He’s making a list of prominent stereotypes in American culture when the doorbell rings. This occurrence automatically strikes him as off, because he doesn’t get visitors that often. If it was Tony, there would be knocking. If it was Thor, there’d just be unlocking the door and strolling right in. If it was Frigga, she’d have called before to let him know, and Loki had been on the phone with her last night; there was no mention of a planned visit. Hm.
Loki tosses his notebook and pen on the coffee table and pushes his laptop to the side as Fenrir comes flying into the living room, barking loudly at the front door. The husky stands right up against the door, tail stiff, so he must be able to identify who the visitor is.
Loki makes his way over to the door and grips Fenrir’s collar, trying to calm the husky. He stares at the wood for a moment before calling, “Who is it?”
There’s a cough on the other side, then, “It’s me.”
Loki’s mood goes screaming out of the window like a burglar caught in the act of stealing. He says nothing as he drags Fenrir down the hall and into his bedroom, closing the door after the dog. There’s no doubt in his mind that as soon as he opens the front door, Fenrir will be on his visitor like a bloodthirsty wolf after prey, and no, he really doesn’t care about said visitor’s well-being. Not at all. He just doesn’t want to clean up the mess.
Loki runs a hand through his hair and cracks the front door open, glaring as soon as he sees the earnest blue eyes and slick blond hair waiting for him on the other side. He holds the door open with one hand, puts the other on his hip (not in that girly, sassy way, but in that assertive, I look down on your very existence way), and asks, “What are you doing here?”
Fandral scans him up and down for a moment, and Loki honestly feels his skin fucking crawling, like Fandral’s eyes are spiders traveling over his flesh. Is this man really doing this, now? Loki twitches nervously and raises a pugnacious brow, catching Fandral’s attention like he’s hooking a fish.
“Uhm, have you seen Thor?” Fandral asks once he can meet Loki’s eyes again, and it seems like he’s actually having a hard time looking at him (which is definitely a first; the man had no problem checking him out countless times before). That might have something to do with the fact that Loki’s gaze is hard and frosty, thinly concealing an undeniable disgust that’s almost painfully apparent between the two of them. Loki scowls.
“He’s in class. You should know that,” he snaps, and he pushes the door slightly more ajar only to move into the entryway, letting the heavy wood fall against his shoulder. Loki crosses his arms, an obvious expression of detachment (no really; it’s psychologically proven that crossing of the arms is a social cue showing indifference or disconnection) and fixes Fandral with a challenging look, almost daring the man to defy him.
He bites, the dumbass.
“Thor doesn’t talk about his classes,” Fandral responds, bringing a hand up to scratch anxiously at the nape of his neck. He keeps staring at Loki’s collarbone instead of his face, and it’s making Loki really, really uncomfortable.
“Sorry,” Loki apologizes without a hint of remorse. His voice is passive and cold as he kicks the door open once more, turning away from Fandral and adding, “I’ll tell him to call you or something when he gets home.”
“Wait,” Fandral suddenly says, grabbing the edge of the door before Loki can fully close it and, damn, he’s just begging for a restraining order, isn’t he? Loki’s eyes quickly shift from icy callousness to fiery irritation as he turns back to Fandral, lithe and fluid like a dancer. He grips the door again, right under Fandral’s offending hand.
“What?” he snarls, “Make it fast, because I’m not wasting my time on you.” Fenrir is barking like crazy from Loki’s room, like he can feel the conflict brewing. He probably can.
Fandral frowns and actually looks at him, and he’s got this completely serious, totally hangdog expression on his face, like Rhett Butler or Robin Hood. Loki detaches himself from the connections, though (even though Gone With the Wind is a great fucking book and one of Loki’s favorite movies, and Robin Hood is the stuff of some of the most amazing stories of his childhood).
“Do you mind if I stay here and wait for him?” Fandral asks with a touch of apprehension, and even though Loki’s aware of the many implications under that simple question, he’s certainly not in the mood to beat around the bush or play Sherlock Holmes and uncover the meaning behind the man’s words. He has homework to do and a major grudge against Fandral, remember?
“Of course I mind, you ass,” Loki replies, his voice almost horribly conversational and lofty. He says it like it’s something polite or customary, not a complete insult (you think he’d know better after what happened the last time he offended Fandral, right?).
Instead of getting angry, Fandral looks to the side, runs his free hand through his tousled, flaxen hair. He looks like he’s asking himself why the hell he’s doing this, and nobody should really blame him. Trying to communicate with Loki right now is like attempting to kiss a cobra; both outcomes are potentially poisonous and harmful in their own special ways.
“Can I at least talk to you?” Fandral finally says, almost forcibly returning his gaze to Loki.
Loki knows he doesn’t want to talk to Fandral. He knows he doesn’t want to look at Fandral. He knows that their proximity is really bothering him, and he knows he’s far from trusting Thor’s best friend. But he’s also had his argument with Thor weighing heavily on his mind for the past week. That makes something of a difference, right?
“I won’t touch you; promise,” Fandral puts in, holding his hands up in a gesture of innocence and smiling like an impish child. It’s cute, and it looks honest.
Then again, Loki hasn’t encountered something that was truly cute and honest since he was fifteen. This is probably going to suck hard.
After watching Fandral with meaningful, tense eyes, Loki holds the door open, sighing, “Come in.”
At first, Fandral looks like he seriously can’t believe Loki’s letting him into the house. He probably can’t (just think about how Loki is, only for a second). And then he slowly steps inside, looking around the living room with a newfound respect, or something like that. It’s a little funny to watch, and Loki observes the man curiously as he closes the door.
“Okay. Go,” Loki prompts tersely, walking around Fandral and making his way back over to the couch. He feels the other’s eyes on him as he moves, and it really seems like for almost every moment the two of them interact with each other, Fandral is absolutely unable to take his eyes off of Loki. It’s discomforting; Loki doesn’t liked to be looked at so intensely by someone he’s honestly not that familiar with.
“Well, uhm… can I say sorry?” Fandral asks as Loki sinks down onto the couch, folding his slim legs under him. Loki doesn’t want to look too comfortable, but he doesn’t want to freeze the nerve right out of Fandral, either. He straightens his back (which means he doesn’t do shit; his posture is naturally upright) and snatches his notebook from the coffee table, balancing it on his knee in a way he knows is visually unsettling (psychology and sociology classes come in handy when situations like these fall into his lap).
“I don’t know, can you?” Loki retorts, keeping his expression perfectly passive. He watches Fandral’s face tighten; he’s working on the man’s nerves, which could go in a very good direction (scare Fandral into finally taking him seriously), or an equally bad one (cause a repeat of the party, though he doubts that would happen now with the distance between them).
“Alright, I’m sorry,” Fandral amends, folding his arms. Loki rapidly picks up on the meaning of the gesture; Fandral’s uncomfortable, and he’s not used to being straightforward. Right.
“Acknowledged,” Loki replies drily, relocating his notebook to his lap and blindly grabbing his pen. He transfers a fraction of his attention back to his assignment, and really, he’s being a huge fucking asshole on purpose (only because he can). Loki adds Jewish-American princess to his list and makes a brief note about the stereotype.
“Thor told me about how upset you were,” Fandral says, and Loki feels kind of like a porcupine now. You know how they raise their spikes and roll up whenever they get pissed off? That’s kind of the sensation he’s getting at the moment.
“So you needed his input to figure that out?” Loki bites back, letting a trace of the aggressiveness and none of the actual hurt he feels bleed into the question. This is really distressing; watching himself turn into a wolf because of the people that are suddenly, so rudely in his life. Speaking of wolves (or other species in the genus canis, whatever), Fenrir sounds like he’s about to rip down the bedroom door. Loki’s going to need to check on that.
“No, I got it when you called me disgusting,” Fandral replies. It’s kind of funny, really, especially since he says it so casually, even though the statement is actually pretty critical.
“Good to know we’re on the same page,” Loki says with a hint of a laugh, a spark of sarcasm. He’s wondering what the fuck is Fandral still doing here? as he jots down Peaceful Native American vs. savage Native American because honestly, what else is the man going to say to him? That he wants to get married and have two-point-five children and move into a huge suburban house with Thor, Sif, Volstagg, Hogun, Fenrir, and a brand new cat (worst family ever)?
His internal query is answered when Fandral goes on with, “I didn’t want to hurt someone like you.”
Loki raises his head to fix Fandral with a petulant glower, and if the man had a hard time looking at him before, that’s certainly passed, because he’s just outright staring at Loki, like it’s perfectly normal and not at all out-of-place to gawk at people. Uhm, boundaries?
“What do you mean, someone like me?” Loki asks, fiddling with his pen a bit. He struggles to hold Fandral’s gaze, but that’s difficult when he’s suddenly so awkward and small. Damn it, it really sucks when this happens.
Fandral worries his lip at that (still looking at Loki, Jesus Christ), obviously uncomfortable with continuing down the road he started them on. Oh, no, not in Loki’s house, not when Thor’s due to arrive in about fifteen minutes or so and he’s got to finish this goddamn list.
“Fandral, don’t bullshit me again. What do you mean?” Loki barks, and it occurs to him that this is probably the first time he’s actually addressed Fandral by his name. How interesting. (Did you hear the slight sarcasm?)
And then Fandral laughs a little, glances at the floor for a moment before going right back to staring at Loki (who isn’t impressed with his reaction). He swivels his jaw cursorily, gives Loki another once-over before just saying, completely out of the blue, “Well, you’re so beautiful.”
And whoa, whoa, whoa; Loki really doesn’t like this. This is a trap, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Ashton Kutcher is going to come flying out of nowhere with a camera crew and a microphone and Loki’s going to be Punk’d, right (even though he’s not a celebrity and that’s absolutely absurd)? He can’t help the widening of his eyes, the heat that’s suddenly on his cheeks, what the actual fuck. What the actual fuck.
But, no. This isn’t a joke (if it is, it’s an awfully bad one), because Fandral is saying, “And you’re really smart, and different, but you’re so guarded and angry–”
“Stop,” Loki sharply cuts him off, running a hand through his inky hair and eyeing the carpet. Fandral huffs, makes Loki look at him again. He’s smirking knowingly, like there’s some kind of inside joke only he’s in on. What the hell is happening?
“See, that’s what you’re doing right now,” Fandral points out, steps closer, and no, no, no. Loki’s not having this conversation with the man who sexually harassed him on a daily basis before Steve’s party ever happened. Not Fandral.
“Don’t remind me of something about myself I’m already well aware of. You defeat your purpose of ‘enlightenment’ or ‘flattery’,” Loki snaps, gripping his pen tightly. His eyes are hard and cold as he lets Fandral absorb the information; Fandral continues to watch him with this unnerving, constant gaze.
“Sorry, Loki,” he says, and it actually sounds genuine, “That cut a little close to the bone, didn’t it?”
“Only a little,” Loki snarks, looking back to his notebook and scribbling Self-destructive narcissist (Byron-esque) down on his list. He hears Fandral move closer, and his irritation spikes that much more. He’s a big fan of personal space, if you hadn’t noticed.
“So the flattery didn’t work?” Fandral asks, his voice just a bit quieter. Loki’s still trying to figure out whether this is actually for real or complete and utter bullshit.
“No,” Loki responds emphatically, tucking a lock of hair behind his ear and glancing at Fandral again before writing Inarticulate, gluttonous Cajun, “Resorting to empty sycophancy won’t guarantee you a quick lay, Fandral.”
Fandral gives him this authentically offended look, but instead of shoving Loki against a wall/counter/table/sofa/other conveniently-placed piece of furniture and raping his mouth, he argues, “I wasn’t trying to get in your pants.” Stupidly, he adds, “That would’ve been a plus, but I wasn’t actually thinking about that. That wasn’t me just talking out of my ass. I meant what I said.”
Loki’s still just a tad unconvinced; it’s in his nature, and Fandral was right about how very angry and guarded he is. He lets the tip of his pen linger on his page, blinks thoughtfully. A colorful screensaver pops up on his laptop in his peripheral vision.
“And it’s not really my fault, honestly,” Fandral goes on, and no, Loki’s not going to make the same mistake twice.
He allows himself a brief laugh, looks up at Fandral and actually smiles a real smile. Fandral seems to like it, because he completely passes over what would have probably pissed him off in favor of returning the grin. Okay, this is weird.
“What are you talking about?” Loki chuckles, shaking his head a little, “Just keep your hands, feet, and body to yourself, just like they taught you in kindergarten.”
Fandral just watches him for a moment, smiling in a way that’s loose and okay, not perverted or suggestive for once (And alright, this is a man that has called Loki by almost every disgustingly cutesy and/or sexual pet name there is, forced him into one of the most painful kisses he’s ever had, and told him he’s beautiful. That accounts for a little awkwardness.) before he says, “I’ll tell you a secret if you tell me one.”
Where the fuck did that come from? Soul-sharing? This isn’t fucking Care Bears, man.
But Loki finds himself nodding just slightly, and then Fandral moves to sit on the coffee table across from him (When is it okay to sit on the coffee table? Only when Loki’s doing the sitting. Any time else and you’ve broken the law; say hello to officer Fenrir.). Fandral lets out this heavy sigh and runs both hands through his hair, and he’s actually being pretty fucking honest for someone who lies so much.
“So, basically,” Fandral begins, pausing to cradle his jaw in his hand, “The way I grew up, my parents didn’t really care about what I got myself into.” He’s looking at Loki totally straight-faced (he’s for serious, holy shit) as he says, “They actually kind of introduced me to most of the things I messed around with.”
And Loki doesn’t stop himself from scowling (nothing against fucked-up childhoods and people who’ve experienced them; he’s actually sort of-kind of been through one himself), starts to ask, “Did they–?”
Fandral automatically starts shaking his head, laughs airily and answers, “No, no, no. But they didn’t exactly raise me perfectly, did they?”
Loki can’t help but point out, “Nobody gets raised perfectly.” I don’t know how apparent it is by now (I think it’s pretty obvious), but Loki’s a stickler for details and accuracy. Even if they’re not immediately important to the situation, he feels the need to indicate them.
Fandral nods minutely, looks at him and says, “Mine were a little under average.”
It makes sense. It makes Loki feel just a little bit of empathy, just a small touch of pity (that he probably won’t act on for a long time) for Fandral. It doesn’t, however, guilt him into automatically forgiving the man. No. That’s not how he rolls.
And then Fandral asks, “What about you?”, and it dawns Loki that he has to come up with a secret to tell. Oh, yeah. Uhm… this is strange.
So Loki takes a lengthy pause, staring at his notebook and trying to come up with something private, but not too personal. I mean, just because Fandral is willing to inform Loki that he was borderline sexually abused (because technically, psychologically, that is sexual abuse) as a child doesn’t mean Loki is just raring to go and tell him something of the same nature. Is that unfair? Maybe a little. Did it have to be fair? He wasn’t notified.
“Just say something,” Fandral urges. It’s enough to make Loki a little indiscriminate.
“I didn’t fully accept my gender identity until I was ten,” he blurts out, finally ripping his eyes from his page. That’s not bad, at least not in his opinion. It might be considered amazing or radical to most people, but to Loki, there’s about (about) a half a fuck he could give before not caring at all. He was a kid, and gender isn’t that huge a factor (to him).
Fandral’s face breaks out into this grin that half-amuses, half-irritates Loki. He knew the man would find his ‘secret’ entertaining, but that knowledge doesn’t quell the odd mixture of annoyance, pleasure, discomfort, and anxiety swirling inside him. Does anybody make him feel normal these days?
(The answer is no.)
“That’s not so bad,” Fandral comments, and really, he’s looking a little too tickled for Loki’s comfort.
“I’m glad you think so,” Loki replies flippantly, and almost as if this situation couldn’t get any more awkward, the latch on the front door flicks open, and Thor is suddenly trudging through the doorway, backpack slung over his shoulder, and Loki and Fandral are turning whiplash-fast to look at him. He automatically stops, like a mountain (ha), eyes darting nervously between his brother and his best friend (who he knows aren’t exactly buddy-buddy). Loki swallows thickly.
“How was class?” he asks, totally out-of-character, because there hasn’t been a day before this one when he’s been interested enough in Thor’s education to ask about it. His actual aim is to ease the abrupt tension in the room. Thor finally decides to settle on looking at Loki.
“It was busy,” Thor answers, and he says it with the hint of a question, like he’s asking What’s going on here? without saying those exact words. Loki can see the shade of protectiveness that takes over his brother’s expression, and he ponders whether the defense is in regard to him or Fandral (which is stupid, because it’s obviously for Loki).
“Well, Fandral was just waiting for you,” Loki says, reaching behind his head to card his fingers through his raven hair in an expression of deliberate glibness. Thor is, surprisingly, as sensitive to body language as he is (well, at least concerning his family and close friends), so he most likely notices the calmness of Loki’s demeanor (and completely misses its pretension).
But the funny thing is that Fandral seems exceptionally surprised by Loki’s statement, because he jumps up and starts glancing between him and Thor, much like the latter of the two was doing before. Loki narrows his eyes a bit, gives Fandral this furtive What the hell? look.
“Uhm, it’s okay,” Fandral laughs, grinning easily at Thor (what?), “I’ve actually gotta get going.”
Thor raises an eyebrow like he’s doubtful of his friend’s claim, but ultimately gives this offhand shrug and says, “That’s cool.”
And all Loki can think is Excuse the hell out of me as he watches Thor and Fandral exchange firm handshakes and brusque, manly (ugh) hugs. Before exiting the house altogether, Fandral looks back and gives him this surreptitious smirk that Loki responds to with an open scowl, not caring whether or not Thor sees.
As soon as the door shuts, Thor turns to Loki. Loki’s glaring.
He silently realizes that he was misled, although perhaps for a benevolent purpose, once again. Fuck everything.
“Are you okay?” Thor asks, roughly dumping his backpack on the floor and making his way over to the sofa. Loki scoots to the side a bit reluctantly, closing his Gateway and carefully dropping it onto the floor to allow his brother more space. The cushion sinks under Thor’s heavy weight.
“Did you ask him to visit?” Loki inquires instead of replying straightforwardly, looking hard at Thor to ensure his honesty. He props his elbow on his knee and rests his face against his hand, sighing quietly.
Thor’s brows come together and he lets out this brief scoff, leans back against the sofa and says, “No,” like that should be completely obvious. He sounds like he’s telling the truth, which automatically means he is (Thor is a terrible liar).
Loki closes his eyes for a moment, exhaling deeply through his nose, and when he opens them again, they’ve softened a bit. He answers Thor’s earlier question in a quiet voice, “I’m fine.”
Thor is watching him really intently, almost like how you’d watch an animal that’s been wounded or traumatized. Not to suggest that Loki’s an animal, but that Thor is pretty sure that Fandral either hurt or spooked him in some inexplicable way. Thor briefly sucks his lips into his mouth, asks, “What did he say to you?”
Here’s something to think about: Thor knows Fandral enough to predict that the man probably told Loki something outlandish and possibly offensive, while he also knows Loki enough to surmise that he might have been bothered by it, what with his sensitivity and tendency to over-think what others say.
Loki blinks and idly rubs at the corner of his eye, maintains the gaze he shares with Thor and responds, “He apologized to me and told me about his childhood.”
Thor smiles like water seeping through cracks in the pavement; it’s gradual and a little reluctant, but eventually he’s grinning outright and laughing his thunderous laugh, and Loki slowly realizes how odd his answer has the potential to sound. He lets himself laugh as well, albeit in a more reserved fashion than his brother.
“His childhood?” Thor chuckles, leaning forward and mirroring Loki’s position (somewhat). The only difference between their stances is the placement of their legs; while Loki’s are crossed, Thor’s are just slightly spread.
“Well, it’s not like he talked about when he learned to tie his shoes and his first day of school, Thor,” Loki hums, amused, “Has he ever told you about his parents?”
Thor bites his lip and furrows his brows for a moment, confused, before his eyes widen and he starts to nod in realization.
“Ohhh, he told you about that,” Thor says, and his voice is actually really loud. Surprisingly, Loki doesn’t care that much, and Thor goes on with, “That’s weird. He doesn’t usually go around telling people that stuff.”
“I suppose I’m different,” Loki muses with a smile, and Thor smirks at him.
They end up talking for a good fifteen minutes before Thor realizes that he really needs to get ready and go to football practice, which starts at four-thirty. He asks Loki (in an unexpectedly polite way) if he can pick him up tomorrow. Loki pretends to think hard about his answer.
He says yes, because today’s the first time since the argument that he and Thor have had a conversation for over five minutes. He says yes, because he feels pretty hot about life right about now.