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Mischief Makers – Chapter Nineteen:

Since their return to the helicarrier had been delayed with the day's events, everyone was basically hanging out. After a few hours of this, Nick interrupted a big group of them congregating in Clint's room getting to know Sif a little better.

"Hopper, Romanoff, get everyone out on the track. The day is wasting away. If the king and queen don't require her assistance, Sif can go with you," Nick ordered. "I'll be out shortly."

"Yes, sir," Hopper said as the others fell in behind him.

"Sif, come see our cool cars," Cami said, gesturing enthusiastically for the warrior to follow.

Clint wished he was going with them. If the Queen of Asgard hadn't specifically asked him to stay in bed, he would have been up and about as before. He certainly felt a hundred times better since Frigga had applied her medicine to his chest. He wasn't completely free from the pain, but it was more manageable that it had been on just the painkillers.

Fury stepped into the room once everyone else was out. He reported to Clint, "Loki has locked himself in the infirmary, disabled the camera and hacked into the facility security system to delete all the footage of himself in his Jotun form."

"The backups too?"

Nick took a seat at the table. "Of course"

Clint couldn't stop from smiling. He was amused and kind of proud. "Well, we did let him study up on a lot of stuff like that."

Nick thought about it and slowly smiled too. "We're going to regret all the freedom and knowledge we've given him, aren't we?"

"Yeah, probably," Clint said. "What's up? You still look agitated."

"The Council's closely examining everything we have on Loki. Unfortunately, their interest has spread to the rest of the team as well."

Clint could see where this was heading. "They don't approve of Cami," he guessed.

Nick said, "They want me to put the Mischief Makers out in the field as soon as possible. It's been suggested that I replace Cami with someone more mature and experienced."

"They've only suggested it?"

"You know how they are sometimes. 'Strongly suggest' is a breath away from a direct order."

Clint found it was hard to be objective when it felt like his sister was being short-changed. "Cami's been trying really hard. Can't we find a way to show off her talents a little more? I mean... she's a smart and perceptive person, Nick."

"I'll try to keep the Council distracted. Maybe Hill will have some ideas. Meanwhile, you have got to get Cami through combat training. Do whatever it takes."

"That's the plan, sir. I'm just trying to figure out how to get things rolling."

Loki was sitting on the gurney, working on his computer when Odin appeared back in the infirmary.

"Come to lecture me?" Loki asked, stealing a quick glance in the king's direction.

"I'm sure you will perceive it that way," Odin said. "I had a chance to speak alone with Director Fury. He is very impressed with your skills and contributions."

Loki's fingers never slowed on the keyboard as Odin spoke.

"Stop doing that," Odin said angrily, indicating the computer. "Show me a little respect."

Loki stopped typing, took in a deep breath and tossed his computer aside, not caring where or how roughly it landed. "I'm just a puppet - another soldier in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s ranks. Anyone with half a brain impresses them."

"It is odd that you would say that."

"Why? Because I'm actually telling the truth?"

"They weren't impressed with your magic or claims of omnipotence before, Loki. They might have feared you, but they did not value you. These people have become your friends."

"I never called them such," Loki insisted.

"Yet, they still think of you as one of them and are willing to forgive your past. They only ask that you return that trust and loyalty."

Loki let his anger rise up to squelch all other sentiment. "I'm not the same person you sent to live with the Frost Giants," Loki said bitterly. If you had sent me here first, the humans would have thrown me in prison and let me rot there. They are not as forgiving as you believe."

Odin said softly, "You don't know that for certain."

Loki's anger was faltering as so many thoughts and emotions fought to override each other.

"I came to Midgard defeated and ready to die. Cami saw me as an opportunity to improve her own standing, and I had no choice but to play her games."

"A lie, even if based in some truth, is still a lie," Odin said with a frown. "You are attempting to distance yourself from your friends because you know they are in danger now. Using your current situation as an excuse somehow makes it easier for you. Well, I won't listen to it."

Typical, Loki thought. "Listening was never your strong suit, Father. Giving speeches is so much easier."

"I know I am not without blame, but this is about you. You're frustrated and scared and you can't hide behind your silence any longer," Odin said. "If you prefer they fear you instead of caring about you, then why hide in here? Go deliver your insults to those who have shown you such kindness and acceptance. Be every bit the monster you wish to be, if that is how you truly feel."

Loki rolled his eyes, knowing full well that Odin was just trying to provoke an emotional response from him. "You never should have sent me here."

"There are many things I should apologize for," Odin said, "but sending you to Earth will not be one of them. Being here has done you good, whether you choose to see it or not."

"Damn, what has gotten into you, Cami?" Kotter asked through the com. "You've been outmaneuvering me through every obstacle."

"Don't like a taste of your own medicine, huh?" Natasha jabbed at Kotter.

Cami giggled merrily.

"Seems that she's not being so cautious now," Fury commented, sounding pleased. "Finish your runs and bring the vehicles in for the night."

Driving had been a nice distraction from her troubles, though Cami wished Clint and Loki had been there to see what she could really do.

Fury was waiting when Cami pulled her S.T.A.V. into the garage. She and Sif climbed out and walked over to him.

"Now that's more like it," Nick said. "Very nice driving, Miss Barton."


Everyone else pulled into the garage in rapid succession. After congratulating them on their efforts, Fury sent the group to dinner.

Natasha accompanied Cami and Sif to the cafeteria, but only stayed long enough to fill two plates. Then she headed off to eat with Clint in his room.

Odin and Frigga stepped into the doorway a little later while Cami was explaining to Sif the composition of meatloaf. The girls jumped up from their table and went to join them.

"Any news on Loki?" Cami asked immediately.

"We're going to take him to Asgard," Frigga said after Odin hesitated to respond.

"Oh," Cami said, her features slipping into a frown. "You'll heal him up and bring him back?"

Odin's features tightened and Frigga actually paled a bit.

"No," Odin said sadly. "I'm afraid not."

"Then he wants to leave," Cami surmised, her face suddenly feeling warm despite the air-conditioned room.

Frigga reached out a supportive hand, touching Cami gently on the arm. "He's confused and upset about all that has transpired. He's overreacting."

"He does do that on occasion," Sif confirmed, looking crestfallen.

Cami asked, "Does anyone else know?"

"I informed Director Fury. He has gone to tell your brother and Miss Romanoff," King Odin answered. "I made it clear to Loki that I would not take him anywhere until his teammates had a chance to say goodbye to him."

The queen stayed at her side with an arm around her shoulders as they walked to the infirmary. Sif was on her other side, matching Cami's shorter strides and looking sad. Odin was behind them.

Clint and Natasha were already standing at the infirmary door. Cami heard Clint say as her group walked up, "He knows about Cami; you leaving is not going to protect her from him."

Is that what he's trying to do? Protect me? Cami wondered. She really wasn't sure. The situation had come unraveled too fast for her to comprehend anything.

Natasha stepped back to let Cami have her spot.

Moving away from the queen and Sif, Cami slipped up against the door and next to her brother. Her voice was low and shaky as she started to talk, progressively getting louder. "I'm sorry if I've done the wrong thing dragging you into S.H.I.E.L.D. I'm just a kid, and I get these dumb ideas in my head sometimes."

Loki did not respond.

Cami's heart ached. Tears stung her eyes as Clint pulled her close.

"This isn't your fault," he said to her. "He doesn't want you to get hurt."

"Did he say that?"

"Does he really have to?" Clint offered her a small smile. "We're Bartons. Sometimes we just know these things, right?"

"I don't want him to leave," Cami confessed. "I need him, and he needs us too."

"Tell him that," Natasha prompted.

"The door's thin. He can hear us." Cami wiped at her eyes, hoping she didn't completely come unglued again today.

"Loki, please reconsider," Clint said sincerely. "Our job is always going to be dangerous. Nat and I both have dossiers full of people who want us dead. It comes with the territory."

Natasha added, "We protect and help each other. That's the point of being a team."

Everyone quieted, wanting to give Loki another chance to respond. The silence dragged on for what seemed an eternity.

"Please let me in?" Cami softly begged. "I don't want to say goodbye to a door."

To everyone's surprise, there was an almost immediate click of the lock. Then the door opened about a foot.

Cami was fairly certain that Loki was on the left behind the door, so she moved to the right as she slipped through. Then she held still, letting him shut and lock the door again.

A chill touched her as he stepped closer. She reached back for him, felt his icy hand grasp hers and pulled his arm around her middle. Loki leaned into her, wrapping his other arm around and placing a frosty kiss on her ear that made her shiver.

"Stay with me," she whispered.

"I want to..." he whispered back, sounding as if there was more he was going to say, but then chose not to continue.

"Your father has promised to help us with Loki and Jahla. We'll all do this together."

His embrace tightened around her. "If only it was so easy."

"How would I be safer with you gone? You know him better than anyone."

"I know he must die, but I haven't the courage to kill him... not when I'm with you."

Cami puzzled and pondered these words as she continued to shiver. "Please don't go."

"Close your eyes."

She did as he asked, feeling him move around to her front and softly press his mouth to hers. Though it was a chaste, gentle kiss, the chill of his lips still made her jump.

He hooked his hands under Cami's legs and picked her up, pulling her against his bare chest until he could sit her up on the gurney. Then he teased her throat, neck, jaw and earlobe with wandering kisses that soon became soft suckling and nibbling back and forth along the same path. He put his arms around her again, his hands meeting at the small of her back with his long fingers stretching down to clutch her buttocks.

Cami nuzzled his neck where it met his shoulder and dared to lick at his flesh just to feel the sensation it caused on her tongue. Under her shirt, her nipples were hard to the point of aching from the cold that radiated off his chest.

"Let me look," she said. "I won't be afraid."

Again his mouth moved to hers, keeping her busy for awhile with his generously seductive kisses.

Realizing this was a stalling tactic, Cami finally pulled back.

"OK. Let's try this again," she said in a playful, yet pointed tone. "I'm going to look. So, take this as your fair warning to hide, if you feel you have to."

He didn't move away, but Cami felt him tense up as she counted down in her head. Then she opened her eyes to see his deep, blood red orbs staring back at her. His skin was indeed blue and it reminded her of the color her roommate at school had chosen to paint their shared bathroom. (If she remembered correctly, her roommate had called the color mayan blue, but Loki's skin might have been a little paler than that.)

He had designs in his skin that were easier to make out on his face then on his scarred chest and arms. Cami reached up and traced the rounded design on his forehead with her index finger. Then suddenly he chose to pull back from her.

"Sorry, did I get a little too enthralled there?" Cami tried a smile to calm his tension. "Your markings are interesting."

Loki stared at her with confusion bordering on agitation.

Her enthusiasm deflated instantly. "What?"

"You are really not afraid?"

She shook her head gently, continuing to read his features and being mildly fascinated with the subtle changes a blue hue added to his expressions.

"You are an odd girl."

Cami chuckled, "I've been called worse."

"I guess I should have known after the snake," he said with a mild eye roll.

Whatever that comment meant, Cami somehow managed not to respond with something sexual, though her mind totally went there for a bit.

"You almost seem disappointed in me," she said, giving him a playful pout. "Is it more of a turn-on if I scream?"

"Not at all," he said firmly. Then he thought it over a moment longer and said, "Well, it depends on the reason for the scream, I suppose."

"You really don't want to leave," she said, pulling him close again. "We're going to have so much fun kissing and hugging and fondling and... stuff." She gifted him with a long, passionate kiss.

Loki smirked at her as they parted. "Shouldn't there be activities such as training, eating, sleeping..."

"Are you asking me to sleep with you?!" Cami interjected with feigned shock.

He chuckled at her expression, shaking his head and giving her a generous look-over. His inspection stopped on her erect nipples, poking up through the material of her bra and shirt.

Noting the location of his gaze, Cami straightened her posture, causing her shoulders to fall back and her chest to stick out more prominently.

"You do recall that I've seen most of your body," Loki said slyly.

"So? You were only wearing a towel while you performed mouth-to-mouth on my brother. Now that I think back on it, I'm a little jealous."

His smile widened, revealing that even his teeth had a tint of blue to them.

"You're not making this very easy, my dear."

"If you leave I'm going to be distraught," she told him, laying on the guilt - a tactic she rarely used on her boyfriends because she'd seen it sickeningly overused by girls. "I'll cry for days and then be terribly depressed. I might even stop eating and lose all my curves."

"Now that..." he said, taking another long look, "would be a tragedy."

"Stay with me," she said again.

"I want to," he assured her. "I just..."

She touched her finger to his lips and gently shushed him; and then when he tried to continue his protest, she silenced him with a kiss that went on forever with lots of hot-on-cold tongue action that made him moan and her head want to swim.

"What were you saying?" she asked, keeping him tight against her in case she had to swoop in quickly to correct him again.

He looked utterly defeated and under her spell. With a sad smile, he said, "I'm staying."

Then, much to their chagrin, a round of applause, accompanied with cheerful whooping and hollering, erupted outside the infirmary door. From the sound of it, the Hellhounds had also joined the assemblage in the hallway.

"Oh dear," Loki said, burying his face against Cami's neck. "Will I ever live this down?"

"I don't know," Cami said with a giggle. "I think your parents are still out there too."

"Perfect. Just perfect."