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In the Dark

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“You look miserable.”

“I am not.”

“Liar,” Eleanor whispers in the ear of the God of Lies. 

His answering scowl makes a few old church biddies extremely uncomfortable and Eleanor gives them a sarcastic, mocking smile and wave.  They hurry into the sanctuary, a place Eleanor really would rather not go.

It’s been nearly thirteen years since she walked through that stone arch and looked at those stained glass windows that always made her feel so small.

Being back here at the same old church with the same old people is proving an extremely surreal experience.  Childhood memories she spent years suppressing are now back with a vengeance.

In her discomfort she can’t even properly enjoy the absurdity of seeing Loki, Prince of Asgard, God of Mischief, loitering awkwardly in a small town church, on Christmas Eve.

“Ellie Tate, as I live and breathe.”

“Holy fuck nuts,” Eleanor mutters at Loki.  “This is going to be painful.”  And then the shiny, big haired, fake smiling woman is upon them.  “Katie McGrath.  Hey.”

“Look at you, girl!  Back in Mount Airy for Christmas,” says Katie McGrath.

Eleanor didn’t particularly want to come back to Mount Airy for Christmas, but after years of seeing her family at Laura’s in New York or hosting the holiday herself in the ridiculous house Loki built them two and a half years ago, it seemed like time to return to her childhood home.

It’s been hard, staying in the same house and remembering.

She agreed to come home for the holiday.  Church and seeing the people of her past were never part of the deal, but here she stands, warily studying the sanctuary where she first learned to sing.

It’s been years since Eleanor even thought about her ex-boyfriend’s loud sister, but here the woman is, all grown up.

“Yup,” says Eleanor.  “Back.”

“How long has it been? Ten?  Fifteen years?”

“Twelve years, ten months, six days but who’s counting?”

“You look incredible, Ellie.  Age much?  Jeeze, you’re making the rest of us look old!” says Katie McGrath, self-consciously patting her perfectly curled pale red hair.  Her laugh is shrill and Loki sighs heavily.  “Seriously, you look exactly the same.  Except the hair.  Is that your natural color?  Pretty!  So, what’ve you been doing with yourself for these last ten or fifteen years?”

Eleanor blinks, surprised when this particularly verbose blast from the past actually wants an answer.

“Oh! Uh…” She glances at Loki.  He looks particularly murderous and will be no help at all.  “Music.  I’m at the University of New Mexico now, working on my Masters in Performing Arts.  Piano.”

“Not singing?  Really?  That seems strange.  I’m married myself.  Three kids.  Rascals.  Wait, I thought your sister said you were doing research for some clean energy thing?”

“Uh, I was.  I am.  Just part-time now.  Since I started the whole college gig a couple years ago.”  Feeling awkward and young, she glances over her shoulder at Loki.  He has no sympathy for her plight and is barely managing to contain his laughter.

“My brother is here.  That’ll be awkward, huh?  I think he’s already in the sanctuary, but he’ll still be just thrilled to see you, I’m sure.  All that nastiness is in the past.  Oh my good golly, who is this giant, gorgeous fellow?”  Katie McGrath takes a second breath, goggling up at Loki.  “Hello there, handsome.  I’m Kate.”

She sticks out her hand.  Loki regards it as if it smells foul and looks to Eleanor, gauging her reaction.  She raises an eyebrow, indicating that she does not care if Loki snubs the woman standing before them.

Loki crosses his arms over his chest.

“Germs freak him out,” Eleanor explains.  Loki snorts.  She pokes him in the side with her elbow and does a very bad job faking a smile for Katie McGrath.

“Right,” drawls Katie McGrath, eyes narrowing.  They were never really friends and there is nothing more to say.  “Well, better get in there.  Don’t want to be late for Christmas!  We should do lunch.  Catch up for real.”

And she’s off.  Eleanor relaxes slightly.

“There will absolutely not be any lunch,” hisses Loki in her ear.

Eleanor thoroughly concurs.

It would be different if her hometown were a city where anonymity is easy, but Mount Airy is really not big and the community around this church is even smaller.  The people here are the same, but something about seeing them aged up a decade and a half is disconcerting.

Eleanor had no desire to see the townsfolk at all, but when she tried to use Loki as an excuse to skip Christmas service he just smiled and said he would be “amenable to anything.”  Eleanor was unable to stand up to the combined pleading of Laura and Maureen without Loki in her corner.

“Why did you let us come to this?” Eleanor mutters as they continue to stand by a wall, looking at familiar faces milling about the entry area.  Her head flops sideways to rest on his shoulder as she watches those who pretend not to watch her.

So far Katie McGrath was the only one brave enough to actually say hi.  Eleanor is thankful for her reputation as a crazy person.

"You did not wish to attend this event?" Loki asks.  He blinks at her in confusion.

"Fuck no."

More glaring from church biddies.  Eleanor mouths an apology and huddles a little closer to Loki.

"I will be forced to sit through this dribble for naught?" he hisses. 

"I knew you were not amenable to this shit," she whispers.  "What's the deal?"

"I thought it would please you.  I thought you were only saying no to please me, so I sought to please you instead."

"Please me?"  She regards him with suspicion.  "That's remarkably selfless."  

In the years since he decided not to fight the bond that forces him to atone for his crimes, he has these strange moments of niceness that just do not ring true for Eleanor. It’s rare, but on occasion he is just too nice, as if he is still making amends for the fact that he briefly considered killing her to end the power Odin holds over both of them. 

More likely he is up to something.

Loki is eternally up to something.

"Anything for my songbird," he whispers in her ear.  Eleanor rolls her eyes. He captures her hand and twines their fingers together.

"We should really go in."  Eleanor looks down the aisle to see Maureen turned around in a pew, giving that significant look that means Eleanor is late and Maureen is annoyed.

"Must we?" he asks.

"We must."

They do.

Eleanor slides in next to her family.  Loki slides in next to Eleanor, looking hilariously uncomfortable and out of place in his ridiculously expensive suit. He lays an arm over the back of the bench, a hand resting casually on her shoulder.  It makes her feel safe.

Even tucked away next to her family, Eleanor is on display.  She's a huge spectacle.  To these people she is the crazy adopted girl that turned into a whore that essentially killed her father, tried to kill herself, and then ran away after landing in the loony bin.

If only they knew the rest of it.

This must be how Loki feels when SHIELD or the Avengers are around.

She hasn't been the person they think they know in a long time, but being back here makes her feel so insecure.

The last time she sat in these pews it was to say goodbye to her dad.  The funeral itself is a blurred memory, distorted by grief and depression, but she remembers how it felt to lose him, how it felt to sit in this church and know that she was responsible for his death.

As if Loki can feel her vulnerability, he pulls her a little closer and drops a kiss on her temple.

The sermon is nice.  Eleanor doesn't pay much attention to the words, instead letting the familiar syllables warm her like comfort food.  So much of her youth was spent here, and Eleanor remembers what it was like to have faith.

It’s a warm memory, a direct contrast to those of her father’s funeral.

But then Loki is gaping at her and Laura is poking her side, nodding towards the pastor. 

"Ellie?” he says.  Eleanor marvels at his lack of hair and the lines around his eyes.  When did everyone get so old?  “We don't mean to put you on the spot here, but would you care to do a number?  Like the good old days?  I think I speak for everyone when I say we sure did miss your voice."

Eleanor blinks, too stunned to move for a moment, but then she is nodding and scrambling to her feet.  Suddenly her dark green dress is a little too tight and a little too short, even with the thick black tights covering her legs.

"Um, hi," Ellie murmurs into the microphone as she pulls the guitar strap over her shoulders.  "Nice to see y'all."

Oh, the accent is slipping out.  Loki is certainly going to have something to say about that later.

She can't manage to look at the congregation so she closes her eyes as she plucks out a few chords and sings O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  It's her favorite Christmas song and her voice reverberates off the high ceiling. 

After a verse the whole congregation stands and joins her.  She stops playing the guitar altogether and keeps her eyes closed. There is something moving about all those voices joined together without the clutter of instruments. It’s been a long time since she had faith in any of this, but the moment feels sacred, like being forgiven.

By the end her cheeks are wet. 

She nods in thanks when she finishes, suddenly realizing where she is and who she sings for. She practically sprints back to Loki.

He looks a little stunned, but puts his arm back around her shoulders.

"Beautiful," he murmurs with enough awe to be appropriate for Christmas. 


 

After the service people socialize over orange juice and donuts.  Far too many approach Ellie as she loiters in a corner with Loki, waiting for her family to finish with the chitchat so they can flee.  It seems her singing broke the ice.

A few people hug her.  A few people ask where she's been and what she's doing.  She gives the same canned answer about college over and over.  Some gush over Loki – introduced again as Luke – but he makes many uncomfortable with his expression, a combination of boredom and loathing. 

Everyone seriously seems to love her singing, but it’s not enough to make this experience sufferable.

"This is fucking ridiculous," Eleanor says in Loki's ear after braving an unbearable catch up with two of her high school teachers who seem to have forgotten how much they hated her back in the day.  "All the attention is making me twitchy."

"You did not lie when you told me that nothing could be worse than all the world knowing your name," he muses, referring to a long ago conversation in a dank, dark bunker.  “And such curses are unbecoming."

Eleanor sighs and stares at Laura's back as if she can convince her sister it's time to go with the power of her mind alone.  "I—"

The snarky comment gets swallowed up by her shocked squeak when arms that are certainly not Loki's wrap around her from behind.  She's lifted off the ground and Loki freezes in place.  It's been awhile since he's tried to break her one and only command, but he's certainly fighting it now.

"Holy Toledo, it's Ellie Belly in the flesh!"

She wiggles, trying to turn around.  He sets her down and turns her with hands on her shoulders.  When she looks up into that familiar, jovial face, she can't help but smile.  The memories rush back followed shortly by the guilt.

"Danny McGrath," she murmurs, feeling shy and a bit sick.

"Ellie Tate," he says, grinning from ear to ear.  He's a little wider and has more facial hair, but he's still the boy she once knew so well.  "I always forget that you are a natural blond," he says, tugging on a stray curl.  "To me you will always be that spunky little brunette."

This conversation is weirdly similar to the one she had with his sister before church, but also a billon times better.

And a billion times worse, too.

“Yeah, I haven’t dyed my hair to match Laura’s in a really long time.”  Eleanor nods and doesn't know what to do with her hands. Things get awkward. 

The smile falls from his face and she can almost pinpoint the exact moment that he remembers.  After nearly fifteen years, the pain is still there for him, but she doesn't feel anything at all, except lingering discomfort and guilt.  The return of the apathy scares her, and she wants to be alone with Loki.

"So, long time," says the boy she once loved.

Eleanor nods.

"Where have you been?  How have you been? I heard from Laura that you are working for the government out west?" Before Eleanor can summon an answer, a little kid with russet hair just like Danny's launches himself at the man before her, hugging his legs.  "Hey there, kiddo."

"This is your son?" she asks, unable to hide her shock.  The little boy is a reminder of what almost was.  Before the shit hit the fan, Eleanor was on track to marry Danny McGrath and have his ginger babies.

It feels like a totally different lifetime.

"This is Danny," says Danny.  He probably goes by Dan now that he's a decade and a half older.  "Danny?  Can you say hi to my friend Ellie?"

The answer is apparently no, because the little boy takes off, colliding with the legs of a pretty woman with dark hair across the room.  She glances at Eleanor with narrowed eyes.

"Is that Heidi Faust?" Eleanor asks, gaping.

"Heidi McGrath now."

"Wow, good for you, Danny," she manages. 

"Thanks."  The boy that Eleanor once loved as much as anything rubs the back of his neck.  Even after all these years she recognizes the gesture as one borne of nerves.  He stares intently at Eleanor for a long moment before glancing over her shoulder.  When Danny’s expression turns to terror, Eleanor remembers Loki. "So is this your boyfriend?" asks her ex-boyfriend.

Eleanor nods as Loki's arm slides around her waist.  He holds her close but she's too nonplussed to pay attention to his jealousy.

"Fiancé," Loki replies, extending a hand.  Eleanor raises an eyebrow as the two shake because that certainly is new.  They are not engaged but Loki is somehow managing to look slightly less homicidal, although not much.  "Luke."

"Pleased to meet you, Luke.  I'm Dan."

This is so beyond surreal.  Why is Loki lying?  She can’t even really believe he said the word fiancé.

Why is Eleanor even surprised that Loki is lying?

There is a ring on her left hand, a good-sized emerald surrounded by diamonds and all woven together in a braided gold band.  The style is certainly more Asgardian than Midgardian.  She’s never seen it before and in no way put it on her finger this morning.

"Good for you, Ellie.  So how long have you two been together?" he asks, crossing his arms over his chest.  He looks oddly protective as he looks Loki up and down, but the God of Fake Engagements has a solid six inches on her ex.

"We first became acquainted nearly five years ago, but did not start a relationship until three months after," Loki says, suave and charming as usual. 

Eleanor actually snorts.  Of course Loki counts her kidnapping as the start of their relationship.

"Wow, almost five years, huh?  Back in the day, Ellie and I were together for around that."

Loki's eyes narrow and his lips curl into a cruel smirk. His hand caresses her hip and Dan notices.

“So, what do you do?  That’s quite an accent you got there, Luke,” Danny says.

The conversation is becoming more hostile and Loki is moments away from going on some sort of how-dare-you-address-me-puny-mortal rant, so Eleanor intervenes.

"Well, it's been great to see you, Danny," she says with false cheeriness.  "Happy Holidays.  We really must be going."

It's a Christmas miracle that Loki lets her drag him away.  


"You're going to make us have a conversation about this, aren't you?" Eleanor asks as she watches Loki pacing around the parking lot.  She’s freezing, but waiting by the car is much preferable to subjecting either of them to more small talk with blasts from her past.

"A conversation about what specifically, my dear?" he replies, yanking at his tie.  His fingers fail to pull in the right spot and with a sigh Eleanor crosses the distance between them, reaching up to loosen the knot herself.  His angry movements calm slightly under her touch but she can still feel the tension in his long, lithe body.

"Don't you ‘what’ me. You know what."

Loki bats her hands away and scowls down at her.

“I’m sorry for dragging you to this,” she says.  “I guess we’ll just consider it part of your punishment.”

"He was your lover," Loki murmurs.  Jealousy Eleanor can handle.  She sees his jealousy whenever Steve is around or Thor acts a little too familiar or whenever anyone - be they male or female - looks at her a beat too long.  Jealousy she knows how to deal with, but the sadness she hears in his voice is disconcerting.

"He was my boyfriend," she corrects because this is less creepy and more accurate.

"When?"

"Oh, from ages thirteen to like, seventeen?” she replies, squinting as she tries to remember.  “It didn't end well." 

Danny was collateral damage of her most self-destructive period.  And he tried so hard to save her, but she was determined to burn it all down. In the process she cheated on him, berated him, and broke his heart.

"You regret no longer being with him."

"No."  She cracks a smile because the thought is just so absurd.

"I see regret in your face, Eleanor.  Do not lie!"  Despite his anger, she reaches out to touch his chest.

"I regret the way it ended.  I was terrible to him and I hurt him.  Then I just disappeared without even explaining anything.  He deserved at least an explanation."

"He deserves nothing," Loki spits. 

“Whatever.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s done.”

He is basically pouting and Eleanor examines the ring, attempting to tug it from her finger.

“Uh, honey?  Is there a reason I can’t take this off?”

Quicker than she can blink, Loki turns her around and pulls her back against his chest.  One arm holds her around her waist while his other hand wraps around her throat, tilting her head to the side so he can whisper in her ear.

"Is there a reason you would like to, Eleanor?"

She tries to explain that a fake engagement ring is going to freak out her family, but he is extremely distracting.  She’s never given much thought to engagements and weddings because it all just seems so damn trivial compared to the magical bond that won’t let them ever be more than a few miles apart, but now is certainly not the time start thinking marriage. 

He is touching her, warming her up despite his chilly temperature.  How is she supposed to think of anything at all?

“Eleanor?” he whispers in her ear, fingers slipping under her scarf to brush along the column of her neck.

“Huh?” she hums, her eyes flicking shut.  When his hand tightens its grip on her waist, she shivers. 

“Is there a particular reason you would like to take off the ring I so generously bestowed upon you?”

“No,” she replies, not even totally sure what they are talking about at this point.  He sways slightly behind her and she sighs in contentment. 

“Then by all means, continue to wear it.”

She remembers the ring.  Somehow she manages to open her eyes and study her left hand.  “It is pretty cool looking,” she admits.

Loki kisses her temple.  “Merry Christmas, my dear.”

Eleanor laughs because the words are unnatural coming from him.  He hugs her close to his chest and her family emerges from the church, finally ready to go home.


“God, she’s cute,” Eleanor says in baby voice, nibbling on Nora’s little foot.  “How do you get anything done with all this cuteness around all the time?”

Laura grumbles under her breath as she battles with some unwieldy wrapping paper.

“Yeah, she ain’t so cute when she doesn’t sleep for twenty eight straight hours,” declares Laura.  She glances up at her daughter, smiling softly  “Okay, you’re right.  Going to work and leaving the kiddies sucks.”

Eleanor blows a raspberry on her niece’s belly. 

“Is this weird for you?” Laura asks.  “Being home for the first time in what, fifteen years?”

“Thirteen,” Maureen corrects.  “It will be thirteen in May.”

“I’m here now,” Eleanor murmurs.  They don’t want any more of her apologies.  She’s spent years apologizing and it pisses off Laura, so Eleanor keeps the guilt for herself.  “And I’m not going anywhere.  Well, for a few more days at least.”

“Thank you for coming to church and singing for the congregation.  I know you hate the attention,” Maureen says.  Maybe visiting this place for the first time and singing at church is her own way of continuing to make amends.

“Well, I don’t mind the staring so much as long as singin’ is involved,” Eleanor replies, kissing Nora’s chubby little cheeks. 

“You sound so North Carolina right now!” Laura exclaims.  “And you talked to Dan.”

Eleanor winces and nods.

“He’s the music teacher at the elementary school,” her sister explains as if Eleanor asked.

She didn’t.

“All according to plan,” she mutters, looking at her niece.

“Just the wrong girl,” replies Laura.

“Don’t.”

“Come on, you’ve got to think about how different your life would be if—“

“If what, Laura?” she snaps.  “If my family didn’t lie?  If I wasn’t a half freaky alien?  If I aged properly?  If what?”

Laura rolls her eyes, undeterred by Eleanor’s irritation.  “Just if things were different, is all.  Seeing him with the kid and the wife and all has to make you wonder.”

“I don’t wonder, Laura.  Back off.”

“I know you are happy now, even if I don’t get how it’s possible given your situation.  But I am happy that you are happy.”  Laura puts her palms up in that universal gesture of surrender.

“But?” asks Eleanor.

“But, don’t you ever want a normal life?”

“Normal is overrated,” Eleanor replies.

“But it is also steady,” Laura says.  “Normal is also good.”

Eleanor smiles.  “Life feels normal.  I have school.  Loki has his research.  We go home at the end of the day and visit family for the holidays.  Does that really sound so different from your precious, normal life?”

But Eleanor does not think for one minute that it will last.  Sooner rather than later, Loki’s going to get bored.  And a bored Loki is a dangerous Loki.

“My boyfriend isn’t a mass murderer,” Laura says.

“No one’s perfect,” Eleanor says, except to her Loki feels perfect, despite all his glaring flaws and mistakes, maybe even because of them.

Laura lets out a disgusted huff.  “So, is it still boyfriend?  Or is it fiancé now?”

“Neither of those words seems accurate,” Eleanor replies.

“Ellie—“

“Quiet, Laura,” Maureen murmurs.  Eleanor realizes for the first time where her own tendency towards quiet came from.  Maureen is also in the habit of using only as many words as are absolutely necessary.  “Leave your sister be.  Let’s finish up this wrapping so we can eat.”

Eleanor’s never been more thankful for her mother’s remarkable acceptance of Loki. 


Her God of Jealousy is particularly silent during Christmas Eve dinner, indicating that he heard every word of the conversation between the sisters.   He is also probably still stewing over the run-in with Eleanor’s high school sweetheart.  But as they eat, he seems to let go of his tension, bit by bit.

Eleanor’s nephew, Eli, babbles about Santa during dinner, and Eleanor leans over to kiss Loki’s shoulder over the layers of his dark suit.  She lingers there, staring until he makes eye contact.  He relaxes slightly when he sees her rueful smile.  When he tucks a strand of hair behind her ear Eleanor knows that he understands this silent apology.

Throughout the evening Eleanor is amazed by Loki’s lack of apparent irritation.  This is the first real Christmas she’s forced him to celebrate and he is braving the whole thing remarkably well.

He smokes cigars and drinks scotch with Henry, Laura’s husband.  Sitting as far from the fire as possible, he puts up with Eleanor’s Christmas carols, accompanied by her horribly off key nephew.  The faint expression of distaste that crosses those divine features as he’s pulled into a family photo next to the tree is endearing rather than threatening.  When Eleanor kisses him under the mistletoe he finally sees value in their “archaic mortal traditions.”

The kids set out cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer before bed.  The adults drink more.  Loki is the only one unaffected by the scotch and wine.  When Laura is too intoxicated to notice, Eleanor turns off the fireplace, allowing Loki to finally relax.

“Look what I found.”  Henry emerges from the basement, battered old board game in hand.

One look at the title has Eleanor giggling like a loon and Laura gaping in horror.

“Risk,” he reads. “The game of global domination.” His smirk makes Eleanor laugh even harder.

“No way,” says Laura.  “That’s like offering an addict a drug buffet.”

“What?” asks her husband.  Even after all these years, Laura refuses to tell him the truth about Eleanor’s significant other.

“Nothing,” says Laura, making Eleanor sigh.  “Let’s play.”

So they play. 

The game is old and contains only enough pieces for four players and Eleanor insists on teaming up with the God of World Domination.  Loki ignores her admittedly unhelpful suggestion that he hold Africa at all cost because it is her favorite continent, instead starting in Australia, building up his armies to march north.

Although Eleanor’s strategic input is wholly ignored, she gets to roll the dice for every battle.  “You bring me luck,” he murmurs in her ear.  “And this arrangement removes the temptation to cheat.”

Laura gets freaked out by Loki’s intensity but then falls asleep as the God of Risk strikes up an alliance with Eleanor’s mother to reduce Henry to three territories before turning on her as well.

Four and a half years since Loki’s army failed to invade, he achieves world domination.  Little green plastic men fill up every continent.


“I conquered the realm,” he says, closing the door of her childhood bedroom behind them.  It’s a bit surreal, seeing him here, but his presence is an absolute necessity.

We sure did,” she corrects, pulling his button up shirt from his pants.  “You really should have gotten the whole conquer, conquer, conquer thing out of your system this way the last time around.”

“I very much doubt the Chitauri would have found satisfaction in such a hollow victory,” he says.

Eleanor nods and kisses the corner of his mouth.

There is no need for them to go through this once more.  They’ve discussed his semi-brainwashed, totally ill-advised attempt to make the whole world kneel.  He isn’t exactly sorry but he would not do it again if he could go back.  It is enough for her, even if it isn’t for the Allfather who has made no mention of Loki’s progress in years.

But he also hasn’t given Eleanor a hard time for being terrible about punishing his son, so they consider themselves lucky.

“We conquered the realm,” she says again.  “We, as in, the two of us.  We are a team, remember?”

She works at each button as Loki smirks, eyes roving her figure even though she is mostly hidden in the odd-shaped Christmas sweater Maureen knitted when Eleanor was twelve.

“What is the Midgardian saying?  A primate could have contributed as much as you did to this supposed team with ease,” he says.

When she drops her hands from his abs he actually pouts.  “Are you calling me a monkey?”

“Perhaps.”

Her expression makes Loki snicker.  When he captures her face between his hands, Eleanor fights a smile but still refuses to look at him.

“Eleanor, I am a god among men.  Would I truly debase myself by lying with your species’ unintelligent ancestors?”

At his serious tone Eleanor is unable to contain her laughter.  Loki walks her backward towards the twin bed and when she stumbles he wraps an arm around her waist, lifting her off her feet and making her giggle.  She is tossed unceremoniously on the bed and Loki crawls over her, caging her in with his body.

“What is this?” Loki frowns, his hands fisting in the excessive fabric of her poorly constructed sweater.

“It’s Christmasy,” she whispers, taking a moment to study the sharp angles of his face while the ridiculous garment distracts him.

“No self-respecting monkey would be caught dead in such attire,” he declares.

Eleanor crosses her arms over her chest to keep herself clothed.

“Eleanor,” he huffs.  As he glares down at her, Eleanor just stares back, blank and patient. 

Loki blinks first.

“You are no monkey,” he says, sighing.  Eleanor beams at him.  “What you are is a revelation, but much more important, you are mine.”

Satisfied with his response, she lifts her arms, heart racing in anticipation as he rids her of the sweater.  While she prefers not to speak, his gift with words leaves her stunned and breathless and smiling like a fool.

“Revelation?” she squeaks as his lips find newly exposed skin.

“Oh yes.”  Through the thin lace of her black bra, Loki’s teeth close on her nipple, making her squeak and giggle.  “You are so beautiful, my sweet, sweet songmonkey.”

“Are you drunk?” she asks, laughing again.

“Please.” He rolls his eyes.  “Drunk off you, perhaps.”

His humor and light mood delights Eleanor.  It’s Christmas, so she allows her thankfulness to fill her up.

Despite the bizarre and sometimes unhealthy series of events and decisions that brought them here, she is so very thankful to have Loki.  And he touches her, making her body sing in a way that only seemed possible in this world of music before him.  But this is Loki.

Just Loki.

The possibility of this disappearing terrifies her.  It would be so easy for either of them to ruin it.

And eventually, he will probably be the one to ruin it.

“Maybe all that board game conquering wasn’t a good idea,” she murmurs, fretting suddenly because one day this life will bore him. 

When his hands and lips stop moving against her, Eleanor curses herself for failing to just enjoy the moment.  When Loki slowly raises his head from her chest he is smirking again.

“The only realm I have any desire to rule is laid out before me,” he says.  The husky tenor of his voice makes her shiver and Loki’s lack of nudity suddenly seems like an unbearable travesty. 

So she unwraps him like a Christmas present and tries not to wake the kids with her groans as they move together in the dark.