Brooding 20

“I don’t know about the rest of you,” Tony announced to the room in general, “but I need another smoke after that. Cigar, anyone?” tumblr_n598tu1Kr91r474rvo5_1280

“Perhaps I will try one of those,” Frigga ventured, stretching her limbs delicately before leaning back in her chair.

While Tony explained to the Asgardian queen the history and art of smoking a fine Cuban cigar, Natasha was finally able to tear her eyes away from the monitor, where Clint was kissing and caressing Loki with a tenderness he’d rarely shown. Taking a deep breath, Natasha was able to walk out of the command center without stumbling, at least. Her legs felt like jelly, but she managed.

Steve watched her leave and felt more concerned by her blank expression than if she’d been crying, as he would have expected. He caught Bruce’s eye and raised his eyebrow in a mute question; Bruce only shook his head and helped himself to a flute of champagne. Still worried, Steve approached him under the pretext of refilling his own glass.

“You sure someone shouldn’t be with her?” he asked quietly.

Bruce grimaced before replying, “Sometimes… you just need to cry it out. Alone.”

Steve considered this statement and raised his glass in acknowledgement of its wisdom. “You’re probably right.”

“I’m no expert in women,” Bruce admitted after taking a sip of his drink, “but she’s about as tough as they come. I think she’ll be all right. Although it was rather a shock to the system, walking in and seeing… that, on the screen. Hell, it was a shock to my system, and I’m not even close to Clint.”

“I hope he knows what he’s doing,” Steve said, glancing up at the monitor. It showed Loki resting on his lover’s chest, half asleep, while Clint languidly rubbed his pale back with one hand. Steve added, hoping that Bruce would know more about the matter, “The Queen mentioned something about feral gnomes affecting Hawkeye… Apparently, Loki has thirty times more of them than Asgardian females.”

Bruce had taken another drink of champagne and suddenly spewed it out when his brain translated what Steve had meant. Everybody turned to stare as Bruce coughed, choked, and spluttered.

“I, uh… I’m all right, I’m fine,” he managed to say, then took one look at Steve’s stricken face and started to laugh. It was a helpless, uncontrollable laugh that lasted well over a minute and made tears roll down Bruce’s cheeks. “I… I’m s-sorr—bah-hah-hah-hah-hah!”

“All right, what’s so funny?” Tony demanded. “Share with the rest of the class, dammit.”

Still chuckling, Bruce wiped the tears from his eyes and patted Steve’s shoulder. “Sorry, Cap – it just hit my funny bone, and honestly, I needed a good laugh. Of course you wouldn’t know about pheromones, since they weren’t called that until, oh, fifty years ago. They’re the chemical odors that organisms exude to send signals – like alarm or the location of food – to others of their kind. Sometimes they’re so faint that they’re hardly detectable, but even Humans are affected by other Humans’ pheromones.”

“Oh,” Steve replied, feeling rather stupid.

“What’d you think they were?” Tony asked him.

“I wasn’t sure, but it sounded like ‘feral gnomes’…”

Tony snorted, attempted to stifle it, and burst out laughing all the harder. Bruce was just regaining his composure but seeing Tony lose it made him lapse into another fit of hilarity. Frigga approached to bestow a kind smile on Steve.

“Thor said you had been in cryogenic stasis for a good number of years – a lifetime for you Midgardians,” she mentioned, balancing her lit cigar on a saucer Maria had supplied in lieu of an ashtray. “It is not surprising that you would be unaware of new advances in learning. But one of the difficulties for your race is that you cannot see the world as we do; if you were able, you would understand so much more.”

With a flick of her free hand, Frigga caused sparks of light to appear – tiny, shimmering dots which seemed to hover and pulse with their own energy. There was a light mist of pink surrounding her, as well as blue mists around each of them, except Bruce was almost hidden by a dense cloud. Steve’s plume was also rather thick.

“These scents can tell much about a person, if only you understand the code. It is like an invisible language with which we are speaking all the time,” she said with a smile.

“And what are ours saying?” Tony asked, curiously stirring his own sparks floating in the air with his cigar.

“Yours and mine are saying we are content with our situation,” Frigga answered. “We are open to friendship but not much more. Your friends’ are telling a different story.”

Bruce did not feel the least inclination to laugh any longer. He did, however, feel the urge to hit Steve, and hard, when the man cluelessly asked, “What story is that?”

“You have been without a sexual partner for a very long time,” Frigga stated, her tone matter-of-fact and almost clinical. “You do not feel the lack as keenly as your friend, but both of you would be in better health if you could release your need. It is not good for a man or woman of any species to go for long without pleasure.”

Steve had blushed a bright red and was gaping as though he had swallowed his tongue. Seeing his discomfiture, Bruce was somewhat appeased, although he eyed his own sparkling cloud with weary distaste.

“Maybe you two should hook up and make like Hawkeye and his Loki-mama,” Tony suggested, earning himself a glare from both men. “I’ll even set up some cameras and record it for you – we could all make a killing on some hot man-on-man porn. Throw in a few clips of Hawkeye and Loki going at it like bunnies, and we’ve got ourselves a business!”

“You could actually sell this sort of thing?” Frigga asked, astonished.

“Oh, yeah – big bucks for beautiful boys,” Tony assured her cheerfully.

“How interesting,” she murmured. “On Asgard, nobody would pay to simply view them.”

“Why not?” Tony asked in turn, scrunching his eyebrows in confusion.

Frigga laughed, the musical sound brightening the entire room. “Why would you pay to watch someone making love when it is so much better to be making love oneself?”

“Well. You do have a point there,” Tony conceded with a grin, then took another puff of his cigar.



Loki was content – happy, even. He did not want to think about having to go back to his cell; he did not want to think about the next minute; he did not want to think at all. He simply wanted to enjoy the present, to luxuriate in the wonderful warmth of being wrapped in Clint’s arms, listening to Clint’s heartbeat with one ear pressed against Clint’s chest. Everything else was irrelevant and, for the moment, insignificant.

“Hey,” Clint’s soft voice broke in on Loki’s consciousness. “You hungry?”

“No,” Loki answered without thinking. The fact was, he had not felt actual hunger in a long while.

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m starving. That was a pretty strenuous workout, even by Army standards.”

Loki did not budge as he mumbled, “I suppose you will need to be fed if you’re to remain at peak performance levels.” He sighed as though he were being extremely inconvenienced. “Is there an establishment you deem fit for my refined palate?”

“Hardly,” Clint said with an answering sigh. “Just the Mess. We’re so far out in the middle of nowhere, there’s not even a decent Chinese place nearby.”

Loki gently nudged Clint’s balls with his knee, a gesture of affection he had fallen into the habit of doing in their post-coital haze. “Well, if we’re to leave this room at all, we need to shower.”

“Yeah. Come on, I’ll wash you like I used to; you just have to stand there.”

“Are you implying that I’m lazy?” Loki asked, one eyebrow artfully arched.

“No, I’m not implying anything – I know you’re a spoiled brat.”

Clint did not manage to escape quickly enough to avoid the blows Loki rained down upon his head with a pillow. He slipped and stumbled to the floor, where Loki pursued him with a pillow in each hand. Clint was silently laughing, shaking so hard that he could hardly draw a breath, but he managed to grab one of the pillows and fend off the other.

“All right! All right! What do you want me to say?” he asked, still unrepentant.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Loki responded, caught off guard since he hadn’t really thought about it. “Maybe that I don’t have to work hard because I’m smart enough not to.”

“I don’t know about that,” Clint teased, “but I do know that you kept me around to do the heavy lifting. You shouldn’t have to work hard since you’ve got people to do it for you.”

“Damn straight,” Loki declared with a smirk, using the expression he had learned from Clint during their previous time together. “Get up, then, Minion, and wash me!”

“Aye, aye, Sir,” Clint answered.

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