A/N: hiiii again! Just so you all know, this story will be running alongside Naturesque: A Fall Of Freedom (Ashley's story) which has already started [this fits in between chapter 5 and 6] - so the uploads might be a little infrequent, depending on where Christie's story slots in. I just put it in a separate book for the Christie stans. If you're just here for her, read along! Thank you guys 3

Christie slammed herself into the chair opposite Fury and twiddled her thumbs, impatiently waiting for him to speak. They were sitting in her apartment in a horribly awkward silence. It had just been confirmed via Fury's radio that Christie's sister Ashley had safely been dropped off at the Avengers Tower, so Christie could relax a little. Her older sister joining S.H.I.E.L.D was not what she'd seen coming…ever - and she couldn't help but be on edge, because she knew how powerful her mutation could be. Having her sister closer was a blessing but also a curse - Christie didn't know how her anxiety would handle it on top of the pain she was already suppressing over Loki's death.

It had only been two weeks since Christie had returned from Asgard with Thor and, as much as she felt that she needed to take some recovery time, she also couldn't help but feel like she needed a distraction. So she'd taken it upon herself to assure Fury that she was up for any missions he had going - which she soon regretted.

The clock kept ticking and Christie was now far too anxious to focus. The last time she spoke to anyone in this environment, it was with Coulson before her 2011 Asgard mission. Yes, her old apartment wasn't as snazzy, yes she was two years younger, but that sinking feeling of waiting on a mission brief hadn't changed. What had changed was the front she could once put on so easily; her infamous 'easy, breezy, whatever' attitude had now been replaced by pure fear. It felt as if she had only just left Loki's cold dead body in a completely different world without so much as a funeral, and two weeks was definitely not enough time to heal.

But who forced her to jump straight back into work again? Not a soul.

So who could she blame but herself?

"So…" Fury finally began, interlocking his fingers together and leaning forward, "…your sister seems to be settling in well with the group." But that was the very last tactic Christie wanted to hear - Ashley had absolutely nothing to do with her, and the small talk was making the tension unbearable.

"Oh leave her out of it Fury, we both know she's not the reason that you're sitting here," she snapped harshly. But Fury didn't so much as flinch - unpredictable reactions from Christie had become rather predictable since she'd arrived from Asgard. That old her had completely gone as far as he was concerned, and now he didn't know who this new her was. "Hello? Fury! Just tell me what you want me to do. Just…don't make me go undercover again, cos as much as I wanted a mission, that's where I draw the bloody line." Fury kept quiet, still staring directly at her, and Christie felt her heart shudder to a halt. "Oh for goodness sake. You're actually gonna make me go undercover again, you sneaky son of a-"

"It'll be nothing like last time - not even close. Just relax, Darmer…this one is based on Earth, and given the circumstances you've been in before, you should actually be thankful!" Fury pointed out. Christie couldn't believe he had the nerve to say something as ridiculous as that - so she chose sarcasm as a suitable response.

"Ah, that's just great of you, Nicholas! Real charming of you mate, thank you! Pray, do tell, what would you like me to do now, go and stalk HYDRA?" she gasped in mock amazement with wide eyes and a 'shocked' hand on her chest. Again, Fury didn't respond.

And that meant…

"…are you serious?" she muttered through gritted teeth.

"Darmer, just take a steady ass breath and just listen. I don't know how Coulson managed to do these mission briefs with you when you barely come up for air!" Fury grunted as he leant back in his chair. Christie fell quiet and ran her tongue over her teeth, biting back her disrespectful words so he could finish. "Thank you! Look, something within S.H.I.E.L.D is brewing and we don't have a clue on how to stop it, or how many are involved. We have reason to believe there's a subsection of agents working for someone else and I have my own personal reason on believing that it's Pierce," Fury finally explained.

"How- I'm sorry, I have to ask - how do you even know that?"

"Same way we knew about Asgard, Darmer. We have our ways." But the mention of Asgard was enough to push Christie over the edge. She didn't expect it to be a trigger word, but just like that, the little bit of calm she had left practically dissolved in front of her very eyes.

Asgard = emotions, and emotions = bad.

She couldn't go through all that again.

"Nope, nope and no again. You must've lost your bloody mind, Fury," she shook her head furiously. "What happened to 'one target, kill and begone'? Why do I always have to be someone I'm not to get results? Honestly, I've barely gotten over Asgard and-"

"Your Asgard mission is over, and has been for two damn weeks," Fury snapped, "and a professional wouldn't care."

"A professional?" Christie repeated his words with a pale face. "A professional?" She leapt to her feet and slammed both her hands down on the table.

"Cool it, Darmer," Fury warned her lowly, his hand reaching for something in his pocket at an extremely cautious pace.

"Don't bother reaching for your gun. I'm beginning to think sending Ashley here was a terrible idea. You are all absolute pricks - if I'm not the 'professional' you've been paying for then get the hell out of my house and leave me alone, I beg of you. All of S.H.I.E.L.D can leave me alone in fact, you can all suck my d-"

"Okay!" Fury suddenly held both his hands up in unusual surrender. "Okay. I'm sorry, you are a professional. I'd actually argue you're the best assassin we've ever had - but don't tell Romanoff. I wouldn't be sitting here otherwise, would I?" Fury had a good point and Christie knew it. It wasn't the first time in their strange relationship that he had made such a flippant remark, but this one clearly hit differently based on the circumstances.

"Listen. One thing I am, is a professional. That mission nearly killed me inside and out. Now I don't sleep, I barely eat, and my head hasn't stopped hurting," Christie hissed at Nick with deadly serious eyes. She secretly wanted him to provoke her again - she dared him to test her one more time. She was practically begging for it - any reason to pop off, she'd take it. "S.H.I.E.L.D should be lucky I'm not suing for PTSD. If I didn't need a distraction before my brain literally ate itself, I sure as hell wouldn't be sitting here in front of you ever again."

"I know," Fury sighed with a tiredly risen hand. "I get it."

"No I don't think you do-"

"You know Coulson still hasn't forgiven himself for allowing you to go on that mission? Till this day he still insists that all this pain was his fault," Fury broke the news to her. The mention of Coulson's name is what shut Christie up properly.

"It wasn't his fault," she muttered, slowly settling herself back down in her chair. "It was never his fault and I told him that…I always made sure to tell him that."

"So whose fault is it?" Fury shot back swiftly.

"What, the PTSD? N-n-nobody's I guess…" Christie spluttered as she started to nibble on her bottom lip.

"Is it mine?" Fury pressed on relentlessly.

"Yours? No…how were you meant to know that I'd fall in love with a bloodthirsty villain?" Christie muttered without meeting his eye.

"So, why do I feel as if you're still blaming me for it?" Fury finished.

"Because the one person I want to blame for it is dead, and if I blame myself the way my conscience has been itching to, I promise I won't see tomorrow," Christie finally choked out, her heartbeat rising once more as her palms got horribly clammy. She was releasing too much again, and she needed to pull it together before another breakdown ensued right in front of her boss. But surprisingly, Fury gave a deep sigh once the confession had come out. Now he saw what the problem was.

Christie had no idea if her own life was even worth living because of the circumstances of Loki's death.

Fury had known Christie since she was 15, and she was the youngest he had ever trained. Her mother had handed her over to S.H.I.E.L.D. after seeing that Ashley being sent to the School of the Gifted was having a negative impact on Christie's own self worth. She was then sent to France for extensive training, with no serum and no mutations, only hard work - but Christie had managed it almost perfectly. Only thing was, she was so much more in control of her emotions then. Nothing could break her - hardly anything even made her crack a real smile. Only now did Fury understand how much of an impact Loki must've had on her for her entire demeanour to change so drastically in just a year. He had only downplayed it because that's just what he was used to doing with her - but now he understood.

He just hoped it wasn't too late to rectify it.

"Christie, what actually happened up there?" he ended up taking the risk. Christie shook her head and dropped her gaze, mentally begging for him to leave it alone. "No, no more deflecting. You gotta tell someone 'cos it's eating you alive. You've never been more all over the damn place as you are now, and I don't want this to ruin your work and your life." Christie took a shaky breath in through her nose. She hadn't even told Coulson what had happened yet, so skipping straight to Fury was extremely challenging.

"Loki…" she started, already hearing her voice start to crack. Fury simply sat there, patiently waiting for her to continue. "He…he died in front of me. Actually, he d-died in my arms."

"Damn, again?" Fury winced. He didn't mean to make it sound funny, he was actually trying to be sympathetic - but Christie found herself involuntarily giggling at his tone despite the fact that she felt a vulnerable mess. Fury managed to crack a smile too.

"It's not even funny," Christie tutted, trying to stop the smile from spreading on her face. "I'm still shaken from it."

"I can see that - ya look like you're two seconds from crying even though there's a real smile on your face again," Fury scoffed as he crossed his arms again. "How did he go?"

"He got stabbed, a spear went through his chest from the back," Christie responded, the smile immediately slipping from her face again. "Went all the way through like a damn kebab." Fury gave an understanding nod to show he was still listening. He didn't want to interrupt her, he just wanted her to release as much as she needed to so that they could move on. "He was killed by the same monster that killed his mother, my boss. Two deaths only a few days apart, Fury - and I couldn't prevent either one of them."

"Nobody asked you to. That wasn't in your mission brief," Fury reminded her sternly, lowering his voice. Christie looked up at him properly, still chewing on her lip.

She had never really considered that.

"Did you manage to say goodbye to the guy before he died? Is it closure that you want?"

"I mean…he said goodbye but I didn't because I didn't think it was one. He told me he loved me b-but…well, I didn't get to say it back," Christie admitted shamefully. "God, I should've said it…but I know I was reluctant to say it cos I was still angry at him implying that I killed his mother-"

That was when Fury's entire demeanour changed. He leaned forward with a face edging on complete disbelief.

"He said what now?!"

"Well, he said that I wasn't around to prevent it, cos it happened whilst he was locked up. He didn't mean it-"

"Christie, I know yo' ass ain't sad over a man that made you feel guilty for his mama's death?" Fury yelped with his hands outstretched. "Clearly he wasn't around either!"

"Fury, he was bitter man who'd been through hell, but he had one of the best souls I had ever come across. He wasn't as evil as he looked, I swear!" Christie insisted croakily. But Fury didn't look convinced - so she sighed, her shoulders drooping. "Come on. You think that me, the unlovable, would actually pour my entire heart and soul into a man that was genuinely evil? Fury, you know I'm a good judge of character - I've never been wrong once." Fury took a deep breath in before speaking once more.

"Look. Regardless of what the lil freak said or didn't say, if he truly loved you as much as you're telling me he did? He wouldn't want you hurting yourself or doing something stupid to yourself in his name, right?" Fury broke it down slowly, trying not to curse out Loki the way that he truly wanted to. Christie shrugged slightly at his words and ran her fingers through her wispy white locks before slumping forward.

So Fury decided to switch it up.

"Did uh…Loki know what you did? I mean, the real you?" Christie cast her mind back to the day that she broke her cover to kill the Frost Giants, remembering her sweet boyfriend's face when he first lay eyes on her in the signature tight white catsuit.

"He did. He actually used it against me once - in that same conversation about his mother," she muttered, her eyes fluttering closed in remembrance. Fury bit back his words and pressed on.

"So you think he would want you to struggle like this? To give up your badassery?" he frowned, "I don't think someone who wanted all that power would want the woman he loved to be powerless. He'd want you to press the hell on, would he not? Maybe… maybe even in his name." Christie fell silent for a few seconds, thinking about his words in great detail.

Fury wasn't lying, he wasn't lying at all. The one thing Loki would want is for Christie to carry on for him. All those sweet nothings in her ear about how perfect he found her, curled up in his bed as he lay behind her and wrapped his arms around her body…she had gulped them down like water at the time, and there was no reason for her not to believe those same words now, whether she agreed with them or not.

She couldn't stop her life for him - he would hate nothing more.

"You're right," she finally broke, sitting up straight and completely pushing those white wisps from sticking to her face. Fury's eye lit up in surprise - he hadn't expected that to actually work. "He wouldn't want that. You're right."

"Damn right I am," Fury smirked triumphantly - but then his face dropped back to being serious again. "Darmer, please don't let yourself get to this stage again without talking to someone. I'm here, Coulson's always there to take your call, even Ashley's closer now-"

"So what's the mission, Fury?" Christie roughly cut across his speech. She had offloaded enough.

"-and we even have therapists on site, we have channels for you to go through if you ever feel-"

"Fury! The mission, please."

"Darmer, promise me first," Fury told her sternly, pronouncing each and every word as deliberately as he could. Christie rolled her eyes, folded her arms and leant back in her chair again.

"Fine, I promise," she swore - and she never broke those. "Now - the mission?" Fury had no choice but to take her word for it, giving her a single nod of understanding.

"I've got a plan, and it should work perfectly providing what I assume is happening, is happening right now. You're going to run alongside whatever project HYDRA are working on, got it?" Christie took a shaky breath in and nodded, tucking those silvery strands of hair behind her ears to properly hear him out.