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Lie to Me

Chapter Text

“You.” You look up with a very good impression of a deer caught in headlights. The woman beckoning to you is clearly high up in the SHIELD hierarchy; her suit probably costs more than your entire life is worth. “Are you free?”

You glance down at the coffee you were supposed to be delivering to your coworkers. That could probably wait. “Um, yes ma’am?”

“Come with me.” She starts off in a brisk walk down the corridor, her heels clicking sharply on the floor. You follow without question, trying not to tug on your uniform too harshly in an attempt to break it in a little better. You still aren’t used to the issued clothing, considering you’ve worn the default uniform of hoodies and jeans of a college academic most of your life.

She herds you into a bare bones room, just a table and a few chairs. You stand until she gestures for you to sit, not sure why she’s even glancing your way. You’re a lackey, nothing more. Certainly not worth the attention of Maria Hill.

The woman tosses a folder onto then table, and it impressively lands squarely in front of you. “I’m assuming you’re aware of recent events?”

You raise an eyebrow. “If you’re referring to Manhattan, then yes. It’s been a bit hellacious around here.” Like there wasn’t a person on earth who hadn’t seen the footage of monstrous black aliens pouring out of a glowing portal in the sky. Everyone has been scrambling to control the situation that is blatantly so far out of their control they might as well be fighting sci-fi aliens with Neanderthal tools. It’d be amusing if it wasn’t so terrifying. “Are you with the clean-up crew?”

“Sort of.” She gestures to the folder and you open it. Inside are crystal-clear photos of Earth’s newly minted heroes and a horde of special agents escorting a raven-haired man into a transport vehicle. “Look familiar?”

You release a small breath. Intellectually, you know this is the man- god- who just tried to make himself king of humanity and threatened the entire Earth to do it. But that doesn’t stop the wonder and amazement from washing over you. Loki, Norse god of mischief, real and in the flesh. In the background you can see the golden-haired Thor, swinging his mythical hammer. Well, not exactly mythical, is it? It’s real. They’re real. All the gods and realms and monsters and mayhem that have captivated you since childhood and ultimately lead to multiple degrees on the subjects- they’re real. It’s absolutely incredible. “Yes,” you say, probably a little more wondrously that you meant for it to be.

“We’ve got Loki in custody.” She says his name so nonchalant, like she isn’t referring to a thousands of years old immortal demigod of the golden realm of Asgard. “And we have no idea what to do with him.”

“And this has to do with me somehow?”

“Yes and no.” She sighs heavily, like she needed to be done with this shit a decade ago. “The government is treating the prisoner with kiddie gloves. They want every single loophole filled and locked down three times over. So we can’t just throw him in a deep dark hole and forget about him- he needs to be afforded certain… rights.” The tone of her voice implies she doesn’t agree with this sentiment.

“Like what?”

“Like company, while we sort out all the red tape so we can prosecute him properly.”

“Company.” You’re completely lost. “He needs a babysitter?”

That makes a small smile flick across her lips. “If you want to call it that. We’re not happy about it, believe me. It’s an undeniable risk. But the lawyers are demanding it, and god knows we have to keep the lawyers happy.” A pinch appears between your eyebrows. You don’t like where this is going. “So. Will you do it?”

“Me?” You squeak, then immediately try to get yourself under control. “Why me? I was literally hired a month ago, I have no qualifications to do anything like this-”

She holds up a hand. “We know. That’s the point. All you need to do is sit in his cell for a few hours every day and pretend to look interested in whatever he’s rambling about. Most likely he won’t talk; he’s been completely silent since we picked him up. Take a book and a few snacks with you, don’t let him talk you into doing anything traitorous, and you’ll be fine. Plus,” she continued, “with your background we figured you’d be at least mildly interested.”

Damn. They’ve got you there. Several masters’ in mythology along with years of studying it yourself means you’ve been ridiculously curious about Earth’s new visitors ever since Mjolnir landed in New Mexico. The spark in your eyes must have been obvious, because Agent Hill holds out a slender hand. “Have we got a deal?”

And so, not hours later, you find yourself wandering into the depths of SHIELD’s base. “Hi there.”

The room is depressingly stark and sterile- you thought you’d gotten used to being surrounded by the chrome and weird futuristic plastic that are apparently now the only two building materials left on Earth since starting at SHIELD, but this place takes it to a whole new level. And it’s newly constructed, based on the smell of drying concrete and fresh shavings peeling up around the screw holes in the corners. There’s a small, utilitarian metal desk and chair that’s been provided for you in the center of the room, so you drop your notepad and pencil onto the tabletop with a clang and pull out the chair. It screeches painfully against the floor, making you wince. Okay, no more of that. You suck in your stomach and slide in between the table and chair so neither of them have to move. A little tight, but you can make it work.

The other man in the room, framed behind a wall of glass, has not reacted to any of this.

He looks exactly how he did on TV, minus the leather armor and extravagant gold horned helmet thing. It’s all been replaced with the thin grey uniform SHIELD deems prison garb. You have to admit, he looks a lot less intimidating sitting pale and silent against the wall, handcuffs glowing faintly around his wrists.

“Um- can you hear me?”

Still no response. He doesn’t even seem to notice you’ve entered the room. Uuuuum, okay… There’s a microphone attached to the desk. You lean into it, frowning, fiddling with a few of the dials at the base. Then you tap on it and speak directly into the mic. “Can you hear me?” The man flinches wildly, a radical break in his composure, and his eyes dart to you angrily. “Oh, gosh, sorry, okay, let me-” you turn the dial down a few notches. “Better?”

The volume doesn’t seem to be at max level anymore- he doesn’t flinch again- but he also doesn’t say anything else. “I’m going to need verbal confirmation that you can hear me.”

He doesn’t look at you. He doesn’t seem to be looking at anything. His gaze is focused on some middling thing opposite of him, something invisible on the horizon, but he’s hardly glazed over- emerald eyes are bright and sharp, flickering lightly. They are not the eyes of a defeated man, far from it. More like one who has about fifteen thousand and twenty three plans all running through his head at once.

You suppose that should scare you, but SHIELD has reassured you that the cell is one of the most technologically advanced cells they’ve ever constructed. Also, those cuffs have some sort of magic-diffusing abilities, so no funny business there. Then again, he did basically destroy all of Manhattan, like, less than a week ago. You hadn’t even been in that part of the country at the time, SHIELD had called you in from D.C., but you can still feel the horror grip your chest in a vice watching skyscrapers fall to tatters on the news-

“Yes.”

His voice is so soft you almost don’t catch it. It pulls you from your thoughts nonetheless. “Oh. Okay, great.” You pull your pencil to you and neatly label the first page of your notepad with today’s date in the top corner. If you were going to talk to him, you might as well take notes. Think of the papers you could publish! “Can you please, uh, state your name for the record?” That sounded professional, right? You’ve heard it on Law and Order a lot, anyways.

The prisoner raises one eyebrow slowly. “Really?” He draws out that one word into a three-second attack of sarcasm, but you simply shrug your shoulders.

“It’s protocol.”

“I am Loki Laufeyson, Prince of Asgard, God of Mischief and Lies.” With every title he spits from his mouth, his eyes flash dangerously.

“O-kay.” You jot that down on your notepad, giving it an underline for good measure. “And how would you like to be addressed?”

“Your highness.” He says it as easily as he might’ve said Bob or Ricky.

You blink. “Um. Not sure that’s within my pay grade, but we’ll see how it goes.”

“Where am I?”

“A very secure holding cell,” you answer confidently, and the god scowls at you. He’s apparently waiting for more information, but you shake your head- “that is literally all the information I’m allowed to give you about that.” You glance up at the camera tacked to the ceiling of the room. “Also, you’re being recorded at all times. Gotta tell you that for legalities sake.”

“SHIELD has always so been worried about legalities.”

That gets a small snort from you, and you tap the end of your pencil on your paper. “So-”

“Who are you, exactly?” He suddenly sounds very, very tired, and a little angry, like he’s already done humoring you. “And why are you bothering me?”

“Y/N.” You give him a little wave, since you obviously can’t shake his hand. “I’m a, well- archivist, of sorts. SHIELD brought me in to talk to you.”

“And you’re, what? Fury’s pet?”

“Hardly. I’ve been here less than a month. I don’t think this uniform has even been washed yet.”

Another eyebrow raise. “An interesting choice to interrogate their most wanted suspect.”

You tap a little more frantically. “I think it’s so if you end up getting into my head, I won’t be able to give anything up,” you say thoughtfully. There’s a huff over the speakers you’re hearing him through. “Also, this isn’t an interrogation.”

“No?”

“Nope. I’m not really qualified for that.”

“Then what are you qualified for?”

Jeg snakker norsk,” you offer, honestly wondering that question yourself. The look he gives you is a mixed amount of horrified and amused. “They thought it might be helpful speaking in a familiar language, I guess?”

“They do know I can speak literally hundreds of thousands of languages spanning any galaxy you care to name,” he says, apparently stunned by the new heights of SHIELD’s stupidity.

You sigh. “Yeah. I thought it was a stupid idea too.”

“This is laughable.” He’s on his feet now, close to the glass and staring you down threateningly. “Why have I not been removed to Asgard? They will presumably want to prosecute me for my crimes.”

“Um, I think they’re planning on it. But they want me to talk to you first.”

“About what.”

“Well. Anything you want, really.”

“I have nothing to say to you mortals,” he spits, and the word splats on the ground like it’s a curse.

“That’s cool, I get that. But right now all the bureaucrats are running themselves in circles trying to figure out what to do with you, and all that red tape is going to take some time to untangle. In the meantime, they want to make sure you don’t go crazy from the solitude or something.”

“Since when has SHIELD cared about my well being?”

“I mean, you’ve still got rights and stuff. You can’t just sit here for who knows how long with only yourself for company.”

“And why not?”

“Wouldn’t you get lonely?”

“Forgive me, but I hardly think you are going to provide any sort of adequate mental stimulation.”

Geez, way to hit below the belt. “You can request someone else if you want. They pretty much just picked me out of a lineup and threw me on you, I don’t really think they care who sits here with you.”

“What would be the point? SHIELD only hires imbeciles and fools.”

“Well, then. I guess you’re stuck with me for a while.”

The man slumps back, apparently not encouraged by your words. Then he punches the wall with one of his restrained hands and screams angrily in clear frustration.

This is going to go so well.

Chapter Text

Normally, you appreciate silence. Like it, even. And those nights where it’s dusky and hot and there’s rain pattering on the window while you’re curled up in your apartment with a good book and maybe old Doctor Who episodes playing in the background? You love that silence. But this silence? Holy hell, you don’t think you’ve ever hated anything more.

Because this silence is full of stony quiet, annoyed glares, and infinite staring off into space, courtesy of one ridiculously stubborn Norse god. You’re pretty sure if you were Loki, you’d be tearing your own hair out by now, but he’s either incredibly conditioned or else not as smart as everyone thinks he is, because he seems perfectly content to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. After that short conversation when you first met, he hasn’t said or done a single. thing. It’s driving you absolutely bonkers.

“So how’s world domination working out for you?”

The Trickster doesn’t even move a muscle. Obviously. You sigh and put your head in your hands. “Sorry. That was mean. It’s just that when I agreed to babysit you I figured you’d at least give me some monologuing or something I could publish into a paper. This is beyond tedious. And I’m not even the one in the cell.”

You glance up at him, but his eyes remain in that faraway lost place. You wish you could see what he was seeing. It’s probably a lot more interesting than this white room. “I have so many questions too. I mean it’s not really anything important. You’d probably think they were stupid. But the only accounts we have of Asgard are thousand-year-old poems and I have a firsthand source sitting right here.”

“And if I told my professors what my questions are they’d probably slap me in the face. They’d be all, ask about the architecture! Royal genealogy! The metaphysical bounds of space and time! And then I’m over here wondering if an apple tastes the same as it does here on Earth.” You pause. “Have you had an apple? Like, from Earth?”

Nada.

“Or if it really is as breathtaking as everyone said it was. Asgard, I mean. Garden of the gods, and all that. I used to dream of it when I was a kid, but I’m sure my ideas were all wrong.”

You may be imagining it, but when you mention Asgard, Loki looks a little… sadder. Wistful.

“Do you miss it?”

Something in his eyes flash.

“I miss D.C. sometimes. New York was a bit of a culture shock, but I guess that doesn’t compare with a whole new planet.” You shift in your seat, trying to find a more comfortable position. “I wasn’t here when…” You stop. Manhattan probably isn’t the best thing to bring up. ”Well. When everything went down.”

“I guess there’s just something I don’t get,” you blurt out before you can stop yourself. “All those centuries old poems are messy and contradictory and really, really confusing at the best of times, but they’re all pretty clear about you: you’re not stupid. You don’t do anything without a reason. So why…?”

Ugh. This isn’t coming out right at all. “Look, point is… I’m not reporting to Fury or anything. Anything you tell me, I don’t have to repeat it. And I promise I won’t actually publish a paper about it, that’d be a complete invasion of privacy.” Your fingers twist anxiously. “Everyone should be able to show their side of things, without being vilified right from the get go. I doubt SHIELD is very good about being impartial, but I… want to be.” You take a breath. “Everyone deserves a chance to tell their story, right? And I wouldn’t leave it all up to Snorri Sturluson, he was kind of a nut job.” That makes you laugh a little to yourself.

“But whatever. I’ll shut up. You’d probably smite me for being annoying if you could. I’m sure you’re tired of being talked at.”

Chapter Text

You really have no idea what to expect. A message popped up in your inbox telling you to be in a certain room at a certain time. That’s it. Nothing about who you were meeting or why they wanted you there. But you know better than to ask questions about things SHIELD has deemed to be on a need-to-know basis. So you gather your notebooks and straighten your uniform, and take a deep breath before opening the large double doors in front of you.

That breath is immediately knocked out of you when you catch sight of the other occupants of the room. They’re a little hard to miss. Tony Stark has certainly been on the news enough for you to recognize immediately, though he looks more haggard and hungover than on his usual press tours. The bright red curls of Black Widow are iconic by now, as is the shield leaned up against Captain Roger’s chair. He drums his fingers on it thoughtfully. Judging by the arrowhead flitting through a brunet man’s fingers, you’d guess him to be the archer Hawkeye. And of course, the Norse god Thor sits with his mythical hammer Mjolnir by his side, also looking lost in thought. Oh, Christ. What have you gotten yourself into?

There’s a rather inconspicuous chair situated in the corner of the room, away from the conference table where all the superheroes- Avengers- are seated, so you settle into that, trying to take up as little room as possible. You also try not to hyperventilate. For some reason, being in the same room one-on-one with a god who has decidedly not great intentions is much less intimidating than being in a room full of heroes.

Thankfully, Fury walks in a second later, and all eyes drift to him as he takes his place at the head of the room. The second he opens his mouth, questions begin to overflow into the air-

“Where is he?”

“When does the interrogation start?”

“Bastard better be in pain-”

“The press keep asking if he’s contained-”

“Who are you?”

You glance up belatedly, realizing that last question is directed at you. “Um-” you look at Fury for help, but he simply raises his eyebrows at you. “I don’t think I’m allowed to tell you that. For… security purposes.” Which is complete and utter bullshit, and you’re fairly sure everyone in the room knows it, but the thought of being on any of these people’s radar makes your stomach turn. “I work for SHIELD.”

Tony Stark snorts. “Obviously.” He turns back to the director. “Well?”

“Loki is contained,” he says simply. “None of you will be allowed to access his cell.” This statement raises a round of protests until the man holds up a vaguely threatening hand. “Both the government and Asgard want him alive. And his being alive cannot be guaranteed if he’s put in a room with any single one of you.”

Most of them look disappointed, but in a murder-y, vicious sort of way. Thor looks relieved. “So we’re holding him?”

Fury nods. “We’ve worked out a temporary truce with Asgard. Before he returns with Thor for their trial, he’ll remain here with us until we can get some answers out of him.”

The group seems to agree to this with varying degrees of acceptance. “And who exactly is going to have the pleasure of choking him out until he gives over the intel?” This comes from the archer, who very much looks like he wants to be the one to have that pleasure.

“We have several of our best agents on the job. And…” Fury’s good eye trains on you, and you clear your throat in effort to keep your voice from wavering.

“They’ve also got me.” All eyes are suddenly on you, ratcheting your breathing up to eleven.

“You?” Stark asks incredulously. “What, is SHIELD just sending in junior agents as fodder now?”

You want to argue, but you really can’t, considering you’re basically the definition of a noob when it comes to this. The Norse god Thor is staring at you coldly, and dear god you really don’t want your neck snapped by any mythological figures anytime soon. “I’m keeping him company while he’s locked up, nothing more. I’m not going to hurt him,” you say, mostly to the god. He must see some truth in your statement because he settles back into his chair. “I’ve studied mythology, so I know a little about-”

“Yeah. I don’t really think you’d be capable of hurting him even if you wanted to, sweetheart.” Jesus, does his mouth ever stop? “Why the hell aren’t you sending one of us in to do the job? Or, I don’t know, someone capable of actually defending themselves?”

“You’re all biased,” Fury answers easily. “If we’re going to get any answers out of him, he needs to feel like he isn’t in imminent danger of being throttled at the drop of a hat.”

The Black Widow raises a delicate eyebrow. “You plan on what, psychoanalyzing him?”

Thor shakes his head. “He is the god of lies, his words are not so easily sieved through-”

“He’s a psychopath.” The archer’s eyes look dead. “Enough said.”

Thor coughs. “I am not sure precisely what this ‘psychopath’ means, but I can assure you-”

“Save it, Thor.” The arrowhead stops flitting through the air, and the man abruptly stands, throwing a caustic look your way. “When he’s got you shaking on the floor wishing you were dead, let me know and I’ll put an arrow through his eye.” He leaves without looking back. After a few moments, the Widow follows silently.

How reassuring. This assignment just keeps getting better and better.

Fury sighs heavily. “You’ll be updated when deemed necessary.” A dismissal if you ever heard one. You’re out the door in a flash, intent on putting as much distance between you and that room and the people in it as possible. You’re so lost in thought you don’t even notice you’re being followed until you’re five hallways away.

“Lady Y/N.” You freeze, recognizing the deep voice behind you.

“Um… yes?” You say faintly. You’re scared to turn around.

“Please, I only wish to introduce myself.” That gets you to look at him. Thor Odinson stands at a respectful distance away, hunching his shoulders to make himself seem slightly less intimidating. It isn’t really working. “I am Thor,” he continues. “Son of Odin, prince of Asgard. Loki’s… brother.” He says the last bit hesitantly, as if he isn’t sure anymore.

“I know who you are,” you blurt without thinking, then immediately turn red and slap a hand over your mouth. You are not going to fangirl over Thor. You’re not you’re not you’re not. Just because you’ve been reading bedtime stories about him since you were five and wrote your dissertation about Norse gods does not mean-

“You do?” He doesn’t seem insulted. More like pleasantly surprised. “I take that my reputation precedes me.”

“Something like that. It helps that I’ve been studying mythology since I was little…”

“You mentioned this. What does it mean?”

“Mythology?” He nods. “Well. Basically, it’s the study of… you. I mean, not just you specifically. But gods and monsters and things like that. Of course, until a few years ago we had no idea what we were studying actually existed…”

He chuckles at that. “Indeed. I am pleased to hear our exploits have stood the test of time.”

“No kidding. You’ve got stories about you that date back to 1030, and that’s just what we’ve been able to uncover and translate-” you stop yourself, realizing you’re going into your whole overly-enthusiastic-academic persona. “But you probably already know that. Sorry.”

He surprises you with a hearty laugh, throwing back his head and making his hair ruffle around his shoulders. You find yourself smiling back. “I am happy to see the little one has such a lively personality! Perhaps it will do him some good.”

You want to bristle at him calling you ‘little one’, but he says it with absolutely no malice in his voice. Considering he’s about three times the size of you, you figured it’s a fair assessment. “Maybe,” you say sheepishly. “As of now he won’t even acknowledge when I’m in the room.”

“He is stubborn, and no doubt in a highly unpleasant mood.”

You snort. “I suppose foiled evil plots tend would do that to you.”

Thor sobers at your words; an abrupt change to his demeanor. “Tell me something, lady,” he says carefully. “What is your opinion of my brother?”

What? “Well, he did try to blow up half of New York and enslave the human race.”

“Aye, that he did.” He doesn’t offer anything else, but he seems to be looking for something nonetheless.

You shrug your shoulders. “He doesn’t strike me as the type to do something without reason, I guess? If historical accounts are to be believed he’s much too smart for that. I’m trying to keep a neutral opinion unless he gives me reason to think otherwise.”

“I see.” Thor looks at you thoughtfully. “You are wise for your years, lady Y/N.”

“You are literally thousands of years old.”

“And therefore you can take my word for it.” He pauses. “I am not allowed to see my brother, as you heard. Will you tell me of him? Just so I know he is…” he doesn’t seem to know how to finish that thought.

“I’ll let you know what I can.” Thor seems genuinely worried for his brother, and it sends a pang through your chest. The god nods, accepting that. “I’ve got a report to type up, so-”

“I will not keep you.” He inclines his head in a very polite manner. “Thank you for speaking with me.”

“Of course.” He walks off in the opposite direction, leaving half your brain screaming you just had a conversation with the god of thunder and the other half sulking and now you have to go sit with the god of lies

Chapter Text

“What are you reading?”

“Um-“ you glance up, forgetting where you are for a moment. SHIELD. Underground cell. Right. “Say again?”

There is a long suffering sigh from the man behind the glass. “I said, what are you reading?”

“Oh. One of my old textbooks I found in the back of my closet.” You run a hand over the page you were just leaning over. “I hated this professor so much,” you say grumpily, but there’s still a small smile on your face as you say it. “He was an absolute git.”

“Fascinating.” The derision dripping from that one word could fill Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“Do you like to read?” You offer offhandedly, trying to get him to talk about something. Anything. Two weeks of sitting in stony silence has worn on your nerves. Hence, why you brought a book to keep you company this time.

“Yes.” His fingers fidget with each other as if searching for pages to turn. “There is a library on Asgard that contains more volumes than your puny mind could comprehend.”

You ignore the jibe. You’ve practically become immune to them by now. “What’s it like? The library, I mean.”

“You wish for me to describe it to you?”

“Well, only if you want.”

“It has been weeks,” he growls. “Should you not be asking more important questions?”

“What would you rather me ask?”

“I invaded Earth with legions of soldiers intent on crushing humanity beneath my fist.” You resist the urge to roll your eyes. He does tend to be dramatic. “And you’re asking about libraries.”

You shrug. “The library sounds more interesting.”

Something shifts in his eyes, something you can’t identify, and he leans forward slightly towards you. “I could tell you things you have never even dreamed of,” he purrs. “Knowledge no mortal has ever been graced with.”

Well that’s a drastically different tone of voice. You close your book, marking your spot with your finger. “Like what?”

“The libraries of Asgard contain the very secrets of the universe. All of it would be at your beck and call.”

“You’re gonna have to be more specific. Puny mortal mind, remember?”

“Have you ever wanted to see the future?” The god’s eyes are glowing faintly. “Discover how you die? Better yet, cheat death entirely, and learn to live forever? Or perhaps you are more interested in people bending to your every whim with a flick of your wrist. For them to lie down their backs for you to step on, rising to your rightful place. You could have everything you have ever wanted. Money. Fame. Power. Knowledge.” His voice is sinfully silky, washing over you in subtle, undulating waves like the seaside kissing the shore on a warm summer’s day. “And of course, you’d have me by your side. You will be crowned my queen, respected and feared throughout the nine realms and beyond. Plus, my eternal… adoration.” His voice drops into the realm of something obscene with that last comment. You can only imagine what that ‘adoration’ would entail.

You sit back in your chair, considering his words as you tilt your head a bit, taking in the god. “I think I’m gonna call you Trickster.”

Instantly, the suave illusion is broken, leaving behind a man with fury in his eyes. “What?”

“My boss said I couldn’t call you Your Highness,” you explain. “And I’m fairly sure you just tried to convince me to let you out of your cell in exchange for eternal power, or something. Tricky. Hence, Trickster.” You want to replace convince with seduce, because it seems more accurate, but there’s no way you’re going to say that out loud.

He growls at you. “Don’t flatter yourself. The second these ridiculous manacles were off I’d dispose of you in an instant.”

“I figured.” You flip open your book again. “But that was the most entertainment I’ve had in weeks, so feel free to continue if you’d like.”

A bang against the glass makes you look up. The god has risen from his spot on the floor, fist against the barrier in front of him. “Are you not frightened?’ He snarls. “I could snap your neck from where I stand.”

You have to fight a little to keep your breathing steady. Having a ridiculously powerful immortal being threaten you to your face is bound to pluck anyone’s nerves. “SHIELD has assured me you’re very well contained. And that those magic-suppressing handcuffs have done their job more than once.” You gesture to the metal binding his wrists. “So I think I’m okay for now.” Still, if looks could kill, you have no doubt you’d be barbecued to a crisp right about now. Eventually, he seems to get ahold of himself, and sits back down with the poise and grace you definitely wouldn’t expect from someone who’s been imprisoned for almost a month.

“You’re staring.”

Shit. You tear your gaze away. “I’m not.”

“Oh, but you are.” Even though your eyes are trained on your book, you can hear the smirk in his words. “Has my offer interested you after all?”

“Hardly. Then I’d have all of SHIELD on my back, and I don’t care what universe you’d hide me in, they’d find a way to get the Black Widow to poison my tea one way or another.”

“Then why so intrigued, little one?” When Thor said it, it was a fond gesture, almost like calling you a little sister. In the Trickster’s tone of voice, it is most definitely an insult.

You huff. “I think if all the stories you once considered pure fiction were suddenly proven true, you’d be a little curious too.”

“Ah.” The god settles back against the concrete wall behind him like he’s lounging on a chaise. “Then I take it you have heard of me?”

“After that shit you pulled in Manhattan? I guarantee you, everyone’s heard of you.”

He dismisses your retort with a wave of his hand. “I mean prior to our arrival on Earth.”

You let out a breath. “Well. Yes. I studied mythology in college. Have a couple degrees on the subject. So I was aware of you, as much as I was aware of any of the other gods and goddesses from Greek, Roman, and Germanic history.”

“I see.” The statement has a droll tone to it, but underneath you can hear a genuine curiosity. Interesting. “Is this why you fell in with this lot?” He gestures around him in what you assume to meting SHIELD.

“Yup. They wanted some archivers with knowledge in ancient cultures and religions. So here I am.” You stop cold for a moment, then look at him suspiciously. “Why the sudden interest? I already told you, I’m not gonna be coerced into doing anything for you.”

He shrugs a shoulder nonchalantly. “I am rather bored, and while you are not particularly fascinating, it seems you will be the only respite I get in my torment.”

“Wow, thanks. You sure know how to woo a girl.”

You’re surprised with a small piece of laughter from the opposite end of the room. “Indeed, I have been told many times. Though it seems Midgardians are woven from a different cloth.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Do.” Your heart stutters again. He sounds sincere, but he’s the God of Lies for Christ’s sake. He’s probably just switching tactics since his earlier plan didn’t win you over.

You’re relieved when you glance at your watch. “Time’s up for today, Trickster. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“I look forward to it.”

You roll your eyes on the way out the door. “Flattery will get you nowhere, Trickster.”

Chapter Text

“You said you have questions.”

Your pencil scratches to a halt on your notebook. “What?”

The man in his cell heaves a long suffering sigh. “Must you make me repeat myself constantly? You said you have questions. Ask them.”

Um… what? You raise an eyebrow at him and peer closely, trying to distinguish and sort of schmoozing like the last time he spoke to you. “Are you… are we, like, talking now? Is this a thing?”

“Excuse me?”

“Well you seemed pretty insistent on keeping up the whole silent treatment, sooooo… why talk now? Did my ever-present charm finally seduce the Trickster?”

He gives you a look that could feasibly translate to ‘you’d be more attractive dipped in a swamp and covered in grass clippings’. “I am bored. You are here and seem somewhat capable of producing coherent thoughts. Therefore, you happen to be my only option for entertainment.”

“Hoo boy, lucky me.” You snort. “Don’t lie to me, you probably just want to figure out how to sway me into unlocking your handcuffs again.”

He seems amused by this. “I am the god of lies, Witling. I very much doubt you could tell when I lie to you.”

“Bet.” You pause. “I- sorry. What did you call me?”

The Trickster has an incredibly self-satisfied smirk on his lips, one that instantly makes you want to slap it off of him. “You seem to think yourself incredibly pithy for a mortal. Not many would speak so smartly to the God with a sliver tongue. And, you apparently refuse to call me by name, thus I shall not call you by yours, Witling.”

Considering everything he just said to you were well-places insults, they’re incredibly pretty insults. You suppose it’s that whole silver tongue thing. The man could read a phone book and it’d be X-rated. “I’m assuming you’re not actually calling me witty, Trickster?”

“Ah, the little one understands sarcasm. Quite a boon.”

At this point the jabs just fly right over your head. You put your chin in your hand and rest it on the table, musing. “Hm. The Witling and the Trickster. Sounds like a bad buddy-cop movie. I’m sure Neil Gaiman would make a killing off of it though.”

“You are very quickly trying my patience.”

“Well hey, you said you wanted entertainment, right?” The ferocity of his glare doesn’t scare you this time, surprisingly- you just scrunch your nose up at him, your equivalent of a toddler sticking out her tongue in a na-na-you-can’t-get-me kind of way. “So, can I really ask anything?”

“Provided it is not something so asinine as ‘do apples taste as they do on Earth’.”

“Hey, it’s a good question! Seven year old me was a smart cookie.” Externally, you’re trying to keep calm, but your heart is thumping so wildly in your chest you’re surprised the god doesn’t comment on it. You can ask him anything. Possibilities are whirling around in your head so quickly you can barely think of one to snatch up and voice. So you blurt the first thing you can think of- “did you really give birth to a horse?”

There’s a moment of silence, and you almost think he hasn’t heard you, but then his face twists into the most haughty, appalled, scandalized look that’s ever come out of god or mortal in any of the nine realms; you’re willing to bet your entire life’s savings on it. “Did I what.

You try to subtly clamp a hand over your mouth in effort to keep from bursting out laughing right to his face. “I’m assuming that’s a no, then?”

“Mortals are the most inane, idiotic, moronic creatures-” He steadies himself, seemingly controlling his outburst with a well-controlled breath. “No. I absolutely did not. Where in Hel did you manage to come up with such a ludicrous statement?”

“So once upon a time, you turned into a mare to seduce a horse called Svadilfari and the resulting, um, incident, created an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir. I mean, if the story is true, you were kind of in a bad spot and had to think on the fly, but uh… yeah. Kind of a creative way of doing things.” The Trickster looks even paler than usual. “You sure that didn’t happen? ‘Cause uh, its kind of a well documented story-”

“I can assure you in my one thousand and fifty odd years of life I have not ever seduced a horse.” You have to give a little giggle at that, because such an odd statement coming out of someone so furious is absolutely hilarious.

“Well, damn. Mythomaniacs everywhere just had a sharp pain in their chests and don’t know why.”

The Trickster leans his head back against his cell wall with a solid thunk and lets his eyes close. “And Thor wonders why I loathe Midgard so much.”

“I guess centuries of rumors working their way down the grapevine could mess up your reputation a bit, huh?” You’re half teasing, and half trying to cheer him up, but he doesn’t seem all that convinced. You’re also terrified you’ve just insulted the crap out of him and he’s going to go back to the silent treatment, and you really do not want that to happen- this is the most fun you’ve had in ages. “So you’re a thousand and fifty? Roughly?”

“Yes.”

“How long is that in, like, regular years?” He cracks open one eyelid to give you the stink eye, and you roll your eyes back at him. “You know what I mean. Midgardian years, whatever.”

“How should I know that?”

“Well, how long do Asgardians live?”

He seems to think for a moment. “Five thousand or so, give or take.”

“Okay, sooooo…” you scratch some quick math onto the paper in front of you. Five thousand years divided by one thousand and fifty, Loki’s age- 4.76ish. If the normal human lifespan is ninety years, being generous, then ninety divided by 4.76 is… “Huh.”

“Have you made a revolutionary discovery? Shall I call your pathetic press?”

“Just out of curiosity, how do you think the prefrontal cortex matures in Asgardians as compared to humans?”

“Considering Asgardians are vastly superior to mortals, I should say at a greater capacity.”

“I sure hope so,” you murmur to yourself. Because this is… wow. Kind of terrifying, and kind of hilarious.

“What has your tongue in knots?”

“Do you really want to know?”

He cocks and eyebrow and glances around at his cell. “I’m not sure how the information could make my situation any worse.”

“Fair. Well, by human standards, you’re just shy of nineteen years old.”

“I have no context for your lifespans.”

“Um, eighteen is when you’re legally considered an adult in most countries. Here in the States you can’t legally consume alcohol until you’re twenty one. And I’m twenty four, so technically, by Earth’s standards, I’m older than you.”

Oh, the look on his face is just priceless. You wish you had a camera. “That is preposterous.”

“Math doesn’t lie, man. Oh my god, if you were normal, you’d be some rich frat boy right now…!”

“I have no comprehension for this term… frat boy… but from your tone of voice I can sure you I most decidedly would not be one.

You shake your head, a huge grin on your face. “This is hilarious. I’m older than you. I feel like I should give you a lecture on safe driving skills or why you should stay in school.”

Trickster is practically nose to nose with the glass wall of his cell, looking ridiculously frustrated. “I have harnessed the power of an infinity stone to my own whims and you dare insinuate that you outrank me!”

A what now? “What’s an infinity stone? I haven’t heard of that term.”

It’s almost like a light switch flipping off- everything in him visibly shuts down and withdrawals into himself, swallowing everything up as a snake might a rat. “It is nothing. Unimportant.”

The way he stops on a dime is almost scary. Someone who can control their emotions at the drop of a hat like that… well. They usually don’t learn that skill by pleasant means. So you drop it for now, but you do write yourself a little note with a question mark, right next to his ‘human age’ that’s circled in big black marks. “Hey, I was just kidding Trickster. I doubt I outrank you in anything other than, like, random Midgardian trivia. Trust me, even with the handcuffs, you’re still the heavyweight here.”

To your relief, something like life filters back into his face, just a bit. “It would be best you do not forget that, Witling. There will come a day where I could make your life a living nightmare.”

But his voice is so light you just crinkle your nose at him. “Nah, I bet you’d be harmless. I’m the one who kept you entertained all these dark lonely nights after all.”

“I believe I would rather have Mjolnir set on my head.”

Chapter Text

You’re nose-deep in several thick files as you wander your way through SHIELD’s corridors- infinity stones, there’s no mention of anything like that- when someone shoulder-checks you hard enough to send you sprawling. Papers flutter everywhere, covering the hallway in photocopies and sheet protectors, and you make a small noise of dismay- it’s going to take ages to put everything back in order.

“Ah, shit, my bad. I wasn’t looking where I was going. You okay?”

A hand appears in front of you, scarred and calloused, and you take it gratefully as you get to your feet. “No harm done, um…” your eyes widen when you realize it’s Agent Barton who’s standing in front of you. He wears jeans and a hoodie with the sleeves rolled up, his clothes exuding casualness but his posture belying his alertness. “Agent. Sorry about that.”

His eyes sharpen as he gets a look at you- realizing who you are. His gaze is enough to make you take a small step back in anticipation. They don’t call him Hawkeye for nothing. “You.”

“Um… yes?” Carefully, you try to inch your way around him and begin picking up your scattered research. “Did you need something?”

The toe of his boot pins a stack of notes to the ground as you reach for them. You freeze. “What are these?”

“Just some notes I pooled from some colleagues. Nothing especially important.” He stoops to collect the papers in question and scans them briefly. His grip is so tight it crinkles the edges.

“About him.”

You don’t ask who he’s referring to. “Well, yes, but also Thor and Odin and Asgard in general… he’s referenced a few things I don’t recognize so I’m just rereading a few documents to see if I’ve missed anything-”

Agent Barton looks up at you sharply. “Like what?”

“Um-” Something in your chest tells you mentioning this infinity stone- whatever it is- probably wouldn’t be in anyone’s best interest. “Just a few names, places, things like that. I doubt they’re significant, but I like to be, um. Thorough.” Tension is radiating off the man in waves- it feels like he’s holding an arrow at your throat, poised to release his bowstring at any moment. He makes a noncommittal grunt and steps back a few paces, which you take as a sign to finish picking up your stuff. You have no doubt he can tell you’re lying, but based on his demeanor your goal right now is to survive this conversation and live to see another day.

“So he’s talking to you? Fury said the interrogators aren’t getting anything out of him.”

Tread carefully. The cautious voice in your head sounds vaguely like Trickster’s, strangely enough. “Occasionally.”

“About?”

“Just a few things here and there… as I said, I’m cross-referencing it with some studies…”

You’re stalling, and he knows you’re stalling. Barton’s sigh sounds like it weighs a thousand pounds, and the lines in his face sink from crevices to valleys. “Look, kid, I’m not going to be able to help you if you don’t give me anything to work with.”

“Help me?” You stand, folders tucked under your arm. “I’m not sure I understand.”

“You have no idea what you’re dealing with in there. I do.” His words are as haunted as his eyes. “Sooner or later he’s gonna cut you down to nothing and then kick you while you’re still wondering what the hell hit you. He’ll get inside your head and twist everything around until you don’t know which way is up-”

“-I don’t think he’d do that!” You blurt out, unable to stop yourself. His voice is just so… harsh. So sure, like he’s absolutely certain Trickster is going to reduce you to nothing but ashes in a matter of days. Something about it rubs you the wrong way. “I… I don’t think he’d do that.”

“He already has. Multiple times. He killed hundreds of people in two days.”

Well, you can’t argue with that. “Yes, he- he did.”

“And you’re defending him why?”

“I’m not defending him,” you argue. “I’m just… trying to maintain a neutral mentality. It isn’t my place to judge him. That’s not what I’m here for.”

Barton looks at you like you’ve suddenly grown extra limbs. “Then you’re a better man than I’ll ever be.” He pauses. “Or he’s just gotten to you already.”

“‘Gotten to me?’ Agent, please, I believe I’m capable of-”

“I don’t give a shit about what you’re capable of, because I know what he’s capable of. You haven’t seen anything, kid.” The darkness in his voice sends needle pricks down your spine, and for a long moment, the two of you stare at each other as though only one of you will walk away from this conversation. Then Barton looks away, and the spell is broken. “I’ll talk to Fury. Get you put on another assignment.”

“You can’t-”

“I can, and I will! You think I like being the closest thing we have to an authority on that maniac? On what’s inside his head? I don’t. I’d cut off an arm and a leg not to know those things. But as long as I do I’m sure as hell gonna make sure no one else gets ruined by that psychopath.” His words are poison, and you have no way of avoiding their burn as they trace lesions down your cheeks.

“Clint?” A woman’s voice breaks through the bad taste in your mouth. When you glance at the Black Widow, standing a few feet away, you can see the worry on her face. “You’ve got a three o’clock.”

It’s almost as though strings are cut from his joints- something in him dissipates; his anger dissolves to a simmer. “Right. I’m headed there now.” Both you and Romanov watch him stalk away. You expect something from her- a rebuke, a threat, a warning- but she simply gives you a soft nod and follows the way he went.

Once they round the corner, you feel you can finally breathe. If you had the courage, you’d say to him, he has just as many scars as you do. I know he does, I see them in his eyes. But you don’t, and so you turn and go the opposite way, trying to get as far away from Barton’s warnings as humanly possible.

 

Chapter Text


“Lady Y/N!” A booming voice echoes down the hallway, stopping you in your tracks. Thor, looking for all the world like an excited child, jogs up to you with a bright smile on his face.

“Oh, hey, um, Thor? Prince Thor?”

He laughs from his belly, throwing his head back and making his golden hair wave. “Lady, Thor is fine. You owe me no loyalty. Please, walk with me, if you have a moment?”

You look at your watch. “Sure, I have a few minutes. What’s up?”

“I was wondering if you had any news of Loki. How is he?” He falls along step beside you easily, even though he must be seriously slowing his gait so you can keep up with him. “I worry about him.”

“I mean, I don’t have a baseline of his usual moods, but as far as I can tell… sarcastic? Perpetually annoyed with the world at large? He hasn’t punched the wall again, though, at least as far as I’ve seen.”

“Indeed, that does sound like my brother.” His voice is a mixture or fondness and exasperation, and it makes you smile. Thor is easy to talk to; much less prickly than Trickster, and he clearly truly cares for his brother. And if someone like Thor cares for Trickster, then he can’t be all bad, right? “Have you spoken much? I hope he has not been too cross with you.”

“He was pretty sharp at first, but I grew up with an older brother, I can handle myself.” You shrug as you turn the corner. “Plus, we’ve had some really… interesting conversations.” A grin works its way across your face, remembering Trickster’s indignant look as you insisted he was a human teenager. “By the way, Thor, how old are you?”

Bushy eyebrows draw into the classic thinking expression. “Around fifteen hundred I believe. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, just something we were talking about.” That would make him25ish? The image of an exasperated older brother Thor trying to contain his moody younger sibling makes you giggle.

“Truly? If the tale makes you smile so, then I must hear it!”

Are you smiling that big? You shake your head. “Honestly, I’m not sure it would make any sense if I tried to explain it.”

“I see.” He pats your shoulder with a large hand, and you have to work not to stagger under the force of it. “I am glad he has you, lady. You seem an admirable companion.”

“Thanks, I think.” You give him a friendly nose scrunch for good measure. “I do what I can.”

“I would like to thank you, though I am not sure I have anything worthy to offer…” You can practically see the wheels turning in his head. “Ah! You said you were a scholar, did you not?” You nod an affirmative. “If it does not seem boastful, do you have any questions you would like to ask? Perhaps I can add to your assortment of knowledge.”

Your jaw practically drops to the floor. Sure, Trickster had offered to answer questions, but he was hardly a willing participant. Thor would probably answer any inquiry and draw you a diagram to go along with it if you asked. “R- really? You’d do that?”

“I would be happy to be of use. Come, let us sit.” He leads you to a sort of cafeteria, where agents are milling about and swallowing mid-grade lunch food. Surprisingly, a god and a newbie agent following him in like a toddler doesn’t even warrant a side eye. “Now, throw me your worst!”

“I… I don’t even know where to start!” You flip through a random notepad, searching for inspiration, when you spot your scribbles working out Tricker’s ‘human age’. “Oh, um, do you know what infinity stones are? I’ve never heard of them, and none of my colleagues seem to know anything either…”

Thor frowns, an expression at odds with his happy demeanor. “They are… complicated to explain, and to be frank, I do not know much of them myself. But I would be happy to gather what information I can for you on the subject.”

“Okay, okay, cool. Um, what about…” your eyes widen a little. “Um. Could I- maybe take a look at Mjolnir? Just, up close. I won’t touch it, I promise!”

“But of course!” As casual as you please, he unhooks it from his belt and sets it on the table in front of you, like it isn’t theoretically the most powerful weapon in the universe. “I doubt you would harm it, fear not.”

Holy. Crap. It shines in front of you and drips of power. Gently, you trace a rune emblazoned on the side. Whosoever holds this hammer, should he be worthy… “Wow,” you whisper. Just wait ‘til your professors hear about this.

“It was made at the request of my father, Odin, from rare metals, and forged in the heart of a dying star. He also cursed it, so that only the truly worthy may wield it.” He leans forward almost conspiratorially, and gives you a wink. “Would you care to try?”

“W- what? No, I- that would be ridiculous-!” Oh my god pleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease

Nonsense!” He claps you on the back heartily, practically throwing you from your seat. Thor really doesn’t know his own strength. “I guarantee you, many scoundrels less noble than you have tried!”

“I-” Oh, screw it. What the hell. ”Sure. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Indeed! Your spirit has fire!”

Oh, lord. You tentatively wrap a hand around the grip of the hammer, which absolutely dwarfs you. If it weighed what it should, it’d probably collapse the table it sits on. Come to think of it, the physics of this… fascinating. You’ll have to ask about that next. “Here we go…” You tug once, twice, the leather handle wrapped around your wrist. It doesn’t budge. Of course. “I told you this was silly,” you tease, releasing your grasp. “As if I could move it!”

“But my lady, it is so easy!” Of course, he plucks the hammer from its perch and twirls it as though it weighs nothing. “Perhaps you should try harder, hm?”

By this point you’re clutching your sides in laughter at his antics. “Stop it, you’re making me nervous! Lose your grip and you’ll take someone’s head off!”

He sets it down once more, chuckling along with you. “Have I satisfied your curiosity? Or will you be like Loki, and never let your nose leave your books?”

“Oh, we talked about that, a little at least. He told me he likes reading.”

“I do not believe he enjoys anything more.” He heaves a long-suffering sigh. “My friends and I never understood, but I do admire his intelligence. He has run circles around us all since childhood.” There’s a twinkle in his eye you can’t miss whenever he speaks of his brother. It’s incredibly sweet.

“You love him a lot, don’t you?”

Thor nods. “We have had our quarrels, to be sure. But in the end, he is my brother.”

You raise an eyebrow. “Um, I’m pretty sure you guys leveled a town out in New Mexico in one of your… quarrels.”

The blonde doesn’t look phased. “Yes, well. He’s adopted.”

Chapter Text

“You’ve been speaking with Thor.”

You don’t glance up from the rough sketch of Mjolnir you’re outlining in your notebook. The runes are a bit tricky to replicate precisely. “Um, yeah. How’d you know?”

He gestures to your drawing. “He let you ‘test your worthiness,’ yes?”

You giggle. “Yeah. Nothing happened, obviously.”

The noise of disapproval that he hums catches you off guard. “I’m disappointed, Witling. I would have thought you were more intelligent than to fall for his ploys. I suppose I was wrong.”

That makes you set your pencil down. The Trickster sounds even grumpier than usual. “His ‘ploys’? What, is he gonna lift my fingerprints off the handle to frame me for a crime I didn’t commit?”

The god, while still angry, now looks thoroughly mystified. “What on Asgard is the nonsense tumbling out of your mouth?”

“I- nothing, never mind. Why do you care if I talk to Thor? He’s sweet, and it’s nice to talk to someone and not feel like they’ll bite off my head for breathing in the wrong direction.”

You give him a pointed look, but it flies right over his head. “No, by all means, let the oaf wrap you around his little finger. Because of course, the true Prince of Asgard, mighty god of thunder, would be a much better companion than the snide, corrupt Loki.” There’s so much bitterness in his voice you could drown in it- and something makes you feel like he already has.

“Whoa, hey, that’s- a lot of antagonism there. Are you okay?”

He lets his head rest back against the wall behind him in obviously reluctant defeat. “Even on Midgard, that brute is still the chosen one. I should have known the universe would not know impartiality, no matter the realm.”

“Mmm, yeah, life tends to play favorites a lot, and that favorite is rarely you.” You glance up. “I mean, not you, you in particular. Us, I guess?”

Us. Do not lie to me, mortal; you know nothing of my life.”

“Well, no, I don’t know what it’s like growing up as a magical demigod prince, you’ve got me there. But I do have an older brother. I know how it feels to grow up in the shade of his shadow.” You glance down at your paper, tapping the butt of your pencil thoughtfully on the table. Oh. “That explains a lot, actually,” you murmur.

“Oh, please, by all means, psychoanalyze me into submission. I look forward to hearing your drivel; it is excellent to amuse myself with when sleep is elusive.”

Glaring at him, you throw your pencil across the room in a vague approximation of his location. It bounces off the glass barrier and clatters to the floor, but for once, the Trickster looks shocked and speechless. “Christ, aren’t you supposed to be a prince? How about acting like it for once?”

“You would lecture me about being royalty? You said yourself you have no basis for aristocracy!”

“I don’t, but I sure as hell know they act a lot better than you!” Now you’re both staring at the other, unwilling to be the one to look away first. “Look, I get it. You’re angry, and tired, and sad, but that doesn’t give you the right to lash out whenever you want. Stop bleeding on the people who didn’t hurt you.”

“And who might that be?” Once his tone might have frightened you. Yesterday it would have made you annoyed. Today it just makes you… pensive. Because now you have some puzzle pieces that are starting to fit together, and the picture it shows isn’t all that pretty.

“Me. Everyone else at SHIELD. The entire human race you just tried to enslave,” you add. “Thor.”

With a growl, the Trickster’s gaze traps you in your seat with an intensity you haven’t seen before. “Thor Odinson-” he practically spits his name like a curse- “has always been the favorite. The chosen one. Father’s heir, the people’s love, the golden child. Next to him I might as well be as inconsequential as the sand beneath his feet,” he hisses.

“Because Odin made you feel that way, not Thor! Your father is the one who played favorites, Trickster. He’s the one who made Thor his golden child, and gave him a magical hammer, and groomed him to be the heir. Your father may see you as lesser, but by all accounts Thor values you as his equal.” You pause, thinking back to your conversation. “He said he admires you.”

“Lies.”

“You’re the god of lies; I’d hope you’d be able to distinguish when I’m lying to you.” When he doesn’t respond, you get up, walk over to him, and tap on the cell wall. “Hey. You’re literally in a fishbowl, you can’t just avoid me. Am I lying to you?”

His green eyes search your face, thinking, even though he already knows the answer. “No.”

“No. I’m not. He specifically told me that he doesn’t understand your bookish habits-” you smile a little at that- “but he’s proud of your intelligence all the same.”

“Of course. How could he? That blundering idiot can barely string together two coherent sentences.” You can tell he’s aiming for derision in his voice, but his words aren’t nearly as harsh as they were a minute ago.

“Look, from what I’ve read, Asgard is a warrior’s culture, yes? They value strength, and brawn, and muscles, and how hard you can swing a sword. You’re… not that. Sure, I have no doubt you’re a great fighter, but it’s because you think your way through a battle, not go in there guns blazing and overpower your enemy.” You stop and glance at him, wondering if you’ve gone too far, but he’s actually looking at you with some interest. “It’s like asking a fish to climb a tree. You’re completely out of your element; the scales were tipped against you from the start.”

For a long moment, he doesn’t speak, and you think he’s going to throw your words right back in your face. But to your surprise, the god starts laughing. No, it’s not as hearty as Thor’s, and there’s an underlying bitter sweetness to the sound, but it’s a true, honest laugh. Probably the first one you’ve heard from him. “You say the strangest things, Witling.”

Smiling, you scrunch your nose up at him. “Yeah, yeah, I’m an oddball, I get it. But I’m also right.”

His eyes are slightly out of focus, as though he’s seeing his life through a new lens. “Perhaps.”

“When you start with the short straw time and time again; when you’re punished for doing things differently even though different is in your DNA… you’re going to get frustrated. And you’re going to get resentful. And eventually, there’s going to be an explosion.” Your expression is resigned as you look at him. “It’s not fair. And I’m sorry that’s what you had to deal with for a thousand years.”

His eyes are more thoughtful than you’ve ever seen them. “I cannot remember a time when someone apologized to me sincerely.”

“Thor probably tried, but he didn’t know how. Words are your thing, not his.”

“Indeed.” He nods to himself, seemingly settling an argument only he can hear. “May I ask you a question, Witling?”

“What? I mean-” you shake off your surprise- “Sure, Loki. Of course you can.”

Something in his expression brightens just a hint, though you’re not sure why. “Do you not prefer Thor to me?”

“Is that what you’re worried about, Trickster? Losing your annoying sidekick?”

Loki rolls his eyes. “You are not my sidekick. At best you are an unfortunate reoccurring side-bit.”

You snort. “Look, I like Thor a lot. He’s friendly, though he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, and very… loud,” you say. “Kinda like a golden retriever. Lots of energy, bounding all over the place, leaping before they look. But I like that I can have a good conversation with you. You think, and you’ve got a sharp tongue, and you’re a bit of an enigma. If Thor is a golden retriever, you’re a witch’s familiar.” You give him a shrug and a smile. “And I’ve always been a cat person, anyways.”

“Color me relieved.”

“You’re the one who asked! Can’t have my favorite god getting jealous now can we?”

“Jealousy over someone implies they are something you covet. You are an annoyance. Thor can gladly take you.”

“In that case, I guess I’ll just go find him.” You gather your stuff, taking your sweet time putting it all away in your bag and watching Loki struggle to find a way to keep you from going. Because he doesn’t want you to go. Not really.

“Witling.”

You look over your shoulder. “Yeeeeeeeees?”

His gaze is very conveniently anywhere but on you. “I will… see you tomorrow?”

There’s a little smile on your face as you respond. “Yeah, Loki. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

“Shall I tell you something, Witling?”

You glance up from your sketching. “Um, depends on the thing? If it’s your newest plans for world domination I think I’d rather stay innocent, but I’m all for theorizing about what actually happened to Fury’s eye.”

“You don’t know?”

You shake your head. “It’s like, best-kept SHIELD lore at this point. You’d think an organization of spies could actually, I dunno, do some spy work. Right now I think the office pool is either on Hill or Romanoff, possibly with a stiletto heel.” It’s become a very bad, very amusing game of Clue- Romanov in the office with a Louboutin; Hill in the caf with a plastic spork.

“As fascinating as that may be, I believe I’ll have to pass.”

You shrug. “Your loss. I think we’re up to five hundred dollars cash.”

“And what would you do with such a sum?”

“Um… buy some new books, probably? Pay my bills. It’s a charmed life.” You squint your eyes at him mock-suspiciously. “Why the sudden interest, Trickster?”

“As I was going to say,” he says smoothly, a hint of amusement in his voice. “It troubles me that while you seem to know a great deal about myself, I know very little about you.”

“Interesting.” You tap your pencil against the page thoughtfully. “If anything you’ve proven that no one really knew what the hell they were talking about when they wrote those poems.”

“Still, my statement stands.”

You look at him, head tilted, and quirk an eyebrow. “Okay, I’ll bite. What do you want to know? I will warn you, you hit the nail on the head when you first met me- I’m not very interesting.”

“Hardly.”

“And- if I answer one of your questions, you have to answer one of mine.” You grin wickedly. “Tit for tat, yes?”

He grins at you, chuckling. “Very well.”

“I’m writing this down.” You very obviously write 20 QUESTIONS WITH LOKI LAUFEYSON at the top of your page, and add a little flourish. “I’ll sell it to the tabloids for five times the amount I’d get from the betting pool.”

“Provided you spend it on novels, I suppose I cannot argue.”

“Loki Laufeyson approved, excellent.” You tap your chin thoughtfully. “Okay, starting off easy. Favorite color?”

Loki snorts. “Are you a schoolgirl?”

“You have to start with the basics! What am I supposed to ask, does God exist?”

He raises a delicate eyebrow. “No.”

“Exactly. Now answer the damn question, jerk.”

“No- no, God does not exist. Presuming you speak of the Christian one.”

“I-” you have to pause an blink at him for a moment. “Wait. Really?”

“No.”

“But… how do you know?”

“Asgardians are one of the most advanced races in the nine realms, Witling, I believe we would know if a magical omniscient presence of the mortal’s creations suddenly found their way into existence.”

“The universe is literally infinite! You can’t possibly know everything that’s out there.”

Loki shrugs, as if having a conversation about a deity with another deity isn’t the weirdest thing you’ve done recently. “If anything, Heimdall sees all. I wager he would most likely alert us.”

“Hm.” You put your chin in your hand, eyebrows furrowed, thinking this new revelation over. “I mean, we didn’t know you existed until a few years ago, so it’s not like we could judge the universe off of Aesir standards.” You shake your head. “Jesus, you could start the third world war with that sentence.”

“I do not believe inciting war amongst the mortals would endear my cause to SHIELD. Besides, you seem to do that perfectly fine on your own.”

“Okay.” Your brow is furrowed, clearly deep in thought. “But look. God is supposed to have created everything, right? Theoretically that would include the Norse gods. So if he does exist, you wouldn’t necessarily know it.”

Loki has that infuriating smirk on his face, the one that says I know more than you, little mortal. “You have so little knowledge of the universe you exist in, and yet you insist on creating deities out of thin air. I would suggest focusing your pursuits on beings that are tangible.”

“Ah!” You sit up, pointing at him in an excitement that only comes with a really fascinating academic debate. “Point! God isn’t tangible. That’s kind of his whole selling point. Having faith to believe in what you can’t see and all that.”

“You do not find that difficult?”

“Um…” Gosh, you really weren’t prepared for a metaphysical dissection when you walked in to work today. “I mean, I’m not a devout believer or anything, but no. We believe in things we can’t see every day. Love. Hope. Common good. I don’t see how that’s any different than believing in God.”

“I see.” He has a thoughtful look on his face. “I suppose mortals can be complex creatures, if they choose to put their limited minds to it.”

“Oh hush, you’re just mad at the possibility of there being something out there you don’t know about.”

“I am telling you, it isn’t possible.”

“Ten years ago you weren’t possible, and yet here I am having a theological discussion with a god.” You raise your eyebrows at him. “Forgive me for not believing you.”

“I refuse to be your justification for some far-fetched fairy tale.”

“Well, you shouldn’t have dragged Our Lord and Savior into it, then.”

“I am not a fairy tale!”

“Yeah, that classification only just got changed, don’t get too cocky about it.” You wrinkle your nose at him, thoroughly enjoying the peaked look he gets on his face when he’s frustrated with you and trying to keep his cool. “But what do I know, I’m just a puny little mortal, right?”

Loki sighs, half in mock contempt and half in gentle exasperation. “I believe I misjudged your species much too quickly. They are actually quite infuriating.”

“Awwww, he likes me! He really likes me!”

“Please, I do little more than tolerate you.”

“Yeah, yeah, heard it all before.” You give him a big ol’ grin. “You’d be lost without me, admit it. Now, answer the question.”

“Which one?”

“Your favorite color!”

He rolls his eyes, but there’s a smile on his face. “I am partial to gold, I suppose. And yours?”

You’re about to say your favorite, the color your bedroom was painted as a child and the color you insisted every birthday cake be until you turned sixteen. But before you can respond you look up to see Loki looking at you, something like actual happiness in his emerald eyes, and out pops something else before you realize it. “Green.”

Chapter Text

Something you’ve come to like about Loki is that he can appreciate silence.

Everyone seems to think that two people sitting quietly has to be awkward; something to avoid- but really, there’s nothing better than being in a room with someone, each doing their own thing, but enjoying the other person’s presence nonetheless. It’s a kind of comfortable that only comes with a severe amount of trust in the soul sitting across from you. Trust that you aren’t simply something to entertain them, or a mouth to keep them occupied- they like you even if all they’re doing is watching your eyebrows quirk as you read a particularly fascinating novel.

Sure, most of your visits are still full of back-and-forth bickering that could rival a fifties sitcom- you never seem to run out of things to talk about- but some days, when he can tell you’ve had a row you’d really rather not discuss, or you know he’s simply not in the headspace to chat, the two of you will simply sit and be. You’ll page through a book or scribble down some thoughts on your notepad while he laces and unlaced his long fingers into intricate patterns, content to sift through his thoughts.

Though you do mark down a note to talk to someone about getting him a few books. He’s got to be bored in there.

To your surprise, these quiet days quickly become your favorites because as much as you love his twisted sense of sarcasm, you like his singing voice more.

Sometimes, Loki will hum.

It’s always very quiet, under his breath, and most of the time you think he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. But every so often you’ll pause from whatever you’re doing to listen to the faint melodies coming from his cell. It’s never anything you’ve heard before, and the music is hopeful and happy and tragic and uplifting all at once, the kind of thing that makes you want to smile and cry at the same time. They must be from Asgard, because you doubt any music from Earth could ever sound like this.

You never mention it, though. You’re afraid if you call attention to it, he’ll stop, and the songs seem to give him a small bit of joy in his lonely bubble of isolation. You’d never want to take that away from him.

Today, rather than reading, you’ve got your arms curled up underneath your head and are fighting (and mostly failing) to keep your eyes open. You got caught up on a project last night and didn’t even realize what time it was until he sun was peeking through your curtains, leaving you to chug several cups of coffee and hope for the best.

But Loki is humming and the music is making you drowsy and warm which is not a great combination for wanting to stay awake. For his part, he doesn’t tease you about very obviously falling asleep on your desk, which you appreciate- you’re pretty sure any comebacks thought up right now would be incredibly lame

“ ‘S pretty,” you mumble, trying to blink the blurriness out of your eyes. Ugh. You hate all-nighters.

“Pardon?”

“You have a pretty voice.”

He doesn’t respond for a minute- though that might have been because you fell asleep for a second- but eventually he just chuckles briefly. “Thank you, I suppose. It does tend to be part of my appeal.”

“Your singing voice, stupid. It’s pretty.” A yawn nearly splits your face in half, and you blink at him blearily.

“When have you ever heard me sing?”

“Well you hum. Same thing. ‘S nice. Never heard it before.”

“I see.” He lapses into silence, and you frown.

“Well don’t stop.”

“I- I am not sure I even know what I was humming.”

You grumble, frustrated. “It was like-” you lilt into a vague approximation of one of his songs, the one that makes you think of a sunflower field on a misty day. “Like that. Kind of.”

Now he properly laughs. “I apologize, I don’t believe I can recreate… whatever it is you just pulled out of your sleep-addled brain.”

“Never said I was a singer.” Another yawn. “Sing something else then.”

“The Witling is quite pushy when exhausted,” he says amused. “Noted.”

“Shu’ up.” With a huff, your head is back in the crook of your elbow. “Why do I even like you.”

“For lullabies, apparently.”

You don’t quite catch that bit, as the drowsiness has finally caught up with you- your eyes close, you curl yourself into a more comfortable position. Loki stares at you, somewhat amazed that you feel comfortable enough to be so vulnerable with him in the room. You look peaceful, content- something warm sparks in him. “It was something my mother sang me, when I was young,” he admits, when he knows for sure you can’t hear. “I seem to recall it chased away nightmares quite effectively.”

But he does start up his lullaby again. It pulls on the homesickness in his chest, but it also makes you smile softly in your sleep.

You dream of sunflowers.

                                                                                       XXX

“Okay, since I basically forced you to culture me on Asgardian music-”

“I believe you underestimate your incredibly rude demands.”

“I- I was half asleep! I wasn’t trying to on purpose-” you stop when Loki grins, making it obvious that he’s only teasing you. You huff. “Whatever. You suck. Don’t interrupt. Since I basically forced you to culture me on Asgardian music-” you pull out your phone and plunk it on the table. “I’m going to culture you in some Midgardian music.”

“I… see…”

“Don’t look so terrified, I’m not going to subject you to screamo headbangers or anything.” Loki gives you a look, the one that says what on Midgard are you talking about, you strange mortal. “I’m going to start you off with the classics.”

“Be still my beating heart.”

“I know, you should be grateful. My taste in music is the epitome of class and excellence.”

“…of course.”

You pull your phone out of your pocket and flick through your playlists, wondering what to dive into first. “Are you feeling something upbeat or angsty?”

Loki snorts, which is hilariously undignified for him. “I defer to your judgement.”

“A wise choice.” After a few flicks of the screen, you turn your volume up to full blast and sit back to listen.

“I got too many people… got left to prove wrong…”

Serene acoustic guitar washes through the room, and you drum your fingers on your thigh in time to Kesha’s voice. “Don’t let the bastards get you down…”

Loki raises an eyebrow. “Is this your way of attempting to be inspirational?”

You grin at him. “I thought it’d be uplifting.” “Been underestimated… my entire life…”

Once that song is over, you scroll a bit and click to a more techno, pop-y sounding beat. ”I knew you were trouble when you walked in...” Again, he stares at you from behind the glass. “What? It’s a great song! One of her best!”

He wrinkles his nose. “Beyond the obvious message…. I do not believe I’m a fan.”

“Hm. Your loss. Honestly I’m disappointed I didn’t name you Trouble instead of Trickster, this would be a perfect theme song for you.” At his death glare, you hold your hands up, giggling. “Okay, okay! Next one…”

You roll through a couple of P!nk’s newer works, guessing he might appreciate the poetic lyrics, and then just because you want to you throw in a couple K-Pop groups, and then asked him for translations on the songs you’ve never bothered to google. “And this is currently the quintessential Midgardian music experience.” The first few strains of the goddamn song nobody can get out of their heads, Let it Go, begins to play. “It’s from a musical called Frozen, based on the old fairytale The Snow Queen.” You wiggle your eyebrows at him suggestively. “Magical ice powers, frozen hearts. The whole shebang.”

His eye rolls are really something spectacular. “Fascinating.”

“I just thought you’d appreciate the theme!”

He tilts his head. “Am I missing a joke, Witling?”

You grin at him. “You know, being a frost giant and all. I thought you could really, I dunno, empathize?”

Loki- well, Loki does something, something you can’t quite describe other than a complete and systematic mass shutdown. It’s like his very soul suddenly ascends and leaves behind a body that can do nothing but breathe and blink. His eyes go opaque, and even the casual tapping and twitching of his fingers stutters and then stills. He practically disappears in front of your very eyes, as invisible as a person can be behind a pane of glass. Something in your stomach immediately turns. “Um, Loki? You okay?”

“How did you know that.” His voice is toneless, and quieter than you’ve ever heard it, even in those beginning days where he did nothing but huff and sigh at your existence.

You’re confused, but more than that, you’re frantically wondering what you did to cause such anguish to appear on his face. “How did I know…? I don’t know what you mean.”

“That I- I’m not-” he takes a breath, and it shudders out of him so achingly slowly something about it breaks your heart. “A frost giant.”

“How did I know that…you’re a frost giant…? I mean, like everything else we knew about you, from old poems and stories…” there’s a flare of anger in his eyes that scares you. “Is that- is that not good?”

“You say you knew this from the old stories?” His voice is still quiet, but now there’s something simmering beneath it.

“Yeah. The Poetic Edda and all that. I think they’re described as a race in Beowulf which is like, freshman English 101.” Silence. Heavy, stifling, suffocating silence. Your chest heaves from the pressure of it. “Loki? You’re scaring me here.”

The life crashes back into him all at once, and he’s suddenly as hot and dangerous as a flare lit to explode. “You knew this?” He roars, up on his feet and practically vibrating with intensity. His glare pins you to your seat. “You knew- the pathetic Midgardians, of all the races in the galaxy, knew my own secrets before even I?” He laughs violently, his entire body shaking with the force of it. “Of course they did! Because what luck would the universe afford me other than heinous? Other than disgusting-” his cot gets thrown from its position in the corner to the other side of his cell- “rotted-” his hands clench; knuckles white- “fate!” He stands amid the small chaos he’s created, heaving, eyes wild and looking for something to destroy.

You’ve curled yourself up a small as possible, watching the scene unfold with your heart in your throat. “Loki?” You whisper, not noticing a small tear drip onto your cheek. “I’m- I’m sorry. I don’t know what I said but I’m so sorry-”

When he whirls on you, notices your wide eyes, a little of his rage dissipates. “No, Witling, it is not-” he groans, clearly frustrated, and runs his fingers through his hair to direct his anger somewhere other than you. “You did nothing, other than confirm that the world is infinitely cruel.” His laugh is darker this time, more bitter. “That is a not a new lesson to me, have no fear.”

“I- I don’t understand.”

“I do not see how you would.” He looks away, but you get the idea that he’s tying to avoid his own reflection rather than you. His hands clench and unclench. “I am not sure how your poets came upon such knowledge, but it becomes more and more clear that their sources outrank even my own.”

Realization smacks you so suddenly there’s a physical sting on your cheek. “You… you didn’t know. You didn’t know?” How is that even possible?

He grimaces. “Not until a scant year ago.”

You stare at him. “You didn’t know that you were a frost giant until a year ago.” He opens his mouth to say something scathing about your parroting habit, but you cut him off. “Sorry, I’m sorry, I just- how? Why?”

“Why does Odin do anything?” He snarls. “To manipulate. To lie. To raise torment.”

His tone is cutting, but his eyes are lost. Despite the anger radiating off of him in waves, he stands in his white cell alone, adrift, with nothing to anchor him. Ever so slowly, you push back your chair and stand- he eyes you like a caged animal, which is all too accurate to his situation- and walk to him, gauging his reaction as you go. He only watches, so you eventually get close enough to reach out and touch the glass in front of you. You can’t offer anything but that. “Tell me?”

Loki’s sigh caries millennia of unspoken stories. “I would not tell a tale you already know.”

You shake your head a little. “I think I’m realizing we never knew the first thing about you.”

He looks at you for a moment, apparently weighing your words. “It is quite simple. On a mission to slaughter the Jotunn, my father came across an abandoned child in the middle of the battlefield. He concealed its nature and brought it to Asgard to raise in hopes of one day using it as a bargaining chip for peace.”

It. He speaks of himself like a thing, not a person. “Why did he never tell you?”

“Because it would have risked disloyalty, and crippled his plans.” His eyes darken. “If I had realized sooner that I could never take the throne, never truly be a prince of Asgard…” he doesn’t finish his sentence, but you can guess the sentiment.

“He used you.” The simple fact hangs naked in the air, a revelation for you but old news to the god in the cell.

“From the day he spotted me. I was never more than a pawn to him.”

“But didn’t you look different?” You blurt out, trying to wrap your head around the inconsequential details in order to ignore the more painful implications. “I mean- I don’t know what frost giants- Jotunn- look like, really, but…”

He does smile a little at that. “Magic mimics, and illusions are quite easy to conjure. I imagine my subconscious did the work for me.”

“Oh.” You glance at the cuffs on his wrists. “Do they not do anything then?”

“I assure you they work properly,” he sighs. “I would assume Midgardian technology is not capable of suppressing every ounce of magic I possess.”

Your finger traces an outline of his manacles on the glass, leaving smudges. “I’m so sorry.”

Loki looks at you. “It’s ancient history, Witling.”

“How can you say that? Of course it’s not!”

“I realized my father’s love was conditional very quickly, even if I did not know why. I have had a century to deal with the fallout.”

“That- doesn’t make me feel better.” You cross your arms, desperately searching for solid footing. “So you were alone?”

“No.” His voice softens. “My mother- she loved me as a mother should. I do not think I would have survived without her.”

The both of you stand quietly for a minute as your world resettles on its axis. Loki eventually rights his cot and sits down on it, waiting for you to speak first.

“I bet you’re beautiful.” He looks at you, confused. “I mean your other form- self? Carvings aren’t very detailed, most people said the Jotunn were fiercely stunning.”

“Jotunn are monsters, Witling. The things you tell your children of at night. There is nothing beautiful about me.”

“You aren’t a monster.”

“The stories would say otherwise.”

“Well then maybe the stories are wrong,” you say harshly. His eyes meet yours, vulnerable. “Because I know monsters, Loki, I have plenty of my own. You do not share their face, believe me.” He doesn’t seem to know what to make of that- he seems caught between denial and disbelief. “Tell me about your mother.”

So he does. He tells you of her never ending patience when his burgeoning magic was more hinderance than help, and how her healing hands could stitch together even the most dire of wounds. How she could rein in Odin’s temper and even change his mind in the dead of night. How she would know exactly where he would hide when he was upset, and leave a mark or sign so he would know he wasn’t alone.

With every story, his sadness seems to chip away, and his anger fades. Your heart is still crying, but you’ve at least pulled yourself together enough for the tears to dry up, and smile and encourage Loki to keep going whenever he hesitates.

Throughout it all, you murmur small thank-you’s to Frigga in the back of your mind, for carrying him through when you couldn’t.

Chapter Text

Something has changed between you and Loki.

You can’t describe it exactly, other than as a shift in understanding. A fundamental change in cognition. Somewhere along the way, he became not a burden, but a friend. You go to see him when you aren’t required to, even if it’s just to tell him about the annoying temp who spilled a full cup of coffee onto your lap. He never seems to mind. You go out of your way to try and make him laugh. He calls you Witling without the harshness in his voice or contempt in his eyes, and now the nickname makes you smile. You smile a lot around him, actually, especially when his eyes ever so slightly light up when he sees you in the doorway.

It’s strange until it isn’t, and you ponder it until you don’t. Somehow your relationship- friendship, whatever- has slotted itself so seamlessly into your life you can’t remember a time when you didn’t favor your green hoodie over the other ones just because it makes him smile and tease when you wear it, or falling asleep without his stories playing lazily in the back of your mind.

You can tell your coworkers think you’re a bit crazy, but who ever cared what they thought, anyways?

“Hey, Trickster.” You bound into the room with a little more energy in your step than normall, toting an unassuming bag over your shoulder. “I’ve got something for you, I think you’re gonna like it- Trickster?” You’re accustomed to him sitting up in his bed, straight as an arrow, maybe a soft smile on his face as he waits for you. He is in his bed, but rather than looking pristine and regal he’s laid underneath the thin piece of fabric that passes for a blanket, curled in on himself. It’s incredibly weird, seeing him in a semi-vulnerable position. A pang of worry shoots its way through your chest, but that’s absurd- it’s not like anything could have happened to him in here. “Did you fall asleep on me?”

There’s movement, but it’s subtle. You wait for him to sit up, but he doesn’t even make a move to look at you or acknowledge your arrival. “Trickster. Hey. You’re scaring me.” You set your stuff down and carefully tread over to the glass wall separating the two of you, and place a gentle hand against the barrier, since you can’t place it on his shoulder. “Is something wrong? Are you sick? Can gods even get sick?”

The blanket gets pulled up over his head.

Alarm bells are going off somewhere in the back of your brain. Why, you can’t be sure, but something is wrong. You can feel it. The air has some sort of heaviness to it, weighing on you and the man in the cell, and you don’t like it one bit. “Loki,” you say gently, trying to coax him out. “What’s going on?”

You can almost hear the indecision coming from him. But eventually, he does come out, and force himself into a sitting position with apparent difficulty. You take him in- same raven hair, same pale skin and emerald eyes, though they’re duller than you’ve ever seen them.

But then you freeze, blood turning to ice. Because covering the lower half of his face is something completely and utterly vile.

It’s a mask of some sort, made of metal, chained around his neck and the back of his head by heavily tied restraints. It completely covers his mouth and chin, turning his handsome face into something from a B-roll horror movie. “Loki?” You whisper. He shakes his head mutely, and with one finger taps the mask- the muzzle- with horrific defeat.

He can’t speak.

They chained his voice away.

You see absolute red when you notice scraped flesh around the edges of the contraption from where it’s been digging into his skin. “What. The FUCK.” Loki’s eyes widen, and your other hand goes to the glass like you can phase through the wall and rip that thing right off of him. “Loki? What did they do to you?” His eyes are so, so sad and so, so tired.

“GUARDS!” You shriek, but you don’t even wait for them to thunder in. You go to the door yourself and fling it open, bodily dragging the pair on duty into the room with you. “What the hell is that,” you snarl, pointing at the ugly device strapped to Loki.

“The prisoner?” One says, confused at your obvious rage.

“Oh, yes, thank you, I thought you had swapped him out with a different Asgardian prince while I was away. On his face.”

“He required restraining.”

“I wasn’t aware restraining involved one’s voice. What was the reason?” You channel as much ice into your voice as you possibly can.

“He was attempting to conjure some sort of spell.”

That stops you short, and you glance at Loki, who is pointedly not looking at the confrontation. “He- was he?”

The agent nods. “He was humming something we couldn’t identify, and based on his history-”

“He was humming,” you say faintly. “Just… humming.” Another nod, but hesitant this time. “And how was it any different than the literally dozens of times he’s done this in the past few months?”

“Um…”

“Right. My guess is, it wasn’t, and you absolute idiots just wanted to jump at the chance to tie him down further.” They don’t argue with you, which is probably wise considering the daggers your eyes are throwing. “Open his cell.”

“Agent, I don’t think you have the authority-”

“Does it look like I care? I am so very, very close to unlocking his manacles and letting him blast you into oblivion with the scariest magic he can possibly muster.” You didn’t have clearance to do that either, but you sure as hell aren’t going to tell them that. “Open it. Now.” At any other moment, the thought of intimidating two SHIELD agents that are nearly twice your size would be laughable to you, but now you’re fairly sure you could snap their necks with your bare hands if you wanted. When he just stares at you, your hand darts around his wrist and you bodily drag him over to the access panel inserted into the cell door. Finally, after a millennia, he keys in a code.

“It changes every four hours,” he warns, but you aren’t even looking at the numbers he types in, just Loki. Only Loki. The panel pops open with a pneumatic hiss, and you sigh in relief.

“Now get out.”

“You-”

You throw him a look so fierce some of the color drains from his face. Without another word, he hightails it from the room, shutting the door firmly behind him.

He’s already forgotten.

You rush to Loki, who hasn’t moved from his position on the bed. His eyes are wider than you’ve ever seen, like he’s genuinely- surprised. At you. And maybe a little… scared? Whatever, you can deal with that later. All you’re focused on is getting this horrible thing off off off-

The locking mechanism is complicated and may as well require six hands to press all the right buttons at the same time. “Jesus fucking…” you’re mumbling all sorts of colorful expletives to yourself as you wrestle with the thing, and you’re probably pulling some of his hair, but you don’t get an ounce of protest from the man sitting quietly in front of you.

Clang. It falls to the floor. With it, words fall out of your mouth so quickly your brain can’t even keep up with them. “Oh my god, are you okay? How long have you been like that? I shouldn’t have skipped our last meeting, I take one weekend off and this is what happens. Christ, when I find out who ordered this I’m going to murder-”

“Witling.” You freeze, as does your frantic babbling. His voice is hoarse and dry, so far from the honeyed accent you’re used to. “I am fine.”

“Don’t lie to me,” you grumble, gently taking his face in your hands and inspecting the raw outline imprinted onto his skin. There’s a few flecks of dried blood crusted around the corners of his mouth. Your finger traces the angry flesh. “Does it hurt?”

He licks his lips. “A little.”

“Okay. Okay. Just- stay here. Don’t move.” You back away slowly, trying to convince yourself he won’t die on you if you leave him for a minute, then flee the room.

In your haste, his cell door remains open.

You’re back in an instant, toting supplies- damp paper towels, a bottle of water. You hand him the drink wordlessly and he drains it, looking a little embarrassed when the plastic crunches under his grip. It gets set on the bed beside him. You fold a paper towel carefully, then inspect him a little more closely before going in. “Tell me if I hurt you, okay?”

You’re expecting a scoff, some retort about a puny mortal hurting an Asgardian- but nothing comes. So you focus on your task, blotting away dried patches and soothing angry marks. You have to change towels twice, and you put that thought away in the very back of your mind so you don’t scream right here and now. “Oh, here.” You pat your pockets until you find a tube of chapstick and hand it to him. He looks at you, mystified. “It’s- chapstick? For your lips? So they don’t- hurt.”

Loki uncaps it, and tentatively puts a little of the product on his fingertip. Apparently satisfied it isn’t poisoned, he rubs a little on the corners of his mouth and gives it back to you.

You let out a breath. He looks a little better, at least. But his eyes are still incredibly lackluster and you hate it so, so much. You want that spark back, the one that keeps you on your toes and makes you laugh and promises endless tales of wonder. You just don’t know what else to do to help.

“I’m so sorry,” you whisper. “I should have been here, and then this-” you press a light touch to his cheek.

“Darling.” His hand steals up to yours, and at first it seems he’s going to push you away, but instead he gives you permission to cup his cheek in your hand, letting you reassure yourself he isn’t seriously injured. “It is not your fault.”

“I’m going to kill them,” you say tonelessly.

“Now, Witling. We talked about this: no picking up my bad habits.”

That makes you smile a little, at least, and some of the light filters back into his eyes. Something catches your attention out of the corner of your eye, and when you glance behind you, your heart stops for a few beats.

You had left the door open.

“I left the door open,” you murmur, eyebrows drawing together.

“You did.” His reply is casual and nonchalant.

“And you-” you turn back to Loki and study him. Not his face, this time, but him. “You didn’t leave.”

“Well.” There’s a hint of a smirk on his face. “You told me not to.” Those few words take something in your chest and twists it into so many knots it physically hurts. It must have shown on your face, because Loki lets his hand slide up and gently presses his fingers against yours until they’re lightly entwined together, still against his cheek. And you look at him, trying to memorize all the lines on his face you’ve never gotten to feel, while watching his eyes come alive again with every beat of your heart.

“You said you have something for me?” It takes you a moment to connect his words together, and you pull away, embarrassed. You’ve been standing there staring at him like an idiot for who knows how long.

“Yeah, I- well, you can borrow it at least.” You go to retrieve a lovingly worn book from the bag forgotten on your desk, then bring it back to him, showing him the cover. His fingers trace over gilded lettering- The D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths. “This was my favorite when I was a kid,” you say, unable to keep the fondness out of your voice. So many nights were spent with this and a flashlight, hidden under the covers from parents who thought you were asleep. “It’s a little… tame, I’m sure. It is meant for children. But a classic nonetheless.” You push it into his hands gently. “Don’t turn the corners or anything, I don’t want it creased.”

A vaguely horrified look passes over his face. “I would never.” You wrinkle your nose at him, which makes him smile. Based on the way he’s talked about his own books, you have a feeling creasing a corner in one of Prince Loki of Asgard’s novels is nothing short of a capital offense.

He opens the cover reverently, and you realize it’s probably been months since he’s had a book in his hands. “I am not quite as adept at translating written word through Allspeak. Yet,” he adds. “But I suppose I have all the time I should need in here.”

Your eyebrows furrow a bit, wondering how magical god powers could require practice, but nevertheless, you take back the book and settle onto the floor next to his cot, resting your back against the cold wall. Skimming the pages, you turn to a tale that very specifically does not mention Thor or Odin. They’re few and far between, but they do exist. Before you can clear your throat- “what are you doing?”

“I would be very surprised if his highness had never been read aloud to,” you tease.

“I believe they all assumed- quite correctly I might add- that I could manage perfectly well on my own.”

“Tough,” you say nonchalantly, and suppress a smile when he laughs like he’s forgotten the days events. Which is of course your goal. “Piss me off and I’ll read you the one with the horse.”

“Spare me,” he says drily.

“Then shut up and listen.”

                                                                                          XXX

You don’t know how much time passes. You also don’t particularly care. Everything in these moments is too perfect to mess up- your voice echoing in the cell, Loki’s steady breathing next to you as he listens. Occasionally, you glance up at him, only to find him more relaxed than you’ve ever seen: hands folded loosely in his lap, leaning against the wall with a slight smile barely on his lips. Once, he catches you looking, green eyes staring straight into you, and it takes a large amount of effort to nonchalantly turn back to your book and keep reading rather than blush up a storm.

Eventually, you’re on the last page of the last story and you don’t realize it until you stammer out the last line with a hitch in your voice. The pages fall closed as you release them from your grip. A few moments pass in silence; the hazy atmosphere of contentment and safety that has descended amongst the tales slowly floats away.

“Is that all?”

“Mhm. In this book anyways.” You rub the back cover, as if more stories will magically appear under your touch. “I’ll have to bring you another, there’s loads more.”

“I would like that very much.”

You eye the cell door, which has been cracked open the entire time you’ve been in here. You couldn’t very well lock yourself in with him, that’d be a bit hard to explain- of course, this whole ordeal was already going to be a nightmare to handle. But oh gods was it worth it. So very, very worth it.

“Do you need anything? Before I go.” You push yourself up off the floor and look at him, still lounging on his cot like having you next to him is the most natural thing in the world.

“No. Thank you though.” You nod and turn to go, even though every single nerve in your body is screaming don’t leave him in here, take him and that silver tongue of his and fucking run as fast as you can- “Witling?” You pause. “Thank you.” The genuine warmth in his voice makes it all the more difficult to step out of his room. Your hand lingers on the door as you do battle within yourself. Locking him back in feels so wrong. It feels like you’re a conspirator against him, condoning how he’s being treated-

“Y/N.” Your name in his voice draws you from your thoughts. He nods once, briefly, giving you permission almost. It’s okay. I understand.

And with that, you try to ignore the little piece of your heart that shatters as you snap the door closed with a soft click.

                                                                                           XXX

“Thor?” You find the god in a training room, practicing hand to hand with a lady who may or may not be the Black Widow. You purposefully don’t look up from your shoes to find out. “Can I speak with you a moment?”

“But of course.” He steps off the mat and follows you into a side corridor you know for a fact is rarely used. Based on the way you’re looking around to make sure you’re not overheard, you definitely raised some concern. “Has my brother done something, my lady?”

“No, no of course not. Um, it’s me,” you confess, wringing your hands in front of you. “I might have, like, broken a ton of rules?” Your voice pitches higher than you’ve ever heard it. “And I need a big favor?”

There’s a rumble low in the god’s throat. “If my brother has convinced you in some way to make mischief, I swear, I will-”

“No, I swear he hasn’t! It was me, all me.” Very briefly, you explain the previous day’s events, with the muzzle and the guards and the aftermath.

“You were in his cell,” Thor repeats, confirming what you’ve said.

“For quite a long time.” You give him a weak smile. “I locked it back when I left, of course.” Even though you really hadn’t wanted to.

“And you want me to terrorize the guards into keeping this little tryst of yours a secret?”

“Um, no, I may have taken care of that myself, actually.” He looks at you, vaguely impressed. “I’m worried about the security footage. I wasn’t supposed to be in that long, so I doubt anyone would check it, but I don’t want to get him in trouble. I just know they’d spin it back on him somehow.”

“I see.” You stand there, wondering if you’ve just made the biggest mistake ever asking him for help, when he pats you on the shoulder with brotherly affection that makes something in your chest unknot. “I shall see what I can do, little one. Fear not, I will not let you be discovered.”

“It’s not me I’m worried about, really. But thank you.” You turn to go, but before you can, his voice stops you, softer than you’ve ever heard coming from the big man.

“Lady.” He has a wistful smile on his face, and he’s studying you with… something, in his eyes. You can’t quite put your finger on it. He is so very different from his brother; being able to read one doesn’t really help with the other. “I give you my thanks. Truly.”

You shrug. “I just… needed to help.” You go before his gaze dissects everything you aren’t saying.

Chapter Text

“You’re shaking.”

“Gold star, Trickster,” you mutter, dumping your stuff onto the table unceremoniously and heaving yourself into your chair.

“What is wrong?”

“Nothing. I’m just peachy,” you drawl, mimicking the tone of Loki’s own bitter sarcasm.

Loki sits up a little straighter, apparently to get a better look at you through the glass- you, in your disheveled uniform and messy hair, trying to hide the tremble in your hand as you heavily write the date at the top of today’s paper. His eyes narrow. “Are you- drunk?”

“God, I wish,” you mumble, half heartedly hoping the all-seeing camera won’t pick up your voice. “At this point just wildly hungover.”

“What is wrong?”

“Nothing,” you snap. “Just- start talking about something. Quietly, please, my head is pounding.”

“If I talk, will you tell me what is wrong?” You’re so agitated you don’t notice he does in fact lower his voice.

You shake your head roughly, scrubbing your hands across your face and eventually resting it in your palms. “Ugh. Jesus. Can we just get this over with, please?”

He launches into some story about when he and Thor were young, which are usually your favorites, but today you just sit there quietly with your head in your hands, half ignoring Loki’s soft tones emanating through the room. You forget about taking notes. Eventually your shoulders loosen, just a little, but everything still hurts when the tale finally comes to an end.

God, it hurts.

“Witling,” he says softly, looking concerned, and you hate that look of concern because everyone has decided to look so goddamn concerned about you today-

“Don’t tell me you’ve never self-medicated,” you snap. “What, with that stuff they’ve got on Asgard? Bet it’s a lot easier to drown out your problems with that than the shitty crap I can afford.”

His eyes glow at your words. “Did someone hurt you? Are you hurt?”

Your hackles raise even higher. “No-”

He switches his train of thought on a dime. “SHIELD doesn’t pay you well enough to purchase top shelf? A shame.”

That earns him a small smile. “I know, right?” The both of you sit silently on your opposite sides of the room for a few minutes. Loki doesn’t look at you, or ask any more questions- he just sits there patiently, fingers folded together in his lap, humming something that sounds vaguely ancient and haunting.

“You know how I told you I have a brother?” You don’t lift your gaze from your metal table, eyes tracing the faint lines etched into it.

“Yes.”

“Well, I don’t. Anymore. He’s dead,” you say bluntly. “Yesterday was the anniversary.” You laugh, but it’s short and harsh and completely devoid of any mirth. “What a shitty thing to have an anniversary for.” At first you think he hasn’t heard you, because he doesn’t respond for a long time. But when you look up, he’s staring at you with clear pain in his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he says, and you huff.

“Yeah. Me too.” You pick up your pencil and try to fiddle with it, but your shaky hands betray you and it clatters to the floor. You leave it there.

“How did he die?”

“Car crash,” you spit out. “Late night, stormy skies, slick roads, drunk driver. The whole shebang.” Your voice shakes at the end, to your annoyance. “It was a fun time.” Loki doesn’t seem to know what to say to that, and really you don’t expect him to know. You still don’t have any way of dealing with the memories that all slam you one particular night of the year other than get drunk off you ass and try to drown them out. “Why do you hate him?”

“What?”

You look up, holding his gaze. “Thor. Why do you hate him?”

The god releases a small, controlled breath. “I-”

“Because he’s your brother,” you interrupt, and you don’t even really notice the rage that’s building in your chest. “He’s- he’s your brother, and he loves you, and you… you hate him.”

“Thor-”

“Loves you,” you repeat through gritted teeth. “And wants to help you. He still does, after all the shit you’ve done. He fights SHIELD on a daily basis to get you out of here even though it’s basically moot at this point.” You scoot your chair back with an unholy screech, giving you more space to breathe. “And you stab him in the back on like, any given Tuesday, and he just fucking stands there and laughs because he loves you.”

“I never-”

“Oh, don’t lie to me,” you throw at him. “I could pull any given story out of your file and there’s a ninety percent chance it involves you trying to kill him in some way.”

“Do you have a point.” Loki’s voice is colder than ice. His breath should have little crystals hanging in the air around it.

You’d probably wipe away the tears tracing their way down your cheeks if you weren’t so busy staring at the man across from you with such accusation. “You constantly throw away one of the best parts of your entire life. You take it for granted. Like it’s nothing. Do you know- do you know what I would give to have my brother back?” He opens his mouth but quickly shuts it when you stalk up to him, practically putting your nose right up to the glass. “And you have yours. Your brother IS ALIVE AND HE LOVES YOU AND ALL YOU WANT TO DO IS STAB HIM IN THE FUCKING BACK!”

At this point, the door to the room opens, and a few well-armed SHIELD agents enter hesitantly but quickly. “Agent,” one of them says. “You need to step away.” He goes for your arm but you wrench it away, causing your fist to thud against the glass barrier in front of you. Despite being behind layers of reinforcement, Loki bodily jumps back a few inches like it was aimed at him.

“Don’t fucking touch me,” you hiss, angrily closing your eyes against the torrent of tears now flooding your face. When you open them, Loki can see they are red-rimmed, and the brokenness in them makes him want to punch something as well. But he’s frozen, staring at you as you break down in front of him.

“Shit,” you mutter. You scrub your eyes. Stand up straight, turn to the guards, who clearly aren’t sure if they should try and grab you again. “Just… leave me alone.” Without another word, you walk out, not looking behind you once. The guards follow. Once the door is shut, and Loki is alone, he very carefully sits back on his bed, gripping the edges until his knuckles are white. He does in fact notice the small tear that decides to appear from the corner of his eye, but wipes it away before it can fall.

You can’t really see through your tears, so you just trust that people are going to get out of your way as you barrel down the hall. You don’t know where you’re going, exactly- no, strike that, you do, it’s somewhere with lots and lots of alcohol- when you are stopped dead in your tracks by a large palm square on your shoulder. It isn’t forceful. But you definitely can’t push past it.

“Thor,” you mutter. “Really not the time, just-”

“I am sorry,” he says, his voice low for such a big guy. “About your brother.”

“And I’m sorry about yours,” you reply thickly.

He makes a noncommittal noise. “Do not be. Loki is…” he trails off though, and never finishes his sentence, like even he isn’t sure what his brother is anymore.

“How do you do it?” You put a hand up to his, which is still on your shoulder, intending to remove it, but it ends up gripping his wrist instead. “Why do you…”

Thor smiles sadly. “He is my brother, is he not? And it is what brothers do.”

A sharp bit of anger dissipates somewhere deep in your chest. “Yeah. It should be.”

Chapter Text

Walking into Loki’s cell the next day is… difficult. The screams you threw at him are still echoing in your ears, the alcohol (or sudden lack of) is still making your brain sluggish, and your head hurts from all the crying you did late in the night. You’re dreading his glare; the icy tone of his voice. Did you just undo months of friendship in one day? You very well might’ve. He trusted you with his fears and struggles about Thor and you threw it back in his face for what? Some sort of twisted reassurance that your life was worse than his at that moment? Horrible.

There are so many apologies lingering on your tongue you feel choked with them, and there’s a terrible tightness in your limbs. The feeling intensifies when you walk in and he’s got that awful blank look in his eyes just like he did when you first met him. It scares you to no end; thinking you might’ve lost him.

“Hey.”

His gaze does shift your way as you approach, thank god. You open your mouth to pour out your apologies, but nothing comes out. Useless. In a fit of anxiety, your fingertips end up brushing the wall of glass in front of you. There’s still a smudge on it from where you smacked it the day before. Ugh. Rather than try and put what you’re feeling into words, you let your forehead bang against the glass, eyes on your feet. “I’m a terrible person.” Your face scrunches in effort to hold back an unexpected wave of emotion. “I-”

“Tell me about him.”

“Huh?” His tone is still cool- a little more reserved- but you know an olive branch when you see one.

“Your brother. Tell me about him.”

“O-okay.” Where to start? Your indecisiveness wiggles its way out through your fingers, and they flex against the glass. “Well. He was super smart, first of all. The type of person who could walk into a room and instantly see all the connections: who was with who, who would stab the other in the back before the month was up, who was nervous or who was too cocky for their own good. He read people… flawlessly.”

You tilt your head a little, letting memories bubble up in your mind. “I idolized him as a kid. He was everything I wanted to be. He got all my parents’ attention, and I knew that, but I basically didn’t mind because he deserved to be the favorite, that’s how awesome he was. Does that make any sense?”

“What changed?”

You sigh, and the sadness in it almost cracks your chest open. “Kids… see what they want to see. They want to believe their brothers are their own personal knights in shining armor. That they can do no wrong. I lived in that denial for… well. Way too long.”

“My parents played a part in that, I think. They tried to hide the worst of it from me. If he was gone for three days and I asked where he was, they’d say he was just staying with a friend. When he came home high or drunk he had the flu or food poisoning, and I had to stay away from him because he might be contagious. I think deep down I knew something was wrong, but I just ignored it. I loved him, I loved them. I walked on eggshells because I didn’t want anything to shatter this illusion we had built.”

You’re suddenly exhausted. Opening up these boxes, ones that are usually duct taped tightly shut and squeezed into some deep dark crevice if your brain, always weighs on your shoulders. Rather than going back to your chair you just sit down on the floor, letting yourself lean against the glass.

“One night, when I was- fifteen, maybe? I’d just started high school, I think. A bunch of his friends had come over to hang out and he invited me to join them.” You pause, swallowing a bit of nausea. “I was so excited to be hanging out with all his cool friends. They gave me drinks, told me I was pretty, made me feel so grown up and important. But I started feeling… weird, after a few hours, so I wanted to go to bed, but they made me stay. I remember sitting on the couch and just… spacing. Staring at the wall while everyone talked around me. It took me forever to notice the hand on my leg.”

You can physically feel the intensity of Loki’s gaze ratchet up to twenty. When you look at him, his green eyes are sparkling dangerously. He knows where this is going. You wish he didn’t.

“It turns out one of his friends had a bit of a crush on me. He started, you know. Rubbing my leg, tucking my hair behind my ear. I was zoned out but enough of me was there to realize something was… not good. Zach-” saying his name makes your heart sink a little- “Zach was on the other side of the room, but when I finally got his attention, he-” you close your eyes, like the scene is playing out right in front of you and you can’t bear to watch. “He just looked at me with this total… indifference, and he said, oh, he already paid, so. He can do whatever he wants. And he went right back to his beer.”

It’s been ten years since that night and you can still remember how the adrenaline set in, how it pushed through your body like lightning when you smacked the guy’s hand away from your bra and he looked at you with murderous eyes. “I was lucky that I’d only had one cup of- whatever they gave me. I was still mostly in my right mind. I said no, and the guy got mad and started screaming about how many grams of ketamine he traded for this, then went to confront Zach about it. This huge fight started- I don’t remember most of it. I’m pretty sure I was comatose by the time punches were thrown, but luckily everyone was too occupied to notice. One of the neighbors called the police, they broke the door down and arrested everyone, and they found fifteen year old me drugged up on the couch, talking in circles like I didn’t have a care in the world.”

Waking up in a hospital bed, remembering nothing, was terrifying. Having the memories come back one by one, at the police’s gentle prompting, was even more so. “I’m still not sure what they roofied me with. The nurses never told me. But I was in the hospital for a day or so.”

Some sort of self-deprecating, bitter laugh escapes you. “So yeah. My brother sold me for drugs, I guess. That was a fun one to handle at fifteen.”

“And he is dead?”

“What, planning on reviving him so you can kill him again? I’ll help.” That does soften Loki’s expression just a fraction. “Yeah, he was high and drunk on god knows what and decided to go out to some party. Ran a red light, took out a couple of cars with his own. The storm didn’t help much I’m sure.” Your fingernails dig into your palms, leaving crescent moons on your skin. “He dragged so many people down with him that day. Good people. People who didn’t deserve it. If he had just taken himself out I don’t think anybody would have cried, but- I guess he had a penchant for ruining lives up until the very end.”

“He deserves far worse than he received.” There is unrestrained rage in Loki’s voice, a fiery sort of protectiveness that would be scary if it wasn’t protectiveness over you.

“Easy, Trickster. He’s long gone. Though I’m inclined to agree.” You knot your fingers together. “I know it doesn’t excuse anything about what happened yesterday. I was- terrible. But I was just so jealous. You have a brother who would do anything for you, who loves you and cares about you, and- that’s something I’ve wanted for so long. I know your relationship with Thor is far from perfect, and you have absolutely every right to feel the way you do. I just think you’re blind to what you have, sometimes.”

Loki doesn’t say anything for a long time, and neither do you. Your words hang in the air between the pair of you, tugging on the rough edges of both your minds, wanting resolution. To your surprise, he gets up off his cot and comes to sit in front of you, mirroring your cross-legged pose so that you’re face to face. It’s nice, if you try to forget there’s layers of reinforced barrier separating you. Absentmindedly, your subconscious paints a scene where you and he are sitting, talking, laughing- somewhere comfortable, somewhere there’s no pressure, where you could take his hand and let his thumb smooth over the scars on your palm.

“Gods are not impervious to mortal plights. We love, we war, we hate, we hold petty feuds and retaliate against the ones we love. We are not always things to be worshipped or revered- quite the opposite; I believe many of your myths regarding us are what you mortals call cautionary tales.”

You raise an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, am I in the midst of hearing the one and only Loki Laufeyson admit that he’s not perfect? Should I be recording this?”

“Hush, Witling, I am trying to help. My point is, if even the gods are not perfect, you cannot expect yourself to be.” Loki taps on the glass right where your heart is. “There are no apologies necessary. I have endured far worse by the hands of people who would never think to be remorseful for their actions.”

You frown. “That doesn’t make it okay. You still deserve common decency.”

“You were hurting, badly. My only complaint is that I was not able to be of more use.”

“I don’t know, you made a pretty good verbal punching bag.”

You’re treated to an exquisite eye roll, but it’s balanced by the fond smile on his face. “Yes, well, do try to not make it a large habit, darling. I am quite fragile, you know.”

“Fragile my ass. According to field reports you got ground-pounded by the Hulk multiple times and walked away with a bruise.”

“A very unpleasant bruise! Have you no sympathy?”

You wrinkle your nose at him. “Shoulda thought about that before you angered the jolly green giant.”

“I beg your pardon, absolutely nothing about him was jolly.”

You have to giggle at the miffed expression on his face. “It’s an expression, Trickster. And it’s not my fault you have no self preservation skills.”

“And here I thought you were on my side.”

He says it jokingly, but something about his words tugs at you the wrong way. “I am on your side.”

Loki stops and looks you in the eyes, startled by your sudden sincerity. “There is no need to throw your lot in with the enemy. Mine is not the team you wish to be on.”

“Agree to disagree, I suppose.”

He looks at you for a long moment, gaze digging into your head to seek out all the little things you aren’t saying. But eventually he just nods, conceding. “I suppose we shall.”

Chapter Text

Another vague email, another secret meeting. Par for the course you suppose. You brace yourself to walk into another room full of superheroes, but thankfully when you push open the door there’s just two relatively standard-stock agents in black suits, albeit with incredibly stony faces. The man gestures for you to sit, and you do so at the head of the table, so the pair are flanking you on either side.

“Hello.” You set your stuff down. “Can I help you?”

The female on your right, wearing her hair in a severe bun, raises a perfectly groomed eyebrow at you. “Do you know why you’re here, agent?”

“No, you guys didn’t exactly put it in the subject line,” you joke, but are met with nothing but glares. Yikes. Tough crowd. “Am I… did I do something?”

“Not precisely.” The man sitting on your left hand side pulls out a few unassuming folders and sets them across from you. “My name is Sitwell. We recently received a few… interesting reports, from Agent Barton.”

Oh, crap. This can’t be good. “I see. What about?”

“How long have you been assigned to Loki, Y/N?”

“Um-” you count back the months in your mind. “It’s been a while. Eight months? Nine?”

“And what would you say your relationship to the prisoner is?”

You can’t help but wince a little at how he says the word prisoner. “Friendly, I guess. I mean, you talk to someone every day for almost a year, you get used to them, I suppose.”

The man- Sitwell- nods. “Agent Barton expressed similar sentiments. While it appears your assignment has been going smoothly, there have been concerns regarding your ability to maintain… neutrality.”

You bristle. “What does that mean?”

He slides a folder towards you, flipping it open. “You were in D.C. for the Incident, correct?” You nod. “I’d like for you to take a look at some photos.”

The first photo, in horrifically excellent quality, is a skyscraper crumpled to ruin, its steel bones twisted and mangled into a fatal position. The street before it is upended, with concrete shattered everywhere.

You know what these pictures are from. You’ve seen the news. The city workers pushing rubble from one place to the next. The memorial reels commemorating the funerals of those caught in the crossfire that day.

Despite trying to brace yourself, your stomach twists at the images of carnage marring New York’s proudest city. You aren’t heartless, you can imagine the anxiety that permeates the alleyways. Once, it was the city that never sleeps. Then someone finally put its lights out.

“If you’ll flip to the last photo, please.” A picture of an incredibly unassuming man greets you. Receding hairline, watery blue eyes, same professional yet nondescript suit everyone wears around SHIELD. You squint at the headshot. His tie has a subtle design on it- do they really make neckties with Captain America’s shield on it?

Apparently you asked that last question out loud, because Sitwell gives you what you assume is the closest you’ll get to a smile from him. “They do, though I believe he had this one specially made.” He sobers. “Did you know Phil Coulson, agent?”

Oh. So this is the agent everyone’s had on the tip of their tongue. Apparently he was a legend around here- Fury’s right-hand man, both the Black Widow and Hawkeye’s handler, not to mention all the fantastical rumors of his own exploits. It’s something of an initiation process, scaring the interns with stories of how he battled his way out of a secret underground HYDRA base and escaped the Amazon with nothing but a Dasani water bottle and a popsicle stick. “No. I mean, I know of him. Everyone does. But he was gone before I transferred.”

Sitwell nods. “Phil Coulson was a very special man. Unfailing loyalty, a sharp eye, and a knack for keeping us all out of trouble.” He pauses. “He was one of my best friends.” You’d known that even before he had told you, just based on the admiration and grief in the agent’s voice. “He was also one of the most personal tragedies to result from the Manhattan Crisis.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you.” He nods elegantly, graciously. “There are, of course, dozens of other agents who ended up in the crossfire. Not to mention the civilian count.”

“Why are you showing me this?” You ask tiredly, even though you already know the answer.

“We thought it prudent to remind you who we have in that cell, and why.” The folder is closed; the pictures of a devastated city fade back into history. “Loki Laufeyson is not your friend, agent Y/L/N, nor is he someone to be reformed, rehabilitated, or empathized with.” His words are crisp and incredibly cold; hailstones biting at your cheeks in December. “He is an inter-dimensional war criminal with hundreds of innocent lives hanging over his head. He is a murderer, a manipulator, and a liar. He speared Coulson through the chest and left him to bleed out on the floor. Do not forget that,” he adds gently.

You open your mouth to say- something. To defend him, or yourself, or both. But nothing comes. Sitwell and his friend rise from their seats and tuck cream folders neatly under their arms. “Thank you for your time, agent.” When the door closes behind them, you’re still sitting blankly, imagining Phil Coulson staring blankly at you with just a hint of a smile in his blue eyes.

                                                                                    XXX

“Copper for your thoughts, darling?”

You smile wearily at Loki, head propped on your hand. “It’d be a waste of a penny; I’m not thinking anything in particular.”

“Mmm, I do not believe so. It’d be nothing compared to your attention. But beyond that, something is clearly wrong.” He gestures to you, at your shoulders that are clearly slumped and your fingers twisting anxiously. “Tell me about it?”

You sigh and force yourself to stop fidgeting. “I was called into a meeting. It wasn’t very fun.”

He hums noncommittally, clearly waiting for you to elaborate.

Everything in you hesitates. You don’t want to go there. You really don’t. In the beginning, you told yourself you wouldn’t because it wasn’t your job; later, it didn’t really seem to matter. But if you’re being honest, it’s been digging at the back of your brain for a while now. Every so often you’d be laughing with him and then suddenly stop and think to yourself, this is the man who tried to take over the world. Loki is a tricky, temperamental bastard with a lot of issues, but world domination always seemed a bit… much? You can’t reconcile the carnage downtown with the man sitting across from you. And yet…

“Promise you won’t get mad?”

Loki tilts his head, worried. “I suppose. Is everything alright?”

 

 

“… why’d you do it?”

He doesn’t ask what you’re referring to.

For a minute the both of you just look at each other. Your gaze isn’t accusatory, it isn’t angry or demanding- simply confused, and a little sad. Loki, similarity, doesn’t react with heat or deflection or any of his hundreds of other tools of the trade. He looks sad, too, and considers you with a heaviness that’s tangible all the way across the room. “You don’t have to say anything. I just-” you drop head in your hands, as though it’s suddenly too much to hold it up. “If I’m being honest, I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around it for a long time. And then they showed me these pictures, and I guess an agent you, um… stabbed… and it- doesn’t make sense.” You can see your own reflection mirrored over Loki in the glass, just slightly superimposing your features on his own. “I like to think that I know you. I want to think that I know you. But everyone keeps trying to convince me that you’re not the person I think I know.”

You shake your head and laugh a little at yourself with a weary tone. “I’m sorry. I’m probably not making any sense.”

“You always speak intelligently, Witling. I admire you for that.” He laces his hands in front of him, as he does when he wants to keep himself still. “It is… complicated. And incredibly ugly.” He glances at you. “I would not wish to burden you with the story.”

“I’ve got nothing but time.” You smile a little at him, though it’s tinged with melancholy. “And I think we’ve established I’ve got a decent perspective on ugly stories.”

You feel his green eyes on you- such a familiar feeling, even though now it makes you shift anxiously in your seat. “I suppose you deserve to know. You are one of the few who have shown me any grace for my actions.” In a graceful movement, he criss-crosses his long legs in front of him, and lets his elbows rest on his knees. “You know of the events in New Mexico?”

“More or less.”

“It was, in essence, a desperate scheme to win the affections of my father. To prove my worthiness in the eyes of someone who had never seen me as such.” Loki is excellent at hiding his feelings when he wants to, but by now you can see through all the façades he throws up to protect himself. “I had discovered my heritage in… less than ideal circumstances. I believed Thor’s downfall was my chance to claim everything I’d ever yearned for, only to realize those dreams were never possible to begin with. My anger was- immense.” Something in his voice cracks. “I was mourning so many different lives. My childhood, my Aesir form, my father’s son and an heir to Asgard. Everything I had ever known was simply an illusion waiting to be shattered.” He grimaces. “I did not handle it well.”

You don’t think your chest has ever hurt this much. “I don’t think anyone would, Loki. You can’t blame yourself for feeling angry.”

“What has anger every gained us,” he says softly, as though he’s quoting some wise scholar.

You don’t know what to say to that.

“I pleaded with my father over the broken Bifrost,” he says, “asking him if he could ever truly love me the way any child craves. And he denied me that simple need once and for all.”

“Loki-”

He shakes his head. “Thor was holding me aloft over the abyss. He would have pulled me to safety, I am sure of it. But instead- I let go.”

In your entire life, you don’t think you’ve ever heard anyone sound so broken as he does in this moment. It makes you physically ache, and you want to take his grief and shoulder it yourself so he might have a spare moment of peace; let your thumb rub away the lines etched in his face until they smooth into something happier.

“When Thanos found me, I did not have the strength or heart to resist.”

Your eyebrows furrow. “Who is-”

“Don’t,” Loki warns. “Please. He is…” he mumbles a few things under his breath, but in languages you can’t understand. “He is a titan that has risen from the depths intent on his own ideas of perfection. His cruelty is outshone only by his ambition.” You can’t hold back a small noise of dismay when you notice his fingers are trembling. “I could not have fallen into his power at a more opportune time.”

“I will not claim to be wholly innocent. I am not. When he offered me dominion over Thor’s beloved Earth, I did not stay my hand from the weapon he gave me. But only after I received it did I realize his true intentions.” He takes a shaky breath, and presses his spine to the wall behind him, like he needs the support. “Casualties the likes of which you could not imagine. Violence, brutally meted without hesitation. The entire galaxy balanced in the palm of his hand. I tried to run- but I was weak, and now he had a grip on my very being.” The smile he gives is mirthless, haunted. “I am not easily broken. But they did so… effortlessly.”

By now you’ve drawn your knees up to your chest and wrapped your arms around them, curling in on yourself as tight as you can manage. It’s like the room has dropped in temperature, slowly freezing your blood from the inside out. “What did…” you trail off, your voice thin enough to crack the most fragile sheet of ice. “Do I want to know?”

“I would not tell you even if you did.” You roughly wipe away a tear with the heel of your hand. “But the heat was immeasurable, and the scars were thoroughly and deliberately gifted.”

You wince reflexively. “How do you torture a frost giant,” you murmur, trying to push all kinds of horrific images out of your mind.

He nods briefly. “Precisely. All the while the infinity stone was working its power. I can resist thrall more than most, but not completely.”

“You mentioned an infinity stone before.”

“The mind stone is one of them. It is housed in the scepter Thanos gave me; the one I brought to Midgard during the invasion.”

Pieces are coming together one by one, into a warped and twisted sort of understanding. “That scepter- you used it to brainwash Barton, and everyone else.”

“Yes.”

“And it was also… controlling you?”

“Not so completely. I could resist in certain moments.”

“No, but- Loki.” You sit forward, trying to understand what he’s telling you. “It was controlling you. You were being controlled. Just like Barton. Just like all the others.”

“One could say.”

“Loki! This means- it means it wasn’t your fault!” You’re a strange mix of hopefulness, wrath, depression, and enlightenment. “Does SHIELD know this? Do the Avengers?”

“No,” he says fiercely, and he pins you with that gaze of his. “And you will not tell them.”

That stops you short. “Why-?”

“Because I am guilty no matter the circumstances, darling.” His voice is gentle, like he’s trying to let you down easy. “I did not refuse Thanos’ offer.”

“You had just fallen through space and time after your entire identity was stolen from you,” you retort. “Even if the latter hadn’t happened, would you have physically been able to resist after your fall? Enough to escape?”

“I- do not know.”

“Loki.” You sit back and rub your eyes. “This changes everything.”

“It doesn’t.”

“It does! If Barton isn’t being held responsible for what he did when he wasn’t in control of his body then you sure as hell shouldn’t be!”

“Witling-”

“When Fury knows he’ll have to-”

“He will not know! And you-” he looks at you firmly, “will not tell him. Anyone. Promise me, Witling.”

“But why? Loki, you could clear your name-”

“He is the most dangerous thing in the galaxy,” he hisses, “and he will be coming back.” When your eyes widen, Loki closes his own and takes a deep breath to steady himself. “I fear it more than Ragnarok,” he says simply. “I would not bring any more destruction to this world than I already have. At least for now.”


You’re ready to argue, ready to fight with him tooth and nail until he realizes just how not at fault he actually is for this whole catastrophe- but you can’t bring yourself to do it. Not when he’s shivering and vulnerable and minutes away from tipping into a headspace you know would be hell to drag him out of.

“Okay.” He looks at you. “I- I don’t agree with it. But I trust you. I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”

“Thank you.”

You let out a breath you didn’t know you were holding. “Thank you for telling me.”

Loki nods, his face exhausted and drawn. “In here, I would trust you before I trust myself.”

 

Chapter Text

On the fourth day you fail to visit, Loki lets himself begin to worry.

He wasn’t expecting you back right away, not after admitting just how much of a monster he actually is. But he’s come to have faith in you, to the point where even if you are going to reject him for his crimes- he wouldn’t blame you if you did- he thinks you’d at least do him the courtesy of telling him. So the first day of your absence, he waits, trying to ignore the anxiety in his chest. The second day is spent in self-loathing; the third, hating the universe at large with more viciousness than usual. But the fourth… that’s when he lets a few tendrils of doubt creep into his brain. But not about your potential sudden change of heart- no. That doesn’t sit right with him.

It’s nothing. Most likely, you’ve left, just like everyone else, once realizing the depths of the horror of the man standing in front of you. Most likely, you’re moving on with your life without involving yourself with the villain. Most likely…

Then why does he still feel uneasy?

He glances where he knows a camera is positioned, tucked into the ceiling’s seams. How closely he’s being monitored, he’s never figured out, but he has an inkling that he could hang himself by his hair and no one would bother trying to stop him. So how to get their attention? He has little magic at his disposal, not enough to conjure anything disturbing, and his cell is lacking anything remotely useful.

With a sigh, he hefts his cuffs, twisting his wrists nervously in their prisons, unsure of so many things. Using as much strength as he can gather, the manacles are hurled at the glass barrier with enough force to make his bones ache and his teeth clench.

This may take a while.

X

Thor has never liked scavenger hunts- he lacks the brains for riddles his brother so gleefully loves- but a chase without clues is proving even more frustrating. Every inquiry about your whereabouts is met with indifference or confusion, and his visit to your offices was fruitless, as your colleagues don’t seem capable of anything but stuttering and terror in his presence. It is quite annoying. Why Loki prefers to rule through fear he will never know.

Loki. He sees you every day, from what little he can gather- no doubt he knows of your wellbeing. But he is not allowed passage into his brother’s cell…

“Thor.” A woman’s sharp voice cuts through his thoughts. “What the hell is your brother playing at?”

Ah. Very occasionally, fortune does favor him.

Maria Hill stands tapping a brisk toe. “He’s been intent on breaking out for the better part of three hours now. Can you please go talk sense into him? If there’s any sense there to reason with,” she mutters under her breath.

“Of course. Please, lead the way.”

In the depths of SHEILD, locked behind glass, stripped of his grandeur and posturing, Loki looks more himself than he has in a long time. Thor watches the muscles in his shoulders grind to a halt as he abandons his latest attempt at what looks to be smashing his handcuffs against the barrier. Neither the glass or the manacles are any worse for wear, from what Thor can see, but his brother is noticeably exhausted.

“Thor.” The relief in Loki’s voice is palpable. “You came.”

A small spark of happiness flares in Thor’s chest. When was the last time his brother welcomed his presence? “You wished me to?”

“Obviously.” Loki sets himself down on his cot. His hands rest in his lap, and raw rings of skin peek out from underneath his bindings. “Where is Y/N?”

For a moment, Thor only blinks. “The lady Y/N? Have you not seen her? I wished to ask you the same.”

A dark shadow passes over his face. “No. I have not.”

Maria is looking between the two gods impatiently, clearly not following the conversation. “Y/N? Who are we talking about?”

Something low grumbles in the back of Loki’s throat. “Y/N Y/L/N. An archivist under your employ. She has been- assigned to me, for however long I have been in SHIELD’s grip now.”

Her eyes widen just a hint. “You’re pitching a fit about your babysitter? Is she even still still here? I would’ve thought you’d have run her into the ground a month in.” The incredulousness in her voice makes both Thor and Loki bristle.

“You do not keep count of those under your care?” Thor asks.

“We keep track of the important ones.” When the atmosphere of the room dampens to the point of stifling at the clench of Loki’s fists and the stretching of Thor’s shoulders, Maria backtracks. “I mean- okay. Get to the point. Why are you worried about her?”

“She has been absent for the better part of four days now,” Loki grinds out from clenched teeth. “And such behavior is… unusual.”

“Aye.” Thor nods. “It is unlike her to remove herself from Loki’s side for so long.”

“Okay- okay.” The agent rubs her temples briefly. Her migraine isn’t getting any better. “I have two semi-immortal beings worried about someone we hired a year ago on a lark. Wonderful. You realize she’s just on vacation or something?”

Loki looks to Thor with a glance that clearly communicates everything he isn’t voicing. “Perhaps I could verify her whereabouts,” Thor says casually, unwilling to alert Hill to his brother’s turmoil. “To ease his mind, if nothing else.”

She sighs. “If it’ll get him to calm down, fine. Go find Stark, he’s been fiddling with the security system anyways.” She leaves mumbling something under her breath, shaking her head and looking like she needs a very strong drink.

Once she’s gone, Loki visibly deflates. “Thor-”

He holds out a hand. “I will investigate the matter,” he says calmly. “I am sure she is fine, brother.”

Loki nods. “Just- be certain.”

It strikes Thor, in that moment, that as meaningful as you are to himself, he has not begun to scratch the surface on your worth to his brother.

X

Stark is, as predicted, sequestered into a room full of glowing screens, his attention on all of them at once. “Sparky the Hammer-Bro. What can I do for you?”

Thor lets his eyes rove over rows of code, none of which he understands. “I need to view security recordings. The Agent Hill said you may help.”

“Uuuuuuuuuuuumsure.” The genius waves a hand, dismissing several rows of numbers. “Anything in particular?”

“Five days ago, roughly. As for what I seek- I believe I will know when I see it.”

Stark raises an eyebrow. “Cryptic. Fun times! Uno momento, por favor.” One by one, computer screens are filled with a past SHIELD, going about its business. It could be any given day- agents roam, papers filed, choice global secrets exposed and others hidden. But Thor zeroes in on the one displaying you and his brother, in some sort of tense conversation. Loki lashes out, and you reply with remarkable composure- enough to apparently reassure him you aren’t going anywhere. In his head, Thor adjusts every opinion of you he’s ever had.

You talk for a while more, underscored by Stark’s idle whistling from the corner. You leave, bag tucked under your arm, and say goodbye to a scant few colleagues. Outside, a car pulls up in front of you, and you go to open the door- only, it’s opened for you, by gloved hands belonging to an unseen being. While they grab you by the arms, another man in a suit is busy administering a blunt object to the back of your skull. You crumple into the waiting vehicle. The door is shut. It pulls smoothly away from the curb, as though you were never there at all.

To Thor’s right, static electricity shorts out a bank of monitors.

And now Tony is talking, leaning in to examine the footage- “Who- wait, isn’t that your brother’s pet? What the hell-?” But Thor is already gone, hurrying in a way that magically clears everyone from his path before he even arrives. Every thud of his heel echoes a crisp and succinct no, no, no, no, no, no

Loki has been pacing, but he pauses to turn his sharp gaze on his brother. “Well?” Thor can’t even open his mouth before green eyes turn deadly. “No.”

Thor’s mouth is suddenly dry. “Brother-”

There’s an inferno behind Loki’s voice, one that Thor has only ever seen herald destruction. “Bring me the director. Now.”

X


“Let me get this straight,” Fury drawls slowly, in an obvious effort to try his prisoner’s patience. Even Thor is having to keep his fingers from curling into fists. “Your babysitter- who has apparently stuck around for the last ten months, even though by all accounts she should have run screaming from the room- has been kidnapped by a mysterious force, and you want me to release you in order to go on a harebrained rescue. Unchaperoned.”

“Yes.”

Fury snorts. “No.”

“I would be with him,” Thor argues, “and I would not let him-”

“-escape off-world with his magic in tow? Pardon me if I’m not inclined to believe you.”

“You don’t understand!” Loki looks incredibly close to breaking something, and for the sake of their argument, Thor very much hopes he doesn’t. “She is in peril and you would sit back and do nothing-”

The director holds up a hand as the door opens and Hill slips in, holding printed camera stills. “HYDRA, most likely,” she says, pointing out various details in each photo to her boss. “Why they’d target her I have no idea.”

Fury sighs. “Fantastic. Let me ask you something, Mister mortals-are-ants-beneath-my-boot. Why the hell do you care?”

Too many thoughts to count flit across Loki’s face, and Thor has had a thousand years to catalogue every one of his brother’s expressions. “Is it not enough that I simply do?” Loki asks, apparently at a loss for words, and Thor can’t help but notice everything he isn’t saying in that one question.

“I’ll tell you everything,” he continues, almost vibrating with desperation. “Everything you want to know, that is in my power to tell. I swear it.”

Fury’s eyes narrow. “The Chitauri? The Tesseract?”

“Yes.”

A pause. “Deal.”

Maria startles. “Nick-”

“No, Hill, don’t start with me, not now.” He nods at Loki’s cell. “If you would.”

Maria unlocks Loki’s cell and releases his manacles with the grace and poise of someone who has a revolver trained at her temple. Once his hands are free, she tenses, as though expecting a quick death- but he simply rubs his wrists, in the places they bleed slightly.

“You’re insane,” she says as Fury leads her out of the room, not bothering to lower her voice.

“Insane saved the world, once,” he shoots back. “How much worse can this be?”

“I can think of a few-”

The door closes behind them.

The two gods look at each other. “Four days is a long time,” Thor says softly, unnecessarily stating the obvious. “I would not even know where to look. Perhaps the captain would know-”

He stops as a rage of green flares up to Loki’s elbows, mirroring the fire that has suddenly blazed to life in his eyes. His voice is haunted by things unknown- “I have her.”

 

Chapter Text

Your head jerks wildly when you wake, almost knocking you over onto the floor. “What the hell…” Your throat feels like a cheese grater, and you cough painfully the second the words leave your lips. Your eyes open. You’re in a metal room, with absolutely nothing in it except you. You are also tied to a chair. Very thoroughly, by the feel of it, when you experimentally tug your wrists apart. Horrifically scratchy rope prevents you from doing that, and also ties your ankles to the legs of the chair. “Okay, what the actual hell?” You rasp. More coughing.

What’s happened? You don’t remember very well. You were… had you been at work? Yes. SHIELD. You were at SHIELD and you had talked with Loki and then you were on your way home when-

-when something very heavy and very solid had hit you in the head. The back of it, judging from the location of the throbbing that makes you want to sob now that it’s been brought to your attention.

So… you don’t really know what the protocol is for this situation. Hell, you don’t even know what the situation is. But your head hurts and you’re tied to a chair and you don’t know where you are- a big metal door swings open, banging against the wall, startling you out of your ragged train of thoughts. Some men file in, all in uniforms and with complicated-looking weapons, which at first reassures you but then confuses you when you realize they definitely are not SHIELD uniforms. And you don’t think you’ve ever seen a SHIELD agent carry a machine gun like the one currently pointed towards you.

“She’s awake,” one of the soldiers points out, and the man who walks in gives a sarcastic laugh. Dark sarcastic though. Like Loki, kind of.

Wait. Loki. Where’s Loki?

“Yes, your powers of observation astound me.” The soldier apparently opens his mouth to answer because the man sighs and raises a sharp hand. “Shut up, idiot. Stand there and do your job.”

“Um…” you venture weakly. “Hello?”

The smirk the man gives you is nothing like Loki’s. Loki’s is playful. Tricky. Like he’s going to pull the rug out from under your feet and take a picture when you land on your butt. This man’s is scary, and malicious, and you are suddenly very sure that whatever the situation is, it is not going to be good for you.

“Hello,” he says easily. He leans down to tug on your ropes, and nods, seemingly satisfied. “Comfortable?”

“Not particularly.”

“Good.”

“Look,” you say, trying to keep your frantic thoughts from just spilling out of your brain, “I think there’s been a mistake-”

“Hm. My men can be idiots, but they are generally competent. Generally.” He inspects your face. “You are Y/N Y/L/N, yes? You work for SHIELD.” When you don’t answer, he smacks you smartly across the face he was just inspecting, making a gasp escape your lips. “Are you or are you not?”

“Y- yes. Yes!” The eye that got caught in the smack waters and stings. “I am.”

“And you are the one who has been interrogating the god, yes?”

You try to squint through your injured eye. “You mean Loki?”

“I was not aware SHIELD hired imbeciles. Yes, the Asgardian.”

“Well- it’s not an interrogation, it’s-” Smack. You’re stunned into silence by the pain blooming across the right side of your face, almost gagging at the sensation.

“I could not care less what SHIELD calls their business.” He crouches until he’s just under eye level, then takes your chin in a gloved hand and forces it straight, making you look at him. “You know of the Asgardian.”

“Y- yes.”

“Excellent.” He doesn’t let go, instead speaking to you almost casually, as if you’re just old friends who happened to run into each other in this bare, empty metal room. “So, you are going to tell me about him.”

“Like what,” you stutter out, bracing for another hit.

“His plan for Manhattan. For Earth. Who he was working for, or with. The technology he brought with him.” The man’s breath is incredibly sour, and you wish you could turn your head away. “Where they are keeping him. In what. With how many guards. Will he introduce us to his friends.” None of this is said as a question, just a blunt statement that hits you in the face almost as hard as his hand. It is said with that same, terrifying smirk that belies his absolute confidence.

You look at him incredulously. “And you think I know all that?”

The smirk wavers. “You are his interrogator, are you not?”

‘I- no. No! I mean, god, they probably had other people talk to him about all that stuff, but those people are much more important and have a much higher clearance than me.” You’re babbling, and you know you are, but you can’t seem to shut your mouth. “Seriously, they put me in there specifically because I was a nobody, so that if-” this time, you’re anticipating the pain before it happens.

“What. Exactly. Do you know.” he hisses, his dark eyes shining and furious.

“We talk about his childhood a lot,” you whisper, and the hand still trapping your chin shoves you away so harshly you fall backwards, already injured head smacking the cold floor. You groan, and cough, and salt begins to burn the red marks on your cheeks.

The man is already halfway out the door, but he does pause and turn to you for one long moment. “Apparently I was wrong,” he admits, shrugging his shoulders. “My men are only idiots.” You’re so busy trying to blink the black spots from your vision and the ringing from your ears you only vaguely hear him say, “kill her.”

Chapter Text

They don’t bother to right your chair. They just kick you while you’re down.

A lot.

Why they don’t just shoot you is a mystery. You wish they would. Then maybe everything wouldn’t feel like it’s on fire with some unholy Asgardian magical fire that burns a million times hotter than the Earth’s core. You cough, and it sounds sickeningly wet, and tastes of iron. Trying to spit out the blood that pools in your mouth sometimes works, but most of the time it just leaks back onto your face or back into your lungs.

You wonder if you’ll suffocate or bleed out first. Based on the choking, you’re betting on suffocating.

Every SHIELD agent is required to go through three days of standard mandatory torture resistance training. You’d sat in a room with some other linguistics agents and office workers, rolling your eyes at each other when the instructor turned their back because all of you knew you were never, ever even going to come close to any information worth kidnapping you for. A laugh burbles out of you. Shoulda paid more attention. Maybe taken some notes.

Something high pitched and hysterical fills the room, and in the back of your mind you vaguely recognize it as your own voice. A story comes out of you from somewhere, god knows why, and eventually your brain catches up with the words enough to realize it’s one of Loki and Thor, from when they were kids. Your favorites. They never failed to make you hide a smile, or even laugh out loud. Sometimes Loki smiled when he made you laugh. That was nice. He has a nice smile.

“-and Thor loves snakes, right? And Loki knows this. So he turns himself into a snake- he can do shit liked that, he’s magic, he can turn into all kinds of crazy things but don’t ask me what ‘cause I don’t really know-” you stop talking long enough to cough, hard, and gasp in a breath. “Or I guess maybe I do ’cause I know he can turn into a snake. But he turns into a snake in the middle of a field and waits for Thor, and Thor picks him up ‘cause he loves snakes, and then Loki turns back into Loki and stabs him!” Your voice is about an octave higher than normal, and you’re wheezing in some sort of horrible laugh, knocking yourself up over your own bedtime story told on your dying breaths. “Hey, boys! Boys, come back! I do have some info for you!” You shout at the top of your lungs, ignoring the strangling sounds in the back of your throat. “Thor- Thor has a lot of scars! He’s been stabbed a lot!”

No one comes in to marvel at your revelation, just as no one had wasted another look at you once they were done beating the shit out of you. “Ungrateful bastards,” you mutter, and for some reason you find that even funnier than the story. So you laugh yourself silly again, as much as you can with all the pain wracking your every move.

Maybe you’ll die laughing. That’d be a nice way to go.

When you instinctively go to wipe a horrid mixture of blood and tears from your face, you realize your wrists are free. They must’ve come loose or been torn free by those goons. Your ankles, too, are no longer bound, though you’re pretty sure your foot isn’t supposed to be sticking that way. That’s fun. Guess walking is out of the picture. But where would you even walk to? It’s not like they’re gonna give you a goodie bag and let you out the front door.

Maybe… maybe if you can find some place to hide? Some back hallway nobody uses where you can hole up until… well. You know, deep down, that SHIELD doesn’t send in rescue parties for people like you. Hell, the only people who’ll even realize you’re gone are Loki and Thor. You wince as a pain in your chest stabs to life. Okay. Safe place first. Daydreaming about rescue operations later.

Sitting up is the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life. There’s definitely a punctured lung somewhere amongst the mess that is currently your internal organs, because what little oxygen you can gasp for doesn’t seem to be doing much. You’re right about walking, that’s not going to happen- you can’t even feel anything below your knees. But your knees- they’re stable-ish, and as long as you ignore the bones in your wrists shifting around to spots they shouldn’t be in, you might be able to passably crawl your way to victory.

You want to laugh, but that’d probably send a rib straight through your chest. So you don’t.

Crawling on your goddamn hands and knees through a secret underground HYDRA base is by far the most surreal moment of your life. Even more then realizing that hammer in New Mexico was honest-to-Thor Mjolnir. More than casually chatting about the questionable existence of deities with another deity. It’d be funny if your plan wasn’t so horrendously futile. You’re moving at negative two miles per hour. You’re leaving a massive trail of blood behind you. And even if SHIELD does send some rookie agent to track you down, you’ll be nothing but a body to find.

On the other hand, you’ll quite possibly die before any of the HYDRA idiots find you. Maybe you could go semi-peacefully, then.

It’s that thought that keeps you moving. One petty little victory before your demise. Really, you didn’t know you were capable of that much triviality, but hey, might as well respect your one dying wish, right?

Miracle of miracles- most likely the last miracle you’re ever going to see- you find what looks to be a neglected supply closet. The door is unlocked, and you squeeze your way in, then shut the door as much as you can behind you. There’s no light to see by, but your eyes aren’t working that well anyways, so you climb over what feel like discarded Kevlar vests and random pieces of weaponry until you get to the furthest corner you can manage. Tuck yourself up against the wall, dragging your useless feet behind you. Breathe. Cough up some more blood. Breathe again.

Some sort of gun clatters away from the pile you just climbed over and you clutch it to you; a cold comfort. You’ve never fired a gun, but it should be easy enough, right? Point the bad end at the bad guy, aim, pull the trigger. Maybe if someone finds you before you go you can take out one of the bastards with you.

It’s dark and quiet. That’s all you can ask for at this point. Briefly, you wonder if Valhalla accepts stowaways. Maybe Loki will come visit you if they do.

Loki. Loki is a god, right? And you can pray to gods. You have no idea how or if the whole praying thing even works- one of the many questions you should have asked him- but… maybe it’ll make you feel better. Saying your last thoughts.

Um. Loki? Do I need to, like, invoke your full name or something? Loki Laufeyson, son of Odin, Prince of Asgard, rightful king of Jotunheim, God of Mischief and Lies, royal pain in my ass for the past year… yeah, that’s probably enough. Um, hi. It’s me. So, funny story, I might’ve gotten myself kidnapped by HYDRA and then beaten to a pulp. Just a bit. You’d laugh if you were here, trust me. I’m laughing on the inside.

So, I know you’re kinda in a cell, but dying here seems pretty sucky. Maybe could you send Thor to come get me? I mean, I’m gonna die either way, but at least dying in Thor’s muscly arms would be a big step up than this closet.

Sorry, that was a joke. You know I like you better.

Soooooo, yeah. Have a think on it I guess. I mean, don’t think long, I don’t have that much time.

I don’t know if you can hear me. Probably not, I don’t usually get that lucky. But if you can, just… remember that a prince is still a prince, no matter where he comes from. Thor loves you, even if you don’t believe it sometimes, so try not to dagger him unless he really deserves it. So does Frigga. Trust me, I know these things. I really liked hanging out with you, if that’s worth anything. You aren’t anything like I expected, but I’m glad you’re not, ‘cause I don’t think I’d love you nearly as much if you were.

Keep yourself out of trouble, Trickster. For me.

Chapter Text

Um. Loki?

Loki’s head snaps up, eyes blazing, fists curled in green magic. “I have her.”

“You have found her?” Thor demands. “How?”

“She is…” his voice breaks, words spiraling off into an abyss of bittersweet terror. “She is praying. To me.”

Thor’s eyes soften just for an instant, before his resolution returns in spades. “Then I believe you would do well to answer her, yes?”

Loki looks at his brother, standing by his side, matched in fury and determination. Ready to charge headfirst into battle for nothing but the sake of himself and yours. And he wonders how he has called himself intelligent for millennia while still being so oblivious to who he Has truly had poised in his corner all this time. “Brace yourself,” he says, and puts a hand laced with green magic on Thor’s arm.

In a shimmer and haze they reappear in some sort of compound. Based on the chill emanating from the concrete walls, underground. Though he does not know their precise location, Loki can tell they have travelled hundreds of miles from where they began- how had they managed to move you so quickly?

He shakes his head. Questions for another time. Both warriors are silent as they take in their surroundings, noting the echoing of footsteps- a hallway, through the door to their right- and low chatter all around.

“This is the HYDRA they spoke of?” Thor’s voice is a low rumble; Mjolnir seems to crackle impatiently in his grasp.

“Yes.”

“Can you sense her?”

Loki reaches out through every means he has, trying to strengthen your thoughts in his mind. “Faintly. She has little time.”

“Time enough.” Without warning, he arcs Mjolnir into the ground below him, crumbling the floor to dust and landing on a lower level. The screams start scarcely before the rubble settles, and despite the circumstances, Loki spares a moment to roll his eyes. And they call him dramatic.

With Thor providing a sufficient distraction, he summons his daggers to him and slips through the nearest door, every footstep bring him closer to wherever you hide.

He comes upon his first opponent the next time he hears your voice. Do I need to, like, invoke your full name or something? Startled, he falters, and the lackey dressed in military gear almost lands a blow before Loki’s reflexes kick in and efficiently pin the man to the wall. He is dead in mere seconds, when green energy overwhelms him and seizes his heart. The body slumps to the floor, and Loki tries to regain his balance. He can still hear you. And that means you’re still alive. For now. Leave it to you to ponder the proper protocols of summoning a god whilst bleeding out in a corner somewhere. Something in his heart pangs. Keep talking to me, love. You can do it. I’m coming. By the stars, I’m coming.

Loki Laufeyson, son of Odin

When you speak his name, your connection grows stronger. He makes a hairpin turn down a corridor to his left, and bangs open a door so hard spiderweb cracks are left in the steel. It leads to a staircase

rightful king of Jotunheim

Steps are cleared ten at a time, each leap pushing him further underground

God of Mischief and Lies

When two stocky guards appear at the bottom of the steps, Loki doesn’t hesitate before putting a dagger through one’s throat, and smashing the other’s head into a concrete block, leaving a sickly trail of blood leaking from the back of his skull

royal pain in my ass for the past year

Had any HYDRA personnel glanced at the god’s face in that moment, they would have seen a ruthless, wolffish grin overtake his features, his smile as sharp as the daggers aimed at their hearts

Um, hi. It’s me.

Loki huffs as he retrieves his weapons from yet another pair of unfortunate victims. As though it could be anyone else. As if anyone else could have worked their way into his head so quickly, wrapped their fingers around his heart so thoroughly, had their laugh running through his veins like morphine when the nights proved too dark for him to handle on his own

You’d laugh if you were here, trust me

“My sense of humor only goes so far, Witling,” he growls, “and at the moment you are severely pushing its boundaries.” His next target only has time to give him a confused glance before their eyes roll back into their head

So, I know you’re kinda in a cell

Once again, his smile turns dark, and he lets a little extra energy crackle and spiral up his arms, enjoying the feeling of pure power he’s been missing in his imprisonment. Not anymore. Would there be consequences waiting for him? Yes. But he’ll gladly take them and more if it means getting you out of here alive-

I mean, I’m gonna die either way

With a roar, he rips more pathetic beings out of his way and descends another level. You. Are. Not. Dying. Stop saying that.

Sorry, that was a joke. You know I like you better.

And I adore nothing in the world so much as you. Is that not strange?

More hallways that lead to dead ends, more rooms with no treasure to be had but the thrill of seeing the light leave another’s eyes

I don’t know if you can hear me

My love, I would wager all of Asgard that I could still hear your voice if I was frozen in the heart of Ginnungagap itself

a prince is still a prince, no matter where he comes from

And with his shoulders steady, his aim quick and true, his feet lithe and dancing over the destruction that lay in his wake, Loki Laufeyson looks every inch a fearsome prince no one in the nine realms would dare deny

Thor loves you, even if you don’t believe it

Somewhere above him, thunder rumbles, and the building shakes with heaven-sent lightning. The telltale smell of ozone lingers in the air. Loki has seen enough battles to picture his brother now, glowing with energy as he searches for the next soul that stands in his way

try not to dagger him unless he really deserves it

A smile touches his lips. Ah, Witling. Always so forgiving.

So does Frigga

Frigga. Something low in his gut twists. All-Mother, may you hear her pleas as well as mine. Watch over us both.

Trust me, I know these things

Indeed you do, darling. Somehow you seem to know more of the world than I ever shall, and you have only seen a pinprick of what it has to offer. The thought makes him angry, makes him curl his fists harder and slam it into someone’s jaw even more ruthlessly. I will show you the cosmos, my love. I swear it.

You’re close now, he can tell, because your anguish is starting to feel like a tangible thing he could reach out and rip from the air. Your pain becomes his, his terror becomes yours. He isn’t sure if the blood lingering on his tongue is yours, his, or a mingling of both

You aren’t anything like I expected

A smirk quirks his features. I have never, ever been what they expected. I have always been far more.

Closer, closer. He is closer but your voice grows dimmer, further away. He abandons stealth for an all out run, recklessly wrenching open doors as he passes in desperate hope that you might lie behind them

but I’m glad you’re not

You’d be the first.

I don’t think I’d love you nearly as much if you were

I don’t think I’d love you

love you

An unassuming hatch cracked the slightest bit open gets ripped off its hinges so forcefully it is thrown down the hall. Light floods the abandoned space, highlighting old equipment and stray bullet casings

and you.

You, curled up in the corner, clutching an old weapon to your chest like the cold metal might keep your heart from stopping. From here, he can see jagged edges of bone, glowing white against pale skin. Your hair sticks to your scalp in a mess of blood, and drops of it trickle down your cheek, marring your face. What isn’t white is red, and what isn’t red is black and purple and blue.

Keep yourself out of trouble, Trickster. For me.

“Never,” he breathes. It is trouble that led me to you, darling, and for that I shall consecrate myself at its feet for the rest of my days.

Your eyes open, blearily, his whispered words having stirred something inside you. Though you look right at him, your gaze goes through him, seeing nothing but a shadow haloed in green light. Some minuscule part of your brain wakes up enough to say point, aim, trigger

You manage to fire off three shots before everything in you goes slack.

Chapter Text

Luckily, your grip is weak and your aim goes wide, missing anything important. Loki can feel one ping! off the metal of his helmet and fly off somewhere to the right. The other bullets sink into his shoulder, muted slightly by his leather armor but still hitting their mark. Loki grits his teeth and stays silent, not wanting to scare you. He has no doubt you thought he was one of those HYDRA lackeys coming to finish you off.

A small spark of pride flares in his chest. Even after all you’ve been through, you’re still fighting.

He enters the room cautiously, not wanting to set you off, but quickly sees that you’re well and truly unconscious. Your wounds look even more dire up close, and though he can see all the broken bones and bruised skin and stuttering lungs with his magic, he can’t do anything about it. His healing skills are nominal at best, and now is not the time for experimentation.

Quickly, he creates a double of himself to fetch Thor from the upper levels of the compound and then unpins his cloak from his shoulders, grimacing slightly as the wounded one stretches and twists. The cloth is laid on the floor, and ever so gently Loki moves to pick you up from your fetal position and onto the soft fabric. His hands are careful, and he watches your face for any disturbance at his touch. You’re obviously in pain, but his presence doesn’t seem to cause you any undue stress. And so you’re carefully wrapped in his cloak as best he can manage, both to keep you warm and hopefully to give you some mediocrum of comfort.

The second he cradles you in his arms, some of the tension leaves your body. It’s as though you know he came for you, and you can finally rest.

His double appears and disappears back into himself, followed by Thor rounding the corner. He stops at the sight he sees: a broken girl shrouded in his brother’s colors, held by a man whose eyes look as though they’re shattered glass. “How is she?”

When Loki looks up, there are tears pricking at the corners of his eyes. “Desperate. Brother I- I cannot fix this.”

“Can your magic not-”

“My healing skills are meaningless against this-!” He stops. Takes a breath to steady himself. “She needs mother.”

Thor’s eyes widen. “You cannot possibly think-”

“I can, and I will.” His voice is firm, but Thor thinks he has never looked so vulnerable in his entire life. “Thor, she- I can’t- she will die.”

And in those few words Thor can hear a plea, a warning, and and a demand all at once. I can’t lose her. Please. Help me.

Thor looks at your face, torn and bloodied, trying to see past the bruises and soon-to-be scars to the girl he has come to think of as sister. And in you, he sees not one heart, but two- your own, and the one you have claimed piece by piece, word by word, jest by jest. Loki’s heart beats with yours, fragile as it may be. If one stops, the other may cease as well.

He will not lose his brother again. Not if there’s anything in his power he can do to prevent it.

“You will have to deal with Heimdall,” Thor warns. “I cannot speak for you; not on this.” Loki nods. Talking, he can do. He can talk his way into anything, whisper ideas into the ears of the very Fates themselves, make heads turn in his direction or never notice him at all. Never in all his years did he think he would be using his silver tongue to beg so desperately for a life that wasn’t his own. But here he is, and here you are, wrapped in his cloak and cradled in his arms, barely clinging to life. He moves lithely, trying to rattle you as little as possible, but when the Bifrost opens he clutches you to his chest so tightly a whimper escapes your fevered lips.

“Prince Thor.” Heimdall, ever constant, stands watch. “Asgard welcomes you.” And then, with his all-seeing eyes, he turns his gaze to the God of Lies.

“Heimdall.” Loki purposefully does not move, does not step forward towards the bridge that leads to the golden city. “I know I stand here a traitor to Asgard and Midgard alike. I have committed unspeakable acts that have cost lives in both realms. And I do not make excuses for what I have done.” He looks down at you, and he suddenly has to fight very hard to keep his voice from wavering. “But this mortal is innocent in my crimes. Her life hangs in the balance at no fault of her own, save perhaps a fondness for me that I do not deserve.” There is no response, and no emotion is his juror’s clouded eyes. “I will soon stand trial before the throne of Odin, and I will happily accept whatever fate befalls me. But if you have ever viewed me fondly; ever served the crown of Asgard- do not tell the Allfather of my plan. Let us pass, and seek out our Lady Mother without my Father’s knowledge. I fear it is her only chance. And I would not do well to lose her,” he adds softly.

The gatekeeper steps forward and moves aside the cloth you are wrapped in, letting your face be seen. Slowly crusting blood covers half of it, and from the tension in your brow it is clear you are suffering. Occasionally your eyes open and flit around, seeing nothing, before fluttering closed again.

Heimdall looks at Thor. “And you agree to this?”

“I do. She does not deserve the fate that has befallen her. And I know my brother will not chance risking her life further by doing something foolish.”

“For once, the God of Mischief promises none,” the man says solemnly. Hope flares in Loki’s chest, a dangerous spark of light in the dark. And then he steps aside, letting the gods pass, and resumes his post as if they were never there at all.

Sneaking into the palace is not difficult; they have been doing it since they were children. They know every corridor, every secret passage, and every unknown doorway that will deliver them straight to their Mother’s chambers. It is heavily shielded with magic, but the wards have always allowed her children to pass through. In front of the roaring hearth, Loki lays you on Frigga’s bed. But you start shivering immediately from the loss of contact, so he simply picks you back up again and sits on the edge of the bed himself, tucking one of his hands among the folds of the cloak so your own has something to grasp.

“I will go summon her,” Thor says, and disappears into the hall.

Your breathing is shallow, and sometimes stops, making his heart stop with it until another gasp shudders through your chest. “Please hold on, love,” he whispers, and your head leans more heavily into his chest as if to say, I’m trying.

The grand wooden doors open, and then close again. Loki hears a sigh, delicate as winter’s wind, and then: “what have you done now, my son?”

“Mother.” His voice does break this time, and without shame he looks at Frigga with tears in his eyes. “I need help.”

“So your brother has said.” He looks at Thor gratefully, relieved he does not have to relive the tale. “Are you hurt?” She reaches out to graze his wounded shoulder, instinctively assessing the damage as only a mother can, but Loki shrugs her off.

“It is minimal. Please, she- she is in far more dire straights than I.”

Her face folds into something hard. A face that has seen too many battle wounds, too much blood and too much suffering. “Let me see her.” Loki lets his cloak unravel, revealing your scarlet-soaked clothes and misshapen limbs, which have folded in on themselves at unnatural angles. Frigga’s hands work quickly, illuminating you in blue magic, probing your body for the most insistent wounds. Incoherent noises fall from your lips. Even unconscious, you can tell that a stranger is near.

All at once, she stops and steps back. “Well?” Loki’s voice is anxious enough to roil the sea.

“Her body can be healed, though I fear it may be more painful than when she was inflicted upon.” He nods. That was to be expected; healing an entire body is a feat only Frigga would dare attempt, and even it comes with a price. “I cannot promise how quickly her mind or her sanity will return with the rest of her.”

“I know.” She looks at him carefully. “Whatever the outcome, I will take full responsibility.” He cannot remember ever saying those words before and meaning them.

And so you are laid on the bed, your head and neck in Loki’s lap, so his magic can give you what comfort it can during the healing. A light shines through Frigga’s eyes from some ancient and unknowable place. Her hands glow blue. And ever so gently, she places your hand on your forearm, to med the bone that is broken within.

Nothing could have prepared Loki for your scream.

He grits his teeth and lets his fingers rest on your temples, sending waves of calm and relief to you. But still you writhe and shriek, terrified and begging for the pain to stop in all the languages you know and others you don’t. Frigga’s concentration is unshaken, but the man holding you can feel his own heart slowly being torn to shreds by your agony. It is more painful than anything he has ever endured. Odin’s punishment will be a blessing compared to this. He searches his mind for good memories- reading to him in his cell, bickering back and forth about anything and everything, the warmth he felt in his chest the first time you truly smiled at him- and pushes them to you, trying to replace your current situation with pleasant dreams.

In your own head, you watch the scene play out in terror. Your body is trembling so hard you’re scared it will come apart at the seams, and while your screams sound far away, the sound sends ice down your spine. And Thor, Thor is in the corner mumbling words you can’t understand, and Loki- oh, Loki. He’s crying. There are tears running down his cheeks. You try to go to him, wanting to wipe away the salt and water, but a voice stops you. “I would not, little one. You have enough to handle as it is.” The woman bending over you encasing you in blue- you don’t know her. But her voice speaks to you anyways, echoing in the back of your mind.

“I have to help him.”

“You need to help yourself.”

“Who are you?”

“I am Frigga, a healer. Do not distract me, child. You are proving quite the project.”

Frigga. You know that name. Frigga, as in Odin’s wife, as in Loki’s mother, which means… you’re on Asgard. That would explain your surroundings, covered in intricate carvings and gold leaf. But if you’re on Asgard- Loki brought you here. He left Earth. He escaped SHIELD. He’s probably on the run from humans and Asgardians alike by now and oh boy you are so going to smack him the next time you see him for getting himself into trouble-

Frigga’s laugh is gentle and sweet. “You seem to care quite a lot for my son.”

“He saved my life.”

Memories rush through your head, pulled to the forefront of your mind- you see the endless hours of talk between yourself and Loki, you see the laughter and the smiles and the looks of gratitude and longing and wistfulness. The tears in your eyes as you accuse him on the anniversary of your brother’s death. Loki teaching you his favorite Asgardian hymn. The books you read, the games you played, the thoughts you kept to yourself. Frigga sees them all, and you are powerless to stop her.

“No, my dear,” she murmurs. “I believe you saved his.”

In the land of the living, you gasp like you’ve just come up for air for the first time since you were born, chest heaving, hands scrambling for something, anything, to anchor yourself from the free fall you’ve just dived out of. Loki ties his fingers together with yours so you don’t hurt yourself in your confusion. “Peace, darling,” he says, relief and wonder obvious in his voice. “I have you.”

He watches you try to focus on his face, eyes darting back and forth but not quite there. “Loki? Am- did I die?”

“No, Witling. It was not your time.” He leans his forehead down and lets it rest against your own, breathing almost as hard as you are. You’re alive. You know him, you know his voice and his touch. Your screams will haunt him until Ragnarök descends, but he can deal with that as long as you never let go of his fingers. “You will have to put up with me a while yet.”

You hum a little in agreement, and a few of the vices wrapped around his chest fall away.

Once you’ve fallen into a fitful sleep, Loki carefully removes himself from your side, though he stays within arms reach. You’re blanketed in every fur he owns, only your nose and the tips of your ears peeking out from the bundle. It’d be unbearably cute if only you weren’t crying listlessly in your sleep.

“I healed the worst of it. I imagine she will still require Midgardian care for quite some time.” She sighs, and magicks away the tears on your cheeks. “Much of the work was ensuring her soul stays tethered where it belongs.”

Loki has to look at you for a few moments to reassure himself you’re still with him. Still breathing. Still alive. In a flash, he’s pulled his mother into a hug. “Thank you,” he whispers into her hair, and she smiles and hugs him back. She hasn’t seen him like this since he was a child who needed comforting after an especially angry bout of words with Odin. Since he so wrongfully decided that his burdens were his alone to bear.

“You are most welcome, my son.” When he pulls away, she keeps him in her arms. Brushes a stray piece of hair from his face. “You care for her greatly,” she says gently.

“Yes,” he admits, so soft only she can hear.

“Well, then. Take her home; keep her safe. She will need you when she wakes.”

“Mother,” he says hesitantly. Carefully. “Do you know of the All-Father’s plans for me?”

She studies his face. “I do not. He has not been keen to share the information. I will do my best to placate him, but-”

“No. I accept my fate, whatever it may be. Only…” he glances back at you.

“-falling in love was not part of the plan.” She finishes his sentence with a small smile on her face. The words sound so naked spoken into the air. Of course, he knows he loves you. He has known since you sat down to read him stories with a smile on your face, caring not what the consequences may be. Still, the fact remains that his ending will be an unhappy one. And now he has dragged you into his ever-unfolding tragedy. “Things will turn out how they should.” She presses a hand to his cheek and kisses him lightly on the forehead. “You deserve happiness for once in your life, my son.”

Happiness? Perhaps. But he does not deserve you, or your smile, or the way you look at him-

“Loki?” Your eyes open, then immediately close again, the dim light giving you a headache.

“Go now.” Frigga pushes him gently towards you. “We will meet again.”

And so while Thor scouts the way ahead, making sure the three of you won’t be seen, Loki once more gathers you up in his arms. You’re dazed, but conscious enough to look up at him. “Hey, Trickster.” Loki has spoken sonnets that would bring gods to their knees; heard epics spanning centuries; learned divine words that even he struggled to comprehend. But nothing will ever be so sweet as the lazy way you said his name in that moment, smiling in his arms as though it’s the only place you’d ever like to be.

Chapter Text

You There’s a very annoying beeping somewhere to your left, and it simply will not shut up.

At first you think it’s your alarm, and you move to shut it off, but then you find moving to be very, very difficult. Excruciatingly so. Everything is burning and also sore at the same time, and something is making it hard to breathe…

You open your eyes. Everything is white for a moment, blinding you, but it eventually recedes into something more tolerable. Only just, though, your eyes hurt along with the rest of you. You’re tucked into a bed, a sheet pulled over your chest, with various machines tapped into the crook of your arms. They itch, but you can’t scratch them. There’s also a murmuring to your right, and when you look over you have a hard time processing what you’re seeing.

Loki, in a plain metal chair, handcuffed in those same weird manacles he’s always restrained by. There’s a gash on his cheekbone that’s faded to almost nothing. His hair is a mess like you’ve never seen it, his clothes- his armor, not the prison uniform- are disheveled and… bloody? It’s hard to tell with the black leather. His eyes are closed and he’s murmuring things in a language you can’t understand, but it seems awfully familiar… “Are you… praying?” You try to say, but the words get muffled by something.

Loki’s eyes snap open, though. You’ve made enough noise to get his attention. For a moment, he stares at you like you’re the answer to every question Aristotle ever asked- wait, wrong culture- and you look back at him for help, confused, hoping your eyes will talk for you since you can’t seem to speak.

Loki bangs on the window behind him with a heavy fist, and you wince at the noise. He looks at you apologetically. A second later, Thor comes rushing in, disheveled in a similar manner. What the heck happened…? “Is the lady awake?” He asks frantically, and you try to say yes of course you’re awake, why were you asleep in the first place-? But again, everything gets garbled.

Thor reaches for something- your face- and panic washes through you so strongly you startle hard enough to jerk the bed. Tears flood your eyes- what are you doing? This is Thor, he’s not going to hurt you. But your body doesn’t seem to get the memo, trembling like it has a mind of its own.

The god hesitates, something sad in his eyes, then starts in a little slower. “I am sorry, my lady. I do not mean to frighten you. I only want to help…” gently, he tugs a plastic mask off of your mouth and nose. You hold absolutely still, only releasing your breath when he’s backed up a few feet.

“Thor?” You croak. Your voice sounds horrific. “What-”

“Shh. You are safe.” Safe from what? “How much do you remember?”

Loki’s gaze on you is fierce and draws your eye to him. “I…” flashes race through your head. Pain. Screaming. Loki, standing over you, fury in his eyes, magic crackling around his unbound hands- your eyes widen. “Oh my god- oh my-” The beeping to your left gets faster as your heart rate ratchets up a thousand paces. They took you. They- they tortured you, oh god, it hurt so bad- something closes around your wrist, cool and solid, and this time you don’t flinch. Because you know that hand. It had held your own until you slipped in and out of unconsciousness, flirting with death.

“Witling,” Loki says softly. “Focus on me.” You do so, blinking away tears. “Breathe. You’re going to be alright, darling. You are safe,” he says firmly, and you nod, because if you’re going to believe anyone right now it’s him.

There are a lot of doctors and nurses who filter in wanting to look at you, wanting to give you this and that, pills or syringes full of mysterious clear liquid that immediately makes you suspicious. But Thor is standing in the corner, arms crossed, watching everything. He won’t let you get hurt. So whenever they push another syringe into the tubing connected to your arm, you simply look at Loki rather than whatever they’re doing to you. He never lets go of your wrist, though he does eventually take your hand when a particularly sharp pain flares through you, making you grab for him. The words don’t stop either- some are in English, some Norwegian, some Asgardian (you assume), but all have the same connotation: I’m here, you’re safe, I’ve got you, we’ve got you. Everything is going to be okay.

The doctors talk about very scary things with passive and emotionless voices. You suppose that’s their job, but you can’t help but tighten your grip on Loki’s fingers when they casually explain your concussion, your broken ribs, a shattered ankle… the list goes on. Eventually, you close your eyes and tune them out, choosing instead to listen to the comfort spilling from the man at your side.

“Loki,” Thor says softly. “You need to change clothes, brother. And attend to- your other business.”

“I’m not going to-”

“Brother.” Thor’s voice is a warning. “I will stay with her. She is safe with me.”

He looks at you reluctantly, considering. “I will be right back,” he says, and you nod as he leaves with one last careful squeeze of your fingers.

Once the door closes, you waste no time. “Thor, what happened? I don’t remember everything, and he- he’s not going to tell me, I don’t think.”

Thor doesn’t argue with you. “I think he does not want to scare you any further,” he says. Then he tells the tale. How they watched you get taken, and when Loki found out he demanded he be let out to go to you. You had been missing for three days at that point. A lot of damage done. He glosses over the battle part, which is fine with you, skipping to where Loki found you huddled in the closet, and then-

“I shot you?” You shriek, a little hysterical, when Loki comes back into the room.

He immediately gives his brother a hard look before resuming his place at your side. “It is not that bad, Witling. Asgardians heal very quickly.” From underneath his tunic you can see clean bandages wrapping his shoulder.

“I- I still-”

“You were out of your mind with pain and fear,” he corrects. “You were only doing what the situation demanded.”

“I’m sorry,” you whisper.

“I would rather have you alive and a few new scars than the alternative.”

And that was the end of that.

The next hurdle was preventing you from ripping out your own IVs when they wanted to give you something for pain. “Please don’t,” you beg, knowing the medicine will only make you sleep, and that makes you defenseless, and that means you’re in danger. The fact that you have two gods in the room hell-bent on protecting you isn’t even a thought in your mind. Not even Loki’s gentle coaxing can get you to calm down this time.

“I have an idea,” Thor says, and returns with Mjolnir around one wrist. Loki is immediately on edge, but Thor holds out his hand. “Peace, brother. Wait and see. May I?” He offers you Mjolnir, and you’re confused, but then he goes to the other side of your bed and gently unfolds the hand not clinging to his brother. Mjolnir goes head-down into your open palm. It’s surprisingly not heavy at all- just a slight pressure. “Now, you are not going anywhere.” You actually grin when you realize his plan. You know only someone worthy can lift the hammer- so even if someone wanted to snatch you from your bed, they wouldn’t be able to pull you out from under Mjolnir.

“Thank you,” you giggle, still wondering at the fact that you’re basically holding an ancient, all-powerful hammer that you’ve studied all your life in the palm of your hand. You almost ask someone to take a picture. Trickster visibly relaxes at your laughter, and Thor claps him on the shoulder. “I will leave her in your care,” he says, and then the two of you are alone.

You’re still anxious waiting for the drug to get into your system, so you ask what you’ve been dying to know: “how the hell did you get SHIELD to let you loose?”

“There may have been a few threatening tirades involved,” he admits. “And Thor lobbied on my behalf. Once you were safe I agreed to any conditions they required to let me stay here.” He raises his hands a little to gesture to the handcuffs. “Mysteriously, they could not seem to find the silencing mask,” he says, looking at you carefully.

“How strange,” you offer, but then you grin. You’d hidden it in an air vent so they couldn’t use it again.

“I am afraid I may have rubbed off on you, Witling.”

“I don’t think that’s the worst thing to happen to me, considering,” you say wryly.

“I am so very sorry, darling. None of this would have happened if not for me. And then I did not get to you sooner…” the guilt in his voice is horrible. You wouldn’t even need to know him well to see that he’s persecuting himself for what happened.

You shake your head slowly, so you don’t make anything hurt. “It’s not your fault, Loki. The fact that you even came for me at all is incredible.”

“Of course I came for you. Did you think that I would not?”

“I mean, I’d hoped Thor would. But you were in a cell, I wasn’t going to expect the impossible from you. And I doubt anyone else really would have cared.”

“Hush. You would be severely missed.”

By now your head is drooping from the medicine coursing through your system. “You would have missed me?” You ask sleepily, and tuck your head down into your pillow so you can fall asleep.

You don’t quite catch the words he says in response, unconsciousness too intent on pulling you into its grip.

Chapter Text

HOWDY Y’ALL

So it turns out asking for last line submissions was a terrible idea because they were all… so… good??!!! Like, I really could not choose. I couldn’t. So here’s… four. I wrote a little blurb for each of them, and have included who the line was submitted by below.

If your line is featured here, plz let me know in the comments here or message me on tumblr (same name, DearLazerBunny) what you’d like your prize to be!! I’m open to just about anything really? I mean I can’t give you my liver ‘cause I’ve only got one but ya know. Open to negotiations.

If you weren’t featured, fear not- after this story wraps up, I would LOVE to do some ficlet prompts and requests in the theme of Lie to Me (or just some Loki prompts in general)! So once it’s all said and done please don’t hesitate to drop me a line and lemme know what you’d like to see! <3


One
“You would have missed me?” You ask sleepily, and tuck your head down into your pillow so you can fall asleep. You don’t quite catch the words he says in response, unconsciousness too intent on pulling you into its grip.

With a gentle hand, Loki brushes a stray hair from your forehead, lingering just long enough to trace a bruise blossoming on your temple. “No, Witling,” he admits, his voice so heavy your fingers unconsciously twitch around his in your sleep, as though to reassure him you’re still here. “I would have mourned you.”

-“No, I would have mourned you.” Submitted by yeethawboi


Two
“You would have missed me?” You ask sleepily, and tuck your head down into your pillow so you can fall asleep. You don’t quite catch the words he says in response, unconsciousness too intent on pulling you into its grip.

Loki’s sigh could rival the first breeze of winter- thin and cold, promising both delicate beauty and brutal skies in the space of a heartbeat. “Until there was nothing left of me in the universe,” he murmurs, letting himself drink you in; feeling his heartbeat slow to match you own.

-“Until there was nothing left of me in the universe.” Submitted by alls_fair_in_pride_and_prejudice

 

Three
“You would have missed me?” You ask sleepily, and tuck your head down into your pillow so you can fall asleep. You don’t quite catch the words he says in response, unconsciousness too intent on pulling you into its grip.

“I wouldn’t lie to you.” He lets himself twine his fingers with yours even more tightly, both to reassure himself that you’re still here, and to reassure you that you won’t ever wake up alone again. “Of all the Midgardians I have known on this pathetic planet- you alone are the one that makes me care.” His lips twitch, just a hint; smiling at a private joke. “How foolish of you to think I’d let you go.”

“I wouldn’t lie to you.” / “Of all the Midgardians I have known- you alone are the one that makes me care.” / “Foolish of you to think I’d let you go.” Submissions by 1V1


Four
“You would have missed me?” You ask sleepily, and tuck your head down into your pillow so you can fall asleep. You don’t quite catch the words he says in response, unconsciousness too intent on pulling you into its grip.

“I have heard pieces of Midgardian slang, and here I find one to be of appropriate use- yeehaw,” he says solemnly. He nods once, pleased with his statement. “And besides,” he continues, a wide grin suddenly splitting his face. “Bros before woes.”

You sit straight up in your hospital bed, wide awake. “Are you kidding me? I did not sit across from you in a glorified basement for eight months and confess my love for you in my dying breaths to be called your bro!”

“Ah, of course. I believe I meant, hoes before woes.” A pair of sunglasses and a pimp chain magically appear around his neck. A disco ball descends from the ceiling. Thor bursts through the door and honks an air horn like he’s at a rave. -Fin-

-“Yeehaw.” / “Bros before woes.” Submissions by Mmmyikes

Chapter Text

“And are you still visiting Mr. Laufeyson?”

Shifting uncomfortably on a leather couch, you twist your nose in effort to keep a look of derision off of your face. This is your umpteenth SHIELD mandated therapy visit due to your ‘incident,’ but the therapist in question never seems to get any less annoying. “He isn’t- Mr. Laufeyson.” That sounds absolutely ridiculous. “He’s just Loki.”

“Very well.” The blonde coiffed woman sitting across from you concedes the point. “Are you still visiting… Loki?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Why?”

“Why?” Her question utterly mystifies you. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“It wouldn’t be unusual for persons related to your accident to be triggering.”

“He wasn’t- he rescued me, it’s not like he’s going to set me off.” You glance down at your hands, which are weaving your fingers in and out of complicated patterns. Nervous habit. You’ve developed a lot of those, recently. You’re always nervous, now. “He helps the fear be… not as much,” you say quietly, mostly to yourself, though you know she can hear you.

“I see.” She writes down a few notes in a shorthand you can’t read- you’ve tried, several times. Is this how Loki feels on the other side of the glass? You don’t know how he’s able to stand it. “And how are you healing?”

Raising an eyebrow, you cast a look at the boot encasing your lower leg. “Peachy,” you say drily. “The doctors said the scars shouldn’t even scar.”

Apparently, being immune to sarcasm is in the job requirement for SHIELD therapists. “And emotionally?”

That’s… more complicated. You can deal with the shattered ankle, the newly forming ridges along your back, the bruises fading to ugly, mottled colors. What you aren’t dealing with is the trauma. The anxiety. The constant urge to scream and claw every last hair off of your head. How you check back over your shoulder so much you forget to look where you’re going; how you’ve gotten to know the shadows that crawl across your ceiling at 2AM very, very intimately because sleep only brings the reopening of healing wounds.

But if you say any of this, she’ll ask about it; and if she asks about it, you’ll have to tell her about it; and if you do that… you’ll be late to see Loki. And so you put on your best Trickster-approved poker face and say simply, “I’m fine.”

                                                                                      XXX

It’s very odd seeing Loki back in his cell, given everything that’s happened. If you squint hard and ignore your broken-to-bits body, it’s almost like nothing ever occurred. No kidnapping. No torture. No… whatever came after that. It’s all hazy in your mind, until waking up in the hospital bed becomes achingly sharp.

“Witling.”

“Trickster.” You hobble in and give him a small smile, moving right past your desk in favor of sitting with your back perched up against the glass. It’s become habit since the incident- the closer you are to him, the less your hands tend to shake, and the more at ease your heart feels.

“You’re late.”

“What, you got somewhere else to be?” Loki rolls his eyes as you settle onto the floor, hauling your casted leg into a semi-comfortable position. “Sorry, therapist lady got all caught up talking about my feels today.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“How are you feeling?”

For some reason, when he’s the one asking, you always answer honestly- and it has nothing to do with him being able to see through your lies. “Tired,” you admit in a small voice. “Sleep is hard. I keep seeing weird things.”

He gets up and mirrors your pose on the floor, so the two of you are reflected back-to-back. “Such as?”

Your eyes close, trying to remember. “It’s dark. I hear a gun go off, that must have been mine – god, I still can’t believe I shot you, I’m so sorry- but then there’s light, everywhere, in all sorts of colors I don’t think I even have a name for.” A lump forms in your throat as you remember the rainbow swirling around you. “A lot of gold, and blue, and green. Nothing tangible. And a voice.” It’s soft and warm, like being wrapped in all your best blankets, and more comforting than thumbing through the worn pages of your favorite novel. You seem to care quite a lot for my son. “I don’t know her, but I think- I know she was lovely.”

All of this sounds perfectly ridiculous, of course, but you’re not embarrassed. Not with him. “You were quite critical, darling. It is understandable your mind would… wander.”

“I guess.” You try to cast yourself back to your capture- something you can only do with Loki or sometimes Thor nearby, otherwise you just become an incoherent mess- and comb through what memories you do have, trying to see if there’s anything you’ve missed. Bits and pieces have filtered through over time, but it’s like you’re watching it all from third-person. “How exactly did you find me?” He’s been silent in this point every time you’ve asked, but you keep pestering him about it nonetheless.

“You-” there’s a pause, and you glance around to see what’s the matter. The god won’t look at you; his gaze is focused on the wall across from him. “You prayed to me. I could hear your thoughts, and trace your approximate location from them.”

Loki Laufeyson, son of Odin, Prince of Asgard, rightful king of Jotunheim

Your voice echoes in your head, speaking words you don’t remember saying but sounding incredibly familiar all the same. “I did,” you whisper. “And… that worked?”

“Indeed.”

You let out a breath. “What did I say? I don’t remember much.”

“Mmm.” You can hear the wheels turning in his head. “I am not sure I heard it all. I was rather distracted on locating you. But I am fairly sure you identified me as ‘a royal pain in my ass’.”

There’s a teasing lilt to his voice that makes you smile. “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

“You said… you said a prince is still a prince, no matter where he should come from.”

“Damn, that’s poetry right there. Imagine what I could come up with when I’m not bleeding internally.”

Loki gives a sigh that says please, don’t remind me. “That Thor loves me, and my mother does as well.”

“Both true statements.”

“And that I am nothing like you expected.”

You snort. “That’s for dang sure.” As he paraphrases your words, your own waver in and out of memory. You aren’t anything like I expected, but I’m glad you’re not. “Did I say something else? I feel like…”

“By that time I was close enough to reach you; my mind was solely on that purpose.”

‘cause I don’t think I’d love you nearly as much if you were

Your last thoughts slam through your body like a tidal wave. Had you… had you really said that you loved him?

Had he heard you?

“You sure that’s it?”

“Quite. Insomuch that I recall.” Now he does turn your way, concern in his eyes. “Is everything alright? I did not mean to upset you.”

“No, no, you’re fine,” you reassure him. “It’s not you.” It’s just that I said I loved you with my dying breaths. And I’m pretty sure I meant it. “I’m, um… just trying to process, is all.”

Despite your crappy dismissal, his gaze doesn’t leave face. You can feel his eyes capture every emotion walking across your own; cataloguing them, testing their weight, seeing what he can sift through and what to leave alone. It’s a look of such overwhelming tenderness and thoughtfulness you wish you could shatter the glass between you, just to kiss that look off his face and see if it tastes as sweet as it feels.

Yeah. Yeah, I definitely meant it.

Chapter Text

“The Allfather has summoned me.”

You look up, pulled from the doodles you’ve been scribbling on your notepad. The two of you have been sitting in companionable silence, exchanging the occasional barb, but in general just… being. It’s nice. Very nice. “What?”

“Odin,” he repeats. He has a book in his hands, and appears to be reading it, but from what you can tell he hasn’t turned a page in ages. “He has recalled me back to Asgard.”

“Oh.” You blink. And then it hits you. Oh. “You’re leaving.”

“Yes.”

“When?”

“They are not in the habit of telling me such things. But very soon, I gather.”

“I see.” The still-healing scars hidden underneath your shirt all seem to twinge at once.

You look at him. He looks at you. And then the two of you go back to what you were doing before Loki spoke his death sentence into existence. The silence is a little less companionable now, stretched thin by the thousands of things the two of you are not saying.

                                                                                    XXX

It is indeed very soon. The next day you stand shivering in a thin sweater in an open field, surrounded by agents and Avengers and probably more invisible surveillance hiding in the shadows that today’s dawn is bringing. Some small, pathetic part of you honestly expected the sun to not rise today. Because he’s leaving. And everyone knows he’s not coming back. To them, it’s a victory, a relief. For you… well. You hadn’t slept much that night.

No one had told you about their departure, either, except for Thor, who had the courtesy to give you the time and place should you want to be there. Part of you didn’t. Most of you didn’t. But you also couldn’t give up the chance of seeing him one last time.

So you stand on the sidelines, trembling from the weather and only the weather, hoping no one will notice you. Everyone is on edge, even though Loki is thoroughly chained and has not moved from Thor’s side. The muzzle, thankfully, has not made an appearance.

The crowd gathered is very pointedly looking everywhere but Thor and his brother, so it is very easy for Thor to catch your eye and wave you over. You go, and you can feel eyes follow you, but you’re pulled by a force much stronger than your anxiety of being the attention of a crowd. It’s a little hard to navigate with the boot encasing your slowly mending ankle, but you manage. Thor says something to Loki you can’t hear as you approach, but Loki inclines his head in what looks to be a gesture of gratitude. “I will leave you be for a minute, little sister. Do make sure my brother behaves.” A strong arm is wrapped around your shoulders and an affectionate kiss placed upon your forehead. You hug Thor back and look at him gratefully before he moves off towards the other Avengers, all on guard and looking very ready for this whole ordeal to be over.

But your focus isn’t on them. “Trickster.”

“Witling.”

“I feel underdressed.” He smiles slightly at this, acknowledging the formal battle armor he’s clothed in for his arrival to Asgard.

“Well, I would hardly want to disappoint Father, now would I?”

You huff out a breath. “I don’t know how you’re making jokes.”

“You started it.” You wrinkle your nose at him, such a familiar gesture, and the warmth in his eyes such a familiar feeling. The wind ruffles your hair, and you wrap your arms around yourself. “You’re shivering.”

“Well, it’s cold. Humans get cold, remember?”

“Is it? I hadn’t noticed.” But your sweater glows faintly, and then you are considerably warmer. You raise an eyebrow at him. “Oh, hush, a small spell will not get me in trouble today.”

“Liar.”

He shrugs, and the chains wrapped around him rattle depressingly.

There are so many things you don’t know how to say. So many things you can’t say. Whether it’s because you don’t have the words, or the courage, or both, you can’t be sure. But you look him in the eye and very firmly, but softly, so no one else can hear, you say to him: “I want you to come back. Please. If you can.”

He stares at you for a moment, and then a moment more, taking you in. “And what if I know that I cannot?”

Your breath hitches in your throat, and a tear drops down your cheek. “Then lie to me.”

“Everyone is looking, Witling,” he says gently.

“Let them.” Out of defiance and anger and grief and a big fuck you to whatever power in the universe deemed this be the way fate would have it, you stand on your toes and brush a kiss to his cheek. “Keep yourself out of trouble, Trickster.”

“Only for you, love.”

And before you can process that little bombshell, Thor is back and gently tugging you away from Loki, relocating you to a safe distance from both the Bifrost opening and prying eyes. “Thank you, Thor. For everything.”

And wonder of wonders, the god bows to you. “It is you I have to thank, my lady. Truly, you do not know everything you have done.”

“Please look out for him.” Because I can’t.

He smiles sadly. “I have for a thousand years. I do not plan on stopping anytime soon.”

You nod, accepting it. All of it. His fate, and yours, and every footstep that led you to this moment.

When Thor raises Mjolnir above his head, colors you haven’t ever seen before and will never see again shine from the heavens. You hold Loki’s gaze as long as you can, until the flash of light he disappears into forces you to turn away.

The crowd begins to disperse, and you with them, until something metal clamps around your wrist. You shriek, adrenaline flooding your system at the surprise, and you are instantly released. “Hey, hey, it’s just me. Jesus kid, I’m sorry. I forgot about the-”

“Mr. Stark,” you say stiffly, not letting him finish his sentence. You eye the metal suit he’s wrapped in carefully. “Can I help you?”

“You’re going to need to come with us.”

“I don’t believe I do,” you say coolly. “I am going home.”

Stark sighs. “Do I have to force you? Because I can, and I will, but we both know you probably can’t handle that right now.”

“What do you want from me? I’m nothing of interest.”

“Yeah, we’ll be the judge of that. This way.” He points to the Quinjet stationed nearby, and the rest of the Avengers gathered around it. God fucking- this is the absolute last thing you need today. You just want to go home and cry. But Stark’s threat looms heavy in the already stifling air, so you follow him, leaving your heart at the ancient sigil now burned into the ground.

The plane ride is silent and efficient, and its occupants may as well be statues. You sit in the farthest corner possible, knees pulled up to your chest, still feeling the warmth emanating faintly from your sweater. You put your cheek to your sweater’s sleeve, fruitlessly hoping it might feel like his touch. It doesn’t. “Can I ask what this is about?”

“You’re going to medical,” Stark replies.

“I’ve already had many examinations. I’m sure I don’t heal as fast as superhumans, but the doctors don’t seem to be concerned with my progress.”

“We’re not talking about broken ribs here,” another voice says. The archer, you think, who’s flying the plane.

“Then what are you talking about.”

“Magic.”

That throws you for a second. “Excuse me?”

“We all saw what you did back there,” Stark comments. “With the-” he taps his cheek.

Your eyes widen. “What of it?” You say hotly, immediately on the defense. “I didn’t realize it was any of your business.”

“Look, kid, I don’t know who you think you are, but when someone goes up and kisses the cheek of the god of mischief who just so happened to attack all of Manhattan less than a year ago? Something is wrong. Very wrong. But don’t worry, we know how to reverse it. You’re going to be fine.”

Several pieces click into place in your brain. You wish they hadn’t. Because if Stark is suggesting what you think he’s suggesting- your hands clench into fists. “You think he’s mind controlling me.”

“We know he is, kid, we’ve seen it before-”

“You think when he came to rescue me, he, what? Magicked me instead? That he conscripted all those Hydra agents to beat me nearly to death just for an out?” Your voice has been steadily rising, and a curly headed man in the corner is starting to look uncomfortable- they all are, really- but you hardly care. “You are such an ornery, bull-headed, imperceptive-”

“Kid-”

“He would never do such a thing,” you snarl. “How dare you.”

“Okay, hold up.” The same man who spoke before from the cockpit presses a few buttons, then enters the conversation properly. “He would never? Are you kidding me? He did. With me. With other agents. Good people, I might add. And he forced us to do-” he cuts himself off, shakes his head roughly. Romanov puts a gentle hand on his wrist.

“I am very sorry about what he did to you, Agent Barton.” Barton looks a little shocked that you know his name. “And I do not make excuses for his actions.”

“Then why the hell-”

“I’m sorry.” You snap to your feet, anger rolling off of you in waves. “But did everyone here get atoned for their sins and suddenly become saints when I had my back turned?” Every word you spit from your mouth is a dagger, embedding themselves into the air around you. “Because the last time I checked, I am sitting here with two master assassins, a billionaire who made his money off weapons of mass destruction, and a man who I’m assuming willingly subjected himself to scientific experimentation so he could kill people more effectively. I don’t know who you are,” you gesture to the man who’s looking a little green in the face. “But if you’re in with this crowd I’m willing to bet you’re not so innocent either.”

“How much blood do each of you have on your hands? How many people have you killed? Do you think that just because you’ve joined a cause all that destruction just gets wiped from your ledgers? Now you,” you point a finger at the Captain. “You kill Nazis, as far as I know. I might give you a pass for that. But I’m willing to bet there’s someone out there who even you’d make very, very bad decisions for.” You can tell you touched a nerve there, because the Captain definitely looks a little haunted by your words.

“And you!” You turn on Stark. “Jesus Christ, every stupid move you’ve made in your entire life is most likely because Howard Stark was probably a really, really shitty dad.” You laugh at that a little, and you try to ignore when it comes out a touch hysterical. “Try having Odin for a father. Try being played and manipulated from birth. Because I think if for one measly second you tried to put yourself in Loki’s shoes, you might find that you’re really not all that different.

Loki fucked up. Big time. On a massive scale. I know that. You know that. He also knows that, though I don’t think any of you ever bothered to find that out. Have none of you, not a single one, ever fucked up because you were hurting? Because it all just became too much? I just spent the last ten months with the God of Lies, so don’t bother lying to me. We all have. And because you’re sitting here, each and every one of you got a second chance to redeem yourselves. You got a do over. A restart, to prove that you yourself aren’t defined by those shitty mistakes. This ‘Avengers Initiative’ is one big shot at forgiveness for all of you. Why doesn’t Loki deserve that same chance?”

You look each and every one of them in the eye, staring down the most powerful people on earth who could snap you like a twig with a casual hug, but you aren’t afraid. You’re not. You’re mad, and heartbroken, and tired of shortsighted people who think they know it all when really they’re just… ignorant.

“Loki has been messing up for thousands of years,” the Captain says firmly. “Thor told us-”

“And I’m sure he conveniently left out all the times he messed up over the past thousand years. He’s not so clean either. Trust me, I’ve got a masters in mythology. I could tell you some stories, if you’d take the time to hear them. But you won’t, because Thor is your friend, and I get it, you have soft spots for your friends. You give friends second chances. You forgive your friends. Loki’s never had a friend, not really. But I’m his friend. And I forgive him. And I gave him the second chance he deserves.”

A very long moment passes. “But he did save my life,” you say shortly. “So, I guess I’m biased.”

Chapter Text

Loki has stood in Asgard’s grand throne room too many times to count. Some of his earliest memories are of his small self hiding behind his mother’s skirts as he and Thor look on at various proceedings: Odin meting out cruel justice, or citizens presenting complaints, or yearly celebrations they were always turned away from once the hour struck late. This room was an idol to him, once. His endgame. Young hopes and dreams are embedded into every tile that paves the floor. As years passed, the gold that once shined so brightly in his eyes began to dull; warm words crystallized to stone and ice. It became a cancer that consumed his mind and turned his hand to darker thoughts, darker desires- something to conquer and claim rather than bow to and serve. He always knew, truly, that this throne would be his undoing, one way or another, for better or for worse.

And if he is being honest with himself, he always knew it would be for the worst. That nothing would ever end well for Loki Laufeyson.

But even as he is marched to the dias in the center of the room, flanked by thousands of citizens come to see their fallen dark prince meet his fate, his head is held high. The chains wrapping his form do not seem to weigh him down, and his eyes are alert and clever as ever. His armor gleams, his demeanor is calm, and his feet step lightly towards his doom. Because in every other face in the crowd, he sees your own- watching him with soft eyes, giving him courage where his usual boldness has failed him. He walks as you would want him to, as he would want you to see him: proudly, and without shame.

A prince is still a prince, no matter where he comes from. He may not be the prince his father wanted, the prince his mother deserves, or a prince Asgard would accept. But if he is still a prince in your eyes, even after knowing how deep his scars truly cut- then royalty he must be.

And so as he faces his father on his throne, Frigga at his side, and Thor by the other, he does so, for the first time, as their equal.

A hush falls over the crowd as he stops in front of Odin, and his escorts step away. He does not kneel. He does not bow. He simply inclines his head, and in a rare moment of understatement, speaks: “I believe you wished to see me?”

Odin’s gaze is disapproving, of course, but Loki thinks he catches a glint of amusement amongst the sadness mingling in Frigga’s eyes. Thor seems torn- his face is as unreadable as thunderclouds. “My son. It is under grave circumstances that you return to Asgard.”

“Only as grave as you wish it, All-Father. In a word you could transform this funeral into a feast. I am sure your guests would much appreciate the turn in mood.” Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the Warriors Three shift uncomfortably, and trade glances. They stand on Thor’s side, no doubt for his support, but Loki briefly wonders if they will mourn his sentencing. Perhaps not as he stands today, but for the mischievous, innocent boy they knew in their youth.

The rumble from Odin’s annoyance echoes throughout the hall. If the room was silent previously, you can now hear a pin drop. “Loki Odinson. Today you stand before the throne of Asgard for your trespasses against not only our home, but also Midgard, as well as myself and your own brother, Thor. To what do you say to these accusations?”

“I do not deny them. Indeed, I accept these charges as stated.”

The only indication of Odin’s surprise is a slight shift in his posture. “Will you not defend yourself?”

“I see no reason to, as the allegations are not false. I have wronged many and allowed destruction to befall many more. My guilt is clear, and my conscience heavy. As such, I will accept my penalty without complaint.”

“Hm.” His judge’s eyes are piercing, and cold. “It seems you have managed to maintain a mediocrum of dignity during your exploits.” For a moment, a familiar rage flares in Loki’s chest. He swallows it in a breath. “Very well. In consideration of your crimes, you shall be stripped of the immortality Idun has granted you, as well as the magic you so clearly covet. The rest of your days will be spent amongst your peers in the dungeons of Asgard. This is my decree, and this is my judgement.”

Immediately, those in attendance begin to murmur amongst themselves. To rescind one’s eternal youth is a grave penalty, and only used in the most serious of cases. The goddess Idun is the keeper of the apples which give the gift of youth and radiance, and she does not poison her prized fruit readily. Loki grimaces. He and the goddess haven’t been on the best of terms since he had a hand in her kidnapping by a giant, millennia ago. No doubt she will be only too happy to aid in his punishment.

When the double doors to the throne room open again, a breeze smelling of blossoming fruits and lavender floats in, easy and warm as the height of summer. Loki stands aside as a girl- twelve at most, with long hair braided into a crown and gauzy skirts that trail behind her- approaches the royal family and bows low in the old style. In her arms she carries a rough-woven basket filled with softly glowing apples.

Idun turns to Loki and regards him coolly. “Trickster. We meet again.”

He bristles at her use of his nickname. You call him Trickster out of fond exasperation, with a twinkle of a laugh in your voice. Her tone is not so kind. “Indeed we do. Have you been well?”

She doesn’t seem to know what to make of his casual conversation, but her face remains neutral. “My trees bear fruit, and so we live well,” she says simply. “Though it seems you will soon be excluded from such life. Are you prepared for the consequences?”

Reversing immortality is painful at best and lethal at worst. Odin could plan on torturing his son for decades in his dungeons, but there’s no guarantee that he will first survive the poison apple. “He does not have the privilege of choice,” Odin rumbles. “Prepare your spell.”

“Very well.” She inclines her head towards her king, then studies her basket carefully, eventually selecting a fruit that appears slightly plumper and fuller than the rest. Cupping it in her palms, she grazes its divine skin with a thumb, then brings the apple to her lips and begins to chant.

Aesir watch in morbid fascination as the healthy fruit begins to turn sickly and necrotic. Its golden sheen is replaced with a green-gray pallor, and it shrivels as though left in the sun for a thousand years, dripping hazy black smoke and droplets of acid that leave pockmarks on the floor as it leaks from her hands.

Even Idun doesn’t seem to take any pleasure at handing Loki the cursed apple. “May Heimdall smile kindly on your fate,” she whispers, and then retreats, as though she cannot bear to look.

Ash curls around his fingers and fills the air with a dead smell. “Eat,” Odin commands. “Accept your punishment with grace.”

Frigga looks as though she wants to cry, and Thor’s knuckles are clenched so tightly his skin has gone white. Loki looks at neither of them as he takes his first bite.

It tastes of rotted flesh, and acrid juice burns his throat and dribbles down his chin. Immediately, he can feel his stomach churn and his chest tighten as the curse works to undo thousands of years worth of magic. By the time he reaches the core and spits out the seeds into his palm, he feels as though fire is consuming his soul inch by inch.

The king nods in satisfaction. “So it is done. The All-Mother will oversee the revoking of your magic.” This time, Frigga visibly flinches. She cannot blatantly disobey her husband, but to have a hand in robbing her son of his pride and joy, a pride and joy that she herself fostered and nurtured from his infancy- it tears at her heart like nothing else. “Do you have anything to declare before you are taken into custody?”

Despite the agony curling around his person, Loki lifts his chin in quiet defiance. “I do.” He pauses, to make sure every eye is on him. “You call me Loki Odinson. You call me your son. But I believe we both know that I have ever been your son in name only, not in blood, love, or loyalty. I may die tomorrow, but I will die free, because today I declare my independence from the names that have haunted me for millennia. I am not Odinson, nor am I Laufeyson. I am Loki.” Loki’s eyes flare with pride as he fights to keep his voice steady. “I am singularly my own. I claim me for myself and no one else; with no unfulfilled names to carry with me to my grave. When I am stricken from Asgard’s history, remember me well as my own lord, master, and king.”

“GUARDS!” Odin roars, enraged by his words, but Loki simply smiles as his armored escorts drag him from the room by chains and lead him into the depths of Asgard’s castle. Yes, he may die tomorrow. But he will die liberated, with his last words ringing in all of the nine realms’ ears.

                                                                                          XXX

Frigga comes to visit him. He isn’t sure if she’s allowed to do this. He should ask, but most of the time he can’t do much more that shiver on the floor of his cell, arms wrapped around himself, jaw clenched to keep his teeth from rattling out of his skull.

At first, he curses Idun, but in his more lucid moments he admits she is only following his father’s orders. So he goes back to cursing Odin in between each painful breath.

Frigga can ease his pain slightly, but healing magic can only go so far when your very DNA is being re-written. She speaks with kindness, with love, and with pride, helping him through the worst nights when his stubbornness threatens to fail him and his resolve wavers as stars do in the sky.

“You spoke bravely, my son,” she whispers, her fingers against the barrier in front of her as though she might reach out and touch Loki’s face. “I have rarely been prouder. You have walked such a long road, and carried mountains on your shoulders that are all but invisible to others. And yet, you still find the courage to face your father as the prince I know you are. You have come so far.” In his chains, Loki clings to her every word. “Your love is looking up at the sky in awe, though she may not know why.”

Y/N. Just thinking your name eases a little of the sting that’s worked his way into his bones. As on Earth, you give him the hope to see another day.

“You shun the name of Odinson, and I cannot blame you for that. But I would be honored if someday, you would consider taking my own, Loki Friggason.”

Y/N Y/L/N. Loki Friggason. Two names to murmur in the dead of night to keep his heart beating until the sun rises once again.

Chapter Text

When the cab finally drops you off at your apartment, you flash him your badge, tell him to charge it to Tony Stark, and then wander away without another word.

Your hands shake as you try to unlock the door- these damn tremors, they haven’t gone away yet, even though the doctors promise they will- and it takes you much too long to finally get the key into the lock and twist and open the door and close it behind you and lock it back.

Then you secure the chain, tugging it tight. And turn the lock again a few times, just to be sure it’s latched. Paranoia has become something of a friend since the incident.

Your small home speaks volumes about your mental state. The bookshelf, normally pristinely kept, is full of tomes that have been unceremoniously shoved back into their places any which way. The sink is overflowing with dishes. You’re not sure if there’s anything remotely edible in the fridge. The blinds are drawn tight and patched with cloth to block out as much of the outside world as possible, because sometimes even seeing the sky is too much on a bad day.

Today qualifies as a bad day. You reach for the bottle of pills you know will be close at hand and pop one into your mouth, swallowing it dry. After a second thought, you swallow another.

You stand in the doorway for a moment, not sure what to do. Amongst the panic attacks, the healing scars, and the demons lurking in every shadow, Loki was the only thing keeping you functioning as vaguely as you were. Now you feel like there’s nothing to tether you from spiraling out of control- no green eyes, no warm smiles, no stories to smooth over your ragged nerves. He’s gone, facing a fate you can’t even begin to imagine, and you won’t even get to be his knight in shining armor. He’ll forever be your hero, and you can never return the favor.

Somewhere in the back of your mind, a kind voice whispers, “No, my dear. I believe you saved his.”

The sweater Loki magicked gets wrapped tighter around you, even though the warmth has long since worn off. Your bed is cold, despite all the blankets piled onto it, and once you’re finally burrowed in amongst the pillows you let yourself release the sobs that you’ve been holding back, making your chest ache with emptiness.

Sleep is going to be a long time coming.

Weeks pass in a blur. You don’t really keep track. It takes you far too long to realize you haven’t been in to work- would there really be any point in going back? Did they believe you were brainwashed? Would they try and ‘recalibrate’ you?- but SHIELD hasn’t called you either, so you just let it lie. You keep up with those mandated therapy appointments a few times, and then they switch to conference calls, since you start having difficulty going outside. Eventually when your phone rings you just sit there and watch it chime until the screen goes dark once more. You’re not really in the mood to tell someone all about how pathetic you’re being.

Because you know it’s pathetic. The anxiety attacks, the nightmares, the listless spells where you’re content to do nothing but watch shadows creep over the walls as the sun moves from dawn to dusk. You can’t even go to the grocery store without someone accidentally jostling your arm and having to reflexively hold back a shriek. Most days seeing your own reflection in the mirror is enough to make you jump.

So you spend your time sleeping, though that sleep is consumed by nightmares. The taste of blood on your tongue, the sharp crack of your ribs splintering into pieces, the feeling of concrete beneath you as you make peace with your final resting place. Sometimes you see Loki as he appeared in front of you, hazy and surrounded in green magic, ready to slaughter enemies as he sees fit. Your guardian angel. But in your dreams, he never reaches for you like he did that day. He just watches as you feel breath slipping away moment by moment, an indifferent sort of smirk on his lips. You cry, you scream for him, willing your broken fingers to close the gap between you- your bones crumble to dust before you do.

When you’re tired of living your own personal hell on repeat, you make a habit of sitting at the window looking up at the stars, trying to keep him alive in your mind. You hope he isn’t in pain. You hope that Thor has kept his promise, keeping him safe the best he can. You hope… well. You hope a lot of things.

You take to imagining a thousand and one ways you might get to him. Break into Stark’s lab and demand information on the Bifrost. Sneak into SHIELD’s vaults and swipe the Tesseract; use it to do… something. Somewhere in the universe he’s standing judgement before a judge who’s been biased against him from the start- why would he think to be fair now? Thousands of years ago, a little baby frost giant was thrown into a narrative where he’d always be five steps behind, always second best. He never even got a fair shot. You wipe a tear from your cheek. Life isn’t fair, but if it’s going to be this brutal, the least it could do is offer you a happy ending.

You must’ve fallen asleep against the window pane, because for once your dreams are ethereal and covered in stars. You float past space and time, and when you reach out to touch the sparks lazily floating through the air, they collect like small galaxies on the tips of your fingers. Some invisible string tugs you forward, gentle yet relentless, and you allow yourself to follow it, wherever it might lead. Over a glittering rainbow bridge that floats in a dark, vast ocean; towards a golden castle pointed towards the heavens. There’s a strange sense of familiarity here, as though you’ve walked this path before. Perhaps in another dream; perhaps in another life. The thread winds you through the halls of the gilded castle. You pass a throne room that could hold a nation, a single dias fit for a king. There’s a library on your left, full of powerful things, illuminated by a crackling hearth. A room with a locked door that shimmers with runes and wards glowing blue. They say hello as you pass.

Finally, descent- layers upon layers of staircases, past whom you assume to be guards, with their armor and swords, though they don’t even turn an eye toward you as you float by. Your feet don’t make a whisper on the stone floor. There are glass cages all around you, similar the ones at at SHIELD, but they reek of power. Only, it isn’t glass, exactly- it shimmers and refracts in the dim light. A beckon. You fingers pass through the wall of energy easily enough, then your hand- then you start to feel some resistance. You frown and push harder, determined, though you don’t know why or what waits for you on the other side.

There’s something in the corner, and it moves with a heavy clanking noise when the rest of you finally gets through the boundary. It can sense you, unlike everyone else in this strange place. “Who is there?” A man’s voice, tired and wary. Familiar? More rattling, which you can now see comes from thick golden chains sprawled on the floor and looping off into the darkness. “Show yourself!”

Yes. You know that voice. And his hair, though it’s messier than you’ve ever seen it. His eyes, dull as they may be, are still the ones you’ve been dreaming of since the day he left. With a cry, you rush to Loki, kneeling on the ground in front of him where he sits with manacles binding his wrists and ankles. “Loki! Loki I- can you hear me? Oh god, please…” gently, you let your fingers tuck a piece of his black hair away from his eyes. He jerks back, confused, but more alert. “No, it’s okay, don’t be scared. It’s just me. I- I found you, I don’t know how but-”

“Y/N?” You don’t think your name has ever sounded more beautiful than in that moment. “Love, is that you?”

“Yes! Yes, can you see me? I’m right here. I’m right in front of you.”

“No… perhaps? A little, out of the corner of my eye.” Tentatively, he raises a hand and traces a gentle thumb against your cheekbone. It feels as insubstantial as a breeze, but you could cry from that small touch nonetheless. It’s him.

“I found you,” you whisper again. It’s him it’s him it’s him.

“So it would seem.” You giggle as a child would, proud of yourself. “And how, precisely, did you manage that?”

“I- I don’t know. I fell asleep and wandered around this castle for a bit, and then I was here. Where am I? Where are we?”

“Ah.” There’s something he’s not saying- you can hear it hiding underneath his tongue. “I think you must be dreaming, my love.”

“I- are you sure?” You glance down at your ghostly hands, still shimmering with starlight. “It seems so real.”

“You always did have quite the active imagination, Witling.”

You hum nonchalantly, taking in the dark circles under Loki’s eyes, the rings on angry flesh trapped underneath his cuffs. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

“I am fine, love. Do not worry about me.”

“Bullshit,” you huff. “Don’t think I can’t see these.” You reach for a chain and tug, frowning when they barely move an inch.

He easily moves the restrains behind him, out of your reach. “Stop. I am far more concerned with you than myself.” Worried eyes roam your face. “What is wrong?”

“I’m tired,” you say simply, and your voice breaks halfway through. “Sleeping is… hard. And eating. And I need…” You is the missing word there, and though you don’t say it, he hears it nonetheless.

“I know, love. I know you are.” His voice is full of regret. “I never should have left you.”

“It’s not like you had a choice.”

“All the same. I wish it could have ended differently.”

The world around you wavers for a moment, then two. You look around, confused, instinctively reaching for Loki to pull him closer. “What…?”

“You can’t stay much longer, love.”

“I’m not leaving you! How will I find my way back?”

“You shouldn’t have come in the first place.” Green eyes darken. “I wish I could see you better.”

“I’ll find you again,” you say confidently, even though whatever strength that carried you here is slowly slipping away. “I promise.”

You wish Loki’s smile was more genuine, but as it is, you’ll take what you can get. “Such a brave Witling. Sleep, now. I am with you, even when you wake.”

A feather-light brush to your nose that feels strangely like a kiss makes your eyes open. You’re in your apartment, curled up next to the window, just like when you fell asleep. No rainbow. No castle. No Loki.

Only… you trace your cheek where maybe-Loki had done the same. It was so real. He was so real. Wasn’t he? Either way, you feel more at ease than you have in months. You have no idea what happened, but you don’t care. Seeing him was worth it.

To your surprise, you’re able to repeat your little cosmic jaunt every so often. You can’t control when or why, but the wandering seems to happen on the days you need them most. Sometimes he can’t hear you even when you sit beside him and confess everything you’ve ever wanted him to know, but others he’s so tangible you can lean against his side and press a kiss to his shoulder, if you work up the courage.

It isn’t perfect. You watch each other weaken by counting the shadows that appear under eyes and cheekbones, unable to offer any substantial comfort. You still break down more often than you should, and think of him even more frequently than that. But it’s easier to sleep at night knowing that even though he might as well be on another plane of existence, not even that can keep you apart forever.

Life still isn’t fair, not by a long shot. And you wouldn’t exactly call this limbo a happy ending. But it’s better than nothing, and so you savor every last drop.

Chapter Text

While being mortal is a fascinating experiment in the short term, Loki would not generally recommend it as a whole.

He feels much more vulnerable, in a way that has nothing to do with him sitting powerless in a cell. Now, his blood is much more easily spilled; his bones more easily broken. It is harder to dull the sudden aches that flare up for no apparent reason at all, and while magic soothes the troubleshooting somewhat, he can’t deny that there’s something.. missing. Nothing tangible or concisely identifiable, but incredibly distracting nonetheless.

His magic is another matter. Frigga has been visiting him for months, on and off, and each time he expects her to begin the process that will ultimately be much more damning to him than mortality. His magic is all he has sometimes, that and his sharp tongue. It is singularly his, and while they may bind his wrists and throw away the key, it will still thrum through his veins with a purr, content to be him and it and it and him.

He expected her to be hesitant, but never to defy Odin altogether. So when she comes to fetch him one day and undoes his manacles with a snap, and green sparks race to heal the raw skin on his wrists, he raises a wary eyebrow at her. “Correct me if I am mistaken, but I believe this is supposed to be gone?”

Frigga graces him with a rare smile that speaks of trouble- if he didn’t know better, he would say his habitual smirk was learned from hers. “You are not mistaken. But what mother would I be to rob my son of his pride and joy?” Her fingers brush an unruly lock of hair from Loki’s forehead. “But, your father will not be denied. At least, not so obviously. Do you trust me?”

“Infinitely.”

“Then stay still.” Her hand to the side of his face, she murmurs an enchantment that washes over his whole body like honey- viscous and stifling. Only her voice keeps him from panicking, and when she’s done, he takes a breath. Frigga hasn’t taken his magic, only… repressed it. It’s a bit like being in hiding. He can still feel his power, only now it remains curled up sluggishly in the deepest parts of his bones. “We both know that the magical arts are not Odin’s strength. This spell should hold for long enough.”

Loki flexes his fingers, his body awash in so many new sensations. “Long enough for what, precisely?”

As it turns out, long enough for the most casual jailbreak Loki has ever been apart of.

Frigga leads him where he never again thought he’d go- out. Up into the castle proper, where the air isn’t stale and the sunlight is filtering through the window. To his amazement, nobody turns their head as they walk side by side through the halls, then the gardens, and out the gates, eventually leaving not only the palace but the whole of Asgard behind, fading into the background.

Crossing the bridge is a strange sort of anxiety. The cracks underneath his feet have long since been mended, but spiderweb fractures remain embedded in his very bones. Old memories fade in and out of existence right in front of him, teasing his brain down paths he doesn’t want to follow- the past holds little more than anger and regret.

Caught up in his thoughts, Loki doesn’t notice when his mother stills. Thor has met them at the edge, and just beyond him Heimdall watches with a stony gaze. Confused, he glances around. “Mother?”

“It has come to Odin’s attention,” she says, “that your remaining on Asgard is a liability to its people.”

Loki arches an eyebrow. “Indeed.”

“And so, he has remedied his previous decree. You are to be banished to Midgard for the remainder of your time as a mortal, and without your magic.”

Time seems to slow. Too many fragile hopes are leaping over themselves for his attention, threatening to topple what little composure he has. “And Odin… agreed to this?”

“It took some doing,” she admits, lips pressed in a thin line. “Your brother and I have not been idle in the previous months.” Thor nods, arms crossed and eyes on the horizon for any unwelcome approachers.

“I-” for once, words fail. What can be said to those who have essentially given you a second chance at life?

Frigga smiles. She can hear what he’s not saying. Carefully, reverently, she presses her palm to his cheek, in a gesture only used by a mother who would do anything for her child. “As I said, my son,” she says softly. “You deserve all the happiness this life may afford you.”

Happiness. Such a foreign concept. Happiness is held in his Witling’s smile, her laugh, the way she looks at him as though she’s never seen a monster in his face-

I want you to come back. Please. If you can.

It turns out he’d lied to you after all.

“Thor will escort you.” A fond thumb is graced against his cheekbone, and then he’s released. “And I trust you will find Y/N and tell her all that you have yet to say.”

Loki wants to argue a million points- how they possibly could have managed to convince Odin to simply let him walk away; how she expects to keep his still-present magic a secret- but his curiosity is tempered by the sheer thought of you. You, in his arms; you, no longer separated from him by glass or pain or stubbornness-

The colors of the Bifrost have never looked brighter as they swirl around his fingertips.

                                                                                    XXX

He was not particularly expecting a warm welcome from SHIELD- perhaps some cushioned lining around newly-soldered handcuffs- but to his surprise, only the droll man with the eyepatch and Stark are there to greet him when Thor informs them of their arrival on Earth. Infuriating as Stark may be, after so long with nothing but his own company, his glare is almost a welcome change. “So. The prodigal sinner returns.”

“The pleasure is all mine Stark, I assure you.” Loki treats him to one of his smirks, though inwardly he’s already dreading the derision almost certainly headed his way.

“Gentleman, if we could all stand to be civil for more than seven seconds, this will all go a lot smoother.” Fury seems unruffled standing in front of his former most wanted. “Let me get one thing clear- I am not particularly happy about this. Organizations I’ve never even heard of are crawling out of the woodwork to tell me I’m crazy. But,” he sighs heavily, deep lines etched on his face, “as it turns out, we need you.”

Never one to mince words, the director. Loki raises a delicate eyebrow. “Need me for what, exactly?”

“We’ve acquired another magic user in your absence.” Stark snorts, apparently disagreeing with that description, and Fury silences him with a glare. “Well. Some sort of energy. She’s incredibly volatile, moody, and hates Stark with a passion.” There’s a minute shrug under his leather jacket. “Figured the two of you would get along well.”

“Joy,” Stark deadpans. “As if I don’t have enough people who want to blow my brains out. Now you’re going to teach her how to do it more effectively.”

“At least this way, if she murders you, she’ll be doing it on purpose and not by accident,” he replies smoothly, his attention never leaving Loki. “What do you say?”

Loki glances at his brother, and then suppresses an eye roll when Thor gives a classic I dunno, I’m just here to hit stuff gesture. “Well. I suppose I do not have much of a choice.”

“No, you don’t. Glad we could come to an agreement. Thor, if you’ll follow me. We need to make sure thee wont be any… repercussions, from Asgard.” Fury nods once, briefly, before taking his leave. “Welcome to the team.”

Loki’s eyes widen, just a bit. Stranger and stranger this day becomes.

Once they’re alone, the engineer turns back to his project, fiddling with wires exuding faint blue light. “So, where’s your guardian angel? I would have thought she’d be nipping at your heels.”

“Excuse me?”

“Your mini-me. Your not-so-secret-admirer. Your groupie. Your devotee-”

“I would stop there, Stark,” Loki growls.

“Can’t say I’m wrong.” Two wires come together with a spark. “So?”

“I am not sure.”

“Really? So you mean you weren’t the one who told her to rip us all a new one?”

Loki sighs. Mortals and their inane languages. “I assure you, as with most things that fall from your mouth, I haven’t the faintest idea what you speak of.”

“J, play back the recording.” Something warm floods his system at hearing your voice, clearer than its been in a year, even over a recording. Though you sound angry, even more livid than that day in his cell-

“Have none of you, not a single one, ever fucked up because you were hurting? Because it all just became too much?”

“She even made Captain Tightpants sit down, and let me tell you, that’s hard to do.”

This ‘Avengers Initiative’ is one big shot at forgiveness for all of you. Why doesn’t Loki deserve that same chance?”

“What prompted this?” Loki asks, bewildered.

“Oh, the day you left, we took her in because we thought you whammied her brain on that little rescue mission.”

Loki’s never had a friend, not really. But I’m his friend. And I forgive him. And I gave him the second chance he deserves.”

Oh, love. “I hope you do not expect me to apologize for her.”

“Right.” Stark points a bit of machinery at him without looking in his direction. “Also, if you even think for a second you’re living in my tower-”

“I would not live in that monstrosity if it were shelter from a sandstorm, Stark, fear not.”

I’m here, love. I’m coming. I swear.

 

Chapter Text

In an instant, you have a gun aimed at the shadowy figure standing in your living room. “I suggest you back away very, very slowly.”

“Please do not shoot me again. It was not pleasant the first time.”

“Jesus- Loki?”

“I told you, he isn’t real.”

“And I told you you wouldn’t even know if he was,” you automatically reply, fumbling in the dark for the lamp switch. But really, you don’t even need to turn on the lights to know that it’s him. His voice will be engraved into you until the day you die.

He looks the same, surprisingly. Maybe a little more exhausted; a little more worn down. He’s in regular clothes, jeans and a tshirt, but the tshirt is in his characteristic green, which makes you smile. And then you stop smiling, because “…are you really here?”

“No dreams this time, Witling.”

Something breaks in you hearing your nickname sound so real for the first time in a year. In an instant, you’ve got your arms wrapped around his neck in a hug you expect to end very quickly and very awkwardly- but you can’t help yourself. To your surprise, strong arms cradle you and hold you just as tightly as you’re holding him. You take a chance and let your head tuck into the crook of his neck, and even though you’ve never been this close to him you’d swear on your life you’ve smelled this mix of spices and clean snow before. You can’t even begin to comprehend the feelings pounding through your chest, so you don’t- you just hold him, and let yourself be held, and Loki swears there isn’t a God but the simple fact that he’s hugging you right now makes you beg to differ.

“Um-” you pull away, and so does he, but not entirely. Your forehead is pressed against his shoulder while you try and catch your breath, and neither of you have let your arms move from each other’s waists. “Sorry.”

He nudges your chin up so that you’re looking him in the eyes. Beautiful, mesmerizing green eyes that are dancing like they have a life of their own. “Do not be.”

To keep yourself from throwing yourself at him again, you carefully extricate yourself from the… whatever this was… but you let your hand linger, so he knows you don’t really want to pull away at all. “It’s, um. It’s been a while.”

He breaths out a laugh. “So it has. Too long.”

“Does the Trickster have feelings after all? Is he really capable of missing the constant thorn in his side?” An extremely dramatic eye roll complements your teasing like nothing else.

Gently, he tugs you hand into his own, inspecting it like he might glean the secrets of the universe from its scars. Crescent moons dot your palms from your nails digging into the skin during various nightmares, and you have to bite back an apology. “I’m okay. I promise.”

He smiles ruefully. “God of Lies, love. You looked about as well in your dreams.”

“That really was you?”

He nods. “I am still not sure how,” he admits, “And I am not sure it made things easier to handle.”

You cringe a little at the thought of him seeing you like that, desperate and pathetic, but he soothes you by twining your fingers. “It is alright, darling. You did the best you could.”

“How are you here? What did Odin say? I thought-”

“I was banished,” he says simply. “Exiled. Per the Allfather’s decree I am never to return to Asgard or travel the Bifrost again.” He hesitates, like he doesn’t want to end his sentence there. Unspoken words hang between you.

“Is… is that all?” You venture, trying to coax the rest of the story out of him.

“Love?” You look at him. “Do not ask,” he says firmly. “Not… not right now.”

“But you will tell me someday.” He concedes to this with a nod

“So your mother- will you be able to see her? Or… Thor?”

His eyes flash, and you know you’ve touched a soft spot. “Not technically, no. But… we have our ways.” A few crackles of green energy lazily circle his fingers before winking out.

“You’ve got your magic back.”

“Indeed.”

“Lord help us.”

He snorts. “You have nothing to fear from me, Witling.”

“I’m well aware, but… SHIELD? The Avengers?”

“Have already been dealt with,” he says dismissively. “Apparently they have acquired some new magic users in my absence. In exchange for not being tossed to rot in a cell for millennia, I have agreed to train them.”

“That’s awful generous of you.”

He raises an eyebrow. “It was that or imprisonment.”

“As if they could really expect to hold you twice.”

“So much faith, darling.”

“More like cautious admiration.” You very much enjoy the way he lights up when he processes your words. “How long have you been on Earth then?”

“A few days.” A touch of your happiness melts. He’s been so close and you had no idea… “I very much wanted to see you, Witling. Make no mistake. But I-” he pauses, as if sorting his thoughts. “I had to make sure it would be a welcomed visit.”

“Are you crazy?” Now you do shove him away, if only to look at him better. “In what world would I not want to see you, Loki? The whole year-” you stop yourself before you say something stupid. He doesn’t need to know the small black hole that had opened within your chest in his absence. “Well. That was stupid of you.”

A smirk darts across his lips. “I appreciate the sentiment.”

“So what happens now? Are you- do you have a place to stay?”

“Somewhat. Stark is not exactly eager to house me in that monstrosity of a tower, but SHIELD has barracks…” you can hear what he’s not saying. Those barracks probably aren’t any better or any different than the cell they shoved him in for the better part of a year.

You look around your tiny apartment. Well, more like a room- the only part of it walled off is the bathroom, and technically the living room is also the bedroom. But- “I mean, I doubt it compares to Asgard. But you’re welcome here. As long as you need.”

“A dangerous thing to say.”

You scoff . “I’m not afraid of you, Trickster. And I know you’re not going to hurt me.”

He gives you a small smile. “You mistake me. If you let me stay, I may never want to leave.”

Your cheeks tinge a bit red at that. “Who says I would want you to?” You counter.

His laugh is the happiest you’ve ever heard, and could probably rival all the splendor of the entirety of the nine realms combined. “I did miss you, love,” he says, and the pure fondness in his voice- for you, that happiness in his voice is for you- makes you completely unafraid to reach up and place a hand on his chest and brush your lips against his.

Time seems to slow. Everything goes soft, and a little out of focus, and you try to ignore your heart, which suddenly seems intent on beating straight through your rib cage. Loki blinks at you, his lips still parted from your soft kiss, and despite everything a giggle burbles out of you. “The God of Silver Tongues, speechless. I must be in a very lot of trouble.”

“You have absolutely no idea,” he whispers in your ear, and a shiver barely has time to crawl its way down your spine before he takes your face in his hands and kisses you back.

He is gentle, and gives you time to pull away if you choose. You laugh a little at that, because you’ve waited a whole goddamn year for this stupid silver-tongue menace to waltz back into your life and you sure as hell aren’t going to let him get away again. So you do pull back, just a little, and whisper back, “You don’t need to be careful, love.”

His eyes flash, and a vague thought of oh, shit flits through your mind before the both of you connect as one, propriety and nerves be damned, two year’s worth of jesting and lingering glances and whispered promises in the dead of night begging to be let out. You think you do them justice, if you do say so yourself.

Somehow he tastes exactly like magic- effervescent, all consuming, and incredibly, indescribably intoxicating. His are lips made for enchantment, made for divination, for speaking stars into the sky- and he is kissing you as though you stand far higher than those enchantments and divinations and impossible things ever could. He kisses you like this is what he is made for, and all he’s ever wanted to do.

Your lips are nothing special. You can speak a few languages and tell a few jokes. You smile sometimes. They’re a little chapped. But now, you let them tell stories that would rival the epics of any ancient civilization. You let them say everything you never have, everything you never thought you’d get a chance to say. You hands snake around his neck and twist themselves into his hair, as though you’re afraid he’ll pull away just as quickly as he came.

Loki deepens your kiss, teasing you with things that are to come, but the unexpected weight makes you stumble a bit, and you have to bite back a curse. “Goddamn ankle,” you mutter, righting yourself against his body. “Sorry. It never really healed quite right…” He looks at you in surprise, green eyes still hazy with kisses. “It’s fine, I promise. Just annoying.”

“It most certainly is not fine.” In one swift move, he picks you up and then deposit you gently on your bed, where you blink at him. Loki kneels by your feet and inspects them, honing in on the ankle that’s a little more misshapen than the other. Slender fingers brush over it and glow a faint green, reducing the ache you’ve come to accept as permanent to nothing more than background noise.

You prop yourself up on your elbows to carefully flex your foot. The bones still grind against each other like they shouldn’t, but the pain is gone. “Wow. Thank you.”

He shakes his head. “It is not permanent. My skills do not extend to mending.” When he stands, he almost towers over you, and you sit up on the edge of the mattress so you don’t feel quite so small beneath him.

“You’re ridiculous. You literally saved my life, I can deal with a little pain.” Loki looks at you with soft eyes, making a bolt of warmth shoot through you. Then, very carefully, as though he’s been practicing the expression in a mirror, he wrinkles his nose in an approximation of your own quirk. Your habit on his face makes you grin like nothing else ever has, and in an instant you’re reaching for him- but your hands pause at the hem of his shirt. This is- he’s- he’s so close, and you’ve never touched him with purpose before, not like this. And you want to- god, you want to run your hands over his body and feel every single inch of him under your palms, map every twist and turn with your fingertips- but hesitation is turning your arms to stone. He’s a god. He’s a thousand years old; he’s had immortal beings in his bed alongside him. You had a couple trysts in college, sure, but a goddess you are not. There’s no possible way you could live up to any sort of expectations-

“You can touch, darling.” His voice is easy, gentle, chipping away at your sudden paralyzation. “If you want.”

“I-” I want to. I’ve wanted to for so long, but if I mess this up I don’t know-

“Stop this.” One of Loki’s fingers reaches out and taps you lightly on the forehead, and the wrinkles that have appeared there. “Whatever derision is running through that mind of yours, I can promise you it is completely unfounded.” He smooths a thumb over your temple fondly. “I am not the only one who dismisses my worth.”

Hs words give you the courage to let your hands rest lightly on his shirt’s hem, latching on to the soft fabric. His eyes are on you, refracting light into shades of green you’ve never seen before. Slowly, you let your fingertips slide underneath, just barely grazing against his torso. His skin is soft, and cool to the touch. You don’t have to wander far before you meet your first imperfection- a ridged scar that streaks over the soft parts of his hipbone. You pause, unsure if it’s forbidden territory, but Loki only smiles apologetically. “I am afraid I do not come without… defects.”

You know he isn’t just speaking of his scars. “Can I see?”

He seems to internally debate for a moment, but eventually sits down next to you, deftly tugging off his tee by the neck and revealing himself as one might rip off a bandage all in one go. As you take in his taught stomach, the muscles just peeking out from under his skin, and the old wounds crisscrossing every which way, he only looks at the fabric now puddled in his hands and not you. The sting of old rejections is fighting hard against the trust you’ve grown little by little, inch by inch.

You desperately want him to know you won’t abandon him. Not now. Not ever.

“Where did this come from?” You lightly trace the deep-set flaw that curves along his hip, not wanting to scare him away.

“Mmm, I believe that one was Sif.” There’s a faraway look on his face, one that you’ve come to recognize as his mind wandering to stories that played out long ago in a land far away. “She nearly eviscerated me after a lark of mine went particularly poorly.”

A smile touches your lips. Hell hath no fury. “And this one?” A swooping white arc decorates his left shoulder blade, cutting so low it crosses paths with his spine. It’s lighter than the rest- you can barely feel it- and if you closed your eyes you might not believe it was there at all.

“Training. Thor took a swing at me when my back was turned. We were young, and he cried when I bled.”

Standing out amongst the healed wounds are ones still purple at the edges, not yet faded into the poems of his skin. They are harsher, sharper- deliberately cut, and maliciously given. Just below his shoulder are thin parallel rings decorating his upper arm, too neatly aligned to be anything but intentional. When you explore these, he stiffens underneath your touch. You don’t have to ask where they came from.

Gently, you lean in to press a kiss to the mending scars, hoping to ease at least a little of the pain they’re causing their bearer. “None of us are flawless, Loki,” you murmur, resting your chin lightly on his shoulder. “They’re a part of you, and you’re beautiful, so they’re beautiful too. Wearing your story on your skin only means you’re strong enough to have lived to tell the tale.” 

************************************************************

This time, you aren’t surprised when his lips find yours, because you’ve already met him halfway. It’s smoother, but no less insistent, and now you’re less afraid to take exactly what you want. You hands once again find their way into his hair, running your fingers through it from the roots just to mess up those infuriatingly perfect tresses. His own hands are winding their way into the hair at the nape of your neck, creating a heady sort of pressure. He pulls your bottom lip into his mouth, lightly running his tongue over it before biting ever so gently giving it a bite. Heat flares through you, and without thinking you tug hard at his scalp, wanting more.

Loki growls at your grip, a low rumble that echoes all the way through your chest. When you nip back, using your teeth to drag and release his lips from yours, the quiet noise of want that escapes him is enough to ratchet the heat you’re feeling up to ninety.

Your fear melts away with every brush of the hand, every small sigh, every moment where you have to pull away just to catch your breath and try to slow your racing heart. It’s a push and pull, give and take, learning each other in this new space where you can touch and taste and feel and revel in all of the above without worry. Because really, you know each other in every way but this- how hard can it be to translate?

He pulls you onto his lap, strong arms flexing at your waist as he settles you onto his thighs, and you hum appreciatively as you press your body to his, enjoying his bare skin underneath your hands. When he tugs at your shirt- and unspoken request- you don’t hesitate before pulling it off over your head. Loki, for his part, looks absolutely starstruck at the picture of you in his lap in your bra and jeans. You giggle, taking your time fiddling with the clasps behind your back, loving the wonder on his face as he takes you in. Just as your bra unclips, he hesitantly reaches up and undos a few pins from your bun, letting your hair tumble down onto your now bare chest.

“Beautiful,” he whispers, mapping out your own scars just as you did his own. Every touch and trace sends goosebumps down your spine, and you have half a mind to take his hands into your own and force them to stop being so careful.

“I won’t break,” you mumble, arching your back a little when he palms a particularly sensitive spot on your side.

“No, but you are something to be worshipped, and deserve to be admired as such.”

You huff out a laugh and press a not-quite-bruising kiss to his mouth. “Goddamn silver tongue.”

“Good for more than just pretty words, I can assure you.”

He twists and lowers you onto your back, nestling you amongst the blankets. Loki very much notices when the sudden chill makes your nipples perk and your stomach tighten. Making sure you’re comfortable, he lays himself next to you on one elbow so that you can still take in the curve of your hips and the rise an fall of your chest. “Are you alright? I do not mean to overstep my bounds-”

“No, nope, absolutely not. You do not get to kiss me like that and then back out on me.”

He grins a little wolfishly. “I am not reconsidering, love, believe me.” He smooths a hand over your lower belly, making you shiver. “I want nothing more. Only making sure my lady is willing.”

“More than.”

He hums, obviously pleased at the ache in your voice. “And have you ever…?”

You wrinkle your nose. “A few times, in college. But nothing… nothing that meant anything, I guess.”

“I see.” He leans down to kiss you softly, then wanders from your lips to your jawbone, then letting his words drip down into the hollow of your neck. Your head arcs to the side, giving him more room to play. “I suppose I shall have a lot to make up for, then.” His tongue darts out and flicks your earlobe, and when he pulls it in between his teeth and drags, all coherent though leaves your brain.

You tug on the loop of his pants, inviting him to lean on top of you. Your stomachs press together, the heat of your skin tempered by the coolness of his own, and the combination is heavenly. He’s hard; you can feel him through the fabric of his jeans, and that pressure against your thigh and hips makes you want to roll up into him. He continues his ministrations, kissing and nipping all the way down your neck and grazing his teeth over your collarbone. Completely lost, your eyes slip closed, and you don’t even notice his hand on your breast until he rolls your nipple between his fingertips.

You gasp, sharp pinpricks heightening every sensation. His mouth joins his fingers; his tongue alternating between teasing you gently and tracing rough patterns onto your skin. Everything in you is wound tight, hyper focused on every place he’s touching and your own labored breathing.

“I can’t- I need- christ, Loki, just-”

“What do you need, love? Tell me, and it shall be yours.”

“Touch me,” you get out. “Please.”

“May I?” His fingers drag underneath your waistband, and at your nod he quickly rids you of your jeans, letting every inch of you be revealed. You’re laid bare before him, and for a fleeting second you have a thought to be embarrassed before it’s banished by curious hands wandering lower to exactly where you want them.

He pulls you close, cradling you against him, supporting you as he begins to slip through your folds, sliding easily around your clit. You’re already so wet you’re aching, and his finger pushes into you so nicely it’s almost sinful.

“Oh, god-” It’s been years since anyone has touched you like this, but even back then it was never this sensational.

“You’re so beautiful, my dear,” he murmurs, his words making his actions even sweeter. “You have no idea how long I’ve dreamed of this. To be close to you, to feel you under my hands.” His ring finger joins his middle, stretching you wider. “I want to give you everything you’ve ever wanted.’

‘You,” you breathe, tying to keep ahold of yourself. “That’s all I want.”

“Then you shall have me; tonight, and every night after. I am yours, as you are mine.”

You’re already working on the button of his pants. After a hasty suck of his fingers to clean them off, he helps you remove them, tossing them somewhere on the floor. His briefs are the next to go, giving you a spectacular view of his cock and exactly how much he wants you. It’s a dangerously heady feeling, knowing that you do this to him.

Experimentally, you grind your hips into his, and you’re rewarded with an absolutely delicious whine from the man on top of you, and Loki buries wet kisses into the crook of your neck, completely taken with the feeling of you beneath him. “This is what you do to me,” he says against your skin, and you turn to kiss the top of his head while letting your fingers trail down his back.

The constant friction is driving you mad. “God, I can’t-”

Loki lets himself linger above you, a small smirk on his lips. “Wrong deity, darling.”

You rise up to meet him for a kiss, not caring if your teeth clash against his. “Loki,” you say, intent on letting him feel his name as it falls from your mouth. “Loki fucking Laufeyson, would you just get on with it already.”

At that, he lines himself up with your center and rocks into you.

You tense. It’s good, it’s so good, but it also hurts- it’s been a while, and he’s stretching you so wide you have to grip at his shoulders for some kind of purchase.

He can see the hesitation on your face. “Darling? Am I hurting you?”

“No, no, just- slowly. Please.”

He drops a kiss to your lips. “Anything, my love.”

Carefully, he works himself inside you, letting you adjust little by little to the pressure. Eventually, as your grip on his shoulders lessens and the pain gives way to more and more pleasure, he begins to move, his hips setting an even pace that match the lazy kisses he’s placing anywhere he can reach. Your nails make an appearance, digging themselves into his side in effort to steady yourself. You’re sure you must be hurting him, but when your hand slips and rakes across his back, he snaps his hips so hard you gasp at the sudden fullness.

Loki’s attention never wavers from your eyes, your face- constantly watching, both for the pleasure of seeing you undone and to make sure he never pushes you too far. He said you deserve to be worshipped, and the way he’s treating you- so in tune with exactly what you need, cataloguing all the spots that make your breath hitch and your hips roll, never letting you go too long without a kiss- makes you feel more loved, more known, than you ever have in your life.

Ever so slightly, he begins to speed up, thrusting with more force, and moves one hand down to your clit to send additional warmth pooling to your core. You’re moaning now, filthy noises escaping your mouth, unable to do more than hold on and remind yourself to keep breathing as the heat spirals up and up and up-

“Loki- Loki I can’t-”

“It’s alright, love. I’ve got you.” You whine, an unspoken command to keep going- you’re so close- “You can let go.”

His name echoes in the small room as you crack apart, clenching around him until he’s all you can feel- his hands, his mouth, his hips, all of him inside you. Your own undoing seems to tip him over the edge, and nothing has ever made you feel so wanted as seeing every single one of Loki’s walls crumble as he loses himself inside you; crying your name in a language you don’t know as you find your pleasure in one another.

You bury your head in his neck, biting his shoulder with a groan as the two of you ride through the aftershocks. Loki’s fingerprints are branded onto your hip, and you’ve left marks on his neck and shoulder. You kiss each and every one. Sweet nothings of encouragement are whispered into your ear as the high recedes, leaving you with stuttering breath and shaky limbs. You can feel your face is flushed, and your hair is a mess behind you, and who knows how you look at this angle, but Loki’s small praises stay constant nonetheless.

A piece of hair is pushed from your forehead, and you open your eyes to see Loki gazing at you with nothing but love. “There, darling. You’re safe. I’ve got you.”

“I know,” you whisper. Because Loki means home- he became that a long time ago- and seeing his eyes shine so honestly tells you he’s finally found his as well.

 

******************************************************************


In the end, you’re in your bed, legs tangled together, both you you trying to catch your breath. He hugs you to him protectively, possessively, with an arm wrapped around your back and anchoring you to his side. Your arm in turn is wrapped around his middle, feeling the rise and fall of his chest and the stuttering of his heart and taking vague pleasure in the fact that you’re the one who did that to him. You breathe, and you feel absolutely full somewhere in your chest, and the heat of your body plus the chill of his somehow melds together into perfect harmony.

“What are you writing?” You mumble against his neck, where your head has been tucked for however long you’ve been laying there. His elegant fingers have been tracing patterns onto your shoulder, soothing you into a hazy sort of comfortable.

“How did you know it was writing?”

“I may occasionally study ancient languages, strange as that may sound to you.” You’re rewarded with a laugh you can feel all the way down to the tips of your toes.

“This,” he says, marking a symbol carefully onto your skin, “is for protection.” His fingers glow faintly green in the dimness of the room. As one line fades away, another appears. “This means loved, roughly translated. And this,” he writes carefully, every touch deliberate, “is my sigil.” The last one almost stings a little as it works its way into your skin.

You shift a little, ignoring his little noise of protest, so you can look at him. “Did you just magick me, Trickster?”

“I would not, without your consent. Though a protection rune might make me feel better,” he admits softly, obviously not over the incident. Neither are you. But now you have him here, really here, to help you through the nightmares. “And I believe my name would look excellent on your skin,” he whispers to you, making you giggle to hide the hot streak of want that runs through you.

“Possessive much?”

“Mm. Forgive me; I do like seeing myself written on beautiful things.”

You scoff and roll your eyes. “You’re a god, Loki. You’ve seen things I can’t even imagine. And I know you’ve had plenty of other people,” you point out. “I highly doubt I measure up to any of them.”

“I will not lie.” You raise an eyebrow at him that seems to suggest that’s wise. “I have had others. Some after feasts and too much wine, some because they surprised me enough to attract my attention. Others simply because I was bored.” You try not to get too jealous, imagining others’ hands where yours just were. Loki seems to know what you’re thinking, and pacifies you with a kiss placed amongst your mussed hair. “But they were just people. They wanted me because of lust, or for power, or for the things I could give them. I would wager the nine realms that not a single one of them would have sat and read to me while I was hurting, or dared to challenge me when my temper got the best of me, or talked with me on opposite sides of a cell for months because they were genuinely interested in me. Not the prince. Not the god of mischief, not my silver tongue, or my magic. But me.”

“It sounds very lonely.”

“It was, but I did not realize it until a thousand years later.” There’s a sad resignation in his voice, and you tighten your arm around him. “You are something of a trickster yourself, my lady.” You look at him, confused, and then he graces you with the most beautiful smile you’ve ever seen, bar none. “I do not think I fell for you, darling. I think you tripped me.”

“You and your silver tongue,” you grumble, but you have a hard time kissing him on account of the own smile on your lips.

“I was afraid you might have become immune to it; I am pleased to see that is not the case.”

“I don’t think I ever could.”

“I do not ever intend for you to.”

You say nothing more, and neither does he, just continues his etchings of affection onto your shoulder as your eyes flutter closed, safe in the little world you’ve created for just the two of you. It’s almost like you can feel your soul and his intertwining, weaving together, a mortal and a god choosing each other over the universe itself. When he begins humming the faint strains of an Asgardian melody, ancient and warm, peace descends, a glow you’ve never known but can’t wait to claim as yours for as long as you possibly can have it.