The scientists had called it in. There were times when even he was surprised at how many people S.H.I.E.L.D had watching the night skies, and he was one of the two people who knew the real reason why they had them in the first place. They were calling it an ‘atmospheric disturbance’. It wasn’t the first time they’d used that phrase and had it turn out to be something harmless, but this time was different. The scale of the disturbance alone…
He feels as though something cold and heavy is weighing in his stomach. Jormungandr had told him to suck it up and check it out, but he could see that he was just as worried. That bothered him. His brother had always been unflappable, even when they were children. But it made sense; something like this could be dangerous for both of them. If Asgard found out that they had been freed there would be hell to pay. They were lucky they had gotten away with it for so long as it was.
If it is the Bifrost, and his instincts are screaming that it is, then they are in danger. If Odin has come then it is likely they will die for daring to slip free of their chains. If it is another, well, they are still in danger if it is reported that Jormungandr isn’t at the bottom of the ocean where he’s supposed to be.
No. He shakes his head and focuses on the road stretching out before him. He isn’t going to think about it. Not now. He can worry about it later if his suspicions turn out to be true. Right now, what he is going to do his job and be relieved that he doesn’t have to babysit Tony Stark any more. The man’s a pain in the ass; mysterious ‘atmospheric disturbances’ in New Mexico are infinitely preferable to watching him mope over his daddy issues. (That Stark thought he had a fucked up family was nothing short of hilarious.)
He wants to get it over with as soon as possible, so he only stops once at a petrol station. His car needs filling up and he needs junk food. Donuts are tempting, but he can’t decide which flavour to have. One of the things he likes the most about being human is the ability to eat just about anything. Jormungandr says he has a problem, eating crap like this when he’s stressed, and he cracks jokes about the puppy begging for table scraps, but he’s one to talk. He didn’t get as big as he is by having an allergy to seafood.
The knot of worry in his stomach only increases at the sight of the robbers. They’re easy enough to deal with – idiots of the first order and no match for him at all – but they’re something of a bad omen.
He takes both packs of donuts. Jormungandr can kiss his ass.
He parks the car on a small rise and steps out. Dust swirls up at the sudden movement and dances around him before resettling on his suit. ‘Land of Enchantment’, his ass. He’s not a big fan of deserts. The cicadas hidden in the scrub around him fall silent. He has that affect on wildlife. They know that he’s not what he seems; that he’s something far more dangerous than the plain-looking man in a suit that he pretends to be. Humans – as a rule – are the only ones who don’t notice that, though there are exceptions like
Clint, Natasha and Hill. He finds it endearing, really, how the majority of the species try to ignore their own instincts and think that they’re better off for it.
He stares down at the crater in the desert, and the humans throwing a party around it. He can smell the barbecuing sausages from here, even through the thick fog of car exhaust and dust and desert heat. His nose twitches. There’s something else down there that tugs at the darkest recesses of his memory. The smell of ozone and magic. A nervous whine builds in his throat and he swallows it. In the distance a man moves out of his line of sight, and his eyesight is sharp enough – even in this form, where his senses are dulled though not to a normal human level – to pick out the shape of a hammer.
The whine turns into a growl. He pulls his phone from his pocket and hits speed dial. Jormungandr answers on the first ring. He’s been waiting for this.
“Sir, we found it,” he says. The temptation to call him ‘Jor’ is almost overwhelming, but he’s not a child anymore. He’s an adult with a job to do, and that job is to protect his siblings and their adopted home.
“Uncle is paying a visit.”
Jormungandr’s response isn’t shaped by human language. There’s a furious hiss and he pulls the phone away from his ear slightly. He can understand easily enough. Make sure Thor leaves without discovering anything.
It should be simple. Their uncle was always a fool and the children of Loki all inherited their mother’s brain. “Understood,” he says, and hangs up.
The knot of worry hasn’t eased.
It should be simple, but it won’t be. Thor was a fool, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t dangerous. He’d never forgotten the day of his imprisonment and Thor’s part in it – the burning sensation in his ribs as Thor wielded Mjolnir against him, to subdue him enough for Odin and Tyr to bind him in place. Thor had left the fight early, he remembers, to restrain Mother. Mother had heard his screams of pain and come to save him, only to be held back and made to watch as he was bound to the earth and his grandfather drove a sword through his muzzle, pinning his head to the ground and making the copper taste of blood bloom across his tongue for the second time that day.
It’s one of his few memories of life on Asgard. Centuries have passed since that day, and he has since learned to embrace his human life but even after all this time, he still fears his uncle. It galls him.
He dreams of Asgard that night, for the first time in centuries, and wakes with a start. Clint slumbers on next to him, sheets pooling in the dip of his lower back, baring his muscular shoulders to the moonlight that slips through a crack in the blinds. Fenris rubs a hand over his eyes and tries to erase the images of his early childhood from his mind. It will do him no favours to recall the warmth of Mother’s arms around him, or the grass under his paws as he raced Sleipnir through meadows, or the feel of his ribs splintering under one of Mjolnir’s blows. He exhales slowly and slips out of bed, padding silently through to the kitchenette and the coffee machine. He won’t get any more sleep tonight.
He isn’t sure what Jormungandr thought he was doing, sending Clint with the scientific team and field agents. It’s possible he was trying to send him a source of comfort, but that would imply that his brother was capable of understanding affection to a degree far greater than he’d ever credited him with. Jormungandr is cold-blooded through and through.
But if that was his intent then it has backfired. Clint doesn’t know, of course. How could he tell him he’s anything other than the human Clint believes him to be? It wouldn’t matter if he did. Clint wouldn’t believe him, anyway. He’s Phil, now. Philip Coulson, not Fenris Lokisson. He is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D of average build and appearance, and an indeterminate age. He’s so regular-looking that it’s impossible for him to be anything but what he appears to be.
He knows how dangerous it is to be different.
Jane Foster’s laboratory is filled with equipment. So filled, in fact, that he had to call extra trucks from the temporary base he’d had set up around Mjolnir that morning. He watches as her life’s work is packed away into boxes and crates and taken away. She’ll be angry, he knows, when she finds out, but he has to know everything about the Bifrost’s activation.
They have Mjolnir, but Thor is still missing. That frightens him more than he cares to admit.
When she arrives, it is with a cry of “What the hell is going on here?” She’s a small woman, and a fairly attractive, with long hair and a neat frame. Physically, she’s weak. Only her brain holds a threat, but he’s heard that said about Mother too often to not take her seriously.
“Miss Foster, I’m Agent Coulson with S.H.I.E.L.D,” he says. As he introduces himself, his gaze slips from her, to the young woman behind her.
His nose had caught the scent as soon as she’d walked through the door. Nothing she does will ever be able to hide it from him: the sweet smell of death and decay clings to his sister. Hela recognises him, he knows it. He sees her eyes flash with amusement and for a moment he sees her glamour shift, revealing her true face. The grinning skull doesn’t frighten him, just as he has never feared Jormungandr’s sinuous coils.
He is the only one who notices. The junior agents are preoccupied with their work, and Foster and Selvig are preoccupied with trying to save theirs.
“Is that supposed to mean something to me? You can’t do this!” The hysterical pitch of Foster’s voice is painful to his ears. He fights back a wince.
Having sharpened senses is as much a curse as it is a blessing. Humans make such a lot of noise, and have so many smells. Centuries of trying to hide his reactions to them have given him the perfect poker face. Most of his colleagues put it down to just him being a good agent; they don’t need to know that inside he is cringing at something their senses are too dull to notice half of the time. He can only be relieved that his current form has dulled them to the extent where it is merely uncomfortable, rather than agonising, to be around loud noises.
Only his vision isn’t perfect, but having never seen in colour he isn’t sure what he’s supposed to miss about it. At least Clint seems to find it funny that he can only see in monochrome and doesn’t mind the odd question when a description is needed for his reports – in fact, he relishes the opportunity to tease.
He backs off from the woman, watches as Selvig tries to talk her down with faint smile on his lips. He, at least, understands the severity of the situation: he has come into contact with S.H.I.E.L.D before, through a passing connection to the Banner Incident. He fails, understandably, to calm her. Foster is furious. She has every right to be.
“We’re investigating a security threat,” he tells her. “We need to appropriate your records and all your atmospheric data.”
They need to know where Thor landed. They need to know where he is. They can’t have their uncle roaming Midgard unsupervised even if he is without his hammer.
They need to know why he is without his hammer.
He holds out a cheque to her. “Here. This should more than compensate you for your trouble.”
She snatches it from his hand and crumples it in her fist, stares at it and at him in disgust. He’s familiar with the look; it doesn’t bother him anymore.
“I can’t just buy replacements at Radio Shack! I made most of this equipment myself!”
“Then I’m sure you can do it again,” he says. He’s not surprised that they’re one-of-a-kind machines. He’s seen a lot of those lately, and the woman truly is brilliant.
“And I’m sure I can sue you for a breach in my constitutional rights!”
“I’m sorry Miss Foster,” he tells her. He even means it. “But we’re the good guys.”
She’s desperate now, pleading. “So are we!” Close to tears, but they’re of anger rather than sorrow. She’s a lot stronger than she looks. “I’m on the verge of understanding something extraordinary, and everything I know about it is either in this lab or in this book, and you can’t just take it away from – hey!”
The book in question is snatched from her hand because he can have it taken away from her, and she has to be restrained by Selvig. That she is close to understanding this ‘extraordinary’ thing is exactly the problem. If she were to get too close it could draw Asgard’s attention to Midgard and that is the last thing they would want.
But still, it’s a shame. He thanks her for her cooperation, and meets his sister’s gaze over her shoulder once more. Hela doesn’t look happy either, but she will understand when he explains. He hopes. At the very least, she’ll be able to keep an eye on Foster for him.
He’s halfway back to base when his phone beeps with an incoming message. He fishes it from his pocket and opens it up to read. U stole my ipod. Not cool, Fen. Bad dog.
He feels his lips twitch as he replies. Uncle paying a visit. Got to keep an eye on things.
She texts back within moments. I no. Met him wen he got out of Bifrost. I tased him. Jane hit him wit her car. Twice. Wat a douche. Dint even no me ;) There’s an accompanying picture of Thor stuffing his face with pancakes.
Watch her for me?
Kk. U o me a new ipod tho, muttface.
He loves his sister, really. She’ll get the iPod.
Two hours later he hears from her again. Heds up bro ur in truble. Thor incoming.
He might even make it an iPad.
He does not raise the alarm, but he does have Clint perch high in his nest overlooking the base. It makes him feel better to have his lover defending him from above, and high out of Thor’s range (provided he doesn’t reach Mjolnir; provided there is a reason why he has been separated from it). He allows everyone else to go on as usual. The scientists run their tests and gather data. He doesn’t particularly want them to, but it would be strange to ask them not to – on top of that, Mjolnir is one of Asgard’s greatest weapons. If they can analyse its abilities, they can replicate them, and they will have another weapon to utilise against the All-Father if he should come for them.
Lightning flashes and thunder rolls through the sky. He closes his eyes and tries not to shiver.
Clint’s voice crackles through on the radio. He’s incapable of maintaining radio silence. “You’re paying me overtime for this, right? Because lightning sucks. If I get hit then you’re sleeping on the couch.”
The perimeter alarms go off before he has a chance to respond, and there’s a succinct “fuck” from his radio as the heavens open and rain pours downwards. It’s the perfect atmosphere for a god of thunder.
He allows himself that brief shudder, and turns his attention to the security cameras. He wants to see what Thor does to his men and Mjolnir’s reaction to it.
He hates the rain.
“There’s a massive electromagnetic surge coming from that thing,” Agent Sitwell, his second in command, tells him when he reaches the observation centre. “Systems are barely coping.”
He knows without studying the data that the surge is off the charts. The smell of ozone is overpowering and he can feel power and magic crawling over his skin. If he was in his true form, he knows his hackles would be up. As it is he’s trying not to growl as he radios through to Clint. “Barton? Talk to me.”
It’s all professionalism now. “You want me to slow him down, sir? Or are you going to send more guys for him to beat up?” At least as professional as Clint ever gets. He wouldn’t be Clint if he didn’t have snark.
“I’ll let you know,” he replies. He’s already on his way to Mjolnir. He wants to see, no he needs to see, what will happen. He needs to know if Thor has truly been banished without his powers; if Odin would do that to his son as well as his grandchildren.
“You better call it, Coulson, ‘cause I’m starting to root for this guy,”
He does not want to hear that. It causes a growl to start, low and deep in his chest – too low for human ears to catch, but enough to make the people next to him take an inadvertent step back as it crawls along the edge of their senses and terrorises the deepest parts of their brains. He doesn’t answer Clint back. He doesn’t want to think what he might say.
He reaches the balcony overlooking Mjolnir, still embedded in rock in the middle of that crater. The ozone is so strong here that he almost gags on it. He tightens his grip on his radio and stares, unblinking, downwards as his uncle tears through the thin plastic wall and approaches his weapon.
He can’t quite help the sneer that curves his mouth. Thor is exactly as he remembers him from his childhood. Even covered in mud and dressed in Midgardian clothing, he is somehow shining and bright. He moves with confidence that everything he does is right. He swaggers to the hammer, a cocky grin on his handsome face, and Fenris hates him.
The last time Thor came to Midgard, he did so to pick a fight with Jormungandr. Jormungandr hadn’t been chained down like he had, and had grown to monstrous size in the deep oceans of his prison, so of course he was an ideal target for one of Thor’s childish hunting trips. He was too boring, unable to move, and Hela was too small and seemingly weak.
They had fought and battled for days before Odin had finally let Mother step in and put an end to it. By that time Thor had been badly burned by Jormungandr’s venom, but he had not been the only casualty. There was a reason why Jormungandr wore an eye patch. He’d been blinded by their uncle for no reason other than boredom and a need for ‘sport’.
“You better call it.”
He closes his eyes briefly. He has to control himself. He can feel his magic gathering and preparing to shift forms and it frightens him – this is the closest he’s come to losing his temper in a very, very long time. But he knows that he can’t. As tempting as it is to go down there and rip Thor’s throat out with his teeth and avenge himself on the one who should have helped Mother protect him, he can’t.
“Wait,” he says into the radio. “I want to see this.”
Even over the pounding of the rain, he swears he can hear a bow-string relax slightly. Not all the way. Clint would never relax completely while he is in the firing line.
And it’s true. He does want to see it. He’s tense and jittery and too close to losing himself to centuries-old rage and hurt, but he needs to control himself and watch. He’s not a pup anymore. He can control himself. He has to.
Thor reaches for the hammer, curls his fingers around its handle, and pulls. And pulls again. With each fruitless tug and strained grunt, he feels himself relax. He watches Thor pull and pull before finally giving up, staring at his hands in disbelief before casting his eyes to the sky above and screaming in anguish. It is he who is the abandoned child, now.
He realises that he is shaking. With relief, with a sudden lack of fear. He feels powerful and secure once more as his world rights itself. He feels vindicated.
Thor will be easy to hide from with his powers bound as they are.
He raises his radio to his lips, changes the settings to broadcast to everyone. “Alright, show’s over. Ground units move in.”
His uncle is on his knees in the mud, defeated and helpless, and he feels no pity.
Prepare 4 jailbreak. Erics comin 4 him gonna pretend hes janes ex bf.
He has limited time, then. Oh, of course, he could hold Thor indefinitely – arrest Selvig for trying to break him out, even. There are laws that S.H.I.E.L.D can bypass and rewrite as they wish in the name of global security. He’s not sure how Jormungandr got the Council to agree to it, but he knows that he did regardless and there will one day be a time when they’ll need to do it.
This is not that time.
He leans against his desk, bows his head and breathes slowly. In. Out. In. Out. He tenses every muscle in his body as if to fight, and then relaxes them slowly, one by one, starting at the toes and moving up until he is no longer frowning and he feels slightly lightheaded from the endorphins. When this is over, there will be yoga. And ice-cream with Clint. Mostly the ice-cream, and fuck Jormungandr with his stress-eating comments and the puppy jokes. It’s not his fault he inherited Mother’s appetite.
He texts back. How long?
Hour tops. We bin lookin at myths and stuff btw. Janes convinced bt erics not. Pic of u in book sux lol.
The attached photograph makes him snort. Even though he’s chained up in it with a sword in his mouth, it’s done in such a poor, cartoonish style that it’s almost funny. Almost. It’s funnier that Hela has no sense of tact or decency.
Thanks. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Kk. Dnt forget my ipod!
“You made my men, some of the most highly trained professionals in the world, look like a bunch of minimum-wage mall cops. That’s hurtful.”
He stands before his uncle, perfect in his disguise as a human government agent. He knows what he is going to say; how he is going to say it. There are things in his prepared speech that almost make him want to laugh – he is a son of Loki, he can’t be entirely humourless all the time. He has Jormungandr for that.
“In my experience, it takes someone who has received similar training to do what you did to them. Why don’t you tell me where you received your training?” He knows exactly where. “Pakistan? Chechnya? Afghanistan?”
Asgard. Vanaheim. Alfheim. Svartalfheim. Muspelheim. Nidavellir. Midgard. Only Niflheim and Jotunheim – as far as he knows – have been spared his uncle’s hunt for trophies and glorious battle. Actually, now that he thinks about it, an attack on Jotunheim would explain Thor’s exile to Midgard. Almost. He would like to think that the All-Father has a reason for doing such things, but he knows that he does not always need one.
“No,” he continues, not letting Thor speak. “You strike me more as the soldier of fortune type. Where was it? South Africa? Certain groups would pay very well for a good mercenary like you.”
Thor is glaring at him for the insult – the implication that any Asgardian warrior would allow themselves to become a mere soldier-for-hire – but it has no effect. He’s above that now; he finds only amusement in receiving such a cold stare.
“Who are you?”
As if he could ever forget.
“One way or another, we’ll find out what we need to know. We’re good at that.” His pager bleeps at him. He unhooks it from his belt, glances down at it. Jormungandr, of course. That means he can’t ignore it – even if he could have, in this case sibling loyalty takes precedence over everything. “Don’t go anywhere.” Do not think I am above torturing you as you did me.
In his office, he hits speed dial and waits for his brother to pick up. It doesn’t take long – just one ring for the second time in two days. Jormungandr must be coming perilously close to ignoring the rest of his work if he’s hanging on for a phone call like this. He smiles slightly. He loves making Jormungandr twitchy.
“He’s in exile.” There’s no need for pleasantries between them.
“I let him try to take Mjolnir,” he admits, and ignores the hissed expletive on the other end. “He couldn’t lift it. I’ll be letting him go soon – he has a human friend on the way – but Hela will keep an eye on him.”
“Hela? You know she inherited Mother’s mischief.”
He does know. What he doesn’t know is where Jormungandr got the stick up his ass from. He almost says as much, but holds back. It’s not worth it for the amount of trouble Jormungandr could get him mixed up with if he wanted to. Not that he wouldn’t survive it, but…
“He doesn’t recognise you?”
The only things this form has in common with his true form are the scars left from the sword. They’re smaller, in this body, and faint, but they’re still visible if you look closely enough – particularly the one that runs over the bridge of his nose. Clint has remarked on them a couple of times – asked if he’d been tortured, which was close enough to the truth that he hadn’t been able to deny it – but Thor isn’t looking closely enough to notice them. Even if he did, a mild-mannered and slightly stuffy secret agent wouldn’t connect in his mind to his feral, lupine nephew.
“Keep it that way.”
The reminder is completely redundant. He’s not an idiot, no matter what Jormungandr thinks about mammalian attention spans.
He hangs up and goes to slip his phone back in his pocket. As he does, it beeps with an incoming message.
Chillax, puppy, hav a biskit. Hell b bk in Asgard b4 u no it.
He smiles faintly. His sister knows him too well. He just hopes that she’s right. This case is giving him a headache.
He re-enters the interrogation room just in time to hear Thor speak for the first time since he’d entered their custody.
Just a single word, but it brings back so many memories of the time before he was reviled by all who knew of him. Back when he’d just been a pup, and his uncle had petted his ears and fed him scraps as he sat in his mother’s lap. That deep, pleasant voice had told him stories, once, not as good as Mother’s but ones that appealed to his younger self; tales of his mother’s adventures and his brother Sleipnir’s bravery.
He takes a deep breath and catches whiff of a scent so familiar that it makes his heart ache. The scent of snow and leather and milk and powerful, unconditional love.
The scent is faint and fading fast. He breathes in again, deeply, trying to carve it deeper into his brain and his heart. He doesn’t expect to ever set eyes on his mother again, none of them do, but that doesn’t mean he has to stop loving him in return.
“Goodbye?” he says. “I just got back.”
Thor stares at him. He’s been crying. Whether his tears are over anything genuine or one of Mother’s tricks, he can’t be sure. Most likely Thor can’t either. Mother is talented that way.
He’s interrupted by Sitwell before he can say anything. “Sir? He’s got a visitor.”
Selvig has arrived, and his time with Thor is over. He doesn’t look back when he leaves. He has no reason to. Not as a human interrogator; not as his kin.
He stares down at Selvig from the top of the steps leading into the research building. They’re both flanked by armed guards, but their presence is unnecessary. Selvig won’t attack him. He looks tired and stressed, as though he’s had a truly awful day. All things considered, he probably has. He’s sympathetic, really he is, he would just be more-so if Selvig hadn’t taken a bolstering shot of whisky before coming. He can smell it on his breath. It’s a habit that reminds him of Stark and, therefore, one that he finds slightly irritating.
“His name is Donald Blake?” That’s the best they can come up with?
“Doctor Donald Blake.”
As if Thor could become a doctor. He is an Asgardian warrior and has an Asgardian warrior’s intelligence. Not to say that he’s stupid, exactly. Rather, he places intelligence somewhat further down the scale of importance than finding ‘monsters’ and killing them. Why Mother hasn’t yet gone crazy or abandoned them all is beyond him.
“You have dangerous co-workers Doctor Selvig.”
The problem is: Selvig probably doesn’t believe him. Or, at least, has no idea how honest he is being. The problem with being a government agent, he thinks, is that no one ever believes you capable of telling the truth. It’s remarkably similar to being the son of the God of Lies.
“He was distraught when he found out you had taken all of our research. That was years of his life, gone.”
One of the computers beeps. They’re running a search on Blake now. He glances over at the monitor, briefly. They haven’t found anything yet. He returns his attention to Selvig, who is still talking; still trying to convince him that Thor is not dangerous. It’s almost hilarious. He knows – and Jormungandr knows – better than anyone else just how dangerous Thor can be.
“You can understand how a man can go off like that. A big, faceless organisation like yours coming in with their jack-booted thugs and –“ Selvig falters under the look Phil gives him and shrugs, widening his eyes in an attempt to look innocent. “That’s how he put it.”
“That still doesn’t explain how he managed to tear through our security,” he says. Even though he knows exactly how, it’s the sort of thing that he’s expected to say. He has a wider audience than just Selvig; he has to give some show of resistance.
“Steroids! He’s a bit of a fitness nut!”
It takes ever inch of his control to maintain his poker face. Inside he’s cackling like a maniac. Steroids! He knows, now, that he’ll be saving this security footage forever. Every time he needs a pick-me-up, something to cheer him up after a day filled with spectacular idiocy from the junior agents, he will be able to re-watch this: the moment he was told his uncle is on steroids.
He’ll forward a copy to Jormungandr as well. Maybe a good laugh will help dislodge that stick of his.
Just as expected, their computer search has thrown up a fake ID warning. While it is impressive that they’ve managed to cobble together a fake ID in less than a day, it’s not a very convincing one. It’s telling him that – oh. Wow.
“It says here that he’s an MD.”
“He is! …Or he was. He switched careers and, um, became a physicist. A brilliant physicist. He’s a wonderful man. He’s a man in pain!”
Selvig’s excuses are thin as paper, but he allows him into the base to retrieve Thor from the interrogation room. The junior agents at the computers look almost offended as he steps aside and lets them walk out of the door together. His lips twitch. He has an idea to settle their minds.
“Doctor Selvig!” he calls out. “Just keep him away from the bars!”
He sees Thor swipe Foster’s notebook from a table as they pass it. When he speaks, his voice is soft, but he catches the words anyway, even over the rain. He truly loves his hearing sometimes.
“Where are we going?” Thor asks.
“To get a drink.”
He smiles. They’re so predictable. “Follow them,” he says.
He tells himself, as he slips into bed, that he won’t let nightmares bother him again. Clint is already there, fresh from a hot shower. The scent of his shampoo and shower gel and warm, clean skin are enticing.
He presses close, pushes his nose into the crook of Clint’s neck and slips his arm around his trim waist. Clint’s hand lifts to tangle in his hair. He makes a soft noise of contentment. He’s already half asleep.
On the nightstand, his phone beeps. He stiffens and pulls away automatically, and Clint lets him go, though he sighs faintly in disappointment. He can feel Clint watching him as he checks his messages.
Council want Foster to keep working on her theory. She’ll need her equipment back.
The fear that had released him comes rushing back, curling around his heart and crushing the air from his lungs. He must have made a noise – a whine; a whimper – because Clint sits up and touches a hand to his shoulder. He finds himself being pulled close.
He can’t explain. He can’t. But he can’t think of a lie, either. All he can think of is how badly this could go wrong, and that the Council is putting the whole world at risk for nothing. Because he knows that when Odin finds them, when he comes, that he will not be able to go down without a fight. He didn’t last time, for all the good it did. Jormungandr will do the same. They’re both so much bigger now; the fallout will be catastrophic.
They’re trying to fight the destiny that was prophesised for them; the one that made their family (except Mother) turn on them with such violence. They want to defend Midgard, their adopted home, not destroy it in the fires of Ragnarok. But if they are attacked; if they are forced to defend themselves, he fears what they will be capable of doing. The collateral damage alone…
But he can’t break down. Can’t let it get to him. What will happen will happen and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. He wishes being human wasn’t so hard.
“Council,” he says. “Orders I wasn’t expecting. Nothing to worry about.”
Clint doesn’t believe him, he can see it in his eyes, but he also knows better than to question. His clearance level isn’t high enough for the Council and its ominous bullshit. He simply knows that they – not Stark and his ego, not the Middle East, not the Ten Rings, nor the ongoing search for Captain America – cause the majority of S.H.I.E.L.D’s headaches.
“Right,” he says. “You’ll need your sleep to deal with it, then. Come to bed.”
He’s learning magic, in his dream. His mother is smiling down at him with warmth and love. Magic circles his hands, weaving images in the air above their heads as he speaks. He can’t hear the words, but he knows what was said. It’s the lesson where his mother first mentioned shapeshifting. He knows it all already so he just basks in his mother’s presence, tries to bat a butterfly made of smoke out of the air with his paw.
His mother laughs. Then he starts to scream. Fenris scrabbles to his feet but he’s forgotten how to stand on four legs and he slips on the tiles. They break apart under his claws, twisting into chains and snaring his legs, pulling him down and down and he howls for his mother.
But his mother is bound as well, held back by Thor’s strong arms. He sees the hatred in his uncle’s eyes, watches as he pulls Mother away. Then there’s blinding pain in his jaws and he can’t howl anymore. Can’t lift his head. Can’t move. Can’t breathe.
He sits up sharply in bed, gasping for air. He’s shaking and sweating and his heart is pounding. He reaches for Clint, and curls into his side once more.
The machines go crazy at the base the next day. They beep and whirr as readings go off the charts, and the scientists in charge of them scurry about them like ants, taking notes and saving images, recording data for graphs and for other things that he doesn’t care about. What he cares about is that the Bifrost has activated again; that more Asgardians have come to Midgard and that these ones will not be lacking their powers.
But still, there is his audience to consider.
“What the hell was that?” he demands of the nearest scientist.
“I don’t know sir,” the man replies. He sounds excited. “We just got massive energy readings out of nowhere and then they just vanished. Fifteen miles north west of here.”
So he has a place to start. The cold weight of dread sinks back into his stomach. He ignores it. “Let’s go look,” he says.
In the car, he texts his siblings. Jormungandr first. Bifrost opened again. On route to site now. Orders?
Then Hela. Keep an eye on Thor. More company on the way.
He waits, jittery, for one of them to reply as the car speeds through the desert, following patterns in the dust that the car throws up. He wonders what his colleagues would say if he told them he saw magic in it – in the spiralling fleeting shapes so similar to the ones weaved by his mother so long ago. They’d probably say he should get checked out by psych. He keeps quiet and tries to stop his knee from bouncing.
Do not engage is the wisdom he gets from his brother.
His sister, as always, provides more entertainment. OMG flirtin makin me sick :( havin jane as an aunt wud b ttly weird. I can cockblock, rite? Pls?
He grimaces, tucks his phone back into his pocket. Sitwell glances over at him briefly.
“Is everything alright sir?”
“Just drive, Agent.”
It helps only slightly when the radio crackles to life with a report from agents stationed in the town centre, keeping an eye on things there.
“Base, we’ve got, uh, Xena, Jackie Chan, and Robin Hood.”
It helps because he knows who they are and where they are and that he won’t have to deal with them in person at the Bifrost site. They, like Thor, were at his imprisonment. They, unlike Thor, had openly distained him before that day, callously disregarding him as a dumb animal and a monster long before the Norns’ prophecy had given them a reason to believe it.
He gets a text from Hela not long after the radio alert.
Warriors3 n sif in da hood, bro. OMG the blond 1s flirtin wit me wtf!!! U beta get me my ipod stat. Fetch!
One day, he hopes, the dog jokes will get old.
The smell of magic is still thick in the air when he arrives at the Bifrost site. There isn’t so much as a breeze, and he’s glad of his current form for another reason – humans deal with heat so much better than wolves do.
He crouches at the edge of the circle burned into the dry earth, and traces his fingers over the edge of a spiralling rune. His fingers come away dusted with black from the ash. The Bifrost is a powerful, dangerous thing; that Asgard hasn’t found a reason to unleash its true force is a blessing. All they need now is to continue not to give them one.
He stands. “Get somebody from linguistics down here,” he calls.
He hasn’t backed off two feet when the skin on the back of his neck prickles as magic begins to crawl down his spine. The scent of it had been strong before; now it floods his senses, making it hard to breathe. He desperately wants to sneeze, but can’t inhale deeply enough to do so. He retreats faster, back to the car. Clouds are gathering and swirling above him. The Bifrost is opening once more.
How many times? Midgard has never inspired such interest in Asgard. What has changed?
He can only suspect that this is more fallout from Thor’s exile. His uncle, he knows now, will be the catalyst for the troubles they face. His phone beeps in his pocket. He ignores it in favour of ducking behind a car as a beam of magic crackles down from inside the swirling clouds and dusts explodes outwards from the point of impact.
His phone beeps again.
He straightens slowly, looking at what has come. It’s not an Aesir. Actually, he has no idea what it is. It’s man-shaped and made of rings of metal, and it reeks of fire. A weapon. Someone has sent a weapon to Midgard.
What is going on up there?
“Is that one of Stark’s?” Sitwell asks. It’s a good question, for someone with as few details as him. The only person they know who makes humanoid machinery on this sort of advanced scale is Stark – and Fenris would bet anything that Stark would love to get his hands on it. He would love to take it apart and tinker and then put it back together after having made it ten times more dangerous and given it a British accent.
“I don’t know,” he says. “That guy never tells me anything.” That last bit is true, at least, but he’s fairly sure that Miss Potts would have let him know if Stark had created something like this. She has a good knack for knowing when Stark goes too far.
He opens the back door of his car and pulls a megaphone from the seat, and steeling himself for pain, steps out in front of the machine. He doesn’t know what it is, but he knows that whatever it does will hurt but that he has to confront it. It’s the sort of thing that Phil Coulson should do. It helps to know that he’s the one with the best chance of surviving it, whatever it does. He raises the megaphone to his lips. “Stop. You are using unidentified weapons technology. Identify yourself.”
The machine turns its ‘face’ towards him. It’s not much of a face to speak of, with only eye-slits to show that there’s one there. As he watches, those slits slide back, along with the rest of the slim metal curves that make up the front of the head. It’s an elegant design – he doesn’t have to be Stark to appreciate that – but one that gives him a seriously bad feeling.
“Here we go,” he mutters. A bright light begins to glow within the figure’s hollow depths, seeping out of the cracks in its body. The smell of fire intensifies. He scrabbles back, instinctively looking for cover. He calls out “Agents!” and his men scatter around him, looking for the same.
The first beam of condensed heat slams into the car he hid behind, blasting it up of the ground. He crouches lower as it flips above his head, and hears the crunch of metal as it lands on the car behind it. He can’t smell blood. That’s good. No one is hurt, at least.
A second blast goes off, but in a different direction. He cracks his eyes open to watch it, surprised that he’d even closed them, and he can’t help but admire the spell-work that must have gone into it. The light isn’t fire, even though it smells like it. It’s almost like a laser, but he’s seen similar effects from spells that condense air. A combination of both, perhaps? He wonders if Mother had anything to do with its construction. Most likely not: it was too obviously a weapon.
Mother, he recalls, is all about subtle, twisting knives; tricks and shadows and wicked laughter. For all that this thing is a powerful creation of magic; it is not of his making.
Knowing that, however, isn’t going to stop it.
He and his agents are not its targets. It moves past them, shaking the ground with its every step. It moves quickly, but that is no surprise – he knows fine well how fast large things can move if they have to. It is heading towards the town, towards his sister.
Hela will be fine. She is queen amongst the dead, and he’s unsure that anything can actually kill her. All the same, she will kill him if he doesn’t warn her. He pulls out his phone.
Two messages from her are waiting for him. He ignores them at first, in favour of calling back to base and asking for a new car to be brought out. Getting to Puente Antiguo is his priority right now. When he opens his messages, they read:
Wats goin on? Bifrost openin. U beta not b ther!
Fen, u ok? Txt bk muttface
She’s not going to like what he has to tell her.
Unharmed he writes. Unknown Asgardian weapon tech heading your way. It’s after Thor. Get out of there.
He’s jittery as they drive into town. He’s had another text from Hela – Im fine. Thor gt hamma bk – but it hasn’t exactly filled him with confidence to know that his uncle is fully armed and in possession of his powers once more. He’s so on edge, in fact, that he opens the car door and gets out while it’s still moving.
Thor seems even taller now. His armour and his cloak are the same as he remembers from his childhood. Evidently, Asgardian fashion doesn’t change very quickly. Thor is gripping his hammer and seems to have regained all the confidence he had lost when Mjolnir had rejected him. He has to clamp down on the urge to growl and snarl at the sight of his uncle so empowered once more.
Hela is watching him. He swears that she knows what he’s thinking, because the tiniest of smiles quirks her lips.
“Excuse me!” he calls out, jogging over. “Donald.” He stopped in front of his uncle, staring up into his face. Donald was such a ridiculous name, so unfitting for him, that he couldn’t help bit find the whole thing a little bit funny despite his fear. “I don’t think you’ve been completely honest with me.”
Thor looked down at him, and with a completely straight face, he began to speak.
“Know this, Son of Coul, you and I we fight for the same cause. The protection of this world. From this day forth you can count me as your ally if you return the items you have taken from Jane.”
Never let it be said that Fenris Lokisson is not a brilliant actor. The effort it takes to stop from laughing in Thor’s face is remarkable. He can barely breathe from the effort. His ribs and stomach ache from trying to keep his composure and not dissolving into laughter. From the corner of his eye he sees Hela’s jaw drop. That Thor would ever, ever, state himself to be on their side is…unbelievable.
“Stolen,” Foster says.
“Borrowed,” he corrects her, somehow managing not to do so much as snigger as he does so. His uncle has gone to Foster’s side and wrapped an arm about her waist and Hela was right. If they became any more Hollywood romance it would be nauseating. “Of course you can have your equipment back. You’re going to need it to continue your research.”
Somehow, he manages to say it casually, as if the Council’s orders hadn’t driven him to panic the night before. This case has been an emotional rollercoaster. He can’t help but be glad that it’s almost over. There are only the debriefings to hold and report-writing left for him to do; then he can grab Clint and take him for so much ice-cream that they both get sick from it.
“Would you like to see the bridge we spoke of?” Thor speaks softly, his words directed towards Foster. He tries not to shudder.
He couldn’t have stopped them if he tried. In all honesty, he’s not sure that he even wants to. Having finally seen them interact with each other, he doesn’t want to prolong the moment. But that doesn’t stop him from calling out after them as Thor soars upwards, Jane Foster pinned close to his side with a strong arm.
“Wait! I need to debrief you!”
He hears Hela giggling as the dust settles around them once more.
He organises the dissembling of the base at the crater, and the return of Jane Foster’s equipment with the ruthless competence he has become infamous for. Everyone who works for him knows that they are expected to be the same way; many of them appreciate it. There is no sitting around or thumb-twiddling when Agent Coulson is in charge.
He briefly catches sight of Clint organising the removal of weaponry from the site, loading cases of guns into the back of a black van.
Before the computers had been shut down, they’d recorded the final use of the Bifrost and the retreat of Thor and his warrior companions from Midgard. The relief he feels is an astonishing thing. He finds himself standing straighter now that Thor is on a different planet once again. His confidence has started to return. With Thor gone, and none the wiser to the real location of his nephews and niece, he can resume his life without fear or worry of what might come.
He might, if he’s lucky, be able to sleep tonight.
Hey bro, u seein this?
Hela’s text is unexpected and immediately causes him to start worrying. Then Clint darts back into the building and approaches him. There’s an odd expression on his face and the worry gets stronger. His instincts are starting to scream at him, telling him that something is wrong.
“Sir? You’re going to want to see this.”
He follows Clint outside and, seeing the rest of his men looking up, follows their gazes into the sky. Above them, clouds are swirling alarmingly. Sparks of magic – almost like lightning, but not quite – flash and flicker outside the range of human vision. He’s never seen anything like this before and the earlier stirrings of concern solidify in his stomach once more, chilling him to the core.
He texts Hela back. Any ideas?
She replies only seconds later. Thor sed sumfin bout stoppin mom b4 he left.
Stopping Mother from doing what, exactly?
He doesn’t like this. He really doesn’t. He might never sleep easy again.
He sends a new iPod to Hela after he returns to New York. She got her old one back, of course, but this is a newer model and it matches the shiny, sleek iPad he bought her as well. She’s his little sister and she’s never usually so helpful, so he doesn’t mind spoiling her just this once.
The text she sends in reply – OMFG Fen, I luv u! :D – more than makes up for the brand new dent in his bank balance.
Two weeks after the mission in New Mexico, he dreams of Mother again.
Mother is unfastening his chains, stroking his fur and soothing him with low, muffled noises. His mouth has been sewn shut and the stitches tug at his skin, sending trails of blood streaming down his chin and neck. But his eyes glow with determination as he breaks Fenris loose. The last thing he takes away is the sword, and for the first time in years Fenris can stand again.
He wobbles on his paws. His head hits the roof of his cave, but there is no pain. There is only joy that he is free and pride that he has grown. His mother is smiling despite the pain it must cause him and it’s one of the saddest, most wonderful things he has ever seen.
He follows his mother into daylight and freedom and Midgard is beautiful. When he wakes up, his face is wet with tears and Clint is watching him with the oddest expression on his face. He pulls his lover down and distracts him from his questions with a kiss.
He watches over security cameras as Jormungandr shows Selvig the Tesseract. They’ve been keeping an eye on Selvig since he popped up on their radar during the Banner Incident, apparently – this is news to him – and the recent events in New Mexico have only confirmed to Jormungandr that they could find a use for Selvig’s brilliance. He wants to put him on the Tesseract Project – wants him to find a way to harness its energy and turn it into a renewable energy source for all of Midgard to share. It’s one way in which they can avert Ragnarok.
The Council has different plans. They want weapons created from its energy, especially now that they’ve read the New Mexico reports and discovered that they aren’t alone in the universe. Jormungandr - and Fenris has to agree with him on this – thinks that they’re idiots. Weapons that powerful will only bring trouble; bring pain.
But apparently they haven’t learned the lesson about nuclear deterrents not working yet.
Jormungandr wants to use the Tesseract to help save the planet rather than destroy it, and Fenris agrees with him about that too. But that’s not what he finds most interesting about it. Yes, it’s wonderful that it could provide Midgard with the sustainable energy that it so desperately needs, but all of his reverence for the object lies in how it came to be on Midgard in the first place.
“He took something of mine. He took you from me, my darling. You and your brothers and your sweet little sister. So I took something of his, and hid it where he will never find it; and now you are free, and he will never find you. My revenge is complete, my darling. My Fenris.”
Mother had told him that after freeing him and bringing him to Midgard, long ago. He had woven the words out of smoke that had hovered in the air between them, unable to actually speak them thanks to the stitches that crudely sealed his mouth. Fenris had believed him then, and believed him now: it wasn’t like Asgard to lose something by accident, especially something so preciously dangerous.
“Legend tells us one thing,” his brother says, drawing his attention back to the conversation he’s supposed to be watching. Selvig’s nervous laughter has died. Now he looks wary, as most people do around Jormungandr. Jormungandr has always found hiding his true nature more difficult than the rest of them and frightens people with ease, even when he doesn’t mean to. “History, another. Every now and then we find something that belongs to both.” He opens the special case that the Tesseract is kept in, bathing Selvig’s face in its pale light.
“What is it?” Selvig asks.
“Power, doctor,” Jormungandr replies, choosing – as always – the most concise explanation. “If we can figure out how to tap it. Maybe unlimited power.”
“Well, I guess that’s worth a look.”
Fenris frowns at the screen. There’s something…off about Selvig’s response. Jormungandr doesn’t seem to have noticed anything, but it’s always hard to tell with him, even in person. But something about Selvig’s words just isn’t sitting well with him.
Maybe he’s just being paranoid.
The memory of the sky boiling over New Mexico returns, and he swallows a lump in his throat; tries to shake off the sense of foreboding that has shrouded him ever since he left the desert behind.
His instincts are telling him that he probably isn’t.
They haven’t failed him yet.