backside. To her surprise, since she wasn't trying to manipulate him, he'd actually listened to her. Oh...he hadn't allowed her to leave- he didn't believe she was to the point she could be trusted with others yet and she wasn't entirely sure he wasn't correct to distrust her ability to control her own instincts- but he'd talked with her in a way that few people, male or female, ever did. She'd felt a connection that she hadn't felt in too long to another living, sentient being...and she found herself wishing that her life had been different and that she'd always had this connection. The need to manipulate and control wasn't as strong as it usually was and she knew, deep down, it was because her need to have someone, anyone, in her life was being met.
Odin retrieved the food brought to the apartment for their lunch and carried it through to the other room, sitting beside Lorelei and moving so his arm was brushing against hers. "You'll have to tell me if there's been any food you prefer more than others and I'll make sure you get more of it," he said, passing her one of the plates.
Lorelei smiled at the older man, taking the plate and carefully setting it on the table in front of her. "I find the food here unique. I haven't found anything I dislike, really; well...except for that liver and onions..." She made a face and wondered again whose idea that had been. "...I enjoyed the pizza greatly..." She sat straight and stiff, until Odin sat beside her. When the Asgardian king was settled, she found herself listing sideways; barely leaning against him, but leaning against him all the same. She couldn't seem to help herself. Whenever he was near, she was pressed close enough to barely touch, but not so close that he might get upset with the familiarity. She still had a hard time believing he wanted anything to do with her, so the slight, gentle touches were all she could be brave enough to allow.
Odin moved closer, not wanting to spook her, but shifting that little bit nearer. "I will make sure pizza is brought again soon," he promised.
"Thank you..." She smiled almost bashfully at him, relaxing a small bit more so that she was actually leaning on him...still ready to sit up and pull away at a second's notice if he seemed irritated at her actions, but feeling the need to be close if he would allow. "Will you be leaving me alone today? To visit with your sons and the lady Darcy?" she asked quietly. Odin hadn't left her side often in the last two weeks, but he had left it often enough to reassure the rest of the family that she hadn't taken control over him and to spend time with his family. During those moments, one of the other women had always come and sat with her, making sure she didn't get up to anything; but normally, he told her who would be joining her before he left. She was pretty certain he'd said he planned to visit with the others after their lunch today, but he hadn't indicated who was coming to sit with her while he was gone.
"Only for a short while," Odin replied. "After lunch, Patsy will come and sit with you while I'm gone."
Lorelei nodded. "I like Patsy. She doesn't look at me like I'm out to kill her puppy..." she said quietly, a vaguely depressed tone in her voice. She knew why all the other women distrusted her and wasn't surprised at their reactions to her. She was more surprised that Patsy wasn't more antagonistic.
Odin placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently, unable not to respond to the obvious pain. "It takes time for trust to form. Most of the people here have had experience being controlled in one form or another."
"Which makes my presence hard on them...I know...I'm a reminder of everything bad..." Lorelei sighed unhappily, taking a bite of food so that she didn't start babbling about how sorry she was about everything for the hundredth time. If Odin didn't believe her before, one more time of apologizing wouldn't help him believe her now. She had to prove somehow that she was trustworthy. That was easier said than done when the only ones that came near her were those she couldn't control.
Odin wrapped his arm around her shoulders, giving her a gentle hug while ensuring she wouldn't feel 'trapped'. "Not everything. And they will see you as I do. It just takes time."
Lorelei gave another tiny nod, swallowing her food before letting her head fall against Odin's shoulder. "You have more confidence in that than I do..." she admitted softly.
Odin stroked her hair gently. "I have seen it happen," he said, his voice gentle and reassuring.
Lorelei sniffled and cleared her throat, snuggling a little more before answering. "I don't deserve it, but if you are on my side, maybe they'll believe you even if they don't believe me..."
"I am on your side," Odin promised, still holding her close, relieved she was responding to him and not attempting to pull away.
"Thank you..." Lorelei whispered. "After everything I've done wrong, it means a lot that...that you want to help me."
Odin wrapped his other arm around her, wanting to hold her even if he was prepared to let go with one arm if she indicated she was uncomfortable in any way. "You are not a bad person. You are important enough to me to want to help you."
Lorelei couldn't stop the pout that formed on her face and it was difficult not to let her hurt show on her face as well. She knew it had to still show in her eyes. "I wish you'd cared enough before I messed my life up..." she mumbled, not quite brave enough to confront Odin on what she perceived as his abandonment of her when she was a child, but also needing him to know that she'd needed him then.
Odin sighed. "I should have acted long before this point, but I have made mistakes with all my family... mistakes I hope to rectify now with you. No matter what happens, I will not let you go."
Lorelei snuggled closer, wanting to believe the older Asgardian. "Promise?" she asked, in a tiny voice. "You'll keep me forever?" She swallowed hard.
Odin tightened his embrace. "I promise." He spoke with utmost sincerity.
Lorelei physically relaxed a tenseness she didn't even know she had seeping out of her body until she was cuddling in Odin's embrace like she'd always belonged there and wasn't inclined to move. "Okay..." she whispered, making a promise to herself that she wouldn't do anything to make him regret his promise. "When do you need to go see the others?" she asked quietly. Now that he'd made his promise, she wasn't so worried that he'd leave and not return and that she'd be left alone; and it was clear in her voice that some of her fear had been eased.
"In a few minutes," Odin replied. "As soon as you are ready, I will ask Veronica to request that Patsy come here."
"I can stay alone for a few moments. I might take a nap...I am not certain why, but I am weary..." Lorelei gave a chagrined smile. She didn't admit that she'd been faking sleeping the last several nights because she'd been having nightmares, but didn't want to wake Odin or go running into his room like a baby.
Odin stroked her hair. "I do not want to leave you alone. Not because of a lack of trust, but because you have been alone for too long," he said honestly.
Lorelei snuggled some more, pressing closer to the All-Father. "Whatever you decide is best, I will not argue..." she replied drowsily.
Odin kissed the top of her head, reluctant to let her go, but knowing that his sons needed to see him and he needed to see them. "If you are ready, I will request Patsy's presence now," he said.
"Yessir...I am ready..." She sighed, reluctantly pulling away from him and giving him a crooked smile. "Maybe...maybe I will be able to see Loki soon?" She bit her lip hopefully.
Odin stroked her cheek gently. "As soon as I believe it is safe," he promised, before addressing the AI. "Veronica, would you please request Patsy's presence here?"
"Of course, All-Father... she is on her way now," Veronica answered a few moments later.
Lorelei slanted her head, pressing her cheek to his hand, her smile growing, even if her eyes were still a little sad at the fact she'd managed to make herself so completely untrustworthy to everyone. "Thank you..."
Odin held her close, even as Patsy walked into the apartment, smiling at both Odin and Lorelei. "Hi, Uncle Odin... Lorelei," she greeted cheerfully. "I brought a couple of movies," she added. "Popcorn, too."
Lorelei blinked at the show of friendliness from the other woman, not really having expected anything but distrust. "That's...that sounds like fun..." she admitted, giving Odin a wide-eyed look of confusion.
Odin gave Lorelei a warm, reassuring smile and stood, allowing Patsy to settle down in the spot he'd just vacated. "Which do you think sounds the best?" She showed Lorelei both of the movies.
Lorelei blinked at the options. "I do not know..." she hedged. "What are they about?" She focused on Patsy, her curiosity and desire to have a friend causing her to listen intently.
Patsy waited long enough for Odin to excuse himself and then held up each movie in turn. "This one's a comedy... it's an older one, but it's about a man who dresses as a woman to see his kids. This one..." She held up the second. "It's more fantasy... magic and sword fighting; orcs and elves."
Lorelei slanted her head. "I...I would like to see the one where the father wants to see his children..." she said hesitantly. She'd always wished her own father had wanted her and thought a movie showing that dynamic between a father and children would be interesting.
"Okay!" Patsy got up to put the movie in. "I'll get us some drinks, too."
"I can help!" Lorelei said quickly, following the other woman into the kitchen.
"What would you like?" Patsy asked, as she looked through the drinks.
"I have developed a liking for that drink known as Hawaiian Punch. Is there any there?" Lorelei asked curiously, while looking over Patsy's shoulder.
"There is." Patsy retrieved the bottle and two glasses and began to pour them a drink each.
"I'll get the popcorn!" Lorelei grinned before pulling out a pan and a jar of kernels to pop. She didn't like the microwaveable stuff.
Patsy smiled. "Anything else you'd like to eat? Did you try chocolate yet?"
"Oh! Yes! I've had that before. It was very good. Is there any here?" Lorelei quickly began scouring through the cabinets to find the candy.
"It's probably in the fridge." Patsy opened it to check. "Yeah, there's a selection here. Which is your favourite kind? Milk? White? Dark?"
"I like dark, thank you..." Lorelei smiled. Shifting the popcorn off of the heat, she looked for a bowl to pour it into. Once she'd accomplished that, she led Patsy back into the living area so they could start their movie.
Patsy carried the chocolate and drinks through and set up the movie before taking a seat on the couch next to Lorelei.
"Thanks..." Lorelei glanced at Patsy from the corner of her eye. "...For being willing to be around me. I know most people don't trust me- and for good reason- so it...I appreciate that you're willing to try..." Her voice trailed off and she looked back at the TV, turning it on and starting the movie. She didn't expect a response; she just wanted Patsy to know her actions were appreciated.
Darcy was sitting in the middle of the family room, pantomiming something while Loki gave her a completely befuddled look when Odin walked into the apartment.
"I truly have no clue what you are trying to mimic..." He finally shook his head and sighed as a buzzer blared out loudly and Darcy groaned just as loudly.
"LOKI! I was a BIRD!" Darcy groused. "How could you not tell that I was a BIRD?"
Mack laughed. "I can't really blame him for not knowing, Darc... I thought you were trying to act out the part of a beached Flounder..."
Darcy threw a handful of popcorn at the grinning man.
Odin raised his eyebrows at the sight he walked in on. "What game are you playing?"
Thor grinned, standing to welcome their father. "It is called charades. Darcy introduced Loki and myself to it... it has been quite entertaining."
"Do you wanna play, All-Daddy?" Darcy gave the oldest Asgardian an impish grin, ignoring Mack's quickly inhaled snort of surprise at her choice of address.
"It seems an intriguing game," Odin said, not commenting on the name. "What are the rules?"
"We have teamed up... Loki and Darci against Thor and myself," Mack began. "One member of the team draws a card that has something written on it; such as bird, or sunset, or something else that you need to pantomime. The other team member or members then try and guess what the word is by the actions performed." He chuckled. "We'll let you be on Loki and Darcy's team, since they are currently three points behind Thor and I."
"Not my fault tall, dark and horny can't guess perfectly good pantomiming..." Darcy muttered in mock exasperation.
Loki turned a dark red at her words and gave her a suspicious look, not certain if she 'knew' exactly what she'd just implied about him. If the entirely 'too' innocent smile she gave him was any indication, she did.
Mack nearly choked on his snort.
Odin decided to try and get them back on track, having heard Darcy's comment and noticed Loki's reaction to it. "And there is a time limit?"
Thor nodded. "The ringing you heard when you came in. That signals the time for guessing is past."
"So how about it, big guy? Wanna be on Loki's and my team?" Darcy managed to ask the question without adding any smart-ass comment or innuendo to it.
Odin nodded. "I would be fine with that."
"Great!" Darcy bounced in place. "It's Thor and Mack's turn, so you'll get a chance to watch how they do things before you have to play your turn. Mack...you're up!"
Mack chuckled and shook his head, but obediently took a card from the top of the pile and glanced at it before groaning. "All right..." He scratched his head and had a baffled look on his face, before he began to move as if he was diving up and down.
Thor frowned. "I do not believe you will have much of a chance to observe, Father, as I do not know what it is my brother is acting out." He watched Mack a moment or two before making a guess. "Swimming?"
Mack shook his head no and glanced at the clock before frantically straightening up, his arms down by his side and then wiggling his body forward and back before acting like he was diving again. It didn't help that Darcy fell onto the ground laughing at his antics.
Thor had a completely perplexed look on his face. "A penguin?" It was clear he was just throwing out anything that might have a chance at sticking now.
Mack, unable to think of a way to show what he was without talking, whimpered before getting a why-the-hell-not look on his face and began miming throwing a football. He really doubted Thor would get it from that clue, unless he'd taken up watching football with one of the other guys...but it was amusing watching Darcy get a wide-eyed look on her face and begin bouncing up and down as she forced herself not to blurt out the answer for him.
Thor looked even more confused, if that was possible. "A ball?" He shrugged, knowing that he was unlikely to guess the answer... and was really now just going through the motions. He did glance at Darcy, though.
Mack groaned as the buzzer sounded.
"A dolphin!" Darcy shouted and bounced even more. "It was a dolphin, right!?"
Mack shook his head and laughed. "Yeah. Sorry, bro...I couldn't think of any other ways to act it out. The last bit was a football, by the way. On the off chance you'd somehow heard of the Miami Dolphins and put all three things together." He scratched his ear, chagrined. "Our streak of guessing right just ended...hopefully not for too long!" He laughed.
"Ah, well... I suppose we will have to hope the next one is easier," Thor said, before glancing at his other brother, Darcy and his father.
"Our turn!" Darcy bounced again. "Would you like to guess or act, sir?" She glanced at Odin.
"You seem enthusiastic about acting," Odin said. "I will guess."
Darcy's grin was huge as she drew a card and looked at the word...and promptly started laughing.
Odin raised his eyebrows, but didn't say anything, guessing Darcy would begin acting as soon as she had calmed down.
Finally able to stop laughing, Darcy began to act out her word.
It had taken a bit of finagling, but they'd finally gotten all their people positioned in the building; some working as janitorial staff, others as interns or entry level help in Stark Industries. It was time to make their move.
The signal was brief and took the workers loyal to Stark Industries and the Avengers by surprise. It wasn't long before the entire ground floor was taken. One was quick to knock out Veronica's systems on the floor, while the rest locked away their prisoners... the ones that were still breathing.
Lorelei had gone into the kitchen to get both her and Patsy refills when the group sent to infiltrate her floor arrived. When she walked back out, four men were standing over Patsy's prone form and Lorelei felt a spike of anger she hadn't felt since she'd been caught and Odin began working with her. "You won't hurt her." Her voice was a soft command. "You will gently put her on the couch so her family can find her." She wasn't surprised when she was obeyed.
Slanting her head and thinking for only a few seconds, Lorelei smiled a nasty smile. "You are my subjects now. I am your queen and you will obey me."
"Yes, Mistress," the four intoned.
"Good. Now let's go gather the rest of my subjects together then go to meet the Avengers." Her grin turned nastier as the four turned as one and led her out of the containment area, into the area of the tower that she hadn't yet been too and that wasn't soundproof. Any male she ran across now, bar Odin, would fall prey to her. "Lead on, gentlemen..."
The rest of the family, bar Patsy, knew they could easily fight... but that would mean innocent people, being kept as hostages, getting hurt or even killed. They'd all been taken to one floor; which was an advantage, as it gave several of the members the opportunity to communicate without spoken language and try to figure out a plan of escape that wouldn't end with the hostages suffering.
"Where is Patsy?" Jessica asked worriedly from her position next to her father. It was making her very anxious- the fact that they couldn't do anything to stop the people holding them hostage in their own home- but when Pepper had been brought in by one of the men that had taken over the floors where her offices were, the CEO of SI had confirmed the infiltrators' claims that they had people on every floor and that they wouldn't hesitate to start executing innocent civilians if the Avengers and SHIELD agents didn't cooperate. Now, everyone had been brought to the common family floor except Patsy and Lorelei. And Veronica couldn't tell anyone what had become of the two other women. Biting her lip, Jessica moved closer to Steve and tried not to assume the worst.
Steve wrapped his arm around Jessica's shoulders. "If she's not here, it's likely a good thing," he said, his voice low, as he didn't want to alert the HYDRA operatives to the fact one of the family members was missing, if they didn't already know.
Jessica swallowed and snuggled into Steve, calming slightly. She was still worried, but her dad was right. If they had found Patsy, they would have brought her here; and since they hadn't, it was a good chance she hadn't been found yet. That could only be a good thing.
Pepper sat on the other side of Steve. She was worried also, but she was worried about the hundreds of employees in the building who had been corralled into a few tiny rooms on each floor and were being held prisoner by evil mad-men. Tony had wrapped his arms around her and was attempting to console her. "You couldn't have done anything..." he whispered, kissing the side of her head.
Bucky was watching their captors, a blank look on his face. Underneath, he was worried about his daughter and seething about the fact that Hydra had snuck into their home and, if what Pepper had said meant what he thought it did, hurt so many innocents in a bid to get to him and his family.
Lorelei had begun on the bottom floor, figuring that if she went floor by floor, clearing it out before moving up, the chances of one of the infiltrators figuring out what was happening and hurting a hostage would be lessened. It was slow moving, but she'd reached the 15th floor by this point; all other floors below had been 'freed' with her telling the hostages to quietly wait until police could arrive with medical help for their friends and to please not do anything that would alert the infiltrators that they had been freed, because they might retaliate against those who were still being held. It said something about the level of preparedness of Stark employees that no one questioned her request and did what she suggested without her having to use any of her ability. Any female HYDRA agents had been quickly overpowered and restrained, being watched by freed hostages, while the male HYDRA members trailed after Lorelei like puppy dogs doing her bidding. She was gathering quite an entourage by this point and had resorted to taking the stairs, because it was the only way to ensure she didn't lose any of her 'army' while going up.
Steve placed his other hand gently on Pepper's arm, guessing where her worry came from. "None of us will do anything until we're certain the hostages will be safe," he promised in a low voice.
Throughout the time they'd been held captive, Fury and Coulson had shifted positions; seemingly at random, but in actuality moving closer to each other and to the other trained agents in the family. Through subtle hand gestures and how long they'd known each other, they were communicating without HYDRA realising exactly what they were saying.
Bobbi had followed her silent instructions to move closer to the non-combatant members of the family, somehow manoeuvring so that she was next to Peter and Harry. She noted that Grant had done the same thing for Karen and Raina. By the time everyone had quietly shifted around, every member of SHIELD was next to a family member who hadn't been trained to fight as strenuously, even if everyone in the family had been learning self-defence. Their positions now left the members of the Avengers free to immediately fight if needed.
Darcy sighed, glancing in Lincoln's direction. Since the Asgardians would be one of the first lines of defence, they'd been left without a 'non-combatant charge'. Mack had positioned himself next to her and Natasha's new son so that Natasha would be free to move with her team as soon as the time was right.
Every trained agent and member of the Avengers was ready to move at a moment's notice. Every movement seemed casual, designed not to draw any attention, but they were prepared... even without weapons... ready to spring to action the moment the signal was given.
Matt raised his head when another Hydra operative came onto the family floor. "All floors above this one have been cleared," she announced clearly. She then made the announcement over her comm system, so that all the infiltrators watching hostages would know that they had complete control over the building.
"What do you want from us?" Matt asked quietly yet firmly, listening for any tell in the woman's voice, breathing, or movement to see if he could glean any information for his family.
Lorelei heard the announcement on the comm she'd stolen from one of the other female Hydra operatives and grinned mirthlessly. It was good to know where the leaders of this travesty were gathered. She'd make them suffer for what they'd done to the people in this building. Despite her own status as a prisoner, she'd grown fond of Odin... and of Patsy...and she knew they would be upset at what had been done to the people, so it upset her. "Come, minions!" She motioned the men forward with an airy wave. "One more floor of hostages to free and then we can go meet up with the usurpers of my throne..." She growled playfully, grinning when all the men eagerly picked up their pace. Within seconds of entering the last floor before reaching the common family floor on the tower, they had overpowered the female guard that had been left to watch the hostages and sent them downstairs to join the other employees who had been freed.
Lorelei straightened her shoulders and put on her most regal air. "Come, my subjects...we have a tower to conquer..." She laughed softly, the sound eerie and haunting. More than one ex-hostage cringed as they hurried past her to go downstairs and quite a few actually began to feel sorry for HYDRA.
Steve shifted position slightly, wondering if there was a way they could get Veronica to close off access to some of the hostages. He glanced at Tony, guessing anything he could have thought about in regards to the tower... his son would have already considered. If they could rely on the AI for anything, Steve was confident Tony would find a way of letting them know.
Tony had seen his father looking at him and gave a tiny shake of his head. He was sure there would have been some way to help the people on the other floors if he'd been able to hear Veronica; but whoever had planned for the tower takeover had done so realizing that the AI needed to be taken out of the equation. Veronica was currently offline and unable to provide much needed information for them to try anything without fear of a hostage being hurt or worse.
Steve's nod was barely perceptible, but it was clear he was indicating, to Tony, he understood what his son was saying. If it was just them in the firing line, there was no question they'd be able to fight back. Since there were other people on the line, any actions they took had to be thought out very carefully.
Fury and Coulson had carried on a silent communication, having come to the realisation they would have to figure out a way of disabling the comms before they could think about taking out the agents guarding them. Coulson's eyes had gone to Loki, remembering the Asgardian's ability to change his shape and voice... and wondering if they could utilise those abilities to fool some of the other operatives. Catching Mack's eye, he signed the question to him, as he was closest to his brother, making sure to use small, barely noticeable hand gestures.
Mack faintly nodded at Coulson to indicate he understood without tipping their hand that they were talking. He shifted closer to his brother and hurriedly whispered the question of if Loki could utilize his ability to snoop through other people's eyes, backing away when their HYDRA guard glared at them and made a move as if to forcibly separate them. He'd said just enough, though, if the way Loki's face took on a vacant expression was any indication.
Loki had made a few friends of people in the building; secretaries and security personnel mostly. He was saddened when he was unable to see through any eyes of security officials, as it meant that they were at best unconscious; worse, dead. When he finally was able to look through the eyes of one of the secretaries from the fifth floor, he was surprised to find that the hostages were free and actually guarding incapacitated HYDRA operatives. It was a bit confusing, to be honest, but if hostages had got free, he didn't want to draw attention to it. He began to 'look' through the eyes of several more secretaries he knew from various floors, all with the same result. He wasn't sure what it meant...but before he could find a way to inform his father; or Steve, Coulson, or Fury, the elevator opened and four HYDRA operatives were walking onto the floor, carrying Patsy's unconscious form. Lorelei was nowhere to be seen.
Steve's eyes narrowed in worry as he saw Patsy, but that there was also no sign of Lorelei. Did that mean she was on the loose? He glanced at Odin, noticing the older Asgardian's eyes narrowed with worry as he looked at Patsy, then at the door.
Jessica was barely able to refrain from jumping up and rushing to her best friend's assistance; only the fear that they would hurt her if she moved toward them holding her in place. It was a bit of a surprise to her when the man holding Patsy very carefully placed her on the couch and then stepped away so that Bruce could check on her.
"Weren't there two of them?" the woman in charge asked suspiciously, eyes narrowed as she looked at the unconscious Patsy and then back toward the three male operatives who were moving in her direction.
"There were and are..." An airy voice drifted through the room. "Subdue her..." Lorelei stepped into view, all the male HYDRA operatives she'd collected from all the floors trailing and surrounding her like strays trying to beg for a tasty morsel. Before the HYDRA leader could object, the men who had been following her orders mere seconds before had suddenly turned on her, overpowering her and tying her up. Lorelei's grin was vicious as she finally stopped and gave the woman a cool, calculating stare. "Are you behind today's occurrences?" The woman didn't say anything, glaring at Lorelei.
Grant wasn't sure what to do. Part of him thought that he should try and stop the Asgardian siren, but he was afraid of her power and what she could make him do if he drew her attention. Plus, she was surrounded by at least twenty HYDRA soldiers; all lethal men who would kill on her order. He swallowed hard, his face pale and anxious.
Odin stood from where he was seated with his sons and Darcy (who he'd begun considering his daughter in the same way he had Lorelei) and stepped carefully towards the female Asgardian. "Lorelei." He didn't say anything else. He didn't give her any orders. He just watched her, a look of calm affection on his face, moving as close to her as he could. He was the only male resistant to her command... which meant that what happened next was entirely up to her. But he did hold his hand out... not to restrain, but to reach out towards her; to indicate he trusted her to do the right thing.
Lorelei blinked at Odin, an uncertain and almost nervous look on her face. Licking her lips, she straightened back up into her haughty posture and ordered the HYDRA soldiers, "Kneel down and place your hands on your head. Do not fight when you are arrested..." She waited just long enough to see that they were obeying her before turning back to face Odin again and stepping forward, letting her gaze fall to the ground and taking his hand; almost like a child who was afraid they were in trouble, but wasn't quite sure if they are. She took a slow breath and waited to see what would happen.
Bucky only gave Lorelei a cursory glance. If she wasn't on their side, they'd find out soon enough. Until then, there were HYDRA to restrain. He began tying up the operative nearest him, using the man's belt to restrain him.
Grant quickly followed Bucky's example, noting when several of the other family members began doing so as well. It didn't take long before all the HYDRA operatives that weren't being restrained on the other floors were restrained and kneeling on the common family room floor.
Odin was quick to draw Lorelei against his side, wrapping his arm around her and holding her close to himself. His touch was gentle and reassuring.
It was only after all of the HYDRA operatives had been tied up that they began to come back to themselves. The one who had carried the unconscious Patsy into the room slanted a glance towards the woman. "Shoulda copped a feel..."
Jessica was too far away to slam her hand into the guys face for the comment and both Tony and Pepper had quickly taken hold of her arms so that she wouldn't lunge at him.
Bucky's fist clenched, but he was old enough and well-trained enough that he was able to ignore the words, if only in the interest of not causing more unrest in the family.
Lorelei didn't need to be restrained and she really had received no training beyond the four weeks of Odin's care. Her reaction was quick and decisive; and sure to be permanent. Pulling away from Odin just a tiny bit, some part of her realizing he wouldn't approve of what she was about to do, she looked at the man who'd made the comment. "I believe you should stop breathing now..." she told the operative calmly, only a hint of the anger she felt bleeding through in her tone.
The man immediately began holding his breath, a frightened look on his face as he realized he couldn't refuse her order.
Lance had actually been close enough... and prepared to punch the operative in the face, as he wasn't near enough to anyone else who could restrain him. Before he could, Lorelei was speaking and Lance's immediate reaction merged into confusion, knowing what the Asgardian was doing was wrong, but helpless to do anything in case she turned against him or one of the others.
Coulson was quick to notice Lorelei placing herself back into Odin's hands and that her reaction was in response to the man's comments about Patsy. He stepped nearer. "You don't need to do this. He can't hurt her and if you kill him for it, you will regret it."
Lorelei blinked, surprised that Coulson would step in and try to protect one of the men who had hurt his family; or that he would care about if she regretted anything, considering what she'd done to his family. She glanced at him and couldn't find anything on his face that indicated fear of her, only understanding. It was that understanding and the knowledge that he might be right about regrets- she knew Odin would be disappointed in her if she killed the man- that made her decision. She looked back at the operative, who was now turning a slight shade of purple and had a panicked look on his face. "You may breathe again..." she said quietly, removing her thrall over him. She looked back at Coulson, as if seeking his approval; not even noting that the HYDRA operative had collapsed onto the ground and was taking in great gulps of air. Biting her lip, she glanced around at the other members of the family, before finally looking at Odin, hoping that she hadn't messed up too badly. "I'm sorry?" she finally said uncertainly, not wanting him to be upset with her and not sure if he was or not.
Coulson's smile was reassuring and gentle, but seeing that Odin had Lorelei in hand, he was quick to begin organising team members to check on the hostages on the floors lower down... to get a medical team in to help Bruce, Jemma and Bakshi check over anyone who was injured; and to take care of notifying the families of those who had lost their lives, perhaps the most difficult task of all.
Odin was quick to tug Lorelei back against him again, kissing the side of her head and not caring which of them saw. "Thank you." His voice was soft... though still audible to the rest of the family... and very sincere.
Lorelei relaxed slightly at seeing Coulson's smile, but it was Odin pulling her close and being affectionate in front of all of the rest that eased her fear. Unable to help herself, she wrapped her arms around the older Asgardian's waist and leaned into him like an affection starved child. "Will Patsy be alright?" she asked in a tiny voice, her worry for the woman who'd befriended her clear and carrying to all the room.
Bruce was busy checking her out and looked up. "She will be fine. She'll have a bit of a headache when she awakens and I'll likely do a few more tests to make sure she doesn't have a concussion, but my initial scans suggest she doesn't have one." He said it loudly enough that Bucky and Jessica could hear as well, the fact that they were hovering around the unconscious woman showing how worried they were.
Lance and Bakshi had moved close enough to make sure Patsy was going to be all right and then Bakshi had quickly gone over to Coulson to check where he was needed most.
Finishing arranging the medical teams, Coulson contacted the rest of SHIELD to come and pick up the HYDRA agents.
Steve placed a hand on Jessica's shoulder, squeezing gently, and did the same to Bucky before stepping over to Tony's side. "We've been talking about moving our home for a while now... I wonder if this doesn't indicate that moving now is the right thing to do," he said to his son.
Tony nodded at his father. "Yeah...I think this indicates that we really need to move; if not for our own safety, then for the safety of the people who work here. I've actually found an old Stark warehouse that I was thinking could be converted to a training facility. If we add a floor for the family, we can move there. The security would be much higher, due to the nature of what would be going on there and the fact that it doesn't need to be open to the public. And if we aren't here in the tower, there is less reason for anyone to target the people who work here to get at us."
Pepper moved to stand next to Tony. "I've had some plans for possible living quarters and training facilities drawn up, if you would like to look at them and make suggestions."
"We could move within the month, if we can decide on what plans we want to go with and start the conversion..." Tony added.
Steve nodded to both of them. "Perhaps we could call a family meeting, once everything's been taken care of here," he suggested, aware there were still people who had to be helped... and families who needed to be informed about what had happened.
Tony nodded. "Of course. Pepper, sweetie. I want a list of the names of those who were killed. I don't want to make a phone call...I'll go in person to tell them and offer my condolences. Also let them know that the responsible parties have been caught and will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. I know you'll want to go with me... If we aren't needed here, I think it would be good for us to go down and talk with the employees..."
Pepper nodded, relieved that she wouldn't have to go talk to the employees by herself. "Of course. I know most of the security personnel who were killed were friends with everyone in the family. Maybe different members of the family would like to go with us to the homes."
Steve was quick to nod his agreement. "I think all of us would do nothing else. Your uncle Phil has just finished arranging medical teams, I believe... we can all head downstairs and see what else needs to be done."
Patsy was beginning to stir, sitting up a bit too quickly in alarm when she realised she was no longer in a room with just her and Lorelei. "What happened...?"
"Shhhhh...It's ok sweetheart. The tower was attacked by Hydra but...Lorelei saved us all..." Bucky said the last bit with a bit of surprise- he hadn't expected the Asgardian to come to their aid at all. This only proved that Odin had been correct though and he was willing to give the young woman a chance if she wanted it. "Bruce will want to check you for concussion, but he said all his scans indicated you were alright..." he added on before she could protest, and waved Bruce back over.
It didn't take long for Bruce to check for signs of concussion and soon he was standing and gathering his equipment so he could go downstairs and help out medical personnel with the employees. "There is no concussion. Just take it easy for the rest of the day and you should be fine." He smiled at his cousin, nodding at his uncle before motioning Jemma, Leo, and Harry to come with him.
Patsy didn't fight being checked over, but as soon as Bruce was done, she looked towards Lorelei. Not out of suspicion, but because she was concerned about the Asgardian and wanted to assure herself Lorelei hadn't been hurt. She remembered being surrounded by four men... and guessed the only reason she hadn't been hurt worse was thanks to Lorelei being there.
The family was quick to disperse... at least the ones who were heading down to the other floors and not standing guard over the HYDRA agents.
Lorelei bit her lip and smiled hesitantly at Patsy when the other woman looked toward her. "You...they knocked you out. I was worried..." she said faintly. She wasn't used to worrying about people, especially women (in her experience, most women wanted her out of the way), but Patsy had been so genuine and nice to her, she had felt they could possibly be friends. It was a new experience and she hoped she hadn't ruined it with her actions. She couldn't help but press closer to Odin, as if seeking reassurance.
Patsy stood up (after a glance at her father to check that was all right) and then moved over to Lorelei. "Thank you... Maybe when things are calmed down and everyone's safe... we can try again?" she suggested, intelligent enough to be aware there would have been at least some loss of life.
Lorelei blinked then nodded, giving Patsy a tiny smile. "I'd like that..."
Odin kept his arm around Lorelei's waist, but glanced at his sons, checking to see they were all right... and also trying to indicate to Loki it was safe for him to approach. Lorelei had asked to see him earlier... there was no reason to keep her from him now.
Loki had been watching his childhood friend closely, noting how uncertain and hopeful she seemed; a far cry from the over-confident front she had put on for so many years. He knew he was seeing her true self now and was glad that his father had somehow convinced the younger woman to stop pretending. Honesty would be the only way they could help her, just as it had been the only real way they could help him. He knew that now. Carefully, in case she didn't want him near, he shifted and moved forward. "It has been a long time since I saw you, my friend..." he said quietly.
Lorelei knew what he meant and smiled wistfully. "It has been a long time since I was able to be me..." Without thinking, she leaned more into Odin, craving the attention and affection, but still held her hand out to Loki. "We promised to be friends forever and never leave each other... I am sorry I broke my promise..." she whispered sadly.
"As am I..." Loki took her hand and squeezed tightly, letting out a tiny breath. "I missed you."
Odin didn't release Lorelei, even though he shifted enough to allow her and Loki to clasp hands. "There is no need for you to have to return to the separate floor," he said quietly. "There is a floor where myself, Loki, Thor and Mack reside... Darcy, too, if she is willing to stay. I would like you with us."
Lorelei gave Odin a startled look, then looked at Loki then looked back at Odin. Her eyes began to tear up and she couldn't quite keep the quiver out of her voice when she asked, "Are...are you certain you want me there? I was so very awful to everyone and I know I deserved to be locked up...You are certain you want me to stay with you?" The hopeful look in her eyes made it obvious that she wanted to stay with him and the others more than anything.
"I want you." Odin's voice was completely sincere. "I already believed you could change... and today, you have proved that to everyone here."
Sniffling, Lorelei threw her arms around Odin and hid her face against his chest.
"I guess that's a yes..." Loki said, with a tiny smile.
Odin wrapped his arms tightly around her. "There is a spare room next to mine that will be yours, if you would like to stay close to me... or there is a room next to Loki's, I believe, if you would like to be closer to him."
"I want to be next to you..." Lorelei looked bashfully at Odin, before looking at Loki. "...Not that I do not want to be near you..."
"I understand, Lor..." Loki smiled. "When Dad took me back, I didn't want to be anywhere but near him either."
Odin's smile was happy and relieved. He'd wanted to keep Lorelei close to him, but hadn't wanted to force her if she didn't feel she wanted that. "I am not sure if our presence is required downstairs..." He glanced at Bucky, one of the other parents left to stand guard over the prisoners.
"If any information about what happened is needed from you, I'm sure Phil or Nick will send an agent up here. Unless you are able to help the injured in a way that the medical people can't, it's probably better if you don't go downstairs. People would remember that pretty face anywhere, so someone will need to ease the populace into accepting that she's changed and won't hurt them before it's a good idea for her to mix with non-family..." Bucky voice was gentle, to try and take any sting from his words.
Lorelei nodded. "I understand..." Her voice was sad.
Odin nodded his own understanding, tightening his arms around Lorelei. "It will take time, but eventually, everyone will feel able to trust you," he whispered to her.
"I still have a hard time believing that you trust me. I haven't behaved in a trustworthy way before..." Lorelei admitted and sighed. "I'll prove myself somehow..."
"You have proven yourself to me and to others here," Odin said reassuringly. Even if he knew there might still be a long road ahead of them... she was moving in the right direction.
Lorelei smiled. "I want to do better..." she said quietly.
Loki smiled. "Shall we move her onto our floor, then?"
"If we are not needed to help guard." Odin looked inquiringly at Bucky.
"Shield should be here soon, if you'd like to go now..." Bucky nodded.
Odin nodded and looked towards his other children, checking to see if they were ready to go now or not.
Mack was talking to someone over comms. Nodding his head, he moved to stand next to Loki. "I've been cleared to be with my family." He smiled. "Apparently, there is something afoot I need to be there for?"
Loki chuckled. "Our uncles are nothing if not observant."
"They aren't afraid to have me free?" Lorelei asked softly.
Thor stepped forward, smiling at Lorelei. "Father is correct. You have proved you are on the right path and that you no longer need to be held a prisoner."
"I still have so much to learn...it's ...it's scary..." Lorelei admitted hesitantly.
"You will not be alone," Odin promised. "I will help you. And I am sure your siblings will, too." He didn't hesitate in indicating he viewed Lorelei as part of his family.
Lorelei nodded, feeling a sense of relief that she wouldn't be shunted off as soon as they began to believe they didn't need to watch her so closely. The trust they placed in her, when she had done so little to earn it, was staggering. The fact she'd proven they could trust her, just by doing what was right and stopping an action that she shouldn't have even taken, was overwhelming...and she felt twinges of guilt when she realized how close she'd come to murdering that man. And still they trusted her. Quietly, she followed her brothers and father to their floor, Odin's own actions making her feel part of the family already.
Odin stayed close to all of them, aware of how scary it could be to have a safe space threatened. The fact that Loki was so clearly worried about something was obvious; and even though Odin wasn't sure exactly what was wrong, he resolved to try and help his son... all his children... any way he could.
Thor spoke when they were all back in the apartment. "Perhaps we could sit, have some drinks and snacks and talk," he suggested, guessing none of them were really in much of a mood for games right now.
"That sounds perfect," Loki agreed. "I'll get the drinks together."
Mack followed his brother into the kitchen. "I'll help."
Darcy watched as the two younger men went to the kitchen then turned toward Thor and Odin. "I'm sure you want to be with family right now so I can go back to the other floor and wait for SHIELD to pick up the prisoners..." she said, with a wistful look.
Odin frowned slightly. "You are close to Jane, the woman Thor loves. My sons care for you... I care for you. You are a part of my family."
Darcy bit her lip and blinked, then smiled happily. "Thanks, big guy...that means a lot." She gave a coy and incorrigible grin. "Can I call you dad?"
Odin's own smile was gentle. "Considering your brothers do..." He looked at Lorelei, including her in the response as well.
Lorelei blushed faintly...happy to be considered family after everything. She didn't say anything, still feeling an unsettling guilt over what she'd done earlier- even if she'd stopped when Coulson spoke to her- and not feeling like she really had the right to call Odin dad...even if he said they did.
Darcy had no such hang-ups. "Great! What else do we need to talk about daddy?" She took it that one step further without qualm. "Family rules? Expectations? Anything?"
Odin noticed Lorelei's quietness and he placed a hand gently on her shoulder, squeezing lightly, even as he answered Darcy. "There are the sort of rules you might expect there to be in a family, such as not doing anything to endanger yourself. Let someone know when you intend to leave and where you're going. I would also like it if you moved in with us permanently," he added.
"Move outta the crappy little apartment with temperamental water pipes and into a multi-million dollar apartment with the best security ever? He'll yeah!" Darcy readily agreed. "I can be packed and moved by noon tomorrow!"
Lorelei swallowed and responded to Odin's affection by moving closer...even if she still didn't say anything.
Thor cleared his throat, taking a step forward. "I will accompany you to collect your belongings from you apartment," he said to Darcy.
Odin wrapped his arm tighter around Lorelei's shoulders, drawing her in closer against his side.
"Thanks, bro. I appreciate it. We can move Jane at the same time. When she returns, we can let her know." Darcy's smile was impish.
Lorelei pressed closer to Odin, her feelings of guilt growing the more loved she felt.
Thor nodded, but he was noticing the way Lorelei pressed closer to their father. He looked at him and then at Darcy. "Why don't we go help with the snacks and drinks?" he suggested, hoping to give their father and sister some privacy.
Darcy wasn't oblivious and she'd noticed Lorelei's odd behavior too. "Sure thing...maybe we can make homemade pizza!" she suggested; not only because- homemade pizza- but because it would take long enough that Odin could help Lorelei and then both of them could still come and help, and not be left out.
Thor nodded and placed a hand gently on Darcy's shoulder to guide her into the kitchen... in exactly the same way he would one of his brothers.
Once Thor and Darcy were in the kitchen, Odin turned fully to face Lorelei. "What is troubling you?" he asked gently.
"Everyone acts as if listening to Coulson was some huge breakthrough...but I almost killed a man, because he said something crude to my friend. He was in no position to hurt her and I still almost killed him." She looked down, despondent. "I don't think I trust myself, so can't fathom why you all are willing to trust me now." She didn't mention her guilt from the actions she'd taken, but it could be heard clearly in her voice.
Odin squeezed her shoulder. "Before I brought you back into my life, I know you wouldn't have listened if someone had tried to stop you doing that. If there are problems, they will be dealt with." He kissed her forehead. "And if you are feeling guilty, I know how to help you," he said, his voice gentle.
Lorelei sniffled then looked down, ashamed that she was crying. Odin was being nice and caring about her. There was no reason to cry. "How?" she finally asked, in a hopeful yet still hopeless tone.
Odin kept his arm wrapped around her shoulders as he gently guided her to his room. "By using the form of punishment you have experienced at my hands before."
Lorelei quickly looked up at Odin, a reluctant look on her face. She didn't protest or argue, though; trusting him to take care of her. "Will that work?" she asked quietly, as she let him lead her into his room.
"It's a punishment used in the family," Odin explained, leading her over to the bed. "It's given with love and it helps a family member feel punished without causing them lasting harm."
"Today was just...just a small bit of what I've done in the past. I don't think I'll ever feel punished enough..." Lorelei admitted.
"We'll work on it," Odin promised. "There are ways to make up for mistakes in the past. Many of those here have made mistakes. You are not the only one." He held her for a few more moments and then sat down on the bed, gently easing her across his lap.
"You'd help me find ways to try and make things right?" Lorelei didn't fight the position at all, reaching down and grasping onto Odin's leg tightly, needing to feel like he had hold of her and she had hold of him; afraid of being alone again.
"I will," Odin replied, his voice sincere. "I will always help you." He rubbed her back gently and then bared her.
Lorelei swallowed hard and closed her eyes, the relief she felt at Odin's words allowing her to relax over his lap instead of tensing up. She trusted him...and while she wasn't looking forward to receiving punishment at his hand, she believed him when he said it would help her. She wished it didn't make her feel so young and childish; but then, maybe that was why it worked? She didn't know. All she did know was that she regretted how she'd handled the HYDRA agent who'd talked about Patsy that way. "I'm sorry..." she whispered contritely, hoping that Odin knew what she was sorry for...why she was sorry.
"I know." Odin's voice was gentle as he rubbed her back a moment or two longer and then lifted his hand, bringing it down in the first firm swat that he then repeated... holding back on his full strength, but using enough so it didn't feel like a token punishment.
Lorelei whimpered as the punishment began, but didn't try and move away and, after the initial whimper, managed to contain her sounds of distress to tiny exhalations of breath and tiny, barely voiced yelps. Her grip tightened on Odin's leg; more because she still had a hard time believing he wanted her and viewed her as family and was afraid that if she let go, she'd be left alone. She'd rather be spanked every day for the rest of her life than to be left alone again. Just the thought made the tears begin to fall sooner than they would have normally.
Odin kept his arm around Lorelei's waist, completing one full circuit of swats and then beginning a second. It was partway through the second circuit he began to speak. "I know I've only had you for a short time, but no matter what happens in the future, I will always keep hold of you. I will never let you go."
Lorelei couldn't help but let out a tiny sob at the words, her fingers clenching and unclenching against Odin's leg as she tried to believe what she was being told. She wanted to believe so badly, but it was hard after being abandoned so many times as a child; and then knowing that the only reason anyone stuck by her as an adult was if she 'made' them stay with her. The pain of the spanking was only secondary to the fear she felt at being left again; and her guilt at what she'd done recently...not to mention in all the years prior...made her believe that she deserved to be abandoned and just fed the fear. She held as still as she was able, hoping that, if she was cooperative and accepted Odin's decision and punishment, that maybe what he said could be true.
"I love you." Odin was still swatting, but they were as much an emphasis to his words as anything else. "I know you were alone for a long time... too long a time... and I am sorry it took me until now to be in your life. But I'm not here because I'm forced to be. I'm here because I want to be. I want you."
Lorelei choked on another tiny sob. She knew she had no power over Odin; so if he was with her, it was definitely his choice and not because she'd 'forced' him to be. He could have just locked her up in an Asgardian prison again as soon as they'd caught her, but he hadn't. Maybe...maybe she could believe what he was telling her? Maybe she wasn't going to be left alone again? She wanted so much to believe that. Wanted to believe that he would not only be there with her, but that he wouldn't let her go; wouldn't let her pull away or do things that would take her away from him. Minutely at first, and then more noticeably, she began to squirm, testing his resolve as much as trying to ease the sting from the punishment.
Odin tightened his hold, drawing her closer against his stomach as he began a third circuit of swats, going a bit harder and faster. "You aren't alone," he reiterated. "Your brothers and sisters have accepted you... the rest of the family know you are not a bad person and are on the right path."
Lorelei began to squirm more frantically as he began the third circuit. It wasn't that it hurt all that much more, but the combination of words and consistent swatting was finally breaking through the thin barriers she'd been attempting to maintain and it was either squirm or begin sobbing and... "I want to be a good girl! I'm sorry I was bad..." she wailed, finally going limp and just crying, still holding onto Odin's leg with a death grip.
Odin brought the spanking to a stop and then gently moved his daughter so she was on his lap instead of over it, wrapping his arms around her in a tight embrace and kissing her head. "You did the right thing," he whispered to her.
Lorelei buried her face against Odin's chest and wrapped her arms around him, continuing to cry softly. "I almost didn't...I almost did the wrong thing again...I don't want to do the wrong thing, daddy...I want to do the right thing, but I d...don't always kn..know what that is..." she whispered through her tears...the almost childlike way she spoke and her uncertainty making it clear she was counting on Odin to help her. Was counting on him to keep his promise and not leave her.
Odin stroked her hair, pressing another kiss to the top of her head as he spoke in a low voice. "I will help you. It will take time, but you have that. And you have my love and support. Always," he promised.
Lorelei finally felt herself able to relax. She believed Odin. She didn't believe in herself nearly as much, but Odin had proven several times now that he would step in and redirect her...teach her...when necessary. And he had promised not to leave her again. The fact that he could so easily have done so by now and instead was holding her on his lap, comforting her, eased that fear. She winced as she shifted in his arms, able to feel the punishment as she snuggled closer. Sniffling, she admitted, "You were right. I do feel a little better. Like I've paid at least a little bit...Thank you..."
Odin stroked her hair gently. "You don't need to hold onto that guilt," he whispered to her. "Because you can be a good person. You proved that today. You proved I was right to trust you. To believe in you."
Lorelei just snuggled closer still, not commenting on his admonition. Not feeling guilty for her actions was easier said than done and she knew Odin realized that. "I'll try..." she finally said in a whisper, before continuing, "...Can...can I come to you if it starts bothering me a lot?" Her question was more hesitant. Maybe she deserved to feel guilty and asking for his help to ease it wasn't a good thing to do...but she couldn't not ask. She didn't want to fall back into bad habits and if she began to feel overwhelmed or like it was hopeless to ever make up for her actions, she very easily could.
Odin continued the gentle touch. "Any time. You can come to me any time. I don't ever want you to go through the pain and guilt alone," he said seriously.
"Thank you..." she whispered, snuggling a bit more. Now that she was calming down, despite wanting to acknowledge him as her father- that's what he'd become, after all- she refrained. Just because he'd decided to take on responsibility for her and bring her into his family didn't mean he wanted her calling him a childish endearment...even if her urge to do so was strong. She was an adult woman, after all and needed to show some bit of maturity. That maturity only extended to how she'd address him, though. She wasn't about to give up the affection he was so readily bestowing, even if some would look on it as her being childish.
Odin kissed her head. "When you're ready, we'll go and join your siblings in the kitchen," he suggested, his voice warm and filled with affection. He didn't loosen his hold on her, not wanting to let her go while she still needed and wanted him to hold her.
"They will not mind? That you've taken me in? I must admit, I never thought to have a sibling, even in my grandest wishes..." Lorelei said softly.
"They have already accepted you," Odin pointed out gently.
"It...it is hard to believe. I did not even coerce them to..." Lorelei admitted.
"You did not have to," Odin replied. "Your actions today have proved your intentions."
"If you say so..." Lorelei reluctantly agreed. "...I am just...I am not used to having people want to be around me and befriend me without my having to coerce them..." she admitted. "It is hard to believe...even if I can see it with my own eyes..."
"It will take time to become used to it," Odin replied. "I understand that. Not everyone in the family has found belonging easy at first."
"Is it odd that I find you taking charge of me and spanking me easier to accept than the fact that people actually want me?" Lorelei frowned, a bit irritated at herself.
"There is nothing odd about you," Odin replied, his voice reassuring. "And believing you are wanted will take time. I understand that."
Sighing softly, Lorelei slowly stood and fixed her clothing before leaning against Odin again. "I am afraid I will sorely test your patience with me..." she said with a self-deprecating smile. "But if I have not worn it too thin today, I am ready to join the others..."
Odin stood up and kissed her forehead. "I would like to spend time with all of you," he said seriously. "I love you. No matter what." He wrapped his arm around her, squeezing her gently.
Lorelei's smile turned a bit more innocent and needy at the words and she leaned more fully into him, welcoming any affection he felt willing to give. It had been a very long time that she'd been alone and while she thought she was capitulating very easily, considering how she'd thought they all hated her... Odin had proven, in the last several weeks, that he wanted to try and change things and as long as he continued to try and change things and she was allowed to be part of his family and not shunted off like so much unwanted baggage, she wouldn't question it. "I...I love you, daddy..." she said hesitantly, not certain if it was too soon to voice such feelings- and not even entirely certain she knew enough about what love was to be able to be voicing such a thought honestly; but she thought she knew what love was and she felt that for him...so she told him so.
Odin smiled and drew Lorelei closer to himself, pressing a kiss to her cheek. He held her close and tight to himself, stroking her hair. "I love you," he repeated, not caring how many times he said it; only that she believed it.
Lorelei closed her eyes and snuggled some more before reluctantly pulling away. "I am certain they are waiting for us..." She smiled up at him and waited for him to make the next move.
"So am I." Odin kept his arm around her shoulders as he guided her out of his bedroom and into the kitchen.
Darcy looked up as Odin and Lorelei came into the kitchen. "Hey, Pops! Sis! Do you like caramel corn?" she asked curiously, looking between the two with raised eyebrows.
Lorelei blinked owlishly. "I do not believe I know what that is..." she said hesitantly.
"Oh! You're in for a treat, then!" Darcy jumped up and retrieved another pot from the cupboard, beginning to pop a second batch of corn, while looking for the other ingredients she'd need to make the sugary mess.
"I have not tried it either." Odin glanced at his sons.
"Darcy has introduced myself and Loki to it," Thor said with a smile, glancing at Lorelei. While he knew she wasn't harmed, he still wanted to assure himself she wasn't hurting emotionally... something he tended to do when either of his brothers were punished, too.
Lorelei noticed Thor's glance and gave him a shy smile. While she'd been friends with Loki as a child, Thor had never really paid much attention to her; not until her exploits had got her on the wrong side of Asgardian law and opinion, at any rate. She bit her lip and couldn't help the hopeful look that crossed her face, hoping that maybe he would accept her as quickly and as easily as Odin had... and Loki before him.
"I find it a bit sweet myself." Mack chuckled at Darcy's antics. "If I eat anything other than plain butter and salt, I prefer it to be more savoury; such as cheddar cheese added to it."
Darcy snorted. "Cheddar cheese is good. But caramel is one of the original additions! How else would they have Cracker-Jack way back when Cap was originally running around?" her grin was impish.
Lorelei just looked confused.
"I do not believe I am aware of that food item," Odin commented. "But there have been many new things I have experienced since arriving here."
Thor smiled at Lorelei, eager to show his acceptance of her. "Have you found many foods here on Midgard you enjoy?"
"I...have not really focused on the cuisine or Midgard..." Lorelei blushed. "But I am fond of their chocolate..."
"I am certain we have some of that here," Thor commented, moving to look in the fridge.
"Really?" Lorelei's eyes got an excited glint in them at that knowledge then she blushed. "I have had strawberries dipped in chocolate...it was very good..." she added lamely.
"I recall there having been something called fondue, which was a similar thing with other food items as well as strawberries," Odin said. "Perhaps we could have that one evening."
"For tonight, perhaps we could simply melt some chocolate and have the fruit we have here," Thor suggested.
"Ooooh! Fondue! Maybe we can make it a fondue party and have ALL the family involved!" Darcy enthused.
Mack laughed. "That's an easy enough party to arrange..." He shrugged in agreement.
"Perhaps once things have become more settled," Odin suggested, aware of how affected they all were by the day's events.
Darcy snorted again. "Are things ever settled here?" Her smile indicated she wasn't trying to be sarcastic or rude, though; she was genuinely curious.
"Sometimes they are more settled than other times." Thor retrieved the chocolate and fruit.
Lorelei sat down between Odin and Loki, taking comfort in the presence of her new father and her oldest friend (now brother) and listened as her new siblings carried on conversation, interjecting when she felt she could contribute. Slowly, she began to relax and feel like maybe she really could be a member of this family.