Warnings: bad grammar and multiple mistakes
Disclaimer: most of the characters are not mine, but all the mistakes are.
As Loki followed the Captain he couldn't shake off the feeling that something was very very wrong.
The Asgardian couldn't pinpoint the exact feeling, it was something almost unnoticeable, like a shadow lurking on the dark wall, but it still made Loki's nerves tingle.
The Captain was very tall and strongly built, challenging Thor himself in size, boasting the austere beauty of Nordic warriors from the long past, those who were on the front lines aiding Aesir in the war against the Frost Giants, the warriors who most closely honored Aesir and worshiped Odin.
It might have been the aura surrounding the Captain- a sense of strength, honor, bravery and danger.
Not of equal measure of course, no human would ever be able to threaten Aesir equally with any other dwellers of nine realms, no. More like danger which one would feel looking on a big guardian dog who seems perfectly calm but can strike as soon as one makes a wrong move. The dog wouldn't kill, but a bite could be rather unpleasant.
Loki got his answer the moment Captain stopped and turned to face him.
The prince's inner voice screamed in shock when he saw a familiar glint in those blue eyes, something he noticed so many times while he was growing up, something he saw...in his family's eyes.
The captain's blue irises lacked the electricity of Thor's storm-filled ones, lacked the warmth of Frigga's summer afternoon sky ones, more like deep waters of north sea, always moving and concealing, making one feel small and insignificant.
Just like the eyes of his Father.
Could it be that Odin's connections with humans expanded vaster then only a war alliance? Could it be that the All Father's interest in human world was rooted not in the possible profit for Aesir but in something much more personal, like illegitimate children?
Loki mentally slapped himself for the ridiculousness of the idea.
His father would never disgrace himself with such liaisons, he would never betray Loki's mother in such a shameful manner.
Besides, the human was way too young to be an offspring of Odin's – the All father didn't set a foot on Midgard for centuries and all of his possible children would be long dead and rotten in the ground by now.
But Odin's blood can manifest in generations for as long as Yggdrasil stands.
No, it is not possible, Odin would've never abandoned his children, even bastard ones.
Plus, there are seven other realms of probability.
The Midgard was a battlefield for all realms at one point of its history or another, and Loki bet not all if none of the warriors ever gave an oath of celibacy. Nor they always asked for consent when laying with humans.
Aesir were of course, chivalry and respectful as befitted the Realm Eternal code of honor, but they didn't ever have to use force- the earthlings were more than eager to show their gratitude to the saviors by any means possible.
If Loki's suspicions were right and the Captain was indeed a half-breed, his bloodline would trace either to other Aesir or to dwellers of other realm, but not Odin himself.
Loki let his gaze linger a bit longer, investigating, calculating, picking up smallest details of Iceman's face and body, searching for any similarities between him and Loki's fellow Aesir that could serve as an evidence to their kinship.
Iceman emanated unusual vibe of authority but it differed from that of Odin or Thor, it wasn't something granted by the royalty of blood. Instead it was a quality of character, impermanent and always changing, like ripples on the water surface, acquired through the years of hard work.
Iceman didn't seem to possess any sort of super human power that could be attributed to his Aesir heritage, but he definitely stood out of the other humans.
The prince's first impression might have been wrong after all, those human bloodlines seemed to absorb anything from outside of their world as a sponge, creating a mixture the Norns themselves would have trouble understanding, don't mind the prince.
Loki mused on that fact for a while.
The Yggdrasil had other realms besides Asgard and Midgard, and Loki's take on his father's participation in human procreation must've been a mistake, but that only concluded the Captain was not of Odin's blood. It didn't mean he was not Aesir. Or elf. Or Jotunn.
Uncertainty meant only one thing- the Captain required a lot closer attention then Loki had anticipated.
“How do you find Earth so far? Seen anything you liked?”
Iceman's voice didn't falter at that innocent question but Loki could feel the undertone beneath the facade, like a underwater current in the open sea.
“A lot of things actually. Your planet seems to be rather fascinating.”
“Good to hear. What exactly you find the most fascinating, the nature, the scenery, the machinery?”
“Mostly people. Your race seems to be very welcoming to the newcomers.”
“I see.“ The Captain went silent for a moment, scrutinizing over Loki's face and he'd be damned if that gaze was not unnerving.
“Any preferences in weaponry you'd like to explore tomorrow?”
“I'm afraid I haven't reached the level of expertise in knowing human weapons as good as required to have a preference.”
Loki watched with barely concealed fascination as Iceman's face grew darker and darker with each said word and he practically resembled a huge thunderstorm cloud ready to fulminate in any second.
It was a magnificent view and the prince decided to poke that cloud, just a little bit.
“I hope you are equally excited for tomorrow as I am.”
“Oh, I can't wait.”
If the steel in the voice could cut, Loki would be a bloody mess by now.
The prince considered the human for a moment and decided to take pity on him.
“Captain Iceman, you have a question that's burning you and we both know it is not about the weather, so why don't we skip the pleasantries and start talking honestly?”
“Can I be sure my honesty is reciprocated?”
“Of course. What would you like to know?”
“Why are you here.”
“Why you, Asgardians, are on this planet? What's your real purpose here?”
“Why would you consider us to be insincere in our intentions?”
“An ancient race comes to the world that is clearly far behind them in technical development and wants to form an alliance for no cost from our part and no benefit for themselves? Excuse me, but I'll call it a bluff. Either you want something from us and you want it bad enough to degrade to our level, or you are not as peaceful as you say.”
The tone was perfectly calm and measured, but the human's eyes burned with a challenge.
The Captain's gaze was scrutinizing Loki's every movement, looking for the signs of deception that the prince was not inclined to give.
Loki had to give it to Iceman- the human had some guts to dare the Aesir so boldly and openly.
“I thought we have made it clear that our intentions here are strictly peaceful.”
“You speak of peace and yet carry weapons on you all the time.”
“Most of them are elements of decoration as an honor to our traditions.”
“Even your brother's hammer?”
The Prince barely suppressed a sigh.
“No, that's a real weapon. Though I do not understand your concern. There are only two of us here with no guards or security to come to our aid if danger arises, don't you think we have a right to keep something for our own protection?”
“You said you came in peace, who would you need protection from? The race you want to be allies with?”
“I can see even now not all of humans are happy about our arrival, and some might not be as civil about it as you are.”
“I have all rights to be cautious. I don't easily trust outsiders.”
“A very wise mindset, and not only for you. Plus who knows what danger we can encounter on route to our goal. I've heard you have those....grizzly bears that might be rather dangerous if disturbed in this time of year?”
“Oh yeah, very dangerous. And very grisly.”
Loki cursed his damned love for teasing and prepared for a long and tedious quarrel with the Captain because Iceman looked like he was ready to kill, when the prince's eyes shifted over the officer's shoulder and caught a glimpse of something on the wall.
It was a set up of small portraits of different officers and enlisted, all united by one weird feature- small black stripes on the bottom of the pictures. It didn't take Loki long to understand what significance the stand bared- it was a wall of fallen heroes, the realization that made Loki shiver uneasily.
“I apologize, I should have been more respectful in this hall.”
Iceman followed Loki's gaze and tilted his head, “Don't worry, they can't hear you.”
Loki looked up at him solemnly, “You can't be sure about that.”
“I guess, not. But it doesn't matter, this is meant for the living, not for the dead.”
“As a reminder of your loss?”
“As a reminder of what we will do to protect those who we care about.”
The Captain stepped closer, invading Loki's personal space much to the prince's unpleasant feeling.
“You Asgardians, live for thousands of years. We are given only a hundred and only if we are very lucky. It makes our perception of priorities differ.”
“May be it makes your emotions more urgent then ours, but priorities remain the same. We, as you, above all value life. And therefore, peace.”
“Is that so?”
“Captain, I give you my word, I came to this planet as an ambassador of peace and seek nothing but friendship. If my superiors have other objectives, though it is highly doubtful, I'm unaware of them.”
Loki surprised himself with the sincerity of this outburst more then the one it was directed on.
The prince didn't doubt for a second the All Father's decision or his own intent to do everything in his power to carry out the order, but the more time he spent with common humans, the more he got to know how weak and yet strong they were, the more fiercely protective of them he became.
The realization scared Loki.
His fascination with earthlings was anticipated as a sign of curiosity towards the unfamiliar race, but in no way it could have been allowed to grow into something so big that it could interfere with the prince's carrying out his orders or influence his loyalty to Asgard.
Loki felt all those emotions stirring inside him suddenly, brought to the surface by simply being on Midgard, surrounded by humans, which made him wonder if it was in fact a well-planned strategy to separate him from Thor and throw him off the balance emotionally so later he would be in no condition to assert Asgard's interests.
Were all those warm welcomes and offers of friendship just another elaborate plan to gully the prince into siding with earthlings?
It hurt deep to think that earthlings accepted him so eagerly just because they were playing their parts in the great scheme of deception. Even Steve. He seemed so genuine, so sincere...
The best way to convince a clever opponent in forged truth is to send him a fool who doesn't know what role in the game he is playing.
So much for Rogers and his lie-rooted friendship...
“We'll see about that.” The Captain considered him suspiciously.
Loki felt his insides sizzle with fury.
How dare they play with him like that?!
“You humans seem to be so preoccupied with your own importance that you forget one thing- we came here to negotiate but not to cringe before you, and if you want to be treated as equal you better show you have something valuable to offer besides your inflated self-conceit.”
Loki hated himself instantly for letting his emotions slip through the mask, but the boiling anger sipped through the barrier until it was too late and the damage was already done.
All he could do was to stand there and wait for the captain to choose the method of retaliation.
To Loki's great surprise, Iceman's lips curved into a blinding smile.
“Finally, some genuine response! I was starting to doubt I could ever shake you out of that diplomatic stupor.”
Loki stared at the human in silence.
How one of the best liars of Asgard falling spectacularly into the trap one puny earthling had prepared was beyond explanatory.
Damn this race of half breeds and their talent to pull emotions out of him.
“What games are you playing with me, Captain?”
“No games if you do the same. I asked you to speak freely, you kept on repeating your memorized pamphlet, so I had to ...give you a little push, so to say. But now, since we finally opened up and made our positions clear,” Iceman smiled at the prince slyly, “ I will ask you again, “
The Captain's smile grew wider even if it was hardly possible, “What exactly would you like us to show you tomorrow?”
The soft sigh leaving Loki's lips was the acknowledgment of defeat.
“Um, the airplanes I guess...Though why are you asking me of my preference? You know that I am not the head of the delegation.”
“The head of your delegation seems to be completely disinterested , so why waste my breath?”
Loki chewed on his lip for a second, considering whether he should feel insulted, concerned, grateful or simply unperturbed by the announcement.
He settled for vengeful.
“Do you know you actually might have some Aesir blood in you?”
Iceman stared at Loki as if the prince told him he could fly by flapping his arms.
“I will skin him.”
That was clearly not the answer the prince anticipated, and his look of surprise gave that away.
Witnessing the prince's bewilderment, the Captain cared to elaborate, “Jay, that little screwball. I'm fed up with bullshit he spreads around with his never stopping tongue. I bet he'll be better without it.”
Loki felt a jolt of compassion for the fellow game opponent even if the captain's fury was well deserved.
“Isn't it a bit of an overkill?”
“No, it's just enough kill. Why, got too attached to him?”
“No. But an innocent man should not suffer for no reason.”
Captain barked out a short laughter, “Innocent? Are we talking about the same person?”
Loki let his lips form a grin, “I've met only one Jay who perfectly matches your description.”
Captain smirked, and Loki felt weird again, but pleasantly weird this time.
Iceman was still to his left like a monolith of bone and will ingrown into the cement floor, only he wasn't looming over Loki, nor he was invading prince's personal space trying to intimidate him. The Officer was still too close to the Aesir, but only because he felt comfortable that way.
Loki's mind buzzed with confusion.
If the captain was playing with him, why would he be non-verbally accepting Loki as one of his own?
That didn't make any sense.
The Prince of course could surmise Iceman had a special training in deception but that was way over his head and bounded on paranoia.
“It was solely mine theory, about your heritage, based on your physical appearance. Don't blame Jay for that.”
“Fine, I wont. I guess he deserves a pardon. At least he got Rogers socializing again.”
Loki couldn't help himself and chose to develop the question, “Why again? Was he recovering from some traumatic event prior to our encounter that prevented him from communicating with comrades?”
That earned him a confused look, “I'd say so, if you consider being frozen into the ice for 70 years traumatic enough.”
Iceman missed two steps then turned back to look at Loki, who stopped dead behind him.
“He didn't tell you? Hm, and I thought you were all buddies now, after that docks incident.”
Loki didn't have enough time to speak his mind as Iceman continued, “Yes, I saw the security camera's recording. Nice job with that vanishing act, you should teach me one day.”
The Captain kept on talking, striding in well measured steps through the halls and towards the exit, but it all merged into a hum in the background as Loki's mind rushed through the facts.
Seventy years in the ice.
Considering a normal human's lifespan, all of Steve's friends and most of his close relatives were either dead or senile by now, leaving him completely alone.
Plus the changes in the Midgardian culture must have been rather shocking to Rogers as he clearly wasn't too well adapted to them, take even the glitz with the coffee maker.
Loki's mind momentarily provided the prince with picturesque memories proving how uncomfortable Steve seemed in the company of most of the humans, and how relaxed he was with the Aesir.
Evidently Rogers chose him for some unexplainable reason from the all of others, which meant there was a true interest in his actions.
That changed everything.
Loki was mercilessly pulled out of his revelation by the Captain who sounded rather frustrated.
“You aren't listening, are you?”
Iceman waved him off, “Don't bother. Just make sure you aren't daydreaming tomorrow, you might actually see something you like.”
“Oh, I'm more then sure I will, Captain.”
Loki turned towards the voice and saw his brother motioning him from afar.
“Come here, brother!”
He turned to the officer to take his leave as Thor bellowed, “At once!” more impatiently.
To Loki's surprise, the captain instantly looked murderous again.
The human's mood was indeed unpredictable and swiftly changing as the open sea.
“It is time for me to leave, I would love to talk to you some more...”
Considering you've been such a valuable source of information,
Loki cursed his brother mentally for such disrespect but didn't risk waiting any longer,
“But I have to excuse myself as my brother awaits...”
A heavy palm rested on his shoulder, pinning him down in mid step.
“A word of a personal advice, your Highness.”
Iceman leaned closer and whispered to Loki, “Grow some balls. You'll never be a good leader if you can't even stand up to your own brother.”
With that the Captain nodded curtly and left, and Loki set his feet towards Thor who looked rather pissed at the younger prince for making him wait.
Loki threw a last short glance at the Captain's retreating back and wondered why the words put so vulgarly straightforward hit so close to home.
“You should never abandon me like that, brother.”
“What could have happened that made you suddenly crave my presence?”
The noisy herd of Thor's followers had finally dissipated, leaving the brothers alone in the unpretentious but spacious quarters Agent Coulson and the US Navy had graciously provided for them, and as the silence fell on the hall Loki forfeited the rule of subordination and let his displeasure to manifest.
“I don't recall you ever being so emotionally attached to me.”
Loki's eyes glistened with irritation but the sight was disparagingly overlooked by Thor since the thunderer's attention was concentrated solely on himself.
It was a dashing change in his brother's behavior that stunned Loki the most- the moment Loki was with someone else Thor turned omnipresent, trying to overpower, overshadow or simply intimidate anyone who dared to catch the younger prince's eye, but as soon as Loki returned to his usual place slightly behind his brother, Thor immediately lost any interest in him.
“I'm aware that you can't help yourself, Loki, but you shouldn't forget that your place is at my side.”
How can I ever forget if you keep reminding me all the time?
“Why, afraid I might find a better side to be at?”
The growl of anger resonated from the walls and made the glass in the window shudder.
“Watch your tongue, Loki, I will not allow any form of disobedience on this mission.”
“Disobe...I am not your slave, Thor, and shell not be treated as such!”
The older Aesir winced at the sound of Loki's voice, taken aback by the outburst, then glanced at Loki's face distorted with irritation and sighed, all of a sudden looking genuinely concerned.
“Forgive me, brother, I meant no harm. I'm just worried you might get too distracted by the trinkets they showed us.”
Thor's worried tone soothed Loki's anger a bit, and the prince allowed himself to calm down.
“Trinkets? Thor, I am not that weak of will, and you...do not underestimate humans, they might be tougher then they seem.”
Thor's delightful laughter boomed across the room, “Tougher? Yes, tough as wolf cubs.”
The older prince clearly resented any idea of allowing humans to prove themselves worthy, but the mission required diplomacy and display of respect, so Loki decided to press on the matter, though using another tactics.
“Brother, mind that our Father asked to treat humans as equals, we should not defy his will.”
Thor shot him an irritated look.
“Our Father is too sentimental when it comes to the earthlings, but I'm not blind. I will not allow Asgard to be binded by the treaty with this puny race unless earthlings acknowledge were true power resigns.”
“You are unwise in underestimating them.”
“I shall not discuss the matter further.”
Thor took a big gulp from the water glass on the small table in the center of the room and headed to the door, waving at Loki dismissively.
“Stay here brother, and take a good night rest, you will realize your erroneous ways in the morning. The strain of our mission is taking tall on your ability to think.”
It was Loki's turn to growl, “My ability to think when I'm unconscious is better then your will ever be.”
“I'm starting to doubt that. I'll escort Lady Jane to the observatory and immediately return, and I wish to find you here, reposing.”
“So I should stay here in solitude while you do exactly the opposite of what you just forbade me? Why exactly is that?”
Thor turned abruptly to Loki, scornfully frowning.
“You are way too affected by interactions with midgardians.”
“As if you are not.”
“So it would seem.”
“I wonder what Lady Jane would think of that.”
Thor burst into laughter at Loki's poisonous tone.
“Oh, brother, don't be jealous. I promise, as soon as we are done with diplomacy I shell put all my efforts into finding you a maiden, and if the powers of Luck are bounded in our favor, she might even be pleasing to the eye.”
With that he exited, shutting the door behind him with a loud smack.
Loki ground his teeth in fury, “You will pay for this,” and strolled towards the table to plan his revenge.
Loki was crouching over the table, irritatingly scribbling down theories and schemes and everything even remotely connected to the field of science Lady Jane specialized in, everything she could be interested in discussing. The Aesir was dead sure Thor could never provide her with enough information to quench the girl's thirst for knowledge, and that was exactly the loophole Loki could step in.
He knew he couldn't be a match for Thor in maiden's eyes because he lacked his brother's good looks and strength and power, but his sharp mind could catch the girl's attention for at least a brief moment, and that was all he needed.
Thor will be angry, no, he would be furious at Loki for even attempting to steal the attention of the lady he fancied. But it at least will remind him that Loki exists and not as his personal dog on the leash, that he is worthy of being taken into consideration.
Even if Loki's little moment of triumph will last for a second, it would still be worth it.
And so, the prince took another piece of paper and contemplated another schematics, when a big shadow flashed past the window.
Loki's head jerked up in surprise and he waited for a moment, wondering if the bright light in the room and darkness outside were playing tricks on his eyes, but then the shadow flit in the opposite direction and the prince realized it was not only real, but assumed a human shape.
Loki rushed to the window, his work instantly forgotten, and cracked it wide open only to freeze in shock as Jay's smug face came into his sight.
“Dude, check this out, I'm a dragon!”
The human stretched out his arms and made weird motions with his feet that likely were supposed to resemble the movements of the flying reptile.
Loki took a moment to appreciate the view.
Jay was swinging side to side along the window, suspended in mid-air on a thin steel cord one side of which was locked on his belt, and the other stretched through the opening in the drainage in the building's roof, twisted into elaborate pattern along the fire stairs and ended up on the ground where another shadow was counterbalancing Jay's weight.
Loki couldn't be completely sure, but judging by the choreography of the second figure’s movements, it was Javier.
The prince prided himself of his mental capabilities, but at that very moment they were spectacularly failing him as he couldn't think of even one plausible explanation for the scene.
So he decided to ask.
“What exactly are you doing?”
Jay flashed him a pearly smile, “We brought your scrawny alien ass some food!”
To prove his statement, the man reached into the inner pocket of his uniform and pulled out a pack made of brown paper and a bottle of beer.
Loki in futile attempt to conceal his perplexed state of mind pointed a finger at Jay, “My ass is not scrawny, it is well-toned.”
He then ignored Jay's snort and a sly remark, “You are so gay” and continued, “Why would you even consider that I might need sustenance?”
Jay waited a bit until he swung closer to Loki, then shrugged, “Oh, I don't know, dude, may be because your BFF from Brooklyn was wining the whole freaking evening that his pal Loki missed the dinner and should be starving to death by now?”
Loki fixed his eyes on Jay's swinging form and wondered, “BFF?”
The man rolled his big dark eyes, “Best friend forever? Big, blond, blue eyed, named Steve as I recall?”
He didn't wait for Loki to process the information, just reached forward and pushed the pack and the bottle in Loki's arms.
“Here, just take it. It tastes like horse shit, but I got you some booze to wash it down.”
Loki acknowledged it with the eloquent “Oh,” then tried to force his mind to work
“How do you know that?”
“What? That the food is bad? Its a navy base, dude, bad food is a given!”
“Now, how the horse shit tastes like?”
Loki wasn't sure why did he ask that, but he welcomed a moment of silence that followed his question to brace himself out of the stupor he had fallen into.
The prince was hard to surprise and even harder to shock, so he attributed the loss of words to the outrageous preposterousity of the situation and to the hypnotizing rhythm of Jay's body swings.
Although the rhythm seemed to go off bit, as the trajectory of movement grew longer and longer.
Loki wasn't the only one to notice that, as Jay shouted down into the darkness,
“Yo, you are supposed to keep me steady, Snipes!”
The answer was short to follow,
“it is called an ocean breeze, you motherfucker!”
Loki felt his lips stretching into a smile on their own accord.
“Where is Steve?”
“He...” Jay took a second to swing back into the sight, “he is creating a distraction. You have some crazy shit dudes guarding you, you know that? Especially that ninja fucker Coulson, he kept popping up every single time we tried to sneak in closer to your quarters.”
“And he will be very pleased to show you some of his ninja moves should you choose to return to the ground.”
Jay's eyes doubled in size and mouth formed a perfect “o” as Coulson's calm voice echoed in the darkness.
Loki just kept on staring at the man.
“Um...can I please stay up here?”
“I'm afraid you can not, officer Cleary.”
Jay only had time to whisper “Shit” before the cord went slack and he plummeted down to the ground.
There was a moment of silence, then quiet commotion and something that sounded like Jay's complaints and then silence again after Coulson hushed both men away from the building.
And Loki just stood there, a pack of hot wings in one hand and a bottle of beer in another, watching the midnight sky and thinking...of nothing really, because his mind, to put it simply, for a moment went blank.