A/N: So, since people wanted a second part and since I felt like writing one, I've added this lovely piece to the story. It didn't quite turn out like I expected. I had prepared myself for some steaminess (M-rated) and general humor, but when I wrote this second piece, I realized that the story was headed in a more angsty direction. I hope it's still every bit as pleasing as the first (not as angsty) part.
A Lesson Not Learned - Part Two:
Loki went off the grid for one reason or another and as spring turned to summer, Aubrey had convinced herself that the God had pulled the plug on whatever they had been doing. She wasn't disappointed, but she was definitely unprepared when Nick Fury showed up on Tony's doorstep and demanded a private consultation with her.
"Miss Rivers, Loki tells me you've been communicating with him for the past months that he's been absent from the headquarters. I would like you to confirm that."
She almost didn't. If Loki himself had been present in the room, she would have told him to go impale himself on something sharp and spiky. She had never been on SHIELD's radar before, not even as the roommate and employee of Iron Man, but she certainly would be from this day onwards.
"Of course. Tony can vouch for it, as well," she added and crossed the kitchen to pour herself a glass of juice. She was shaking, she realized. Tiny slobs of juice had splattered onto the countertop by the time that the glass was full.
"You seem upset," Fury pointed out, sounding as though he just knew. He probably did.
"If so, that is my private business. Surely, you can understand that, Mr. Fury."
She wanted to ask if Loki had returned from wherever he had been. He couldn't very well have gone off on an impromptu vacation to Asgard. However, she couldn't ask with the lie that she had just told. She didn't want to be Loki's personal chess piece to move around as he pleased, but she wasn't sure that she had much of a say in the matter. The late night hours she had spent on reading up on Norse mythology was a painful testament to that. Loki had caught her eye and she was still fairly certain that she had caught his as well.
"I was disinclined to let you stay here in Stark's home, but he himself assured me that you were part of Tony Stark's life and not the life of Iron Man. I indulged him for reasons that now seem disgustingly sappy, and I'm starting to regret that decision."
"You can be certain that I haven't encouraged Loki's visits," Aubrey replied defensively. "Set up against the will of a God my own will seems rather fickle, I would think."
"Loki is a criminal, Miss Rivers. And I don't like it when he goes missing, especially not when we snatch him back up and he tells us that a civilian has been keeping him company all this time."
"If you spent this long on locating him, then perhaps you should have tried his apartment first," Aubrey retaliated, realizing too late that she probably shouldn't have.
"He's put a spell on his home."
Aubrey forgot that she was supposed to play indignant. "What sort of spell?"
"A spell designed to tamper with the minds of unwanted visitors, derailing them from tracking down the location. You can see why it would perplex me to find out that you know of it. Have you been to Loki's home, Miss Rivers?"
Fury could be intimidating when he wanted to and right now he was bordering on nightmare material.
Mr. Stark is requiring immediate assistance down in the basement, Jarvis' automated voice alerted the two humans. He is testing an optimized reactor core and is experiencing an ill-natured reaction.
Aubrey would have to thank Tony for including the knowledge and understanding of social customs into Jarvis' programming. The AI could scheme and plot with the skill of a spin doctor.
She woke up because she had to go throw up that last pint of beer.
With fuzzy teeth, rumpled hair and a general lack of hygiene, that was how she found Loki reclining in the coffee colored armchair opposite of her bed. This was her first time seeing him in months and Aubrey was certain that it was a drunken hallucination. She had had plenty of those.
"I require your assistance."
"And clearly I'm still drunk," she replied and pushed the bedcovers off her body, revealing a fully clothed body since she apparently hadn't bothered to change those seven hours ago. "Anyway, you won't get it."
She still needed to throw up and she couldn't physically do so with Loki in the room.
"So, go away," she ordered. "Shoo."
"I understand that Nick Fury paid you a visit," Loki said, ignoring her uncharacteristic display of rudeness.
"No thanks to you," Aubrey murmured, blindly shuffling towards the bathroom with little regard to how she looked. She was still angry with him, and her brain didn't work all that fast this morning considering the amount of toxins her body was trying to work off. If she looked like hell, then Loki would have to adjust to it.
"I still require your assistance, Aubrey," Loki called after her retreating form, his tone smooth and silky like the purest thread of gold. And it worked. Aubrey stalled her trip to the bathroom and looked at the God distrustfully. She took the bait.
"What could you possibly need me for?"
"Don't act so suspicious. Have I given you any reason to doubt me?"
"My reason is the every breath you take."
"Tell me where you disappeared off to," she demanded, tired of the banter.
"Is that of such a great interest for you to know?" he smiled wryly, picking at his nails.
"Considering what you left behind unresolved, it is," Aubrey argued, knowing even before addressing the issue that she would never win this argument. If it was uncomfortable in her head, it would be excruciating in real life.
"You mean our last encounter," Loki clarified. He didn't pose it like a question; he announced it like a basketball score.
"Really, what else could I be referring to?" she deadpanned.
"I will admit that that was one of my more brazen moments," he confessed, brushing imaginary lint off his knee. "This, however, is a business visit, unlike the previous encounter that you appear hung up on."
Once again, he went and surprised her with his correct implementation of human phrasings.
"Hung up on," Aubrey repeated stonily.
"You're angry with me," Loki said, sounding genuinely baffled.
"I'm hungover and I'm in no mood to pretend that you don't piss me off, so please go screw yourself and leave me be," she smiled emptily. "And no, don't say that you'd rather screw me."
Ignoring the threat that the man's very presence indicated, Aubrey turned on her slightly off-balanced heel and locked herself inside her bathroom. She had brushed her teeth and was working on straightening out the knots in her hair when something inside her snapped and she hurled the brush into the sink, storming out the door with every intention of physically harming the man in her bedroom. Naturally, he wasn't there and she was left standing like an idiot in the middle of her room with her heart trying to squeeze its way up her throat. She ended up trashing the potted orchid that Pepper had given her for her birthday. She made a mental note to have it replaced without Pepper finding out.
Loki made a related visit a week later.
"A book on Norse mythology," he greeted her, flipping through the pages of her latest purchase. "Why would you need this encyclopedic material when you have a one such God at your disposal?"
"Two," she corrected him, taking the entire situation in a stride. Loki was unpredictable. It was better to simply run with the flow. "And I bought it for Tony. He sucks at mythology and keeps insulting Thor without knowing."
"My brother is easily offended," Loki shrugged and put down the book. "Have you per chance calmed down sufficiently for us to continue our discussion?"
"Drop the self-righteousness, please," she answered and sidestepped him.
"You would ask me to go against my nature?"
"Yes. And I've got a lot of paperwork to do, so I can't-"
Aubrey wasn't surprised when he came up close behind her, crowding her with his taller frame.
"We will discuss my request regardless of whether you have the time or not."
"Because you don't have time?" she guessed, turning around to look up at his face. "Ask me nicely, then."
It was perhaps a bit too assertive an approach – sort of an attack instead of an approach, really – but Loki didn't disappoint in his response.
"And how will you have me ask you, Miss Rivers?"
"Preferably privately," a decidedly masculine voice responded. "Which means not now."
"Stark," Loki greeted the man who was occupying the doorway to Aubrey's room. Aubrey herself didn't know whether to appreciate Tony's surprisingly insightful gesture or detest him for it. Part of her was infinitely grateful while a much more instinctive part wanted to rip his pretty brown eyes out of their sockets. She was in a bad place with SHIELD and Fury. It shouldn't be necessary for Tony to remind her of that fact.
"You look a little tattered," Tony stated with a calculative look at Loki's form. "Been having any internal battles lately?"
"As many as you, I suppose," Loki smiled shrewdly and Aubrey backed up out of reflex.
"Sounds like you're having a great time, then," Tony continued. "Now, I can't have you here harassing my houseguest when she's already been scolded by Fury for fraternizing with you. That would make me a bad host."
"Fraternizing?" Loki questioned with a measuring glance in Aubrey's direction.
"Our beloved leader doesn't like it when you go for civilians," Tony answered. "And this civilian is my responsibility."
"I'm nobody's responsibility," Aubrey objected, receiving an appraising look from Loki.
"Of course not," Tony readily agreed. "But you have to admit it's a bit foolish to want to do the nasty with the villain of the decade. A dimension hopping one, too, which kind of makes him a villain in several universes and increases his degree of villainy."
"She does, doesn't she?" Tony asked Loki, ignoring Aubrey's horrified look. Aubrey didn't look at Loki to see his response.
"Get out," she announced impassively. "Both of you."
For a moment, it looked as though neither of the men intended to abide by her order. Then Loki was up in her face with a hand locked around the back of her neck and surely her brain had to have short circuited some odd minutes ago, because there was no other explanation as to why she was retuning Loki's kiss which as much vigor as he was offering it.
He pulled back just enough to offer his parting words: "I went jet skiing."
Then she was left kissing air, genuinely wondering where one went when one wanted to try out jet skiing. Later, she would hate herself for not realizing sooner that he had been mocking her.
"You gotta admire the man's technique," Tony commented. "I would totally tap that."
"Get the hell out or I'll tell Pepper about that painting you peed on."
Things didn't get easier after that. Loki seemed adamant to do his best at pissing off SHIELD (as if his disappearance hadn't done the trick already) and somehow Aubrey had landed herself right in the middle of the crossfire. If she didn't live in the home of Tony Stark and his AI, she would have suspected Fury of monitoring her every move.
Loki didn't approach her again. Whatever assistance he had needed, he hadn't needed it that badly.
When SHIELD decided to put him in timeout, she realized that it was possible she was in love with him.
She wasn't entirely opposed to the idea, either.
He woke her up by pinching her nose.
"Did you just pinch my nose?"
"I might have," he replied, his eyes startlingly blue in the dim light of the moon. Unable to fully comprehend the situation, Aubrey sat up and let the bed sheets pool in her lap. She remembered that Loki was on lock down at the SHEILD headquarters.
"Fury's magical prison is a pathetic attempt at trying to master that which cannot be mastered," Loki answered scornfully as though he had read the question on her face. "Humans are not built for magic. Sorcery is for the higher species."
She wanted to point out that humans excelled at science; the one thing which he didn't understand.
"Are you drugged?"
He seemed to consider her question. "Not so much that I couldn't find my way."
"Am I going to get in trouble for you showing up here?"
"They will know I am gone, but they cannot track me down."
"They can still make a pretty good guess."
Loki shifted on the bed, consequently causing the mattress to dip and slide their bodies closer together.
"Fury is already breathing down my neck," Aubrey added when Loki seemed to lose interest in the conversation.
"Would you throw me out of your bed?" he asked.
"Why would you want to be in it?"
He flinched, a smooth stretch of the muscles in his neck, and she realized that she had just made the God of Mischief recoil, albeit as subtly as one could do it. Somehow the fact felt oddly elevating, and she could suddenly accept that the man was crowding her in her own bed. He was doped up on whatever unhealthy substances that Fury had decided to pump into his bloodstream, but at least now he had lost hold of his prided self-control enough for her to read his intentions. This encounter would quite possibly become one for the books and not because of its potential to turn steamy.
"Why?" Aubrey repeated when Loki failed to answer.
The God smiled at some unspoken joke. "Taking advantage of my disabled state?"
She hadn't turned the lights on and she was starting to regret that now. In the darkness, it was difficult to get a clear look at the man's face unless he was directly facing her. He was uncomfortable and Aubrey found it a tad bit comical how easily their places had been reversed – and how easily they could reverse once again if she forgot to stay alert.
"Why are you riling up Fury on purpose?"
The change in topics seemed to put Loki at ease, and made Aubrey second guess why on earth she had given him that opening.
"I am not a team player," he answered, vague as usual. "I have my own goals to pursue."
"Are you looking to break the truce?"
"When have I ever not been looking to break it?" he confirmed.
She averted her eyes to her lap, digesting the bit of information. Next to her, Loki was breathing steadily and evenly, clearly not feeling out of his element with this topic as he had with the previous one. Aubrey on the other hand was experiencing severe stabs of stress to her gut every time she attempted to take a deeper breath. She wanted to reach up and run her fingers through that characteristically black hair of his. She knew he would encourage it. He would most likely return the favor, and the idea was about as tempting as the Belgian chocolate that Tony had brought home the last time that Iron Man had gone for a stroll.
"Gods should be selfless," she spoke into the darkness. "They should protect and not destroy. With power comes responsibility and all that nonsense."
"Don't be naïve," Loki scolded her. "Gods are selfish creatures. We have the luxury to be so. Even my brother has his own moments of self-indulgence. Why should we protect species that are inconsequential to our existence?"
He was living in the past. In fact, all of the Avengers were, but nobody felt secure enough to point it out.
"You can't return to Asgard," Aubrey pointed out earnestly. "Our species is all you have, so what's your reasoning for looking to ruin us?"
It was pretty obvious that she had hit a nerve when she was jerked up against the headboard with a hand wrapped tightly around her neck. She could feel her pulse hammering away against the flesh of Loki's palm, and she really thought she deserved a couple of points for not fainting. The hand loosened but remained pressed against her collarbone, and the situation turned entirely too surreal when Loki raised himself up from the bed and straddled her. It was a position that was meant to assert power to the person on top, but surely the hand by her throat had done the trick already. There was no reason to turn excessive.
"I have plenty of reasons," Loki drawled close to her ear. "For starters I could use this situation as an example of your breed's gullible nature."
"Maybe I'm gullible, but I'm not a coward," she protested far too courageously.
"And that is where you stand out from the rest," Loki agreed, lowering himself onto her legs so that she had to cease her wriggling.
"Easy," he purred. "I decide when to release you."
Her face simmered like a furnace. "At least make it worthwhile, then."
The effect wasn't what she had expected.
"I have too little time to indulge in such pleasures."
Workaholic, her mind supplied in a moment of rare wit.
"Then perhaps you shouldn't have done your little disappearance act. Wasting time there, I bet."
Even to her own ears, she sounded petulant.
"You sound as though I have wronged you," Loki noted curiously, shifting on top of her and alerting her that she was still very much pleased to have him close. She knew she was about to let the shit hit the fan with what she said next.
"When I had made my final decision, you weren't there for me to tell you. Even if it had been a rejection, I should have been able to tell you, but no. You don't leave these sorts of things unresolved. It's bad karma."
If he didn't understand the last part, he didn't let it bother him.
"I see. I have wronged you, then," Loki agreed, smiling self-indulgently for reasons that Aubrey was to realize when he spoke next. "Am I to understand that your decision wasn't in the negative?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," she answered ambiguously. She refused to play by his tune. Loki's hand felt unreasonably heavy where it rested halfway on her shoulder and halfway on top of her collarbone. His hands were too gentle for a man who preferred to destruct rather than admire. It was wrong.
"You talked about releasing me?" she tried, her voice decidedly shakier than mere seconds ago.
"I spoke the truth when I said that time is not something I have at hand," he said, sounding almost regretful.
"Good," she replied curtly. "So release me."
"Impudent mortal," he murmured, stroking his thumb along the line of her neck and toying with the strands of hair that got caught in its path. "You do nothing to dissuade me while you should be doing everything. When I have the time, you can be certain that we will finish this."
He left her like that. She figured she would have to tell Tony about Loki's planned desertion from SHIELD. Once morning came around however, she was still struggling to breathe and wasn't even about to try her hand at speaking. If Tony noticed her odd behavior that morning, he probably brushed it off as it being work-related. After all, he did randomly order her to stay home that day.
Tony was the one to tell her when Loki defected for good.
Surprisingly, Fury didn't put much effort into reestablishing the truce. He had to have seen it coming. He probably felt proud that he had managed to keep Loki constrained for a little over a year. Thor was devastated and it reflected on Jane as well. Steve turned political and Bruce remained fairly indifferent, if not a little pleased. Natasha and Clint were definitely pleased. And how did Aubrey know? Because Fury had decided that he could find use for the woman who regularly communicated with the God of Mischief now that the man was running loose.
Thor approached her one day that she stopped by Avenger HQ.
"Aubrey Rivers," he greeted her, looking slightly uncomfortable. "You are my brother's woman."
"Is that some sort of official title? Because then I didn't get the memo."
"No," he answered seriously, clearly not getting her attempt at sarcasm. "Loki is very selective in his choice of women. You should feel honored."
She felt nothing of the sort. Luckily, Steve appeared in that moment and stepped in to do damage control.
"You realize that he is partially right," he said to her when Thor had taken off after apologizing almost too enthusiastically.
"I am my own person."
"Even so, one is never fully the sole master of oneself."
She didn't argue with that. She got the feeling that Steve was talking from experience and she didn't want to belittle that.
When it happened, she barely had the time to adjust to the idea.
She was browsing for apartments on her computer when Loki materialized next to her, a line of dried blood sticking to the side of his face which he seemed mostly unaware of. His entire being was focused on her, his eyes sizzling with green energy, and she knew that she would forever remember this moment no matter what the outcome might be.
"Gods do bleed," she exclaimed and reached up to rub off some of the caked blood. It peeled off in flakes, some sticking to her skin and others curling up into tiny balls, and the fact that he let her touch him so freely was a clue that something was terribly off. The fact that she did touch him so freely was a clue that something was off.
This time she didn't panic when he grabbed her. As the scenery around them changed into the surroundings that she vaguely remembered to be his place, she felt strangely relieved.
"Even when you are not there, you distract me," he hissed, eyes blazing into hers. "I do not like distractions."
She didn't hesitate.
"Is this the part where you kill me or the part where we have sex?"
She got her answer when he was suddenly in her space, tugging at the buttons of her blouse and feasting on her lips. She followed his lead. She always did. In some ways, they were both so very human.
The aftermath didn't feel like the turning point that she had expected. In fact, it felt fairly anti-climatic. But that couldn't be right. Not when the act itself had felt euphoric.
"Trouble in paradise?" Tony asked one morning.
"I found a place downtown that I can afford and which isn't roach infested," she answered distractedly, fiddling with her cup of coffee. "Do I need to hire a moving van or can you iron man my stuff there?"
"That rhymed. And I take it we're not discussing your mopey face then."
Her blank stare indicated her answer.
"Why don't you hire a moving van, fill it with your stuff, and I'll iron man that to your new place? They charge per hour, right? I would like to see their faces if we did that. Can we please do that?"
Perhaps she was lucky that Loki wouldn't bother tracking her to her new home.
A/N: This is the end. Despite the fact that I could easily add more, I choose to make this the end. However, since I've received such great responses for this fic, I've decided to write a new multi-chaptered one. I always intended for this story to be short, so instead of going against that intention of mine (and quite possibly ruin some of its greatness), I simply decide to write a new Avengers story (Loki/OC) that is NOT going to be short. Let's see how that works out, shall we?