The attendant adjusted the straps on the back of the dress, motioning for the young woman to turn around and look in the mirror. She did so, gazing at the reflection as a wave of emotion surged over her. She shivered a little, smiling and laughing at what she saw. The attendant smiled.

"It was made for you," she said, standing up, brushing out the back of the dress.

The girl turned around, nearly giggling like a child. "Sorry, I've… I've just never worn a dress like this before."

"Really?" The attendant smiled. "Well, it looks incredible on you. Any particular occasion?"

She nodded. "My cousin is getting married. It's gonna be kind of a "fancy" theme."

"Where's the wedding?" The attendant asked, double-checking the base of the dress, fanning it out so it flowed around the girl's feet.

"New York. I'm headed out there right after graduation."

The attendant's smile faulted. "Is that safe?" She asked softly. "You know what's been…"

The girl nodded. "Yeah… A couple people have opted not to go, but… It wouldn't be right not to be there. He's family and I wanna be there. Besides, maybe things will be better by then."

The attendant's smile came back slightly, she stood up. "Good for you. I'm gonna see if I can find some shoes that'll match, I'll be back."

"Kay," the girl watched the attendant leave before looking back at the dress. The little sting of fear in her chest began to die down. She was scared to go to the wedding. There had been a lot of strange events happening, most of them based in New York. But she wouldn't back down from this. She had faith that whatever was occurring would end soon. It couldn't last forever.

But, she couldn't ignore the strange feeling in her chest that wouldn't go away. Something… something was going to happen.

She shook her head and looked at the dress again, hardly able to believe that it looked as good on her as it did. A light, spring yellow material, decorated with crystals and a shoulder strap lined with flowers. In her entire life, she couldn't remember even trying on such a beautiful dress… or feeling so pretty.

For fun, she closed her eyes and spun around, taking in the moment as though she were a Disney Princess. When she opened her eyes and looked in the mirror, her heart stopped.

She was staring not only at her reflection, but ANOTHER figure in the mirror. She turned around and her heart stopped within her chest.

A man was standing there.

The dressing room was big enough for him to enter comfortably, but she hadn't heard the door open or close and her eyes had only been shut for a second. Less than a second even. She trembled slightly, her head telling her to scream, but her instincts holding her back. Something about this man kept her silent.

He was a tall man, a good one if not two feet taller than her and his eyes were an icy blue. He wore thick robes made of dark leather, lined with deep green fabric. When he moved, he did not seem weighed down by them. In truth, they accented him perfectly. His dark hair was slicked back and his skin was very light, almost pale.

One other thing. He radiated power.

He stepped towards her and she shrunk back slightly. Her body almost pressed against the glass of the mirror. This caused him to smile. His eyes turned to the dress.

"It is a fine gown," he said, his voice strangely smooth. There was an element of laughter in it, dark laughter. "Where I was raised, such a gown would be worn in celebration of a birth… or a wedding." A little laughter escaped his lips. "Such a gown would be enough to hide the fact that you are a mortal. Is it for such an occasion? Are you to be wed, young mortal?"

Terror clung to her chest, making her breaths slightly shallow. She shook her head. "No… my cousin is."

"Ah," he nodded. "Do you not worry that you shall take all eyes away from the bride? Surely all the young men will look your way."

Despite her fear, she felt a strange warmth creeping up to her cheeks. She swallowed. "Everyone's going to be dressed like this. It's the theme."

"The natures of human customs are obscure," he grinned. "But it is ultimately of no concern to me."

Starting at him, she wondered whether or not she should attempt to cry for help, but she knew what this man could do. She recognized him from the pictures on the news and online. He'd brought down men at least three times her size and ten times her strength. He could probably touch her with one finger and she'd be no more then a pile of ash.

"Does my presence upset you?" He came closer, clearly pleased by her terror. He leaned over her and she could feel his breath on her face. A strand of hair fell out of place, landing upon her cheek. She felt his fingers gently take hold of it, rubbing it like a designer examining a piece of material. He leaned down, inhaling the smell, looking at his handiwork as she tried to contain her shivering. He chuckled, "I would think you would be honored. Your king saw it fit to speak to you, a lowly mortal of no worth. Am I not to be thanked?"

She'd read what he had said to those people back in Germany, how he'd declared himself king over the earth and demanded that they bow to him. But why was he here? What interest did he have in someone like her? And here of all places! Was this his idea of fun? A game?

Fine fingers made their way under her chin, turning her head so she would be forced to look him in the eye. His smile never faltered for a second. "Well?"

"Thank you." The words came out as little more than a whisper. He came even closer, his body pressed up against her smaller form, nearly pushing her into the mirror, straining the glass.

"Thank you…?" He asked again, his grip on her chin became tighter. She swallowed. She knew what he wanted to hear. A part of her didn't want to say it, but she knew she had no choice. So… why was there a part of her that… wanted to say it?

"Thank you… My Lord."

His grip lightened and he stepped back somewhat, the smell of his clothes staying with her. Despite his dress, he smelled strangely, well, clean. Almost like the smell of snow…

She swallowed, deciding to press her luck. "Why are you here?"

He raised an eyebrow. "What law is there to say a ruler cannot walk amongst his subjects?" He asked. "A bit of fun every now and then is an enjoyable thing. And mortals are prepared for so very little in their lives. Like you." He grinned. "Had you been wise, you would have known to live in the knowledge that any moment, you might be in your king's presence." His face became strangely content. "I will say this, out of all the mortals I have visited today, you are certainly the calmest…" his eyes looked down at her gown. "And certainly one of the loveliest."

He released her chin. His hand moved carefully to collect her her own, his hand dwarfed hers by comparison. He seemed pleasantly surprised when she flinched only a little.

"You fear me. Good."

"It would be stupid not to be," she whispered.

"The more you understand that, the longer you will live. And live in my good graces at that."

He pulled her to face the mirror again. She looked in, staring at both of their reflections. He placed his hands upon her shoulders.

"When the earth is mine, there will be a great cause for celebration. A festival for the world to behold. Who knows? I might even wish for your presence."

He lifted her hand up, nearly forcing her to twirl like a dancer. As she did, little yellow flower petals drifted from the dress, emerging from the fabric as though it was made of flowers itself. She caught a glimpse of her self and her… dance partner in the mirror. The scene looked like something out of fairy tale, decorating the air around her, but as the petals fell to the ground, they faded away like smoke, a product of his power.

A knock at the door drew their attention, forcing him to stop the dance.

"Miss?" The attendant's voice called in. "Sorry I took so long."

The dark figured turned back to the girl, pleased to see she had no intention of speaking, not yet anyway. A very smart child, he noted. He motioned for her to address the woman at the door.

"It's… it's fine. Um, would you mind giving me another minute?"

"Is everything all right?" The attendant asked.

The man's face contorted a little in annoyance. The girl swallowed. "Yes, I just need another minute."

"All right," the attendant said, the sounds of her footsteps eventually fading from earshot. The man turned back to her.

"It might be best if we part ways, now," he smiled. "I will call on you again, little mortal, make no mistake. And it would do you well to be better prepared." He smiled, slowly releasing her hand and just as suddenly as he appeared, he was gone.

The girl stood there, trembling at what had just occurred, trying to calm her racing heart beat. She opened her mouth to call out to the attendant, when something flew from her lips, landing softly on the folded clothes she'd left on the bench.

A yellow flower petal.

When she opened her eyes, the ground beneath her felt cold and hard. Pipes dripped with condensation and there was a strange chill in the air, mixed with a light sent of earth. Her head felt light, lost in a thick fog. She remembered getting off the train at Grand Central and taking a cab to her cousin's house. But when she stepped outside the cab, everything went black.

She pushed herself up from the ground, despite the swirling in her head. Her eyes started to adjust to the darkened area, her ears picking up the sounds of machinery and voices in the distance.

She shook her head, trying to pull herself together-

"Get up."

The sound of the voice made her scream a little as she looked up. Several men were standing there, all of them dressed in black, carrying guns. Her heart sank into the very pit of her stomach. She scrambled to get to her feet, but found it strangely hard to move. Looking down, her blood turned to ice.

She was wearing the dress she had brought for the wedding!

One of the men, the only one that did not wear a mask, approached her. She'd admit he was a handsome man, but there was something strange about his eyes. This bright, almost soulless ice blue.

"Get up," the man repeated. "He wants to speak with you."

"He?" The word was barely audible as the man pulled her to her feet. She was even wearing the shoes she'd picked out. What the hell was-

Everything in her body froze as it dawned on her. No…

Under armed escort, she was lead down a long hallway, deeper into the cavernous lair. The man from before stood beside he, the only one not armed with a gun. Instead, he carried a recurve bow. Under any other circumstance, she'd have to admit it was pretty cool. Eventually, they reached a door and he entering the room without so much as knocking.

Almost as if the person inside already knew they'd been coming.

When he emerged, he dismissed the other men and motioned for her to enter, pushing her in slightly when her body refused to move. She spun around in enough time to see the door close and lock behind her.

"We meet again."

It was impossible to forget a voice like that. A voice that had entered her soul and coiled itself up comfortably around her heart, refusing to leave. She turned around, her eyes locking with his almost instantly. She trembled as that smile appeared on his lips once more.

That smile that she'd seen in her nightmares.

"Has it truly been so long since we last met, little mortal," he approached her. "That you do not remember how to greet your king?"

Nothing about him had changed. He looked exactly as he did in her dreams. No, her nightmares. She'd awake up every night covered in sweat. Her friend kept asking her what was wrong, telling her she looked sick, but she hadn't told them anything. Would they even believe such a story? She was having a hard time believing it herself.

She backed away slowly as he came near, her eyes were drawn to the strange staff in his hand. Golden in form with a terrible metal curve at the top. A bright blue gem glowed in the center, the same color as the eyes of the man she'd seen previously. Despite the fear in her chest, she rose herself up and held her ground. Whatever this… whatever he wanted with her, it was clear it was not going to end as suddenly as she'd hoped, but she would not be a coward.

"Where am I?" She asked, trying to keep her voice from trembling. He smiled in response.

"Where you are need not concern you," he said. "It's before whom you stand that should make you wary."

"Who are you?" She asked, her eyes darting between him and the staff, suddenly aware of exactly how sharp the tip looked, like a sharpened carving knife.

"Did I not state this before?" He asked. "I am your king and I brought you here, little mortal, because as obscure as it might be, I find myself thinking of you. I wished for your company again."

"So you kidnapped me?" She asked.

"I can not kidnap what is rightfully mine," he responded.

She stared at him, lifting her head. "I am not yours."

He chuckled. "All man kind is mine, you are but a fish in an ocean that belongs to me. But your scales have caught my attention, mortal." He held out his hand but retracted it slowly as she refused to accept it. "And I mean to have said fish as my pet… or my dinner. Whichever you find more pleasing."

Her heart began to race. He was going to kill her?

"Not if you obey."

His warm breath hit her ears and she yelped as she turned. He'd just appeared behind her! And… had he just read her mind?

"Mortal eyes are both a blessing and a curse," he said, moving forward, forcing her to retreat into a corner of the room, trapping her. "You show both what you wish to and what you wish was never there. Eyes witness beauty and horror daily, but they reveal deep, exciting secrets. Secrets of the very heart and soul you mortals seek to protect so deeply."

Her fingers felt the cold wall of the room, looking to the side for only a moment, only to look back to see him right in front of her.

"Eyes like yours are fascinating," he smiled, catching her chin as she tried to turn away. "Warm, full of life, but so quick to show fear," he clicked his tongue. "That is a very dangerous mistake."

From the corner of her eye, she could see him lifting his staff. Her heart stopped, she braced herself for whatever he was about to do.

"Why should you live your life in fear?"

She trembled as he placed the staff right above her heart, she could feel it's sharp tip driving into her skin slightly.

"When I can give you peace."

A wave of ice shot through her body….

Her body froze at the river of cold that crept through her veins, forcing her relax as it worked its way up to her mind. She wasn't sure what it was. It felt as though a freezing mist had crept into her blood and was slowly trying to reach her mind. She closed her eyes as the essence slithered through her throat and towards her temples. She could feel something; cold fingers probing her head, wishing for her to let down her shields and allow this force into her mind.

"No…." She felt the fingers clawing at her skull, forces pushing on her mind. The pain brought tears to her eyes. The more she resisted the more terrible the pain became, like someone was driving spikes through her brain. She felt him press the spear further into her chest, followed by a sharp pinch. She could feel a tiny tickle of blood coming down from her chest. She shook her head, her body now beginning to overflow with the freezing essence, almost burning her from the inside. "No… NO!"

She broke away, falling to the ground, her body trembling as the powerful sprit left her, unable to accomplish its task. She lay on the ground, her weak body shivering and her lungs gasping for breath. Her fingers gripped the edges of the man's boots, desperate to cling to something, anything to keep her grounded.

He stared down at the weakened mortal, his face awash with confusion and shock. This young mortal, this… well, in truth, this child had resisted the Tesseract's power, something not even the best agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had been able to accomplish

His lips twisted into a smile. This was going to be even more enjoyable than he first imagined. He stepped away from the girl, giving her a moment to recover before he addressed her.

"A fearful child," he grinned. "Yet able to resist the draw of the Tesseract. There is more to this little flower than meets the eye."

To her credit, he watched as she gathered her strength, forcing her body to stand on shaking legs as she clung to the wall for support. Her hand gripped her heart, trying to keep the cut from bleeding anymore.

"It still leaves me with quite the predicament," he smiled. "I require you to be my servant, yet you have closed your heart to me."

Her breath was quick and labored. "Get… get someone else…"

He laughed slightly. "I think not, my flower. There are other ways to get what I desire." He twisted his hand and the room instantly filled with a strange smoke, forming and reflecting the soft light in the room as though it was made of tiny mirrors. She watched closely as the smoke formed into a scene before her, her heart shattering as it played out…

"Something's wrong!" Her mother paced through the hallway of the house, her eyes bright red from crying. "Something has to be wrong, we need to call the police."

Her father tried to stop her in her place. "It's okay, honey, calm-"

"Don't! Don't tell me to calm down! I know something's wrong!"

"Please," Her aunt stood up, "I'm sure everything is okay. Maybe her phone went dead or she accidentally got on the wrong train."

"She's smarter than that," Her uncle noted. "I think we should call the cops too, it's getting too late."

"Her train came in on time," her cousin came in the room, followed by his fiancé. "I just got with the station, they're gonna send a bulletin out." He looked over at her shivering mother. "Don't worry, I'm sure she's safe.

"He's right, you know."

Her tearful eyes turned away from the scene as the man opened his hand, summoning the smoke back to him, nearly crushing it in his palm as it vanished. He smiled down at her.

"You are safe here. As are they."

The words burned into her soul. So that was his game, go right for the heart.

"If you would rather have your freedom, little flower, you are more than welcome to leave now," he smiled. "But know that I am not one to openly loose what I wish for. Strange," he mused. "None of your family intrigues me the way you do. There might not be a place for them in my-"

"NO!"

Weakened and scared, she fell to her knees, trembling at his feet.

"I do it," She said. "I'll do whatever you want. Please… don't hurt them."

He grinned sadistically, lowering his hand directly in front of her face, watching with satisfaction as she took it gently, kissing it with respect.

"I am your lord," he said. "I am your king and till the day you draw your final breath, you shall serve me as I deem fit, do you understand?"

She swallowed. "Yes… my Lord."

Gently, almost tenderly, he pulled her to her feet and waved his hand over her heart. The cut that had formed upon her chest was gone and her dress was free from filth and grime. Even her shoes were completely clean, and slightly softer too. He brushed his fingers across her hair and a beautiful yellow flower appeared behind her ear. She looked like his complete opposite, a star in a dark and stormy sky.

"From this day forth," his face was still, but there was a dangerous gleam in his eyes. "No one but I shall touch you. Any mortal, any god who touches you shall die before you eyes. You live only to serve your king, no others matter."

She could feel her heart shattering at his words. "Yes, my lord."

"Come," he moved back towards the seat where he had been meditating before. He motioned for her to follow him. She did so, quietly. He made her sit beside the chair, reaching over and gently leaning her head against his leg. His fingers caressed her cheek, moving upward to comb his fingers through her hair.

"Rejoice, flower," he grinned, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "You have been granted a high blessing. One I feel we will both come to enjoy."

She closed her eyes. "As you wish… my Lord…"

She'd been thinking of kinder times.

Times when she could go outside whenever she wanted, talk to whomever she wanted, say whatever she wanted. It was true what she had heard; you never really love something until it's gone.

"What clouds your mind?"

His voice pulled her from her head, jolting as she looked down at the head resting comfortably on her lap. He smiled at her, her fingers still mindlessly stroking his hair as he had requested.

"Nothing, my lord," She said softly.

He chuckled. "It's unwise to lie to god who has mastered the talent himself." He reached up his hand and stroked her cheek, placing his hand upon her lips so she might kiss his fingers. She did so.

"If your mind is so occupied as you would keep me from believing," he hissed, a smirk clear upon his face, "Perhaps you might return to the task at hand?"

She nodded, "Yes, my Lord, as you wish."

Reaching down beside her, her fingers grasped one of the many little golden balls that had been placed in a crystal dish. Handling it with care, she unwrapped the gold from around the ball, revealing a small piece of fine chocolate. Smirking, the god opened his lips slightly as she placed the treat gently onto his mouth. He chewed quietly, saving the sweet, rich taste on his tongue. Humans had their fine points to be sure, culinary skills being one of them.

This was the existence he should have had on Asgard. Mortals serving his every whim, saving the sweetest of foods, and a figure of beauty at his side. He watched as she began to unwrap another sweet, but stopped her fingers with his own. Taking it from her, he completed the task and placed the chocolate to her lips. She opened them, taking the savory treat into her own mouth as he pressed her lips closed.

"Is this not better than the life you came from?" He asked. "Comfort, pleasure and good company." He stroked her hair. "You still mourn for the loss of your freedom. It will end, Flower. You will accept this soon enough, I promise."

He was an enigma. The strangest figure she'd ever met in her life. His mind was… to be honest, huge. He seemed to know things even the greatest minds of the world couldn't come close to figuring out. His power was terrifying. She'd witness men falling to their knees before him, begging for his forgiveness… only to end up as a pile of ash. His mood swings could be sudden and dangerous though she suspected they were not so much mood swings as they were extremely tactical moves in this game he was playing where, no matter what the outcome was, he was the winner.

Her "Lord"…. Loki. She'd only recently heard someone speak his name aloud. Everyone called him "Sir," or "Master" or even "My Lord". At one point, she wondered if he even had a name. But that name, Loki… at first, it seemed playful, light almost… but the way it sounded coming from her mouth, it was dark and vicious… and dangerous. Anyone who had the nerve to cross him would find themselves begging for death.

What confused her the most, however, was his treatment of her.

Regardless of how she might look at him or respond to his words, his voice had always been calm. Perhaps a little dangerous, but calm and contented, as though her presence was enough to state the rage within his soul. When he spoke, he only told her just enough, revealing what was on his mind, without giving her full knowledge and access to his mind. He didn't expect her to fall into the wrong hands, but he knew better than to not be prepared.

Even after… How long had it been? Weeks? A month? She couldn't remember. Time had no meaning in this place. Day and Night were distinguished only when she was allowed to sleep. But even then, whatever day it was, whatever month it was, it had all slipped by in this dark, dank cavern.

Even so, She knew almost nothing about her captor. He kept her under his gaze, refused to let anyone come near her without his allowance, treated her like the little bird she was, catching her in his hand before she could fly too far away. He rarely let her leave his sight. He took complete pleasure in knowing she was close by, something that was his… and only his.

And in return, like any treasure or object of high value, she was treated as such. Even she could not ignore that if she was no more than a pet, a pet could not have been treated better.

There was no "kindness" in Loki, nothing to be done out of the "goodness of his heart." He did what he did for his own gains, often under the guise of it being the right thing to do out of the "good of all mankind", but when it came to her, there was something in his actions beyond his own need. At Least, she thought so. It was not out of love or compassion, she could read into it that much, but she felt a gentleness in it. It made her shiver a little.

Like her "Lord", she was served only the best food that could be found and was never denied a full stomach. If she felt tired, she could lay her head in her "King's" lap and rest her eyes. On occasion, he'd stroke her hair gently, soothing her into sleep. If she shivered from the cold, he send some one to fetch a cloak for her, often one lined with soft fur. There would even be days where he'd allow her to bathe. The shimmering yellow dress was laid off to the side to be cleaned and he'd allow her to wash. He still be in the room, of course, but he'd turn his back to allow her the proper privacy granted to a Lady. She'd been a good little pet, after all, he could allow her one or two privileges. And while she did not have a room of her own exactly- her room was directly connected to Loki's and confined on all sides by concrete with the exception of one door that was constantly locked- her bed was always soft and warm with as many blankets as she pleased.

Some men spoke of her as a "treasure" Loki claimed for his own on Midgard. Some, like Loki, called her "the flower" or "the pet". Others, like the man who'd brought her to Loki, a handsome man named "Barton", never spoke of her and often reprimanded those who did.

She became some sort of forbidden secret, an essence who only existed for Loki's pleasure.

"What do you want from me?" Her voice echoed in the small room, lifting his attention away from a collection of old texts to see her, her eyes staring at a painting of a golden palace. The Kingdom of Asgard, he called it, the realm where he had been raised. When she asked him about it, he'd dismissed her, saying it was more for ascetic purposes than anything else. "Home" was not a term he cared for anymore. He smiled.

"What do you mean?" He asked, rising from his seat.

"You keep me for something," she said, feeling his presence encroach upon her. "Do it. What do you want from me? Money? Sex?"

He laughed a little, she hated when he did that. "If I wanted those things from you, flower, I would have taken them already, wether it suited you or not. But mortal money means nothing to me…" He reached out, his fingers catching her chin, directing her gaze at him. "And why would I defile your body when I know there will come a day when you shall offer yourself to me of your own will?"

She tugged her chin away, staring at him with flames in her eyes. He brushed the act aside with his hand.

"Continue to be bitter, if you wish, but I am not a man who can be pleased by trifles."

"Then what do you want from me?" She whispered, standing her ground.

"Yourself," he smiled. "Your presence. There are those upon this earth that would come instantly when called, mewling for attention… but you're no common creature are you?" He reached out, running a finger along the curve of her cheek. "I have seen the secrets in your eyes. Are you as lost as I was?"

It was the first time she'd ever broken away from him, turning her back to him in some small attempt to hide herself. She stopped before she got too far, fearing she'd angered him. Almost instantly, she felt his hands pulling her back into the strange warm of his leather coat.

"Your petals were crushed," he whispered in her ear. "By whom? Who swore to protect you and left you to the cruelty of the world?"

"Who the hell do you think you are?" She snapped, feeling the emotion building within. "You don't know me!"

"I know more than you claim I do," he grinned. "We all have secrets," he spun her around to face him. "But I would not ask you tell them lest I loose the joy in the hunt."

"You could have had anyone…" She whispered. "Why me?"

He grinned. "Mortals are foolish creatures. Always the first to proclaim their intelligence, only to flee the moment conflict comes into view. From the day I met you, I knew there was a different. A spark in your soul, perhaps. I am a man who enjoys a challenge and I do not keep what I do not need."

"What do you need?" She whispered as his lips moved to her ear, grazing her temple.

"A treasure. A Midgardian worthy to serve me. A little doll, made of silk and glass. Favorable company. A figure who knows her place. A spirit worth standing here now. Whichever of these you choose, it makes no difference. You are mine, flower. Every hair on your head, every inch of flesh on your body, you are mine… and one day, you shall thank me for it."

Time continued to pass, each day slowly creeping by under Loki's constant gaze. And she was left with no choice but to endure it.

As of late, she'd overheard whispers of those who were trying to stop him. The Avengers, a group of heroes sent to end Loki's continuous chaos. Loki would appear in some sector of the world, searching for… whatever he required, information at least though God forbid Loki ever tell her more than just a few playful hints at his "master plan". But every time they'd come within reach of victory, the battle would end. Loki would end up just out of reach and vanish from sight, a victorious smirk plastered across his face.

In her heart, she prayed that one day Loki would leave and return only under armored guard, a sign she would soon be free of this place, but it never came. And every day was the same. He kept her at his side, something pretty to look at in this rundown heap, allowing her out of his sight only when he had to leave for battle or a personal matter or when it was time for sleep. And even then, she was kept under armored guard, but as her "king" commanded, most of those who worked under Loki's command never spoke to her, few of them barely looked at her. Of course, no one ever got to close.

While she yearned for another to speak to her, in her heart, she understood their actions. They were contending with two elements. Loki's commands- each and every human who served under Loki was "blessed" with the touch of the Tesseract- and Loki's wrath. Every time she wished someone would speak to her, perhaps even offer her a smile, she couldn't help but recall that awful day.

"I…" The trembling man gulped, "I Swear my Lord, I had no idea-"

"I care little for your petty excuses," Loki cut him off. "This is the second time you have failed me. I have no reason to keep you in my service any more."

"No…" The man tried to back away. Two guards stopped him. "No, my Lord… have pity on me!"

"I have no pity for those who can not properly serve their king." In a flash, his sector appeared in his grasp. "Kneel and accept your fate."

"No, My King!" The man was all put in tears, it was a pitiful sight. He grabbed the edge of Loki's cloak. "My King, I shall not fail you again!"

Loki smirked, shoving the man away slightly as he lifted the scepter. "No… You will not."

The man panicked. His eyes fell upon her. The shock paralyzed her and for a split second the only sound that could be heard was the man's ragged breathing as he broke away from Loki's men, nearly throwing himself towards her, clinging to the hem of her dress.

"I beg of you, sweet lady, convince Lord Loki to-"

She threw her hands over her mouth, suppressing the scream as spear head of Loki's scepter came right through the man's chest.

Loki's face was seething. White teeth appeared almost like fangs and he snarled next to the man's ear.

"Know that I would have made your death painless," Loki snarled, twisting the staff slightly. "But you have sealed your fate in your foolish act! I'll have my men keep you alive. I will see you writhe in pain until I grow tired of the sight and when I do, your blood shall coat these walls! He turned to his guards. "Take that worthless bag of flesh out of my sight!"

She trembled as his hands released the fabric of her dress, tears shimmering in her eyes as his men dragged the men away. She gripped her mouth tighter, trying to withhold the cries burning to escape. She'd seen men beg for their lives before Loki before and her heart went out to them each and every time, but this was the first time one had cried out to her for help… and she'd been able to do nothing about it.

Loki waved his hand across his scepter, the blood vanishing instantly, leaving the metal spotless. He turned to look back at this pet, watching her trying to process what she had just seen.

"This sight is not unfamiliar to you," Loki said. He waved a few fingers over her shaking form, the blood on her dress disappeared. "And you knew what was to come."

She closed her eyes, the scene playing again and again in her mind. She felt his hands curl around her arms, squeezing them ever so slightly.

"I swore anyone who laid a hand upon you would fall at my hand," he whispered in her ear. "You know this."

"He was begging for his life," she breathed out, softly.

"How does that give him permission to touch what is not his?" Loki asked, he let his fingers run along her hair, a few more blossoms, smaller than the original, appeared in her hair, their petals opening at his touch. "And for him to beg… a coward…" He smiled. "Do not let it haunt you, flower. His fate was his own making."

His own making…. And yet the choice between a painful or painless death was all in one little action.

Yes, she'd been a "good" pet. She'd obeyed Loki's laws, knelt before him when he wished, addressed him as her "lord", came when called, the whole nine yards. She'd been good and in order to survive she would continue to be… but both she and Loki knew a truth hidden deep within her heart.

She'd never stop yearning for the freedom he denied her. Her actions would never be out of true commitment to his power or devotion to him as a person. Her appearance of obedience was continuously lined underlying twist of hate and a desire for rebellion.

It was an element about her Loki loathed… and loved at the same time. For he was a man who enjoyed a challenge… and the finest flowers were never collected without scraping through a few thorns.

Or swatting away a few "pests" that looked her way as well.

While Loki had primarily relied on Selvig to construct the portal, he knew nothing could be accomplished by one alone. He'd sent his men forth to retrieve the finest minds they could find to aid Selvig in his project. All of them refused to help without the tesseracts "persuasion."

Except for one.

There had been one mortal. A young man, only a few years older than his flower. A tall, gangly creature with light brown hair and soft brown eyes. He knelt instantly, asking only to serve Loki personally.

Loki was no fool. No mortal had willingly submitted to him before and he doubted many would do so as quickly as this man had done. He wondered if, for a moment, those little whelps at S.H.I.E.L.D. had actually found him. No, he was far too weak. And a trap could early be sniffed out.

Loki had debated wether or not to kill the young man, he but he did love bit of fun every now and then. This willing mortal might actually bring him some source of amusement. If not, well, mistakes such as these were easily rectified.

A few days later, Loki, followed closely by Agent Barton and his Pet, approached Selvig and the young mortal, asking for an update on their progress. Selvig immediately began to explain his latest additions to the device with the aid of the Tesseracts endless supply of knowledge, but the young man's eyes were drawn to something else.

For the time that he'd spent in this cavern, everything around him seemed so dark and cold, so it awed him to see someone who seemed to bare some kind of warmth. He moved towards her slightly, smiling as he cleared his throat.

"Excuse me," He whispered, catching her gaze only for a moment. She stepped back slightly, shocked that he was speaking to her. "I'm sorry. I don't think we-"

The man froze as the tip of Loki's staff came between them, the gem at the tip glowing ominously.

"There's no need for that," Loki said, looking over his shoulder at the scene with blazing eyes. "Return to your work, I've seen all I need to see today."

"Of… of course," The man swallowed, looking between the two. He turned back to the girl. "I'm sorry, I meant no harm, I-"

"I don't believe it was that difficult for you to hear me," Loki said, slowly stepping in front of the young woman. "Return to your work." He turned to leave, motioning for the girl to follow him. She looked back at the young man sadly before following in Loki's steps.

The young man stared, his eyes never leaving her as she walked away.

"Who…" He turned back to Selvig. "Who is that-"

"You're really pushing your luck, kid," Selvig called up from his notes. "You wanna stay alive? Keep your mind where it belongs, on this." He pointed to the device.

"But…" He looked back, catching a glimpse of her yellow dress as she followed Loki into the darkness. "Who is she? I've never-"

"She's none of your damn business, boy," Selvig said again. "And After that, you're lucky to still be breathing. Now get back to work and keep that girl out of your head!"

He moved back over to the machine, continuing his calculations, but the image of that girl with the flowers… it wouldn't leave him alone.

Though Selvig's words continued to ring in his mind, the imagine of that girl would not leave him alone. On some level, he wasn't quite sure why. Yes, she was pretty, but there were plenty of pretty girl's out there, and she certainly wasn't a "picturesque" beauty like the ladies who posed in lingerie catalogues. She was more like an earthly beauty, someone with a kindness in her face. Perhaps it was the dress, even if was very out of place around here, but there was something more.

Unlike everyone else he saw in this place, her eyes had a soft natural color, not the otherworldly blue everyone else bore. She wasn't under Loki's power ether. So what would someone like her be doing down here?

For that matter, how had she survived for so long?

He figured anyone who had remained here for so long would have fallen to Loki's whim ages ago, so why did she still seem to stand on her own?

He's tried to find out more about her, whispered her appearance to others in the hopes of finding out her name. Often he was ether met with silence or threatened. No one told him anything.

And it only made him want to know more.

Out of all the people under his power, there was only one Loki came close to trusting.

Clint Barton had been the first mortal to fall to the Tesseract's power and his devotion to his "master" had been nothing short of perfection. Every order, every command was executed exactly as Loki planed. Clint had yet to fail him and Loki planed to keep it that way.

Clint was also the only human being Loki trusted with the safety of his Flower.

He'd never worried about having Clint keep an eye on the girl while he was away. Like many agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Clint was obedient to the core and would sooner walk on broken glass than lay a hand upon something Loki held dear. In addition, Loki knew the deepest secrets of his servant's heart. Though he'd yet to make it clear, Clint's love and devotion belonged to another woman. A beautiful little vixen with a fine bite . When such love like that ran through a man's heart, Loki knew even the most beautiful women of Asgard would not draw his gaze. Any attention he might give to his Lord's flower was in the sole interest of protecting her.

And as of right now, protection, particularly from unwanted parties, was needed.

"Miss."

She jumped a little at the sound of the strict voice, turning her head away from the book she'd been reading. She stood quickly as Agent Barton entered, closing the door behind him quietly. One of the many rooms Loki had chosen to add to his little base was a library, stocked with some of the finest books money could buy. Whenever he was gone, she was allowed to spend as much time there as she wished. Under locked doors and guards, of course.

"I'm sorry to disturb you," he said, bowing his head slightly in respect. "But I need a minute of your time."

She swallowed. She wouldn't deny that she was a little intimidated by Agent Barton, a man who's devotion and skill in combat seemed endless. She'd seen people tried to escape him, only to leave with less than what they'd arrived with. It made her cringe to think of it. She was grateful, however, that he'd never made any move to cause her any harm. In fact, he was the only person in this place she actually liked to see. He never said all that much to her, but there was a quality about him she liked, a softness hidden away by Loki's power. She wondered sometimes if he'd not been trapped by Loki's power, would he possibly be someone she'd call a friend?

"Of course," she said softly. She sat back down, gesturing to the chair beside her. "You can sit if you want."

"I'll stand, miss, thank you." He said as he lifted his head, locking his eyes with her. "Miss, a little while ago you were approached by a young man working with Professor Selvig. Had you ever met him before?"

Out of all the questions to be asked, she certainly hadn't expected that one. She hadn't even thought about that encounter for some time. "I… no. No, I've never seen him before."

"Not at all?" He pressed again, his eyes burrowing into her's like a falcon search for its next kill.

"I wish he was," she thought to herself. "It would be nice to see a kind face once in a while."

"I don't know anyone here." She said, her voice soft but true. "I'm the stranger here, not him."

Barton blinked. He gave her small smile. "Thank you, miss." He turned to leave.

"Agent Barton!" She called, stepping forward, stopping him in his tracks. "Loki, he's… he's told you things he hasn't told me."

"There's not much I can tell you, miss."

"I just need to know one thing," She whispered. "How long does he plan to keep me like this?"

Barton stood silent for a moment.

"If he has his way?" He asked.

"Yes."

"…Forever." He knocked on the door, signaling for the guards to let him out. "If that boy approaches you again, tell me. I'll make sure doesn't bother you any more."

He left without another word, the door closing and locking behind him. She clenched the book tighter to her chest, the horror creeping into her heart.

She thought back to that man. It had happened, what, a week ago? Maybe? Why would Barton be asking her about it now? She recalled how kind that man's face had been. How warmly he'd looked at her.

Affection wasn't something that could be carved out in a split second of time. Though God knows, she wished it could be.

"Henry Remington?"

Henry lifted his head, looking up slowly as Agent Barton walked into the room. Selvig poked his head up.

"Heh, what's he done now?"

"I just need a word with him," Barton said, approaching the young man.

Selvig looked back down at his notes. "Am I gonna get him back in one piece?"

"That depends on how he responds." Barton said, looking the smaller man over.

Selvig looked up at his aid. "Tell him what he wants to hear." He said. "I still need you in this."

Henry swallowed, turning to face the assassin. With one hand, he started to close one of the journals he kept with him at all times. Clint stopped him, flipping the book open, looking down at the page.

On it was a sketch of a young woman. She sat still, her hands folded, her face skyward, as though searching for something. The dress flowed around her gently. Henry swallowed as Barton ripped the page from the journal, looking at it closer.

"It's a good representation," He said. "Do you have a death wish?"

Henry's eyes darted away for a moment. "Wanting to know about someone isn't a death wish."

"Around here it is. You're here for one reason and one reason only, Remington, and these little stunts you're pulling aren't funny."

"I haven't done anything."

"Look around you, kid. You see any difference between you and everyone else here?"

Henry swallowed. One of only two people in this place not under Loki's power… and he wasn't the one currently in Loki's favor, it seemed.

Clint leaned in close. "This is your last warning, you little shit." He snapped softly. "If you so much as whisper about her, you can be sure I'll hear it. And I promise you, you won't see the arrow coming." He ripped up the drawing, throwing the pieces into a nearby wastebasket as he started to leave.

"Just tell me her name."

Barton turned around. "It's your lucky day, I'm gonna pretend I didn't hear that."

"What, she doesn't have a name?" Henry asked, his anger starting to rise.

"Watch it, kid!" Selvig called up, his attention drawn to the scene.

"She's not your business, kid, she doesn't belong to you." Barton returned.

"She's a human being, Barton! She doesn't belong to him, she doesn't belong to anybody!" Henry snapped. "Stop talking about her like she's some kind of pet!"

"Who is this "pet" we're speaking of?"

The room grew silent. Several of Selvig's assistants backed away, other's left as he entered the room, his eyes first drawn to the improvements made upon the portal. He gave a rather pleased smile at Selvig before turning back to the young man.

Henry swallowed. The last time he saw Loki was when... he'd first seen her. He'd seen Loki only previously before that, but never like this. Never in full armor.

Loki smiled at him before looking over at the waste basket. He waved his hand, the pieces of the sketch coming back together, joined by his magic. Henry stayed frozen as Loki reviewed the sketch.

"A lovely rendering of her," He said softly. "One wonders what she's searching for. Agent Barton," he called to his second-in-command. "Is this what Midgardian's call "Puppy Love?" He asked. "Love for someone barely known to them?"

"It's most often called stupidity, sir," Barton responded. "Or in most cases, lust."

"I see," Loki smiled. "Do you lust after her, Mr. Remington?"

Henry looked at the drawing. "I just wanted to know who she was."

"Why should that concern you?" Loki asked.

Henry looked up at Loki. Originally, he'd been stupid. Originally he'd heard of this… god who'd come to earth and he wanted to see if it was true. He'd dreamed of things like this. He wanted to know of the worlds that existed beyond his own. But when the truth came out, he hated himself for his choice. He'd fallen for such a simple, stupid trap.

And then he saw her. The girl in the yellow dress. And he saw the same lost expression in her eyes, but there had been something deeper there. Something that went past Henry's foolishness. She hadn't fallen for a trap, she'd been brought here.

He wondered if he'd be able to save himself from this fate he'd walked in to of his own stupidity. But if he couldn't save himself, he'd save her.

"Because out of all the other people here," Henry swallowed, "She's the only one who still has a soul. The only one of us who looks ashamed to stand in your presence and maybe the only one strong enough to make you look like a fool. And you keep her on a leash like a prized dog because you can't stand the thought of someone showing you for the monster you really-"

Loki's hand around his throat was like a vice, but the demigod before him wasn't even breaking a sweat. He smiled, watching the terror on the man's face grow by the second, the thin bones around the man's neck on the verge of cracking.

"Doctor Selvig," Loki spoke. "How close is the portal to completion."

"About three days, sir." Selvig spoke.

"And would you have any reason for keeping this… mortal to aid you?"

There was silence before Selvig spoke. "He knows what he's doing, sir… I'd like to keep him around."

Loki released the young man from his grasp, watching him crumple to the floor.

"Agent Barton," Loki spoke as Clint stepped forward, ignoring the young man's ragged breathes. "See this man is kept on task. The moment his work is complete, kill him."

"Yes, sir." Clint said, his fingers almost itching for his bow.

"You… won't win…" Henry called. Loki paused in his step. He looked back over his shoulder at the man. "You'll… you'll be stopped!"

"Agent Barton." Loki spoke again. "I tire of the noises he makes."

"What would you have be do, sir?"

Loki smiled, using his magic to summon a dagger. "If he speaks again," Loki threw the dagger at Barton's feet. "Cut out his tongue."

She closed the book softly, looking up as the door opened once more. Loki entered only a moment later, his golden armor vanishing as the door closed behind him. She rose from her seat, lowing her head slightly.

"Hello, my lord," she said softly.

Loki raised an eyebrow at her voice. This greeting sounded far too rehearsed.

"I leave you for a day, flower, and this is how I am to be greeted?" Loki clicked his tongue. "One might think you were not happy to see me return." He held out his hand for hers, eyes narrowing when she did not accept it right away. Eventually however, she moved forward, placing her hand in his.

"What troubles you, my dear?" He asked, pulling her closer, the fingers of his other hand gently caressing the skin of her knuckles.

"I was curious about something," she said, not looking him in the eye.

"Tell me," he said. "Perhaps I might put your mind at rest."

She looked up at him. "Can someone who's human be granted immortality?"

Loki's eyes locked with hers, angered ever so slightly as she broke from his grasp, stepping away.

"Why would such a thought occur to you?" He asked, watching her every step.

"Humans age and die," she said, walking back to one of the many bookshelves. She returned her previous book and searched for a new one. Picking up a new title, she skimmed the opening page.. "I don't think you want an old, crumbling flower at your side."

"I don't think I particularly like your tone, pet." Loki's eyes narrowed.

Her eyes shot up, meeting Loki's with burning hatred. "I don't particularly like being your pet, Loki." She snapped, his name dripping out of her mouth like venom. She turned away, only to scream as he appeared behind her. The book dropped to the floor as he grasped her arms, refusing to release her. He smiled as she tried to jerk away.

"Is this what I am to gain?" He asked softly, too softly. His voice froze her to the core. "I go far and beyond what I should to see that you are cared for. I feed you," He released one of her arms, reaching up to run his fingers through her hair, "I keep you safe and warm." His fingers crept along her cheek, curling under her chin. "And all I gain in return... is a thankless pet." His grip grew harsh as he stared at her, pain and fear starting to come to her eyes.

"I know you to be a far more intelligent mortal than most of these fools, girl, so what would bring you to such a state where you'd dare challenge me? I'd expect such foolishness from the rest of these pathetic, whimpering sacks of flesh. But you…" He chuckled a little. "You always knew when to hold your tongue. So what would bring such a docile creature as you to bite? Was it that boy?" He pulled her up, her body almost standing on tip toe. Loki chuckled slightly. "Do you believe his actions to come from love?"

"If they do," she hissed. "I know he loves me more than you do!" Loki's eyes turned to daggers. He shoved her down, her body hitting several of the stairs that lead to the upper level of the library. She tried to push herself up, groaning as her arms ached, but Loki's speed far exceeded her own. His hands pinned her down, almost driving her flesh into the polished wood.

"'Love.'" He spat. "It's truly shameful how you mortals throw around the word "love". The way your race craves it, begs for it… even lowers itself to pay for it." His sharp, icy breath almost stung her face. "What claim have you to his 'love'?"

"There are many forms of love, Loki," She hissed back at him. "Some of them are subtler than others! And one of them isn't locking someone you claim to care about in cage!"

Silence. Very slowly, Loki's lips twisted into a smile.

"Locked in a cage?" He whispered. "Yes. Locked in a golden cage… and you still crave your freedom, do you not?" He looked up for a moment in mock thought, "How does that mortal saying go? "If I love you, I should let you go?" That's right, yes? I should let you go. Back to the world you claim to love." He leaned closer. "Back to a world of death and chaos. Back to a world of lies and promises never to be achieved. Back to a world where one man might claim to love you, then once he has your body, you are nothing to him. Back to a world where you are given only a crumb of what you are truly due! If I 'loved' you, I would release you to that world?" Loki's smile grew darker, his grip harsher. "No. No, you shall never receive such "love" from me. If that is what you mortals believe "love" to be then I shall smite such a pitiful concept for I shall never give you such 'love'." His grip grew even tighter, his eyes locking with her's, refusing to release her. His voice darkened into a malicious growl.

"If you believe love to be freedom, I will see you are kept in chains. If you believe love to be sustenance, I will see that you starve. I grow weary of this insolent idea of "love" you perpetuate. I am your god! I am your king and wether or not I feel any love towards you is inconsequential because you are bound to me. You are bound to obey me, serve me!" He leaned down to her ear, "and if I wish for it, you are bound to truly love me for eternity!" He snarled.

The fear washed over her like a wave, freezing her in place as he released her. His face was no longer twisted with anger, but with some kind of satisfaction. He ran his fingers along her arms, riding her of any bruises she might have gained. He smiled down at her.

"And you should know…" He lifted his hand to her head, allowing it to run tenderly through her hair till it came to one of the smaller yellow blossoms woven into her soft, light- brown locks. He plucked it from her hair, sticking it carefully in the pocket of his tunic. "I do wish for it." He rose, walking away from her as she started to pull herself up.

"You may remain here or return to your chamber if you wish," Loki said. "I will send for you in due time," He looked over his shoulder at her. "And I expect you shall come when called?"

Slowly, she nodded, not a single word spoken. She closed her eyes, not wanting to show the fear within them. Normally, Loki would not have tolerated such foolishness… but his little flower was still obviously shaken. He could allow her this.

She rose to her feet, slowly moving to the shelves and collecting two more books in her arms. She gripped them tightly, like a child clinging to a toy after a nightmare. "I'd like to return to my room." She said softly. Loki grinned.

"Of course, my flower." He gestured for her to follow him. The two left the library with nothing more said between them. They continued down the hall until they came to Loki's chambers; a beautiful room crafted from green silk and gold. A bedchamber perfected for a king, touched off with a desk, several fine armchairs and his own bathroom. A room off to the side led to the girl's chamber. It was a smaller room, but comfortable enough for one. He unlocked the door and allowed her to enter. Normally, he would have left her with a kiss on the cheek or a caress, but he knew she would flinch away this time. It was of little matter to him. He closed the door and locked her in. He had his own matters to deal with.

Henry never understood Barton's nickname until now. Hawkeye. Every time he looked up and saw those piercing eyes staring down at him, he couldn't help but look away. He wheezed for breath, Loki's grip having left a mark, but he continued to do his job. Often now, he paused, if only for a second before Barton caught on. He wondered if he should just accept the hand he'd created for himself. Just accept death and slow Loki down.

He didn't matter any more. He had to do whatever he could to stall the god of Mischief.

But if he was dead, there was no way he could do anything to help her.

He slammed his hand down angrily, drawing a look from Barton but little more.

"You got yourself into this," Barton shrugged. "You've got no one to blame but yourself."

"Don't remind me…" Henry whispered.

"If you'd spent more time on your job than on that girl you'd be fine."

"How do you know?" Henry asked.

Barton didn't respond.

"How do you know you're gonna be all right after this is all over. How do you know Loki isn't gonna feed you to the wolves when this is done and he doesn't need you anymore!?"

Barton didn't even blink. "If he does, that's his priority. Get back to work."

Henry sighed, turning back to the device. A day gone, only two more to go.

Henry had always taken an interest in the unknown. Even as a child, he'd always taken such an interest in the stories about worlds beyond and new discoveries. That's why he'd always liked science so much. So many people found science to be set and defined, but Henry always looked to it as a gateway. While the science they had on earth was set and defined, whose to say it couldn't find a path to something more. Science had already created Super Soldiers, Armored warriors and… Well, even he'd heard about Dr. Bruce Banner's accident. Whose to say it couldn't go even further? Beyond the stars, beyond human imagination.

Henry's father always supported his dreams. Hell, he'd even hoped to see such worlds himself. His mother had always called him foolish and even on the day he graduated with his Masters, she'd still joked about his "childhood ideas".

He'd sworn to prove her wrong.

On their first encounter, Loki had promised him the ability to see other worlds, to encounter things no mortal had ever beheld. He'd given him a simple taste with the sight of Asgard and Henry had yearned for more. He swore complete dedication to Loki's project, but he had requested only to be free of the Tesseracts power. Loki had doubted such a request from the start. No control over his workers meant things could turn very ugly, very quickly. But the boy didn't seem to be too much of a threat and and games were always fun, especially games he knew he could win.

Henry had kept in line. He'd obeyed Loki's every command and request. How could it be that one person pull him away from that? Mild infatuation didn't drive a person to do the things he'd done, push the boundaries he had.

The more he pondered, the more he thought back to that sketch he'd done… seeing her looking up at the sky. In his mind, he wondered if she had been searching for something too. If she'd been looking to some other world or dream. But she'd been in reality…

He'd seen something in her that day, a light of hope within this dreary place.

"Barton!" Selvig called out. "He wants to see you."

Barton nodded. "What about him?"

"I can keep an eye on him for a bit," Selvig said. "He's not going anywhere."

"Make sure he doesn't," Barton said. "I'll be back soon."

"Sir?"

Loki's eyes moved away from the text on the old scroll before him as he turned to see Clint standing at the door.

"You called for me, sir?"

He smiled. "Yes. Please come in." He motioned for Clint to enter, the door closing slowly behind him as he did. Loki returned to the open parchments laid out carefully across the table, his eyes scanning long dead languages with ease. He picked a small bottle off a near-by shelf and removed the cork, added something to a strange cauldron before him. "Any word from our dear Mr. Remington?"

"He hasn't made a sound since you left, sir," Clint said, watching Loki's movements diligently. "I think he'd prefer to keep his tongue for now."

"Mortals are often so brave until those in power step forward." Loki collected a small crystal-like stone in his hand, coiling his fingers around it till it was crushed into a fine white powder. "Only then do they scurry away like beaten dogs." He let the powder fall into the simmering basin, his hand free of any injury. Clint's eyes turned to the cauldron, beholding the violet liquid glowing inside it.

"Sir?" He asked. Loki didn't respond. Leaning down slightly, he lifted his hand to gently waft the whispy steam from the cauldron to his nose. He inhaled deeply, smiling at the result. Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved the single yellow blossom. He twirled it slightly before allowing it to drop into the liquid, the violet color now an almost sickly orange.

"There are very strict rules in Asgard regarding the relations of a mortal and a god, Agent Barton." He looked over at the handsome man. "I take it you are not aware of this."

"No, sir, I wasn't." He said. Loki grinned.

"On Asgard, it is forbidden for a god to take a mortal lover. The loss for both would be too great when death came to tear them apart. Such laws however, did not prevent many from taking human lovers… only to be maddened by fear and loss when age came to claim them."

Loki flexed his fingers, summoning one of his daggers to his hand.

"In a rage, many tried to find a way to bring their lovers back from Hel, but such foolishness led to only more pain." He pressed the dagger into his hand, a small amount of blood began to pool in his palm.

"There is no way to raise the dead," he turned his hand over, allowing the blood to drop into the liquid, the caustic orange now an icy-blue. The cut in the palm of his hand closed instantly. "But there is a way to shield the living from the hand of death."

Barton looked down at the liquid."The fountain of youth?" He asked. Loki chuckled.

"No, dear Barton." He dipped a small vial into the cauldron, allowing it to fill to the brim before placing a cork at the top. "A binding contract. A promise that two lives shall be forever sustained by one continuously beating heart." He waved his hand, the cauldron vanishing before their eyes.

"Go and fetch the boy, bring him to my chambers. I'll put an end to this foolishness once and for all." He raised the vial to the light, watching the liquid glimmer inside. "Let him speak as boldly as he wishes… for the moment this passes her lips, she is mine and mine alone."

She jumped slightly as the door opened without a single knock, allowing Loki to enter with little more than a smile. She pushed herself off her bed and put the book the had been reading aside, watching him carefully. She still remembered the short-lived bruises on her arms.

In his hand, Loki delicately carried two items. One was a small goblet, crafted from gold and glass. The other was a rather small bottle of wine, only a glass's worth. He placed the two items on the small bedside table he'd allowed in her room and turned back to her.

"If it is any consolation," he began. "I'd like to ask for your forgiveness for my behavior this afternoon."

Already he could see the worry in her eyes. Good Girl. She knew better than to believe he would ever apologize to anyone. He uncorked the wine and poured half of the contents into the goblet.

"I would like to make amends," he said, offering the glass out to her. "This is one of the finest wines of Asgard, served only to the All-father and his family. I've heard those who sample it on Midgard experience tastes beyond their wildest dreams and I've often seen how much you enjoy fine foods."

She looked at the liquid, her mind racing to figure out his next move. "No… No, thank you."

He raised an eyebrow. "No?"

"I don't drink wine that much…" She said carefully. "I never liked the taste."

Loki smiled. "A pity," he said, taking a small sip from the glass, licking his lips as he recalled the fine banquets he had once attended. He waved his other hand. "But I can not force it upon you." He placed the glass down, keeping it in plan sight. "In truth, I've come to speak to you of other maters. You asked me a question earlier today and I never gave you an answer. The answer is yes."

"Yes?" She looked thoroughly confused.

"Mortals can be granted immortality… to an extent."

The door opened again, revealing Agent Barton and Henry Remington. A broken and battered Henry Remington with two armored guards keeping him upright. Her face fell instantly at the sight of his bruised and bloodied neck. They dragged him in, closing the door behind them. Instinctively, she tried to reach Henry, but Barton stepped in front of him, cutting off contact. She looked back at Loki, watching him draw a small vial from his pocket, the icy-blue liquid inside holding her gaze.

Loki smiled. "I was speaking to Agent Barton earlier about Asgardians who took mortal lovers against wiser advice. They sought many methods to keep those they cherished alive. Of course, many tired and many failed, but there was one man who thought differently. We can not keep age and death from mortals, but we can prolong it's coming."

"How?" She whispered.

"Through ourselves." He displayed the vial carefully. "A young sorcerer once discovered a formula he named "Adligamentum Animus". Through it, the life of one can be joined to the life of another. In simpler terms, as long as one lives, the other shall live as well. When one dies, the other shall die. But so long as one remains alive, the other shall live… as young and as fine a flower as the day they first met."

Henry struggled to Loki's words, desperate to move, but the guards kept him still. They both watched as Loki returned to the goblet. Uncorking the vial, he poured the contents into the glass, watching as the wine turned an eerie purple. He lifted the glass, turning back to his flower.

"You foolishly cherish a world that has a false ideal of love," Loki smiled. "I plan to erase such an ideal and show you what love really is." He held out the goblet to her. "Drink from this glass, little flower. Bind your soul to mine and live in eternity," he flicked his other hand. The guards lifting their guns to Henry's head. "And I will spare his life."

!*!*!*!**!

"Don't..." Henry managed to hiss out, struggling against the guards. "Don't give him what he-" He grunted as he was shoved to the floor, a foot making contact with his stomach. Several drops of blood fell to the floor.

"NO!" She screamed, trying to get to him. "Stop it! Don't-"

"Restrain her."

It was the only time Loki had ever allowed anyone else to touch his flower. Barton grabbed her arms, his strength superior to hers as she thrashed in his grip to no avail. Loki made no attempt to move, smiling softly as his flower's adorable attempts to squirm out of Barton's grasp.

"How long he must suffer is dependent on you flower," Loki said, his voice deceptively kind. He held out the glass again. "Drink and immortality is yours. You gain life eternal and his freedom. Of course, if you'd prefer a mortal existence," He motioned to one of the guards who placed his gun to Henry's temple. "I'll not deny you that."

Her eyes went to the goblet, darting between Henry and it several times. If she drank from there she'd be bound to Loki's life force until his death. If he ever actually died! He'd be a part of her forever.

Or she could live a mortal and send an innocent man to his death.

Never.

She looked back at the goblet before lifting her gaze to Loki's. She nodded slightly. "I'll do it."

"No!" Henry cried. "You mustn't-"

"Enough!" Loki roared. "You'll speak no more, you-" He raised his free hand to strike Henry.

"You can't hurt him!"

Loki paused. All eyes turned to her.

"I'll drink it!" She said, her breath sharp and quick. "I'll drink it but you can't hurt him! You or your men! That's the deal. You leave him alone, I'll go with you."

Loki's anger faded into a smile once more. "Such decisions are not to be made by you, my dear."

"Do it and I'll obey you!" The words left her mouth before she could stop them.

Both Henry and Loki stared.

"Whatever you want," She trembled. "I'll obey you. Hell, I won't even speak unless you command it, but please leave him alone!" She said, ignoring the tears coming to her eyes.

Even Barton's expression turned to one of disbelief. What she was offering was beyond foolish. Complete control for the life of one man she hardly knew? All to spare his life?

For that moment, Henry believed himself to be in a dream. How could she be so willing to save him?

"I don't know how many people I've seen die," she said. "People cowering in fear for their lives, people who "failed" you, people who-" The words "because of your bitterness" rang in her mouth. She wanted to spit them at Loki, but for the sake of the young man before her, she couldn't. "-who wished to be free of this place! I've even seen people die because of me. I won't let it happen again."

Loki's eyes went from her to Henry, a spark shimmering in his gaze. She was offering a great deal in exchange for allowing this whelp to live, he'd be a fool not to take the little bird who'd flown so willingly into his trap. After all, her words were easy enough to twist. Henry shook his head violently.

"As you wish," Loki said. "I shall keep my end of the bargain. But first," he approached her once more, presenting the goblet to her. "You must fulfill yours."

She looked at the glass. Feeling Barton release her arms, she reached out and took the goblet from Loki's hands. Her fingers enclosed around the cool metal, the liquid inside making it feel chill.

"Wait!" Henry breathed. "Please, what is your name?"

"Have you no end of-"

"Ellie."

The room fell silent once again, all eyes turned to the girl in the yellow dress.

"My name isn't "flower"." Her eyes linked with Henry's before turning to Loki. "It's Ellie."

She looked down at the goblet. Taking a deep breath, she lifted it to her lips and swallowed the contents.

Henry lowered his head in shame, looking up only when he heard the sound of glass shattering.

He watched her body begin to tremble, unable to comprehend the new element inside her. She gripped her head in pain, her breaths becoming quick and shallow.

"Ellie! Ellie, you have to fight it!" Henry cried out, only to be silenced as one of Loki's men tied a gag around his mouth. He screamed as he saw her collapse into Loki's arms, her body still trembling. Loki gathered her carefully in his arms, his eyes never leaving her face.

"She is mine."

"Sir?" Barton moved forward slightly. "Is she…"

"It is the result of her body being in conflict with the formula. It will take time to settle properly."

Already her skin was beginning to pale, sweat formed on her brow. Loki lifted her from the ground, laying her carefully down upon her bed as he drew a blanket over her. He looked back at the horrified Henry, the same twisted light in his eye. He leaned down beside the girl, brushing a fallen lock of hair from her eyes before softly enclosing his lips around hers. A kiss to secure her as his own, a secret kept between a waking king and a sleeping maiden. Henry wept at the sight.

When he eventually pulled away, making sure she was resting as comfortably as possible, he turned to Agent Barton.

"Have one of your men with her at all times. No one goes near her but myself."

"Yes, sir," Barton nodded. "And the boy?"

Loki chuckled. "I swore to my flower neither I nor my men would ever lay hand on him again. But I'm sure you can find several men outside of my jurisdiction to deal with him, can you not, Agent Barton?"

"Yes, sir," He motioned for his men to pull the heartbroken man away, still struggling. Loki approached them, looking down at the man.

"Your concern is no longer necessary," He said. "She is now and forever in the care of her king." He waved his hand. "Take him away."

Henry's muffled screams filled the room, watching as Ellie remained on her bed, her breath slowing to raspy gasps.

" I have to admit, Dr. Banner," Agent Coulson looked back at his companion as the restaurant door closed, placing his wallet back in his pocket. "I never pegged you as a sushi man."

Bruce adjusted his glasses slightly, hiding his laugh as he slung his book bag over his shoulder. "Well, I don't get to eat out much so I figured I might as well try something new."

"Would you like to go back?" Coulson pulled out his cellphone, ready to send for the car he'd had parked down the street.

Banner laughed. "I think next time I'll stick with a nice salad and…" Bruce's sentence slowly trailed off, looking ahead into a near-by alley way.

"Dr. Banner?" Coulson came beside him, looking at the scene himself. A rather burly man was carrying a large bag over his shoulder and even for his size, the weight seemed to be a lot for him. The man flipped the lid of a near-by dumpster open and tossed it in before turning and going back inside.

"Hang on." Watching for traffic, Bruce started off across the street to the alley, Coulson quick on his tail.

"What's going on, Dr. Banner?"

"Gut feeling," Banner said, approaching the large bin. "Help me get the lid off."

The two men quickly heaved together, lifting the lid up to see inside. The bag rested on top of other mounds of trash. Bruce stared at it for a moment, sweat starting to form on his brow.

"That's too big for-"

"HEY!"

Both men dropped the lid, looking to see the burly looking man return. "What the hell do you think your doing?"

"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to step back-" Coulson started as the man approached, reaching for his badge.

"Who the hell do you think you are?" The man snapped, shoving Coulson back.

"Don't touch him."

Both men turned back to Bruce. He'd lowered the lid on the dumpster, his breathing starting to get strangely rapid.

"Don't touch him like that." Bruce warned.

"What the fuck is your problem?" The man approached him, a good two feet taller than Bruce.

"I don't like it when people hurt my friends. It makes me angry."

"Piss off, you little shit-" The man said, shoving Bruce back into a nearly stack of trash bags.

"Sir, I wouldn't-"

A massive roar erupted from the pile of trash. Coulson stepped back, clearing himself from the path of the gigantic figure approaching the suddenly very tiny man.

Bruce picked up the remains of his shredded clothes as Coulson placed one final call into S.H.I.E.L.D. He re-adjusted his glasses and smiled sheepishly at Coulson once he got off the phone.

"Grounded?"

"Safety procedure," Coulson said, picking up the doctor's fallen book bag and retrieving the spare pants and shirt inside. He tossed them to Bruce. "You acted in my defense. Director Fury's giving leeway on this one."

"No more nights out?" Bruce asked, half-jokingly as he re-dressed.

"He's willing to pay for take out."

Bruce manager a small smile before the two went back over to the bin, lifting the lid once again. Bruce reached in to grab the bag, pulling his hand away almost instantly.

"Doctor-"

"It's warm." He looked back at Coulson. Not another word passed between them as they pulled the bag from the large bin, tearing it open. Coulson stepped back, Bruce's face turned white.

The body inside was that of a young man, barely recognizable to anyone who'd known him before. HIs face was bashed, bruised and soaked with blood. His hair was caked with dirt and his skin was now more yellow and blue than any other color. Bruce kept his stomach in check as he spoke.

"Organized crime?" He asked.

"Looks like it," Coulson said, pulling out his phone once again. "Too careless."

"What?"

"Having someone dump the body in plain sight, it's-"

"…save…"

"Oh my God!" Bruce nearly screamed, causing Coulson to drop his cellphone. "Coulson, this guy's still alive!"

Coulson went for his phone yet again, informing S.H.I.E.L.D. to send a medical team in as well.

"…Ellie…" The young man breathed, looking up as Dr. Banner, his voice barely more than a whisper.

"Don't move," Bruce said, as sternly as he could, trying to shove some of the garbage away to make the young man more comfortable. Moving him in this state was too much of a risk. "Just keep still, the paramedics-"

"Loki…"

Bruce paused, that name sending shivers down his spine.

"Please… save Ellie."

The young man's eyes closed. He did not open them again.