Pre-Edit Count – 1,915 Words
Song I listened to for this chapter: Thrive by Switchfoot
The Lady appears beside him, and with tears on her face, answers him, “They are perfect.” Finally, there is hope for them and the rest of the universe.
A couple of weeks has passed since they had all combined their knowledge to save Bella. The procedure had been a success, and everyone is thrilled that Bella will no longer be in pain.
However, it seems since they were released, Bella has been trying to hide from everyone.
Try is the operative word: Since something happened during that forever moment Bella and Bucky shared, and no one else had been a part of; is they can feel each other. All the time.
In fact, Bucky can feel her turmoil, how confused she is by everything that has happened. He is always close by, ready to talk if she wants, but he makes sure his presence is as unobtrusive as possible since he doesn’t want her to feel like he is crowding her, and possibly push her away.
During the time they waited for her to solve the storm in her head, Steve and Bucky spent some time talking, touching base on much that is seemed like they never had time to talk about. Bucky told him about the choices he’d had, and that he knew there would be consequences, but that Bella had been worth them all. Steve had opened up to him about waking in the modern world, and thinking that he had nothing.
They had also talked about the fact that Bucky had made the choices he did to save the millions of lives in New York City. Bucky had been shocked to learn during his meeting from with Bella that he had also saved her. But then, his first decision had shown him the real reason he made the decisions that he did. He may have not known that his decisions saved her like he did the first one, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t have done it again, even with the same choices and end results, because Bella was worth it all, and more.
For his part, Steve told him how it was during that fight. He felt his heart break when he realized that Bucky had had to make the decision to kill their friend Howard. The other choice would have meant that Tony would not be who and what he is now. But Bucky had actually cried when he told about Howard’s wife and how she chose to die rather than the millions of lives in New York. Steve was there for him, knowing that the gentle soul in Bucky had hurt when he had done that assassination.
Not that the others he had killed were any better, but knowing he had a choice at that moment and had to do it was worse than anything else.
There was a lot of testing going on with the changes which had come about because of the new serum. Both Bucky and Steve wanted to know what was different, and to get answers this time since they had none the first time.
Hank McCoy had spent time showing Steve that what had made him so sickly before the serum was a mutation in his cells. But that same mutation is what allowed the change to happen, that is what made him the only success story with the original serum. That mutation is a family trait since Bella had it. It had made her clumsy, but it had manifested a shield to keep her mind her own.
For Bucky, it had been the fact that he had been given the serum as injections of Steve’s blood, as well as the other testing and experimentation they had done. There was also some foreign, non-human DNA in him as well, which may have allowed him to survive him. They are awaiting some information back from outside sources since there is an indication that there had been testing on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s side with the same DNA.
One of the things the serum had done was given him his arm back, but it fused to what had been left of his cybernetic arm, making it a combination of flesh and vibranium. The new arm was stronger than even the vampires flesh: Bucky and Steve, and everyone else eagerly spent time testing it. The only exception had been Loki, who had only remained so he could hopefully have a chance to speak with Bella. But even he had cast a few spells to see if it would react to it.
The truth was that it was stronger than his original cybernetic arm had been, and there was no ugly scarring from where the old arm had been joined to his body. There were only some odd lines in his skin showing where the metal had fused with his body, but other than that, there were no other visible signs that it was different. Those lines were so fine, they looked like baby fine stretch marks. Which of course had Steve teasing Bucky.
Then there was the whole deal with Loki. Steve was reluctant to have the God of Lies speaking with his sister, while Bucky insisted that she can handle the God. While it is true that Bucky is always around, and able to be at her side in a second, it is never because he doesn’t think she can handle herself. It is more that he wishes to know the minute she is willing to speak with him about their relationship.
Also, he is working with Jasper on what is different between the three of them and the vampires. Bucky was also soaking up all the information that Loki had been able to give him when he first woke up about the research he has conducted over the millenniums since he had found out about the Shield and the Warrior. He was doing all he could to learn what was needed in order to thrive in his new chance at life.
More time passed, and Hank and his daughter, and the Beast were all that remained. Banner had left when it was overheard that the Hulk might be hiding in that part of the world. Not wanting to bring any trouble to T’Challa, nor to Bella before they were ready, he left without telling anyone where he was going.
They had continued to run tests on Steve and Bucky, since Bella had seemingly disappeared into thin air. It was only the assurance of Steve and Bucky that told them that she was still around.
They had found out that while they had thought Steve had been perfect before, he truly was now. He would never age, his body would replace any part that showed signs of ageing back to the moment he had been injected the second time.
The most surprising thing was that Steve was the weaker of the two, which surprised them all, but as it had been explained, there was less for the 2nd serum to perfect. Steve was all right with this since it left him with stronger abilities, but without the worries that he needed to completely relearn everything like Bucky, and theoretically, Bella needed to.
Bucky had the messed up 1st serum in him, that had contained more of Steve’s blood, and more of what they now knew was venom. While he could take more punishments than most, he had still been human and just at the limits of what his body would allow. Only after much more testing and experimentation could he keep up with Steve when he was the Winter Soldier. So, the new serum fused with that, and the other changes they had done to him as the Winter Soldier, and he has become the perfect Warrior. Which as Peter had joked, worked, since that is what he was to be.
Before she had disappeared, then with Bucky’s input, they knew that Bella had a lot of the same things happen, but with her, there was nothing to physically tell that it had worked: Not if you hadn’t seen her before, or known the amount of pain she had been in. Now she is beautiful, but nothing otherworldly, just simple, down to earth, homegrown beauty.
However, she could do much more with her shield. Bucky reported that she was testing it and her abilities. Her calorie intake was still high, but then it was the same for all of them.
Neither she nor Bucky would ever be under the control of another for the rest of their lives. Her shield had done as the Lady had told them, and melded into Bucky’s head. While he cannot use it for others, it will form on its own and protect his mind and will either reinforce or protect parts of his body.
Not as much is known about Bella, but then, Bucky had made it clear that she needed some time to get herself in order. He and Jasper made sure she was fine, but otherwise left her to herself.
With his ability, Jasper listened to both Bucky and Steve tell about what had happened in the past, not only about themselves, but about Bella as well.
While everything was quiet, Loki decided that it was time to meet with the Lady who had his allegiance before she was ever dreamed of.
He quickly appeared in front of her, kneeling with his arms held out, showing he came in peace.
Bella chuckled, “I take it you have decided that now is the time you had been waiting for?”
He quickly looked up at her in surprise.
Tapping her head, Bella told him, “While we are not physically together, Bucky and I have the ability to still speak to each other no matter how far apart we are. Apparently, when I said yes, I agreed to never have privacy again.” The last is said partly bitterly.
Bucky was exceedingly polite and knocked when he wanted to talk to her, but Bella was an intensely private person, and having someone able to speak with her that way seemed to be invading her privacy.
Sensing this, Loki sighed. “May I sit down?”
She nodded, watching him.
He seated himself and then started to tell her, “I swore my loyalty to you thousands of years ago. I believe that what you and your warrior can do is miraculous, but then, we will need it from what I see.” Loki’s green eyes slide to the side to meet hers, “But not when you two are not together. Why are you fighting this?”
Bella sighed loudly and rolled her eyes as she asked, “Great. Another one that believes we should be in love suddenly and attached at the hip?” That is why she was hiding, she didn’t want to deal with everyone trying to get the two of them together.
Chuckling at the mental image, Loki told her, “No. I wouldn’t want that myself, and I cannot see why anyone would. But at the same time, milady, I wonder why you are unwilling to even try to work with him? Why are you hiding out here in the jungle and not inside the city itself?” He watched her, he genuinely wanted to know what she was thinking. He had seen and learned about her past. Loki knew that she wanted to love, and be loved. And she had a huge heart to share with those who deserved it. But with her out here away from everyone, those who are actually worthy have no chance to gain that love.
Bella looked out into the forest surrounding them, thinking. She finally answered him, “I just don’t understand anything. Bucky told me that I am perfect for him, but I don’t see it. I don’t see how any of what I have read or seen in my dreams is possible.” She has no idea why she is admitting this to the green eyed god next to her, but she did need to talk to someone. She had been going nowhere in her head for the last few weeks.
Smiling slightly, awed by the fact that she was actually talking to him, Loki nodded. “I can understand that. Imagine knowing that thousands died because you couldn’t survive torture. That my mind couldn’t keep others out. I had trained for millenniums so that I could assist you, and I couldn’t resist an inferior race’s attempts to break me.” He chuckled dryly. “But at the same time, I have learned we are often our own worst critics. We doubt things that others never see, fight things that others can never see, do things we don’t actually believe ourselves able to do. But then, that is where humans, and even the Gods are the same.”
He looked directly at her , “You are the only one in charge of your life. You are the one making the decisions. Do they affect others? Most definitely. Is it fair? No, it never is. But that is what keeps us fighting, living our lives. We want to be better. We just often give in to the worst voices inside ourselves that tell us that we are not able to achieve what others think we can.” Loki’s eyes went slightly darker as he remembered his own demons and all he had done to get through this game called life.
Coming back to the here and now, Loki told her frankly, “Unfortunately, that is life. You make the decisions, to thrive or just survive. To do what is needed to coast through life, to do all that is asked of you. Or to go that extra step. To live with everything that the universe throws at you. But to achieve it, you have to risk things that will hurt you sometimes. But if you never do it, you are back to surviving.” He stood up and looked out at the vista in front of them. It truly was an impressive place that she found to do her thinking in.
Sighing, Loki told her, “I am heading back to my life. I need to try to save others, but I fear I will end up making a fool of myself. But until I can learn otherwise, I will do what I can to make sure when you need me and the rest of the planets I rule, they will be ready for you. Until then, know you have my loyalty. If you need me before then, call. I will be here as soon as possible.” He bows slightly to her, then starts to leave.
Bella nodded to the proud king but reached out with her hand to hold him back when he went to pass her. “Thank you, Loki. I needed to hear that.” He brought things to light for her and allowed her to voice those things which bothered her. No, Steve and the others wouldn’t have laughed or done anything but help. But there was something that allowed her to trust Loki on a level that she might not otherwise be sane on doing.
He smiled and leaned down to kiss her on her forehead as he whispered, “Family is those you choose as well as those that are related to you. My Lady, I think of you more fondly than I should, but never more than familial. Keep yourself safe, as well as your Warrior. And please, thrive.” With that, he disappeared. His kiss remained on her where no other will see it except those who fear him. It may not have been much, but it was his hope to give her more protection.
For the rest of the day, Bella thought on what Loki had said, as well as the conversation she’d had with Bucky in that between place.
The world moved around her, and unknown to her, she was watched over by the jungle itself. It had hidden her many times during the time she had been hiding, protecting the Shield while she came to realize things about herself which she needed to face. It did this, knowing that she would be doing the same for it soon.
. He came to check on his Lady, watching over her with worried eyes, but he too left her alone to get her thoughts together.
As night descended, Bella stood up: She had come to her decision.
Bucky materialized from the jungle, coming to a rest beside her from her call, and she turns to him. “I’ve decided.”
He raised an eyebrow, waiting to find what their future would be like.
She smiled as she went into his arms.
He held her to him, as he asked, “And what have you decided to do?”
She said one word as she opened everything to him, “Thrive.”
Final count: 2,821