Brooding 40

“That’s it? A duffel bag and a weapons case?” Tony asked incredulously.

“That’s it,” Clint told him, setting the two items down.

“Well, ya gotta take this La-Z-Boy, right?” Tony persisted. He was lying back in the chair in his full armor after having demonstrated to Frigga its reclining mechanism. “This is like the most comfortable chair I’ve ever set my ass on!”

Clint had to chuckle. “That’s because it’s worn in. You can have it if you want. I’m not gonna ask them to transport my friggin’ furniture to another planet or realm or whatever.”

“Damn, that’s a tempting offer,” Tony said as he pulled the lever and moved into an upright sitting position, “but I can’t… I literally can’t, since I promised Pepper she’d have free reign with the new interior décor. Guess I’ll just have to stop by from time to time to relax here. You have a great collection of CDs, by the way – all the classic rock albums. I had no idea people still owned CDs.” He turned to Steve and explained, “They’re like records, only smaller.”

“You see anything you like, it’s yours,” Clint said to both Tony and Steve. “I’m traveling light.”

“You got an iPod or something with all your tunes?” Tony asked, making Clint laugh.

“Nah. It’s all right; I’ll live.” He turned to Maria and gave her his keychain. “The car goes to Tasha. She’s listed as a driver on the insurance papers already, but can you make sure the title gets transferred to her?”

“I’ll personally see that it gets handled,” she assured him.

Clint took one last sweeping look at the apartment. “I guess that’s it, then. Let’s go.”

When they had traipsed down the stairs and settled back into the SUVs, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents reconvening like ants swarming on food, Loki snuggled against Clint and closed his eyes.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

“For what?” Clint asked, although he thought he knew the reason.

“For… everything,” Loki answered. “For leaving your home… your friends, your career, everything… just to be with your child.”

“And you,” Clint reminded him, holding the demigod slightly away to peer into his face. “Don’t forget that!”

Loki gazed at Clint for a long moment, lost in the intensity of Clint’s gray-green eyes. “You don’t seem to understand… or perhaps you’re more of an optimist than I took you for,” he finally remarked. “Once back on Asgard, I will be able to offer you very little in the way of companionship.”

“Maybe the question is, what will I be able to offer you,” Clint pointed out. “I’ll be able to come visit you, won’t I? Talk to you about stuff?”

“I… I hope so,” Loki said, casting a quick glance at Frigga, who was in a conversation with Steve about Asgardian flowers. “Odin had forbidden the Queen from visiting me, but she was still able to send her projection into my cell, so if the guards do not allow you to enter the dungeons, you can ask her for aid. Ever since I was found to be with child, she has defied Odin’s orders – to his face – to provide me with what comfort she could. But I fear he will not stand for it much longer… He will probably begin enforcing his restrictions upon my return. However, the Queen can at least find a way to get messages through, I am sure. And… I will request that you be present at the time of the child’s birth. Perhaps for the child’s sake, the King will relent.”

Clint squeezed Loki’s shoulder and pulled him in to kiss his cheek. Loki sighed and leaned against him.

“There are times when I truly wish I had been born with the gift of foresight,” Loki said, his voice filled with regret. “Had I known I would have found such a man as you… I would not have cast my life and future away so rashly. I would have spent my youth scouring the Nine Realms, looking for you.”

“What would you have done when you’d found me?” Clint asked in a teasing tone, trying to steer Loki into more pleasant avenues of thought. “Would you still have kidnapped me and made me your love slave?”

“No… I would have watched you while remaining invisible to your sight… to observe your Midgardian ways and learn of your interests,” Loki said, contemplating his strategy. “Next I would have appeared to you as a Human, perhaps seducing you if the opportunity arose…”

“Oh, it would have arisen,” Clint told him with a smirk and a nudge, making Loki chuckle.

“Indeed! And then, once I was assured of your regard, I would have told you who I really was and from whence I came.” Loki paused. “Although if my foresight did not also give me a clear vision of the past, I would not have known the truth of my own origins… so I would have misled you, though not intentionally.”

“I wouldn’t have held that against you,” Clint said. “I just wish I could have been there to help you through the shock of finding out.”

Loki’s liquid eyes sought his lover’s. “And you would have been… of infinite comfort to me.”

They kissed, slowly savoring each other, oblivious to all else around them. At long last Loki tore his lips away and buried his face against Clint’s shoulder. He fought to control the rising tempest of his emotions; only after he succeeded did he continue speaking.

“Had I known of my parentage before the coronation, I would not have attempted to prevent Thor’s ascension, for I would have realized that Odin never intended to place me on his throne. I would not have wasted my time and energies trying to prove myself Thor’s equal, knowing that nothing – not even slaying my Jötun sire – would have sufficed to convince the All-Father…”

“Your Jötun…” Clint echoed, shocked as his brain comprehended what Loki had just said. “You mean… you killed your own father?

“Yes.” Loki’s voice was subdued but unrepentant. “He had abandoned me to die when I was a mere infant; I owed him no loyalty. And I thought… I had planned to lure Laufey to Asgard and kill him in Odin’s presence. The only part that went awry was the All-Father succumbing to the Odinsleep – I had wished for him to see me destroy the Jötun King with his own eye – but it was of little consequence, for in the end my exploits meant nothing to him. All he had ever cared about was his own son; I was merely a tool he had hoped to use against Jötunheim, but even when I razed that world with the Bifröst, he had no word of approbation to give me.”

The nonchalant manner in which Loki said this could not hide his pain from his lover. Clint wrapped him in strong arms and pulled him into a crushing embrace.

“So you killed one father to try to impress the other… and ended up with neither?” Clint asked, his voice gentle, as though too harsh a pronouncement might shatter his lover’s heart completely.

Loki swallowed, pursed his lips, and nodded. Clint released him from his stranglehold, though he still held him close.

“And your biological father… was the King of the Jötuns?”

“Yes.”

“So you’re still a prince… of a race just as powerful as the Asgardians.”

“Very nearly,” Loki conceded. “The Æsir defeated them during the last war… I was, after all, one of the spoils Odin took from Jötunheim. But from a Midgardian perspective, I suppose the Jötun would seem just as powerful. They are certainly larger, more intimidating, and more alien.”

“Huh.” Clint tucked a stray strand of Loki’s hair behind his ear, then studied his lover’s delicate features while trailing a thumb down his cheek. “So… when do I get to see your Jötun side?”

“Never!” Loki replied swiftly, horrified at the thought. “It is… hideous. I do not want you to see me that way… ever.”

“I would love you just the same,” Clint insisted. Loki only shook his head.

“You say that because you have never seen a Frost Giant. There is a reason why Asgardian children are told tales of the Jötun as a warning not to misbehave! I… I would not willingly have you see me… in that form.”

Clint kissed Loki’s tortured brow, trying to smooth away his concern. “All right. I won’t ask you to show me… unless you want to. Because I know you would be handsome in any form, even if it is a little ‘intimidating.’ You’ll always be my beautiful Prince.”

The way he looked at Loki then – adoring and also teasingly seductive – caused the demigod to literally throw himself at the Human, flinging his hands behind Clint’s shoulders along with the chains so he could press more closely against him. Clint steadied himself while guiding Loki to sit over his lap. He felt a warm splash on his cheek and knew it had fallen from one of Loki’s emerald eyes.

“Oh, Baby… it’s all right,” he murmured soothingly, rubbing the small of his back.

“It is not all right,” Loki contradicted, then convulsed with a sob. “If only I had known…! If only Odin had told me what I really was, I would have left the throne to Thor, whether he was capable of it or not; I would not have incurred the All-Father’s wrath; and I would not be rotting in the bowels of an Asgardian prison now! I would have been free to live with you here on Midgard… perhaps, as you described, to raise our child in the wild, open country that you love. With my powers unfettered, I could have protected you from any outburst from the child… We could have been together…”

“We also would have never met,” Clint pointed out. “If your life hadn’t taken this exact course, our paths would never have crossed. And unless you’ve got a time machine on Asgard, there’s no point in wishing your past was different. So stop looking back – we’ve all got regrets. Let’s just try to focus on the future, okay? Let’s make the best of it, do the best we can with what we’ve got, and be the best dads for our kid.”

Loki peered down into Clint’s upturned face from his vantage point. He could not stop the next few tears from rolling down his cheeks, but when he bent over to claim the archer’s lips in his own, he forgot why anything else had ever mattered to him before.

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