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Bad Decisions

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There was not a lot of space on New Asgard, but Thor had still made certain to designate a space on the lower floors for ‘sparring and other exercise.’ Considering how high Aesir tempers tended to run, and the confined quarters, Loki suspected that it was mostly a means of trying to keep the inevitable brawls confined to a specific place.

Generally speaking, he avoided it. He wasn’t inclined to face any possible challengers, even if that was unlikely. These days a great many of the people seemed to be regarding him with some of the same vague awe they gave to Thor, or Valkyrie, or the Hulk.

It was decidedly uncomfortable.

Usually late night was a safe time to expect privacy, but it appeared this evening he wasn’t going to be so fortunate. Valkyrie was already there.

Exhaling through his nose, Loki turned to go. They had not exactly taken to each other. Or at least, she didn’t seem to have taken to him. Understandable, perhaps, but he did not exactly want to take one of her knives in his ribs. Better to keep his distance.

“You’re not running off because of me, your highness, are you?” she asked, and Loki fell still, closed his eyes, and set his jaw for a moment before turning.

“I thought you might wish for some privacy,” he said.

“I’m good. Who needs privacy?”

Loki drummed his fingers against his leg, but there was no way of leaving now without loss of face. He stepped over the threshold. “Not you, apparently. Though I typically prefer it.”

She flashed teeth at him. “Figures. You wouldn’t want a fight you might lose.”

Loki’s spine snapped taut, anger flaring up. “Why, Valkyrie,” he said, tone shifting. “That sounds almost like you are trying to bait me into testing myself against you.”

“You came down here,” she said. “Might be nice to have a target that punches back. Or at least tries.”

“You’ve been lacking?”

“For some reason,” she said, “a lot of people seem kind of reluctant to take me on.” Loki thought there was a trace of bitterness in her voice. Perhaps she was not enjoying the hero worship as much as he would have expected.

Loki studied her, then smiled tightly. “No,” he said. “I think I’ll pass.”

Valkyrie seemed genuinely surprised. “What?”

“I said, I think I’ll decline your generous offer,” Loki said. “I don’t need you to prove to me that you can punch me in the face if you want to. I know that already, and I do indeed prefer to avoid causing myself unnecessary physical damage.”

She stared at him, expression hardening. “Coward,” she accused.

“So I have been called before,” Loki said, masking the sting. “I think of it as prudence. If you will excuse me–” He sketched a bow and turned away again.

She grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. Reflexively, Loki broke her grip and twisted out of the way; she followed. He duplicated himself, slipped around behind her as she went for his decoy, hooked his foot around her ankle and tugged.

She went down, though she was back on her feet fast, whirling to look at him with her eyes bright and angry. Loki held up his hands.

“I told you,” he said. “I am not interested in sparring with you.”

Her hands balled into fists. “You owe me a fight where you don’t cheat.”

“I don’t owe you anything,” Loki said. “I daresay you already had your revenge when you knocked me out and put me in chains.”

Her frustration grew visibly. “I don’t want revenge.

“Whatever you do want, then,” Loki said, “find it somewhere else.”

Her jaw tightened and she took a step toward him, something dangerous gleaming in her eyes. “That doesn’t really work for me.”

“That’s a pity. I suggest you try Thor. He would probably be more amenable.” He turned away again.

Probably a mistake, in retrospect, to turn his back on a furious Valkyrie.

She pulled his hair. He scratched her face and put an elbow in her solar plexus. She aimed a knee for his balls and he managed to take it in the hip instead, but her follow-up punch snapped his head back. She threw him down and he flipped them over and scrambled to his feet, an inch from summoning his knives and ending this.

She paused, staring at him and breathing hard, her hair a mussed tangle. “Are you done?” Loki asked her testily.

Valkyrie ran her fingers through her hair and dropped her hand. “We should fuck,” she said.

Loki blinked once, then again. “I beg your pardon?” he said blankly. Valkyrie looked like she was going to roll her eyes, then closed the distance between them, and, stunned, Loki didn’t move back fast enough to stop her from grabbing the front of his shirt.

“I said,” she said, “we should fuck. You’re hot, I’m horny, and you might be able to keep up with me. And I’ve been thinking about screwing you into a mattress for the last week. I don’t like you, but apparently I want to fuck you. So?”

He blinked several times in quick succession. “Really?” Loki said, more than a little breathless.

Valkyrie looked like she was going to snarl. “Do you really want to give me a chance to rethink this really stupid idea?”

“I’m hurt.” She narrowed her eyes.

“You really don’t know when to shut your mouth, do you?” She asked.

“It’s one of my charms.” Loki smiled brightly at her.

“It’s one of your somethings.” Valkyrie glared up at him, and then shrugged, her smile appealingly dangerous. “Well. What’s one more stupid idea? I’ve had worse ones.”

“Should I take that as a challenge?” Loki asked.

“Take it however you want,” she said. “But I bite back.”

“I should certainly hope so,” Loki said. “It wouldn’t be any fun otherwise.”

Her grin widened. “All right,” she said. “I think we can have fun together.”

The door had barely shut behind them when Valkyrie slammed him into it, her arm across his chest. Loki’s head bounced back against it and he grunted more in surprise than pain, but didn’t shove her off. “Is this foreplay or were you just waiting until we got here to kill me?” He asked.

She leaned in toward him, her chin lifting, and Loki bent his head down to meet her. She grabbed a handful of his hair and dragged his head further down, biting down on his lower lip and rolling it between her teeth. Loki sucked in a breath. Her body pressed hard against his and he could feel himself stirring, cock starting to fill.

When she pulled back her eyes were bright and Loki could just see the flush under her skin. He touched his tongue to his teeth and slid his hands down her back.

“I guess that answers that question,” he said, still lightly.

“You’re going to talk too much, aren’t you,” Valkyrie said. He smiled at her.

“Probably. You can always try to shut me up.”

“I could always gag you,” she shot back. Loki heard himself make a small and faintly embarrassing noise. Her eyes lit up.

“Oh,” she said. “So it’s like that, is it?”

“Don’t get ideas,” Loki said breathlessly.

“Oh, I’m getting a lot of ideas.” she said, and Loki deeply resented the fact that her tone of voice and grin both sent a shiver through him. He grabbed her ass and pulled her toward him, slotting one of his legs between hers. She gasped, grinding against his thigh, and Loki felt a flush of pride. Her fingers dug into his shoulders hard enough to bruise and Loki’s hips bucked forward.

“Care to - ah - share any of those ideas?” Loki asked, as Valkyrie’s breathing started to turn ragged. “Or are you feeling a little - distracted?”

“Shut up,” she said, pulling away, twisting him around and shoving him back toward the bed. He let himself drop onto it, leaning back as she climbed on, straddling him. She tossed her mussed hair back out of her face and pressed down, her body hot against the bulge in his pants. Her eyes were dark, lips parted as she rutted against him through their clothes. He groaned and moved his hands to squeeze the muscles of her ass.

She swatted his hands away, but only so she could stand up and strip off her shirt and pants. “Yours too,” she ordered, and Loki took the expedient route, flicking his fingers to remove his clothes entirely.

The way she barely even paused to admire before climbing back over him would have been insulting, but when he skimmed his fingers up her inner thighs she was wet enough to dispel that particular insecurity. He shifted his hand, dragging wetness up from her core and then bracketing her clit with two fingers. The angle wasn’t ideal for his wrist but, well, the way she gasped and bucked was worth it.

Valkyrie wrapped one hand around the back of his neck and lifted up on her knees, easing the strain on Loki’s wrist. He stared up at her, her head flung back, chasing her pleasure with single-minded determination, and thought it might be the most arousing thing he’d ever seen.

“Move your hand,” she said, and Loki blinked.


“I said, move it,” she almost snarled, and Loki pulled his hand away, half opening his mouth to demand to know why, when she was plainly enjoying herself--

Only then she sank down onto him and he stopped being able to say anything at all. He stared at her, wide-eyed and gasping, and when she shoved his shoulders down flat against the bed he didn’t push back at all, just bucked his hips up against her to a thoroughly satisfying gasp.

She rocked her hips back and forth and it was Loki’s turn to gasp, tensing as the shift of her body squeezed his cock. She braced her hands on his shoulders and started riding him, blunt nails digging into skin, setting a brutal pace that brought their bodies hard together. He grabbed onto her hips, breathing hard.

“If I’d known - you wanted it this bad-” He managed, only to cut off when her fingers dug in above his collarbone hard enough to bruise. She bared her teeth.

“I’m not the only one who wants it bad,” she said, and stopped. Loki sucked in a breath.

“No, don’t,” slipped out of him before he could hold it back, and she smirked.

“See?” She said. Loki growled and surged up, flipping them over. His cock slipped out of her doing it, but when he thrust slowly back into her she moaned, grabbing a handful of his hair and dragging his head back. Loki hissed but his hips jerked, cock pulsing inside her, and she laughed breathlessly.

“Get moving,” she said, low and rough, lifting one leg up over his hip, grinding against him. Loki grinned.

“As my lady wishes,” he teased. She yanked his hair harder and he groaned and started moving, long, slow, thrusts, taking his sweet time.

“Oh, fuck you,” Valkyrie said, voice thick with frustration as her hips pushed up against his.

“You could if you wanted,” Loki said lightly, before he could stop himself.

“I might - hnn. Might have to take you up on that invitation - fuck, that’s good--”

Loki couldn’t help but glow. He braced his hands on either side of her and quickened his thrusts, rapidly approaching his orgasm, listening to her harsh exhalations punctuating his movements. She wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him deeper, and the air left Loki’s lungs in a rush as he came.

She shoved at him almost immediately and Loki rolled off and to his back, still breathing hard and staring at her, dazed. Her skin gleamed with a faint sheen of sweat.

He turned back toward her and moved so he could touch his tongue to the hollow of her throat.

“Satisfied already?” He asked, sliding one hand down to her hip.

“Are you?” She asked, a challenge in her voice. He moved his mouth down over her breast, stroking his tongue lightly across her nipple. She made a sort of “hm” sound and arched, ever so slightly.

“If you want something,” Loki said, not quite able to keep the laugh out of his voice. She growled.

“You do talk too much,” she said, tangling her fingers in his hair and shoving his head down.

“So,” Valkyrie said, sprawled on her back next to Loki. She sounded lazy, a slight slur to her words.

“So,” Loki echoed. He didn’t think he could move.

“So,” Valkyrie said. “I don’t think anyone needs to know about this. Do you?”

Loki snorted. “Who would I tell? Thor? It’s none of his business who I take to my bed.”

“I’m pretty sure I took you to bed,” Valkyrie said. “But - good. Sounds good.”

“Yes,” Loki said. “Good.”


“Are we doing this again?” Valkyrie asked. Loki held very still for a moment, then shrugged.

“I’m game if you are.”

“Well then,” Valkyrie said. “I’m calling it. Next time I need a little tension relieved...between now and then maybe I can even find something to fuck you with.”

Loki felt his face warm and cleared his throat. Her eyebrows rose.


“I like to be prepared,” Loki said primly. Valkyrie snorted.

“Right,” she said. “You know, you’re just full of surprises, Lackey.”

“I pride myself on it,” Loki said, and to his relief she didn’t ask any further questions about what else he kept tucked away. Though that might have been because she’d fallen asleep.

Loki dressed himself and left her there, though the walk back to his own room felt distinctly wobbly.

“Don’t go easy on me,” Loki had told her, laughing, watching Valkyrie tighten the straps of the harness. She’d smirked at him.

“Why would you think I would?”

He should’ve known better. Norns, she’d probably taken it as a challenge.

Knotting a hand in his hair, she bent him over the side of the bed, rubbing the dildo against the curve of his ass. Loki groaned, his fingers curling into the blanket as his hips pushed back against her.

“You’re eager for it, aren’t you, your highness,” she said. Loki would have snapped back - something cutting, but her thumb pressed down over his asshole and he lost what he’d been thinking.

“I can’t imagine you’re - complaining,” Loki managed. He tried to twist to see her, only for her to shove him down again. His cock twitched, pinned between his body and the sheets.

“I’m not,” she said. Her thumb left and he felt the dildo pressing against him instead. The air left Loki’s lungs. He made a barely audible sort of ‘hnn’ noise, body jerking, and Valkyrie laughed. “Not yet, huh? Not easy enough for you?”

“Did I say I needed you to stop,” Loki said, his voice thin. She hummed.

“Are you telling me you don’t want a little warm-up first? Worried you can’t last that long?” She dragged two slick fingers across his hole, pressing until his body gave. Loki turned his head into the bed to muffle his whine, only for her to withdraw almost immediately.

“Tease,” Loki accused.

“Uh-uh,” she said. “I’d only be teasing if I weren’t planning on giving it to you, and I’m definitely giving it to you.” Loki’s stomach clenched in a mixture of nerves and arousal.

“Get on with it, then,” Loki said, squirming. “I don’t need-”

“Don’t need this?” Her fingers were back, this time pushing in deeper. Loki cried out loudly and Valkyrie laughed in her chest.

“Sounds to me like you’re into it,” she said. “Really into it.” Loki licked his lips.

“Are you just - stalling?” He said. “I thought I told you not to go easy on me.”

“Yeah,” she said, and her fingers twisted. “You did say that.” She pulled out. “All right, then. As his highness wishes.”

She slammed into him in one stroke that drove a shout from his lungs, her fingers digging into his hips nearly hard enough to bruise.

“You are loud,” she said, sounding gleeful. Loki’s face heated.

“Shut up,” he said breathlessly, still adjusting to the full feeling of the dildo in his ass.

“Hey, I’m not complaining,” she said. “It’s good for my ego.” She moved her hips in a shallow thrust that made him gasp again. He shivered pleasantly, the cocky carelessness in her voice pulling at him.

“In that case,” he said, bracing himself.

She rocked her hips, moving the dildo inside him. “Let me see if I can make you scream,” she said. “I want to hear that.

“Do your worst,” Loki said, which was his second mistake.

He grabbed onto the head of the bed for dear life and muffled his howl into the pillow as she did her damnedest to fuck him through the mattress. And she might actually be able to.

She stopped moving and Loki made a strangled, guttural noise. “Just checking in,” she said.

“I’m - perfect,” Loki managed.

“Good,” she said, a laugh in her slightly breathless voice. “I wouldn’t want you to think I was going easy.

Loki started to snarl, but it broke off when she shifted her hips so the cock she was wearing prodded just right inside him and it turned into a whine. She did laugh, then, and reached down to grab a handful of his hair like an anchor before she started riding him again.

By the time she let him come he was too useless to do much of anything but watch her get herself off with her hand. He did lick her fingers clean afterwards, though, still dazed and foggy-headed.

“My ass hurts,” he informed her, voice a little blurry.

“Poor baby,” she said, without sympathy. He frowned at her, and she raised her eyebrows. “Want me to kiss it and make it better?”

Loki cracked a grin at her. “I assume you’d want me to wash, first.” She kicked him.

“You told me not to go easy.”

“I did say that.” Loki shifted, thinking about rolling over, and stopped. “Sorry I didn’t. Mm. Reciprocate.”

“You’ve still got a working mouth, don’t you?” She said. “I can go again.”

A pleasant little shiver ran down his spine. “Well then,” he said, lowering his voice and sliding his hand down to her hip. “I’d be happy to oblige.”

“So that story Thor told,” Valkyrie said. “About the snake thing. I assume that was shapeshifting.”

“Hmm-mm,” Loki said, grimacing at the stew he was attempting to eat. “It was.”

“Is a snake the only one you can do? Because I heard a rumor on Sakaar,” Valkyrie said. Loki’s stomach tightened and he raised his eyebrows.

“I imagine you heard a lot of rumors on Sakaar.”

“About you.”

Loki’s stomach tightened and he felt his expression chill. “I imagine there were a lot of those, too.”

“Come off it,” Valkyrie said. “I’m not judging you. What happens on Sakaar can rot there, as far as I’m concerned. I’m just curious.”

Loki didn’t particularly like doing this in public. He hadn’t liked doing it then. He didn’t even know how the Grandmaster had found out, but once the Grandmaster got an idea in his head there was no saying no to him. But he could tell that Valkyrie wasn’t about to let this go.

So he shifted. The feeling was strange initially, even if his clothes were enchanted to shift with him so they still fit comfortably; there was still that moment of adjustment to a different body. Looking at Valkyrie, Loki raised his eyebrows in (relatively mild) challenge.

“Huh,” Valkyrie said.

“Curiosity satisfied?” His voice wasn’t all that different. Maybe a half an octave higher. He could feel his body almost vibrating with tension.

“Not exactly.” Valkyrie studied him with a peculiar expression on her face. “You still look like you.”

Loki blinked, and frowned. “Who else would I look like?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Did you have black hair when you were a snake? I figured you’d, I don’t know. Do something else. Imitate me, maybe.”

“I could, if you like,” Loki said, and did not try hard enough to dispel the tight note in his voice. She gave him an odd look.

“What’s the matter?”

“This isn’t-” Loki didn’t know how to explain. “It isn’t a parlor trick.

“So what is it, then?”

Loki floundered. Not sure how to explain why this kind of shapeshifting wasn’t the same as turning into a snake, or a fox, or an otter. He just knew it wasn’t, and the prickling sensation it gave him when someone acted like it was…

Valkyrie edged a little closer to him. “It is still you, isn’t it,” she said, a little bit of an odd tone in her voice. “Not a different skin, more like...a different set of clothes.” She huffed. “Okay. You can change back, if you want.”

Loki glanced at her sidelong, confused. “What?”

She shrugged. “I thought it was something else. I get it, though. If you’re not feeling it, you don’t have to, but you should know that if you ever wanted to look like that in bed I’d be really into it.” She paused. “And I’m guessing you’ve never been eaten out by one of the Valkyrior.”

Loki blinked, rocking a little back. “I...can’t say that I have.”

She grinned toothily. “Few centuries around a lot of different women who all have their own tastes and you pick up some things.” Loki stared at her. “I’m just saying,” she said. “Either way, I’m going to have fun.”

He’d had a number of other partners over the centuries who had worked out the possibilities of his shapeshifting abilities and found them disconcerting. And there were a few who had found those possibilities appealing. But it was always the sort of thing that was...on command.

Not a standing invitation.

“Come in,” Valkyrie’s voice said, muffled. Loki opened the door and stepped inside, tense and watchful. She lifted her head and blinked twice. “Well, hello there.”

Loki raised her eyebrows. “Are you busy?”

Her grin was a little wolfish. “Not anymore.” She stood up, walking over. Loki tried not to tense further, waiting. She wasn’t sure what for. An arm’s length away Valkyrie paused and cocked her head to the side. “You look nervous.”

Loki scoffed. “I’m not nervous.”

“Uh huh.” She sounded amused. “That why you’re just standing there looking like you’re expecting me to bite you, and not in the way you like?”

Loki almost growled. She did propel herself forward toward Valkyrie, clasping the back of her neck and pulling her in for a kiss. Valkyrie’s arms slid around her waist, pulling Loki closer still as her tongue teased against Loki’s lips. She felt her pleased hum in her chest.

When she pulled back, Valkyrie was grinning, an expression that send a shiver down Loki’s spine of mingled nerves and anticipation. “You don’t spend a lot of time like this, do you,” she said.

“Not...generally, no.”

“This is going to be fun,” Valkyrie said, transparently gleeful. She moved her hands to Loki’s hips and pivoted them around so she could push her toward the bed. Loki pushed back, resisting almost reflexively, and Valkyrie dug her fingers in. “Come on,” she said. “We both know you like it when I push you around, Your Highness.”

Loki shuddered a little. “You like it when I don’t make it easy,” she said. Valkyrie pulled her hips sharply forward and leaned in, taking Loki’s lower lip between her teeth and biting down just lightly. Loki wobbled, and Valkyrie took advantage of her brief unsteadiness to push her back, hard. The backs of her knees knocked against the edge of the bed and, off balance, she sat down on it hard.

A moment later Valkyrie was straddling her lap, winding a fist in her hair and kissing her even as her other hand started the process of divesting Loki of her clothes. Or at least divesting enough of them that she could slide her hand up over Loki’s ribs and cup one of her breasts. Loki rocked her hips up like she could find some pressure to relieve the growing ache at her core and dropped back with a whine, though Valkyrie made a sound that suggested she’d found the movement more gratifying.

She withdrew her hands and stood up abruptly, and Loki sat on the bed blinking, a little dazed, watching Valkyrie strip to her skin and then climb back onto the bed, onto her. Loki slid her hands up her thighs, leaning up toward her, and Valkyrie planted her hands on Loki’s shoulders and pushed down.

“Lie back, princess,” she said. “You’ve just opened up a new world of possibilities of what I can do to you, and I want to start demonstrating.”

Loki collapsed back on the bed, scooting back so she could lie down properly with her head on the pillows. Valkyrie climbed on after her, straddling Loki’s hips, sitting up and looking down at her. Loki tried not to feel self-conscious.

“Enjoying the view?” She said dryly.

“Mmhm,” Valkyrie said, the grin coming back. “Very much. You always look good naked, Your Highness.”

A pleased shiver ran through her and she tried not to squirm. “I didn’t come here to be looked at.”

“Sure,” Valkyrie said easily. “You came here so I’d fuck you. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive.” She ran a hand lazily up over Loki’s stomach and cupped one of her breasts again, this time rolling her nipple between two fingers. Her other hand moved down, rubbing the heel of her hand in circles just above where Loki really wanted her fingers. She hissed.

“I don’t need you to–”

“Shh,” Valkyrie said. “Don’t try to boss me around. I’m taking my time, here.”

Loki dropped her head back with a frustrated noise, trying to maneuver her hips to push Valkyrie’s fingers further back, but she just pulled them away entirely.

“No, don’t–”

“You’re so impatient,” Valkyrie said, sounding like she might be about to laugh. Loki snarled, wordlessly, and she hummed. “All right, all right. Since you’re that eager…”

She moved both her hands to Loki’s waist and slid down her body, hands urging Loki’s legs apart so she could settle between them. She pulled her hair out of the way, slid her hands under Loki’s ass, and bent her head down.

Loki held herself still, barely breathing, staring down wide-eyed at Valkyrie’s head. She raised her eyes, gaze flicking up to meet Loki’s, and she could see them crinkle with what she guessed was a wicked smirk.

Then her eyes dropped again and Valkyrie breathed out softly against her cunt. Her lips hovered, just barely above skin, and Loki held her breath, almost shaking. She felt Valkyrie laugh.

“I’m guessing you don’t get this a lot,” she said, and Loki could feel every puff of air. She knotted her hands in the sheets so she didn’t squirm.

“Not - often, no.” The last person had been the Grandmaster, which very nearly doused her arousal. Valkyrie’s damp, warm, exhale brought it roaring back.

“Well, Your Highness,” she said. “Let’s see how many times I can make you come.” Loki heard her own shaky exhale that turned into a gasp when Valkyrie’s tongue just danced against her, barely brushing skin, a promise of more. The next brush of her tongue was firmer, a long, slow stroke that sent a frisson of pleasure through Loki’s body, tingling in her fingers and toes.

“Mm,” she said. “Do that again.”

Valkyrie did something else instead: her tongue pressing deeper, teasing against the her entrance like she was going to fuck her like that, then licking forward slow and deep. Loki let out a voiced exhale and arched up toward her, but Valkyrie pushed her back down hard.

“Steady, there,” she said, a laugh in her voice that made Loki flush. “Don’t rush me.” She flicked her tongue against Loki’s clitoris and she yelped; then she sucked and Loki heard a strangled noise explode out of her own throat.

She expected Valkyrie to gloat, but apparently she’d decided that was enough teasing and she was going to get down to business, where business was using her tongue and lips like she was hungry for Loki’s cunt; like she was going to wring every last drop of pleasure out of Loki’s body. Licking and sucking until every inch of Loki’s body was alive with sensation, fucking her with her tongue, sliding her fingers inside and curling them as she lavished her clitoris with attention. Pausing to leave sucking marks on her inner thighs.

She was hot and shivery at the same time, thoroughly undone, and when Valkyrie finally let up and raised her head, wiping her mouth off with the back of her hand, Loki didn’t think she was ever going to move again.

“Ha,” she said. “You should see the look on your face.”

Loki covered her eyes with one hand, opened her mouth to try to reply, and gave up when the words wouldn’t come. She heard Valkyrie laugh again, though it didn’t sound like she was mocking, exactly.

Valkyrie slid up Loki’s body, hips moving in little pulses; Loki responded by shifting to push one thigh between her legs. Valkyrie gasped and ground against it, her cunt hot and wet against Loki’s skin.

“I’m not the only one who enjoyed that,” Loki said breathlessly. Valkyrie’s half closed eyes opened a little more and she smirked.

“Well, yeah,” she said, which somehow stole Loki’s voice all over again. She grabbed Valkyrie’s ass so she could hold her tight against her thigh.

Valkyrie moaned. “Fingers,” she demanded, and Loki let her go and hastened to obey, though once again the angle was awkward, not quite comfortable, and Valkyrie made a frustrated sound.

“Shit,” she said. Loki twisted and flipped her over, hiking Valkyrie’s leg up over her waist and sliding two fingers deep inside her, pressing a kiss to her belly.

“Like that?” She said. Valkyrie hissed and grabbed her hair, pulling hard enough to make Loki’s eyes water. She shifted her fingers until she felt Valkyrie gasp and shudder, her “there,” sending a delighted little shiver down her spine. Moving her thumb to slide lightly over and around her clit, she crooked her fingers to stroke inside her as well, and savored the burn in her scalp as Valkyrie strained underneath her, fingers knotted in Loki’s hair like she was trying to pull it out at the roots.

“Fuck, fuck,” Valkyrie said, shuddering as she came. Loki left her fingers where they were, dropping her head onto Valkyrie’s stomach, still pleasantly warm and shivery.

“That was nice,” she murmured, and felt Valkyrie laugh.

“Mmm,” Valkyrie said, stretching, the taut muscles in her abdomen moving under Loki’s cheek. “Don’t fall asleep on me, Your Highness. I’m not done with you.”

Loki lifted her head. “Pardon?”

“I said, I’m not done with you,” Valkyrie said. “I want to convince you to have sex with me like this again, don’t I?”

Loki’s stomach warmed, and she pressed her thighs together. “By all means,” she said, a little more breathless than she would have liked. “Convince away.”

“So,” Valkyrie asked at one point while she was riding him, “how do you feel about being tied up?”

“What?” Loki asked stupidly, and then his brain caught up to her words and he said, “good. I feel - ah. Good about it.”

“Good,” Valkyrie said, legs squeezing on either side of him. “Glad we’re on the same page.”

And then she grabbed his hand to put his fingers to her clitoris, planted her hands on his chest to pin him down, and rode him like she was trying to break the bed.

In the aftermath of that, he forgot about the other thing - at least until the evening she looked at him with a smirk and pulled out a set of metal cuffs that she dangled in front of his face. “How about it,” she said, and Loki’s breathing snagged briefly in his throat.

“I wouldn’t say no,” he said. She swung the cuffs back and forth.

“Would you say yes?” Loki swallowed, something about the gleam in her eyes making his skin prickle with a combination of desire and warning. A tantalizing combination.

“I would,” he said, when she didn’t move, and Valkyrie grinned.

“Excellent,” she said, and promptly proceeded to pin him down on his back and snap on the cuffs. “Arms over your head,” she instructed, and after considering resisting, Loki obeyed her; then she triggered - something, like a forcefield, holding his hands in place. He tested it, experimentally, and then with more concerted effort.

When he looked at Valkyrie, surprised by the lack of give (and a small part of him alarmed), she grinned. “You get all kinds on Sakaar,” she said. “Means lots of ways to keep a certain prince from squirming away.”

“You brought those with you?” Loki asked.

“Nope,” she said. “Found ‘em here. Gotta wonder what this ship was meant to be carrying, huh?” She sat back, looking down at him with a calculating gleam in her eye that made equal measures heat and nerves well up in his stomach.

“Indeed,” he said, his voice a little thinner than it should have been. “One has to wonder.”

“Well,” she said, drawing the word out. “Doesn’t really matter, does it? I’ve got better things to do.” She grinned, and Loki shivered a little. She slid her fingers down his arms, running her hands down over his chest and stopping just above his navel. Through his clothes, he could only just feel the pressure of her touch, nothing more.

Loki kept himself from letting out his breath all at once. “Taking it slowly, I see,” he said, as evenly as he could.

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “I’m going to take it real slow. I want to see how much patience you have, and how long you can go before begging.” She spread her fingers out, pressing down a little harder against his abdomen. “You like a challenge, right?”

Loki twitched, and his mouth went dry. He worked some moisture back up and said, “Who says I will beg before you run out of patience? That’s never exactly been one of your virtues.”

“I can be patient when it’s worth it,” she said, and shifted. He felt her thighs flex on either side of him, and watched Valkyrie sit up and toss her hair back over her shoulders. She studied him, and then smirked. “Whoops. Forgot to tell you to take your clothes off.”

“I can–”

“Nope,” Valkyrie said cheerfully. “No magic. We’re doing this my way.” She reached up next to his head, slid her hand under the pillow, and flipped the knife she pulled out. Loki’s eyes widened.

“Ah,” he started to say, but she raised her eyebrows and he fell quiet.

“Hold still,” she said. “I don’t want to nick anything.”

Loki held still. Leather parted like silk under the knife’s edge, and he could hear himself breathing short and fast, his heart pounding. “You’re ruining my clothes,” he said weakly.

“Yeah,” she said casually. “I am, aren’t I?” She glanced down his body, and Loki tensed.

“You don’t need to cut my pants off me,” he said.

“I don’t need to,” she said, “but I’m gonna.” Valkyrie grinned at him, looking thoroughly pleased with himself. “Or are you going to beg already? I haven’t even gotten started.”

Loki snarled at her, but he could feel himself starting to get hard, and he knew she could tell, too. “Do you hear me begging?” he snapped, and she laughed.

“Not yet,” she said, and sliced open the front seam of his pants before he could brace himself. An undignified yelp burst out of him, and he flushed. His cock twitched.

She made quick work of the rest of his pants, leaving him naked on top of the ruined scraps, then climbed off the bed and divested herself of her clothes. Loki didn’t try to pretend he wasn’t admiring her. She leaned one knee on the bed and bent over him, running her fingers lightly down his throat, and he tilted his head back without thinking.

“Okay,” she said, grin somehow widening further, and straddled his waist, dragging a fingernail down his sternum. “Let’s go for a ride.”

Valkyrie could indeed, it turned out, be very patient.

She didn’t even touch his cock for what felt like an eternity, teasing everywhere else until he was burning before finally taking him in hand and beginning to slowly, gradually, work him up, and up, and when he was quivering and holding his breath, on the edge of coming–

She stopped. Pulled her hand away. “I could use a drink of water,” she said. “Couldn’t you?”

Loki made an inarticulate noise of frustration. His hips bucked upwards and she sat down on his thighs, the bare skin of her ass seeming cool on his overheated flesh. He jerked against his bonds, which got him nowhere.

“I think water can wait,” he said, voice strained.

“Really?” she said. “I’m really thirsty.” Valkyrie started to get up, then glanced at him and said, “oh, wait. You haven’t finished yet, have you?”

Loki glared at her, his face burning. Her dark eyes danced, though he could see the flush in her cheeks that told him he was at least not alone in frustration.

“I’m not the only one who hasn’t,” he pointed out.

“Well, no,” she admitted. “Good point. Maybe I should…” She brought one hand down between her legs, spread just enough that he could glimpse what her fingers were doing. He licked his lips and swallowed hard, desire tightening the knot in his loins.

“Valkyrie,” he said, a bit breathless. She paused and raised her eyebrows at him, and Loki dropped his head back with a groan.

“I should make you ask,” she said. “But okay. I don’t need to be mean.” And her hand was around him again. He could feel slick on her fingers and knew it had to be from her. His cock pulsed and he made a faint sound in the back of his throat.

She did it again. Valkyrie knew how to touch him by now, and knew exactly how far she could push him without letting him come. His breathing shortened to gasps, nerves sparking like Thor’s lightning was dancing on his skin. His thoughts started to fracture, to blur.

But he clung to his determination not to beg.

The third time, after she did go and fetch some water, Loki was beginning to wonder if this was some kind of punishment. He drank the water she poured into his mouth, though, and then dropped his head back, trying without success to catch his breath.

He didn’t manage before Valkyrie wrapped her hand around his cock once again and squeezed. “I’m kind of impressed,” she said, and at least it was slightly gratifying that she sounded a little breathless herself. “I didn’t think you’d last this long.” She dragged her hand up and passed her thumb over the head of his cock, rubbing a slow circle. The pulse of his body felt almost wrenching.

“Valkyrie,” Loki panted, not sure if it was warning or plea.

“Hmm-mm?” She said, stopping, and Loki hissed.

Tease,” he groaned, and she grinned at him.

“You complaining?” She asked. “Can’t handle it?”

Loki squeezed his eyes closed. “I didn’t say that - ahh.” She moved, sliding up his body and rubbing against him; wet heat just brushing against his length. He jerked upwards only to be pulled back by his wrists. He twisted, sweating.

“Okay,” she said. “Great. Then I’ll just keep going, hmm?” She shifted, bringing her hand back to his cock, rubbing herself against his thigh. He pressed his leg upward and her body bucked with a gasp; her hand squeezed and Loki let out a faint sound.

“Do you want to play that game?” She said, her voice rough. “Because I can tell you now that you’re not going to win it.” A shiver ran down Loki’s spine and he couldn’t help a grin, flexing his leg against her - but the grin broke when Valkyrie shifted her grip and started pumping her hand up and down, fast and rough and after waiting this long Loki was fast unraveling.

Then she slowed again. A frustrated, furious noise exploded out of Loki’s lungs.

“What,” she said sweetly. “Did you want something, your highness?”

Loki clenched his teeth and breathed harshly through them. “You know very well what I–” he broke off with a grunt when she squeezed her hand.

“Oh, I do,” she said, and Loki wanted to growl for the smugness in her tone. “You’re not exactly subtle.”

“Norns’ sake–”

“Norns aren’t going to help you here,” Valkyrie said, and pulled her hand away.

“No-!” He said, alarmed, but she returned a moment later, her palm freshly lubricated sliding up his length, and he slumped back with a whine, his head spinning, arousal an almost painful knot in his gut.

“All right, all right,” she said. “Since you’re so eager…” She raised herself up and guided his cock into her, sinking down onto him slowly. Her body was slick and hot around him, and Loki stopped breathing, thrusting up to meet her and drinking in her gasp. “Let’s see if you can keep up.”

She planted her hands on his chest and started riding him, body rising and falling, fucking herself on his cock and Loki threw his head back, squeezing his eyes closed. He was close, so close already from her teasing and if she just - kept–

She slowed down, stopped. He opened his eyes and blinked stupidly at her, and she smirked. “Maybe I’ll just get myself off like this. And then let you fuck me. You can wait, right?”

Loki opened his mouth and then closed it, not quite able to find words. He could feel his pulse pounding in his cock, his body screaming at him demanding release.

“Or not,” Valkyrie said, and rolled her hips against him, dragging her blunt nails down over his chest. He gasped, arching–

It was too much. Overwhelming, and suddenly he could hear the Grandmaster in his ear saying oh come on, we can get a little more out of you, can’t we? You’re not done yet, I know you can do it and he couldn’t tell if the sensation was pleasure or pain or or or--

“Stop,” he cried out. “Stop, please,” and was almost surprised when it did.

He squeezed his eyes closed and looked away from her.

“Uh,” she said, sounding a little surprised. “Are you...okay?”

“I’m fine,” Loki said automatically.

“Yeah, should’ve figured that’d be a pointless question,” Valkyrie said. She reached up and released his wrists from the cuffs, then climbed off him. Loki waited, almost holding his breath, for her verdict. She said nothing.

“Go ahead,” Loki snapped, his eyes still closed. “Whatever you are thinking, say it.”

“I’m not thinking shit,” Valkyrie said after a moment. “Just...I don’t usually have people freak out on me in bed. Kind of wondering what I did.”

“You didn’t,” Loki swallowed. “You didn’t do anything.”

“Uh huh,” Valkyrie said. Loki resisted the urge to curl up more. His eyes prickled with anger and shame and the bitter knot of unfulfilled desire. “You know, if you’re not into it, you can just say so.”

“I am not...not into it. Generally speaking.”


Norns, could the woman not take a hint? He said nothing.

“Oh,” she said abruptly. “Is this a...fuck. Is this an En Dwi thing?” Loki wanted to scream. He did shudder, very slightly. He hadn’t heard that name, but he could guess, and the fact that she could guess made him want to crawl under the bed and stay there for a long while. Valkyrie muttered something under her breath.

“Well, shit,” she said. “I didn’t think of that. I’m...sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” Loki said. There was a hard lump in his throat like he was, Norns, going to start weeping. Thankfully, he managed to battle it back. Loki moved to get up, found himself tangled in the sheets, and swore.

“Hey,” Valkyrie said awkwardly. “It’s...fine.”

“Of course it’s fine,” Loki snapped. “What else would it be?” His skin was crawling and he fought the sheets, but they only seemed to wind tighter. He balled one hand into a fist, nails digging into his palm.

“So I guess cross that one off the to-do list,” Valkyrie said, though it sounded more to herself than to Loki. His laugh strangled in his throat. He could feel her looking at him and dug his nails in harder so he didn’t shout at her to stop. “Yeah,” she said after another moment, still seemingly to herself, “I probably should’ve guessed.”

“Guessed what,” Loki snapped.

“That he was fucking you,” she said bluntly. “I didn’t actually assume.”

Loki felt a surge of nausea. She hadn’t known. And now she did. And could tell anyone she liked how Prince Loki had slept his way to power, made himself a concubine to a madman. “It wasn’t exactly a secret.

“I wasn’t watching you that closely.” He waited for the mockery, the taunting, but the expression on her face was...uncomfortable. “That’s fucked.”

Loki forced a laugh. “I wasn’t suffering.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Course not. You just acquired a new sexual hangup because it’s fun.”

Loki’s whole body went tense. “Do not mock me.”

“I’m not,” she said. Loki felt vaguely as though he was about to panic.

“I was fine,” he said defensively. “I was surviving, I chose-

Valkyrie shrugged. “People choose a lot of things that are fucked. Doesn’t necessarily make it better.” She shifted. “We don’t have to talk about this.”

“Good,” Loki said. “Let’s not.”

“Works for me.”

This time Loki managed to successfully disentangle himself from the sheets and stand, though he still felt shaky and - and fragile.

“Wait,” Valkyrie said abruptly, and he stopped, expecting...he wasn’t certain what he was expecting. “Wanna play cards?” She said, and he turned a little toward her.

“Cards,” he said.

“Yeah,” she said. “Cards. You know what those are, I’m guessing.”

Loki stared at her, suspicious, but...the alternative was going back to his own bed and probably dreaming unpleasant dreams of Sakaar. He shrugged. “Why not? I don’t have anything better to do.”

She was undoubtedly being...kind. Perhaps felt guilty, absurd as that would be.

Just the same, Loki found he appreciated it.

“Where’s Valkyrie?” Thor asked Loki. He glanced sideways at him and raised his eyebrows.

“How would I know?”

Thor snorted. “Do you think I’m blind?” He said. “You’re spending quite a bit of time together.”

Loki shrugged one shoulder. “I don’t make a habit of monitoring her movements. We...entertain each other. That’s all.”

“Hmm-mm,” Thor said, sounding dubious. Loki fought the urge to scowl as Thor went on. “Regardless. I thought you might have some idea of her whereabouts. I’m concerned. I haven’t seen her at all today.”

“Maybe she’s sleeping off a hangover,” Loki said.

“I checked her quarters,” Thor said. “She wasn’t there.” He eyed Loki. “You’re not worried?”

“No,” Loki said. Lied, maybe. He hadn’t been, but Thor’s concern was starting to get to him. “She can take care of herself.”

Thor made another dubious “hmm-mm” noise and didn’t move away. Loki twisted toward him. “What?”

“Nothing,” Thor said quickly, and then checked himself and said, “well, actually. I just wanted to note and Valkyrie. You seem to actually be doing each other some good. Or at least you’ve both been less irritable since you started…”

“Fucking?” Loki filled in, crudely, because he was obscurely annoyed. Thor made a face.

“Yes,” he said dryly. “Since you started fucking.

Loki narrowed his eyes. “Are you going to be sentimental about it?”

Thor held up his hands. “Far be it from me to show any such thing before you, utterly devoid of sentiment as you are,” his brother said dryly. “It was just an observation. And one that pleases me.” He paused, and then said, “well, if you see Val, let her know that I want to talk to her.”

“I hope not about this,” Loki said, surprised by the tension in his own voice. “She’ll break a rib laughing.” Thor made another one of those “hmm-mm” noises and Loki almost growled. “What?

“Nothing,” Thor said again. “Good day, Loki.” He clapped a hand on Loki’s shoulder and moved off. Loki stared after him for a while, thinking about Valkyrie.

She was probably fine. Taking some time for herself - Norns knew privacy and solitude were hard enough to come by on this ship.

Loki tapped his fingers against his lips and swore under his breath. He could ask Heimdall. Just to be sure. But that felt...somehow more invasive than just looking for himself. Like cheating, maybe. Better to do it the ordinary way, if he was going to do it. Which he wasn’t.

He knew a few of her regular haunts - places she went to find drink, mostly, or gamble with the ex-gladiators, or spar against foolish challengers who felt the need to try to prove themselves against a Valkyrie. She was not in any of them, and Loki felt anxiety start to prickle at the back of his throat. She could fend for herself, Loki reminded himself. She was hardly helpless. Far from it.

He kept looking.

He did find her eventually, in a far corner of the ship. It was, indeed, private.

“There you are,” Loki said, both relieved and annoyed. “Thor was looking for you.”

“Was he, now,” Valkyrie said. Her voice slurred audibly. “Thor can go fuck himself.”

Loki blinked, taken aback. “Did my brother do something in particular to warrant your ire?”

“You can go fuck yourself too,” she said. “You’re probably flexible enough.” She let out a braying laugh, and Loki stiffened, stung. Fine, he was tempted to say. Do as you please. He knew where she was, now, he could tell Thor. Her drunken state was no concern of his.

Loki sighed. “Valkyrie…”

“Not my name,” she slurred, kicking out her legs.

“You’ve never offered any other.”

“Nope,” she said. “Doesn’t matter, does it? I’m...I’m nobody. Scrapper-142. Should’ve stuck with that.”

Loki stared at her, rather taken aback. “I have to ask,” he said, “did anything in particular happen to...set this off, or is it just a bad day?”

“Shut up,” she said. “And fuck you.” She didn’t sound angry, though. Just miserable.

Loki warred with himself for several seconds, and finally sighed and sat down next to her, though he left a generous space between them in case she tried to attack him. She didn’t, just sat staring straight ahead, her lips pressed together and nostrils flaring like she was just barely holding back tears.

“Need another drink,” she said, and lurched to her feet. Loki got up with her and caught her when she nearly fell. He expected her to try to shove him off, but she didn’t.

“Hate it,” she said. “Hate everybody on this goddamn ship. Me, too.” She barked a harsh laugh. “This’s your fault.”

“I’ve heard that before,” Loki said dryly, shoving away the pang of hurt.

“I forgot,” she said. “I meant to forget. You made me - you made me remember.”

Ah. Loki supposed that was his fault. “I am sorry,” he said, faltering a little. “In the moment…” He trailed off. There were no particularly good excuses.

“No,” she said after a moment. “No, it’s...all right. They deserve to be remembered. Deserve better than...they were the best of me and now I’m all that’s left. Waste of fucking space.”

Loki closed his eyes. “All right, my lady,” he said. “I think we should find you your bed.”

“Works for me,” she said. After brief consideration, Loki cast a shield of unnoticeability around them. It did not seem good for morale for people to see the two of them stumbling about.

It felt like an age getting Valkyrie back to her quarters. She leaned heavily on him the whole way, muttering unhappily to herself every so often. Loki wrangled her inside and sat her down on the bed, then made a brief rounds of the room to remove every bottle of alcohol that he could find.

He turned back around and jumped to find her standing right there. Loki started to step back, but she grabbed him first and dragged him into a kiss that tasted like sour brandy. She pushed him back against the desk and let go of his tunic with one hand, moving it down to fumble at his pants.

Recovering from his surprise, Loki grabbed her wrist. “Stop,” he said, quick and sharp. She looked up at him, not pulling away.

“Come on,” she said. “I’m game. I’m not that drunk.”

Loki shook his head. “No,” he said. “I don’t think so. Not right now.”

“Why not?” she pressed. “I’ll even go easy on you.” She smiled, razor-sharp in the way Loki couldn’t help but respond to even if her eyes were still blurry.

“No,” he said again. “Right now I think you should sleep.”

She pressed closer. “Or I could go not easy on you. That works too. Bring out that strap-on again–”

Loki shuddered and swallowed hard. His grip on her wrist wavered and she pushed her palm against him; he sank his teeth into his lip and made himself pull her hand away altogether.

“Later,” he said. “Not right now.”

“Spoilsport,” she said. “I need to - fuck.” She looked like she was going to cry again. Loki let go of her wrist to put both his hands on her shoulders and guide her slowly back to the bed, pulling back the covers before pushing her gently down onto it.

“I hate you,” she said miserably, curling up into herself.

“I’ve heard that before, too,” Loki said wearily. She didn’t speak again, her eyes closing.

When he heard her breathing shift into the rhythm of sleep, he started to stand up and leave, only to sit slowly back down.

After all, he didn’t want her to choke on her own vomit. It was just to be safe.

The first thing Valkyrie did when she woke up was to roll over and throw up on the floor. Loki moved quickly out of the way so none of it splattered on his clothes.

“Good morning,” he said. She coughed.

“Fuck you,” she said, and threw up again. Loki sighed.

“Would you like me to go get you some water?”

“I’d like you to fuck off and leave me alone,” Valkyrie said.

“Before I do that,” Loki said, “would you like me to get you some water?”

Valkyrie moaned and pushed her hair out of her face, raising her head just enough to squint at him. “Don’t give a shit what you do.”

“Water it is, then,” Loki said. He returned as quickly as he could and found Valkyrie curled up back under the covers, though the way her shoulders hunched when he entered belied her attempt at pretending to sleep. “Sit up,” he said. “Drink.”

“I don’t need a nursemaid,” Valkyrie said, not moving.

“A good thing, as I’d be a very poor one,” Loki said evenly. “Drink. The water.”

She rolled over and took the water. Squinting at him again as she sipped it. “What’re you doing here anyways,” she said. “Did we fuck?”

“No,” Loki said. “We did not. You were drunk. I escorted you back here and put you to bed.”

She stared at him. “And then sat there watching me sleep?”

“I was concerned you might choke on your own vomit. Or die of alcohol poisoning. Thor would be distraught.”

Valkyrie stared at him several moments longer and then rolled to her back, putting one arm over her eyes. “Shit.”

“Yes,” Loki said. “I imagine you must be feeling rather wretched about now.”

“What’d I...fuck. Did I say anything?”

“You said a lot,” Loki said. “But if you mean, ‘did I say anything incriminating’, no, you did not.” He supposed perhaps Valkyrie would feel otherwise, if she remembered. Might feel that she’d exposed vulnerabilities to him, weaknesses she wouldn’t want anyone to know.

He wasn’t going to share them. There was no reason for her to feel shame for what she’d said.

“Small mercies,” Valkyrie muttered. “Okay. Well. Thanks, I guess.”

“You’re welcome.” Loki stood. “Well. As promised, I’ll fuck off and leave you alone while your recuperate.” He paused. “I’m going to tell Thor that you’ve been sick and don’t want visitors. You can decide when you want to see him.”

“Thanks,” Valkyrie said after a moment. She sounded confused.

“You’re welcome,” Loki said. He debated over telling her that he’d purged her room of alcohol, and decided against it.

“You’re being...nice,” she said.

“I do that, every so often,” Loki said dryly. “It’s not entirely unheard of.”

“Yeah, but–” Valkyrie stopped, and eyed him. “You’re all right,” she said abruptly. Loki blinked.

“Beg pardon?”

“I said, you’re all right,” she repeated. A little more loudly, Loki thought, than was necessary. “Don’t make something of it.”

“I...will not,” Loki said, a little thrown. And also a little warmed. “I could say the same for you.”

“I’m amazing,” Valkyrie said, and Loki snorted. He glanced toward the door, and hesitated.

“I’ll check on you this evening,” he said. “In case you can’t get your own water before then.”

“You’re sweet,” Valkyrie said, her tone suggesting she felt the opposite. A smile tugged at the corner of Loki’s mouth.

“I certainly am,” he said. “You can make it up to me later.”

“Oh, sure,” she said. “Ask nicely and I’ll tie you up and fuck you til you howl.” Loki heard himself make a sort of ‘huh’ noise. She smirked, arm still covering her eyes. “I know what you like, your highness.”

“The fact that you smell like vomit somewhat dampens the effect,” Loki said. She made an obscene gesture in his direction, and he snorted. “Rest well, Valkyrie.”

“Go fuck yourself, your highness,” she said, but it sounded almost fond. Loki slipped out and stood in the hallway, one hand on the door, and frowned.

He suspected that at some point when he hadn’t been paying close enough attention, he’d crossed into some very dangerous waters as far as - in Valkyrie’s words - making something of this.

Well. It was a bit late to be worrying about that now.

Besides, when had dangerous ever stopped him?

The nightmares had subsided for a while, but they hadn’t gone. Or at least Loki had discovered as much fairly quickly, and thus was grateful for the fact that he’d been granted his own room and was able to erect spells preventing the passage of sound through the walls.

There was no reason for it to become general knowledge that the second prince had screaming fits in the middle of the night. If he was lucky, he woke up in the middle of them.

Generally after that he did not go back to sleep.

Tonight he had dreamed of faceless tormentors pulling him slowly apart a piece at a time, and close by a voice, and while he could not make out the words, he knew who it was and quailed even as he was reduced steadily to nothing more than quivering flesh.

He woke and clawed his way out of the room that suddenly felt too dark and too close. He walked without thinking where he was going and wound up in front of one of the clear panes through which he could see the blackness they were moving slowly through.

It did not calm him. He concentrated on breathing, unfocusing his eyes and trying to empty out his mind.

“What’re you doing lurking around down here?”

Loki fell still. “I could ask you the same,” he said, when he thought he could control his voice.

“Was using the head,” Valkyrie said. “Heard someone, thought they might be up to something. Are you up to something?”

“No,” Loki said flatly. “I am not.”

“Just what someone up to something would say.”

Loki turned around on his heel. “Then I suppose if I cannot convince you of my lack of nefarious intentions, you may as well do as you like to satisfy yourself,” he said, and meant it to be sharp, but he was quite certain they could both hear the brittle note in his voice. Valkyrie looked at him for a long moment, her expression not quite softening.

“Couldn’t sleep?” She asked, quieter, and the question sounded decidedly awkward.

“Don’t hurt yourself,” Loki said, turning from her once again. “I don’t require an emotional bulwark.”

There was another brief silence. “You didn’t let me chase you off,” she said.

“You needn’t feel obligated to–”

“I don’t feel obligated to anything,” she interrupted. “I’m just saying if you don’t think I’m at least as stubborn as you are, you really haven’t been paying attention.”

Loki closed his eyes and dropped his head forward. He might be able to drive her off. But he didn’t really have the energy to, and he would only regret it later.

“I don’t often sleep well these days,” he said. “It’s a familiar affliction. Since I was young.”

She studied him with surprisingly sharp eyes. “Want to compare nightmares? Could be fun.”

Loki barked a laugh. “That particular sparring match I might actually win.” His smile felt ugly. She didn’t flinch.

“You might,” she said. “I’d take that challenge.” For all the bravado of her words, though, her expression was serious. It was an offer, Loki thought. To listen. To hear. To let him speak of the things he had told no one, that had risen from the depths of memory like monsters out of a primordial ocean.

“Not tonight, I’m afraid,” he said, struggling to keep his voice even. “I’m not in fit temper for it.”

She shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He expected her to leave, then, but instead she moved forward, standing next to him and directing her gaze outwards as he had been. “See anything interesting?”

“Nothing, fortunately.” He half expected it. Feared it. But thus far, their journey had gone uninterrupted.

“Right,” she said. “Fortunately. Guess we’re not exactly in the shape to take on all comers.”

“Not exactly.” His nerves still felt raw, and it was strange, acting like this, as though they weren’t. He couldn’t tell if it was helping or not. She glanced sideways at him again.

“Loki,” she said abruptly, and he wasn’t entirely certain but it might have been the first time she’d actually addressed him by name. “Are you...shit, don’t take this the wrong way, but are you all right?”

Loki forced a laugh. “Do I really look that bad?”

“Not your best,” she said. Loki felt his shoulders draw up and forced them back down.

“I will be fine. You needn’t concern yourself.”

“Too late for that,” she said. Loki fell still, hardly breathing, trying to parse if that was an admission of something.

“You know what it is, I think,” he said after a long pause, “to live with the expectation of death. One ought to get used to it.”

She exhaled quietly. “Yeah,” she said after a pause. “I know the feeling.”

“Sometimes it weighs heavier than others.” He shrugged. “That is all. Or at least that is enough.”

“Yeah,” she said, quieter. “I know that feeling, too.”

They stood there in silence for several moments.

“Before...all this,” Valkyrie said abruptly, waving a hand around them. “Hela, and...I had a name.”

“You mean your parents didn’t name you ‘Valkyrie’ in anticipation of your career choice?” Loki said. She gave him a look like she was thinking about punching him, and decided against it.

“My name was Brunnhilde,” she said, and then snorted. “I haven’t said that aloud in...a long time.”

“Is it still?” Loki asked, and when she gave him a baffled look, clarified, “is it still your name?”

To his relief, she didn’t ask what he meant. She seemed to understand, and consider it, and ultimately said, “I have no idea.”

Loki nodded. “Shall I keep calling you ‘Valkyrie’ until you decide?” He paused, and added delicately, “I am not going to call you Scrapper-142.”

She pursed her lips. “Valkyrie will do,” she said, and then snorted and said, “Val, if you’re feeling bold. That’s what your brother calls me.”

Loki raised his eyebrows and let his lips curl. “Lady Val?”

“I will punch you,” she said, but there was a brief spark of humor in her eyes. Loki turned his gaze from her and sighed, smile fading.

“You know this quiet won’t last forever,” he said. “That this is but a brief respite. If my last decade has taught me anything, it is that there is no such thing as lasting peace.”

“That’s bleak,” Val said, but she didn’t sound like she was disagreeing.

There were confessions he needed to make. Should already have made, and certainly needed to soon. But oh, how hard it was to speak sometimes. “We live in a cold universe.”

“Not entirely,” Val said, to his surprise. “Not always.” Loki glanced at her, and she looked evenly back at him.

“Come on,” she said, after several moments in which neither of them spoke. “If you’re going to be up in the middle of the night, there are better things to do than stare out into space and brood.”

Loki smiled crookedly. “I suppose there are, at that.”

“I didn’t say with me,” she said, but with a brief flicker of a smile.

“Naturally,” Loki said. “You said better things.

She did punch him then, but not hard, and only in the arm. Or, only just hard enough to bruise, and he was grateful for that ache, a reminder that he was here, and whole, at least for now. “Hilarious,” she drawled. “Maybe I should just lock you in my room and make you replace the booze you stole, hm?”

Loki blinked innocently. “The what that I stole?”

“Fuck you, Your Highness,” Val said. “Are you coming or not?”

Loki took a deep breath, turned his back on the emptiness of space and followed her.