Okay, y'all convinced me, so I did a sequel! Hope you like it. Again, this bears only a passing resemblance to anything done by Marvel, and I'm not profiting from this. Which sucks cuz I could use the money, but hey, whaddya gonna do, right? R&R, my friends!
The buzzing of the alarm clock was a harsh and utterly unwelcome start to Loki's day.
Wait… hadn't he banished that damn thing yesterday?
Loki growled and raised his arm to do so again, but Taryn caught his hand in hers with a sleepy laugh. "Oh no you don't, I don't have another spare," she said, reaching over him and turning off the alarm herself.
The feel of her naked body stretching so soft and languid over his utterly wiped the annoyance from Loki's mind, along with almost every other thought in his head–quite a trick, for him. She didn't go back to her side of the bed once the alarm was silenced, either. She stayed draped over him, collapsing down onto his chest with a sound that was half yawn, half sigh. "Don't wanna go to work," she grumbled.
He stroked her back, kissed her forehead, threaded his fingers through her soft red hair. "Then don't," he said. Personally, he'd be quite happy not to leave this bed for a month, or possibly forever. It still floored him that Taryn welcomed his touch, gave herself to him so completely. After so much rejection in his life, her acceptance–her love–were nearly unbelievable to him. "Doesn't getting kidnapped entitle you to at least a few days off?"
He said it lightly, hiding from her the ferocity of his rage at what had happened. Yes, Thor had apologized for using Taryn as the bait that would lure Loki out of hiding for the meeting Thor had so badly wanted, and Loki knew the Thunder God had no ability to lie within him. If Thor said he was sorry and would never have used her so had he known how it would infuriate Loki, then he truly meant it. And Thor had been willing to fight Nick Fury when he'd attempted to keep Taryn under arrest rather than letting her leave with Loki, which helped. But Loki still wanted blood for the fact that she had been taken from him at all.
Worse, that he hadn't even known about it until hours–hours!–after the fact. He hadn't realized she was in trouble until she'd been late coming home after her six o'clock class, but when they'd returned to her home after he'd rescued her, Taryn had admitted Thor had taken her from her office at the university only minutes after she'd arrived that morning. That knowledge made Loki almost physically ill. At least his brother would never have harmed her, but the question still tormented him. What if Taryn had been kidnapped by someone other than Thor? Anything could've happened to her in those hours when she'd been unable to call for him.
His caressing fingers slipped from her hair to find the Oroborous snake necklace at her throat, and that tight knot inside him loosened a bit. At least such a thing would never happen again.
"Not if I want to keep my teaching post," she sighed, genuine regret lacing her tone that she didn't dare take him up on his offer to stay home. Then Taryn raised her head and smiled down at him as he fingered the platinum snake he'd created. The enormous amount of magic he'd infused into the metal made his skin tingle. "I need to put my mark on you now," she teased.
"Oh, my lady, you already have."
Her smile grew and she kissed him, but when Loki tried to roll with her, to turn the kiss into something more, Taryn pulled away. "I do need to go to work," she said regretfully.
Loki considered arguing against it, or maybe even ordering her not to go, but he knew her better than that. "Then I will go with you," he said, and after a moment, she nodded her agreement. Like Loki, Taryn clearly knew better than to start an argument she'd lose.
She'd seen his fury all too clearly last night.
"Good," she agreed, smiling again. "You can help me grade papers. I know how much you love mindless, repetitive tasks." He groaned and she laughed.
And then an explosion of thunder rocked Taryn's house.
Thor's shout was as loud as the thunder he'd summoned. Loki was off the bed and again battle-ready in his Æsir armor with a thought. What was Thor doing here? Hadn't Loki been clear enough last night? "Stay there," he told Taryn as she scrambled to her feet, winding the sheets around her body.
She didn't get a chance to reply before Thor crashed through their bedroom door, also in his full Æsir armor. He batted a whirling knife out of the air with Mjollnir–Loki's throw had been pure reflex. The blade curved out of its deflected arc and returned to stab Thor in the back of the thigh–all the adjustment Loki could make in the instant he had to react, impaling leg instead of throat. The little dagger hadn't even been slowed by Thor's armor.
"What the hell do you want?" Loki demanded, yanking the knife out with a twitch of one finger before whatever spells he'd put on this particular blade could do him serious damage. If Taryn hadn't been there, he might've been tempted to leave it in, but she always made him want to be better than he was. Damn it. "Didn't I tell you not–"
"You have to get her out of here," Thor interrupted, teeth gritted as he clutched his leg. Loki's magic was a green stain mingled in the flowing blood. Loki caught the knife as it flew back to him and felt the spell of pain he'd enchanted it with. Nothing else could make Thor react so to just one little wound. "SHIELD will be here any second–"
This time, the explosion that rocked the house was a real explosion. Everything else forgotton, Loki spun, saw Taryn staring at him wide-eyed with terror, and cursed himself for not killing Fury last night when he'd had the chance. His mind worked rapidly. "Taryn," he said, holding out a hand, and she ran to grasp it without hesitation. "Do not move from where I put you," Loki commanded, and before she could reply, he thrust her through the full-length mirror on her closet door and left her there.
"Odin's Beard, Loki, you know that's not safe!" Thor grunted, collapsing down to one knee, but he still held Mjollnir ready. "Bring her back! I will fly her to safety!"
Loki didn't bother replying to that–there wasn't time. He could hear things breaking in the other rooms as SHIELD invaded. "Stay together," Loki ordered, then grabbed Thor under the arm and shoved him through the mirror after Taryn as his brother shouted in protest.
Thor was never one to leave a battle, but to Loki's mind, he'd been given a far more important job–protecting Taryn. Besides, his brother wouldn't be much good in a melee until Loki could take the time to lift the spell crippling his leg. Far better for Thor to keep Taryn from wandering in the mirror realm, where being still was the only virtue Loki needed from him.
Something else shattered and Loki resolutely turned his back on the mirror. "Have you come to play with me again, SHIELD?" he called, his voice a merry challenge.
Taryn caught Thor as he was thrust unceremoniously through the mirror–and he did mean caught. Thor tried to stand but collapsed with a groan when his leg buckled, taking her down with him, pinning her beneath his crushingly heavy body.
If the situation wasn't so strange and their new location so terrifying, the look on Taryn's face at Thor's haste in scrambling off her when he realized what he'd done would've made him laugh. Here, however, laughter wasn't a reaction he felt able to give. "Forgive me," Thor said, holding up both hands. "I meant no disrespect."
Now there was laughter–Taryn's. "If getting squished is the worst that happens to me today, I'll be happy," she said, and finally took a moment to look around her. All the humor drained from her face and was replaced by bewilderment. "Where are we?"
Thousands of mirrors surrounded them, dancing and ringing as though they were the largest glass wind chime in existence. The panels looked close enough to touch, but when she reached out, Taryn's fingertips met nothingness. Just in front of them, a mirrored pane showed Taryn's bedroom with Loki in the center, far away and hazy. His green eyes seemed to find her for an instant but in the next, he turned and walked away. The window into her room darkened and was soon just another mirror, one among many in the spinning crowd. Acting on instinct, Taryn started to get to her feet, to catch up to it before it could be lost.
Thor grabbed her arm and stopped her. "No! Don't move," he shouted, teeth gritted against whatever Loki's wicked spell was doing to his leg, and he pulled her back down to sit beside him. "Loki has sent us into the mirror realm."
Her brown eyes lit with excitement. "We're in another realm? That's so cool! I've always wanted to see–"
Thor cut her off, his face and tone dark. "Whatever you've always wanted to see, you won't find it here."
"You've been here before?" Taryn asked, obviously taken aback by his reply.
Thor shook his head. "Never," he growled, and he'd never wanted to be, either. Memories of an argument between Frigga and Loki, more vicious than any other, swept his mind. "Mother was furious when she learned that Loki had discovered this place. She said it is more perilous than any other realm–more sorcerers have been lost to the mirror realm than in any war, she told him. She begged him to leave it alone, but he would not be put off. It was a challenge."
Taryn glanced around and he clearly read her worry in every reflection before he spoke again, his voice very serious, needing her to believe how dangerous this was. "Taryn, Loki told you to stay where he put you, and told me to stay with you. They weren't idle words. If we are separated, the chances of finding each other again are almost nonexistent. If we move from this spot, there is every chance Loki won't be able to find us to bring us out of here."
Taryn gaped at him for a moment. Then she reached up and touched a necklace Thor knew hadn't been on her last night–because if he'd seen it, he'd have known at once that she and Loki were lovers and he would never have touched her, much less taken her. The glistening Oroborus snake wrapped around her throat and clutched its own tail in its teeth, a symbol of rebirth and eternity. The favorite symbol of Loki. "He will find us," Taryn said, and the assurance in her voice was so complete, Thor didn't question her.
"There are other reasons," Thor admitted. Gods, his leg felt like it had been injected with acid! What the hell had Loki done to his knives? He'd never been able to enchant his throwing knives with curses before–every try had left him near crippled from the magic drain. A quick spell for accuracy had been his limit in the heat of a fight and Thor knew he hadn't had time for even that just now. Whatever spell had been on that knife had been laid before Thor had ever come to Taryn's home.
Yet more proof that Loki had grown immeasurably more powerful than when Thor had last fought him on Asgard.
But this, too, was a puzzle for another time. Much as he wished he were at Loki's side, battling those who would harm his brother, Thor had to admit that he was probably better placed here. Loki was a battle-tested veteran, hardly in need of Thor's defense. Taryn, despite her brave heart, was no warrior maiden like Sif. Thor indeed felt the burden Loki had placed upon him and tightened his grip on Mjollnir. I will not fail you, brother, he swore silently.
Taryn shivered and pulled her sheets tighter around her shoulders. The mirrors around them spun, turn, offered glimpses of other worlds, of faces, of fire and water and violence and things gone too quickly to be recognized–some beautiful, some hideous. "Well, I'm guessing we don't want to run across those lost sorcerers," she said quietly. "I'd imagine they'd go crazy pretty fast in here. Just tell me this–how soon before they realize we might represent a way out of here and come looking for us? And how long before we go nuts, too?"
She was quick for a Midgardian, Thor thought with admiration. Of course, Loki would never love someone who wasn't. "Just try not to look too deeply into the mirrors," Thor said, not knowing if it was good advice or not, but it gave her something to focus on other than the swirling, changing images. She nodded and focused on her feet instead. "Loki will not leave us here long enough for the Lost Ones to find us."
Taryn's mouth tightened and she nodded once. He liked her faith in his brother. It was a quality he hadn't seen in many others. "Why is SHIELD really after me?" she asked after a few moments where Thor's harsh, uneven breathing was the only sound to break the musical tinkling of swirling mirrors.
Thor's fingers dug into the thick muscle of his thigh as a wave of agony tore through him. It was a moment before he could speak. "I am not entirely sure, but the reasons Fury gave last night are the most likely," he finally managed. Gods, he'd never showed pain like this, but then again, he'd never felt pain like this. The enchantment on that knife had been powerful indeed to hurt him so. "According to your government, you've aided a fugitive. And Loki showed his power last night when he controlled Fury," he added, cursing himself for his part in making his brother do so. "He's too strong for them to ignore."
Taryn wrapped her arms around her knees. "I don't suppose it would help if you told them that he just wants to be left alone," she sighed. "They're not going to do anything but piss him off, you know that, right?"
"Indeed I do." Thor actually groaned the words and hated that he couldn't hide his pain from her. It was unmanning to be seen as so weak, and by his brother's woman, no less! It could only be worse if it was Jane witnessing his weakness. "They are provoking the war they fear, just as I almost did when I took you."
Taryn finally looked up from her bare feet and frowned when she saw him–Thor could see his own green-tinged pallor in a thousand reflections. "God, you look awful! Let me try something to help you out," she said, raising a hand as if to unfasten the necklace that was all she wore besides the bedding.
Thor caught her wrist and stopped her. "That is my brother's symbol," he said, although the chances of her not knowing that were slim. "Whatever you are planning, leave that there. If Loki were to return and it not be upon you, his reaction would be… poor."
Taryn scoffed at the word he'd chosen, but Thor couldn't make himself say any of the others that had been rejected before he'd settled on poor–disastrous was probably the most accurate. Thor had no desire to make a permanent enemy of the brother he'd only just reclaimed. Loki had always been jealous of Thor, and if he arrived to find Thor and Taryn sitting so close, she wearing only a thin sheet and Loki's gift gone from her neck… it didn't bear thinking of. "What would you have done?" Thor asked, because he was truly curious. If Loki could enchant one of a thousand knives with such a strong spell, what would he have placed on the gift he'd given the woman he loved?
"I thought it could help you," Taryn replied, and despite not reaching for it again, he could tell she wanted to. He redoubled his efforts to hide his pain. "He said it could heal any injury."
Thor's brows rose. That was strong magic. How long before the Lost Ones smelled it on her and came to investigate? "That is a rich gift indeed. Does it do aught else?" he asked, mainly to keep her talking so that thought wouldn't occur to her, too. With an enchantment like that, the necklace didn't need to do anything else to be worth all the gold in Asgard.