Brooding 38

Breakfast was buffet style, so Loki – who was somewhat familiar with Midgardian cuisine – explained the various dishes to Frigga while Clint loaded Loki’s plate, since Loki could not comfortably do so himself with the chains on his wrists. Fury sat at the head of the table and watched the group balefully with his exhausted eye, not having slept much due to watching all the activities of the night. Steve and Bruce were still outraged from learning that their privacy had been violated, however, and hardly spoke at all, so the conversation was carried by Tony and Loki for the most part, staying on innocuous subjects like food and differences in American and European habits, with Frigga and Maria joining in occasionally. Natasha ate in silence, avoiding Clint’s questioning glances again.

When they were close to finished with eating, Clint gave up on trying to catch his former partner’s eye.

“Director, have you heard anything from Thor?” he asked instead, resting a hand on Loki’s knee in mute reassurance.

“He’s on his way back; he should arrive in three hours, give or take.”

“Hm… I was hoping to make a quick trip into town to pick up a few things from my apartment. Assuming, of course,” Clint added, turning to Loki, “that I can take some of my stuff to Asgard?”

Loki opened his mouth to answer, then thought better of it and deferred to Frigga. “I believe so, as long as the Queen allows it.”

“Of course, my dears,” Frigga answered with a smile. “While I can guarantee that you will be provided with everything you need – clothes, housing, food – I’m sure there are some items of sentimental value that you would like to bring with you.”

Clint nodded. “I would hate to part with my custom-built bows… not that I don’t think you have good weaponry on Asgard, but like you say, some stuff has sentimental value. Plus my clothes… should be only a duffel bag or two. Director, my lease is until the end of the year and I’m all paid up, so you can use the place for a safehouse if you like. I’m obviously not taking the furniture, so someone might as well get some use out of the place.”

“All right. Do you want us to renew the lease in case you come back?” Fury asked pointedly.

“No need for that, Sir,” Clint told him. “If I do come back, it would be with my family, so I’d have to get a bigger place anyway.” He flashed a grin at Loki, who had almost dropped his fork and knife upon hearing this statement. The demigod stared at the archer, pressing his lips together to keep them from quivering, as inexpressible emotions flickered through his eyes. Clint rubbed his thigh, understanding how it affected Loki to realize he had a new family now.

“So Hawkeye, you’re really in it for the long haul, huh?” Tony put in with his usual disregard for tact.

“Yeah – I have to be, for the kid’s sake,” Clint replied seriously. “At least eighteen years, you know… unless he grows up quicker than we mere mortals do.”

“We have no way of knowing for certain how quickly the child will grow,” Frigga admitted, “but if it takes after Loki, it would be slower than Midgardian children. Since the Jötun, like the Æsir, live thousands of years by your reckoning, they develop at a much slower rate. I did find Loki’s growth to be comparable to Thor’s, though. We considered them both to be fully matured at around thirty-six Midgardian years, when they had reached their full height.”

“That bites,” Tony remarked. “At that rate, you’ll have a teenager on your hands for twenty years! Good luck with that, daddies.”

“At least that gives me a chance to get it right… if and when I make mistakes,” Clint responded. He exchanged a look with Loki. “This is all new territory for me, so I hope I get to take things slow and figure them out as I go.”

Loki did not speak, but he squeezed Clint’s hand where it rested on his thigh in tacit agreement.

 


 

 

Fury could not refuse to let Loki accompany Clint to his apartment since the manacles seemed to be working properly thus far, but he insisted on sending Steve and Tony along as security. Bruce calmly pointed out that he would be more of a risk than Loki in a crowded city and opted to work in the lab on some of Tony’s projects. Natasha had hoped that Frigga would stay behind as well, but when the Asgardian Queen indicated that she would go with her son as a further guarantee that he would cause no trouble, the female agent felt there was no decent excuse for her to not join the party. Maria arranged for three stretch SUVs to transport them, with the main group riding in the middle one, and Natasha quietly got into the lead vehicle. Clint noticed but did not say anything, realizing that his old friend would have to come to terms with these sudden changes in her own time.

Tony wanted to fly over the convoy to make adjustments to his new suit and Maria rode up front with the driver, so it was just Frigga and Steve in the spacious cabin with Clint and Loki. Ever the gentleman, Steve struck up a polite conversation with the Queen, asking what she thought about Earth as she saw it on this visit and what some of her impressions had been on her former visits.

Settled on the other bench seat with his arm comfortably wrapped around Loki’s shoulders, Clint asked him something he had been wondering about since the day before.

“Baby… tell me honestly, now: have you ever thought about escaping?”

Loki snorted in amusement. “Of course. Until I fell ill, it was the only thing I thought about. But there are precious few places in all the Nine Realms where I would be beyond the long reach of the All-Father, and those few places are – as I regrettably know from experience – already occupied by some rather… unsavory characters.”

Clint acknowledged this by pulling Loki even closer. “Well, that wouldn’t work, then… but if you were free to go anywhere, where would you go?”

“I don’t know,” Loki answered, his face pensive as though he had never even considered such a thing. He had certainly not been asked it since his capture. “Somewhere in Europe, perhaps… Milan was interesting, and the tailors there were at least competent. The food in Paris was good… Remember the little bistro where you took me on our first day there? The server’s attitude was atrocious, but I’ve not had better pastries before – even from the palace kitchens of Asgard. And that port town where we acquired the rare metals for Erik had a nice air about it…”

“It did, didn’t it,” Clint agreed, playing with the ends of Loki’s hair. “But those are all places here on Earth – wouldn’t you rather live on Asgard?”

Loki’s expression grew cold, although he managed to keep his voice neutral. “No, why would I? I’ve seen everything worth seeing there already.”

“But wouldn’t you miss your friends?”

Loki averted his eyes, staring out at the dusty desert landscape rushing past the windows. When he spoke, it was in a whisper audible only to Clint. “I don’t have any friends worth missing.”

Clint studied Loki’s profile for a few minutes without replying, just keeping his lover’s shoulders in a tight embrace. After a moment he could sense Frigga’s gaze upon them both, and he hoped she did not think they were having a spat. He leaned in to kiss Loki’s neck behind his ear, eliciting a gasp from him as well as a wan smile.

“You should not do such things when you cannot follow through on them,” Loki teasingly chided.

“Who says I can’t?” Clint retorted. “I am taking you to my apartment, after all.”

Chuckling, Loki leaned against Clint’s shoulder, pressing his nose against the fabric of the agent’s uniform and inhaling deeply.

“I don’t think there are enough pheromones in the universe to make you take me in the presence of my mother.”

“Not yet, anyway,” Clint said with an answering chuckle. He wrapped both arms around Loki’s slender frame and frowned when he felt how prominent Loki’s ribs were. He silently vowed to make sure Loki ate more and grew healthier.

“My dearest Hawk,” Loki murmured against his neck, “if you could go anywhere, where would it be?”

Clint thought about it for a moment. “I like it out here in the West… Colorado, Wyoming, Montana. It’s not too crowded and there’s a lot to see and do. I wish I had time to take you to Montana – it’s called Big Sky Country for a reason. You can see for miles and miles… the whole horizon, three hundred sixty degrees if you stand on a hill. And the air just feels different somehow. Clearer. Purer. Then there are some amazing views of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming… and I think you’d enjoy hiking through the Garden of the Gods in Colorado.”

“It sounds wonderful,” Loki agreed wistfully, his fingers playing with the strap at Clint’s throat and gently scratching the skin beneath.

“It would be a great place to raise the kid,” Clint continued, seeing it all unfold in his mind’s eye. “Maybe a horse ranch with a few hundred acres, near enough to a town that we could run out and get stuff when we needed to but far enough away that we wouldn’t have to deal with nosy neighbors… You could homeschool the kid while I took care of the horses, and we’d ride out for picnic lunches whenever the weather was good enough… just you, me, and the kid. And I’d make sure to teach him how to shoot so if he wanted to, he could work for S.H.I.E.L.D. – or any other agency.”

“Mmm… And I could teach him magic away from prying eyes… assuming he has any aptitude,” Loki added. “Once he learns to control it, he could help defend your world from invaders like the Chitauri, I suppose…”

“He would be a valuable asset if he has any magical powers,” Clint said, seriously considering the potential. “He would never have to worry about getting work… at least here on Earth.”

Loki sighed and snuggled even closer to his lover. “He would be so much happier here…”

“You really think so?”

“I know it for a fact. I… I struggled, being different from all the Æsir around me, especially since I did not know the reason why. At least our child will know the truth of his heritage… but it will still be difficult. The Æsir… do not have any love for Frost Giants. And as my child – the child of a traitor and disgraced prisoner – he will be regarded with suspicion… if not outright loathing.”

Clint absorbed this information, feeling a hard lump forming in the pit of his stomach. If he himself were asked to endure such hardship, he could bear it; but to think of his child having to grow up in the midst of such prejudice was unbearable.

Loki sensed the tension that had gripped Clint. He sat up to look into his lover’s face.

“When our child is ready,” he told Clint, “when his powers have been ascertained and he has been taught how to control them… I wish for you to bring him back here. Perhaps… Perhaps here on Earth, he will be able to find some form of happiness. Even if he is different from all the Humans, if he is more powerful than they, he would at least command some respect. But if his powers are not remarkably strong… there will be no place for him on Asgard.”

“What about you?” Clint asked, his expression sober. He already knew the answer.

“I will wish you both happiness from my cell,” Loki replied, sadness casting a shadow over his pale face. “But I will not shackle you to Asgard simply to have you near me. I could not force my son to endure a childhood like my own… not when there is a better place for him to be.”

Clint saw Loki’s eyes shining with moisture and pulled him roughly into an embrace. As he kissed the raven-black hair, he fought to keep the tears in his own eyes from spilling.

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