Brooding 54

By the time his new hvassalmr bow had been modified to his liking, Clint was hungry enough to realize that it must be close to dinnertime although he did not have a watch – or know how time worked on Asgard for that matter. He was glad when Gløggrsyn declared him fit to start duty the next day and offered to lead him to the royal dining room.

“Um… Is there like a Mess – a common dining room for the troops?” he asked the Captain as they navigated the crowded street.

“To be sure! The men in the barracks dine in the great hall on the first sub-floor. It is the largest hall of its kind in the palace, if not the most richly furnished.”

“Could you show me where that is? I don’t mean to be rude to the Queen, but I’d rather eat with the rest of the guys than, you know, the whole royal family.” To Gløggrsyn’s questioning look, Clint shrugged and replied, “I’m just an ordinary guy, and I just want to be one of the team. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m putting on airs or getting special treatment. Plus I don’t think the King is a fan of my being here, even though he did say I could stay for the sake of my kid. It’s a bit nerve-wracking to be with the in-laws, so to speak, without having Loki there to help me out.”

Gløggrsyn barked out a laugh and clapped Clint on the shoulder.

“’Tis always hard to marry into another’s family, regardless of the circumstances! And yours, I think, are not easy circumstances.”

“Yeah… Knocking up their son didn’t exactly earn me any brownie points,” Clint said with a wry grin. “Being a ‘Midgardian mortal’ doesn’t help, either.”

The Captain nodded in sympathy. “It does not do to dwell on the hardships in one’s life,” he advised. “For now, know that none would think ill of you for sitting at the King’s table – you are here as the Queen’s honored guest and are expected to keep company with them. But you may break your fast with the rest of the men since your watch will start before the first meal is served at the royal table.”

Gløggrsyn led Clint down to the main mess hall, showed him that his fingerprints and retinal patterns were registered so he could avail himself of the provisions there, and then put him on a lift that would take him up to the royal quarters.

“I will not see you on the morrow until day’s end,” he told him. “Aldinn will instruct you on your duties and accompany you for the first few days. Eat well and rest well tonight, for I expect you to work well tomorrow.”

“Yes, Sir!” Clint responded with a sharp Midgardian salute.

Gløggrsyn returned a hearty Asgardian salute – a fist to the chest – before leaving. He knew the Human had many things yet to learn, but he was confident that Clint would perform his duties well.

Clint himself did not feel very confident as he entered the royal dining hall again, but his new hvassalmr bow, which truly was the best weapon he had ever possessed, helped to bolster him against his misgivings and insecurities. Fandral was the first to notice his arrival and remarked upon the weapon immediately.

“Ah! So our Midgardian hero has earned his way into the best of the best – the Fjǫðr Lið! Now that you have the bow, you are a true warrior of Asgard.”

Clint smiled self-consciously and held it up for the others to see. “So far so good. I just hope I won’t disappoint anyone.”

“You should be proud. You are the first of your race to ever join the Asgardian army – let alone the most prestigious unit of the Herǫr Drengr,” Sif said with an appraising glance. “If you fight as valiantly for us as you have in your own realm, there will be many tales sung of your deeds.”

“Ah! Here come the minstrels now,” Volstagg announced with a nod in the direction of the door. A trio of musicians, accompanied by Thor, had walked in and was settling into an alcove with their stringed instruments. Thor came over to join them in admiring the hvassalmr and comparing it to Clint’s Midgardian bow. They were so engrossed in Clint’s explanation of all the customizations he had done to both that they did not notice the Queen’s presence until she spoke.

“I am pleased to see that you are properly equipped,” she said, then held out a leather wristband covered in braided designs. “This will aid you in finding your way until you have learned all of the passages of the palace.”

To Clint’s surprise, the decorative studs on the band were buttons that turned on a holographic projection of his immediate surroundings, adjustable for range in every direction, with the option of having routes suggested for any destination – all he had to do was say where he wanted to go.

“Wow! Voice-activated 3D GPS!”

“I beg your pardon?”

He was still explaining the acronyms when Odin walked in. Once they were seated and the food was served, the musicians began playing soothing tunes.

“My friend, you can also keep a list in this device of the places you will most often frequent,” Fandral leaned over to tell him, tapping the wristband with a finger. “I can suggest several mead halls where the drinks are excellent and the women… hospitable.”

The quick lift of his eyebrows left Clint in no doubt as to his meaning.

“Uh… thanks. For now I just need to know how to get down to the dungeons,” Clint replied. “I hope to memorize the way soon, but all the floors here look alike so I’ll probably need to use this for a while.”

“Ah! Of course. You’ll want to see how your child is doing,” Fandral said with a nod.

“Yeah… and Loki,” Clint added, his forehead furrowing. “I’m more worried about him, sitting there alone all day…”

“Oh, you needn’t worry about him,” was Fandral’s cheerful reply. “He likes being left alone – insists on it, in fact! He often holes up in the library for hours on end, with only the books for company, and is quite cross with anyone who dares intrude on his solitude. Or at least, he used to,” Fandral amended.

“Huh. I always knew he was smart, although I hadn’t pegged him as the bookish type. To be honest, I thought you guys would have more advanced ways for learning stuff.”

“Much of our knowledge is stored in books,” Frigga interjected from Clint’s other side. “And there are advantages to reading from a solid object. The way the words look on the page, how the light strikes the pictures, the weight of the book in one’s hands – all are helpful for engraining the information in one’s mind. And some of our most ancient records are accessible only from the original writings. Loki is very fond of gleaning arcane information from them.”

“He sure was thorough in researching about Earth,” Clint remarked. “He wanted to know every detail that might be exploitable. I guess he wanted to make sure his plan would work… or maybe he enjoys doing research.”

“He was always inquisitive as a child,” Frigga said, a hint of nostalgia drawing her eyes away from her guest. “When something interested him, he was determined to learn everything about it.”

It occurred to Clint that the demi-god had learned everything about him while he had been under Loki’s control – even experientially, when he had invited Clint to be his lover – but the Human did not care to broach the subject in his current setting. He simply wanted to finish eating and slip out as soon as possible so he could report the day’s events to Loki, who (Clint assumed) had been left alone in the dungeons since they had parted, deprived of any company or news. But the opportunity to hear about Loki’s younger years was too good to pass up, so Clint prodded Frigga for more details, which she was happy to supply. Hearing how Loki had thrown himself full-heartedly into drawing or how he had bumbled when learning his first seiðr spells brought a genuine smile to the archer’s face, transforming it with warmth and feeling.

“By the Norns!” Fandral exclaimed, observing him. “You truly are smitten with our rascal prince, aren’t you?”

Caught off guard, Clint could not hide his irritation as he turned and retorted, “Yeah – is that so hard to believe?”

“Well… yes,” Fandral replied in a reasonable tone. “After all, he bent your will to his by seiðr and made you do his nefarious bidding. He used you against your own people, even your own comrades, did he not? So I do find it odd that you should be so enamored of him. It’s as though you’re still under his spell.”

Losing his patience, Clint stood up from the table. A split second later he regretted it, sensing all eyes – including that of Odin – focused upon him, but it was too late to undo. He forced his voice, at least, to remain calm as he answered Fandral’s last comment.

“I’m not still under his spell, and I’m not being influenced by his pheromones, either. We went over all this while we were still on Earth. So… thanks for your concern, but I’m here of my own volition… because I want to be near Loki. I don’t know how long you’ve known him, but I’m willing to bet you’ve never got inside of his head – or vice versa – like I have. And what I learned was that he’s just like anybody else. And yeah, I love him. So if you’ll excuse me,” he added, addressing Frigga, “I’d like to go see him and fill him in on all that’s happened today.”

“Of course,” the Queen murmured, touched by his declaration.

Clint bowed to the company at large, then turned and walked out of the room at a brisk pace. Only when he was safely out of earshot did he stop to activate his wristband for directions to the dungeons.

The dinner party, though stunned, resumed eating with Volstagg leading the way. Thor realized belatedly that Clint had not heard any of the songs written in his honor; however, the thunder god was more unsettled by the archer’s candid profession of love for his erstwhile brother. Before Thor could pursue the reason for his disquietude, his attention was commandeered by his father, who wished to discuss with him the information on Thanos extracted from Loki.



Although Loki had carefully avoided mentioning any of the personal indignities to which Thanos had subjected him, after Odin and Frigga had left the dungeons he could not prevent those memories from coming to the forefront of his mind. Hence when the guards pushed his dinner tray through the trap door, Loki was still showering – thankful once again for the privacy afforded him by the curtains – and scrubbing his skin with a vengeance, as though the marks of his captivity and abuse were still clinging to him. He was exhausted, his skin red and tingling from the friction, when he finally shut off the water and wrapped a robe around his body. Despite his furious cleansing, he had been careful of the bulge of his belly. He cradled it now with his arm as he sat at the table and forced himself to eat. He had no appetite, even though he had purged his stomach of its accumulating bile, but he did not want to harm his child by not providing it with the proper nutrition.


He started at the sound of Clint’s voice, then immediately drew back the curtains so he could see his lover. The sly grin on Clint’s face combined with the hvassalmr bow in his hand served to assure Loki that the Midgardian had indeed been accepted into the Herǫr Drengr.

“I knew it!” Loki crowed. “I knew they would not deny such talent!”

His heart danced to see Clint blush at his words. Loki sat on the ledge beside the force field with his back propped against a wall, arranging the hem of his robe to better cover his legs (also managing somehow to make them look more alluring) while Clint sat on the ledge outside of the cell.

“Your hair looks nice like that,” Clint said, surprising Loki.

“Oh! It hasn’t dried yet… and I haven’t done anything with it,” he replied, fussing with the untidy heap of curly locks. “I’m a dreadful mess!”

“No, you look good… really,” Clint insisted. “I’m just sorry I can’t run my fingers through your hair…”

The wistfulness in the archer’s voice caused a lump to form in Loki’s throat. With great effort the trickster god cleared it enough to answer, “As am I.”

They talked late into the night until Clint could not stop yawning and Loki insisted that he get some rest before his first day on duty. Loki stood as close as he dared to the barrier to watch his Hawk leave and was rewarded when, just before he would be lost from sight, Clint turned back and touched his fingers to his lips. Loki mirrored the gesture, knowing it was the closest thing to a kiss that they would be able to share for a long time – perhaps forever. When Clint finally disappeared from view, Loki curled into the fetal position in his bed, clutched Clint’s shirt to his chest, and wept himself to sleep.

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