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Plan B

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If the affair on Asgard had taught him anything, Loki had learned the importance of having a plan B - should the Chitauri fail him somehow; if somehow he found himself double-crossed, he needed a way to still claim Midgard as a conquest. Twirling the Tesseract in his long, slender fingers, he let his mind and gaze wander. Something more concrete than a mere throne - something indisputable; to mark this world as mine for generations to come. Something to stew the All-father in his own gall. He needed a legacy.
The minions that Barton and Selvig had managed to recruit scuttled around him, engaged in menial labors of building, stocking, and calculating whatever needs would have to be met to open this world to his promised army. He could hear Selvig chiding his assistants in his newly-acquired laboratory - his Nordic accent echoing closest to the ring of the all-tongue, poking at the weakened flickers of homesickness within him. Somehow no - not the best adviser for this. This called for someone with greater vigor; someone with greater youth and yet more world under his belt.
“Barton,” he called - his voice not rising above normal speech. “Assist me.”
It took Clint a few mere seconds to come down from the perch he’d been securing to his masters side, his dazzled eyes slightly widened in anticipation.
“I seek to found a dynasty. Have a list drawn up.”
The snort of derision from Barton was most unexpected. Loki glowered his displeasure back, preparing to strike him down if his next words were not carefully chosen.
“No offense, my Lord; but there aren’t a lot of what you might call “noble” bloodlines still running around, and most of the women in them are either too old, too young, or not worthy of you.”
Loki’s tongue clicked in irritation. Really, he’d expected nothing less of this backwater world.
“I can suggest something else, though. I think you’ll like it.” Barton started after a brief pause.
Loki nodded, waving his permission to him.
“It might not be the way you’d prefer to do it, but there’s always the Genghis Khan option.”
“I am not familiar with this; enlighten me,” he replied, settling himself back into his ersatz throne.
“Basically, instead of one queen, he had himself a harem - bunches of women that he could sleep with whenever he felt like, who bore him whole litters of kids. Hell; they say a third of humankind has some of his DNA.”
Loki pursed his lips behind his fingers; his legs splayed open as he entertained the thought. On the one hand, generations of my lineage stretching across the globe - eventually beyond, perhaps. To become the point of origin of an entirely new race. . . . . now that was a legacy. But did it need to be with them? These pathetic creatures seemed so beneath him - to actually bed them was abhorrent to him.
Would it even take, though? the dark experimenter voiced from the undercurrent of his thoughts.
“There are billions of women out there; this way you could pick a variety of the ones you like,” offered the archer, a little too enthusiastically.
“There is the small matter of having to meet them all,” Loki observed with a smirk.
“Better than leaving that to a bunch of mindless clerks who have no idea what turns you on. Trust me; blind dating is something you can skip.”
He had to concede the point.
“How do you propose we begin the search?”
“Leave that to me.”
The tone of Barton’s voice made him instantly regret his choice of advisers, as it struck a chord of doom somewhere in his psyche.
Six hours and numerous false starts later, they were at last installed in a comfortable booth in a bar devoid of pole dancing. While their athleticism had been somewhat amusing, Loki had been somewhat reluctant to share the dancer’s attentions, making the exercise something of a non-starter. Clint had ruled out brothels under the assumption that the working girls were more than likely to be on the pill. He’d settled on a promising looking modern place not far from the local college. He had tried to explain to Loki that overdressing for it would backfire - in the end he settled on not wearing a tie and leaving his shirt open. On his return from the bar to get the first round, he was dismayed to find that Selvig had found them. If his hands hadn’t been full, Barton would have audibly face-palmed.
Selvig proceeded to steal Clint’s beer before sliding closer to Loki’s right side.
“So what’s the occasion?” he inquired.
“Rather surprised you are not still in your lab, Doctor. Was the Tesseract not enough of a distraction?” Loki replied, a slight chill in his voice. Barton had explained to him the intricacies of strategy involved, and the importance of team chemistry between hunter and “wingman”; though curiously it did not seem to involve flight at all. Somehow he felt the scientist would throw them off the game.
“I find I’m better at problem solving when I can set them down for a little while; makes it easier to turn them over in my head - find things I’d missed before.” Selvig answered. If he’d noticed the evasion in Loki’s answer, he was smart enough not to say so.
Barton fingered the bottle of Natasha’s olestra special in his pocket, waiting for the opportunity to slip a few drops into the purloined pint. His mission had been quite clear - he was not about to let Selvig cock-block them all night. And besides, it’s not like it’ll kill him.
The place was filling up nicely - everyone from the local college seemed to be stopping by for end-of-term drinks, offering an interesting and diverse selection for them to choose from. Barton scanned the room, screening likely candidates for his lord. He nodded toward the door, tapping Loki’s shoulder as he slid in on his left.
“She’s here alone - I’d do her.”
Loki had come to learn that Barton considered this the primary qualification for harem membership. A glance was all it required for him to rule her out.
“She’s orange,” he sighed. “Are you certain she is native to this realm?” He did silently entertain the notion of her reaction to his offspring - no doubt the blue would clash terribly.
“Oh yeah; she’s local,”Barton assured him. “It’s this thing we do - well, some people do.”
Loki took his own measure of the room, studying not only the appearances but the behavior of the folk surrounding them. While they seemed to cluster in small tribes, there did not seem to be much that physically distinguished who belonged to which ones. Clearly the complicated tribalism he had long heard about had taken on even more subtlety. They were hardly static - people moved freely between them - mostly the women, he noted. That would appear to be the best time to strike.
He gestured surreptitiously at a tall, shapely blonde near the bar.
“What do you make of her?”
“Meh - okay; she’s in rebound, though, so she’s gonna get clingy.”
“I thought that was the idea,” Loki replied, puzzled.
“Ah; I see,” Selvig realized aloud. “Come to meet your new subjects.”
“Something like that,” Loki smiled before turning back to Barton. “What about her?”
“Corner on the left - brown hair, small hands. She appears to be alone.”
Barton had to weave his gaze through the crowd just to catch a glimpse.
“The one with the journal? Probably chew your arm off for interrupting her writing. She’s sitting on a pile of her friends stuff, so can’t tell if she’s alone or not.”
“She seems lonely,” Loki assessed. “The odd one out. Yes; add her to the list.”
“You sure? I mean, she’s all right, I guess - I’d say a six out of ten, but you can do better.”
“Put her on,” he insisted, continuing to browse. “I think I see one of those shape-shifters you mentioned.”
“What are you. . . oh, yeah; no. Cougars don’t actually shape-shift, it’s. . .”
“Check out those three near the door,” Selvig interjected before he could finish explaining.
Loki glanced them over skeptically. Tall and willowy, the two chestnut-haired women flanked a slightly shorter darker woman, her coarse hair braided whimsically. They carried themselves stridently, almost combative, though the dresses they wore might suggest otherwise.
“The one in the middle perhaps.”
“That’s a break-up huddle - classic. You’re in there, no problem.”
Barton pivoted his gaze around the crowd just in case he missed anyone. Though he could not hear them over the music, the flailing of arms caught his attention.
“Oooh - break-up in progress. She’s not bad - and it looks like she’s going to want revenge.” the archer smiled.
Loki turned his attention to the arguing couple. The woman’s ebony hair undulated over her slender shoulders with every aggravated shake of her head. The target of her rage - a tall, athletic looking lout - seemed mystified as to the cause of her anger. Her hands were sienna butterflies, tipped in pink as they fluttered manically in time with her temper.
“Yes,” Loki declared. “So easy it is hardly sporting, but yes.”
Barton nodded with a smile.
“Right - good. Okay; well, I’ve got to go see a man about a horse,” Clint announced, slapping Loki playfully on the shoulder before sliding out of the booth. He had no idea why Selvig laughed nor did he notice Loki rolling his eyes. “Good luck, my Lord.”
It was a simple matter of timing. Positioning himself to the side of the arguing couple just at the edge of her peripheral vision, he was the first person within reach as the argument concluded.
“You’re as bad as my parents! I’m a grown woman - but you can’t wrap your head around the fact that I have my own opinions and my own free will. So if you can’t respect my decisions - my choices - I’ll find someone who will!” Indira shouted, pulling the handsome stranger beside her in for a deep, hard, angry kiss.
Loki did his best to pretend to be startled before slowly reciprocating, his embrace gently closing around her. Glancing over her shoulder, he caught Selvig’s thumbs-up before returning his attention to what he was about.
If anybody noticed that there were now four of him in the bar, they chalked it up to him having a familiar face, or the light being bad, or any of a hundred other excuses.
Indira continued kissing him, her hands exploring his back, his torso - tangling into his hair with one as the other slithered over his hips, pulling him ever closer. Her tongue darted into his mouth - flickering there and entangling with his own until the lout finally ceased pleading and walked away. Once he was gone, she slowly released Loki.
“A pleasure to meet you,” he grinned shyly after catching his breath.
“Just be quiet and kiss me,” she hissed.
With a polite shrug he put his arms back around her. It would have been rude not to. . . .
Barton just stood back and watched him work, waiting to see where he might be needed to assist. He had to admire the skill. He watched the other doubles sidle up to their targets casually. He could only guess the dance floors back in Asgard were vastly different - his lordship seemed completely out of his depths trying to learn how mere mortals dance. How much of that is playing for sympathy? Clint mused silently before checking up on the last one.
This one seemed, to him, the easiest- though hardly worth the effort. Must see something in her.
Noticing that Loki appeared to be leaving with his first conquest - and really; is it fair to even call it that? - he nodded to him as he was half-dragged out the door, knowing his job just got harder. His mission now was not just guarding the duplicates, but keeping them from getting touched. The timing was going to be crucial - as soon as one of the girls touched them, the game would be up. At least we’ve got a while before we even have to worry about that with artist girl. And so he made his rounds of the bar, making just enough idle conversation with each of the doubles to slow the inevitable just enough.
He had not expected Selvig to pitch in. Probably for the best I didn’t spike his drink he mused as the old man ran interference on the dance floor.
Loki had not anticipated exactly how fast things were about to happen, though it was a flow he was more than happy to go with. So when she resisted his attempts to steer them back to the booth, he obliged; letting her lead them toward the exit instead. He barely had a chance to signal Barton.
Once they were outside, she herded him to the nearest streetlight, pushing him up against the pole before stepping back the length of her long, thin arms to look him over. Loki kept her hand in his, stroking it almost absently. Her grip went soft in his as his gaze did not waver from her own. Her long, straight black hair framed her face as it tumbled down from the slightly off-center part. Her eyes narrowed critically as she looked him over .
“Just tell me you’re clean,” she demanded flatly, still taking in the view.
“In what sense?” he smirked, making himself comfortable as he stretched his invisibility to include her.
“No drugs; no diseases? I’m taking enough of a chance on you - these are my only conditions,” she snapped impatiently.
“You could be far more demanding than that if you like,” he replied. “What is it you’re after?”
“Just answer the question,” she snapped.
“I am, as you say, clean,” he shrugged, before pulling her closer. “Now answer mine.”
She curled up into him coyly, batting her heavily mascara’d eyelashes at him.
“What I want,” she lilted, kissing him. “Is one long, hard, bone-rattling fuck; without anyone fretting about whether I’m capable of handling everything that comes after.”
“I see,” he murmured. “And tell me, would that include children?”
“If you’re not okay with this, we can end this right now,” she declared.
“You confuse me; why would this not be acceptable?” he mused, draping one arm around her hips as he idly pulled at the bottom of her body-hugging dress. “You are clearly no longer a child, and if you truly feel ready, then no one would know better than yourself.”
“So you’ll stud for me? No clinginess; no complications? “
“I can make no promises as to complications, and I’m not overly fond of sharing, I admit, but yes - I will sire for you if you will brood for me.”
“Close enough,” she conceded, pulling him toward her car at the back of the lot.
Loki eyes the vehicle with slight apprehension as Indira dug for the keys. The thought of entering into congress in something that small struck him as absurd. He turned her around to face him, kissing her hard as he slid her back against the car frame, slowly moving them toward the hood.
“This is just begging for trouble,” she exhaled, though she made no move to get up.
Loki grinned madly before nuzzling into her collarbone, working his way down her body in playful bites. He traced his fingers down to her thighs, pulling the skirt of her dress up to remove her panties. He slid them down around her knees, stepping into the space they left and crouching down beside the car before her. With a kiss to her mound, he began working his spells upon her - his tongue below as his fingers scrawled out the rede of it across the midriff opening at her belly in swirling strokes. Her fingers gripped his hair as he flickered over her clit, pushing his face off the mark. Undaunted, he pulled one of her hands free from his head, clasping it while he wrought the enchantment. If you only knew what dangers I would spare you mortal, you’d leave me to the task at hand.
His spells completed, he slid his member from his pants, positioning himself over her before sliding into her with a brutal thrust. Her hips curled up to meet his as her back arched, gripping the hood as he pounded into her. Slowly, shakily, her legs wrapped around his hips, anchoring herself on his back for leverage as she ground into him in turn. He snarled, his grip on her ass tightening under her as he leveraged himself on the hood of the car with the other. Gradually he picked up speed; her incoherent, ragged exhalations and the sheer throbbing heat of her driving him on. Her flesh grew tight around him, a pulsating moistened grip milking him.
At last he gave into it; his cock throbbing as he spilled out into her. Sprawling out on top of her, he nestled into the crook of her neck, moaning softly.
She seemed in no hurry to move, covered in a sheen of sweat dulled by the sticky green pollen coating everything.
“I trust I have delivered?”
She groaned as she nodded, her walls still pulsing around his softening manhood. He slowly raised his hips to pull out, making her gasp once more.
“I, ummm. . . I should go,” she murmured,making a feeble attempt to pull her dress back down.
“If you like,” he smiled, not moving.
“No, really. . . .I have to pee.”
“Oh, very well,”he sighed, rolling over to let her up.
“So, how do I. . . .I mean, how can I reach you? You know, to let you know?”
“You will find me around when you are ready to give birth to our son,” he answered flippantly.
“Or daughter,” she corrected.
“Trust me on this, if on nothing else.”
“Ugh, fine; whatever. Just tell me how to reach you.”
He handed her one of the random business cards Clint had advised him to acquire for these eventualities.
“As I said, when you are come to term, you will see me again.”
He lay his hand across her stomach once more before landing a gentle kiss on it.
She gingerly pulled herself upright again, dangling her legs over the side of the car.
“Shit; I can’t go back in there like this.”
He leaned back on his side, admiring his debauched handiwork. The back of her dress was a smear of bright green pollen and crushed flowers, with noticeable pulls clawed into the skirt. Her panties had gone missing somewhere under the tires, along with one of her shoes. Her makeup - what little she wore - had taken on a surreal melt from the sweat.
“I won’t delay you, then.” he declared, sliding off the car after her.
“Okay; thanks,” she yawned, “I’ll be in touch.”
He nodded, taking her hand for a parting kiss.
“Thank you,” he smiled sweetly. “I look forward to it.”
And with that, he turned to go, ambling back into the bar.
The first of his doubles picked its way toward the blonde near the bar.
“Is anyone sitting here?” he enquired.
“Oh, no - no one,” Debbie smiled up at him. “Please; have a seat.”
“Thank you,” he smiled with a nod as he settled onto the stool next to her.
“I couldn’t help but notice your accent - are you British?” she asked, blushing slightly as she twirled her cocktail straw in her drink.
“Yes,” he chuckled slyly, remembering the cover story he and Barton had concocted earlier - a bit foolhardy, he thought, to open with the truth - not to mention premature. “My company recently set up new headquarters here.”
“Oh wow - I love your accent,” she gushed.
This is going to be way too easy, he grinned.
“So what brings you out tonight?” She inquired, sipping the refill Loki had ordered for her.
“Just getting a feel for the place - since I’m going to be here a while,” he answered flippantly.
“ Oh; well - glad you came out tonight - I’m heading back to Missouri tomorrow.”
“Yeah, one last night with the worst roommate of all time,” she smirked, her eyes glittering over her cocktail.
“You poor dear,” he cooed. “Though I suppose it’s not too late for a touch of revenge. I mean, if you’d want to” It took more effort than he would ever admit to keep his eyebrows level as the scheme hatched.
She twirled her long blonde hair around her finger as she considered this. I’m never going to see this guy again; one night with a truly beautiful stranger - and once it’s over, it’s going to be all job-hunting and family drama until I can get myself licensed and on my feet.
“It’s been a really rough semester; and I swear, I’ve never done anything like this in my life,” she entreated. “But if you’d like, my place is around the corner from here.”
“I’d be delighted,” he purred from behind his fox in the henhouse grin. He called the bartender over to settle up, handing over one of the prepaid credit cards Barton had helpfully supplied. Signing off on the tab, he helped her to her feet, letting her lead the way.
“This is going to be fun,” she giggled. For every night you kept me awake with your vomiting and screaming. For every date you crashed; every boyfriend you stole - an entire semester of pain. Yeah. Payback. “Do me a favor? Be as loud as you possibly can? I owe her .”
Leaning into him softly, she reached up to kiss him, aiming for his cheek. He turned to meet her lips, only a hint of tongue slipping into hers. She pulled away, chuckling nervously before kissing him fully - her lips parting easily, if not eagerly. He pulled her closer to him, letting her savor the moment.
“Oh wow. . . .” she warbled as they finally broke the kiss. “This - this is going to be beautiful.”
“One could hope,” he sniffed.
Resting his arm around her waist, he gestured for her to lead on. She did so eagerly, staring up at him enraptured. He had to steady her several times to keep her from falling when she stumbled over the cracks and curbstones in their path. Oh dear. . . Releasing her as they stopped near her door, she started to dig for her keys before stopping cold and grinning.
“No; even better. . . .” she chuckled, leaning hard on the glowing button on the doorframe. The fact that he stood right beside it had little to do with it, he was sure. Especially when she pressed him to the wall beside it for another lingering kiss.
Eventually a very sullen set of footfalls could be heard coming down the stairs to greet them. The door was opened by a very short, slight woman with short dark hair. The smell of tequila wafted from her. Debbie strode past her haughtily, pulling him by the arm. He nodded his most polite smile to her as he allowed himself to be dragged inside.
“Ugh - so glad this is almost over,” he heard her mutter as she locked the door behind them.
Debbie led him to the living room, gesturing toward the couch as she made her way into the kitchen.
“We might as well finish this; can’t take it with me,” she said, returning with a mostly full bottle of vodka and two glasses.
He accepted the glass she poured for him, watching the roommate - whose name he had still not been told - steal into the kitchen and also return with a half-full bottle of tequila.
Taking the seat beside him, Debbie placed a hand on his thigh. The other girl continued to hover at the threshold, the tequila dangling just at the edge of Loki’s field of vision like bait. Please - you think me an amateur?
“Don’t you have a flight in the morning?”she glowered from the doorway.
“Cab is booked, bags are packed,” Debbie checked off on her fingers between sips. “Now what am I forgetting?”
Swiveling her legs over the arm of the couch, she lay her head in his lap, blinking up at him with a smile.
“Hello,” she lilted, teasing her hand through his hair.
“Hello,” he leered back, closing the distance as she rose to kiss him, her eyes closing as she let him play his tongue into her mouth. Loki raised a sidelong glance to her room mate, gauging her reaction. She took another slug from her bottle with a derisive snort. Placing his glass on the coffee table, he placed one hand on the unoccupied cushion beside him, testing the waters. She stared at it from where she stood, weighing her chances. Usually just talk them away from her; she’d never live this one down. Undeniably the worst thing I can do to this prude bitch.
Loki let the kiss break off gently, slowly unfolding himself back against the couch. Coaxing her up from his lap, he watched Debbie down her vodka in one determined swallow. Taking up his glass again, he finished his a little more slowly, laying the empty glass on the table near the unoccupied side of the couch. Make your play. . . . it’s written all over you. He could almost hear the gears turning in her head. An excuse - she’ll find some ludicrous premise. . . ah; there it is.
Rolling her eyes, the roommate stormed over to the table, snatching a small device from the shadow of the vodka bottle.
“Not letting you drown another iPhone on me,” she sneered before plopping herself into the rooms’ only other seat - conveniently catty-cornered to Loki.
He traced his hand along Debbie’s body, squeezing her breasts roughly - perhaps a bit too hard, as she sat herself up with a pained look.
“Ow! careful,” she chided, trying to massage the soreness from them. “I bruise easily.”
“Oh; poor dear - here; let me have a look,” he cooed.
“Only if you promise to kiss them all better,” she pouted, coyly.
“Oh, I will,” he murmured, his eyes alight with mischief.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the shot glass he had put aside being refilled with tequila. Not long. . . not long at all, now.
Kneeling on the couch, Debbie began unbuttoning her blouse, presenting him her reddening breasts, still framed in their white lace bra.
“Oh, that’s terrible,” he teased, nuzzling his way in between them. “I think we should have to examine them further.”
He scooped the more bruised of the two out of its cup, gently rubbing small circles on it with his fingertips. Kissing at the most livid spots, he slowly nibbled his way to her areola, He played his tongue over her stiffened nipple. Suckling on it, he elicited a loud moan from Debbie - and a snort from her roommate.
Debbie undid the button on her jeans, before laying her arms over his shoulders, pulling his head from her breast. She inched closer to him as he angled himself to let her straddle him. He smiled as her legs slid behind him, his burrowing hand forcing the zipper down as he sought out the spreading dampness. There was a moment’s hesitation before her hand began to work them down her hips. No; maybe if I move this way - she pulled her legs back under herself, sliding out of her jeans as she watched Loki strip his well-tailored trousers, tossing them casually away across the room. he leaned back into the couch, one of his hands idly stroking the rim of his glass. Debbie poured herself another shot from the vodka bottle - I’m really about to do this; right in front of you, you vindictive bitch! - taking a healthy sip before positioning herself astride him.
His fingers began to trace the runes of his sorcery over her body as she settled onto him - the hand he positioned his cock with crafting tightly woven sigils on her achingly hungry slit. She let out a cry as she let herself sink onto his length-all of it disappearing into her. Gradually she fell into something resembling a rhythm on top of him, her gaze unfocused as she began to ride him.
His spells nearly complete, he pulled his hand out from under her, running his fingers up her sided to draw the remaining wards when he found himself suddenly smothered by her roommates newly- stripped lap. He felt Debbie freeze in mid-stroke as she screamed at her.
“Loreli - what the fuck?”
Irritated, though hardly surprised, Loki turned on Loreli as Debbie disengaged, lifting her petite frame from his face. Tossing her lightly but insistently back into the chair she had sprung from, he scowled at her before turning back to Debbie.
Debbie, for her part, stood shaking beside the couch, glowering at the crumpled seething ball that was her roommate. She could feel her nerve slipping away. Taking another sip of her vodka, she finally broke her stare.
“It’s all right,” Loki soothed, his hand on her shoulder quieting her rage. “I have a better position to try, anyway.” He pulled one of the cushions off of the couch, tossing it onto the floor in front of it. Pushing the coffee table away, he gestured for her to kneel. Still a bit unsteady, Debbie decided to face into the couch, leaning her head on its frame. It had the added benefit of helping her keep her back side high and her cheeks spread wide for him. Plus, from here, he can see her coming if she tries again. Nothing left for her to do from this angle.
Her head craned back as he pushed back inside of her - a loud moan pealing out of her as he hit nerves she didn’t even know she had. His hands steadying her hips comforted her, even as one of them began idly swirling over her navel in some whimsical pattern. The barest touch of his cold fingers leaving trails of goosebumps and faint scratches from his well-kept nails.
Confident now that the spells would hold, he thrust home with abandon, grinding deep into her. He took as much delight from her hoarse and cracking utterances - her voice beginning to give way - as from the heat of her that closed around him.
He should have known Loreli would not be content to wait. Perhaps he did. But when he felt her press her face against his nether it sent a chill of surprise through him. Her tongue played itself along his crack, coating the space from behind his sack up to the very edge of his anus before circling it with the tip. The sheer pleasure of it shivered through him as his rhythm slowed. Rapturous; but I cannot brook such insolence. She went still further, attempting to slip a single finger inside of him, questing for the pleasure center she knew to be there. Can you truly be this petty; this maddeningly desperate to shorten our dalliance? Gently pulling her hand out of himself, he kicked her aside with one foot before returning the full force of his attentions to Debbie.
It wasn’t much longer before he spent himself inside of her; sprawling over the slope of her back as he spurted into her. He felt his cock nearly slide out as it softened. Stumbling off of her, he managed to pull himself upright, offering his hand to Debbie to pull her up. Still light-headed, she took it, managing to wobble onto the couch with a stupefied grin.
Loki stretched himself out there, laying his head on her still-slick thigh. Settling himself into the remaining cushions beside her, he kissed her navel playfully as she absently stroked his hair.
She will come make a third attempt - he knew, even as he savored the quiet moments of the aftermath. Petty, pathetic creature. But still; for the numerical advantage alone it might be worth the attempt. Better one more than one less. I may very well need all of them if this goes poorly. And so he lifted his glass once more, taking it to his lips to flush her out. He could almost feel her slither out from behind the chair. Pulling her up by the throat, he pinned her back against the wall.
“I do not think I have ever met a creature as petty, as willing to debase itself for some illusory personal victory as you are proving to be,” he opined. “Tell me; how far are you willing to go? To what ludicrous depths are you willing to sink for this? I am forced to wonder if either of you even knows why you squabble so anymore.”
“Stephen,” she choked out, her face reddening from the hold he kept on her.
“That asshole?” Debbie blurted, struggling to pull herself up from the couch. “He was the first guy you pulled this with. You stole him just like all the rest!”
“You stole him first!” Loreli spat, struggling to pull Loki’s grip from her throat.
“That’s bullshit - you were here when he asked me out.”
“He was here - because I asked him first,” Loreli wheezed.
Loki released his hold on her, realizing it was likely to do more harm than good now. She collapsed into a heap at his feet, desperately heaving as she tried to catch her breath.
“Wait; no - he told me he came to see me,” Debbie countered.
“Yeah; a known liar told you what you wanted to hear. What a shock,” Loreli scowled up at her. “I know you’re a little naive but come on - even you should have figured that out.”
“I had no idea,” Debbie muttered, squatting down next to her. “ He totally wasn’t worth it.”
“We were besties for like three years - it never crossed your mind to ask?”
“I didn’t think you’d tell me.”
“Oh, for fucks’ sake. . . .” Loreli leaned into an unstable hug, collapsing onto Debbie in a sloppy sob.
The window of opportunity had closed. Loki weighed the option of prying at it against pursuing the others he knew awaited his attentions back at the bar and thought better of pressing his luck.
“I think I will just let you two sort yourselves out,” he declared, gathering his pants and shoes.
“Oh god. . . . I’m really sorry about all this,” Debbie apologized, still struggling to get Loreli off the floor.
“It’s all right,” Loki shrugged, pulling on his pants. “These things happen. Safe travels tomorrow - I trust this was not all bad?”
Debbie smiled in response.
“Truth? It was awesome. I wish we had the chance to do it again.”
“One never knows,” he hinted as he slipped into his shoes.
Debbie stumbled toward him, Loreli clinging to her like ivy. Stretching her free hand to Loki for a hug, she blushed when he caught it with his own instead, pulling it to his lips for a tender kiss.
“Thank you,” he sighed.
“Umm. no; thank you,” she insisted. “Sorry it got weird.”
Loki laughed, remembering the word had another meaning here.
“This? Hardly. But I had best be off. I’m sure you two wish to talk.”
“Yeah. . . . thanks.”
With that he turned to go. Pulling the door closed behind him, he took three steps out into the darkness before deciding which of his doubles to replace.
Loki’s duplicate approached the girl with the journal, knowing this would be a waiting game. He casually leant against the wall behind her, watching her drawing progress from the side. She knew he was there - he rather enjoyed the intermittent shiver that ran through her, usually ending with a wrinkle of her nose and a slight sneer. But he was content to wait, letting her process his persistence.
It also gave him time to escape his other engagements.
Besides, he was enjoying watching her work. Her hands - graphite smeared and ingrained under her haphazard manicure - seemed to pull the images from the blank page by force. She squirmed, wincing slightly as her breasts pressed against the edge of her notebook, trying to get the shading exactly as she wanted it. It was just as well she was wearing black - anything else would have been ruined.
Not a soul came by to check on her, though she clearly knew the people whose belongings she guarded. It pulled at his heart as he saw echoes of his own story there. When you are mine I will never abandon you. He decided then that this one he would be almost honest with.
He was relieved when he finally saw himself walk back in once again, though there seemed little urgency to switch out. The drawing seemed only half finished, and he was certain she would not look up before she deemed it complete.
Maybe not as long as all that, he realized, as she altered her technique. So when Barton came by to check on him, he merely nodded and vanished as Loki replaced himself.
At last, the piece was finished, and she finally turned her gaze up to acknowledge his.
“So what do you think?” she asked, her soft voice nearly lost under the noise surrounding them.
“Very good,” he replied, leaning in to examine the work closer. “You’ve given it this dream-like watery effect; softens the rather lurid scene quite nicely.”
“Accurate, then,” she concluded, though he heard the question hidden in it.
“From one perspective; it’s hardly the only one.”
She regarded him with one eyebrow cocked, as if waiting for him to say more. Judging. . .
“Alyssa,” she offered after a lengthy pause, proffering her hand.
“A pleasure,” he smiled, taking her hand as he had seen the other mortals do. “Loki.”
This raised a smile as she choked down a laugh.
“My reputation precedes me, then?”
“You must have raised hell when you were a kid.” She blushed as she said it, and he knew there was no cruelty in it.
“You know, I am not sure I have ever actually stopped.”
Her grin widened as she made room for him on the bench.
“So correct me if I am mistaken, but this does not seem like someplace you would choose to spend your time,” he queried. “Why did you come?”
“My friend,” she nodded in the direction of a cluster of people encircling a couple at the opposite end of the bar. “She really likes this guy, and she just flat out refuses to come here on her own. It’s easier than listening to her whine all week,” she shrugged in resignation.
“Hardly seems fair, does it?”
“It isn’t,” she conceded. “It’s fucking ridiculous, to be honest. But she’s a friend.”
“Forgive me, that word must have a meaning I am unacquainted with.”
“No; point taken. I just - well, I don’t have many of them. “
“ I can relate there,” he agreed.
“And you? You often go to bars to watch people draw?” she quipped.
“I do when it interests me, “ he replied off-handedly.
He gazed at her in silence, waiting for her to explain.
“So, in a bar full of normal, beautiful, college girls, you automatically seek out the freak?”
“What of it?”
She clicked her tongue and sighed.
“Nothing; just. . . look; I really don’t want to be anyone’s pity fuck, ok?”
“Excuse me?”
“That is what this is, right? Or were you hoping for something hotter than team vanilla was willing to give you?”
He tilted his head in puzzlement, his narrowing eyes framing his displeasure at the implications.
“Listen, you’re sweet and all - better looking; certainly nicer than the average tourist who just wants a taste of the wild side. But that always ends the same way. And frankly, I’m a little sick of it.”
Loki cackled at that.
“You think me tame? I have seen horrors you cannot even begin to dream - much less execute. Tortures so severe - so excruciating - it would break you a thousand times over. I could scar you to your very soul, and you would still be crying my name. That is, if you had the strength.” This last he murmured into her ear, taking the lobe between his teeth.
She gasped, her breath ragged as her entire body clenched at his touch. Her eyes were wide as he leaned back to read her features. She repressed the shiver; smothering it down beneath an angry mask.
“Slow down, killer. You don’t even know me yet,” she hissed.
“Oh, but I do,” he insisted. “You spend your nights hostage to a vainglorious coward, who uses you like a prop for her own flaccid ego. Because it’s easier for you to hide here than to let yourself shine, lest they come for you again. Punishing you for your intellect, for the beauty you go to great lengths to hide. They nearly killed you then - they’ll pay for that,” he promised darkly.
“You’ve spent so long using your silence as a sheath for your insight that when you finally do draw it out, you cut down everything in your path - including yourself. You still feel their hands on you sometimes when you wake screaming. And you keep hoping that if you bury it deep enough under feigned strength and bravado that it will all fade away. Tell me - has that worked? It never did for me.”
Alyssa stared at him, visibly shaken. How. . . .
“But worst of all, you remember how much more comfortable you were apostate rather than prostrate, and a part of you will always long to get back to that state again. I could take you there - at least, I could show you the way. But the first step is yours to take.”
She closed her eyes, one hand clenching over her jaw as she winced against his words. The familiar creeping numbness overtook her as she sat there, her head shaking in her muzzling grip. Just like when I was cornered - twelve years old, facing down four junior year jocks. Frozen.
“Why?” she whimpered from behind her hand.
“You needed convincing,” he replied flippantly. “Are you ready?”
“I mean why the fuck does it matter to you?” she spat. I finally get the fact that the world doesn’t gives a shit whether I live or die - why are you doing this? What gives you the right? She fumed internally. The sensation of years of carefully constructed mental defenses crumbling came over her like vertigo. She scrambled for thoughts, trying to muster some greater opposition.
“I could give you any number of reasons - pour flattery over you like wine. All of which you would reject. But in the end, the reasons are irrelevant. You are mine, and therefore, it matters.”
Alyssa forced her face to relax, hoping to ease the headache that was setting in. Isn’t this how people get killed doing this? Why do I think that might not be the worst that could happen here?
“Weird way to start a fling,” she rasped.
“Is that all you think I offer?” he protested, glowering.
She dropped her gaze to the floor, numb with shock and uncertainty. And I thought I’d been faking it so well. . . . Finally she turned to face him, still shivering.
“Let me make a call,” she stammered.
He sat back, watching her walk outside to make her call - her generous hips swaying as she walked. Soon. . . .
The call was very brief, so Alyssa was more than a little dismayed when she returned to find Loki at the edge of the dance floor, sipping on a scotch.
“Probably shouldn’t finish that if we’re going to do this. It’s about a half-hour drive from here, and I booked us for 2:30”
Loki merely smiled over the rim of his glass.
“OK, playing buzzed is fine; whatever. But no way I’m letting you drive there drunk.”
“Oh, I don’t drive,” he replied smoothly, before signaling to Barton. “Did you want to bother saying your farewells, or shall we simply adjourn?”
Glancing back over toward her friends, she swallowed hard. None of them returned her gaze.
“Let’s go,” she answered sorrowfully.
Without a word, Barton headed for the exit, disappearing into the thinning crowd with disturbing ease. Loki took his time finishing his drink before offering her his hand. She took it reluctantly, still quavering. She was taken aback by how cold his hands were, especially in the steamy heat of the bar. She followed closely behind him, still half-hoping someone might notice her leaving.
They didn’t.
Loki paused outside the bar, leaning casually on the building, making silent measurements in his head as he positioned a knot in his scarf. Alyssa stood closer to the curb, looking out at the traffic-bare streets for their ride. Hearing the engine start off in the distance, she turned to find Loki suddenly standing directly beside her. He leered down at her before pinning her arms behind her, securing them with the scarf.
“Oh god; are you crazy?” she snapped, struggling to pull away in embarrassment.
He chuckled at the compliment, continuing to wrap the scarf around her waist before pulling it through her legs as the car pulled up. Shoving her face first against the side of the vehicle, he lifted her off the ground by the neck - pinning her with his body as he brought his knee under her. Terrified now, Alyssa froze as she felt him reach for her ankles, crossing them under her before tying them in the other end of the scarf, pulling the knot into position against her crotch. OK. . . . this game I know. . . . she realized, thought it did little to slow her frantic pulse.
Finishing the tie, he slid his arms under her armpits, holding her aloft as Barton came around to open the door. Hefting her up roughly, he slid her into the car feet first before stepping in after her. He pulled her head into his open lap, trailing his fingers over the ties and tugging at them playfully.
“Where to?” Clint inquired, back in the drivers seat.
It took her a few tries to get the address out without stuttering.
Loki stared down at her, reading her features for every minute reaction. Sliding his hand down her blouse, he took her whole breast in his hand, squeezing it roughly before rolling the nipple in between his still-cold thumb and forefinger for a lingering pinch. This set her writhing, her neck craning against his leg. Slowly he twisted it, barely scratching it with the edge of his nail before pulling his hand back out to trail down over the dome of her soft belly. Her expression shifted from pleasure to concern as he swirled lazily over it. He widened the circles, slipping down the ridge of her belly to her crotch. The hot dampness of her leggings brought a tight lipped smile to his face. Curious, he returned to caressing her stomach, watching her reaction again. She squirmed under his touch, trying to distract his attentions elsewhere. Refusing to be swayed, he traced the outline of her navel, curlicuing around the delicate piercing she had in it several times. Arching her head further into his lap, she pressed her cheek to his still-clothed stiffness hungrily.
“This troubles you,” he observed, resting his hands over it. “Why?”
“It’s ummm. . . . Not my most flattering feature. Bigger than I’d like,”she confessed haltingly. “Someone asked me if I was pregnant last week; I nearly decked them.”
“Were they blind or merely stupid?”
“Ha - neither. Just thinner.”
“Petty jealousy, then - no doubt she was infertile.” he jibed dismissively.
“Shit, I’d be happy to trade for that,” she averred.
“Surely not,” he protested in surprise.
“Well, yeah,” she stated. “The time? the patience? The money? - everything it takes to raise a kid I either don’t have or can’t get - why the hell would I put someone through this shitty existence?”
“You may yet change your mind,” he murmured.
“No one’s managed it yet,” she declared.
He smiled quietly, cupping her breast again. Oh, let me persuade you. . . because one way or another, you will. Twisting her nipple hard again, he watched her strain at the ties on her as the spasm shot through her.
Pulling up close to the lobby doors of the nondescript office building, Barton let the engine idle while Loki unbound her before alighting from the car. Offering her his arm, he helped her from the car, holding her steady.
“Should I wait?” Clint enquired.
“No, thank you. I’ll find my own way home,” he replied dismissively.
He led her to the lobby, only slightly taken aback by the hastily departing couple headed the opposite way. Alyssa glanced at the woman apologetically, hoping they hadn’t been forced to cut it short on her account.
Catching the elevator doors just before they closed, she pulled a key out from the zippered compartment of her purse, inserting it into the floor lock on the button panel.
“Just so you know, here are the house rules. No penetration, no unaccompanied guests, and no borrowing other people’s toys,” she explained. “My safe word is Argent - so if I say it, everything stops.”
“Of course,” he agreed, already picking apart which rules he would ignore.
Stepping out onto the fifth floor, they were greeted by a very large, powerfully built bald gentleman in what appeared to be a uniform. in place of a badge, there was a rainbow flag on the sleeve, with another blue and black flag underneath it.
“Hey, sweetie - long time no see!” he exclaimed eagerly, air-kissing Alyssa. “How you been?”
“Been all right - bit of a dry spell; you know how it is. How’s Freddy?”
“Doing better; I’ll tell him you said hi,” he smiled, scrutinizing Loki carefully in spite of his joviality.
“Oh, this is Loki - Loki, Jeff. Is there anyone on the schedule I should know about?”
“Nothing until the morning rush, hon - go to town. I’ll be in the office if you need me.”
“Thanks, Jeff,” she said, turning back to Loki. “I’m just going to go change.”
“As you like,” he replied, looking the place over distractedly. A long, segmented serpentine wall blocked the view from the elevators, creating a waiting area. It was sedately decorated with fake plants, the pots of which, on closer examination, had numerous small keys secreted into the roots. There was an unnatural hush about the place - the conspicuous silence of concealment. Clearly, a lot of people had gone to great lengths to keep this place secret.
It seemed to be taking far too long for her to merely be changing. Giving in to his curiosity, he peeked into the locker room to see what was keeping her.
She was huddled in a chair, topless and piercing removed, appearing to be polishing a shiny fuchsia top. Smears of powder clung to her newly-donned and equally shiny skirt, lending the whole affair a Sisyphean air. He laughed at the absurd futility of it.
“Be there in a minute,” she snapped, her tongue clicking in irritation.
“Come here,” he commanded, still chuckling.
Sighing in frustration, she did as he ordered, handing him her top and the glide gel.
“Arms up,” he ordered, lavishing the gel onto the bodice.
“I can dress myself,” she snapped.
“No doubt, though I’d prefer to get started some time this week,” he quipped. “Arms up - I am only going to ask you twice.”
Rolling her eyes, she complied.
Pulling the top over her bosom proved challenging - the latex seemed stretched to its very limit, but eventually everything slid into place. Turning her around for an inspection, he wiped away the errant smears that dappled across the otherwise perfect gloss with slow circular strokes.
“Well, since this is a formal occasion. . . .” he smirked, beginning to transform.
“By all means,” she began, grabbing the coil of rope and turning away before he could begin. “I’ll be in the corner room.”
Mad - the lot of them; utterly and inexorably mad. You are about to let me ravish you, and you fear watching me change into the clothing in which I will do it. He shook his head in his hands. He strode out of the changing room after her, newly clad in his armor - sans helmet. The scarf was dangling from between the straps on his tunic. She peered nervously over her shoulder, a bit afraid of what he could possibly have got on in such a short time.
“Wow. . .That’s pretty hardcore. Where the hell did you hide all that?”
“I’ll never tell,” he lilted mischievously.
“Jeff is going to wet himself when he sees you.”
“Another time, perhaps. Lead on,” he drawled, taking the rope coil from her.
She led him around the narrow corridor the screen wall created, finally resting her hand on the doorknob of the corner studio. Turning it nervously, she let the door fall open into the room, allowing him to inspect it first before closing it quietly behind herself. Head downcast, she slunk meekly to the x-frame in the corner, stretching her arms and legs out over it. Loki buckled her into the constraints one cuff at a time. Once he had her secured, he paced in front of her, tantalizingly just out of reach. Her gaze followed him - uncertain; pleading.
“Have you been true to yourself?” he began, folding his arms behind his back.
“It’s a simple question,” he insisted. “Have you been true to yourself?”
“I. .. . I think so, master.” she declared hesitantly.
“Really, now? And caving in to that manipulative coward? That strikes you as being true to yourself?” he mocked, pulling the coarse hemp rope free from its coils in harsh measured pulls.
“From one perspective,” she defended weakly.
“It is a flawed perspective; and one I will not have you employ again,” he hissed in her ear. “You will no longer keep company with anyone that treats you thus.”
He freed the scarf from under his armor, wrapping it over her eyes. Tying it securely behind her head, he leaned in again to murmur “And this is so you do not forget it.”
Lifting the bottom of her latex top just over her breasts, he placed the rope just under them, winding it between her back and the cross. Pulling them taut over her opposing arms, he cuffed them to the cross before threading the ends through and back into the chest band. These he worked down to her thighs, hoisting them tight to the frame and pulling them apart wider. Her head fell back against the frame as she gasped.
Tugging on it to check the tension, he spiraled the trailing end around her calf, dragging the strand until it bit into her flesh. She inhaled sharply, straining against the ties as her body tried to arc. Her leg began to quiver in his hands, twitching wildly in his steadying grasp. He took it slower with the other leg, letting her languish there as the friction built. Her high-pitched barely audible yelps brought a twisted smile to his face.
Finishing his design on her legs, he rose up and pressed himself hard to her, murmuring close to her ear.
“Now tell me -what are we not to do in future?”
She bucked against him - at least, part of her did as the ropes holding her to the frame bit in deeper. Her cries came out in a breathy whine.
“I will only ask twice,” he reminded her ominously.
“Not. . . . I’m not,” she stammered, trying to get the words to form up.
”Don’t spend time with people who just use me,” She wheezed uncertainly.
He debated momentarily whether to accept this paraphrased version, deciding eventually to be merciful.
“Very good,” he breathed into her ear, letting the rope ends fall from his hands. They slowly loosened themselves, falling away from her calves eventually. He ran his fingers over the burns tenderly, conjuring a minuscule blade of ice as he did. She struggled to pull her leg away from his ministrations, only managing to make him cut where he had meant to soothe.
“Such eagerness,” he purred, turning his attentions upward. Folding the top of her latex skirt down, he exposed the curve of her abdomen. Bringing himself to eye level with it, he began to trace the sigils of his spells onto it with the icicle. She fought herself to remain still, though he could feel her insides quavering under his touch. He chanted quietly while he worked, the arcane lyrics of the protection charm slipping easily from his tongue.
He felt her body shift as she turned her head toward the sound, trying to look at him through the blindfold.
“Is.. . . is that Norse?”
He grinned up at her from where he worked. Caressing the now-raised sigils across the expanse of her belly, he landed a kiss on the shivering rise.
“Something like that,” he answered after finishing the song. “Do you speak it?”
“No; heard it a few times in my classes. It’s pretty; what does it mean?”
“It’s an old song I remember hearing when I was younger,” he dissembled dismissively.
“Sing it again,” she implored. “Please?”
“Another time,” he promised, leering. Surely that counts as consent?
Drawing himself back up against her, he flicked the blade from his fingers into the distance before caressing her in one long, slow glide from her thighs to her breasts. Pushing her head aside roughly, he bit hard at her throat, working the skin until it bruised. She arced into him again, straining to touch him with every part of herself. Slipping one arm between the framework and her hips he ground her to him, savoring the nonsensical song of her pleasure.
“Do you think yourself worthy?” he whispered into her ear, taking the lobe between his lips.
“No, master,” she moaned, haltingly.
He frowned, pausing to realign.
“Would you like to be?”
“Yes - ohgodyespleasemaster!”
He took her breast in one hand, pinching the stiff nipple through the latex.
“And do you swear to do anything I might ask?”
“. . . .Um, hang on,” she slurred, the automatic reflex of a student of mythology kicking in. “Need more specifics.”
Damn - underestimated you. Just have to work a little harder. . . .
He slid down her length, rubbing her whole body with his own as he pulled up her skirt. Nuzzling into her groin, he tore away the sodden panties, letting them fall away without a care. Flickering his tongue over her inflamed clitoris, he closed his lips over it, pulling on it ever so gently. He felt the cross shake as she threw her head back, groaning. Darting in and out of her folds, he worked her into a froth, alternating between hitting hard on her clit with the tip and slowly circling it. He lingered there, taking her over the edge, hoping she would forget to question him again. Wiping his chin across her thigh, he stood before her once more.
“I will only ask twice,” he muttered darkly, standing just slightly out of reach. “Do you swear to do anything I might ask?”
She struggled to speak, her labored breathing choking the words back down.
“Limits.. . .” she managed to utter finally.
“No; there are no limits,” he pronounced, inching back further from her. “You will or you will not; I have not come to haggle.”
“Ar. . . . Argent.” she choked out, trying to shake free of the blindfold.
He laughed cruelly, pulling it from her so she could face him.
“Did you think I would demand nothing of you?” he leered, leaning in close to her face. “I have needs of my own, you know.”
“And I’ll be glad to help you - with some of them. But that word - anything. There are things I cannot and will not do.” she replied shakily.
“You must know I would never ask of you something that would be impossible.”
“No; I actually don’t,” she shot back. “I’m not even sure we can agree on what that word means.”
“Carry my seed,” he stated, his hand over her womb as he stared into her eyes.
Her jaw fell open, aghast. It took her several fuming breaths to try and give voice to her objections.
“Exactly how am I supposed to justify all the pain, all the privation, the mockery of their peers and everything else they get to suffer through - because it turns you on? Can you honestly tell me you’re okay with doing that to someone you haven’t met yet?”
Loki turned from her, pacing as he pondered his options. I’m sorry, I truly am. . . . He drew the staff out from the space between spaces, placing the tip to her heart.
The look of abject terror that she shot him gave him pause. Closing his eyes, he unleashed it, taking control of her mind. He could barely bring himself to watch her eyes glaze over dazzling blue.
“My . . . my Lord,” she she stammered shyly.
“And do you swear it now?” he asked, his voice cracking.
“I do; my Lord, I swear. . .”
He closed his mouth over hers, unwilling to hear the rest - tainted as it was. Instead he let her kiss him back, her aching hunger almost helping him forget.
“Then I deem you worthy,” he muttered, pulling his stiffening member free from his leather pants. He positioned himself against her dripping orifice, slipping his length into her slowly. Her tight flesh gripped at him hungrily. Steadying himself on the side of the cross, he thrust in harder, gradually picking up both speed and intensity. Alyssa - try as she might - could not keep pace; the ropes began to draw blood where they held her, and her strength had begun to wane.Twining his fingers into her hair, he pulled her mouth to his own, all but devouring her.
“Our daughter will be magnificent,” he growled, punctuating his words with his thrusting. “Worlds will tremble for her. Her wit will cut lies from the tongues that tell them. And with her siblings, she will reweave the fate of us all. This is what I ask of you.”
He thrust home wildly, bestial snarling accompanying every stroke. He wasn’t sure exactly at what point Alyssa lost consciousness, but by the time he finally climaxed she was already limp. He rested there, still buried to the hilt in her as he softened. Recovering himself, he made himself another blade of ice, slicing the ropes from her before undoing the constraints on her ankles. Resting her enervated body on his bent knee, he freed her wrists, laying them around his shoulders. He cradled her to his chest, teleporting them back to her bedroom.
Loki lay her down on the bed. Her eyes barely cracked open as she met the surface. She reached for him feebly, a weary moan escaping her lips.
“Rest now,” he murmured. “You will need all your strength. When this battle is over, I will come to claim you.”
She whimpered as he pulled away from her - whether out of heartfelt need or physical pain he did not know. He glanced back one last time from her doorway, saddened by the dazzled gaze that stared back. Lowering his eyes, he turned away, closing the door behind him before returning himself to replace his last remaining duplicate.
Loki’s double knew it was in over its head once the three women finally finished their first round and headed for the open and none too crowded dance floor. If his observations were anything to go by, there didn’t seem to be any agreement on form when it came to dancing on Midgard. He set himself up somewhere he could surreptitiously watch the proceedings - and his intended - to try and better understand the art. Odin had never been one for physical pastimes that did not include bloodshed as an ideal goal. But this - the formlessness of it gave him hope even as it shot him through with dread - the sight of awkwardly flailing attempts by others were greeted with scorn and derision by the very people they sought to woo. Worse still, some who moved elegantly were spurned for seeming too polished - too flashy. The rhythm of it at least made some sense to him, though how best to follow it eluded him still.
The one problem with relying on a drunken dance floor population for cover was their irksome tendency to migrate. Loki couldn’t tell what it was about the song that made the mortals suddenly desire the comforts of the bar after they had held out for so long, but it unnerved him to be so suddenly exposed with as yet no clearer idea of how to proceed. He knew he had been spotted - her two compatriots glaring in his direction and whispering to one another made it plain he would face some opposition. He turned his attention to his illusory beverage, contemplating his next move.
Selvig sidled up to him, reeking of beer and the familiar stench of the herbal concoction he dimly recalled formulating centuries earlier as a cold remedy - odd to see it served as a beverage now.
“Wha’s the matter?” he slurred, stumbling as he tried to lean on his shoulder.
“Merely assessing the terrain,” he answered coldly. “I cannot quite understand the rules of play.”
“’s dancing,” Selvig explained. As if to demonstrate, he slid smoothly out onto the floor, turning to face Loki with a half spin. The scientist began to sway vaguely in time with the song, his hands loosely clasped in front of him as though churning something.
Loki watched as every pair of eyes turned to watch Selvig’s performance. I really should not kill him here, though I suspect none would blame me, he pondered. Still. . . .with a distraction this grand, I could only look better in comparison.
He felt the rising crimson scorch his cheeks when Selvig waved for him to join him on the dance floor. Choosing instead to make his entrance somewhere out of Selvig’s line of sight, he stepped into the thinning crowd, joining the dance between Selvig and the three ladies - who now alternated between laughing fits and dancing themselves. Picking a set of easy, casual motions, he almost fell into the rhythm, his pacing not yet used to the ruthless digital syncopation.
I should probably lose the drink, he realized as the sloshing spill from one of the other people on the dance floor passed right through him. Mercifully, no one seemed to notice, still agog at the spectacle Selvig was busy making of himself. He stole a glance over to see what, if any, reaction the three had to it all. Please let them not link me to the lunatic barely a yard behind me.
Sadly, they had. Though at least only her two guardians seemed to view it poorly. He caught her patient smile as he edged into her orbit. He lowered his head to her in a subtle salute, his eyelids fluttering ever so slightly as he met her gaze. She shyly covered her widening grin with a single curved finger. Her guardians seemed content to keep a wary distance for the time being, much to his relief. Emboldened, he continued their non-verbal conversation, cocking his head as he watched her to learn her moves. She nodded encouragingly once she finally puzzled out what he was trying to do. This went on for several songs, The changes in tempo less abrupt than he might have expected, though the tone of the movement on the floor shifted with each new song - possibly the lyrics, half of which I cannot even understand. Occasionally she would stop, catch his eye, and repeat what she had done, smiling brightly once he seemed to get the hang of it. Her attentions toward him were clearly becoming a source of consternation to at least one of her friends, who interjected herself between them. Though he could not hear anything of their conversation, the nigh-universal gesture of a cup being drunk was all he needed to see. Ah; an opening; and possibly this will mollify them a bit. He reasserted himself, gesturing that this round was on him. Flagging down Clint, he watched as the other girl stared in rapt mortification at Selvig’s continued attempts at dancing.
“Whatever the girls want and something to sedate him,” he ordered, rolling his eyes toward the debacle in progress.
“That can be arranged,” Clint laughed. “Wouldn’t want to drive him home after. Just sayin’ ”
Loki winced at the prospect.
“Just. . . . distract him, could you?”
“I’ll do my best, my Lord.”
Loki glanced around, anxiously, wondering how much longer before he could materialize. They were past the part where he should have offered his hand; should have leaned in for a quick word or a kiss. And while it seemed to ease at least one of her guardian’s fears, he knew it could easily backfire if he didn’t make some kind of contact soon. Ah - at last. The duplicate dissipated as Loki replaced him. Only two now - child’s play, he gloated internally. Time to switch stratagems. He began deliberately mangling the motions repeatedly - simply not quite following the third, fourth, fifth time she repeated them. She shook her head, her eyes rolling with impatience as she pulled herself behind him.
“Not like that,” she scolded lightly, her delicate hands resting on his hips. “Like this.” She guided him through the motion with her hands.
Loki turned himself in her grip, facing her as he repeated the move - slightly less incorrectly this time.
“Like this?”
“Almost. . . . .here,” she stepped back to demonstrate it once more before leaning up into his ear again. “Gently. Just ease into it.”
“Oh,” he chuckled. “Like that.”
At the bar, Clint found himself at a disadvantage. Selvig needed to be dealt with quickly, quietly, and in a way that wouldn’t mess up operations back on base. A basic distraction - just something to get him off the floor for a while. He scanned the bar for someone to throw at him. He caught sight of some familiar faces from back at base skulking in the corner booth, doing their damnedest to dissociate themselves from Selvig. One at the furthest edges of the table locked eyes with him before turning away sheepishly. Oh, so this is your fault. . . . Like hell am I letting you sic him on us for a ride home. Working his way toward the bar, he spied the cougar Loki had pointed out earlier. From the looks of it, she was having no luck tonight at all. She sat near the edge of the bar, nursing her drink as she idly tapped her foot along with the music, Boredom seemed to settle on her like a shroud.
Well, it’s never bad to have a back-up. Bit of a long-shot, though. . . .
Ambling up to the bar, he nodded casually to her as he waited for the bartender to get to him. He caught her smile as she looked him over.
“How’s it goin’ ?” he said, opening the conversation.
“Doing ok,” she replied, the smile reaching the lines around her eyes. “You?”
“Pretty good,” he countered, just as the bartender reached him. “Okay - a Cosmo, a Fuzzy Navel, one cherry coke, two beers and whatever the lady wants.”
“I’ll make it easy on you - make that two Cosmos,” she chuckled to the bartender. “Here with friends, I gather?”
“Yeah, kind of,” he demured before changing the subject. “ So it kind of seems like you want to dance. What’s stopping you?”
“Never did like dancing alone,” she confessed.
“Pretty sure you wouldn’t be alone for long,” he observed with non-committal slyness.
The two beers appeared on the bar first, followed shortly by the cherry coke. Handing over another of his anonymous prepaid cards, he eyed the mercenary table, making sure the rat bastards hadn’t run out on him yet.
“Want me to run a tab?” the bartender inquired.
“Nah; we’re good.”
The two Cosmos eventually appeared, followed eventually by the Fuzzy Navel. Sliding one of the Cosmos toward the cougar as he signed the bill, he took up the other and the Fuzzy Navel for delivery.
“Back in five; keep an eye on these for me?” he asked the cougar, heading out before she could even answer.
Threading his way back to them, he handed off the Fuzzy Navel first, hoping to ease her friends protective zeal. The song was just ending as he handed over the Cosmo to Loki’s girl. It took him but a moment to realize he had her hand in his. Oh good; you’re back.  Oh Shit. . . . .
“Wasn’t sure if you were ready for another round,” he bluffed, seeking to fend off any offense his lord might take.
“Oh yes; yes of course,” Loki answered absently, barely even looking his way. “The same again, I think.”
Clint winced, suppressing the complaint. Drinking with demigods really breaks the bank. He tried to remember how much he had left on any of the cards he had with him. It’s no good; gonna have to switch to cash. Fishing out a twenty from his wallet, he caught the bartender once more.
“I forgot one; Balvenie, neat.”
The bartender raised an eyebrow, taking the bill from him before turning back to the top shelf behind him.
Clint couldn’t help but notice the cougar eyeing him with renewed interest. Oh hell; this just keeps getting better and better. Taking up the single malt and the soda, he waved away the change the bartender tried to offer - what little there was of it - before whisking them off to Loki. Handing them off, he tapped Selvig on the shoulder on his way back to the bar.
“Come have a drink,” he urged.
Selvig grinned at him stupefied, throwing an arm over Barton’s shoulder. Oh wonderful. . . .
“That was so sweet; thank you,” she lilted, raising her glass to Loki.
“Oh, the pleasure is all mine,” Loki smiled, the very portrait of gentility as he tried to choose a name to use. “I’m Alec, by the way.”
They stood at the edge of the dance floor, watching the crowd flow to fill the hole left by Selvig’s sudden absence.
“So where are you from?” she inquired, sipping at the pink concoction in her hands.
“London,” he said, defaulting to the opinion he’d often heard discussed by his most recent underlings. It was as honest as any answer Odin had given him.
“Oh wow - so how do you like it here so far?”
“Well, there’s a lot I still have to get used to, but I think I’m slowly warming to the place.”
“I know what you mean. I have family back on Bermuda - totally different world. I mean, it’s a lovely island, but there’s so much I can’t get used to. Too much I take for granted. So what brings you over?”
“Pardon?” he blinked, not quite sure where she was leading.
“Why did you come here?”
“Oh, business. Also some family issues; but the less said about that, the better.”
“Oh, I totally feel you there. I have a few issues with my own,” she sighed, stabbing at the fruit in her Cosmo.
“What happened - if you don’t mind me asking,” he queried, carefully giving her the out he knew she’d never take.
She sighed heavily - a rasping exhalation that spoke volumes in itself.
“You sure you even want to hear my drama? I mean - we just met, and it’s been a lovely night so far. I don’t want to bore you with my crap.”
“It’s not boring - but if it troubles you to speak of it, then let us leave it lie.”
She shook her head, her braids swaying with a playfulness that belied the dark tone of her mood.
“I came home to the guy I’d been dating for two years screwing my younger sister.”
“Oh my. . . .” Loki gasped, a pained expression unfolding across his features.
“Yeah; I know. . . . I still can’t quite wrap my head around it.”
“That’s absolutely contemptible. Tell me, has he been slain yet?”
Toni burst out into laughter.
“Oh you. . . .” she chortled, trying to catch her breath. “No, but you’ll have to wait in line.”
“Ah, of course - no doubt your father would want that honor.”
“”You crazy? No force on earth would make me tell my dad - he’d have the whole congregation baying for blood. I’m embarrassed enough as it is.”
“Forgive me; I only wished. . .”
“Forget it; it’s okay. Ugh - I don’t even want to think about it anymore. Let’s just dance.”
Loki nodded, following her out into the crowd. He watched her entire expression shift in a matter of minutes - the anguish drained away by sheer force of motion and music. Practices he knew were still used in some of the more ancient forms of magic. He had never for a moment imagined he’d see them used with such disregard here. They were joined shortly by one of her friends shoe-horning herself into their shared space. Loki cast a questioning glance toward Toni, who shook her head.
“That’s just Lisa - don’t sweat it.”
They danced for two, maybe three songs - an awkward triad under the colored lights. Loki searched the thinning crowd for his archer - surely he’s managed to neutralize Selvig by now. He eventually caught sight of him near the door, shoving the scientist into an occupied booth. Lisa seemed rather determined to drag Toni off the dance floor, so he was not surprised when she excused herself, retrieving her other friend on their way to the restroom. So, this is how fates are decided on Midgard. . . toilet-side deliberation. He found a seat near the edge of the dance floor, reuniting with his scotch as he waited for them to emerge from their council. He knew things were reaching a critical point with the artist - taking the opportunity to switch out his duplicate after a sip or two to wash the lingering taste of tequila and exertion from his palate. Ah. . . . now comes the challenging part.
Having managed to dump Selvig back on his lab assistants, Barton checked up on both Lokis, assessing where he’d be needed most.
“Where’d they go?” Clint inquired.
“Retired to the toilet, deciding my fate, I suspect,” Loki smiled, a dark, tinted weariness dulling even his lord’s duplicate’s eyes. “I’ll need you close - I may need your hands.”
Clint nodded, keeping a careful eye on the corner occupied by the actual Loki and his artist.
The girls emerged from the restroom, though Toni lingered with her other friend for a while, their gazes flitting between himself and Lisa when they were not locked in conspiratorial huddle. It told him all he needed to know.
“Success, I believe,” he muttered to Clint as he drew his attention to them.
Clint was more distracted by the turn of tone in the corner between his lord’s more tangible self and the artist. He didn’t need to hear what was being said to know things had taken an angry turn. The problem might just resolve itself, Clint thought. Which is why he was utterly surprised by the thumbs up from Loki as the girl hurried past on her way out.
The duplicate managed to check out her ass by smoothly incorporating the move into a searching sweep for his other intended. His innocent smile when he caught Toni’s eye was a masterpiece.
Toni returned his smile from across the crowd, having been set upon by Lisa once again. She rolled her eyes before being subsumed in the bickering.
Which is when it all began to unravel, of course. The double lifted its illusory glass to fake a sip - just as the artist returned, and headed straight for him.
“Probably shouldn’t finish that if we’re going to do this. It’s about a half-hour drive from here, and I booked us for 2: 30,” the other woman said.
Instantly, Barton slipped himself directly into Toni’s line of sight, obscuring the exchange as best he could. The duplicate merely smiled over the rim of his glass. Have to remember to increase the distinction between our selves next time I try this, faux Loki mused.
“Okay, playing buzzed is fine; whatever. But no way I’m letting you drive there drunk.”
“Oh, I don’t drive,” the duplicate replied, his unruffled bluff smothering the panic. He signaled Clint closer. “Did you want to bother saying your farewells, or shall we simply adjourn?”
He watched her glance around for her comrades, none of whom took any notice. It gave him just enough time to switch places again as he sipped down the last of the Balvenie. Carefully he sent the double on an interception course toward Toni, it’s eyebrow raised in concern.
Barton, on his way to the door, caught Selvig by the shoulder.
“Cover him - I might be gone a while.”
Selvig raised his glass with a stupefied grin before staggering out toward the double.
“Everything all right?” Loki inquired, coming upon Toni’s clique still in heated discussion.
“It’s fine,” Toni began, before Lisa shut her down.
“She’s fine - you just need to back off is all.”
“Pardon?” he said, his expression one of confused offense as he turned toward Toni. “Have I done anything untoward? Did I offend in some way?”
“No, no - please - Lisa, just. . . .” Toni stammered.
“No, I just know you - you smell blood in the water and think you can just snap her up,” Lisa seethed. “Not gonna happen.”
“You wound me,” he yelped. “But worse than that, you insult her - someone whom I had the impression you had called a friend - by presuming so little of her presence of mind.”
“Oh, you’d love her to believe that. Like we don’t know when one of our own is hurting,” Lisa raved on. “I’ve known her for years -years! You think I can’t tell when she’s about to do something stupid?”
“Woah - you did not just. . .” Toni started in again, indignant.
Ronnie threw up her hands, jumping in to referee.
“All of you shut up! Fucking hell. Lisa - chill out before you say something even worse. You don’t even know the man.”
“He’s a man - what is there to know?” Lisa shot back.
“Really? we’re having this talk again?”
“If I may,” Loki interjected. Since you are so terribly concerned that I’ll do something scandalous, what if I promise not to lay a hand on her for the rest of the night.”
“It’s not just your hands I’m worried ‘bout.”
“Fine; or any other part of me. Will that satisfy you?”
“Yeah, bring it. I catch you at it, though, and I’ll beat your ass so bad you won’t even know what hit you.”
“If I cannot even keep such a simple promise, I’d deserve it,” he professed, silencing his delight at how easily his tangibility problem had been solved.
“Can we just just dance now? It’s past 2 already,” Toni whined, “And I really don’t want to go home yet.”
Ronnie shrugged, heading over to the bar - half-dragging Lisa in her wake.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Toni chided him, pouting.
“The promise? Do not worry yourself. As ordeals go, it is a minor one,” he chuckled, almost reaching to stroke her cheek. “Well, not as simple as that, I suppose. Though I should have asked this before. . . .”
He leaned in as close to her ear as he dared, still leaving visible distance. “How long before the sun rises here?”
At that, Toni broke out into a wicked grin, leading him out onto the emptying dance floor.
Loki didn’t even mind when Selvig joined them out there. Though he wasn’t surprised when Lisa made a point of edging into their cluster. It didn’t take long for Selvig to take Lisa’s aggressive movements as a personal challenge, his own dancing becoming more flamboyant by the minute. It quickly turned competitive in a way that was utterly lost on Loki. Toni, however, found it endlessly amusing. He merely shrugged as he gave them room to move.
“Last Call!”
The cry came from the bartender as the music was muted for a moment. It was barely necessary. Beyond the one table near the door and a smattering of regulars at the bar, the only people still in the bar were themselves and the cougar, who had taken up the gauntlet of the odd dance-off in the corner.
The last song of the night came on - at least, Loki earnestly hoped it was the last, and that some severe head trauma would one day erase the memory of Selvig and the cougar caterwauling along to “Dancing Queen”
“So, we’re thinking about going to breakfast,” Toni informed him.
“That sounds lovely,” he mused.
She seemed to suddenly be having a great deal of difficulty looking at him. Her hands tangled themselves behind her back as she swayed slightly, determined not to lose his bet for him.
“Would you like to come with us?”
“Yes, I would; I’d be delighted to, though I’ve no idea how I would get there.”
“You didn’t drive? Oh, right - that whole other side of the road thing. Let me talk to Ronnie. I’m sure there’s room.”
Loki smiled, piecing together the puzzle of the unspoken.
The negotiations went smoothly enough until Lisa joined in. he’d made a point of keeping his distance, though the musics absence made it impossible not to overhear.
“Are you out of your mind?” seemed to be a popular refrain with Lisa, who must have said it, or some variation of it, at least fifteen times since the discussion of his catching a lift opened up. Selvig seemed at loose ends - sincerely wanting to help his prince; clueless as to how he might. He settled on eavesdropping in order to figure out what diner he should lead his crew to.
Toni at last came over, informing him it’d be okay.
“Just don’t let her bait you,” she warned.
“Oh, fret not; far worse than she have tried.”
She smiled, a pained little grin as she ached to hold his hand.
This is working even better than I dared to hope, he exulted silently.
Eventually they all managed to stagger out of the bar toward Ronnie’s car. If he happened to spot his archer tucked away into a shadow down one of the side streets, he must have neglected to mention it, though he did wave for him to follow. He opted instead to try and squeeze into the Corolla with the girls.
“Lisa, just let him take shotgun,” Ronnie demanded, after the third attempt at cramming himself into the back seat ended with his knees around his own ears. Toni hid her face in her hands, both mortified and amused.
“Fine,” she huffed, throwing the car door open violently.
Loki unfurled himself as gracefully as he could manage, discreetly checking the horizon for daylight. as he slid into the front seat. Turning his head, he found he could only see Toni, seated behind the drivers seat. She peered up from between her fingers, her smile evident even in her rolled eyes. He nodded his reassurance. After all; he’d had far worse. . . .
So, Alec - who was that old guy,” Ronnie asked once they were at last in motion.
“Oh, he works for me,” he offered.
“That’s going to be fun at the office tomorrow.”
“I’ve rather gotten used to it,” he replied glumly. “It was almost the same back home.”
“Really? Wow. . . . that’s just crazy.”
The rest of the ride was fairly quiet, the primary interactions consisting of pulled faces and teasing stolen glances between himself and Toni - and Lisa, as she stewed, watching them flirt like children.
The diner left Loki with many conflicting impressions. The large parking lot was considerably more full than he would have imagined at that hour. The chrome and neon bedecked frame housed large windows with views from every possible angle. And oh, was it bright. Compared to the bar, this was a veritable oasis of light, and he found himself squinting to lessen the glare. Lingering behind the group a bit, he managed to barely slide in between the closing doors to the restaurant. It didn’t take long for them to get a table -a large booth near the middle - possibly the most conspicuous booth in the entire place. He slid in as far into the corner as he could, leaving plenty of room for Toni to join him.
He was, therefore, not at all stunned when Selvig found them.
“Heeeeey,” he drawled in salutation.
Loki waved a tentative greeting, still puzzled by the menu placed before him. For a start, it was enormous. The pages were as long as his forearm, and half as wide. Surely this was excessive? He carefully glanced over Toni’s shoulder to read the contents, his eyes reflexively drawn to words that looked out of place.
“What’s an espresso?” he asked her quietly.
“You’ve never had an espresso? Seriously? Don’t they have Starbucks in London?”
He floundered for a moment, unsure of how to answer. Selvig covered for him.
“Starbucks! Bah. . . .’s not even decent coffee - all burnt and acidic.”
“I think I’ll try it,” he decided.
“You’re going to be up for days,” she warned.
An indecent grin crept across his face, infuriating Lisa.
It took Toni a second to realize what just came out of her mouth.
“Oh my god. . . .” she blurted, dissolving into embarrassed laughter behind the hand she threw over her mouth.
Twice tonight I’ve been called that, and I’ve barely done anything yet. Really; mortals are far too free with that word. Not that I mind. . .
“I’m thinking pancakes,” Ronnie mused, trying to change the subject.
“Toast,” Lisa declared, giving Loki a meaningful look.
“’e’s too skinny,” Selvig prattled. “Eat something!”
You’re really making me start to miss the void, he glowered toward Selvig in his head.
“Where are the rest of your companions, Doctor?” he asked pointedly, glancing around for them. They seemed to have settled at a table near the door, meticulously avoiding their boss’s glare.
“Doctor? I thought you said he worked for you.”
“He does.”
“What kind of doctor? And what do you guys do?”
“Astrophysisisisct,” Selvig slurred.
“It’s a rather delicate little project. I’d rather not get into it, if it’s all the same to you,” Loki evaded.
Selvig put a finger over his lips, a grotesque parody of silence.
“I think your friends might be ready to order,” he intoned patiently.
“Oh. . . . . yes, m - boss,” he stammered, the humor draining out of him as he shrunk back to his table.
It took a while for the waitress to make her way to their table, and longer still for the food to make its way out. Longer than it had any right to, really. He was relieved to see the familiar shape of his archer seated over at the counter. At last. Not that it would do him much good until he could be himself again. If employing a doctor had raised an eyebrow, justifying a food taster would really be pushing it.
“Man; why do we even come to this place? They do this to us every time.” Lisa griped, trying to spread jam on her cold toast.
“Because the other place is worse,” Ronnie stated flatly. “And my ex still works there.”
She waved over the waitress, informing her everything needed to be reheated. The plates were gathered back up again, exhaustion and irritation radiating off of her. The inky darkness of nights last throes were beginning to give way to dawn’s bruise-like colors when the food finally arrived in a more edible state. He caught Toni’s eager glance out the oversized eastern windows, and returned the sentiment with a wink.
It was a massive relief then to feel himself replaced by his more tangible form. He took his first tentative sip from the tiny espresso cup before him.
“So what do you think?” Toni asked, studying his reaction.
“Ooh; that is lovely. Probably better warm, though,” he reflected. “Why do they come in such tiny cups, I wonder?”
“I think it’s like dosage control,” Toni postulated. “Can’t even imagine how wired people would be if they served it like coffee. No one would sleep - ever.”
He drank the rest slowly, feeling it work itself into his system. Stealing another glance out the window, he could see dawn still had not finished unfolding across the sky. Ah well; soon, though. He looked her over thoughtfully, wondering where to touch her first. Her shoulder? Her leg? Her face? Oh, no. . . . we’ll keep it polite for now.
“Why you keep staring out that window?” Lisa asked Toni, a sharp tone in her voice.
“I can’t enjoy a sunrise either now?” she retorted. “Seriously, Lisa, get help. Or at least, stop “helping” me.”
“I just don’t want you waking up dead in a ditch somewhere because you rebounded from one asshole to some serial killer or something. And when you get hurt, you can do some very stupid things.”
“You mean when “you” get hurt, you’ve done stupid things, right? Because I kind of remember us not being able to stop you that time at spring break,” Toni observed.
“That was different,” she snapped.
“Come on - again? Can’t even make it through breakfast with you,” Ronnie scolded.
Loki noticed Clint tensing as the volume rose, waiting for the fight to actually break out. He signaled that it was under control - at least, he hoped he had, as Toni chose that moment to decide that the sky looked light enough to her, and pulled him in for a kiss.
“Oh, you are so dead,” Lisa began, starting to get up from her seat. “Ronnie, let me out.”
“Lisa, just shut the fuck up. First of all, she touched him, so it doesn’t count. And second, the sun’s up - he made it. Just eat your damn toast and leave them alone.”
Loki gingerly laid his hand on her head, caressing the back of her head as he returned her kiss. His fingers worked themselves into the coarse hair as the very base of her braids, utterly fascinated by their texture. She pulled away at that, giggling shyly, though her gaze warned him he’d taken a step too far.
He didn’t even begin to understand.
He would have to ask her later what he’d done that was such a crime - Ronnie was now forcibly restraining Lisa, and having little luck in pinning her down. It isn’t as though I’d cut it or anything.
“Check please!” Ronnie called out, literally sitting on top of Lisa to keep her from charging.
“Is that your friend over there?” Toni murmured to him, leaning in even as she got ready to jump from the booth.
Loki nodded, relieved she didn’t question his presence.
“Think he’d give us a lift?” she entreated, sliding out of the booth.
“Of course,” he chuckled, pulling free of the table just as Lisa thought to try crawling under it to get to them. They bolted for the door, Clint fast on their heels.
“I’ve got this; just go.”
Loki nodded, taking her hand as they fled for the open ground of the parking lot.
“I am so, so sorry about my friend. . .” she began.
“ You owe me no apology. In her way, she meant well.”
Barton pulled the car around, the locks snapping open as he came to a squealing halt. Loki ushered her into the back seat, sliding in hurriedly behind her.
“I’m never going to be able to come back here again,” she muttered sadly, once they were rolling.
“Nonsense. It will be set right in due time,” he assured her, his fingers playing down her neck. “I just do not know what I did that enraged her.”
“It’s the hair thing,” she said flatly, as if that explained all.
“I only touched it,” he protested. “From her reaction, you would think I had set it aflame.”
She clicked her tongue irritably, trying to think of a short - hand explanation for him.
“Our hair; it’s not as easy to work with as yours is,” she explained. “You guys can just run a comb through it, a little shampoo and it’s done. Ours is special. It takes a lot of time - and a lot of money - to take care of it. To keep it braided and styled, and everything, it really takes a lot of work. So we try to make it last by not letting anybody touch it.”
The genuine pained expression on his face melted her heart.
“You didn’t know - it’s ok. No harm done, I think. I’ll look at it later.”
She curled into his chest, her arms around him.
“So where am I going?” Clint interrupted, having convinced himself no one had followed them.
“Oh, hmm - let me see; where are we?” Toni said, lifting herself up from his embrace. “ Ah; ok - take the next right. It’s not far. Thank you, by the way,”
Barton nodded back to her, with a tight-lipped smile.
She had not been kidding about it being close. Minutes later, they pulled up at her apartment. Ronnie was waiting for them - alone.
“Just making sure,” she said, rolling down her window as they approached. “Just be safe and have fun. Give me a call tomorrow.”
Toni nodded, grateful for both the concern and her friends speedy, diplomatic departure.
“Does your friend want to come in?” She asked Loki quietly, a little unsure of where this was going.
“Oh no; he’s got to get to work,” Loki hinted.
She tried not to show her relief as Clint pulled away from the house, and she led Loki into her flat.
He settled himself in the living room, admiring the large collection of books she had arranged on either side of her desk.
“Can I get you anything?” she offered.
“Perhaps some water,” he accepted, hoping to rinse away some of the espresso’s lingering flavor.
Ducking into her tiny kitchen, she returned with a single glass, before settling beside him. She lay her head on his shoulder, some of the earlier tension finally leaching away.
“So glad classes are over. I get to sleep in tomorrow - oops; today, then.”
“Mmmm,” he replied, rubbing her back.
She kissed the pale center of his chest through his open shirt, her hands playing over his shoulders.
“I know she meant well, but I don’t think Lisa understands,” Toni explained. “Sometimes a girl just needs to feel beautiful.”
“But you are beautiful,” he murmured softly into her ear.
“Yes, but I don’t feel it. Make me feel it, Alec,” she pleaded.
“And how shall I do that?” he mused, leaning in to kiss her neck.
“Worship me. Your tongue, your lips, your words - all of you. Make me feel like a goddess.”
He tried very hard not to think of some of the Goddesses he had known. It was enough to know what she meant.
She rose from beside him, turning toward him with her hand extended. The ghost of sorrow seemed to lurk even behind her best attempt at a commanding gaze. He knew all too well that nothing he could say would ever fully banish it. But to stave it off, even for a while. . . .surely there is no shame in that. He rose to follow, taking her hand to his lips.
“As you wish, my queen,” he murmured, engulfing her in his embrace. Scooping her into his arms, he ferried her to her bedroom, carefully avoiding the shoes she allowed to slip from her feet as they went. He set her down upon her tall bed, letting her enthrone herself on the edge. She sat tall and straight, all gravitas and grace as she gestured for him to kneel. Oh mortal, you know not what you ask of me. . . . he veiled his disquiet in a smile, taking one of her feet in hand. Her sheer stockings, still almost intact after a full night’s dancing, seemed to snag on every uneven part of his hands, unraveling in small tangles even as he tried to pull himself free of the loose threads.
“My lady, might I remove this, lest anything worse befall it?”
“I think perhaps you should;” she giggled, “Or there won’t be anything left of them.”
His hands glided over the length of her leg, all the way up to and under the hem of her dress, finding the cuff at her thigh. Peeling it down in slow, meandering strokes, he let the tips of his fingers dance over her thigh and down her calf. Pulling it free, he nuzzled his way up to the top of its mate, brushing the lace front of her underwear with a teasing kiss. He tried to pull it down with his teeth, finding he needed his fingers to free its hold on her skin.
“It seems almost a crime to cover those magnificent legs of yours. . . .” he purred, nipping at her inner thigh. He pressed his cheek to their smooth, dark skin. “I could bask in their glory for days untold. Oh. . . . but what’s this?”
He turned his attentions to her underwear once again, mouthing it gently, working his tongue under the lace to touch skin. He felt the heat rushing off of her as he did, even as she pushed him out from under her skirt.
“Not yet,” she scolded softly, directing his hands closer to where she wanted them.
His hands resting on her buttocks, he shifted position so his head lay in her skirt, his reach working its way up her body.
“Pray, goddess, let me behold your unadorned glory,” he pleaded, his hands subtly searching for some means of opening her dress.
She feigned considering this for a moment, then let a wicked grin bloom across her face.
“Well, since you have been very, very good. . . .”
She stood up from the bed, pulling him up from the floor before turning her back to him, gesturing toward the zipper. Pulling it down ever so slowly, he lay gentle kisses across her shoulders, working down her back until the dress fluttered to her feet. He found himself very nearly cheek to cheek with the swell of her backside. Crushing her to him, he moaned his adorations to them.
“Oh, such magnificent splendor. . .”
Working his way up the arc of her hip in nips and kisses, he began to craft his spells over her, his ever-chilled fingers leaving trails of gooseflesh in their wake. No scratching or bruising would mar the perfect skin of his queen this time. If his praises were silent for a time, his ministrations more than made up for it. He nuzzled into her cleavage, biting playfully at edges of her bra before rolling his pouting gaze up to her.
“Shall I release them?” She cooed. “Are you sure you can handle them?”
“Oh please, majesty; unleash your power and glory. . . .”
She reached behind her, unhooking the black lace confection holding her breasts. Stripping it off with a flourish, she presented them to him, gasping as he latched onto them greedily. His lips closed around her nipple as one hand trailed back down her belly, swirling delicate knot-work over her on its way to her crotch. Loki kissed his way up her shoulders and into her neck, alternating between flickering his tongue and blowing gently. At last, he reached her lips - taking them into his own in a slow, deep kiss, he savored the taste of her; the feel of her gentle parting as his tongue slipped into them. She smiled as her hands toyed with his shirt, teasing it out from his pants.
“What would you have of me?” he moaned as the spell was put in place.
“This,” she grinned, tugging at the shirt.
Taking the slightest step back, he began undoing the buttons, leaving it on as he stepped back to where she had enthroned herself once again. He let her slide it from his shoulders, leaving it to flutter to the floor behind him. Standing before her, he was a little surprised when she leaned back into the bed, bringing her feet up to his chest to run slow, deliberate strokes over it and down his sides, her toes awkwardly catching on his belt loops.
“Supplicant, show me what it is you offer your goddess,” she intoned.
“As you command, my queen,” he breathed softly, slipping off his shoes before he opened the top of his pants. Stepping forward into her waiting hands, he let her slide them down past his hips, leaving his naked stiffness exposed for her inspection. Her feet dropped back to the side of the bed as she sat up to look.
“Tell me, which is your favorite part of me?” she queried, running her fingers over his cock.
“Oh, my lady, it is a terrible thing to have to choose. So much beauty assembled with such grace, it would be impossible to pick just one part without diminishing the whole. Though I lament I have not yet found a way to kiss the part I treasure most.”
“And which part is that?”
“The mind, goddess. A treasure beyond reckoning.”
“Alas, that is not a gift I can grant you,” she pouted. “But there is something else I will let you kiss now.”
“Mmmm; thank you goddess.” He fingered the edges of her panties as he lowered his face to her, closing his teeth around the lace and pulling it free before pushing it down her thighs the rest of the way. Settling his lips on her hooded clit, he lavished it with his tongue, caressing her hips as she arched and bucked at his attentions. Her breathless moaning got louder as he pressed in deeper, hitting the nerves with harder strokes as he went. Taking the tiny bundle of nerves in between his lips, he sucked on it before flickering his tongue over it.
“Oh, sing for me, my queen,” he urged, burying himself deeper into her folds.
He felt her hands grasping his hair as she thrust herself into his tongue strokes, rubbing herself on his face.
“Your goddess commands . . . .you enter her,” she panted, pulling his face from her crotch.
“Well, who am I to deny her?” he murmured, trying not to snicker at the conceit of it all. Pulling himself astride her, he lined up the tip of his cock with her moist slit, which pulsed fiercely.
“Don’t make me wait, supplicant,” she hissed, resisting the urge to move herself onto it.
“Oh, but you should never rush anything sacred,” he countered, running his thumb over her clit again as he inched into her at an annoyingly slow pace.
“A goddess does not like to be teased,” she cautioned, moaning as his full length struck her spot.
“Patience, goddess; you will not regret the waiting,” he promised, moving inside her to strike home again. Gradually he quickened his pace, delighting in her rapture as her sounds became more primal, tinged with delirium. Pacing himself, he kept her on the very edge of madness for what seemed like an age, slackening his pace to kiss her, or to play his tongue over her nipples, or her throat. Or anything, really - whatever he could reach just to keep her from going over.
“Oh, don’t make a goddess beg,” she protested, exhaustion creeping over them both.
“As you wish, my queen,” he purred into her ear as he began his final thrusting. Pumping out into her at long last, he collapsed in a sweat-drenched heap on top of her.
“Oh my goddess, I hope it is enough,” he offered.
She merely nodded, laying her arms around his chest as sleep overtook her. He very nearly joined her, but thought better of it. There was the invasion to plan, and his other final conquest still to think of.
Her debated leaving her a note, though what he could possibly say eluded him. In the end he settled on whispering his thanks and kissing her forehead before teleporting back to the base.
It wasn’t as if he’d never see her again, after all.
The long night had some time since given way to afternoon when Loki reappeared at the base, glacial exhaustion creeping across his features. Clint nodded his greeting with a silent smile.
“Not yet,” Loki murmured. “I have one more service I require of you.”
“My Lord.. .”
He silenced him with a gesture, pulling the archer closer to him.
“For you I have saved the highest honor. I need you inside me - you will sire my child.”
Clint was stunned into silence.
Loki pulled him closer, pressing himself against the smaller man. Clint could feel something shift inside Loki’s abdomen, like the innards rearranging themselves as he prepared himself. The long, thin fingers rubbing his chest - one wandering down to his cock set the last remnant of his mind reeling.
“I um; . . . . I’ve never . . .” he stuttered, his breath rasping as Loki’s grip tightened around his balls.
“I know; but you will,” he cooed, tracing the length of Barton’s penis with icy fingertips through his uniform. He felt it stiffen under his palm, twitching to wakefulness in time with Clint’s tension.
His head leant aside as he relented.
“How do you want me?”
Clint found himself standing suddenly in a well-appointed bedroom in his naked Lord’s embrace, who was sizing him up.
“I think just this once we can take this lying down,” he smiled, leading him to the bed.
Loki sat upon the bed, pulling the reluctant Barton before him. Sliding the top from Clint’s body, he wrapped his fingers in his own, kissing them gently before taking them into his mouth. His other hand wrapped around Barton’s hips, tracing his nails down the inside of his thighs.
Barton gasped as Loki sucked on his fingers - tongue closing tight on them, undulating gently as he was pulled ever closer. He fidgeted clumsily with his pants, eventually working them down far enough to free his manhood.
Loki let out a low groan as he pulled Barton’s fingers from his mouth and set about licking his own before gently probing Clint’s anus with them.
“Do as I do,” Loki instructed, snapping him out of his semi-rapturous confusion.
Clint nodded, bringing his hand down Loki’s taint, gently circling the newly opened slit he found there a few times before sliding his first finger in. This was rewarded by a sharp intake of breath by Loki.
“More,” he purred as he slid his own second finger into Barton, slowly inching deeper into him - who shuddered as they grazed his prostate. With shaking hands he followed suit, pressing into Loki’s tight, damp hole. A shock of pain shot through him as Loki began expanding his fingers inside him, trying to stretch Barton to fit his considerable girth. The slow massaging motion was more than slightly disquieting to the smaller man; more so when Loki attempted to introduce a third finger.
“I can’t,” he stammered. “Please, my Lord. It’s too much.”
Loki relented for the moment, pulling Barton down onto the bed. Caressing his cheek with his remaining clean hand, he let his fingers drift toward Barton’s mouth, playfully prying at his lips until he took them in deeper. Once he’d gotten Clint cradled onto his side and facing him Loki began again to stretch him, taking Clint's now throbbing penis in his newly-moistened hand to position it into himself. Rolling them so that Barton was atop him, Loki thrust his hips upward, startling the poor archer.
"Take me," he seethed, his own breath hitching as he ground himself onto Clint.
Doing as Loki bade, he thrust away, all but ignoring Loki's still-throbbing cock as it lay between them. He had enough trouble just convincing himself he would not hurt him.
Loki rolled his eyes at the archer's over-caution. Wrapping his long legs around his waist, he pulled himself up along his frame, closing the space between them like a sprung trap. The grinding friction between Clint's solid core and his own was tantalizingly close, but not nearly enough for any real satisfaction. But if you can't even think of some means of pleasuring me, I shall have to do it myself. Gripping the archer with both hands, he uttered an ancient rime, feeling himself slip into Barton's own mind. He could feel everything Clint felt - the rush of fear at the thought of Loki's displeasure, the feel of his own soft flesh closing around Barton's cock. The feeling rushed through him twofold, making him buck harder onto Clint, dropping himself harder and harder on his length. The maddening feedback loop of his frenzied humping shivered through him like the arctic blast of an avalanche. His own feral growls were lost to his hearing as he felt himself pulsing around Clint from both sides of the act. The first glistening drops of Loki's pre-cum slicked onto the archers chest as Loki rode him in every sense. Pulling Barton’s throat to his lips, he ran his tongue along the tender line of nerves, nipping at it as the quickening rush ran through him doubly.
He knew Barton was close to the edge - he could feel it in his own twitching member. Just a bit further. . . . he slid two of his fingers into Clint's rectum, the echoing rush of ecstasy shuddering through him as he found the man's prostate. Loki let out a wild, guttural moan as he stroked inside the archer, feeling him lose himself at last. The heat of Clint's seed gushing into him reverberated in his own spurts across both their chests.
Pulling himself back from Barton's mind before the last throbbing echo had died away, he let his legs unlock from around the archer. Barton was softening inside him - afraid to pull away; terrified to stay.
"It will suffice," Loki sighed, releasing him from his grip as he lay back.

Clint pulled away at that, laying just far enough away to be there without making himself available to Loki. He had no idea where they were, or how long Loki would keep him there. His only hope was that this would be the only time this particular service would be required of him.
Loki barely seemed to notice this, his mind reeling its plans within plans as the exhaustion overtook him. His hand curling over his stomach, he let the world spin below him, sleep settling on him at last.
Ronnie shifted irritably behind Toni on line at the pharmacy, her eyes scanning the crowd for familiar faces though they had driven miles to a town where they knew no one. Toni had been waiting for the pharmacist to hand back her ID card for quite some time now.
“Long way from home, Miss. Why would you come all this way?” he asked, looking her over for tell-tale bruises or scars.
“I really don’t want to get into it,” she retorted, sharper than necessary. “Have you got them or not?”
Handing back her ID card, the pharmacist scurried off into the racks. Reaching up into the shelf , he pulled down one box. Sparing a glance back over to the counter before he went back, he saw her friend also pull out her license. There’s a sad story there, no doubt. Shaking his head, he pulled down a second box. Might as well save myself a trip.
He double-bagged it, stapling it shut before handing it over. He was not at all surprised when she paid in cash.
“Let me get one of those too,” Ronnie demanded, slipping her license into his waiting hand.
Toni tried to protest, but Ronnie silenced her with a wave.
He looked over the license, unsurprised to find they lived in the same town. Both old enough; no suspicion against them, but can’t shake the feeling.
“Just for my own peace of mind - did something happen? There are people you can talk to if . . .”
“Nah, it’s not like that. Just someone being stupid,” Ronnie answered, glowering at Toni as she did.
“You only need to take one dose - taking it again is a really, really bad idea.”
“I know; I read the website. I don’t think I need more than one.” Toni assured him, trying to push the box aside.
“This is just insurance.” Ronnie insisted, pulling it back and forking over her payment.
The pharmacist shook his head sadly, taking the cash she offered.
They turned to go, the tense silence following them toward the exit. Ronnie caught sight of a familiar figure from the bar headed toward them.
“Oh, Ronnie - hey. How’s it going?”
Both of them knew better than to ask why they were here - Loreli had introduced her to this place after misadventures of her own. And although she barely came out since the falling out with her roommate, it would not surprise her to learn that things had not slowed down for her in the slightest.
“Before you say anything, it’s not for me. It’s for Debbie.”
“Seriously? Wow. . . . never thought I’d see the day,” Ronnie snickered.
“”Yeah; got this panicky call from her about an hour ago, swearing this guy she banged was blowing up Germany or something, and could I mail her some overnight because she can’t find a pharmacy near her that carries them.”
“Like she needs the excuse,” Toni chimed in.
“That’s demented. Don’t they have it there?”
“Who knows? It’s the south. . . .” Loreli shrugged bitterly.
“Sweet of you to do it, though. Thought you hated each other.”
“Yeah, we cleared that up. Hate to cut this short,but if I’m going to make the post office, I’d better get on this.”
Ronnie nodded, leaving her to her quest.
Indira flipped through the news networks, frantically scanning the brief clips coming out of Stuttgart in disbelief. It can’t be. . . No way. Maybe he has a brother. A crazy, homicidal brother. Who wears horns.
For the fifteenth time that hour, she debated the merits of scrapping all her work and starting over. How can I justify exposing a child to that kind of insanity? Will our child be like that? How do I know this guy won’t kill us in our sleep and steal my baby?
Her cellphone rang - at last; Cynthia.
“Hey, sweetie. I’m kind of panicky. Can you come home?”
“You know I can’t - what’s wrong?”
“Ummm; well, you know that guy I found - our baby-daddy? He’s kind of on the news right now. . .”
There was a noise of disgust buried in the static.
“Told you we should just go to a sperm bank.”
“I know. . . .”
“Seriously; only you! It’s amazing to me how you do that. You find the absolute worst possible solution to everything.”
“I know sweetie. . . this just never even crossed my mind,”
“I’m not blaming you. I blame your mother. Look; we’ll talk about this when I get home. If we need to wait and try again - fine. Just don’t do anything before I can get home, ok?”
“I love you,” Indira offered, decidedly not sobbing.
There was a heavy sigh over the phone.
“I love you too. See you tonight.”
Alyssa sat in her favorite cafe, still trying to clear the fog in her head. The waiter, normally so friendly toward her, seemed to be eyeing her warily. Whether this was because of the long sleeves in the heat or the aching stiffness in her movement she couldn’t tell.
This. . . thing. Situation. It should not be left alone. She could hear the faint echo of her inner voice struggling for the words under the haze. It isn’t what you want.
It’s what he wants - her minds traitorous voice returned. You want to please your master, don’t you?
She winced at the sting as her hand brushed the intricate script he’d left over her womb. She had tried to read them after her shower this morning - hampered by both the way the spirals intersected and the fact that she was reading them upside down and backwards by default. Not even sure which language he’s used. She scrolled through her contact list again, hoping one of her classmates might at least help her with that. He can’t object to that, can he?
She tried again, looking for loose threads in the logic.
So far, Master seems to want me to be happy. If that’s what he wants, why would he have me do something he knows makes me unhappy?
But it will - you will be happy to please him, the traitor sibilated.
And then what? It doesn’t end once the kid is outside of me.
Please him - echoed back at her from all sides.
She lay her head on the cafe table, closing her eyes as the headache took root.
“Okay. Let’s do this.” Ronnie ordered, thrusting one packet of pills and a glass of water at Toni.
“It said on the web that it only makes you dizzy sometimes, that you might get nauseous and throw up, and that your period should still show up like normal. If you do puke it up, at least we have a spare. You are so lucky it’s my day off tomorrow - you could’ve wound up doing this with Lisa.”
Chasing down the pills with a slug of water, Toni settled herself on her friend’s couch.
“So now what?”
“We wait. It’s not gonna do anything too bad to you, but better safe than sorry for this kind of thing. And shit - if it does go wrong, your dad would lose it.”
Toni grabbed the remote from the side table, channel surfing for a movie to pass the time with.
Ronnie stared balefully at her from the end of the couch, her head shaking.
“You know what.”
“Yes - I do. And you know I know. It was dumb; I admit it. Let’s just hope this is the end of it and I’ll never let it happen again. Okay? Lecture done?”
“This better be the worst of it. God help you if you caught something,” she said, sinking down into the couch next to her.
Cynthia walked into their apartment to find Indira curled in the fetal position on the couch, wide eyes still reflecting the cable news looped footage of the Stuttgart attack.
“That’s the guy?”
Indira nodded.
“Okay; here’s what doesn’t gel for me. So two days before attacking Germany - half a world away - he hangs around a dinky college bar picking up chicks. That seem weird to you?”
“Weird enough to make it not true?”
“I swear to you - it’s the same guy!” Indira whined. “I’m not making this up!”
“I didn’t say that,” Cynthia backtracked cautiously. “All I’m saying is if you’re having second thoughts, we should talk about them and get to the root of what’s actually bothering you.”
“What’s bothering me is my baby-daddy going nuts and killing people all over the news, and my wife thinks I’m the crazy one.”
Cynthia paused, sinking down beside her wearily. Raising Indira’s head into her lap, she simply held her for a while.
“If he’s going to pull this kind of shit, can we really trust him to leave us in peace to raise our baby? He seemed really attached to the idea of this kid. I’m just not comfortable with Captain Crazy coming over for play dates.” she continued.
Cynthia rubbed her back as she lay there, gradually coaxing her up to sit up beside her.
“If you’re sure about this, ok. I did pick up a packet on my way home. We’ll just start again. This time, we do it my way - all right?”
Indira wrapped her in her arms, breaking down into her shoulder.
“Thanks for seeing me, Professor.”
“I was rather surprised to hear from you, Alyssa. I had hoped you would stay with the program and join us for the field work last year.”
“Yeah - kind of regretting that, actually. I have a feeling the field work may have found me.”
“What do you - Oh god!”
Alyssa lifted her shirt, exposing the inscriptions on her body for his inspection. He was too busy backing out of the room to get a good look at them.
“Just tell me what they say. . .”
After campus security had turned her over to the local police, it occurred to her that this could have gone better. But authorities mean investigation, which means questions - maybe enough of them to help me clear my head.
She sat in silence for the brief ride to the precinct, letting them photograph her wounds and take her fingerprints. They left her waiting in a small interrogation room with a cup of coffee and a sympathetic stare.
Eventually, a female officer came in, giving her a tight smile that looked more like she was wincing, and sat down in front of her.
“So we’re probably doing this backwards, but if you could - tell me what happened that you decided to flash Professor Jenkins,” Officer Guthrie inquired.
Alyssa took a small sip of her coffee, putting it down before she began talking.
“He was my teacher - he’s an expert in Scandinavian languages. I thought he could tell me what these say,” she began, pulling at the hem of her shirt again.
“No - let’s not do that again. Please. We have the pictures. How did those get there?”
She struggled to pin a term on how best to refer to him.
“My Master,” she said, her tone disaffected.
“I see. . . . “ said the detective, who really wished she hadn’t. “Was this consensual?”
“Play was, but I don’t know what he wrote, so I don’t know if I’m okay with it.”
“Did this happen at your house? His house?”
She shook her head, unwilling to involve her friends.
“Did he kidnap you?”
“It was a game at first; he was very good at it.”
“So is that a no?”
“I guess, yeah.”
“Were you blindfolded?”
“I couldn’t see where we were going,” which was at least technically true.
“Yes or no?” the detective snapped.
“My head was in his lap.”
“Look - what I need to determine here is whether we need to run a rape kit on you. Did he force himself on you?”
Alyssa froze, not sure how to respond. She had wanted it - him. All of it except this doom she could feel settling on her even as she sat answering questions as to how it got there.
My Lord will not be pleased. . . .
She lay her head on the desk in front of her - gently at first, then harder - and again, and once more before officers burst in to restrain her and drag her away.
Officer Guthrie took a moment to compose herself before gathering up the case documents she had laid out. The quiet knock at the open door startled her.
“Officer Guthrie? I’m Agent Tomlinson from S.H.I.E.L.D. We got a report about what looked like cultic activity.”
“That was fast - they just dragged her out of here five minutes ago. What does S.H.I.E.L.D. want with an isolated sexual assault case?”
“Linguistics was a bit troubled by the photographs of the runes on her body. They’re still hashing out what it says. May I see her?”
Guthrie snorted at the conceit of the request. She’ll be in your hands whether I say yes or no.
“Taken to medical - I’ve ordered a kit, but I don’t think she’s all there. Meth, if I had to guess.”
“Thank you.”
He was gone before she could turn around. It didn’t surprise her when all paperwork on the case went missing from her desk.
For the second time in a week, Alyssa found herself kidnapped.
“Did my master send you?” she asked meekly.
“Where are we taking her?” the driver asked, ignoring her.
“Berkley - they’ve got enough going on at the helicarrier. We need time to study her where she won’t take the whole agency down if she goes critical.”
She felt the sedatives they’d administered at the precinct beginning to take hold. She heard the agents flipping through the police photos as she drifted off.
The last words she remembered hearing were “Damn - they made a mess of you. . . . ”
Debbie paced anxiously on the porch, waiting for any sign of the mail truck. It has to be today. Tomorrow will be too late. Tomorrow means arranging and explaining a long road trip . . . . somewhere. Spotting the truck further down the lane, she bolted for the door, beating it to the mailbox by an impressive time.
“Oh, hey Debbie - didn’t know you were back from up north.”
Of course. Go away for four years and your high school crush becomes your mailman. She smiled as kindly as her brittle nerves could manage.
“Oh hey, Danny. Good to see you again. How have you been?”
“Oh, fine, fine. So how did you like it up north?”
“It’s got it’s ups and downs,” she observed casually, finding herself inextricably drawn into the plodding pace things ran at down here.
“Was wondering if there was a package for me?” she asked sweetly, trying to break the chatter.
“Sure is - someone up there must miss you already.”
Her heart was in her throat. He can’t have found me; she wouldn’t tell him, would she?
Examining the box, she found herself able to breathe again.
“Oh - it’s just my room mate,” she exhaled, trying to corral her terrified thoughts
“So, are you celebrating yet?”
“What?” she snapped, panic creeping into her expression.
“Coming home. . . are you all right?”
“I’l be okay - just a bit tired. I think I better go back inside and lay down,” she feigned. Anything to just get this over with!
“All right, you go on and feel better.”
“Thanks, Danny, I will.”
She walked back toward the house, waiting for him to pull away before breaking out into a full run for the kitchen. Slicing the box open as quickly as she could manage, she peeled the small stapled bag from the corner seams it had lodged itself into. It didn’t require much effort to tear open the bag, but she vented her fears onto it, breaking it open with a resounding rip. Pouring herself a glass of sweet tea, she gathered up the evidence thoroughly and headed up to her room.
Have to get rid of this as soon as I can - She tucked the box and the pharmacist sheet deep into her luggage until she could burn it later tonight. Locking the door behind her, she took the pills one at a time, chasing them down with the tea before sinking down onto the edge of her bed.
Maybe I really am tired. She felt her eyes closing on her even as she searched her shelves for a book. Stress - got to be the stress. And fear. Just a nap. . .
Laying down, she kicked off her flip-flops and fell into a series of violent and gory dreams - with vivid green eyes staring at her throughout.
Alyssa awoke to find herself immersed in the overly-bright lights and ambient hum of a medical unit. Lifting her head to assess her surroundings, she found herself cuffed to the hospital bed. Master? No. . . somehow, the style doesn’t feel right. She felt the flickering subversive hope slip away back into the fog. From the little she could make out of the people frantically scurrying, she guessed this was more a prison than a hospital. They seem to be securing the facility. They seem to be. . . .
“Um; excuse me!” she called out to the passing stranger in the dark suit. “What’s happening? Where is everyone going?”
“Everything’s fine, Miss,” the agent lied - poorly. “Someone will be in to see you shortly.”
With that, he closed the door to her room, reducing her view to what little she could glimpse through the tiny reinforced glass window. She could just barely make out his voice as he muttered into his earpiece that 105 was awake.
She sank back again, feeling the crinkle of the wound dressings that someone had put on her various injuries.
So this is what a sandwich feels like.
There was an IV in her arm; she could tell by the way it itched that it had been there for a while. Hours? Days? Oh god, don’t let it be days . . . . despite the dryness and taste of sleep in her mouth, she didn’t feel grimy enough for it to have been that long.
She was relieved to have her subjective calculations interrupted by the appearance of a smartly dressed older woman and a nurse at her door.
“Oh good. I trust you’re feeling better?”
“A bit queasy. Where the hell am I, exactly?”
“S.H.I.E.L.D. currently has you under supervision at a secure facility,” the matronly woman said, offering no further specifics. “I’m Agent Windsor. Are you feeling up to telling us how you received your injuries?”
“Why the fuck would it be any of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s business what happened to me?”
“Miss Krenic, are you aware of the inscriptions that have been carved into your skin? In a language that hasn’t been used in almost a thousand years? It definitely got Linguistic’s attention.”
“Then you know what it says?” she probed.
“Why don’t we start with how they got there,” the agent countered, seating herself beside the bed. “Perhaps some water?”
Alyssa nodded, making herself as comfortable as she could.
“Any chance I can use the toilet?”
“Apologies; we were told you had attempted self-harm,” Windsor averred, digging out the keys. “Tanya will help you.”
The nurse came up along the side of the bed, taking up the IV and offering her a hand up as Agent Windsor unlocked the cuffs. Pulling herself upright, she slid her feet to the floor gingerly and shuffled painfully to the other end of the room.
Self-harm my ass - not even bruised over there, she observed as she checked her reflection briefly before squatting down. Finishing up what she needed to do, she limped out sedately, climbing back in her bed. Windsor had been kind enough to raise the back of it so she might sit comfortably.
“So, from the beginning, if you please,” Windsor began. “And as much detail as you can recall.”
“How long have I been out?” Alyssa queried, taking a sip from the plastic bottle on the tray table.
“Only a few hours,” Windsor assured her.
“For my own peace of mind - like, 3, or closer to 12?”
“Does it make much difference?”
“It does to me.”
“Very well; it has been eight hours. Are you prepared to tell us how you got those inscriptions?” Agent Windsor snapped.
“For whatever good it’ll do you, sure. I met him at the bar my friends - no; not friends - can’t call them friends anymore - well, the place we all hung out at. Donovan’s. He just sort of stood there all night, watching me draw.”
“Describe him to me,” Windsor coached, taking out her tablet - and stylus, Alyssa noted, watching her as carefully as she was watched herself.
“The guy? Tall, kind of long dark hair, thin, but athletic, so maybe slender is a better word for it? Very striking. Beautiful green eyes. I could probably sketch him for you later,” Alyssa rambled.
“That would be very helpful, thank you. Did he give you a name?”
“He introduced himself as Loki,” she offered casually, noting the way both the agent and the nurse shuddered at the epithet before continuing. “So we talked for a little, and he hit on me. Oh god, that voice of his. . . . he knows just what to say. So we umm. . . . went somewhere. You’ve heard of him, haven’t you? Oh god; is he like top of the most wanted list or something?”
“S.H.I.E.L.D. is aware of him, yes. But please, continue. Did he threaten you?”
“Not more than usual. No, it was really, really good. I don’t remember why, but I just really wanted to submit to him. Like it was just right, somehow. He did not disappoint. . . .”
“And the runes? Were they part of the scene also?”
“Must have been; I was blindfolded. All I felt was this tiny little knife drawing across my skin in mad little patterns. And then he was inside me, and it was just. . . just earth-shattering. I think I passed out. And I woke up back at home to angry calls and blood on the sheets. I remember this norse song he sang - so lovely. He said he’d sing it again for me next time. But I don’t even know where he’s gone, or if he went back to his friend that seems to drive him everywhere. Can you tell me what they say? Please?”
Agent Windsor set her tablet down on the floor under her chair, her examinant stare piercing Alyssa.
“Did he tell you anything else about what he hoped to achieve? Were you able to get a look at his friend?”
Alyssa shook her head, taking another pull from the bottle.
“Didn’t really see him. And he didn’t really talk much about anything besides what he was doing to me. Seemed really important to him. Can’t imagine why, but making him happy means I’m happy.”
Windsor’s eyebrows quirked at that, and she grabbed her tablet once again, scribbling a note in the file she had open.
“Please, just give me the gist of what they say - I really need to know,” Alyssa implored, her eyes tearing slightly.
“Didn’t he tell you while he did it?” Windsor quizzed.
“No; he just did them, and then we had sex. Oh god, he was like a wild thing. . . . but he wouldn’t tell me. Is it bad? Am I going to like, explode or something”
“I think I can assure you that no, you won’t, in fact explode. Though it might feel as though you will at some point,” Windsor gave her a taut grimace. “Did he mention the child at all to you?”
Alyssa’s stare bore through the wall somewhere over Agent Windsor’s shoulder.
“He has such hopes for her. So keen. . . . so eager for his Lie-Breaker,” she heard herself saying, her hand over her belly. God, it’s just sick! She tried to force the hand to claw at the bandaging, winding up with little more than a loose grip on the topmost layer.
“I see,” Windsor nodded to the nurse, who dutifully closed the cuff around one of Alyssa’s arms. “Please forgive me, but I need to confer with my associates. We may have more questions for you soon.”
Alyssa barely noted their departure, lost as she was in her own struggle.
It was a few hours before she saw anyone again. This time only Tanya and a rather nervous looking young man in scrubs, who seemed unable to look her in the eyes. He lay her plate out on the bed’s small tray while Tanya checked her dressings.
“Any chance I can get a sketch pad?” she inquired. “Or a book?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Tanya offered, sympathetically as she checked over the room for any sign of attempted injury or escape. Finding nothing out of order, they left as quietly as they came, fading back into the muted murmurs of the nearly deserted facility.
Once the door had closed behind them, she let her attentions turn to the tray they had left her. Well, time to see what time it is. The beef-scented steam billowed up from a platter of what looked like it had already been halfway through someone else before coming back up. At least it smells better than it looks, she sighed. Too hungry to quibble or question, she tore into it with the plastic spork they left for her. Really? One napkin? Optimistic, aren’t they? She eyed the afterthought of a salad on the tray beside it cautiously. If nothing else, it’ll help wash down the salt in this stuff.
She had to draw the line at the unidentified cup of. . . . pulp.
Agent Windsor returned once she had finished eating, flanked by Tanya and two other agents, one of whom carried a sketch pad.
The inquisition began in earnest now - a lot of the same questions (who is he, what does he intend,where is he now?) rephrased and shuffled. They carefully avoided saying anything about consent, she noticed, probing her instead about his intentions for their child. There’s still time - it doesn’t have to be that way! - her ever-shrinking inner voice howled.It became clear, though, that they had no intention of remedying the situation.
When the agent cracked open the pad, her hands twitched with the burning need to draw - to channel out onto the page what she could release no other way. He pulled his pencils from the breast pocket of his jacket, settling himself in the chair beside the bed to get started.
“No; please - let me draw him,” she implored.
The agent glanced over at Windsor, who nodded her permission in spite of the wary look from the third agent. Her other hand was at last freed as the pad and pencils were handed over.
Turning the pad sideways, she stared at the blank page for a time, her deep sighing breath streaming out along the pencil’s length as she held it to her lips in contemplation. At last she set graphite to paper, forming the set and shapes of his eyes so they all but filled the page.
“That’s not. . . .” the junior agent began, before being silenced by Windsor’s hand on his shoulder.
She let the shape of her fears - her own features swollen and distorted by heavy pregnancy - form like a ghostly silhouette in the irises. Satisfied, she tore it from the book, handing it to Windsor.
“Very good,” she lauded, suppressing a wince with a nervous swallow. “Can you give us a portrait? Or perhaps a figural drawing?”
Alyssa had already begun a second image. The armored figure began to emerge from the jumble of curving cross-hatch; his face almost luminous against so much black. She struggled with his hands, eventually sketching them larger in the corner - his long fingers extended in an almost tender pose, as if stroking something. This took longer than the first - apparently too long for the third agent, who wandered off to attend to other matters. The junior agent peered over the edge of the pad, his jaw clenched as he tried to mask his reactions. Tearing this one out as well, she began a third one unprompted - this time a portrait. Windsor took it with her to the door as Alyssa engrossed herself in her work. Handing it to the third agent as he passed in the hall, Windsor gave him a small cough.
“She still might have seen him on the news,” he equivocated.
Windsor shook her head.
“The detailing is too close to what we’ve seen I’m just not seeing the logic in his choice, though. He could have picked anyone - why her?”
“That’s assuming rational choice is something he’s capable of - if it is him. I’d leave that to the headshrinkers if I were you. Get me something more concrete and I’ll take it upstairs.”
Finishing her third sketch, Alyssa handed it off to the junior agent before beginning her fourth. This one of herself, part memory, part projection. In it she stood bound to the cross, a pair of monstrous jaws opening beneath her rounded pregnant belly. His eyes she placed over either shoulder with an expression of abject sorrow.
Leaning back into the bed, pencil still in hand, she did not resist when the junior agent gently took the pad away from her. Her breathing staggered as she fought back the tears. Dropping the pencils on the tray, she swung her legs around the side of the bed,startling the junior agent. She glowered at him, shaking her head as she headed for the toilet.
Windsor and the third agent watched the exchange from the doorway.
“Look, it’s clear to me she’s been manipulated into this situation,” Windsor expounded. “You saw the initial interview - whether it was the same method as the New Mexico cases or something else, she isn’t in her right mind. I don’t know how she’ll react when - or if - it finally breaks. But for the moment, I think the cuffs are a step too far.”
The third agent nodded as she emerged from the toilet - hair and face dampened, a trace of soap lather remaining in her hair above her ear.
“Just watch her - we still don’t know if the link only goes one way.”
Alyssa settled herself back into the bed, eyeing the cluster of agents expectantly. The junior agent handed the final drawing to Windsor, his poker face failing to cover his shaking hands.
Windsor nearly dropped the page in horror, thrusting it to the third agent before he could walk off. He stared at the image image, freezing his features lest any expression creep out over them.
“Still skeptical, but this. . . this warrants attention. I’ll send word upstairs, though for the time being, I suspect we’re on our own.”
Windsor returned to her charge, leaving the junior agent at the door.
“You should rest. I’m sure this whole experience has been very draining.”
Alyssa nodded, her gaze turning toward the blank space behind the agent.
“How long will you hold me?” she asked, her tone almost detached.
“We’re still determining that,” she averred, placing a compassionate hand on her arm. “Sleep if you can; I’ll try to find you something to read tomorrow.”
It was another two days before the haze finally and completely lifted; they could tell by the wailing suddenly echoing down the corridors, followed by the sounds of mayhem - breaking plastic, scuffling feet and thudding impacts as the skeleton crew remaining attempted to restrain her.
When she had been secured and at least appeared to have burnt herself out, Windsor and the third agent gathered at her bedside to confer. Windsor sat facing her as she sat cuffed to the bed once again, her face a hardened knot of fury.
“You knew,” she fumed, her voice the closest to normal volume it had been in hours.
“My orders were to secure you and assess the situation,” Windsor responded cooly. “Any decisions after that came from higher up.”
So, what - some ass-hat with a higher rank decided that since this genetic mess landed in their lap they might as well play with it? Never mind what I might want. I mean, I’m just its prisoner - oh, sorry; mother,” she sneered, expectorant flecking the floor between them.
Windsor sat in silence, unable to refute any of it.
“I can’t even see the logic - I mean, Why? What’s so special about this asshole that I have to refrain from aborting this hot mess?”
“You’ve missed rather a lot. . . .” she started, bringing her up to speed on as much as she dared. She cut it rather fine, veering too close to the classified file for her superior’s liking, but managing not to compromise any of it.
“Wait - so my asshole ex tried to destroy New York and you’re still making me carry this kid to term? That’s just stupid.”
“Director Fury is a huge proponent of making limoncello when life hands him lemons,” the third agent quipped. “As repugnant as it is, your circumstances represent a chance at stopping him - or at least giving him pause - if he ever returns to Earth. You will, of course, be compensated.”
The death-glare Alyssa shot him at the word should have sent his smoldering remains into orbit.
“I see. And tell me; when I do finally deliver - assuming this doesn’t kill me first - will the birth announcements read “It’s a planetary defense system!” Oh right; it’s not like you’ll announce your little top-secret kidnapping.”
“What he means to say,” Windsor began, attempting to undo the damage, “is you and the child will be provided for, though there will be some supervision and input as to their care.”
“I’m not raising her to be anyone’s killing machine. She’s not taking orders blindly - not from you, not from him, not from anyone.”
“And if she’s born with her father’s abilities? What will you do? How will you train her to control them? To use them safely?” Windsor interjected.
“Our interest is in securing the safety of Earth. We can’t undo what’s been done to you, but we can make things a bit easier to deal with.”
“Thing is, you could have.”
The third agent gave her a blank look.
“No idea what you mean.”
Windsor sighed at the conceit of her bosses’ lie. She’d seen the file - they’d removed her from the precinct before the rape kit could be carried out; before the pills could be administered. How much had they known at that point?
“You know what - fine. It’s fucking fine. If she grows into what he expects her to be, every last one of you fuckers will get your comeuppance. It’ll be fun watching you squirm every time you talk to her - like when I send her to you when she asks how she was born. Watching you try to sugarcoat it for her, knowing every lie is a nail in your coffin. Fuck you - you deserve it!”
The sharp pang that shot through her abdomen made her wince. Folding up into herself as much as her constraints allowed, she seethed into her knees, ignoring the agent’s questions. The scabs on her belly felt warm to her touch now, even through the bandages.
“You never did tell me, and you’d better fix that right fucking now - what do the inscriptions say?”
Windsor sat back in the chair, watching her reactions cautiously.
“They appear to be a series of protection spells - one of them seems designed to keep you both from being seen by the Guardian of Asgard, the rest are intertwined with it. Safety from harm, or injury - I’ll bring you the pictures tomorrow; it was beautifully thought out, if a bit gruesome.”
She shook her head into her knees. There was no way for me walk away from this. Ever.
“Just. . . . just leave me alone. It’s not like I can go anywhere.”
Agent Windsor picked herself up to go, patting her tenderly on the hand.
“For what it’s worth; I am truly sorry.”
The third agent glowered at Windsor as she left, following her out a few moments later.
Toni lay back down, waiting for the Advil to kick in. At least it’s not late, though it is, hands down, the worst period I’ve ever had. She had blamed the nightmares from the past two weeks on lingering side effects and subconscious guilt - those green eyes shimmering over every horror-show her mind could wring out of its dusty corners. At least it’s over. Just wish I knew what the hell that rash on my stomach was.
Indira sat bolt upright, the sudden cramping having awakened her from the the conversation with the child she feared. Having to explain to a phantom six year old why they can’t go world-breaking with daddy was high on her list of things to never do again. Flicking on her bedside light, the giant red stain was almost a relief. Just wish the itching would stop.
Debbie was already awake when the warning cramps began. It wasn’t really any worse that normal. Sleep had been hard to come by since she had taken the pills - since she had seen him on the news, really. She scratched absently at the rash across her belly - ugh, am I allergic to my detergent or something? - on her way to the bathroom with a clean pair of underwear.
Alyssa lay awake, staring out the window of her new quarters at the facility. Moonlight shone down on the grass below, though the sound of the incoming aircraft destroyed any sense of calm that might have gone with it. A constant stream of injured personnel had been ferried through here in the past week, tapering off as the combat phase ended and the cleanup had gotten under way. She watched them unload their patients, recognizing one of them from her abduction from the police. Can’t say you didn’t have it coming. She felt her hand fall to her stomach, cradling it. Will it come to this? Me standing here, waiting for your broken body to come home? Like hell it will. I won’t fucking let it.
Turning away from the scene below, she slipped back into bed, attempting sleep again. Have to go through the rest of my crap tomorrow, and there’s that meeting with the new guy - think it starts with a C. . . .
She felt the dreams beginning again as she closed her eyes. The snow-filled valley opened up below her as she perched on the narrow ledge in the rock face. She could barely make out the odd blue figures in the distance, though they’d have to have been enormous for her to even spot them from here. No rope, no gear, how the hell did I even wind up here?
And just like every other time, there’s the goat. Taking up most of the space on the thin ledge, its shoulder was as high as her ribcage, its elegant, curved horns arching back over its neck. It nuzzled her midsection, as if looking for something.
“I guess it’s just you and me, kid,” she sighed, swinging her leg over its back as it leapt off into the distance.