Clint Barton had never been religious not at all. He had a fuzzy memory, like looking through broken and foggy glasses, of his mother wearing a cross. Clint always frowned to himself when he remembered it because it always brought questions forward he could never answer. Was she incredibly religious? Did she go to church? Did she take Clint and Barney with her to church? Simple, silly, innocent questions like that were what haunted him the most about never being able to know his mother. Because he truly never knew her . Barney had known her a bit better just because he was older and could remember much more but Clint didn’t have even close to a clue as the where his older brother was. Plus Clint would rather not draw Barney’s attention to Clint’s rather stable living conditions. Clint doubted Barney would even remember if he could get a hold of him. Barney hadn’t been super religious either so why would he remember, out of all the things he needs to remember if his mom took him to church. It would be a waste of time. Just like Clint dwelling on his mother was a waste of his time.
So Clint wasn’t religious, he never had the need. He had made his own way, God or angels or whatever had not done it for him.
But then he found Loki for the first time. It wasn't part of the spell, he could thank Selvig for that tidbit. It wasn't part of the spell but he had wanted to worship at the altar of Loki more than anything else. He had never desired anything more than to kneel or crouch or sit in front of someone so much more powerful and impressive than he. It wasn't part of the spell so Loki didn't seem to notice or at least pretended not to notice. At first. At first, Loki spoke to him, concise orders and no physical contact. But the night before Loki left for Stuttgart he had seemed different. Remorseful. Clint hadn't understood and still didn't understand what he had done that night.
Loki and Clint had gone over the plan for the umpteenth time that night and Clint was beyond exhausted. Drained and tired but still he sat straight and vigilant because Loki had not yet ordered him to relax. Loki looked awful, not ugly if anything Clint would have said Loki was the most handsome person he had ever had the pleasure to lay his eyes on but Loki was tired too. And dirty, they both needed rest and Loki needed a shower.
Loki sighed and shut his eyes and Clint wondered if he was going to fall asleep at the table. He hadn't been given permission to speak so he didn't ask if Loki was tired even though he wanted to.
Loki opened his eyes, glanced up at Clint and spoke, “Let us adjourn for now. I'm sure you're exhausted, Barton,”
Clint didn't speak and Loki chuckled, “You may speak,”
“I’ll be fine, boss. Really, I'm more worried about you. Do you get tired or hungry?”
“You’re speaking rather out of turn. Aren't you, Barton? Your concern is adorable but misplaced. I asked you if you are well and you answered, that will be all,” Loki stood and nearly fell over.
Loki frowned and looked over at Clint, “This rest and food of which you seemed so eager to provide for me, where would you receive it from?”
Clint made a face, “I have a cot that you can sleep on and some granola bars. I'm realizing now as I say this that you deserve a thousand times better so I'll figure it out, sir, I swear,”
“No, what you've spoken of sounds adequate for the night. I wish to retire so do lead the way,”
“Wait, shit, wait I can find better stuff we don't have to-”
“Barton, enough. I will be fine. Lead the way,”
Clint walked ahead out of the meeting room through the main space to the tiny room he had staked a claim on.
“This is it, sir. I'm sorry,”
Loki smiled at him and Clint thought he might actually cry, Loki was so beautiful and he was happy, maybe...hopefully, with whatever Clint had just said and so Clint’s heart felt light, “Barton, you have nothing to apologize for. And your eagerness to please is...pleasant. You make me feel like God,”
“You are God, my God at least,” Clint said it like a revelation, he really hadn't truly realized it until that precise moment.
Loki’s face crumpled, “Perhaps I should rest somewhere else. Barton, rest. And before you try to speak up, that was an order,”
“No,” Clint said and even looking back he was surprised he was able to speak out of turn, “What did I do? Sir, you're my God and I want to please you so let me know what I did wrong,”
You were so happy with me a moment ago, Clint thought, let’s go back to you smiling at me.
Loki looked beyond surprised that Clint spoke back to him and didn't speak. Clint thought of the speech Loki had prepared and recited to Clint over and over and acted on it. He kneeled in front of Loki, bowed his head and whispered, “please.”
Loki looked at Clint in silence and Clint couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking.
“Barton, I will find somewhere else to rest for the night. You will rest here and neither of us will ever speak of this night,”
Loki strode away looked back at Clint, still kneeling on the floor, and murmured, “You will live to regret this night. However, do not let the shame overtake you. Now, rest,”
And He exited the room.
That was the last conversation Clint had had with Loki. The final words Loki had said still haunted him. He didn't regret anything he did that night except not trying harder to get Loki to stay. But Loki was right about the shame. Clint was overcome with it whenever he thought about Loki, which meant he was nearly constantly being devoured with shame. It had gotten worse when on Clint's worse days he would pray to Him, just ramble into the darkness of his bedroom. He would recount the whole day, feel better about being able to vent even though he knew no one was listening and then go to bed. Some days he swore Loki could hear him and made the day after Clint prayed a lot more manageable.
Clint had even taken to doing it when he was out on missions, never as loudly and he never said His name but all the same.
He looked down at his hands and let the shame, that Loki had foretold, consume him in light of a recent event.
The mission was messy and bloody, not everyone in the room with Clint was gonna make it out alive. Clint had made peace with that but he wanted to pray to Loki one last time in case he died. So he sat in the dirty hole in the ground with five other agents and clasped his hands together to pray. It had actually taken him quite some time to perfect his method and form, if anyone knew enough about his habit to ask him, he would say he were proud of how far he’d come from the first time. That had been a bad day, although since the Manhattan attack bad days were a more common occurrence. The second time he had submitted himself to Loki, the first time he prayed, the first time he submitted without the spell at all, Clint had been in an awful place.
He was trusted as much as he could be by the higher ups after such an incident but his equals held a barely restrained contempt and subordinates couldn’t even look him in the eye for fear of him. And it was on another dirty, grimy, awful mission that an underling left Agent Barton to die, Clint could see it in the kid’s eyes, it wasn’t like anyone was going to miss him. In the hospital the night after the ordeal the words had flown out as he had shook and cried and wished with all his might for Loki to be alive and to come back for him.
But during his most recent mission he kneeled down with his hands clasped together and just as he started he heard one of the other agents.
“Agent Barton, are you fucking praying?”
“What the fuck does it matter to you, kid?”
“No disrespect, sir….actually can I join you?”
Before Clint could say ‘no’ all five of them had gotten close to have Clint lead them in prayer. And that was what really got Clint, he prayed aloud and remained vague, of course, but all of their prayers were still directed at Loki. And all the agents around him had blasphemed because of him.
So yeah, being brainwashed by Loki fucking ruined his life, just not in the usual way. Sometimes he envied Selvig, good old normal ‘crazy’, the type of crazy you bought at Walmart or Target not the type you had to have special ordered from a local seller of organic crazy like Clint’s.
Clint felt guilty but he still prayed and with each prayer he worried more and more about Loki’s state. Could Loki hear him? Was Loki alive? Clint hoped He was. Was He being tortured? Clint wasn't sure how to get answers without seeming completely compromised though and he valued his job too much to risk it.
And then he devised a plan.
“Hey we need to talk,” Clint shouted in the main room of Avengers tower. Everyone looked up and Clint clarified, “Thor, I need to talk to you.” He stood and left the room into an empty hallway and prayed that Thor would follow.
“What is it, my friend?”
“I'm not gonna beat around the bush,” He took a deep breath, “I-” Clint couldn't find it in himself to ask to see Him again, so instead he inhaled, decided to go on with his original plan and said, “Your brother….what're they doing to him back home?”
“Just tell me,” Thor was trying to spare Clint’s feelings which probably meant Loki’s punishment wasn't as bad as it could get on Asgard. What Thor hadn't realized, to Clint’s relief, was that Clint wanted Loki to be okay.
“My brother is imprisoned in Asgard’s most secure dungeons and will stay so until the end of his days,”
Clint nodded and walked away, breathless with relief. Loki was okay. Not that that should be important to Clint, he could never see or talk to Loki again.
That night Clint prayed with all his might. He prayed for a sign from Loki and maybe all the rumors he had heard about how what you think about at night will follow you into your dreams were true because Clint dreamt of Loki that night.