Brooding 39

They rode in heavy silence the rest of the way, Frigga and Steve having noticed the lovers’ somber mood. Clint helped Loki out of the SUV when they parked in front of his apartment building while Steve lent the Queen a hand. Maria ordered the other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to fan out around the street, creating a perimeter, which gave Natasha an excuse to make herself scarce. Tony flew in and landed on the sidewalk with a flourish, showing off for Frigga’s benefit and to irritate Steve.

“It’s really not much of a place,” Clint warned Loki as he unlocked the front door, “just somewhere to hang out and unwind when I’m not working… which is almost never.”

Loki smiled and laced his hand around the arm Clint offered. “I’m sure it’s lovely. I only wish I could have come here when I visited before.”

“You didn’t?” Tony asked in surprise as they started climbing the stairs. “In all the time you were eluding Big Brother, you never came to your baby daddy’s place?”

“Of course not. It would’ve been the first place they’d look,” Clint answered. “They would’ve expected me to come by to pick up my spare gear.”

“Yeah but if they knew that you knew they would be watching, it would’ve been the last place you’d come, so then it would’ve been the perfect hiding place!” Tony insisted.

“We did have agents watching the area,” Maria confessed. “We were hoping you would want your own weapons badly enough to risk it.”

Clint shook his head. “Nope. Loki just made sure I got new toys to my specifications. I think those might still be in evidence lockup at headquarters.”

Reaching his door, Clint pulled out his keys again to unlock it, then let Loki pass through first. “Like I said, it’s not much. At least I had a chance to clean it recently.”

Loki stepped into the living/dining room and stood in the center, just behind the worn leather sofa, as the others filed in. “It’s bigger than my cell… and the walls are solid.” He turned a wry grin toward Clint and Frigga. “I am rather enamored of solid walls, now that I live in a glass cage.”

“Damn, this is clean. Do you have a service come in or something?” Tony asked as he walked over to Clint’s entertainment center and began reading the CD titles.

“Nah. Just had a few weeks of forced time off,” Clint said, pulling out a long case from under the sofa. When he unsnapped the lid, three bows with several dozen arrows appeared. He set them out on the floor and removed the sponge packing, then put only the gear back in again.

“Can we help with anything?” Steve offered.

“Thanks, but I’ve got it. Just make yourselves at home. There’s some lemonade in the fridge… or beer,” Clint said before disappearing into the bedroom.

Loki followed him slowly, taking in the environment that was the closest thing to his lover’s home. He watched as Clint pulled out a duffel bag and stuffed clothes into it from his drawers with military efficiency, then as he filled a kit bag with essential toiletries in the bathroom. When Clint started pulling out more hard cases from under the bed, Loki sat on its edge to watch. After a moment he lay down, resting his head on Clint’s pillow.

“Tired?” Clint asked, pausing his whirlwind of activity.

“No… Just imagining what it might have been like to… wake up here, with you, every morning.”

Clint left the assorted bows and arrows on the floor to lie on his side next to Loki, peering down at him from where he perched his head on one elbow.

“It would have been wonderful,” he said softly, aching to see the longing in Loki’s expression.

“Yes, it would have been,” Loki agreed, reaching up to touch Clint’s cheek. The chain dangling heavily from his wrist was a tangible reminder of his incarcerated status. Clint grabbed that hand and kissed it – on the palm and on each finger – then leaned down to kiss Loki on his lips. It was a tender kiss that meant much more than the rough, passionate bites they used to exchange during their lovemaking, and Loki could not get enough of it. He was still clutching Clint’s shoulder, begging for more, when Frigga approached the open door and halted just outside. The couple sensed her presence and moved apart, though loath to do so.

“They tell me your brother will be arriving in one hour,” she said with quiet sympathy, “and since it will take nearly as long to travel back to the facility…”

“Right. Of course. I won’t be long now,” Clint replied instead of Loki, standing up and gathering his gear. He carried them all into the living room and began packing them together into the one case.

Loki sat up to watch him. He had not bothered to correct Frigga that Thor was not his brother because he simply did not have the energy to spare – he was too focused on engraving everything Clint said or did into his memory. But his active mind was also seeing double as it imagined what life might have been like if they had ever lived in this apartment together. He could easily envision Clint cleaning or adjusting his weapons while Loki busied himself with more domestic affairs, perhaps cooking a meal for them to share. There was no formal dining table in the apartment but they could eat sitting on the couch like they often had in hotel rooms, watching TV and laughing and talking, which had often led to making love. Loki’s vision blurred as, with a final snap of the fittings on the lid, Clint finished packing his weaponry.

“Oh, my dearest,” Frigga murmured before sweeping across the floor to sit beside Loki on the bed and wrap her arms about him. Loki did not resist, leaning into her for comfort. “I will talk to your father and ask him once more for leniency,” she promised. Loki smiled sardonically.

“I thank you for your kindness,” he said, pulling away enough to face her, “but the King would have to revoke his decree if I am not to be punished… and he would never break his own word.”

Frigga pursed her lips, knowing it to be true but still finding it galling.

Meanwhile Clint came back into the bedroom to do a final check of the drawers, then he went into the bathroom to do the same there. He lifted the lid of the hamper and grimaced at the sight of his laundry.

“Ugh! No time to wash ’em… might as well pitch ’em,” he grumbled, striding out to the kitchen to grab the trash bag. He threw in the perishable contents of his refrigerator – mostly boxes of leftover Chinese take-out – before returning to retrieve the dirty clothes. When he began stuffing them into the bag, however, Loki cried out.

“Stop! Wait!”

“Huh?” Clint said, turning around. Loki had jumped off the bed to approach him.

“Are you going to dispose of those?”

“That’s the idea…”

“I… I would like to keep one of them. Perhaps that shirt,” Loki said, pointing to a gray Henley.

This?” Clint asked, wrinkling his nose in disgust. “I wore it to work out at the gym – it’s filthy and sweaty… and it smells.”

“Precisely.” Loki wrung his hands together as though embarrassed by what he was about to say. “But it smells like you.” In response to Clint’s disbelieving stare, he elaborated, “In my cell I am cut off from the world outside… not only the sights and the sounds but also the smells. Every day the food is different, to be sure, but it is bland and repetitive. There were times,” he gulped, choking back emotion, “times I thought I had forgotten what you looked like. In the daily monotony, lacking almost any stimulation, I felt as though I would go insane… and forget all that existed beyond my four walls.”

Frigga had stood to come up behind Loki, and now she placed her hands upon his shoulders. Loki turned briefly to acknowledge her presence before continuing.

“It would be a great comfort to me… to have something that reminds me of you. No doubt that scent would be strong enough to awaken my senses, no matter how dull they become.”

Clint stared at Loki with pain written on his face. He had not realized some of the most basic ways in which Loki would be affected by his captivity.

“If… If you really want it, of course you can have it,” he said, holding out the sweat-stained shirt. “But really… it’s pretty nasty. Would it work just as well if I gave you another one after wearing it for a day? So it’s not quite so… rancid. And if the smell disappears after a while, I could get you another.”

Loki considered what Clint had said, then asked Frigga, “Would that be allowed? I know you have sent me gifts despite the King’s orders, but… would it be possible for him to replace the item periodically?”

“I will make sure that it is,” Frigga declared without hesitation. “Oh, Loki! Had I known, I would have sent you flowers from my garden, herbs and spices and perfumes of every variety…”

“The only perfume I would covet is the one you wear most often, for it would remind me of you,” Loki said soberly. He had avoided using her maternal title, but it mattered little when his sentiment spoke volumes.

“Anything you wish,” Frigga assured him.

With a sigh of relief, Clint dropped the shirt into the garbage bag.

“Honestly, Baby,” he told Loki, “I would rather you remember me as smelling a little better than that!”

Loki laughed in acquiescence.

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