Gods and Goddesses, A breakdown Analysis
The Shield base was significantly less destroyed than they expected, once it was all done. Thor's arrival and accompanying rain kept the fires from getting out of hand, few were hurt by the explosions, and Doom had to sacrifice his hostages to get away. All things considered, it was a pretty minor incident.
And that was why Tony thought that something was up. Doom did not do minor incidents. Everytime he showed up he did it with a bang and ton of damage. The only reason he hadn't been causing too many casualties was because someone else had been evacuating the areas. There was also the question of how Doom found one of Shield's bases in the first place.
Tony wanted to ask about this and a million other questions, as usual, but other people actually had things to say for once. Once clean up was done-- "clean up" being putting out the fires and making certain that no one was on the verge of death and "done" being delegating any other task to the still functioning Shield agents-- Fury pulled them all into a meeting. A few looks were given to Thor, who hadn't gotten the chance to tell anyone else that he was back on world, but he wasn't the first to speak. For once, that was Natasha.
The Black Widow had a rare look of worry on her face as she reported. "Lockley has yet to be recovered," She said to Fury. It was like the others weren't even sitting right there. Confusion was clear on most of the other faces. Fury had his signature scowl, perhaps slightly more severe than usual, and Hawkeye looked neutral. Neutral like "I know what's going on, but I don't care," rather than, "I don't know, but I don't care".
"She was taken by Doom?" Fury questioned.
"One of the Doombots had her, but I was unable to see whether she was taken or able to escape," Natasha replied.
It was then that the name kicked started in his memory. Lockley, Project Lock. "I saw her," Tony spoke up before he'd really thought about it. Everyone turned toward him, whether they knew what was being discussed or not. "Luna said she'd take care of the hostages."
Oh, right. He hadn't mentioned talking to their good samaritan stalker yet. He hoped he wasn't going to get an earful over that, too. He didn't want to have to put off his questions even longer. "The mutant chick that healed Natasha," Tony elaborated. "She showed up to confront Doom. I saw her there with that Lockley girl. She said she'd handle it."
"Did she 'handle it?'" Fury asked, tone heavy with sarcasm.
"Well, the hostages are safe," Tony replied, unwilling to admit that he'd left before seeing what happened.
"How did you know her name?" Clint asked.
Tony mentally swore. Spies paid attention to everything. "She told me."
"You spoke with her." Fury's glare was in top form this meeting.
"When?" It wasn't so much a question as it was a demand.
"After one of the battles," Tony lied immediately. He didn't know why he was unwilling to tell Shield how he'd found her, but if they hadn't yet, he didn't want to be the one to out her. Plus, if she stopped showing up to their battles because Shield starting waiting for her, Tony would never get to talk her. As it was, he was dying to know why she ran out on their date yesterday. "I saw her, talked to her, she told me some things." He shrugged as if it was no big deal.
"And when were you going to share this information?" Fury asked.
"Pretty soon, actually." Tony leaned back in his chair, making himself look irritatingly comfortable. Because he was Tony Stark and could not resist provoking others in some way. "It only happened yesterday. And hey, look! Other big news! Thor's back. Been kinda busy with that." He'd done absolutely nothing for Thor other than give him a room and instruct Jarvis to deal with him. He was too busy contemplating his current enigma.
"When did you get back, Thor?" Steve spoke up.
"Yesterday," Thor answered. "I came with unfortunate news."
"Great. Just what we need," Clint muttered.
"What news?" Bruce asked.
"My brother has escaped."
"What?" Everyone exclaimed.
"How the hell did he escape!" Fury demanded.
Thor hesitated before answering. "I am... unsure at the moment." Well that was interesting. The god didn't tell them what he'd told Tony. Then again, Tony wouldn't want to admit it if his mother had had a hand in the escape of a dangerous criminal. It wasn't like they knew anymore than Tony did, so the details weren't really pertinent to them, he supposed.
"You think he'll try to take over Earth again?" Steve demanded.
"I do not know," Thor sighed. "I am not certain what my brother is thinking just now."
"How long has he been here?" Clint asked. His voice was suspiciously calm. Tony would have expected a bit more... outrage.
"I do not know precisely how long he has been missing from his cell. He was forbidden to have visitors. It is estimated to have been some months now."
Clint went quiet and contemplative at that, shooting looks to Fury --who ignored him-- and Natasha --who met his gaze without so much as a flinch-- before frowning and staring at the table. Last time Tony had tried to get information about what happened when Loki had control over him, Clint had refused to budge. Maybe this time he'd be more receptive...
"Wait a minute," Tony said, his mind replaying the earlier parts of the conversation. "Lockley, that's evacuation girl. Why was she here?"
Fury's gaze cut over to Natasha for a moment before he answered. "She came to us with information about that combustion incident the other day. She claims it's the result of some sort of experiment and that it's somehow connected to Magneto."
"The mutant?" Steve asked.
"I told you, it's always mutants," Clint said to himself.
"And you were going to share this with us when?" Tony asked, giving Fury the same look that the man had leveled at her earlier.
"I only got back from my reconnaissance mission when the attack began," Natasha said. "And you interrupted her first attempt to tell us anything about the incident at all, so you wouldn't have been the first call, Stark."
Tony huffed at that. "I'm deeply offended by that, you know."
The red head just smirked at him, but didn't respond.
"So, just to summarize," Bruce interrupted calmly. "Loki's on the loose and Magneto is planning something that causes people to combust. Anything else we should worry about? Do we know why Doom attacked?"
"He hacked into our system and tried to kidnap several of our agents," Fury answered. "We don't know his motivation for doing so, but we can assume it was information. We haven't determined what he was looking for."
"What about the agents he tried to kidnap?" Tony asked. "Any special thing they were involved in or did he just grab people at random?"
There was a pause before answer was given by Fury. "We haven't finished evaluating--"
"Bullshit! You know something," Tony interrupted.
Fury gave him a look before releasing a sigh. "He was after Loki's agents."
Hawkeye tensed at that, but stayed silent, fist clenching atop the table.
"What do you mean, Loki's?" Thor questioned.
There was another silence. "The ones he controlled," Clint bit out.
"Are we really calling them Loki's agents?" Tony questioned.
"Stark," Clint hissed, his eyes skirting tentatively toward Fury before meeting Tony's.
"I mean, it isn't like--"
"Stark!" Natasha cut in sharply. "Whatever you have to say, don't."
Tony raised his hands in surrender, looking between the two agents. Another thing to add to the list, he supposed.
"So," Steve jumped in, trying to diffuse the tension. "We don't know what Doom wanted, we don't know where Loki is, and we don't know what Magneto is doing."
"For a secret organization whose job it is to know things..." Tony let his statement trail off.
"Can it, Stark!" Fury complained. "Anything else anyone wants to bring up?" When no answer came, Fury continued. "Then dismissed. I've got better things to do." With that Fury turned and left the room.
Tony immediately turned to the two spies. "Okay, now what was that about?"
"Nothing," Natasha said quickly. She stood and went toward the door.
"Wait, where are you going?" Steve asked. "We should talk about this!"
"I've got something else to do," Natasha answered. She left without a backwards glance.
Tony turned to Clint. "Alright birdbrain, you wanna tell us what's up?" Tony questioned.
Clint let out a sigh. "Fury isn't... convinced..." He began.
"About what?" Tony asked.
"He doesn't get how the whole mind control happened," Clint went on. "So he doesn't know that it won't happen again." He paused. "He doesn't think it ever stopped, really."
"Has there been anything..." Steve began hesitantly.
"No. Not from any of us," Clint answered. "And Fury... went through a lot of trouble to be certain about it." The dark look in the archer's eyes spoke of a story none of them wanted him to tell. Tony asked anyway.
"What did he do?" Steve asked.
Clint looked away from them for a few minutes before answering. "Re-education," He said hesitantly. "Shield... doesn't usually do that stuff, but Fury wanted to be sure that when push came to shove none of us..." He shrugged.
Tony thought back to the archer's absence just after the invasion and the dark he had at the first few meetings. He clenched his fist tightly.
"Whatever you're thinking, Stark, don't think it." Clint pushed away from the table. "We don't have time to have a problem with Shield right now. We have Loki, Doom, and Magneto to deal with."
"But if we didn't?" Tony asked.
Clint's voice was low when he answered, low enough that Tony didn't think whatever cameras might be in the room would be able to pick it up. "I don't have anywhere to go," He said softly.
"Plenty of room at Stark Tower," Tony said causally.
Clint met and held his gaze for a long moment, searching. After a moment, he nodded then rose and left the room.
"Shield takes things too far," Bruce said lowly.
Tony nodded in agreement, but wasn't certain what to stay. He was definitely unhappy about the implications, but for once he didn't know what he could do about it. "Let's get out of here," He said to them all. "We go to the Tower and pretend like we don't have three villains all plotting something at once."
Steve shook his head at Tony, but smiled and followed him out of the room anyway, as did Thor and Bruce. Thor could use something to take his mind off his brother. Bruce could use something to take his mind off of Shield.
This was a dream.
Loki was able to realize this immediately. As a dream walker himself, he could tell when his dream was being influenced by outside forces, and he waited, wondering what could reach his mind beyond the wards that surrounded is apartment.
The dreamscape was hazy at first, the smoke slowly coalescing into the landscape around them until the form of his mother was walking toward him and the dreamscape changed into that of Frigga's garden. All the tension flowed out of him as he watched her approach and he let out a deep sigh. "Mother."
"Hello, my son," Frigga smiled at him sadly. She opened her arms and Loki readily fell into them. "How do you fare, my Loki?"
Loki shook his head, trying to bury himself further into her embrace. He clung to her tightly for a moment, letting the feeling of home and safety wash over him. Frigga combed her fingers through his hair and he whispered softly, "I miss you."
"And I miss you, my Loki." She pulled him in more tightly a moment before pulling slightly away. "I am here to warn you, Loki. I concealed your absence as long as I could, but I could not do so forever."
Loki just nodded at her and said, "Thor is here."
"That is not what I am here to warn you of," She told him. "Your father knows that unless Thor is able to capture you and reclaim the Tesseract, he will not be able to return. Even now, he is searching for someone that can cross the realms under their own power."
A pit of worry swelled in Loki's stomach. There were very few that could travel the realms freely. It was a feat of power and skill that not many possessed and dangerous enough that even those that had the ability did not always survive their journey. Loki could do so and long ago he'd shared his skill with Amora, but he knew of almost no one else with the power. Certainly no one in Asgard.
Loki swallowed his nervousness as he asked, "Who?"
"I do not know," She answered him. "Your father and I are... at odds... since he discovered my deception. He was not happy that I kept him fooled so long as I did and he does what he can to keep me from knowing his mind any more closely than I already do."
Loki frowned at her. "You are not--"
"I am fine, Loki," She smiled fondly at him. "Your father has not endeavored to harm me in any way and I am capable of dealing with him. I've weathered centuries of his temper before and I shall do so again."
"I am sorry."
"You do not need to apologize, my son." Frigga took Loki's face in her hands and kissed his forehead. "You are my son, Loki. I will protect you from anything that wishes you harm. If that means your father, then so be it."
Loki smiled at her. "Be safe, mother," He told her.
"You as well," She replied. "I love you, Loki."
"I love you, mother."
Frigga pressed a final kiss to Loki's forehead as the dreamscape began to twist and fade back into mist.
Loki woke from his dream with tears at the corners of his eyes, still feeling the phantom touch of his mother's kiss pressed to his forehead. For the first time since he left Asgard, he had a moment of feeling truly at peace. Something was coming for him and he knew not what, but for now, for now he was still safe. Loki let the feeling surround him as he dropped back off into true sleep, pleasantly dreamless.
Amora had discovered a few things about Midgard when she was away from the castle. While Doom had taught her practical things about Midgardian technology, Mystique had introduced her to it's culture in more detail. One thing that she found out was that Midgard was made for people like Amora. She was a goddess of the flesh, lust, passion, and devotion were what gave her her vitality, and there were multiple places where such worship came easily.
It was something that Loki would love.
It was the romance of casual chaos. Darkness contrasted by flashing lights, blaring sounds that the mortals delusioned themselves into believing music, a tight press of body loosened of their inhibitions. As soon as Amora took one step into the club she felt like she could breathe.
She wasn't wearing her mortal disguise, so attention was lavished on her as soon as she entered. She felt their admiring gazes like caresses upon her skin, and she felt like their touches like a pulse beneath her flesh.
Midgardian alcohol was terribly weak, but she was certain if she consumed enough of it, it would eventually begin to affect her. If she lost herself in the press of bodies, in the feeling of worship, in the element that appealed to her nature most, she would forget, for the moment, about Thor.
It was under an hour before Amora had the attention that she desired. Men and woman alike trying to press themselves closer to her, the taste of their prayers on her lips as they vied for her attention and hoped they would be taken away or pulled into her arms. And the passion of the mortals for each other was heady in the air. It made her shudder and sigh as the tempest of bodies increased around her, but it wasn't enough. It had never been enough for her to feel the lust and passion of others, it had never been enough to symbolize devotion when it was not aimed at her. It was a feeling of constant hunger, continuous longing, and persistent wanting that she tried to fill. Amora needed their adoration to feel whole as a god.
Only Thor had ever caused the tension to ease inside her. Thor was the storm. He was power and passion personified. He was a tempest all on his own and was the only thing to ever satisfy her. Thor could be devoted in ways many others seemed incapable of and in the end it was Loki's fault.
Loki was a force of change and chaos that irreparably altered those he touched. He was the reason Sif was able to become a warrior when no woman was encouraged (or approved of) on the battlefield. He was the reason the Realm Eternal had fought off stagnation. One could not love something in constant flux the way Loki was without learning true devotion, could not so finely commit their heart without a firestorm of passion. Loki had practically cultivated Thor to be the only one that could love her and then he selfishly blocked the thunder god from giving that store of love and passion to her!
Amora had to constantly forgive Loki in order to remain his friend. She loved and hated the god of mischief on occasion, but no emotion was stronger between them than jealousy. Loki never begrudged her Thor when she pursued his heart, but he'd blocked her every attempt to gain a magical advantage. Loki eclipsed everyone for Thor's attention and always had. The thunder god had room enough in is heart for others, but he didn't have eyes for anything but his baby brother.
Thor couldn't hate Loki if he tried.
Amora had considered taking Loki for her own in Thor's place, but Loki had a love affair with the universe that no one could not compete with. Chaos and change called to him and he couldn't resist the pull. It had taken his attention away from Thor for glorious decades at a time, it had swept him off into other realms, it had herald him into whirlwind romances and destruction and disasters alike. Loki could not be more devoted to anything than he was Thor, and even that paled in comparison to his love of mischief. Loki would dance in a tornado of fire if he thought the chaos of it would disturb or disrupt those around him. It was only that Thor was a tempest, was a force of change and constant motion, that Loki could be devoted to the god of thunder at all. They were meant for each other and Amora hated it.
Loki could not devote himself to her. Loki could likely not even love her. Passion was an old song and dance in the universe. It might burn hot and heavy, but it didn't change. It was a near endless cycle of feeding on itself, renewing itself in still burning flames. It moved others, but it didn't move itself. There was nothing new about lust and devotion was by nature constant. As gods they were ruled by what they presided over. Amora was in turns shallow as lust could be, impulsive as passion demanded, and obsessive as devotion required. She didn't change, but she was a facsimile thereof. It was her effect on others that allowed her and Loki an easy friendship. He was in love with the fallout.
Amora suddenly wished that she'd brought Skurge with her, instead of leaving him to guard their home. She missed the constant feeling of devotion that he radiated. It was so natural to be around him, to have that low level worship buzzing beneath her skin. Her executioner only displayed true passion during battle, though, and that was simply not enough for her. If it wasn't so important to remain hidden, she would have brought him along, but Skurge was not covert and she could fetch him when the need arose.
Amora let out a sound of frustration that was lost to the pulse of music around her. It wasn't enough. Nothing was enough. Only Thor ever had been. She missed the feel of him, the hum of electricity just under his skin, beneath her fingertips. She missed his energy and temper, so easy to rouse and to anger. She could feel the tension that flooded her body when he was so close as well as she could feel the anger and passion rising from his very soul. She missed the beautiful sight of him.
She suddenly wondered if it would be worth burning this place down just so that she could see that sight of him, glorious with fury and wild with righteous indignation. She sighed, moving through the crowd and draping herself over a bar stool, arms folded on the counter and head buried in her arms, closing her eyes. She missed Thor. She loved Thor. It hurt to think about him.
She wondered, if she'd had more time, if he would have chosen her. If the All-father had not interfered, if she had not been banished, could she have persuaded him?
"Hey! Don't I know you?"
Amora didn't move to respond to the voice. She didn't even know (or care) if it was directed at her. She only sighed again. It wasn't enough and it felt like starving, sometimes. She needed more than only devotion, as Skurge gave her. She needed more than just lust and fleshly passion, though she'd used it to take the edge off her constant hunger and longing, it never lasted long. Maybe it wasn't in her nature to be satisfied, but Thor had not left her feeling such longing.
Amora opened her eyes as she unfolded her arms, surprised to find a face hovering very near to her own. "Ha! I knew it!" He proclaimed and it took her a moment to realize it was Tony Stark hovering so close to her. "You and your twin are the ones that destroyed Doombots a few weeks back."
Amora blinked at him. She and Loki had done that. She remembered. The day they'd argued and Doom had been injured. "What about it?" She asked him.
He sat himself right next to her, drink in hand. "Why?" He asked simply.
Amora wasn't really in the mood to talk to this mortal or play Loki's game of making allies. Amora was never one for the long games, really. She frowned at him as she answered. "Are you still thinking about that? Don't you heroes have better things to ponder?"
"As it turns out, no," He answered, drowning his glass and placing it down on the counter. "Plus, I'm a genius. I can multitask."
"If you're such a genius, why can't you work out the answers to your own mysteries?" Amora replied, laying her head back on her arms.
"Touche," He replied. He flagged over the bar tender ordering a refill of his drink and something in a more dainty glass that he held out to her. "Here, you look like you need a drink."
Amora didn't even hesitate. She plucked the glass from his hands, removed the toothpick with the olive, and downed the drink in one swallow. She handed the glass back as she ate the olive, tossing the stick aside.
"Huh. Something stronger, then," Stark mused.
"What do you want?" She asked him. "I'm not going to answer any of your questions, Stark."
The man just grinned at her. "You say that now, but just wait until you have a few more drinks in you."
Amora let out a heavy sigh. "You really do remind me of him," She said to herself. "Silvertongue and all."
"What was that?" He questioned as he held another glass toward her. It was then that she noticed something very important. Siting up quickly, she looked the mortal up and down, frowning. He was looking at her, but that was all. And there was something very off about that. Mortals always reacted to the presence of gods, her in particular. Lust in particular was a reaction that she often got from mortal men (and sometimes woman, as well). Even among the gods she was exceptionally beautiful and this mortal seemed more interested in asking her questions than admiring her. It wasn't impossible that someone would be able to resist the urges that pulled others toward her, but it certainly wasn't common. Not when she wasn't even wearing a glamour.
"Why aren't you trying to touch me?" She asked him. She was staring at him with narrowed eyes look of suspicion. Mortal with resistance to the gods were traditionally not good things, or not mortal at all, but she could tell that Stark was definitely mortal.
Stark looked thrown off for a minute, then he sighed and placed the glass he'd been trying to hand her on the counter. "I'm a bit more interested in answers right now, not that I'd turn you down..."
Amora wasn't really listening, still staring at him with intense scrutiny. Doom had never displayed any overtures of attraction towards her, but he was no less affected. The first few months of exposure especially. He watched her when she was in the room, subtly or otherwise, and whatever reason he told himself, she knew it was because of her body, her dominion. He was more drawn to Loki, though, because mortals were always pulled toward their patrons. Loki had claimed him and that had power. Loki had claimed the Avengers as well, hadn't he? Or had the mortal given himself to Loki and that was why?
"You want Luna," Amora said, the name for Loki's female self coming to mind easily. Raven had gotten them all calling him that. She'd seemed big on nicknames. There was a story there, but Amora hadn't cared enough to pry into it.
Stark was looking at her with open mouthed surprise. "What?"
"That would explain it..." Amora said to herself. Chasing a god could do that, mark a heart like a claim. Though Loki did seem fond of the mortal, so maybe he had claimed him. She reached out for her drink and downed it again in one sip. "Tell me about her."
"Again, what?" Stark looked completely thrown off. Amora smiled widely. It was the kind of grin that would make Loki proud.
Devotion came in different forms. Commitment, obsession, passion, it was equally heady to her. Nothing was quiet so satisfying as feeling those things directed to her herself, but there was still something strong in pulling it out of others. It was one of the things that endeared her to Doom. The mortal was paranoid of any flesh baring pursuit, but he had passion aplenty. This one, too, had a passion that she could feel. Muted when she'd been distracted with her own sorrows, but obsession was written all over his skin.
Amora smiled and met his eyes. "Tell me about your obsessions, Stark." She briefly debated if Loki would be upset with her for temporarily enslaving one of his pet mortals. (The answer was obviously yes, but she went over the arguments anyway to decide whether or not she would comply.) She reached out to place her hand on his chest.
Just like that, the power that had briefly entangled him snapped. He flinched back, stood immediately. Her fingers flexed at the contact a moment before she lost it, feeling... something from the mortals body right where her hand had rested.
"Whoa, hold on, there!"
Amora looked at him curiously. "Perhaps I should invest more attention into you Avengers," She mused to herself. She stood, moving close enough to him that she could steal a kiss. She could taste obsession and passion and worship of the flesh on his very lips. This mortal was an indulgence to everything she held dominion over. So why, then, did he belong to Loki instead of her?
Well, she didn't know definitively that he belonged to Loki, but he certainly didn't belong to her. Why? Was it destined that Loki would steal from her until the End Of Days?
Still, the contact settled something in her. Soothed the hunger as other mortals had been unable to. There was something of magic, or very like, inside that mortal body.
She took her leave after that. Best to go before her thoughts came full circle again. Best to sleep before the thought of him haunted her mind any longer.