Brooding 22

Clint thought it was rather endearing how self-conscious Loki became in the shower. The pregnant demigod had been so caught up in their love-making that he had forgotten his condition; when he looked down and saw his protruding stomach, he tried uselessly to cover it with a washcloth. Clint snatched the washcloth from his hands.

“Hey!” he said, getting up into Loki’s downcast face so he would have to meet Clint’s eyes. “You’re beautiful, okay? And I’m looking forward to watching your belly grow huge, and I’m gonna kiss every beautiful inch of it, all right? The bigger and heavier this kid gets, I want you to remember it’s because I was inside of you, because my cock was inside your ass, that we’ve got this baby – this amazing, mind-blowing miracle of a kid. All right?”

Loki nodded, not trusting his voice to speak without wavering. Clint rewarded him by kissing his lips, then trailing kisses down to his chest, taking time to tease his nipples, and kneeling at Loki’s feet to kiss all over the small bump. Loki thought the fetus might have rolled over inside its protective sac but was not sure enough to mention it. He was relieved beyond words, anyway, that the archer did not think his changing body was ugly. Loki had not even dared to hope that his former captive might be willing to become his lover again, let alone be so enthusiastic in anticipating the birth of their child. He kept waiting to wake up and find that it had all been a dream, while wishing the dream would never end.

Clint made short work of cleaning them both off once he started the process, his usual efficiency mixed with loving, tender gestures. Loki was not sure why the Human pinched his buttocks, but the sly smile on Clint’s face told him it was meant in fun, so he retaliated by pinching Clint’s at the next opportunity. Hearing his lover laugh was like music to his ears; his kisses were all the sustenance Loki’s hungry soul needed. But even though he felt no need for food, he knew Clint, as a mortal, could not go for long without it, so he agreed without much thought to accompany his lover to “the Mess” as he called it. Loki just wanted to be close to Clint, knowing that every second they could spend together was precious.

Clint grasped Loki’s hand and intertwined their fingers in an impulsive and somewhat uncharacteristic display of intimacy, but he had done so with the understanding that Loki craved affection – he needed to be reassured of Clint’s love for him. It still irked him how quickly Thor had abandoned his supposed brother and lover, leaving Loki with more self-doubt than he let on and forcing him to compensate with false arrogance and pride. Just like when Clint had first found Natasha – defensive and belligerent because her experiences had taught her to distrust all others – once he had realized how insecure Loki was, Clint not only could relate to him better but also felt protective of him. After seeing through the mask to Loki’s vulnerable heart, Clint could no more abandon him than he could have an injured child.

As they walked down the corridors to the Mess Hall, passing other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents returning from their dinner, Loki noticed how many of them stared at him and Clint, especially at their clasped hands. He thought Clint would let go at any moment, but when the Human steadfastly held on to him, Loki felt a long-forgotten warmth spreading through his chest. It did not matter that Clint’s ruddy face seemed a bit tinged with pink; the important thing was that he did not let go in spite of his embarrassment. Loki walked a little closer to him yet, struggling to focus on Clint’s running commentary about the layout of the facility.

He knew they were close to the Mess when they turned a corner and heard the low roar of mingled sounds, cutlery clashing and multiple conversations going on at once. The next moment the smell of cooking oil assaulted Loki’s nostrils, and suddenly Loki remembered that he had not had the bile removed from his body since that morning. It had built up for hours now, and the scent of fried foods caused his stomach to lurch, churn, and traitorously rebel.

Loki did not even have the chance to call out Clint’s name – he simply yanked on the archer’s hand as he turned back and retched, pressing his free hand to his mouth. Clint realized instantly what was happening and wrapped his arm around Loki’s waist, half-leading and half-hauling him away from the cafeteria.

“I’m sorry! I should’ve thought… Are you all right?” he asked, pulling Loki around the corner again and looking into his pallid face. Loki shook his head, feeling the bile rising in his throat. “Come on,” Clint said, dragging him toward a door and then knocking on it. When there was no answer, he pulled it open and led Loki inside. To the demigod’s relief, it was a bathroom, with a row of sinks he could just manage to stagger to before the violent eruption began. As the green bile hit the sparkling porcelain, Clint turned on the water and stroked up and down Loki’s back, helping him relax enough to allow nature to take its course. When the worst was over, Clint rinsed some paper towels in the next sink, then used them to wipe the clammy sweat off Loki’s face.

“Poor baby,” Clint murmured, concern furrowing his brow. “I’m sorry, it’s my fault – I should’ve known better than to bring you down here! I’m so sorry…”

Loki could not answer; he was having trouble even standing, since his body was trembling with the sudden battle that had raged through it. Clint saw him swaying on his feet and reached out to embrace him, letting Loki lean against his solid frame until he could catch his breath. Resting against his lover’s body, trusting in his support, Loki felt his world go from upheaval to calm. The clean scent of the shampoo and body wash on Clint’s skin was a welcome distraction which also erased the lingering odor memory of the grease. Loki inhaled deeply as he clung to the archer.

They were both startled when the door was flung open and Frigga flew into the privy.

“Loki! My poor darling!” she cried, encircling both men in her arms. “I’m sorry I could not get here sooner. Hold still, my dearest, and I’ll rid you of the rest of that nastiness.”

“Mother, you don’t have to—” Loki began, but both Frigga and Clint were propping him against the sink counter in preparation for the procedure. Loki swallowed and acquiesced, grateful to have one of Clint’s hands steadying his back and the other gripping his own. He squeezed it lightly as he felt the viscous fluid being drained out of his stomach and disposed of into nothingness, then sighed with relief. “Thank you,” he said in a subdued tone, feeling some strength returning to his limbs and realizing Frigga had done that as well.

Maria had followed the queen into the bathroom and was observing them with interest.

“The smell from the Mess did him in,” Clint explained to her. “Sorry we had to use the ladies’ room – it was the closest.”

“That’s quite all right,” she replied. “In fact, we were just coming to tell you that we have a separate dining room prepared for our guests. It will be quieter and I hope less… problematic.”

“That sounds lovely. Thank you,” Loki managed as he stood up straight on his own. “If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to… clean up, for a moment.”

“Of course,” Maria said before leaving. There was a brief, awkward moment when both Clint and Frigga lingered, each expecting to be the one to assist Loki; Frigga smiled and withdrew first.

“I know you are taking good care of my son,” she told Clint, laying a hand on his shoulder, “but we should set the times when I need to remove the bile from his stomach. His body is changing on a cellular level to accommodate the child, so the bile is a combination of dead tissue that is being discarded in favor of new tissues – such as his womb – and the waste eliminated by the child itself. His sickness is much worse than for a woman, who already has those organs; Loki is having to grow them now, and quickly, to keep pace with the child’s development.”

“I can see that it’s quite draining,” Clint remarked while they both watched Loki wash his hands and face, then cup some water to rinse his mouth. Clint grabbed more paper towels out of the dispenser and handed them to Loki, who dried himself off with care.

“I’m sorry to trouble you like this,” he said, turning to Frigga. “I should have remembered that it would have built up again by now.”

“It’s all right, dearest. You must have been a little… distracted.”

Both men blushed, even though Frigga’s smile was innocence itself.

“Now if you are ready, let us not keep our hosts waiting,” she declared, then led the way out of the bathroom. This time Clint offered Loki his entire arm, to lean on for support if necessary, and Loki gladly wrapped his own around it.

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