Clint runs a thumb across the dark screen of the phone, his expression carefully blank as he contemplates the house he's standing outside. The lights are on, but there's no sign of movement inside at the moment, despite the car in the driveway. Nothing save the stillness suggests the owner isn't home.
The screen on the phone lights up, music from some Swedish band breaking the quiet of the residential street. A familiar face smiles up at him from the screen, and he hesitates for a long moment before he swipes a thumb across to answer it, lifting it to his ear. There's only a couple people who have this number - one of whom won't call him again.
"I left the spare key where I always do." The greeting confirms his suspicion that there's no one home. "I'll be home in a couple hours, if you want to wait for me."
He's quiet a moment, not entirely certain if he wants to wait in an empty house, despite the promise of company soon. "Where are you? I'll meet you there, pick you up." It's better than waiting, especially right now. He doesn't want to sit still, because that means he has to face his own memories and thoughts, and he doesn't want to do that right now.
"Client confidentiality, love." That's as familiar an answer to him as the word 'classified' is to her. Sometimes he really doesn't like the inability of either of them to share, if only for a brief moment. "Do you need me to come home sooner?"
And sometimes he doesn't need to tell her anything for her to understand that something's wrong. There aren't many people who can read him so well, and one's dead, one knows too much of this for him to want to stay with her tonight, and the third really shouldn't abandon her job just because he can't hold himself together when there's nothing to do but wait.
"Is there anything you need picked up before you get home?" he asks instead of answering her question, which is really as much an answer as it is a question.
There's a hum on the other end, and silence for a second. Her thinking, whether about an answer, or about what's in front of her, he doesn't want to know. "Are you up for cooking dinner, or do you want to order in?"
He doesn't have an answer for a moment, before he grimaces. "Order in." He finally moves, going to where he's left the car he's borrowed parked on the street. There are several restaurants nearby that do carry-out, and he'll at least have some sort of company while he waits. "Preferences?"
"Whatever you want to get. If I haven't tried it already, it's always good to try something new." There's another pause, and quiet for a moment. "I will see you when I get home, love, and not on the evening news."
Clint closes the door of the car, resting his free hand on the wheel for the moment. "Yeah. Not on the evening news." He wonders if she'd been watching the news when Loki attacked Manhattan, if she'd seen that and wondered if he'd been involved. As long as it's been since he talked to her, he wouldn't be surprised.
"Good. I'll be home as soon as I can." There's silence again, this time that of the call being disconnected. Anna's no better at goodbye than he is, but he knows she'll hold to her word - and try to make sure that soon as she can isn't any longer than the two hours she'd initially said.
Letting out a slow breath, he turned the car on, and pulled away from the curb. There's a little place that does Polish food somewhere nearby, and they've ordered enough from it that he can get an order to go. They'll even recognize him, and probably sit him down with something to keep him busy until the food's ready.
Worry is something that's always made her focus better - worry that might distract others, make them think on some other matter. She shoves the matter itself to the side, her focus sharpening on her work, the better to finish sooner. The sooner it's done, the sooner she can leave and she can go have dinner with her boyfriend and find out what he can tell her of what's bothering him.
Anna's not foolish enough to think Clint can tell her much - this isn't the first time he's come back to her, and not been able to share what causes his nightmares, his fears, his need to hold onto her to make sure she's safe and alive and there with him - but she knows she will listen to what he can, and be there while he works through the rest. What he can work out with her, rather than someone who knows what he can't tell her; maybe she should be jealous of the woman he works with, but she's never been able to summon that emotion.
A few more minutes, her typing sounding like the soft drumming of fingers on a counter rather than the rattle of keys. A small smile quirks up one corner of her mouth as she breaks through the encryption, transferring the file that her clients hate to see before she retraces her steps, carefully erasing her electronic footprints. It takes a bit longer to extricate herself physically from the site and retrieve her taps on the site security.
Only once she's in the car she uses for work, and heading back home does she make the call she needs to. "Cameras, guards, and alarms. Upgrade and replace. Say hello to Spot for me." Her shorthand sometimes annoys clients, but it gets the point across quickly and concisely. "I'll have the full report for you in the morning."
"Thank you, Ms Boyd." There's a sigh, and she can imagine the expression on her client's face, as well as how much he undoubtedly wishes to curse. "The remainder of your fee will be transferred upon the reciept of that report."
"As always, Mr. Greene." She smiles as she ends the call, and turns off that phone. She's not availible again until morning - tonight is for making sure Clint has come back to her in as close to one piece as possible. Anna isn't certain what she'll do if he's not enough in one piece to put back together in whatever time he's been allowed this time; Clint broken isn't something she really wants to contemplate.
She's never been sure she could put together someone who's been broken, after all.
Clint's keying the code into the security system when he hears a car pull into the driveway, and he automatically reaches for the gun that is holstered at his thigh when he's on a job. There's no weapon there, and he tenses a bit before he forces himself to relax, and listen. A car door opens, and closes, another does the same shortly after - someone grabbing items out of a back seat.
That the front door opens slowly a moment later, with a quiet, "Hey, love," from Anna allows him to relax further. He gives her a brief smile as she steps inside and closes the door behind her, though it doesn't last long.
"I went to the Polish place." He gestures toward the dining room, and the bag waiting there with dinner. "You want help with anything?" She's carrying a duffel and a bag that looks like it probably contains a laptop - not something she's likely to let him handle, but they're both very aware of the boundaries between their jobs and their personal life.
Anna smiles, and shrugs the duffel off her shoulder. "That needs to go to the laundry, if you would, love?" The laptop bag she keeps close. "That will let me secure this, and then we can sit and eat."
She leans in when he comes to take the duffel, and presses a gentle, chaste kiss to his cheek. Reassurance that she's here, and won't press for more than he wants, before she goes to the back bedroom that has been made into an office. It doesn't take long for her to do what she needs to do, or for him to dump the contents of the duffel into a hamper - and he's not sure what her current job is that she's carrying the same sort of clothes he would for breaking and entering, or that he wants to know.
Dinner is quiet, mostly, discussion gravitating toward music and movies that have come out in the last few months. Nothing substantial until they finish, and move to the couch in the living room. Anna curls up against him, quiet for several minutes until he relaxes enough to wrap an arm around her shoulders as he usually would.
"Can you talk about it?" Even before asking if he wants to, she always asks if he can, and it's not just a matter of security and clearances - he knows she holds a security clearance, but that just means she can know if he's given permission to tell her. Right now, he's not sure if he's allowed or not, and it's always better to err on the side of caution than make a mistake that could compromise his career.
"I don't know." Clint sighs, staring into nothing for the moment. "I wasn't told not to, but..."
"But that doesn't mean it's fair game." Anna turns her head, tilting it slightly so she can watch him. He can see her studying him out of the corner of his eye, and turns his head slightly so she can see him better. She's silent for a long moment before she shifts to curl closer to him. "You survived, and you came home. How much leave did you get?"
"Indeterminate." He shrugs. "At least eight weeks, unless the world's ending." He's not sure how well he'll cope with the quiet, but he doesn't have a choice in it. Clint looks down to meet her gaze. "How much work do you have?"
"Just a report to get in tomorrow morning; no other clients pending." She raises an eyebrow, curious. "Do you have anywhere you want to go, then?"
"Away from civilization for a while." He doesn't exactly have anywhere in particular in mind, but he can figure it out while he waits for Anna to finish with her current client. "Far enough away that there aren't too many people around."
"Fly or drive?" Anna shifts, settling more comfortably against him. "And warm or cold?"
He doesn't respond right away, quiet as he thinks about it. "Somewhere in the mountains, if we go far enough north." It's harder to think of somewhere tropical where there would be few enough people to suit his current desires. "Maybe Canada?"
"Depends on if you want somewhere with a hard roof, or a tent." Anna pulls away , turning to smile at him a moment. "I may actually have a contact who has a ranch up in Montana, with some places that don't have neighbors for miles."
It's tempting, but Clint reaches out to grab her hand, tugging gently until she sits back down. "Tomorrow is soon enough." Right now, he thinks he wants her company more than thoughts of where to go. Particularly when a brief burst of thought crosses his mind - a fragment that might be memory or might simply be fear - that he had told Loki all that he'd known about SHIELD, and those he'd worked with. He hadn't let himself think about if he might have told Loki about Anna, as well, not until now, and the thought won't let him go.
He wraps his arms tightly around her, closing his eyes as he fights down the fear he could have gotten her killed, gotten her tangled up in his work without ever knowing it.
"I'm here, I'm alive and I'm unhurt, love." Her voice is a whisper, and her arms are wrapped over his, holding him in turn. "You're alive, and here, and you still have me." She traces the backs of his hands with her fingertips, a constant, repetitive motion of comfort. "You didn't lose anyone you worked with, did you?" There's a hint of fear there, a worry for him and those she's never met, but knows he cares for.
"Nat's fine." And if she hadn't nearly given him a concussion with how hard she'd hit him, she might not have been. It sends a chill through him to think about that possibility. "She's fine." Coulson isn't, but he can't bring himself to mention that, even if Anna had known of him.
She turns her head, and presses a kiss against his jaw, the angle awkward. Not saying anything, not pulling away or anything. He'd been surprised at first by her acceptance that he and Natasha are sometimes more than just partners on the job, but it's been long enough that it just makes him glad she's willing to share.
"Bed?" he murmurs, loosening his grip enough that she can turn to look at him, to study him for a long moment. "To sleep."
A smile crosses her face, and she leans in for another kiss, chaste and brief. "And I will still be here when you wake up," she murmurs, a promise that loosens something in his chest.
She leaves once she has the last pieces added to her report, with the raw data and conclusions that lay out the weaknesses the client still has to repair, and the strengths of his system he should build on. It doesn't take long to deliver the report, printed as per the request, as well as providing the data on a disc. The longest part is the drive to and from the office, spent in silence without a call from Clint.
The smell of food cooking - hamburgers, if she doesn't miss her guess - greets her as she comes inside, and she smiles, hurrying to her office to secure her materials before she changes into more casual clothing. Clint has the burgers on a plate, arranging the one to her taste as she comes into the kitchen.
"I could get used to having home-cooked meals for a while." Anna smiles, hopping up to perch on the counter, watching Clint as he works. "Do you have an idea where you want to go for a vacation?"
To get away from civilization, and maybe outrun whatever demons are eating at him right now. Her smile fades into concern as she watches him, wondering what she might do to help him.
Clint shrugs, finishing putting together his own burger, and picking it up. "You mentioned someone in Montana with a ranch?" She isn't sure if he's asking because he wants to make use of it, or just because it's polite.
"A regular client. He mostly keeps the ranch to have it - there aren't any cattle or people on it, and he's rarely in residence. I can call him and see if there's anyone renting it right now. There's no one for miles - and you can see people coming for miles, as well."
She picks up her own burger as Clint takes a bite of his, silence falling for a brief while as they ate.
"Yeah." Clint looks thoughtful, though she wonders if he might not be happier even further from civilization than an isolated and mostly-abandoned ranch. "I'll arrange a flight, if you can get the ranch."
Anna nods, taking another bite of her hamburger, thinking as she chews. "I can probably arrange as long as you need away, though it might involve me taking a few days for some work." She skirts the precise nature of her work from long habit, and though there's a brief flash of mingled curiosity and resignation, Clint nods. She'll remain with him for as long as he needs to have her present, and only arrange any work for when she can leave him alone for a few days without worry.
They go in separate directions after lunch, Anna to her office to talk to the client with the ranch, Clint to the dining room to call whoever he needs to in order to arrange a flight. It doesn't take long to get the use of the ranch in exchange for testing the security at a new facility of his once it goes online - it'll be a few months, fortunately, and long enough she won't worry about Clint by then.
The rental car is sleek and fast, and Clint wonders if Tony had found out about his planned trip for a brief moment before he considers that this is also a vacation for Anna, and her client could well have arranged for the car as well. Anyone who owns a ranch for the sake of owning it probably has the money to do this sort of thing.
The drive from airport to the ranch house is quiet and uneventful, and the house itself is far enough from anywhere that Clint can let himself relax. The key for the house is hidden in a barn that's a bit of a hike, and inside it's comfortably cool, with a hint of dust in the air from lack of use, though they find the pantry relatively well-stocked and the beds made up with clean sheets.
"We'll have to run into town to get milk and produce, but the rest seems to be well enough stocked." Anna is in the pantry, looking over the contents, and looks back at where he's standing in the doorway - there's not enough room for both of them in the room. "If you want to bother?"
"Later, probably." It would be good to have fresh food in the house, but he can make do with whatever's in the pantry for a few days. Right now, he just wants the distance from other people, even though he's not entirely certain he wants the quiet of his own thoughts.
Anna nods, tilting her head slightly to one side a moment before she comes over, pausing a moment before she slides her arms around his waist, and leans against him. Quiet, and grounding. "There's plenty of space to hike around, and I think there's a small library in here somewhere. Of movies and music as well as books. My client may not use this place for much, but he doesn't like not having entertainment when he's here, at least so he's said."
Clint wraps his arms around her shoulders, pressing a kiss to the top of Anna's head - he's often surprised by how short she is, as he tends to think she's taller when they're not standing together like this. "I think I can live without the movies and the books." The music he won't pass on, but right now, all he wants is time with Anna.
Tilting her head back, Anna smiles up at him a moment before she leans up, pressing a kiss to his lips, chaste for a moment before he opens his mouth, deepening the kiss. Shifting to bring one hand up to cradle her head, his tongue sweeping over her teeth, into her mouth. Lazy exploration, just standing there, until they part for air.
Anna smiles at him a moment, resting her head against his chest again. "Or we can just do something about making up for the last four months." There's amusement in her voice, and affection, and Clint lets a smile cross his face a moment before he drops another kiss on the top of her head.
They eventually move from the pantry doorway into the living room, and the comfortable couch there, the afternoon spent making out almost like teenagers - just remembering what makes the other gasp and twitch. Dinner is just an interruption before they migrate to the bedroom, and the wide bed there, though they do little more than they have all afternoon. Sleep is easy, at least at first, wrapped around Anna, reassurance that she's still there.
He wakes in the middle of the night with a gasp, the nightmare fragmenting as he tries to figure out what had so badly shaken him. It's the same as any mission gone wrong, save that this has been longer coming, and he doesn't actually remember all the reasons he has for nightmares.
"I'm right here, love. I'm right here, you're safe, no one is dead." Anna's awake - woken by him before he woke himself, maybe - and maintaining a careful distance. He wonders how long she's been repeating whatever soothing litany she's been repeating, trying to wake him.
Clint reaches out, catching her hand and pulling her close again. She comes easily, wrapping her arms around him, and resting her head on his shoulder. "I'm sorry if I woke you."
"I'm not." Anna turns her head slightly, a chaste kiss landing on the shoulder under her head. "You needed me to be awake." Silence returns for a long moment, before she murmurs, "You spoke, a little. A couple of names, a denial. You sounded afraid."
He tenses a little, tightening his grip a moment before consciously relaxing. "What did I say?" He doesn't think he's spoken in his sleep before, and it worries him that he has now.
"Just a couple of names - Loki, Natasha - and 'don't'." He tenses at the name Loki, and Anna shifts, her head tilting as if she's looking up at him, though she can't see his face in the dark. "Was Loki the name of whoever you were up against?"
He hadn't been told he couldn't talk about it, and he still isn't certain if he should, but the battle in Manhattan had been on the news, and they couldn't hide everything. Clint took a breath, tightening his grip on Anna a moment.
"Yeah, something like that." He knows he isn't as visible a member of the Avengers as Tony or Steve or Thor, or even Banner, so it's not as likely to get out that he was involved in the battle, but it's possible. Anna should know before that becomes a risk for her. "Natasha..."
"Nat." He can feel Anna smile against his shoulder. "You sounded... afraid for her?" It's a gentle question, inviting an answer, but willing to leave it be if he chose not to.
"I. Can't talk about it." Doesn't know if he could bring himself to voice his fear that he'd left Natasha vulnerable to Loki and his manipulations, even if he were allowed to talk about that with Anna. He's certain that he wouldn't be allowed to talk of that much, since it wouldn't be public knowledge otherwise.
Anna nods, resting her head against his shoulder. "Do you think you'll be able to sleep again tonight?" It wouldn't be the first time he'd not been able to sleep after, though it hasn't been often that he gets that far.
"I don't know." Clint knows he can't get back to sleep right away, but he might manage it before the sun comes up. "Not right away."
"Mm." Anna traces absent figures on his chest, silent a moment. "I could tell you a story." There's a lightness to it that might be teasing, or might be something else, but Clint doesn't think she's dismissing his nightmare or worries. She hasn't before.
"What sort of story?"
"An old one." Anna smiles against his shoulder a moment, though it fades quickly. "Almost more myth than anything else." Probably his mentioning of Loki in his sleep had tripped some memory of whatever story she had in mind.
"So long as it's not something about Loki." He doesn't want to know more about what impression Loki had made on the rest of the world, whether or not there's any truth in the mythology about him.
"Not about Loki, no." There's a note he can't place in Anna's voice, but she continues to trace absent patterns, and is quiet a moment before she starts to speak again, almost a chant.
Once, there was a woman, pale and tall, who lived in the north lands far from the warmth of summer. Her father was a giant of a man, blond and bold and fierce as Thor the Thunderer, who led his clan and his war-band well. Her mother, she never knew, but was often told was a pale beauty who left when she was but an infant.
She grew taller than her father, beautiful as her mother, and skilled in magic as few mortals are, though ever less than the gods. She stood by her father's side when he led his war-band to battle, and made free with the magic of battle to protect her father, and defeat his enemies. And when they returned to the hall, she would wander the lands and forests nearest, to seek solitude in which to hear herself.
It was there that she met a man with green eyes, dressed in leathers and gold in a fashion unlike any she had met before. He was, perhaps, one of the gods, though she could not be certain. Still, she offered him some hospitality, for if he were one of the gods, better that she do so than turn him away.
He would not go to her father's hall, but for her kindness he taught her a small trick of magic, nothing too great, and nothing beyond the skill she already possessed. A shared meal, and he left, vanishing into the snows without a trace.
Again and again he would come, each time sharing with her some meal, the fire she would build, and some small trick or tale. Never yet his name, and she gave him not hers, but she thought nothing on it. For he was, she was certain, one of the gods, and only one could she think of that was a master of magic who might shy away from the warmth of her father's hall.
Only once did he come to her away from those forests and snows that were her father's lands in the north, and that when the war-band was celebrating another victory. He hid easily, and drew her away from the camp to a place where it was quiet and there caressed her and spoke sweet words to her that she would lie with him, though he need have only asked. Not for love of this god - a god of lies, as well as magic - but for the heat of blood in her veins and the heady thrill of victory.
Clint lifted a hand to place a finger on her lips. "Not about Loki?" Lies and magic, which sounded an awful lot like Loki to him, and certainly evoked the same sort of roiling turmoil that thinking about Loki did.
Mouthing his finger a moment, Anna shook her head. "Not about Loki, save perhaps in the tangent. His is not the story."
"Who is it about, then?" Because he's not sure he wants to hear about anyone related to Loki, either.
"Angrboða." Anna shifts against him again, one foot sliding over his knee. "She was his mistress, until he turned her away, and left her without lover or the children she had borne him." There's something under the words, but Clint is too tired to figure out what, sleep starting to creep up again. "Perhaps I should leave the rest of the story until later."
"Probably." Clint pulls her tighter against him, kissing the top of her head as she wraps herself around him further. Sleep doesn't come easily, but the rest of the night is surprisingly free of nightmares, though he thinks there were a couple of times when they might have started, and something soothed them away before he woke.
Anna is still sleeping when he wakes up, and Clint is still for a long moment before he leans in to press light kisses across her forehead and down her cheek, smiling a little when she turns her head to meet his lips. Slow and lazy and easy before she pulls back a bit, watching him with a warm expression.
"Morning," she murmurs, fingers lightly tracing across his chest. "Sleep better?" Her voice is still slightly sleep-fogged, and he rubs light circles at her waist, echoing her movements.
"Yeah." He brings his free hand up to catch hers a moment, kissing her fingertips before running his hand up her arm and over her shoulder. Sliding his fingers into her hair, her cradles her head as he leans in to kiss her, hunger stirring as he maps out the inside of her mouth once more.
Her hands aren't still, tracing over old scars, and the new one alongside his sternum, where Loki's staff pierced him. Giving it no more or less attention than she gives any other scar, save when they make him tighten his grip, or dive deeper into the kiss. He breaks the kiss with a soft hiss when she scratches lightly across just below his navel, skirting with care his growing arousal.
Anna chuckles, nipping the underside of his jaw, and sliding one leg over his, hooking her knee over his. "Something you wanted?" she murmurs, her lips brushing his ear, and Clint shifts, rolling her onto her back, leaning down to kiss her again, hungry and brief. Trailing kisses down her neck, nipping at the hollow of her throat. He slides his hands over her skin, dipping below the waist band of her pants briefly, teasing her as she had him.
It only makes her groan, and slide her hand down his back to dig her nails into his ass. Murmuring in his ear that she wants, and rolling her hips up against him. It takes only a moment for them to shed what little they're still wearing, and Anna arches against him again. Clint knows he should reach for a condom - hopefully there are some in the table at the bedside - but Anna shakes her head slightly.
"I'm not worried about it, love," she whispers, pulling him down to kiss him hungrily. Rolling her hips up against him again, one hand curling over the back of his neck, the other slid between to take him in hand and guide him into her. Clint groans at the wet heat, hesitating.
"I'm not always at home, neither are you." He would pull free if not for the leg she wraps around his hip, keeping him in place. He's not sure what it would mean if tonight resulted in a child. At least that's the only worry he has right now.
Anna leans up, kissing him gently. "If something happens, we can manage." There's something behind that, something he thinks is experience, but it's a question he can ask later. Clint groans, and leans down to kiss Anna, moving slowly, drawing out as far as he could before pushing back in. Slow and maddening pace, burying his face in the crook of her neck as he moves.
Anna's hips lift to meet his, her words quiet and encouraging him faster, harder. Hungry kisses and roaming hands, sweat slick and growing heat. Pleasure sets claws at the base of his spine, and Clint reaches between them, seeking to bring Anna to orgasm first, though he knows he's almost too close to stop. Knows he should pull away, should spill on her skin for all the good that might do, but she wraps legs tighter about his waist, fingernails sharp in his shoulders.
"Come for me, love," she murmurs in his ear, breathless and almost pleading. Clint captures her lips with his as he comes, feeling her tighten around him as he pants against her lips, resting his weight on his elbows though he's trembling. Shifting to the side so his full weight isn't on top of her, and drawing her close, pressing a kiss to her forehead.
She curls close to Clint as sweat cools on her skin, breathing in the smell of him. When he'd woken her during the night, restless in the grip of a nightmare, she'd thought nothing of it, opening her mouth to call his name. He'd cried out before she could, fear lacing the name, the broken litany of denials, and her blood had run colder than it had in many years.
Hearing Loki's name coming from his lips had stirred memories she rarely indulged in, save when between lifetimes, when she wasn't trying to be anyone save herself. Perhaps it had been why she'd offered to share with him the story of her youth, even if she couched it in terms of an old story since gone to myth.
She knows it's why she had foregone modern methods of preventing a child, even though her chances of becoming pregnant are as slim as they've been for centuries. Anna doesn't know what happened between Clint and Loki, but she doubts it is anything good, with the fear in his voice. It makes her fear for her own relationship with Clint, and more so if he were to find out her past and her connection with Loki from anyone else.
"You're thinking about something." Clint is watching her, and Anna smiles at him, pressing a lazy kiss to his shoulder. She isn't quite sure how much she wants to reveal of her thoughts just now, though eventually she knows she will tell him all of it. Or most of it, anyway.
"Just old stories." She shrugs, tracing idle patterns on his chest. It takes a little effort not to trace runes, to keep him close - she'd already indulged in runes to keep him safe the night before. She can feel Clint tense at her words, and she closes her eyes a moment. "I won't tell you the rest if you do not want me to, love." She turns her head to press a chaste kiss to his shoulder.
After a moment, he relaxs, though she thinks it's more deliberate than actually letting go of the tension. "Maybe later."
He pulls away after a few moments, heading for the bathroom, and she sighs, getting out of bed herself, and gathering the sheets from the bed. Later, she thinks, may be days, or it may be weeks. The story still swirls at the back of her mind, released from the box she keeps it in, for better and worse. Even if he doesn't ask, she'll tell him the rest of it, but not yet.
It's most of a week - more than she hoped, less than she feared - before Clint asks her about the rest of the story. There's a curious frown on his face, as if he's trying to work something out, and Anna isn't sure if she should hope or fear he's already starting to work out that the story isn't about some mythical being.
She takes a deep breath, leaning back against him on the couch, and let herself fall into the familiar cadence of story-telling. "Angrboða had lain with Loki after the victory of her father's war-band, and returned with them to their northern lands...."
None asked where she had been until her belly grew heavy with child, and her father only demanded to know who had sired the child upon her, and if were one of their enemies, he would raze their lands for the affront. She spoke honey-sweet words to comfort him, and a promise it was neither one of his war-band nor one of their enemies. She did not speak of who the father was, saying only that if he wished to be known to be the father of her child, he would come to the hall before the snows melted.
Spring brought the birth of a son whose skin held a shimmer of scales for a moment before he was set in his mother's arms, and whose eyes gleamed red until he blinked up at her. Sorcery of a sort her lover had taught her, though she feared she would not hold it well as her son grew. So she walked into the forest in the night, and called the name of the one who she knew to be her lover.
There she waited until he came, and into his arms she set his son, whispering to him the name she had given the boy. Jörmundgandr, whose skin shimmers with scales and whose eyes are fire-red. Who shifted into the form of a snake in his father's arms, if only for a moment before slipping back into the form of a child.
She asked him for a spell to hide the boy's nature until he grew of an age to defend himself, and need not fear the swords of her father's war-band, nor that he would be left in the wilds to die. Wishing only safety for her son, and his father said it would be better - safer - for their son to return with him to his home, at least until he might hide his own nature as he desired.
With reluctance did she agree, and none spoke of the absence of her son when she returned to her father's hall, save her father himself, and then only in the quiet of the darkest hours of the night, when few remained awake to hear. She told him her son's father had taken him from her, to where he might be kept safe.
Still, she found no desire to turn away the father of her son, though she was uncertain of his reasons for taking her son from her. Naught but magic and meals did pass between them, though, for many a long year after. Her father died, and the hall to her left before once more she took the god of lies to her bed, this time welcomed into her hall. A second son she bore, though this time she did not fear to hide him, for she had learned some of the illusions which her son's father wove best.
Indeed, her son had seen two full turns of the seasons before his father knew he had been born, and she would have hidden that he was ought but a mortal child from him. But he knew a lie, and unwove her illusions to see the son she had borne him this time. Fire-red eyes and an ability to slip from human to wolf with the speed of a thought. This son, too, he took to his home, though he wrapped him once more in illusion.
A finger on her lips stilled her words again, and Anna raises an eyebrow, looking up at Clint. Curious why he had stopped her this time - not because she had mentioned Loki, for he had let that pass, even though he'd tensed at each mention.
"Maybe later, for the rest?" Clint's expression is one she can't read, and Anna frowns, worrying for a moment before she pushes the thought away. If he figures it out, that's better than him being told by someone else. Or finding out because Loki shows up, which he has done, even after she threw him out of her hall for the theft of her children.
"Whenever you ask, love." She shifts for a more comfortable position, curling up with her head in the hollow of his shoulder. Content to rest there, his warmth and simple presence a comfort of a sort she's not found often, even among the mortals she tries hard to be as much one of as she can, with her lifespan.
The story sounds sorta like the sort of thing a myth would have, except something is niggling at him. Something not quite right, though he doesn't think it's the story itself - despite not finding anything like it in the slim book that had called itself the Prose Edda, or at least an English translation thereof. Then again, there isn't much about Angrboða in there at all. And while he thinks he could probably ask Thor, he doesn't want to answer the questions that might be asked if he showed an interest in someone connected to Loki.
He doesn't want SHIELD to take any closer an interest in Anna, either, just because she has an interesting story to tell, regardless of any connection to reality. Especially since she's given him something to think about that makes facing the quiet less of a worry again. Steadied him, which isn't something he'd think he'd have applied to anything with connections to Loki before this.
Leaning his head back, Clint watches the ceiling, trying to puzzle it out, without waking Anna where she's napping against his shoulder. If it's possible to work it out without the rest of the story, and without more than a very slim set of resources available for him to look through.
It's a puzzle that keeps him occupied until they're curled up after dinner, some random CD he'd grabbed from the library playing quietly in the background. He needs the rest of the story, or he's not going to figure out the puzzle.
"Tell me the rest?" he asks quietly, drawing Anna close. She's been cuddled up to him for the earlier parts of the story, and it feels right to have her leaning into him while she finishes it.
She looks up at him for a long moment, studying him as if weighing how much he actually wants to hear the story. Whatever she sees makes her smile, though there's a hint of sadness there that he doesn't know the cause of. "The second son of Angrboða and Loki was called Fenrir, and he too, was taken to Asgard to live with his father."
She grieved for the loss of her son, but was persuaded, after a lifetime's change of seasons and lessons in something of the magic that allowed the god of lies to remain unseen by the guardian of the Bifrost, to lay with him a third time. He took her to a place of dark forests, far from her realm, there to remain for many days, taking joy and pleasure in each other. She returned after to her realm and to her hall, and there bore a daughter, who she hid from all sight save her own.
A daughter who grew tall as her mother, hair dark as night, skin in part blue of glacier ice and in part pale as the winter sun, and eyes fire-red as were her brothers'. She was near to a woman when she was taken from her mother's hall, stolen in secret and nothing left but her mother's memories and raging screams.
When next came her lover, the father of the children she had loved more than she ever had him, she bodily cast him from her hall, telling him not to return until he brought back to her the children he had stolen, sons and most of all her daughter. A daughter he said he knew naught of, and denied having taken from her hall.
Long centuries she passed after, leaving behind her hall to wander the world, seeking ever for her children lost to her, and sometimes thinking that she heard their cries for her on the wind.
"Perhaps she still wanders." Anna's voice is soft, her forehead pressed into the crook of his neck, though she's holding more still than Clint expects. As if waiting for something to break.
"Maybe." If Angrboða is as immortal as Thor and Loki seem to be, perhaps she even is, though Clint's not sure how that's possible, even for the Asgardians. He strokes Anna's hair back from her face, studying her expression out of the corner of his eye. Pensive, and a bit worried. "Does the story say if she ever found her kids?"
"She never did." Anna's voice is soft, and there's a flash of pain quickly hidden. "Nor did Loki ever tell her what might have become of them, though he returned to her time and again. Never to ask again to share her bed, for he is no fool, but ever he sought her forgiveness."
Clint is quiet a long moment, before he leans down to press a kiss to her hair. "Do you think she ever forgave him?" He wonders if this isn't a story she knows better than just a myth she's heard - he's not sure he'd be surprised if she does - and that leads to more questions than he thinks he wants answers to right now. Too many questions about the past, and he knows he hasn't been as honest about his past as he could be.
"Perhaps if ever he returned her children to her." Anna shrugs, letting out a little sigh. "I don't know that she could, otherwise. Her children Angrboða loved more than she did Loki."
He lets out a brief hum, tightening his arm around her shoulders a moment, before shifting so he's laying down on the couch, tugging her with him. Just resting, and holding onto her while he tries to think about the story. She had to have a reason to pick that story, even if it's just a myth, and maybe he's reading more into it than what's there because of what's been happening recently. He's still trying to figure it out when he drifts to sleep.