LockDown Part I: Bottle Episode
Summary: The fate of the Avengers lies in the hands of the Senate this evening, and all you have to do is make sure Loki is prepared for the hearing and ready to leave.
Setting: 2018 in an alternate timeline where Loki made it to Earth after the events of “Thor: Ragnarok” and Sam Wilson, Wanda Maximoff, Clint Barton, and Scott Lang are still on the Raft.
Pairing: Loki x Reader (First Person)
Playlist ~ Master List ~ Next Part
Avenges Compound March 12th, 2018:
I walked down the hallway of the Avengers compound towards the elevator with a file in my left hand, a small purse on my right shoulder, and determination in my eyes.
“Evening,” an ex-SHIELD employee named Travis smiled at me. His white teeth contrasted against his dark skin. It was nice for Tony to hire the agents who weren't compromised by Hydra. Normally I'd offer a friendly wave to the young muscle-bound agent, but I had no time, I was already late.
“Sorry Travis,” I said without stopping, “We can catch up later.”
The winding halls seemed longer than usual, but I supposed everything took forever when you were running late. That included the elevator. I impatiently tapped on the button. I scrunch my nose in frustration and swore at the damn machine.
“Not sure if punching it is going to help,” I heard a familiar chuckle.
“You,” I used my free hand to playfully push Steve Rogers' pecks, “Don't get to school me on when and when not to punch things. And besides I- “Before I could finish the doors finally swung open,“ It worked, I smiled. ”
Steve gave me an amused smile and stepped into the elevator with me. I took note of his unusually formal attracts. He wore a navy blue button-down shirt that brought out his eyes and a charcoal grey suit.
“Nervous about the hearing?” I asked as I reached over to push the button to the 12th floor. It had been nearly 4 years since the Avengers had their internal fight. A lot has changed since then. Tony and Steve made up shortly after Thor, the Hulk and the Asgardian refugees landed on earth.
After learning about the destruction of Asgard, and what Hela had been capable of, Tony and Steve realized there were far bigger threats in the universe than they had previously realized. The world needed the Avengers.
“Let's just say I've never been one for public speaking,” Steve replied, looking down at his feet.
“Just be honest with the Senate. Explain to them why the Avengers are needed and why the ones on the Raft deserve to be given time served. ” Steve listened to my advice and nodded.
I was no lawyer, but I had covered many Senate hearings for the Daily Bugle before Tony hired me as a liaison. My job now was to identify threats, decide if the Avengers should get involved, and determine which team to deploy. But ever since the Avengers began preparing for the now approaching Senate hearing, my job had been reduced to a personal assistant. Turns out not everyone wanted the Avengers back in commission, even after Steve finally agreed to sign the Sokovia accords. I suppose it didn't take a genius to see how reluctant he was to do so. But he wanted his family back.
“You look nice,” Steve commented as if noticing me for the first time. I was far too overdressed for a Senate hearing. I wore a silk black dress that fell to my knees. One side had a small slit that almost reached my thigh and my back was exposed.
“Thanks,” I smiled bashfully as I twirled my gold necklace. It was a nervous habit, “I have a date actually.”
“Oh, you finally said yes to Mr. Facebook?”
“Ugh,” I groaned, “Don't call Eric that. Makes it sound like I'm going on a date with Mark Zuckerberg. Eric, ”I said as the elevator doors finally opened,“ Is an old high school friend who reached out to me on Facebook. ”
“So what's with the files?” Steve asked as I stepped out of the elevator. He held the door open with his arm. I groaned in response and I could see his eyes slightly widen with concern.
“Well before I get to go on my date I have to deal with the prince of darkness,” I forced a smile on my face. Thor and the Hulk tried to brush past the fact that amongst the refugees was Thor's brother Loki.
I could remember it like it had been yesterday, and not 4 months ago.
“So who's all with you,” Tony had asked.
“Oh just the usual,” Thor replied, “Me, Hulk, Korg, Valkyrie, MiekLoki, some Asgardians.”
“What was that?” Tony squinted at Thor. The god of Thunder avoided the scrutiny of the smaller man's gaze.
“Some Asgardians. Thankfully not everyone died on Asgard. ”
“Nope,” before that.
“Miek?” Thor asked.
Everyone turned to Bruce for an explanation but he raised his hands as if to silently say, “don't ask me.”
“Okay, I'm going to end this bit,” Tony pinched his nose in frustration, “I'm talking about LOKI. You mentioned Loki. ”
"Oh yeah. He's uh, he's here too, ”Thor rubbed the back of his neck nervously.
I managed to avoid any and all interactions with the God of Mischief for a while at least. He swore he had changed, and that he no longer desired to rule Midgard. But he was also the God of Lies and therefore it was decided he should live at the Avengers compound where he could be monitored. Eventually, he'd be allowed to live in Norway with his people, if that's what he chooses.
Three weeks ago the Senate wanted to add Loki to the upcoming Hearing on the Avengers. An entire day had been set aside just on the topic of Loki. He wasn't going to be questioned for another day, but he was still expected to show up for the start of the hearing anyway. The legal department told us there was no guarantee the Senate wouldn't decide to ask Loki some questions ahead of schedule.
I was tasked with coaching him. Every night for three weeks I'd go to his room. I'd read him off a list of potential questions the legal department had prepared. He'd roll his eyes, call me a pathetic little bug, and then we'd break for dinner.
“I'm going to kill you one day, Loki,” I mumbled one night after he threw all my paperwork onto the ground. Up until that point, I wondered why he insisted on having me print documents rather than using a Stark Pad. Now I knew, it was so he could dramatically scatter everything onto the floor.
“I'm supposed to deliver these personal files on all the senators,” I told Steve, “At least Loki will know who's going to be asking him questions.”
“The hearing is in an hour,” Steve looked at me as if I were insane. If it were up to me Loki would already be prepared but he was insufferable and refused to listen.
“It sure is,” I plastered another fake smile on my face and, without saying goodbye I pivoted on my heels and marched to Loki's room.
I took a deep breath before I knocked on the door. I reminded myself that all I had to do was hand him the files, make sure he had something nice to wear for the hearing, and then I'd be at Le Bernardin with Eric and eat my weight in lobster.
The door finally opened. Loki always seemed to enjoy making me wait. His hair was wet as if he had just taken a shower and he wore black pants and a well-fitted long sleeve shirt the same colour as his eyes.
A green glow washed over him and he was instantly dry. His eyes roamed my body taking in the dress I had on. I felt more self-conscious than usual under his intense gaze. His expression remained neutral the entire time.
“You look ridiculous.”
“And you aren't wearing the suit I put out for you. Are you going to let me in or not? ”
As if by answer Loki stepped aside and let me enter his room. I put my purse down on the table by his door. “Room” was a poor choice of words, it was bigger than my first apartment. Equipped with its own kitchen. And as much as I hated the man I couldn't deny his impeccable taste in decor. It was unexpectedly understated. Only a few pieces of artwork hanging on the far wall seemed to fit the dramatic alien Prince that inhabited the room.
“As promised the files on all senators. You might have to read some on the pl- “I stopped talking when I noticed Loki taking a seat on the black leather lounge chair. He raised his feet to rest on the ottoman. A book was in his hand and I couldn't help the small hitch in my breath as he licked his finger to turn the page.
“Are you even listening?”
“Absolutely not,” he answered with candor.
I rolled my eyes and crossed my arm. I couldn't stand him. He was arrogant. Rude. I wanted to throw something at him. I looked around the room. My eyes landed on the Jenga box Thor had left behind on his last visit. God that was a disaster.
“You oaf,” Loki had shouted, “You bumped the table.”
Thor called my name and pointed to the fallen blocks, “Tell him I didn't bump the table.”
Loki and I were supposed to be going over questions he should avoid answering at the hearing. Thor had strolled in believing his brother needed a break.
“Thor we really need to work,” I had told the God of Thunder.
“If you're looking for something to throw at me can I recommend a pillow?” Loki's voice brought me back to reality.
I froze and looked over to where he still sat. His eyes never left his book. I wondered if he could read my mind.
“I can't read your mind, bug,” He looked up from his book and gave me a sinister smile, “You're just very predictable.”
“And you're an asshole,” I screamed, “I'm trying to help you. We all are. We're trying to show the government and the world that you're different, that you've changed. ”
“I have changed,” Loki stood up and I was reminded again of how incredibly tall he was.
“No, you, haven't. You insult me constantly. ”
“That's because you're ANNOYING,” he shouted in frustration, “Any other time I would have killed you,” his voice was calm, “But I haven't. Because I've changed. ”
We stared at each other. Both daring the other to say something, to continue the intense back and forth. But I was tired.
“The hearing is in 45 minutes. Take the- “My phone rang. I searched for it in my purse and looked down to see it was the restaurant Eric and I had booked, “Hold on,” I raised my finger to keep Loki quiet, and into the phone, I replied, “Hello.” I listened as the hostess confirmed the date and time of my reservation. It had been pushed back at 8:30. Normally I'd be angry but I was running late anyway. I ended the phone call with a thank you and walked into the corner of Loki's room for more privacy. I dialed Eric's number to inform him of the change in plans. The phone rang 4 times, I looked down to make sure I called the right person.
“You've reached Eric. Leave a message. ”
“Hi Eric,” I couldn't help the smile on my face. I looked up to see Loki watching me and immediately turned around to face the wall, “Just got a call that our reservation is now going to be at 8:30 pm. I'm running a bit late myself. So umm, yeah, see you there, buddy. ” I hung up, mortified. Had I really called him buddy?
“Nicely done,” Loki's voice was dripping in sarcasm.
“Oh shut it.”
“Explains the silly outfit you got on,” Loki exclaimed gesturing to me. I looked down at myself. It was a lot more formal than what I was used to. Working for Tony I often wore business casual. All through whenever I visited Loki I would often change into sweatpants and a messy bun. Our meetings were usually late at night and I liked to be comfortable, and I didn't think he deserved having me dressed up. Had I really looked silly though? Before I could ponder my question Loki spoke “So tell me, little bug. Who's dumb enough to go on a date with you? ”
“If you must know, his name is Eric. We knew each other back in high school. Actually, he was friends with my sister's friend's older brother. ”
“Really?” Loki asked with fake enthusiasm. He had taken a seat at the bar stole next to his kitchen island. He rested his chin in his left hand.
“Yeah, so we- '' I paused. Remembering, suddenly, who I was talking to, “You're making fun of me, aren't you?” I asked matter of factly.
“I am,” Loki said, blinking as he straightened himself up.
“I'm leaving, '' I said as I collected my purse. I looked down at my phone. Disappointed that I hadn't heard back from Eric. Without looking up I added, “If you have any questions, concerns, please don't call me.”
Before I had a chance to turn the doorknob a second door raised from the floor, covering the only exit, locking me in. I looked at Loki for an explanation but he looked just as confused as me. The lights in his room turned off. I jumped and couldn't help the small scream I had let out when red lights came back on instead. In response to my scream, Loki stood up and gently pushed me away from the window, so that I now stood behind him. He then brandished a pair of daggers from thin air and looked around for the threat.
A loud alarm began to roar through the entire compound. I covered my ears as Loki's windows were secured with the same metal reinforcement as the door.
Just as soon as it started the alarm shut off. The lights returned to normal. Loki was still standing, posed to attack the unseen threat. FRIDAY's voice came on the comm system.
“Attention all staff. The Avengers compound is in a mandatory lockdown. Please remain where you are. This is not a drill. I repeat. The Avengers compound is in a mandatory lockdown. Please remain where you are. ” As FRIDAY continued to say her message on a loop Loki and I looked at each other. The realization of our situation hit us at the exact same time.
I broke the silence first.
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To say it has been a long day would be an understatement.
And yet as tired as Caleb is, he has slept in fits and starts, even under the protection of the dome. His internal clock tells him that two hours and forty-three minutes have gone by since he first lay down. He tries not to squirm too much – Essek must still be trancing, and they need all the rest they can get if they want to survive the coming days with their heavily depleted stock of healing potions.
Caleb turns over as quietly as he can. But to his shock, Essek is lying next to him, fast asleep, so close that Caleb can feel Essek’s breath ghosting against his skin. More than that, Caleb’s eyebrows nearly vanish into his hairline when he sees Frumpkin, who has appeared out of nowhere in his cat shape and somehow managed to insinuate himself into the circle of Essek’s arms, curling up in a fluffy ball under his chin.
Since they arrived at Aeor, Caleb has tried not to take too much notice of how close their bedrolls are when they sleep under the dome instead of in the tower, even though the rest of the Mighty Nein aren’t around. Perhaps old habits die hard, that they still seek the comfort of shared space even when there is only the two of them.
Essek lets out a tiny sigh in his slumber as his arms tighten around Frumpkin. His hands are still delicate even after the hard travel he has endured, his spellcaster’s fingers fine-boned and elegant.
Who would have thought the prodigious Shadowhand, the pride of Den Thelyss, would ever allow himself to be seen like this? The thought is enough to make Caleb smile despite his fatigue.
He can only imagine what it must have been like for Essek, who had lived in the lap of luxury for over a century, to suddenly find himself tramping about Exandria with a ragtag group of strangers. These days, Essek’s wardrobe is much more practical. The ornate rings on his fingers have given way to much simpler designs, though his ears are still adorned with the silver earrings he favors so much. The moonlight catches on the fine chain as he presses his cheek against Frumpkin’s fur, his nose scrunching up in a manner that Caleb can find no word for in Common other than adorable.
After everything Caleb has been through, he knows better than to try to deny the truth to himself now. Somewhere in between their discussions on dunamancy and alternate timelines and the weight of their respective sins, his heart had slipped from his grasp before he had even realized it.
The half-light reveals a dusting of small white freckles across the bridge of Essek’s nose and cheekbones. Caleb studies them carefully, mapping out the constellations they form, committing each one to memory. Sleep smooths away the edges of Essek’s mask, the one he has worn so long Caleb suspects Essek himself is no longer certain where the mask ends and his true self begins. Isolation is easier to stomach when it is self-imposed and worn as armor, nearly impenetrable.
Nearly being the operative word.
Caleb thinks of the pretty blush that had spread across Essek’s face when a hand-painted parasol was pressed upon him. When a cup of fragrant tea was placed in Essek’s hands while he sat shivering with cold. When a hard cuff to the shoulder (celebratory) had made Essek wince, then smile when he thought no one was looking.
Caleb’s own hands are scarred and callused, and maybe, just maybe, they would be enough to hold the jagged pieces of Essek together.
He wonders suddenly if perhaps Essek would allow him this liberty. Just this once.
Hesitantly, he reaches out and tucks a silvery-white curl behind Essek’s ear as carefully as he can. But the movement makes Essek shift, his brows drawing together as he blinks his eyes open.
“It’s nothing. Go back to sleep, schatzi,” Caleb whispers, the endearment slipping from his tongue so naturally he hardly gives it a second thought. He brushes his knuckles lightly over Essek’s hand. “We’re safe here.”
Essek hums, his eyes closing once more. To Caleb’s great surprise, he reaches out blindly, tugging at Caleb’s arm until their hands are nestled in the warmth of Frumpkin’s fur. Caleb can feel him purring contentedly beneath their entwined fingers.
“Sleep,” Essek commands drowsily, already more than halfway there.
“Sleep,” Caleb agrees, and drifts into the most restful slumber he’s had in memory.
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