Chapter 1: Settling Into Midgard
Everything was going fine, right up until it all went straight to hell.
Getting out of Helheim was the easy part.
No, seriously, it was. It was her realm, after all, so it would have been pretty lame if she couldn’t escape it if she wanted. No. The hard part was finding somewhere to escape to, and getting there without being spotted by Heimdall’s all-seeing eye.
Asgard and Jotunheim were both out, for obvious reasons, and so was Alfheim; Loki had left a bad impression last time he was there, and Hel had no doubt they would be all-too-ready to take revenge on any of his children stupid enough to swagger out there.
Most of the other realms didn’t sound too appealing, either, for various reasons, but one caught her attention.
Most people didn’t think much of Midgard or its people, but Hel considered it thoughtfully.
Once you got past the bias and prejudice and the usual Asgardian contempt for anyone who couldn’t lift a cow one-handed, it actually sounded like a pretty interesting place.
Maybe, if Hel was lucky enough, it might even be her kind of place.
It took a lot of planning, and being super-sneaky, but eventually Hel devised a way to get there without anyone knowing, not even Heimdall.
Part of her wondered if she shouldn’t contact her father, let him know what she was doing - but then she thought of what had happened to Fenrir, and Jormungandr and poor Sleipnir, and even herself, and decided not to.
Loki had left them all to rot, in his eternal quest to be The Good Son; well, screw him, Hel decided. He was a lousy father, and clearly, he didn’t deserve to know what she was up to. So there.
Besides, knowing him, he’d probably find a way to ruin it. He usually did.
Midgard, as it turned out, was completely freaking awesome, to use the vernacular.
Hel took to it gleefully. Within almost no time at all she was Darcy Lewis, speaking the lingo like a native and listening to her iPod (omigod, best invention ever, with the possible exception of the coffee machine) and dropping pop culture references into everyday conversation like she’d been born to it.
It was fabulous, was what she was saying.
Back on Asgard she’d been bored out of her skull and Helheim was a total drag, but it was like Midgard had been specifically designed as a kind of utopia for irresponsible geniuses with short attention spans and a really low boredom threshold.
There was television, and the iPod (who could ever overlook that?) and the Nintendo and twenty-four hour pizza delivery and books filled with reckless experiments for people who liked explosions and Angry Birds and dear god, the internet. Like, the fanfiction alone could eat your entire brain, although Hel was a lot more careful now about what sites she went on. The Giant Squid from Harry Potter should never be part of a slash pairing, that’s all Hel was saying.
Still, even all of that got boring after a while if there wasn’t anything else to do, so Hel ended up enrolling at college and changed her major like, three times, depending on what seemed most interesting at the time (five minute attention span, she might have mentioned it). Also, she got a job, because, you know, money. Totally necessary.
When it came to getting work after graduation, picking Dr Foster was a …unconventional choice. Particularly since Hel had studied political science, not actual science. But Hel had discovered that all the most interesting people were kind of crazy, so as long as you got the entertaining and harmless kind, and not the deranged serial killers, it was all good.
Jane proved to be all kinds of crazy, as anticipated, but it was brilliant-crazy. She was clearly very, very bright, and even if the rest of the scientific community thought she was as mad as a cut snake, Hel was pretty sure she was actually onto something.
Hel hadn’t had much of a magical education thanks to Odin’s bigotry, and she was no physicist, but Hel had looked over some of Jane’s research when the scientist wasn’t around, and thought she could understand some of it. It was a bit like Asgardian science, except for how it really wasn’t, and Hel found it quite intriguing. Not that she could say that, though. Darcy Lewis had no knowledge of astrophysics (or any physics for that matter) so it would have been pretty weird if she’d seemed to get any of it.
Jane was a bit flaky, sure, but she wasn’t dumb, and absent-minded as she was even she was bound to notice if her political science major assistant started showing an understanding of high-level science. So Hel mostly fetched coffee and did helpful assistant-y things and pretended she didn’t have a clue what Jane was going on about.
It worked out quite well.
Uncle Thor showing up was a complete shock.
Maybe it was petty to feel satisfied when Jane ran him over with her car (twice! Just for that, Hel bought the really expensive coffee Jane liked best the next time she did the grocery run, because Hel was going to treasure those memories forever) but come on, after what he’d done to Fenrir, he deserved it.
Hel was kind of annoyed at how likeable he turned out to be, though. She hadn’t seen much of him on Asgard but he was like a bit dumb golden retriever, all happy amiable grins unless something upset him and then he was all big sad eyes.
He was also hotter than Hel remembered. Maybe she should have been ashamed, perving over her ripped uncle, but she was Hel Lokisdottir and therefore she had no shame. Besides, it wasn’t like looking was going to do any harm.
Finding out that Father had finally flipped, apparently (and who could blame him – Hel would have liked to recommend a good psychiatrist, because god knew after all his time on Asgard her father had issues) was worrying, but unsurprising. There were days when Loki was wound up tighter than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, just waiting to snap, and he’d never been, exactly. Well. Stable.
Somehow, no one actually noticed who Hel was, and yes she was putting her shapeshifting abilities to good use (the one good thing they’d all gotten from Loki) but still. It was pretty insulting that a bunch of Asgardians were running around – including her uncle and who else? Uh, her father – and nobody had clued in about who she was.
Not that she wanted them to, obviously, because that would have put a major crimp in her new lifestyle as the hip and vivacious Darcy Lewis. It just… made her feel slightly unimportant, that was all.
Anyway, all of that blew over with no ill-effects that Hel knew of (although WTF was going on back in Asgard she had no idea), Jane made out with her hunky love interest before he flew off to deal with Loki (honestly, that man didn’t get enough attention as a child) and Jane declared it her mission to build her own Einstein-Rosen Bridge, and also stick it to the MIB, which was a goal Hel happily agreed with, both on general principle and because Son of Coul never did return her iPod.
So, as far as Hel was concerned, things had gone back to normal, mostly (yeah, so maybe she had a broader definition of ‘normal’ than most people, but whatever, she was a refugee god-queen of the dead, ‘kay?) and everything was going just fine.
And then – because that was how he rolled – Loki turned up again, and that was when the shit well and truly hit the fan.
Chapter 2: The Problem of Coulson
Weirdly, it wasn’t even the aliens that ruined it all.
Fuck, no. After all the other stuff Hel had to deal with, from scientists having freak-outs over data they didn’t like to lab explosions to the Great Coffee Shortage of 2012, aliens? Pssht. Hel could deal with that, no problem. It wasn’t even like she was actually in New York at the time, anyway, because Jane was visiting her mom for the first time in two years so Hel was getting some well-deserved vacation time when shit went down.
No. Aliens weren’t the problem. In the end, the problem was Special Agent Phillip Coulson.
So alright, she and Phil didn’t exactly start out well. But it was hard to hold a grudge against the guy for long. He was too damn nice. Sure, Hel knew he could probably shoot a guy in the head and not feel the slightest tinge of remorse if it was for the good of the country, but at the same time this was the guy who’d bring Fury’s secretary a cup of coffee and a doughnut because Fury had been living up to his name particularly well that day, or loan out the spare umbrella he kept in his desk because he was concerned about someone catching a chill when it was raining.
As Jane’s unofficial handler-slash-babysitter (duties included: providing a constant supply of coffee, shooing idiots out of the lab, completing paperwork in language non-scientists understood, making sure that Jane slept and ate and drank and maintained adequate hygiene) Hel ended up seeing a lot of Coulson, because everyone knew that Hel was the sane one and it was best for requests and memos to go through her rather than Jane, who paid no attention and tended to scribble equations on any written memos she received (yes, she had an email address, but it had started bouncing messages after a while and Jane hadn’t checked it since November, anyway).
Hel wouldn’t go so far as to say that the two of them were friends, but Phil was a good man and a badass agent and Hel was genuinely fond of him.
And then he died, because Hel’s damaged, megalomaniacal father killed him, because Phil was trying to save the world and stop Loki from conquering Midgard and killing any more people and generally acting like a complete douche.
See? Problem, right there.
When Hel found out, it took her a moment or two to process it all properly.
She spent about the next three hours after that arguing with herself, before she lost the battle and gave in to the inevitable.
This is a really bad idea, she told herself, in a last-ditch effort to convince herself not to do something near-suicidal. The moment you do this, they will find you, you know this. And that’s once you get past the whole big thing of SHIELD probably not being exactly pleased to find out one of their employees is secretly Loki-spawn. Come on, is this really what you want?
But despite Hel’s eloquent argument with herself, her self had only one simple, uncompromising answer.
And yeah, Hel couldn’t really argue with that no matter how she tried.
“Oh, shit,” Hel said grimly, accepting her fate.
Apparently there were some things she just couldn’t let stand. Fucking conscience. It was a liability, that’s was it was.
One thing was for sure; next time she saw Loki, she was going to kick his ass for this, filial loyalty be damned.
Hel poked Jane repeatedly.
Jane made a displeased growling noise and hunched over further, doing her best to become one with the tabletop.
“Jane. Hey. Wake up.”
“Mmph.” Jane glared up with one slitted eye. It reminded Hel vaguely of Fury.
Hel held out her offering and spoke the magic word.
Jane’s one visible eye narrowed, but she sat up, peeling a diagram away from her face where it had been stuck from Jane drooling on it in her sleep.
Anyone who thought science was a noble and dignified profession didn’t know any actual scientists, Hel was pretty sure. Or else they were lying liars who only said it was a noble and dignified profession, and were secretly laughing on the inside at everyone who believed them.
Jane made demanding grabby motions with her hands, and Hel handed over the coffee.
“So, I have a confession,” said Hel. She wasn’t one for long, drawn-out scenes, and figured it was best to get this over with quick. “My name isn’t actually Darcy Lewis, okay? It’s Hel Lokisdottir, and I’m kind of Thor’s niece.”
Hel let herself shift back to her natural form, the one that creeped out everyone back in Asgard. The dark hair was the same as for Darcy, but Hel’s eyes were a bright icy blue and her skin was pure, snow white. Her jeans and Doc Martens hid the other major change, namely the weird wasting disease that affected Hel’s legs. Healers had eventually halted the spread of the disease, but nothing could cure the damage that was already done and Hel’s legs looked wasted and deformed. They weren’t something she liked people to see.
Jane stared round-eyed for a long moment, taking in all the changes to Hel’s appearance, before making a helpless noise and holding a hand out for the second coffee Hel was holding.
Hel gave it to her.
After the second coffee, Jane was awake and articulate enough to have the conversation Hel’s FYI speech warranted.
“You lied to me?”
“Look, it was a thing, okay? I didn’t have a choice, I would have been hunted down if anyone knew where I was, so I needed to go incognito. But hey, the situation’s changed, complete FUBAR, and I need to get back to my realm, pronto. I’m going to have everyone on my ass for this, but… we need to build ourselves an Einstein-Rosen Bridge.”
Jane latched onto Hel’s arm like a limpet, fingers digging in painfully, a mad light in her eyes.
“You know how?”
And yup, that right there, that was the deranged scientist expression Hel had been expecting and hoping for.
“Kind of,” Hel responded warily. “I mean, not exactly, but I think between us we can work it out, and it’s really, really important that we do it soon, like the next few days. You in?”
“I am SO in,” Jane declared, eyes blazing with excited resolve.
Then she frowned, as she finally noticed some of the little niggling things that had been pushed aside in favour of more important things, like SCIENCE.
“Did you break into my house? And buy me coffee at three in the morning?”
“I know a dude, runs a 24-hour coffee bar for emergencies, and picking locks is easy,” Hel explained. “Especially since you left the spare key under a random brick near the back door, which, no offence, is kind of where everybody hides their spare key so it’s really easy to guess.”
“Okay.” A normal person might have been upset, but Jane just accepted this with the natural serenity of someone who had gone so far past sanity that they’d come out somewhere completely different. You saw it a lot, in scientists. “Let’s get to work, then.”
“Shower and change, first,” Hel recommended, because they weren’t in that much of a hurry.
Chapter 3: Welcome to Sunny Helheim
It took them three days. Even Hel was kind of impressed that they managed it so fast.
“Just to put things in perspective,” said Jane, “we are sitting in my house, which is full of equipment stolen from a bunch of New York labs and the only reason no one’s noticed yet is that they were recently invaded by aliens, and we’re preparing to tear a hole in the fabric of space-time in the middle of my yard. Which is full of weeds, because I keep forgetting to hire a gardener.”
“Magic is awesome, and so is science,” Hel agreed.
When she glanced at her boss Jane was clearly trying to keep from laughing, and just as clearly failing.
“Okay.” Hel told herself she wasn’t nervous, it wasn’t like she hadn’t done this before, but apparently she had no faith in herself because the pep-talk wasn’t working. “So, um, if this works, I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be back, because the mathematical differentials mean that the timing’s going to be a bit, you know, wibbly-wobbly.”
“We’re about to rip a hole in reality and you’re making Doctor Who references?” Jane asked, and she looked a little amused in spite of herself.
“It’s how I roll. You ready for this?” And dammit, now that song was playing in her head, curse the earworms.
For once, Jane actually had an appropriately cool reply.
“I was born ready for this,” she said levelly.
The two of them started up the equipment, and went outside to watch.
“Please work,” Hel muttered under her breath. “Come on, universe, I don’t ask for much, so seriously, please deliver on this one.”
Apparently the universe agreed that this was a fair call, because in front of her eyes the magic of the Bifrost began to unfold.
Hel grinned nervously, and stepped forward.
Hel had almost forgotten how dreary Helheim was.
Jeez, there was grey everywhere, like being dead wasn’t already enough of a downer for the poor people who ended up here. Typical Aesir, they totally needed some decent interior designers to teach them about things like uplifting colour schemes and the joys of feng shui.
Everything was cavernous and cold and grey (did she mention the grey?) and the atmosphere was about as warm and cheerful as a pack of Dementors.
If Hel was forced to come back here she was bringing a bunch of rugs, some space heaters, a home theatre system and getting some cable and an internet connection installed, because there had to be a way to make it all work and she was damned if she was going to be stuck here again without the bare necessities.
Here and there, as Hel walked, she saw the shades of the dead drifting about vaguely in a kind of fugue state, most of them not even noticing as she went past.
It had always been fairly creepy that that happened, but now that Hel was used to the energy and activity of humanity, it was even more disturbing to watch. Hel quicken her pace and kept looking for any sign of Coulson.
The fact that she used to live here, voluntarily or not, was so depressing. Hel was half-considering renaming the whole place Azkaban, seriously. Okay, no, not really, because that would be a major act of nerdery even for her. But still.
With a sudden rush of relief Hel saw a familiar figure, standing aimlessly in her halls like he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be doing or where he was supposed to be going, looking confused and lost.
What the dead looked like in Helheim said a lot about who they were, deep in their soul, where it didn’t matter what was expected of them or what other people thought. Hel couldn’t help feeling a bloom of amused affection as she saw that even down here, Coulson was wearing his SHIELD-issue suit without a hair out of place.
Still, the disoriented look he was rocking wasn’t so good.
“Hey!” Hel called out, her voice echoing and sounding startlingly loud in all the quiet. “Son of Coul!”
Coulson turned, eyebrows rising as he took in Hel, pale as winter and with icy-blue eyes to match, the lost look fading as his gaze focused on her properly.
Hel was relieved at the sight. She’d been worried. Too long in Helheim, and the dead became… changed, and it was impossible to bring them back to the land of the living after that. They just went impossibly serene, and sort of dreamily happy, like someone had given them the really good drugs and they didn’t give a shit anymore.
By the time Hel crossed the hall – seriously, why did she have so many halls? That was the problem with Asgardian architecture, everything was built like an oversized rabbit-warren – to where Phil was standing, his mind was entirely grounded, anchored by her presence.
“Hey,” Hel offered.
“Darcy.” A beat. “I’m assuming that’s not your real name.”
“That would be Hel, actually,” Hel told him, giving him a friendly smack on the shoulder. “And you, my friend, need to leave, before it’s too late to resurrect you.”
Coulson’s eyes widened in surprise.
“Uh-huh. Like, duh,” Hel pointed out. “Why do you think I’m here? I couldn’t let you stay dead after saving the world and getting stabbed by my father. That would have been uncool. Besides, your replacement probably wouldn’t have let me claim doughnuts as expenses.”
“Father,” Coulson repeated, ignoring the rest of Hel’s ramble.
“Black hair, got a screw loose, tends to dress in green and gold. Kind of a dick,” Hel described helpfully, like she thought he might have forgotten, instead of answering the question he was really asking.
“I remember him just fine,” Phil responded carefully. “He’s your father?”
“Unfortunately,” Hel agreed. “He ranks pretty high on the Deadbeat Dad Scale. Although honestly practically most of my family could do with some therapy. They could run how-to sessions on child abuse up there.” Hel’s lips thinned at the bitter memories. “The last time I saw my brothers one had a sword stuck in him, thank you Thor for being a loving and supportive uncle, another was being used as our grandfather’s personal steed, and the third… let’s not go there. I got let off easy, and it still took me, like, two centuries to escape this place.”
Hel wrapped a hand around Coulson’s arm and tugged.
“Now come on, I want to get you back before they hold your funeral, because digging you up would be really awkward and difficult to explain to the cops. And SHIELD.”
Phil let himself be dragged along, looking bemused but quietly grateful.
Hel let out a sigh, steeled herself, and took them back to Midgard.
Of course, with Hel’s usual luck, they arrived back in Midgard in the middle of the goddamn funeral. It figured.
Practically all of SHIELD was there, all of the Avengers, and even Fury was standing near the front, glaring like Odin greeting the beginning of a particularly bad day. Each and every one of them was staring straight at Hel, who still looked like a kind of blue-eyed Norse Snow White but was all the same instantly recognisable as Darcy Lewis, SHIELD-appointed scientist wrangler.
Yeah, so kicking Loki’s ass if she had to hunt him across the Nine Realms to do it.
Beside her Phil stood all pale and insubstantial, almost invisible in the afternoon sunlight, so that no one had noticed him yet. Already people were beginning to stir into action, shock and confusion changing into something else, and Hel saw Uncle Thor’s expression morph into astonishment, then anger as she threw open the lid of Phil’s coffin.
Hel glared down at Coulson’s body in annoyed dismay, because sure, an embalmed body was an easier fix-it than the result of a traditional Asgardian funeral pyre, but it was still going to take time to set everything right again, and considering that the funeral guests included SHIELD, pissed superheroes and an angry Uncle Thor Hel did not have that sort of time.
“This is surreal,” Coulson observed, looking down at his own body with the kind of calm that Hel would have assumed came from being dead, if she hadn’t known that it was all Phil.
“Yeah, listen, I know you’re not in a state to do much of anything, being not-alive and all, but I need you to stall these guys as much as possible,” Hel directed quickly, frowning down at the corpse in front of her, her mind mostly occupied with how best to do this. “I need time and concentration.”
“On it,” Phil replied instantly (and see, this was why she loved him best, apart from Jane) and left her side, presumably to do something helpful, but Hel didn’t exactly know because what she was already putting his physical self back together like it was supposed to be.
Bits were missing, things had been stitched up, other things had been injected with preservatives, and it all had to be repaired before she stuck Coulson back in, or else being brought back to life would kill him.
Hel worked her mojo as quickly as she could, her tongue sticking out with concentration, as she poured all her focus into what she was doing and kept only enough awareness of what was going on around her to know when to duck and/or dodge.
Halfway through, there was a sudden choked shout of “Phil?!” and pretty much everything went still, which probably meant someone had finally noticed Coulson doing whatever he was doing over there. Hel could vaguely hear his voice on the wind, barely a whisper to mortal ears, and the kind of silence that came from people listening with all of their attention.
Hel had no real idea how much time had passed, but she grinned and gave a satisfied hum of triumph as the last problem was fixed.
“Phil!” she yelled, without looking around. She didn’t want to see the looks on everyone’s faces. Not yet. She needed to do this first.
Like she expected, her favourite super secret agent was standing next to her within a second.
“Even dead you’re like a ninja,” she commented admiringly. “Brace yourself, because this is going to suck.”
And with a dramatic hand-wavy flourish, Hel resurrected him with all the flair of a stage magician.
Phil’s eyes flew open and he sucked in a huge breath, which turned out to be a bad idea, because it meant that he broke into a huge coughing fit as his lungs got confused about all the oxygen that hadn’t been there a second ago.
“Easy there,” Hel counselled him, patting his shoulder. “Slow, shallow breaths for a second, don’t want you going into shock at being alive again.”
Somehow Coulson heard her, despite all the noise that came from, you know, practically coughing up a lung, and his breathing evened out as he followed her advice.
“Okay, um, he was dead, and now he’s alive,” said a guy that Hel recognised as Tony Stark. She’d seen too many weird-ass photos on tumblr not to know him when she saw him. “Did everyone else see that? You guys saw that, right?”
Judging by how wide Stark’s eyes had gotten, he was mostly rambling out of shock. Hel could sympathise.
“Holy shit. She just resurrected him, or maybe he’s the messiah – how many days has it been, five? Three the magic number for messiahs, unless they’ve changed the rules, which could happen.”
Coulson gave a slight groan.
“No one should be exposed to Stark this soon after being raised from the dead,” he muttered, just loud enough for Hel to hear. He sat up, while everyone watched, still looking stunned or bewildered at what had just happened.
“Help me out of this thing,” he murmured to Hel, who obligingly held out a hand and helped him climb out of the coffin (which he managed with a surprising amount of dignity for a man who’d been dead only minutes earlier) because hello, non-human here, much stronger than she looked.
Which had the totally unwanted effect of turning everyone’s attention back to Hel. Yeah.
She waited with resignation as Uncle Thor inhaled to speak.
“Hel! Why are you here on Midgard?” he demanded, full of self-righteous, suspicious disapproval that made Hel itch to taze him, except that it wouldn’t do much. “Why restore the valiant Agent Coulson? I know full well it is not from benevolent intent.”
Yeah, well fuck you too, Uncle Thor.
“Why?” Hel asked sarcastically. “Because I’m ‘evil?’” She made quotation marks with her fingers. “Here’s a news flash for you, bud: being born weird should not be the next best thing to a death sentence. And it is definitely not an excuse for putting a sword through your nephew’s head.”
“Fenrir is a most grievous beast,” Uncle Thor began, frowning, and Hel lost it.
“Goddamn it, Uncle Thor! He was five! So what if he was all wolf-shaped? And if you can’t even consider the idea that there might be something wrong with sticking a sword through your five-year-old nephew’s head then you’re the monster, Uncle Thor! And you wonder why the fuck Loki finally went nuts! You ever think torturing and imprisoning his kids maybe had something to do with it?”
The faces of all the people around them were filled with horror or disbelief, but Hel just glared at Uncle Thor, who looked like he’d been hit by a truck, or maybe just by the world’s biggest clue. His face was stricken.
“I – I did not–”
“If you say you didn’t think about it I will taze you in the face,” Hel interrupted.
She turned to Fury, who was watching with a shrewd, judgemental stare that made him look part-hawk or something.
“So. I’m actually a Norse goddess,” she told him. “Am I fired? Because I totally would have told you guys, only I didn’t want any of that Guantanamo shit. Or Asgard on my ass, which is what’s going to happen now Coulson’s finished being dead and they know I’m here, seeing as how I escaped Helheim and all that.”
Fury gave her a long, assessing look, and Hel did not shuffle. Or twitch. Or even blink.
“Depends,” he said finally. “Hel, right? Loki’s daughter?” Hel nodded, wondering where this was going. Because there was the obvious direction of hey, your dad just attacked N.Y. with a bunch of aliens, I am not down with this shit and since you’re here you must’ve been in on it, but Fury was as sneaky and devious as Hel’s brother Jormangandr, which meant that he was probably about to spring something completely unexpected on her. “How are inter-family relations?”
Hel bit her lip.
“Really fucked up?” she offered truthfully. “I mean, he sort of abandoned us to be tortured and stuff, so, not exactly World’s Best Dad, here. And then he came and screwed up the really nice life I’d built here in Midgard, so I’m kind of pissed about that, too.”
Fury acknowledged her right to be pissed with a slight nod.
“Well, since you just did us the favour of resurrecting one of my best agents, I’m going to take it as a gesture of good faith and skip all ‘that Guantanamo shit,’ as you call it,” he said, which meant sure, we won’t lock you in a cage or anything, but good luck so much as going to the bathroom without us knowing all the details.
Which was going to be awkward and embarrassing and whatever, but hey, could be worse, Hel told herself positively.
“Thor,” Fury commanded. “Darcy Lewis is an American citizen and a valuable member of SHIELD, and I would be extremely displeased if Asgard decided to interfere with one of our employees. I am sure that you can convey the importance of avoiding a diplomatic incident to your people.”
“Aye,” said Uncle Thor, looking sad and conflicted. Hel gave it a day before he tried to have a long touchy-feely conversation with her about feelings. “I shall speak with them.”
Hel found herself being eyeballed again. It was the one-eye thing, it was unnerving.
“It occurs to me,” said Fury deliberately, “that you might have knowledge of Asgardian science and culture that could be to SHIELD’s benefit.”
Hel cracked a smile. It was a bit wobbly, and definitely worried, but still. It was a smile.
“Yeah,” she agreed, with sudden hope. “I know some stuff.”
Okay, one more chapter to go. I swear, next one really is the last chapter, this time. Next up is basically an epilogue.
Okay, quick poll: if I ever decided to write more in this universe, what would you all think of Hel/Coulson? No promises, mind. (Also, did none of you guys notice the 'gen' tag this has? No, this fic isn't Hel/Coulson.)
Obviously, that wasn’t the end of it – Hel spent like two days in interrogations and debriefings and things – but SHIELD seemed fairly sure of her loyalties, in spite of Hel’s newly revealed race and parentage and everything, so by SHIELD standards she got off easy. (Or maybe they just wanted to be on good terms with a Queen of the Dead. Who knew.)
Coulson was apparently dragged off for every test they could think of – because he had been dead and now he was alive and that was a pretty significant change, y’all – before Medical was more or less satisfied and he was released, to go sleep and eat and check in with anyone outside of SHIELD who might think he was dead. Hel had heard a rumour he had a lady-friend somewhere, so presumably he wanted to tell her he was alive if no one else had bothered.
Hel’s status in SHIELD was mostly the same; she was still Jane’s assistant, although now she was considered to have actual scientific knowledge and expected to participate in the doing of science, and there’d been a suggestion that she might want to formally study Midgardian science at some point. She was now also an official cultural advisor to SHIELD, which was kind of hilarious for a whole bunch of reasons, some of them ironic.
As anticipated, as soon as Uncle Thor got back from convincing Odin to not send anyone after Hel, he’d wanted to have a long talk about how he had misjudged her, offered grave insult and unwarranted harm, yada yada yada, which ended with him promising to seek leniency on her brothers’ behalf and urge his father to spend time in contemplation of their treatment without the barriers of prejudice and suspicion (his words).
Which, okay, was sweet of him, Hel had to admit, but yeah, no, not in a million years, if Hel knew Odin at all. Probably the only reasons she wasn’t already back in Helheim were to avoid conflict with Midgard and to see what Hel chose to do next.
All the same, though, it was… something. And Hel was living the life she’d chosen for herself, probably wasn’t going to be locked up any time soon, and she’d saved Coulson’s life. Life, she decided, was sweet. All she needed to do now was return to her regularly scheduled programme, and settle in for a Girl’s Night with Jane to discuss Hel’s rescue mission and Jane’s reunion with Thor (and also how weird it would be if Jane ended up Hel’s aunt-by-marriage, because Hel wanted to see Jane’s face when she brought up the idea).
And she needed to see how Phil was doing, obviously.
The next time Hel saw Coulson, he was sitting at his desk looking the image of a broken man.
“Coulson?” Hel asked cautiously from the door of his office. “Phil? What’s up?”
Phil let out a long, mournful sigh, and held something out for Hel to see.
It proved to be his set of vintage Captain America cards… which were spattered with blood.
Hel’s eyes widened.
Everyone knew about Coulson’s Captain America obsession, and everyone knew that the one true love of his life was the set of Captain America trading cards he’d taken years (and, like, a gazillion dollars) to collect. No wonder he was looking like a house had fallen on him.
“What happened?” Hel asked, equally sympathetic and curious, because if it was a choice between losing his life and losing his cards, she was pretty sure the agent would have to think really hard about which one to pick. He definitely wouldn’t have had them with him while he was in the field, so Hel seriously wanted to know how they’d ended up covered in blood.
Coulson’s jaw tightened.
“Director Fury wanted the announcement of my death to have the proper emotional impact.”
Hel winced, and wondered if Fury still had an office, because Phil might have superhuman levels of self-control (seriously, he might seem like a normal human, but Hel was convinced his amazing self-restraint even in the face of trials like Barton or Stark was actually an as-yet undetected superpower) but if anything was ever going to push Coulson over the edge it was going to be this.
“Jesus, Phil.” Phil just gave her a look like someone had ripped his heart out. Hel rolled her eyes. “Oh, give them here.”
An eyebrow rose, but Coulson passed them over.
A quick application of magic – Hel did know some, obviously: Loki’s daughter, here - and Hel handed them back, blood-free.
Phil didn’t actually leap at the cards and examine them, but he clearly wanted to. Instead he looked them over slowly for a few seconds, and Hel thought he might actually cry.
He was way too professional for that, though, and quickly composed himself.
He looked up at her again.
“I wanted to thank you,” Coulson said quietly.
And yeah, Hel knew immediately what they were talking about.
She leaned against his desk with a sigh.
“Look, you’re a good person. Maybe you do bad things sometimes, but yeah, you’re with SHIELD, so sometimes it’s necessary to do bad things to stop really terrible ones from happening. I get it. I couldn’t just… let it go, okay? Your death, I mean. Like I said, you’re a good person, and I like you, and my father has kind of turned into a douche, which was sort of inevitable but that is so not what this discussion is about. Um. That’s why I brought you back. Hey, does this make us friends now? Is it like knocking out a mountain troll? Is this one of those things you can’t go through together without becoming friends?”
Hel fixed him with a wide-eyed, innocent stare.
The corner of Coulson’s mouth lifted, just a bit. He leaned back, like he was carefully considering the question.
“You know, I think it does,” he mused seriously, but there was a smile lurking somewhere at the edges of his eyes and mouth. “I’m fairly certain that when someone retrieves you from the afterlife and raises you from the dead, you’re friends.”
Hel beamed at him.
“Cool. So, does this mean you’re open to grabbing coffee and bitching about the weirdness that is our lives?”
Phil raised an eyebrow.
“I’ll think about it.”
“Also,” Hel added conspirationally, “there’s a bar, like two blocks from here, does a perfect French martini – Jane and I sometimes go for Fabulous Friday drinks, which has half-price cocktails and karaoke, although sometimes we leave before the karaoke because lots of people can’t sing and after about three cocktails Jane always goes into a psychotic rage that the karaoke machine doesn’t have The Elements Song.”
“Sounds frightening,” was Phil’s deadpan assessment.
Hel thought about it. Yeah, he kind of had a point. Still, super secret agent, he should be able to deal.
“Well, maybe a little.” Hel straightened up, and quit leaning against Phil’s desk. “I dig the new headquarters,” she said randomly. “Is this where SHIELD’s living now? Stark Tower?”
“Temporarily,” said Coulson. “And I believe the building has been officially renamed Avengers Tower.”
“Aww, what an adorable gesture.”
Coulson smiled a bit.
Phil. You’re friends now. Think of him as Phil.
“Stark doesn’t usually play well with others, but he seems to have bonded with the other Avengers. Particularly Dr Banner.”
“Behold the harmonious powers of science,” Hel said wisely. “For it unites all geeks everywhere.”
Phil cleared his throat meaningfully.
“Speaking of science,” and Hel decided that based on his tone she wasn’t going to like what came next, “I’m afraid that Dr Foster cannot keep the equipment for the Einstein-Rosen Bridge at her house. It needs to be moved to a more secure location.”
“Maybe Jane likes having a magical portal in her backyard,” Hel argued. “It makes Thor’s commute easier.”
“Also,” Phil continued like he hadn’t heard her, despite his lips twitching, “you and Dr Foster need to submit a report detailing the construction and use of the Einstein-Rosen Bridge.”
“Oh man, that is going to suck. Fine, you’ll get your report. Possibly on the back of cocktail napkins, but that works for you, right?”
Phil gave a sigh.
“Out. Do work.”
Hel grinned and gave him a wave as she left.
“See you, Eurydice.”
She left before he could object to the new nickname.
Coffee on Thursday, she decided. She was definitely grabbing him to get coffee on his lunchbreak on Thursday. Thursday was a good day for coffee.
She wondered idly if Uncle Thor knew he had a day named after him. Meh, someone else could tell him.
For those of you wondering why I was talking about the gen tag in my notes last chapter, it was because of the number of readers who were surprised to find out this fic WASN'T Hel/Coulson. But no, this one is gen. However, if I do write more in this universe (no promises!) then that fic will, probably, have Hel/Coulson as a pairing. Thank you all you guys for reading this; I never expected such an amazing number of kudos from you all. I am glad you've all enjoyed it! :)