Between Now and Destiny
Three hours later, Fury stormed into the building, demanding to see the girl immediately. Thor, waiting in the living room for the director with Steve, Clint, and Natasha, refused, of course.
"Wake her before she recovers, and you could very well kill her. It took a massive amount of power to heal Bruce and his 'friend' as much as she did," he explained. When Fury looked as though he was going to go anyways, Thor stood, holding out a hand in refusal. "Heimdall, her soul-father, guards her sleep. He is the most formidable warrior of Asgard. Ask what you will of me and the others, but let her rest."
Thwarted, Fury quizzed Steve relentlessly, not believing how he of all people got in this mess. "So, you met her at the police station where she was being detained, followed her into a rough neighborhood where she was held in high esteem by gang members, heard her pretty much verify she cast curses, and saw her use some sort of power with your own two eyes... and even after all this, you still brought her here?" He clenched his jaw, trying not to say something he'd regret later.
Tony came in the room, pulling off a set of driving gloves. "Which is completely his prerogative," he said, locking eyes with the director. "Despite the number of agents you have watching us here, this remains a privately held building of which he is a legal tenant. He could have a seance with a voodoo queen, the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, three transvestites and their trained ape for all I care. And since I own the building..." He shrugged, enjoying Fury's escalating temper. "In fact, that actually sounds fascinating..."
The look on Fury's face tickled him, and Stark ramped up his cheerfulness to bait him more, keeping a solemn face though it was terribly hard. "Plus, she seems to be the long lost body-hopping daughter of one of our allies, and apparently did a bang up job of healing my buddy Bruce and his little friend, so the old man did the right thing."
Tony dropped to the sofa, letting his smile break out. "I didn't know you liked jail bait, Captain. Want to be careful with that, we don't let old men marry thirteen-year-olds any more. Too Jerry Lee. Wait, Capsicle," he drawled out the name. "I forgot. After your time. Makes me wonder though... you did get past clubbing women and dragging them off to your cave before you froze the family jewels, didn't you?"
Steve glared at him, and Thor chuckled. "She's no child, Tony, and you don't want to anger her soul-father. Heimdall can best me any day. I wouldn't doubt Kagome could give me trouble, herself."
"Hey, Bong Brain, long time no see. Is it really true she's a time traveler, and saved the world way back when? JARVIS relayed everything he could pick up after telling me someone blew the electronics." Tony flipped through his handheld, playing with some of the coverage he had.
Thor grinned. "Worlds. The known universe owes it's existence to her and her friends."
"Wow, what a looker." He threw the picture he'd clipped from footage up on the large room screen. "Think Pepper would be upset if I ask her hop to my body? A bit of soul-sharing in the interest of scientific discovery..."
Pushed to his limit, Steve jumped to his feet, heading for Tony, fist clenched. Thor quickly moved to restrain him. "Let me go, Thor. I'll..."
"My thanks, Soldier, for coming to my daughter's defense. But I believe, as her soul-father, my right to challenge comes before yours."
"Challenge?" Tony looked at the newly arrived and steaming Heimdall, then Thor... surprised that the easy-going demi-god was scowling at him too.
"Your disrespect for the only child of Heimdall's line, a noblewoman of Asgard, will cost you, Anthony Stark. For such a transgression, there are two avenues open to you." Thor intoned, his demeanor suddenly switching to a truly princely mien. "You fight Heimdall hand to hand as you are, or pay weregild for the slight, the lady's weight in silver."
"I think Pepper will be a little gleeful when she gets a recording of this meeting." Natasha whispered to Clint as she smiled at Tony; a wicked, dirty, oh please press your luck smile.
"O-kay, looks like I really stepped in it this time. My apologies for going over the line. Not that I'm looking forward to getting my face rearranged, but which would most show my sincerity?"
"Either will recompense the slight." Thor let go of the Captain, who had finally stopped making a fist.
"But the manly thing to do is let him clean the floor with me, right?"
"I have a third way." They all turned to the door where Kagome stood. "And if he insulted me, I'm the one who gets to choose."
"What is this 'third way'?" Heimdall rumbled.
"Lifelong support for the charities I pick. That will be more cash long-term than my weight in silver, and more satisfying to me than beating him bloody. Besides, according to our conversation, I have a debt to him and the others as well."
She bowed deeply, long hair almost sweeping the floor. "I apologize for my rash words and destroying your locks and cameras. The anger and pain Hulk-sama was in... well, I wasn't thinking. My only coherent thought was to get to the oni who needed my help."
"You keep calling the Big Guy an oni, but you seemed shocked there was one here earlier." Natasha pointed out. "Surely you've seen the pictures in newspapers?"
"I've seen pictures of Hulk-sama, yes, but never of Dr. Banner. There was no correlation to make me think of youkai, especially as they vanished without a trace long ago. I thought that he was augmented like Captain Rogers but enjoyed body modification." She shrugged. "I never connected the Captain's strength and longevity with youkai either, until I felt the youki in him at the police station."
"Wait, what?" Steve asked, echoing the clamor coming from the rest of them. "I have... youki?... whatever that is... I'm like Bruce?"
She shook her head, even as she answered, "Youki is the type of ki held by a youkai, or nature spirit."
"You are speaking of the same ki spoken of in martial arts?" Fury clarified.
"Yes. The spiritual energy of the body... the name of ki varies only in regards to the type of being emitting it." She turned back to the Captain, explaining her previous comment. "You will never be like Dr. Banner. You actually have a great deal more youki than he, and of a different kind. The main difference is that your youki is stable and not overwhelming your human blood. I would surmise that you possessed spiritual power of your own before your change."
"You believe in your God completely and without doubt, Captain. Your belief in Him is as ingrained in you as your code of honor. That utter faith and devotion imparts spiritual power."
"Like where it says if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains?"
Her face lit up, "Exactly!" She gestured in the direction of the labs. "Hulk-sama, though, has heavily distorted youki and the change from human form to oni form cannot complete, which is painful. In addition, oni are not smart-they are closer to beasts in intelligence-but the human's mind is dominant in this case."
"And since he can understand and think, it wars with his instinct and what his thoughts should be, leaving him confused, which he reacts to with anger." Natasha said, eyes thoughtful.
"That's one of the things I will try to correct. But I'm confused as to where he got oni blood, as I haven't found a trace of youkai in all the years I've spent looking for them. I thought they vanished like the dinosaurs."
Heimdall spoke up. "Kagome, the youkai didn't vanish. They, and the others native to earth despaired of living with humanity, and departed for the planet of Maikai about a hundred and fifty years ago. It is possible that some did not depart, and were caught by the unscrupulous."
After a moment of silence at Heimdall's revelation, Fury made the mistake of wondering out loud if the super-soldier program could be re-instituted with this knowledge. The resulting argument was anything but civilized.
Kagome was completely incensed that he had so little regard for life, whether human or non-human. She was so upset, her powers were flaring, showing as shimmers and sparks even to those with no extra sight.
Once Steve understood that an other had died in the making of the serum, and that they were a people with the same hopes, dreams, and desires that humanity had, he was firmly on Kagome's side.
Tony ranted that S.H.I.E.L.D. had yet to learn their lesson, all the while hacking the Pentagon and military servers to gather documentation on the super-soldier program using the new reference terms.
Clint watched them all silently, while Natasha kept tensing whenever Kagome made a sudden move.
"We should have never come back to Earth," Thor told Heimdall, effectively shutting down the argument before it got physical. Nick rubbed a hand over his face, realizing how despicable he must sound.
"It is too late for hindsight, Thor Odinson. But the All-Father must have seen this trouble, as he sent an answer for an argument that hadn't yet started. Where is that which he sent with to me?" In answer, the blond warrior walked over to the closet, drawing out the package Odin had given Heimdall before they left. Passing it to the Bifrost's guardian, he waited with solemnity as Heimdall presented it to Kagome. "Once, you were given a gift by a mountain spirit and used it courageously to defeat an enemy of all Yggdrasil. This day, I return to you what was lost."
He released the hold he had on it, and power sparked as it rose slightly. Hearing the call from inside the wrappings, Kagome opened her hands in welcome, watching amazed as it floated to her. As her hands touched it, the seal crumbled to dust and the wrappings faded away, leaving her spirit bow from the sacred mountain of Asuza.
They both glowed briefly, the light falling away as they connected- a much stronger bond than she had expected with their long separation. She clutched the bow, feeling the power surge between them as the bow augmented her own power. And something new... knowledge of what she could do with the bow. She remembered Inuyasha's connection with Tessaiga and instinctively knew it was the same.
Seeing her finally emerging from the moment of communion, Heimdall announced, "In the past, the strongest of our mutual children were the emissaries between Asgard and Earth, reconciling the two cultures and acting as intermediaries. Odin All-Father has designated you, Kagome, as that emissary now that our two worlds are once again allied. No more are you an immortal alone amongst the dying, but a lost daughter come home; to be féted, draped with purple, and be-ringed with gold and fine stones."
She considered him for a moment. "And how does this influence their plans for renewing the super-soldier project?"
"Asgard is allied with the world of Maikai. We would not look upon one ally consuming another with favor." He saw the sudden hope in her eyes, and knew he had to break her heart again. Shaking his head, he told her, "I have looked for your comrades, but over five hundred years have passed, and the old ones are reclusive. The one you were bound to convinced them that leaving was the better choice, but died before they left."
She flinched, and his guilt grew. "I must confess, for the censure of all. Had I been more vigilant, you would have returned to that time and he who loved you. But another in Asgard watched you without my knowledge. Secure that none would challenge my house, I did not keep closer watch on my fellow Asgardians. You lost your mate to my pride... for in his rage at being denied the item of power you destroyed, he broke the portal and erased the knowledge used to create it, stranding you here."
She looked at him with eyes rapidly filling with tears, the terrible burden she had carried for so long easing, allowing her to finally put the old grief to rest. "You mean, it wasn't my fault? My fear didn't keep it closed?"
Heimdall knelt before her. "No, it was not your fear. You may lay it all at the feet of my arrogance. In penance, I spent the last five centuries as the sentinel of the Bifrost, protecting Asgard as I failed in protecting you." His eyes heated, the old anger surfacing. "But it was in vengeance that I destroyed the bastard for his presumption."
Thor looked at him, eyes widening with understanding, "That's why you called out Hel's husband? All Father told us was that you had the right of absolute vengeance and banned Loki and I from attending the battle."
"The All-Father did not wish Loki to be tempted to help his son-in-law. As for that odious bastard, I dismantled him, until no limb connected to another and there wasn't an inch of myself or the battle circle not painted with his blood." He held his soul-daughter's gaze as he told her, watching as her tears dried and eyes grew big.
Taken aback slightly at the ferociousness in his voice, she decided it was best to respond as though he was a youkai. Holding her hand over her heart, she inclined her head and replied formally. "Thank you, soul-father. This one is honored by the punishment exacted to avenge my honor and lost mate. No more will I grieve, believing my word broken by my fear."
Steve didn't know how to feel, hearing about someone she obviously loved and still had feelings for. But then, he still carried Peggy in his heart, and couldn't imagine her not holding that part of him, even in death. True, he chose to put victory over his heart, and Kagome had that choice taken from her, but the outcome was the same. Both of them left without part of their heart, with long years parting them from the one they loved.
His heart beat faster as he realized she would know how he felt, the disorientation a displacement in time could create. And if he turned out to be as timeless as she... then the difference of age didn't matter. In fact, since he had slept through the years, was there really all that much separating them?
Hearing her last words, hope kindled a spark into a flame.
Kagome marshaled her thoughts, and pulled herself together. Her personal demons would have to wait. "What would your government say to my becoming the emissary, Director Fury?" She looked over at him. "For my jurisdiction over matters pertaining to Asgard and the tree?"
Fury held up his phone. "I can call the president now, ask him where he wants the Embassy built. This is actually a position we have long wished existed."
"Even though Dr. Banner and Captain Rogers will be under my aegis, as avatars of a non-human species?" Her eyes grew cold as he sputtered.
"Hold on, they are both part of the U.S. government in perpetuity..."
"So now I can level a charge of enslavement of an allied species? They are hanyou now, and humanity has a long history of classifying hanyou as non-human."
Another argument ensued, though Heimdall was happy to note the mischievous twinkle that gradually came to light in Kagome's eyes.
That night, she walked alongside Steve in the park nearby. "Where has Dr. Banner been? I have a lot of healing left to do on him, as well as counseling him on accepting Hulk-sama."
"According to Tony, he's back in his lab, conducting all sorts of tests. Trying to get a scientific view on what you've done so far I guess."
She looked at a tree with thick, low branches. With a hup, she tried to jump up to them, only to miss. Two warm hands went around her waist and boosted her up onto the branch. She scrambled closer to the trunk as he pulled himself up. "Thank you. I knew someone, back then, who could always be found up a tree, especially when he needed to think."
Surprisingly, he didn't feel any jealousy, even though the one she spoke of was probably the mate she lost. After her argument on his and Banner's behalf, it was obvious how large her heart was. "You do have a lot to think about. From an itinerant wanderer and healer arrested for truancy to Ambassador Yggdrasil, Lady Miko of Heimdall's line in the span of twenty-four hours. It's almost a real life Cinderella story."
"Ugh. You would think Mr. Stark would have been grateful I prevented the rearrangement of his face. Instead he hangs that title around my neck."
"What are your plans now?"
Catching a glimpse of their shadow, she smirked. "Short term, I'm going to keep Natasha jumping. Maybe open a betting pool as to when she'll finally realize that my combat skills are only used against non-humans. Healing Dr. Banner too, of course."
"Tony might ask you to heal him. Eliminate the need for that arc reactor in his chest."
"Hmm. Only if I'm working with a surgeon. Drawing poison out of a body is my limit, and it doesn't have near the mass metal does."
"That makes sense. We almost lost you clearing the radiation out of Bruce's friend." He reached up and grabbed the branch above him, leaning back and wishing he could see stars through the branches. "What about long term?"
She looked his way, wondering if she imagined the hopefulness in his tone. "I'm going to have to go to Asgard first, to learn more about their culture and society. I know humanity and all its foibles, but the people and customs of Asgard are strangers to me. It might take a few years."
He stopped looking out into the sky and shifted to where he was facing her. Reaching for her hands, he sat there a moment, running a thumb along the soft skin of her inner wrist.
Drumming up her courage, she softly told him, "You know, Captain, in ancient Japan, what you are doing would be considered very intimate. Only lovers and the closest of friends would touch the inside of the wrist."
He looked into her eyes, as she leaned forward out of the shadow of the tree, and saw what he'd been looking for. Her small hands engulfed in his, he gently ran his thumbs over the delicate skin once more. "Then maybe you should call me Steve."
She spent the next five years with her soul-father's people, learning their ways... and frequently escaping to earth. Countries around the world welcomed her, and she was able to forge a strong alliance between the realms. During the talks with Japan, she was even able to sneak over to see her family, though it took a while to adjust to Souta as the father of two.
One night, as she escaped the stultifying air of yet another diplomatic function she ran across Steve hiding on the same balcony she'd fled to. Looking out at the stars, she had a curious thought.
"Steve, did I ever tell you thank you for standing up to your promise?"
"Hmm?" He leaned against the wall, dazzled by the vision she made illuminated by moonlight. "What promise was that?"
"You said you'd help me find a job. Thank you... I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoy it, even on stuffy nights like tonight."
"Your father and Odin deserve most of the credit... but, I'll say you're welcome, anyways."
They enjoyed the silence together, watching the stars turn and twinkle, like diamonds lit from within dancing in a dark ballroom. He checked his pocket once more and, feeling the reassuring press of the small box inside, walked over to the railing and offered her his arm. "Would you care to dance, my Lady Miko?"
She looked up into his eyes and smiled, placing her hand upon his arm as he escorted her back to the party. And as her fingers interlaced with his on the dance floor, she watched the cord of fate joining them turn dark crimson.
They danced the night away, following destiny into ever-after.
My thanks once more to the people who reviewed, this chapter owes everything to you.
I'm a mythology fan, so I drew on that for some items: Odin traded his eye for the ability to see the future.: Loki's children were monsters, especially the ones he had with Frida the Frost Giant... the Midgard Serpent who will devour Yggdrasil at Ragnarok, the Fenrir wolf, who will start Ragnarok by killing Odin, and the goddess Hel, who reigns over the underworld. She's commonly called the bitch goddess, extraordinarily vengeful, so I could see some of that bitterness coming from losing her consort to Asgard. (It helps that she's a player in another story I'm working on.): Weregild... we might have fewer frivolous lawsuits if we had to pay weregild. Silver because it was a slight, had he truly impugned her honor, it would have been gold.
Why did I use Japanese terminology... youkai, hanyou, youki? Kagome used the words she knew. Had she been of European descent, I'd have used triton for river oni, halfling for hanyou, etc...
I get amused at people who think one being could hold two types of ki. The potential for ki can be inherited, but it's expression will rely on what type of being holds it. Ergo a hanyou born of a youkai and miko may be balanced, but their expression of ki is going to be youki, as the supernatural blood trumps the natural.
The Jerry Lee comment, for you young people- Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the most popular rock stars of the fifties, until he married his thirteen-year-old cousin. The backlash destroyed his career. Watch Great Balls of Fire to learn more.
I hope everyone enjoyed Between Now and Destiny. I had a great deal of fun writing it. -SilverontheRose