a/n: STOP! Before you read any further this is a sequel to Loki. if you want to, go read that one first. if you have, thank you! if you don't care, that's ok, too.
my biggest fear with this one is that it's going to be a re-telling of the movie, plus Jane. I DON'T WANT THAT. NO! the movie was amazing; i'm trying to make this different. this is my: what if Loki did everything he did out of the kindness of his heart version. aka the maybe he isn't so bad after all version. aka in my hopes and dreams version.
so please, tell me what you guys think. tell me if i'm out of my mind. i might just fade back into the workings of the internet and you'll have to forget you ever found this.
if you guys are interested in hearing more of this story, please review :)
"You say you know Midgard better than any other. What proof have you of this?"
"Nothing but the word of a prince. That will not do?"
"Prince? Prince! Ha! You are banished. Fallen. The title of your old home no longer applies to you."
"Yes, well, we will have to remedy that, won't we?"
"Watch your tone, Asgardian."
"You seem unwilling to trust me. I wonder: why is that?"
"I wonder why you should be so callous, so impetuous, in his presence: he, the one that gave you shelter when you had none; he, the one who took you in when you had fallen; he—"
"He, who needs my help now."
"How dare you—"
"The Tesseract is on Earth. I have named my price. Can you accept it?"
"We must needs have more proof—"
"Of what? I have walked among the humans. I know their weaknesses. I know their ways. Give me an army to lead in glorious battle, and you will have the Tesseract."
"Our force, our Chitauri, is ready to command. But what of the Earth?"
"Such curiosity as to their fate seems beneath you."
"He wishes to know. To test your…conviction. What of the humans?"
"What can they do, but burn?"
He keeps the dim, distant hope that this could have all been some far-flung training exercise dreamt up by the Security Council (and surprise! You all passed, congratulations!) until the copter pulls into S.H.I.E.L.D airspace, blades whipping and cracking as it lands, several feet in front of him. The door slams open.
"How bad is it?" Fury is the first out, shouting over the chop-chop-chop of the helicopter's blades as they slow to a dull throb. Coulson nods once to Hill as she follows, barely perturbed by the wind, her face set in that unreadable mask that she thought she had perfected. (Coulson didn't have the heart to tell her that it wasn't so much unreadable as it was perpetually pissed off.)
He's just stalling, now. Better to get the news over with. He takes a deep breath. "That's the problem, sir!" He keeps his hands clenched in front of him, fights the urge to rub his eye, raises his voice over the disturbance of the copter. He begins to walk forward, behind the heavy march of the Director as they enter the research building. The main lobby is clogged with men in lab coats and suit jackets and jumpsuits, racing to pile briefcases on trolleys, to get them loaded up and gone. Inside is quieter, without the wind-whip of the helicopter. A controlled sort of chaos. He pitches his voice down a level. "We don't know."
Fury stops, so quickly Coulson almost runs into his back (as it is, he has to sidestep into Maria's upper arm), and gives him a look through his one good eye that could freeze water. "Excuse me?"
He forges bravely ahead, walking past Fury and Hill towards the stairwell leading to the lower levels of R&D. "About four hours ago we experienced a—disturbance in the Tesseract's readings."
"Selvig and Foster haven't been authorized to proceed to testing phase." Fury sounds like he wants to kill someone. Namely Jane. Coulson decides it's best to try and defuse the situation.
"No one authorized anything, sir, that's the thing—it went off by itself." He pounds down a few more steps. "We ordered it to be shut off; when that didn't work, we went straight into evac."
"That's impossible." Hill frowns as he reaches the door at the bottom of the stairwell and proceeds to punch in the code to open the double-fortified steel plates. "How could the Tesseract not turn off?"
He doesn't have an answer, because that's Selvig and Jane's area of expertise, so he doesn't offer one. Instead he throws open the door, nearly stepping into a small lab technician struggling with three clear boxes of plastic vials labeled: GAMMA TEST PHASE 5 FRAGILE.
"Careful with those." He feels the need to point out as she shuffles past.
"How long till this place is cleared out?" Fury snaps.
"This is the last of it, sir. We can be out in half-an-hour."
"Yes, sir." He thinks he should have taken Stark up on those teleporters he had assured S.H.I.E.L.D he could build. ("Then you can say, Beam me up, Scottie. How cool would that be?")
"Sir, with all due respect—" Hill looks at the bedlam, and Coulson winces as another lab tech trips over an exposed pipe, sending several boxes of unknown origin scattering across the ground, "—evacuation may be futile."
Fury frowns as the mess is cleared. "We should tell them to go back to sleep?"
"If we can't control the Tesseract's energy, there may not be a minimal safe distance."
The thought makes Coulson want to blanch, but, unlike Hill, he has perfected his "no-emotion" face.
"I need you to make sure the Phase 2 prototypes are shipped out." Fury doesn't bother to address the validity of Hill's concerns.
"Sir, is that really a priority right now—"
"Until such time as the world ends, we will act as though it intends to spin on. Clear out the tech below. I want every piece of Phase 2 on a truck and gone."
"Yes, sir." Hill brushes past the Director with nonchalance, anger visible in every line of her body. He thinks that Fury, for a moment, is going to explode, but instead the Director turns his one eye towards him and barks, "Get to work, Agent."
It was going to be a long night.
"Talk to me, Doctor."
Jane wants to politely point out to Director Fury that she, not Erik, is the one currently holding the Geiger Counter to the Cube, and therefore she, not Erik, should be the one to "talk to him." She pulls a long, pointed needle from her pocket and probes the Cube with unnecessary force, wincing as energy arcs up and around, fast and hot. She huffs, stepping backwards. The holder she and Erik had built for it a couple of weeks ago (based off Stark's arc reactor designs, but if she told the billionaire that he'd make her pay copyright fees) hums with life. The needle falls to her side as she examines the Tesseract, the myriad of blues—light, dark, middle, even white—and Erik answers.
"The Tesseract is misbehaving." She can hear him fiddling around at the workstations behind her. "Isn't that wonderful?"
Jane turns slowly, feeling oddly vulnerable with the Cube at her back, frowning at the giddiness of Erik's voice. He's smiling widely, too widely, especially for someone who could potentially get buried alive if they didn't get this energy spike under control.
She runs a hand through her hair, turning back around, tapping the Geiger Counter against her leg. She looks up, to the catwalks above their workspace. Barton is crouched there, a dark, ever-present shadow. Jane wonders if he can sense it, too; if he thinks something is a little…off. With Erik.
Or maybe she's just becoming paranoid.
Who knew, at this point?
"I hardly think this can be classified as wonderful, Doctor." Fury deadpans. "I need you to control the spike."
"We can't!" Erik laughs. Jane, halfway in the middle of trying to get another preliminary reading on the softly glowing cube in front of her, nearly tips sideways at the sound.
"Erik!" She turns, rather violently, offended and embarrassed all at once by his tone, by the easy expression on his face, by the way he looks gleeful, anticipatory, because what the hell could he possibly be looking forward to except an early grave? Her squawk of outrage garnered the attention of Director Fury. For the first time, he seems to notice her. His mouth turns down in a deeper frown.
"Ah. Ms. Foster. Had enough time to figure things out, I presume?"
She ignores the jab, stepping back and towards the worktables. "Maybe you should sit down, Erik." She directs him towards a chair, puts the Geiger Counter down next to him, and rounds quickly on Fury. Through her teeth:
"We've never had any precedent to this. We don't know how to stop it, because we don't know how it works." She hates admitting defeat. Erik lets out another bark of laughter.
She motions Fury to follow her towards the Cube, mostly to get out of her friend's earshot. "If we try and turn it off, it just turns itself back on." She pauses. "It is an energy source, after all."
"Where's Barton?" Fury looks down his nose at her. "Forgive me, Ms. Foster, for wanting a second opinion."
Jane tries to smile, but the edges are sharp. "The hawk? He's up in his nest."
Fury makes a sharp motion; Barton clatters to his feet, still silent as the grave, even as he drops a zip-line to the floor. His boots make the only sound as he walks quickly over to where they stand.
She likes Barton, likes his steadiness and the way he isn't a complete and total asshole like some (coughone-eyedcough) people she knows.
"Anything unusual?" Fury mutters, as soon as Barton's within range. Jane crosses her arms, looking at Clint's serious eyes with an almost dare—tell him I'm wrong—but he only shakes his head.
"Nothing Jane couldn't have told you."
She smiles again, less sharp, more friendly.
"Look, Selvig didn't do anything to turn the Cube on." Barton stands next to the Director, until they are all three in a strait line before the Tesseract. "Though he does seem to be getting more…excitable, the more it acts up."
"Suspicious behavior?" Fury sends a glance over his shoulder.
Barton shrugs. They are all silent, for a moment, lit blue by the light of the Cube. "It turned on by itself, yeah?" He says at last. Jane nods slowly, up, down, up, down. He looks sideways. "So, it seems to me like someone is knocking."
"Oh." Jane's breath leaves her in a little whoosh just as Fury inhales sharply, "Excuse me?"
"This thing's supposed to be a door to the other end of space, right?" Barton looks to Jane for approval and she nods, so he gestures vaguely at the object in question before re-crossing his arms, tightly.
"So someone is tampering with the entrance on the other side. Knocking. Reverse engineering the Tesseract's energy signature, enough to briefly hook onto its pattern and slingshot through a small portal—" Jane takes a step forward, head tilted.
"English, Ms. Foster."
"What she means is," Barton looks towards the Director, "doors open from both sides."
She's slightly distracted by the possibilities of this. A door opening from the other end of space—similar in theory to an Einstein-Rosen Bridge—so was it—could it—she opens her mouth to say something, but doesn't know what. Barton and Fury are trying to figure out how to move the thing. Erik is still chuckling, eyes wide. Lab techs and security guards are trying to take out what isn't needed, running tests, and why is the light getting stronger—
"Move!" She screeches, too late, because she's flung backwards onto the two figures behind her, so they all fall in an ungraceful sprawl to the floor, pushed by a blast of energy, and the Cube lets out a single stream of wispy, sky-blue light barreling in a thin strand towards the far end of the research center, where they had attempted to build some sort of platform for a potential portal—
She feels the energy snapping and cracking across the room. Machines switch off; somewhere in the distance, alarms are waling. She gets to her knees, pushing away from Barton, brushing off his attempts to keep her still. The blue light splatters, like paint, into a soft, circular form, and for a moment she can see the stars, nebulae, galaxies, and her breath leaves her, because this could be the answer to everything—
Then it's gone. The plain, blue light replaces it, swirling and breaking and whisping. It takes her a moment to realize that it's coalescing, like some tangible substance, around a figure, kneeling. She gets to her feet, pushing her hair away from her face. Barton and Fury follow her.
Everything stops. The power surge left the lights dim; the backups are a poor substitution. She squints through the darkness towards the platform and suddenly her heart is around her knees—
The figure raises its head.
Green, green eyes.
She can't quite breathe.
He stands, slowly, a wicked, wide grin on his face. He looks gaunter, paler; hair longer; eyes darker. In one hand, held loosely, is some sort of weapon. His grin becomes more manic as he looks around.
"Sir, put down the spear." Fury shouts in the now-silence, voice echoing across the domed ceiling. The figure doesn't listen. He's at his full height now, surveying the room, the four soldiers approaching him, guns raised, the man in the black trench-coat—
But he doesn't see her.
"Sir, put down the spear." Fury repeats, but the figure still doesn't listen, and when did he ever listen, anyway—
Jane takes an involuntary step forward but then Hawkeye's hand is on her wrist, holding her back, his voice in her ear, "No, Jane," so she stops, but still—
Chapped lips, long hair, green eyes, dark, dark, dark—
"I am Loki, of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose."