A/N: Hey everybody!
A few points: First, I wanted to give a HUGE thank you to everyone who read and reviewed 'The Avenging of Natalie Frost'. It broke my personal best record; I've never had a fic reach one hundred reviews before, and you all made that happen. :,D You're amazing! Thank you so much!
Second: This sequel is probably going to be even longer than the first 'book' was so, hopefully, the chapters will be a lot longer as well (not counting this one). As indicated in both the epilogue and the little preview in the last instillation, this is set about a year or so after the events of 'The Avenging of Natalie Frost'. As such, relationships have grown together (or apart) with that time. And this is still set in Natalie's Point of View. So… you know. Hope you like it!
The Avenging of Loki Laufeyson
If you could go back in time to any point in your life and talk to yourself, when would you go to, and what would you say?
I would go back to before all of this happened. Before I met Fraye. Before the war. Before Loki joined with the Avengers and I. Before any of this ever started.
Would I try and change it? I don't think I could. I don't think that's possible. But I want to look myself in the eye. I want to look Past Me directly in the innocent brown eyes that have not seen what I have. I don't want to tell her that everything's okay, or that everything will all work out. That would be a lie.
All I want to say, the only thing that I could possibly say, is: I'm sorry.
Because my life… Loki's life… the Avengers' lives… it became hell.
And if I told Past Me about what happened, she wouldn't understand it, not like I do. Because she would still have to live it. She would still have to go through all of it. And then she'd understand, but then it would be too late, because then it would all be over…
Could anyone else understand, if they knew? If the people of Earth knew my tale, would they understand why everything happened this way?
And to the people of Earth, I have a message:
For everything that has happened. I'm sorry.
It all started on a normal day. Normal for me, that is. When you're the Avengers' therapist (not to mention Loki's) 'normal' is kind of a grey area.
I sat up in my bed- one of the few ordinary things in my life- and scratched my dog- another ordinary thing- behind the ears. Jekyll, the mutt in question, looked up at me with big eyes from where he was lying at my feet. I rolled my own eyes as his large, pink tongue lolled out of the side of his mouth, a sort of doggy smile spreading across his muzzle.
I tapped him on the cold, wet nose. "You," I told him pointedly, "Are way too happy."
He responded by licking my finger. I had a girl moment, my face twisting up as a long, resounding, "Ewww…." Came out of my mouth.
"Gross, Jekyll!" I complained. He didn't seem to care. I wiped the dog slobber on his fuzzy head, muttering under my breath, "Stupid dog."
I stood and got ready for 'work', going through the typical morning routine. Brush hair, brush teeth, change clothes. Simple, easy, ordinary. But still… different. It had been almost a year since I'd moved into this place, but it was still weird, not having my mom around all the time. But since Cameron had moved back into my old house, I had moved into his; the house that he lived in while he wasn't with us. I'd thought it would be harder to live here, in a place where my father lived while he thought of me as a monster, but it wasn't that bad, actually. Just a little… empty.
Which was more than I could say about the one place that was supposed to be empty of anything but me; my head.
I closed my eyes and listened quietly to the whispers at the back of my mind. Loki did not seem to be awake yet. And yet my hands were shaking, trembling just slightly. As I packed my bag and pulled up the zipper, my fingers jumped all over the place.
I checked my phone for the day of the week, and the time. I didn't have school today; but then, I rarely did. I only had one class on-campus; the rest was online. And I'd been keeping up with that fairly well. But with superheroes, you can't really keep to a 'schedule'. Something my poor, agenda-eccentric mother had been forced to learn the hard way.
So normal school was definitely out for me. I worked with heroes and super spies; time was a precious commodity.
I looked to Jekyll, my plans for the day shifting into place in my head. "Right!" I announced. "So I'll have to visit Loki today."
Jekyll rolled onto his back, paws sticking in the air as his ears flopped back onto the tile. Innocent. Whining just a little.
I scowled. "Don't give me that look," I scolded, holding up my shaking hand, using it to demonstrate my point. "He needs me."
Another little whimper. I sighed. "Look, I know, I know, it's the fourth time this week. What can I say? The guy has issues."
Jekyll didn't give in. I heaved another sigh and ran my fingernails over his belly. His tail went back and forth like crazy, smacking into a nearby wall a few times. I rolled my eyes.
"Dumb dog," I mumbled, heading towards the door, throwing my backpack over my shoulders. Though I didn't go to school every day, being without a backpack still felt… unusual. So I kept the thing on; what was the harm?
"Watch the house for me, fluff face," I said as I closed and locked the door behind me. I went to the garage and smiled a little. One good thing that had come out of the whole mess of the previous year; S.H.I.E.L.D. gave me a fairly decent pay. Enough for me to stop riding the old bike- which I still kept around just in case- and get a better ride; a sweet black motorcycle that Tony had been quick to dub the 'Frost-Cycle'.
May I just say, best job ever?
Though my employer and I didn't exactly 'get along'. Fury and I had been at odds practically since he'd hired me; and considering I left out a lot in my reports for the sake of secrecy, giving away only as much as was absolutely necessary to reassure the higher-ups about the Avengers' state of mind… well, we'd almost come to blows once or twice. He'd threatened to fire me on multiple occasions; to which I laughed in his face. They couldn't fire me and they knew it. The nanos in my blood were classified; everything about my life was classified. Besides that, the Avengers (with the possible exception of Natasha and Clint) would never agree to allow another S.H.I.E.L.D.-sanctioned psychiatrist poke around in their lives. No matter how uncooperative I was, beggars can't be choosers; what S.H.I.E.L.D. had now was pretty great, as far as I was concerned.
And I'd been giving them a lot of information on Loki. I hid a few things here and there- things that I didn't think they needed to know about- but Loki and I no longer had any secrets from each other. We were in each other's brains. It was a psychiatrist's- and a spy's- dream.
I put my helmet on, zipped up my leather jacket, and started up the Frost-Cycle. It roared beneath me, and I grinned. I was all for clean, green energy, and for not polluting the air with exhaust… but this thing was so damn cool that I found myself making an exception. Okay, a lot of exceptions.
I'm shallow sometimes. So sue me.
I started towards Stark Tower. I knew that Thor would be there soon; he usually came by in the morning to see if I would be going to Asgard that day. Though Tony had talked about figuring out a way to set up a portal between Asgard and Earth, we were still relying on the Tesseract to take me and Thor to and from the place. I still nagged Tony about it, but the guy rarely listened to me, anyway. Too focused on his armors. I understood; you know, you gotta save the world and all that crap.
I drove up to the Tower, parking my motorcycle in the space that Tony had set aside for it in one of his garages, JARVIS allowing me entry inside after scanning the bike and my face. I left my helmet there, tightening my backpack straps and heading inside.
"Lucy, I'm home!" I called out to the building, knowing that JARVIS would relay my voice to wherever Tony was. And possibly to Banner or Steve, if they were here. Banner had been spending quite a bit of time here, but he couldn't be here all of the time.
Tony's voice came back to me a few moments later. "Going to visit your star patient today?" He asked snidely. I felt my cheeks warm up; not just at the label that the Avengers had forced onto Loki, but also because, well… that was exactly what I was going to do.
"Kinda," I said innocently. I heard his exasperated sigh on the other end of the intercom.
"You spend way too much time with that man. I think he's a bad influence on you."
"Funny, my mom says the same thing about you."
"Your mother is a wise woman. She would never tell such horrible lies."
I grinned. "Thor here yet?" I inquired. I was ready to get moving, even though Loki wasn't awake yet. He preferred to sleep away as much as he could of his time in prison. His cell was always so dark that it was sometimes hard for him to tell night from day; until I came along, that is. But his sleeping patterns were still massively messed up, even a year after we'd been linked together.
"Not yet. Banner and Rodgers are both at home, and who knows where the hell the spies are." His voice became just a little bit ominous. "Just you and me, Nat."
"And JARVIS," I corrected, not bothering to get angry at him for his use of the nickname. I'd told him a thousand times before not to call me 'Nat', but by the time he realized that it was my father's nickname for me, it was too late. He'd made it into a habit. I started towards the elevator. "What floor you on?"
"Thirteen. I'm in the lab."
"Ah, tempting fate, I see."
"Unlucky thirteen." I pointed out, pushing the button. A yellow light came to life beneath my fingertip, and the doors closed.
His eyes rolled; I could hear it in his tone. "I can buy any luck that I need. And shoot any 'unlucky' thing that I don't."
"The Great, Untouchable Fancy Tin Can of Death, afraid of nothing. Lovely."
"Hey, don't knock the powers, 'Bubbletastica'. That suit's a lot cooler than your tech."
"You realize that you're mocking your own creation, right?" The doors opened again, and I stepped out of the elevator, walking to the lab; one of many, but the only one on this floor.
"I take maybe… half of the responsibility for those nanobots." Stark said. "The good half. Everything else was Loki's fault."
"Why don't you just man up and admit that most everything on this planet is your fault?" I pushed open the door, the silver bracelet on my wrist catching the light. The control panel for the nanos; the one that sent a constant signal to them, keeping them from self-destructing. If they didn't receive a signal at least once every forty-eight hours, they went poof, and me with them. At least in theory. Since Loki had gotten his magic mixed in, no one really knew if they would go boom or not.
"On this planet, maybe. But I'm not entirely convinced that you're not a little green man beneath that college student exterior." Tony swiveled around in his chair as I entered, looking at me. I swear, if he had been stroking a cat, he'd have looked like a regular Bond villain. He certainly had the ego of one.
I snorted. "Didn't you know? All college students come from outer space."
"You know, that explains so much."
I chuckled softly and flopped onto a chair, twirling about a few times. "JARVIS, can you pull up my account?" I asked, turning to one of the bazillion screens that littered Stark Tower. The AI obeyed, and a blue screen demanding a password flickered in front of me. I typed it in, my fingers flying across the keys as Tony pulled his chair up to the glass computer screen beside me.
"You really need to come up with a more original password, Nat," Tony said, consulting said screen. "I mean, 'Decepticon'? Really? Transformers fan much?"
I scowled at him. "I'd have a lot more original passwords if you'd stop hacking them."
"You use my computers, you deal with the consequences."
I rolled my eyes and opened a few documents, frowning. I had my own laptop for the more sensitive things- a present from Stark for my twentieth birthday- but I kept one or two things on the Tower's computers, just in case. And I usually did most of my homework on them, too.
"Hey, Tony, take a look at this." I ran my hand across the screen; the document followed my fingers and flung itself onto Tony's screen. He looked at it and frowned in turn.
"That's my homework from yesterday," I told him. "You know, for college? Does it make any sense to you?"
He studied it. "How drunk were you when you wrote this?"
I scowled. "Oh, ha ha." I said tartly. "Look, will I get a decent grade if I turn it in like that, or not?"
"Not if I was the teacher."
I rolled my eyes again. Never ask a genius for homework help. "Screw it," I tapped a few commands- checking the spelling, making an edit or two- then sent the file out to my professor. I closed the program and turned to Stark. "Ok! Now that's out of the way, let's get down to business."
"Loser does the dishes for a week?" Tony asked, pulling up our usual variety of video games. We always went through them in a list; I chose the first, he chose the second, I chose the third and so on. We'd play one after another until someone stopped us. We usually lasted a few hours before that happened.
"Done," I agreed, selecting the first challenge. Tony grinned; Pepper usually helped him out with the dishes, since he was usually too busy with his newest editions of Stark Tech to do anything around the Tower itself. But she was busy, too; and always very happy when we made these bets; because, either way, the dishes would be cleaned.
We had wasted the entire morning away by the time Banner finally came to the Tower; he didn't bother with trying to stop me and Tony, who were in the middle of piloting imaginary aircraft when he came in. He simply called out a quick greeting and headed towards another laboratory. And, by the time Thor showed up at noon, finishing our mini-tournament, Tony had completely pulverized me.
"I know you love the smell of dish soap," Tony said as JARVIS informed Thor that I'd be ready to leave in a moment.
"Bite me, Stark," I said easily, without any real malice. Loki had woken up hours ago, and had been watching my little war without any enthusiasm. My hands had been too shaky on the controls to really win anything; though I didn't tell Tony that. He'd just blow it off as an excuse; and Loki would be pissed at me for showing his 'vulnerability' like that.
But that very vulnerability was getting me worried. I wasn't even sure what he was so upset about; nothing new had really happened since my last visit. But something had been bugging him for a while now; something big. Something that he really, really didn't want to talk about.
That was ok. I usually did a lot of the talking, anyway.
I left my backpack in the room with Tony and headed to the floor where the Thunderer was waiting for me.
"Thor!" I exclaimed as I entered the room; he turned from where he was looking out the window and smiled at me.
"Natalie," He greeted in turn, taking my hand; the two of us pulled towards each other, clapping each other's backs in a Viking-style, aren't-we-bad kind of hug. I grinned wildly at him; Loki had once loved Thor as his brother, even if no one was really sure how he felt about him now. That sibling love had translated to me, which opened my mind up to how great a guy the Norse god of Thunder really was. Though it was Loki's influence that had introduced me to Thor, I think that we would have eventually become as close as we were, anyway, regardless of whether or not Loki and I had been linked.
"JARVIS informed me that you wished to go to Asgard again today," Thor said, one blonde eyebrow rising. I was just grateful that he started calling JARVIS by his name, instead of referring to him as 'the building'.
His pale blue eyes focused in on mine. He must have noticed how frequent these 'visits' had gotten in recent days, because he asked, "Is there something wrong with my brother?"
Ice trickled down my spine at the word 'brother', as it usually did. As per usual whenever Thor was in the room, Loki was now listening with a little more intensity. I felt his typical bitterness in my gut and wanted to roll my eyes. Even after all this time, the man held a grudge. Family was hard for him to forgive.
Then again, I was one to talk. My throat went dry as I thought of my own family; specifically, my father. The man who had once viewed me as a monster. Even after all this time, I couldn't bring myself to forgive him completely, not for everything. As hard as I was trying… I just couldn't get those first seven years of my life to stop playing on repeat in my head, couldn't get the bitter taste out of my mouth every time I thought about the thirteen years that followed.
Well, we all have issues.
"He's all right," I lied smoothly. When you have the Norse god of Mischief in your head, that's something you tend to do a lot. If you weren't a good liar before, you learn pretty quickly. Thankfully, I was always good at it.
I'm not sure if that's something I should be proud of, though.
"He's just been having a bit of trouble sleeping lately," I added, not untruthfully. Loki was unhappy that I had to admit to even this much, but he understood the necessity of it. He also understood that it didn't really matter if he was unhappy or not. "Nightmares," I explained as Thor looked confused.
"I see," Thor said, nodding slowly. "Very well, then."
He held out the Tesseract; tucked away safely inside a glass device with golden handles. I grasped one of these handles now; like it had a thousand times before when I came in contact with the glowing blue cube, my entire body buzzed with energy, and I felt stronger, better. I knew it was just an overload of power in the nanos, but it still felt great.
I waved goodbye to the cameras in case Tony was watching (as if he ever stopped) and Thor twisted the handle; blue energy flared around me as the world spun, then halted abruptly, leaving me in the golden halls of Asgard.
Despite how unnerving it was to be in a totally new place so abruptly, I played it cool, casually brushing myself off and releasing the device that surrounded the Tesseract. "Right, then. I'm off."
Thor nodded and went to place the Tesseract in its usual spot; where that was, I still didn't know. I wasn't allowed to know; because if I knew, then guess who else knew?
I walked directly to Loki's cell, deep in thought. In the old days, Thor would accompany me there, and let the guards know that my presence was sanctioned. Nowadays, everyone already knew as much. Those in the palace had slowly become accustomed to seeing a strange mortal girl roaming the halls for no particular reason. I spent quite a lot of time here, after all.
On reaching the prison doors, I gave the guards a mock-salute. They looked me up and down, while in turn, I scanned them reflexively. A long time ago, Loki had made an attempt to escape that didn't involve me; he'd simply made a run for it. He'd been stopped, but afterwards, one of the guards had entered his cell and beat the living crap out of him. That guard and I ended up disagreeing.
Thankfully, Odin was keeping true to his word; neither of the two sentries standing before the prison doors was that guard. They stepped aside to allow me entry; I gave them each a nod and pushed through the doors, plunging myself into the darkness inside.
I have noted before that Loki's prison was, quite possibly, one of them most terrifying places in the universe. It was completely dark; absolutely devoid of light. The second you stepped inside, your vision was gone, taken from you, the darkness so complete and absolute that you wondered if you'd ever see the light again. I knew that the cell was large, despite the darkness, knew that there were places that I had yet to discover… but I always felt as though the darkness was a wall; closing in, pressing in all around me.
In the center of this cell was a single, grey light with an undeterminable source. It cast its blissful illumination over a small area of the room; and this was where Loki resided. There were a few of the necessary living requirements- a bed and such- but Loki always seemed to prefer the floor; he was typically sitting there whenever I arrived, cross-legged, eyes closed as though in deep concentration.
As I emerged into that patch of light and saw him sitting there, I stifled a sigh of relief. No matter how many times I went through that darkness, it never seemed to get any better. I often wondered how Odin could do that to his own son, often considered how prisoners on Earth were treated a little more humanely. But then I realized that we could afford to do so. Prisoners on Earth couldn't destroy entire planets while having a temper tantrum. And, besides that, Asgardians didn't exactly seem like the most 'humane' of people. I'd lost count of the different types of weapons I'd learned about on my journeys here; not to mention the hundreds of war stories I'd heard.
I walked over to the chair and sat down; it was my usual place in the room. Loki had been pretty territorial at first, but slowly, surely, he'd become accustomed to seeing me in that spot; it was soon established, however, that me stepping pretty much anywhere else would not be tolerated. I let it slide; he needed to have some degree of control over his own life, no matter how miniscule that degree was. A man's home was his castle; and if Loki's prison was his home, then here, he could remain king.
I folded my hands in my lap, trying to pull myself together, to remove myself from Loki as much as I could. Whatever he said from this point on would be as voluntary as possible. We could never separate, not completely, not anymore. His mind was always in the back of mine, quiet whispers that were never hard to grasp. But we could at least partially distance ourselves from each other.
He had not moved since my arrival; he was still facing the door, his eyes closed as he concentrated. What, exactly, he was thinking about, I wasn't allowed to know. I didn't pry. We both knew that I could rip the information directly from his head if so inclined; and that he could easily do the same to me. But I rarely stooped to such measures; only if I had to. Only if he was being so unbelievably stubborn that it was unavoidable, only if it would end up helping him eventually.
Still, the two of us no longer had any secrets from each other. He knew absolutely everything about me, and I knew… most everything about him. When this link had first been created, Loki was the only one who knew the full extent of it; and he used that to his advantage, learning everything about me: every thought, every memory, every dream. I, on the other hand, had to learn as I went along. And while I knew most every memory he had, knew exactly how he thought… there were still a few hazy patches here and there. Things that I wasn't quite allowed to know yet. Things that I didn't ask about, for these were the things that were tucked away in the deepest, darkest corners of his mind, and to question him about them would be to rip his skull open and tear out his darkest moments. I wanted to avoid that, as much as I could.
I swallowed, folding my hands in my lap. "Mornin', Loki," I greeted him cheerfully. As though we were just two normal people, having to a normal conversation. As though I actually needed to speak aloud for him to know that I was there, when in reality he knew from the second that I entered the room. He did not respond, keeping his eyes closed, deep in thought. I vaguely wondered if he was contemplating how best to assassinate me.
"No," Loki answered my unspoken thought. I lifted an eyebrow. He didn't turn to me; he didn't even open his eyes. "You know that is impossible," he said, his voice barely audible.
That was true. Neither Loki nor I could harm each other; the very thought was… well, unthinkable. It would be like hurting a part of yourself. But there were days when I wondered if he was willing to risk it; to be rid of me now, to deal with some minor pain, to spare himself a far greater pain; the pain of having me as his weakness. Our link only grew stronger as time went on; eventually, the two of us would be nigh inseparable.
"So what are you thinking about, then?" I prodded. He didn't reply. Little pest.
I waited in silence for an answer, anyway. When one was not forthcoming, I changed subjects quickly, easily. My voice gentle and quiet, mimicking that of every psychiatrist ever, I stated, "So. You've been having nightmares again."
It was a fact, not a question. But Loki answered it anyway. "Yes," he affirmed coolly, eyes still closed, features still completely neutral, still facing the door. Still not facing me. I was about ready to move the chair right in front of him; man's home-castle be damned.
"Wanna talk about them?"
At last, at last, he turned to me, his eyes opening as he turned his head sideways. He gave me one of his looks; the one that said, 'Really, mortal? Are you truly this incompetent?'
I ignored it. You don't spend a year talking to the Norse god of Mischief without having your pride damaged from time to time. "I once had a nightmare about an emu. It was absolutely terrifying."
"You were five years old. Everything was terrifying." He turned away from me again, green eyes flickering shut.
I folded my arms over my chest. "Well, I'd give better examples, but all of my really bad nightmares came directly from you." I reigned myself in before I could say more. Sometimes, this guy really knew how to push my buttons. I took a brief moment to compose myself, then tried again. "I'm only trying to help you, Loki."
"You are no longer required to." He replied curtly. "This is the forth time this week, Miss Frost. I am not a child."
"Even children know that talking about nightmares makes them easier to deal with."
"Is that the lesson you learned when you told your father of your nightmare?"
I winced. Ok, that was the exact opposite of what I'd learned that day. But back then, my father had viewed me as the nightmare, so Loki wasn't exactly playing fair. My eyes narrowed a little.
"No," I answered him slowly, calculatingly. "That, I learned from April."
He shut up.
Immediately, I bit my lip, scowling. My face grew hot; April was a bit of a taboo subject between us. It was so hard, trying to keep the conversation from taking these kinds of turns. There were days when we got along quite well, speaking civilly, perfectly polite. But there were other days when it was all we could do to keep from throttling each other. You never knew what we were going to do next.
This time, I took a longer moment, closing my eyes and taking a few deep breaths. We would get no where by fighting. We never did.
"All right," I said after a while, as smoothly and casually as was humanly possible. "Let's not go there today, shall we?" Loki remained stonily silent. "Why don't we just start with you turning around to face me, shall we? We can take it from there."
Loki did nothing for a long time. Stubborn little jerk. But after a very, very long time, he unfolded his legs and stood, his every movement fluid and graceful. He strode purposefully over to the opposite side of the room, where a second chair rested; he'd only gotten a second after I started visiting so frequently. Why else would he need another one?
The chair was already turned to face me, and he sat down in it in a very bored, unhurried fashion; as though I was simply some minor nuisance, not really worth his time but perhaps mildly amusing. Enough so that he would actually get up off the ground and turn to look at me, but not enough that he would actually care about the outcome of our conversation. Loki had a way of making you feel incredibly insignificant, feel as though you were worth less than nothing. But I'd spent a majority of my life feeling like that, anyway; I was pretty immune to his arrogance by this point.
"Ok, then," I said, nodding once. Loki watched me with uninterested eyes. "So you're not going to say anything about the nightmares? Anything at all?"
Despite how bored he looked, Loki studied me for a second, his green gaze penetrating my own brown eyes and staring deep into the darkest corners of thought… I swallowed and did my best to hold my ground. I'd been getting better at staring him down. Finally, his head turned to the side, his chin resting in his hand as he stared out into the darkness that surrounded our little island of light.
"They are mostly about you."
The words were so flat, so dead and toneless that I barely even realized what he was saying. But the second I understood them, I did a double take. "They're what now?"
He didn't repeat himself; didn't look back to me. He supported his chin with the back of his hand- with his fingers curled downwards against his throat- as opposed to using his palm; a gesture I'd seen him use quite frequently. His eyes were now distant, unseeing. I swallowed.
"These sessions scare you that much, huh?" I asked. It was a weak attempt at humor, and his green eyes rolled to the nonexistent ceiling; nonexistent only in that it could not be seen in the darkness. I was fairly sure it was up there, somewhere. At least, I hoped it was.
"I have seen many worlds in my exile, Natalie Frost." Loki reminded me. "I have seen many nightmarish planets. I have seen creatures made from fear itself." He looked back to me. "And you…"
"Are a mortal," I filled in. "I get it."
He looked away again. "I have nothing to fear from something so pathetic as you," he agreed, very softly.
"Then what are the nightmares about?"
No response. It took me a moment to get it, but then my eyes widened. Wow, I am slow.
He nodded once, serenely, then looked back to me, smiling wryly. That eternal little smirk that was almost always on his features had finally made an appearance. "Interesting, is it not, that I should already fear losing you?"
I swallowed thickly. He was trying to smile it away, to blow it off, to act as though it didn't mean anything… but I knew he was shaken about it. I was becoming a weakness; and one thing he could not tolerate was weakness.
I took his cue, keeping the conversation as light as possible, all the while sticking to the truth. "It's not that surprising, actually," I said slowly, considering each word before I spoke it aloud. "I've been worried about losing you for a long time now."
In spite of my care and caution, he scoffed. "As you have already proven, I do not die easily, Miss Frost." His tone was dark and cold as shadows. "And even so, I am locked away here forever. Where could I possibly go? What could possibly happen to me?" He looked me up and down, the utmost scorn in his eyes for the briefest of seconds. "Whereas you… you are weak. Frail. Helpless." His voice did not rise, but his words grew sharper, more intense. "You can not protect yourself, not from what lies out there, not from what is coming."
The tone of his words- an odd kind of terrible respect, combined with a smothered horror- immediately had my spine stiffening. Loki's mouth suddenly closed, snapping shut, clamping down on the stream of words that had been flowing from him. He turned away again, trying to keep up his careless façade. He sighed through his nose, looking bored once again; but I wasn't fooled.
He'd slipped. Big time.
"What's coming, Loki?" I asked carefully, quietly, leaning forward a little. He didn't answer. "Loki, what's wrong? What's happening?"
Immediately, the walls between us strengthened. Loki was bracing himself for a mental attack; which meant that he thought that I would find an attack necessary. His little slip-up was worse than I'd first thought. I swallowed as I saw the briefest flash of fear in his eyes, but he kept it hidden, kept it buried. Anything that scared Loki, particularly something that was 'coming'… I had more than enough reason to fear it, too.
"Does it threaten Asgard?" No answer. "Earth?" Still nothing. I frowned. "What is it, Loki?"
I put as much urgency in my tone as I could manage; I wanted to solve this peaceably. I didn't want us to get into another mental war; but I had responsibilities. S.H.I.E.L.D. would kill me if I didn't see this through to the end…
But then, who cared about S.H.I.E.L.D.? And I had responsibilities to Loki, too. I had worked hard in the past year to build up some sense of trust between us. I had to keep that trust. I had to.
Loki looked back at me for a moment, and I could see him warring it out in his head. Trying to figure out what he should and should not tell me. Finally, however, he seemed to come to a decision, because he sighed softly and placed his hands on his lap.
"There are things out there in our universe, Natalie," He said slowly. His voice was so quiet. I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise as he used my first name and only my first name; that was a rarity. He only did that in his more-dare I say it- 'human' moments.
"Things that you could not even begin to imagine," he continued, his voice still that soft, lofty whisper. "Things that your dull mortal mind could barely comprehend."
Most people would have been offended. But if Loki didn't insult my intelligence at least twice a session, I started to worry for his health. He continued on.
"There are… entire worlds… where dreams have long stopped being nonsensical," there was an odd sort of… pained awe in his voice. I couldn't make sense of it, but it was giving me some serious chills. "Worlds where nightmares truly are reality. Where bad dreams are not simply a product of the mind; but rather, they are a warning."
There was something ominous in his words. No, scratch that, there was something ominous in everything; his eyes, his tone, the way he spoke.
He fell silent for a long time as I considered that; a nightmare, being a warning? Well if that was the case, then New York was long overdue for a doomsday involving a herd of stampeding, T-Rex-eating emus…
But then I really thought about it. I'd been trying to pull myself away from Loki's nightmares, and for the most part I'd been successful. Right now, when we dreamed, we dreamed separately. My dreams were mine, his dreams were his. No breeching of the barriers; not as far as we could tell. (Though we had both been known to have dreams from the point of view of the other: I would dream that I was him and vice versa, but as far as we could tell, this was not an actually 'switching' of our dreams.) And I'd been trying not to snoop into his nightmares too much; something, it seemed, that I'd have to reconsider. Because I didn't know what this 'warning' might be, since I didn't know any of his nightmares…
After a moment, he shook his head slowly, as though trying to clear it. "But there are also places and times when dreams are nothing more than that; dreams."
I frowned. I knew he was still worried; I could see it in his eyes, could feel his anxieties forcing my heart into a nervous rhythm. And beyond that, his mental walls were still up; he was still waiting for me to try and wrestle the information out of him.
I fought a sigh; I didn't see the point in fighting him. It would do him no good, and would breech the trust that I'd been working on for months. So I let it slide; after a moment of quiet contemplation, I forced myself to change the subject, and the session went on as it usually did.
I wish I could go to that point in time. I wish I could have slapped myself in the face, told Past Me to fight it out, because she would have to be stronger than this, stronger than any of this. Because there would be so much blood in the days to come; and maybe if I had been stronger, I could have stopped it.
Maybe if I had been stronger, no one would have died.