Title: His, And Only His
Fandom(s): Smallville, DCVerse, Thor, The Avengers, Marvelverse
Categories: AU, gen, het, Crossover, xover, romance, drama, action
Summary: Chloe's power is healing. What if she can heal more than physical wounds? What if she can heal damage to the spirit, to the mind? What would happen when her path crosses with one Loki Odinson, would-be Conqueror?
Characters/Pairing: Chloe/Loki, Chloe Sullivan, Loki, Tony Stark, Thor, Nick Fury,
Warnings: violence, off-side death, some sexual intimacy
Spoilers: AUAvengers the movie. Sorta Smallville canon upto end of Season 8, AU after.
Word Count: ~12600
Beta: BT, you're awesome!
Disclaimer: Do not own the Avengers or any of their characters, Marvel does. Do not own Chloe or Smallvilleverse, CW and other companies do. Just playing with the characters.
For: LJ Community smallvillebbang – Smallville Big Bang 2012
AN: I'm so sorry it's late. RL has been really mean and determined to trip me up at every corner with everything going wrong. Thank you to my lovely artist Elenarain on LJ. Love the art, love the icons. I so love pairing Chloe with anti-heroes.
Chloe cursed her soft heart and her independent nature. Sure she was on the outs with the boys and they weren't listening to her but she could have sent the information anonymously to Victor. She was confident in her hacking skills and pretty sure even Cyborg couldn't trace anything back to her, but she hadn't sent the data because there wasn't enough time. Not enough time for Cyborg to verify the intel, pull everyone in for a mission and execute it. So Chloe had gone out by herself even though she was not a frontline fighter, and now both she and the poor meteor-mutant were paying the price.
She did not bother screaming; instead she wrapped her fingers tighter around the metal piping and praying it would hold. The vortex vacuum was so strong she was practically horizontal, floating, being pulled towards the eye. She hated it when Lex experimented on meteor mutants. She hated it even more when those victims had particularly destructive gifts. Like the latest victim, a Dimensional-Warp mutant. The poor kid had used his powers reflexively without a true destination in mind. Now the portal was acting like a black hole.
"Try shutting it down!" she hollered.
"I'm trying! It's not working!"
And Chloe wasn't certain of what she could say. It wasn't like she had a better handle or more knowledge of her own healing talent. She was too afraid to actively use it, to test the limits of her powers.
The metal squeaked and bowed and grated. The weld was breaking! Frantically she reached out to grab another pipe running along the wall. It was just out of reach. The pipe she was holding onto broke free and the vortex pulled her in.
Chloe had many regrets, the biggest one was not finding the strength to break free and walk away. What was the use of fighting a battle when there was no one on your side, no one you could lean on when you were weary, one who would comfort and support your choices and give you a slap upside the head when you were being an idiot?
The world went white. Chloe felt she was being squeezed from every direction. It was getting harder to breath. Bright colourful confetti filled her vision as she began blacking out.
At least it wasn't hurting.
And then everything was dark.
Chloe woke in slow stages. She blinked slowly and stared up at the pristine white ceiling. She glanced around and saw more white. She was lying on a white floor in a white room and no discernable doors or windows.
"What will you do for a chance to live?"
Chloe rolled onto her belly and came up on her hands and knees, twisting to look around, trying to locate the sound. It seemed to come from everywhere. And she could not see any speakers. Hidden? Warily she pushed herself to her feet and retreated though she knew it was a futile action. There was nowhere to retreat to.
"Who are you? Show yourself!" she shouted out, ignoring the question.
The voice ignored her question and continued to speak, deep and profoundly unnerving.
"You cannot go back. Your destiny is done. What will you do for a chance to live? Will you give up everything and walk away?"
Chloe bit her lip. She wasn't sure how serious to take the Voice but it she didn't have many options. Of course it could be a trick, a fake White Room to make her believe she had died.
"You are not dead Chloe Sullivan. You are in limbo, between life and death. Unlike most mortals you have been given the chance to choose. Are you willing to give it all up for a chance to live?"
Chloe bit her lip and frowned. That was not an easy question to answer.
"I'm not sure," she temporized. "I don't think I'd want to live without my friends and family, my loved ones."
"So you decline?"
"No! I didn't say that!"
"Why me? Why give me a choice?"
"I am grateful for what you have done for my son."
Chloe blinked surprised. His son? Who? She had helped so many. "Who?"
"His name is Kal-el."
Chloe went into panic mode and backed away until she hit a white wall.
"Eh, thanks but no thanks Jor-el. I'll pass on making any deals with you." She'd heard enough of Clark's too-costly dealings with Jor-el.
The Voice chuckled. "I am not Jor-el. I am Rao, God of Krypton and Argos."
Chloe opened her mouth to protest then shut it. She had seen aliens, and ghosts, and magic, and reincarnation. Who was to say that Gods weren't real? Besides, didn't Diana claim her powers were gifts from the Greek Pantheon? Deciding to err on the side of caution she spoke slowly, politely.
"I'm trying not to sound ungrateful but I'd like to hear a little more about what you're offering before I make a decision."
"A wise request Chloe Sullivan." There was a small pause. "You cannot go back, your destiny is done, but you can continue to move forward."
"You don't understand. I can't just leave my friends and live my life knowing they are fighting and risking death every time they go out and fight. Even if you drop me in China I'll find a way to get in touch with them."
"That is why you will not go back. You will go forward, to a new world, a new time."
Chloe went still. "Oh." She considered the possibilities before speaking slowly. "If there is a Clark Kent, an Oliver Queen, a Lois Lane, I will be drawn to them. I will make myself a part of their lives."
"The world you will go to diverged eons ago from your birth world, one where Krypton died centuries ago leaving no traces, only memories in ancient long-lived races. None of the people you know exist. Or if they do they are nothing like those who you know. The rules of magics and physics are slightly altered allowing for feats you would consider impossible. In your experience humans mutate and develop powers only after being exposed to kryptonite, in this world evolution is a natural and to be expected eventual state."
"An alternate dimension."
Chloe thought hard on the possibilities and implications.
"I won't know anyone. Everything I know might be useless. How am I supposed to survive there?"
"Your knowledge will not be useless. I will safely integrate Brainiac's processing abilities into your own genetic code so your body will not break down and suffer when you use it. Your healing powers will be restored, amplified, and more under your control with the necessary genetic changes to integrate your abilities so they do not activate uncontrollably. You will have a small pouch of gems and gold coins you can sell for ready cash, to help you set up and get settled. What you do after is entirely up to you."
Given her choices, death or life, life sounded pretty good. Sure it was going to suck being away from all she knew and cared for, but Chloe was a survivor.
"Okay then Rao. You have a deal."
It had not been easy, adjusting to a completely new world, finding a new place, hiding and stifling her natural reporting instincts and desire for justice. For one in the first ten months she had been more focused on hiding, learning about this new world she found herself in, and learning control. Her personal healing talent had grown in scope and depth and so had her control. She did not suffer the usual excessive effects (like dying) even when she saved one who was near death. In fact she suspected she was immortal but she pushed the thought away, unwilling to test it. Not after the first time.
Chloe had tried to be circumspect in using her healing talents but despite her care she had drawn unwanted attention and found herself in the custody of some shadowy government agency. At first they had just questioned her and did minor tests. Then the testing became excessive. Chloe had known if they discovered the extent of her healing talent she would be too closely guarded; so she risked it all in one gamble. She had died in the no-holds-barred escape attempt and woke up in the morgue. Luckily morgues were not closely guarded and she managed to sneak out after wrecking a great deal of damage on the agency's data servers. Rao had restored some of Brainiac's knowledge and it worked quite well with her hacking skills. It was easy to be destructive when she knew the best way to turn their own resources on them, to activate and specific units in the armouries to set off chain explosions to destroy the secret research base. Chloe Sullivan knew the name of her enemy and she would not relax. SHIELD did not know what an enemy they had created by imprisoning her.
First she made her way to Britain and then to Germany, one of the few countries that had actually amended its constitution and laws to include mutant rights. It was also one of those who actively enforced those laws. Caution made her selective and careful in what she shared. She applied for asylum under the mutant-protection laws and eventually made a living as a freelance writer and later on as a blogger specializing in critiquing the establishment, especially the United States of America. She deliberately published under a pen-named and took precautions to cover her cyber footprints. She did not want to become the target of hate crimes and government agencies.
It was a good life, a peaceful life. At least until her boss offered her a ticket to a museum show opening night in Old State Gallery in Stuttgart.
"Write a piece about the opening night Chloe."
"I don't write society pieces Karl."
"As a favour for me then. Bernadette took the weekend to spend with her boyfriend."
"Oh all right. But remember you owe me!"
It turned out to be the next major turning point in her life.
Chloe twirled around in her pale mint green cocktail dress. The flirty skirt and empire waistline made the best of her curves and petite height. It was also a vintage store find. Long gone were the days when she could depend on Queen corporate credit cards to fill her wardrobe and justify it as a business expense. Good thing Chloe liked vintage clothes and wasn't very attached to designer labels.
A quick check of her appearance in the mirror. No smudges, her hair in a tidy twist with short strands framing her face, make-up discreet and natural looking, her lips slick with coral gloss. Chloe missed the nice collection of jewellery she had accumulated back home. Her current finances didn't allow for expensive pieces. A gold necklace and earrings made of several thin chains twisted to create a thicker 'rope'.
She tossed a cream coloured lace wrap over her shoulders and picked up the matching cream clutch before slipping her feet into cream heels. She checked the purse for her recorder, cell, camera, back up USBs and flash drives. Satisfied she stepped through the door of her small apartment and locked it behind her.
"Hot date Chloe-girl?"
Chloe turned to the speaker, her single-mother neighbour. "Nah, I'm off to the museum."
The older woman frowned. "You're all dolled-up for a museum trip?"
"A museum opening night," Chloe corrected. "With all sorts of rich and interesting people." Under the sceptical look she caved. "My boss gave me a ticket. I have to write a story."
"Oh. That's a better excuse."
"Night Laura. Tell Tessie Auntie Chloe says nighty-night."
Once outside she splurged on a cab – she could write it off as a business expense. She arrived at the museum well ahead of the evening highlight, the special display was still closed off until the sponsor showed up for the opening ceremony, but Chloe took full advantage of the chance to explore the intriguing collection of Oriental art, delicate china, silk screen paintings, and carved woods.
She was translating the words for a particular silk screen painting when she heard the noise. Screaming, loud crashes, and muffled thuds, bodies being tossed around. She hesitated torn between self-preservation and the need to do the 'right' thing.
"Don't be an idiot Chloe. You're a healer, not a fighter," she muttered out loud but she failed at even sounding convinced. Then something struck her. If she snuck in and observed what she could before sneaking out, she could pass the intel to the police. Satisfied with that logical course of action, Chloe slowly made her way towards the chaos.
Chloe did not know it but her speed had increased until she was no longer walking, but running towards the screams. Every instinct was driving her forward, towards the center of the chaos. She could sense power ahead of her. She wasn't sure of the situation she was walking into but she was pretty certain there was a god, or someone on the level of a god involved. She had only felt power like this once before, in the White Room where she had met Rao. She pushed the door and stepped into a tension filled room but was more strongly affected by the press of raw tainted power than the terror and fear. She had been in too many fights to be affected by terror and fear, her own and from others. But the oily tainted powerful aura was something new and unfamiliar, frightening. But Chloe was never one to react as expected.
She walked through the crowd of kneeling cowering gallery goers. Deep inside Chloe knew she was being too hard – they had no experience standing up to dominant forces, good and bad, wealthy or poor, in material or immaterial terms. There was one particular old man who was on his knees but definitely not cowering before a goth-guy dressed in black leather, green and gold wearing a really funky helmet with horns.
Her head tilted to one side as she narrowed her eyes trying to determine exactly what her senses were telling her. She had become too accustomed to the gentle ripples generated by humans. This goth-guy was no mutant, no meta. He was… More. A true god but below Rao in the power scale. But he was not limited as Rao, he had a physical form and could freely interact with the physical world.
"Bow before me!"
Or maybe he was just another typical megalomaniac villain out to conquer the world.
Loki would never admit to anyone but he was feeling… antsy. He could feel small muscles in his face twitch, contracting uncontrollably, a sign of weakness. He ignored it and focused on his speech. He had to keep the attention of the masses. He needed to secure the attention of his new subject. And distract those interfering busy-bodies. He could not afford to make a misstep at this point, not if he wanted to survive…
Why weren't they properly appreciative of him? Why were they cowering and scurrying around like rats! Wasn't there a single mortal brave and intelligent enough to greet his new king with proper respect? And stubborn old fools! Loki bared his teeth and brought his sceptre around ready to bludgeon the idiot.
A level sweet sounding but strong voice with no fear or deception. How intriguing. He turned in the direction of the voice. A young mortal female with golden hair twisted and pinned behind her head, not properly flowing like a maiden. But most Midgard females were not maidenly, in body or spirit. Curious he examined her more closely. Her dress was knee-length, more modest than most, in a pale mint green. Her face was not beautiful but attractive with grey-green eyes and a full mobile mouth.
She swept into a brief curtsy before meeting his eyes directly. "May I approach you?"
It wasn't like a mortal could harm him. "You may."
She did not look down at the broken old fool. In fact her eyes never left his. Curious; even the bravest Aesir eventually looked away, unwilling to risk becoming the target of his ire and mischief. Nevertheless he was pleased. At least one of his new subjects had courage.
She was standing before him now, just two feet away. She was moving in a deliberately slow fashion, her movements slow and graceful. One hand was held out, palm facing up. Her hand was small with faint calluses of one who trained or engaged in physical labour.
"May I touch you?" she asked with an expectant expression. It was clear she expected to be turned down and Loki was intrigued enough to indulge in whims.
She took a step forward and raised the same hand towards his face very slowly. He was irked by her forward behaviour and impressed by her courage and uncertain about the reasons for her request/action. Besides it wasn't like she could hurt him.
Her finger tips brushed against his jaw. Then they slid up one cheek to cup the side of his face. Her flesh was warm, her skin soft and smooth. She was much warmer than he had expected. Before he could react, pull away, everything started burning, starting with the place where she was touching him. Then her other hand was up cupping the other side of his face, holding him in her two hands. He could not move, he could not think. He could only feel and the world was on fire.
Chloe gritted her teeth and held on tight. She refused to let go and lose all the ground she had gained. She could not risk backsliding. She might never get the chance to do this again. She pushed hard to reach the root of the oil-slick taint. She could feel it now, greasy and icky feeling, leaving marks everywhere. She focused her powers on the unwanted thing and concentrated on burning it, eliminating all trace of the foreign contaminants. She had to destroy all traces, root and leaf, before healing the damage left behind. Then she realized there was someone else feeding her energy, shaping her power to burn more precisely, like a laser. He knew she was trying to heal him and was helping her now. Relieved he wasn't fighting her she threw herself into reaching and eradicating every last trace of the darkness.
Neither of them were aware that they were both glowing. The white light began where Chloe touched his face and spread up to envelop his head and down under the collar of his garments, seeping out at the seams and between the joints in the armour. The glow was most concentrated at her hands where she was cupping his face. The light was intense, like looking directly into a blazing fire. And then they saw it happen.
A faint black mist began floating off him before being vaporized in the wake of focused power. Small tendrils at first but then more thicker visible 'twists'. It left an unpleasant sulphur smell that was also burnt off to only leave the clean electrical tinge of ozone.
Then the white light began fading and everyone tensed again. Was the crazy-guy going to start monologuing or killing? If it was the second the poor woman was going to be the first to go, for sure.
Chloe inhaled sharply. Her knees were quivering. She was very aware he was supporting most of her weight. At some point she had leaned forward and begun using him as a prop. Her hands were still on his face. Warily she opened her eyes and looked up into green eyes. Bright vivid green eyes. They had been blue and maddened before. Now they were green and she could see he was grieving and shamed underneath the perfect porcelain mask. Relieved she smiled up at him.
"Hey there," she said softly.
He looked down at her with a clearly torn look. "Thank you," he said finally and Chloe had the feeling he was not one to thank anyone.
She made a soft snorting sound and told him, "Prove it by getting us out of here before the army breaks down the doors."
He stilled and frowned faintly. "Us?"
"Yes, us," she ordered firmly. "I don't want to hang around and answer any questions they may have."
"Like how you broke Tha– The Other's hold on me. How did you?"
"Take me with you and I'll tell you."
He looked taken aback by the offer. "You would trust me? After all I have done?"
"It wasn't you," Chloe said softly. "And trust me, you aren't the only one to be mindfucked and controlled by a more powerful being." Her lips turned down at the corners as she remembered how her mind and body had been taken over by Brainiac.
He must have seen it in her face because his expression softened and he wrapped his free arm around her waist drawing her close.
Chloe controlled her reaction when green flames surrounded them. She got the glimpse of a spinning blue, red and white disk flying towards them just before the world vanished around her.
It was cold and dark and lit with stars for a brief moment before the world reformed around them. They were on a rooftop in the business district.
"We have to get someplace indoors. The army will probably tap into any CCTV network," she warned her new ally, her partner? "And by the way my name is Chloe Sullivan. Do you have a name because I'm not going to be calling you Your Highness. I haven't made any vows of loyalty to you. We're temporary allies at best."
He opened his mouth then shut it before thinking for a moment. "You may call me Loki."
"Like the Norse God of Lies and Mischief?"
Poisonous green eyes flashed. "I am said God."
Chloe went still. For a moment she was tempted to disbelieve him. Then she remembered just how she landed in this dimension.
"Okay then, Loki it is. I'd like you to drop me off at my apartment."
"You would trust me with the location of your home?"
"Look, buddy, you aren't as bad as you think you are. My impression is you've had a really sucky hand of cards dealt to you and you're trying to stay above water. You haven't killed or maimed me, and besides I'm going to be making tracks as well."
He looked baffled. Clearly not used to slang. "Excuse me?"
"The police are going to be looking for me. They'll want to question me, my relationship with you and what I did. And I'm not going to hang around and risk becoming a guinea pig."
Loki gave her a shrewd considering look. "You are not an ordinary mortal."
"No, I'm not," Chloe admitted freely. "I'm a mutant, a human with a slightly atypical set of genes. And I'm not too fond of government agencies."
She told him the address. He nodded and wrapped his arm around her waist and then the world dissolved into the night sky and stars.
Loki nearly fell when they stepped out of the Paths into a small shabby looking suite. Then he gasped when his magic flared again surging wildly against his mental grip. It was too much, too much! Sparks flew and flared setting the overstuffed chaise on fore. The mortal, Chloe, was not discomposed by his magical outburst. She grabbed a red cylinder from under a counter and pointed the nozzle at the flames. White foam spurted from the nozzle and coated the flames, smothering them.
"I am sorry." He did not like saying it, he did not like being indebted. But if he had to be obligated to a mortal she was not so bad.
She simply nodded, not looking terrified of or accusingly at him. "That's okay. A few of my friends have issues controlling their abilities."
Loki shook his head. "I should not!" he snarled. "I spent centuries perfecting my control, testing my limits. And now I am sparking like a junior apprentice!"
"Have you become more powerful? Can you check?" she asked bluntly.
Loki did, examining his inner pathways, his connections and ties. Most had been shredded in his despair, when he discovered he was Jotun, the rest had been severed when he fell into the Void. There had only been a thin thread connecting him to Thor, the only one who had reached out and tried to save him as he fell. Later on there had been more threads, to The Other, to Thanos, the Chitauri; they were all gone now, burnt and purged by Chloe Sullivan. But there was something else, something new. A thick rope made of many multi-hued braided strands reaching out from his inner most self. It was rich and warm and soothing. When he 'touched' it he was filled with absolute certainty that he was not feared or hated. Curious he followed the rope and was shocked when he saw where it ended – within Chloe Sullivan's heart.
He opened his eyes and stared. She was looking worried, standing close and touching his cheekbone with one finger.
"Are you all right?"
Loki was the God of Lies but at that moment he could not think of a single lie. "We are bonded," he blurted out.
She looked confused. "Excuse me?"
"We are bonded," he repeated more slowly. "Whatever you did to me, it created a link between your being and myself."
Chloe shook her head. "That never happened before!" she said in disbelieving tones.
"You never healed a God before."
She sat down hard on the foam coated burnt chaise ignoring the cold wetness seeping through the green dress. It rode high enough to bare a black strap holding up the tops of her thigh-high stockings. The gold timepiece on her wrist glinted as she placed her hands on her skirt, tugging the hem down. Black, gold and green; his colours.
"I didn't mean to do this," she said numbly. "I only wanted to remove the taint."
He vanished the foam and dried the chaise. Unfortunately the upholstery material was also vanished leaving only springs and sponge padding. Unwilling to risk conjuring material he sat down gingerly beside her and touched her hand.
"It is not your fault," he told her.
"Then whose fault is it?" she wanted to know.
"The Norns." He laughed harshly. "The universe. Yggdrasil."
"The bond between us. It is not something that can be consciously created. It just…is."
"I don't understand." And she clearly didn't.
He pinched the bridge of his nose debating his options. He could refuse to answer, vanish to his own hidey hole and leave her to her devices. He had done as she had asked and she showed no inclination to draw on the debt obligation. But how many Aesir were ever given this opportunity, a true bondmate? Loki had never expected to find love, affection, or respect in a marriage, only cold obligation to seal a political alliance. And then he had found out he was not Odin's son-by-blood; that he was in fact a hated Frost Giant, a Jotun.
He had lied and been lied to for so long. He was tired of lies. But Chloe Sullivan was Midgard, a mortal. Could she even understand?
"Bondmates are the inspiration for the human stories of soulmates. Every being resonates on a unique aura, a specific energy signature, those with compatible auras are soulmates, romantic or platonic. But mortals lack the power to detect and recognize compatible auras."
"But Gods and mages do," Chloe murmured with a distant look.
He was surprised by her insight. "Yes. And it is one of the universe's checks that we rarely have a bondmate."
"Because the auras of bondmates resonate with each other, amplifying each others powers. And if a God's aura resonates his power can build to unprecedented and destructive levels," Loki told her bluntly.
She gave him a hard look. "That's why your powers are so wonky."
He did not like her word choice but it fit. "Yes."
"And do you have any plans on what you're going to do with this new power? Are you going to go out and try to conquer Earth? Or Asgard?" He was intrigued by her knowing smirk. "I read a lot Loki and I don't know how closely the myths match your history but everything tells me they treated you really badly and blamed you for everything that went wrong, even when it was their own actions and choices." She looked at him directly without judgment. "Eventually you snap and bring about Ragnarok. A self-fulfilling prophecy."
He gave a choked laugh. "I always scorned the Midgard bards but some of their tales are surprisingly insightful and accurate. Much more than my own knowledge."
She scooted over, pressing her thigh against his leather and armoured leg. "How so?"
Loki did not want to tell her anything – he was too drained for that – but she looked ready to make demands and draw upon the debt so he opened his mind and showed her everything, the good the bad the ugly.
She hesitated for a brief instant before accepting the offering and reaching into his memories. She was too young, too inexperienced with this form of contact. Even as she explored his memories and experiences he skimmed through hers surprised, enthralled, and intrigued by her past. A dimensional traveller! One favoured by a true alien god. Suddenly he sensed her amusement and was stunned to realise she knew exactly what he was doing. That she had freely permitted it in order to build trust, share common ground for an equal and balanced partnership.
He honestly expected her to recoil and run away horrified by his more recent past, the ugliness of his actions, the deaths he had caused, to be terrified of him, the monstrous savage bloodthirsty Jotun. He was shocked by the impact of her palm on his cheek.
"Stop that!" she hissed. "You are not a monster!"
He stared stunned and bemused. "I have killed."
"And you aren't the only one responsible," Chloe told him harshly. "That ass-hat Odin is much more responsible for this mess than you are. He's supposed to be your father! He's supposed to protect and support and help you, not grind you down!"
Loki went still. It was true but rarely had anyone ever sided with him. Even those who did had turned away in the end – Sigyn – but deep down he knew Chloe was different. She was loyal to those who she cared for. She would do anything for them. And for some reason she had decided to care for him.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because you need someone on your side," she said gently stroking the cheek she had just slapped. "And I'm more comfortable working with someone like you, one who is more than human." She sighed. "Humans… humans fear what is different, what is more, what soars higher. I learnt that the hard way and I also know I don't do too well on my own," she admitted. "I'm not a fighter. I'm a support and logistics gal. I do investigations, intel gathering, cyber surveillance and hacking."
He considered her words and his options. He was reluctant to leave his newfound bondmate behind, vulnerable to the vagrancies of mortals.
"How attached are you to Midgard?"
Chloe looked thoughtful. "Not very. I had a bad experience with a government black ops group and it's made me very cautious about forming friendships or sharing my past."
Loki nodded firmly. "There are many who owe me debts in other Realms not treatyed with Asgard. I have resources I can draw upon without gaining Heimdall's attention."
"Are you inviting me?" she asked slowly, cautiously.
"Yes. You are my bondmate. I cannot leave you behind. It would be like leaving a part of me behind."
Grey-green eyes widened in shock. "I don't love you! We've only just met!"
His response was to press his mouth on hers. She stiffened for only a moment before softening and heating under his touch, her body moulding against his. The kiss grew heated and the connection between them flared sending sparks beneath skin and along tender flesh. Loki could not resist grabbing her by the waist and lifting her onto his lap, closer. His hand was under the hem of her skirt, under her lace undergarments, cupping the bare curve of her arse before sliding under the waistband and towards the damp triangle covering her groin. It took a great deal of effort to keep his fingers from dipping into the slick slit. It took even more control to break the kiss and lift his head.
"Tell me you don't want this," he said harshly. "Tell me you don't feel the sparks in your veins singing and urging you to rush headlong into the flames, to be burned and reborn."
She was breathing harshly, erratically. It was some time before she could speak in uneven tones. "Is it… always… like… that?"
"No," Loki answered honestly. "Intimacy is a game for long-lived beings. Love blooms and fades like the seasons on Midgard."
"But our bond?"
"Is eternal. When one sorrows and grieves the other aches and is driven to soothe and comfort. If we tear at each other we only hurt ourselves."
She sat on his lap stroking the side of his neck with her fingertips, an unconscious action that had the odd effect of soothing him.
"I never thought I would be so blessed. Guys don't chase after me. I'm always the best friend, not the girl friend."
"You are nothing so transitory. To me you are eternity."
She stared straight into his eyes looking for something, what Loki did not know. But she must have been satisfied because she smiled faintly and then spoke.
"You will not harm me? You will not imprison me?"
"Will you listen to me? Take my advice? Trust and respect me?"
"I will do my best. I may back slide but you can always remind me."
"Then I will go with you." She chewed on her lower lip. "But first I need to do something."
"I'll tell you later. But first I need to get my laptop and stuff."
Chloe just managed to hide how shaken she was by Loki's revelations. Rao had shared a great deal of information with her when she was in Limbo; Kryptonian lore and traditions from a time when they were a spiritual people. Kalowyn, the Kryptonian term for soulmate, a fairytale, a secret wish, a hearts desire that was rarely ever fulfilled. Chloe had never thought it could happen to her. She was always the best-friend, the go-to-girl for guys who were trying to woo their own damsels; not her, never her, not until now.
It did not take long to pack. A few changes of clothes, disposable cell phones, gift cards and vouchers, cash, spare batteries and rechargers, her electronics, laptop, data storage.
"I need these to stay intact," she told him. "Will your magic fry them?"
He produced a carved wooden box the size of a briefcase and handed it to her. "This will protect them from undirected energies."
The box was much bigger on the inside than it appeared to be on the outside, the box equivalent of a Mary Poppins bag. In less than ten minutes she was ready to go. She took the time to write a few letters, one for her landlady, one for her editor, and three for the few neighbours she spoke to. She folded and taped them shut and scribbled the name of the recipient on the outside. Then she ducked outside to slide all the notes under Laura's door. She would pass them on. Then she changed into comfortable jeans, hiking boots and a hoody, a heavy parka jacket tucked under one arm.
"Can we make a stop?" she asked.
"Where and why?" And she told him. He frowned but nodded.
"We cannot stay there for long," he warned her. "Once you are done we will have to leave before SHIELD tracks us down."
She frowned. She knew a great deal about SHIELD and the agency scared her. Too much power, too much chance for corruption, not enough checks, no morality.
"I'll be careful," she promised.
He nodded and wrapped his arms around her. Then the world vanished into the night sky and stars.
Tony Stark frowned and played with his Starkpad listening with half an ear. Fury didn't like failure and the mess at Stuttgart certainly counted as one. They practically had Loki pinned but he slipped away with a hostage. He skimmed over the witness transcripts JARVIS managed to liberate from SHIELD and raised a brow. Or maybe not a hostage. Didn't Fury have anything better to do than rant on than reaction time and mission goals? Tony was not a member of his little gang and he wasn't interested.
"…We have a name for his accomplice. Chloe Sullivan. She's a freelance journalist whose by-lines have been picked up by several major European papers. Your new orders are to bring her in for questioning."
Tony absently ran a search on the name and his eyes widened at the hits generated. He clicked on one particular link and had JARVIS fast forward through the data and summarize it for him.
"Fury you may wish to reconsider that order."
Everyone around the table turned towards the billionaire engineer.
"And why would I do that?" Fury asked in saccharine sweet tones.
Tony sent the links to several specific SHIELD e-mail accounts.
"Chloe Sullivan has just released a personal statement, a video on multiple servers. Several large data packets have been sent to several reporters and news agencies, video and other files. Various humanitarian and human-rights organizations including the UN, Amnesty International, and other NGOs have also received packets. It's going viral in Germany, Eastern Europe, Russia, Japan, Korea, India, China, Asia, Australia." He closed his eyes listening to JARVIS. "South America. Africa. Mexico. Canada. US is the last."
The computer screens around the room went wild as they were fed data feeds from various news agencies and websites.
"I want the original video!" Fury roared and someone obeyed him.
The largest screen on the front of the room blinked and began playing a video of a petite blonde with shoulder-length hair dressed in a maroon tee-shirt and stone-washed jeans. She shifted on the low bench she was sitting on and looked directly into the camera.
"My name is Chloe Sullivan and I am making this statement of my own free-will. I am not being coerced or controlled. The information in this video is true to the best of my knowledge and the supporting documents have been sent to multiple nations and NGOs because I do not trust any government to not sit on the information.
"I was born human but I am more. I am a mutant…"
In a Norwegian chalet Chloe watched her video statement, her eyes growing distant as her digital voice invoked memories.
"I am a mutant."
It was not the entire truth. True, she was a mutant but a created one, like the Fantastic Four. And most of her powers and gifts had been the end-result of technology and a God's touch.
"For those of you unfamiliar with the term please refer to 'Evolution: a process in motion' by Doctor Charles Xavier, 'Building Blocks of Change' by Doctor Henry McCoy and 'Potential Possibilities in Biology' by Doctor Moira McTaggert. Mutation is a natural process and it is not a sin despite what the Friends of Humanity claim. I believe in the Gods. Only a divine hand can wield a paintbrush that affects an entire planet. There have been mutants sprinkled throughout history but their appearance has only accelerated in recent decades and it worries me. For so much change to happen so fast, it can only be higher powers acting for a specific purpose. The Gods move in mysterious ways and when they act I'm afraid, because what concerns them should terrify ordinary mortals."
And it was true. Sure the bargain made with Rao was all nice but why had he dropped her off in this particular world in this time of turmoil? Chloe knew she had a crusading nature and it had been a struggle to hold back and not act, to not reveal her presence and knowledge.
"Many of you fear what mutants and powerful beings mean. I cannot reassure you because your fears are very valid. But just because I understand doesn't mean I'm going to submit tamely to whatever stupid reactionary laws a government agency will come up with. We all know what reactionary heavy-handed laws and curtained civil rights will lead to: the French Revolution, the American Civil War, the Boston Tea Party, World War Two. I fear for Earth."
This was not her Earth but it was Earth, the only home she had had for the past sixteen months. It wasn't like she could go back to her own world.
"I fear the wars that will be sparked if the government in its infinite wisdom decides to outlaw being born mutant. How can you do that? It is like saying you're not a citizen if you're born with dark skin or black hair. No one has the right to control the existence of another sentient being."
Chloe strongly believed in the freedom and the right to voice and share her opinions but it was hard to action it in this world where Lex Luthors lurked in the shadows, where she would be expected to choose a side and fight if she was discovered by the players. She had studied all the factions and didn't believe she could support a single one because she either disagreed with their end-goals or tactics.
"As mortal born we all have freewill and I refuse to give that up. Not to the United States of America, not to some petty politician, not to any megalomaniac who believes he is superior; because being mutant only means having extra talents, not being a genius or right all the time."
And it was so true. Chloe had seen some of the brightest and smartest people screw up, up close and from a distance. Before she would have tried to help, to open their eyes. Now she was too wary to risk herself for strangers.
"I fear for the teenager who finds out she is a mutant and is kicked out of her home. I fear for the boy who accidentally hurts someone because he was never given the opportunity to learn how to control his talents. I fear for those who are hurting and being hurt because abuse is a vicious cycle that passes the hurting to future generations. I fear for the one who refuses to relax and truly live because he is afraid of snapping. I fear for the abused because one day she will lose control and use her powers against her abuser instead of a gun. I fear for the ones who never learn ethics, when to act and when to not act, because they will become criminals and hurt everyone around them."
She had seen it happen too many times back in Smallville. She had tried to help the meteor-mutants, but many of them had gone drunk on their own powers and certifiably insane.
"I fear for those with abilities that can be used by black ops and militaries because what will stop the government from passing conscription laws? From nationalizing mutants with such powers? From trying to duplicate or breed their own special soldiers to fight their wars?"
That was the end goal of Lex's kryptonite research; to create weapons, medical procedures to augment recipients or implant specific abilities, cloned programmable soldiers, engineered viruses, etc – to sell to the highest bidders.
"And for those of you who say America is the Land of the Free and Righteous I laugh. Feel free to download the data files available along with this video and read about the American government funded black-ops Weapons X program, the Gamma research studies that created the Hulk, the collateral damage caused by the Army's efforts to capture and duplicate him. And yes, the American government created the mutant criminal and terrorist known as Victor Creed, better known as Sabertooth."
As much as SHIELD claimed to be on the side of the Angels Chloe knew better. She remembered her first terrifying experiences in this new world. Rao had been kind enough to drop her off in Kansas, familiar yet not territory, and she had slowly made her way to the West Coast. At that time she had not been familiar with the dark underside of this new world and she had used her powers to keep a car accident victim alive. Unfortunately the act had been witnessed by someone who informed a division of SHIELD specializing in identifying and neutralizing mutants.
"James Howlett, if you're out there please contact any German embassy for more detailed information about your personal past. The scientists did… extra… things to you that could cause major health concerns in the future. I know your power is healing but you can't heal a bomb implanted inside your skull. The Consulates will have copies of the medical files describing the procedure. I hope you can find a doctor who can safely reverse it. In case you want to know, James Howlett is a Canadian citizen illegally experimented upon in Weapons X that was one of many operations run by a covert United States agency. He was chosen because his mutation is accelerated healing and they want it for their own soldiers. The person in charge of this program, Colonel William Stryker, he is a criminal and a fanatic who is still protected by several powerful individuals including businessmen and U.S. senators and generals. Details and evidence are in the data files."
Chloe had fought and tried to escape but failed. She had woken up in a small brightly lit cell, her fertile imagination conjuring worst-case scenarios with ease. She knew immediately that she had to escape, to identify her kidnappers, and take precautions to avoid a repeat experience. She knew once they discovered the true scope of her healing abilities they would react like Lex, determined to duplicate her powers for their own soldiers, their own people, no matter the personal cost to Chloe.
It had been risky, fighting hard, forcing them to kill her. There was a chance they would begin her autopsy before her powers would resurrect her, that she would 'wake' on the table, but at the time Chloe did not see any other viable options. The plan worked and she woke in the morgue, stealing all the data, destroying what she could before fleeing. The information painted a terrifying picture and it was too risky for her to stay in America. She bought a fake passport with a few of Rao's gems – criminal strongholds seemed to be dimensional constants – applied for a tourist visa to Britain and caught the first flight out of the country.
"And if you think they've learnt their lesson and stopped you are wrong. The US government has been experimenting with cloning for decades, trying to duplicate what they consider as desirable qualities, to manufacture an army that suits their needs. And they would get away with it because there are no laws granting clones the same rights as everyone else. They will be considered as property, biological experiments. My blood, my genes, my DNA. I refuse to share it with war-mongering bigots out to dominate the world. If I want to share my genes with the world I'll do it the natural way, by having children, not by having clones. I am a unique thinking being and no clone is an exact duplicate of me. We have natural examples of nature versus nurture whenever you look at identical twins."
The government, the black-ops agencies, the military, they all wanted control over powerful beings and in Chloe's experience great powers had to go hand in hand with a big conscience. Otherwise you ended up with dictators and psychos like Zod.
She watched as her image on the screen was joined by a tall slim man dressed in black leather, green quilted silk, and gold armour. The outfit was recognizable, identical to the one worn by the one who attacked Stuttgart. Except this male was not a threatening maniac. He sat beside her on the screen and looked straight into the camera.
"Erik Lensherr, you owe me. You owe the carpenter who gave you the funds you needed to leave Germany when you were grieving, when you lost your wife and daughter." He shimmered briefly and for ten seconds a rather ordinary looking thin greying man stood in his place before he shimmered and resumed his original armoured appearance. "You can square the debt by just listening. Whether you decide to act upon this information is entirely up to you. Your world, and by that I don't mean your country but your entire planet, it is in danger. There is an alien menace approaching from beyond the Void. The Chitauri are being led by one who was a precursor to the Olympian Pantheon, a Titan. You can choose to disbelieve but the facts are this: an immensely powerful being is set upon incinerating your planet as a cinder, ten billion lives to be snuffed out, as a gift to his beloved, Lady Death herself. I am a God but my strength lies in words and magic. The Titan is Ancient and among Gods worship, study, age and experience are the only means by which Gods increase their personal power. The Titan is ahead of everyone on all four.
"All-Father has forbidden Aesir from interfering in Midgard affairs. I fully expect to be punished for breaking His laws but I am satisfied as my actions have led me to my bondmate, to Chloe." He turned towards the woman sitting beside him and touched her cheek with a small smile. Then he turned to the camera. "It is up to you to save yourselves."
Chloe on the camera gripped his hand and stared straight ahead. "What Loki is not saying is even if he wants to help he can't." She held their hands with entwined fingers up and flickers of green fire covered their joined hands. "We've bonded and his magic is unstable. It's like mixing a cake batter. It will take some time for the butter and eggs to blend together thoroughly. Weeks to relearn control and fine-tune his magic. The same for me. I have access to some of my bondmate's power and I'm too scared to try anything and my power is fairly passive. If Loki tries to help in his current state friendly fire will be the least of your worries."
Loki looked huffy then resigned as Chloe had explained. Then he spoke. "If Midgard survives long enough for me to relearn limits I will return to repay my debt to your people."
Chloe chewed on her lower lip as she listened to the video clip coming to an end. A small part of her mind was multitasking, uploading the data packets onto more public and private servers. She wanted the information out there, easy to find and hard to suppress.
"Are you ready?"
She stopped and turned to her… lover? Boyfriend? Significant other? In the end she settled on friend, because that's what she would always be to him.
"Almost done. Just one more distribution list with specific individuals who would be very interested in my investigations."
She was very aware of him pacing around the small room but she did not let it affect her. She was too used to males with too much energy. Once the last e-mail was sent, her laptop powered down and put away she looked up with a bright smile and told him, "I'm done."
In less than five seconds he was by her side, wrapping one arm around her to hold her close. He waited until she grabbed the handle of her duffel and the straps of her backpack before 'stepping' sideways onto the Paths.
She only had time to exhale when they both appeared in a pine-scented forest. The temperatures were cool but not uncomfortably so.
"Where are we?" she asked.
"The Realm of the Elves."
There was a tremendous crash, the sound of metal ripping and bending, squealing as it was stressed beyond tolerance. Then there was a loud roar and the clash of metal on metal.
"Where is Loki?!"
The voice was clear to everyone in the conference room.
Tony glanced around and noted the one-eyed bastard was just giving orders to bring out more guns. Fool. If the intruder had breached the Helicarrier to reach the innermost depths, the most protected areas, their efforts were useless.
He was pleased to be proven correct when the metal doors bent inward and bulged before being torn apart by some over-sized blonde beefcake wielding a hammer. How cliché!
"Who are you looking for Hammer-Hand?" he asked idly.
Tony was mildly surprised when the towering blonde ignored the obvious threats, the folks with guns, and turned towards Tony.
"Where is Loki? He must be stopped!"
Tony snorted. "If Loki is a tall, lean pale guy with black hair and green eyes and a taste for black leather, green silks, and gold I'm afraid you're too late. Another blonde got to him before you." Tony could see the bewilderment in Hammer-Hand's blue eyes. Not really quick on the up take. Tony sighed and tapped one of the keys to re-play the video at a key point. Where Loki joined Chloe Sullivan on the screen. Hammer-Hand clearly had no clue what was going on so Tony expanded. "If this is your Loki that tiny blonde on the screen already has a leash on him. He's more interested in keeping her happy than invading Earth and causing mayhem. In fact we've got a promise on tape that he'll help with the invasion once his magic is settled down."
"Invasion?" Hammer-Hand looked bewildered. "All-Father said Loki had dangerous allies and he was going to attack Midgard."
"That was the original plan until he met said itty-bitty blonde. Turns out she's his bondmate and he's no longer interested in conquering our planet but there's something called a Chitauri army out there, on its way to attack Earth."
Hammer-Hand put his hammer on the floor with a heavy thud. Tony winced inwardly as the metal plating bent slightly from the impact.
"The Chitauri are a worthy enemy to do battle against. I will fight alongside your warriors."
It was not in Chloe's nature to stand back and watch and do nothing. She had always helped, even if it was just logistics and the cyber aspects of a mission. Part of her was very aware that her planet, even if it was not her birth world, it was in serious danger. There was an alien horde attacking New York and out to destroy humanity. Part of her wanted to be there, even if it meant risking capture by SHIELD, but she could not risk it. Not if being captured meant being separated from her bondmate. She could never risk being parted from him.
Besides this was not a battle she could fight. She was no good at the brute aspects of war.
The scrying pool depicting the battle, warriors and costumed heroes, strange and incredible beings fighting the Chitauri, beating them back inch by inch.
"They will not win," a cool baritone murmured in her ear. Chloe did not react as a lean form sat down beside her and pressed against her shoulder and thigh. "The Avengers are the only ones capable of doing lasting damage and they cannot be everywhere at once."
"The mutants and other groups are helping to hold the line," she pointed out as the scrying pool showed the Fantastic Four and X-men doing their part in the fight.
Loki frowned. "The Chitauri are endless. Mortals have limited resources and they will exhaust themselves."
Chloe smiled grimly. "You underestimate us Loki. We have plenty of fight when we have good reason. And believe me, survival is a damn good reason." She tossed her head back. "Oh, I'm not saying there won't be casualties, hundreds or even thousands killed, but we will survive and endure and recover."
He looked pensive before nodding. "Then I will be there to help with the recovery." He winced. "My control is still rather fractured. I feel like a second-decade apprentice."
Chloe chuckled. "Trust me Loki, I know exactly how you feel. I hate it when my powers surge without my deliberate intent. When I first became active they would heal anyone I touched and it hurt because I was taking on their injuries."
He frowned. "And now?"
"My personal healing has accelerated to a level I barely notice the stresses on me when I heal," she said honestly.
He relaxed fractionally. "Good. I do not like the thought of you being in pain."
"You did not think of ordering me to never heal another?"
He snorted softly. "You would never obey such an order so why say it?" he countered.
Chloe smiled brilliantly. "Now you're learning!" Then she turned back to the scrying pool. "Can you make it show other scenes? Where the main battles are not being fought? How the civilians are handling it?"
It had not taken as long as Loki had expected, to re-learn control and stabilize his magic. As soon as he felt confident they left Alfheim for Midgard. Of course she insisted he drop her off in Stark Tower.
"It's the one place where I'll be able to access any networks and databases I may need to. Tony Stark has the best tech and he's already inserted several backdoors into SHIELD."
From her vantage point she watched as the battle was fought. She hacked her way into public systems to co-ordinate Emergency Services around battle zones to where they were most needed. She was the voice of direction and information to various independent groups fighting the Chitauri. She hijacked the nuke targeting New York, the one launched by the World Council and redirected it into the portal just before it was closed by her bondmate. He had deliberately held off waiting for her to complete her hack and reprogramming.
It had been more than thirty hours since Loki had dropped her off at Stark Tower. She had 'persuaded' JARVIS to go into lock down mode, and to continue to assist her in the relief efforts. It became easier to pull strings when Virginia 'Pepper' Potts had shown up and offered her organization skills and Rolodex of contacts.
"The most immediate threats have been stabilized," Pepper told her, shoving a paper plate loaded with two slices of meat-lovers pizza under her nose. "The Avengers have been taking down the most seriously damaged buildings before they can fall on their neighbours. Your guy Loki is very good at containing the damage impact."
Chloe smiled catlike. "Destruction is chaotic energy. He is a Chaos God."
Pepper gave her a sceptical look. "A God? Are you sure he isn't an alien with lots of tech and strange abilities?"
Chloe laughed. "I have a lot of tech and strange abilities. I know lots of folk who do but I wouldn't call any of us Gods." Her expression turned thoughtful. "Loki and his kind are different. Most of the Aesir aren't Gods but there are a few that have the power and ability to tap into what I call cosmic energy, the leylines between the planets and the stars. In Norse mythos it was called Yggdrasil, the World Tree. To me it is a galaxy wide net, a web of power and potential between stars." She closed her eyes almost seeing it on the lids of her eyes. When she opened them she saw the slightly scared look Pepper was directing towards her. "I spoke to a God once. One far beyond Loki and even Odin, one who is pure energy and so beyond mortal beings we barely register to him. And I've also spoken to megalomaniacs who like to think they are Gods and try to control everything and everyone around them. Trust me, I know the difference."
"But what he did in Stuttgart–"
"Was under the influence of the Titan." Chloe corrected the older woman firmly. "Now, where were we?"
Pepper looked down at the Starkpad tablet and marked off a few items. "We're done. The rest is up to the people on the ground. At least for the next five hours. I've already made orders to have supplies shipped in from the closest ports."
"Where are they?"
Pepper did not have to clarify who the 'they' were. "I believe they are taking a break and having shawarmas. Tony is very fond of a particular take-out place a few blocks away."
Chloe raised an eyebrow. "It's still standing? And open for business?"
Pepper shrugged. "Hey, this is New York."
"So what are we waiting for?"
For Tony's driver, Happy Hogan. He was not too happy about driving Stark Industries CEO and a total stranger into a disaster zone but eventually he complied.
Twenty minutes later the limo was pulling up outside a damaged building. The plate glass windows were splintered and broken, there was rubble dust everywhere but the fast-food place was doing brisk business.
"Tony probably said everyone could order on him," Pepper mumbled as she carefully began picking her way in, around shattered masonry and pavements.
Chloe moved much faster on her wedge-heel calf-high boots. She had once outrun Lex's security goons wearing stiletto heels in a forest.
Briskly she walked past the blue-collar construction workers who had been called out or who had volunteered to assist the EMS teams. She deliberately did not look at the archer and the beautiful sleek red-head. Chloe had read their bios in the SHIELD files she had stolen. She nodded once at the dazed looking rumpled guy in ripped clothes. She had some ideas that could potentially help Dr Banner but she wasn't willing to risk discussing them with SHIELD spies in earshot. Deftly she avoided the wide-open armoured arms of Ironman, jabbing a screw driver into a joint, locking the servos long enough to go around him.
Her target was within a few feet, a tall lean dark-haired man with pale skin dressed in black leathers, green silks, and gold armour. He was sitting slightly apart at the bar eating a shawarma in small neat bites between sips of Sprite.
She did not give him time to react or say anything. Instead she twisted the bar stool around so he was facing her. One step and she was straddling his lap. She got one glimpse of his shocked expression before she cupped her hands over his ears and dragged his face towards hers. She was vaguely aware of the hooting, hollering, and cheering as they kissed, as the stiffness in him softened and he began responding to her actions, sliding his hands up her hips and drawing her down so she was sitting on his lap, her knees pressed against his hips, She could feel his strength, the hard planes beneath the armoured leather and metal. She needed to feel more of him, underneath her, between her legs, inside her.
He hissed harshly as her arousal spilled through their bond, sparking his own desires. He bit her lower lip harshly before soothing it with his tongue. The small pain was enough to bring her to the present. She looked up at him through dazed grey-green eyes.
"We are in mixed company," he murmured against her lips before pulling away. And she knew he was right.
Reluctantly she slid off his lap and stood up, waiting for him to rise and move right next to her, sliding one hand across the back of her waist to rest on her hip.
Everyone in the tiny restaurant was looking at them with both amusement and genuine warmth. People loved a good romance and two-lovers reuniting after a destructive battle was definitely the stuff of romances. Even New Yorkers weren't immune to it. But SHIELD agents definitely were.
Chloe stiffened when she saw the bald black-man with an eye patch.
Her voice was filled with cool venom, enough to make Loki frown and scan through the bond. Then he too stiffened, when he remembered exactly why his bondmate hated SHIELD.
"Chloe Sullivan, you are under arrest–"
"Fury you can't be serious!" Tony Stark shouted exasperated and concerned.
"Exactly what am I under arrest for Director Fury?" Chloe spoke in a glacial distant voice that made everyone go still.
She sounds like Pepper, Tony noted appreciatively.
She sounds like Loki, Thor cringed remembering the vicious pranks his brother played on those who insulted him.
She sounds like Tasha, Clint thought.
"For illegally hacking into government–"
She laughed. "Oh you mean for revealing your dirty little secrets?" Her expression was mocking and motions languid. "For educating and informing the public of things the US government doesn't want them to know?" Her eyes hardened. "Well I don't care. I am not a citizen of America and to be frank I won't even consider myself a resident of Earth for the rest of my life. I am bonded Director Fury," she stressed the words. "What happened before, what is to come, it doesn't matter. I will never leave him."
"And I am very possessive of what is mine Nicholas Fury." Loki continued smoothly with deceptively languidness. "I am a Prince of Asgard, a foreign Realm and your laws have no say in me and mine." He added in more frigid tones.
"My brother does have a point," Thor added in more blunt tones. "To separate bondmatesis not done. When separated they will be enraged. The one who caused the separation is responsible for the destruction."
Loki smiled broadly, dangerously, eyes glinting like shards of glass. "Are you so eager to see your world burn Nicholas?" he asked oh-so-gently. "If you wish I would be more than willing to open the Gates. A world that tears my bondmate away from me is one I would more than gladly incinerate."
"Lay off man!" A blue-collared construction worker in quilted flannel and denim dungarees shouted. "He helped stabilize and safely take down damaged buildings. He saved millions in property damage and hundreds of lives! Way more than you with your black ops goons!"
"Director, this is not right," Captain America added sternly. "You already made a mess by trying to weaponize something you do not understand. Do not compound it by drawing the United States and Earth into a war with an alien empire."
Fury glared at Chloe and Loki in turn. He knew his hands were tied. For now. With one last glower he turned on one heel and stomped away.
"He hasn't given up," Bruce Banner murmured softly, observing the way the alien Prince handled the tiny blonde, with gentle reverence, an expression of stunned awe and pride. He clearly hadn't expected her fierce public allegiance.
"Bruce is right," Tony stated bluntly. "Fury will just wait for the furor to die down and order his goons to detain you."
Loki laughed. "Do you think your mortal methods can contain a God?" he asked bemused and insulted. Bemused by the concern, insulted by the idea he could not handle unruly mortals.
"They do not have to contain you forever, just distract you at the right moment," Chloe cautioned with a distant calculating look. "I think it will be best if we leave."
"Yes, let's go home brother," Thor said with a hopeful look.
Loki made a face and then Chloe spoke. "I think not," she said resolutely. "There is too much hard feelings against the Aesir and All-Father. Perhaps in time, but not now."
Thor's expression fell. "But Mother…" he trailed off with a helpless look.
It was enough to make Loki concede. "I'll visit. Only her and after a few months," he added sharply.
Thor frowned. "Months? Where will you be going brother?"
Chloe and Loki glanced at each other before speaking in unison. "Jotunheim."
Thor gawped. "But… But… But…"
Chloe took pity on him and explained. "We met one of Loki's old seidr teachers in Alfheim. He said the destruction was mostly contained to the old bifrost site which had not been used in centuries, since the last Jotun-Aesir war."
Thor frowned. "But there were Jotun when we used the Bifrost!"
"Laufey's warriors," Loki murmured. "Those unwilling to let go of the past, the blood-thirsty ones intent on warring against Asgard and all other Realms. Most Jotuns use a different gate that is more centrally located to their cities."
"The Jotuns killed by Loki were the war-mongers," Chloe added. "There are plenty of other clans in the Cavern Cities."
Thor blinked. "Cavern Cities?"
Loki gave him an impatient exasperated look. "Jotunheim is an ice Realm and even native beings cannot survive without shelter. They build their cities underground, carved out of the permanent ice glaciers. The largest complex is Cavern Cities which is really seven interlinked caverns. The second High King contracted the dwarves to reinforce the structures making it older than Asgard. Did you pay any attention to our tutors?" he added exasperated.
Thor looked sheepish as he confessed, "No."
Loki growled. "Did you honestly think I would always be around to do your thinking for you? Because if you did you are out of luck! I am done with Aesir."
Thor looked dismayed. "You do not mean that brother."
"Yes I do," Loki countered bluntly. "I am tired of being the voice of sanity in your quests for adventure. I am done. Let All-Father find someone else to follow you around and keep you out of trouble."
Tony coughed. He was no stranger to difficult family dynamics but it was something else to witness it in someone else's family. From an alien realm.
"So do you have any ideas? On what you want to do?" the billionaire asked lightly.
"Jotunheim's current gates are narrow and limited," Loki murmured. "A Realm bridge like Asbru is too expensive but there are other techniques to open Paths."
"And these Gates would be used for travel? For trade? What kind of goods?" Tony asked more genuinely interested in knowing.
"Mostly oceanic resources. Deep sea mining. Fish and other shellfish."
"All under ice," Chloe added. "And ice mining. There are certain metals that specific to Jotunheim, similar to vibranium."
Brown eyes sharpened with interest. "Oh really? Would the Jotun be interested in trading with Midgard? I am very interested in new metals. Or even techniques for mining in Arctic conditions. Earth equipment becomes so brittle it breaks in extremely cold conditions. Stark Industries owns mines in Alaska but it isn't cost-effective to operate them."
Loki looked amused. "Jotun use seidr, magic, their natural talent to shape ice."
Tony waved his armour encased hands. "So? I have no problems with employing foreigners with specific skill sets."
Loki and Chloe looked at each other. "Perhaps," Chloe allowed, "But we would need to discuss your offer with the Jotun clans."
Tony opened his mouth to protest then shut it. "Okay. Just stay in touch, even if it's a 'no'."
Loki tightened his grip around Chloe's waist and then the pair vanished in a swirl of green flames and smoke.
Tony was impressed. He had to persuade Loki to teach him how to do that. Or at least figure out a way to duplicate it with tech.
Chloe and Loki did not go directly to Jotunheim from Midgard. They made a side-stop in Alfheim to collect suitable cold-weather gear for Chloe and to close-up Loki's hidey-hole. Then they went to Jotunheim.
She was a bit nervous. She was going to the equivalent of Antarctica with the guy who had tried to destroy it. It was surprisingly clear and sunny but oh so cold.
"Where's the welcoming committee?" she asked softly. Loki had said he was going to target the most commonly used trade Gate as their exit point.
"They are around us," Loki murmured just as softly.
And he was right. The snow began shifting and small mounds turned out to be living beings piled with drifting snow. But they were not giant-giants, but blue-skinned and red-eyed beings of varying heights between six and ten feet. They were dressed in thin leathers, laced leggings or kilts with a sleeveless vest. Each wore multi-hued strings of beads around their limbs and neck and even threaded through their mink-fur like hair.
The shortest one approached them as the others moved into a semi-circle formation. Loki tensed but Chloe merely smiled and stepped forward holding out a hand palm up.
"My name is Chloe. This is Loki."
The Jotun studied Chloe carefully. "You are not afraid of us?"
Chloe snorted. "Have you tried to kill me? Hurt me?"
The Jotun recoiled. "No!"
"Then I have no reason to be afraid of you." Chloe said firmly meeting the Jotun's eyes with a close-lipped smile. She didn't want to smile with her teeth in case it was a sign of aggression. "I've had friends who looked odder than you."
"Oh?" The Jotun sounded piqued.
"Yeah. Jo'nn was green and he shifted shape. It was really weird to see him shift between a man and a woman. I got used to it after a while."
The other Jotuns laughed and one of them spoke. "Shape-shifting is childs-play for a powerful seidr-magi. Like your bondmate."
Chloe was surprised. She turned to Loki. "You can shape-shift?" she asked.
Loki shifted slightly uneasy before answering. "Yes."
Chloe's expression turned speculative. "How intriguing. It would make things more… interesting." And then she pushed an image into his mind. Of her and him as a female. She was slightly disappointed when he didn't blush but responded with a visual image that made her blush and feel faint. When she managed to pull herself together she pushed a single thought back. I'm going to hold you to that. Loki just smirked.
Then she remembered their audience. "I'm sorry," she said immediately.
"No worries," The Jotun said with a close-lipped broad smile. "You are bondmates. It is understandable. I am called Garm."
Suddenly Chloe was certain they had made the right choice, leaving Midgard and Asgard, coming to Jotunheim. Even if it was like stepping off the ledge. She squeezed Loki's hand tightly. She had stepped off one ledge to come to this dimension. Stepping off another ledge to go to another Realm would be a cinch.
Idly she wondered if Rao had known that Loki was her match, if he had deliberately chosen to drop her here in order to meet him. If so she definitely owed the Kryptonian God. Mentally she made a note to set up a small altar and burn small offerings. It was the least she could do for her benefactor. Then her attention was distracted by the other Jotun drawing near and making introductions.
Chloe focused on what they were saying. After all, they were going to be her new neighbours and colleagues and maybe even good friends. Suddenly she felt energized and young and optimistic. She was in a completely new world, one with its own dangers and potential enemies, but also one with so many possibilities.
The future was theirs.
AN: Have a sequel, part two outlined. Not sure when it's going to be written out and posted.
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