Peter Quill is staring at Natasha again. This in and of itself is not particularly unusual or noteworthy; during his relatively brief stay at the academy thus far, he has spent most of his time either dancing around campus with his “walkman” like a fool or staring at one or more of his female classmates. Loki is generally not inclined to discourage this behavior, because these same female classmates are rarely fond of being stared at and quite willing to express themselves forcefully, which is nearly always amusing.
In this case, however, Quill is almost certainly staring because Natasha has activated her Iron Widow suit’s stealth mode again and is apparently attempting to sneak around campus disguised as a large cardboard box. This is behavior worth a few stares, perhaps, but it is also plain that Quill is reaching some unfair and inaccurate conclusions. As much as Loki would enjoy watching Natasha disabuse him of such notions, there is such a thing as general loyalty to one’s co-conspirator, or at least respect for the practicality of ensuring she can be efficient with her time, and fielding inane questions from Quill would certainly count as an inefficient use of her time. (He is certainly not insulted on her behalf, or anything silly like that. Of course not.)
He doesn’t bother trying to muffle his footsteps, just strolls up and taps Quill’s shoulder with his staff, and the mortal still yelps and staggers backward in surprise. “Don’t do that!” he says. “Seriously, you’re gonna give somebody a heart attack.”
“Do what,” Loki says mildly. “Walk around in a perfectly normal fashion? Do not blame me for your own inattention.”
“Well, be fair, that’s pretty distracting,” Quill says, gesturing vaguely in Natasha’s direction, or at least that of the box. “I mean, she’s always…you know. But this box thing is weird.”
Quill laughs nervously, one hand coming up to rub the back of his neck. “She’s supposed to be this amazing spy, right? Except I guess this is her idea of being sneaky. Which is hilarious, but not actually impressive, you know? I guess it’s a good thing she’s hot.”
Loki takes a moment to imagine Natasha’s reaction if Quill actually made that implication to her face and regretfully decides that helping her uncover Fury’s secrets is still more important. Well, there will be other opportunities for entertainment. He sighs and says, “Even spacefaring Midgardians accept superficial appearances and show little ability to look beyond the obvious, I see. How disappointing, though not terribly surprising.”
“Okay, see, I’m almost positive you’re trying to insult me, but I’m literally watching her run around in a cardboard box like she thinks nobody will see her that way, so—”
“You truly think that the Black Widow has such a juvenile grasp of stealth that she is doing exactly what she appears to be doing.”
“Uh,” Quill says. “Well…isn’t she?”
Loki gives him a pitying smile. “Certainly, if you would prefer to believe the simplest, most childish answer that presents itself.”
Quill folds his arms. “Fine, smartass, then what’s she actually doing?”
Loki shrugs. “Perhaps what you perceive is in fact reality, but the intent is to provide a distraction—one that certainly seems to be succeeding—while the suit carries out its scans unnoticed. Perhaps what you see is a holographic illusion, again functioning as a distraction, while the Widow does her work in the shadows. Perhaps it is a bit of both, helped along with a little magic. Who can say? I would invite you to touch the box and see for yourself if it is solid, but…well. I trust you can at least imagine how she might react to that, if she is in fact inside the box at the time. If that is too much of a stretch for you, consider the ways in which Gamora or Nebula might make use of a cardboard box as a weapon, and extrapolate from there.”
“…oh,” Quill says.
“Quite,” Loki says, with another smile intended to be anything but comforting. “And if you are foolish enough to assume she will somehow fail to notice your gaping and respond appropriately, by all means, continue to stare.”
“Actually,” Quill says, “actually, I just remembered, I should be studying, or training, or—yeah, gotta go, bye!” He scurries off with a great deal more alacrity than he has heretofore shown, and Loki laughs to himself. If nothing else, it is good to know some mortals can provide passable entertainment even when he is (mostly) trying to behave with a modicum of responsibility.