Here's where the story really starts taking on a new shape. Astrid is coping with her trauma, Karine doesn't know how to help her, and Loki always seems shows up in the worst place at the worst time...

How much more can this poor girl take? Find out...well, right now!

- Rose

Astrid sat on the couch watching the news in her home back in Heidelberg, all the formal vestments cast aside in favor of her fleece pajamas, a huge heavy blanket, and a cup of hot cocoa with an ample amount of peppermint schnapps in it. The schnapps was Nicolaus' suggestion. She had to admit, it was helping to calm her down...her hands had finally stopped shaking.

She kept replaying the events at the museum, the isolated moment between herself and...Loki. Her family had told her stories of the old gods when she was growing up. Though she was born and raised in the United States, her parents were from Norway. Her Scandinavian heritage and the stories of her people had always been a part of her life.

Loki, the God of Mischief, God of Lies...an actual GOD. But up until now he had only been a fable. Sure, there had been incredible stories of humans with superpowers popping up all over the globe, Captain America being one of them, but a GOD?!

There was no way he was real...but he had done things she couldn't explain, that she had never seen before. He was a force of nature, with a single-minded focus to get what he wanted. She was in awe of him. And she was terrified. He had forced her body to act according to his will, had teased her, taken her. The thought of seeing him again terrified her, but the thought of never seeing him again…

Astrid was jolted out of her thoughts when Karine came downstairs from the shower, rubbing a towel on her wet hair. "Are you doing ok?" she asked quietly.

Astrid looked away from the television and smiled weakly. "Yea, I'm ok." Her voice sounded miles away. "Still in some shock, I think, but I'll be alright…."

The scene of the fight played out for the hundredth time on the screen. A look of concern crossed Karine's face, and she walked over to Astrid.

"Are you sure you want to keep watching this?"

Astrid sighed, and gave Karine a tired but resolved look. "Yea. I think it's helping me cope. Seeing it from a different angle makes it feel more real, like I'm not crazy for thinking it happened. The schnapps and cocoa are helping too." Astrid lifted her mug. Karine bent down and hugged her. "OK. If you want to talk, just come get me. I'm going to bed. But seriously, wake me up if you need to, I don't mind." She gave Astrid the warmest smile she could muster. "Don't stay up too late, OK?" And with that, she turned off the light and went back upstairs to her room, leaving the only illumination coming from the television screen.

Later, Astrid sighed and set the lukewarm cocoa on a side table. As many times as she watched it...something was wrong.

The CCTV replays always started with Loki shooting the blast of energy at the old man, Captain America jumping in and blocking it, then Loki shooting at the jet. In the replays, Astrid could see herself, just a few pixels next to the image of Loki. She saw the shower of sparks hit her, Captain America walking up right beside her, and her running off and becoming a part of the amalgamous crowd. Then the fight...but something wasn't adding up. There was a moment where it looked like Loki had won: Captain America was on his knees, and Loki had his staff pointed at the base of the Captain's neck. It should have been over, but then...Loki stopped. The Captain disarmed him, and the fight continued, until Iron Man flew in from nowhere. Then she saw the god put up his hands and surrender.

He could have easily killed Captain America. And the blast that Loki shot at the plane...why had he aimed for the wing? He could have taken down that jet by shooting dead center.

But most of all...everything in her mind and body told her that he would never surrender.

"It doesn't look quite right, does it?" A quiet but commanding male voice came from the shadows.

Astrid stopped breathing. She quickly spun around, eyes frantically searching the dark corners of the room to find its source. At first, she couldn't see anything, but as her eyes adjusted to the dark, a figure moved forward. She could make out a long coat, glints of metal accents, black and green... as the light from the television brought him into view, that smile spread across his lips.

Astrid's hands began to shake again as her heart pounded out of her chest. Him. HERE. He was HERE. Unable to utter a sound, she just watched as he strutted in front of the couch and bent down be eye level with her. Those eyes...those intense, sparkling, crystal eyes locked into her, everything flooding back into her mind.

"You are truly beautiful when you're terrified." He chuckled and reached out toward her cheek, but she recoiled instinctively. He looked amused.

"I can't hurt you." He grinned reached for her; Astrid froze. She squeezed her eyes shut, expecting to feel his cool touch on her skin, but no touch came. She stayed with her eyes closed, until she heard him say, "At least not right now." She opened one eye to see what he was doing. He just looked back at her, feigning offense. His arm was extended to the point where he SHOULD have been touching her, but when she looked at where his hand met hers, it just shimmered and faded at the point of contact.

"You see? Just an illusion," he said. obviously enjoying her stunned reaction. "It's almost as if you don't trust me."

"Am I dreaming? Is this a dream?" Astrid whispered.

"No, my dear. This is all real."

He smirked with that cocky glint in his eye. That intoxicating smile. The utter arrogance. This man, illusion or not, was a demon. A murderer. Dangerous.

Heat swelled in Astrid's stomach, He had used her, tricked her, manipulated her...but everytime she thought about it, she got turned on. Ugh, it was infuriating! Astrid shot him a fierce look, her eyes brimming with fresh tears. "You forced yourself on me! You took away control of my body! You KNEW I was trapped. And you mocked me for resisting. You are a MONSTER!" Her angry tears flourished into a desperate sob, and she wrapped the blanket around herself more tightly. "Wh-why are you here? What do you want from me?"

"You, Astrid, are fascinating," he mused. "You were delectable at the museum, but I never imagined you would hold such vast information in that beautiful head of yours. Nanotechnology, did you say?"

She scowled at him, but she was afraid. Her research would be dangerous in the wrong hands, and his hands were DEFINITELY wrong. Fortunately, iridium was so rare, there was no way he'd have enough to do anything of significance.

"It's so fortunate I was able to procure the entire supply of Dr. Schaefer's iridum," he said slowly, letting the implications of his words sink in. She just stared at him - had he read her mind? "Now I could very much use someone with the knowledge to release its fullest potential."

"I will NEVER help you." Astrid spat. He threw a smoldering gaze at her, seemingly aroused by her fury, and he smiled...THAT smile... She felt the desire seeping through her fear and anger.

"Oh, I think you will…" he purred.

"Why are you even asking? It's not like I really have a choice in the matter. You could just use that magic blue ball of yours and make me do it. You've made that obvious"

"But where's the fun in that?" he said mockingly, in that low growl she remembered: dangerous, lustful, imposing. "I want you to want to help me. Because I know you want more...I can feel it."

Astrid looked away. She hated how he had touched her, how he had pleasured her, how he had broken something inside of her, how he had changed her...and how he was right.

He leaned forward, so close to her face that if he were actually there, she could have felt his breath. "So," he said, "What do you want to know?"

The television was still playing the fight, and it brought Astrid back to her senses. She had to ask him, had to put the pieces together before she missed the opportunity.

"Why did you throw the fight at the museum?"

He laughed softly and stood up, The bright screen backlit his form, now both intimidating and intensely arousing.

"Well, right to the point. That shouldn't be too hard for you to figure out." He stared at her with a bemused smile. Astrid stayed quiet for a while, choosing her words carefully, then spoke.

"I think...I'm sure you missed the jet on purpose, that you had the Captain beat but you let him disarm you. You obviously weren't intending to win."

She could feel his smile before she looked at him. It was almost endearing. "Go on," he commanded.

"You surrendered. You gave yourself up." She saw his eyes flick with excitement, and she took that to mean she was on the right track. "Why?"

He smirked. "Why do you think?"

More images from earlier that night forced themselves into her mind. Was he doing that? Or was she?

"Because...if you surrendered they would capture you, and take you somewhere secure. You want to be where they'd take you..." She looked at him. "What are you planning?"

He looked about to answer, but suddenly stood silently, his attention drawn to something she couldn't see. "Excuse me..." he said quietly, with a sinister sneer, "I have a visitor." As his image faded, she caught a glimpse of his face morphing back into the monster she saw at the museum. And she heard his voice as he disappeared..."There's not many people who can sneak up on me..."

Astrid sat alone in her living room, the television playing out the fight. And all she could do was stare.