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Snow Blindness Is A Victimless Crime

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He is out on his morning jog when the call comes in. Magnus stops, supports himself with his palms on his knees to catch his breath before he picks up. "Kurt?"

"We've got one. Man in his forties, cause of death yet unknown."

So much about a nice calm day. "Want me there, or?" Magnus runs a hand through his curls with a sigh.

"Want you to find me everything you can on a certain... Gerald Neville."

"Sure. Give me," Magnus takes a moment to think, "forty minutes."

"I'll see you at the station." Kurt sounds pretty beat, and Magnus wonders if he has gotten any sleep at all. By the time he could say anything, Kurt hangs up.

"Gorgeous." Magnus looks at the phone and shakes his head before pocketing it. No reason to be tarrying, he needs to be down there as soon as possible. A shower and a coffee first, though.

---

If Kurt sounded bad on the phone, he looks even worse. Magnus is actually relieved when Anne-Britt brings coffee, though he has a feeling that at this point not even a caffeine IV would make much of a difference for Kurt. So he clears his throat and passes around the photocopies.

"Gerald Neville, forty-eight, married. US citizenship. Arrived in Stockholm on Saturday with the flight from New York. Worked as an engineer for Barstow Electronics."

"Sounds familiar." Kurt glances up, and Magnus nods.

"Megacorporation. Subsidiary of Stark Industries. Phoned them earlier but couldn't get a hold of anyone. Time difference," he adds, and there is a little collective sigh around the table.

"So, we have nothing to go on?" Lisa asks.

"I wouldn't say that." Magnus passes some more copies. "Gerald Neville shows up in the database of the immigration services. He applied for a work permit and residence permit to take up a job at Asbrú AB, also a subsidiary of Stark Industries under Stark International."

"Aesir Bridge? Seriously." Nyberg remarks, but nobody feels like laughing. Not even him.

"Do we have an address?" Kurt asks.

"Sure." Magnus nods.

"Well then, we better pay the company a visit."

---

As it turns out, Asbrú AB is located in a brand new two-story building down in Trelleborg, and they immediately know something is amiss the moment they find the lawn scorched and the double doors torn from their hinges. Magnus gives Kurt a questioning glance and he nods. Whoever did this might still be around after all. Magnus reaches for his gun and barely has time to disengage the safety before a figure appears in the doorway.

In his head, Magnus is already compiling a list of traits that can be potentially useful. Man, thirties, longish dark hair and a thin face. Tall, but more to the slender side, and dammit but he looks like he just escaped a medieval town fair. No sign of a weapon. Still, there is something in those eyes that makes Magnus very glad to have the person at gunpoint.

"Kurt Wallander, Ystad police--" Kurt starts, but the stranger cuts him off with a bone chilling look.

"You are in my way, mortals."

Nutcase. Potentially dangerous.

"Raise your hands slowly and--" Magnus tries, and momentarily regrets it as those green eyes land on him. The man smiles, all teeth and malice.

"Or what? You'll threaten me? With that?" He gestures at the gun, then suddenly extends his hand. There is a ball of green fire erupting from his palm, and Kurt has to jump back to avoid being burnt to a crisp.

Magnus pulls the trigger without thinking.

The bullet passes right through the man, lodging into the wall behind as the figure dissipates into thin air. The next moment the very same man appears from behind the main column supporting the quite impressive projecting roof at the front. And he is walking towards them.

This is madness. Some sort of trick.

Magnus grips the gun tighter. "Stop right there."

"Magnus, don't. He is--" Kurt tries, and Magnus wants to ask him if he is alright, but he won't. Not now, not like this. He has to focus.

"Magnus, is it?" the stranger drawls with a smirk on his thin lips, still approaching. "Be a good boy and kneel before you get hurt."

"Make me." Magnus pushes through his teeth. He doesn't like the look in those eyes. Not the least bit. Mad, he would like to say, except not - clear and calculating and just a little amused. And the man is stepping closer yet, until he is nearly at arm's length.

"Stay put." Kurt orders, his own weapon poised on the strange fellow in green and leather. Who doesn't even bother to turn his gaze away and acknowledge this new threat to his person.

"I should probably warn you that I take challenges very seriously," he says, and Magnus can feel his hackles rising and heart rushing with adrenaline as the man raises a narrow hand slowly, touching the tip of his fingers to the gun before him. A thin layer of ice appears and spreads on the metal, turning it so cold that Magnus feels like the weapon is burning his fingers. Eyes wide, he tries fighting the sensation, but once the ice reaches his skin he lets the gun drop to the ground with a hiss.

The next thing Magnus knows is that there is pain flaring along his nerves as his knees collide with the ground hard enough to make his teeth clash. He is faintly aware that Kurt is yelling, but his mind is too busy trying to process everything, too focused on those sinister green eyes that swallow up his field of vision. Those cold fingers gripping his jaw, that clean, bittersweet sort of scent like vetiver with a taste of quinine. He can feel the stranger's hot breath on his face as the man speaks.

"I hope I made myself clear."

"Fuck you." A burst of emotion, pain, anger, fear, more instinct than thought. Magnus needs a moment to register his own words, and on the inside he recoils from the look in those green eyes that turn into something wicked and terrifying.

"Now, there is a thought."

The shot rings out loud and harsh. Kurt's mouth is set into a thin line of determination, but his blue eyes are wide and anxious above the barrel of his gun. There is neither body nor blood though.

The strange man is gone like he has never even been there.

---

"You were there, Kurt. You have seen it."

"I'm not quite sure what I saw," Kurt murmurs under his breath, avoiding looking at anyone.

Magnus sighs with drained frustration but doesn't say anything.

"Could be a magician. You know, those folks you sometimes see on TV," Nyberg supplies tentatively, but it falls flat in the quiet tension that stretches between them.

"I'll issue an arrest warrant with the description you gave." Lisa breaks the silence, and she appears a little more burdened by it all than any of them would like to admit.

"So, first someone, presumably this man of yours, kills Neville and then raids the company that wanted to employ him. Why would anyone do that?" Anne-Britt asks, and Magnus is secretly glad that they are back to familiar ground. Talking about several motives and ways in which to kill a person he can do. Thinking about the events of the day is something else.

"Was anything missing?" Nyberg shifts in his chair.

"Hard to say." Kurt pulls the papers closer to himself and looks into them, even though Magnus and he have been through all of it on the way back. A couple of times, even. "It seems some equipment was damaged. The owner said they would get back to us in a day or two when they are done checking."

"Anything from the company Neville used to work for?" Lisa poses the question as though musing aloud, but there is that edge of honed routine vibrant in her tone that makes Magnus feel just a little bit more at ease.

"They weren't particularly helpful, but said they will gather what they can. I faxed an inquiry to the authorities as well," he replies, relishing the small comfort of processes he knows inside out. "There was something odd about the dates, though." He pauses, and they look at him with a grim sort of concentration. "I printed out Neville's application file from immigration. If you look at it, you can see that it came in merely a week ago."

Everyone is flipping to the pages in question, except for Kurt. The gazes shared across the table are meaningful and heavy with understanding, as well as questions.

"He has already been granted it." Anne-Britt frowns a bit as she is stating the obvious.

"Applied one week ago, already got it and moved over," Kurt carries on the thought, the wheels in his head visibly turning. "He was killed mere hours after touching down. Barely had time to sign in at the hotel he was staying at. The next day, someone breaks into the company that would've taken him."

"Could it be personal?" Lisa suggests. "Revenge of some sort?"

"Well, it does appear that Neville might have been moving in a hurry. As though he knew he was in danger." Magnus offers, and he can see Kurt's mouth draw into a line. "Could he have taken something with him worth killing for?"

"Corporate espionage?" Anne-Britt looks at each of them questioningly.

"With a couple of friends in high places," Nyberg adds with a meaningful look.

"These are all just speculations." Kurt dismisses the idea with tired reproach in his tone.

Of course, they know that. But speculation is all they have at the moment.

"Let's just call it a day, shall we," Nyberg eventually says, and he is right. There is nothing else left for them to do and it's getting late.

Magnus pushes himself to his feet and collects his copies. He might look them over again once he's home. For now, he just wants some food and a hot shower.

"You sure you're fine?" Anne-Britt turns to him with concern, and Magnus looks up just to see that he has all their attention. It's awkward, but also a little comforting.

"Yes, sure," he says, even though he knows that won't stop them from watching over him.

Right now, that thought makes it a little easier to breathe.

---

It must be closer to morning than midnight, but it's still dark outside. Magnus blinks rapidly to get his eyes used to it, trying to pinpoint what has woken him. For a while there is only the wind against the windows, but just when he finally lets out the breath he has been holding, there is something else. Nothing he can recognise, but it's there, a fragment of a noise that is perfectly unfamiliar. One that shouldn't be there.

Slowly, he pushes the covers off and reaches for the handle of the nightstand drawer. It slides open almost soundlessly, but Magnus stills for a moment regardless. He keeps his gun and a pepper spray in there, and after a brief pause he pulls out the gun. The noise is there again, like someone is trying to carefully move about in the kitchen. Whoever is stupid enough to break into the apartment of a police officer, that person is in for a bit of surprise, Magnus thinks grimly, but he cannot deny that his heart is pounding like crazy.

Carefully, he gets up and pads to the door as quietly as he only can. Socks would be better than his naked feet on the hardwood floor, but that's just how it is. He peers out into the darkness of the corridor that connects the rooms and leads up to the front door. There are no windows here, and the shadows hang heavy in the corners. He can barely see anything, but the flash of green and that bittersweet scent connects all too well in his mind with the low purring voice in his ear, spending him into a bout of pure panic.

"Missed me, Magnus?"

He is being pushed into the wall, weapon torn from his hand with uncaring ease. He hisses, tries to strain against that hold of pure iron. The man doesn't even budge. He just grins, teeth flashing white and sharp as he grips Magnus' neck with one hand, slams his head against the wall and squeezes.

Magnus jerks, tries to lash out. His fists land blows, weak and aimless, and he is actually surprised when the pressure suddenly disappears. He wheezes, dizzy and disoriented. It burns. Breathing burns. He cannot move and there is that scent, feels like it's getting stuck to his airways, thick and viscous. There is no way someone didn't hear the sounds, Magnus thinks frantically. The neighbours. Someone, anyone.

The man takes his hands and slams them against the wall above their heads. Had he the ability, Magnus would scream at the ice that materializes around his wrists as though out of thin air, effectively pinning them in place against the wall. The stranger makes a little click with his tongue like he is quite pleased with the result, and Magnus feels like he is going to be sick.

"Who the hell are you?" he manages to rasp out, and even that hurts.

The man kicks his legs farther apart to settle comfortably between them with a chuckle. "How uncouth of me. The name is Loki Laufeyson. You might want to remember it." He grinds down his hips hard, a slow, sensuous roll. Makes a sound somewhere in the back of his throat, like the purr of a cat that turns into a low chuckle once Magnus starts trashing again. It is a sound that would probably be terrifying if Magnus weren't past that already.

The hand from his neck slides up to cover his mouth, strangely cool but also strong, a grip that might be able to break the very bones beneath for how effortless it is. The man, Loki, rolls his hips again, setting a tight, relentless rhythm.

The ice is melting around his wrists, so cold it hurts. Trickling slow, freezing rivulets down his arms, slipping beneath his clothes in a lifeless violation. He clenches his teeth and swallows, and that hurts too. His eyes are prickling with tears, and he shuts them tight, tighter.

"I have warned you, haven't I?" Loki breathes into his ear, mirthful, mocking.

Magnus bites. Between the keens and whimpers pouring from his throat and resonating trapped under that hand, he sinks his teeth into the flesh and bites until he feels the skin break, can taste blood in his mouth. And then he keeps on biting.

The tears are running down his face freely and Loki licks them off, whispering things in a language that Magnus thinks he understands but still cannot make sense of. His world is narrowed down to the feel of the heat and hardness of the man's erection rubbing against his groin through the fabric of their pants, the bite of the ice around his wrists and the burn of helplessness and shame in his chest.

He has no idea how long it lasts until Loki's breathing picks up and his words fall away into little meaningless noises. Then his hips give a couple of hard, short, erratic jerks and he finally stills with a drawn out gasp that turns into a breathy, amused little chuckle. Loki pulls his palm away, patting Magnus on the cheek and he smiles that knife edge smile of satisfaction that pulls Magnus' insides into an icy knot.

"Letting you take my blood," Loki murmurs, tone carrying a mocking touch of humour and wonder. He smooths his thumb over Magnus' lower lip, sadistically affectionate, before bringing the finger to his own mouth and licking the stain off. "The things I do for you, Magnus."

"Die in a fire, you rotten bastard," Magnus spits, and he hates the way his voice is quivering, much the way his body is shaking uncontrollably.

"Mmm, yes." Loki leans in close, a deep, slow inhale by the jaw as though Loki is smelling him, and Magnus can feel his bile and nausea rising. "You'll do very nicely, Magnus. Very nicely."

Magnus wakes with a cry.

He is in his bed. There is pale, washed out sunlight pouring in through the curtains and his gun is in the drawer just as he left it before going to sleep. He takes a deep, calming breath before getting out of bed and checking the rest of the apartment.

He is alone and there is no sign of a break in.

He washes his face with cold water from the kitchen tap, and after checking the time he puts on a coffee. Way too early to be up, but there is no point in trying to go back to bed for half an hour of sleep. If he managed to fall asleep, that is.

He gets ready while waiting for the coffee and looks out at the street with the cup in hand, warming his fingers against it. The neighbourhood is mostly asleep still, with the occasional joggers and dog owners moving past without hurry. Magnus rubs his eyes with a thumb and forefinger, fighting back a yawn and failing. Stupid nightmares. Always at the worst of times.

He leaves the empty cup in the sink and grabs his jacket. He'll be early, but not like it's the first or the last time. Or like there is nothing to do. Not with the case that just landed in their lap. From the looks of it, he is having record overtime this month. Again. Besides, he could really do with some breakfast, and the bakery down the road has amazing kanelbullar.

---

The drive down to Trelleborg is neither long nor exciting. Field after field and barely any traffic on the roads. Kurt is driving in silence and Magnus doesn't ask him to turn the radio on, even though he would like to. He balances several batches of papers on his lap instead, going through the bits and pieces that he managed to print out before they left. Not that it's particularly exciting. If he had been interested in big firms and their corporate inanity, then he would have followed in his father's footsteps instead of taking up a place in the local force.

Fifteen minutes in and another coffee starts appearing as highly desirable. Another ten and he gives up, trying to stretch his legs, at least as much as the design of the car allows him. Which is not all that much anyway. One thing is quite clear though, namely that Stark Industries is a lot bigger than Magnus originally thought, and quite unsurprisingly has about the same list length of enemies as possessions.

Very helpful indeed.

With a sigh, Magnus starts on another pile. "Autopsy report. This might interest you." Kurt shoots him a glance which Magnus interprets as agreement. "No drugs or alcohol, no injuries aside from an old fracture. Whoever did him in wrung his neck like a chicken's."

The look Kurt gives him this time is clearly cold and reproachful with a simmering edge. Magnus' eyes flutter down to the paper and then back up before he acknowledges with a sigh that he obviously managed to hurt the other man's delicate sensibility. Again. Great.

They sit in silence for a while. The fields around are planted full of rapeseed, bright yellow and falsely cheerful under the slate grey sky. It might rain later, Magnus thinks vaguely as he stares through the window. Eventually he resumes reading the report.

"Kurt?" His face contorts into a frown. Kurt seems more irritated than anything when Magnus looks up at him, but some things are just more important than others. "Kurt. This guy. Neville."

"Yes?"

"According to this, he had something called Hodgkin's lymphoma."

Kurt doesn't really seem impressed. "And?" He prompts after a long moment.

"I'm not quite sure about the technicalities, but Nyberg is clear enough." Magnus looks at his boss and their eyes lock for a second. "Kurt, Neville was a dead man walking."

---

The trip to the flat that Gerald Neville rented proves to be entirely fruitless. The landlord is a wordy, elderly man with a three day stubble, a checkered shirt and gardening pants. He has absolutely no qualms about letting them take a look at the place that is newly renovated, airy and furnished with straight cut, modern pieces. The sterile feel of the unlived in flat reminds Magnus of his own.

There is nothing personal in it, which comes less of a surprise once the owner tells them that Neville never set foot in the building to his knowledge. The company paid the rent so that the man would have a place to stay once he arrived.

"Well, he won't need it anymore," Kurt summarizes morosely, not saying another word until they are back to the car. "Who would murder a dying man?" His gaze tapers off into the distance, and Magnus wishes he could say something to pull Kurt out of it, but has no idea what is even there to say. In the end, he just swallows and nods, even though he knows Kurt cannot see it.

They drive down to the Asbrú building without talking, and Magnus is rather surprised to see that there are a couple of sleek black cars standing before the entrance. It all seems a bit surreal, especially when they catch sight of a handful of people in uniform black suits. Some of them are wearing sunglasses despite the gloomy weather, but all of them seem to be equipped with headsets and what look like gun holsters under their jackets. Magnus would bet his monthly salary against a krona that they don't just look the part, and are not there for decorative purposes either.

"What the hell."

If the way Kurt's jaw clenches and his grip tightens on the wheel is any indication, he must be thinking the same. Magnus considers asking, but he thinks better of it.

"What is going on here?" Kurt glares at the closest people accusingly once they get out of the car. Even though the fact of the matter is that strictly speaking, nothing seems to be going on, aside from some suits standing by and exchanging looks with each other. At the inquiry, they just stare back blankly, which is only making the whole thing even more surreal. "Who are you?"

There is no answer still, but one of the men puts a hand to his headphone and barks something into it that Magnus cannot quite catch, but it sounds suspiciously non-Swedish.

"Wow. This is how entering the Matrix must feel like." Magnus finds himself blurting out, immediately knowing it was a mistake. He doesn't even need to see Kurt's face, and that is about the only reason why he refrains from making any sort of remark concerning the man who appears from the building and heads over to them. He has the same type of black suit, a receding hairline and an air of quiet confidence that signifies being used to giving orders and having them obeyed.

The man pulls off his shades and his eyes are small, clever and serious. "Something the matter?" he asks in English, and Magnus doesn't know if that surprises him more, or the fact that after a brief pause Kurt switches to English as well.

"This is a crime scene and I must ask you to leave."

"And you'd be?" the man squints at them warily, obviously not happy with the turn of events.

"Kurt Wallander, Ystad police."

"Martinsson." Magnus nods, extending a hand. Nobody seems to be in a handshaking mood, though.

"Agent Phil Coulson with the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division." Their looks must be pretty obvious, because the man clears his throat and adds, "S.H.I.E.L.D."

"If that is supposed to tell me anything, Agent Coulson..." Kurt leaves the sentence hanging, his glare getting a bit more pronounced.

A brief moment of understanding flashes across Coulson's face. Such a tiny fraction of time, and yet Magnus can practically see the wheels turning inside that head as the man is reconsidering his position. Magnus could tell him how pointless it is to argue when Kurt is in one of his moods, but he doesn't. He can imagine Kurt would be none too thrilled with it.

"Mr Wallander, I'm sure you understand that we have a peculiar interest in this case. I believe it is in both our best interest that we go about our jobs with as little mutual interruption as possible."

"Correct me if I'm wrong, agent. But I assume you are operating here under the aegis of the US government."

"Technically, we fall under... Yes." Coulson deadpans.

"But you don't have permission from the Ministry of Justice." Kurt presses.

"It's just a matter of time."

"Well in that case, Agent Coulson, until I receive higher orders to the contrary, this is my country, my case, and my crime scene," Kurt declares with that air of finality Magnus knows so well. "And you better get the hell out of here."

Coulson looks like he wants to say something. Coulson also looks like a man accustomed to facing setbacks. In the end he merely inclines his head. "You'll be hearing from us."

Kurt watches them leave. Then he turns to Magnus with a clipped and irate "Get some forensics from the locals and see what you can do," before storming off towards the house.

Oh, joy.

---

They planned to get back to Ystad by night, but after a long and unsuccessful day Kurt finally agrees that it's best to spend the night in the nearby hotel instead. Magnus already has a suspicion, bordering on certainty, that Kurt will stay up with the records way too late and then insist on another day of tiring and fruitless questioning. But at least neither of them has to drive when they are barely keeping their eyes open.

They have dinner at the hotel, a cosy, family run business that makes Magnus feel just a little more inadequate. It reminds him of his father's disapproval and his mother's disappointment with his life choices. At least those that actually matter to them.

He forks down the house speciality and watches Kurt pick at his salmon casserole. Sometimes, Kurt really is like a spoilt ten year old, hating things just because he has to put up with them. Like his diet. For a long moment, Magnus' eyes follow the pattern drawn by the fork, but he decides not to comment on it.

"Maybe the killer didn't know." Kurt breaks the silence unexpectedly. "That Neville was dying."

Why does it even matter to you, Magnus thinks. "Maybe," he says aloud. They lapse back into silence, and Kurt pours some more wine. "You've been very unwelcome with the Americans." Magnus asserts quietly, seeking eye contact and failing.

Kurt doesn't reply but he stops playing with his fork.

"You think they are covering up." Magnus leans back with a sigh. Suddenly, his appetite is gone as well.

"They are working for Homeland Security, of course they are covering up!" Kurt snaps.

"Whatever Neville got himself into, it had to be serious." It simply makes sense. The sudden moving. Stark Industries, a billion dollar defense contractor. The involvement of SHIELD. Even Neville's impending death could be figured into that set up, somehow. Magnus is sure of it.

"Serious," Kurt mutters with a bitter almost-snort. "He is dead." He is staring off to the side twirling his wedding ring, seemingly lost in thought.

Magnus is not even sure Kurt hears him when he excuses himself to leave.

---

The room is not exactly big, but it's clean and comfortable. Magnus lets the shower run while he takes his clothes off and folds them into a neat pile, leaving it on the dresser by the bed. The water is hot and soothing on his skin, and he just stands there and lets the spray wash away the grime and the tension of the day. He brushes his teeth still standing in the shower and stays a little more even when he is all done.

The room is all fogged when he steps out and he opens the window to let some of the steam out. There is the sound of crickets from outside and the occasional bark of a dog somewhere in the distance. It reminds him of summers when they would slip out from the dorms and roam the Stockholm nights sharing beer they were not supposed to have, and he smiles a little as he towels his hair. The room doesn't have a blow dryer, but it's not like Magnus is missing it. He barely ever uses his own anyway.

He fastens the towel around his waist and pads to the bedroom. It's late and he is tired, wanting nothing but to fall into bed and sleep. All thoughts of that are gone in a rush though once he spots the man occupying the only chair in the room. He is wearing a nicely tailored suit this time, but Magnus would recognise those eyes anywhere.

"Magnus," he drawls in greeting, shamelessly sizing him up at leisure as he stands there. The casual intimacy of it is making Magnus utterly self-conscious and uncomfortable. And damn it all, but his clothes are across the room. So is his weapon. Damn, damn, damn.

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" he snaps, but the edge in his tone is that of fear and indignation. Not exactly the most powerful combination, and Magnus swallows to keep his rising anxiety in check.

"I don't refuse invitations if they appeal to my fancy." There is a sinister sort of amusement in those eyes, in the curl of those lips. "Though I must say, I wasn't quite expecting such a welcome," he adds, and Magnus feels like choking.

"Well I wasn't exactly expecting anyone to break in," he retorts before he even realizes what he is doing, and the man chuckles.

"From what I understand, that would be," he holds a minute pause, as though searching for the right term, but something in those green eyes tells Magnus this man is not the type to fumble for words, "unlawful, wouldn't it now? I assure you I have done no such thing. The door was open."

"I locked it."

"I never claimed you didn't. It was open to me."

Magnus stares, but all he gets is a smile of fake innocence. It is still artful, but fake nonetheless. Purposefully so, and for some reason that irks Magnus. "Whatever. What are you doing in my room? What do you want?"

"Well, that depends." The man rises from the chair, and Magnus has to fight the urge to step back. The room is not exactly spacious, and he is starting to reconsider on the second step the other takes.

"On what?" he manages, but it comes out low and teetering towards panic.

"You, of course." It is offered nonchalantly, and the man takes another step closer.

"Don't." Magnus holds out a palm, but it just serves to make him realise just how exposed he is, how very naked. As though reading his mind, the man curls his lips some more, showing a wet hint of sharp white teeth. "Just who the hell are you?"

"Oh? I was under the impression I have already introduced myself during our last... encounter."

"You were too busy humiliating me before my colleague." Magnus spits, drawing forth another chuckle that shivers down his spine like the slow slide of an ice cube.

"Oh, not that. The other one."

The other... oh. Oh. "I have no idea what you are talking about," Magnus tries, but his voice is shaky and he can feel his cheeks heating up. The man takes another step forward and Magnus' back hits the wall.

"You should stop lying, Magnus." The other purrs, smooth and amused. "You are not very good at it," he adds in a whisper, but it is quite enough. He is so close Magnus can feel that breath on his skin and he shudders, eyes wide.

It cannot be... What was it? "Loki. Loki Laufeyson?" he asks in what is threatening to become a nervous, unnatural laugh. The urge only grows stronger when Loki gives him a mild eyebrow raise and a self-congratulatory little smirk.

That nightmare. Surely, Magnus is just having another one. Which means he is going to wake up. Any moment now.

"Now imagine my surprise," Loki drawls, bringing a hand up to Magnus' face and letting his knuckles brush against his cheek. The touch is cool against his burning skin. "Sneaking around for the sake of gathering a little intelligence, and then your subconscious throws me for that loop. What am I supposed to think about that, Magnus?"

Magnus doesn't answer. He is trying hard to get his thoughts into something resembling order. It seems close to impossible, but he might just lose his mind otherwise. Because surely, this is not happening. That is the last thread that he desperately clings to as he feels those thin, soft lips on his own.

But he doesn't wake up. Worse still, he draws in a sharp breath and can feel Loki pushing to deepen the kiss. He feels frozen, paralyzed, unsure if he can even breathe. Loki kisses him harder and Magnus makes a choked sound between a gasp and a moan once those teeth squeeze into his lower lip and tug lightly.

It shouldn't feel good. He doesn't want it to, but it does. It's been so long, Magnus doesn't even remember exactly. Too much work, too little privacy. Too much fear what they would say if they only knew. The real reason behind Magnus never bringing anyone along to office parties. Why there is no wife, no girlfriend. Why he stopped talking to his father.

He is panting for air by the time Loki pulls back, and there is the familiar-foreign feel of wetness on his lips. He stares at Loki licking his own, a little smirk sliding into place before he leans in and bites at Magnus' chin, lips soft but teeth sharp.

"Don't." Magnus squeezes out through clenched teeth, hands clawing uselessly against the expensive material of that suit even as he tips his head back the slightest. Loki takes it as an invitation. His tongue slides down the tendon while his palms trail down Magnus' chest, making him shudder.

There is a knock on the door.

"Magnus?" Kurt's voice comes tired and muffled by the thin wood, and Magnus suddenly realizes his chance. But before he could actually call for help, Loki vanishes again like he has never been there. Disbelieving, Magnus gasps for air and his eyes dart around until he hears Kurt call out his name again.

With a sigh, he shakes his head and goes to open the door, only remembering his state of undress once he sees the puzzled look on Kurt's face. "I, uhh, was just about to..." Magnus gestures aimlessly, sparing a glance towards the bedroom, even though he knows nobody is there. There cannot possibly be.

"No, I'm-- Sorry, just, you left this." Kurt holds out Magnus' wallet, and he takes it a little tentatively. "I saw the light, so I thought..."

"Yes, thank you." Magnus clears his throat. "Well then..."

"Is everything...?" Kurt looks at him with that searching gaze of his that Magnus swears can see straight down to the deepest recesses of his brain and actually find out what has just happened.

On a second thought, he himself is not even quite sure what has happened.

"Magnus?"

"I'm fine." He blurts out perhaps a little too fast, but thankfully enough Kurt decides not to push it.

"See you tomorrow." He nods, and Magnus lets out a relieved breath once he can shut the damn door again. He needs to pull himself together and think. He could certainly do with a drink while he is at it. Or three. Goddamn alcohol regulations.

---

When Magnus opens his eyes, he finds himself just the way he set out to come to terms with the night's events, fully dressed in the one chair of the room. His neck is stiff and he is a bit colder than it would be comfortable. The sky is grey, but there is loud birdsong from outside, and Magnus stands, stretches with a yawn.

"Turning into Kurt already," he remarks to his reflection in the window pane, fighting the dryness of his throat. It's easier than thinking about all those things Magnus wishes were dreams. His phone shows it's barely past seven in the morning, his body following the familiar pattern like clockwork at this point. With a grunt, Magnus goes to brush his teeth before he would pack up and hand the key back.

He wouldn't mind a morning run, if for nothing just to clear his head and enjoy the routine. Since he has no spare clothes, that is out of the question though. Maybe if he is lucky, he would manage to snatch some breakfast before Kurt appears. Sounds like a plan.

All of that is promptly forgotten though the moment he enters the bathroom and catches sight of the note stuck to the mirror. Below that on the narrow shelf is a cell phone, which, Magnus is quite sure, wasn't there the night before. For the longest moment he stares at it like he is expecting it to jump and go for his jugular, but the scene stays serene. Just in case, Magnus checks the room again, but he is alone. The window by the shower stall is still open as he left it, but so small that the biggest thing that could possibly come in through it is a cat.

Dragging a palm across his face, Magnus takes a deep breath. Some things just have to be done, obviously, and he walks over to the sink to read the message.

You can thank me next time.

That's all. Not that Magnus doesn't have an idea of his own who the culprit must be, however unlikely that may seem. So he just peels it off and creases the paper into his pocket. Not for Kurt's eyes, this one. Or anyone else, for that matter. Then he glances back to the phone. BlackBerry, seems to be well-used and it's entirely unfamiliar to him. Cautiously, he picks it up and starts going through the contents.

It takes Magnus about five minutes to be out of the room and banging on Kurt's door. It takes a bit for the man to open up, and judging from the state those clothes are in, Magnus wasn't the only one who has slept dressed. Quite likely the same holds true in the chair department, and Magnus makes a face.

"Magnus?" Kurt blinks at him with a frown.

Magnus bites his lip and practically shoves the phone at him. "Kurt? I think you were right."

---

Coulson doesn't seem much too thrilled. Then again, it's not like Magnus blames him. One has little reason to be when they are woken by police officers knocking on their door and demanding them to get down to the station for interrogation. Still, he seems polite enough, sitting across a weathered wooden desk with a cup of crappy coffee, his impeccable suit in stark contrast to the crumpled and askew ensemble that Kurt is sporting.

Magnus cannot quite decide if the latter's disheveled state or the former's near inhuman perfection irks him more. So he just crosses his ankles where he is leaning to the window frame and takes a sip of his own coffee, not bothering to fight the grimace at the taste.

"I don't think you realise--" Kurt tries, but Coulson cuts him off calmly.

"I was paying attention."

Kurt glares at him darkly, like he cannot decide if Coulson angers or disgusts him. "A man. Is dead." He raises his voice but Coulson is unfazed. "And he has been on the phone with you before he died."

"I think we established that I was in the States."

"You knew him."

Coulson does something with his eyebrows that might or might not be a prelude to an eye roll. Instead he just leans back, eyeing the two of them sharply. "Obviously."

"How?" Kurt's jaw is tense.

"That information--"

"Is classified," Kurt interrupts, clearly agitated. "Right."

"Precisely."

Magnus allows himself a look of exasperation before focusing back on his coffee. He doubts that the dishwashing water wannabe of a liquid has much caffeine inside, but he hopes for the placebo effect regardless. Talking to Coulson is like conversing with a brick wall. Magnus figures he will need the kick, imaginary or not.

"Well, if that's all..." Coulson leaves the sentence hanging, even though it doesn't really sound like a question. He stands and nods at them before making his way to the door.

"Don't think about leaving the country for a while," Kurt shoots after him, and Coulson pauses, looks back.

"How did you get it? The phone." He inclines his head subtly towards the desk where the device rests, stark and lifeless black against the wood, and Magnus feels his throat close up.

"That's none of your business." Kurt snaps, and Magnus can only hope that the sudden burning of his cheeks goes unnoticed by all.

Coulson looks like he wants to say something, but in the end he doesn't. The click of the door closing is as resolute as it possibly can be.

"Well, that didn't go down very well." Magnus remarks, setting the cup aside.

Kurt drags a hand over his borderline stubble. "Magnus? S.H.I.E.L.D."

"Yes?"

"Get on it."

Ah. Well, damn. "But if it's classifi--" Kurt's look can only be described as irately condescending, and Magnus huffs out a breath with no small frustration. "Yeah. Sure."

---

"Agent Coulson!"

The man turns around and squints a bit against the sunlight, his hand already on the handle of the car door. Half a minute more, and Magnus surely would've missed him. Judging from the familiarly suited guy behind the wheel, special agents don't flag down cabs.

"Mr Martinsson." Coulson's voice is soft but his tone is flat and no-nonsense. Facing him is like facing the business end of a gun, and for a long moment Magnus questions his decision to have come after him. Except, it is too late now, so he might as well get to the point.

But it is still difficult, because, because--

"Anything I can do for you?" Coulson's voice rings out almost concerned, yet somehow still managing to convey that he doesn't exactly have all day to be wasting. In any other case, Magnus would probably spare a moment to admire the way the man manages to appear open and approachable without being either.

"Actually, there would be something." Magnus licks his lips that suddenly feel far too dry, eyes flicking to the pavement, then back to Coulson's face. "Loki Laufeyson."

The change in Coulson's expression is all the more spectacular for it's complete lack. But there is a shift in the depths of those eyes that assures Magnus that he has indeed hit bull's eye, and he can feel his heartbeat picking up with excitement.

"You know him."

"Nobody does." Coulson is fast to shoot him down, but it is half admission and Magnus doesn't need more.

"Who is he?"

"He gave the phone to you, didn't he?" Coulson asks back, but again, it doesn't really sound like a question. Suddenly, the man seems more alive than he has ever been during the questioning, and if Magnus wants to be honest with himself, it is rather terrifying in the same way as the slow grind of a glacier or the blind, soul crushing march of a bureaucracy.

"Does he work for you?" Magnus pushes, because it is easier than lying. And lying is definitely easier than explaining.

"On some rare good days, I like to entertain that notion." Coulson quips, and Magnus's lips twitch into a nervous sort of smile despite himself. He is not even sure why. Maybe it has to do with that strangely tight feeling in his chest.

"He killed that guy, didn't he?" he asks, and it sounds strained to his own ears. If Coulson's look is anything to go by, he notices too.

"Can I give you a word of advice, Mr Martinsson?"

Magnus nods, even though Coulson doesn't really look like he actually needs permission. Still, some habits just die hard, obviously.

"Should he show up again, get out as fast as you can. Never turn your back, never underestimate him, and never take anything he says at face value. Ever." Coulson fixes him with a grim, hard look, and the insecure, incredulous chuckle threatening to escape dies in Magnus' throat. "You know how to reach me. Good day."

"Wait--" Magnus tries, but the door slams shut behind Coulson and the car pulls into the scarce traffic with ease, leaving him standing alone before the station.

---

It is pretty damn late by the time Magnus gets back to his apartment. The sky is cloudy and the chilly north wind runs rampant across town, but there is no rain. At least not yet. Magnus reminds himself not to tempt fate and buy an umbrella next time, like he keeps doing for the past five years. He never buys one, though.

Just a single night spent somewhere else, and his own flat seems somewhat foreign to him. The state of his fridge is deplorable, even by his standards. But there is half a tomato and some eggs. It shall do. He puts the omelette on a plate and turns on the TV. He flips through about a dozen channels before he gives up.

Nothing can hold his interest, so he exchanges the plate for a cup of hot chocolate and turns on the computer, pulls out the folders he took home with him while the machine boots. It's disappointing, really. Even the best government resources seem to offer close to nothing on S.H.I.E.L.D., and Magnus ends up staring at his screen unseeing, fingers drumming absently against the desk. He shakes himself out of it and considers putting some music on. The neighbours would probably brick him in the morning, so silence it is.

The tension humming low in his mind is not going away, though. Magnus rubs his eyes and tries to focus on the blurring letters of the various military websites he is browsing through. The next thing he knows is that he is staring at the wall and his mind is back to Coulson and his warnings. To Neville's body as he has last seen it in the morgue. To--

"Damn," he murmurs under his breath, hand fiddling with the spoon in his now cold drink. The wind howls a sinister tune outside, and it strikes him how alone he is. Normally, it doesn't bother him much. He chalks it up to the irony of fate that in wanting to escape a world of propriety and festering dullness, of starched white curtains and still-frames of Sunday lunches he has ended up here. An empty straight-cut paradise of too little sleep and too much soulless paperwork.

It's just how things are.

Right now it ties a quesy knot inside his stomach, makes him feel vulnerable. Briefly, he considers calling someone, but there is not a soul who would forgive him for ringing them up at two in the morning. Unless it's work, and not even he is that desperate.

Just to be sure, he takes his handgun from the holster and places it on the desk by the computer. He keeps his hand wrapped around it a bit longer, exhaling slowly. He stares at the weapon and blinks away images of spreading ice.

Maybe once this is all over he should ask for a week off.

He goes back to the folders and the ache in his eyes, the sound of his own typing seeming too loud in his ears. He really should go to bed, but then he glances at the gun to the side and stays. It's silly, surely. It's not like he expects anyone to show up. And Kurt might actually need all that information. Maybe.

Now if only he could focus.

"You are cute when you are flustered." That familiar voice remarks casually, and Magnus freezes for a moment before he spins around to see Loki sprawled on his very own couch like the man owns it. The bastard.

On a second thought, that is the least of Magnus' problems right now. On a third, he remembers the gun, but it flies across the room and lands in the opposite corner the moment he reaches his hand out for it. Well, damn.

"One would think by now you'd realise how pointless it is," Loki's lips curl into a little smile that is almost chiding and doesn't reach his eyes.

"Why?"

"If I wanted to hurt you, such a toy wouldn't stop me."

"No." Magnus shakes his head. "Why are you here?"

"You are not that naive." Loki tosses the words with a veneer of boredom, and Magnus can feel his rising anger push bile into his throat.

"And are you really that desperate to push yourself on strangers or is that just part of some sick game you are playing?" He seethes, and not even the realisation that he has just gravely insulted the certainly crazy man able to materialize on his couch out of thin air can curb that heat inside his chest.

Loki's eyes are unreadable and so green, Magnus refuses to back down by looking away. Then Loki laughs, high and sharp. "Talking to Coulson, were you?"

"Did you kill that man?" This is easier. This is familiar ground, and Magnus finds himself considering the amount of paperwork he would need to file if Loki admitted to the crime.

"Does it matter?" Loki weaves off the question easily, and Magnus is reminded of all those times when he was asking himself the same question. Does it matter? Does any of it? Does he? Or his work? And when they fail, and when they don't, and when they just don't know, does that matter the same?

"It matters to me," he says finally, and the smile that appears on Loki's lips is thin and cutting like a knife's blade.

"So it does." He pushes himself to his feet, but Magnus is faster this time, moving to stand between Loki and the open door rather than to stay in the corner. Not that he feels any less trapped for it. All it earns him is an amused eyebrow quirk as Loki adjusts his direction accordingly. "Your race is fascinating. So dependent. Hive minded." Loki stops right before him, and Magnus can feel hot and cold racing along his spine. "But to answer your question, I did no such thing. He was too small a fish in a much larger game."

"If you know anything of the case, you should come down to the station and make a stateme--" Magnus tries, but his voice breaks at the touch of a cool hand along his jaw. His eyes flutter closed for a moment and he swallows. "What do you want?"

"You," Loki says simply, letting his fingers trail lower, and he makes a sound in the back of his throat as Magnus pushes him into the wood of the door.

It's wrong, so very wrong, Magnus thinks, slips his tongue between those parted lips and keeps going until he cannot breathe.

It tastes like winter wind and freedom.

Magnus pulls away for precious air, panting into Loki's mouth between pecks and nips and teeth clashing before Loki has enough and flips their position, trapping Magnus' body with his own. He kisses him hard and deep, biting, punishing, and Magnus moans, bucks against Loki's hold. The man breaks the kiss and chuckles, the sound a hot caress of air against Magnus' cheek.

"Yes," Loki whispers. Yes what, Magnus wants to ask him, but Loki smashes his wrists against the wood, bites into his neck, and suddenly words are the farthest things from Magnus' mind. His hands twitch, more reflex than anything else, but Loki's grip never falters. His lips slide lower, hot breath and wet tongue down Magnus' throat and sharp teeth over his collar bone.

"Sofa," Magnus hisses as one elegant hand slides under his shirt and the nails raise lines over his chest in descent. Loki grins and lets go, only to be pulled back for another kiss as Magnus' palms slide over every part of Loki's body he can reach.

Somehow they make it to the couch, gripping and pulling and tangled. Magnus' shirt ends up on the floor and Loki's hair somehow ends up in his mouth, and he jolts with a laugh because the brush of Loki's hands over his sides tickles.

"Don't do that," he gasps, and lets Loki push him down on the cushions and straddle his waist.

"What should I do, then," Loki purrs, and his eyes are a promise and a threat and gloating and want, and Magnus knows this is where he should snap out of it and he couldn't care less.

He reaches for Loki's shirt and pulls it over the man's head, the suit jacket already lying somewhere long forgotten, together with the tie. Beneath it all Loki's body is pale, sleek limbs and fluid grace. Magnus presses his mouth over that naked skin and he loves the way Loki arches into it, the way the vertebrae shift under his palms. He traces his fingertips down the spine, wanting to feel the sharp edges beneath as his teeth scrape along the ribs. It's beautiful, the gasp Loki makes, his fingers squeezing harder around Magnus' shoulders. It makes him want more, so much more, and he gropes blindly for the button of Loki's pants just to have his hands swatted away.

Loki smiles and it's all angles, gorgeous and wicked. Then he shifts and pushes Magnus down on his back, surprisingly strong for someone so wiry. It makes him shiver a little, makes him wonder just how strong Loki really is, and how far would he be willing to go. It makes his breath catch a little, to wonder just how far he himself would be willing to let him.

"My turn," Loki says, and then it's him pressing kisses over Magnus' torso, trailing down, lower, lips and licks and pure teasing. His nails trace tremors beneath his skin, and Magnus bites his lip, unsure what to do with his hands, so in the end he just lets them tangle in that dark hair, map the muscles of Loki's arms and shoulders.

"Loki," he pleads in a whimper, his pelvis and thighs tense with need, and Loki's lips spread into a grin, the glint in his green eyes mocking his desperation. He leans closer and kisses him again, but this time it's quick and fleeting, a mere token of a promise.

Then Loki's teeth close over the zipper of his pants and Magnus is a lost man.

He digs one heel into Loki's calf, the other into the couch, hips raised, and Loki smirks but takes the hint regardless, working pants and underwear down as far as he can without getting off him. The rest Magnus takes care of on his own, stifling a curse and trying not to wiggle too much. He still manages to smack his head against the armrest, but Loki's nails over his hipbone are a good distraction.

"Want--" The moan is ripped from him hot and breathy as Loki nips at the soft skin at the inside of his thigh, idly running his fingers along the other.

Loki glances up, and Magnus almost moans again just at the look in those eyes. "Tell me," the man's voice is a command and a purr, soft and indisputable. "Tell me all of it."

It shivers right through Magnus, but despite that, he still snaps. Because of that, maybe. "Just suck me already? Please?"

Loki's laugh is throaty and amused. "As I said. Cute." Those green eyes glint with mischief, and Magnus would love to retort with something, but then Loki's lips wrap around his hard cock and Magnus just knows that the neighbours will brick him, come morning.

Not that it matters. All that matters is that Loki's mouth is hot and wet and gods it's been so long he does those little tricks with his tongue that make Magnus buck his hips wildly before Loki pins him hard with one hand. Magnus tries to think of something, gruesome deaths, annual reports, but his body is too tightly wound and in the end he settles trying to give a warning, but Loki is relentless in driving him headfirst into orgasm.

It crashes over him like a tidal wave, and Magnus clamps a hand over his own mouth to muffle the almost scream that is threatening to break free. He fights to at least keep his eyes open, but they roll back behind his lids as his entire body tenses, leaving him gasping for breath as he falls back. He can feel Loki's mouth leave him, and looks up just in time to see the Adam's apple in that pale column of a neck bob. Loki smirks and wipes the corner of his mouth with a thumb.

"That... has to be the hottest thing I've ever seen." Magnus catches himself saying. "Uhh. Nevermind me."

"Please. I do take pleasure in a compliment well-earned." Loki purrs, leaning in for a kiss, and Magnus thinks he should probably add a correction to his previous statement. Their kiss is much slower this time, less teeth and more tongue, together with the heaviness of the afterglow in his limbs and the taste of his own come in Loki's mouth.

Which reminds him. "What about you? Want me to--?"

Loki chuckles, but his eyes take on a dark and calculating light. "Worry not. I know what I want, and I take it." Somewhere in the back of his pleasantly fried mind, Magnus wonders if he should perhaps start getting concerned now. But Loki is far too fascinating a sight slithering out of his pants. He has one of the most amazing pair of legs Magnus has ever seen, and he is already imagining kissing his way up them. Then there is the fact that Loki is also hard, and Magnus can feel his mouth run dry, hands reaching out but Loki evades his touch. "Let me see if I remember correctly how that curious little thing went."

Before Magnus could ask, there is ice binding his wrists above his head, its cold bite sending a shiver down his body. "H-how did you--?"

"I can be a very generous god, Magnus." Loki crawls higher up on his body, and Magnus strains up in hopes of a kiss. Instead, Loki lowers his lips to Magnus' ear. "Never forget that." He punctuates the words with a slow lick down the shell and a bite to the earlobe, and chuckles at the choked sound it brings forth.

Briefly, Magnus wonders if he should perhaps protest, play it safe. Or in this case, as safe as it gets. Experimentally, he moves against the ice, but it holds firm, the mere thought sending a wave of pure heat surging through him and going straight to his cock. It's crazy, stupid, irresponsible. Closing his eyes, Magnus wets his lips, and lets out a shuddering breath as Loki moves to pull away, his hair brushing against the hollow of Magnus' neck.

The ice burns him so perfect.

Loki maps his body with soft lips and vicious fingers, hips in a slow grind against Magnus' thigh that is setting that familiar heat ablaze in the pit of Magnus' stomach all over again. And Loki keeps whispering, words that Magnus feels he should know but cannot piece together, their tone sultry and slick. Loki swipes his tongue across Magnus' hipbone, dipping into his navel but never going lower, even though he would have to be blind not to see how much Magnus wants him to.

"Loki." Magnus writhes, and the other flashes him a smile, dark and sly. Never breaking eye contact, Loki wraps his lips around his index finger, slides them all the way down coating it with saliva. Magnus can feel his breath catch in his throat at the implication. "There is some lube in the top drawer." He inclines his head towards the desk as much as he can in his current position. "Condoms too."

"Excellent." Loki's smile turns a little more crooked, and the next moment the familiar items simply materialize in his hand.

"That's nifty." Magnus blinks, briefly wondering if he has fallen asleep at his desk after all. "You sure that's--?" The thought is short lived though, as Loki wastes no time in pushing the first slick finger inside. Magnus gasps, back arching, and Loki is kind enough to give him a moment to get used to the sensation. Been a while indeed, Magnus thinks, but then Loki curls his finger just so and Magnus pushes into the touch with a moan too loud to his own ears.

Then nothing. Magnus opens his eyes and looks at Loki confusedly, who gives an elegant eyebrow raise in return.

"You were saying?"

Magnus groans, trying to ignore the tension thrumming beneath his skin. "Nothing, I-- Nothing." You bastard.

"Really." Loki sounds so amused with it all. And more importantly, he is still not moving.

"Could you like... just do something?" Magnus pushes back against the finger inside him, and Loki's laugh spills from his lips like dark honey.

"Oh, certainly."

Loki sets a slow, languid pace, adding the second, third finger and swallowing the noises pouring from Magnus' throat despite his best efforts to keep quiet. Ignoring his pleas for more, harder. Just when Magnus would think that Loki is going to finish him just like that, the man stops and pulls away. As much as Magnus would like to protest, the sight of Loki tearing the condom wrapping open is enough to make him keep it to himself. It is also rather nice to catch glimpse of the haste underlying Loki's movements. Just as it is to watch those hips strain to thrust up into Loki's grip.

He is entirely too beautiful like this, self-control fraying at the edges and Magnus wants nothing more than to see it unravel entirely.

He bites back a deep groan as he feels Loki push into him in one smooth motion, fingers squeezing into Magnus' hip. They are still for a long moment, filling up the silence with harsh, panting breaths. The first thrust is slow, experimental, but soon enough Loki picks up both on speed and power, his hands holding Magnus' hips in a grip that is bound to leave bruises. It's a little awkward, the couch too narrow for proper leverage, but it's just too good, and at this point Magnus couldn't care less if the entire block was coming crashing down around them.

As long as he can just close his eyes and push for more, demand, feel. Each and every brush of Loki's cock against his prostate, the press of his nails, the hot, wet touch of his mouth and the marks he bites and sucks into Magnus' skin. It's messing with his head and he wants it all.

Loki's hips jerk, moving in short, sharp thrusts, and Magnus knows, tightens the grip of his thighs, digs his heels in and snaps his own hips harder, close, so close. There is breathy nonsense pouring from his mouth, his wrists are numb, and Loki's face is gorgeous, flushed, teeth biting into his lower lip so red and wet from their kisses, his green eyes squeezed shut as he comes, a couple of tight strokes dragging Magnus straight along to the fall with a cry.

For a while they are just lying there, a tangle of sweaty limbs, panting breaths and blissful exertion. Magnus is almost sorry he has to break the moment, and notes with some mild, distant surprise how raspy his voice has become.

"Not to criticize, but my leg is falling asleep..."

Loki makes a non-committed hum, but pushes himself up. It would be much easier to just roll apart, but there is simply nowhere to, unless it's the floor, so they have to shuffle around until they find a more comfortable position. Magnus makes a noise of protest at the loss of being filled, but the restraints disappearing are a welcome touch. He lifts his arms, trying to take a look at his wrists and almost smacks himself square in the face.

"Oww. Bit number than I expected," Magnus rasps, almost jumping when Loki leans over him, grabbing his disobedient arms.

"It'll be alright," he says, quick, nimble fingers rubbing the life back into Magnus' limbs. Magnus hisses with the hot prickling of it, feeling almost disappointed when Loki lets go.

"Thanks," he says, and when he glances to the other he can see Loki watching him from the corner of his eyes. There are so many things lingering on the tip of his tongue, but he simply cannot bring himself to say any of it. "Gods, I need a shower," he mutters instead, settling back against the cushions with a yawn.

Loki waves his hand with a chuckle, and suddenly Magnus feels suspiciously clean. But it's nice so he decides not to look a gift horse in the mouth and just pulls the blanket he keeps folded in the armchair over them.

---

Magnus wakes to the sound of his phone. Groggily, his eyes slide open and then close again once his brain processes that it is still dark and thus clearly no time to be up just yet. The person on the other end has different thoughts, obviously.

And where is the damn thing anyway?

Magnus rolls over to reach towards the nightstand and almost falls off the couch. What. Oh. The memories of the previous night rush through his mind like a freight train and he promptly pushes them away. He can deal with that some other time. Not now.

Maybe not ever, but definitely not now.

He is almost relieved to find that with just a bit of stretching he can reach his pants lying by the other end of the couch on the ground, and a bit of fiddling later he even manages to fish the blasted phone out of the pocket.

"Martinsson," he groans into the receiver, rubbing his eyes.

"Oh, finally." Kurt snaps, and half asleep or not, Magnus can already feel his hackles rise. "Magnus, I need you down here. Immediately."

"Kurt, it's five fucking am."

"I don't care!" Kurt yells, and then there is suddenly silence. Magnus can see it all too well, Kurt dragging a hand across his face and swallowing whatever apology might have come forward. Typical. "We have a new one."

"Damn." Not another one remains unspoken, even though they both know it's there. "I'll be right down."

"Come to the old reservoir by the highway," Kurt sighs. "Do you--?"

"I know where it is."

"Right. Fine." Kurt hangs up.

With a sigh Magnus pushes himself up and winces. Shower, definitely. Dutifully, he checks the apartment before that, but Loki is obviously gone. Not that it's surprising. The man seems to have a knack for coming and going as he pleases. Were he not so sore, Magnus would be inclined to believe he has dreamt that one too.

---

"So, what do we have?" Magnus asks.

"You okay?" Anne-Britt looks at him with that burdened worry in her eyes that sometimes makes Magnus think she is going to be the next Lisa one day.

"Didn't get much sleep," he offers, and follows her gaze as it moves. The bodies are lined up along the concrete edge, dark, wet mounds of dead flesh in the pre-dawn light. Magnus grimaces. "Just how many are there?"

"Six," Kurt appears from somewhere, looking worn out and threadbare. "Six." He repeats flatly.

Magnus' eyes go back to the bodies, and he can see Nyberg straightening and walking towards them. "Clean kills. Not quite sure of all of them, but whoever did it knew what they were doing. Those black clothes seem uniform, though. Like gangs. Paramilitary. You know."

As if on cue, more reflectors cut the darkness along with the purrs of engines. Three black cars roll up and park on the side, and Magnus can very well guess whom they belong to before he can see Coulson emerge from the first one. Despite the early hour, the man looks alert and pristine to the point of obscenity.

"Good morning." He nods at them, unperturbed by the lack of response. "I'm afraid I have to ask you to leave."

"Leave?" Kurt asks back incredulously. Magnus and Anne-Britt exchange looks with Nyberg.

"Here." Coulson hands over the thin manila folder he's been holding. "Signed and stamped by the minister himself. Original and two copies, should you be needing them." He adds helpfully, and Magnus wonders if this is the moment they are finally going to see Kurt pop a vein.

Instead, the man takes the folder and forces himself to look through the papers. His jaw is clenched tightly, but in the end he just shuts the folder closed and produces a stiff nod.

"Everything in order, I presume?" Coulson asks almost congenially, and Kurt's expression darkens some more.

"Pack up." He is keeping his eyes on Coulson even while addressing his colleagues, but Coulson's expression never falters.

Magnus is quite certain he would never want to get on the agent's bad side.

"Mr Martinsson, if you would." Coulson's attention is suddenly on him, and Magnus' eyes shoot to him in surprise. He glances at Kurt then, but the man just stares and doesn't say anything. So Magnus shrugs and follows Coulson down the dirt road until they can talk without having to worry about being overheard.

The shadows are already in retreat, and Magnus can see Anne-Britt laying a hand on Kurt's shoulder reassuringly before she gets into her car. Nyberg is already pulling on the road, nodding at them as he drives past. Magnus tries to force his sleep deprived brain into making sense of the mess. It doesn't paint a very pretty picture.

"Neville really did take something with him, didn't he?"

Coulson keeps staring at the scene blankly and doesn't answer.

"He got greedy. Turned to the wrong side for help and it killed him," Magnus continues. His neck is stiff with the incoming headache of sleeplessness.

"It's only to be expected if one plays with forces they don't fully understand." Coulson deadpans, and suddenly Magnus wishes he could just shake the other man until the truth is out. "I would be very careful if I were you, Mr Martinsson." Coulson adds flatly, as though they are conversing about nothing more than the weather.

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"I may have taken the liberty of setting up surveillance in your flat." Coulson tilts his head, peering up at him almost apologetically, but the look in his eyes is sharp.

"Excuse me?" Magnus blinks, resisting the urge to rub the bridge of his nose. Gorgeous. Just gorgeous. The headache suddenly seems a lot closer than before. This is surely some kind of joke. And a very bad one at that.

"Desperate times, Mr Martinsson. I must admit, I was hoping my warnings would bear more weight with you."

"You spied on me?" Magnus snaps incredulously. Coulson doesn't even blink. "God."

"In case you are considering an arrest, everything has already been removed," Coulson says and all Magnus can do is blink at him.

"And the...?" He makes a vague gesture.

"Classified." Coulson takes a brief pause. "Highest priority."

"Is that supposed to be reassuring?" Magnus bites back, but he knows he is fighting an uphill battle here. "This is all about him, isn't it?" He cannot bring himself to say the name, but Coulson obviously doesn't need him to because he offers the smallest of nods.

"There is so much more at stake than you could ever imagine."

"What are they?" Magnus eyes the line of dead bodies like drowned crows. "Terrorists? Organized crime?"

"Maybe." Coulson clasps his hands behind his back. "Trust me on this, Mr Martinsson. Some people are better off dead."

"Convenient standpoint." Magnus snorts.

"More like a necessity," Coulson says, and it's the first time Magnus can hear true emotion in his voice.

"Remind me to never cross your path," he turns, but Coulson's hand on his arm stops him.

"In fact, I was hoping you would join it."

Magnus' eyes travel between the hand and Coulson's face, and the grip promptly disappears. "You have to be kidding me."

"Our department is always on the lookout for potential recruits. The director has expressed an explicit interest in meeting you."

"Why would you want to hire-- Oh." Magnus would like to laugh, but he suddenly feels too tired for it. "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, is that it?"

"When you put it like that."

"I believe we are done here. If you'll excuse me." There are so many things he could say, but Magnus swallows them all and turns to walk away instead.

"If you change your mind, you have my card." Coulson calls after him. Magnus stops dead on his tracks and looks up at the sky. It's cloudy and bleak.

"What about the phone?"

"He has a rather... peculiar sense of humour," Coulson says.

Magnus nods and keeps on walking.

---

"Magnus, I need those reports."

"But I was just-- Nevermind." Magnus huffs out under Kurt's stern gaze. Goodbye lunch break, apparently. Again. Magnus grabs the cup of tea he's been making and drops down into his chair with a sigh. "He'd die if he let anyone take a breather for once," he mutters under his breath, taking a sip.

Then his eyes fall on the envelope on his desk.

Magnus is quite sure that it wasn't there five minutes ago, and the regular morning bundle of post has already been sorted and processed. On a closer look, it has his name scribbled on it, and Magnus frowns as he turns it around. It's unsealed. He glances across the room, but Kurt seems busy with whatever he is doing.

There is a folded note and a thick card inside, and Magnus almost drops his cup when he realises it's a flight ticket. New York, business class. Monday morning. Hastily, he unfolds the note. Handwritten, and Magnus recognises the style immediately, even though he only ever saw it once before.

Maybe you should reconsider that offer.

No signature. It doesn't matter. Incredulous, Magnus laughs despite himself.

"The reports, Magnus!" Kurt calls across the room.

"I'm on it!" He rolls his eyes, slipping the papers into the top drawer. It takes his entire lunch break and some of his afternoon to get done with the files and drop them off on Kurt's desk. It earns him a glance before Kurt goes back to whatever folder he is going through.

"Kurt?" Magnus clears his throat.

"That's all, you can go."

"Kurt."

"What is it?" Kurt looks up at him, eyes squinting.

"I'm taking next week off." Magnus shrugs. "Thought you might want to know."

"Ah," Kurt says, looking like he is still piecing together the meaning of the words in his head, eyebrows rising. "What, the entire week?"

"For now."