Chapter 1: Prelude
Asgard. You’re on Asgard, with Loki. Leaving with him, technically, but with him all the same… It is a shame the pair of you can’t roam for a bit. What you wouldn’t give to have him show you around – listen to him relay stories to you about his adventures growing up here. Did he have a favorite spot to visit outside the palace walls?
A noise from behind you ruins the potential of the moment. Loki doesn’t seem phased by the fact that someone is apparently trying to follow the pair of you. Had his ruse with the guards not worked as well as you’d hoped? He’ll never let you hear the end of it, if so. He guides you onto the ship he had indicated without so much as a glance behind him. “I barred it with my magic. They won’t get through until well after we’re gone.”
Why aren’t you comforted by his assurances, even if he doesn’t appear bothered? You keep your focus on the gate. There – another loud noise from the other side, and at the same time a spark or two seems to fly from the seam between the two doors. You reach up and pull the hood of your cloak from your head to better be able to see your surroundings. “Loki…”
He glances from you to the gates before directing his attention back to the console, “If I said please, would you listen and sit?”
His quip makes you smile, even if the answer is: no, probably not. This time immediately following the noise at the gates there is a groan and the doors open a few inches. Someone is determined to make it through before the ship is able to launch.
Thor. Now you know the reason for the noise – he’s been trying to force his way through the gates. Thor’s shouted command makes your heart flutter, but a glance is all that Loki offers Thor. He doesn’t pause in his actions, just nods again towards where he wants you planted and returns to the sequence he’s been entering on the console. Coordinates, maybe?
Thor continues to try to pry the doors open further. He’s gotten it nearly wide enough to thread his arm through the gap. Is he using Mjolnir – or just brute strength? His next words make your stomach drop. Maybe you should listen to Loki and sit. “Loki. Her agency wants to speak with her. There are answers we all need.”
“You would hand her over, Thor?”
“I would see her home.”
“That was not part of our agreement.”
“Neither was this.”
Loki turns to you, taking a step to be able to draw you into his arms. It’s an action that is entirely too familiar. His motions almost exactly follows those etched into your memory, the moments in the subarctic leading up to his disappearance outside the doors of the burning substation. His tone, though soft when he speaks to you, strengthens your internal panic. “Give me a moment.”
He means to face off with Thor? Is that why it was so important to enter all that information into the console? “Wait…” You try to stop him but he has already stepped beyond reach, dismounting from the ship before you can finish your sentence.
Loki, lover of words, can’t resist one last jab at his brother. “Are you really not surprised? What did you imagine? That I would be content to once again pace that chamber?”
Thor continues to try to push the two doors further apart. Loki’s magic seems to be holding, for now. Though straining against the gate doors, the exertion doesn’t stop Thor from replying. “For what you did to our Father?”
“Your father,” Loki is quick to correct him, “and he merely slept.” He stands well enough beyond the doors to show how he has won – that he is beyond his brother’s reach.
“He will never be the same.”
Loki lets loose a little chuckle. “Honestly, you should count that as a blessing.”
Thor shakes his head, pausing in heaving his weight against the structure. He mutters ruefully, his words almost lost to your ears, “You are more like father than you know, Loki. You both have purpose to every action.” That last bit seemed louder. Louder and meant, perhaps, more for you?
Loki takes a slow step forward. Apparently he’s going to get as close as he dares, almost within arm’s reach of the gates. “Hmm. Perhaps you’re right, brother.” Watching Loki’s back, you can’t tell his expressions. Is he taunting Thor? Is this thoughtful rumination of his brother’s point? He shifts his shoulders, the action causing his hood to fall back from his head. Now, at least, you can see the movements of his jaw as he speaks.
You can just see Thor over Loki’s shoulder, the two are standing so close together now. His words sound raw, matching the heartbroken and angry expression on his face. “So you do claim me? Claim family.”
“When convenient.” Loki’s right hand twitches and the doors shudder, giving a brief moment for the pair of them to stare each other down. Thor recoils as though jolted backward and then the gate slams shut again. A wide grin is still plastered on Loki’s face as he turns his back on the doors concealing the angry blonde Asgardian.
- ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ -
Chapter 2: Part 1
Thor's roar sounds more like a curse. It makes you pause as you step onto the skiff and turn to look back. It's curious that people do that, isn't it? Stop and turn when it isn't their name being shouted. Maybe it's something deep seeded that makes us want to see whatever seems so urgent.
Loki doesn't even pause his steps. He heard Thor – how could he not – but is refusing to look back, now. He's not quite making eye contact with you, either. His expressions are once again masked as he gives his head a short shake to urge you against disembarking. No time for further conversation? Now he's in a rush? He was the one that had paused to hold a last exchange with his brother. Couldn't give up an attempt at having the last word, the desire to rub salt in the wound.
This is more what you expected from the pair of them, and similar to what you experienced the last time you talked to your own sibling. Not for the shouting, but the overall feeling. At the time you were days away from being shipped out to the subarctic. Once, you had been the older sister he couldn't help but brag about for his loose connection to SHIELD. One short encounter with a god had tarnished you, resulting ultimately in a reassignment to a defunct substation. Suddenly you weren't worth claiming. Not worth claiming, not worth knowing. Worth barely more than twelve words.
Everyone had wanted to cut ties, friends and family alike. All bridges burned.
You still had Clint, at the time. Calling him a friend was probably a stretch. Sympathy had probably been the driving factor, maybe guilt. Clint, you suspect, had pulled strings to keep you in the fold. Was the only reason you had remained an agent, even an untrusted one.
That loose friendship – trust, guilt, whatever – that you ended up abusing. He was hardly around, anyway. Easier, then, to focus on your quest to collect any and all information you could find regarding things alien, Asgardian, or potentially to the tesseract...
Yea. He'd probably prefer you stick to calling him Barton, now, if he wanted to admit to knowing you at all.
"Go. Go, sit." Loki touches you lightly, briefly, trying to get you to move in the desired direction. He wants you further aboard the skiff and seated so he can resume whatever he had been doing at the console before his brother's brief – and ineffectual – interference. "Go."
What's the hurry, when there had been plenty of time before? There had been time to hold you close, offer promises, assurances. Had it all been simply to get you to do what he wanted? You were so preoccupied with the relief of being free of that hellhole, so caught up in your emotions – and the validation of what you feel towards him – that you hadn't noticed.
Maybe you're just being paranoid. This isn't a false moment presented to you by those who called that hellhole home. This is real. You're here, on Asgard, escaping from Asgard, with Loki. It's not like you can remain anchored to him, assuring yourself that it isn't an implanted memory by constant contact. Once Loki has the pair of you safely away that scowl will drop again, that scowl and the chasm you feel filling the space between the pair of you.
It could be concern that his magic won't be enough to hold his brother back. How much is it taxing him? The illusions cast to shield you from everyone's notice as you fled the palace, whatever he's done to knock Thor off his feet and slam the perimeter gates in his face. Add to that the energy it took to fight his way out of that hellhole of a place. If that's the problem, the reason for his coolness towards you now, what does that mean for the magic he applied to help keep you on your feet?
The cloak that had helped to keep you hidden as the pair of you rushed through the palace now threatens to trip you up. You scowl as you stumble, your adrenaline rush already fading. Loki's earlier concerns as the pair of you fled through corridors echo in your head. His worries over the exertion required – over your stubbornness, your determination to move – saying the work done by the Asgardian medics needed time enough to take effect.
What had they done? Healed where this asshole had stabbed you, yes, but what else? Releasing the excess fabric of the cloak to flow freely again, you raise your hand to trail your fingertips into the material covering the bandages applied over your side. You'll have to take stock, sooner or later. You had been preoccupied taking in the room, and then with his sudden appearance in the medical chamber – pretty much anything to keep yourself from dwelling on what happened to you in that hellhole of a place.
Loki. Somehow, whenever he appears, he always seems to push everything else aside. Someone could – and had – walk right up and... On cue the footage you were shown over and over from the helicarrier plays back in your head. Clint's quick approach just off your flank. The hard blow to your temple. Your crumpled form on the catwalk. The god crouching down, his actions blocked by his hunched form.
Clint had been his escape plan. You had been an obstacle.
What are you now? And what's the plan? You blink, questions almost on your lips, but find Loki intently focused on the console. It's an expression you frequently wore after finding a new artifact, or while examining a new piece of information in those months before finding that damn disc. It's like he's never seen it before. Your stomach does a flip. He does know how to fly it, right? It wasn't the smallest of the lot, but only just. What had made him decide on this one in particular? Instinct – or was this the skiff he used to get here? How much of this was previously planned? How much is just him making decision after decision and rolling with the consequences as they come?
The structure beneath you starts to vibrate moments before lifting off the ground, hardly giving you any warning. He might have been prepared for it but you sure weren't. The rocky takeoff sends a hard spike of pain radiating through your body causing you to clench your fists and clamp one arm down against your side.
Damn the asshole for stabbing you.
You wince, ducking your face away from him for a moment. You can do this. Stay on your feet. You hold one arm halfway aloft to help with balance, keeping the other pressed protectively against your torso. This little ship is just a miniature version of the helicarriers you used to call home.
Home. That thought brings and unexpected pang of longing. Not for your tiny, research filled efficiency. Not for the farce of a life you had before being zapped by that fucking disc to the hellhole Loki and Thor rescued you from, but for the warmth on your skin provided by the rays of the sun.
Thor had shouted it – the desire to see you there, to take you back. But it wasn't as simple as that. He wanted to take you back to SHIELD. At least – back to what remained after HYDRA took its pound of flesh. The powers that be had questions, he said. You can only imagine the varied reactions when they realized you were nowhere to be found – if they had even bothered to continue with a manhunt once they stormed your efficiency and took stock of all the research you had managed to secret away. Saw what your life had become.
The concept of home sure sounds nice, but you're almost positive that it wouldn't be a warm reception awaiting you. You can see it now: the umpteen-hundred reports on the specialist – or former Agent of SHIELD, depending on your viewpoint – that had thrown in with the fallen Asgardian prince. Not to mention all the agents that had filed those reports, all keen on interrogating their intended subject. To some it will never matter how good at your job you used to be. You stood with him when it counted. Difficult to forgive and forget leading an attempted alien invasion. The loss of so many lives.
And when you do return to Earth, assuming you somehow avoid every likely scenario, what would be left? Who did you have left in your life? Family? They'd unanimously turned their backs upon your bani- upon your reassignment to the substation in the subarctic. Friends? You had coworkers. Had being the operative word.
The answer happens to be the only other occupant of this skiff, and he's – focused elsewhere at the moment. Is he really all that you have left? Had anyone else even bothered to look for you? Maybe that was part of the deal, part of the reason why Thor had been willing to help. You hadn't gotten the chance to ask him about his ties to the agency, how involved he was in Midgardian affairs these days.
Sitting could, potentially, help your current situation. It might help to not have to be constantly shifting your body to maintain your balance, every hard movement driving another spike of pain through your side. But what you presume to be a bench might not be comfortable at all, and it's further away from Loki, which would make carrying on a conversation impossible. And there's the fact that you'd be doing exactly what he requested that you do. You're not about to start complying with his every spoken whim.
Turned as you are to examine the corner he wants to plant you in, it's a struggle not to look back and watch the city center recede behind you. Asgard. Asgard! Where he grew up. You dreamt about this, about being here with him. About all the stories he might tell you. And that clever mouth, those lips, being used for other things, too. Those fantasies had left you aching and lonely, and apparently were the very damn reason those beings in that hellhole thought you worthy of their time and effort. Evidently there was enough truth to those fantasies to make part of them come true. He had come for you.
Loki grunts, and you turn to catch a flicker of something behind the stern mask that had dropped into place as he had walked away from his brother. What is he hiding now, and why hide it from you? After all he went through, both to rescue you from that hellhole, and to convince you that you could once again trust your surroundings, trust your mind. You'd chosen to run with him! Chosen him.
His lips move but his mutterings are caught by the wind. You catch two of the words, though, and can guess as to the rest: always, and difficult. It's clearly become his favorite phrase where you're concerned.
It's almost encouragement to start a conversation. Almost. Maybe if he'd so much as barely incline his head even a fraction to be able to address you. But – fuck. If he's now regretting bringing you along then he can just stop right here, right now, and drop you off. Thor will find you quickly enough with the aid of Heimdall, or any one of the palace guards that are now surely in pursuit. Someone will pick you up and then you'll be taken back to Earth, just like Thor said, back to face those that left you to die in hell. It'll be a blast. You'll answer any and every question they have regarding the research you squirreled away, and if you're lucky enough to keep out of a deep dark hole of their making maybe you'll get to figure out what's next for an ex-agent of SHIELD.
You almost do it. Frustration almost drives you to open your mouth again and suggest the very thing burning through your brain at the moment. Concern that he might actually do it keeps you quiet. Would he? Toss you out? Drop you off somewhere and then be gone? After everything?
The skiff rocks again as he banks along a rock formation. Even with your arm pressed tightly against your side you can still feel the burn, the pull of muscles that very much dislike the stress of such movement as you try to maintain your balance.
Pain is stupid. And annoying. And just serves as a reminder of how different the pair of you are. You're sitting here all-but-whimpering over having to shift and adjust to the movement of the ship, all because of a blade to the torso. And Loki....
He'd never really answered your question before, had he? When he had rushed to you in the medical chamber and you'd noted the gashes in his attire, the blood that had saturated the material. He'd aimed for distraction. Reminded you of the wound he delivered, how the blood had gushed over the knife he'd stuck in your side, and let your mind run on from there.
Maybe that's why the muscles in his jaw keep bunching. Maybe that's what he's hiding. An injury.
You take the few needed steps to stand at his side, pausing just long enough to estimate that maybe he doesn't need his left hand as much? If you only touch his forearm that shouldn't interfere with whatever operations need to be performed in order to keep this skiff in motion. Right? Standing perpendicular to him means that your hair whips wildly around your face, which hinders your ability to really see the flickers of emotion he allows through the mask. Still, you try to watch his face as you reach out and touch him, just above the intricate wrapping of fabric that start at his wrist and end halfway to his elbow.
"Loki. Are –"
The sharpness of his reaction makes you sever the point of contact as quickly as you'd established it and abandon the question you were about to ask. You pull your hand back, forming a fist for a moment before reaching up to try to hide the action by moving your hair out of your face. Just a simple movement of his head, a sharp jerk, his focus leaving the task of navigation to drop to your hand. It had all but landed a blow. His expression hadn't changed, but now you catch the smallest tug to the side of his mouth.
A smile because you jumped in response.
Damn him! The asshole is banking on the fact that you're afraid of him? Of what he might do? You hold your ground, giving up on keeping your hair tamed in favor of containing the traveling cloak. It's the only thing keeping the wind from cutting through the gown given to you by the Asgardian medics. It was better than what you'd been wearing in that hellhole, but you can't help but envy him his layers.
Licking your lips, you tip your chin up and square your shoulders – ignoring how your body protests the rigid stance. You refuse to let your knees buckle, to allow your body to betray just how weary it is. Hadn't he just used magic to help you remain on your feet?
The M word leaves a nasty taste in your mouth and is followed by another thought that momentarily freezes your confidence and makes a glimmer of a frown appear on your face before you smooth it away again. He had used his magic on the pair of you to help in your escape. Has he now removed his influence?
"You should sit."
The ship rocks again as he speaks. Is he purposefully banking heavily like that to keep you off balance? All to manipulate you into doing what he wants?
The thought brings with it echoes of SHIELD briefings held long ago: Master of magic and manipulation. Trickster. Traitor. You scowl, shoving the thoughts away as you shake your head. "No." Oh how tempting it is to reach out and shake him, too. To push him. Anything to get a reaction. Anything to get him to stop focusing solely on the terrain.
Not a good notion to follow through on since you've yet to figure out if there's an auto-pilot feature. You have to settle for trying to remain at his side without falling over, or into him. Pain isn't stupid. Pain is good. It serves a purpose. Maybe if you allow that to become a mantra... Pain is good, pain is good. Pain reminds you of your limitations. Not that you're currently, or ever, ecstatic about those limitations. "No, I'm good right here."
He simply frowns in response. It's an emotion, at least. No longer the stern mask held, even if it's all you're afforded.
You dip your head down, muttering as you adjust how you have your arm pressed into your torso, "Not that it would matter."
"You're in pain." Statement of fact rather than a question. Clearly your words weren't lost to him. He's paying closer attention than you give him credit for. He recognizes the strain you're under, even though you're fighting to keep it hidden. It doesn't nullify the cold shoulder, but it almost makes you momentarily forget your frustration. Right up until he reminds you that he suggested that you sit, or better yet, lay down. "Or would you argue against that, too?"
This time the turbulence nearly makes you stumble. You wince, loosing your annoyance, "Oh it's a suggestion? Or a demand."
"Does it matter? You never obey."
Obey. Did he really just say that? You narrow your eyes at him, wishing your look could further mar that near-picturesque profile. Now you really want to reach out and shake him and have to keep your fists anchored in the traveling cloak to keep yourself from following through. "You know what, asshole, maybe if you tried asking instead of telling."
To your surprise Loki slowly exhales and begins again, his voice steadier. "Will you go and----" you cut him off, interjecting the word NO before he can finish his sentence. He utters the final word in a stumbling halt to his request, "rest."
His shoulders jerk and he swivels his head to argue further, his hair starting the wild dance from the wind that yours has been enjoying, but you're quicker with your reply. "I said you could try asking. I didn't say I'd listen." It could all be in your head, but it seems like it's getting harder to maintain your balance. The pain in your side is quickly getting worse. Have you torn something, and the strength of that pain is finally breaking through whatever the Asgardian medics did to numb you? Damn the turbulence. Damn him apparently being right, that you started moving too soon after being tended to. Damn him! "Ask again. And this time say please."
He does have manners. He's royalty for fuck's sake. They're in there. Somewhere.
You catch the act of him rolling his eyes, watch the way he flexes his jaw as he grits his teeth. It's a delicate hold he's maintaining on his temper. "We've discussed the way you speak to me."
Yep. So he really shouldn't be surprised by your tone. You're hardly surprised by his. Annoyed, yes, but surprised? No. You keep your head held high, determined not to back down.
"I'll ask once more." Loki risks more time from his task of steering the ship to pointedly fix his blazing eyes on yours. "Keep in mind you won't enjoy being forced."
Just because you think he might have removed his influence already doesn't mean he actually has. Or – a worse thought follows – he could be tempted to make it worse.
You fight against the urge to flinch, for all the good it does you. Something must have rippled over your features because his frown eases, and he emphasizes the very next word uttered. "Please. Rest."
He's offering you the choice to be reasonable. Are you trying to save face, still, and hold on to what pride you can to prove that you're not weak? Is this a predator and prey scenario or are you just being stubborn?
You've just started to shake your head in the negative, just started to tell him no again, when he reacts. He reaches towards you, not low enough to grasp your arm or your torso and turn you in the desired direction. No. His aim is higher. His arm partially blocks your view of his face as his palm connects with your forehead, but you can see the resolute set of his mouth. "Always so difficult."
- ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ -
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- ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ -
Your face hurts. Everything else does too, but your face seems to be bearing the brunt of it at the moment. Why does everything always fucking hurt when Loki is around? What has he done now?
You glare up at him, wanting to reach out and strangle him but also – also submit to the urge to just stand there and hold his gaze. It's something about the way he's looking at you, holding that bloodied rag and seeming almost amused by your inner turmoil. Like he is finding sport in watching your conscience warring with itself.
Chilled spots light upon the outer edge of your cheekbone, traveling slowly towards the crux of the pain, towards the center of your face. "I can control it..." he explains, the pads of his fingers lifting from your face, the soothing balm you were feeling leaving with the severed contact. The tips of his fingers are blue.
It's familiar. This scene. Everything down to the way his hair is scattered with bits of dust and gravel. How the wild dark strands frame his face.
"What are you doing?" You blink, fighting to force the whisper from your lips. Wrong. You hadn't said that, before. Forcing the words out was like trying to drag dead weight through an opposing strong current.
Loki shakes his head, a soft smile on his lips, continuing on with what you now recognize to be the memory of your interaction with him within the hidden level of the substation. Clint interrupted. And then Loki set that fire. Burned the place with his magiked flames, turning it into the rotting shell of a substation that now exists. All to hide the research he didn't have time to find, to keep others from finding out the secrets before he could. And to hide his existence a little longer.
That explains why your face hurts so much. Wallace had broken your nose. A well-timed kick as he had fallen head over heels over one of the abandoned desks in that room. That room....
The comforting chill has resumed its exploration of your facial structure. Loki's middle finger trails along your orbital bone, traveling the path towards the center of your face with the light trace of his index finger a fraction behind.
But why this memory? What brought you here? The scent of burning filaments, the sickening smell of melted plastic and machinery hasn't yet joined the mix. That's usually what happens when you do battle with the memory of what happened in the place that once upon a time held the Capsicle. At least – that was what followed when the memory was wielded by those in that hellhole Loki had dragged you out of.
More pressure is applied to force you to tilt your head how he wants. He's preoccupied with an examination of your wounds.
But they're past wounds. Just as this is a past moment. They may feel as though you've just suffered them, but they've long since healed. Long since been replaced by more wounds, suffered by strange hands in a strange place. All because he left you. Loki had grabbed Stu and left you and Clint to try to piece together a coherent story – a reason for Wallace's madness, Stuart's absence, and why the substation had burned to nothing more than ashes beneath the ground the day HYDRA resurfaced. All because you couldn't let it go. You had continued to hunt for more of the research and found that damn disc. Because you couldn't accept living with all the unanswered questions.
Loki finally pauses turning your head this way and that, allowing his focus to drift down from the blood on your face to meet your gaze. "Don't fight it. Don't fight me."
You frown at him, again feeling the weight pushing against your attempt at breaking from the memory. "Who has the energy for that? I'm just thinking about what happens next."
"Don't fight it." He repeats, pulling his gaze back to the trickle of blood running down your temple.
Fine. You let him shift your head this way and that. Just like before, his chilled fingers still hurt, even as he continues his careful examination. Chilled fingers meant to help soothe the broken bones, perhaps. Cold doesn't always help in that regard, asshole. You don't try to force the words from your lips, but you think it hard enough to give yourself a headache. Sometimes, sometimes the cold makes it worse.
It is what comes next. After the flames, and the running, and the smoke that threatens to choke you. After the heat of the kiss, the oddity of his warmth enveloping you against the harsh elements, and then – then he'll be gone. The bitter cold of the subarctic that rushes to fill the void that he left. And then there's the lack of trust – the lack of close contact from almost all that surrounded you. Even Clint became distant, after that.
Anger helps you dislodge yourself from the trance again. You won't allow the memory to lull you into compliance. Not this memory, no matter how nice it might be at the moment to watch the way his body moves as he gingerly swipes the whiskey soaked, and bloodied, cloth along its path.
The corner of his mouth twitches downward as you straighten in his grasp. He wants you to let the memory run its course. Sorry, can't do that. "Loki..."
Again comes the question levied as he presses the towel into place. He's talking over you, trying to keep the memory on track. "Do you still stand against me?"
He knows the damn answer. The answer given then, in the past, had been your attempt to sidestep. You didn't know where else to stand? Please. You've always struggled against the instinct that you were supposed to stand with him. Even the very first time you saw him all those years ago aboard the helicarrier. You've never known how to resist whatever it is between the pair of you. It was the whole reason you had walked away from your station, into his world and out of your safe routine.
"You know I don't."
Another departure from the reality of the past, but an answer that still pulls a smile from him, just as it had happened. This time it isn't in response to doubt on your part, but truth. You know he feels the way your body responds, the way your heartbeat increases. He's had his fingers to your pulse ever since tilting your head to the side, his palm still cupping your jawline.
And again recognition dawns. He's cheating. He had simply used his fingertips before. Just explored the worst of the injuries to your face. There was never so much contact. Not until you had reached out and pressed your hand against his chest, through the rip in his tunic. There was an old scar there, one that you had wanted to ask him about several times over.
This is different. This is different. What has he done to this memory? Adopted one of the ones they used against you? That's not going to be much fun for much longer. Your heartbeat quickens further. Pain always came at the end of those. Pain and betrayal and screaming.
Much like every experience you've ever had with Loki, to be honest.
Desire mingles with fury.
You narrow your eyes at him. What game is he playing?
"Shhh. Shhh." He shifts the hand that had previously been placed at your neck monitoring your pulse, anchoring you to the spot with a heavy hand on your shoulder. "Don't fight it."
Panic pushes you past whatever force was making you feel sluggish while departing from the path of the memory. "Don't fight what?! What have you done, Loki." You're not up for running for your life. Not again. Not now. You flick your attention past him towards the hallway where Clint should appear at any moment. Clint will appear and Loki will draw himself away – and, and you'll be left to try to recover yourself from your memories again.
After that? The fire. Heat chasing you through the hallways of the substation. The smoke and everything else choking you. Running. Running for your life.
With his free hand he captures the one that you had pressed against his chest and holds it there, holding it steady against his skin. "No one's coming. He isn't coming. That isn't coming. It's us. Just us. Look around you."
You continue to try to jerk your hand free, try to pry yourself free of his hold even as you do what he says. He's right. The room is not quite as you remember it. More shadows. Less grime. No Wallace. No makeshift weapons abandoned on the floor. Is this all that is left of the memory of what the room looked like or is this all he noticed when he came into the room? What is this? Dream? Memory? Fantasy?
He won't let your fingers twitch even a fraction beneath his. As opposed to your racing heartbeat his is fast, but steady. He wants you to stop fighting. That's not something you can grant him. "So what is this, then? How you wished things played out?"
"No." His smile returns, sharper than before. "No. Things would have played out differently if I'd had my way."
There's no hiding the chill that runs through you at his tone. Does he mean less bloodshed? He means less bloodshed, and broken bones. Right? Less running for your lives. How had he selected this from the sea of memories? How had he plucked this from the catalog of memories, and dreams, fantasies and nightmares? "Where are we?"
He flicks an eyebrow up for a second, "A fixed point. A stolen moment in time. We're safe here."
You relax a little in his hold again. Safe. That's what he had promised when he took you from that place. You'd never have to doubt your mind again. He would see you safe.
The weight on your shoulder lifts and the chill of his touch lights upon your face. He leaves an icy trail along your jaw before he tips your chin up again. "I promised you elsewhere, and I meant it." His eyes dance across your features, flitting from cut to scrape, from swelling feature to already forming bruise. They're all wounds long gone, but still suffered. "I just regret the cost."
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- ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ -
Chapter 3: Part 2
You wake in the dark, feeling sluggish, and with an additional weight holding your arms in place for a moment longer than you're comfortable with. Flushed and aching, the constriction and lingering grip of the things you see now in place of your dreams, brings on the edges of panic.
Where are you? Was that not-quite-a-dream, not-quite-a-memory a trick as well? Are you back? Back there? That hellhole?! No. No! No. Loki and Thor had come and ripped you away from that place. They'd taken you to Asgard! You remembered. Snatchets of images: of the Bifrost, of Thor's rumbled, storied version of it. Of the medical chamber. Of... of...
Loki had promised. You were safe. You are safe! No more mind games! No. No. Please, no.
As you struggle, you register something familiar – something cold pressing against your forehead, drifting over your temples. Part of the weight on your torso lifts not moments after. The room begins to come into focus, but your arms still seem bound. Not bound. Caught. Caught in – heavy layers of fabric.
This isn't hell. They were never so kind as to offer anything even remotely close to comfort. Blankets? A laughable luxury you weren't afforded.
"Wait. Wait. Shhh."
Hushed commands from a voice you recognize.
You're still too warm. Emitting a noise that sounds disgustingly close to a whimper, you struggle anew to get your arms loose, trying to free yourself from the seemingly endless burden of fabric. Wherever you are, still aboard that stolen skiff --- unlikely for the lack of stars, or sky --- or stowed away on some distant planet somewhere, Loki is with you. Caught in the realm between whatever it was you just experienced, or re-lived, in the substation with Loki, this is a scenario that too closely resembles how they tried to break you.
Not hell. Not hell. This isn't that horrible place.
"Be still!" He hisses again, his scowl of displeasure evident even if you can't fully make out the features of his face for the darkness of the room.
Finally, you're able to find the outer edge of fabric up near your shoulder, freeing one of your hands. The heat from beneath the blankets is drastically different than the temperature of the room and then the temperature of his hands, the cool touch of his fingertips helping to brush the heavy material aside. The more you move the worse the aching, the worse the nausea gets, but you've got to get free. You must – you must – you must move!
Just like in whatever it was you just faced, dream or memory, he's trying to reason you away from the edges of panic. Like reason alone, perhaps coupled with his voice, will help. You need to see where you are. You need to sit up. You need to move! Be still, he says – ha!
"You be still!" Your voice is pitched higher than it should be. Your heartbeat, unsteady. Before you can fling your arm out and begin to rotate your body in a misguided attempt at heaving yourself up you feel his hand clamp down on yours. It's not the ginger touch of someone trying to be gentle but one meant for reassurance, a reminder of the physical world. An anchor. Just like before he's urging you to have faith in your senses.
He doesn't interlock his fingers with yours but wraps his hand around the joint of your wrist, his palm pressing against the back of your hand, his fingertips on your pulse. Any tighter and you're sure you'd hear the pop of joints and possibly a few of the smaller bones within your wrist. His other arm scoops beneath you, guiding you into a sitting position as he maintains his grip on your arm.
Funny how the solidness of him, that pressure, helps so much. Taking a breath, a single whispered word escapes you: his name.
If you shied away by even a fraction he would probably release you, shift his body and fade back into the shadows of the surrounding room. That's the last thing you want, to be left alone to entertain those dark crevices of your mind.
What was that that you just experienced with him? One minute you were on the skiff and the next....
The dream-version of him had claimed it was a fixed moment, but what did that mean? Was it a memory? Some things had matched the moment, but others... Others... They had played too much, presented you with too many false images, too much false hope. Will you ever be entirely sure of your mind again?
Now that you're sitting up, the layers of heavy fabric shifted into a pool in your lap, you're able to better take stock of your condition. Constant pain was something you grew used to in that hellhole. It wasn't typically from physical exertion – like the result of extensive training for a field mission – but of abused joints not allowed to heal, and bones broken and healed, but in the wrong way. The ache of trauma untended.
You focus on your breathing, on the steady pressure of Loki's grip, as you sit in the dark and think. What is going on with your body? Something tells you the Asgardian medics had done a bit more than merely tending the wound inflicted by Loki's blade. What you're feeling now is something different. It's... almost as though you're feeling growing pains. In fact it's exactly what it feels like.
You groan as you lean further into Loki's shoulder, lifting your free hand to cover the exposed side of your face. "I hated being a pre-teen."
A few seconds of silence precede his hesitantly spoken words, "I – have no idea what that means."
Silent laughter bubbles up, and you start to shake only to wince at the sharp pain in your side that results. It only makes your eyes water all the more, continuing to muddy your vision. Between giggles you manage to speak. "Oh. Oh, damn. I need to lay down."
Loki's grip doesn't falter, even if his words are. The softness in his voice is fading. "I thought you wanted to sit up."
"And now I need to – oh, oh that's not gonna work – lay down, unless you want me to throw up on your... your..."
His absent muttering comes secondary, something you can barely hear over your own half-groan-half-laughter. "Why are you always so difficult?"
That phrase reminds you of something. He said it. He'd said it on the skiff before. Before. Your brain won't cooperate. At the moment you need to be horizontal again. Horizontal or – or maybe just the cool touch to your back and neck that he offers as he runs his hand up your spine. You'll figure out what your mind is trying to tell you later. "Your..."
If you could see what he's wearing you'd better be able to describe what will soon be covered in sick if he doesn't release you. Still the traveling cloak or is that part of what is pooled in your lap? However you had been reclining before simply isn't possible now, not unless you want Loki gone. Sitting up it is. Sitting up but leaning on him, into him.
You gather yourself together enough to formulate a question to battle against his, "Wait. Why – why are we sitting here in the dark?"
"You were refusing to rest." His tone has almost entirely changed into something holding a harder edge even as he tries to steady you. He's annoyed? "I warned you."
You blink while your eyes adjust, the dark room becoming simple shadows. Definitely not the skiff. No windows, either. And the pair of you are seated on... what? Is this a table? It's wider than a bench. A muted light distinguishes the shape of what you presume to the be doorway, but there isn't much else in the way of recognizable features. Where are the pair of you? And how does that reply answer why the pair of you are sitting here in the dark?
His thumb has lightly started to shift over your knuckles, but that's all the additional movement that you register other than the light rise and fall of his chest with each breath. He's bracing, almost as though he's preparing for you to launch from his arms, readying himself for an argument. The way you're currently feeling? Not likely.
"You –" You scowl at the one definable feature of the room that your brain can latch onto at the moment: the doorway. "How did you – did you – did you pluck out a memory just to –" It's hard to keep the accusation from leveling itself. Actually it's not all that hard. Your previous delirium begins to rise again, turning the sharp edges of the statement into something lighthearted. Giggles, once you've caught them, are hard to deny. "You did that? Plucked out a memory to relive, just to win an argument?"
Loki coughs out an indignant sound, not quite loud enough to echo through the room. "You wouldn't see reason. You wouldn't—"
Trying to twist further to face him sends a tendril of pain rocketing through your side and makes you jump in his arms. Laughter has you caught in its grasp, so instead of a hard laugh, a yelp of pain precedes your words as you wince. "Haa-ow. What – obey you?"
The surface beneath you rocks as he shifts weight to allow you to settle back again, his vicelike grip on your forearm gone in an instant. This time the pain that results from sudden movement finds an escape from your lips in a sudden rush of breath and a high-pitched note of surprise. He's leaving you? Here in the dark? Just like before, in that hellhole when you had called him Asshole and he had left, anger shoving distance between you again.
No – no his form is still there – still here at your side.
And then he leans over, planting his hands on either side of the surface you're mostly reclined on, lowering himself to the point that his features are visible to you in the dark room. When he speaks his voice is so low as to almost become inaudible and you feel the whisper of his breath as he snarls one word: "Yes."
He remains there, waiting for your response – clearly wanting you to flinch, for you to try to shove him away. You let the seconds pass by, punctuated by your uneven breathing, your ineffectual attempts at soothing the pain in your side, your back, and the back of your head where it cameinto sudden hard contact with the surface of the table. Stupid brittle human. You allow a small frown to furrow the space between your eyebrows, scowling at him in the dark. He's just there looming, breathing, waiting. Your words come without a snarl, but with a similar tone, laced with annoyance, "Stop trying to frighten me. I have enough monsters in my head."
You half expect him to snort in disgust at your belligerence and shove himself up off the structure, for him to turn his back on you – the woman who causes him so much frustration. But he doesn't. He swallows after a moment, shaking his head as he huffs out a noise that almost sounds like a laugh before lowering himself further until his forehead touches yours. "Have you no sense of self-preservation?"
"Would it matter?"
Your whispered response lingers between the pair of you for a second while you listen to his breathing, waiting for a quick response that doesn't come. The thought occurs, and you tip your chin to seize the opportunity before it's gone, to steal a kiss - snare a taste of him before the chance is gone. You shift to try to brush your lips against his, feeling the light exhalation of air, a chuckle without a sound, before the corners of his mouth pull into a smile.
Only then does he return your attempted kiss. It's quick – not lasting nearly long enough before he pulls away, seemingly remembering he had a point he was making. He inhales but then his mouth finds yours again. Evidently that was the only point worth making.
But again he breaks away, shaking his head, barely far enough away to allow such a motion to occur. "Your recklessness..." He still can't seem to resist letting his lips touch your skin, now that you're allowing it. He settles for muttering words along your throat, his mouth moving up your neck until adding final punctuation with a bite just below your ear, "That is what should frighten you."
He thinks you're not afraid of your own actions? Now is really not the time to focus on that. You want to focus on those lips. Those lips and how it feels to be this close to him. Your dreams, some of them, had involved such moments, but even those weren't quite as intoxicating as this. "Less. Talking."
Loki inclines his head, the light sting of his bite fading as he shifts his weight moments before you feel him leave the table entirely. Fuck. That was the exact opposite of what you wanted to happen.
"No. Not when I have your attention."
You close your eyes, giving your head a shake before trying to spot his form in the dark again. Had he taken a step backward, too? Why can you never track his movements through a room unless your eyes remain on him?
All it takes is for you to try to sit up and involuntarily swallow down a sound of pain for his presence to be at your side again. He's back to kneeling before you, just as he was in the medical chamber in the heart of the palace on Asgard. "Don't do that, if it hurts."
You emit a light snort before tipping up your nose at his silhouette, "Distract me."
You see the movement as he shakes his head, but you can't focus entirely on his actions for the way your brain is insisting on acknowledging the flood of alerts letting you know YOUR SIDE HURTS. That's a no to continuing to try to pursue that particular fantasy of yours, then. You close your eyes and bow your head – can't be faulted for trying – but he doesn't speak again.
He must be waiting for further acknowledgement, or maybe is listening to your unsteady breathing. It's not entirely out of pain. For the love of everything. Is he really going to kneel there and wait you out? You lift your palm towards him, waving your hand in a circular – go on – motion.
"Look at me."
Even shifting to try to make it clear you're not ignoring him only means you can vaguely see the shape of him. You definitely can't make out the finer details of his features, if that's what he's after. "I can hardly see you. It's dark in here."
"It's late." He stands, moving away from you, the noise of his footsteps seemingly deliberate – all the better to help you track how he crosses the room in half a dozen strides. It's all to shift whatever it was that had been covering the doorway and muting the unseen light source from beyond. Wherever you are, it's spartan but not entirely devoid of unnatural elements. Like the table. Actually, only the table.
You don't waste time asking about the light, or the lack of furniture. "Where are we?" You tilt your head to the side slightly as he returns, stopping short of standing within arm's reach again, as though he doesn't trust himself. The way your heart is pounding you'd probably be doing the same if you wanted him to listen to something you had to say.
"We're safe, for the time being." He pauses, making a show out of the few second silence. "Are you listening? Not thinking of another question to ask when you get the chance?"
You start to cross your arms and then rethink the motion, realizing that it'd force you to hunch forward into an awkward position. You settle for sitting as comfortably as you can. Which is to say not comfortably at all. "Alright. Yes."
"I said I was. I am. Yes."
He takes a step closer, scowling. Once again you're causing the muscles of his jaw to bunch as he fights to control his temper. He's the one that derailed the moment the pair of you were having in favor of talking. You'd made your preference clear on that point.
For the briefest of moments, you're aware of the temperature of the room dropping before leveling out again, perhaps his way of venting his frustration with you. He starts again, his voice level. "You're right to fear monsters. There are dangerous beings out there."
"Oh, I'm aware."
"You got a small taste," he corrects.
"I was held against my will, and tortured." You shouldn't keep interrupting him, but your mouth keeps running independently of your common sense.
He starts to respond and then shakes he head again, "That's not – I know. Or have you forgotten who got you out of there?"
Low blow. You narrow your eyes at him, "And then stabbed me. Or had you forgotten?"
Loki presses his mouth into a thin line, drawing closer, still – finally close enough to touch. Not that you dare to, yet. The room has dropped more than a few degrees this time. Is he doing it on purpose or is just what you're feeling because he's standing so close and you're refusing to cooperate when he's trying to make a point. "There are beings out there even I can't win against. Not with my magic. Not with skill or..."
Oh. You see where he's going. He's worried, because you're human. "Any amount of trickery or deceit. Or sheer force of will. I get it. I got the zero-sum-game speech at SHIELD. And schooled in the difference between bravery and stupidity."
"So, we agree, then," he barrels on, with a deepening frown in recognition of your response. "That it's foolish to charge into situations without considering the consequences." He continues to tick off points one by one by holding his palm out and switching his thumb from one curled finger to the next. Elegant, even when disheveled, as he scolds you. "To walk into the line of fire. To pursue research and artifacts you have no hope of understanding the true nature of..."
"It's. The. Job. Someone has to run towards the mess, not away." You hem, adding a caveat, "Well, it was the job. Except for the research. And you only get a pass on calling me stupid for that because – believe me – the last thing I wanted was a one-way trip to that hellhole." You wince as you push yourself up, unable to keep sitting still before him any longer. If he gets to stand, so do you. Or maybe pace. You might need to pace. Or throw up and then pace? Oh, if your head would just stop pounding. "If you think I haven't thought about that – how I'm the idiot that sent myself to that hellhole.... Just. Just don't."
Does walking actually help at all? A little? Maybe. Yea. Movement. Movement is good. It'll be even better once you can lengthen your stride out of the strange hobble into something closer to your normal gait.
You can feel his eyes following you as you walk the length of the tiny room. He waits until you're at the far end, with your back to him, before responding. "You see the risk in what you do. Seeking out monsters."
Is he talking about himself? Or is he still harping on the dangers associated with your job? Is this his way of asking you why you went after all the research? Why you have continued on at SHIELD? Simple answer is a lack of common sense, and – yes – a slight inability to prioritize your own survival.
Taking a moment to briefly frown at him after turning back around to face him, you hesitate in your reply. You take your time on the return approach, not quite crossing back across the room at the same pace. Now it's your turn to stop well beyond arm's reach. "It's risky even breathing. Just daring to live. But yes. I see the risk. And yes. It frightens me." You nod once, slowly. "Every time."
That comes as a surprise? But that wasn't exactly a question. "Yes." A simple answer offered, accompanied by a small shrug on your part. Your internal aches have started to subside, abandoned for this new distraction, this new debate.
"But you're still determined to do it." He waits for your nod before frowning as he provides his own answer, "Just to try to change the outcome."
Is this an understanding reached between the pair of you? That it's futile for an ant to try to love a force of nature, or vise versa? He could have waited until after whatever was happening between the pair of you came to pass, if that's the case. But no. The asshole just had to make his point.
You half smile at him before releasing a hesitant exhale. Your adrenaline is playing tricks on you, your side is still very much on fire. You clench your hand into a fist before pulling your arm close again hoping that the somewhat familiar stance will help to relieve some of the discomfort.
"Honestly?" Hello bad decision. You shouldn't admit this to him. Honesty to a master of manipulation? You're trapped with him in a small room. He's standing between you and the door. But, hell, why not? Where would you go? You don't even know where you are. "You do frighten me. Sometimes. But I know the wisdom of showing a predator fear. Never works out well for the prey."
Chapter 4: Part 3
Is this an understanding reached between the pair of you? That it's futile for an ant to try to love a force of nature, or vise versa? He could have waited until after whatever was happening between the pair of you came to pass if that's the case. But no. The asshole just had to make his point.
You half smile at him before releasing a hesitant exhale. Your adrenaline is playing tricks on you, your side is still very much on fire. You clench your hand into a fist before pulling your arm close again hoping that the somewhat familiar stance will help to relieve some of the discomfort.
"Honestly?" Hello bad decision. You shouldn't admit this to him. Honesty to a master of manipulation? You're trapped with him in a small room. He's standing between you and the door. But, hell, why not? Where would you go? You don't even know where you are. "You do frighten me. Sometimes. But I know the wisdom of showing a predator fear. Never works out well for the prey."
The noise he makes in response is non-committal at best. Acknowledgement of that truth you just laid bare? But other than the twitch of his lips as he emitted the noise he hardly moves. Is he trying to sort through every interaction and figure out which you might be referring to? What moments you could be thinking of when you claim to have been afraid, and which were simply bravado and force of will?
All the things they broke during your stay in hell and your reliable ability to estimate the passage of time remained untouched, but now – now you seem unable to tell if it takes fractions of a second, a minute, or longer for him to shift. He just stands there, watching you. When he does finally move it seems that his whole body undergoes a change, that a string has been plucked that loosens something within him even though he's still holding the same pose.
But then he does move. He flexes his fingers ever so slightly before holding his hand out, turning it palm up as he holds it out in your direction. He swallows and whets his lips before speaking. "Come here."
Should you frown, or smile, or simply stand there and hold your ground. You hesitate further, remaining almost the full table length away from him. "Another order to be obeyed?"
"Come. Here." He repeats himself, patiently stern, before adding on to the thought. He drops his gaze, letting it slowly travel down your body and pick and choose its way up again. "I'd like to finish my exploration."
It's an answer that causes goosebumps to erupt over your skin as he waits to see what you'll do.
Well then. Is there a choice being offered here? You could tell him no. You could tell him that after all those small moments shared between the pair of you since you met that you'd rather not take him up on his offer. Say something like: No thanks, sir. I'll just sit over here and check sexually frustrate someone a few thousand years my senior off my bucket list. But the odds of that happening are slim, and both of you know it.
The moment you begin to shift, moving to close the distance between the pair of you, that sharp smile of his brightens his face. "I promise only to bite as hard and often as I'm told."
You blink and briefly narrow your eyes at him. Does he know about those fantasies? What has he seen of the catalogue in your head? Those dreams and fantasies that they played with, and more besides? Taking his outstretched hand, a zing of something runs through you, over your skin and your spine, quickening your heartbeat. It's the first real touch of understanding between the pair of you, of desire shared and – with the knowledge of something more following close behind.
You veer towards the table, but he releases your hand, scooping you to him to draw you away. In one motion he reaches aside to clear the tabletop of the traveling cloaks, the copious fabric creating a pool of cloth on the floor, leaving you to frown at the bare structure that you had been heading towards for all of a moment. You remember how unforgiving it was before, but then maybe you'll be so distracted that it won't matter. You've had that fantasy too – that fantasy, or dream, or wish. Whatever you want to call it, it had only ever taken place in your mind. Until now. Oh the possibilities.
"Is that a no to a more comfortable surface?" You turn your frown on him, a little puzzled by his actions.
Loki shakes his head, his hands easily finding the edges of the wrapped gown that you had been dressed in by the Asgardian medics. "Oh I'll have you over a table. Eventually." He shifts his hands carefully as he holds you close to him. He had already partially damaged the dress in the medical chamber in his determination to examine the bandages they had applied. "But not that one, there. Not now." He gives a gentle tug on the knots that had surmised the makeshift repair needed, and the bodice of your dress begins to fall. All that remains is for the rest of the gown to be unwound from around your hips.
"No?" The bandages around your upper torso maintain your modesty, but you must reach to stall the progress he's making with the rest of the fabric, holding the material steady at your abdomen.
"No." He answers, only briefly showing frustration over his stalled handiwork. He motions to your bandaged torso. "Unless you allow my explorations to include," he pauses, tilting his head to test the waters as he speaks, "a little magic."
You still at the M word and have to force yourself to take a breath. He's watching your every motion intently and not just because he's currently being afforded a little better view of your chest. More to yourself than to him, you mutter: injured prey. You tilt your chin up and take another controlled breath, exhaling slowly. "And if I say no?"
He doesn't seem phased at the thought, even though you're almost positive he's already secretly been working a little magic here and there. Adrenaline and distraction can't tamp down on the pain you were feeling as quickly as that. It's a thought that's more than a little unsettling. Not that he seems willing to give you time to focus on it. He steals a kiss as he wraps his arms around you, using his height and long legs to scoop your feet from beneath you, settling you into the puddle of cloth in the floor with unnatural grace. "Mm. Then I'll have to remain very careful in my work."
He clearly feels as though that's the end of it. He lowers himself down like he's going to pick up right where he left off nibbling at your neck. You expose your jaw to him, nearly going right along with the plan until your brain reminds you that you're down to next to nothing while he's still basically fully clothed. Your fingers have gotten tangled more than twice in the fabric still barring you from being able to explore his skin the way he's enjoying yours.
"Loki?" You try not to flinch as he pauses and lifts his head to settle you with a look. You had interrupted, after all. He may have paused the direction he was headed with his mouth but his lower half is late with the memo. It almost derails your thoughts. Almost. "I need..."
The outer layer of his gear had been discarded into the pile of cloth, you don't know when, but there's still the matter of his ripped tunic. And the braces on his forearms. And the rest of his clothing for that matter. None of which you have any idea how to begin to remove. Are there clasps? Is it anything like menswear on Earth? If the dress was any indication there are layers and then layers, and odd clasps and catches hidden beneath.
You blink, fluttering at the closeness of his attention and fighting against the urge to disregard anything and everything but the feeling of his lips as they traverse your body. He shifts his hips, dipping his head to nuzzle your cheek as you move in response, seemingly delighting as you expose your neck to him again and breathe out a happy noise.
"Yes. My agent?"
He's clearly enjoying himself. And if you don't answer soon he'll go right back to what he wants to be doing.
Which is not at all a bad thing, but still. There's something that you'd like to happen, first. "I..."
He lets out a light huff when he pauses this time, propping himself up so he can look down at you with an arched eyebrow.
You can't help but laugh a little as you flit your gaze away from his face, using one of your hands to catch into the material of his tunic. "I have no idea how to get any of this off you."
"I can handle it," comes his answer, "in time."
He's not even halfway to bending to resume where he'd left off when you offer up protest to his solution, "But –"
He inhales when you speak, slowly lowering his head the rest of the way to touch his tongue to your neck before dotting the same spot with a kiss that sucks at your skin. Only then does he stop to sigh out one word next to your ear, so slight as to almost be a hiss: "Yes?"
"If you don't show me, how will I learn?" For next time – being the unspoken conclusion to that train of thought. You have this crazy idea that you're going to be a little preoccupied, a little distracted when he decides to start shedding more pieces of clothing. You try to settle yourself beneath him, try to shift your shoulders without eliciting a wince from a tug at your side – but don't really succeed. "Teach me."
Those two words, combined with your shifting, make him lift himself again to study your face. You half expected the questioning expression – his raised eyebrows at your suggestion that he stop and teach you all about the clasps and buttons and buckles that held his outfit together. What you don't expect is the short chuckle and the quick change to the features of his face, the resolute set to his mouth that follows, along with a nod. "After. I will teach you after."
He glances down towards your side for the briefest of moments before shifting his body again, pressing himself more firmly here and shifting a little there, moving one hand under your back as you move in response – all to settle you into a different position. A satisfied rumble comes from within his chest and the stern expression disappears again. He's finally freed most of the dress from how it had been wrapped around your hips, the sneaky bastard.
"Satisfied?" He arches one eyebrow at you as though daring you to protest further.
Hardly. You roll your eyes, releasing his tunic in favor of reaching at least your one arm above your head, all while pretending to mull it over. He doesn't wait for an answer, instead taking advantage of the way you've exposed a little more skin from beneath the topmost edge of the bandage wrapped around your torso.
Cool trails are left by his fingertips over your skin, but this time they aren't tracing over bruises and cuts and scrapes. You shudder, smiling as his chilled digits work at the edges of your bandages before being forced to skip down, dropping lower. He pauses, raising an eyebrow at the goosebumps he's eliciting. "Do you enjoy that?"
The moment you nod your feel the rest of his body cool a few degrees, eliciting a gasp from you. All the points of contact you're afforded hold that same chill – and you can feel it radiating from beneath his layers of clothing as well. After. That was his promise. So for now he remains in control of his clothing. He's clearly delighting in taking his time in the process.
You're allowed his neck, what is available to you above his collar, and his face. And his hands. While you can feel the way his muscles flex and twist with every move of his torso, it's hardly the same. You want to be able to have more access. To be able to feel your fingertips trace along his body – and, once you're able to move again, maybe allow your lips to perform an exploration all their own. Once he's satisfied, maybe. Once you both get what you want out of the current scenario.
Oh, how you want him.
"Loki." You breathe out his name again when he returns his hand to the area just to the left of your abdomen and he presses his palm down, his fingers leading the way as his hand travels its way between his hips and yours. "I need..."
"Shh." He whispers before quieting your mouth with his own. It's only after his next breath that he concludes the statement, "Not yet."
The next interruption comes when he finally does remove his well-worn tunic. You'd missed the removal of the bracers over his forearms. Once his shirt is off the lattice work of scars over his chest and stomach are revealed. The larger scar still has you curious. It is the one you had noted all those years ago in the substation after you had shot a gaping hole in his shirt with your ICERs – yay for target practice, boo for less than sound thinking when it came to the use of correct ammo. ICERs on a Jotun. Even a Jotun that you thought was a figment of your imagination, at the time, but still.
What does give you pause is the wound, clearly fresh. While mostly clotted it is still seeping in places. You scowl at him as he bats your hands away, seemingly unconcerned and more than happy to pretend it isn't there.
"No. Stop. Loki." You catch the edge of a flinch, or a scowl, as you press your hands nearly-flat on his chest, carefully edging your fingertips just below the worrying line of blood over his pectoral. "What is this?" A stupid question. You follow it with something only slightly better, "Are you alright?"
He remains within your reach, dutifully looking down to examine the long thin gash that starts a few inches below his collar bone and continues diagonally down towards his side, extending across a third of his torso. He hasn't yet moved to settle atop you again, but remains in his position between your legs, halfway aloft. He tilts his head, watching as you react to his blasé response to his injury. "I did tell you most of the blood belonged to others."
Seeing no reason to stop scowling, you let your eyes rove over the newly exposed portion of his body, your hands following on a delayed path. No other such spots that you can notice at the moment, but that clearly doesn't mean he isn't trying to keep something hidden. You finally circle back to the larger of the scars, the one that had caught your interest all those years ago. You lift one hand, hovering it over the spot and only press the index finger of your opposing hand along the length of the scar. "And this? Will you tell me about this?"
"All." He snares your hand, removing it from the vicinity of the scar to lift it and press his lips against your palm. "For all."
You blink and smile up at him. It was an unexpected answer, soft and full of promise. But then the moment shifts, his quiet smile growing into something more wicked before he lifts himself up to settle back onto his haunches. If you expected answers now, well. At this point aren't you used to not quite getting exactly what you asked for from him?
"Now. Where was I?" He produces knife from seemingly nowhere and motions to the bandage covering your torso, indicating it with a swirl of his finger. "Should have gotten this off you, before, I think." In a quick motion he leans forwards, slipping the tip of the blade under the bottom-most edge of the bandage and pulling the material tight. He runs the blade from the point just above your navel quickly up until he's sliced the protective fabric into two halves. The bandage remains partially stuck in place, only half falling away to reveal the uninjured side of your body.
"And if I needed that for later?" – or some equally appropriate quip should have sprung from your lips, but before your mouth could form the words Loki had lifted himself off his haunches, his lips first gracing your collar bone but then traveling down to your exposed breast, and the need to voice the question was forgotten.
When his focus moves lower, still, and you feel the gentle tug of the bandage being pulled away from your skin, you move as though to stop him – also lifting your head to cast him a questioning expression. Your motions with your hands come too late, the fabric already free of the tender area he created on your side.
He doesn't press his fingertips to the area, much as he had when he was examining your face in that faux-memory earlier. Instead Loki presses his lips just above that worrying area on your ribcage and a sharp cold blossoms at the spot moments before the area goes entirely numb.
You hiss a breath inward through your teeth, moving in unwilling response. Nothing. You feel nothing from that area on your side. Ok, yes, it's now less of a distraction but hadn't there been an agreement? "I thought..."
His lips dot across your stomach to find your other breast before moving again, progressing back up towards your collarbone again. You really can move a bit more easily, whether it's simply being free of the bandages or more to do with whatever he'd done to your side.
You give yourself a light shake, determine to reconnect your brain, determined to give voice to the protestations you'd started. "I thought I said no magic?"
Loki relaxes onto his forearm and bares his teeth, settling more solidly against you now that he's more confident in the action. "You threatened." He corrects, one hand drifting down your side, "but never actually said no." His touch all but disappears once he reaches the cold spot left by his lips. "And I can leave you temporarily numb without the use of magic."
"Numb?" You answer, realizing his hand has moved further down your body. He pushes one of your legs into a different position, held slightly away from his body giving him the freedom to twist his torso. The action only takes a moment before he relaxes against you again, his hand guiding your leg back into place.
"Mmhm." He nods, letting his body temperature drop another degree, "Frost. Giant." He waits for your shuddered response of pleasure for all the skin to skin contact that now exists between the pair of you. Smiling, he adjusts his hips, shifting to apply a little more pressure with the edge of his hipbone exactly how he wants to.
As predicted you've missed the finer details of how to remove Asgardian menswear. You have half a mind to protest, even with the promise of a lesson on clasps and flaps etc after. After you'll probably breathlessly demand more and then the cycle will continue, on and on, with you still heavily in the dark. You exhale, a frustrated noise of desire trapped within your chest. For the way he has you pinned there's little you can do with your hips to counteract him.
At the sound of dissatisfaction from you he returns his hand to the spot it had just left on the outside of your thigh and slides his hand around, finding a grip on the inside of your knee. He pulls your leg from his body again and presses it back until he's holding it pinned to the floor. His body holds the rest of you in place, exposed and unable to fully move to urge him onward. He shifts his hips to elicit another tight noise from your throat, the action accompanied by the lightest snarl from him that lasts for a microsecond before the corners of his mouth pull outward to form a smile. It's less a mischievous smile than a baring of his teeth, Loki once again adopting a predatory approach.
You're his to do what he wants and he's playing games. Damn him! Enough. Enough games. Enough taunting, and teasing, and threats designed to leave you just on the edge of certainty and well beyond satisfaction. The most motion you can manage is adjusting how your other leg is draped over him, around him, so you press your heel further into the back of his thigh. You tip your head up, lips parted, not quite managing a reverse nod. It's a silent act of defiance that also serves as acknowledgement, his expression remaining in place.
Loki holds himself steady, unwilling to move. Not yet – he's saying – not yet. "Never forget, my agent, who you're dealing with."
Forget? Who could forget? He's constantly reminding you – here, and in your dreams. And in your nightmares, too, for that matter. What is he waiting for? Annoyed, even as close to getting what your body is screaming for as you are, you quirk an eyebrow at him. "Are you trying to frighten me away. Now? Can we discuss your timing?"
His thumb traces light circles along the side of your knee, though his grip doesn't lessen. He rotates to allow his hips to fall parallel to yours, changing the point of contact. If you could just lift your hips enough – but he's got you firmly held in place, you can't lift your hips without rotating the leg he has held firmly against the floor too far in the joint. It's just enough to make it clear he is still the one in control of the moment. He's enjoying every reaction he's getting from you, even your ire. "Do you really think you would get very far?"
Your abdomen and the insides of your thighs clench under his skin, and he looses a low chuckle as your breath catches. You may want him but you hate him a little bit right now, too. Threats. The asshole is leveling more threats. Where are the promises? He knows every intricate reason your pulse is racing right now, why goosebumps litter your skin – not all of them relating to pleasure.
"Are you afraid?" He whispers, your noses almost touching.
Why does it matter so much to him to know you're aware of his nature? That you're aware of how fleeting all of this is... How things could change at any moment? You force yourself to focus, fighting the haze of desire, making sure to maintain eye contact as you reply. "Of you?" You feel the way his chest moves as he inhales not quite in rhythm with your own irregular breaths. "Yes."
He moves a little in response, allowing a little more friction. It's progress but still not enough. He's still not allowing what you want.
But your answer wasn't the whole of it. You move as much as you're able to be able to nudge his nose with your own, invading his space just like he keeps trying to do to you. He still holds the role of predator, you the prey, but you will not be cowed or bullied. Not now. Not by him. Even if he has you exactly how he wants you.
"Of the power you hold over me? Yes." You rest your head back once more on the puddle of cloth beneath the pair of you, adding a final nod. "As though the answer could be anything else."
Loki nudges your nose in a mirrored movement to yours, then tilts his head down to brush his lips against yours in a stolen kiss. You aren't quite receptive, but he isn't quite asking for compliance in the act either. He sucks your lower lip, releasing it before finishing the thought and finally guiding his hips down to allow for the contact you've been wanting. Finally – finally using more than just his chilled fingers to elicit satisfied sounds from you. "That makes two of us, then."
"And that means wha – ah! – god." You start to question him but lose the track of your sentence, abandoning it for an unintended expression of pleasure as he moves within you. When he grins in response you shake your head, letting out a light laugh. No. That wasn't meant as a descriptor of who, of what he is.
"Yes." He shifts his hips again, smile falling away as he clenches his teeth. He pushes further, jutting out his jaw in an attempt to make you say something more – or at least continue being vocal. Again. You feel the silent command in his action. Again – he urges, with his body – again. Obey. Again!
You crane your back in what space is left between the fabric beneath you and how the pair of you are locked together. You won't call him a god again, you refuse to yield to his vanity, but try as you might you can't grasp the start of a sentence. You can't keep sounds from escaping you, either. You wanted to question him further, challenge him further. You have to settle for his name – breathless, mingled with a moan. Repeated. Repeated with every thrust.
He answers - yes - in tones that call back to yours.
But as he moves, as he feels you move in response, you catch other micro-expressions drifting across his features. With every abbreviated breath, between the blinks and the way you drop your teeth together, swallowing sounds rather than allowing them to escape, he's watching. There – there is a quick frown that creates a momentary deep valley just above his nose. There, whatever you had done causes a surprised arching of his eyebrows, resulting in parallel crevasses running across his forehead.
Littered throughout are grunts, ragged breaths from him interspersed between moments he drops closer, his lips connecting with your flesh. Your mouth. Just off your lips. Your jaw. Your neck. There one second, gone the next. Back to holding himself aloft, ever careful of your side. His eyes are sparkling, constantly moving, constantly flitting across your features absorbing everything. Everything.
A whispered warning sounds off in your mind, only for you to shove it aside as the tightness builds in your core, tipping towards the thrill of release. Loki had numbed your side. The pain that will surely follow will be worth it, for this, the realization of every desire-filled dream you'd woken from since meeting him.
And then you're both breathing heavily, limbs trying to liquify, each acutely aware of the pulsing heartbeat of the other. As the pair of you untangle yourselves, he pauses, shifting to plant another kiss on your side to renew the blossom of nothing that radiates from just beside the angry red line his knife made. You'll argue against him doing that again later, because pain – pain is needed. Pain is good. You need to hold on to that part of yourself. You need to be aware.
He settles beside you, helping to extract your gown-turned-sheet from the pile beneath the pair of you to settle it as a type of light cover, though the temperature of the room is hardly noticeable. You're focused instead on letting your body come down from its natural high, and listening to his breathing, and feeling the comfort of his body, still so close to yours. It's tempting to shut your eyes and let the moment drag you under, to finally allow your body that rest that it desperately needs. But that would mean an end to this moment.
You blink lazily, staring at nothing in the dimness of the room, a contented smile playing on your lips. You know he's watching, probably also taking stock as his own awareness returns. You're definitely going to be sore. Sore all over an not wanting to move for fear that you'll discover somewhere new that aches that you hadn't been aware of prior. You feel a strange twinge beneath your breastbone, and a light ache to your bones themselves – again calling up the notion of growth spurts from your teenage years.
As you exhale the sound catches in your throat, turning into a light sound of discomfort. Immediately Loki's hand brushes beneath the fabric to trace over your ribs. When his palm lands over the now exposed wound to your side it's tempting to whisper into the near-dark, asking him if he thinks additional pressure there is going to do anything productive, but you leave it. You don't even really want to bat his hand away – in fact you want to utilize the moment to press yourself further into his body – except... there's the off chance he's still stubbornly applying magic, trying to help speed your recovery even after you asked him not to.
"Shh." The air expelled with his quiet shushing tickles your neck, once again sending a trail of goosebumps on a haphazard path over your skin. He inhales slowly, steadily, "Rest. Be still."
Using your opposing hand, you reach to touch your side and find the tips of his fingers, gliding your fingertips over his knuckles to trace the bones of the back of his hand. Lightly, you press your hand down overtop of his. You settle the first knuckle of your index and ring fingers on either side of his wrist bones, shifting them ever so slightly as you find the right words to whisper into the surrounding room. "Loki..." You still your hand, quietly giving voice to the words that need to be said. "Thank you. For coming for me."
He had asked for that exact statement during your rescue from that hellhole, and you had refused to give it to him. He seems stunned that you would offer it now, going motionless there in the dark. In the extended silence that follows you lift your fingers from his wrist and curl them in towards your palm, keeping your hand in place over his. It is that action that seems to realign him with the current timeline. "Yes," he finally responds, the words drawn out, "you're – welcome, my agent."
You inhale as though stung, flinching as you shake your head and halfway turn from him, "Please don't call me that."
As soon as the words escape you he tenses again, bristling. He digs his fingertips slightly into the skin at your side, you feel the snarl he's offering your neck, "What. Mine?" He hasn't applied enough pressure to hurt you, yet, and only started to apply enough to shift your hips up and backwards to collide more firmly with his body.
You unfurl your fingers again to grasp the back of his hand, giving it a squeeze as you correct him. "Agent." You exhale, trying to lose all the uncertainty, but find it doesn't help in the slightest. You at least hear the anger release from him in a loud burst of air through his nose. Scowling, you turn your head down to practically hide the statement in the folds of the traveling cloak beneath you. "I'm not – I'm not sure it still applies..."
"They will pay," you feel him shift further, your shoulders now making contact with his body as well, "for making you doubt that." As close as the pair of you are his words seem to be drifting from his lips to your ear, the whispers hardly finding air between the two, "And you are mine, agent." His chest vibrates with an inaudible chuckle when you shudder against him in response to his statement. He guides his hand lower. With the help of a knee from behind he parts your legs, dipping his fingers into the still slick area between them before repeating his statement. "Mine."
Loki, you're coming to realize, doesn't play fair.
But who has any reason to argue? Not you. Oh. Oh. You just want to urge him on. Your brain can't keep track of the multitude of complaints your body seems insistent on tossing out when it's so preoccupied with pleasure.
You twist as much as you dare, tilting your head just enough to find his lips, just enough to force his lips to travel from your ear to the place you want them. No more whispers sending chills down your spine. You want those lips on yours, occupied with a different task to inspire a quickened heartbeat.
Even as you move to kiss him he works his fingers, drawing a moan out of you. You feel him shift his body every time you move yours, holding you in place, just how he wants you. Holding you open to him, his actions. You hiss in a breath, your mouth finding its mark again for all of a moment before he draws another noise of delight from within you.
Is he trying to make you say it? Confirm that you're his? Action alone isn't enough for him? His actions certainly aren't aimed at getting you to be still. Not anymore.
Both your hands drift to his forearm, linking to him and feeling the way the muscles and tendons move with every motion of his fingers. You can't contain the sounds that escape you with every breath, and between them. Words? If he expects them you'll fight to try but... You leave one hand in place but let the other drift back, up his arm until you meet with his elbow, and then skip to reach back and find his hipbone – his hips so close in proximity to yours.
"Mine." He repeats the last word from his lips as he curls his fingers within you, causing you to arc your body with the precursory tremor that runs through it. He is unyielding in his quest to hear you cave, to hear you say it back to him.
The protestations of your side are still there but barely registered, your body mostly abandoning them in favor of desire. But yes, there, you can't help but flinch even as pleasure rolls through you. If he weren't watching your reaction so closely he probably would have missed it – the noises you're making are hardly distinguishable, pleasure and pain.
But Loki doesn't miss it and you feel him slacken his hold, just enough to make you think he's preparing to release you entirely. If not for his knee you could clamp your legs down and prevent the action, or curl forward – though that could also be construed as you trying to get away from him – and possibly pull another sharp pull to the wound over your ribs.
He wants you vocal. That seems to be his end goal. You emit a noise of protestation at his hesitation and lighten the pressure your thighs have been applying to his knee – to the leg he had wedged between yours. In the same action you let your grip on his forearm drop, lingering over his wrist in order to keep his hand in place. "Yes," your affirmation comes out before a quickly caught breath as his fingers twitch, "Yes. Yours." You let your fingertips trail lower, over the back of his hand and along his knuckles. Applying pressure to his slick digits, you issue a command all your own. "Don't. Stop."
A flicker of a wicked grin flashes onto his features before he dips his head in a nod, catching your mouth with his again.
Yes. This is how you want him. This is what your body is craving. This and more. This and –
"I haven't," he murmurs, drawing his lips away from yours from a moment to sneak a breath. He gives his head a light shake, "not since seeing you there."
Another shudder runs through you and you have to fight to try to keep your thoughts on what he just said. There? You were talking about the here and now. This very moment shared. Here trapped in his arms and unable to focus on anything but the solid assurance of his body against yours. But there? Surely he's stopped, surely he's paused since discovering you weren't on Earth. Surely since discovering you were in that hellhole, and realizing he needed to call on Thor to free you. Since starting the long fight to get you out of that place?
How much time had passed from the moment he forced Thor to take you to Asgard? How long were you on Asgard? How long had it taken the medics to work on repairing what had been done to you? Hours? Days? Longer? Alarmingly, you don't know.
He must feel your struggle, the sudden fight against the very pleasure you were just insisting upon. Either that or the evidence of your thought processes are trailing over your features for him to read. If only you wore a mask half as well as he did.
Loki shifts his hand, driving his fingers deeper once more. "But for this?" He waits as the quakes of your body consume you, waits until they dissipate – and then he moves his digits again. Planting his lips on your neck, he inhales as you shudder a light aftershock, his words spoken against your skin. "At your command I would defy the gods."
Caught still in the haze of orgasm, it's all you can do to focus on breathing. Breathing and the scent of him, the feel of him. On the wild beating of your heart. Somewhere, in the back of your mind, a word forms, shimmering and winking in and out of existence.
He had called you that. Before making you see stars. Before offering you this choice. Offering a connection. You shiver out a breath, but wait – was that a muttered word too? Had that ghost of a word slipped out? Another quake from within pulls your thoughts from anything but him. Loki. Jotun. Asgardian. King. Prince. God.
Maybe you did say something. Or maybe he's just smiling, the action caught for the way his mouth shifts against your skin, because he's pleased with himself, pleased with what just transpired. Distantly you hear a whispered word, something spoken that follows your pulse to travel within you and adhere deep within your body: "Yours." Whatever else he might have said to you, that one word provides more assurance than all of it.
You had balked at his words aboard the helicarrier all those years ago. Had taken them as threats. Funny how now those same words are a comfort.
He waits, as though daring you to try to do anything other than regulate your breathing. Even if you had the energy to return the favor of an orgasm, you're not entirely sure he'd allow it. Not right now. Finally, he shifts himself free of you, carefully moving to settle you how you were originally resting on your side. Ever protective of the wound he inflicted, he shifts his body to rest against yours again, satisfied that you'll rest now, if only for a short time.
Chapter 5: Part 4
The same muted light illuminates the doorway to the room. Still must be night. It makes you feel a little less guilty for the way the pair of you have passed the time. How long? Who knows. But if he isn't concerned, you'll try not to worry. For now. Can you sleep again, allow your body what it so desperately needs? Can you drift, find comfort having his naked form there at your back? Can you relax? You know he's awake. You can feel the tension in his body, the few points connecting with your shoulder, your neck, your back. How he still has the energy to be on guard you're not quite sure.
You feel him move, feel how he shifts moments before he plants his lips on your shoulder. He's rolled from his position on his back so that he's on his side as well, to be able to whisper something in your ear through the tangles he created in your hair.
"I fear the power you wield over me, too, my agent."
Does he think you're awake? Does he know that you are, or is this a secret he only feels safe telling your sleeping form?
You keep your breathing steady, feeling the phantom touch of his fingertips tracing several faint circles over the same spot he just brushed with his lips. But you wait till he moves again, until he shifts and sits up before you dare begin to stir. You lift your chin first before you start to twist your torso to gain a better view of his silhouette. He emits a low noise of displeasure, catching your body as though you need help settling onto your back, as though the rest of the night's activities hadn't happened.
"Is everything alright?" You catch his hand, trying to prove that yes – while sore you can still move your own body, thanks.
He grunts, planting his hand on the floor near your ribcage so that he can halfway recline again, adopting a faux-relaxed manner that you see straight through. He plucks at the make-shift sheet, tugging at the fabric to reveal the dagger strike at you side, letting it fall from his fingers only after revealing your navel. He looks pointedly at the wound he himself inflicted, his tone almost mocking, "Is everything alright?"
That wasn't really what you meant, and he knows it. Or maybe he is momentarily humoring his own guilt over his actions. You reach across your body to block his view of the wound, pressing your hand into place before clenching your abdomen in a move to sit up. He doesn't move to assist this time, just watches – noticeably letting his gaze roam over your exposed skin. Even sore and as exhausted as you are you feel your body wanting to respond to that look.
This is distraction. Manipulation. Damn, he's good at it.
You adjust how your arm is wrapped across your body, using your other arm to reestablish a small bit of modesty. His gaze lingers a moment longer before he moves his focus back to your face. You offer him an expectant look, "Talk to me."
Loki frowns, his body still except for his breathing. He looks away from you, towards the doorway and the muted light disturbing the otherwise consuming darkness. "We may need my brother's help, still."
What? The brother he had argued with? Stormed away from? Apparently betrayed, yet again? Blonde. Muscles. Thunderbolts and lightening. That brother?
Of all the answers you were expecting it wasn't that. You thought maybe he would admit that he had no plan. That he was making all of this up as he was going along. That he never thought you would agree, no – insist – on accompanying him. He'd admitted that there were beings out there that outclassed him. He'd admitted that he wasn't sure he could fulfill that promise he made, that he wasn't sure that he could actually see you safe.
He looks back at you, not letting the silence extend a moment longer. He reaches out, leaving your hand in place that maintains your modesty, but snagging the hand that had been hiding your wound from view. Is he going to revert back to apologizing for that?
He flips your hand over in his, tracing the lines of your palm. He isn't cold. Either you've grown used to the temperature of his skin or he is maintaining a warmer body temp for the time being. As he drags his fingertips towards the tips of your digits, that's when you notice it. That's what he's trying to highlight. Discoloration.
"I think, my agent," he keeps your hand loosely held in his, "something's wrong."
- ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ - ꙰ -
You keep looking at your hands, wondering if maybe it will go away. It won't rub off, no matter how many times you try. You're not cold. Your fingers aren't blanching out. No. They're tinged darker. Just the tips of your fingers, the discoloration barely extending down to reach the top third of the pads of your digits. Blueish, most of them – but one darker still. The tip of your index finger is entirely black.
Staring at your fingertips isn't doing anything. Blinking and then staring some more isn't doing anything, either. This isn't a dream. It's real. You've pinched yourself to check. Other supporting evidence: you can very much feel the way your fingernails are digging into the meat of your palms, leaving crescent moon indentations in their wake as you clench and unclench your fists.
What is going on?
Loki, mostly dressed once more, is standing in the doorway with his back to you. He's on guard. Waiting. You heard him earlier, just about as soon as he'd gotten his torso covered – as though his scars were a private matter only allowed to some – muttering short sentences as though they pained him. "Heimdall. Tell him. We need his help. Tell my brother where we are."
So that's the choice that is left. Waiting. Because this is something the pair of you can't face alone? You rotate your fists in your lap, the backs of your hands facedown. You're half sitting on the table, the traveling cloaks folded and placed in the middle of the surface. There's nothing else to do but wait. Nothing else to do but wait and sit here glaring holes in your knuckles until an alternative presents itself.
You hear him turn on his heel and start to pace. Is he measuring time or walking off the dimensions of the room? You did that, in the room they kept you in during your stay in that hellhole, before everything that came after. You knew exactly how large that little room was, remember – in detail – exactly how many paces it afforded.
You jerk your head up, locking your gaze on him. Is he planning on bargaining with his brother, after all? A trade – your health, your safety, the promise to help with whatever is happening to you – in exchange for cooperation? He'll go back to that cell beneath the palace?
How long did he have? How long until Thor would arrive – probably with guards, or Heimdall himself, at his back? You push off the table's surface, taking the few steps to intercept his moving figure, "You don't get to just make that decision, Loki. Go. Take the ship and go."
You manage to snag the sleeve of his tunic just above his elbow, spinning him back in the direction of the door. It was only for catching him off guard you were able to move him so easily. You've tried moving him before when he doesn't want to move. Like trying to move a load bearing wall. He finds your fingers, how they grip the material of his shirt, and pries his sleeve free of your grip. He shakes his head, annoyance flashing and falling away as he knits his eyebrows together, trying to catch up to your string of logic as he gives your hand a squeeze.
"I'll wait here. For Thor. And..." You wish he would stop shaking his head at you. "Whatever is wrong with me," you try to wrench your fingers from his grasp, but he won't relinquish his hold, "it isn't worth your freedom."
"My freedom?" He half laughs, following as you step backward. You finally extract one finger and then the next from his grip but rather than let you slip away he simply reaches out and grabs your forearm just above your wrist. As he pulls you to him the scent of him hits your nose. The both of you reek of the night's activities. Your body immediately tosses out a vote for a repeat session. Heimdall, and Thor, and everyone else be damned. Using your free hand, you rest your palm on his chest, wondering if you need to make your intention clear or if he can once again see your thoughts on your face.
But Loki's expression is steadfastly curious. Curious, and mildly cross. "Explain."
"Because. Because you called for Thor?" You try to balance on the balls of your feet to make yourself taller, trying to alleviate how he has your arm twisted between the pair of you. His grip is unwavering. "Because you do? Because he'll lock you away? Because..." Well, if he's going to hold your arm up like this might as well make use of the perfect example as to why... You wiggle your fingers to draw his attention down to the darkened tips of your digits. Still he doesn't loosen his hold. "Cause there's something wrong?"
"No," he leans forward, using his free hand to tip your face further towards his before planting his lips on yours. It's rougher than the last you experienced from him. When he pulls away he doesn't let you drop your chin again, making sure your gaze remains on his. "That's all the more reason to stay."
You frown, fighting against the way your eyes are threatening to water. It's easier to fake disbelief than it is to allow yourself to be as vulnerable as you feel right now. "But if something's wrong? What if..."
He doesn't let you finish the thought, picking up his last action where he left off.
Distraction. Yes. Distraction works. Distraction is good. You'd much rather focus on the transmission of body heat between the pair of you. The way his fingers shift so they no longer simply keep your head turned how he wants, but trace along your jawline and into your hair. The way he's kissing you, like he's ravenous – which only serves to stir up not-long-distant memories. Shame the pair of you aren't still tangled in a heap of cloth on the floor.
You just had to ask what had him preoccupied. You just had to press the issue, just had to make that moment end.
After you ruined it, after he pointed out the curious discoloration to your fingers, he had managed to show you a few of the secrets of Asgardian menswear. Mostly in reverse, but now you know were a few of the key clasps lie. If you're quick and catch him off guard... He certainly seems like he's willing at the moment, and considering those options, you hardly care that your arm is still being held at an odd angle between the pair of you.
A wicked smile starts to grow on your lips. He was very much a willing participant earlier. You manage a breath, and then his name, and almost ask – but then catch his expression. He's watching you again – eyes still sparkling – but there's something else there. Something careful, and distant, and calculating. Is he – what is he up to? You blink and the landscape of his face has changed. The hunger is back, his eyes flitting across your face as though he's trying to figure out where he wants to plant his lips next.
"When you're done saying goodbye," It almost stops your heart when you hear the deep basso of Thor's voice coming from somewhere close by. "I accept your surrender."
Your eyes widen, your body once again humming with a desire that you now have to push aside. Thor's arrival certainly puts an end to whatever was about to happen. Though both of you have frozen in place, your reaction couldn't be more different from that of the god looming over you.
Loki blinks his eyes closed, and when he opens them his expression hardens – his mask sporting a false smile sliding into place. Whatever he had been planning, whatever had him searching your features can't be revealed to Thor. You shudder, wondering just how deep the chasm between them is and just how smart it is to be caught there.
Loki turns slowly, pulling you along in a half circle to allow you a view of the sole entrance and exit to the room and the blonde god blocking the way. "Hello, brother."