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As Usual

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Loki got up as usual, got dressed as usual, cursed the entire universe as usual, and made himself a goddamn cup of coffee, as usual.  So it goes.

He spilled on his shirt and had to change it, as usual, his car refused to start, as recent development would have it, and while stalking angrily down the street, his neighbor’s dog started barking furiously at him, as it had been doing for the past couple weeks and was shaping up to becoming usual.

“He didn’t use to bark at you so much, Loki,” Stan, - Steve? - his neighbor greeted, a concerned frown marring his patriotic features.  Loki held no great regard for either the man or his brown-furred menace that was making a habit of barking his head off at Loki every damn time he passed by.

“Maybe it’s past its due time for a visit to the vet,” Loki commented airily, holding back a displeased scowl, and breezed past.  The dog, usually very intelligent and friendly, continued barking at his back until he disappeared from view.

So it goes.

Work passed in the usual monotonous way: heaps of useless paperwork and dodging invites to office parties in the upcoming weekend.  Thor, especially, brought up some very convincing arguments but ultimately Loki won and at the end of the day they parted good-naturedly, Thor vowing to convince Loki next time.

Loki knew that wouldn’t happen next time, either.  In fact, in the past two years in which Loki’s lived and worked in the town, Thor managed to convince him to go to an office party exactly once, and that ended in a disaster the likes of which swore Loki off office parties forever.

It was a mystery why Thor persevered with his invites.

So it goes.

Friday nights usually consisted of movie marathons, as opposed to book marathons on Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes he went out clubbing instead, and the previous year he had dedicated two months’ worth of weekends to going out with Clint Barton, the sharp-eyed something working in the office building next door Loki’s.  He went to Budapest on business for a week and came back a changed man with a redheaded new lover in tow.  At that time Loki spent the weekend away and came back a changed man with a mile wide frosty wall in tow.  So it goes.

Staffy next door greeted Loki warmly upon return whilst holding back his wildly barking dog until Loki managed to slip into his home as fast as he could and slammed the door behind him. The lawn, he’d noticed in his hurry, was due to be mowed soon.

The marathon Loki chose to watch that evening was of Game of Thrones, mainly because he found the younger Stark girl endearing.  By the time he finished his quota of nerdiness for the day it was nearly midnight and the full moon peeked eerily through the slightly agape curtains.

Time for bed, Loki decided, stretching his stiff limbs and yawning.  Outside, Stepman’s insufferable dog was barking its head off and one had to wonder when someone would shut the thing up.  On his way to the bedroom Loki shut the living room window in a vain attempt to keep the noise out.  It didn’t work.  So it goes.

Usually, Loki tried to keep a glass of water nearby at all times.  Usually, he would forget until the time came when he actually needed said glass of water. So on a very usual basis Loki would find himself having to make the cruise all the way to the kitchen for a midnight glass of water, most often cursing and grumbling.  Thankfully, his house was minimalistic enough that he didn’t have to grope for the lights and squint against the brightness in a half-asleep attempt at not stumbling into furniture, and that saved him a lot of time and headaches both sleep-wise and not.

With a glass of water in his belly and another in his hand, Loki made his way back to his bedroom, closing the living room window on the way.  The chilly breeze acted rousingly on Loki’s boxer-clad self and that was the last thing he wanted when his dream was just so good he couldn’t wait to get back to it. Outside, Stud’s dog wasn’t barking anymore and Loki smiled sleepily at the realization.

The chill, however, persisted, and Loki noted he would have to find the draft and fix it eventually, but for the moment he hurried his step so he could burrow back into the warm sheets of his bed.  And that’s exactly what he did: he flopped on the bed as soon as he put down his glass of water and went to sleep.

Sleep.

He went…  To sleep.

And so it happened that sleep evaded Loki after that, and there was nothing he could do but toss and turn endlessly, staring at the various objects in his room illuminated by the full moon outside, like the vase and the nightstand and the knife glinting right above his head–wait.

What?

A decisive swoosh would have been the last thing Loki ever heard had his reflexes not kicked into gear and had him roll out of the way of certain doom right in that moment.  Falling off the side of the bed not occupied by a murderous maniac, Loki got onto his feet in record time, suddenly much, much more awake, much, much more alert, and much, much more confused than before.

On the other side of the bed Loki could make out the figure of a dainty, yet formidable blonde with a formidable yet dainty butcher’s knife clutched tightly in her grip and illuminated by the full moon and her glowing eyes both.  Suddenly, Loki’s heart was hammering in his throat and all he could manage past it was a strangled choke as he scrambled to the bedroom door backwards, not taking his eyes off the intruder until he was booking it down the hall towards the kitchen, where he could hopefully find something to defend himself with.

Inexplicably his path was blocked by the same woman Loki could have sworn was still standing in the bedroom and he nearly shishkebabbed himself before he could make the sharp turn back where he came from.  The coarse screech of the creature followed his footsteps.  Outside, Steve’s dog was barking again.  Ah.  So that’s what it had been trying to tell him.

Then Loki was flying through the air and slamming into the opposite wall and all thoughts of that dog flew right out of his head, deciding instead to focus on survival.

There was invisible pressure on his limbs and he couldn’t move.  His head was hurting because of the blow he suffered, and all that was filling his vision was the killer’s glowing eyes, her twisted smirk, that knife rearing in preparation, and then– nothing.

Admittedly, that nothing was preceded by a shout, not his or the woman’s, and a tackle, not of him or by him. But then there was nothing in his immediate field of vision, and he was staring into the abyss of the dark corridor stretching ahead.

The moment was broken by the scuffle right by Loki’s feet: two people, one of which was the woman, were grappling at each other, trying to both grab hold of and evade the knife while battling for their lives.  Grunts and growls of the undesirable type flew through the air.  Neither of them were paying attention to Loki anymore. And that was too bad, because the invisible pressure keeping Loki in place was now gone and he was free to move. So move he did.

In hindsight, it wasn’t so much courage as it was panic that made him do it.  Jumping into a fight and trying to knock a deadly weapon out of a maniac’s hand?  That was practically suicide!  And yet, there he was.  So it goes.

The few precious seconds Loki won with his actions presented a window of opportunity for both Loki and his sudden unexpected savior to get the hell away from there.  Too bad that man didn’t take the hint.  Instead, he procured another weapon out of seemingly nowhere and plunged it swiftly and precisely into the woman’s chest.

She gaped.  Loki gaped.  She screamed and disintegrated, Loki screamed and fainted.

It was nearly midday when Loki woke up, confused as hell.  Usually, he could attest, his dreams didn’t feature homicidal women trying to kill him in his own bed, nor were there usually handsome strangers randomly housebreaking in the middle of the night and rescuing him from said homicidal woman.  His memory was too clear for it to have been a dream and yet, it was too surreal not to have been.

The house was in perfect condition as usual: nothing broken or missing, devoid of life bar Loki himself. All evidence suggested that he had been dreaming.  And yet…

Choosing to delay his Saturday book marathon by just a little more, Loki left the house and walked down the street to the grocery store for some much needed stocking up. The shopkeeper was an elderly lady with the sweetest personality.  Her name was Frigga.  She knew and greeted everyone by name, including Loki himself, and she always gave the best cooking advice one could ask for.  Usually she was a very mild woman, but her temper was legendary.  Once, Loki had the misfortune –or, maybe fortune? -to be in the shop when a particularly rude and annoying customer stumbled their way in.  Oh, was that a sight to be reckoned with.  Not because it was fiery or explosive.  In fact, Frigga barely raised her voice, just flayed the offender into tiny pieces using nothing but words and a polite smile. Loki idolized the woman.

The trip to the grocery store proved to Loki a half-baked theory he had been forming since he woke up: his short walk was silent.  Steve’s dog wasn’t barking at him anymore.

“You’re looking awfully thoughtful there, Loki,” Frigga greeted. “Did you get a visit from the FBI, too?”

“Pardon?” Loki startled out of his own thoughts.

“There have been two murders in different neighborhoods these past couple months and an FBI agent is investigating.  Haven’t you heard?”

No, Loki had not, but it seemed awfully convenient.

“This FBI agent, has he left a contact, perhaps an address?” Loki queried.  There was a knowing glint in Frigga’s eyes when she handed over a piece of paper with the address of a motel just out of town.  What exactly was it that she knew, Loki hadn’t the faintest.

The Saturday book marathon took another rain check as Loki found himself on the bus headed to the motel barely minutes after putting the groceries away.  He did put on an audio book in silent apology but it barely registered, lost as he was in his thoughts.  That wasn’t particular to this case, either.  Loki owned a grand total of one audio book which he could never listen to until the end because of his tendency to fidget with objects or concepts and get distracted.  The only actual benefit of the audio book was providing a monotonous background of chatter with which he could focus better on his projects. So it goes.

Loki found himself staring at the blinking sign announcing the existence of a “ROASIE OTL”, wondering if it was worth it.  If what he remembered of the previous night was true, what implications did that have for Loki, his life, his peace?

The room number was written on the paper clutched in Loki’s hand.  The same number was written on the door he was staring down nervously, gathering the courage to do the one thing that had the potential of blowing up in his face.  And yet, he deserved some answers, didn’t he?

“I know I’m a pretty sight but a hello would be nice,” a voice rumbled through Loki’s thoughts, effectively derailing them and bringing him back to real life where a handsome sight was leaning against the – now open –door’s casing.

The man was short, dressed in T-shirt and jeans, both of which had oil stains.  He looked as if he’d just rolled out of bed with his messy hair and unkept goatee.  In short, he looked like a mechanic.  A very handsome one, at that.

Loki’s eyes flicked to the room number hung on the door –it was the correct one.  Perhaps he’s missed the FBI agent?

“I apologize, I was under the impression an agent Edward Rhodes was staying here…”

“That’s me,” the man bobbed his head, and Loki had to do a double take.

“… Right,” Loki said skeptically, already working on other possibilities, “Thank you for your time.”

The man’s expression turned amused and slightly indignant.

“You want to know about your dream,” he said, “the one where a glowing-eyed woman is trying to kill you.”

That prompted Loki to turn a sharp searching look at the man, and suddenly it clicked.

“You’re the one from last night,” stumbled out of Loki’s mouth at once.  The guy grinned and stepped back to allow Loki into the room. It barely warranted hesitation to follow in.

“So, you’re probably not an FBI agent, are you?  Is your name even Edward Rhodes?”

“Tony Stark, at your service.”


Loki got up as usual, got dressed as usual, and checked his arsenal of weapons, as usual. On his way to the kitchen he was greeted by Jarvis, the loyal ghost cohabiting the bunker, and then by a cup of freshly made coffee, as usual. Accompanying the cup, as recent development would have it, was a kiss by his boyfriend of a few months, Tony Stark. After that came a few quiet hours during which Tony tinkered with various parts of their equipment and Loki browsed the web in search of a new hunt for them.

The dirty road wasn’t new, after over a year of traversing it, and was blessedly free of annoying neighbors with loud dogs.

So it goes.