"Why have you come here?" Loki demanded, "Haven't you given up on me?"
She wanted to beg him to be the Loki she knew, the one who hadn't hurt her and didn't despise her existence. He couldn't even look at her. She bowed her head. She had to come back and get her things. Tony wouldn't make it easy on her of course. He was disappointed that she was giving up on Loki. She had to bow her head and take her breakfast from Steve that morning because he too was giving her a disapproving look. It was the type of look that made her innards feel like they were being twisted with a knife. Why was he so good at giving such a frowning look? Tony said it was because he was a professional. She couldn't really doubt that.
"Look at me," Mia begged, "Why won't you look at me?"
"I don't want you here," Loki said.
Some times caring for something meant letting go, even when you wanted to hang on tighter. If Loki was happy in leaving then she was too. Even if it meant sealing up her heart, locking it away, she would do it. She would miss him more than anything she could remember. Her heart would openly bleed from this for years to come, perhaps even the rest of her life. The God of Mischief had affected her that much. This was the biggest regret of her life, even more than the time in third grade when she cheated on her math test or the time in high school when she didn't ask anyone out to go to prom with her.
"I thought if I kept you out of this…" Loki gestured around them, "It would be the same as keeping you safe."
Mia tilted her head to the side. She didn't understand. She was probably the safest one in the room. If Loki put so much as a toe out of line, the Avengers would be there, jumping down his throat with weapons drawn. He had a thoughtful expression on his face. He tried to keep people out so that they didn't try to help him, so that they didn't get hurt because of his past and yet Mia was so intent to talk to him, to get him to open up that he wouldn't let him push her away. Every time he did she only got back up and tried again. Mia was stubborn, something he hated to admit but it was true. He was just afraid to let someone in. People who he had met in the past had said that his anger would be swift and deadly, raging like the rain that lashes at the windowpanes.
"I only wanted to save one thing, just one…" Loki mumbled, "To prove I was as good as you claimed I was…"
He closed his eyes for a moment, covering them with his fingers. Mia took his hands, drawing them away from his face. They were as cold as ice. It made sense, considering his ethnicity. And really, he came to earth. He expected to be hated and scorned because he was different but the earth had so many races and ethnicities. How could he be hated? There were those from Africa, the Europeans, the Americans, the Asians, and well so many more races her head could spin. People loved and hated each other despite these differences but they were all still humans and were still living on the same planet with one another. Appearance meant nothing. Race could cause some hiccups here or there but it was still accepted. Gender was still in debate sometimes. Humans were confusing but they were capable of love.
"What are you doing to yourself?" Mia asked, "What's going on?"
"It's not that simple…" Loki said.
"Damn it!" Mia swore.
Anger boiled through her. For once she wanted to know, to actually be a part of what he was thinking! She was now glaring coldly at the God. He supposed that she was lucky that she hadn't managed to make him angry enough to snap completely but she had to have known that he was in near constant pain because of his past, even if he wasn't ever going to tell her his life story any time soon. For him sometimes it hurt to move, it hurt to breathe, and sometimes it even hurt to exist. There were moments where he just wanted to end it all and be done with it. Something always held him back whenever he tried to end it. Some small voice in the back of his head just told him to keep holding on, that someone would help him but then began the cycle of pushing them away again.
"Loki, stop doing this!" she roared, "Tell me what's going on!"
Loki shook his head. She squeezed his hand tighter. She was now trying to keep tears out of her eyes. She knew what he was expecting of her and she wasn't sure if she could provide what he wanted. His palms began to sweat and she could see he was having some problems looking at her. She wanted to put a hand on his shoulder, to make him look at her so he could see that he wasn't alone. Other people had faced such trials too and they kept moving forward like she did but she didn't want to overstep a boundary that she had no right to break. His self-sacrificing nobility was really starting to get on her nerves. If she left like she was planning, Fury was planning on interrogating him, which Natasha and Clint informed everyone included torture. He had already had his lips sewn shut. No more harm should come to him.
"I don't care if it's for my own good or whatever excuse you have!"
She started to hit his chest with her hands, trying to cause harm but not really putting enough force behind it to actually hurt him. Each fist hardly even mussing up his clothes. Tears swam in her line of vision. Loki sat up a little straighter now. He was about to her off but he saw the damp liquid regret. She really didn't want to hurt him the way she was. He knew it. He longed to place his hands in her hair and just chase away the tears but she was a mere mortal. Her life would be gone the moment he blinked so there he was, staring at the sun, trying not to blink away the pain of something so fleeting.
"I don't deserve your kindness…" Loki said, "Nor should you have to see me at my weakest."
Loki walked across the room, trying to get some distance but she followed him. When he sat down near the window to look outside his prison, Mia knelt down next to him. Slowly he looked up at her, trying to convey to her silently that she should just leave. When she finally did look into Loki's eyes and smiled the God froze. It wasn't her usual enthusiastic smile, or the whimsical one that meant she was thinking deeply about something. This one was slow and soft, and in some ways, sad. For once he found that he couldn't read Mia like a book, noting every thought and emotion just from the way she stood or spoke or smiled. This moment was too complex to describe in any one thought or feeling.
"Thor wouldn't want to see you like this," Mia said softly.
"How would you know? You've been denying his friendship since the day you came to hover over me!" Loki shouted, "You don't know anything about friends!"
She barely reacted when Loki pushed her away angrily. Mia knew he was angry. She could see that Loki's usual control over his emotions was lessened, and that in turn he was not as careful with his tongue as usual. Every emotion he had buried away was coming out, and it seemed most of his negative emotions involved with friendship and loyalty was being pushed to the surface. His doubts were out there for the world to see. If he hadn't been those words might have cut a little deeper to home than she would have liked. How much sorrow could one being bear? It was as though something pervasive and tangible lies within his body, burdening his every movement with a sense of finality.
Maybe if he was different, his vision would be blurring with unshed tears. Maybe he would be more furious? She would never know. She liked Loki how he was. Mia somehow grazed a hand upon his cheek, arm lifting of its own accord. Loki was staring at her in surprise. No one had willingly touched him in centuries aside from Thor. His acclaimed brother was nowhere near as gentle as the human in front of him. Mia was seemingly unable to choose what to do next with someone so vulnerable beside her. She was about to pull her hand back when Loki's hand grazed hers. She froze as he pressed her hand to his face.
"You're right," Mia admitted, "But I've changed Loki and so can you! People change!"
She reached for him and wrapped her arms around him tightly. He stiffened under her hold. Only his mother Frigga had hugged him as a child and that was only when he was a child or when he had done something exceptional as an adult. He recalled the last time she had hugged him was when he had saved Odin from Laufey – a problem of his own doing. She had given him an enthusiastic hug and then Thor burst in, ruining his life. But it was through Mia's teachings that he found that it was partially his fault. He was the one who set everything up, he just didn't like the idea of accepting the fact that all of his hurts were his fault.
"Why…?" Loki asked.
"Why are you holding onto me like this?" Loki clarified.
Mia gave a weak smile into his neck as she held him tightly. Of all the things to ask, he had to question why she was hugging him. Clearly his priorities were not set straight. Why she there still was a good question to ask. Perhaps that was why Tony told her to gather her own things, because he knew that the only one who would be able to convince her not to go was Loki himself. She would stay, she knew this much now. She thought she could abandon him but now she knew she couldn't. She wouldn't ever be able to forget the God. She hoped it went both ways. Gods did not age like humans. She hoped that one day after she had passed, he would still remember her.
"Are you uncomfortable?" Mia asked.
"I will admit… I'm not used to it," Loki admitted.
Mia's eyes widened. She had been the one to give him his first hugs since his mother perhaps. Steve didn't go around randomly hugging people. Steve and Clint were far too masculine to go and do so themselves unless it involved pinning the other to the ground and dangling spittle over the head of the pinned. It was disgusting and not quite a hug in Mia's book at all. It was more or less just wresting that turned a little farther sour than she would have liked. The idea of Natasha hugging someone was only possible if she was also stabbing in the back. Bruce shied away from human contact… And Thor, well, Thor's hugs were more like a full body pinning experience. Mia pulled back. She looked deeply into Loki's eyes.
"You're afraid…" Mia realized, "Is… that why you keep your distance?"
"I was… always alone…" Loki said slowly, "My family…"
He couldn't continue but he didn't need to. She knew how things were with his family, or at least his adoptive family. Thor had explained enough and Frigga, for some reason, had used her own magic to enter her mind at night while she dreamed and spoke to her, telling her things with an unbiased perspective. Mia understood. She thanked the Goddess over and over. But the Goddess thanked her as well, for not giving up on her son. Now she felt like she was letting the woman down, not working hard enough for her. Mia took a deep breath and steadied her resolve. She wouldn't give up now. They were making progress.
"Loki… You missed out on all the good things in life…"
This time he pulled her back in for the hug, wishing for more contact and less talking. Talking always reminded him of Thor, of the times they shared together when they believed that they were close. He really should have realized from the start that he never fit in, that he didn't belong. He was a freak, even amongst Asgardians. He practiced magic, they practiced swords craft. They preached honor, valor and morality. He was the God of Lies, Mischief and Chaos. He never wanted to rule Misgard. He just wanted to prove to everyone he was better than what they believed of him. The path had been lonely.
"I liked it like this," Mia admitted.
"When I was little my mom would hug me," Mia explained, "Whenever I was scared or confused… Dad too… But he doesn't do a lot of hugging anymore…"
Loki understood she was trying to take his mind off the things that had almost happened. He still believed that she would leave him so he would make her stay, even if he had to lie through his teeth to do it, even if he had to swear off of lying, if it would make her stay. It was working. He was forgetting about how he had almost pushed her away. He was still wary that she would leave, but if he played his cards right, he would make it so that was very much impossible for her. He didn't know that it had already happened. She would ever be able to forget him, just as he knew that when she grew past the age of her life, he would never forget her.
"I'm not your mother or your father," Loki teased half heartedly.
"I would hope not!"
For a while the two of them just sat there, hugging one another for the comfort that they sought. He had problems, she knew this. He would still need coaxing and encouragement to get out of his phase of trying to take over the world, but if he had something to ground him, a friendship, or even more, then perhaps he would see that the earth was something worth fighting for. She had already heard his whispers of terror in sleep from his punishment and what had happened before he had been granted power by the Chitari. Thanos was often on his lips as were the words no and please. Nightmares hadn't gotten easier but progressively worse.
"No one can predict the future…" Mia told him, "There are no guarantees…"
They both flinched as orange light bathed the balcony they were sitting on. They looked up. The sun burned through the mist with desert power, desert brightness, and suddenly the gloom of the morning was fighting a losing battle. Renewed vigor flowed through their veins. She wasn't leaving. He would be tentative around her, she knew this, but she was going to prove to him that he wasn't as alone in the universe as he believed, even if it took the rest of her life to do it.