He Without Sin

Amora Talks to Shield

Loki and Amora handled the reveal of Loki's heritage with all the due grace of hundreds of year old gods-- they ignored it completely. Amora returned to the castle the day after she disappeared and acted as if nothing was out of the ordinary, but only during the day. She spent the nights at her apartment, even though her identity as Sharon was already known. Skurge didn't return with her, as if emphasizing the point that she wasn't there to stay.

Loki delivered three Extremis soldiers to Victor and then he and Amora spent the next few days keeping Mystique thoroughly distracted so that she wasn't tempted to go looking around Victor's lab. They were well aware of her fear of being taking apart and her discomfort with Victor's experiments, but that didn't mean that the man was going to stop for that reason and she likely knew that, but there was no reason to bring attention to it.

Raven informed Loki of Hawkeye's request to speak to him, something that he found curious, but also resolved to put off. It wasn't really at the top of his priority list, even if he did intend to try and get on his agent's good side. He was more concerned with Svadilfari, with Tony, with what was happening with Pepper Potts, Victor's progress with Jane and her research, which Victor assured the god he was indeed taking care of.

Magneto and his group had escaped and were laying low again, so Loki resolved to write them off of his list of concerns for now. It did give them a rather decent opening to get 'Lockley' working with Shield again. Raven insisted that she be the one to do it, as it would be more practical for her to do this and work as Skye at the same time. Loki and Amora agreed, especially because it was unlikely that Magneto would immediately return to the government organization that had just recently held him captive. This way, she would be safe and productive. And really, they needed to get over their over protectiveness of her. At least, so she said. She wasn't a child, as she reminded them, and they decided not to point out that even Doom was a child compared to the gods.

Whatever had been holding her up before, Raven had obviously gotten over it and was no longer in a mood to let them "baby her". Amora took this with all the grace of the truly affronted. Loki opted to be more reasonable about the entire thing. Since Victor had taken Raven's vitals and had charted out a workout of her usual readings and such, he had upgraded her tracking bracelet so that he could keep tabs on her condition. In case she found herself injured, but unable to even call for the gods help.

Loki and Amora had helped with this process by doing and saying all sorts of things to get her worked up, angry, and embarrassed under the pretense of not wanting to over react if her heart rate was abnormal, but there was no danger. Raven didn't believe them. Victor was too information hungry to take her side on the matter.

He'd tried doing a similar work up for Loki and Amora, but it required much more in depth information about their biological functions than what either god had particularly felt inclined to share, so he had to contend himself with whatever he had gathered from the cameras around the castle.

After Loki had spent half a day trying to give the mutant tips on imitating others, which they both knew she didn't actually need, but Loki felt like teasing her about anyway, she had retaliated by spending an entire day pretending to be Doom and doing so well that neither Loki or Amora noticed right away. She was eager to have something to do, but Loki felt it better to allow at least a few days to pass so that Shield would not be overly suspicious as to how she found out. They all circled each other with over-protectiveness and irritation in the mean time.

Natasha found herself highly confused when she woke up in Shield medical. She recognized the white walls and the sounds of a nearby heart monitor. Upon trying to sit up, however, she found herself attached to much more equipment than she thought was standard.

"Ah, you're awake."

It was odd to wake up to Bruce and Shield. The man usually tried to stay out the place whenever possible and Shield medical didn't really take kindly to the Hulk playing doctor. Just as well that the Tower had a med bay.

"What's going on?" She asked immediately.

Bruce was moving away from looking at whatever readings on her he'd been checking, looking her over now. She was patient as he began to shine lights in her eyes and poke and prod her. Bruce generally did as little of it as possible, unless necessary. "Magneto shot you with his mutant Extremis. You've been out for three days."

Vaguely, Natasha could recall that. Melinda May got shot as well, she recalled. She made a mental note to ask after the woman later. She also did an assessment of herself, but she didn't feel any different. "I'm not hot," She commented.

"Yeah," Bruce agreed. "It seems like maybe it didn't take to you. We've been running test, but none of the typical Extremis signs seem to be showing."

"Could the formula have been flawed?"

"It could have been, but it seems to have worked well enough on your friend."

"May?" Natasha questioned.

"Yeah," Bruce replied. "Shield wanted me to... How are you feelings?" He asked instead, changing the subject.

Natasha narrowed her eyes at him, but didn't question it. For now. "Fine. Normal."

"Good," He nodded. "Magneto and company got away, if you were wondering."

"How long do I have to stick around here?" She asked him.

"Shield will want it's own doctors to look in on you first."

Of course. Shield didn't really trust any of the Avengers. Bruce was too dangerous, Tony too unpredictable, Hawkeye comprised (or so they thought), and Thor's loyalties were unknown. Only she and Steve were remotely trusted, and even that seemed tenuous.

"Oh, you're awake!" The voice from the door caused Natasha to look up.

"Lockley!" Natasha couldn't exactly hide her surprise at seeing the other red head. "What are you doing here?"

"I heard that Magneto got free," Lockley replied with a grimace. The woman came to sit by Natasha's side, offering a small smile. "I contacted Coulson about it and after he confirmed, he asked me if I knew anything about helping mutants control their powers."

"Isn't that Xavier's thing?" Natasha replied.

"That's what I asked, too. They don't want to move their people out of Shield if they don't have to. I was worried when I heard that you'd been hurt by whatever Magneto did."

"I'm fine."

"Of course you are," Lockley replied. "Shield wants me to stick close."

"Will you?"

"For now, I think." Lockley offered another tentative smile. "You guys seem to be having a string of trouble lately."

"Yeah..." Natasha replied. "We could probably use more competent people on board." She returned the other woman's smile.

"You could, couldn't you?"

Stabilizing Extremis turned out to be much simpler than trying to reverse it. Doom had already figured out a fairly reasonably theory for the formula based the research he'd done on the healing stone Loki had gifted him to study and it proved to hold as well as he'd expected it to. That left him one soldier to use to test the bounds of Extremis, since he was well aware that he would not have a similar opportunity once he was given Miss Pepper Potts to operate upon. So if he was to have anything close an accurate assessment of what the woman would be capable of after she was stabilized, or how to take her out if necessary, this was his one chance.

The other soldiers he had to devote fully to removing Extremis from their system and it was highly resistant to... everything it seemed. Not that Doom was going to give up that quickly.

It was odd to have an actual chance to get real work done. Usually, his guest were doing all that was in there power to distract him with whatever trivialities were on their mind, thrusting upon him with some disaster he never had enough time to exterminate fully, or otherwise just being in his way.

But at the moment, they seemed content to leave him to it. He knew, when he bothered to wonder at it, that the reprieve was mostly due to Mystique's unease with his work, but that was rather irrelevant. And it was several days, really, before Doom even noticed how unerringly quiet it was. It was only that Loki had come to inform him that Mystique was off to... well, Doom didn't recall what she was up to, only that it meant that he had to check her vitals every so often. And perhaps the god had also asked about his progress and Doom delegated a Doombot to responded, to which Loki seemed heavily unimpressed.

Doom wasn't over concerned about it, though he did complain about the fact that the god felt the need to destroy his messenger. That had just reminded Doom that he needed to further upgrade his Doombots. Both gods had, at one point or another, offered ideas and spells that he could install onto his Doombots that he'd had no time to work on.

He delegated a Doombot to test the limits of his stabilized Extremis soldier as he worked more on upgrading his Doombots, inbetween trying to break down Extremis on his other test subjects.

Perhaps he was a bit too enthusiastic, but he didn't know when he would get another stretch of uninterrupted time to work.

He had no idea how much time had passed by the time he was finally interrupted.

"Victor." Of course it would be Loki. Amora did not concern herself with him enough to be such a nuisance.

"What?" Doom snapped. The god was lucky he responded at all.

"You've been down here for too long," Loki answered. "If I recall correctly, mortals have to sleep on occassion."

"I'm busy."

"No, you're grounded."

And suddenly he found himself in his master bedroom. Doom turned to face the god, finding Loki grinning at him from the doorway.

"Yes, I know that you intend to object, but I've already magically sealed off the room. I will return for you in twelve hours. There's food on the table. Whether you use the time to sleep or to brood is up to you."

Then Loki was shutting the door.

Doom wondered if his hospitality would be called into question for exploding his guest.

Amora was basically sulking and she knew it, but she did it anyway. Logically, she knew that it was stupid to think tat Loki was suddenly different just because of his heritage. Logically, she knew that he was no more or less trust worthy than he ever was. Logically, she knew that their friendship did not change because he was suddenly something she didn't understand.

She still felt that it did, though.

It made sense that he wasn't Asagardian. Amora had expected for years for that dirty little secret to come to light. She had expected to find out that he was Vanir, magically inclined as they were, or even half elf. Never Jotunn, though. Never a monster.

But Loki never did what was expeted of him. He was a God of Chaos, after all. He changed things. This was a change that she didn't know what to do with.

"He could have been a spy this entire time," Skurge said. And that was another reason she was having such a hard time with this, Skurge's voice in her ear telling her of all the reasons Loki could be untrustworthy. It wasn't the first time they'd had the conversation. It wouldn't be the last. Skurge could be a little overprotective, when she let him. This was the first time, since the start of their friendship, that she actually entertained her doubts.

"Why would he tell me if that was the case?" Amora argued.

"A change in his game," Skurge replied. "He has to explain why he's fallen out of favor with the All-father. What if this is not even truly him?"

Amora turned an affronted look to her champion. "You think that I do not recognize the God of Chaos? That Thor would not? Loki is his brother, he would have said something."

"Thor can be fooled."

"And I am so easily fooled, as well?" Amora asked. "Why would the queen--"

"The queen may not know."

"Now you are reaching," Amora told him.

"You do not know what he is capable of," Skurge went on. "You may know his magic, but he is not just a mage any longer. He has abilities you cannot know or understand. He has loyalties that you know not."

"That is not true!" Amora objected. "I know where his loyalties lie."

"Do you?" He questioned. "You have been here with him for months and he is only now telling you this."

Amora didn't say aloud that it was probably the better plan on his part. She didn't know what to think of him now and that was the last thing Loki needed. It was good that he was making amends with his brother. Loki didn't need to be alone.

"Arg!" Amora made a sound of frustration as she paced about. She was both suspicious and sympathetic. Part of her feared him and part of her felt the same she always did about Loki. (It was too complicated and comprised of too many things to be summarized as simply friendship or some such.) "I don't know what to make of him," She said.

It was entirely stupid that it should make such a difference, but it did. Loki couldn't be a monster. He couldn't be...

She was going in circles. This wouldn't do. She needed to clear her head. Going in circles and trying to unlearn years of jotunn propaganda was daunting. Especially since she wasn't certain that it was only propaganda.

"I'm going out!" She announced. "You stay here." She changed into her Sharon disguise just as she stepped out the door, a sound of surprise prompting her to look around.

"Sharon!" Steve gasped out, staring at her. He was carrying several bags that she assumed were from the grocery story. "Where have you been?"

Amora blinked in surprise a little longer before she smiled in her usual teasing way. "Have you missed me?"

"Of course!" He answered immediately. "I've been worried. Last time I saw you..." The worry in his voice drifted off and he blushed slightly.

Amora's grin widened. "Why Captain, what are you thinking?" She purred.

Steve's blush intensified. "I really have been worried," He insisted. "How have you been? Are your injuries better?"

Amora's smile relaxed into something more friendly. "I am fine, Captain. My injuries are all healed. I was about to go for a walk. Would you like to join me?"

Steve's face brightened. "Sure! Just let me put these away." Steve disappeared into his apartment for a few minute while she waited. "Alright! Let's go." They began to walk out the building, but Steve reached for her arm to stop her before they left, his expression trouble. "You know, if you're with me, Shield will likely try to come and talk to you."

"Should I be worried about that, Captain?"

"They think that you're working with Doom," Steve confessed. "I told them that I didn't think you were up to anything bad, but they don't believe me."

"I don't think that they'll believe me either, Captain. Still, I'm not worried. Perhaps we should sit down together."

"If anything happens, I'll--"

Amora laughed lightly, pressing her fingers to his lips. "Don't do something foolish for my sake, Steve. Shield wants some of the same things we do, after all. Best to make friends and not enemies." With a smile, she led him out of the building.

"If you don't mind me asking," Steve began quietly, "Is... Is Loki alright?"

Amora paused in her steps a moment. "Loki is also healed," She answered evasively.

Steve nodded, accepting this easily.

"Tell me what you've been up to," She told him. "Anymore dates with Mr. Stark?"

Steve blushed at that. "It's not--" He shook his head. "You're always teasing me, Sharon." He paused. "Or... should I call you Amora?"

She shrugged. "It doesn't really matter anymore, does it?" She asked.

"Then why are you still..." He gestured toward her appearance.

"It's for the sake of you mortals, mostly. The glamour aides in holding back my power and holding back is always a chore."

"What are you holding back?" Steve asked curiously.

"I am a god, Captain. Did you never wonder what that meant?"

Steve pressed his lips together tightly. "There's only one god."

She smiled indulgently. "Avatar, then, if it makes you feel better. Beings like myself and Loki and Thor, we are Avatars, embodiments of our powers. Mortals are not use to such things, not use to magic. It could be dangerous."

They walked in silence as Steve contemplated this. It was nearly twenty minutes before Agent Coulson showed up. He wasn't alone, of course, but the other agents could not be identified or else remained hidden.

"Sharon Carter," He greeted her respectfully with a small nod. "Shield would like to have a word with you."

Tony was going to be rather put off with him, Loki was sure. No one in there right mind would consent to letting anyone they cared about be under Doom's power. Kidnapping Pepper Potts would not go over smoothly. Asking permission for Doom to rearrange her genetic material would go over even worse. Loki's plan would not endear him to anyone.

Well, Tony would feel worse if Pepper exploded, he was sure, so extreme methods were reasonable.

Loki tried not to have too much fun as he teleported into the kitchen of Tony's Malibu house. Pepper was standing over the sink when he arrived, back to Loki as he took a seat at the table. He considered using his Luna appearance so that she'd be less frightened, but he really didn't want his female form to be associated with Doom.

When Pepper finally turned around she nearly screamed. "Loki?" Her eyes were wide and fearful for one moment before she covered it with a brave face. Loki certainly appreciated it more than the fearful babbling some people were prone to when surprised and frightened.

"Greetings," Loki said calmly. "How are you today, Miss Pepper Potts?"

The woman's face hardened considerably at his politeness. "If you try anything, the Hulk will be here in minutes. He's right up stairs."

Surprise lit Loki's features a moment. "Is he? I'm surprised he isn't with the others in Stark Tower. Wasn't he helping Tony with your Extremis problem?"

Pepper looked taken aback. "How did you... Oh. Tony did say that you appeared last time."

"Have they made much progress?"

"Why do you care?"

Loki nodded. "I'll take that as a no," He replied. "Well, I'd rather not leave anything to chance, so we should be off now," Loki said as he stood.

Pepper stepped away from him. "Off where?"

"To take care of your Extremis problem, of course." Loki looked at her as if she were being highly unreasonable, taking advantage of her surprise to move forward and take her hand. "Wouldn't want you to explode, after all." He flashed her a smile before teleporting them both to Doom's castle.

"I do hope that I haven't interrupted any of yours plans for the evening," Loki said as they appeared in the castle. The dinning room table was already set, Victor seated at the table's head. The mortal had (understandably) been quite irate when Loki finally released him from his... grounding. He had also been well rested, however, so Loki did not feel in the least bit bad about it. (Really, after being locked in a cage, it was rather satisfying to turn Victor's trick back on him.) The man had sulked for a bit before he was willing to talk to Loki, but once he did, they agreed that it was time to deal with Pepper Potts.

"Welcome, Miss Potts," Victor nodded at her. "I have been looking forward to meeting you."

The woman looked more wary than she did afraid, though that was there, too. "Why did you bring me here?" She seemed unable to decide which of them was the bigger threat, eyes darting between Loki and Doom.

"You should sit," Loki said as he took his seat. Not to the right of Victor, as he was inclined to do, but further off. No need to make the woman feel as if they were ganging up on her. Not that it wouldn't seem that way regardless, but he thought he should try. "I don't know about you, but dinner would not be remiss with me."

She narrowed her eyes. "You didn't answer me."

"You are here because of Extremis," Victor said. "If Loki has not told you, I plan to stabilize the formula within you. I have already confirmed that I have the means to do so, and you can be on your way as soon as we are done here. This is not a request, you understand, but Loki urged me to be... cordial with you."

Pepper opened her mouth to reply, but Loki interrupted her. "Please do not say anything that you may regret. I do try to keep Victor in line, but he will still be the one to operate on you, not me."

Pepper pressed her lips together tightly. "I'm not hungry," She said stiffly.

Loki sighed. "Suit yourself." He put down his silverware, resigned already to his fate of a late dinner. "Would you rather go to sleep and wake once everything is done, or go into this eyes wide open. I don't think that the process will be very pleasant. Sleep is certainly the easier option."

"Somehow, I don't think it would be very smart of me to consent to being put to sleep," Pepper said.

Loki hummed noncommittally. "I suppose you are right. Well, to your credit Miss Potts, you are making a very good impression."

Victor scoffed, but did not contradict the god.

Loki smirked widely. "Well, if you're sure you don't want the food, we'll just get started." Loki snapped, standing in time to catch Pepper as she fell under the sleep spell he cast.

"I thought you offered her the choice to remain awake," Victor commented idly.

"Yes, but no one should be subjected to you when they are already being operated on. This option is far more pleasant."

Victor only scoffed again as he stood. "Well enough that I do not need to bother hiding my other research specimens. Bring her to the lab and let's get started already."

"You could just take her to a different lab. It isn't as if you don't have more than one."

"I did not ask your opinion."

Loki rolled his eyes and ignored the snappy comment. He carried Pepper down to the lab and resolved to watch until Victor was done. Loki wouldn't dare trust the man alone with someone Tony cared so much about. Tony would be upset with him either way, but it was never better to give Victor free reign if one could help it.

Amora was almost on her best behavior as she accompanied Agent Coulson to Shield's base. She refused to drop her Sharon appearance. There was no reason to drop the glamour unless she planned trying to seduce all of Shield. Which wasn't off the table, truthfully, but also not the plan. Yet. She liked to keep her options open.

Steve refused to leave her side as they were taken to the base and Amora ignored the agents to give Steve her full attention as they were on their way. She stretched out, completely at ease, throwing her legs over Steve and smiling widely as she watched him blush. She asked him about the shopping he'd done (irrelevant topics to make Shield aware how little she feared him) and made plans to join him for dinner (showing that she had no plans to stay within Shield's compound). She had the demeanor of someone that was being chauffeured rather than detained and she could see that it irked a few of the agents.

It was only once they actually arrived at the base that she gave her attention over to the agents. Well, to Agent Coulson, since she knew he was the one both Lockley's dealt with. She practically draped herself over his shoulders as they walked. Admirably, the man took this in stride. "Don't you think it's a little forward, bringing me back to your place on the first date?" She whispered.

Coulson's lips turned up in a small smile. "I've always favored the ambitious approach."

She grinned. "Fortune favors the brave, as they say."

"As a god, I suppose you would know?" He replied.

"Gods are moved by other forces," She answered him.

When they reached the room they planned to interrogate her in, Steve still refused to leave her side. She admired his devotion. He would make a worthy champion, to any god that chose him. She waited patiently for the questions to begin. Steve sat silently with a disapproving frown.

"I believe you'd appreciate us getting straight to the point, am I right?" Coulson asked. "To put it simply, Miss Carter, we'd like to know what is it you're doing here?"

"You brought me here," She answered cheekily.

"On Earth," He corrected.

"Midgard," She corrected in turn. "I'm here for Loki."

"But why?"

"We're friends of course!" She answered as if that fact should be obvious.

Coulson remained calm in the fact of her unhelpful replies. "What does Loki want here?" He pressed. "Why is he here at all?"

"To right his wrongs," She answered. "And to protect Midgard."

"How does he plan to do that?"

"Well, if you mortals were not so protesting, he would work with you!" She answered, nearly a snap. "He would talk to you, if you would listen. Since you do not, he has spoken to your Avengers." She looked over at Steve briefly. "He thought, if you were not willing to work with him, knowing of the threat would be nearly as good. And keeping your heroes alive whenever possible."

Coulson sat forward, interest peaked. Steve also looked more interested. "Loki wants to protect us?" Steve questioned.

Amora turned to him curiously. "You didn't... I thought that you were aware that he destroyed the creator of Extremis and stopped your Hulk from..."

"So Loki interfered in that matter to save Stark?" Coulson questioned.

"And the civilians," Amora admitted. "Just as he does what he can to protect civilians when Doom attacks."

Coulson narrowed his eyes as he focused on that information. For a moment, Amora wondered if she'd given away some information that she shouldn't have, that would jeopardize Loki's plans. Then he asked a question she'd forgotten to anticipate. "Are you working with Doom?"

She looked taken aback. "What?" Then her surprise cleared and she answered, "No." Because that was mostly true. She didn't have anything to do with Doom's attacks. She didn't help him with his plans nor the execution of them.

"Because you've been seen with him multiple times."

"Yes," She replied. "I stopped him from causing unnecessary destruction once or twice, if I recall."

"You also stopped us from apprehending him."

"That's not the way I see it," Amora told him. "You couldn't hold Doom. You couldn't even hold Magneto. And last time you had him in your base, he caused a rather large amount of destruction."

"You seem to know a lot about us, Miss Carter." His voice was tinted with suspicion.

"Not as much as I would like," She admitted. "Perhaps the future could see more bridges built between us. I do rather tire of this, though, so if there is anything more pressing..."

"There is," He assured her. "I am curious about your association with Mystique."

"She wanted an escape from Magneto. I was trying to help her find it."

"And... Svadilfari?"

Amora's gaze hardened. "What of him?" Her voice was hard as steel.

"That's what I was hoping you would tell me."

"I assume Thor would have told you what he knew," She answered harshly. "It is his father's fault that that man is here. He is a mage. He is powerful. There isn't much more to be said."

"Why does he want Loki?"

"Because he's a sick freak!" She yelled, slamming her hands on the table and standing up.

Steve stood up beside her, placing a calming hand on her shoulder. "Maybe we should stop," He told Coulson, giving her worried looks.

"Yes, I think I'm done here," Amora agreed. "You know where I live, obviously. If you want another talk I'm sure you'll let me know. Or you can talk to Steve. I'm sure he'd be willing to relay a message if I was not at home. Now I'm done. Goodbye."

With that, Amora teleported out of Shield and returned to her home.

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