Her body fell slowly through the portal, just before it closed, and then began its free-fall back towards the ground.
"She's not slowing down." Thor said, as he, the Captain and Iron Man watched Mother Nature's body fall from where they stood on the ground. Both Thor and Stark moved to go and catch her, but the Hulk beat them to it. The green guy wrapped an arm round her middle, and slowed their descent by grabbing onto a nearby building and sliding down it, before launching them towards the bridge. Hulk rolled over, taking the force of the impact as they hit the ground.
As gently as the Hulk could, he placed the unconscious woman on the ground, as Thor, Iron Man and the Captain raced over. All four of the men (well one demi-god, one Hulk and two men) knelt by her side, concern written all over their faces.
"Is she breathing?" Cap questioned, as they rolled her over so she was on her back. Stark had taken his helmet off, so he couldn't see if JARVIS had run a scan on Alex's body.
Steve leant his head towards her chest to see if he could find a pulse, but he couldn't hear anything. There was no rise and fall of her chest, no subtle beating of her good heart. It seemed that the demi-goddess, who had spent thousands of years protecting the Earth, had finally decided to rest.
The three men, excluding the Hulk, exchanged glances, and bowed their heads in their grief. They stayed silent, even Stark, to pay respect to their fallen comrade. The Hulk had other plans, however, and roared in anger at the tiny demi-goddess' death. He had liked her. She was nice to him, and reminded him a little of Banner's Betty, before she left them.
His roar, though, seemed to send a shock into Alex's body. Her whole body shook as she jolted upwards, gasping loudly as she burst back into life. She fell backwards again, laying herself back onto the ground, too weak to keep her body upright for now.
"What fresh hell is this?" Alex groaned, almost silently.
Thor, Steve and Tony all smiled down at the woman, as her body regained feeling again.
"What just happened? Please tell me that nobody kissed me. I don't think I could take another shock." Alex rambled, as she blinked the black spots in her vision away and saw four out of six of her team-mates all staring down at her.
"We won." The Cap breathed, looking up at the alien-less sky, back to its usual blue. As it should be.
"Bless the Gods!" Alex cheered, breathlessly.
"Let's just not come in tomorrow. Let's just take a day," Tony suggested, and Alex slowly pointed at him, slowly because her body felt like dead weight, agreeing with him. "Have you ever tried shawarma?"
"I have. It's inspired from the food of my native country, Greece." Alex answered him.
"There's a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don't know what it is, but I want to try it." Tony said, making Steve smile at him, in spite of himself. Tony had almost sacrificed himself for the world, and now here he was planning his next meal with the dame who actually had sacrificed herself for the world. Steve had a new appreciation of this weird world.
"We are not finished yet." Thor said, turning his gaze to Stark Tower, where Loki was still cowering.
"And then shawarma after." Alex said, letting Steve and Thor pull her to her feet. She wasn't sure she could walk, but she forced herself to run with her team mates, as they headed towards Stark Tower to finish their mission.
Loki dragged himself out of his crater, pulling his body over to a couple of steps in the middle of the room when he suddenly felt a large shadow looming over him. He hesitantly turned his head around and narrowed his eyes at the sight before him, but not in anger, in fear.
The Avengers stood before him, seemingly glowing with the sunlight on their backs. Each of them was battered and bruised and breathing heavily, but they stood before him nonetheless in victory. The redheaded assassin even had his sceptre in her hands.
He eyed them, though he locked gazes with the demi-goddess as she stood beside his brother. Her archer was on his knees before her with his medieval weapon aimed at his former master. How ironic, Loki mused, that part of his downfall came at the hands of a man he had brainwashed to aid him.
Her eyes weren't filled with anger like the others were. There wasn't anger nor fear, no, it was much more terrible than that. Her eyes were filled with pity and understanding, and the trickster was certain that was worse than the anger of a thousand men. The pity that woman was showing him would be ingrained in his memory forever. He would never be ridded of that image, even while he was rotting away in some dark, forgotten corner of Asgard.
"If it's all the same to you, I'll have that drink now." Loki said finally, breaking the silence in the room.
Loki was contained in a SHIELD facility and was guarded by several, severely armed guards at all times. He wasn't allowed any visitors, apart from Director Fury and the Avengers, apart from Clint, who deemed himself as untrustworthy near the person who had brainwashed him. Yet no one but Thor and the Director had actually visited Loki. Thor wanted to see if there was anything redeemable in his younger brother, and the Director wanted to follow up with Agent Cosmos' theory that Loki wasn't in charge of the attack on Earth. Neither man got their answers.
Yet on the day before he was due to be transported back to Earth with Thor, Loki received a visitor he had actually been waiting for. He sat in his glass cell, which had been charmed by a witch that Alexandra knew to repress the magic inside it, and he almost didn't sense her come in. Almost.
"I had expected you much sooner, though I'm sure your archer is the reason that you have not come until now." Loki said, as he turned his head to spy the woman already sat down in the seat that had been placed there for his idiot brother's visits.
"You expected me, which means you understand why I am here." She said, her words coming out as a statement rather than a fact.
"You want to know why I started a war on Midgard, and who my employer is. Only you already know the answer to the first of your questions, and you already know that I won't answer the second, no matter how much you try to persuade me." Loki replied, standing up from the cold metal bench that was the only piece of furniture in the glorified cage.
He moved so he was stood right in front of her, looming over her as she sat behind the safety of the glass. Not that she wouldn't be safe with him outside. Loki respected the Olympian demi-goddess, and, when she had shown him mercy that day in Stark's living room after the beast had beaten him, he had decided that she would have made a good queen for him. He wouldn't harm her, not that he would be able to. She was a fierce warrior and he had no doubt that she, like the Lady Sif, would be able to best him in a fight.
"You're actually wrong this time, Trickster. Yes, I do know why you started a war here, and yes I know you won't answer the second question I feel obliged to ask, but that's not why I am here."
Loki raised his eyebrows, and nodded once.
"If that is so, then why are you here? Did you change your mind on seeking revenge for your archer?"
"I'm not here to harm you. I give you my word on that." Alex said, sincerely, before she leaned back in her chair and gestured for him to take a seat.
She waited in silence while he practically strolled back to his bench and sat down. Loki waited for to being to explain herself, but she simply stared at him, that pity back into her eyes, which both baffled and infuriated him.
"Then why are you here?" Loki questioned.
"To tell you why you started a war here." Alex replied, a sympathetic smile on her face.
"Oh? Tell me then why I started a war here on Midgard." Loki said, as he gave her an amused grin to cover how unnerving her sympathy was. She should hate him, but she didn't. It seemed that she couldn't bring herself to or perhaps she was just too kind or too evolved for such a primal thing as hate.
"There are over 6 or 7 billion people on Midgard...as well as billions of animal and plant species...all that beautiful, glorious life. All that life to rule over, to surround yourself with. You're like the lonely child who befriends the animals because he has no one else," Alex commented, and ignored Loki's angered look. "I'm not trying to insult you, but I know there's a reason we understand each other. It's because we both know what it's like to be lonely or overlooked or passed over. You think just because I was given charge over his favourite realm that I was Zeus' favourite? He loved me as his daughter, yes, but Athena was his favourite. And she was friends with the other gods and goddesses. I never got along particularly well with my father's other children, apart from Athena, or my mother's children. I spent years of my life feeling alone."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"It must have been hard to grow up in the shadow of Thor, always being overlooked because of his successes and his greatness. I told you all of that because I understand what it's like. I'm that lonely child who befriended the animals too," Alex revealed, leaning forward in her seat, as she took in Loki's face. He seemed to be really listening to her, and taking in what she said. In fact, he was hanging onto her every word. "But the difference between us is that I didn't allow my loneliness, my jealousy, my rage to corrupt me. I knew that even while I was being overlooked that I was still loved nonetheless. My father and my mother loved me. My many brothers and sisters loved me. Odin loved you, Loki. Thor loves you. He wouldn't come here every day if he didn't. He wouldn't have fought so hard to make you see reason-"
"They are not my family. They lied to me since I was a child. I cannot forget that." Loki replied, looking down at his feet, before looking back at her.
"You don't have to. You just have to learn to forgive it. My own mother lied to me for the first ten or fifteen years of my life, lied about who my true father was and I forgave her. Zeus favors Athena, and Athena favors our other siblings but they love me, and I love them, and I forgive them for always pushing me into the background, for ignoring my successes, because that's just what families do. They forgive each other, no matter what the misdeed is. One day they'll forgive you for this, and you'll realize what a huge mistake this all was, because you'll see how you almost lost everything that should have been dear to you."
"I think you overestimate my capacity for decency and morality." Loki smirked at her, trying to regain some emotional distance between them. She was making him vulnerable, and he did not care for it. Vulnerability was how he was in this mess in the first place.
"No. I think you are capable of being good, Loki. I think you're just afraid of it, because you didn't like where being good got you before. The second son, the prince who wouldn't be king...but if that is all that matters to you, if a crown and a throne and subjects are all you want in your life, then I feel sorry for you," Alex said, with a smile. "I've lived for two and a half thousand years on Midgard and these people have shown me so much. They have the capacity to be greater than us, but what hinders them is their emotions. They simply have too many, but that's what I love about them. They are so emotional. And it is brilliant. And I think that's what you're afraid of. Your emotions, because you know, deep in your heart, that you love your brother, and your mother, and your father. You love your family, but you have so much ambition that it overshadows your heart."
Loki stared at the woman in front of him, and had the same thought that he had back in Stark Tower, when she loomed over him with a smirk on her face, but then showed him mercy and sympathy. She would make a great queen to a king. Or a princess to a prince. She was showing him the error of his ways, and what all of his 'imagined slights' were born from. Loki realized how Barton could love the woman now. For someone who had seen so much of war and hate, she remained so peaceful and pure. She reminded him of Frigga, his mother. Yes, Loki thought, she would have made a good queen.
"I'm going to leave you now. I have work to do. Reports to fill out," Alex said, rising to her feet, and was surprised when Loki did the same. "Despite what you did to my archer and the world I call home, it was an interesting experience meeting you, Prince Loki of Asgard. One that I don't hope to repeat, but should we meet in the future...let it be on better circumstances. I would hate to actually have to kick your ass."
"Till we meet again, Lady Alexandra of Olympia." Loki said in farewell, and the woman nodded her head at him.
"My true name is Helen. Helen of...Troy." Alexandra said, and he arched an eyebrow in recognition of the name, not realizing that the infamous beauty that was Helen of Sparta, then Troy, was the woman in front of him.
And then she was gone, and Loki was left alone once more in a cage, thinking about the woman who had just left and her capacity for great kindness.
Helen of Troy was very different to the mortal women he had met, she was a demi-goddess for one, and he hoped that one day they would meet again under different circumstances, as she had said.
The next day, the Avengers and a number of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives headed to an open area in the middle of Central Park. The S.H.I.E.L.D agents were keeping the area secure, so that no civilians got in the way.
Alex had arrived with Clint, Natasha and Bruce, and was doing a good job of keeping up an air of togetherness. In reality, all she wanted was to put all of this behind her. Her trip into a different universe, her near death, and everything that had happened to Clint...she was constantly on edge. She was sleeping a lot less than she needed and Clint had noticed.
Of course he did. He always knew. When something was bothering her, he was the first to spot it. Followed closely by Natasha and Phil.
Her heart clenched at the thought of her friend. Loki had killed him. Phil Coulson had died a hero, trying to stop a mass murdering Asgardian psychopath from escaping and she had not even known. Alex was furious with the Director for not telling her sooner, before she had gone to see the captive and had a civilized conversation with him.
Clint and Natasha had to stop her from running to Loki's cell and ripping him apart.
Now she was glaring at him behind her sunglasses, only tempered by Clint's presence at her side, as he was dragged by Thor to the center.
Her eyes flickered briefly to Banner and Selvig as they placed the Tesseract into a container which Thor and Loki would use to return to Asgard. One small object that held so much power inside had caused so much trouble, not just in this time but in the past too. She could see Rogers' jaw clench tightly at the sight of it and knew he was thinking of the weapons that Hydra had made from its power. He caught her gaze and relaxed some and she gave him a small smile in reassurance.
Thor taking the Tesseract back to Odin's treasure room would be best for all. She knew that.
"Lady Alexandra, thank you for all your assistance in this battle." Thor smiled at her, holding out his arm as he made his round of farewells to new comrades and old ones.
"It is my duty to protect Midgard from all threats, Prince Thor. Just as it is yours. But you are welcome all the same," Alex replied, smiling just as warmly at him as she grasped his forearm. It was the handshake of warriors, both in Asgard and in Olympia, and they both welcomed the familiarity of it. "I will keep watch over your Lady Jane whenever I have a free moment. She will be well protected."
They bowed their heads to one another, before stepping away.
Loki was watching her, Clint and Natasha, as Thor was saying his goodbyes to Rogers, Banner and Stark, and Natasha smirked as she leaned close to her two partners.
"I've got the Stark Tower security footage."
Clint smiled at the prospect of watching Loki getting pummeled into the ground by the Hulk and Alex lightened at the return of his smile.
"My place. I have popcorn and tequila." Alex whispered back, just as Thor stepped back into the middle of the crowded Avengers and Dr. Selvig.
Thor looked almost morose as he held out the other handle of the transportation device that he had brought with him to transport himself and his prisoner home. Loki grabbed it, and with one last nod, Thor twisted his own handle and with a flash of blue light, they were gone.
"Glad that's over." Stark commented, and everyone quietly agreed.
One by one, they said their goodbyes to each other.
Alex gave Selvig her number in case he needed any help with any future works of his or someone to talk to.
She hugged Steve goodbye and told him that she would more than likely be seeing him soon. He gave her a puzzled look at that comment, but she knew that there was little he would be able to do in this time with his skill set, short of rejoining the army, or joining SHIELD, and she knew which he would pick. Mostly for convenience.
Stark tried to convince her to go with him and Banner to his labs, but she refused. For the time being anyway. She knew it would not be the last time that he asked and she would give in eventually. They shook hands, as she did with Bruce, before she climbed into the SHIELD issued car with Clint and Natasha.
The Avengers were all drove off in different directions, moving down different paths, but they all knew that when the next crisis came along that they would answer the call.
It was what they did. It was who they were.
They were Earth's mightiest heroes and the world had not seen the last of them.