The question caught Loki off-guard, putting him instantly on the defensive.
"Why do you ask? You suspect me of something?"
Natasha laughed humorlessly.
"No," she replied. "That would be the sane thing to do. I was just curious."
"Why should it matter to you?" He was perplexed by her interest. His thoughts and emotions had never been of concern to anyone. A majority of his life had been spent in quiet contemplation, and never before now had any being bothered to inquire as to its nature.
"Relax, would you? I was just asking." She had been stretched out along the length of the bed, brushing out her tangled mess of hair, but she now pushed herself up on one arm to look over at the Asgardian where he reclined in the chair she had earlier forcefully knocked him into. He seemed to have taken a liking to it. "You just seemed so much different for a moment."
"Different?" he smiled condescendingly at her. "And I suppose you would know this, as you know me so very well."
"Better than you might think," she replied. "And not as well as I might like to."
"Oh? Do tell, Agent Romanov."
"If I do," she paused and leaned over closer to him, "You've got to do the same. Answers for answers. Deal?"
"You would make a deal with the god of deception? You would trust my word?" He laughed in cold disbelief.
"Yes I would."
He examined her face for any trace of irony, but her cool unblinking eyes betrayed nothing but fact. She was different, this one. Not like the other Midgardians he had dealt with. It excited and unnerved him, but more than anything made him curious
"Then you have it. Answers for answers."
"Good." She leaned back on the bed and sighed before continuing. "We're not so different, you and I."
"What makes you say that?"
"This," she answered simply, withdrawing a folder from her bedside drawer and tossing it to him. Curious, he opened it tentatively. Fuzzy monochrome photographs and blurred images of his own face greeted him, pictures documenting his various activities on Midgard. Behind that were several sheets of paper filled with information of every imaginable sort. His name. His relations on Asgard. Details of his upbringing and his history. And then, in one field labeled "motive", a great deal of scientific jargon he did not understand about complexes and conditions. He couldn't speak. His entire life lay before him, and somehow, to have it put in such cold light was sickening to him. He was more than these words and images. How could they hope to understand that? These arrogant humans, they
"I know what it's like." Her voice, softer this time, interrupted his thoughts once more. "You don't know which side you belong to, and so you don't belong to any side, except your own. The people that raised you abandoned you. You have no loyalties, no one to share your trust. You hate what you are, but you don't know how to be anything else."
"Why why do you have this?" He struggled to speak, unsure whether to be angry or bewildered or to listen to what she was saying, to allow the spark of hope that her words had stirred deep within him to surface he snapped the folder shut and cast it violently to the ground.
"It's my job to know things. There's a folder in that office on every man, woman, or child who's ever so much as looked cross-eyed at a SHIELD logo. Yours is thicker than most."
"So I am just a challenge to you." His voice cracked as he remembered that forever-ago day when he had realized for the first time what he was. What he wasn't. He wasn't a son, or a brother. He wasn't loved. He wasn't even cared for. When Odin's face had given him the answers his words never had. Loki of Asgard really wasn't of Asgard, he was just Loki, Loki the changeling prince, Loki the bastard son, Loki the always inferior, the monster, the trophy, the relic, to be locked away and brought out only when he could be used for some other purpose, then discarded or locked away again so as not to frighten children. He had gone through so much in efforts to become so much more, but in the end it would always be this way. He was foolish to dream otherwise. "I am only another job in your eyes."
"I didn't say that."
"No one ever does," he countered bitterly. "Do you think the master of lies cannot recognize one when he hears it?"
"I'm sure he canbut does that mean he can discern the truth?" She eyed him defiantly, standing to better face him as she continued. "You're so blinded by hatred and distrust and bitterness that you stopped trying."
"Is that written in your papers as well?"
"No, it's written all over your face! Why can't you accept that there are possibilities here you're deliberately ignoring?"
"If you are such an expert on my inner workings, Agent, then you can tell me!"
"Fine!" Natasha seethed with frustration. Why was he so stubborn? "Fine, I will! It's because you don't want someone to prove you wrong by maybe actually caring about you. You want to be the victim. You want to keep everyone out. You think every question is an attack, every word is a lie, because that's how you are, but you refuse to admit anyone might be anything like you. So instead you push everyone who cares away and close yourself off to them. You make everyone your enemy."
"Everyone is my enemy," he hissed. "Who would care about a monster?"
"If you would give someone a cha"
"No one cares!"
The room went suddenly silent, a silence that rang powerfully in the absence of shouts that had shaken it only moments before. The two stood locked in a search for mutual understanding, simply gazing at one another for moments that seemed like hours, unsure what to say or do next.
"You know not of what you speak," he whispered finally, lowering his head.
"Then show me," she urged quietly, gently tilting his chin so his eyes met hers. "Let me past these walls."
"What makes you different? Why should you care when no one else does? Do you forget all I've done to you? I attempted to enslave your people. To destroy your home. I turned the archer against you. I meant to utterly destroy you and everyone you care about. I would have killed you."
"You haven't yet."
That simple observation struck Loki more powerfully than any physical blow he had ever suffered. She had not lost her head for a moment. She had always remembered, always known, everything he was. And she had tolerated him despite it. She had talked with him, she had she had kissed him.
And she was right. He hadn't killed her yet. Though he had every opportunity, and no reason against it. He could even do it right now; she was utterly defenseless. But he was stunned to realize he wasn't going to. And again, a realizationshe hadn't attempted to kill him, either. Last night it had seemed her only desire to eliminate him, but even then, she had not done so. Why? Why?
"That's no guarantee that I won't," he stated.
He couldn't understand. What were the terms of this relationship? What was this? What strategic advantage did she hope to gain by getting close to him? Why did he want so badly to let her try?
Natasha sighed heavily, a frown creasing her pretty features.
"You're still trying to figure me out, aren't you?" she asked. "You still can't believe there's no ulterior motive behind this."
"No. I can't."
"Natasha " He tried out her name tentatively on his tongue, exploring the way it slipped between his teeth, shimmering with unfamiliar emotion. "I don't know how to be anything other than what I've been in the past. I don't know how to be honest or true or if I'm even capable of such things. Even if I do let you close, I could wake up tomorrow morning and decide to rip your heart out all in fun, just to watch your pain. I could change my mind about everything and get you into a mess of trouble and feel no remorse. It's what I am."
"But," she interrupted. "It's not what you have to be. You think just because you were born a a Jotun, that predestines you to some lower purpose? That you can never be anything but an evil frost giant? We have frost giants here, too, you know." She smiled ironically. "We call them Russians."
The comparison brought a slight hint of a smile to Loki's face.
"I still cannot promise you anything. If you choose to throw in your lot with me, I can guarantee neither your safety nor your happiness."
"That's what they told me when I joined SHIELD," she shrugged.
"And what do you think of that decision so far?"
She wrapped her arms around his neck, leaning in closely.
"Best I ever made."
He studied her for a moment, taking in every detail. The gentle wave of her fiery red hairno one on Asgard had hair quite like thatthe bow of her lips, the proud set of her shoulders, the warm curve of her body against his An electric thrill ran down his spine. She was wrongfully born of Midgard, he thought. This was a woman worthy of the gods. Worthy of one god in particular.
"Answers for answers," he murmured. "What do you wish to know?"
"What were you thinking about earlier?"
"You," he answered truthfully.
"And what do you think of me?"
The gleam in her eyes left him breathless, powerless, captivated.
"I think that you are the first Midgardian I have encountered whose existence I do not lament. And," he continued, "that I am quite taken with you."
So anyways. Ennnnh. I'm not as crazy about this chapter. Sorry for that. But at least we've now drawn some lines around the Loki-Tasha relationship and started to figure out where everyone stands. Drama drama drama!
What I do like is Natasha's comparison of herself to a frost giant. I mean, she's a born Russian, and to some Americans, that's just as bad as being from Jotunheim. In a way, I think she'd identify very well with Loki, since they both know what it's like to be an enemy to their own people. Hidden message: prejudice is bad, guys.
I also like that Loki is [for him] being pretty honest about the whole thing. "Look, Natasha, we can hook up, but there's a big possibility I'm just waiting to hurt you." Will he? We'll find out!