Let Sleeping Gods Lie

Loki's been busted - after the events of 'Thor: The Dark World' - and Thor knows that he will be sentenced to death, if he is returned to Asgard. Therefore, he places Loki under Tony Stark's care at Stark Tower. The two seem like bitter enemies at first... but they have more in common than either originally believed.

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2. Chapter Two: In The Dread of Morning

"Hey, Sleeping Beauty."

As Loki shuffled into the living room, adopting a zombified gait, his grim countenance was greeted by the shit-eating grin of Tony Stark.

Despite tolerating the mortal's residence - with little-to-no powers of sorcery - for almost a fortnight, now, Loki still felt vaguely uncomfortable around the Man of Iron. He always trod on eggshells in his company, expecting a sudden ambush from he and his fellow 'hero-posse'. Stark always appeared to have a veil of cool, collected casualness; a charismatic facade that never faltered no matter what the given situation. This unsettled Loki even further.

He disliked not being able to 'read him' as he could the others.

The bed-headed God mumbled something inaudible - and no doubt guttural - as he scanned the spacious living room in search of a book of which he'd recently taken to immersing himself with; Tony's battered and bruised copy of J. R. R. Tolkien's, 'The Hobbit'. Although, he'd never verbalise any achievements of "a mere mortal", Loki had to admit it was a splendid read. He'd enjoyed "Riddles in the Dark" so much, that he'd decided to make note of some of the delightful mind-puzzles, featured within the chapter. Oh, what fun he'd have confusing Thor with these ba—

"What's the matter, Snow White? Got PMS?"

Loki gritted his teeth slightly; having his thoughts interrupted was one of his pet peeves. Being verbally emasculated was another.

The mortal continued his sarcastic spiel. He suddenly adopted a high-brow, English accent as he proceeded sardonically:

"Good morning, Mister Stark. I hope you slumbered as delectably as I."

He smirked, playfully - enjoying his own banter - as he retuned to his own accent:

"Oh, yeah, thanks, Jeeves. I slept great. Well, for me, anyway."

He glanced toward Loki with curiosity; hoping to provoke him. He sighed wearily as he watched the God glower into the book he'd been searching the room for, previously. Tony rolled his eyes; as pleased - and surprised - as he was with the God's lack of interaction, his silence proved tedious at times.

"Look, I get it; you don't like it, here. But would you rather chill with me or some prison bars? I mean, I'm sure Asgard's missin' its favourite psychotic deity."

He flashed Loki another shit-eating leer but the God remained focused on his reading. However, he then replied with an air of haughty annoyance:

"At least prison bars would not subject me to your incessant arrogance."

"Aw, c'mon, you'll learn to love me." Tony batted his eyelashes playfully.

He flopped lazily onto the couch beside the sour-faced God. Loki flinched at the impact.

"I highly doubt that. However, I'm sure that your love for your own self shall consolidate."

A smirk crept across Loki's pale façade, he raised the book slightly to conceal his countenance amidst the pages.

"Want some pancakes?"

Loki gazed at the mortal to his immediate right in utter bewilderment. Tony Stark never ceased to surprise him. He was still uncertain whether his hospitality was genuine or a ploy to lull him into a false sense of security.

He only realised just how animated his expression was when Tony laughed:

"You look scared shitless! It's just breakfast, buddy. Figured you could use some; when was the last time you ate?"

An awkward silence followed. Loki bowed his head slightly; hiding his face amongst his charcoal mass of hair. Tony decided it was best to change the subject:

"Y'know - from what I gathered from your brother, Thunder Cat - I figured you'd talk more."

Loki turned slowly to face him, an ominous expression creeping into his features, "...what did he say about me?"

"Just that you like to be the smartest guy in the room."

"I think you'll find that occurs by default. Especially when Thor - himself - occupies the room in question."

Tony allowed himself a chuckle; crazy or not, he had to admire the guy's quick-witted nature. He figured they might actually have something in common. Weird, right?

"Do you and Thor ever... y'know, talk?" Tony tensed, slightly; waiting in trepidation for the God's reaction.

"Not as we used to." Loki's expression looked forlorn. Tony seemed surprised, at that. He was surprised, all-the-more when he felt a small pang of sympathy.

"Huh. Well, he still thinks you’re a good guy, otherwise he wouldn't have asked me to babysit, would he?"

"But what do you think, Stark?"

"I think you're bat-shit crazy."

Loki couldn't resist a smile; he admired the man's honesty, anyway. He was too exhausted to feel insulted and - besides - Stark was hardly wrong, was he?

"That is... understandable."

Tony laughed and bounced upward with new exuberance. "How about waffles, then?" He motioned Loki to follow him to the kitchen.

Loki attempted to rise with equal swiftness... however, something went quite wrong.

That was the moment of which countless sleepless nights and diet-less days decided to pounce upon him.

The vast space of the room seemed to twist around him, spin and spiral within his vision. Colours blended and blurred, together; colliding and morphing into unusual shapes until -suddenly - a vast population of ebony specs began to cloud over his eyes. His hands darted out - in order to regain balance - as he swayed like a loosened mast in a raging storm. A sudden tsunami of nausea twisted inside his gut; he wretched inconspicuously - desperate to hide his sudden ailment - but Tony Stark never missed a bit.

"You OK? You look kinda peeky."

Loki sucked in the air, trying to clear his head. He winced as the bitter taste of bile scorched throat. However, he forced an audible swallow before nodding, unconvincingly and proceeding to follow Tony into the kitchen.

His sickeningly pale skin busied itself by contorting into an interestingly feverish shade of green, as he watched Tony, with unadulterated fascination; for the Man of Iron (forgetting his culinary task) had began a game of Angry Birds on what the Midgardians deemed as an "iPhone".

Presuming the game was not bidding well, Loki watched the man scowl and open "Twitter" - he knew not in the Nine what that was - instead. Tony sighed as he flicked through his feed:

"Huh. It's Mothers' Day, today." He muttered; more to himself than to Loki. He had never meant to upset him.

"What?"

Loki's head snapped up; he did so too quickly which then caused immediate nausea and a suffocating sensation in this throat. The black specs returned to saturating his vision. His brow furrowed with hurt as his pulse throbbed in his ears.

Tony looked up - initially with an expression of boredom - but his eyes widened when he saw the state of Loki. He frowned with confusion, eying the devastated-looking God. Then it dawned on him; Loki's Mother not been dead two months.

Tony stood up impulsively racking his brains for an apology that would suffice:

"Oh, shit. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to cause any—"

"I should've got her flowers... Irises. I need" - his eyes of jade clouded over - "irises..." Loki looked positively stoned; his eyes wide with fear like he was on a pretty fucked-up acid trip.

"Huh? Irises? Loki what are you—"

Then it happened; Crippling Grief, Lack of Sleep, Lack of Food and General Mental Instability decided to "assemble"... If you pardon the pun.

Loki melted into the ground - with one fluid movement of his slender body - exhaustion plaguing his entire being; his shuddering breaths nearing hyperventilation, his choked sobs of defeat vocalised his hysteria.

"What the Hell, Reindeer Games?" Tony gaped at him in astonishment; his question one of panicked concern rather than irritation, "get your shit together. What's... What's wrong with you?"

Loki's piercing eyes bored into his, tears swimming within them, gleaming with utter hopelessness. He looked so vulnerable; crumbled and broken before the Man of Iron.

It kinda weirded Tony out, a little.

When he could finally compose the frantic trembling of his bottom lip, Loki spluttered:

"I... I just... I just want to sleep."

His words tore at his throat mercilessly between pathetic whimpers. Tony gazed at him in bewilderment:

"What? Sleep? You want sleep, buddy?"

"Yes!" Loki wailed, defeatedly, as he suddenly plummeted into the glossy sheen of the kitchen tiles, his scrawny form adopting the foetal position; shoulders spasming, relentlessly, as shivers seemed to rack his skeletal form.

Tony continued to stare and stare... and stare. Needless to say, the situation was very surreal; the God of Mischief - who fancied himself as an 'evil-genius-global-dictator' - was in his house, his kitchen, lying in a heap... on his floor! Tony suddenly leapt out of his trance as he felt the need to take action... somehow. Nurturing wasn't Mr. Stark's expertise but he had to do something; the guy was having a nervous breakdown, for Christ's sake!

"Ummm... Okay. Stop crying. Okay, okay. Loki? Please, please stop crying. Yeah, uh, Loki? Get up, c'mon. Get up, buddy. That's it."

He dragged one of Loki's long, limp arms around his neck - heaving ever-so-slightly - as he hoisted the shattered God, upward. Loki appeared dazed, as he surrendered his weight into Tony's side. When the odd couple - eventually - reached their destination, Loki collapsed dramatically on the vast, leather couch; the raven-haired God seemed consumed by the extensive collection of pillows.

Not that he minded.

He gazed lazily at Tony with a slight smile; a drugged smirk as if he was heavily anaesthetised. The God looked so emotionally drained it was almost comical; Tony allowed himself a gentle laugh as he watched Loki seep further into the pile of pillows. His breathing slower and more dragged as if inhaling the scent of the shining, ebony leather.

Suddenly, Loki jolted upward as if he'd taken a taser to his... Well, to somewhere rather delicate. His eyes returned to their wild, frantic state; he began to shudder again, ever-so-slightly:

"Where? What happened? I don't... Why?"

He gazed upon the surrounding plush, pillows with confusion; his brow furrowed with such innocence and cluelessness, even Tony had to admit it was adorable.

"Uh, you were having a minor meltdown, on my kitchen floor."

Tony wasn't really sure how else to put it; that would do, wouldn't it? Surely, that wouldn't offend his majesty.

However, Loki tensed; clenching his slight, slender fingers into the fabric of one of the plump cushions:

"I... This should not have happened."

He broke eye contact with Tony in utter shame; cursing himself internally for showing such weakness. Especially, in the presence of this particular mortal; who seemed to have an uncomfortable relationship with emotions just as much as he did.

Loki's gaze appeared fixated on something that only he could seem to visualise. Tony stepped forward cautiously and waved a hand tentatively across the God's dead-pan face.

Loki leapt from his trance, proceeding to shudder yet again. Tony eyed him with concern; what in God's name was wrong with him?

Then it dawned on him.

He knew this shit; this situation. That was him, on that couch, there; a crumbled, blithering mess. This wasn't just an 'off day' for the God of Mischief... This had plagued him for a very long time, indeed. Tony saw how the exhaustion sucked him dry; something - once - so powerful and dominating reduced to a bag of bones on a couch; an existence so weak, starved of all energy and life. All because of something as simple as—

"Hey, Lokes, do you ever have... bad dreams?"

Loki shifted uncomfortably; still refusing to submit to eye contact. He began to blink rapidly; desperately trying to conceal the liquefied sparkle in his pained, bloodshot eyes. He inhaled deeply before he replied (with slight acidity):

"Nightmares are for children, Stark."

Stark just smirked, playfully, "...that doesn't answer my question."

Loki's gazed at him in hopeless exhaustion and utter defeat, as he replied (with impatience, more than anything):

"I implore you, do not patronise me by providing the pathetically illustrated illusion that you are actually concerned about my sleeping habits."

Wow, this guy had issues.

Tony tried to reason with him, provide some kind of advice. After all, he could write a dissertation on sleep deprivation:

"Look, it's OK, Lokes. I've pills or something, if you want any? I get it all time, it gets better—"

Loki omitted an ironic snort, "I have waited thrice millennia for my dreams to 'get better', Antony Stark."

Wow. Well, he had him there, didn't he?

Tony retreated from that conversation and sat beside the God, for the second time that morning... but this time much more cautiously; as if he was sitting next to a King Cobra.

"So..." Tony's sentence then - abruptly - died on him.

Loki's eyes met his with an expression of slight amusement; he was curious as to what the mortal was going to inquire next. He gave a dark chuckle:

"You are persistent, to say the least. What is it you wish to ask?"

Tony eyed him, suspiciously but continued:

"Uh, why were you singing, last night?"

Loki froze. He clenched his jaw and tensed his muscles, breathing rate rapidly increasing. For the love of the Nine, Stark had money to burn; you'd think he'd install soundproof walls!

Blood rushed to his hollowed cheeks, face flushing with heated embarrassment. He dared to look at Tony, who was still awaiting an answer. Loki sighed in surrender; this Man of Iron wasn't going to quit, was he?

"It is a traditional, Asgardian lullaby of which my mother sang me to sleep as a child. I thought it might... assist or sooth, in some way."

Loki's spindly, spider-like fingers fiddled frantically as his frame quivered with embarrassment; the guy was humiliated.

You wouldn't think he'd flung Tony out of a window but eight months ago.

Tony, himself, just couldn't believe it. Then it clicked; this was the man Thor called, "brother." The man that Thor would always - frantically - search for amidst jibes of hatred and schemes of betrayal. Tony saw that man, now; a kicked puppy that kicked back, too hard. A man enveloped in corruption and robes of jaded jealousy that was really just a boy.

"Why d'you do it, huh?"

Loki flinched his delicate features, face twisted in pain; Stark's words proved corrosive blades to him and the pain was - undoubtedly - that of a guilty conscience. Of course, the mortal would be more-than-obliging to remind him of his... spectacular failure of a conquest. He glared at the insolent mortal, expecting a highly judgemental gaze in return. However, he weakened his daggers as he processed the mortal's questioning expression; Tony had not enquired out of malice, only curiosity.

Loki liked that about him; his eternally ill-quenched thirst for knowledge. It was nice to know someone truly valued it, as he did. It could almost be said that he and Stark had something in common. Weird, right?

He supposed that Stark at least deserved an honest answer. Besides, he hadn't been honest for quite a while. He confessed with a tentative breath:

"I chose to break the rules, as a ruler whom was broken."

He just couldn't do it; give a straight response. It was easier to be enigmatic, complex; people wouldn't ask as many questions.

But not the Man of Iron, Antony Stark.

"So... You felt... entitled? To rule over Earth?"

"At the time."

"Why?"

"I felt it consolidated for what was denied me. It possessed an astounding amount of potential to fill the... void." He winced at his own poor choice of words; both he and Stark shared an intense dislike towards its very mention. The Void; it invoked that disgustingly familiar... falling sensation. Another thing they happened to have in common.

"Is that how the Chitari found you? In the voi— In there?"

"Yes." Loki returned to concise interaction. This mortal had to stop. Now. Penetrating his mind, uncovering his weaknesses; this was private. His secrets were his and only his... but they were so leaden, sometimes.

"And they found you. And it changed you. And it broke you—"

No. Don't you dare, mortal. How dare he imply a God - of his stature, power and intellect - could possess any form of weakness? The Void was no place for the faint-hearted. He had learned that the hard way.

"Of course, I changed." It began as an initial snarl but then softened to a lamented state. He was so, incomprehensibly tired; literally and figuratively. "I had no choice. It was a primitive existence; adapt or die."

"Why not just die?"

"Admittedly, I'm not overly fond of what death may hold for a being, such as myself."

Tony gathered that was Loki-speak for, "because I'm scared shitless of eternal damnation; do you know what they'll do to me, down there?"

Tony didn't want to know, at all.

"So, you took all the shit the Chitari threw at you and then did their dirty work?" The faintest flicker of bitterness intertwined amongst his words... but he was still curious.

"Yes, I was their pathetic, little puppet, Stark!" He spat with venomous rage, as he sprung upwards in impulsive anger; blood boiling beneath his porcelain skin. He immediately regretted doing so, however as dizziness consumed him and caused him to collapse back into his 'cushion-cave'. He took several erratic breathes before composing himself and continuing:

"I was... quite... lost. I had nothing; and when a man has nothing, he becomes an... opportunist, so-to-speak. Then an 'opportunity' presented itself. I am uncertain of whether something... 'broke' within me, per-say; on the contrary, it was more of an... awakening. It was rather unpleasant."

"Sounds kinda scary." Tony felt the God of Lies needed to know that it was acceptable to feel frightened, sometimes.

"Of course, Stark..." Loki replied, softly; almost with affection, "for sometimes it is not what we may lose that frightens us... but, rather, what chooses to replace what we have lost already." He noticed a sudden streak of confusion etched across Tony's face. Loki occasionally forgot how others struggled with his means to communication. He gave a weak smile as he supplied an example:

"For instance, when my Mother was... Well, when she passed away; of course, I always feared losing her but the guilt and..." - he swallowed audibly as he willed himself to steady the tremor in his voice - "...regret of which has replaced it, is far worse a burden."

Tony felt that was an answer which more-than-sufficed. He needed to shift the topic of conversation; even when Loki so-much-as mentioned his mother... it visibly killed him.

"So what was switch-a-rooed in you, then, buddy?" Tony asked with a comforting light-heartlessness. Loki couldn't help but appreciate that.

The raven-haired God paused - clearly, deep in thought - before concluding with:

"I was a feral thing. I felt an untameable... hunger." The word was harsh and cruel, on his lips. His voice might have imitated a faint growl that represented those deepest, darkest emotions. Feelings so black that not even the Gods can quite comprehend them.

"Hunger for what?" Even though Tony already knew the answer.

"Power." He spat it as if it be a curse. Well, it was, in a way; it'd sure had him wrapped 'round its little finger.

A pregnant silence passed. It was only natural that Tony would break it.

"What about, now? Doth thou have a hunger for pancakes or waffles?"

He smiled cheerfully, once more adopting that high-brow, British tone. However - this time - Loki actually found it funny.

He laughed sweetly (with a hint of sadness):

"No, thank you, Man of Iron. I only wish to sleep, now."

It was at this moment, Tony saw the hideously dark rings under the sickly God's eyes. They looked ill with exhaustion and Tony's conscience demanded he ceased bothering Loki with questions and let him have his forty-winks.

"Oh, yeah, sure. Keep the couch."

What happened next was incredibly unexpected... but equally wonderful:

Loki Laufeyson beamed at him.

Yes, he beamed; smile stretched across his face, teasing with with his cheekbones. His cheeky curl of the lips revealing two, martial rows of petite, milky teeth. Tony thought he looked like a kid at Christmas. The burden engraved in his leaden eyes dissipated, for just a fleeting moment…

…and then the moment passed.

Loki nodded in thanks and proceeded to curl into the collection of cushions - in a manner not dissimilar to that of a cat - and seemed to purr into the pillows as he indulged himself within the slumber he'd so desperately longed for.

Tony smirked fondly and turned to leave him be... but he froze when he heard the God speak. It was a tender form of console to but himself... but Tony listened, all the same:

"Now, sleep in peace, my precious boy,

Sleep through dark, but seek your joy,

Keep your spells, for wisdom's sake,

And I shall hold you when you wake."

The God gave a contented sigh, as a tear threatened an escape, beneath the lid of a closed eye. Tony gazed at him - quite intrigued - and opened his mouth to ask what—

"Another time, Antony Stark." Tony could hear him smirk amongst the cushions; the response seemed chillingly telepathic. Loki already knew him too well.

"Let this sleeping God lie, this day. Whether he deserves such is questionable... but he damned-well needs it." He gave a weak chuckle as he re-snuggled and finally fell silent.

Tony pledged a silent prayer that his slumber (might) be peaceful; after all, he knew how shit bad dreams were. He gave the sleeping man one, last glance and wondered how a God could honestly look so human.

He commanded J.A.R.V.I.S. to order some irises and let the sleeping God lie.

He wasn't surprised to hear a faint, ghostly song begin to drift amongst the tower from the confines of the couch; a dear, little soundtrack of a tender childhood memory.

That precious, precious lullaby.

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