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“A-Ah!”

“Hold still.”

“It hurts.”

“Don’t be such an infant.”

“An infant? You are making my skin smoke!”

“It’ll hurt worse if I don’t. Here. Bite down on this if you’re going to whine about it. I’m almost done.”

The protest on the tip of Loki’s tongue was roughly shoved back by a coarse wooden block. For a moment, he gagged on it. The girl in front of him had her face hidden as she kept her eyes focused on the deep gash across his lower arm, else Loki would have glared at her. But maybe you wouldn’t have seen it then, either. The cozy bedroom was utterly dark. It had to be. No one was to know who was visiting this healer in the dead of night—many nights, for years now. The darkness was for Loki’s benefit, and yet he found himself annoyed by it more often than not.

You were prettier in the moonlight. That had to be it. The shadows turned your [color] hair inky blue, and when you looked back up at him, your eyes were full of starlight. Loki’s mouth turned to sand long before you’d even taken the block from his mouth. “There,” you said, and surely it was Loki’s imagination that made you sound a little hoarse. It did things to his body and his head, being so close to you, seeing you like this, things Loki should not like to admit. A peasant girl had no right to be so enchanting. He had to get a handle on things, sooner rather than later.

“If this is how you treat your rulers, I should hate to see how you treat your other patients,” he said—but he had to force the snideness that always came so easily to him otherwise. Was the look you sent him irritated or knowing? The latter. It must have been the latter. You took his arm so tightly that that was the only option, and you did not look away as you began to loop a bandage around his recently repaired flesh.

“Princes mend the same as peasants, I’ve found.” Finally, you looked away. This allowed Loki to swallow the worst of his nerves, or try to. It did not help as much as he had hoped. “They pay better, too, or at least tell other people they should come by.”

“It should be—”

“—‘honor enough to house Loki Odinson,’” you finished for him. Loki glowered stonily at you until you shot him a grin. “You take everything too seriously, ‘your highness.’” The way your lips quirked up around his title made something burn in Loki’s chest. Frustration was what he decided to convey.

“I could have you locked up for that.”

“And then who would patch you up after your midnight trips to Jotunheim, my liege?” The last word seemed to end on a purr, but Loki was too startled to notice. His eyes went wider than he wished them to; he blinked as he battled off the desire to shout.

“How did you…” he began, but by then you had looked back down at your work and he was distracted once again by the way the silver moonlight flowed across your skin. This you did not notice. All you did was shrug.

“I know you,” you answered. Loki let out a scoff, the sound of which was so softened that it sounded much more like a low chuckle. Damn him. He was letting himself get lost here; he should not have ever allowed himself to come back. Unfortunately, you were like a magnet: no matter how many times Loki swore to never return to this cramped home in the middle of a tiny Asgardian village, there would come some time, some wound when he could no longer resist your pull. Then you had to go and ruin the moment by adding, “I thought you would have learned your lesson the first time you went there.”

Loki stiffened, his fingers tightening around his knees. Your voice had been mild enough, but that did not stop him from feeling the sting of betrayal in your rebuke. Did you presume that he enjoyed spending his time with those monsters, freezing his bones to the core in the constant snow while the Frost Giants lumbered about his plans with all the grace of those half-wit carnivores sitting at their gate? That you were so far removed from court that you could not understand politics was a given, but Loki had thought you had some grasp of tact.

“You do not understand,” he snapped. Being quiet was the farthest thing from his mind, his voice rising as he continued, “There is so little time. Thor’s coronation is two weeks away. If I don’t do something, no one will. I cannot stand by and let him have the throne. You know Thor, [Name].”

The tirade might have been shorter than most of Loki’s speeches, but he spoke it with such feeling that he was breathless by the end of it. A faint feeling of chagrin flashed through him at the sight of your reaction: None at all. In fact, once he was finished, all you did was lean forward to wipe his brow with a soft cloth and answer, “No.”

No?” Loki repeated.

“No.” You shrugged again and settled against the back of your hard wooden chair. “I have never met your brother, Loki. I do not know him at all.”

For a moment, Loki was nonplussed. Not know Thor? How was that possible? And then he remembered the important detail that kept slipping his mind: You were not of high or noble birth. The people of Asgard in this distant corner of the realm weren’t likely to hear much other than the codswallop spread by the rest of the populace, all about Odin’s golden child, winner of a thousand battles, worthy wielder of Mjolnir. He felt certain that if you just met Thor, you would be on Loki’s side—which shouldn’t have mattered, but somehow did.

He allowed himself to imagine for one moment. In his mind’s eye, Loki saw himself taking you to the palace, introducing you to his family, declaring his intentions. Father would throw a fit over your low birth, to be sure, but Mother wouldn’t mind, and what could they do to stop him? Thor would have the Realm; Thor would need to marry for the good of all. Loki could stop this plan of his right now and take you home. Assuming you were amiable, his happily ever after was right within his grasp.

“[Name]!” This illusion shattered like glass underneath the insistent fist against your door. Despite himself, Loki started and felt blood rise to his face in embarrassment. Whether this embarrassment was due to his thoughts or his jumping hardly mattered. You, too, had frozen, one hand still gently holding Loki’s wrist as you twisted toward the door. “[Name], are you alright? I heard shouting.”

“Fine, Father,” you called back. This was not the first time Loki had nearly been caught in your bedroom after the moon had risen, and he was not surprised to hear your cool lie next. “I had a bad dream. I’ve calmed down now. I will try not to wake you again.”

There followed another long silence. Though Loki could not be in any danger from a man like your father, he still found that he could not force his tensed muscles to relax until he heard your father’s tired response: “Very well. Let me know if you have taken ill and need anything. Goodnight, [Name].”

“Goodnight, Father.”

Loki’s ears strained to hear the sound of bare feet softly padding back up the hall. At last it did, and at last Loki could let out his long-held breath and relax. When he looked back at you, your eyes were still glued to the door. “[Name].”

Blinking, you turned your face back to him. Once more he felt as though he had been punched in the stomach. You really were so beautiful. Perhaps he was being foolish, trying to take the crown for himself—or delay Thor getting it until he had matured a little. There were fruits that could be enjoyed only by those that did not have the weight of an entire realm on their shoulders, after all. Could it be that Loki had not thought his play all the way through?

No.

Loki’s shoulders tightened once again. He could not simply stand back and let Thor be king. Thor was every kind of reckless under the sun, and hardheaded and ignorant to boot. He would have Asgard at war with all nine realms within the first nine months of his reign, Loki was sure of it. To choose his own happiness over the good of Asgard would make Loki every bit as selfish as his brother.

As though you could sense that he had come to this sort of conclusion, you let you a short, soft sigh and smiled as you released his arm. Loki pulled it protectively to his chest and your smile widened slightly. Then you turned away, hiding your face again to put up the rest of your healing supplies.

“Well, your highness,” you said once you were finished, “it will be difficult to sneak out of here, now that my father will be listening out. Will you be wanting to stay the night?”

For once, Loki did not answer. He merely gazed at you, wishing that he had never made the mistake of coming here. Why did this choice have to be so difficult? You were not worth this sort of heartache, except that you were, or else he would not feel heartache to begin with. When Loki did not speak, you moved past him to settle on the bed he was already sitting on.

“Suit yourself,” you murmured as you pulled the sheets back over your shoulders. “Do keep in mind that there is room on the bed here, if you are not averse to sharing with a lady.”

He did not point out that you were not a lady. Loki did not even point out that, as he was the prince, you should have been happy to take the floor while he slept on the bed. Instead, he wordlessly slipped into the blankets next to you, as he always did on such nights when escape became impossible or undesirable. As he listened to your breaths lengthen in the dark, Loki thought that you had been enough of a lady to him from the beginning. Always you had been there to patch him up and hear his troubles, without pay and always with a touch of sarcasm. He knew that your attitude wouldn’t change even if he did continue his secret meetings with Laufey. It was just that now he realized that couldn’t matter. The realm came first, and Loki’s heart second.

Loki LaufeysonxReader: Reliance
Still not pleased with my conclusion paragraph. You would think that now that I have my masters, I would be the master of conclusion paragraphs, but apparently not.

Set shortly before the events of the first Thor movie.

In response to the "160 Collection Drabbles" challenge by Bobapop on Lunaesecence Archives. This is part of a request booklet I'm doing, and Loki this time around was requested by Azarius. Next up is Legolas.

I do not own the Avengers.
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(Contains: strong language)

The stables were without a doubt the quietest damn place in the entire fucking settlement. Possibly this was due to holding only three horses total, but it didn’t hold all that many people either. You may have gone kicking and screaming, ranting and raving the first time; then you realized: horses were much preferable to people. Feeding, cleaning, and talking with Ellie’s horse might have been a chore, but at least it was a chore that didn’t make you want to drive a hoe through your fucking eye. You could save that for your mornings and that goddamn corn plot of Tommy's.

“Getting kind of low on the hay,” you told the horse as you groped for the feeding trough through the bright afternoon sunlight flooding Callus Two’s window. He (or so Ellie insisted; you weren’t about to check yourself) stamped his feet when you found it, nearing only to nicker in obvious disappointment at the little amount of food inside. “Sorry,” you said with a careless shrug. “It’s hard all around.”

“I don’t remember giving you permission to give my horse attitude.”

Twisting around, you saw Ellie standing pale in the entrance of the stable. Her glassy eyes flashed dimly even in the well-lit stable, her lips set in what you could only assume was a shitty attempt at a scowl. How she was to frighten anyone when she still looked as limp and moist as a fucking cooked noodle was beyond you. You could have tackled her to the ground—if the damn horse hadn’t got in the way. As soon as Callus Two spotted her, he was pressing you against the rough, splintery wall to get at Ellie.

“That’s right. You know who loves you,” she crooned as she patted his neck with one hand and held a second up to his fucking gross horse lips. A familiar crunch filled the air. So that was why the damn horse was so excited to see her.

“The fuck are you doing out of bed?” you grumbled. If Ellie was well enough to bring the thing treats, she was well enough to feed and water and clean it and scoop its fucking shit. Wielding a shovel with one arm was no easy task—though you would admit to yourself (and yourself only) that the work had done wonders for your muscles. That did nothing to change the fact that you spilled the fucking manure all over your shoes more often than not, though, which meant you felt no inclination to be charitable.

“Is she taking good care of you?” Ellie asked the horse. “Just tell me if she’s not. I’ll have her fired so fast her fucking head’ll spin.”

You were in no mood listen to the little shit poke fun at you. Filthy, exhausted, and hungry, you wanted nothing more than to choke down whatever the fuck the cafeteria had left over this late and crawl into bed. Too bad for you that Ellie was somehow your personal responsibility until Joel came back from wherever the hell he’d run off to. The brat had come down with a bout of food poisoning due to fucking marshmallows of all things. Tommy couldn’t have thought of a better punishment for you skipping out on night-watch duty if he’d fucking tried, not that Joel had allowed it easily or all that willingly.

“Get back to the goddamn infirmary,” you snapped, “and quit wasting the apples on your fucking mule.”

Ellie shot you a look of what might have been amusement—the same look she’d shot you since your being assigned to be her personal slave. She might not have taken Joel ditching her very damn well, but you remaining behind seemed to go a long way in cheering her up. You supposed there must have been something funny about watching you struggle to open fucking doors with your only damn hand clutching a plastic cup of water; still, it didn’t exactly endear Ellie to you any further than she’d already managed by wormin her way into your shithole of a life.

“Why should I?” Ellie wanted to know. Callus Two had finished his fruit and moved onto mouthing his slime into Ellie’s hair. The fucking horse seemed more interested in breaking your toes than grooming you, but you shuddered all the same. Horse spit was not something you wanted to have stuck in your hair until wash day. The horse shit was awful enough. Unfortunately, Ellie saw and her weak smile only grew at your obvious discomfort.

“Just go.” Maybe if you started shoveling, she’d leave you the hell alone—not that that ever worked. “I don’t want yelled at for letting you walk around again.”

“She’s with me.” Maria stepped inside, her eyes narrowed at you. Ellie practically beamed.

“So she’s well enough to be out and about?” you asked coolly. Maria’s presence was not one you knew well enough to think snarling would be tolerated. Though you sensed a kindred spirit in her commands and scowls, it was carefully buried underneath several layers of strained patience.

“I haven’t thrown up in twenty-four hours,” Ellie said with a brightness that did not match her syrupy movements.

“I’ve seen more of your fucking insides than I ever wanted in the past week and a half and one day means you're good to go?”

“She’s fine.” Ellie turning to speak softly to her horse again forced Maria to answer your question. You noticed that though she met your eyes, Maria’s expression didn’t seem as fiercely determined as usual. Ellie still looked pretty damn white and sweaty. Food poisoning hadn’t been too bad in the distant past, but in this day and age where medicine was jealously guarded and hard to come by, all anyone could do was watch as Ellie tried and failed to keep down one grainy dinner roll after another. Tommy and Maria had spent as much time as they could spare in the infirmary with her. If they thought Ellie was well enough to move about, who were you to argue? Besides her fucking nurse, that was. At least this meant they were watching her. It would keep Ellie out of your hair for a few more days, thank fucking god.

“Fine.” Arguing with Ellie’s aunt wouldn’t do you any favors anyhow. “Just make sure I haven’t been abusing your pet and get out of here. I want to be done before it gets dark.”

Ellie looked over at Maria, who simply shifted her gaze to frown at you. “It’ll take as long as it takes. This is your job until further notice. Failure to do so—”

“Means I don’t get to eat.” You rolled your eyes. How many times did Tommy think you needed to hear this fucking lecture? A couple of days without food had been more than enough to get his damn point across. Several months with three regular meals a day, however meager, made it all the more difficult to go without. It spoiled you. As much as you hated knowing that, though, you just couldn’t bring yourself to not eat when there was food available. For all you knew, next week it wouldn’t be.

“Ellie,” Maria said, the frost in her voice so apparent you were surprised that you couldn’t see her breath, “go get your saddle.”

Normally, you got the feeling that Ellie liked watching you get told off. Hell, you assumed she fucking loved it. Today, she scuttled off eagerly enough. Callus Two tried to trot after her. Maria, however, blocked the way and looked entirely unperturbed by the hooves going up and down near her feet. It didn’t seem likely that looking busy would work to get rid of Maria any better than her annoying niece, but you did your best. Then Maria cleared her throat.

“What?” you demanded.

“Listen.” Maria stepped closer, her expression not flickering away from her scowl once. You didn’t see why you should do as she said, but the idea of having a pistol shoved to your head was just as unappealing as it was any other day. “You let anything happen to her—”

Me? I’m not the one letting Joel’s dying whatsit out on a joyride, th—”

“Quit interrupting me.” When her palm pressed into the holster at her thigh, you fell into a silence that was sure to be as sullen as you intended it to be. There you’d been, minding your own fucking business, and now Tommy’s damn wife was in here acting like you’d dragged Ellie out of her sickbed yourself. “We got a signal from Joel. She’s not going to sit still until she sees him. So she sees him, and you bring her right back here. Understand?”

“No, I don’t fucking understand,” you said, shoulders hunching up around your ears as though you were some sort of cornered cat. “Why the fuck does she need to go running after Joel when she’s sick as one of your bitchy dogs?”

Unlike everyone else in Jackson, Maria didn’t react at all to your temper. There was nothing there of Joel’s impatience or Tommy’s pained sympathy. It was like your words slid off of her. All Maria was concerned about was getting her way; how you went about it didn’t seem to matter. “We can’t get her well until she knows he didn’t ditch her. We need someone to get her there safely.”

“What about you?”

“I can’t leave right now. But before you go, I need you to understand one thing very clearly.” Maria got so close to you that your skin crawled. Every fiber of your being screamed at you to retreat, to get the fuck away before she drove a bullet through your skull. Instead, you stood your ground, muscles tensed as her nose nearly touched yours. “You’re expendable. She’s not.”

Even with adrenaline racing through your system so fast that thinking was difficult, your lips curled at the suggestion that a fucking fifteen-year-old warranted more importance than you, the experienced adult. You’d been hunting since before Ellie had been a fucking thought in some guy’s dick. Of course, you’d lost your arm and become a useless sack of shit since then. You knew it every bit as well as Maria. Arguing wasn’t going to do you a lick of good. Despite this knowledge, your chin lifted in defiance.

“And how do you suggest I get her away from Joel if he’s not finished with whatever he’s doing out there?” you demanded.

“Drag her back,” Maria answered. “Tie her to the horse. I don’t care. I’m just saying, if she’s the only one that comes home on that horse, that’s fine. If she’s not, don’t bother coming back.”

That pissed you off. Everyone kept acting like you’d asked for this, like it was only out of the goodness of their hearts that they didn’t send you packing out the front door with no time to prepare—as though the collective of humanity even had any goodness in their hearts these days. Your knuckles went white around the handle of your shovel; your lips parted with what you could only hope was a stinging retort, and then Ellie came back and the room was once again filled with excitedly prancing horse.

“What’s going on?” Ellie looked honest to god curious, as though the idea of Maria threatening you was the furthest fucking thing from her mind. You’d seen Maria give Ellie her fair share of lectures (the only person in the damn settlement that bothered), but Ellie seemed to take these in stride as part of being family. Maria was no family of yours, but she seemed perfectly willing to chew you out for something you hadn’t even done yet. And in fact, Maria didn’t bother explaining. All she did was smile that same strained smile given over the discussion of Ellie’s health.

“Nothing,” Maria answered, and stepped away from the horse. “Saddle up. Hold tight to [Name] while she’s steering.”

What you could do to this order but snort? “Like I know how to drive a goddamn horse.”

“You don’t drive,” Ellie said. “You ride.”

“Whatever.”

Maria didn’t look like she believed your lack of horsing experience. Why shouldn’t she have, though? Horses took up space and food—a lot more of both than human beings. Jackson was the only non-military settlement fucking stupid enough to keep them around. It was obvious why: Ellie’s damn sentimentality. Callus Two was like the damn dog she’d never got at that godforsaken school of hers. You, on the other hand, had grown up with real fucking transportation: cars and buses and airplanes, for fuck’s sake. By the fucking way? You only had one arm. How the fuck would you steer a horse one-handed?

After considering you through narrowed eyes for another minute or so, Maria snorted herself, turned back to Ellie, and folded her arms across her chest. “Fine,” she said. “You steer. But if you start having trouble, you’re walking home.”

“We are not walking home,” Ellie muttered underneath her breath as Maria marched past her and out into the stable hall.

“You will if you have to,” Maria called back flatly. That was the last you heard of her. Only the sound of her boots against the ground announced that she had left. Ellie, meanwhile, was busy getting her saddle situated. It was clearly from Before: old and scratched, with fraying straps and tarnished buckles. You supposed it must have done the job fine, though this didn't matter much either way. Surely Ellie of all fucking people didn’t know how to ride bareback either.

“Are you coming or what?” Ellie’s voice snapped rudely into your musings about whether or not you actually should have learned to ride a horse when you’d had the damn chance. When you looked up, she was already atop Callus Two, reins in her hands and as close to a look of impatience as she could manage on her face.

“And if I don’t?” you asked in a voice of feigned curiosity.

“Can we not do your fucking drama queen bit right now?” As if the dumb horse could sense Ellie’s agitation, he began to stamp again. “Shit,” was all you got out before you’d been backed into the wall again to avoid having your feet broken. Ellie did not appear to notice or care. Her eyes were already glued to the tree-line outside the window. “I need to see Joel. Either get on or fuck off—but remember it’ll be really fucking easy for me to catch up with Maria on horseback.”

“You little—”

Not right now, okay?”

The look she threw you was almost pleading, or maybe that was just the sheen of sickness underneath her shell of contempt. Whatever it was, it wasn’t that that made you clumsily climb onto Callus Two’s trough and scramble onto his back. Last time you had been in this position was when Ellie had brought you to Jackson. She’d been a hell of a lot more accommodating then; now you were forced to struggle to get yourself adjusted all on your own. Ellie didn’t even wait before she snapped the reins and the horse started off. The bouncing made it much more difficult for you to find your balance and all that came out of your mouth for the next few minutes was a stream of quiet but vehement profanities.

“You done now?” Ellie asked once you had finally come to a stop behind her, legs pressed against hers and hand clutching at her hip as lightly as you dared. With the back of her red-brown head nearly pressed against your nose, you could smell the faint, cloying scent of illness clinging to her. This was the first you’d smelled of it and it nearly made you sick yourself. Even what used to be Wyoming got warmish in the summer, meaning that you hadn’t had to cuddle the little shit to keep her warm at night. You wished you had been able to keep that distance now. “Hey. Bitch. You settled?”

“I’m—fuck!” The damn horse obviously hated you, as he took the incline down toward the forest with such a bound that you nearly flew off the back again. “I’m settled, thanks.”

She glanced back once at you without pulling to a stop. Unlike you, Ellie knew the lay of the land surrounding Jackson well enough to not have to look where she was going. You could find your way to Joel’s swimming pond and that was fucking it. You were half-surprised that Maria hadn’t insisted on blindfolding you for this little venture with how little you were allowed outside these days. And for what? Who the fuck were you supposed to bring here? Who the hell did she think you liked enough to remain in contact with? “What’s your deal?”

“My deal?” you repeated incredulously. “Please tell me you’re joking.”

“Look, I didn’t fucking ask to be saddled with you for this. If I’d had my way, I’d be going to Joel alone.”

“Too bad for me that your family seems so damn keen to keep you around.”

The back of Ellie’s neck turned slightly pink. When she looked at you a second time, you could have sworn that the ends of her lips were twitching up. You must have been mistaken; Ellie never smiled at you or because of you. Then again, you weren’t sure if you were mistaken when Ellie spoke again, her voice uncharacteristically soft: “Yeah, well, you need to get out sometimes, too.” Must have been those marshmallows talking.

Once in the forest, Callus Two slowed considerably. At this rate, it would be past dark by the time you got Ellie home. Maria hadn’t outright said you had a time limit, but you wouldn’t have been surprised to find her standing at the gate waiting for you if you took too long. You snorted into the top of Ellie’s head and looked away. “Your gesture of kindness might be more appreciated if your fucking aunt hadn’t twisted my arm about it.”

“She shouldn’t have to twist your arm," said Ellie.

“Why the fuck should I listen to her?”

It was Ellie’s turn to sound incredulous. “Because she’s in charge.”

Why did you have to explain the workings of Ellie’s family business to her? That round of food poisoning must have fried the last few brain cells left in the kid’s head. “Tommy is in charge,” you said slowly. Ellie’s responding eye roll was so massive that her head moved along with it.

Maria is in charge. Jackson belongs to her family. She used to run it with her dad before he—”

“Died,” you finished for her. Everyone’s loved ones were either dead or fungal and it wasn’t hard to tell if it was the latter. “If it’s Maria’s settlement, why does Tommy give me all my assignments?”

“Maria can’t stand you,” Ellie said bluntly. “Kind of a repeated pattern in your life, if you think about it.”

Already the images were there. They had been creeping closer and closer and closer every night since that bungled attempt at watch duty. You could see a stunted, misshapen figure chained to a tree just out of the corner of your eye, hear the grunting slowly turning into the godforsaken clicking, taste the ghost of warm meat in the back of your throat. Holy fucking shit, could one glimpse of a familiar face in the dark really turn you back into a quivering member of the non-fungus walking dead that quickly?

“Fuck!” Ellie hissed. “Let go.”

Too late, you realized your broken fingernails had dug into her side. You hastily forced your fingers to straighten, balance be damned, but you didn’t bother offering Ellie an apology. You simply sucked in a high, quick breath. “You stand me,” you answered smoothly a moment later. Ellie snorted again, forcing you to add almost insolently, “And Joel.”

You had, of course, intended to get a rise out of Ellie. Baiting her was about the only fucking thing that brought you joy in this life anymore—and no way in Hell were you speeding your way along to Hell. You figured you might as well enjoy the simple things in life, but Ellie had to go and ruin that too. She didn’t immediately snap at you; in fact, Ellie hardly responded at all. For what felt like a whole damn minute, the only sound in your ears was the steady beat of horse hooves against the wet leaves on the ground. When Ellie finally did speak, her voice was so quiet that you could barely hear:

“Did he ask you to go with him?”

“Huh?”

“Did Joel ask you to go with him?”

A frown pressed wrinkles into your forehead. Was Ellie fucking delusional all of a sudden? “Did Joel as me to go where?”

“This isn’t that hard of a question!” Ellie snapped, twisting in her seat to glare at you. “Did Joel ask you to go along with him on this trip or not?”

Now that you understood what Ellie wanted to know, you couldn’t help a bitter laugh from bubbling out of your lips. You had been afraid that things were about to turn genuinely serious there for a second. “Why the fuck would Joel ask me to go anywhere with him? You’ve heard him. I’m ‘quite frankly as useful as a chocolate teapot in the desert heat,’” you said, mimicking Joel's drawl for the last bit. For once, Ellie didn’t fire back with a comment about how you were as useless as a chocolate teapot. She really must have been sick, because she just turned back around and was silent again.

Well, if the rest of this trip went by without Ellie’s typical useless chitchat, you could count that as a victory. You: one, Ellie: somewhere in the fucking thousands. Unfortunately she did not remain speechless. “He had a girl once, you know.”

Her tone was so different all of a sudden. You found yourself frowning at her through the flitting shadows of the trees. What did Joel’s past have to do with anything? He tolerated you because Ellie—for reasons that were beyond you—liked having you around. “A daughter or a girlfriend?” you asked. Again, Ellie fell silent. Obviously, she was still thinking about it, though, because her thin shoulder blades were pinched together. You were only just starting to feel a burning annoyance in your chest at her for bringing it up if she wasn’t going to elaborate when she finally got her damn tongue back on track.

“A girlfriend,” she said quietly.

“Before or After?” you inquired, still faintly frustrated by the pointlessness of the conversation when you could have been in your room sleeping off your inadequate meal.

“After. I met her once. Tess.”

“Tess,” you echoed. What kind of woman had Tess been, you wondered? Tough, presumably, to have lasted that long. Joel took any and every insinuation that Ellie was anything other than his daughter so badly that Tess must have been an adult. You imagined a tall woman, quiet, with smoldering coals in her eyes instead of fire. Maybe she had been a better shot than you, or more likely she had done something productive with her life. She’d definitely have been whole, at least, probably didn’t go around chopping off limbs in a wild attempt to stave off the inevitable burning of eternity.

Wait. Why the fuck did you care what Joel’s old girlfriend was like? You ought to have wished she was still around so she could fill in for parent-guardian when he was gone. It was Joel’s fault you were being dragged on a horse out into the middle of nowhere to begin with!

While these unsettling thoughts flipped through your head, Ellie appeared to be lost in thought. You could not see her eyes from where you were sitting, but she held the reins loose in her hands, unmoving other than the occasional twist to get Callus Two back on what she must have felt was the right track. Even more irritated to find that she could escape your presence that easily, you cleared your throat. Ellie gave a fucking ridiculous start and said “What?” with obvious frustration, which you ignored.

“Where the hell is your dad anyway?” you asked. Too much longer and the clickers would be out—and it wouldn’t easy to keep them from hearing the steady rhythm of Callus Two’s hooves. Maybe a horse could take out a few on its own; maybe not. You weren’t all that eager to find out firsthand.

As soon as the question was out of your mouth, Ellie’s shoulders hunched again so that her shoulders were up around her goddamn ears. “Joel isn’t—”

But whatever Joel wasn’t (the possibilities were endless), you never got to hear. Laughter had filled the air, several different laughters, and they echoed against the tree trunks eerily in the red-orange light of the evening. The smart thing to do probably would have been to keep going—but hell, you weren’t the one driving. Frowning, Ellie pulled your ride to a complete stop. In the shadows beyond Callus Two’s path, five darker shadows shifted, closer and closer until their owners appeared: three ragtag men and a couple of equally ragged women. As always in bands such as these, there was an obvious leader; the dark-haired man stepped forward so that his relatively clean-shaven face showed clearly in the sun. As the laughter died away, he smiled a disarming smile that showed a surprisingly whole set of teeth.

“Oh, he’s far enough away, darling. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that.”

Ellie frowned down at the man. “Who the fuck are you?” she asked, tone mild. Either she was even more of an idiot than you thought, or Ellie had goddamn balls of steel. It was true that none of the five had weapons drawn, but several backpacks had crowbars sticking out of their tops and the man in front had a sawed-off rifle in plain sight. For all of Ellie’s tense curiosity, however, his eyes were focused squarely on you. He did not even seem to have heard Ellie speak.

“How you doin’, sweetheart?” he asked, sauntering forward as casually as fuck. Your eyes felt so wide that they might pop out of their sockets. Your fingers had once again latched onto Ellie’s hip as your only anchor to this goddamn earth. “Looks like that crazy plan of yours worked—‘less you just go runner slower than the rest of us.”

Your companion twisted in the saddle to gape at you. “You know him?”

You would have known him anywhere. Seeing him, your chest ached as badly as the day you had met, and once again you tasted meat in the back of your throat, the first real meal you had had in years and years and years.

“Ezekiel,” you breathed. And then, before Ellie could demand that you explain or before anyone else in that cramped forest space could react, you had launched yourself off of Ellie’s fucking horse and tackled Ezekiel to the ground.

JoelxReader: (Don't) Chapter 14
(Don't) Hold Your Breath

So you want to survive the Cordyceps apocalypse? Yeah, well, join the club. That's easier said than done, and that's when everything is going your way. Throw in losing your arm and getting dragged off to "civilization" by a sarcastic teenager and her guardian, and you'll be lucky to last the week.

Still think you've got what it takes? Here's a list of rules for if you ever wind up in that situation. You might want to make sure to memorize them. They might not save your life, but at least they'll keep you out of hell a little longer.

Joel/Reader

In response to the "#32 In His Rulebook" challenge by Edible Heart Monster.

If you are in/run/know of any good groups I could submit this to, I'd be grateful for the exposure!

The Last of Us and related material do not belong to me.

Previous Chapter: JoelxReader: (Don't) [Ch. 13]
Current Chapter: Survival Rule #14: If we get ambushed doing YOUR thing, it's YOUR fault.
Next Chapter: TBA
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  • Mood: Tired
  • Reading: The Clockwork Prince
  • Watching: Agents of SHIELD
If you follow my Tumblr and have perused my personal posts at any recent point, you probably already know this. If not, though, I thought people here might want to know about why things are so slow in coming anyway.

Most of it is because I flat out burnt myself out this past semester of graduate school, then I thought I had to take more graduate school, and then it turned out I didn't and I had to rush to drop my one course. Most of that, however, was done by the end of August. Since then, I have
  • Attended a weekend writing conference in Colorado
  • Caught a terrible round of bronchitis which I only just went to the doctor for this weekend for medicine
  • Started a full-time job.
The job is the big part, although the month long illness certainly hasn't helped. I don't get any breaks at work outside of thirty minutes for lunch, so managing my writing is hard. Hopefully once I'm totally over this bronchitis I won't feel like going to bed as soon as I get home and I'll get back to it. Right now, I am about 2000 words into the next chapter of "(Don't) Hold Your Breath."

If you're ever curious about where I am in writing something, please check out the Fic Update Schedule on my blog.

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Lunaescence Archives
Quotev
Ghosts of the Vanguard
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: sexual themes and strong language)

Even twenty-one years later, you could still remember the first time you laid eyes on Peter Quill. He was a scrawny thing then, fragile even for a Terran, and you thought he was the prettiest creature you ever laid eyes on. That might have had something to do with the fact that the grownups had talked extensively about the angel-boy they were picking up—and that you weren’t supposed to see him at all. You were scrawny then, too, all scraped blue knees and tangled hair. The Ravagers had a bad habit of picking up children wanting looking after…but at least you hadn’t passed out when brought onboard.

That was all you got see: some floppy-haired Terran boy slumped on the ship’s floor. Your hiding place clinging to the rafters above everyone’s heads turned out to not be as good as you hoped. No sooner did you spot and identify Peter as the new kid then did some massive hand tear you from your root.

“What the hell are you doin’ here?”

Yondu might have frightened you your first week on the ship, but by then you had learned that, when it came to children, he was all bark and no bite. Instead of answering, you shot him your cheekiest grin. All this resulted in was Yondu rolling his eyes.

“Swear to God, if I didn’t owe your daddy that debt, I’d dump you on the first moon we pass.” With that, he tossed you from his arms, causing you to tumble head over heels across the metal grating. This did little more than daze you slightly. When you stopped seeing stars, Yondu pointed dramatically toward the open hallway beyond you. “Get on outta here, and don’t go pestering the boy later. He’s cargo, nothing more. I don’t need you complicatin’ matters forming an attachment.”

******

Even twenty-one years later, you could still remember the first time you and Peter Quill spoke. Cargo or no, five days after his arrival he was still onboard. The grownups whispered of forgoing the bounty, of having bleeding hearts, of the various ways to cook up Terrans. It was the last that spurred you into action; the thought sparked a childish fear that some of the more dangerous Ravagers just might actually try to eat the boy before you even had a chance to introduce yourself. They had to be serious; there were guards posted outside the room he never left. Certainly that would prevent an adult from getting in, but a child that knew the gaps and vents and cracks in the ship like the back of her hand? Hardly. It took no time at all to find yourself one grate away from Peter’s room. You could see bits and pieces of him—but only from the back.

You had not come all this way for Peter’s back. It did not look as though he were asleep, and if he were, who cared? He’d had days to sleep, days in which you and the other kids were kept busy and away with cleaning and running and keeping pointless watches. As far as you were concerned, the Terran boy owed you some consciousness. Your clattering into his room was enough to assure his wakefulness. To his credit, Peter didn’t do much when you first shoved the grate and yourself inside. He rolled over and gazed dimly up at you, sure, but that was it. His face looked sticky and red even in that room’s dim lighting. You decided to take pity on him.

“Hi.” You waved. Peter stared, licked his lips, and drew in a long, tremulous breath.

“Hi.”

What?” Frowning, you took a step closer. He stiffened. “Do all Terrans from Terra sound like that?”

“Like what?”

“Heye,” you answered, exaggerating Peter’s strange drawl. “Does everyone from Terra talk like that?”

“Are all girls from outer space blue?” he retorted. The look on his face made it plain that you had somehow upset him further. This did nothing to deter you. Smiling, you lighted next to him on his cot.

“Some of ‘em.” You waited for Peter to answer your question. He never did, forcing you to try to think of something to interrupt the silence: “We got Terrans out here, too. None of them talk like you do, though.”

This prompting did nothing but cause him to start crying again. “I miss my grandpa. I want to go home.”

You scrunched your nose. “Why would you miss Terra? Nothing ever happens on Terra. Yondu said you’re the only—”

‘BANG!’ The door opened with such an enormous crash that both you and Peter jumped closer together, tiny hands brushing against each other atop the scratchy blanket.

“Boy!” That familiar voice had you leaping to your feet before Yondu had the chance to switch on the lights. “You don’t start eatin’, I’ll let my crew eat you. They ain’t never had a Terran before and if all you’re gonna do is take up space as a corpse, you might as well—” He came to a complete stop upon seeing you standing there, and even your smile wasn’t going to save you this time. Yondu lifted you into the air with one arm, wrenched the door open with the other, and then threw you forcibly out of Peter’s room. “What did I tell you about being affectionate to the boy? We ain’t keepin’ him! Go find something useful to do ‘fore I toss you out the damn window!”

‘BANG!’ The door closed with as much force as it had opened with. Shaking your head, you slowly sat up. You could hear nothing through the door, and before you could get any closer, one of the grinning guards pointed back up the hallway.

******

Even sixteen years later, you could still remember when you first realized you’d disobeyed Yondu and become fond of Peter Quill after all. You hadn’t meant to. He talked funny, dressed funny, danced funny, and he listened to funny music It didn’t bother you too much. There were plenty of other kids to get into mischief with, ones that Yondu didn’t threaten to eat every time they so much as let an asteroid chip the ship's paint. And then you had to sit with him, quiet and still, while waiting for your turn for pod driving lessons.

“Heard Yondu caught you and Kraglin kissing last night.”

You had not been looking at Peter before he spoke, but once the words sunk in, you flashed him an enormous grin. “Yeah?”

“Heard he went ballistic.”

“So what?” Peter remained silent. You knew your expression was admission enough; you had kissed Kraglin the night before. Instead of finding this amusing, however, Peter just grimaced. Your curiosity piqued, you slid down the bench closer to him. “You have a problem with me kissin’ him?”

Suddenly, Peter wouldn’t look at you. How he was supposed to tell you were teasing him without seeing your face, you didn’t know. Still, you kept up your smile and inched closer until your arms were brushing against each other. In the years since the Ravagers had decided to keep Peter on, you’d learned that sometimes it took a bit of time for him to talk. You’d never been a patient girl, but when it came to Peter…

“What do you see in Kraglin anyhow?”

You shrugged as soon as you caught a flash of his eyes. “He brought me something nice from his run yesterday—and he’s cute.”

“You think Kraglin is cute?”

“Sure,” you said. “Guess I’ve got a thing for Terran boys.”

Peter went so pink that you could have mistaken him for a Krylorian—but then, you had that effect on a lot of boys, even back then. It didn’t mean anything special at the time. Your smile just widened as you moved back down the bench, careful to flick him an appraising look before the pod came back. Now Peter really wasn’t looking at you. You felt the same pang you had upon seeing he’d been crying right before your first meeting.

“Bring me something pretty and maybe I’ll kiss you, too.”

No answering sound came from Peter. He got redder, though. Maybe you’d have to start keeping track of when that happened from then on. There was a distinct chance that you could use it to your advantage.

******

Even eleven years later, you could still remember the first time you felt Peter Quill’s skin hot against yours. The moment blurred around the edges even then: tumbling into the Ravager ship, clothes torn, the Milano steaming, breath coming wild in your ears. The roar of the guardian beast rang in your ears even as the quiet of space enveloped the hangar bay. Your limbs trembled with the ecstasy that came only from cheating death—a feeling you were familiar with and almost addicted to.

As soon as your brain registered that you were still in one piece, you began to laugh, long and loud. There was nothing better than snatching victory a hair’s breadth from the jaws of defeat. Your blue skin stung where the lacerations still burned and the smell of singed hair was almost suffocating, but that didn’t change the fact that you had managed it. You had won. Once you finally had enough oxygen in your lungs, you spun about, “Peter! We—”

He wordlessly held out some tiny, crumbling object: not what Yondu had sent the two of you down to procure, but something valuable nonetheless. It was a small, intricately carved, hugely old statue of a being that looked like what Peter told you on earth were called angels. The smile on your face died away to be replaced by an expression as serious as his. The thing was beautiful; your heart ached to have it, but rules were rules: you go to enough trouble to get something extra while on a mission, it was yours to keep.

“Can I—” You wanted to say look, but knew that wouldn’t be enough for you. If Peter handed that statue to you, your fingers wouldn’t let it go. He’d either have to beat it out of your hands—possibly breaking it in the process, ruining its selling value—or let you walk off to keep it in the growing collection by your bunk. He utterly surprised you by placing it in the hands that had unconsciously swam up to reach for it.

“It’s yours.”

Boys gave you things. Boys had given you things for years. Your tendency of collecting knickknacks you thought pretty was famous among both Ravagers and frequenters of the bars and outposts you hung about for work. They weren’t usually terribly valuable things, since you cared more about glitter and beauty than credits you wouldn’t trade them for, so Peter offering you something both pretty and valuable left you unusually dumbstruck—so dumbstruck, in fact, that you almost didn’t take it.

“I couldn’t…” But you licked your lips and were taking it from him before you could finish your protest. You had never wanted a bauble more than that one. Peter handed it over, still stone faced. This threw you off, until he closed the space between you so quickly that your nose almost touched his neck.

“You once told me that if I brought you something pretty, you would kiss me,” he said, voice low. Slowly, your eyes traveled up to his. You hadn’t forgotten, despite your many forays into kissing and touching and all the rest in the years since. What surprised you was that Peter remembered.

“Yeah,” you whispered. “I did.”

He was taller than you now, no longer scrawny, but bigger in the shoulders than you could ever hope to be. You lifted yourself on your tiptoes and eyed him a second longer. It looked to you like Peter was holding his breath. Your wicked smile returned just as you pressed your lips against his. That one moment was like the spark that started the ship’s engines. No sooner had your lips touched than did Peter wrap his arms around you to crush you to his chest. Clearly, someone had been practicing. Moaning appreciatively at his attempts to pry your mouth open with his, you slid your fingers into his hair. It wasn’t long before you both were working at the straps on your uniforms, clumsy attempts made clumsier by the fact you couldn’t stop kissing.

It didn’t matter that you smelled, it didn’t matter that you were filthy, it didn’t matter that you were still in the hangar bay and Yondu was waiting for the two of you to bring him the gem you’d been sent for. All that mattered was that he didn’t come looking for the reason behind the delay. Things that day went quite a bit farther than the childhood kisses you’d shared with Kraglin so long ago.  

******

Even ten years later, you could still remember the first time you waited for Peter Quill. Unlike the rest of the Ravager children, he was really all Yondu’s. Bluster and banter and bitch at him though he might have, Yondu obviously thought of himself as Peter’s father. Maybe that was why Peter decided to leave. The Milano was spacious enough, and at least there Peter could turn off the visual communicator if he got sick of Yondu’s screeching about cannibalizing him. So long as he didn’t interfere with business and came home every so often, no one really cared. Except you.

You tried not to care. Who were you to be concerned with Peter flying about the galaxy? Only someone who loved him more than she’d loved anyone else in her entire life. It was a strange thing to finally be settled with someone, stranger still to see that person move away. There had been some discussion about you coming along, but in the end, you hadn’t felt that you could turn your back on Yondu that way. He was the closest thing you’d ever had to family. You stayed on—and waited.

It felt like years before Peter finally decided to visit, though it had only been a few weeks in reality. Those weeks had been filled with an uncharacteristic moroseness on your part. For a girl that was usually so constantly moving that people asked her leave, you suddenly had no motivation to do anything at all. When you weren’t off doing something Yondu or Kraglin required of you, you mostly stayed in your bunk, using reading the ship manual as an excuse to be left alone, but mostly feeling sad and alone in the dark.

On a rare occasion that you managed to fall asleep, you were awoken suddenly in the wee hours of the morning by an outright cheering coming from downstairs. You felt only annoyed at first. Couldn’t the rest of them keep their celebrations down in the middle of the night? Then it dawned on you that those were not victory cries. There was no shouting about credits or plans for the credits earned. No, all you could hear was, “Welcome home!” and “Congratulations buddy!”

Peter! How embarrassing it would be to have him find you like this. You sat up, groping for a light switch and some decent clothes, but—too late. The door slid up and Peter stood silhouetted against the light pouring in from the rest of the ship. His eyes flashed in the dark and caught yours as he swiftly strode over to sit on your bed. You found yourself unable to do anything more than bite your lower lip.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey.”

“How have you been?”

“Fine. You?”

Again Peter did not answer right away. Instead, he took your face between both of his hands and leaned his head down to kiss you heatedly. Things didn’t go further than that right away, but by the time you broke apart, both of you were panting. His face remained serious for a moment longer. Then he smiled and kissed the top of your nose.

“Better now.”

******

Even nine years later, you could still remember the first time you thought that Peter Quill wasn’t yours. The spaces between his visits to the Ravager mother ship grew longer and longer. You understood—really, you did. Peter was an adult, and he always thought of his family as the Terrans he’d left on his home planet. You, on the other hand, had barely known your father before his untimely death. The Ravagers were your family. Going off with Peter just wasn’t something you were ready to do.

You occupied yourself just fine while he was gone. Your knack for distracting men made you an excellent source for gather information for various Ravager projects. Visit a couple of rough-and-tumble planets, bat your eyelashes a few times, and they were putty in your hands. This made you an invaluable resource to the group and kept you busy enough. You didn’t ache for Peter so much as wish he were there—not that you didn’t work well or even better with Kraglin and the others. They just weren’t Peter. They just weren’t special. Understanding was just as far from you as it was to everyone else that made the mistake of commenting on your pining.

Crashing for hours after a completed mission wasn’t unheard of with the Ravagers. Unless there were time-sensitive limitations to getting something done, no one cared what time someone rolled out of bed. After being up for nearly two days straight helping Kraglin out with obtaining some blueprints, you slept until the afternoon, and to hell with whoever thought you shouldn’t have. You were still rubbing the sleep from your eyes as you staggered toward the mess hall, and so at first you didn’t quite register that one of the voices you heard inside was more familiar than all the rest.

“Seriously, Quill? An A’askvarii?” Kraglin sounded skeptical, and he wasn’t alone; several other voices joined together in disbelieving laughter. You hadn’t heard them sound this doubtful since you’d overheard them telling Peter that there was no way [Name] had slept with him. Since you’d confirmed that Peter and you were a thing, the rest of them had almost completely forgotten they’d once believed him even incapable of kissing.

“I’m serious!” The laughter grew stronger. “I met her at a library. Figured she could help me find my way to the restricted section, and if a little hanky-panky is all it took…”

“They’ve got tentacles!”

“You’d be surprised how nice those feel around the shaft, actually.”

“Needle teeth?”

“For someone that said it’d been a few years since someone gave her bedroom eyes, she knew how to use those needles.”

By then, Peter being there had finally broken through your haze of exhaustion. He was home and checking in and…talking about other girls. You could hardly believe it. After all you had given up to stay with Peter. You stood, rigid and glaring, in the entrance to the hall. Peter’s back was to you, but several of the laughers could see your face and your expression. They fell silent as one. Then Kraglin twisted in his seat and spotted you, too, only to nudge a still-rambling Peter with his shoulder. When Peter caught his eye, he looked around, saw you, and clenched his teeth together in a wince. Had you been closer, you probably would have heard him hiss. You, however, were already gone, out the door and into the hallway.

“[Name]!” There were several clatters and clangs as Peter tried to catch up with you. “[Name]! Hey, wait up!”

You didn’t speak. It felt like your very bloodstream was flooded with rage. Peter Quill, the man you’d picked, the person you gave up all your sexual exploits for, the single being in the universe that you thought about all the time, found it suitable to brag about doing the exact opposite to you. If you didn’t get away from him, you’d—

He grabbed your shoulders and opened his mouth. You didn’t let him even start to explain.

“An A’askvarii?” you screamed, so loudly that it made your throat hurt. Peter winced a second time, but kept his hands on your shoulders as though that could keep you there if you wanted to move. Your chest heaved as you glared up at him. Never before in your entire life had you wanted to hit Peter. You did in that moment. So badly. Maybe he sensed that, because he carefully lifted his hands, though he was equally careful to remain exactly as close to you as before.

“It was just to get information,” he said. He kept his voice maddeningly calm. Needless to say, this did not calm you down one iota.

“Then why were you in there bragging to them about doing it with some other girl when you could have been with me?” you demanded hotly.

“You were asleep.”

“Huh?”

Peter shrugged, looking entirely innocent. “You were asleep. The guys said you had a rough couple of days on your last gig and I didn’t want to wake you up. I was trying to be nice.”

His face remained utterly steady; his eyes didn’t waver once from yours. It took a while, but the anger you felt drained away. “Really?” you asked. Then Peter smiled, and did so as he took your hand and continued down the hall in the direction of your bunk.

“Really. C’mon. Let’s go get 'reacquainted.'”
******

Even eight years later, you could still remember the first time you thought that Peter Quill didn’t love you. Peter only came home for gatherings Yondu insisted he come home for, and the two spent the entire time yelling at each other more often than not. Sometimes, you would not have been surprised to hear Yondu finally give the go ahead for the rest of team to cook Peter up. Maybe the rest could tell that Yondu had a special place in his heart for Peter, but you just couldn’t see it.

You hardly saw Peter either. If he came to the mother ship, it was usually to run some trinket to Yondu or pick up spare parts for the Milano. He’d hug you, sometimes, kiss the top of your head, then grin and wink and mouth ‘call me’ as he shot back outside. You’d smile back and tell him to come home soon—but your ‘home’ wasn’t Peter’s anymore. Try as you might to resurface quickly after Peter’s short visits, this only resulted in you throwing yourself into constant work and normally making stupid mistakes. Kraglin knew. You knew he knew, but he didn’t say anything.

Instead of feeling warm when you thought of Peter, you started to feel hollow.

Even when he was there you felt hollow. One day he pulled off some grand heist and Yondu welcomed him with open arms and everyone broke into the booze. There were lights and chatter and plenty to drink. Normally, these situations found you in your element. That night, you listened to Peter talk about a crazy Kree girl that tried to stab him after he slept with her sister, and felt him pull you close. You let him. And when he grabbed your hand and stumbled to your bunk to topple into bed and start mouthing at your neck, you let him do that, too.

It just didn’t feel the same.

******

Even five years later, you could still remember the first time Peter Quill didn’t bother finding you when he came home. It had been ten long months since you’d last seen Peter’s face in person. You called, every so often, but even when you did, Peter always had somewhere to be, something to do, someone to see shortly after you called. But surely the two of you weren’t over. He still signed off with ‘I love you.’ Neither of you had said anything about breaking up.

“Did Yondu and Peter have a row I don’t know about?” you asked Kraglin while the two of you were in charge of piloting the ship. He glanced at you over his shoulder.

“They’re always rowing.”

“Yeah, but Peter hasn’t been back in nearly a year. This must have been a big one.”

Kraglin looked at you again. The look on his face was entirely different this time: something you couldn’t read but didn’t like all the same. “What are you on about, [Name]?” he said. “Peter was here last week.” Your heart froze in your chest. He couldn’t keep his eyes off the proverbial rode that long, but you saw comprehension dawn on Kraglin’s face in the split-second after his announcement before he twisted back in his seat. “He didn’t tell you.”

Peter hadn’t told you. All of a sudden, your chest felt tight. You jumped to your feet entirely without warning. “You’re lying.”

“What the—” Not that Kraglin couldn’t steer on his own, but your sudden lack of contribution was obviously noted. “[Name], what are you doing? Peter isn’t worth—”

“You’re lying!” you shouted again as you left the cockpit. “Yondu!”

It took no small amount of banging and screaming to get Yondu to appear. You had no doubt that he was busy; you simply didn’t care. Nothing would settle you down until you found out for sure that Kraglin was just trying to make fun of you. “Yondu! Where the hell are you?”

“The hell are you screeching about, girl?” Suddenly, he was there. Your anger and fear did not fade, though you were much too old to get away with the sort of mischief you got into as a kid. Yondu was not your father; he was a ruthless bandit, as were you. You had to act like one, even when you felt like you were breaking apart.

“Was Peter here last week?” you asked.

For a long time, Yondu didn’t answer. Then he lazily lifted his hands to his hips and looked down his nose at you. “Yeah,” he grunted. “What of it?”

You said nothing, as you were too busy taking deep breaths so you wouldn’t cry in front of your boss. Kraglin was right. Peter wasn’t worth it. You weren’t going to let the rest of the Ravagers have a good time telling Peter how you cried over him next time he came by. “Nothing,” you answered dully. Yondu snorted. He always had been able to see right through you.

“I told you not to go formin’ an attachment to that boy,” he reminded you. “I told you. Didn’t I?”

All you could think of as he trundled away again was that he had. For once in your life, why hadn’t you listened?

******

Even three days later, you could still remember the look on Peter Quill's face when he realized you weren’t his anymore either. Peter had been on the shit list for weeks, having gone after an artifact that the Ravagers had already signed on to get, and obtaining said artifact before you all could even make it to the quadrant. Like Yondu said, it wasn’t playing fair—and at least within the Ravager structure, members were always to play fair.

Then he showed up out of nowhere with some green-skinned woman and all was forgiven. You took one look at them gasping on the floor and left. Maybe you weren’t far gone enough to want to listen to Yondu beat the hell out of Peter, but you stuck around all the same, so you heard everything: Infinity Stones and Kree wars and Ronan the Accuser. Why did the Ravagers have to get mixed up in that mess? Why did Kraglin have to get mixed up in that mess? You were outlaws and bounty hunters, not the Nova Corps.

“I can’t believe you’ve all decided that I have to sit this one out,” you complained as you watched Kraglin suit up for the big battle. Nerves weren’t what you felt, exactly—Kraglin had gone into dangerous situations before—but you still weren’t keen to see him go. He knew that, of course, and shot you a smirk.

“Worried about me, darlin’?”

“Hardly.” You rolled your eyes and shifted into a more comfortable position in the room’s chair. There were so many guests aboard the ship now that private quarters were hard to come by. Even as second-in-command, Kraglin was having to use an old storage room to prepare for the fight. “I can easily find someone prettier to replace you with if you get your head blown off.”

At that, Kraglin laughed. Your venom was mostly due to being left out and he knew it. “You know no one ‘round these parts doubts your abilities. It’s just that you’re…y’know.” He nodded at your stomach, which only made your scowl even more prominent.

“We don’t know that. I haven’t started to show.”

“Still, you might be. And you know how Yondu feels about babies.”

“Ugh,” you groaned. “He’s such a sap. I shouldn’t be punished because my period decided to skip a week. I’m coming and Yondu can’t stop me.”

“[Name].” Kraglin said the word so gently that you had to look up. No one had said your name like that in years. Swiftly, he moved over to you and brushed your cheek with his hand. “Sit this one out. You never listen to me and I let it slide, but just this one time. Do as you’re told?”

Maybe you were getting sentimental in your old age. You could feel your cheeks turning darker blue and had to look away. There were butterflies in your damn stomach. “Fine. But you better bring me back something nice from Xandar for my trouble.”

“I’ll see what I can do. First we gotta save Xandar. Morality is a bitch, ain’t it?”

“Tell me about it,” you grumbled, but you leaned forward to kiss Kraglin at the same time. You could hear footsteps outside the door, but the rest of the Ravagers had learned by then to not enter any room where you and Kraglin were otherwise alone. Probably whoever it was just wanted to make sure he was actually getting ready and not peeling your clothes off instead. To your very great surprise, however, that someone decided to come inside.

“Hey, Kraglin. Yondu told me he saw [Name] come this direction. Have you see—” You broke off the kiss to look at Peter. Your eyes met and even though you’d told yourself a thousand times that no official breakup was needed, your heart sputtered to a near-stop at the sight of him. Kraglin twisted in your grip with a prominent frown and opened his mouth, but suddenly you didn’t want to deal with this. Kraglin might die within the hour, and if Yondu was right about this baby thing, you’d have enough trouble without dealing with Peter, too. You pulled Kraglin back around and gave him another soft kiss.

“Stay safe. If you don’t come back, I’m raiding your room,” you said as you slipped off the chair, past Peter, and into the hall. That was enough of a goodbye for you, especially since Yondu was right there at the end of the hallway, glaring at you as though simply worrying about someone was making trouble. Looking at him hurt, but your eyes’ immediate reaction of looking at Peter instead hurt worse. His face had gone entirely blank, but there was something in his eyes…

Swiftly, you rushed away. At least if you’d been going out to die fighting Ronan, you wouldn’t have to feel all this. Right before you ducked into a quieter area of the ship, you thought you heard Yondu again, growling at Peter, maybe: “Let her go, boy. She oughta be affectionate with someone that cares enough to be affectionate back.”

You took a deep breath to fill your lungs. It startled even you that you didn’t want to cry. Yondu didn’t have to worry about one thing anymore. Your affection for Peter had long, long since faded into nothing.

Peter QuillxReader: Fades
I've decided that instead of writing for Sif, I'm going to replace all her designated chapters with characters from Guardians of the Galaxy (Peter, Drax, Gamora, and Nebula, to be specific). Obviously, that means they won't be appearing as frequently as other MCU characters in this collection. To be honest, I found this movie to be the weakest one in the series outside of Iron Man 3. At least the villain in this movie was actually threatening.

Somehow I just managed to get the most boring character first out of the lot? (It just so happened that Sif was 33; I didn't intend to write him so soon.) Despite what you may think, I still like Peter, so my feelings about someone else needing to be the main character did not actually effect the ending of this story. Writing Yondu was my favorite part. Honestly, I wish they had gone with the older version of the Guardians so he could be in it. I really felt like he managed the "asshole who does the right thing sometimes" vision better than any of the actual Guardians (except maybe Rocket). 

This was a bit of an ambitious project for me, and I'm not terribly pleased with the result. I was trying to sort of do a reflection as the relationship got stronger and faded away--and a couple of other things, too, like Yondu only having dialogue in the first two and last two sections. There are a lot of details that I could have added--but I guess I just got tired. I've barely written anything since April and I've written 12000+ words since Sunday.

The Guardians of the Galaxy belongs to Marvel.

What's with this new tagging system I CAN'T USE SPACES THIS IS AWFUL.
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Sif was not a late riser by any definition of the term. If the sun was up, then so was she. Most days, she finished her early morning training before the majority of those in the city were even awake. The silence never bothered her during her return walk; in fact, Sif welcomed the quiet stillness. Loyal though all four might have been, her companions were, as a rule, loud and rambunctious. ‘The calm before the storm,’ Sif thought of her walk to the palace as: the final half hour wherein she was left to her own thoughts. Not so that morning.

To begin with, her thoughts were not of the pleasant variety. Thor’s welcome home had lasted but for ten minutes hours ago, but for whatever reason, Sif simply could not get her mind to stop replaying it. Married, she kept thinking. He’s getting married. Yes, Sif had known of Thor’s feelings for Jane Foster. Everyone on Asgard knew how Thor felt about his Midgardian woman. Yet Jane was not who Sif had lost to; it was someone else entirely. An attraction to Jane was understandable. She was clever and attractive in a mortal sort of way—but [Name]? There must have been something appealing about her, but Sif was lost as to what it was.

Married, Sif thought again. Thor married was a strange notion indeed. The very idea muddled her thoughts. Though Thor had matured greatly since his brief exile on Midgard, Sif still saw him as the hot-headed, reckless warrior that had desired to take on all of Jotunheim with a band of six—much like the way in which Volstagg, Hogun, and Fandral still did not see Sif as a woman. She was male, if not entirely sexless in their eyes, which meant bringing up her feelings on Thor’s nuptials to them was quite impossible. Laughing at her was the least they could do. Worse still, they might take the cause up with Thor, and Sif was not so boorish as to come between a man and his wife, or Thor and anyone he cared about unless that person had a good shot at harming him. Unfortunately, [Name] looked entirely harmless.

More unfortunately still, Sif’s hope of getting her mind off Thor’s new bride and all related dilemmas was sorely dashed. Unlike almost every other morning of her life, the city was buzzing with activity before she even set foot outside. Everyone was up and about and unusually cheery. The reason behind the cheer became apparent as Sif walked through the streets: Asgard’s prince had brought home a wife. The royal family had a princess at last. It took all of Sif’s strength to not roll her eyes at the general populace’s excitement at the matter, but she managed, perhaps a little too well. People kept insisting on coming to talk to her as though she should be pleased about the situation.

“Lady Sif! What a marvelous morning,” said an elderly woman toddling past her with a basket of food clutched underneath one thin, willowy arm.

“It is…beautiful,” Sif answered, inclining her head in greeting. Surely this woman had places to be, errands to do. She would continue on her way. But just like the last twelve people that had stopped Sif in the street, this woman grasped Sif’s hand and pulled her to a stop. Her palms had been worn soft by labor, in stark contrast to Sif’s calloused fingers. Sif could have pulled away, if doing so would not have been tremendously rude. As it was, she was forced to stop and have the top of her hand caressed while the woman’s eyes twinkled up at her. It was quite disconcerting.
“Are you pleased with the news?”

“I…” Sif found herself somewhat taken aback. There had been the occasional rumor that she and Thor were together that appeared on and off for centuries, but there had never been any truth to it. Normally when such rumors arose, Thor would take another girl to bed. Why a second woman was not helping in this case, Sif didn’t know. “I am very pleased for Thor, of course. Nothing could make me happier than seeing him happy.”

Though this was very much an exaggeration, the woman seemed pleased to hear it. She beamed as she gave Sif’s hand a final pat and then finally released her.
“Have you seen her?” she breathed. “Is she beautiful?”

Sif’s dark brows furrowed slightly. It was beyond her as to why the people of the city were so enthralled by Thor taking a wife. They themselves got married all the time. As for [Name]'s beauty: “I saw her only briefly. [Name] is…” Sif trailed away again. There were so many things a woman could be that weren’t beautiful: clever, or brave, or kind, or strong. She didn’t know you well enough to say any of those, though, so Sif had to simply finish with, “beautiful, yes.”

Her accompanying smile felt strained, but this did not seem to deter her new friend. “[Name]? So it is true? She is of Midgard?”

“As far as I am aware.”

The woman’s eyes closed. Sif stiffened; was she in pain? “A woman with such a short lifespan. But I am sure Prince Thor knows what he is doing.”

“I am sure as well,” Sif said, though she wasn’t. Spending several hundred years as Thor’s close companion had given her a much more accurate view of his mental facilities than most of his subjects. Thor was smart, obviously, but sometimes he didn’t entirely think things through. Sif’s companion merely sighed.

“So long as he is happy, I suppose. I won’t keep you any longer, my lady. Likely you’ll want to go get prepared for tonight’s ceremony.”

She turned to shuffle away. Sif’s hand shot out to grab her shoulder almost of its own accord. “Ceremony?”

The woman blinked up at Sif’s face. “Surely you’ve heard, being so close to the family? There will be a feast tonight to officially introduce the new princess.”

“Oh,” Sif said vaguely, releasing the woman. “That. Yes. I…I should be going. Thank you for your kind words, madam. I will make sure to relay them to Thor as soon as I find him.” In a daze, she turned and started back up the crowded street. The old woman might have said thank you or bade Sif farewell, but she did not know. Her mind was full of one word again: Married. Sif’s feet beat a quick tattoo against the bricks. To what purpose she was hurrying, not even she was aware. To put a stop to things? To beg Odin to reconsider? Both acts would be deplorable. Sif did not beg—and even if she deigned to, that would likely only upset Odin further. He had been remarkably volatile since Loki’s return. Sif would not have been surprised to find herself thrown out for merely suggesting the king do things differently. She might have tried to get Odin to rescind Thor’s exile, but that was a different Odin, a different situation.

Thor must have felt something for [Name]. Surely even Thor was not so dense as to marry someone on accident. How to explain Jane Foster, then? Thor clearly still held feelings for her as well. Did he simply have feelings for everyone but Sif?

Oh for Odin’s sake! It was not like Sif to allow herself to be so distracted. Coming to a halt, Sif squeezed her eyes shut. It was not like her to let anything cloud her thoughts or judgment, let alone a man. There were hundreds of men on Asgard. With a proud toss of her head, Sif continued on her way. There was no need for her to fret. She had only to find Thor and…maybe she didn’t know what then. No, Sif realized, she was only in hurrying in the hopes that she might see him just once before the banquet. Perhaps this was all some rumor, blown out of proportion by those living outside the palace. Perhaps all that was happening this evening was a feast before Thor’s friends returned to Midgard. Perhaps the marriage had been broken off. Odin had made plain his views on Thor’s love of Jane. [Name] would be no better—worse, since Thor seemed not to enjoy her company.

Crossing the drawbridge to the castle only made Sif worry all the more that the woman’s words were not a false report spread by overenthusiastic subjects. The excited clamor in the city was echoed here, but with greater purpose. No banquet had been held at the palace since Thor’s return from exile. Every single member of the staff was bustling about in preparation, eager, it seemed, to be working for something celebratory again. Horse-drawn carts pulled loads of food up to the gates, young woman unfurled bright banners from the high windows, and when Sif finally stepped inside, she nearly trod upon the hands of a man scrubbing diligently at the floor. Walking around him was simple enough. The rest of the servants dashing this way and that, the aristocrats running about determined to discuss Prince Thor’s most recent bumble, and the young women desperate to find something eye-catching to wear despite their prey being captured at last, were not so easy. Everyone was in such a state that they hardly thought to look at Sif twice, let alone do so with the fear she was so accustomed to.

She would have complained of a headache brought on by this debacle, had her mind not been so focused on finding Thor in the tumult. He would not be difficult to find, she did not believe. If this was all really in celebration of his taking a wife, surely Thor would want to be in the middle of it all. Lamentably for Sif, though she looked for nearly an hour, she saw not one member of the royal family, let alone the one she was searching for. The thought of going to the dungeons to ask Loki occurred to her, as Thor was the only one that seemed the least bit interested in visiting his outcast ‘brother’ these days, but the thought of Loki’s general unpleasantness if he had heard the news made Sif think better of it. She had no desire to be sneered at that day, and trying to show Loki what for would only land her in a prison cell as well.

By that point in time, Sif felt something akin to nerves; small pricks started in her palms and worked up her arms. Sif was no stranger to nerves, but she also knew that she could control them. She had to, if she wanted to be an effective warrior—which is all she had ever wanted in her life. So what if she could not find Thor? He was already married. There was nothing Sif could do except wish him well, and if her quest this day failed, there was little chance of him missing his own marriage announcement.

She had to get ahold of herself. Appearing before Thor upset over his marriage would hardly impress him. Admittedly, it had been decades since Sif had to worry about impressing Thor just to get him to allow a woman to stick around him and his friends, but the habit was still there. Most men of Asgard saw women as overly-emotional wrecks—though their own queen was a shining example of many women being otherwise. But by now, forcing all of her feelings into a part of herself that she could not readily access was habit to Sif. The act came to her without thinking, though at times it was more difficult than others. This was one such time, and the constant movement and noise all around her certainly did not help.

Her gait was forced into a stumble much more often than she would have liked, but eventually Sif did make it over to one of the balconies. Banners already spilled from its railing down toward the sparkling streets below; no one was like to bother her here. From this vantage point, Sif could see the city again, awash in colors and flooded with movement. As she rested her elbows on the ledge again Sif wondered why this was all such cause for excitement. Perhaps she would feel the same, if it were her Thor was married to, or if he were married to someone he liked, at the very least.

“Jane, please. I know this is hard.” The familiar voice seemed to vibrate Sif’s very ribcage. Somewhere nearby was Thor, but just as Sif was about to turn toward him and announce her presence, another person began to sniff. “Jane, I am sorry. So sorry. Had I known the pain this would cause you, I would not have—”

“Married my best friend?” finished an unfamiliar voice. Jane’s, Sif decided, though she had never heard Jane upset. She would not have surmised as much had Thor not said her name with Sif right there.

“I would not have come to see you at all!” Thor protested.

Jane let out a peal of bitter laughter that sounded as though it were coming through a thick wad of fabric. “So either I don’t get to see you because you’re married, or I don’t get to see you because you’re avoiding me. Great! Just—Just great.” If Sif were not very much mistaken, Jane’s words ended in a sob. Hearing women break emotionally was not an entirely new experience for Sif, but because she knew Thor, this was more difficult. Sif chanced a glance behind herself. If she moved quickly, then she could leave before either Jane or Thor knew she’d been there—but the hallway still was full and before Sif could take so much as a step forward, they were talking again:

“Jane, please. This is hard for me as well.”

“But not as hard!” The words were so loud that Sif’s battle-trained body automatically shifted to get a good look at their source. Jane was on her feet, fists balled and shaking at her sides. “You’re married! To my best friend! And I’ve got nobody!”

“Jane.” Sif was frozen to the spot, forced to watch as Thor reached out toward her, face blankly tight but arms imploring.

“No!” Jane whirled about, took several steps toward Sif (who seriously considered throwing herself off the balcony to get away), then paused to hurl something else back at Thor: “I’m not coming to your dumb party! I promised Heimdall I’d come by to talk to him more about the Bifrost anyway. At least he actually wants me around.”

I want you around.”

There was a very long pause. The tension in Jane’s shoulders faded, as did her voice when she finally spoke: “That’s a problem, too.”

Before Thor could say or do anything else to keep her there, Jane turned and walked quickly into the overflowing hallway, head down so that she did not notice Sif standing there. Sif was not so lucky with Thor. After watching the back of Jane Foster’s head disappear around a corner, she turned back to see Thor slowing standing with his eyes straight on her. His jaw was set in that way that always indicated that someone was about to have their skull cracked open.

“Sif,” he said with a curt nod, stepping forward.

“Thor.” She inclined her head in return. This show of submission was normally passed on by the two of them, but Sif felt it best to start out on a more proper foot as she added, “I did not mean to eavesdrop. I merely stopped here to think. Had I known you were there with your Jane, I would have simply found another alcove with which to be alone with my thoughts.”

He only snorted, but to Sif’s relief, he did not brush past her. Instead, he crossed over to her to settle with his arms on the baloney railing as well. Sif did not turn to face the same direction. Eyeing the side of his face was enough to tell her that she was not in any trouble. After a few minutes of silence—many more than were typical for Thor—he ran a palm across the top of his head.

“I do not believe she is my Jane anymore.”

“Then it is true.” He glanced at her, forcing Sif to explain herself. “They are saying all of this,” she gestured at the continued ministrations of seemingly everyone that had access to the palace, “is to celebrate your marriage to [Name].”

Thor followed Sif’s gesture with his eyes; a look of dawning comprehension filled them. Apparently, he had not realized the plan had already been put into motion. After a long minute of looking, Thor redirected his gaze back out to the city beyond the window. “Yes. Mother has decided that announcing it would better protect [Name] from any punishment that might otherwise be enacted upon her.”

Sif blinked, then allowed her gaze to follow Thor’s to land on the buzzing city below. “By the people?” she asked. There had been no murmur of dissent among those she had walked with that morning. The worst Sif had heard was an old woman’s worry that Thor’s wife would be gone too soon, but that was one woman unused to combat or life among Thor’s family. Thor shook his head.

“By my father.”

Odin?”

For a long minute, Thor was silent. Even Sif could see how tense the muscles in his shoulders were, as though Thor was expecting (or perhaps even desiring) an attack at any moment. When he spoke, though, his voice was quiet. “He may have refused to annul the marriage, but he also sent [Name] to the dungeons.”

“The dungeons?” Maybe Sif didn’t know [Name] very well, but it seemed out of the realm of rationality to send someone to prison for marrying someone—and after they had requested to stop being married to begin with. “Why would he—”

For some odd reason, Thor suddenly looked even farther away from her, refusing to meet her eye. “To punish me, I believe.” In the quiet that followed, Sif waited for Thor to elaborate. He did not.

“That is ridiculous.”

He snorted at that as well. “Anyone trying to talk sense to my father these days is in over their head, I fear.”

“And yet your mother expects you to announce your marriage tonight while your wife sits rotting in a cell?”

“Mother is not in over her head as most, I suppose. I appealed to her, she appealed to Father. [Name] is in my—our—quarters now, presumably getting ready for the feast tonight, while I tarry here in the hopes that some flash of inspiration shall strike and make everything right once more.”

“Thor,” Sif said impatiently. Had she been younger, she might have gone as far as to stomp her foot. “You are the prince. The only prince, after all that Loki has done. Surely there is something you can do. It is your life. If not for you, should your parents not be concerned about doing what is best for the realm?”

The unstated addition of marrying a woman from Midgard not being what was best for the realm lingered in the air between them—or possibly just Sif mentioning Loki’s crimes. Thor’s mouth twitched into a scowl shortly before he shook his head and slid his hand off the railing.

“My life is no longer my own to live these days. Like it or not, I am still Odin’s son and subject.”

For the first time during this particular conversation, Sif allowed herself to frown. Who was this standing before her that sounded so utterly defeated? Where was the Thor that went charging into Jotunheim against Odin’s expressed orders, who stole horses and food as soon as he was old enough to leave the castle grounds unsupervised, who defied his father’s edicts at every turn if they so much as mildly inconvenienced him? She could not stand it, and lifted her chin slightly as she declared: “Tell me what you would have me do. I am your warrior, not Odin’s.”

Thor shot Sif a wan smile. Though it was nowhere close to his normal grin, she took it. Many things had changed since his most recent return from Earth, but at least their friendship had not. “Since when do you take orders, Sif?”

Sif quirked an eyebrow in response. “You know I always follow them when it matters.”

“Well,” Thor let out a single, humorless bark of a laugh that stretched his face unpleasantly, “unless you can somehow convince my father to let me out of this marriage to [Name] and let she and the others go, I am afraid there is nothing I can command you to do. A pity, seeing as how another chance will likely be another century in coming.”

At least the jesting in the midst of his frustration sounded more like Thor. Sif took a step closer to him so that, had she been desperate or cruel enough, she could have easily kissed him. It was not any easy thing to say but, “Then I shall do so. The worst Odin can do is send me away from here; he will not bother to send me to Earth after my brother has made his loyalties to you so obvious, and he dare not send Heimdall—”

“No, Sif.” Thor’s voice was gentle, but firm. “The Nine Realms are at odds. Father fears war will break out before they know peace again. If his prediction comes to fruition, Asgard will need you.”

“It will need its prince focused as well.”

“Do you mean to suggest taking a wife will distract me?” He almost looked amused at that. Almost. The smile stayed this time, at the very least, as Thor took one of Sif’s hands in both of his own. “Just attend the feast tonight. Between Jane’s refusal to come and my wife that detests me, I fear it will otherwise be a very lonely celebration.”

“You must be truly desperate to want my company at a party.”

The look Thor gave Sif as he brushed past her into the throng was answer enough. He was desperate. Of course, Sif would have gone to the feast regardless; it was expected of a woman of her rank, after all, and it would look bad if Thor’s company did not make an appearance for such an important event in his life. If she could get through Thor’s first almost-coronation, she could get through the announcement of his marriage. At least this was not likely to be interrupted by Frost Giants breaking into the treasure vaults.

Much to Sif’s displeasure, this did require a different sort of garb. A coronation allowed armor. A wedding celebration required frills. Sif did not much like frills, and by extension did not much like the sort of parties thrown by Thor’s parents. Going drinking with her friends was one thing; it was quite another to be expected to eat and dress and prance before an appraising crowd. It did not help that so many men—warriors, at that!—believed that if Sif put on a dress and left her sword at home, it meant that she was giving it up entirely. She did not wish to spend an evening being looked at like a piece of meat. Thor frequently stood up for her normal attire at such events, but Sif could hardly ask him to do so that evening.
She settled for keeping a dagger strapped to her thigh. It would hardly help if something serious came up, but it made Sif feel better to have a weapon all the same. Besides, if any man tried to get too friendly at the end of a dance, she could simply pull the fabric up enough for him to get a good look at the flash of metal.

Sif’s preparation took her hardly an hour once started. Her appearance hardly mattered, really, as who would be looking at her when Thor’s wife would be there to gape at? Still she sat in front of her mirror for much longer than usual putting actually arriving at the feast off for as long as possible. In the end, only her promise to Thor to go actually got Sif to do so. Her procrastination had one bright spot: it made it so that she was not the first to enter the hall, nor the last. The celebration was already in full-swing by the time Sif arrived; she was able to slip in entirely unnoticed.

The dance floor was already ablaze with swishing skirts and flashing metal. Enormous tables sat to the side, stacked with food still steaming from its cooking. Chatter (most of it in regards to the royal family’s recent addition) and music filled the air. Sif might have found it pleasant, had the situation not been so dreary for everyone personally involved. As it was, she found herself preoccupied by looking for some familiar person to settle down with, lest she be inundated by requests to dance. She had no desire to dance that night, yet the only person she spotted that might have been sympathetic was the Darcy woman, who was already dancing herself, beaming in the midst of two of men who looked terribly bemused. Sighing, Sif turned toward the food. If there was no good company to be had, what with Thor missing and perhaps his wife not even wanting Sif to remain at his side, she might as well pay her respects to his parents. Standing in line to do so would do a sufficient job at keeping away any who might want to ask her to join them.

“Your Majesties,” Sif said, kneeling as soon as she was admitted into Odin and Frigga’s presence. Watching on the way there, she had seen Frigga do nothing but smile and Odin do nothing but frown, so it was to the queen that Sif directed her greeting. “May I offer my congratulations on this momentous occasion? I hope Thor and his wife will be very happy, and rule this realm well in your stead.”

Again, Sif kept her head down. She was unused to such displays of submission, but Odin’s attitude as of late made her wary. Frigga, on the other hand, had always been kind to Sif. What was more, she had always been more than supportive of Sif’s desire to fight rather than stay at home having children. Thus, Sif did not think the friendliness in Frigga’s voice was feigned when she responded:

“Rise, Lady Sif. You know you need not kneel here. You are practically family.”

“Practically, but not family enough,” Odin quipped. Sif’s eyebrows rose while Frigga reacted not at all. If Odin really was as fickle lately as Thor claimed, Sif had to admire the queen’s ability to remain unruffled. Perhaps she was worried over what would happen to Loki if she commented; it was common knowledge that Queen Frigga had done a lot of talking to save her son from execution.

Sif remained kneeling before them, face blank, until Frigga took her hand and pulled her to her feet.

“We are very pleased to see you here. I am sure that Thor will appreciate seeing you as well.”

“I spoke to him briefly, earlier.” Several of those still waiting in line took up grumbling; Sif did not even glance at them. It did not seem a good plan to tell either of Thor’s parents of his complaints. Sif did not want to be responsible for sending Thor’s wife to prison a second time, so she simply continued, “Did I arrive too late for the announcement?”

Odin, it seemed, thought it best to pretend Sif wasn’t there. His eye fell upon something on the dance floor—Darcy, Sif presumed, though she dare not turn about to look—and remained there as Frigga took up the conversation in his stead. “Oh, no,” she said, brightly and to her credit, in Sif’s opinion. “That will come later this evening, after everyone has had a chance to speak to [Name]. There appears to be no rush, considering how fast the news has traveled. Everyone already knows Thor married a woman on Earth. The announcement is just to make things proper.”

The king muttered something that sounded much like, “Nothing about this is proper,” but Sif did not have a chance to double check. Frigga opened her mouth to either continue or request her husband put up a more cheerful façade. Right as she did, the noise in the hall plummeted. The music dropped away instrument by instrument, the chatter all but died, and Sif did not have to twist about to see the reasoning behind this sudden shift in atmosphere. The act was nearly impossible anyhow, with Frigga’s hand still on hers. Surely removing one’s hand from the queen’s was an act of treason? Slowly, Sif shifted herself so that she could see across all the heads of those below, straight to the doors at the end of the room. A couple stood in the middle of the wide-open space: a tall man wearing a helm with sculpted wings and a woman that looked pale and utterly out of place. Sif only just noticed they were holding hands when the man let go and the spectators immediately took up a roaring trade of conversation as though the lull had never occurred.

Sif’s eyes followed Thor as he made his way in her direction. She did not fool herself that she was who he was looking for, nor would she have wanted to be, what with how grim he looked. Frigga must have noticed Thor’s ruinous expression as well, for she released Sif with a gesture toward the woman still standing awkwardly in the doorway. “Go on. I do not want you to have to listen to this.”

Even if Sif felt she could have argued, she would not have. Thor had made it plain that he did not desire her help on this subject. Besides, Sif did not feel that he could reasonably expect to get out of his marriage now. Not after everyone had gone to all the work of preparing the feast and dressing for and attending it. If Thor wasn’t careful, he would find himself in the dungeon with Loki. She did not stay to greet Thor, and instead carefully picked her way back down to the floor, the opposite direction from where he was coming from. Once there, Sif found herself rather lost as to what to do. Food did not appeal to her, nor did dance or company. Frigga had suggested (or so Sif thought) that she go make herself acquainted with [Name]. Sif was not so certain that this was a good plan. If she recalled her days prior to meeting Thor correctly, women had the tendency to be a little possessive of the men they chose for their own. The queen may have held fast to the idea that Sif and Thor could maintain a friendship even after this event, but if [Name] did not feel the same way, Sif would not force her to accept her presence. Thor still might; however, even that was dangerous. She would not allow herself to come between a husband and wife.

Up close, you looked even more alien—an oddity, Sif knew, since she was the alien to you. Anyone looking to find reasons to dislike Thor’s wife would not have to look very far. There were shadows underneath your eyes on your otherwise [color] skin, and your dress, while spectacular, did not fit very well. That must have been due to the suddenness of the occasion; what choice would you have had but to wear something of Frigga’s? Your hair had been styled to match what was currently considered fashionable with the rest of the court, and yet Sif still found that you didn’t look very Asgardian at all. Perhaps it was the look of distinct discomfort on your face that did it. Sif decided to take pity on you, at last crossing the last bit of floor over to you and doing her best to smile.

“Our parties have sorely missed a sour face since Loki was imprisoned,” Sif said as you looked over to see her. “Yours will do quite nicely.” You threw her a look that plainly said that you had no idea that she was teasing. Not a great way to start out if Sif had any desire to remain on speaking terms with your husband—and she did, very much. Seeking to gloss over this moment, Sif inclined her head in yet another uncharacteristic bow. “Your Highness.”

“Please,” you said in a slightly strangled voice, “don’t do that.” Sif was surprised to see that you had turned slightly pink around the edges, but decided to humor you all the same.

“Of course. [Name], then?” You nodded. “I am Lady Sif.”

“Yes, you said as much last night.”

“I was unsure if you would remember. The excitement of today might have driven my name out of your head.”

“Excitement,” your voice remained barely quavering even when you forced a laugh, “I guess that’s one way of putting it.”

There were so many listening ears. Sif found it hard to believe that anyone would go as far as to desire to hurt you because they didn’t find you a suitable princess, but she did not want to give them cause to. Thor had asked her to be there for support, not to stir up rebellion. Thus, instead of aiding you in your complaint, she deftly changed the subject:

“Have you enjoyed what you have seen here so far? The palace is quite lovely in the summer.”

“My new quarters are quite a bit nicer than the ones shown to me this morning.”

Good Odin, were you so intent on ruining the feast’s entire purpose? Sif honestly did not want to open hostilities with you. If she had been thrown in prison for such a petty reason as marrying Thor, she, too, would have been upset, but surely they had explained to you why the announcement had to be made. Did you simply have a death wish?

“[Name].” Before Sif could ponder this very seriously, Thor returned, his hand outstretched toward you. You caught Sif’s eye, flushed, and looked down at your toes. You had seemed much more brash, confident, angry the night before. Well, if Odin had wanted to accomplish something by sending you to have a nice chat with his disowned son, he could at least say he had managed to break your spirit. Sif lifted her eyes from you to Thor; he did not look angry. In fact, his expression looked soft, sympathetic, even, as he took the fingers you so stiffly offered him. Admittedly his voice sounded more emotionless than anything when he said, “You should eat. You have not had anything since breakfast this morning,” but Sif did not feel she could expect Thor to be entirely pleased about the situation. She tried to slip Thor a smile; he was gone before she could. Sif watched him lead you over to the high table with a mixture of pity and regret roiling in her stomach. Thankfully, she was not left to feel this sensation very long before she felt a hand on her shoulder.

“You will get your hand off me, sir, if you desire to retain your capability to create children,” she said loudly. A few nearby women looked over at her, aghast. The words did have the effect Sif wanted, though, as the hand quickly disappeared, allowing her to spin to face her assailant without ripping the flimsy fabric covering her skin.

“Lady Sif,” Fandral said with a flourishing bow. “Radiant as always.”

“And disinterested as always, Fandral.” Though Sif smiled as she said it, Fandral still lifted a hand to his heart in mock hurt.

“One day, Lady Sif, I shall crack through the ice around your heart.”

“Yes, because you did such a good job with Loki’s,” Hogun said. Fandral frowned.

“You know what I meant.”

“And you know what it sounded like.”

Apparently the rest of the group had decided to keep Sif company. Volstagg trundled up as this exchange happened, his usual plate heaped with food held steadily in one hand. He beamed and nodded at her, and Sif deigned to smile back. Volstagg had never once tried to make an advance on her, though his being happily married with a whole myriad of children might have had something to do with it.

“Good day to you, Lady Sif.”

“And you,” she returned. “How is—”

“Enough with the pleasantries. What are we going to do about that?” Hogun and Fandral had stopped their fight for the latter to wave his hand toward where you were now bowing before a cheerful Frigga and a dour Odin. Sif hoped you had managed to conceal your displeasure before being admitted into their presence.

“Do?” Volstagg repeated around a mouthful of roasted bird. “We’re supposed to do something about it?”

“Of course,” said Hogun. “Thor is our friend. We fought for an end to his exile only to stand back as he is forced into a relationship he does not desire?”

“If Odin desires it—” Sif began.

“Odin desired his exile, too,” Fandral interrupted. “And look how well that turned out. Instead we had a mad man for our king and he nearly threw us into war with two separate realms. All that in less than a week.”

“I highly doubt that [Name] has the ability to start a war with any realm,” said Volstagg. “I spoke to her last night. She is a delightful young woman. The idea that she would want to start a war is absurd.”

“The problem with you, Volstagg, is that you are inclined to like everyone. Did it look to you like Thor liked her?”

“It didn’t to me,” Hogun put in. Fandral sent him an appreciative smirk.

“Lady Sif. You have spoken to Thor, have you not? Tell me, does he not desire to be let loose from this marriage so that he has a chance with a woman he actually admires?”

It pained Sif to admit it, but “He did.”

“See?”

“But he also told me not to do anything about it.”

What?”

“He says that Odin believes Asgard will be at war soon, and that we should all remain free and available to fight in it. There is no point in rescuing him from a marriage only to have him die in battle because we are not there to back him up.” This, Sif thought, would silence the lot of them. Their hearts were in the right place; even Sif ached to do something to allay Thor’s pain—but if he told them not to do something, they were not to do it. That was how companionship worked. For nearly an entire minute, no one said anything: Volstagg turned to watch the dance and chew happily at his food, Fandral frowned, Hogun watched impassively as one of the women near Sif fluttered her fingers at him. But then:

“He is too damn noble for his own good after he returned from exile,” Fandral declared. “If Thor does not wish for us to do something, then we must simply get [Name] to do it.”

“You expect [Name] to force Odin to dissolve the marriage?” Volstagg asked. Fandral rolled his eyes.

“No, you great dolt. That would only get Thor in trouble as well. Odin will not stop the marriage himself, that much I understand. However, if she leaves—of her own volition, mind—what is Odin going to do about it?”

There was silence again. Sif found herself only capable of staring. What sort of idiocy was this? Hogun, though, nodded as though in appreciation of such a plan. She was very nearly afraid that something would come of Fandral’s thoughts until Volstagg swallowed his food and announced:

“I do not like it.”

“You don’t like it?” Fandral repeated incredulously.

“What you plan to do is to make a woman so miserable that she has no choice but to return to her family and friends at home in shame. I would not think a man such as you would be capable of such thoughts, Fandral.”

“She is already miserable, by the look of the things,” Hogun said.

“And that makes it better?” Volstagg asked.

“Come, Volstagg!” Fandral clapped Volstagg on the back. “This isn’t just for Thor. It is for the realm! We can hardly hope to be victorious in this upcoming war of Odin’s if our leader is too preoccupied by the burden of marriage.”

“I would hardly call marriage a burden. I am very pleased to have such a lovely wife and wonderful children. Perhaps Thor will be pleased as well to have his [Name] and whatever children she produces.”

“I can have plenty of children while not being forced into the monotony that is a monogamous relationship,” Fandral said. Sif had long since learned that berating him for such an archaic view of women was a lost cause, and so held her tongue. Volstagg had not, and opened his mouth to protest. No sooner had he done so, however, than did Hogun put in his two cents:

“You’re missing the point. This isn’t because we think Thor would be happier unattached. He obviously loved the Jane woman. Maybe he still does.”

“Exactly,” said Fandral, and by then he was clutching Volstagg by both shoulders—an impressive feat by all accounts considering how small and thin Fandral was comparatively. “You might be perfectly happy with your wife, but look at Thor. Does he look happy, Volstagg?”

Volstagg’s eyes followed Fandral’s pointing finger; Sif’s, though reluctant, did the same. No, Thor did not look happy. He looked stiff as he shoved the remains of his food about his place, and though he and [Name] remained close, they did not look close. This was enough for Volstagg. Sif could swear she could actually see his argument crumbling around him. Fandral could, too, as was obvious by the way he smiled at Volstagg’s slumping shoulders.

“Alright. But only if you swear to not be worse than necessary.”

“Of course!” Now that Fandral had his way, he was practically beaming. It almost hurt Sif’s eyes to watch. “I have never met a woman that didn’t find me utterly charming even at my worse.”

Sif snorted, but no one paid her any mind. Why was she even there? She had put in her appearance, made an attempt at making [Name] feel comfortable. No one was likely to notice Sif’s absence from this point onward. Unfortunately, she did not feel that she could leave her friends without eliciting some sort of tedious commentary.

“Then it is decided,” said Fandral. “We will save Thor and Asgard in one fell swoop. Killing two dodos with one pebble, as the Midgardians say. Does anyone have any ideas as to how to go about impressing upon Thor’s lovely lady that he does not belong here?”

[Name] very clearly already felt that she did not belong here. This celebration in her honor was hardly likely to change that either. The only reason Sif lingered was so that she might hear whatever ridiculous concept the three of them came up with. She was not expecting Fandral to look right at her and for Hogun and Volstagg to wait patiently for her to come up with something.

“You could neglect to follow this foolish plan of yours right now,” she answered coolly. Fandral only sighed.

“Has anyone ever told you you’re terribly unimaginative, Lady Sif?” he asked conversationally. Sif shot him her sweetest smile.

“Is that how I managed to get all of your weapons away from you the last time we sparred? My utter lack of imagination?”

Fandral sputtered and turned hastily away. That was really all Sif needed. She had had enough. As the rest of them put their heads together and began to discuss in murmurs the best way to scare off Midgardian women that were obviously already frightened enough, Sif only lifted her eyes toward the glistening ceiling and turned her back on her three regular companions. She supposed she ought to tell Thor of their plans. He was not likely to appreciate them when they came to fruition. When she looked back out up at the table, however, he was still sitting with you, still silent, still unmoving. Maybe tomorrow, Sif decided wearily, and she began to make her way along the edges of the dance floor out into the vacant corridors. None of them, Fandral, Hogun, nor Volstagg, would be able to come up with anything drastic before morning. Until then, all Sif planned to do was sleep. There was still the slightest chance that she could wake up and find this all a dream.

Thor OdinsonxReader: Adventures [Ch. 7]
Wow. This chapter is...really bad. It was actually a lot worse, originally, when I pretty much just had the reader taking a bath and talking to Dalla. It's at least more interesting this way but I...I haven't really written much of anything since April and my writing style is so gross and awful now. So many words repeated. I'm sorry. I'll do better next time.

Adventures in a Realm Without Divorce Court

It was supposed to be a standard Vegas trip: drinking, gambling, a night out on the town with your best friend, Jane. A bit too much of the first, though, has you pass out—through your entire wedding! Waking up to find yourself married to your best friend’s boyfriend? Not that great. Even worse? He’s not from Earth, not by a long shot. Worse still? They don’t believe in divorce in his Realm and you never wanted to be a princess.

Thor/Reader
Clint/Darcy

In response to the “A Twist on ‘I Do’” challenge by Aqua4044 on Lunaescence Archives

If you are in/run/know of any good groups I could submit this to, I'd be grateful for the exposure!

The Avengers and all related items do not belong to me.

Previous Chapter: 6. No Need to Get Snippy
Current Chapter: 7. A Bitter Pill to Swallow
Next Chapter: TBA
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  • Mood: Tired
  • Reading: The Clockwork Prince
  • Watching: Agents of SHIELD
If you follow my Tumblr and have perused my personal posts at any recent point, you probably already know this. If not, though, I thought people here might want to know about why things are so slow in coming anyway.

Most of it is because I flat out burnt myself out this past semester of graduate school, then I thought I had to take more graduate school, and then it turned out I didn't and I had to rush to drop my one course. Most of that, however, was done by the end of August. Since then, I have
  • Attended a weekend writing conference in Colorado
  • Caught a terrible round of bronchitis which I only just went to the doctor for this weekend for medicine
  • Started a full-time job.
The job is the big part, although the month long illness certainly hasn't helped. I don't get any breaks at work outside of thirty minutes for lunch, so managing my writing is hard. Hopefully once I'm totally over this bronchitis I won't feel like going to bed as soon as I get home and I'll get back to it. Right now, I am about 2000 words into the next chapter of "(Don't) Hold Your Breath."

If you're ever curious about where I am in writing something, please check out the Fic Update Schedule on my blog.

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TehStraw
Straw
Artist | Student | Literature
United States
(ID made on Doll Divine's Hipster Doll Maker)
(So was my icon, obviously)

Hey howdy ho, random internet denizen!

My name is Straw. I’m twenty-three years old. As of May 2014, I have completed the requirements for my MA in English and will receive my degree in December 2014. I received my BA in English and Creative Writing in May 2012. Currently, I live with my parents and younger brother in Texas, working full time and I’m saving money up as best I can so I can move out into a small house this winter. Hopefully my platonic soul mate of several years will be coming along. My goal is to work for a publishing company in Portland, Oregon. The color green! Rain! Coffee! Or working with Marvel would be good, too, but do I dare to dream?

I’m feminist and Christian (nondenominational). I’ve also been a vegetarian my entire life! My sexuality is really of no importance to me, so it’s not really of importance to you either. I like who I like when I like and why I like them.

In my spare time, I like to write second person fan fiction, usually involving the Avengers fandom, though I do dabble in Star Trek, The Last of Us, and James Bond on occasion. I also love to read, worry over my goldfish (Ken, Chikusa, Loki, and Clint), watch movie reviews, talk to my internet buddies, and eat burritos.

If you ever have any questions or comments, or simply wish to strike up a conversation, please feel free to leave a comment on my profile. You can also send me an ask on my Tumblr (mostlyieatburritos.tumblr.com). Usually I have anonymous on, so don't worry if you don't have an account.

I also post my fan fictions to Quotev (as Straw/Strawchan), Ghosts of the Vanguard (as Straw), and Lunaescence (as Straw). If you ever see my stuff on any other website, that's not me. Please report them for stealing, and let me know so that I may as well.
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:iconmyinqi:
myINQI Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
:iconbedanker: on Knoblauchsland by myINQI :iconcip33:
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:iconhypermagical:
hypermagical Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014
Thank you for the recent fave! :la: 
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:iconkillstein:
killstein Featured By Owner May 26, 2014
HAPPY BIRTHDAY STRAW!!
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:icontehstraw:
TehStraw Featured By Owner May 26, 2014  Student Writer
Aw, thanks.
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:iconkillstein:
killstein Featured By Owner May 26, 2014
Welcome~ < 333
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:iconsphinxgal1:
sphinxgal1 Featured By Owner May 26, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Happy Birthday!!
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:iconsphinxgal1:
sphinxgal1 Featured By Owner May 25, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hey Straw, Since you're birthday is coming up I was going to write you a oneshot.
However, while looking through some of your old character Bios I can't seem to find the one i was looking for, your OC from KHR first gen. I still remember a great deal about her, she was a pickpoket who became a master their, ended up getting on well with the Vongolla and ended up stealing their rings only to get horribly burned when she tried to retreive them from a fire after realizing the error of her ways.
The only thing i can't remember is her name (an quite possibly her hair and eye colour).

Could you please email me a copy of her bio so I can make a start on it for you?
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:icontehstraw:
TehStraw Featured By Owner May 25, 2014  Student Writer
I don't think I actually have a bio for her. I was going to rework here before I lost interest in KHR!. But I do know who you're talking about: Carabella. She had green eyes, if that helps at all. It sounds like you have about everything else down. But if you need anything else, just let me know! I'll be on and off for most of the day.
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:iconsphinxgal1:
sphinxgal1 Featured By Owner May 25, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Okay, did she have brown hair or was it another colour?
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:icontehstraw:
TehStraw Featured By Owner May 25, 2014  Student Writer
She was a redhead, actually. :x Sorry, I should have said that earlier.
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