All characters © Marvel Comics

Summary: Loki talks with mindslave!Clint because he knows that Clint will listen.


Conversations in Blue

The Midgardians have stationed themselves around the warehouse in some oddly disjointed quincunx, the Tesseract brightly pulsing at its center. They are attempting to the best of their ingenuity to stabilize the sporadic bursts of energy crackles that the Tesseract throws off. The Norwegian doctor rushes around in preparations for building the portal, biting his lip and mussing his hair and telling the others to not get so close.

Sitting in the far corner, Loki imagines each breath as a wave in one of the great seas of Vanaheim, gently swelling in and out with the soft current of the distant moon. He blocks out the tinkering of machinery and wires and power that the apes themselves could not possibly hope to understand. They will do what he needs them to do while he gathers his own strength. The energy is reluctant to return; sluggish, like Nidhogg after feasting on the blood of Niflheim's dead. The only thing to do is rest, as Idunn has no healing power in Midgard and the apples here carry nothing but seeds and nectar.

Like all gods, Loki's power is weaker in this realm. There is no spirit here, no magic; the Earth and water do not sing in the same way. The sky speaks to the rocks below in the Old Tongue but no one in this world actually listens, so its voice grows brittle. Loki can scarcely hear it. He lets his shoulders sag and he takes a minute to inhale deeply. The sharp and electric scent of soon-to-be uncharted energy tingles in his nostrils and quirks the corners of his mouth up into a phantom smile. Soon this Earth will sing no more and the sky too will fall silent in its wake.

Sometime later the archer approaches him sitting at his helm, as it seems that he has nothing better to do. He takes in Loki's chalky skin, jutting cheekbones and raccoon rings shadowing his eyes and remarks, "You look tired, sir."

Loki looks up and sees intelligence and natural bonhomie in this man, in them all, which should have satisfied him. They are his retinue, his...minions, for use of a more diabolical term. Loki chooses his words like a fine wine and likes to be as accurate as possible. The only problem with the word minion is that it often suggests something mindless and robotic, like clockwork. As a staunch supporter of intellect and wit, Loki wants only the smartest by his side. Unfortunately, the smart ones also tend to harbor the most volatile dispositions. That is precisely why his sceptre controls the heart, not the mind. All of his workers get to keep their skills and heads intact and fully functioning. He only changes their loyalties so that their endeavors are directed to more…beneficial causes.

The archer stands there with his hands in his pockets looking grimly concerned. His face and arms are smeared with the debris and rockdust of their latest escape, and Loki reminds himself to let them all have a shower at one point. And eat. They are Loki's first test subjects with the sceptre (as the Chitauri have no heart to twist and he is saving the Mad Titan for later) and he has to be mindful that the Tesseract's energy, coalesced with his own magic, is very strong. The last six hours have shown him that those touched by his power follow him so passionately that they tend to forget their basic human needs. Hopefully Loki does not forget to let them eat. They can pass on sleeping, since he has no use for napping workers. In a few days the archer will probably look as pale and drawn as Loki does now, but as long as he is still able Loki does not find that he cares too much.

He gives a small smile, staring into the blue film that coats the archer's eyes. It is somewhat comforting that he cannot see the actual irises under those whirligigs of blue and silver-white. "Yes, well," he says, "I've had somewhat of a long journey. Tell me, have you ever traveled through space?" The archer shakes his head in the negative.

"Consider the eons it would take to reach the other side of the universe," Loki murmurs, closing his eyes, "to a vacuum far worse than the nothingness of Ginnungagap, where the stars are few and things bigger than this world alone float among the rocks." The archer frowns, because his mind cannot quite fathom the sheer magnitude of Loki's implications. His imagination cannot supply for him what Loki might have seen, as he lives in an age where Midgard has only recently discovered how to hop to its own moon, let alone contemplate reaching its surrounding worlds. Loki finds that this is perfectly alright. It makes it somehow easier for him to talk to the archer. The archer will listen regardless, because his heart tells him to.

"Then imagine every fiber of your being wrenched across that distance in a matter of seconds," Loki continues. "It's all quite taxing."

"How did you get there in the first place?" the archer asks, drawing his eyebrows together and frowning so that the blue sheen seems to cover his entire sclera rather than just the irises.

Loki shakes his head; it is too long a story and not yet one he can tell without clenching his fists so hard that his nails draw blood from his palms. "Do you have any siblings, archer?" he inquires in lieu of a direct answer.

"A brother," the archer replies. Something unseen makes him add, "We had...issues."

Loki raises an eyebrow. "Did you now?"

The archer nods. "Long story," he says. "We were orphaned, eventually joined a circus. He had different goals in mind—education, you know. I just wanted to improve my skills. He was bitter. We fought a lot and he ended up leaving." He shrugs once, as if to say that the matter is closed. Accepted.

For the first time since arriving Loki laughs. He laughs for a good minute; it ebbs into chuckles hard enough to leave him short of breath. When he finishes he sighs and shakes his head at the floor between his legs. "You sound a little like my brother," he tells the archer.

"The one who came here last year looking for his special hammer?"

"The very one," Loki nods.

The archer scratches his scalp and asks, "Should I take that as a compliment, sir?"

"It depends on how you look at it," Loki responds, smirking. "We also had, ah, issues." To put it mildly. He doubts that most Midgardian family feuds conclude with someone falling into an abyss of time and space, so far from the Nine Realms that even the gold-toothed Heimdall could not see where he had drifted.

The archer must have noted his change in expression, for he gives a somewhat shy glance to the crew behind him and asks if he is needed at the post. Loki smiles again at the archer's gratuitous use of the word "sir" and finds some task to occupy him with until they can procure the needed iridium.

With just a touch from his sceptre Loki can make so many pledge fealty to him like the good archer. It is not as satisfying as Loki had augured; the means of his thralldom still remain by magicks and not by true free will. But he pushes this thought away, as there is work to be done and he needs to stabilize the Tesseract so that he can acquaint Earth with Hell from above—

The archer pauses in the act of turning away, something coming to him that he had hitherto neglected to mention. "I still love Barney," he says, as though it is important that Loki know this. "It's strange, isn't it? Siblings can be a giant stick up your ass most of the time, yet you find you can never really hate them from the bottom of your heart."

Loki opens his eyes, as they had been closing of their own accord. The archer presses his lips together, nods and salutes before heading up to the second level. Loki says nothing for a minute, then rearranges his legs into the lotus position to prepare for his contact with the Other. It takes him an additional minute to find his center; his thoughts still linger on his exchange with the archer, floating in his mind like sprinkled flotsam on the cusp of a wave.

Heart indeed.

"Yes," he echoes, although there is no one around to hear him. Already Loki can feel the pull of deep space at the corners of his mind, the cold of the stars and the roar of steel life behind a six-fingered hand.

"It is strange."

.


Yes, I told myself I would be trying to focus on writing more plot-oriented stories, but I couldn't help myself. I usually don't write extra scenes or add-ons, but I needed to practice some points of my writing and flow before I tackle the big issue of plotting. If you can't already gather, I'm a bit loco for Loki after seeing the Avengers (twice). Feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!