Author's note: end quote Pablo Neruda's Sonnet XVII.


.

1.

The first time, he had come to mock her, eyes glittering and mouth curling. She stared at him and he wasn't sure how it happened, honestly, just that she was there and she was all over him, and after the shock had worn off, as well the temporary mindlessness of a man dazzled by the things being done to his cock, he realized she was quite possibly trying to distract him.

Distract him, or kill him, probably. But he was already buried to the hilt in her, and he thought he might as well enjoy it.

Later, when he figured out just exactly whythey called her the Black Widow, he laughed in her face, flicking the knife out of the side of his neck the way a boy would pluck off a thorn.

xXx

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2.

She let him take her from behind, this time. There was no seduction, really. Not when he mouthed the side of her jugular, greedy, sucking kisses against strap muscles and the hollows of her throat.

"This is what you wanted, isn't it?" Loki said. He was bent over her, bodies bending over the side of the bed, breathing hard but still with enough breath to speak. "Domination. Subjugation. The freedom to kneel before a god."

With each thrust, Loki knew it hurt. Knew it hurt as he pushed up into her again, one hand shoving her face against the mattress as he leaned down against her to whisper in her ear.

"You ask yourself why you're so lonely," he said, and his words dripped like poetry, half-kissed behind the space of her ear. "When in truth, no one could ever want you."

He shoved up harder, and she made a noise, gritted out between slapping flesh and escapes of breath.

"So broken," Loki said. "So damaged. You cloak yourself in good deeds and hope to wipe your ledger clean, but you and I both know the truth."

He yanked her arm back, shoving pressure against the sockets even as he fucked her harder now, with angry, jagged thrusts.

"The truth," Loki said, and he reached around to stroke her, breathing into her ear. "Is that there are things that cannot be fixed, and that you are just a frightened little girl."

He felt her come, the salty tang of sweat and blood going up into his nostrils, and it wasn't long until he followed.

xXx

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3.

He visited her more frequently after this: standing at the front of an open window at night, the curtains moving silently in the air.

She never paid him verbal barbs. Not the way Loki did, words like weapons whispered into her ears. No, she cut him with her eyes: one look, veiled. One tug on the corner of her mouth, spoke volumes of her contempt for him, and her disgust.

There was a gun and a knife on the nightstand, the chamber freshly emptied and the blade-tip of the knife sharpened and gleaming. The weapons rattled together with their movements, the pounding of the headboard reverberating against the edge of the table.

They grappled. He pushed her back up on the bed and he felt her hands slide blindly up across his back, thighs hooking against his ribs and her mouth open and slack. He said nothing to her this time, and when she came it was harsh, each contraction rhythmic and full.

"You enjoy this, don't you?" Loki said, and Natasha didn't look at him, keeping her face pointedly fixed toward the side of the bed. "What would your precious Fury think, his golden girl fucking a god?"

She turned, eyes meeting his, silently, before rolling over and sitting up in the bed. It is a calculated movement, as if she knew how much Loki craved her words. She said nothing to him as she smoothed down the length of her stockings, tugging on the hem of her dress and straightening her hair. Loki watched with a smile tugging on his lips as she moved around the room, ignoring him.

"So quickly?" Loki said, and Natasha's eyes flicked upward, irritated, inscrutable, before she focused her attention back on the weapons, smartly loading the gun and tucking it into its halter. "And here I thought we were getting to better know each other."

"We aren't," Natasha said, and the words were harsh. Clipped. The first time since their coupling she had ever spoken to him.

xXx

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4.

Time passed. He wandered the planets of the five stars, moved from frost to places with patches of moonlight. Lonely, wandering days. And when he was sick of the solitude he found her, crouching in the frame of the window, watching.

She accepted him wordlessly, opening the window to let him in. It was strange, how small the human was, how fragile. Even among the Aesir, Loki was not physically imposing, and for the bastard son of a frost giant king, he was pathetically small.

The woman, though? Who looked as if she could break with too rough a touch, who looked up at him with jutted chin and defiant eyes? He was a giant next to her, some huge, hulking thing. He reached down to thumb her nipples and breathe into the side of her neck, awestruck at how he could completely cover her with just the slightest curve of his body, so small was she in his hands.

xXx

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5.

The next time he saw her, her lip was cut, and the beginnings of a black eye was starting to bloom at the crest of her cheek.

"Who did this to you?" Loki said. "What happened?"

Natasha's eyes flicked upward, neither one of them acknowledging the fact that this is the first time he's ever really addressed her. "We won," she said. Loki frowned.

She began to undress. Her movements were slow, but there was none of the seductiveness in their previous encounters. She moved as someone whose muscles ached. Slowly, her hands picked off the straps of her dress, fingers fumbling with the zipper as if arthritic.

Loki watched. Said nothing when he saw the darkness under her collarbone, the palm-shaped welts by the crest of her ribs and the shallow cuts on her hips and abdomen.

Her lip curled; she was trying to smile, but the cut split, fresh blood cracking at the corner of her mouth.

"Lie there," Loki said, and he saw it: a flicker of surprise, quickly replaced by that same impenetrable mask he often used himself. She watched him a moment, then slowly sat on the edge of the bed, gingerly lowering her weight. Loki's mouth was a thin tight line when she looked up at him again, expectant.

He knelt beside her, then let his hand gently palm the bruise on her side. She sucked her breath-it was still tender-and Loki glanced up again before letting his fingers splay outward, a slow, deliberate movement. He could see how her skin moved taut across her ribs, the borders of the bruise purple and mottled.

The clock ticked. He kept his hand on her side, not moving or speaking, while Natasha sat on the edge of the bed. Minutes passed and the bruise faded to a yellow hue.

She looked at him, eyes widening to a silent question. "A healing spell," Loki said, and he remembered how Thor's mother used to use it on him, cool hands soothing scraped knees and bruised egos; a necessary spell, when playing at the coattails of better gods. He gently palmed her skin, then shifted his attention to the curve of her spine. "Even the lowest Aesir knows of it."

He didn't tell her there were other spells: quicker spells, that would take care of her wounds in a single sweep of light. But he had always preferred this way, knew firsthand how comforting it felt, the touch of another easing the pain into a soothing warmth.

Fingers spider-walked up the length of her spine, traced the ridges of transverse processes and the cupped bowl edge of her scapula. She bowed her head and he brushed her hair back, frowning at the angry wound slashed at the back of her neck.

"So they tried to cut your head off, then," Loki said. He saw her wince a little when he let his fingers drift to the center of the wound, brushing back the matted hairs and areas of dried blood. "How foolish. If only they knew swords could not slice through that fat head of yours."

She made a sound, like a hiccup or an outraged laugh, and Loki smiled.

There were countless wounds, small, shallow scrapes on the ridges of her collarbone, thumb-sized bruises on her biceps and forearm. He healed them all, slowly, carefully, hands gently mapping the length of her skin.

There was a boot-shaped welt on the back of her thigh and buttock, which Natasha favored while she sat on the bed. Quietly Loki let her lean against him as he slid his hand against her flank, letting his cheek rest against the top of her head and feeling her belly move with every breath. He pressed a small kiss on her temple, and Natasha startled, looking up at him again. Her eyes were shocked, unguarded, and when he moved to kiss the corner of her mouth, she didn't pull away.

It took him almost the length of the entire night. He didn't touch her. Not the way he did before, shoving up inside her with jagged thrusts. No, instead he let her lean against him, exhaustion and fatigue swimming in long currents and weighing down her eyes.

She was asleep, head tucked against the space of his shoulder. The sky was beginning to lighten when he gingerly extricated himself out from under her.

It was a few moments before she stirred, still naked under the covers and moving under the sheets. He watched, silent and cloaked in a simple invisibility spell, as she stretched a hand to where he had lain, and woke more fully when she felt nothing beside her.

Loki watched. Her eyes full of doubt, surprise, even as she felt the coolness of his side of the bed. And though he had healed her the night before, she curled up into herself, drawing her knees to her chest and guarding her side as if still suffering from her wounds.

xXx

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6.

As it was with the old gods, Loki did not feel time. He would go to Natasha's window, and it would be rimmed with frost; the next time there would be wind and birds and the smell of spring and rain.

She was about to come. Her face screwed up tight, hands digging into the muscles of his shoulders, she shoved her face against his neck and came. He could feel it, each rhythmic contraction, deep and full and shuddering around him.

She made a sound, something ragged and half-gasped against the side of his neck, and Loki pulled back, surprised.

"You're crying," Loki said. He looked into her eyes, shocked. She looked up at him and tears spilled out from the corners, face blotchy and red and mouth stretching with shame.

"He died," Natasha said. A comrade, some close friend. "I couldn't save him."

He kissed her eyes. Kissed the corners and the tears on her cheeks, cupping her face and moving, slowly.

He didn't have to ask afterwards, when she curled up into the spaces of his body and clung to him. And he marveled silently at how small she was, this fragile, mortal thing, so breakable and vulnerable in his hands.

She didn't say anything else after that. Even now, even after all this time, she still guarded herself, though the cracks in her facade were chipping and beginning to decay.

xXx

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7.

"What would you do," she asked one night, when it was in the midst of a heatwave in the summer and the sky had opened with steamy rain. "What would you do if someone were to betray you?"

"It would not be the first," Loki said. He felt her shift and he rested a hand on her head, letting his fingers sink into her hair. "I imagine, not long after this, that you will have me strung up from the rafters, hanging like some broken doll. I would not be surprised," Loki said. "In fact I rather expect it."

She said nothing, and Loki brushed his lips against the crown of her head, a light kiss. It would not shock him, if she were to whip around and shove a knife into his chest, choke him or shoot him or coat herself in his blood, and it would even be forgivable because he would understand, Ah yes. She was using him, and he would take solace in the fact that he was using her as well.

But he began to suspect that she was not using him. Foolish on her part, or perhaps a little brave, but for some reason it settled painfully in the center of his chest, how utterly love-starved she seemed, falling into the arms of her enemies and catching crumbs of comfort to mollify her grief.

Loki asked, "How long has it been, since he died?" and she jerked upwards, surprised.

"Who?" she asked.

"Your friend, the archer," Loki said, finally. "He died before we started all of this."

She didn't look at him. Even though she was still physically close, he could feel her start to withdraw, start to cordon off that part inside herself. "That friend who died a few weeks ago," Loki said. "Did he remind you of him?"

"Why are you asking me this?" Natasha asked.

"Because I want to hurt you," Loki lied. "Now tell me: how long has it been since he died?"

He studied her silently, watching each pain, each flicker of emotion play on her face. To an ordinary human, her face would be smooth, placid, but he could see the motes of pain as plainly as specks of dust caught in the watery light.

"He died the day you first came to me. A couple months ago."

"And does it soothe you, being here like this?" Loki said. "Does it honor his memory when you lie back and spread your legs?"

She moved quickly, lurching off the bed in one clumsy movement. Her dress, which was lying on the floor, was wrinkled. She pulled it on, not looking at him.

"Pathetic," Loki said, and he was in front of her, dressed and looking at her with an expression of loathing. "And to think he saved you to make you love him. A pity he got himself killed."

She punched him. He felt it, the sickening crack of her fist against his jaw, it almost made him stagger back.

She stared at him, eyes burning with hatred.

"You talk about Clint again, and I swear to god, I'll shove my thumbs into your eyeballs and cut your throat myself," Natasha said.

"Good girl," Loki said, and he let his mouth stretch into a grin, lip bleeding and raising a hand to wipe off the blood.

xXx

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8.

If they did not love him, he would give them more reasons not to. He would crush their kingdoms and turn their hopes to ash, would choke out the life from everyone they loved.

His brother. His father. His mother. He would lay waste to their homes and their families and their friends.

Hatred. It burned with a bond stronger than love, with a connection more palpable than the love's chilly air.

xXx

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9.

She hated him. He felt it in the way she straddled him, hands shoving down his chest and hiking up her skirt, the brutal, angry way she started riding him. She slapped her hips and caught his lip in her teeth, twisted her face from his hand reaching up to touch her cheek.

This was safer than love. Safer because it fed on itself, grew hotter and stronger with each burning moment. Love was tenuous, fickle, and quick to betray. She knew this too, even as he felt the muscles of her thighs clench tight as she leaned forward, closer and faster until she let out a toneless, sobbing cry, the last spasms of her orgasm leaving her exhausted.

He could kill her, if he wanted; she could kill him as well.

xXx

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10.

They were fighting; Loki watched, invisible and impassive, as the team fought against Earth's newest threat, the Iron Man and the giant beast and his brother swinging from the rooftops to stop them.

He saw it before the others did: how Natasha leaped forward, guns in hand, about to be struck; with a flash Loki intervened, throwing himself in front of her and catching the blow.

The Iron Man saw, and so did the captain. It was too fast and he did not have time to protect himself; there was a look of horror in Natasha's eyes as Loki coughed up specks of blood.

"Why?" Natasha said. Hands digging into his chest, blood blooming through the fabric of his cloak.

Her face was a ruin when he said, "he saved you to make you love him, yes?" and tears spilled when she squeezed her eyes.

xXx

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11.

The curtains parted, and the light seemed to turn in all directions when he entered, patches of shadows and moonlight tracing the shapes of the darkened room. He stood and said nothing when she finally turned, aware of his presence, before slowly lifting her eyes.

This was the first night he came to her: hunched over, sitting on the bed and with tears blotting her eyes. The archer Barton had been killed and she had been there to bear witness to it. Her grief, as with everything else about her, was beautiful to him, a star-shaped crack in the center of a fractured glass. He had not seen her since their encounter in the ship, promises of a slow, painful death at the hands of her lover hurled at her like arrows. He remembered the shock, how startling and stunning it was. Now, months later, she cried openly, not knowing anyone was watching her.

"Shall I kill you, then?" he asked, and he let his hand trail down the side of her cheek. "Shall I go and take away the pain?"

"Yes," she said, and she brushed back her hair, baring her neck.

His eyes were like bruises when he let his fingers gently touch her mouth, before coming to rest softly on the skin of her throat.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way.

I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

end.