"alright, mtv cribs, what brings you here?"
And Loki, if nothing else, always made sure he came out the winner.
He looked around the room fondly, at the light streaming in and glinting off the kitchen steel and polished countertops. It was a beautiful space, a soothing one. It was nice to let himself simply sit here and let himself be. Loki’s time was of his own making, of course, and he’d never really give up all his running around. Where would he be without his work? But this? Loki sighed and sipped his coffee with a contented smile. He could get used to this.
The front door opened then, and familiar footsteps echoed down the corridor. The quiet had been nice while it lasted, Loki supposed, and took another sip as Doctor Cara Davies, who was also Captain Carol Danvers, walked into her own kitchen. Loki barely looked up from where he was sprawled out on her countertop like it was a piano and he was in a slinky satin dress, waiting to sing of his depressing life in a blues number, or perhaps like he would be drawn by a young Leonardo DiCaprio. Head propped on his fist, he was able to keep sipping the coffee he’d taken from the cupboard, using Cara’s own coffee mug.
“You’re out of creamer,” Loki told her lightly. “Congratulations again on the title. I said it before, but it can’t hurt to say it twice. So, is it everything you hoped for?”
It had been a long forty-eight hours, the longest that she’d had in recent memory, Cara’d suppose, probably due to the fact that she’d lived it twice. Two sets of experiences, two sets of similarly-aligned values, but two-different-people-in-one that had taken in recent events. She was still coping. They were coping.
The idea of this existential twofer had made Cara come close to pulling at her hair, but the deep-seeded Captain’s instinct had coached her into knowing that things could be worse. They could always be worse. Finding a god sprawled out on her new kitchen counter ranked in the ‘mildly concerning, but not DEFCON-one’ territory. The fact that it was Loki, strangely enough, made it bearable while certain relationships and experiences mingled and braided around one another in her mind. The mental volleyball that she was doing in the moments while he spoke was worthy of an Olympic medal.
“Thanks,” Cara offered, somehow nonplussed in tone. Of course Loki was sprawled on her kitchen counter. The doctor still wanted to blink in shock at the sight, but the captain was almost amused at what sat before her. “Once I have a second or two to actually sit down and process it, I’ll let you know.”
Captain. Doctor. Colonel. Boss. Coach. She denied none and rose to all, purely because every single syllable in that sequence was of her own choosing. That was as far as she’d gotten.
Crossing the room after placing her purse on the bench seat, reaching for one of the mugs in the apparent collection that Cara and Wyatt had created. There was no rhyme or reason to the mix just yet, but she appreciated the ‘pi’ joke on the particular mug she’d chosen to pour her own coffee into. Cara paused before taking a sip of the black coffee, turning to lean herself against the island that separated the room. A curious head tilt came soon after.
“.. Alright, MTV Cribs, what brings you here?”
“Busy, busy bee,” Loki noted with a smirk, eyebrows raised. “Have you ever sat down for more than a second or two at a time?”
“You know that bees aren’t technically supposed to fly, right? Sheer willpower,” she replied, lifting her eyebrows back in as much of an exchange as she could muster. Despite it, the look that Loki gave her now couldn’t have been more pointed if he tried, his gaze sweeping from the island she leaned against down to her feet and back up again.
“If it works for you, it works for you, but that metaphor clearly doesn’t fit in with the rest of your personal brand.”
“Bit taller, considerably more student debt, photon blasts, y’know. The usual. Doesn’t make me any less curious as to why your feet are on my countertop..”
Rather than answer the question, Loki sat up and swung his legs off the side of counter, heels tapping against the cabinets below. He sipped at his coffee and looked around the kitchen, the way the mug collection had jumbled together, the appliances that had been consolidated and settled around, the mix of styles. Cara smiled, squinty-eyed and satisfied.
“So, you and Tony, huh? And Wyatt,” Loki added, almost an afterthought. “You guys make a real power couple. Hollywood Reporter would about kill to get the expose on how all that went down. All nested up in your high-tech love shack. A romance for the ages!”
Oh no, that was where the buck stopped. Both Cara (protective, earnest, proud) and Carol (defensive, humorless, and absolutely-the-fuck-notting) felt tension ripple across their shoulders, earning her a smug half-smile from Loki. As if that weren’t enough of a tell, the contemplative second she’d taken to sip at her coffee should’ve been the second cue, an action that Loki copied pointedly, down to her expression and the position of her shoulders. Carol Danvers had exactly one poker tell, and that was not it; Cara, however.. Well. She was the type to spit out whatever it was she was drinking. And then apologize. Given the current situation..
“Cara Davies and Wyatt Wu bought this house, and it had nothing to do with anyone else. Welcome to the kitchen, by the way.”
.. Wasn’t too bad.
“It is a great kitchen,” Loki conceded. He knocked his mug back, draining the last of the coffee from it and then set it aside. “Cara and Wyatt have good taste. Which, obviously, doesn’t align with your own taste at all. Not even a tiny smidge.” The distance between Loki’s fingers, held up in front of his eye, was barely more than a hair’s breadth. He dropped his hand back and scratched his neck lazily, humming to himself, the sound a nice accompaniment to the rhythm at which Cara’s eyes rolled. Loki was a dick. “How unfortunate for you. It must be awful, not being anything like your mirror-verse twinsie. Didn’t even get a good evil goatee out of it.”
“I know a certain tall billionaire that has a monopoly on goatees; I don’t want or need one,” Cara replied, exhaling out a small and knowing laugh. There were no evil twins here, at least not in her experience: just cohabitants, neither of whom desired facial hair.
Loki’s dramatic sigh was overdrawn, even for him. “But you haven’t murdered Tony, I’ll count that as a win. Not many people have your kind of restraint. I could even admire it. Not murdering Tony, yeeting an Infinity stone into the sun to protect a world of strangers, not slapping me yet… You’re an impressive lady, Captain Danvers.”
“.. Technically, I..” A poignant pause, “Yeeted the reality stone into deep space-” Loki waved his hand and rolled his eyes, clearly uncaring of the semantics, “-but I mean. You had to be there. And it’s Colonel, if you’re going formal,” It was an assured statement to come from Cara Davies, and a completely commonplace one for the aforementioned Captain. Cara’s smile was tight, hanging there between them as they stared unblinkingly at each other before she sipped her coffee again, leaning forward onto her elbows.
“Cara, if you’re feeling relaxed,” she added, wetting her lips and dropping her eyes; “.. A new competitor has entered the ring.”
Finally, Loki stilled his heels. “Player 2 is ready,” he murmured, his eyes bright and gleeful, his broad smile showing off sharp teeth and the small gap between them all too well. “Cara.” The name was dragged out in Loki’s mouth as he tested it out, all but giving it an extra syllable. So, that’s how things were going to play out, then.
One precarious, piqued step at a time.
“Still getting used to it,” she explained, humoring his tone and pressing her mouth against her mug. Explaining the whole ‘mental floodgate’ dilemma didn’t get any easier, no matter who she’d explained it to or how; Wyatt, not Tony, had been the only person to actually witness the debacle, and her gears turned even as she recalled the experience.
“I’ve lost my memory maybe.. Three? Four times, and being two people at once is just as much of a task,” Cara elaborated, shaking her head; both indicating her current reality to the god of mischief, and confirming the fact that -- indeed -- she was both a scholar and a superhero all at once; “.. I don’t recommend it if you can help it. That simultaneous dissertation thing..”
A small shake of the head.
Loki snorted, and then laughed outright. “Thanks for the advice,” he said, still laughing into hand here and there. “But these kinds of experiences? Kind of old hat for me.” The newest to join that club didn’t bother to hide the small up-tic in both the corner of her mouth and her eyebrow. Comfortable with the small pause, Cara said nothing, fully anticipating a follow-up.
At the start and the end of the day, Loki was a god--built out of myths and legends, concepts and actions, choices and fate. Reality became subjective when the gods were involved, and with that, so did the self. And that got even more complicated as you were reborn, over and over again, and then haunted by the specter of yourself that you’d murdered. Or when you later had a fist fight with all your other selves.
Being yourself and not yourself at the same time was practically Loki’s expertise, and been for longer than Cara and Carol had been alive combined. So that was probably why his face softened into something almost sympathetic as he went on to say, “You get used to it.”
“Do you hear their thoughts, though? London’s, I mean,” she asked, glancing downward into her coffee; “.. Understand what they do, just as easily as you do your own life,” Cara elaborated -- furrowing her brow again and letting out a breath. This was difficult. Far be it from her to not take advantage of a resource when she had it. Usually.
That was the Cara side of her talking. Carol, well-meaning and tenacious, would try to do it on her own; to figure it out and save the day. Her eyes lifted. Where did she land now?
“Sure,” he said breezily. “Thoughts, memories, choices… They’re all there, and they make perfect sense.”
“This is Cara and Wyatt’s life. My life,” she continued, gesturing around the room. Confusion knitted those furrowed brows together now. “They don’t start and stop.”
A soft sigh escaped Loki as he shook his head at her. “You’re overcomplicating it,” Loki explained slowly, like a teacher to a young student who was having a particularly difficult time. “Her life, your life--why do they need to be different? Most of you keep doing this. This? All of this?” He waved his hand around the room vaguely before gesturing to the woman in front of him. “You’re drawing lines that don’t need to exist. Life changes. People change. And you’re all being so stubborn about it, it makes you terrified to try. You’re not the way you were when you were a kid, or a teenager, or even a year ago. Stop trying to keep people from changing you. Otherwise there’s no point in doing anything, or being around anyone.”
“No, that’s not it.” A quick shake of her head, earning her a quirked brow. “I’m more than happy to have long hair and a decent grasp on red lipstick again. I’m in this life, for better and for worse, until we figure out what the hell Thanos and Darkseid did to our worlds. If we can,” Cara replied, twisting her hands around her mug.
“If,” Loki agreed in a low voice, his expression unreadable as he leaned forward and steepled his together.
If was a terrifying word for that split second.
“The two sides of my head..” A pause to reflect on that simple statement; “.. These two sides of me, I accepted; I haven’t lost anything, haven’t sacrificed it or ignored it.. They just see each other now, all the time, instead of switching on and off. That’s the thing that’s different than it was before.”
Cara glanced upward to Loki again, narrowing her eyes and taking a sip of coffee.
“It’s hard to explain.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” Loki told her, as patient as ever. “You’re just not listening to me. This is what I meant: to you, they’re two sides of yourself. Who sees who, what sees what, switching back and forth. These two ‘sides’ are only as separate as you let them be.”
She tongued her teeth, not hiding the way the gears were turning in her head. Her eyes narrowed again, opening just a bit more when Cara rested her head on her hand.
He lay his hands down on his knees, palms up. “The bigger the distance between them, the more likely someone is to fall into the gap between. Or you can be pulled even farther apart. But embrace it?” He brought his hands together, palm to palm, lacing his fingers into a tangled knot. “It’s not even two halves, just a strong, unified whole. And that is absolutely unstoppable.”
It was worth a thought. Loki’s point was a hair’s breadth outside the microcosm she’d created between each consciousness and the body they shared. For as much as Cara had focused on the union, had even advocated for it in some ways, her focus had been on the boundary keeping one consciousness from the other. Now that the boundary was eliminated.. She exhaled. They were on the same page.
A brow ticked upward, along with a knowing little grin.
“.. So, when did you take the online life coach course?”
Loki tilted his head back to look down his nose at her and did a dramatic sort of sniff, like a disapproving dowager staring down her unwedded daughters. “It’s hardly my fault if nobody’s noticed what amazing ideas I’ve had this whole time. I’ve been here the whole time, you know!” As Loki went on, he waved his hand around, pointing to himself and making dramatic gestures by turns. Cara was helpless in the face of such grandiose ministrations; staring and exhaling incredulously as the sweep of his arm lent itself to a shift in vocal tone. Loki, the god of mischief, in her kitchen. Not for the first time that day, she chided herself: she should’ve known that something like this would happen. “For years, I’ve been telling you guys how to smarten up. Just ages and ages of talking to brick walls, practically! Because noooo, Loki can’t possibly have a good idea, not ever, not even once. Until something impossibly terrible happens and it’s all, Loki, Loki, Loki fix this with your big beautiful brain full of genius ideas, we need your help oh so desperately you absolute handsome scoundrel! And I-” and he brings his hand to his heart and gives as much of a flouncy little bow as he can without falling off the counter, “-generous and kind and brilliant as ever, help you all despite being so neglected for so long!”
He takes a moment to let that sit, muddled in Cara’s mind like a new cocktail, letting the exaggerated tones ruminate for a few seconds. There’s even the tiniest of sniffles, adding to the theatrical effect of the speech. Then his other hand goes to his forehead, eyes shut tight, and he leans back--a swooning woman over the fainting couch. “Only to have my marvelous advice rejected again once the day is saved! As if I were nothing but a common thief! Oh, how I’ve suffered and languished, my wisdom gathering dust for lack of a willing audience! It has left me scarred, wounded, adrift at sea for want of an open ear.”
One vibrant green eye peeks open to look at his audience now, gauging the reaction to his performance. Satisfied, he smirks and drops his hands, his voice dropping to it’s normal cadences. “Or it would, if I had a heart.”
“Right. If,” Cara echoed, using that word again and knowing full-well how it brought them both back in a perfect circle; “.. Y’know, I was going to thank you, but if you’re seeking reparations, all I have is coffee and supernova hands.”
Loki tossed one shoulder in an elegant shrug, his smirk widening into something closer to a smile. “I wouldn’t say no to either.”
She took a breath and steepled her fingers just beyond her coffee cup, concentrating there for a beat. They were very much her hands; blunt nails and tightly manicured with military precision, calluses where she’d lifted heavy weights and swung herself up into a triumphant lift. Ones that hadn’t punched planets or held gods by the collars of their shirts, but knew the sensations of such. Cara pricked a brow again, and reached for her mug, leveling it in the air between them. Loki raised his own in answer, leaning forward to clink the ceramic together.
A brief acknowledgement, a reconciliation of whatever they were, or -- as a close friend once said -- whomever they’d become.
FINAL WORD COUNT: 3005