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So Come Back, I Am Waiting

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“Shit, fuck!” Peter cursed vehemently as he attempted to drag his giant suitcase up the narrow stairs. He knew Aunt May would scold him for his language if she were here to witness this catastrophe, but she wasn’t. And if she were, Peter wasn’t entirely convinced that even she could abstain from a few choice words regarding the ridiculous dimensions of this stairwell. It was probably a safety hazard. What did they expect people to do if there was a fire, jump out the window?

Peter grunted and groaned as he hauled the suitcase up the last few steps to the third floor. He had to use some of his super strength, if he was being honest, because those walls were fucking tight and he’d packed almost all of his belongings into this one bag (even though he was just moving across town). When he finally pushed open the stairwell door and stumbled out into the hallway, kicking his bag out in front of him, he was panting lightly with effort. He leaned against the wall for a moment, catching his breath.

A boy with short blond hair and a Stanford t-shirt was passing by. “There’s an elevator over there.” He told Peter blandly, pointing down the hall.

“Oh.” Peter felt his cheeks growing warm with embarrassment. “Right. Thanks.” The boy didn’t stop to chat, and Peter sighed as he watched him go, stomach sinking slightly. Way to go, Peter. Great job with first impressions. Maybe this year you’ll get to see what it’s like to be the dumbest person at school instead of the smartest. He watched a girl and someone who looked like her mom pass by as well, both glancing at him curiously before rounding the corner. He offered them a smile, but it was weak. He almost wished Aunt May were here to help him move in, but she’d had to work. Well, she offered to take the day off and come with him, but Peter had insisted that he’d be fine on his own. He knew she couldn’t afford to take time off. So here he was, all by himself, having lugged a super-sized piece of luggage and a backpack half-way across the city. (Getting through the subway turnstiles had been hell, and Peter had had at least one near-death experience with the train doors.)

Peter gritted his teeth and pushed off the wall, preparing to go search for his room. He glanced around at the room numbers to make sure he didn’t take off in the wrong direction, because wandering around like he was lost was really not going to help his rep. He started walking in what he thought was the right direction, dragging his suitcase along behind him and continuing to look around curiously.

So. This was where he’d be living for the next year. It was… Nice. Not the newest building, but it looked well-kept. He supposed it’s what he could expect for a freshman dorm at an ivy league school. Unless the building was infested with rats (and Peter really hoped it wasn’t), it would still be better than his apartment building in Queens. He felt bad about leaving Aunt May to live there alone, but she’d insisted she wouldn’t mind. She’d even joked about turning Peter’s room into a home gym as soon as he moved out. He’d argued at first, thinking that it would be cheaper to live at home and commute to school, but when they found out that Columbia was offering Peter a full ride, Aunt May had insisted. The real college experience, she’d said.

And if Peter was being honest, he kind of liked the sound of that.

He just hoped that he’d get someone nice for his roommate. Someone normal.

He read the room numbers until he reached 318. He stopped outside the door and dug in his pants pocket for the key he’d picked up at the registration desk outside. But he hesitated before unlocking the door, suddenly nervous. This was it. He was meeting the person he’d be living with for the next ten months. Would they be friends? Good friends? Would it be one of those situations where they just tolerated each other and hardly spoke? Would they have anything in common? Peter had to make a good impression. He really didn’t want to spend the whole year tiptoeing around someone who hated him. Especially since he was planning on sneaking out every night to swing around the city in a brightly colored costume and hoping that this person didn’t notice anything weird.

Peter took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his thick brown hair, trying to tame the mess a bit. It was a losing battle, but he felt like he ought to try anyway. He almost reached up to adjust his glasses, but then he remembered that he wasn’t wearing them. He hadn’t needed them for two years now, and if he was being honest they didn’t provide that good of a disguise for his secret identity… After all, there were these useful things called contacts that people wore now. So Peter had decided to go glasses-less this year. A fresh start at a new school. He hoped that maybe he’d have more success, you know, socially, than he had in high school if he didn’t look like a total nerd. Speaking of which… He glanced down at his clothes to make sure there wasn’t anything blaringly wrong with his appearance. He was just wearing jeans, a faded Beatles t-shirt, and a torn-up pair of converse. That was normal, right? Peter hoped so.

Okay. Good. He was ready. He started to insert the key into the lock, but paused again. Should he knock? He wasn’t even sure his roommate was already here. The room might be empty. But it was better to be safe than sorry, so Peter held his breath and knocked lightly.

“Come in.” He heard a quiet voice call from the other side of the door.

Shit, he was here. Peter swallowed against the sudden butterflies in his stomach and smoothed down the front of his shirt. Then, realizing he shouldn’t linger in the hall like a weirdo, he hurried to open the door. It was already unlocked.

“Hi!” Peter’s voice was a little higher than normal as he fixed a smile on his face and stepped inside, dragging his bag in with him. He blamed it on the nerves. Hopefully his roommate wouldn’t notice. His eyes flickered around the room, taking in two twin-size, extra-long beds pushed against opposite walls, a desk by the door, an open closet (already containing a collection of hanging clothes), an empty bureau, and a second desk by the window. The second desk had someone sitting at it.

The first thing he noticed about his roommate was his clothes. He was wearing a thin, dark green v-neck sweater that looked incredibly soft, like cashmere, and plain but very well-fitted black jeans. He looked rich, and Peter suddenly felt just a little self-conscious about his own clearly second-hand clothes. But then his roommate stood up, and all thoughts of clothing flew out of Peter’s mind.

He was taller than Peter by at least a couple of inches, and thin in a similar way (not skinny, really, but what people might call ‘wiry’). But his extra height made him look like someone who was deceptively strong. People wouldn’t mistake this guy for small and weak like they did Peter. He had raven black hair that curled past his ears, longer than most guys wore it but not too long that it was unattractive or strange. His face looked like it was stolen from an angel, all sharp cheekbones and ivory skin, dark lashes framing pale, ice blue eyes.

Most of all, he looked startlingly, incredibly familiar. Just like a young…

“Hey. I’m Lawrence.” He stepped forward, smiling politely and extending his hand for Peter to shake. Peter blinked at him, trying to wipe the surprise off his face as he noticed the curious, almost analytical tint to Lawrence’s sharp gaze. There was something else there too, something more difficult to identify.

“Uh…” Peter succeeded in looking like a complete idiot before instinct took over and he offered his hand in return. “Peter.” He must be wrong. Even though he looked just like him, there was no way his college roommate was…

As soon as their hands touched, Lawrence’s cool palm pressing against his, Peter’s last memory of Loki tore vividly to the front of his mind.

It had been just over a year ago. Not long enough that Peter didn’t still remember the details, even if he tried to convince himself otherwise. The Avengers had been fighting an invasion of Kree for hours, and it was an absolute mess. The battle was vicious, worse than anything Peter had seen before. After half a day and maximum effort from all of the superheroes within traveling distance of New York, they’d finally managed to push the alien forces into a heavy retreat, leaving the city slowly emptying as the fighting wound down. It hadn’t come easily. Dozens of Tony’s unmanned suits had been destroyed and almost all of the Avengers were sporting injuries of varying severity.

Spider-Man had been perched on the edge of Stark Tower’s roof, watching some of the crippled alien ships disappearing into the sky above the setting sun. The city was awash in an orange-red glow, and it had reminded Peter uncannily of spilt blood. His broken arm hung limply by his side and he gritted his teeth against the pain, waiting for his spidey sense to calm down enough that he could go inside and make sure it was set correctly for healing. A noise on the other side of the roof had caught his attention, and he turned just in time to see Thor grab Steve by his throat and slam him down onto the rooftop.

Peter had sprung to his feet and made an aborted movement towards them, a startled noise leaving his throat, choked with confusion. A hand on his shoulder stopped him from interfering, and he turned to see Captain America, a small, sad frown perched below his earnest blue eyes. Shocked, he looked back at Thor. He watched, wide-eyed, as the other Steve melted beneath the Asgardian’s unyielding grip. His throat turned pale and thin beneath that massive hand and warm blue eyes froze over, hard and cold as chips of ice.

And he laughed. Loki laughed as Thor slammed his head against the pavement. He laughed, half-crazed, as his brother’s powerful fist connected with his face. Over and over. He laughed, coughing, choking weakly as his head rolled to the side, glazed ice eyes meeting Spider-Man’s gaze across the roof. His teeth were stained red with blood, his grin a wild, spiteful thing. He laughed, that choked sound cutting off into an undignified squeak as Thor hauled him up by his neck and raised his hammer to the sky. They disappeared in a blinding column of light, sparking colors like a prism. Dark had settled in after that, the silence eerie after hours of nonstop fighting, the rooftop empty except for a light, chilled wind.

Peter would never forget that face. It had haunted his dreams for a while after that, after he found out that Loki had been in collusion with the Kree, instrumental in planning their invasion. No. He would never forget Loki’s face.

He gaped at Lawrence as their hands fell apart, watching the polite smile on his deceptively beautiful face drop away into an expression of disappointed disdain.

“Well, fuck.” He drawled. Peter blinked at him, stunned. Lawrence just sighed, running thin fingers through his hair as he returned to his desk. He stood beside it and began to fiddle with some papers that were sitting beside an open laptop. “Hello, Spider-Man.”

Peter gasped, literally gasped, and for a moment it felt like his heart was falling into his stomach. How had he even…? Hearing those words was like something out of a nightmare. It felt surreal. Like this had to be a very, very bad (and very bizarre) dream. “W-What? I’m not… What?” He stuttered, taking a step backwards towards the open door.

Lawrence sighed again, tired, as if some huge burden was being thrust onto his shoulders. With a careless flick of his wrist, the door slammed shut behind Peter.

He yelped, startled, and could suddenly hear his pulse pounding in his ears. He watched, eyes wide with apprehension, as Lawrence’s clothes melted away, inky shadows like silk and smoke and sin morphing seamlessly into dark leather accented with subtle bronze and deep green. His Asgardian garb was unmistakable.

Peter swallowed hard, icy fear clutching at his heart. “Loki.” He breathed. He hadn’t wanted to believe it, but now the man’s identity was undeniable.

Shit. This was bad. This was really fucking bad. He knew. Loki knew. Tony was the only other person in the world who knew who Spider-Man was. Aunt May didn’t even know about his nighttime activities. But now Loki did. He knew who Peter was. And now he could tell anyone. Everyone. But Peter knew Loki’s reputation. He wouldn’t just throw the information around carelessly… No, he would use it like a bullet, releasing it at precisely the right time and place to cause Peter as much damage as possible. And Loki wasn’t just any super villain; he was a god. Not to mention possibly the most powerful magician in the universe and a literal genius. There was no way Peter could hope to overpower him or convince him to do anything.

He was fucked.

Peter’s hands had curled into fists, his fingers searching uselessly for the web shooters that were currently packed at the bottom of his suitcase. He didn’t need them to produce webs in an emergency, but he still felt vulnerable without his specifically designed weapon of choice. His breath was coming heavy now, and he felt a bit light headed with panic as his mind scrambled desperately for a solution, for something he could do to fix this.

“Stop panicking.” Loki sounded exasperated, but also resigned. Like he was disappointed about something. And Peter could hear his subtle Asgardian accent now. “I’m not going to tell anyone about your silly little secret identity.” He didn’t look at Peter as he sat in front of his desk, focusing his attention on the laptop and starting to type something into an open document.

Peter stared at him, perplexed, still waiting for the other shoe to drop. But Loki just sat there, typing away, completely ignoring him. Slowly, Peter’s heart rate returned to a normal human pace and his thoughts cleared slightly. He said he wouldn’t tell anyone who Spider-Man was. But wasn’t that why…? Hadn’t he come after Peter for some reason? Why else would he be here, posing as a freshman college student? He was probably lying. He was known for that, after all. But somehow… Things just weren’t adding up. Peter knew he shouldn’t trust the trickster god just because he seemed genuine, but something made him almost want to believe Loki.

Was it possible that this was all just an insane coincidence?

Peter decided to go along with it for now. After all, there wasn’t much he could do about it. He’d keep his guard up, and try to figure out what Loki was up to. Moving slowly, and watching the Asgardian out of the corner of his eye, Peter crossed to the unclaimed bed and sat down on the edge. He eyed Loki suspiciously, examining his profile as he continued typing whatever it was that he was working on. Was he planning something? Nothing good ever seemed to happen when Loki showed up.

Maybe he should contact Thor. He would definitely want to know what his brother was up to. Spider-Man wasn’t officially an Avenger (although he liked to think that it was just a formality thing and that for all intents and purposes he was part of the team), but he could get ahold of any of them pretty easily. He had Tony’s number, and he could pop by the Tower any time. There were usually at least a few supers hanging around the building and surely some of them would know how to get in touch with Thor, even if he was off-world.

It seemed like the smart thing to do. The only question was whether Peter should turn Loki in as soon as possible, or wait until he got some clue as to what the Asgardian was up to? Was it more dangerous to let him hang around, or to betray him when Loki now had the power to oust Peter to whoever he liked? Thor knew his brother best. Maybe Peter could just talk to him, scope out the situation a bit…

Loki shifted slightly in his chair, glancing briefly at Peter before focusing back on his computer. “You don’t need to run and tell my brother dearest.” He stated simply, a slight edge of something to his voice.

Peter stiffened, his mouth falling open in shock. “Can you read my mind?” Oh shit. Shit shit shit that was so not fair.

Loki’s lips twitched slightly, but his expression remained blank otherwise. “No.” His tone was cold, condescending, and casual all at once. “Just your expression.”

“Oh.” Peter sat up straighter and tried to arrange his face into a weak imitation of Loki’s effortless neutrality. He wasn’t practiced at controlling his facial expressions since he was usually in a mask whenever he needed to be careful about that sort of thing. He gave up after a moment, deciding that it didn’t matter much since Loki already knew what he was thinking about. “Why…? Um. Why?” Peter was really eloquent today, wasn’t he?

Loki turned his swivel chair to face him, crossing his arms over his chest. His eyes were disinterested, his expression bored, but there was a slight tightness to the set of his jaw. “I’m not going to hurt anyone. I’m not plotting any more attempts at world domination.” His gaze bore into Peter, indecipherable but heavy all the same. “I’m just going to school.”

Peter stared, a small crease appearing between is eyebrows as he tried to assess the truthfulness of that statement. “Why?”

Loki turned back to his desk. “I’m bored.”

“Oh.” Oh. Hm. He thought back to the look on Loki’s face when he realized who Peter was; an expression of something like disappointment. And before that, when he’d first walked in, ‘Lawrence’ had offered him a polite smile and greeted him in an almost friendly way. And there had been something in his eyes. Something other than the cold detachment he wore now. Something that might have been… Hope?

Things were starting to fall into place in Peter’s mind, slowly painting a picture bit by bit. But why was Loki here? It made a certain type of sense that he wanted to pose as a student and go to school for something interesting to do. Peter got that. School was cool! Learning was great. But why was he here, in a freshman dorm? Surely he could magic his way into any position he wanted. He could live anywhere. If he wanted to live on campus, he could probably get himself assigned to a single room with a snap of his fingers. So why share a small room with some strange freshman? Why put up with the loss of privacy, the lack of air conditioning, and the communal bathroom? What could he possibly get out of that arrangement? Unless…

And suddenly, Peter thought he understood.

Loki was lonely.

He looked at the raven-haired man’s profile again, studying him in silence for a few moments. When he looked closely, he could see the subtle tension in his jaw, the stiffness in his shoulders as his fingers flew across the keyboard. His eyes were lidded and blank, but his lips pressed together with just a hint of discomfort.

He’d wanted a normal roommate, too.

Peter allowed himself a moment for the strangeness and wonder of that realization to wash over him. Loki, god of lies and attempted conqueror of Earth, wanted to go to school like a normal human college student.

“Okay.” Peter finally said. He reached for his suitcase, pulling it towards him so he could tip it onto its side and unzip it to start pulling out his things.

He watched Loki go still out of the corner of his eye, the muted tapping of computer keys falling silent for a moment. Peter wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t been looking for it, but he smiled slightly to himself when he saw a bit of the tension bleed out of the Asgardian’s shoulders. He seemed to relax slightly with that simple statement, with Peter’s quiet acceptance of the situation. He went back to work on his laptop without saying anything, but Peter understood.

He wasn’t naïve enough to think this meant he could trust Loki implicitly. But it was something. A truce of some sort, an understanding. And Peter was willing to give it a try and see how things turned out. He was willing to give the trickster god a second chance. He knew not many of the Avengers would agree with him (if any at all), but they didn’t have to know, right? And if things turned out badly, he could always go to Thor when he needed him. Besides, Spider-Man was all about giving people chances. The benefit of the doubt. A little faith. Loki shouldn’t be an exception to that just because he was probably more dangerous than all of the villains Peter had ever faced before combined.

Peter really hoped this wasn’t going to come back to bite him in the ass.

As he stacked clothes on the end of his bed, sorting them to be put away in the dresser, he saw Loki’s alien clothing dissolving into those smoky shadows. They were almost instantly replaced by the simple green sweater and black pants that he’d been wearing before. Peter looked at him across the room and smiled slightly.

Loki looked nice in human clothes.

And maybe this would be a good thing, after all. Peter had been concerned about keeping up with his Spider-Man duties while sneaking around behind his roommate’s back. It would be a bitch to hide the bruises that disappeared within a day, conceal his odd hours, figure out how to slip out at night without being noticed. He couldn’t exactly leave out the window if his roommate stayed up late.

But now he didn’t have to worry about that. Because his roommate knew.

Because his roommate was Loki. A god. An alien god. An (ex?) super villain alien god who was also an incredibly powerful magician and master trickster.

He watched with wide eyes as Loki held one hand out carelessly to the side and a white computer charger flew out of the closet. It hurtled through the air, narrowly missing Peter’s head, and landed neatly in Loki’s pale, outstretched hand.

What the actual fuck was Peter Parker’s life?

Chapter Text

Peter lay on his back in bed, staring up at the ceiling. It was hot. He had nothing on but a t-shirt and a pair of boxers, his sheet had been kicked into a pile at the foot of his bed, the lights were off and the window was propped open, but it was still hot.

That’s not what was keeping Peter awake.

Across the room, sitting up in bed with a laptop open on his lap, was Loki, Prince of Asgard. (Were they called princes? Peter was ashamed to admit that he didn’t actually know very much about the alien realm. Maybe now he’d actually have to start listening to Thor when he talked.) He’d been typing away on that sleek MacBook since Peter had arrived over six hours ago. He’d typed while Peter unpacked. Typed some more while Peter sat on his bed eating granola bars and watching youtube videos on his phone (because the dining halls didn’t actually open until tomorrow). And he was still typing when Peter returned from brushing his teeth in the communal bathroom and settled down in bed with this semester’s microbiology textbook.

They hadn’t spoken. And even now Loki was almost completely silent. Peter could hear his own steady breaths brushing soft and hot through the stagnant air as he lay there, but he wouldn’t have even known Loki was in the room if it weren’t for the steady clicking of his keyboard and the soft blue light filtering out of his screen, making his pale face glow gently in the dark. If he listened hard enough, he could hear Loki’s heart beating firmly in his chest, but he tried not to do that sort of thing as a general rule because, you know, that’s weird.

It wasn’t like he was afraid of Loki, per se. He didn’t expect the trickster god to do anything to him while he slept (although, let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be entirely out of the realm of possibility). It wasn’t even that Loki made him nervous, although he might have just a little bit. It had more to do with the fact that Peter had had his own room to himself since he was six, and sleepovers hadn’t exactly been a common occurrence in his childhood. Now there was another living, breathing (he hoped so) person sleeping in the same room, and it was distracting.

Peter had turned out the lights at half past eleven, hoping to get a good night of sleep and an early start with orientation activities beginning at eight-thirty the next morning. It was now an hour later, and he was no closer to falling asleep. In fact, he felt wide awake, his mind easily occupied with thoughts of tomorrow, and school, and meeting new people, and taking new classes, and dealing with Loki, and when he should patrol next, and whether he should let Aunt May come visit before classes started. When he tried to silence his thoughts and calm his body enough to sleep, he just became acutely aware of the person sitting less than ten feet away from him, also not sleeping.

Eventually, tired of his own inability to shut off his brain, Peter turned over on his side to face Loki’s bed. The movement was louder than he expected, shuffling his sheets and creaking the bed, and Peter lay frozen for a few moments afterwards, too wary of more movement to find a truly comfortable position. But Loki’s typing never faltered and his pale eyes never wavered from the screen in front of him, and after a minute or so Peter relaxed. He watched the god working for a while, his facial expression never wavering from perfect, beautiful neutrality. He figured Loki was just as aware that he was awake as he was that Loki was awake, so he didn’t stop himself from speaking when the urge finally became too much for him.

“Loki?”

The raven-haired man immediately glanced up, eyes finding Peter’s instantly through the darkness. “Is the light keeping you up?” He asked simply, as if he would easily turn it down or close his computer out of consideration for Peter’s sleeping needs.

Peter blinked at him, toying absently at the edge of his t-shirt with one hand. “No.” It really wasn’t. And he wouldn’t want to force Loki to stop whatever he was doing even if it was bothering him. “It’s just… Are you gonna sleep?” It was getting a bit late.

Loki held his gaze for a long moment. “Yes.” He turned back to his laptop, fingers resuming their never-ending work. “Just as soon as I finish this.”

It wasn’t really the answer Peter was looking for, but he figured it might be the best he was going to get. He really wanted to ask Loki what it was that he was working on. His curiosity was burning, in fact, and he could think of dozens of things the god might be doing that would keep him typing for hours on end. But he was worried that Loki might not answer if he asked; or worse, he would lie. And besides, wasn’t privacy, like, an important thing between roommates? Peter didn’t want them to start off on the wrong foot, so he kept his mouth shut and let his curiosity stew unanswered.

After a while, he rolled back onto his back. Then his other side. It was a new experience, not being able to fall asleep. Usually Peter was so exhausted that he’d be unconscious as soon as his head hit the pillow. He got bored of trying to keep his mind blank around one in the morning, and allowed himself to wonder whether Loki was writing some really intense fanfiction erotica or plotting a very long and complicated plan for world domination.

He spent some time musing on why he was having so much trouble with this sleeping thing. It was definitely distracting to have someone else in the room, but he’d already kind of gotten used to that over the last few hours, so it must be something more. As stupid as it was to admit, it probably had a lot to do with being in a new place, at a new school, with new people. He was just… nervous. How annoying.

As the minutes ticked by, marked by the changing numbers glowing green from Peter’s alarm clock, he grew increasingly frustrated. He tossed and turned, closed his eyes and opened them, tried laying spread out and curled into a tight ball. Nothing worked. By three-thirty, he had that vaguely sick, exhausted feeling settling into his muscles. He was restless and tired and worried about being sleep deprived tomorrow, and he had reached that certain point where he just couldn’t put up with it anymore.

With a resigned sigh, Peter finally gave into his instincts. He sat up without saying a word and, not giving himself time to regret the decision, used his fingers and the balls of his bare feet to climb smoothly and silently up the wall. He settled into the corner of the ceiling just above his bed, trying his hardest not to glance down at Loki. The incessant typing had stopped as soon as he’d first placed his fingers on the wall, and he could feel the weight of his roommate’s gaze like the gentlest of touches sweeping up his spine.

He did his best to ignore it, and set about spinning himself a web nest. His web shooters were still with his suit, crammed at the bottom of a drawer in the bureau, but he’d always preferred using his organic webs for this sort of thing anyway. It used up a lot of his natural store, but it was instinctual. Nesting in artificial webs just didn’t feel as right. His cheeks burned as he worked, weaving webs from three points (one on each wall and one on the ceiling) to create a vaguely hammock-like structure. He felt self-conscious doing this in front of someone else, especially since he hadn’t felt the urge to nest like this since his uncle died two years ago, but he didn’t let that stop him. If they were really going to give this whole roommate thing a try, he might as well make an effort not to hide himself from Loki.

When he finally finished, about ten minutes of work overall, he was able to climb inside the small pouch nestled in the corner. It was snug, just big enough for him, but being surrounded by soft webbing on all sides was immediately comforting. His wrists ached gently from the effort, though not in a painful way. He settled himself down, finding a comfortable position before peeking over the edge to find Loki staring at him, just as he’d suspected.

He felt himself flushing again, and hoped that it was too dark to see the color dusted across his face. There was a noticeable glint in Loki’s eyes, making them almost seem to glow, and Peter found himself swallowing reflexively as he blinked back. “What?” He asked a bit defensively, as if challenging Loki to say something about the fact that Peter had just built a fucking web nest in their shared bedroom and was now sleeping in it like a real-life spider.

After a long moment, Loki’s lips twitched slightly. “Interesting.” Was all he said, voice low, before turning back to his laptop. Huh. Peter watched him for a few more seconds before sinking down into his webs and curling up on his side. It was still too hot up here, but he couldn’t help but feel more comfortable, more at ease. He quickly started to get drowsy, eyelids dropping and breath evening out, deepening.

He found his senses expanding, picking up small shifts in the air and subtle sounds, and before he knew it he was tuned in to Loki’s heartbeat. Strong. Steady. So evenly paced he might have thought Loki a machine if he couldn’t hear the unmistakable rush of blood through his veins. He focused on that heartbeat until everything else faded into the background, and it didn’t take very long at all to be lulled to sleep by the rhythmic sound.

 

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When Peter’s alarm went off in the morning, he woke up quite suddenly, immediately aware that there was another person in the room and scrambling to shut off the obnoxious beeping sound. It was easy enough to just shoot a web over the edge of his hammock thing, sticking the snooze button down so he’d have a few minutes to turn it off completely. He peered cautiously over at Loki’s bed, only to find his roommate sleeping on his back, apparently undisturbed by the alarm. He lay under a single sheet pulled up to his shoulders, so still and pale that once again Peter could have mistaken him for dead if he couldn’t actually hear his heartbeat from across the room.

He relaxed a little, curling back up in his nest and allowing himself a few deep breaths to wake up fully and start to push his heightened senses into the background where he kept them for most of the day. As he thought about his orientation schedule, nervous excitement succeeded in waking him up completely and he crawled out onto the wall to start detaching his webs. He rolled the silky material up into a ball and dropped silently down onto his bed to shove it unceremoniously beneath his pillow. The webbing would dissolve in a couple of days anyway, but he wanted to make sure everything looked normal in case Aunt May (or anyone else he might meet today) came by his room. Or, he realized with a start, if Loki decided to have anyone over. Did the trickster god even know anyone else? Did he have friends? It still felt a little strange to think of him living as a normal college student, but Peter supposed that if he really was here because he was bored and lonely, then maybe ‘Lawrence’ would actually try talking to people.

Not that Loki had tried to talk to Peter at all yesterday… But that was different. Peter shouldn’t feel bitter about that (even if he did just a little tiny bit). He sent Aunt May a quick text, letting her know that his first night away from home had been fine and telling her what was on his agenda for the day. He knew she wouldn’t answer until later, because she’d worked late last night and liked to sleep in as long as possible when she could. He gathered up his clothes for the day, a plain blue t-shirt and jeans, a towel and his toiletries, and made his way out to the bathroom to shower. It was weird not to have the bathroom to himself, but he survived and knew that he’d get used to it before long.

When he returned to their room, slipping in silently, he found Loki still asleep, not having moved a muscle since he left. Peter briefly considered waking him to see if he wanted to go to the orientation events together. It would be kind of nice to know at least once person… But he quickly discarded the idea. The god of lies might not take kindly to being woken up, especially since he’d been up even later than Peter last night. And besides, he needed to put himself out there and meet people on his own. It would be really depressing if he ended up with an alien ex-supervillain as his only friend at college.

So Peter left on his own, backpack slung over one shoulder and lower lip clutched nervously between his teeth. The first event was a breakfast reception and speech from the Dean of Students. Then the resident advisors were going to take their residents on a tour of campus before they had free time and lunch in the dining halls. The only other thing scheduled today was a dinner reception where he would meet the faculty advisor he’d been assigned to and maybe some of his other professors, as well. Columbia seemed to really like receptions, and Peter found himself hoping that he was dressed appropriately for that sort of thing.

He didn’t really talk to anyone at breakfast, but the food was good and the Dean’s speech was pretty informative. He felt a little more relaxed when people started splitting up into groups based on where they lived on campus. He wasn’t the most extraverted person, and was always more comfortable when social situations were regulated like this. He didn’t see Loki in his group, although he was sure his roommate was supposed to be there with them. He tried not to worry about it, instead focusing on the tour.

There wasn’t much of a chance to talk with the other residents, though he tried to get a reading on them as much as he could. Their RA, Johnny Storm, was surprisingly easy going and likable (at least in Peter’s opinion). He cracked a lot of jokes and smiled easily, making references to amusing campus stories and rumors that made Peter feel much more at home in this unfamiliar place. His relaxed personality was a welcome contrast to the other freshmen’s anxious first-day jitters, and Peter stuck by his side without really thinking much about it.

When the tour ended, he found himself talking animatedly to Johnny about the classes he wanted to take as soon as he got the basics out of the way. Johnny was a third-year engineering major himself, so he had some advice about which Professors to seek out or avoid. They ended up going to the campus bookstore, then getting lunch together. It was easy to talk to Johnny, even if he seemed a bit full of himself and became increasingly flirty the more time they spent together. Peter didn’t think much of it; it just seemed to be the guy’s personality.

He returned to his dorm feeling encouraged by at least making one friend, even if it was his RA and he hadn’t actually talked to anyone in his class. He had almost three hours before the dinner reception, so he came back to his room to kill time until then.

When he unlocked the door and slipped inside, he found Loki still in bed. He was fully dressed, lying on top of the sheets now with his hands folded neatly on his stomach. His eyes flickered open when Peter entered the room, and he turned his head to glance up at him.

Peter smiled a little, trying to be friendly even as the god’s attention made his stomach flutter lightly with nerves. “Hey.” He greeted him, closing and locking the door before stepping over to sit on the edge of his bed and take his backpack off.

“Hello.” Loki replied, sitting up slowly and running one hand through his midnight hair, pushing it back with thin fingers. It hung artfully around his face, every hair placed perfectly in a way that made Peter ache with jealousy. His hair never did what he wanted… “Have you had a nice day so far?”

Peter blinked at him, taken aback slightly by the kind and considerate question. “Um, yeah actually. I have.” He unzipped his backpack and reached in to pull out the pamphlets he’d been given at the breakfast reception. “You?”

Loki shrugged gracefully, moving to sit on the edge of the bed mirroring Peter. “I’ve just been here.”

“Right.” Peter bit down on his bottom lip for just a moment, considering whether he should tread carefully around Loki, or just treat him like a normal person. If they were going to make this roommate thing work, he should probably try to act like they really were normal roommates. “Why didn’t you come to the orientation stuff?” He asked, throwing caution to the wind. “I’m pretty sure it was required.” One hundred percent sure, in fact.

Loki looked down at his pants, where he was picking lightly at a nonexistent thread on his dark jeans. “Didn’t need to.” He said simply, his accent light and lilting, then glanced up to meet Peter’s gaze. “What do you want to study, Peter?”

Peter felt his brow furrowing in confusion, and he made a conscious effort to maintain a neutral expression. Why was Loki so interested in him all of a sudden? “Um, well… Biochemical engineering.”

Loki nodded in easy acceptance, as if he were neither surprised nor underwhelmed by the answer. “And have you always lived in New York?”

“Yep.” Peter set his backpack on the ground, mentally preparing himself for what seemed to be a one-sided game of twenty questions. “Queens, born and raised.” He knew he couldn’t ask Loki the same question, though he was curious to learn more about Asgard.

“How did you become Spider-Man?”

Peter’s lips parted in surprise, his gaze instantly drawn back to Loki’s face. That was a… personal question, to say the least. “I was bitten by a genetically mutated spider.” He hedged, avoiding the answer he knew Loki was looking for. “How did you become Loki, god of mischief?”

Loki’s lips twitched, just the hint of a smile, and Peter knew his challenge had been acknowledged. He tipped his head slightly to one side, raven hair brushing across his jaw, and gazed at Peter with those sharp blue eyes. “Adopted.” Was all he offered.

“Oh.” Peter hadn’t known that. Did that mean Thor wasn’t his real brother? The god of thunder certainly behaved as though Loki was his flesh and blood. He offered his roommate a small, companionable smile. “Me too.” He admitted. He wanted to ask more about Loki’s situation, but it was pretty clear that he didn’t want to talk about it further, so Peter left it alone for now. Wanting to avoid any more questions about Spider-Man, at least until he was more comfortable with Loki, he picked up the pamphlets lying beside him on the bed. “Here. These might be helpful.” He tossed the small stack of paper towards Loki’s lap.

Instead of reaching up to catch them, Loki tipped his head back with a short, disappointed sigh. The pamphlets flew straight through his stomach, disappearing behind him with a soft sound as they landed on the bed. Peter gaped, his eyes widening in surprise.

“Um…”

Loki offered him a wry, sardonic smile. “Oh, that’s right. I’m not actually here.”

“You’re not actually here.” Peter repeated, trying to understand what exactly was happening.

Loki pursed his lips and proceeded to examine the fingernails on his left hand, as if completely unconcerned by this turn of events. “Yes. I’m astral projecting.”

“Astral projecting?” Peter asked, interest piqued.

Loki’s gaze flickered up to him for just a moment, eyes narrowed slightly. “Well, not precisely. It’s more of an illusion than that.”

Peter had questions. So many questions. But one seemed more important than the rest. “Why?”

Loki went back to avoiding his gaze, expression completely neutral and voice light with studied disinterest. “I decided to take precautions in case you called my brother to come retrieve me.”

Peter frowned, an unexpected surge of mingled guilt and pity making his throat feel tight for a moment. “Oh, Loki…” He resisted the urge to get up and sit beside his roommate, knowing that the gesture would be fairly pointless since he wasn’t actually here. “I wouldn’t do that.”

Loki gave him a brief look, full of scathing disbelief, and Peter sighed. “I’d be offended that you think I would, if it wasn’t clear that you really must not know me very well at all.” And by ‘me,’ he meant Spider-Man of course, whose reputation for kindness and merciful second-chances was well known by now.

“Tell me, then.” Loki still looked disbelieving, but his hard expression had softened somewhat. “Why wouldn’t you turn me in as soon as you had the chance?”

“Well, lots of reasons.” Peter raised one hand to rub at the back of his neck. “I might want to find out if you’re planning something malicious before I make any moves. I might just be curious.” He gave Loki a pointed look, intentionally catching his gaze. “But really it’s because I believe in second chances.” His lowered his voice a little, letting his words come out softer. “I believe that anyone can change, if they want to.”

He knew Loki had done a lot of bad things. Really bad things. He’d seen some of those things, and it still bothered him. But if the trickster god was serious about turning over a new leaf and starting a new life, then Peter wanted him to have that chance. “I won’t turn you in.” He vowed. “I’ll stand by you as long as you’re not hurting anyone.” He smiled slightly, trying to impress his earnestness upon Loki. “I won’t betray you, and I’ll have to trust you not to betray me.”

The Loki illusion seemed to be frozen, his face a mask of confusion and maybe just a little cautious hope. “I see.” He said slowly, making it clear by his tone that he wasn’t going to trust Peter with his deepest darkest secrets, but maybe he’d trust the young hero not to turn around and sell him out on a moment’s notice.

Peter smiled more genuinely, happy to accept that as enough for now. “This was kind of stupid, you know.” He gestured vaguely towards Loki.

He looked mildly offended. “What was?”

Peter chuckled. “You doing the whole cloak and dagger thing. If I were going to get Thor to come pick you up, or anyone else for that matter, I wouldn’t do it here.”

Loki frowned, looking more than a little frustrated that he wasn’t following Peter’s logic. “Why not? As much as I’m loath to admit it, my brother could probably drag me out of here without making too much of a scene.”

Peter looked at him blankly. “But he doesn’t know who I am. None of them do.”

Understanding flashed across Loki’s face, quickly followed by surprise. Peter found it quite nice to be able to read the god’s expressions now that he wasn’t hiding behind practiced neutrality. “You would protect your identity.” He stated. “Even from the Avengers.”

Peter nodded. “Yeah. I mean, Tony knows who I am, but he’s the only one.”

“Hm.” Loki hummed in thought, icy eyes going unfocused as he glanced away. After a moment, he dissolved out of sight with a quick rush of inky smoke (or whatever that shit was – probably magic swirls or something like that), and Peter blinked in surprise at the spot where he’d just been sitting.

He didn’t have long to baffle at his roommate’s sudden disappearance, because the door was opening in the next instant. Loki stepped inside, looking surprisingly sheepish for someone who was staring haughtily at the floor as he closed the door behind him.

Peter grinned. “Hey, there. Nice to finally see you.” He stood up, reaching out to catch the edge of Loki’s sleeve between his fingers. He smirked at Loki’s exasperated look. “Just checking.” He let his arm fall back to his side and threw himself down on his bed, letting Loki off the hook.

He pulled out his phone to see if Aunt May had texted him, shooting off a quick message to update her about his day (because she’d hound him for details if he didn’t provide them at an adequate rate) while Loki walked over to his desk and sat down. Peter expected that they’d go back to the comfortable silence that had dominated their coexistence yesterday, but Loki spoke again within a minute of sitting down, pulling Peter’s attention away from his phone.

“You really value your identity, don’t you?” He wasn’t looking at Peter. He was staring out the window, lips pressed into a thoughtful line.

“Yeah.” Peter admitted softly. “I have people I need to keep safe. I try to keep this life as separate from Spider-Man as I possibly can.”

Loki nodded once, and Peter couldn’t help but feel like that was a promise of some kind. He hoped it was. He knew how much he was risking by letting Loki run free with the knowledge of his most precious secret, but he was glad to take any excuse he could get to reassure himself that this was the right choice.

Loki pulled his laptop towards him after that and lifted it open once more, so Peter went back to playing candy crush on his phone. After a few minutes, Loki broke the silence again.

“Thank you.” He said, so quietly that Peter would have had trouble hearing him if he’d been anyone else.

“For what?” He asked, pausing his game to look at the god’s beautiful profile.

“For trusting me.”

Oh. Peter smiled slowly, his chest feeling just a little bit warmer. “Of course.”

Loki just went back to typing without another word. Peter was beginning to get a sneaking suspicion that maybe his roommate didn’t really like to talk about his feelings. Still, he couldn’t stop himself from pushing his luck just a little. “Want to come with me to the dinner reception tonight? We’re supposed to meet our academic advisors.”

Loki heaved a heavy, long-suffering sigh. “I suppose… If I must.” The words dripped bitterly from his tongue.

Peter just smiled.

Chapter Text

Classes started tomorrow, and although Peter would never admit it, he was nervous as hell. The rest of the orientation activities had gone well, but he had yet to meet anyone who would be in a class with him (Loki’s schedule did not overlap with his at all, much to Peter’s mingling disappointment and relief), so he would be on his own. He had packed and repacked his bag three times already, but he couldn’t stop himself from rifling through the front pocket just to make sure he remembered his calculator and extra lead for his mechanical pencils. Just imagining having to ask for lead or pull out his phone to do arithmetic on the first day of class was mortifying.

“Stop fidgeting already and go to bed.” Loki drawled from where he was sprawled artfully across his sheets, typing steadily away at his never-ending document of mystery. “Your palpable anxiety is leaving a bitter taste in the air.”

Peter set his backpack on the floor once again and shot Loki an incredulous look. “You can taste the air?”

The raven-haired god rolled his eyes. “It’s an expression.” There was a short pause. “But in such an enclosed space, yes, I can feel the tension.”

Peter blinked at him. “Oh. Well, sorry, I guess.” Loki offered nothing in response, so Peter sighed to himself and lay down on his bed, trying to make himself feel calmer as he pulled out his phone to check the time. “It’s only eight-thirty!” He exclaimed incredulously.

“Unfortunately.” Was the dry reply from across the room.

Peter glared, sitting up once again. “Why would you tell me to go to bed if it’s only eight-thirty?”

“Because I’m trying to work, and you’re distracting me.” There was no venom in Loki’s tone, just cold fact, and his eyes never wavered from the screen sitting in his lap. “Go spin one of your nests in the corner. It will undoubtedly improve your mood.”

That had Peter scoffing in disbelief at the trickster’s utter gall, a light warmth staining his cheeks in reaction to having his web nest referred to in casual conversation. He had not, by the way, made any more since that first night. He’d been sleeping better, and Loki had never once mentioned the incident since it happened. Loki, on the other hand, stayed up later than Peter every night, typing away on his stupid little (shiny, beautiful) laptop.

“What are you even working on, anyway?” Peter asked petulantly, crossing his arms over his chest. He had intended to keep his questions to himself and allow Loki his privacy, but he was bitter at the god’s remarks and absolutely burning up to know what he was doing.

“Copying down a collection of Asgardian books.” He replied simply.

Peter’s brow furrowed in confusion at the same time as his interest sparked, the familiar excitement of new discovery rushing pleasantly through his veins as he leaned forward. “From where?”

“Memory.”

He inhaled a sharp breath, eyes widening incrementally in shock. “Your memory?” He still wasn’t entirely convinced that Loki couldn’t just read minds. His roommate spared a moment to send him a scathing look. Right. Wow. “Wow.” That was… incredible. “Like whole books word for word?”

Loki just nodded slightly, and Peter felt awe settle into the pit of his stomach. God, what he wouldn’t give to have a memory like that… He resisted the sudden inappropriate urge to sit beside Loki on his bed and read over his shoulder. “Are they in English?”

“Yes.”

“Were they in English originally?”

“No.”

He was translating them then. Amazing. “What are they about?”

Loki made a short, exasperated sound and ceased his typing, raising his ice blue gaze to focus entirely on Peter. “Apothecary guidebooks, general magic practices, mage and magi guidelines of the six hundredth century, tales of the elderflower quests, dark magic in consortium, tactics of the modern mind, three tomes of Asgardian history detailing eras before the magi revolutions, five volumes on experimental enchantment theory, an engineering text, and one novel. Any more questions?”

There was a brief moment of silence. “What’s the novel about?”

A withering sigh passed through Loki’s thin, artful lips. His head tipped almost imperceptively to one side and he peered at Peter from under dark eyelashes. “A mage and his charge, who is captured and lost to him across time and space. It’s a controversial romantic tragedy.”

Peter felt his lips part in surprise, a small stirring of interest in the catch of his breath. “That sounds… sad.”

“Quite.”

The way Loki was looking at him now, sharply, appraisingly, made Peter duck his head and break eye contact, running one hand absently over his bed spread. “Why do you need to copy these books down, if they’re all in your memory already?”

He felt the moment Loki’s eyes left him, and when he glanced up again, the Asgardian had refocused on the pale blue screen reflected in his pupils, fingers moving once more over the keys. “It takes too much concentration to read in my mind. It is much easier to have the texts before me, so that I might use them whilst doing other things.”

That made sense. Peter opened his mouth to ask what Loki would be using them for, but he thought better of it at the last second and pressed his lips together to hold the words in. He had annoyed his roommate enough for one night, and it was rude to continue prying. Instead, he pulled a worn paperback copy of Lord of the Rings from under his pillow and cracked it open to his dog-eared page, a part of him wishing that he could read the novel on Loki’s computer instead.

He had only read for half a minute, having trouble concentrating on the familiar words, when Loki spoke again. “What is it you want to ask me, Peter?”

Peter looked up quickly, a small thrill running through him at the sound of his name, and searched for a hint of annoyance on the god’s pretty face. “It’s um… Nothing, don’t worry about it.”

But he seemed to have caught Loki’s interest, because his roommate once again paused his typing to glance across the room, his focus like a physical weight. “I don’t begrudge your questions. I simply value my own industriousness.”

Loki had not been cruel or even particularly rude since this entire ordeal had started (barring the occasional bout of scathing sarcasm), but Peter was still surprised by his generosity. It hadn’t seemed like Loki wanted to be friends with him, since he had certainly kept his distance over the last few days, but perhaps he would treat their roommate relationship with as much respect and kindness as Peter tried to. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Ideal.

“Oh, okay. Well, I was wondering what exactly –”

He was interrupted by a knock on the door.

They stared at each other for a moment, and when Loki made no move to get up from his bed, Peter sprung up instead and stepped forward to open their door, curious as to who it could be. He pulled the heavy wooden door open to reveal Johnny Storm, his head bowed to look at the clipboard he was holding and his golden blond hair falling over his forehead.

A friendly smile spread over Peter’s face and he greeted his RA warmly. “Hey, Johnny! What’s up?”

Johnny raised his head. When his gaze met Peter’s, his mouth curved upwards into a brilliant grin. “Oh hi, Peter! Fancy meeting you here.” He winked playfully, his thick brown eyelashes almost seeming to brush over his cheekbone, and Peter found himself realizing that Johnny was quite attractive.

He let out a light chuckle, leaving the door open to lean casually against the doorframe and cross his arms over his chest. “Yeah, what a coincidence. Do you come here often?”

“Oh, yeah.” Johnny played along easily, his cocky smile slipping into an even cockier smirk. “Y’know, I actually live right around the corner? So I was in the neighborhood.”

“No way! I had no idea.” Peter couldn’t keep himself from grinning like an idiot. “So what do you need, neighbor? Did you come over to borrow a cup of sugar?”

Johnny laughed, showing off his perfect white teeth as he raised one hand to push his hair off his forehead. “No, unfortunately I did not. Though that reminds me, I need to go buy ingredients for this chocolate lava cake I’m gonna make later this week.” Peter was eager to ask why Johnny was going to make a chocolate lava cake, but his RA cleared his throat, smile fading away as he seemed to sober up, so he set the question aside. “No, uh, I actually didn’t come to talk to you, unfortunately. Is your roommate home?”

“Oh.” Peter nodded reflexively and pushed himself off the door frame to step back. “Yeah, sure.” He glanced towards Loki’s bed, only to see the god already rising gracefully to his feet. He looked taller than usual, somehow, and still ridiculously elegant in that perfectly understated way just wearing a pair of soft black sweatpants and a forest green t-shirt.

Peter thought it must have something to do with the fit of Loki’s clothes, which was unbelievably perfect. Peter’s clothes never fit him that well, even when he bought the right sizes (which wasn’t always, admittedly, because shopping sales was kind of a take-what-you-can-get situation). Or maybe Loki used magic to make himself look so effortlessly good, which Peter thought was just as likely.

Loki crossed to the door and came to stand beside Peter, his expression friendly and open, mouth situated into a polite smile which Peter found startlingly unsettling. It felt as though the smile was blatantly fake, even though it looked perfectly authentic in every way. “Hi. Johnny, is it?” And his accent. His accent was gone and Peter stepped back out of the way to give them a bit of privacy, slightly weirded out by the shift in his roommate’s demeanor. Loki held out one pale hand in offering. “I’m Lawrence.”

“Yeah.” Johnny extended his hand to shake Loki’s, his own returning smile looking much more forced than it had with Peter. “Nice to meet you. I’m your RA, Johnny Storm.”

“Oh, of course! Great to meet you.” Loki managed to look enthusiastic but not overly so as he shook Johnny’s hand and proceeded to lean against the doorframe, arms crossing over his chest in a direct mirroring of Peter’s previous position.

Peter sat on his bed and tried not to appear like he was listening in (although it was totally impossible not to, even if he hadn’t had superhuman hearing). He’d seen Loki act like this before, when they had both attended that dinner reception several days ago. It had struck him as odd then, too, but he supposed he would just have to get used to it. It was… Strange, to think that Loki would be this other person, this trickster to everyone else, but not to him. Then what was he when he was with Peter? Was that his true self? Did Peter have the sole privilege of getting to know the real Loki, god of lies? It was an awe-inspiring thought.

“For sure.” Johnny chuckled slightly. “That’s why I’m here, actually. My notes say that you got here on Wednesday.” He held up his clipboard in explanation. “So I should have met you already. Is there a reason you couldn’t make it to the orientation events?”

“Oh.” Loki’s smile turned bashful, embarrassed in an incredibly charming way. “I’m sorry. Were those required?”

Johnny nodded apologetically. “Yeah, they were. Did you have a conflict or did you just decide not to come?”

Loki glanced at the ground, catching his bottom lip gently between his teeth before letting his eyes flicker back up to Johnny’s. And suddenly Peter’s face felt hot, because what the hell was that? “I, um, just got really busy moving out here and unpacking and stuff. I’m sorry.”

Johnny let out a short huff of air, smiling kindly. “Sure, I understand. We’ll just have to set up a meeting to go over the things you missed.”

Loki blinked slowly at him, the stupidly pretty look of confused innocence still painted across his face. “Could you maybe email me the info? I mean.” He grinned bashfully, tossing his head lightly to one side to brush his hair away from his face. “Do we really have to meet in person?”

Johnny nodded again. “Afraid so. But don’t worry, it won’t take long. You can sign up for a slot during my office hours; the google calendar link should have been sent to you a couple days ago.”

“I see.” Loki’s voice had suddenly dropped flat again, his expression blank, and Peter watched with wide eyes as he stood up straight, uncrossing his arms and reaching out with one hand to rest the tips of his fingers against Johnny’s bare forearm. He leaned in. “Actually, Johnny, you’ve decided that emailing me will be adequate.” Johnny blinked, his face going lax as he gazed somewhat dazedly into Loki’s eyes. “You’ll do so later this week, and fill out all of the necessary paperwork stating that I have completed orientation. Alright?”

Johnny nodded, slower than before. “Alright.”

“Good.” Loki let his hand drop back to his side, and there was instantly a kind, gratuitous smile gracing his mouth. “Thanks, Johnny.”

Johnny blinked once, a small flicker of confusion passing through his eyes, before he smiled back. “No problem, Lawrence. It’s not a big deal.”

“Glad to hear it.”

Peter found himself on his feet, shock and indignation driving him forward. Had Loki really just…?

“Peter!” Johnny had turned his attention to him again, his grin something more genuine and suggestive when he caught his eye. “Good luck with classes tomorrow. Gershwin shouldn’t be too bad, okay? Just make sure you get there on time.”

Peter faltered to a stop beside the door, his thoughts derailed. “Oh, uh, yeah. Thanks.”

Johnny waved his clipboard in a casual indication of a brush-off. “Aces. Shoot me a text if you wanna grab lunch, yeah? I should be free.”

“Sure. Yeah.” Peter found himself nodding before he really knew what he was doing, flattered and caught a bit off guard by the offer.

“Cool. Okay then, I’ll let you two get back to it. Have a good night!” Johnny raised one hand in farewell, and turned to walk away.

“Goodnight!” Loki replied cheerfully.

Peter was left to follow up with a mumbled “Night,” as Johnny disappeared down the hall and Loki stepped back to swing their door shut again.

There was a long moment of silence. Peter stared at Loki, and opened his mouth to ask him what the hell had just happened.

His roommate beat him to the punch. “The RA gave you his number?” He asked with a raised eyebrow, managing to sound gently incredulous as he flung himself back down onto his bed.

Peter’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Uh, yeah? It’s in our housing information packets anyway.”

“Hm.” Loki hummed lightly and plucked his laptop from the bedspread to settle it on top of his crossed legs. Even though his tone was subtle, Peter could tell he was expressing disapproval.

He frowned, unable to see how this was anything but absolutely normal. “What? Literally everyone in our hall has his number. You’d have it too, if you’d picked up any of the materials you were supposed to have.”

Loki just shrugged casually, his eyes fixed on his screen. “It’s probably against the RA rulebook to want one of your advisees in your bed, that’s all.”

Peter gaped, completely at a loss for words for several long moments. “What?” He finally choked out.

“Oh yes.” Loki hardly spared him half a glance. “It was exceedingly clear that he finds you attractive and would feel positively about engaging in sexual relations with you.”

Peter choked on the air in his throat. “Wha- That’s- um, no…” Sexual relations? “He doesn’t…” What the fuck? “How did you- Did you read his mind or something?”

“I’ve told you I can’t do that.” Loki responded calmly. “I could just tell. It was quite obvious, really.”

He shook his head emphatically, taking a couple of stumbling steps back until his knees hit the bed and he sat down heavily on his thin cotton sheets. “No. That’s not…” That was ridiculous. Johnny? Being attracted to Peter? No. Utterly ridiculous. He let out a sharp, short laugh. “I don’t believe you.”

Loki shrugged again, like he couldn’t care less whether Peter believed him or not, and Peter frowned. “You’re wrong. That’s just… That’s stupid.” There were so many reasons why that would be impossible, not the least of which was the fact that it would be inappropriate and Johnny seemed like a good guy, not someone who would chase after the freshmen he was responsible for. And besides, Peter was just some skinny dork from Queens, even if he wasn’t wearing glasses anymore. There was no way that someone as gorgeous and sociable and funny as Johnny Storm would find him attractive.

“If you say so.” Loki remarked, tone almost as teasing as it was disinterested.

Peter huffed out an annoyed sigh and flopped down onto his pillow, bottom lip pushed out in what was definitely not a pout. “Whatever.” He muttered, reaching over to turn out the lamp on the edge of his desk. He squirmed around for a minute to get comfortable, deciding that he might as well try to sleep now and get up with plenty of time to get ready and eat breakfast before his eight AM class. He was too frustrated to deal with Loki anymore tonight, anyway.

It wasn’t until he’d been lying on his back in the dark, staring at the ceiling for at least fifteen minutes, that he even remembered Loki’s awful little mind trick or whatever it was that he did to Johnny. He considered turning the light back on and giving the irresponsible god a piece of his mind, but he cringed at the thought of getting into a morality argument now, when he was already settled down to sleep. It could probably wait until tomorrow.

So he forced himself to close his eyes and think of anything but the complete impossibility of his hot RA finding him attractive. Much to Peter’s frustration, he ended up wondering with wild curiosity how exactly Loki had pulled off that bit of mind control. It must have been magic. But how did it work? Even magic must follow certain rules and principles, the elemental laws of the universe. Or were the laws completely different when it came to magic? Maybe he could ask Loki sometime.

For now, he turned over with a soft sigh and consciously relaxed his muscles, allowing himself to fall asleep to the steady sound of Loki’s heartbeat in the warm, stagnant night air.

 

****************************************************************************************************************************************

 

Peter returned to their room in a daze the following afternoon. He’d been up since before six in the morning, and his first day of classes had passed in a whirlwind. He had gotten to his chemistry class with minutes to spare (thank god) and sat down in the first empty seat he saw. Just a minute or so later, a beautiful girl asked if she could sit beside Peter at his lab table. She had pale blond hair that reached her chin and the nicest eyes Peter thought he’d ever seen, a captivating dark greyish blue.

Her name was Gwen Stacey, and she was amazing.

It was announced half-way through the class that the pairs sharing lab tables would be partners for the rest of the semester. Peter was wary at first, because he’d never enjoyed partner work before (he always ended up doing all the work somehow), but the last twenty minutes had been left for the partners to discuss their first project, and Peter quickly realized that this was going to be completely different.

Gwen might know even more about chemistry than Peter did. And while that was a bit intimidating, it was also completely fantastic. Peter had never had an equal conversationalist when it came to science and other nerd things like that, let alone someone who could challenge him. If everyone at Columbia was like this, then Peter might be in for four years of heaven. Or he might fall apart under the pressure of no longer being the smartest student in the room. He would just have to wait and see.

Not only was Gwen super smart, but it was surprisingly easy to talk to her. They made a plan for their project in less than fifteen minutes and spent the last bit of class just chatting. Gwen wanted to major in organic chem and go on to do research at some amazing lab in Oscorp or Stark Industries. She liked Thai food, her dad was a police officer, and she was currently binge watching The Walking Dead on Netflix. They had such a great time talking that they ended up going to the campus café after class and eating lunch there together.

Peter had momentarily felt bad for neglecting to text Johnny, but he figured it was better to make friends with someone in his year anyway. And Gwen was just the coolest. They’d exchanged numbers and made plans to meet later in the week to work on their project, and Peter was feeling very optimistic, very positive about his freshman year.

Now, if only his second class had gone as well as his first. He signed up for the English Literature course to fulfill one of his distribution requirements, hoping to get it out of the way. And he’d thought (perhaps foolishly) that it might be one of the easier writing-intensive courses since it was, you know, English. It didn’t make all that much sense when he thought back on it now, but it had seemed logical at the time.

He felt lost almost as soon as the class began. He’d always gotten A’s in his English courses in high school because he did the work and was smart enough to know what metaphors were and stuff, but this was on a whole different level. Just going over the guidelines for the semester’s papers and discussion expectations had made Peter’s head spin, and he wasn’t feeling particularly great about the fact that they were starting with Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. It wasn’t a long novel, so the professor said that she expected them to read it before the next class, but Peter had heard that it was notoriously difficult to understand.

Loki wasn’t home when Peter let himself into the room. He dumped his backpack on the floor and collapsed onto his bed, sighing appreciatively as the cool sheets pressed pleasantly to his skin. He sent a text to Aunt May, detailing his first classes and mentioning Gwen, because he knew she was concerned about him making friends. Then he pulled Metamorphosis out of his bag and cracked it open to the first page.

Two hours later, he was bent over his desk with his fingers tangled in his unruly hair, brow furrowed and bottom lip chewed to bits between his teeth as he read. He was almost halfway through, but it wasn’t making any sense to him. The margins of his book were filled with notes and he’d underlined what he thought to be particularly important images and ideas, but it was… A weird story, to say the least. And he knew there was some big important message behind it, but he couldn’t figure out what that was.

He heard a key turning in the lock and tore his gaze from the printed words, leaning back in his chair and rubbing roughly at his eyes. He twisted around to glance at Loki as he walked in, giving his spine a nice stretch after sitting hunched over for so long. Which reminded him, he needed to get out and patrol one night this week, to test out his new location and get back into the swing of things. He was starting to get stiff after several days without web-slinging, and anxious about leaving his city unprotected.

“Hey.” He greeted Loki, resting his chin on the back of his chair. “How were classes?”

Loki hummed softly as he closed the door behind him and dropped his bag beside his own desk. “Rudimentary.”

Peter nodded sympathetically. After all, it must be hard being a genius god who has lived for who-knows how long and knows practically everything. “Well, it’s just the first day. Maybe it’ll get better.”

“Perhaps.” He slid long, thin fingers through his dark hair and sat down on the edge of his bed.

Peter watched him thoughtfully. “You’re not just here for the classes, are you?” He asked.

Loki met his gaze, eyes sharp and attentive as always. “It’s something to do.” He deflected, and Peter smiled wryly.

“Right.” He turned to go back to his reading, but stopped himself when he remembered that he needed to talk to Loki about what he did to Johnny yesterday. “Oh, Loki?”

“Hm.”

Peter sat up straighter in his chair. “We need to talk about last night.”

Something small and indiscernible flickered through Loki’s gaze. “Of course.” He crossed one leg over the other and leaned back on his elbows, the picture of ease. “Did Johnny Storm make any more untoward advances on you at lunch today?”

Peter scoffed. “What? No, of course not! God.” He shook his head. “I didn’t even see him at lunch. And your theory is completely unfounded. I mean –” Peter cut himself off, glaring sharply at Loki. “Stop trying to distract me.”

A small, smug smile twitched at the edge of Loki’s lips. “Is that what I was doing?”

“Yes.” Peter took a short, exasperated breath and got right to the point before the trickster god could lead him astray again. “Whatever you did to Johnny, that scary mind control shit, was wrong. You can’t just do that to people.”

Loki’s mask of blank neutrality was back. “I did not harm him, nor anyone else.”

“Taking away someone’s free will is definitely harmful.” Peter argued.

“That’s debatable.”

“It’s not.” He fixed Loki with a hard stare, slipping into his more responsible Spider-Man persona. “If you’re just here to go to school and not be evil anymore, you can’t keep using your powers for selfish reasons. At least not in any way that will affect others.”

Loki held his gaze for a few moments, contemplative. “Alright.” He agreed.

Peter nodded, satisfied. “Alright.” Loki might be lying (he was known for that, after all), but Peter decided to trust him for now. At least trust that he wouldn’t want to make Spider-Man think that he was up to no good.

And although he was extremely curious about how Loki’s mind control magic worked, he refrained from asking at the moment, not wanting to push the subject any further. He turned back to his desk and laid eyes once more on his abandoned page, shoulders slumping in resignation. From the corner of his eye, he watched Loki take his laptop out of his bag and settle down against his pillow.

Peter read the same paragraph at least four times, because he was convinced that it contained some key information. It sounded so important, but he couldn’t manage to connect it with his understanding of the rest of the novel. He gave up for a moment, letting his head fall forward onto his desk as a low groan of frustration crawled up his throat. “Why does literature have to be so hard?” He muttered to himself.

“Kafka’s not speaking to you?” Loki asked from his bed, voice light.

Peter sat up quickly, twisting around to look at him. “Have you read this? Metamorphosis?”

Loki raised his eyes from his computer screen. “More than once.”

Peter blinked. “What, have you read every book in existence?”

“Of course not.” He was typing again. “I have simply endured several long periods of imprisonment, with little else to do but read.”

“Oh.” Peter glanced back at his desk, made slightly uncomfortable by that reminder of Loki’s dark past. “So… You like this one?”

“Yes.” He stated simply. “How are you finding it?”

Peter sighed heavily. “Honestly? It makes no sense to me.”

Loki paused, and set aside his laptop, sitting up once again. “How far have you read?”

Peter glanced back at his book. “They’ve just hired a cleaning woman, and she doesn’t seem to care at all that Gregor is giant bug. It’s really weird.”

Loki chuckled, soft and warm, and Peter was struck with surprise, having never heard the sound before. It was quite nice. “Yes, indeed. The entire novel is surrealistic to the extreme.”

“I can see that.” He agreed blandly. “I just can’t figure out what it means.”

Loki leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and crossing his fingers beneath his chin. “It could mean a great many things. Some argue that Gregor’s experience is a reflection of how isolated and out of place Kafka felt in his own life.”

“That makes sense!” Peter exclaimed, relieved to have some explanation to apply to the book. “But I don’t know anything about Kafka.”

Loki shrugged slightly. “You could also view it through a Freudian lens. Gregor is threatened by his father and has a complex relationship with his mother, and the whole story takes on a very dream-like quality.” Peter nodded slightly, brow furrowed in concentration as he tried to think that through. He didn’t know much about Freud. “Or you could go with a Marxist read and focus on the dehumanizing and alienating effects of the capitalist society working Gregor literally to his death.”

Peter frowned. “Okay, but… Do I have to have read like ten other things just to understand this book? I don’t know much about any of that other stuff.” Why couldn’t literature just stand on its own?

“There is this thing called the internet.” Loki remarked with his usual dry sarcasm. “You could look it up.”

Peter slumped petulantly in his chair. “But that feels like cheating.”

“Is it cheating to use the resources available to you to gain a platform of knowledge necessary for understanding complex subjects?”

Peter stared at Loki’s hands, considering that. He supposed it made sense, but… He didn’t just want to read Spark Notes or something. Loki seemed to know an awful lot about this subject, though, so maybe he could help. “You’re available to me.” He stated.

“I am?”

Peter looked up to see a glint in Loki’s gaze, the subtle curve of a smirk on his mouth, and felt his cheeks flush with warmth. “No, I… I just mean, you know, if you didn’t mind, you could... Help me, with the book. If you wanted. But you don’t have to. It’s not, um… I can just figure it out, if you don’t. I’ll survive.”

“I’m sure.” Loki was smiling more fully now, and Peter couldn’t deny that he was even prettier when he smiled. “Still. I would be quite willing to help you, Peter Parker.”

Peter swallowed. “Cool. Um, yeah, thanks.”

“My pleasure.”

Chapter Text

Things were going well. Surprisingly well.

The first week of classes flew by like cars on the highway, leaving Peter a little wind-swept but breathless with exhilaration.

His other two courses (calculous and biology) had already started off with a heavy workload, but Peter felt like he was managing it all pretty well. Better than managing; he was enjoying it. He’d already found a spot on the third floor of the science library with the most comfortable arm chair he’d ever had the pleasure of doing homework in. He’d read ahead in the textbooks for chem and bio because he just found it all so interesting. And he’d met with Gwen again on Tuesday and Wednesday after class to work on their assignment.

Peter was starting to think that maybe he was a little bit in love. Gwen was perfect. Smarter than most MacArthur Grant recipients and gorgeous and funny, too. They laughed. A lot. And had a lot in common, much to Peter’s pleasant surprise. And the most shocking part of all? She seemed to like Peter, too.

Who wouldn’t fall in love with a girl like that?

He’d seen his RA in passing a couple more times, and Johnny had been as friendly as ever, but they never got around to having lunch together. Peter figured Johnny was busy with his first week of classes, too, and he didn’t want to bother the older student. And besides, he hadn’t been able to get Loki’s deceptively poisonous words out of his head. All those things he said about Johnny… And Peter… And… Sexual attraction. It was stupid, and clearly just a distraction tactic, which made Peter all the more annoyed that he couldn’t stop dwelling on it.

But Loki.

Loki had continued to be unexpectedly gracious. He occasionally granted Peter a few minutes of his time, making small talk when they were both in their dorm room and answering a few more questions about the English homework Peter continued to struggle with (much to his chagrin). The sarcastic comments and drawling pessimistic wit were never in short supply, but Peter was beginning to find that he didn’t mind the god’s attitude. It was almost… Amusingly endearing. In a strictly objective way, of course.

So overall, things were going well.

And everything would be absolutely perfect if Peter wasn’t currently going out of his mind with nervous anxious energy.

It was Friday evening and Peter was perched on his bed, leg bouncing in agitation as he cast furtive, longing glances towards the bottom drawer of his dresser. Loki was at his desk, casually flipping through an electrical engineering textbook and very clearly ignoring Peter’s palpable unease.

Everything was going well. Everything was perfect. Chemistry lab that afternoon had been a joy with Gwen at his side and Aunt May’s visit afterwards had serendipitously coincided with Loki’s four-o’clock drawing class (which Peter was ever so thankful for, as he wasn’t sure he was ready to introduce his only living family to an immortal god of lies who once tried to take over the world – even if that god was his college roommate).

But now the sun had set and there were no morning classes to get up for on Saturday and it had been ten days, eighteen hours and approximately thirty minutes since Peter had last patrolled the city.

Spider-Man had taken a break. Gone on hiatus. Hung up the cape (so to speak) while Peter Parker settled into the college life. It had been the right choice to make, Peter knew, and Iron-Man himself had assured the young hero that he would keep a closer eye on NYC while he was gone, but it didn’t stop him from worrying. Each day that passed with his suit buried at the bottom of his dresser made Peter wonder how many robberies, how many assaults, how many drug deals had gone down that he could have stopped.

It was a familiar guilt, wondering if he should be doing more. Even if he patrolled every night, he could do more. Push himself further. He had that power, to help more people, save more people, and a large part of him believed it was his responsibility to use that power to the fullest.

And it had been ten days. This was the longest he’d been absent from his city’s streets since he was bitten by that spider over three years ago. He needed to patrol tonight. Forget the city; Peter was going to fall apart from the inside out if he couldn’t feel the wind through his suit as he twisted and flipped through open air. The wonderful lurching dip in his stomach at the bottom of a swing, when his web caught just so. The vibrations of a thousand taxi cabs and subway cars and footsteps and shouts tearing through the air and pricking the hairs on the back of his arms and neck. He needed it.

He’d wanted to wait until a night when Loki wasn’t home, but he was too far gone for that now. With a short, tortured whine, Peter slid gracelessly from his bed to the floor and reached for his dresser drawer.

“Gods, Peter.” Loki’s cool crystal voice cut through his near-hysteria and Peter froze, hand hovering inches from the drawer’s handle. His eyes flashed to the god’s face, but he remained focused on his book. “If you really need to satisfy your human body’s feeble needs that badly, you could just ask me to leave for a while.”

Peter gaped at him, his cheeks instantly flooding with prickling warmth. “What? No! God, what… No Loki, I’m not… Not…”

Loki raised his head to glance sideways at him, one thin, dark brow arching perfectly above his glinting eyes. “Intending to pleasure yourself?”

He flushed an even darker shade of red, if that was possible. “No. Of course not.”

“Oh.” Loki turned back to his work, just a small twist of a smirk giving away the fact that he’d been teasing Peter all along. “My mistake, then.”

Peter rolled his eyes and huffed out an irritated sigh, trying to brush off how much Loki had succeeded in embarrassing him.

He hadn’t… done that, since moving to Columbia, in case anyone was wondering. He’d been too busy and Loki was always around and, well, public bathrooms weren’t exactly the best place to… Never mind. It didn’t matter. Suffice to say he wasn’t engaging in such activities at the moment which may have contributed slightly to the itching aching restlessness crawling under his skin but, whatever, just, he wasn’t. And he had much bigger things to worry about, besides.

Like performing his duty as New York’s hero in residence. He didn’t need the Daily Bugle publishing any speculating articles about Spider-Man being dead, or worse, abandoning the city. They’d gone a whole three weeks without running any stories about him, and he didn’t want to give them any excuses to drag his name through the dirt again.

But all of this, all of it was beside the point. Peter wrenched open his bottom drawer and dug around in the pile of jeans and hoodies until he felt the slick, cool material of his suit brush against his fingers.

When he pulled it out, he certainly didn’t miss the subtle flicker of Loki’s gaze in his direction, those sharp blue eyes quickly taking in every detail they could. Ignoring the god’s attention as best he could, Peter turned to grab his backpack from the bed and stuff his suit and mask into the open pocket. Not willing to waste any more time, Peter sprang fluidly to his feet and crossed the room to their window, slinging his bag over his shoulder as he went.

It was a warm September night, the dimly glowing lights from the campus pathways like a soft sheet laid over the world, tucking them in. With no effort at all, Peter could hear through the cinderblock walls to the life outside. He could hear the voices, soft with laughter and excitement. He could hear their footsteps and the deep bass echoing of music from parties big and small. It was the first Friday night of the semester. At half past nine, most of Columbia’s students were meeting up with their friends, gathering under the trees to take advantage of the last days of summer, going to parties to dance and laugh and get drunk on the joy of each other and whatever substances the kids were using these days.

Peter Parker was sticking his fingertips to the glass of his dorm room window so he could slide it open and climb out onto the wall of his building, three stories above the ground, and sneak out to swing around New York on thin strings of reinforced synthetic fiber.

Loki cleared his throat softly, halting Peter before he could climb over the wooden windowsill.

“What, precisely, do you think you’re doing?”

Peter sighed. He’d hoped to avoid having to actually talk about this, but the whole roommate thing was turning out to be more about communication than he’d originally anticipated.

“I’m going to patrol.” He stated the obvious, turning half-way to give Loki a blank look. “There’s this guy who runs around saving people sometimes. He wears red and blue like a patriotic idiot and can do some weird stuff. You know, walk on walls, lift heavy objects, dodge bullets. Ring any bells?”

Peter’s best unimpressed stare had nothing on Loki’s flat, seriously not amused gaze. The Asgardian leaned back in his desk chair, crossing one leg over the other and folding his hands atop his thigh, the perfect picture of effortless poise.

“And why, pray tell, are you leaving through the window?”

He resisted the childish urge to roll his eyes again. “If people see me leaving and coming back every time I go out as a certain arachnid themed superhero, someone could eventually use the knowledge to sync up my schedule with his. And if I get roughed up on patrol, I can’t exactly walk back in the front of the building all bruised and bloody without garnering some serious attention. And-” He leaned forward slightly, cutting Loki off when he saw the god parting his lips to interject some comment or another. “I can’t leave out the front door and come back through the window so it looks like I disappeared and never came home. Hence the coming and going in secret.” He gave a short, final nod. “You can be my alibi.”

Loki’s eyes narrowed slightly, as if he resented the assumption that he would help in any way. Or maybe he just resented being interrupted from saying his piece. “And how,” His lip curled up into just the hint of a sneer. “Is any of that worse than someone spotting you clinging to the wall of your dorm twenty-five feet above the ground dressed in civilian clothes and clearly looking like Peter Parker?”

“No one will see me.”

“You can’t guarantee that.” He insisted.

“Yes, I can.”

A tiny crease appeared between Loki’s eyes, and there was an almost imperceptible tightening around the edges of his mouth. It was the mildly aggravated look he got whenever he felt that he was missing something, that someway somehow an important bit of knowledge was slipping the grasp of his clever mind.

“How?”

Peter still felt a vague, undefined sense unease about sharing specific details of his powers with Loki. It wasn’t really a fear anymore, because he’d decided to trust the god and that was that. But it was like some habitually protective part of his brain objected to sharing the vulnerable secrets of his high-profile identity. Most of the avengers didn’t even know much about how his powers actually worked.

But he gave in with a small sigh, tipping his chin up to stare at the ceiling for a moment. “If I pay attention, I can feel it when someone is looking at me.”

It was a little more complex than that. Really, he could feel it before someone looked at him, which is exactly how he could avoid it in the first place, but he didn’t want to get into semantics right now. He wanted to be outside, swinging through the air again.

Loki’s eyes brightened with a tell-tale glint of interest. “Oh? Is that part of your sixth sense?”

It was too easy. “I can’t see dead people, Loki. There’s no plot twist at the end where we find out you’ve been a ghost all along.” The god’s blank look of complete unrecognition made Peter groan at the loss of a good quip. “Seriously? Sixth Sense? Have you watched a movie in the last decade?”

“Your spider sense, then.” Loki corrected himself easily, clearly not letting his question slide.

“Spidey sense.” Peter corrected thoughtlessly. “Yeah.”

“How can you tell when someone looks at you? Can you feel the movement of photons in the air? Is that how you tell if they are absorbed by a pupillary structure?”

Peter stifled the impulse to smile at the god’s obvious curiosity. It was almost… Flattering, in a way. And Peter hadn’t had anyone else to talk to about this, except Tony who didn’t have nearly as much time to give the kid his undivided attention like… He shook his head slightly. “No, no. Nothing like that. It’s more – ” He cut himself off, quite aware of Loki’s uncanny ability to distract him. “We can talk about it later, okay? Right now I need to go.”

He turned back towards the window, only to be stopped by Loki’s voice once again.

“If no one will see you, why don’t you put your suit on before you go? Surely finding somewhere to change outside is risky.”

Peter bit down on his lower lip, stifling a frown. Loki was right, after all. It would be much easier to change before going out, like he did at home when he could wait for Aunt May to go to sleep and lock his bedroom door before slipping out the window. He didn’t even know where he would change out there; wasn’t it illegal to get naked on rooftops? Public indecency or something like that? But he didn’t have much choice.

“I can’t exactly change into my Spider-Man suit in the shared bathroom out there.”

Loki looked at him curiously, one eyebrow arching again, just slightly. “And you can’t change in your own room because…?”

Peter blinked at him. Change here? Oh. Well, sure. Peter had been taking his clothes to change in the restroom in the morning and at night because… Well, because Loki was always here.

Not… That it mattered…

He watched a slow, teasing smirk spread across Loki’s perfect mouth, and he definitely did not feel a little warmer and slightly vindictive at the sight.

“I see.” The god inclined his head slightly, raven hair brushing across his jaw as he moved. “You’re concerned about preserving your virtue.”

He scoffed condescendingly, irritated to feel a slight blush climb up his neck. “That’s stupid.” He retorted, striding back to his side of the room to sling his backpack onto his bed and rifle inside for his suit. “I don’t give a fuck about my… Virtue.”

Loki’s antagonistic smile only sharpened. “Don’t worry, young one. I promise not to look.” He swiveled his desk chair to face the opposite direction, tauntingly sliding one hand up to cover his own eyes.

“Whatever.” Peter frowned, grumbling under his breath as he peeled his shirt off and flung it aside, eager to get this over with. He didn’t care so much about changing in front of people, really. It’s just that…

He kind of didn’t wear underwear with his Spidey suit.

Panty lines were a bitch, okay? And people took pictures of Spider-Man. The last thing he needed was some mortifying tabloid photo of his ass painted across the newspaper stands with a headline that read “BREAKING NEWS: SPIDERS WEAR TIGHTY WIGHTIES.”

(Not that he wore tighty wighties. But boxers wouldn’t even fit inside his suit, so options were limited.)

Peter sighed as he stripped out of his jeans, glancing surreptitiously towards Loki to make sure he was still looking away. He was, although Peter didn’t doubt that he could have found a way to peak if he really wanted to. He was a pretty impressive magician, after all. (Or mage, as Peter had heard Loki reference once or twice.)

He slipped his boxers off as quickly as possible, careful not to trip over them as he did so, and threw them in his hamper before pulling the comfortable fabric of his suit up over his legs. It felt strange to be completely naked in the same room as someone else, very exposed (in the most literal sense of the word). Peter’s heart was beating embarrassingly quickly by the time he yanked the zipper up over his back, sealing the suit over himself.

“Okay.” He muttered, grabbing the mask and moving back towards the window again.

He paused before covering his face, watching as Loki’s intent gaze slid slowly down and then back up his body.

Peter swallowed, paying no mind to the soft nervous twist in his stomach. “What?”

“Mm.” Loki tipped his head slightly to one side, still looking at Peter like he was examining him. “Nothing.” They made eye contact as the god glanced up, and the slight glint in his eyes was unrecognizable this time. “I just never noticed… It suits you.”

Peter felt his lips fall softly apart, his eyes widening slightly at the unexpected compliment. This time, he was hardly aware of the dusting of pink across his cheeks as he glanced away, raising one hand to ruffle his hair self-consciously.

“Oh, uh… Yeah. Thanks.” He offered Loki a small, helpless smile before tugging the mask on, flattening his hair and sliding a soft white film over the world.

He didn’t wait for any more commentary from his roommate, eagerly ducking out of the open window and clinging to the wall outside. He slid the pane of glass back into place with his toe, extending his awareness outwards into the warm, dark air to make sure no one was watching as he crawled smoothly and quickly towards the roof, relishing in the stretch of muscles he hadn’t used enough recently.

When he swung off into the night, towards the more densely populated areas of down town, the air tasted a little sweeter than he remembered. The storefront signs and streetlights cast a twinkling glow, reflecting into the sky to create a great dome of satin luminescence, like a luxurious blanket encompassing the city.

His city.

Chapter Text

Two weeks passed.

Peter fell into the routine of his classes, his meals, a regular patrol schedule. It was amazing to him how quickly his life at Columbia felt normal, like this was his regular life and everything that came before was just a strange dream. High school had been so different, and he’d never known that it had been hard on him until he came here. College was easy. Not easy like, he wasn’t being challenged. It just felt right. The freedom of scheduling his own time, the walks between buildings on campus, the food in the dining hall (which was way better than most of Aunt May’s cooking, though he’d never tell her that), even living with Loki.

His life was falling into place, and it was kind of amazing.

Loki had become his unofficial English tutor. Sometimes Peter wasn’t sure how he felt about it, because the undeniable evidence that the god was so much smarter than him was more than a little intimidating. Peter was used to being the smart one. The nerd. The top of his class. A lot of his assumptions about himself were being challenged here, but even so he’d been keeping up. Swimming, not sinking. And yet… Loki could make him feel like a child.

To be fair, he practically was a child when it came to the age difference between them. (Peter had wanted to ask on several occasions just exactly how old Loki as, but it seemed like bad taste and a little too Bella Swan for him to voice his curiosity.)

Still. Despite the awe-inspiring monolith of the Asgardian prince’s intelligence and knowledge, it was a surprisingly comfortable dynamic to fall into. Loki was shockingly eloquent and patient, skillfully guiding Peter through complex ideas with enough ease that it felt natural. Peter always picked things up quickly, but the clarity with which his roommate spoke made it an absolute breeze.

And there were moments. Moments when Peter would say something clever, or make connections that actually succeeded in catching Loki off guard. And the god would pause for a moment, the graceful flow of his casually controlled demeanor interrupted by just one ripple, and look at Peter with that glint in his eyes. That spark of surprised interest, like a passing glimmer of sunlight had caught on Peter’s features, and they weren’t exactly what Loki had been expecting. Like maybe Peter was something more.

Those looks made Peter heavy and warm with a curling satisfaction, dusting his cheeks with the light glow of pride.

It happened once on a pleasantly cool, sunny evening, after dinner but before Peter was due to sneak out for patrol. It was the first time that Loki sat on his bed.

Peter’s class was reading Heart of Darkness, and he found it to be a near-incomprehensible bore. He was sitting on the wall above his bed, back pressed to the cool painted cinderblock through his thin t-shirt, book propped up against his knees and his bare feet pressed flat against the wall beneath his tailbone. He was well aware that it was a strange position for a normal human being to sit in, but Loki didn’t seem to mind and it was still a bit too warm to sit comfortably amongst his sheets. Not to mention his back was developing an ache from hunching over his desk for hours on end.

He was struggling through the last chapter, restlessly chewing the end of his blue mechanical pencil as his brow furrowed in concentration. He turned the page with the pad of one sticky finger, gaze falling to the final paragraph. He read it slowly, making sure to process each word, jotted down a quick note in the margin, and stared down at the blank last page, lost in thought.

The gentle sounds of birds and distant laughter floated in through their open window.

Finally, he closed the book with a soft sigh. He glanced across the room at Loki, who was laying on his back with one arm thrown carelessly over his eyes. Peter might have thought he was taking a nap if it weren’t for the subtle, but intentional movement of his long, pale fingers at his side, etching out some small pattern against the dark fabric of his pants.

Peter stared for a few moments at the inky locks of Loki’s hair spread artfully against the white of his pillowcase. He licked his lips.

“Hey.”

Loki lifted his arm, and those chipped ice eyes flickered lazily towards him.

“Yeees?” He drawled.

“You busy?” Sometimes he got the impression that Loki’s mind was at its most active when he sat very still and closed his eyes. Perhaps he was meditating. Or astral projecting, or whatever it was that he did.

The god shook his head slightly, causing his hair to shift against the pillow, one soft tress fanning out against the pale, pale skin of his neck. Peter took a breath.

“I’m… A little confused.” He admitted, holding his book up so Loki could read the cover.

“What about?” The god sat up slowly, reaching to tuck his hair back behind one ear.

“The big picture.” He sighed, letting himself slip down the wall so he was seated his mattress. “I get what most of the parts mean, but, y’know… Putting them all together.”

Loki nodded. “That’s usually the challenging bit, yes.” He stood, long legs unfolding beneath him, and stretched. It only took three steps to reach Peter’s bed. “May I?” He gestured politely down at the boy’s rumpled sheets, and Peter felt heat creep up his neck. He covered it with an eye roll.

“Yeah, of course.”

Loki just smiled faintly, and sat down beside him, less than a foot away. He leaned over to pluck the book from Peter’s fingers and began to flip through it, searching for something.

Peter’s heart was beating fast, so he allowed himself a moment to listen to Loki’s, taking slower breaths to bring his closer to the same relaxed, steady pace.

“Here.” Loki handed the book back, one finger pressed to a passage at the bottom of the page. Peter took it, and only read the first sentence twice before he could concentrate enough to understand it.

When he finished, he nodded softly. “So… Their journey is kind of like the journey into hell. Only… They’re bringing the hell with them?”

“That’s one way to think about it.” Loki agreed, then went on to elaborate, making it seem as if there really was one grand, connecting theory for the whole novel. Peter kind of loved the way he talked about books.

When he finished, Peter stared thoughtfully down at the passage. He had sketched in heavy brackets around the words as Loki spoke, reinforcing their importance. “That’s actually really interesting.” He reached up unconsciously with one hand to ruffle the back of his hair. “It reminds me of inhibitory action potentials, when ion channels open to allow calcium to flood the axon, telling everything to stop. It creates that whole chain reaction and spreads through whole portions of the brain.”

When he glanced up at Loki, he had that look in his eyes.

“Yes. What an interesting metaphor.”

Peter’s insides stirred with satisfaction. He pressed his lips together to keep them from twitching towards a smile.

It was three days later that Peter sat on Loki’s bed for the first time.

Peter had a paper due on the very same book and wanted Loki to take a look at his first draft. He stood up with his laptop and had strode across the room without thinking, reading the title out loud for his roommate’s approval. When he got there, he stood awkwardly beside the bed, suddenly unsure of himself. Loki was propped up against the wall, pillow cushioning his back, with a thick book laying open and upside down over one thigh.

He blinked at the god, unwilling to sit down without permission, but Loki just inclined his head slightly, inviting him down.

Peter climbed on to the bed with a short exhale, shuffled forward on his knees until he could sit down beside him, legs tucked up to one side of himself. He kept some distance between them, not wanting to invade the god’s personal space, but when he held his laptop out, Loki shifted closer.

He settled beside Peter, taking the computer to set it on his own lap, one leg bent slightly with his foot tucked up under his outstretched calf. His knee brushed Peter’s thigh.

It took a minute of silent reading for Peter to relax, leaning his head back against the wall and reaching out to fiddle absently with the edge of the incredibly soft sheets. When Loki had finished looking over the paper and they talked about it, it was easy. The conversation, the editing, even the closeness. It just slid flawlessly into the slipstream of their relationship as if it had always been there.

Peter never would have guessed it would be this easy to get along with an ex-supervillain god from another planet.

He’d only ever let himself dream that it would this easy to get along with his roommate.

 

****************************************************************************************************************************************

 

Today was a Friday afternoon, late enough for Peter’s classes to be over but early enough that the dorm was still mostly empty of students. He was sprawled across his bed with a book, relaxing before meeting a couple people from his bio class for dinner. Loki had just arrived, slinging his backpack onto his desk and shrugging out of his sleek black Adidas jumper.

“Don’t you have class at four?” Peter asked, not looking up from his book. He was holding the pages open with one hand, other wrist propped up on his knee, fingers flexing open and closed without thought. His spinneret was itching just a bit. Sometimes if he went too long without using his natural webs, they’d start to get a little uncomfortable. He assumed it had to do with a buildup of his natural production.

“Yes.” Loki replied lazily, unzipping his backpack and beginning to take books out one by one. “I just have to pick up my supplies.”

Peter hummed softly in acknowledgement, his tongue flicking out over his lips as he lifted his wrist to turn the page.

Loki bent to open his bottom desk drawer, pulling out a large sketchbook and pencil case, and Peter glanced over in interest. He’d started to wonder what sorts of things Loki drew in his class. He assumed the god would be just as good at art as he was at anything else, but he was still curious to see it for himself. Still, he’d never asked. That sort of thing was private, right?

A quiet knock echoed through the door, pulling Peter’s attention away from his mystery of a roommate. He set his book aside and leapt easily from the bed, knowing by now that Loki would never volunteer to answer their door if Peter was home.

He crossed the room in a flash and swung the door open. His lips parted in surprise. “Oh, hi!”

Tony Stark stood in the hallway outside his dorm room, dressed casually in an expensive track suit with sunglasses and a baseball cap pulled low over his forehead.

“Hey, kid.” He glanced up from his smart watch, white teeth flashing as he chewed a piece of gum (mint, Peter could smell). “I came to see your new digs.”

Peter’s heart fluttered in his chest, wildly and unexpectedly pleased by the surprise visit. “Cool! I mean, you didn’t have to, Mr. Stark.” He took a step back, opening the door a little wider, but froze in place as realization washed over him.

He glanced back into the room with wide, panicked eyes, keeping one hand on the door so Tony couldn’t come in yet. But… Loki was gone. Vanished in the scant seconds since Peter opened the door. He frowned in confusion, but cautiously stepped aside to let his visitor in.

“For the last time, kid, don’t call me that.” Tony strode inside in the same manner he entered any room; like he owned it. “Makes me feel old.” He glanced around, crossing to Peter’s desk and pushing aside one textbook read the front cover of another. “Where’s your roommate?”

“Uh…” Peter looked around again as he closed the door, sharp eyes noticing the sketchbook lying crumpled and half-open on the ground beside Loki’s desk. “Not here, apparently.”

Tony snorted. “Excellent deduction skills, Sherlock. Glad to see college is paying off already.”

Peter rolled his eyes and sat down on the edge of his bed. “Why do you ask?” A momentary flash of anxiety made his fingers twitch. Tony couldn’t know, could he? He looked around the room again, searching for any sign of where Loki had gone. Maybe out the window, though Peter hadn’t known he could move that quickly… Maybe in the closet? The image of Loki, god of lies, hiding in a closet made Peter snicker.

“Don’t exactly want it getting around that Tony Stark paid a visit to a college dorm, y’know?” The billionaire crossed to the end of Peter’s bed and kicked disdainfully at a small pile of clothes Peter had left on the floor there. “Who knows what the rumor mill might come up with.”

“Right.” Peter had some experience with the press. He knew the importance of keeping things discreet. “So, uh, not that this isn’t awesome, but why are you here, then?”

Tony finally paused his room inspection to look at Peter, reaching up to pluck his sunglasses off and fold them neatly into his pocket. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall. “Just wanted to check in. What, aren’t you happy to see me? I’m hurt, Peter. You haven’t been by the tower in weeks.”

Peter smiled sheepishly. “Sorry. I’ve just been busy.” Still curious about whether Loki might be hiding in his closet, he carefully extended his hearing, listening for any hint of sound.

“Yeah, I bet. You’re a big boy now, living on your own and everything.” He glanced pointedly around the room. “Kind of.” He shifted against the wall, ignoring Peter’s playful glare. “So, you still on vacation from spider-ing?”

“Um, yeah. I mean no, I’ve been patrolling for the past two weeks.” His response was distracted, brow furrowed slightly in concentration. He could hear something, but the sound confused him. It was very similar to the sound of Loki’s heartbeat, but much quicker and lighter than usual. Almost… fluttery. And it was coming from under Loki’s bed.

“Dude.” Tony sounded mildly annoyed. “Why haven’t you checked in, then? You’re usually climbing in my windows at all manner of inconvenient times to eat my food and watch my TVs.”

Peter just shrugged. “Haven’t, you know, had the time.” He bent to pick his clothes up off the floor, using the movement as an excuse to glance across the room, gaze skimming towards the location of the heartbeat-like sound he heard. His heightened vision made out the dark shape in the corner of the room, hidden in the shadows by the wall under Loki’s bed.

Peter gasped. “Oh my god.”

Tony straightened, pushing off the wall and glancing around with concern. His fingers twitched towards his watch. “What?”

A wide, breathless grin spread over Peter’s face. He didn’t answer, falling to his knees and crawling quickly to the edge of Loki’s bed. He reached under it, quick reflexes allowing him to grasp the small black cat by the loose skin at the back of its neck before it could run away.

He pulled it out and into his arms, cooing in delight at the soft, frankly adorable animal. It had brilliant green eyes, the color of burning emerald, and long, elegant whiskers. It squirmed in his grip, sleek tail lashing and little white fangs flashing briefly as it growled, a low, rumbling whine of warning deep in its tiny throat. Peter laughed with joy, stroking one hand down its back and cradling it close to his chest.

He stood and turned to face Tony, unable to wipe the smile off his face. “Look!”

Tony made a disgruntled noise, looking down his nose at the cat. “They let you have pets here?”

Peter shrugged, looking down at the animal (and he was frankly amazed at the magic that could transform Loki into this beautiful little thing). “Not really. But you won’t tell, right? He’s my roommate’s.”

Tony sighed as if Peter were asking him for the biggest favor in the universe. “Fine. But I just want to state for the record that I really don’t understand you kids these days. When I was in college, I was skipping class and partying, not stowing away small animals in my room.” He paused for a moment, and sniffed. “You know what, never mind. You keep doing you, Peter.”

He was hardly listening, too busy scratching under the cat’s chin and watching it look at him with half-lidded, pissed off eyes, its pupils two thin black slits in pools of green. Its tail still lashed in annoyance, but it had settled in Peter’s hold and extended its head to let him scrape gently at its neck. “Aw, come on, Mr. Stark. Isn’t he just adorable?”

The cat glanced away haughtily, a light, disdainful half-meow falling from its tiny mouth. Peter almost squealed, it was just so cute.

Tony made a face. “I guess.” He approached slowly, extending one hand towards them. “What’s its name?”

“Shadow.” Peter made it up on the spot, instantly deciding that the name fit Loki very well.

Tony’s fingers reached for the top of the cat’s head, and it recoiled suddenly in Peter’s arms. A venomous hiss filled the air, fangs flashing again, and claws swiped out before Peter knew what was happening.

Tony snatched his hand back with a yelp. “Fuck!” He stared down at the thin red scratches etched into the back of his hand. “That thing scratched me!”

Peter couldn’t help the startled laugh that burst past his lips. “Sorry.” He turned to set the cat on Loki’s bed, and watched as it stalked unhurriedly away and curled up on Loki’s pillow before fixing him with an unimpressed stare.

When he turned back around, Tony was shaking his hand out, face pinched in annoyance. “That animal is a menace.”

“Yes.” Peter agreed seriously. “He definitely is.”

Tony grunted, muttering under his breath about always liking dogs better, anyways. He stepped towards Loki’s desk and bent to pick up the fallen sketchbook. It lay open to a page near the front, and Tony glanced down at it for a moment. “Your roommate an art major or something?”

“Hm?” Unable to help himself, Peter stepped forward and peered over the man’s shoulder. His eyes widened slightly at the sight of the beautiful sketch. It was a perfectly shaded rendition of a courtyard, romantic arches and columns leading out to a tiled area covered in luscious, blooming plant life. The sky overhead rolled with idyllic clouds, and Peter felt his breath catch at the sight. Something about the architecture spoke of someplace foreign and very old, the setting of a romance long since forgotten.

“’Cause this is pretty good.”

“Yeah.” Peter agreed in amazement. “I mean, um, no. I don’t think he’s a major.”

“Wonder where this is.” Tony mused. “Maybe I’ll finally get around to taking a vacation one of these days.”

Peter’s pulse jumped with warning, and he stepped around to slide the sketchbook out of Tony’s hands. He closed it and set it down on Loki’s desk. “Dunno. Maybe he made it up.” He cast a quick glance at the cat, who was still watching him, though its expression hadn’t changed.

“Shame.” Tony turned to face him, clapping one hand over his shoulder. “Right, well, fun as this has been…” He glared at the cat. “I gotta run to my next appointment.”

Peter grinned. “Right. Well, thanks for stopping by.” He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Tony’s shoulders before the man could fend him off, pulling him into a brief hug. “I appreciate it.”

He grunted, bringing one arm up to pat Peter awkwardly on the back. “No big deal, kid. Just here to make sure you haven’t done anything stupid. That’s all.”

“Right.” Peter pulled back with a knowing smile, his chest still warm and happy with the knowledge that Tony cared. “Of course.”

Tony rolled his eyes, but his gaze had softened when he looked at the young hero. “Come by sometime. Your spider twin is coming back next week.”

“Nat’s too scary to be my twin.” Peter commented, but his eyes lit up with excitement. Black Widow had been away on an undercover mission for almost two months, and she was sure to have some interesting stories now that she was back. She was a surprisingly good story teller for how stoic she usually was.

“You got that right.” Tony reached out to ruffle Peter’s hair with a fond smirk, and Peter let him for a whole second before ducking away with a scowl. “Do your homework, kid.” He stepped towards the door, glancing at his watch again.

“I always do.” He darted forward to open the door for him. “See you, Mr. Stark.”

“Tony.” He corrected with a grumble.

“Tony.” Peter agreed, watching him slip out into the hallway and put his sunglasses back on as he walked away before he shut the door again.

He took a deep breath, still buzzing from the unexpected visit, and turned to face the room.

The brilliant eyes of the cat stared at him for a moment, pinning him in place. Then it stood with fluid feline grace and leapt from the bed. In midair, the animal dissolved into inky darkness, quickly resolving back into the shape of a man, and Loki stood before him once again.

Peter laughed softly, and reached out to catch the edge of the god’s shirt between his fingers, just to make sure he was really there. He shook his head a little, letting his hand fall away. “You make such a cute cat, oh my god.”

Loki crossed his arms over his chest and raised his chin just enough to stare icily down his nose at him. “Well, at least someone enjoyed themselves.” His tone dripped with venomous sarcasm, but Peter ignored him. He flopped down on his bed and pulled his pillow into his lap, almost wishing he still had a cat to pet.

“How come your eyes were a different color?” He asked curiously. “It was pretty. Kind of like the northern lights or something.”

Something unrecognizable flitted through Loki’s blue-again gaze. “That’s… Quite perceptive.” He sank down onto his own bed, though he kept his arms crossed and back stiff, still radiating irritation. His eyes darted to the wall above Peter’s head, and the way he avoided eye contact was reminiscent of a stubborn child punishing someone for pissing them off. “When I shape-shift, my magic is called to the surface. If I don’t disguise it, it can be seen through the irises.”

Peter’s jaw dropped. “Whoa. So that’s, like… The color of magic?”

Loki’s gaze did flicker down to his then. “Only mine.”

He blinked. “Wow.” He was pretty sure the twitch at the edges of the god’s mouth was a smug one. “Wait, shape shift?” He hugged the pillow to his chest. “Is that hard?”

The subtle smirk that graced his lips now was definitely smug. “Not for me.” He uncrossed his arms to brace his hands on the bed behind him, leaning pack into a more relaxed pose. “It’s my elemental ability.”

Peter was in awe. “So… that’s how you can make yourself look like anyone?” His memory of the rooftop at sunset rose to the front of his mind, bloodstained teeth and wild eyes, and he gripped the pillow a little tighter.

The Asgardian’s gaze darkened slightly. “Not… Exactly.” He sighed a small, soft sigh. “That’s illusion magic. It takes a lot of concentration.”

Peter’s brow furrowed, his discomfort quickly overcome by interest. “And shape shifting doesn’t?” He still wasn’t sure how they were different.

“No.” He tipped his head ever so slightly to one side, shifting his raven hair against his neck. “When I shape shift, I can take on any form of creature as myself. But I do not possess the natural power to turn into someone I am not.”

“Oh.” Peter thought about that for a moment. He supposed it made sense. “Does that mean you could turn into any species?”

Loki nodded slowly.

“So… Do you make yourself human?”

“No.” A small smile slipped onto his mouth. “Asgardians are indistinguishable from Midgardians in appearance, though our physiology comes with many advantages.”

“Like what?” He knew he was being over-eager and probably invasive, but Loki was answering his questions and didn’t seem too aggravated by them, so he pushed on.

“Moderately increased strength and stamina, less need for sleep, and enhanced thermodynamic control.”

Peter was fascinated. “Thermodynamic… Wait, weren’t you adopted?”

Loki’s smile disappeared in an instant. He looked away towards the window, and Peter’s stomach fell. “Yes. Odin disguised me as Asgardian when I was still an infant. It is a potent and fairly permanent spell.”

Huh. Peter tried to contemplate the vast implications of something like that. Just the effect it must have had on Loki’s identity was… Baffling. To be taken from your home and transplanted on a new world, raised as a different species altogether. He wondered how connected Loki was to his real heritage, if at all. Had he always known who he really was, or was that kept from him?

“Peter.” The gods silver smooth voice pulled him from his thoughts, and Peter met his eyes again. They were soft and calm. “Would you like to see it again?”

Peter pulse jumped. “Um, yeah! Sure.”

A knowing glint crossed through his eyes, and Loki leaned forward, flowing into a silent rush of smoky substance. The darkness collected again in the next second, taking form in the middle of the room. The shape of the creature was very large.

Peter found himself staring into the gleaming green eyes of a massive, jet-black wolf. It took up the entire floor, tail brushing the edge of Loki’s mattress and nose just inches from Peter’s head. It was taller than him when he was sitting down like this.

A soft, awed sound crawled up his throat, and he reached out thoughtlessly with one hand, fingertips hovering near the thick coat of its neck.

The wolf tilted its head down, warm breath huffing lightly across Peter’s face, and his gut twisted.

His fingers sank into the fur at the base of its neck, stroking lightly downwards. It was incredibly soft. The animal sat, folding its haunches down beneath itself and putting them both in a more spatially comfortable position.

“Wow.” Peter breathed, reaching up to use both hands to stroke down the wolf’s neck, scratching lightly into the fur in the same way he might pet a dog. It blinked.

“Yes. It certainly makes getting around easier, sometimes.” The soft, cool voice echoed in Peter’s mind, and he jerked back in surprise, fingers flying instinctively to his wrists.

The wolf stared at him, eyes gleaming with intensity, and dissolved back into inky shadow, replaced by Loki standing before him.

“My apologies.” The god spoke stiffly, turning to return to his own bed.

Peter watched him, a little baffled. “No… I mean, I was just startled. It’s okay.”

Loki sank onto his bed and shot Peter an incredulous look. “You don’t care if I’m in your mind?”

He shook his head slowly. “No. It’s not like you’re groping around in there, right?”

An expression of thoughtful consideration melted into a small spark of amusement. “No. I assure you I am not groping anyone.” He snickered. “Unlike some people.”

Peters eyes widened, a heavy knot forming in his stomach as he realized what exactly he’d done. Twice. “Oh my god.” His fingers tightened anxiously on the pillow still resting in his lap. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t even think…” He’d touched Loki without his permission. Without his consent. “Fuck.” He’d dragged Loki out from under his bed like an animal and pet him. Pet him. Peter could feel his cheeks coloring with embarrassment as guilt settled across his body.

Loki sighed. “Stop that. It’s inconsequential.”

Peter shook his head. “No, it’s not, it’s…” He swallowed, eyes pleading with the god. “I should never have touched you without asking.” Especially in such, well, intimate ways.

The god rolled his eyes. “You’re making entirely too much fuss about this.”

“No.” His voice was hard, unwavering. “Consent is important.”

Loki’s gaze was cutting. ”Do you really think I couldn’t have stopped you if I wanted to?”

Peter’s mouth snapped shut with a soft click of teeth.

“And besides.” Loki looked away, giving a small, contemptuous sniff. “If you must know… I didn’t entirely mind it.”

He stared, shocked into silence and stillness for a few long seconds. Slowly, a grin spread across his face.

Loki hadn’t minded being held and pet when he was an adorable little black cat. Maybe he even liked it, just a tiny bit.

Who would have guessed.

“Well.” Peter tried to sound serious. “If you ever want to lounge around as a cat, or any other cuddly animal, I’ll be more than happy to give you some affection.”

Loki’s eyes flashed towards him, irritation clear in their icy depths. Then, slowly, a smirk curled at the edges of his mouth.

“Why, Peter Parker.” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and threading his fingers beneath his chin. He looked at the boy from under his dark eyelashes. “Are you inviting me to engage in pet play with you?”

Peter flushed hot and red, and curled inwards to bury his face in his pillow. He groaned, limbs tingling with embarrassment.

“Shut up.”

Loki’s laughter sounded bright and clear. Like silver bells.

Chapter Text

Peter had been a college student for a month. A whole month! And now he was about to finish his first ever college project for his first ever college chemistry class. It felt kind of monumental. Like he was marking the beginning of an era or something.

He and Gwen sat in the science library in their own private study room, bent over their books and papers as they went over their work one last time. Gwen sat next to him so it was easier to pass things back and forth, and she was close enough that he could smell the light, fruity scent of the shampoo she used. He sighed wistfully, forcing himself to focus on double checking the equation they were using to describe their hypothesis.

He had gotten used to seeing Gwen several times a week, and he would really miss having her around when they turned this paper in. Sure, they would be working together for the rest of the semester, but it might be a while before the next project started. And if he was being honest, Gwen was the closest friend he’d made since coming here.

He’d hung out with this guy Ned from his calculus class a couple of times, and he chatted with Johnny whenever they saw each other on campus or passed in the hallway outside their dorm rooms, but he hadn’t really made friends yet.

In fact, he probably talked to Loki more than anyone else. But his roommate didn’t count since he wasn’t even a regular student.

He was kind of dreading the absence of regular social interaction with Gwen, so when she flipped her textbook closed with a pleased hum and turned towards him, flipping her hair over her shoulder as she did so, Peter couldn’t help the hint of a frown that tugged at his lips.

“I guess that’s it!” She declared cheerfully. “Everything looks good.” She leaned back in her chair, stretching her arms out over her head as a quiet groan of relief left her beautiful mouth. Peter tried not to stare too hard. “Thank god. I have so much homework for my quantum physics class I might die if I don’t get the extra time to work on it. I’ve been surviving on like four hours of sleep a night.”

She gave him a playfully horrified look. “Four. Hours, Peter. That’s not enough to keep my brain functioning at optimum levels.”

He managed a weak laugh. “Right. Well, at least now you can get your beauty sleep. I guess you’re used to a solid eight or nine hours, huh Princess?”

She slapped him on the arm and began gathering up her papers and making a stack of library books to take back to the reference desk. “What about you? Got any intimate plans with your bed now that several hours a week have been freed up?” She snickered at her own words before Peter could say anything. “Sleep. I meant sleep, you idiot.”

Peter chuckled and gave a half-hearted shrug as he tucked his work into his backpack. “Naw… Not really.”

He was already used to a light sleep schedule. He’d been sneaking out to beat up bad guys for several hours a night since he was fifteen, so his body was well accustomed to surviving on a few scant hours. Sure, sometimes he got too run down and he’d have to crash for half a day before he felt like a human again, but mostly he managed just fine.

Maybe now he could add a couple hours to his almost-nightly patrol schedule. If he left at nine or nine-thirty instead of ten-thirty, he could still get back before three and not have to worry about sunset since the days were growing steadily shorter.

“You okay?”

He looked up from the surface of the table, startled slightly by the soft concern in Gwen’s voice.

“Huh? Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?”

She shrugged. “You’ve just been kinda quiet all night. Not your usual chatty self.”

“Oh.” He glanced away again, embarrassed that he’d been so obvious about his melancholy mood. “No, I mean, I’m fine. It’s just weird to be finishing this project, I guess. Like, the first big thing I’ve done here.”

Gwen nodded in understanding. “Yeah. But it feels good, right? Like we accomplished something.”

He looked back up at her, meeting her pretty green eyes with a smile. “Yeah, it does.”

She smiled too, but her gaze was keen as she looked him over, no doubt taking in details that Peter didn’t mean to emit.

“You wanna hang out?” She asked abruptly.

Peter blinked at her in surprise. “Uh… Like, now? Sure.” His stomach swooped with giddy excitement, awed and elated that she had asked him. That she wanted to hang out outside of their school-mandated study sessions. Of course, he knew they were friends. They got along super well and always had a good time in each other’s company, but he hadn’t been sure that Gwen would want to see him outside of class stuff.

She laughed, her white teeth flashing in the dim library light. “No, not right this second. I need to go work in the computer lab before dinner and you have to drop our project off in Professor Gershwin’s inbox.”

“Oh, right.” He’d almost forgotten, and Gwen’s huff of an exasperated smile indicated that she knew it. He smiled sheepishly at her.

“How about tomorrow?” She suggested. Tomorrow was Friday. “We can get pizza?”

“Oh… Yeah.” He scraped his teeth absently over the flesh of his bottom lip. “Sounds good.”

She laughed again, amusement glinting in her eyes. “Alright then. I’ll text you.”

“Sure.” He stared after her as she walked to the door and opened it to let herself out. “See you.”

“Bye, Peter.” She flashed him a smile before disappearing, the door clicking shut behind her.

Peter stared after her, eyes a bit glazed over as he tried to grasp what had just happened.

Gwen wanted to hang out. On a Friday. With Pizza. She wanted to get dinner with him on a Friday night.

Oh god.

Was this a date?

 

****************************************************************************************************************************************

 

Peter asked Aunt May. May thought that it was a date.

And she teased him incessantly.

She also gave him some truly terrible advice. She thought he should wear a suit jacket. Or at least a button up shirt that he could tuck in, so he looked ‘like a proper young man and not a homeless teenage runaway.’ She thought he should buy her flowers. Flowers. ‘You can just pick some from those gardens outside the admissions building if you’re worried about the money.’

Peter had flushed red in embarrassment just listening to her talk about it over the phone.

He did not wear a suit jacket, or a button up shirt, or steal flowers from the campus landscaping. On Friday night at six fifteen, Peter finally settled on the only pair of un-ripped jeans he owned and a long-sleeved Smiths concert t-shirt.

“Nope.” He tore off the Smiths t-shirt and threw it on the growing pile of clothes on his bed, turning to rifle frantically through his drawer again. “What if she doesn’t like the Smiths? What if she only listens to them when she’s sad and looking at me makes her sad all evening and then for the rest of our lives she’ll never be able to be happy around me ever again?”

“Trust me, Peter.” Loki sneered from his bed, where he was reclining back against his pillows with a book propped open over one thigh, shamelessly watching the Peter Parker Train Wreck. “The last thing she’s going to notice is what type of shirt you’re wearing.”

“How do you know?” Peter stared at a plain grey t-shirt for a few seconds before casting it aside on the ‘too boring’ pile. “Gwen is very observant. She’ll probably notice right away.”

“The only things she’ll be noticing right away are your nervous demeanor and sweaty palms.”

Peter huffed in exasperation, pausing his search just long enough to fling one arm out towards Loki and flex his wrist. He shot a web, sticking it to the cover of his roommate’s book and yanking the volume off his lap and onto the floor.

Loki didn’t grace the petulant retaliation with more than an eye roll as he leaned easily over the edge of his bed and plucked the book up again, only to set it out of sight on his other side.

“Honestly, Peter. It’s a bit ridiculous to get so worked up over pizza.” He drew the word out on his tongue like it was something dirty.

“Only someone who’s not human could dislike pizza.” Peter griped, quickly yanking a faded blue Levi’s shirt over his head and pulling it down over his chest and stomach. “And you don’t even understand. Gwen is like, so smart. Smarter than me. What if I can’t keep up with her?”

“You keep up with me just fine.”

Peter’s flat glare was met with the smug curve of a half-smile. “Whatever. We can’t just talk about school all night, I mean, what if we run out of things to talk about?” He turned back and forth in front of Loki’s closet mirror, examining the shades of blue he was wearing and trying to decide if they clashed. “And she’s older than me. What if that makes it awkward?”

Gwen was going to be nineteen in December, and Peter wouldn’t even be eighteen until March. He hadn’t thought it would be such a big deal when he skipped sixth grade, but now he was the only one who wasn’t legally an adult. He had to have Aunt May sign all his school forms, for god’s sake. It made him a little self-conscious.

“I’m quite a bit older than you, and we seem to get on just fine.” If Peter wasn’t so distracted, he would have found the subtle edge of affront to Loki’s tone quite fascinating.

“You don’t count.” He stated dismissively, biting his lip at his reflection, eyes narrowed in concentration.

“Goodness me.” His roommate’s words slid towards scathing. “Well thank you for informing me of –”

Peter cut him off with a wordless growl of frustration, tearing the Levi’s shirt off and hurling it to the floor. “Why don’t I have more clothes?” He cried out in despair, throwing his hands into the air as he stalked back to his wardrobe.

An exhausted, highly put-upon sigh sounded from Loki’s side of the room, and his eye roll was practically audible as he sat up and swung his legs over the edge of his bed. “Allow me.”

Peter collapsed on his bed with a groan, throwing one arm over his eyes to shield them from the light. “Thank god.” He muttered.

“You’re welcome.” Loki deadpanned.

Hardly a moment passed before he was nudging Peter’s foot with his own. “Try this.”

Peter sat up, a slightly wild look in his eye as he latched onto the dark piece of clothing Loki held out in one hand. He reached for it, a soft hum of appreciation sneaking past his lips as he felt the smooth, soft slick of the fabric sliding between his fingers. The shirt was black and long-sleeved, and completely unmarked. It would have looked plain if not for the slight sheen to the fabric whenever it moved.

“This looks expensive.” Peter mumbled, a slight discomfort creeping into his voice even as he pulled the article over his head and let it fall to cover his bare abdomen.

“It is.” Loki answered flippantly. “Stand up.”

Peter did, moving quickly over to the mirror to see how it looked. It was big on him, hanging a little loose around the shoulders and falling to the tops of his thighs, but it looked…

“Not bad.” Loki sniffed, as if it pained him to admit such a thing.

“Thanks.” Peter glanced at his alarm clock. “Fuck!” Gwen was supposed to arrive in five minutes. He turned back to the mirror and began a desperate attempt to flatten his hair down into something reasonable.

“That’s useless.” Loki stated helpfully, folding gracefully back onto his bed. Peter grunted in acknowledgement, but kept on trying anyway. “Is this your first date?” There was a teasing lilt to the god’s question.

“No.” Peter retorted with a scoff. “I dated my friend MJ almost all of junior year.”

“Because it seems like your first date.”

Peter rolled his eyes, giving up on his hair only to turn and rifle messily through his backpack to dig out his wallet.

There was a knock on the door, and Peter’s heart kicked into overdrive. “Shit shit shit.” He muttered, shoving his wallet in his back pocket and turning to answer it.

Loki beat him to it, already pulling the door open with a charming smile on his face before Peter could take more than a step in the right direction. “Hello. You must be Gwen!” His accent was gone, replaced with a smooth friendly tone that Peter found entirely foreign.

“Yeah, hi! Are you Peter’s roommate?”

“Yep!” Peter darted forward, pushing Loki out of the way to let Gwen come in. “Hey.” He offered her a giddy smile, his stomach doing a weird flipping thing at the sight of her. She was wearing grey leggings and a soft plaid dress and she looked lovely. “This is Lo-Lawrence.” He took a deep breath, glancing between the two of them as Loki shut the door behind her. “Lawrence, this is Gwen.”

Gwen held out her hand. “Pleasure to meet you.”

“Likewise.” Loki took her hand delicately in his own, long pale fingers folding easily over hers. He gave it a gentle squeeze rather than shake it, and Peter’s tongue flicked nervously over his bottom lip.

“Well, uh, did you want to get going?” He asked Gwen, wringing his hands uncertainly in front of him. He wasn’t really sure what the procedure was for this sort of thing…

“Sure.” She nodded kindly.

“Oh, do stay just a moment.” Loki’s smile was sugary sweet, but Peter could see the mischievous glint in his winter eyes and it made him anxious. “We haven’t gotten to know each other at all!”

“That’s really not necessary…” Peter protested, itching to get out the door before Loki could enact whatever it was he was planning.

“Nonsense.” His roommate waved him away, turning back to Gwen. He planted one hand on the wall beside the door and leaned over her, forcing her to tip her chin up to look at him. “So, Gwen Stacy. What are your intentions?”

“Intentions?” She raised one eyebrow, a small, amused smile playing across her mouth, giving the impression that she was humoring him.

Peter looked on with a vague sense of horror and fascination, like he knew he was about to watch a car crash but he couldn’t tear his gaze away.

“Yes.” Loki’s smirk turned ever so slightly predatory. “What are your intentions with Peter?”

“Oh god…” Peter could feel heat spreading up his face.

Gwen’s expression had turned a little incredulous. “I don’t have… Intentions, with Peter.”

“No?” Loki pursed his lips slightly, gaze sarcastically thoughtful. “Because it seems Peter here has developed a little crush.”

“Loki!” Peter hissed under his breath, stepping in and punching the god in the arm. He used a bit of his super strength and was gratified to see Loki flinch a little, his bicep twitching under the assault. Loki stepped away with an injured glare and Peter winced apologetically at Gwen. “Sorry, he’s…”

“Oh, Peter…” She looked apologetic, and vaguely uncomfortable.

“Stupid, he’s really stupid.”

Gwen shifted slightly on her feet, one hand rising to rub self-consciously at her other arm. “That’s really sweet. I like you a lot, but um…”

Oh god it was awkward. It was so awkward.

Peter was mortified. This was not how things were supposed to go. And now Gwen was uncomfortable and Peter was uncomfortable and she clearly didn’t even like him anyway. “Right, that’s uh… Yeah, no, I didn’t… I mean –”

“I’m gay.” Peter blinked at her, his runaway train of thought completely disrupted. She smiled slightly, gave a little shrug. “I like girls.”

“Oh.” Okay. “Me, too.”

Gwen raised one eyebrow again, a small spark of amusement shining from her lively eyes once more.

Peter shook his head slightly. “I mean I’m gay. Too. But I also like girls.” The words were coming out all jumbled and wrong and Peter took a quick, exasperated breath. “I mean… I like both. Or anyone. That’s a thing.”

Oh god this was a fucking disaster… Peter knew he must be bright red at this point, the recognizable brand of someone making a complete and utter fool of himself. He managed to shoot Loki a look that was half desperate, bereft plea for help and half accusatory glare. The smug bastard just looked far too satisfied with himself, arms crossed artfully over his chest as he leaned one hip against the side of his desk.

“I know.” Gwen’s chuckle brought his attention back to her, and he looked over with wide-eyed surprise.

“You do?” He hadn’t exactly talked about it to anyone here, even if he was totally out (which he was). It had just never come up.

“Yeah.” She smirked at him, leaning against the door and propping one foot up behind herself. “I’ve seen you talking to Johnny Storm.”

Peter blinked at her, nonplussed. “Huh?”

She rolled her eyes as if it were obvious. “Yeah. That time we ran into him at the library? Come on. I have eyes.”

Loki hummed interestedly behind him. “And what did those eyes see, exactly?” He sounded far too pleased with the course of the conversation, and Peter turned to scowl at him.

“There was nothing to see.” Peter insisted. “We talked about the new Star Wars movie. That’s it!”

“You talked, you laughed.” Gwen grinned conspiratorially at Loki. “You flirted. You touched each other’s arms way too often.”

Peter’s jaw dropped. “We were not flirting!”

Gwen just laughed at him. “You were totally flirting.”

“Hm.” There was an icy glint to Loki’s gaze when Peter glanced his way. “This is an interesting development, isn’t it?” His eyes narrowed slightly, and Peter suppressed a small shiver.

“Wait…” He looked back and forth between the two of them, brow furrowing in bewilderment. “You think Johnny likes me too?”

Gwen and Loki made eye contact over Peter’s head and shared the snarkiest eye roll he had ever witnessed.

“Come on, Pete.” Gwen straightened up and reached to open the door. “Let’s go get some pizza, already.”

He followed her without complaint, still a little dazed by the unexpected revelation that Johnny might actually like him. That it wasn’t just an elaborate trick or joke on Loki’s part.

“Have him back by eleven!” Loki called after them, prompting Peter to turn back and flash him the finger.

Loki just laughed, delighted as usual to get on his roommate’s nerves. “Have fun on your gay but not gay date!”

Peter huffed out an annoyed sigh, dropping his head back to glare at the ceiling as they walked down the hall.

“I like him.” Gwen was grinning.

Peter couldn’t help but grin a little in return. “Give it time.”

Chapter Text

One night, Peter came back from patrol with a bloodied lip, black eye, and bruised ribs.

It wasn’t the worst he’d been injured on the job, not by far, but it was the most visible his wounds had been since he started living with Loki. The god had showed some interest in the past few weeks, when he’d crawled back through their window with the shadow of a bruise over his jaw, or stripped off his gloves and flexed his aching knuckles. There were questions like ‘How reckless are you on these patrols of yours?’ or ‘Are you really old enough to be running around in a onesie picking fights?’ but Peter had always been able to brush them off and convince his intrusive roommate that he had it all under control.

Tonight, when he stumbled over the window ledge and landed a bit clumsily beside his desk, wincing as he jostled his ribs, he knew he wasn’t going to escape attention. Loki sat up from where he’d been lying on top of his sheets, the movement sharp and attentive as he fixed his eyes on Peter through the dim glow of the alarm clock and the building light two floors beneath their window.

Peter ignored Loki’s inquisitive gaze, careful to move as normally as possible as he closed the window behind himself and walked the few steps to his bed. He gave up when he sank onto the mattress though, pressing a stabilizing hand to his injured side since he knew his faltered breathing was giving it away anyhow.

“What happened this time?” Loki enquired, voice hushed and low in the sleeping dorm.

Peter took a shallow breath and gave a half-hearted shrug. “Just an overenthusiastic gang member. Or ten.” The Russian mob didn’t really seem to appreciate having their arms deals interrupted. He didn’t usually have trouble with large groups of criminals, but this had practically been an ambush and that abandoned office building created really tight fighting quarters. He couldn’t help it if they’d gotten in a few good kicks and punches before he webbed them all up nice and tidy for the police; his main concern had been the scary-ass guns anyway.

He’d procrastinated taking his mask off, but now he reached up with his free hand to peel it away from his face with a low grunt of discomfort. It stuck unpleasantly to the tacky, half-dried blood around his mouth, and he threw it straight into the pile of dirty laundry he’d have to do tomorrow.

Loki stood, movements fluid but unerringly direct as he crossed the room in two long strides and leaned over Peter. His warm fingers caught the ridge of Peter’s chin and tipped his face up, the ice blue of his eyes intense as he looked over the damage.

Peter’s breath caught in his throat and his skin flushed warm. Loki was close. Close enough to feel the unsteady huff of air that left his parted lips when he could breathe again. Close enough to see the puffy, split flesh of his top lip where it tore against his teeth and the tender, darkening skin around his left eye.

He pulled back, fingertips lingering just a moment on the skin beneath Peter’s jaw before his hand fell away. He sat down beside him on the bed. “How long will that take to heal?”

Peter cleared his throat. “The face should be fine by tomorrow morning.” His voice was rough as he tried to keep his tone quiet enough for two-thirty AM. “I might have the bruise for a day or so. The ribs…” He shifted a bit, tried to take a deep breath which cut out halfway through at the sharp, demanding stab of pain. “Won’t have any trouble moving in a couple days.”

Loki nodded slowly. They had spoken about Peter’s healing factor before, and he always seemed particularly keen on the subject. Curious. It had made Peter a little nervous at first, but he’d definitely grown used to the god’s thirst for knowledge by now.

“Are they broken?” He asked, reached out to brush Peter’s hand aside and replace it with his own, the gentle prod of his fingers making Peter gasp.

“Um… No. Don’t think so.” He responded breathlessly as Loki spread his hand, palm pressing warm and solid against the line of aching ribs. The pressure he applied was steady, but the pain that sparked with each inhale seemed to fade under his touch. Peter barely suppressed a shiver. “What are you doing?” His voice had dropped to a whisper, and he kept his gaze focused on Loki’s hand, refusing to meet his eyes as they sat so close.

A soft hum was the only answer he got before Loki pulled away, the loss of his touch leaving Peter feeling chilled. “I eased the pain a bit.” He admitted, rubbing his hand against the soft fabric of his sweatpants, as if wiping something off of it. “It might hurt again in the morning, but it should heal faster without the inflammation.”

“Oh.” Curiosity stirred sleepily in Peter’s chest, but the room was quiet and their voices muted, and it didn’t seem like the time to ask. “Thanks.”

Loki’s only response was to raise his hand again, and a small square of forest green fabric flew out of his closet and into his extended fingers. He drew the folded washcloth to his lips and closed his eyes, the long lines of his eyelashes dusting shadows over his pale cheekbones. He whispered something into the terrycloth in a language that Peter didn’t recognize, and when he drew the cloth away again it was darkened with liquid.

He reached over, pressing the warm, damp washcloth to Peter’s torn lip, and Peter sucked in a sharp breath.

“How…?” Loki caught one of his hands in his free one, and gently raised it up to press over the cloth, transferring control of it to Peter.

“Clean yourself up.” He instructed, though his words were tempered, lacking their usual bite. “You look like you went a round with my brother’s hammer.”

Peter nodded dazedly, dabbing at his lip and pulling the cloth back to see it spotted with blood before he began rubbing at his mouth in earnest, cleaning up the mess.

“Are you ever actually careful?” Loki’s soft inquiry pulled Peter out of his head, and he paused, letting his hand fall into his lap, cradling the stained washcloth in his palm. He looked sideways at his roommate, taking note that the teasing annoyance was missing from his expression, replaced instead with a careful blankness as he stared across the room, leaving Peter to look at his profile.

He took a slow breath, relieved that he could fill his lungs without the painful ache in his side. “Yeah. I am.” He assured Loki. “It just comes with the territory, you know?”

The tightening around Loki’s lips was the only indication that he didn’t find that answer very satisfactory. “I see.”

Peter glanced down at his lap, picking absently at the edges of the cooling washcloth. Loki’s knee was brushing his.

“And why do you do it?”

When he looked up again, Loki’s eyes were burning into his, something in them glinting with intensity.

Peter let out a huff of air, his stomach swooping with nervousness at the levity of that question. “Wow, uh… Deep subject. Okay.”

Loki blinked at him, and glanced away. “My apologies. You don’t have to speak about it, of course.”

He shook his head, eager to expel the god’s quick retreat to impersonal politeness. “No, I can. I mean, I will. It’s just, not the easiest thing to put into words.”

Loki nodded understandingly, though he didn’t meet Peter’s eyes again.

He chewed absently on his uninjured bottom lip, trying to find the best way to start. “Well, um… So, my uncle was killed a few years ago. Shot, by a strung-out mugger.”

Loki’s gaze turned on him them, quick and appraising. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Peter nodded. “Thanks. It was hard, you know. ‘Cause my parents had been dead since I was seven and my aunt and uncle were my adoptive guardians.” He spoke matter of factly. Though it still brought a vague, distant pain to his chest, it wasn’t so hard to talk about now. “Then like a year later I got these powers and…” He gestured weakly with one hand, struggling to express the absolute mess of emotions and implications that had come along with that development. “It was hard to get it right at first. I kind of… I got full of myself. I enjoyed the power a little too much. And I made some mistakes.”

He still regretted those first few months, and cringed when he remembered how much of an idiot he had been. How immature. “I wanted to be a superhero. Like the Avengers. But I didn’t realize how much work that took, how much dedication and care. One night, I… I put someone in the hospital. Critical condition. It was just a kid who had stolen a car, but I didn’t know my own strength and… I almost killed him. It was bad. And I started questioning whether I was even a good enough person to do this.”

Loki’s quiet scoff of disagreement was not unkind, and Peter offered him a weak half-smile.

“I know, it’s hard to believe now. But I wasn’t at my best back then. I had to remember something my uncle used to tell me, about responsibility, and I made myself a promise.” He looked up at Loki, meeting his gaze unwaveringly though his fingers tingled with nerves. “If I was going to use my powers, I had a responsibility to use them to help people. And only to help people. I couldn’t use them for my own personal gain, or to show off, or to look like a hero. I just had to help people. However I could.”

Loki had one of those indecipherable looks in his eyes, but Peter thought it might be more contemplative than scornful. He knew his moral high ground probably looked silly to the trickster god, but he was relieved when Loki just nodded gently.

“I won’t pretend that I agree.” He admitted with just a hint of amusement. “But I can understand.”

Peter smiled slightly, and flinched when the movement pulled on the torn skin of his lip. Loki hissed sympathetically and took the now cold washcloth from the hero’s limp hand. He breathed on it again, whispering under his breath, and pressed it back to Peter’s mouth, pleasantly warm and soothing on his wound. He felt a little warmer in his stomach, too, and his heart was beating a little faster, because Loki was being shockingly sweet when he could be using this opportunity to tease incessantly as he normally did.

“You’ll have to start being more careful.” He stated lightly, voice low and intimate in the still room. “If you keep getting your face all marked up, someone is going to assume I’ve been abusing you.”

Ah. There he was.

Peter managed to roll his eyes. “Why you, Loki?” His words were muffled under the cloth, and he brought one hand up to wrap his fingers lightly around Loki’s wrist, holding him steady against his mouth. “Isn’t the prime suspect usually a boyfriend? It’s not like I have a suspicious father figure to blame it on.” Except maybe Tony, but that was stupid. Nobody in their right mind would ever think Tony could hurt him.

“You don’t have a boyfriend.” Loki pointed out.

His eyes narrowed. “Maybe I do.” He responded petulantly.

Loki’s teeth flashed white in the darkness when his lips curved into that familiar smirk. “You don’t.”

Peter huffed out a sigh, but he couldn’t argue. He saw his roommate all the fucking time. If he had a boyfriend, if he even had a measly date after that no-go with Gwen (which had actually turned into a really fun evening), Loki would know about it.

Loki pulled the cloth away and Peter let his hand fall. He peered carefully at the injured lip for a moment before flicking the stained washcloth into the hamper on his side of the room. “Rest up.” He murmured as he stood, brushing the tips of his fingers over Peter’s ribs one more time, making him shiver a little. “Heal. I don’t want you looking so beat up tomorrow.”

“Okay.” Peter replied, the word coming out on a whisper.

He paused before turning away, something clouding his eyes as he looked at Peter, and he raised one hand, thumb brushing ever so lightly along the edge of his bruised eye. Then he crossed the room, removing his presence as quickly as he had granted it, and Peter swayed slightly in the riptide he left behind.

Loki folded down onto his bed, lying with his face towards the wall so that Peter could change out of his suit, the way he did every night. He stood a little shakily, glancing surreptitiously across the room as he stripped off his suit and kicked it under his bed. His ribs ached a little, but it was just a reminder, not nearly as painful as it had been before. He shivered as he pulled on the sweats and t-shirt that served as his pajamas, and wondered when the school would be turning the heat on in the dorm buildings. It would be October soon, and the weather was getting colder each day.

For now, it was enough to slip under his blanket and settle down curled up on his side, his eyes slipping closed to the sound of Loki’s steady heartbeat and the gentle, reliable movement of air through his lungs.

 

***************************************************************************************************************************************

 

The next night, Loki showed up on Spider-Man’s patrol route.

It was a pleasant evening; Peter’s face was almost entirely healed and his ribs only reminded him that they’d been bruised when he took a particularly sharp turn on his webs. He’d paused on the rooftop of a bank somewhere in Midtown, crouching on the ledge to listen for trouble as he often did, when warning prickled sharp at the back of his neck.

He sprang to his feet, turning sharply on his heel to watch as dark, shimmery smoke solidified into the figure of a man on the roof behind him. He had slipped into a defensive stance, ready to shoot some webs or kick some ass, but the sight that greeted him left him frozen for a moment, lips parting in surprise beneath his mask.

Loki stood in all his former glory, clad in smoky black and green leather (which was entirely too form fitting, now that he got a closer look), the golden accents nowhere to be seen this time. His hair looked a bit longer, and his features a bit sharper, more filled out. He was crowned with dark golden horns, and the sight of them had Peter’s stomach twisting.

“Spider-Man.” He greeted, a smug glint in his gaze, and Peter’s temper suddenly flared.

“What are you doing here?” He hissed, keeping his voice low even though they were alone on the top of a building with no one nearby to eavesdrop.

Loki raised one thin eyebrow. “Don’t worry; I shant interfere. I’m here on a purely observational basis.”

Peter stalked forward, gritting his teeth. “What if someone sees you.”

Something in the god’s expression darkened, and he swept his coat (cape?) back to plant one hand on his hip. “What if someone sees me with you, you mean?”

He huffed in exasperation, planting both hands on his own hips as he glared up at Loki. “No, I mean… Well yeah, but I meant in general. You’re not supposed to be here, right? Don’t you think it might set off some alarms if you were spotted in New York? Like, Avengers level alarms?”

Loki’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it. I’m exceptionally good at illusions; I can keep myself unseen almost as well as you.”

Peter resisted the urge to groan and throw his hands in the air like a cartoon teenager.

“Fine.” He relented through gritted teeth, turning on his heel to move back towards the edge of the roof. He wasn’t going to let his roommate’s presence distract him, even if he insisted on tagging along like an overprotective babysitter. Maybe he’d finally see that Peter knew what the fuck he was doing and leave him alone about it. He just had to focus on finding some crime and fighting it like it was his job. Only… A few moments later he was turned back to Loki, who had followed him at a leisurely pace and now stood a couple of feet away, his hair ruffling gently in the breeze. Fuck.

“How did you even find me?” He asked, tamping down on his annoyance so the question didn’t sound entirely resentful.

Loki shrugged delicately, but his lips were twitching upwards at the corners. “Location spells are exceedingly easy.” He bragged. “Especially when you have something belonging to the one you search for.” He held one hand up, a small silver keychain in the shape of a spider dangling from one finger.

“Hey!” Peter exclaimed, wondering how the hell Loki had managed to get that off his dorm key without him noticing. “Give that back!”

Loki held it out to him, unapologetic, and Peter realized he didn’t have anywhere to put it in his skintight suit. He pouted beneath his mask. “Just… Hold onto it until we get home.”

“Gladly.” Loki tucked it back into his coat thing.

“Stay out of sight, okay?” Peter demanded as he turned back to look out over the city, taking a breath so he could concentrate on expanding his hearing again.

“Cross my heart.” Loki drawled from behind him, and Peter rolled his eyes.

He listened until he caught wind of a robbery a few blocks south, then he leapt off the roof and swung away, leaving Loki to follow on his own. He didn’t see the god when he landed, though he kept one eye out for him as he webbed up the two criminals and called the cops from the store owner’s phone. It wasn’t until he headed for higher ground that Loki appeared beside him again, as silently and suddenly as he had before.

“You travel fast.” He commented blandly as Peter did his best impression of ignoring him.

“Can’t keep up?” He taunted, keeping his gaze focused on the streets below.

“I wouldn’t say that.”

Peter suppressed a smile as he extended one arm and shot a web, taking off towards what sounded like a pretty big drug deal on the closer side of the warehouse district.

Loki continued to show up after each event, making the occasional comment to indicate that he had seen Spider-Man in action (though whether he was impressed or not, Peter couldn’t tell). It wasn’t until the end of the night, when Peter was taking one last swing through the business district before he headed back to school, that he noticed the raven flying in his periphery, keeping pace with an occasional sweep of its wings.

Ravens were a rare sight in New York City, and this one had luminescent emerald eyes and a near-purple glint to its feathers, as if it had been dipped in oil.

Peter would have liked to sigh about it and maybe say something about cheating, but he couldn’t help the curl of a smile that crossed his mouth instead.

When they finally returned to their dorm room, Loki slipped through the window beside him with a soft ruffle of feathers before he eased seamlessly back into his human form, the battle outfit and intimidating horns gone once again. He offered Peter nothing more than a look before he dropped easily to his bed and turned over to face the wall.

The hero changed quickly out of his suit and tucked it away in its usual place, sitting down on the edge of his bed in preparation for whatever discussion they were about to have. But it never came. Loki lay still and quiet in the dark, his breathing as even as ever, and although Peter fidgeted and thought of a dozen ways to start a conversation, he eventually left his roommate to it and slipped under his own covers.

He wasn’t sure how to feel about Loki tagging along on his patrol. He might have done it because he was worried, and that did stir a quiet little squirming warmth in Peter’s gut, but it also bothered him. Loki must not trust him to handle himself if he felt the need to chaperone his crime fighting. He knew the god didn’t mean it to be insulting (probably), but Peter didn’t appreciate the subtle condescension.

He fell asleep thinking about it, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth, and his neck ached when he woke up in the morning.

It was Saturday, so he hadn’t set his alarm, and the steady stream of sunlight through their window woke him when it fell across his face. He rolled over to see Loki already sitting up in bed, a sketchpad propped up in his lap and not a hair out of place.

“Hey.” Peter croaked, before he remembered that he was kind of mad at Loki right now.

“Good morning, sleeping beauty.”

Peter didn’t deign that dig with a response, dragging himself up to set his bare feet on the cool ground and pad towards the door. He let himself into the hallway, running his fingers absently through his messy hair as he made his way to the bathroom and took a piss. When he returned, Loki’s sketchpad had disappeared and he sat attentively at the edge of his bed, as if he were waiting for him.

Peter eyed him warily. “Um, hey.” He repeated, sitting down on his own bed and pulling his pillow into his lap.

Loki met his gaze, and Peter’s heart may have skipped a beat as he realized that the god was making it clear that he was about to say something important.

“I’m sorry if I overstepped my bounds last night.” He stated clearly, voice like ice cold water. “I should have asked before encroaching on your other life.”

He shrugged, eyes dipping down to the pillow he was plucking at before flickering back to Loki’s face again. “It’s okay.” He ran his teeth over his bottom lip before finding the right words. “I don’t really mind that you came along, just… I don’t want you to think I can’t take care of myself. I’ve been doing this a long time, you know.”

Loki’s lips pressed tight together. “Two or three years is no time at all.” He insisted, tone dropping low.

Peter frowned. “See, that’s exactly it. You act like I don’t know what I’m doing because I’m young, but I’ve had experiences. I’ve seen things.” Blood stained teeth, blood-soaked skies and the throb of a broken arm flashed through his memory.

Loki lowered his eyes, silent for a long moment. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

“For what?” He asked, falling quiet again.

“Many things.” Loki admitted evasively, glancing up at Peter from under his eyelashes, the blue of his irises gone sad.

Peter offered him a weak smile, his chest aching uncomfortably at the melancholy etched into the lines of Loki’s body. He didn’t want him to feel badly. “It’s alright.”

“Thank you for saying that.” Loki’s tired smile made it clear that he knew and Peter knew it wasn’t really alright, but it was enough for now.

Slightly uncomfortable with the serious edge of the last couple of days, Peter found himself hoping that they could go back to what passed for normal between them. As if reading his mind (seriously, how did he do that?), Loki came to sit beside Peter on his bed when he got out his laptop to start working on another English Lit assignment. They sat together in companionable quiet for the next hour, touching lightly from thigh to shoulder.

Chapter Text

“So how are you liking your classes?”

Bruce Banner stood across the kitchen, distractedly fixing himself a massive cup of coffee while he asked Peter about school in that mild-mannered tone of his.

“Oh, they’re great. I have this one professor who’s doing research on the use of positron emission technology to detect latent mutations in humans and other animals!” Peter babbled happily from where he leaned against the counter, pushing one of Tony’s little microbots (not to be confused with his genius, near-microscopic nanobots) back and forth across the granite. “That’s not what the class is about, unfortunately, but he sent us a bunch of his papers at the beginning of the semester and I’ve only read through about half of them but the findings are amazing.”

Bruce chuckled into the sugar bowl, from which he was scraping a good eight or nine teaspoons of organic cane sugar into his coffee. “Sounds fascinating.”

“Oh, it is. And he told us about how he takes a few students to the international Biomedical Frontiers conference every year, and next year it’s in Japan! That would be so cool. Only I’d have to be doing research with him and I’m not sure if that’s exactly the field I want to go into.”

“It’s a hard decision.” Bruce acknowledged kindly. “But I’m sure you’ll figure out what path to take. You’ve got plenty of time.”

“Not that much time.” Peter argued, watching as the microbot appeared to take a sample of some residue off the counter and retract the evidence into its body, maybe to store for later, or run tests on now. Tony could program these things to do practically anything and he wasn’t sure what the function of this one was. “I really should be starting undergraduate research with at least one professor by my second year. This summer would be even better.”

Peter’s Friday afternoon class had been canceled, and with nowhere else to be before patrol and no pressing school work to keep him occupied, he’d found himself making the familiar journey towards the Avenger’s tower. It had been too long since he’d had the chance to drop by, and he really did want to catch Natasha before she disappeared again on one of her missions. He’d only seen Bruce so far, but he was sure Tony knew he was here, and the others were bound to wander through the most popular shared kitchen at some point in time if he just hung out here long enough.

Everyone came to the food eventually.

He wore his Spider-Man suit and mask, but most everyone knew the basics about him by this point. He’d tried for a long time to keep his age a secret (‘School? What school? I don’t go to school. I work, like, a real job and stuff.’) but that hadn’t lasted very long at all. Now they all knew he was starting college this year, he didn’t have much family, and he was a big giant dork for all things science and science fiction. Mostly they knew these things because Tony never fucking shut up about them.

But Peter didn’t really mind. It was nice, to feel like one of the gang, even if he was treated a bit like everyone’s adopted foster kid.

“And how about, you know, social stuff? You making friends?” Bruce was clearly trying his hardest to act like he cared about teenage peer structures, peering cluelessly over the edge of his cup before taking a too-big sip and burning his tongue with a wince. He just sighed resignedly and set the mug down, like he should have expected it all along. (And really, the guy was a literal genius; he knew the boiling point of water and exactly how long it would take to cool adequately given the altitude and air temperature. He should have known better.)

“Yeah, yeah.” Peter nodded, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically. “Everyone’s really great. My lab partner is, just, really amazing, and my RA is nice and really just, everyone’s good. It’s good.”

Bruce pushed his glasses up his nose and nodded along like he understood. “And you get along with your roommate and everything?”

Peter felt his face relax into a genuine smile. “Yeah, actually. We get along super well.”

“And no trouble with the, you know…” He picked up his coffee again and nodded vaguely towards Peter, indicating his suit.

“Oh, no actually. It’s been uh… Pretty chill. He’s, um, not around a lot, so it’s easy to… Stay discrete.” God, they sounded like they were talking about Peter getting away with illicit activities. Like he was running an underground drug ring out of his dorm room.

“Kid’s roommate is an art major.” Tony announced, striding into the kitchen as if out of nowhere. As per usual, he already had a snack in one hand. He pulled a few cashews out of the fancy-looking bag and popped them in his mouth, chewing as he talked. “And he has a cat. Nasty little thing.”

Peter snorted, caught between the urge to laugh and the urge to roll his eyes. “He’s not an art major, actually. He’s just taking a drawing class.”

Bruce had a bemused look on his face. “Do they allow pets in the student dorms now?”

“No.” Tony pointed an accusing finger at no one in particular. “It’s a highly illegal cat. Ought to be deported.”

Now Peter did roll his eyes, but he couldn’t help feeling fond and happy for the teasing attention. “You’re just mad ‘cause he scratched you.”

“Like a feral demon trapped in the body of a small house pet.” Tony stated indignantly, holding up his hand even though the scratch mark had clearly already disappeared. “Tried to kill me, I swear.”

He held out the bag of nuts and Peter shook his head mutely, declining the offer. “Well, I like the cat. He’s actually very sweet to me.”

“Yeah I bet.” Tony leaned back against the counter and held his watch out over the microbot, causing it to go still as he downloaded its data and his watch screen lit up blue with information. “You probably let it sleep in your bed. Leave its black fur all over your sheets and pillowcase.”

Peter scoffed, his cheeks warming in spite of himself at the brief flashing image of Loki curled up under his sheets. “No.” He huffed petulantly, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Well, as much as I’d like to hear more about the, er… Cat.” Bruce shuffled towards one of the doorways, smiling apologetically. “I really should get back to the lab. My test results are…”

“Yeah yeah.” Tony waved a dismissive hand in Bruce’s direction. “Get outta here, nerd. We like the green guy much better anyway.”

Bruce just smiled pleasantly as he left, unperturbed by the joking. “Good to see you, kid.” He nodded as he passed Peter.

“Yeah, you too, Dr. Banner.” He flicked at the microbot as it tried to climb up his hand, knocking it away. “So is Nat around?” He asked hopefully.

Tony shrugged, his focus on the data stream he had swiped off his watch to hover and scroll in the air in front of him. “She’s around here somewhere.”

Peter hummed in acceptance and crossed the kitchen to open the giant stainless-steel fridge and peer inside. The options were plentiful, and he grinned beneath the mask as he pulled a fudge pop out of the freezer section and swung the door shut again.

He jumped at the sudden appearance of a tall figure behind the door, a startled sound falling unbidden from his parted lips.

Bucky Barnes could appear like a fucking ghost.

“Hello, Spider-Man.” He peered at Peter from behind his curtain of soft brown hair, blue-grey eyes fixing him with an earnest, apologetic stare.

Peter flushed crimson, hot and embarrassed, and was eternally thankful for the mask covering his face.

“H-Hi, Bucky.” He tried his best not to shuffle nervously between his feet. Being stared at by Bucky was one of the most intense experiences of a person’s life. He just… Looked at you so closely. With undivided attention. It was simultaneously pretty terrifying and kind of really arousing.

Peter took the opportunity to move quickly to the other side of the counter, hiding behind waist-high granite and occupying his hands with fumbling to open his fudge pop.

If Bucky noticed his awkward nervousness, he gave no indication of it. As silent and stoic as ever, he went about his business pulling bread and peanut butter, a plate and a knife out of the cabinets and drawers. Peter tried to look busy with his fudge pop and not like he was watching the way Bucky’s tight shirt rode up over his stomach when he reached into the cabinets, revealing a strip of thickly muscled abs between the lines of his hip bones.

None of which was really helping with Peter’s heat stroke.

He’d had a ridiculous crush on the Winter Soldier for a year and a half, ever since he and Steve came back to the tower. Of course he’d had a crush on Captain America too (come on), but his attraction towards Steve had faded pretty quickly.

Not because Steve Rogers wasn’t hot as hell. He was. But he was also earnest and kind and a little bit grandfatherly, like your best friend’s really nice dad. And he always treated Peter with a friendly professionalism, like he thought he ought to take on the role of a responsible mentor or something. And it was super nice, and Peter was still star struck half the time he was around the guy, but he no longer dwelled on thoughts of climbing him like a tree.

Bucky Barnes, on the other hand…

His lingering air of mystery and deep, hidden waters were impossibly sexy. Not to mention the fact that he looked like an underwear model and moved like a panther, all coiled power and tightly controlled movements.

And he was so gorgeous. Ridiculously fucking pretty with his chin-length hair and stormy eyes, that jawbone and that mouth. Those eyelashes. And the fucking metal arm for fuck’s sake.

Peter rolled his mask up to his nose and shoved the fudge pop in his mouth before he could do something stupid like sigh wistfully or whimper in desire. Still, he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the fascinating show that was Bucky making ten peanut butter sandwiches (with creamy peanut butter, Peter noted).

The worst part was that no one else knew how stupidly attractive the Winter Soldier was. Everyone fawned over Captain America, with his sky-blue eyes and dazzling smile, but no one saw the shadowy seduction of his silent partner. Bucky always stayed away from the cameras and the press, and when they did catch footage of him during some sort of Avengers business, it was always from far away. And he painted his eyes over with black during fights, which looked really hot up close but kind of just looked scary from a distance.

So while he and MJ could gossip for hours about the physical attributes of the other Avengers, he’d never been able to complain to any of his friends about his planet-sized infatuation with Bucky Barnes.

Peter Parker’s greatest first-world problem.

Thankfully, the uncomfortable silence in the kitchen didn’t last more than a minute or two.

“Hey, Capsicle.” Tony greeted without looking up as Steve strolled into the room.

“Tony.” He caught sight of Peter and smiled, causing a reflexive grin to flicker over his face in return. “Hey, Spidey. How are you?”

“Good, thanks.” He nodded, and watched with hidden excitement as Steve moved to Bucky’s side and lay a light hand on the small of his back.

“They’ve got real food, y’know.” He scolded Bucky with an amused smirk. “Pizza or burgers or whatever. You don’t gotta stick with the staples.”

Bucky just shrugged with one shoulder, unbothered, and sucked a bit of peanut butter off his thumb.

Peter turned on his heel and walked into the lounge area to fold himself into an armchair, feeling a little faint.

“Yeah, Buck.” Tony drawled, elbows resting on the counter. “Order a five-course meal, I’m good for it.”

Steve sighed, long-suffering. “Not helpful, Tony.”

“Oh, can it gramps.” He straightened up, eyes on the tablet that had appeared in his hands. “Gotta take care of this, boys. You all have fun now.” He cast a glance over at Peter as he walked past. “Ask your godmother about the hang-gliding incident when you see her. She’ll be happy to relive it.”

Peter chuckled. “Okay, I will.”

“Be good, kid. Catch you later.” He disappeared around the corner with a flippant wave, and left Peter alone with the Super Couple.

He liked hanging out with them, really. But Bucky didn’t talk much and Steve couldn’t really focus on anything else when Bucky was around. So while Peter loved to watch them together, he also felt like he really shouldn’t.

Steve followed Bucky over to the couch and immediately stole one of his sandwiches, which Bucky seemed completely unperturbed about. Peter was silently dying inside. No big deal.

“So how’s the new school?” Steve asked with some genuine interest, and Peter pulled the fudge pop out of his mouth long enough to give an earnest answer.

They were saved from a drawn out parental conversation by the silent appearance of Natasha, who slid gracefully onto the couch beside the super soldiers and dropped her head into Bucky’s lap so her dark red hair fanned out over his thigh.

“Hey, Baby Spider.” She greeted, sharp eyes on the screen of her phone.

Peter grinned, unable to protest the nickname when it came from her. “Hi, Nat, how was your trip?”

“Long.” She sighed, and reached up to tap once at Bucky’s bicep so he lifted his metal hand and began threading his fingers through her hair.

Peter looked on with warm satisfaction, always thrilled to see their friendship developing more and more. When Bucky had first arrived at the tower, the two of them ghosted around each other like nervous cats, and just being in a room with both of them had been enough to make the hair at the back of Peter’s neck stand on end. But something had changed over the following months, and they slowly grew closer together, standing as silent sentries of support behind each other rather than facing off like enemies. He didn’t really know all the details about their past interactions, but it was clear how much it had taken to get them here, and how much trust they must have in each other now.

It made him kind of warm and fuzzy to watch it. Especially when Steve looked at Bucky all gooey-eyed and proud. Even if it made Peter want to curl up into a ball and die of satisfied adoration.

He didn’t. He just forced his attention onto Black Widow’s face and tried to ignore the muscular thigh (and the crease in soft black sweatpants where said thigh met sharp, tapered hip) lying under it. “Tony told me to ask you about, uh… Hang-gliding?”

Natasha rolled her eyes extravagantly, but she allowed a small smile to play across her mouth as she lay her phone face-down on her stomach. She proceeded to launch into a wild story involving a bumbling ex-Soviet official, an overeager callboy, and a meandering chase across eastern Europe and parts of Asia. She didn’t let slip any details about the information she’d been after, of course, but she did admit to letting the chase drag on a couple of weeks longer than was strictly necessary simply for the amusement of seeing how deep a hole this man could dig for himself.

And she really was a great story teller. Peter got so involved in listening that he forgot about his fudge pop and let it melt in his hand until it dripped chocolate on the front of his suit. And that was certainly mortifying enough the wrench his attention away, his jaw flushing red as he wiped up the spill with an index finger only to awkwardly lick it from his glove. He shoved the remaining sweet into his mouth and kept it there, brain freeze be damned. But Nat succeeded in recapturing his thoughts, and by the end of the tale he was laughing along to the punch lines.

Bucky and Steve excused themselves to go workout in the gym after that (Bucky making sure to wash and put away his empty plate before they left), and Natasha apologetically slipped away to some briefing or another. Peter hung around in the empty common room for a while, but the pre-dinner lull was bound to last until the later evening and he couldn’t really excuse the waste of time when he could be out patrolling.

So he dragged himself from the comfortable armchair, threw his mangled popsicle stick in the trash, said goodbye to the microbot still whirring around the countertop, and found an open window a few floors down to slip out of.

 

****************************************************************************************************************************************

 

Peter swung home earlier than usual, sticking to the rooftops when he neared campus since it was only just after midnight and groups of students were happily roaming about the lit pathways and open quads.

He would have stayed out much longer on patrol, but he’d been swinging through the city since early evening and it had been surprisingly quiet for a Friday night. He’d had an itch beneath his skin ever since he left the Avenger’s tower, restless and hungry for something unnamable, and it drove him to distraction. Distraction was dangerous in his line of work, and the cozy comfort of his dorm room had become more and more appealing with each passing hour until he finally decided that one early night wasn’t going to kill anyone (hopefully).

When he rolled through the window and landed light on his toes beside his desk (after waiting on the roof for ten minutes while a gaggling group of freshmen lingered against the side of the building playing never-have-I-ever, jesus), Loki was in his usual spot, sitting up in bed with his laptop on his outstretched legs.

“Good evening.” He greeted coolly without looking up from his gently glowing screen. His desk lamp was on, casting a soft, warm glow about the room. “You’re back a bit early.”

Peter groaned aimlessly and tore his mask off to rake harsh fingers through his tangled hair.

Loki’s eyes flickered up momentarily, fingers going still on the keyboard as he looked Peter over. His gaze sent a chill crawling across Peter’s skin, stronger tonight than it usually was, and then he was looking back at his computer and resuming his work with no further acknowledgement. Dismissive. Like flipping a switch.

Peter sighed on a huff of air, lips pursing petulantly as he fidgeted by the desks, kicking lightly at a stack of books until the top one tipped over and slid off with a pathetically undignified scrape. He glanced back at Loki, who wasn’t paying him any more attention.

With a childish pout he could feel making its home on his lips, he leaned back against Loki’s desk and fiddled with one of his artificial web shooters. “I went to the Avenger’s tower earlier.”

Loki’s typing didn’t falter, but Peter could feel the sudden charge in the air like the smell right before a storm. He suppressed a self-satisfied smirk and pretended to be involved in the useless tinkering he was doing with the sleeve at his right wrist.

“Oh?” He could feel the moment the god’s icy eyes landed on him again. “And how, pray tell, was that?”

Giving in with another sigh, Peter pushed off the desk and sank onto the bed beside Loki, stealing one of his pillows to hold in his lap as he slumped against the wall. “Fine.”

He could see the amused twitch of a smile from the corner of his eye, but refused to give his roommate the satisfaction of looking over.

“Just fine? Why are you sulking, then? Did they revoke your junior membership?”

“No.” Peter elbowed him in the side, but Loki didn’t even flinch. He fidgeted in silence for another few long heartbeats, catching and releasing his bottom lip between his teeth at least three times before mumbling the words. “Bucky Barnes was there.”

He could feel that tiny crease appearing between Loki’s perfectly shaped eyebrows even though he refused to look up from the soft, slate grey pillowcase he was picking at. “Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier?”

He nodded mutely.

“I see.” Although clearly he didn’t. “And he… Made you uncomfortable.” It was a statement, but Loki’s voice was laced with uncertainty and a distinct annoyance at not seeing the whole picture with the immediacy of understanding that he was used to. “Because he… frightens you?”

Peter shrugged. “I mean, yeah.”

Loki went stiff beside him, and a small thrill ran down the back of Peter’s neck.

“He’s a threat to you?” His tone was flat and cold, and Peter found himself blinking wide-eyed into his razor-sharp stare.

“No…” He found his voice, weak and slippery before he sank back into his commiserating and folded at the waist to bury his face in the pillow.

“He’s beautiful.” He lamented, groan muffled in the cotton.

There was a beat of silence.

“You mean to say,” Loki drawled sardonically, “That you feel frightened by the Winter Soldier’s physical appeal.”

“You don’t understand.” Peter protested, raising his face to brush hair off his forehead and fix Loki with a protesting glare. “He’s, like, ridiculously gorgeous, all strong and pretty and brooding. God.”

The trickster god looked infinitely unamused. “Oh no, I understand perfectly.” He neatly folded his laptop closed and set it aside to rest his interlocked hands on his crossed legs. “You are so head-over-heels attracted to this ninety year old rehabilitated assassin that you are driven to adolescent anxiety when you are present in the same room as him.”

Peter’s lip curled in defiant rejection of such an insulting manner of defining the precise nature of his Bucky Barnes situation. “Shut up.” He fired back eloquently.

Now he caught a bit of the familiar teasing glint in Loki’s eyes, and he tossed his head back to avoid a responding smile. “It’s just so frustrating, like, no one else realizes how fucking hot he is. And all stoic to hide his inner pain and like, just the way he moves is… Fuck. How do they not all just want to braid his hair and feed him ice-cream?”

He was gifted with a raised eyebrow for that outburst, and felt his cheeks darkening at the inadvertent admission. “Not that I… Want to… You know what I mean.”

“Certainly.” Loki glanced away with studious casualty, motioning with a curl of his fingers to draw the edge of his computer charger from the floor to his hand and plug it into the laptop.

Peter groaned, scrubbing both palms over his face. “I mean, I can’t even be around him. I practically shoved a fudge pop down my throat just to avoid talking to him.”

He dropped his hands and opened his eyes to find Loki staring at him incredulously.

“What?”

The god blinked slowly. “You’re embarrassed to speak to Bucky Barnes, so instead you… Fellate a phallic-shaped dessert and stare at him.”

Peter flashed hot with mortification, his jaw dropping in sputtering speechlessness. “I didn’t– I wasn’t–“ He could feel himself growing redder by the second, and he fought the instinctual urge to crawl onto the ceiling and construct a web to hide himself in. “T-That’s… Just… No. Not what happened.”

Loki snorted softly. “If you say so.”

“I do.” He huffed, staring at the duvet so he wouldn’t have to look at Loki’s smug face.

There were a few moments for the heat of humiliation to dissipate, and Loki pushed against one end of his computer to straighten it, setting the long edge perpendicular to his pillow.

“I’m sure if you wanted to pursue a more personal relationship,” He spoke flippantly, as if his focus were on something else entirely, “Sexual or otherwise, that Mr. Barnes would certainly be amenable.”

Peter almost choked on his own spit as he sat up quickly enough to put a crick in his neck. “What?

Loki shrugged delicately, fixing Peter with a benign look (though he could trace the hidden shine of challenge beneath the carefully layered indifference. “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind starting something with a pretty young thing like you.”

His eyes drifted with salacious detachment down Peter’s sprawled form, and he was suddenly very aware of the way his suit clung to every plane and crease of his body. He shifted against the duvet, an aborted movement to fold his legs up under him, and cleared his throat around the sudden appearance of prickly interest making his stomach squirm and his fingers twitch.

He forced a laugh. “Um, no.” The second chuckle was more genuine, the absurdity of the suggestion finally registering. “No, no, no. No way.”

Loki raised another thin, dark eyebrow, but there was a pleased touch to the shape of his mouth. “And why not?”

Aside from the fact that Peter could hardly get two words out when speaking to Bucky, let alone proposition him for a sexual relationship? “Well, first of all, because Bucky and Steve have some sort of kinky, monogamous master-slave sort of thing going on.”

He’d heard Tony joking about it once when he had forgotten Peter was in the tower. The whole team knew that he could hear their conversations from rooms and floors away, but they tended to forget on occasion.

Like the time last spring when Peter had stood in Tony’s empty workroom, tinkering with his web fluid, and heard Steve and Bucky, well, going at it, for lack of a more eloquent term… And no. It was not the sort of sweet, polite lovemaking that one might expect from America’s sweetheart Captain Rogers. Not even close.

He had fled the tower quite quickly that afternoon, flushed with embarrassment (and yes, arousal), and left with some very interesting thoughts to dwell on in the coming weeks. He couldn’t look either of them in the eye for over a month, and it took Steve’s concerned offer to remedy Peter’s strange behavior with a one-on-one heart-to-heart to snap him out of it.

Super hearing could be both a blessing and a curse.

The interest in Loki’s expression shone unguarded this time. “Is that so? The Winter Soldier and Captain America?”

Peter grinned briefly. “I mean, are you really that surprised?”

A reflective look passed over the god’s features for a moment. “No, I suppose I’m not.” His eyes glazed over briefly before a satisfied smirk spread over his lips. “Who would have known Steve Rogers gets off on being dominated and controlled.”

Peter snickered. “Oh no. He’s not the one getting, er, dominated…”

Loki’s wide, gleeful eyes made his heart stutter in his chest. “Oh, really? Now that is interesting.” His grin was a little too predatory, and Peter found himself vaguely worried that perhaps he had made a mistake in instigating roommate share time tonight. “Very interesting indeed.”

A few heartbeats passed as they both considered this, and then Loki slipped back into an affected calm long enough to ask, just a bit too flippantly, “And was my brother in residence this evening?”

Peter shook his head, waiting for Loki to meet his gaze before putting his answer into words. “No. He’s been off world for at least a couple of months, as far as I know.”

Loki nodded once, a bit stiffly, but Peter recognized the subtle gratitude in his gaze before they both fell silent again.

He relaxed with a slow breath, shifting to get more comfortable against the wall, and his shoulder brushed Loki’s as he adjusted.

“Tired?”

Peter hummed. “A bit. It was a long night. I felt…” He shifted again, squirming a little closer in the echo of agitation. “I don’t know. Edgy.”

He could feel Loki’s eyes on his face, lingering for a few moments before the god leaned across the bed and plucked up his sketchbook. “Would you like to see what I’ve been working on for the midterm?”

Peter perked up with interest, tilting his head to get a good view as Loki flipped the book open and removed two charcoal pencils and a small erasure from between the heavy pages.

“Please.” He breathed, and noticed Loki’s movements stutter just slightly as he shuffled to the last occupied page.

It was a stunning rendition of a fox crouched beside a large, flourishing fern, half its narrow face cast in shadow beneath one of the overhanging fronds. Its front paws tucked up close to the edge of a glittering river, and its tail curled demurely around one hind leg. On the other side of the page, nearly camouflaged at the base of a wide tree trunk, sat a coiled snake with cold, staring eyes. Sunlight dappled the leaf-covered forest floor, and the river was so skillfully shaded that it seemed almost to move with fluttering fluidity.

Peter’s mouth had fallen open, eyes gone wide with awe, and he stopped himself just before touching the edge of the page with his outstretched fingertips.

“Wow.” He breathed, tucking his hands into his lap so he wouldn’t be tempted. “That’s… incredible.”

“You think so?” His tone was modest, but Peter could hear the flicker of pleasure beneath the words, and he nodded enthusiastically.

“Yes, god. Like, better than a photograph. Much better, really, because it’s like you could capture the feeling of it all which you don’t really see in a photograph unless you were there in person.”

He couldn’t take his eyes from the magical, alluring scene, but he could hear the smile in Loki’s next words. “Thank you, Peter. I appreciate that.” He picked up one of the pencils, the one with the slightly blunter tip, and blew gently on the end. “I’m supposed to create a set of five variations on a theme, and I’ve got two finished so far.”

“Can I see the other?” He asked eagerly, aware that it was greedy but unable to stop himself from asking.

Loki’s mouth curled into one of his breath-hitching half smiles. “Another day. For now, I need to work on my texture.”

Peter watched with rapt attention as Loki set pencil to paper and began shading parts of the fox’s fur. He couldn’t track what Loki was doing or why he chose to color in some parts instead of others, but the result was extraordinary. He made the fox look silky and wild all at once, like its coat was naturally full and soft despite being weathered by the wind and bracken, tangled by the journey to this bank, to this moment.

The movement of Loki’s hand, sure and steady and delicate, and the soft scrape of lead against watercolor paper made Peter sleepy and calm and warm. After a few minutes, he acquiesced to lay his head against Loki’s shoulder, carefully at first, and then more assuredly, shifting to get the most comfortable angle.

His muscles flexed under Peter’s ear whenever he adjusted the angle of his arm, but he never jostled him much. After a while, with heavy eyelids and slow breaths, Peter raised a hand to ever so gently brush over the fox’s face. His gloves prevented any smudging, and he let his hand lay against the edge of the book and Loki’s thigh.

“How do you do that?” He murmured in wonder.

“Hm?” Loki continued to trace the outlining of the tree’s intricate bark.

“The eyes.” His voice had dropped to a whisper, and Loki paused to look. “They shine. With so much… Intent. How do they shine when it’s just pencil on paper?”

Loki was quiet for a moment, and his answer came softened with something almost tender.

“The light shines. I merely provide something for it to reflect off of, so that it may reach your eyes.”

Peter sat with his cheek pressed against Loki’s arm, his pale skin creased with the seam of his roommate’s soft shirt, and Loki drew for over an hour.

Chapter Text

Suddenly it was fall break, and Peter had no idea where the time went.

It didn’t feel like a blur, a rushed jumble of experiences flying by in the blink of an eye. It felt more like whole years have passed since he started college, an entire lifetime started and lived in the last several weeks. It still caught him by surprise, to find the semester nearly halfway over. His college career already one sixteenth finished. It almost made him sad.

Aunt May was ecstatic to make plans, filling every hour of her free time with scheduled movie marathons and take-out binges. Peter would probably end up spending a couple nights back at home with her, which would be paradoxically weird after having gotten so used to dorm living. He wondered if it would be hard to fall asleep now without the steady beat of Loki’s heart across the room.

He was looking forward to the break from classes, even though he’d genuinely been enjoying them all (even English Lit). He was also looking forward to a much-anticipated reunion with his friends from high school.

“Harry is going to be here on some business trip, so he won’t have as much free time.” Peter told Loki on the afternoon after classes ended. “And MJ’s coming back to town to visit her dad for a few days. She’s on fall break, too. I guess it’s lucky that UCLA’s schedule is so similar to Columbia’s.”

They were outside on one of the quads, sitting on the grass beneath a carefully maintained tree. It was one of the last temperate days of the season; cool enough that Peter wore a hoodie and Loki looked casually off-the-runway in a leather jacket. Loki had wanted to go outside to sketch and Peter had tagged along, all too happy to get some fresh air before his weekend ensconced with Aunt May.

“Is MJ the one you dated?” Loki asked from his casual sprawl, propped up on one elbow while he worked in his sketchbook. His eyes never left the paper, tone a careful offhanded disinterest.

“Mhm.” Peter pulled up a handful of grass and tipped his head back against the trunk of the tree, looking up into the red-orange leaves. “But the crazy part is that we’re only all going to be here at the same time for like two days. So we’re meeting at the old diner on Wednesday when all our schedules overlap.”

Loki hummed in acknowledgement. “And what is your MJ studying in the city of angels?”

“Acting.” Peter glanced curiously at Loki’s drawing, but he couldn’t see much from this angle. “And Harry’s at Harvard Business. He’s already working for the board at Oscorp, so I don’t know how he manages to earn a degree at the same time. He’s a year ahead of us, and I think he’s planning on finishing early. Seems impossible, but I guess being rich and important does have its perks.”

He wasn’t bitter, honestly. He knew Harry’s life had many difficulties, despite how privileged it looked from the outside.

“And you’ve stayed in contact all this time, even though he went off to Boston while you were still in high school?” The question was posed mildly, but Peter could hear the unspoken curiosity in Loki’s voice.

“Yeah. I mean, kinda. We hang out sometimes when he’s in town. We don’t really text or anything much. Just when we both have the time.” He brushed the loose grass off his pants and mused briefly on the fact that Loki would undoubtedly escape the afternoon with no grass stains on his perfectly fitted jeans. “But we were really close for a while in high school. I looked up to him a lot.”

“I see.” Loki put some sort of finishing touch on his drawing and flipped the sketchbook shut, ignoring Peter when he craned his neck to try to see it. He tossed the book and his pencils aside, rolling over onto his back to tuck his arms under his head.

The sun hit his face, turning the back of his closed eyelids pale blue and glinting copper red off his loose raven hair. Peter pulled his legs up to his chest and rested his chin on his knees, searching for more colors in the fan of dark hair across his roommate’s collar bone.

“Do you have any plans for break?” Peter asked, turning to rest his cheek on his knees so he could speak.

“Mm.” Loki didn’t open his eyes. “I’ll just be here.”

He looked softer like this. It was a more relaxed calm than the tranquil evenness he usually affected. Peter liked it.

He wondered if Loki would be lonely, sitting by himself in the dorm room with nothing to do all week. Sure, he usually kept himself busy with his writing and his reading and his sketching. But Peter thought it might feel kind of empty to continue his solitude on a barren campus while everyone else was off visiting friends and family.

“Hey, do you want to come with me? To my thing with MJ and Harry?”

Loki slit his eyes open, tipping his head to peer sideways at Peter. His eyelashes were very dark, casting shadows over his cheekbones from the angle of the sun. “I wouldn’t want to intrude.”

“You wouldn’t be.” Peter protested, shaking his head a little. “I think it’d be fun for you to meet them.”

Well, fun wasn’t exactly the right word, perhaps, but it would certainly be interesting.

Loki turned his face back to the sky, eyes slipping closed again. Peter got the impression that he was seriously considering the offer.

“It’s just lunch.” He pointed out, rubbing the inside of one of his wrists against the fabric of his jeans. “You don’t think you could handle it?”

“Of course I could handle it.” Loki drawled, rising easily to the bait. “It’s your friends I fear could not handle meeting me.”

“Don’t worry.” Peter couldn’t suppress a wry smile. “I’ll be sure to protect them from you.”

Loki’s scoffed at that, but the corner of his lips twitched upward. “I suppose I could agree to accompanying you. If you insist.”

Peter hid his grin in the crease of his knees. “Good. I do.”

 

******************************************************************************

 

Peter knew he shouldn’t be nervous about hanging with MJ and Harry, but he still found himself picking through his limited wardrobe on the day of their lunch date, more conscious than usual of the way he would appear.

It was true that he hadn’t seen Harry or even spoken to him in quite a while, but they always had an easy camaraderie whenever they met back up in person. He shouldn’t be worried about MJ either; after all, they’d been texting just last week. He had a sneaking suspicion that some of his nerves were due to the fact that Loki would be joining him, and he spent a few minutes trying to think through why that was while he found suitable sweater to wear with his untorn jeans.

He didn’t really care what Loki thought of his friends. He could tell (though they’d never discussed it), that the god tended to look down on most people as unworthy of the time and effort it would take to get to know them, so he didn’t have any particular hopes or expectations. Did he care what his friends would think of his roommate? It was possible, but still not really a reason for any stress. Loki always came off as perfectly charming, if a bit disingenuous in his ridiculously polished persona.

Maybe he was worried that Loki would give something away to MJ and Harry, since he was one of only two people alive who knew Peter’s secret? That seemed to strike closer to home, though he didn’t honestly think Loki would ever do such a thing. No, it had more to do with the fact that Loki knew him. By circumstance, he knew Peter perhaps better than anyone else. Certainly better than MJ and Harry, in some ways. And that was both discomfiting and somewhat exhilarating.

He was spared any further reflection on the matter by Loki smoothly entering their dorm room.

“Where’ve you been? We’re gonna be late if we don’t leave, like, pretty much now.”

Loki made a vaguely inquisitive sound as he stacked a couple of books on his desk. “Is that today?”

Peter barely resisted rolling his eyes. “You know it is. Stop playing coy and get ready to go. We’ll take the train.” He busied himself with slipping his wallet and keys into his pockets and checking his hair in Loki’s mirror, a useless but habitual act that he couldn’t seem to shake.

“I am ready.”

Peter glanced at him, leaning back on his desk in a picture of ease, all perfect dark pants and tight cashmere sweater under his leather jacket. Peter practically simpered in sympathetic jealously.

“You look good.” He commented thoughtlessly, cheeks heating almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth.

Loki took the compliment in stride, uncharacteristically electing not to tease at it, and straightened up as he glanced over Peter as well. “As do you. That is a nice… Sweater.”

Peter’s blush darkened, and he turned to the door to avoid Loki’s gaze. “Thanks.”

Taking the train was amusing, if only because Loki wore a vaguely disgusted sneer on his face the entire time, practically radiating contempt at the state of grime and the unpleasant smell. Peter pointed out his old high school after they got off at their stop, and they arrived at the diner in Midtown just two minutes after the designated meeting time. Not bad, by Peter’s track record.

He could see MJ through the window before they walked in, sitting at a booth near the door, and he was already grinning when the bell dinged to announce their arrival. MJ leapt from her seat as soon as she caught sight of him, rushing over to throw her arms around his shoulders in a tight embrace.

“Oh my god, Peter!” She squealed in delight, rocking him back and forth, and he laughed as he raised his arms to hug her back.

“Hi, MJ. Jesus, I’m glad to see you.”

“Me too, tiger. God, I fucking missed you.” She pulled back to look at him, slipping her hands into his and swinging them back and forth with a wild grin as she looked him over. “Damn, look at you! I can finally see those gorgeous hot chocolate eyes of yours.”

Peter felt his cheeks flush in spite of himself, and he ducked his head to hide his smile. “Yeah, well… Figured it was finally time to try contacts. You always told me I should.”

“Well you look great.” She released his hands with a squeeze, and glanced curiously over his shoulder. “And who’s your friend?”

“Oh!” Peter turned back to Loki, momentarily thrown by the stormy look on his face. It cleared in an instant, leaving the god with his typical polite, charming smile as their attention fell on him. “This is my roommate, Lawrence. I wanted you guys to meet him.”

MJ brushed a hand down her skirt before holding it out for Loki to shake, her smile turning shy and beguiling. “What a pleasure.”

Loki stepped forward to take her hand, only to bend over it and brush his lips across the back of her knuckles. “The pleasure is mine.”

MJ giggled, and Peter fought not to frown at the display. It was not only ostentatious, but left a curiously bitter taste in the back of his mouth. For a moment, he saw MJ through Loki’s eyes. She was as beautiful as ever, if not more so, long red hair falling in perfect curling waves down her shoulders, makeup minimal but pretty. She more dark tights and a corduroy skirt under a tight grey sweater. She was tall and lovely in her heeled boots, and the polish of her self-presentation was a match for Loki’s.

They’d make a very attractive couple.

He ignored that jolting thought in favor of following MJ into the booth she’d claimed, sliding in beside Loki.

“Where’s Harry?” He asked, grasping for a topic of conversation. “He’s not usually late.”

MJ shrugged, unconcerned. “He texted that he might be a little held up. Meetings or something.” Peter pulled his phone out of his pocket to check, and sure enough, there was a message from Harry in their group text.

“But we don’t need him.” MJ stretched her hands across the table towards him, grinning enticingly again. “How the hell are you? How’s the college life? I have so much to tell you about LA.”

Peter laughed, tension easing again as MJ swept him up in her usual exuberant attitude. “Really good, actually. I love my classes and I’ve met a couple of cool people.” He glanced unconsciously at Loki beside him. “Columbia’s hard, you know? Way more than high school, but in a good way. Like a challenge.”

“You always were a big nerd.” She teased light-heartedly. “Good to know you’ve finally found your people.”

Peter smiled back at her, finding it easy to slip back into their friendly dynamic. “So what about you? How’s acting school? Are you a movie star yet?”

MJ happily filled the time chatting about her classmates and teachers and auditions, both great and horrible. She was a natural story teller, engaging and pleasant. Peter inserted a comment here or there, but Loki was mostly silent. He was polite and personable when answering a question if posed to him, but otherwise seemed content to sit back beside Peter and listen, face smoothly interested though Peter could catch a dull glint of calculation in his focused blue gaze.

They ordered drinks and fries to share, and nearly half an hour had passed before Harry finally showed up.

He strolled in, dressed in one of his tailored suits with no tie, collar unbuttoned and casual (by his standards). MJ and Peter both stood to greet him, and he swept MJ up in a hug that had them both laughing in delight. He kissed her on the cheek as they greeted each other, pulling a light blush to her skin, and turned to say hello to Peter.

He was caught by surprise when Harry pulled him into a hug as well, arms coming up just a second late to wrap around the older boy’s waist and squeeze. He smelled faintly of expensive cologne and fresh laundry, and Pete’s cheeks were feeling a little warm as well when they parted from each other.

“Hey, Har.” He greeted with a breathless smile, lips stretching into a grin as Harry raised a hand to ruffle at his hair.

“Peter. You’re looking good. How’s the college life treating you?”

“Really great. Oh.” He turned back to their booth, gesturing towards Loki where he sat with his hands folded casually on the table. “This is my roommate, Lawrence! Lawrence, this is Harry.” The name tasted strange on his tongue, but it was stranger still to see the odd look on Loki’s face as he stretched a hand out for Harry to shake.

“Nice to meet you.” He intoned politely, and Harry returned the gesture.

“Likewise. Nice to meet the guy Peter’s spending most of his time with.” Peter didn’t think it was necessarily a given that he spent all his time with his roommate, but he didn’t bother to correct Harry.

They all sat back down, and Peter noticed Loki shift a little closer once he’d settled into the booth, his knee brushing Peter’s under the table. It sent a little tingle over his skin, but he didn’t spare it much thought.

The conversation flowed easily, Harry updating them on his progress through the business program and some of the vaguer points of difficulty in helping run the company. MJ regaled them with more dazzling stories of Hollywood and UCLA. Peter felt, as he had for most of high school, like the least interesting member of their crew, but it didn’t bother him. There wasn’t much he could share that was all that exciting, unless he decided to tell them about the guy who tried to rob a bank dressed as Captain America, and then thought he could throw his plastic shield at Spider-Man and convince him he was really Steve Rogers acting as part of a very important mission for the government. Or he could tell them about nearly dropping his phone off the top of a sky scraper. Or saving a truckload of cats (seriously) from driving off the Brooklyn Bridge.

Nah. He was fine with being the boring friend.

An hour and a half flew by as they ordered lunch and talked and laughed, oftentimes about nostalgic high school moments that had never seemed quite as shiny and wonderful when they were happening. Loki was charming, as always, every comment he made fairly dripping with wit, but he was coolly reserved most of the time, picking over his food, and Peter found himself a bit distracted by his distance (emotional, not physical, for his thigh had somehow ended up pressed warmly to Peter’s as they sat elbow to elbow).

Once the plates were empty and MJ had worked her way through most of a giant chocolate milk shake, she abruptly declared that she was going to the bathroom. “Peter come with me.”

She slid out past Harry and reached for his sleeve, giving Peter no choice but to tag along to the familiar back hallway where the restrooms were. She pulled him into one of the single bathrooms and proceeded to check her hair in the mirror.

“So. Your roommate’s hot.”

“What?” He blinked at her, caught off guard by the choice of conversation topic.

“Like, superhumanly gorgeous.”

If only she knew. Peter stifled a rueful sigh. “Yeah, I know. It’s kind of ridiculous.”

She eyed him in the mirror, brows raising suggestively. “You tapping that?”

Peter’s jaw dropped. “What? No! Huh?” He refused to look at her or his own reflection, already feeling his face starting to burn. “Of course not, MJ. God.”

She shrugged, pulling chapstick out of her pocket and spreading it over her parted lips. “Just thought I’d ask.”

“Why?” He rubbed his hands over his face, more than a little mortified. “Why would you ask that?”

“I dunno.” She capped the chapstick and pocketed it again, still appraising her reflection in the mirror. “Just the way he looks at you, I guess. You two look cozy. Close.”

Peter shifted on his feet, warm and unsure. “I mean… We’re kinda close. We’re friends.” He stared at the floor, mulling that over. “But I’ve never, like, looked at him that way.”

He was aware as he said it that it was kind of a lie. He wasn’t not attracted to Loki, but he really had never thought about doing… anything… with him. It was just so far outside the realm of possibility, given who he was and who Loki was and… Well, many other reasons besides. One of the most prominent being that Loki would certainly never look at him that way.

He shook his head as MJ slipped past him, unsettled by the thought. He didn’t like it. He didn’t want to have those ideas in his head.

MJ just smiled at him, a little too knowingly for his comfort. “Whatever. Just thought I’d ask.”

Peter was a little distracted when they rejoined the others at the table, but he didn’t miss the way Loki’s keen eyes flickered over his face, as if searching something out.

Too soon, Harry was checking the time on his phone and MJ was explaining that she and her dad had tickets to a new show in Broadway that night. When they all slid out of the booth to go their separate ways, Peter was once again caught off guard by the heavy arm Harry slung across his shoulder, pulling him in against the side of his body.

“I’ve missed you, Pete. I’ll give you a call next time I’m in town and we can get dinner.”

Peter hoped the flush he felt creeping down his neck didn’t show. He’d had a bit of a crush on Harry back in high school, but he’d thought he’d gotten over those silly feelings a long time ago. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

“Good. See you later, then. MJ.” He released Peter to embrace MJ one more time before slipping out of the diner and meeting his driver at the curb. Peter wasn’t surprised that he’d ignored Loki on his way out; Harry could be a bit of a dick sometimes.

He was surprised, however, to see MJ pull Loki into a hug before she, too, went her own way.

“It was so nice to meet you.” She told him, pulling back to fix him with a genuine smile. “Take care of Peter, alright? I know he has a habit of getting himself into trouble.”

Peter huffed a silent objection, embarrassed at being talked about in such a way, but the softening around Loki’s eyes and the curve of his mouth spoke to his surprised pleasure. “Don’t worry, I will.”

MJ left him Peter another hug, squeezing him tight and pressing a kiss to his cheek before she made a parting request. “Text me more, okay tiger? I need you to keep me humble.”

Peter laughed, warm and achy. “Yeah, alright. I gotta make sure your head doesn’t get too big when you’re a famous Hollywood starlet.”

Once she disappeared down the street and he and Loki headed the opposite direction back towards their subway stop, Peter found himself unusually quiet. Reflective and more than a little nostalgic. It wasn’t until they were seated on the subway (Peter was seated, Loki stood beside him with one hand on the bar, touching it only as much as was required to keep his balance) that he took note of Loki’s silence as well.

“Did you hate them that much?” He asked, meaning it as a joke though it came out a little more accusatory than he’d intended.

Loki raised on thin eyebrow at him. “Certainly not. I have no reason to hate them.”

Peter resisted a frown. “But you didn’t like them, either.”

He could see Loki’s chest rise and fall in a silent sigh, his gaze flickering to the other side of the train. “I did not necessarily dislike them.” He paused for a moment. “Mary Jane was both precisely as I imagined her, and not at all what I was expecting.”

Peter tipped his head to one side, considering that. He ignored his initial pulse of bitter jealousy at the statement and tried to figure out what Loki was actually saying beneath his words. “You thought about her enough to form expectations beforehand?”

Loki shrugged one shoulder, which was practically an admission of embarrassment coming from him. “You said you dated her for almost a year. That is… Significant.”

“Yeah, it is.” Peter’s lips twitched towards a smile. “But we’ve just been friends for a long time now. We’re close, but not that way anymore.”

“I’m aware of that.”

Peter hummed in acknowledgement, turning to look out the window as the tunnel lights flashed past. “I guess it was too much to expect that you might have fun with them. I know you don’t like… People, very much.”

“I enjoyed myself.” Loki protested, sounding mildly offended, and Peter turned back to give him a disbelieving glance.

“Did you really?”

Loki met his eyes for a moment, icy blue-grey a bit more intense than usual. “Yes. I enjoyed watching you like that.”

His brows furrowed in confusion. “Like what?”

“Happy. At ease. You smiled and laughed quite a bit more than usual.”

Peter looked down, unsure why that made something in his stomach twist. “You could be friends with them, too.” He pointed out, changing the subject. “I think they’d actually like you, if you weren’t so closed off.”

“I am not closed off.” Loki’s tone held a familiar hint of a sneer. “I am simply maintaining appearances as Lawrence.”

“Okay, but it feels so… Fake.”

Loki’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Are you suggesting that I am not a convincing liar?”

Peter did roll his eyes this time. “Of course not. You’re obviously the best liar ever. It’s just that, I guess because I know you, everything you do as Lawrence is just so polished and perfect and… It doesn’t feel real, that’s all.”

“Yes.” Loki drawled the words out as if explaining a particularly obvious lesson. “That’s why it’s called lying. It’s not real.”

He huffed an exasperated sigh. “Yeah, fine, but you could still be more like yourself. You don’t have to change your entire personality. I think people would like you better that way.”

Loki blinked at him, as if the idea had never actually occurred to him before. He fell into silence after that, and Peter started to feel a little guilty.

“I don’t mean to say that people don’t like you. You’re, you know, really charming, so. You definitely fit in well with MJ and Harry.”

Loki looked at him, curiosity coloring the tilt of his jaw. “Do you mean to imply that you do not?”

Peter blinked, taken slightly aback by the question. “I mean… I know we’re all friends, but I’m sure I look like a poor charity case beside the two of them.” He waved away Loki’s incredulous look. “Not because they have money and I don’t. MJ’s dad never made much more than Aunt May does. It’s just that she and Harry look like models, you know? All beautiful and put together. And they’re both so good at talking to people. Everyone wants to be them or be around them. Whereas I…” He shrugged with a small, self-deprecating laugh. “Well, I’m clearly kind of a mess.”

The god’s eyes had clouded into something indecipherable, but there was a sharpness to the way he was looking at Peter that made his skin feel prickly.

“You don’t have any idea how people see you, do you?”

Peter’s brow furrowed in confusion as he stared up at him. “What’re you talking about?”

“It doesn’t matter how you dress.” He stated, eyes slipping slowly down Peter’s seated form and back up again. “It’s clear how enchanting you are regardless.” Peter felt his lips part in blank disbelief, but Loki continued on without acknowledgement. “You have expressive eyes and soft hair, a pretty face and athletic body. All of that would be considered attractive, but seeing you move is simply captivating.” He stepped around the silver pole and slowly sank into the seat next to Peter’s, eyes fixated on his. “Every step you take is graceful, and it’s apparent how unconscious you are of it. That only makes you all the more beguiling. You exude a kindness and a pureness that is incredibly alluring. I don’t think you know…”

He trailed off, gaze momentarily flickering to one side, where he was carefully fingering a lock of Peter’s hair that had curled loose near his ear.

Peter swallowed hard, unable to tear his eyes from Loki’s. After a moment, Loki blinked softly and turned away, dropping his hand into his lap.

Peter blinked as well, trying unsuccessfully to clear the tingling fog he’d fallen into, and wet his lips as he turned to face forward.

He’d had no idea Loki saw him that way. He still found it hard to believe that anyone else looked at him and saw the creature Loki had just described, but he still felt a warm, heavy weight settling through his bones. He was… Irrationally pleased.

“You do stand out when you’re with them.” Loki stated, staring out the window on the other side of the train car. “But not in the way you might think.”

They didn’t speak much more on the rest of their journey back to the dorm. It was a companionable quiet, as often fell between them, but something between them felt different now. Just a little. Just a charge, invisible, shifting slightly in the air.

That night, Peter found himself glancing at Loki from across the room as they occupied themselves before bed, thinking about how he would describe Loki’s impossible beauty, should he ever ask.

And when he felt Loki’s eyes occasionally fall on him, the familiar weight held a little more heat than usual, warming his skin and the pit of his stomach.

Chapter Text

Loki hadn’t shown up on any of Peter’s patrols since that one night a few weeks ago. Peter wasn’t disappointed, exactly. It was probably a good decision all around, to keep the infamous god out of sight and safe in his innocuous student disguise. It certainly kept Peter from getting distracted or otherwise impeded when he was out saving the good citizens of New York.

Still, he couldn’t stop himself from occasionally glancing around for any sign of an ink-feathered raven or magical smoke substance while he was swinging from building to building. And if he once stopped to talk to what turned out to be an ill-tempered crow, well. Nobody needed to know about that. Ever.

His roommate still waited up for Peter every night, not matter how late his Spider-Man duties kept him out. Twice more he came home with injuries more severe than a couple of bruises. Never anything so bad as a broken bone or stab wound (both of which he had suffered in the past), but both times Loki calmly patched his cuts and scrapes and eased the pain with a pass of his skilled hands. Peter had never had anyone look after his injuries before, and it gave him a quiet, squirming sort of happy nervousness each time it happened.

Loki never scolded him for carelessness or implied that he should avoid such dangerous situations, not like after the first time it happened, but Peter could still see the dampened disappointment in those frosty eyes when blood was wiped carefully from his skin. He still noticed the subtle tightening of muscles that indicated Loki’s restraint in saying nothing, doing nothing. Though he hated to see it, still unsure if he was resentful of the god’s concern or pleased by it, he found that he didn’t mind the care being exhibited. It was… Kind of nice, maybe.

Enough time passed with no sign of magical stalking that Peter stopped expecting any more surprise drop ins during his patrols. It was unexpected, then, when Loki brought up the subject one evening as Peter was yanking his suit out of the laundry basket where it was very skillfully hidden among the other clean clothes.

“Would you mind terribly if I accompanied you on your outing tonight?”

Peter straightened up, mask dangling from one hand. “Huh? Why?”

He blinked at Loki, taking in the intentionally blank, innocent expression on the god’s face as he sat on the edge of his bed, elbows propped casually on his knees and fingers folded under his chin. It was a suspicious face, one Peter had come to associate with a particularly vicious tease or attempted manipulation.

Loki gave an elegant shrug, looking up at Peter from under his dark eyelashes. “I’m bored.”

He barked out a laugh, tossing his suit and mask on his bed before sitting down there himself. “You’re never bored. You’re always reading or drawing or writing mystery novels on your laptop.”

Loki sat up, running one hand through his shiny hair. Peter noticed that it hadn’t gotten any longer in all the time they’d been living together. “I am usually quite adept at entertaining myself, it is true,” he admitted with a wry twist of a smile. “But tonight I find myself craving something a bit more… exciting.”

Peter raised an eyebrow, not entirely convinced that there was no ulterior motive to this request, but he supposed it wouldn’t do any harm to let his roommate tag along for one more night. He was confident that whatever Loki was up to, it wouldn’t be too nefarious. There was a trust established between them now, and he couldn’t imagine his roommate betraying that without having a very good reason for doing so.

“Alright, I guess.” He agreed, mentally crossing his fingers that he wouldn’t end up regretting this. “Just, you know, behave yourself, okay?”

Loki nodded solemnly, the smile still fixed on his mouth. “I promise to be the absolute picture of discretion.”

Peter rolled his eyes, sure that Loki wouldn’t miss the gesture even as he gracefully dropped to his back on the mattress and slung one arm over his eyes so that Peter could get changed.

He did so, quickly, and stepped over to the window as he yanked the mask over his head, flattening his hair down (which he did need to get cut soon, since some people were normal humans who needed to worry about those sorts of things).

“Ready?” He asked, assuming that Loki wouldn’t need to change or anything since his clothes seemed to just disappear and reappear as he magically shapeshifted himself. And that was something he’d been wondering a lot about, whether Loki bought normal clothes made of real cotton and stuff and was just able to magically transform them, or if all his clothes were actually magic in the first place. Would that mean that Loki made his own clothes, then? He could definitely win Project Runway if that were the case.

“Very.” Loki stood fluidly and stepped to his side, an undeniable glint of excitement in his eyes, and Peter couldn’t help but grin beneath the mask.

“Do try to keep up.” He slid the window open just far enough to slip through, clinging to the brick outside and waiting until a familiar raven flew out in a flurry of black wings before closing it back up. He took off towards the center of the city, keeping out of sight of the evening pedestrians until they’d traveled a few miles from Columbia.

Loki didn’t stick to his side, but the occasional glimpses he caught of inky feathers and sharp green eyes sent a giddy thrill through his veins and the stretch and pull of muscles as he swung felt a little more satisfying than usual. Maybe it wasn’t so bad to have a bit of company. And if he was being honest, it was a little vindicating to have an audience while he did what he did. Nobody else knew this side of him, and how important it was.

After a half hour or so, he caught wind of a hold up at a gas station. He changed direction and headed straight towards the harsh threats and pleading convenience store cashier two blocks south. He didn’t see Loki as he took care of the situation, disarming the robber and webbing him up with a few snarky comments about ski mask couture being last season’s look. Still, he was aware every second of the god’s presence, his skin tingling with the knowledge of watchful eyes fixed on him. It wasn’t an entirely unpleasant sensation.

He found his way to a nearby rooftop after he’d made sure the unlucky employee was unharmed and the police were on their way. As expected, Loki joined him a few moments after he’d landed, appearing in a dark swirl of shadow. Peter stood straight and planted his hands on his hips, still humming with the subtle thrill of a crime successfully stopped.

“Impressed?” He asked, injecting just enough of a teasing lilt into his voice to let Loki know he wasn’t seriously fishing for compliments.

“Always.” The fond tilt of his mouth made Peter’s breath catch momentarily. He continued before Peter could feel embarrassed about the warming of his cheeks. “I was wondering… Might I join you, for the next one?”

Peter blinked in confusion. “Join me? Why?”

Loki’s expression remained smoothly impassive, but there was a shy hint of chagrin to the way he tilted his chin up, staring out towards the city skyline. “I thought I might give the whole hero thing a try. It seems to be in vogue these days.”

“Oh.” Oh. That was unexpectedly sweet. Loki wanted to try doing something good. It seemed a farfetched idea, but Peter’s mind raced forward, jumping to an unlikely picture of the Asgardian trickster standing with the Avengers, fully reformed and a part of the team. He wasn’t sure if Loki would ever want that, but the stubborn set of his jaw betrayed his investment in at least helping Spider-Man out. He wanted to do this. He wanted to try the whole ‘hero thing.’

It made Peter smile, something warm settling in his chest as he stepped in closer. “Yeah. I think that would be really great.” Loki’s blue gaze flashed towards him, clearly surprised by his response. “It’s just… Maybe you should try to remain, um, anonymous?”

It was as delicate a way as he could articulate to point out that Loki the Prince of Lies shouldn’t be seen running around New York, even if he was saving people with Spider-Man.

“I can lose the green.” Loki offered. “I am practically unrecognizable without it.”

A careless wave of his hand had his iconic battle outfit shifting beneath a haze of inky smoke that quickly dissipated, leaving behind a pared down version of his ensemble all in black. Peter stared, glad that his mask covered the unconscious parting of his lips as he took in the stupidly formfitting expanse of dark leather. “Um, yeah. That… You do look different.”

It was true, at least. No one would recognize Loki without his infamous favorite color, not unless they were personally familiar with him. And Peter really didn’t plan on running into any of the Avengers tonight.

“All set, then.” Loki purred, and the smirk in his voice made Peter flush with the knowledge that his roommate must be aware of his staring even if the mask hid the direction of his gaze.

He cleared his throat and turned to put the skyline in his sights instead. “Right. Um, great. I’ll just… Look for the next crime and you can, uh, help me out.”

He could feel the quiet amusement radiating from Loki even though he refused to look at him again. He tried to ignore it, closing his eyes so he could concentrate on expanding his hearing and picking apart the cacophony of city sound that surrounded them on all sides. It took a minute, Loki waiting quietly beside him, before he zeroed in on the unmistakable script of a mugging in progress.

“Follow me.” He murmured, giving Loki a heads up before he threw himself over the edge of the roof and swung towards the voices, tracking them from half a mile away.

When he got there, pasting himself to the side of a building half way up the alley, the pair of women cornered near the dumpster were shakily removing their jewelry to hand over to the two armed men boxing them in. Both delinquents (because neither looked to be older than seventeen) held knives in firm grips; a switchblade and dull steak knife. Not the most intimidating, but enough to get the job done.

Peter was ready to call down to them, drawing attention to himself as was his normal routine, but the sight of swirling dark shadow at the mouth of the alleyway had the words lodging in the back of his throat. Curious in spite of himself, Peter pressed back against the wall and watched to see what Loki would do. He could interfere at any time if it looked like things weren’t going well.

Loki only took a couple of steps forward, radiating a sort of soft darkness that made it look like he blended perfectly with the night, drawing no one’s gaze even though his face glowed pale and beautiful beneath the frame of his hair. From this distance, Peter had trouble seeing the light blue of his eyes, and they looked black instead beneath the ridges of his eyelids. Black and bottomless. It nearly stole the breath from Peter’s lungs.

Without saying a word, Loki raised one hand and mouthed something.

The muggers both let out yelps of alarm, and Peter forced himself to tear his gaze away from the god’s face long enough to see the thick, twisted roots that had split through concrete wrap tightly around the boys’ legs like tentacles, locking them in place. Before they could do anything but gape, the blades of their knives glowed a dull red, quickly heating up to a dangerous orange. They screamed, the taller one cursing shrilly as they dropped the knives and clutched frantically at their burned hands.

The women stumbled away, masks of bewildered terror on their faces, and dashed quickly out of the alley, sparing not a single glance towards Loki as they passed by him.

Peter stared for a few moments too long, heart stuttering fast in his chest, at the still, cold countenance that Loki draped over himself.

Swallowing hard, he blinked away the striking vision and dropped down into the alley in front of the boys.

“Hey.” He snapped at them, calling their scattered attention to himself. “You gonna do this again?

They both shook their heads frantically, a chorus of “no fucking way”s sounding in response.

“Good.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “Now call the police and tell them exactly what you were doing tonight.”

They both scrambled for their pockets one-handed, the taller one sobbing openly as tears and snot glistened on his blanched cheeks.

Satisfied that they would do exactly as he said, Peter glanced towards the alley entrance only to find Loki gone from sight. He waited distractedly for the cops to be dialed, then spared one more flick of his gaze towards the still-creeping tendrils of root twined all the way up the muggers’ thighs. He’d had no idea there even were roots underneath the concrete jungle of Manhattan. He wondered absently how long it would take the police to cut them free, but spared it little thought as he crawled back up the wall and out of sight.

Two blocks away on the roof of a hotel, Peter stopped for Loki to join him again.

He appeared as if he had been there all along, bleeding out of the night like a ghost.

Peter blinked at him, not quite sure what to say. “That was… Good.”

Loki raised one thin eyebrow, expression shut down enough that Peter couldn’t tell if he was amused or concerned or annoyed. “You don’t sound entirely sure of that.”

He shook his head, tried to expel the chilled sort of nervous excitement that had settled at the base of his throat. “No, it was. You did really well. It just wasn’t what I was, you know, expecting.” He let out a short laugh, trying to lighten the mood. “You were impressive as hell.”

That at least got a small twitch of a smile out of Loki.

Nodding to himself, Peter took a short breath. “So there’s this gang I check up on sometimes because they never change their meet up locations no matter how often I bust them.” Loki raised both eyebrows at that, scornful amusement making his eyes glitter and drawing a small grin from Peter. “Yeah, they’re idiots. So. We could head over to this parking garage they do a lot of deals in, it’s just like two miles west of here.”

“Lead the way.” He acquiesced, tipping his head forward just enough to emulate a small bow.

Peter rolled his eyes, but his chest felt much lighter as he took off swinging towards the garage he’d spoken of. Raven Loki flew just off his left shoulder the entire way there.

A quick bit of auditory surveillance from the roof revealed that the gang was, indeed, handling some business on the fifth floor near the stairwell. A drug deal, by the sounds of it. Peter listened long enough to get an idea of how many there were.

“Five or six guys selling and another four buying. At least.” More was a possibility, if they were standing quietly by as the deal proceeded.

“That’s quite a few.” Loki stated, tone flat.

“Not too many.” Spider-Man could handle ten or so on his own. He just had to be sure to take the guns out first, then he was usually good to go.

He webbed himself down to the correct floor and crept through the open side of the garage to crawl his way along the ceiling until he neared the stairwell, trusting Loki to follow on his own however he liked. Peering around a pillar, he quickly gauged that his count of ten had been spot on. Looked like two buyers carrying heavy fire, in addition to three handguns and an unknown number of knives amongst his good old friends the drug dealers.

He made sure to stay out of sight as he got close enough to web away the guns, pausing just long enough to glance around for any sign of Loki. Seeing none, he decided to get right to it and shot his webs, yanking the two semi-automatics out of the thugs’ hands and sending them clattering to the cement floor several yards out of reach.

The expected startled chaos ensued, men scrambling to figure out what was happening and point their weapons in the right direction. Peter focused on taking the other guns out of the picture, webbing them away one by one with quick flicks of his wrist.

Before he could drop from the ceiling and enter the fray, he was startled by a few muffled cracks and the short, agonized screams of men in pain. He turned his head in time to see five of them crumple all at once, collapsing with twisted limbs. The closest man’s leg was bent at an odd angle, another’s arm broken so badly there was blood already soaking his sleeve where the bone had pierced skin.

Peter gaped in horror, eyes finding Loki’s dark form where he was pinning another man to a cement pillar, hand wrapped around his throat. The criminal clawed at Loki’s wrist to no effect, face turning scarlet and veins bulging as he fought for breath.

The last four rushed haphazardly at the pair of them, shouting orders to each other, knives and fists raised. Peter took a jolting step forward to help, to do something, but Loki turned his head and with a flick of his eyes, sent them all flying.

Not watching to see where they landed, Peter rushed forward. The look on Loki’s face, the blank detachment, eyes devoid of anything but cold intent, frightened him.

“Stop!” He reached for Loki’s arm, still choking the life out of the last man. “That’s enough, stop!”

Loki dropped his hand, the body he’d been holding off the ground slumping to a broken pile at the base of the pillar. Peter crouched down beside him, reaching with unsteady hands to check that he was still alive.

He was, breath rattling heavy through his abused trachea, and Peter blinked away the haze of panic over his eyes as he craned his neck to see the rest of them. The air was filled with groans and cries of pain, and three of the criminals Loki had thrown into walls and parked cars appeared to be unconscious, but it didn’t look like anyone was dead.

At least no one was dead.

He fished a cellphone out of the closest pocket he could reach and dialed for the cops and a few ambulances, speaking tensely to the emergency operator since there was no one else left coherent enough to do it.

He glanced up at Loki when he disconnected the line to find the god watching him, a closed off look in his icy eyes. There was tightness in the line of his jaw, a hardness in the set of his shoulders.

Peter suppressed the shiver that crawled up his spine, tossing the cell phone to the ground next to its owner. “Let’s go.”

He led them back into the night, more rattled than he would care to admit, and didn’t stop to talk until they had traveled all the way back to Columbia. They wouldn’t be doing that again tonight, and Peter needed the time swinging through cold air to settle himself down.

He crawled in through the window of their dorm and stood in the dark, waiting for Loki to appear on his side of the room. When he felt the god materialize after a couple of seconds, he stripped off his mask and turned to face him, stomach twisting. “You went too far.”

Loki fixed him with a steady gaze, betraying no emotion as he slowly sank down to sit on the edge of his bed. “I didn’t kill them.”

Peter’s mouth pulled into a frown. “You hurt them. Excessively. That was cruel, you didn’t need to do that.”

“They were criminals. You hurt criminals.”

“That doesn’t matter. I don’t hurt people any more than I have to.”

All he received in response was a delicate shrug. His frown deepened.

“Did you do it on purpose?”

He wasn’t sure why the words fell from his tongue, but he felt with a sinking sensation in his gut that it might be true. The flash in Loki’s eyes as he looked away and the guilty tilt of his head confirmed it.

“Why?” Peter’s fist clenched tight around his mask. “Why would you do that? To try and scare me? Why?”

He watched the flex of Loki’s throat as he swallowed before answering. “I fear that you have begun to forget who… What I am.”

He grit his teeth, jaw clenching to the point of discomfort. “Bullshit.”

Loki turned incredulous eyes on him, and the flutter of his eyelashes betrayed surprise.

“Excuse me?”

“Bullshit.” He repeated, stepping forward into Loki’s space, so the god was forced to look up at him. “You’re just scared.”

Some indescribably emotion rippled across Loki’s face before he settled his expression on offended. “What in the world should I be afraid of?”

“You’re scared because you’re trying to be good and you think you might fail at it.”

Loki blinked at him. A moment of stunned silence lingered in the air.

Peter sighed. He tossed his mask aside, ran his hands over his face and through his hair, and sat beside Loki on the bed.

“You’re not going to fail.” He said softly, eyes fixed on Loki’s knee to allow the god a few moments of unobserved processing. “Not unless you keep sabotaging yourself for no fucking reason at all.”

Loki remained unnaturally still for a while, and Peter didn’t push it. Eventually, his roommate relaxed enough to twitch his fingers against his thighs and bow his head, hair falling like a soft curtain over his shoulders.

Peter reached out and lay his hand over Loki’s wrist, feeling the steady beat of his pulse through thin spider veins beneath the skin. It was slightly faster than usual. “You don’t have to go out and be a hero. And you don’t have to be perfect. We all make mistakes, that’s part of the process.”

He nodded slowly, fingers twitching again like maybe he wanted to turn his hand and take hold of Peter’s fingers. He didn’t.

“That… Won’t happen again.” He murmured, voice low. “I’m sorry.”

Peter leaned until his forehead rested against Loki’s shoulder, waited until he felt some of the tension relax out of it. “It’s okay.”

He didn’t expect Loki to never make mistakes again. He clearly didn’t see the value of human life or liberty in the same way that Peter did. It wasn’t his natural inclination, to want to protect people he didn’t care about. He was much more accustomed to harming, controlling. Killing.

But he trusted that Loki wouldn’t intentionally do something so drastic again. Not like this.

Peter pulled back with a soft sigh, patting Loki’s forearm once before standing up and crossing to his own bed. “I’m exhausted.”

Loki nodded, easily folding down onto his mattress and rolling to face the wall so Peter could change out of his suit. He didn’t move from that position even when Peter climbed between his sheets, clad in pajama pants and a t-shirt. The room was silent and too still, and Peter stared into the darkness until phantom spots danced across his vision.

Eventually, he fell asleep.

 

****************************************************************************************************************************************

 

It was hot, and Peter’s wrists ached.

He had run out of web fluid a while ago. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed since then, how long he had been swinging on his organic webs while he searched the city. Long enough to deplete his natural stores, and each swing was now accompanied by a deep tugging pain shooting down the length of his inner arm, like someone was trying to yank the tendons out through his spinnerets.

It was dark and loud, the sounds of battle echoing through the empty streets, deep rumbling explosions and muffled shouts. His suit was sticky with sweat and blood, drying tacky against his skin, and his search was growing frantic.

He couldn’t find what he was looking for.

He had the horrible, sinking sensation that he had been left behind. There was somewhere he was supposed to be, and he couldn’t reach it. His arms failed him sooner than expected, a web snapping in mid-swing, sending him hurtling untethered towards the nearest building.

He ran after that, taking to the rooftops and pushing through the night like he was sprinting through sand. No matter how hard he exerted himself, he couldn’t get there fast enough, and his chest ached with frustration and panic.

When the night grew so thick that he couldn’t see the streets below, smoke burning his nose and sense of direction completely lost, he stumbled to a stop. He was ready to collapse, throat sore with unshed tears and muscles trembling with exhaustion, when he felt it.

He turned on his heel, eyes latching onto Captain America, dressed all in black.

Steve stepped slowly forward from the haze of shadow, face melting into Tony, and then Natasha.

And then Loki was walking towards him, eyes shining like sapphire in his pale, beautiful face.

Peter nearly sobbed in relief, tripping over himself in his haste to reach the god. Loki’s arms lifted open and Peter fell forward to embrace him, but a hand shot up more quickly than he thought possible.

Long fingers wrapped around Peter’s throat, jolting him to a stop, and squeezed.

The air left his lungs in a sharp huff of shock, eyes widening in disbelief, and he reached up to grasp at Loki’s arm. His attempts to pry the hand away were frighteningly weak and ineffectual. It was all he could do to stare at Loki’s blank, indifferent expression, despair rising up like a wave and choking him.

In a quick, easy shift of movement, Loki slammed him down against the pavement. His grip never loosened, and in the next moment he was pressing himself on top of Peter, pinning him to the roof with the hard angles of his body, heavy and cold. He couldn’t move an inch, unable to get any leverage when he kicked and heaved, digging his heels into the ground.

Peter struggled for air, lungs burning and veins aching with each passing second. He could feel himself dying, the strength leaking out of his limbs and vision blurring dark around the edges.

He stared into clear ice blue and slowly, Loki smiled.

His teeth were stained red with blood.

 

****************************************************************************************************************************************

 

Peter jolted awake with a strangled gasp, hand flying to his throat. Finding it unobstructed, he took deep, gulping breaths of air.

He realized he was shaking, and disoriented, and it took a moment to register that he was on the wall, clinging there in a twisted huddle near the line of the ceiling. Heart pounding in his chest, he looked across the room to Loki’s bed. The god was still lying on his side, as still and as silent as a corpse if not for the low thrum of his steady pulse.

Swallowing down the bitter taste of panic, Peter forced himself to inhale slow and hold it. He felt tenderly around his neck one more time as he exhaled, needing to reassure himself that it hadn’t been real. He hadn’t been that shaken by a nightmare in a long while, and none that he remembered had been quite so sickeningly vivid.

Peter waited until it felt like his breathing had evened out and the trembling in his skin had receded. Then he started to construct a web in the corner of the ceiling, wrists itching and teeth on edge. He followed his instincts, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep in his bed tonight.

Even after he was settled inside the warm silk of his nest, curled up with his back against the wall, it took him a long time to relax enough to drift off again. He didn’t sleep well for the rest of the night, dipping in and out of a hazy half-awake state, slitting his eyes open just enough to locate the shape of Loki across the room whenever he was more awake than not.

When he finally blinked his eyes open to a watery sunlight creeping in from the window, he found Loki sitting up on his bed, awake. He was staring up at Peter with a small, concerned line between his eyebrows.

Slightly embarrassed, Peter offered him a tired smile as he clambered into a sitting position. Jaw splitting on a yawn, he glanced at the clock and decided he might as well get up. He didn’t have a morning class, so after he had dismantled the nest (and silently handed the balled-up webbing to Loki when he noticed the god staring at it with hungry curiosity), he dug his worn copy of The Horse and His Boy out of his backpack to occupy his mind.

Feeling Loki’s fretful gaze still lingering on him, he forwent his own bed in favor of climbing onto his roommate’s mattress and settling down beside him, stealing a section of blanket to drape over his legs.

He read for the next hour while Loki unhurriedly examined his discarded webs, and then sat quietly with his head tipped back against the wall and eyes slipped shut. As the minutes dripped past, they both relaxed and settled, the unspoken disquiet bleeding out of the air between them until only their usual quiet companionship remained.

They didn’t talk about it. They didn’t need to.

Chapter Text

Loki kept coming out on patrols. Not every night, because sometimes he still spent hours typing away on his MacBook or sitting in one of his still, trance-like waking states (Peter thought he was probably astral projecting when he did this, or maybe just reading in his mind), but a solid three or four nights a week. Peter wasn't disappointed that it wasn't more often. They needed some time apart, really, since they spent most of their free afternoons and evenings together. And Loki didn’t really like the dining hall food but he would come sit with Peter on Tuesday and Thursday nights when Gwen had her late film class and Ned was busy with the debate club.

So yeah, that was good. It probably would turn into a bit of a hassle if Loki came out every night, even though he had been on very good behavior since he went all mortal combat on that poor gang a couple of weeks before. He tagged along but didn’t really do much unless it looked like Peter could use a bit of help. And when he did step in, he kept his involvement to a minimum, simply disarming and restraining with ridiculous ease. It was actually helpful, and nice not to accumulate any scrapes or bruises on those nights.

But he wasn’t patrolling on this particular night. Tonight he had plans. Real, actual, normal social plans.

He had a date.

Ned’s roommate, a guy named Andy, had asked him to a movie and a party hosted by the lacrosse team afterwards (he was on the freshman team, apparently). Peter hadn’t thought it was a date at first, because he was evidently oblivious to these things, but Ned had set him straight by informing him that Andy had a big gay crush on him, and had actually tried to ask him out before.

Peter was surprised, and very flattered. Andy had been around when he and Ned hung out a few times in the past, but he and Peter had never really talked beyond surface-level group conversations. He hadn’t thought anything of it when Andy asked him in passing if he wanted to come to a Halloween party just after fall break. He’d declined, claiming to already have plans, because Halloween was one of his busiest nights of the year for patrolling. Andy hadn’t taken it personally, because he tried again a couple of weeks later.

Peter had agreed to it before he knew that this was supposed to be a date, and almost backed out when he learned that it was, but Ned convinced him not to. It didn’t take that much convincing, honestly, because Andy was tall and had great hair and really nice jaw bones. And Peter, who hadn’t been on a date since his ill-fated attempt with Liz Allen a whole year ago, wasn’t really in a position to turn down attractive people who wanted to hang and maybe make out with him.

He wasn’t as nervous for this one as he had been when he thought Gwen had asked him out, so maybe he was making progress. It was still a struggle to decide what would be appropriate to wear, though, and Loki was clearly enjoying the show.

“What do people even wear to college parties?” He lamented, staring forlornly between the three band t-shirts laid out on his bed.

“Depends on the type of party.” Loki drawled, propped casually on his side while he sketched one-handed in his sketchbook. He was already at least two-thirds of the way through the thick, charcoal paper pages.

“There’s more than one type?” Peter asked, exaggerating his despair as he flopped down on top of the shirts and toed off his ratty converse to put on his slightly less destroyed knock-off boots.

“Absolutely.” The god didn’t look up from his work, but his words held a familiar teasing tone. “Do let me know if you need to borrow my clothing again. I’m sure I have a mesh tank top and a leather collar somewhere around here.” His mouth twisted into his signature smirk. “If it’s that kind of party.”

Peter scoffed, rolling his eyes both at Loki and himself, for the unnecessary heat that rose in his cheeks. “It’s definitely not. Unless the entire Columbia lacrosse team has decided to go full gay fetish club, which I seriously doubt.”

Loki shrugged, as if to say that anything was possible.

“It’s not.” He repeated firmly, grabbing his Beatles t-shirt at random and quickly stripping his sweater to pull it on. “Can I borrow your jacket?”

It was cold enough to need another layer, but not so frigid that he wanted to be stuck in his winter coat all night, and he didn’t think a regular hoodie was really first-date or first-college-party material. Loki let out a put-upon sigh, but easily rose from his bed and retrieved the fleece-lined Adidas jacket from his closet.

“So tell me about this Andrew.” He requested, a bit of a sneer in his voice as he handed over the outerwear.

“You’re not meeting him.” Peter declared immediately, slipping his arms into the jacket and stepping over to Loki’s mirror to make sure it didn’t look too oversized on him. “I’m swinging by Stevenson when his shift ends at six.”

Loki held his hands up in mock surrender and retreated to his bed. “Will he be feeding you dinner?”

Peter shrugged as he zipped the jacket halfway to see how it looked. “Dunno. There’ll probably be food at the party.”

He could see the incredulous, disdainful face Loki was making reflected in the mirror. “You may be grossly overestimating the quality of a frat party, young spider.”

“It’s not a frat party!” God, he hoped it wasn’t a frat party.

“If you say so.” Loki returned a couple of pencils to their tin container and flipped to another page in his sketchbook. “Roll the cuffs up.”

He did. It looked better that way. “Thanks.”

Loki set his sketches aside and shifted to the head of the bed to reach for his laptop. When Peter turned away from the mirror, his eyes caught on the book, left sitting open at the edge of the mattress. Loki never left his sketchbook sitting open unattended.

“What’s that?” He stared, caught off guard and suddenly a little breathless as his eyes travelled hungrily over the visible page.

“One of my studies from the midterm.” Loki answered without looking up, tone just a touch too casual.

Peter moved towards the book like he was magnetically drawn to it, reverently taking it into his hands and turning it so that the drawing faced him.

“But it’s me.”

Loki took a moment to glance over at the page, as if he were unaware of what lay upon it. “So it is.”

“You drew me.” He repeated, stunned into a soft sort of disbelief.

His roommate hummed in agreement. “For most of the assignments, yes.”

Peter turned his wide-eyed gaze to Loki, genuinely at a loss for words. The god didn’t say anything else, avoiding his eyes in favor of looking back at his computer screen.

Peter sank onto the bed beside him and stared at the drawing, overwhelmed by how beautiful it was. He couldn’t possibly look like this, the soft lines and shadows painting the planes of his face as almost angelic. And yet at the same time it looked so real, each contour and angle as familiar as staring into a mirror. Loki had drawn him outside, under the tree in the quad beside their building, sitting against the trunk with one leg drawn up towards his chest. He was looking down at a book held open against his thigh, his other hand curled carelessly over his knee. His hair was its usual mess, but Loki had somehow made it look soft and tousled, like it might feel nice to sink your hands into.

It was this charcoal Peter’s face that kept drawing his disbelieving gaze, in indescribable expression shaping the crease of his eyebrows, the indent of teeth around his lower lip, the look in his eyes. It must have required magic, to make something look alive in black and white. He wanted to ask Loki how he had done it, but his tongue wouldn’t shape the words, still struck speechless with awe.

With careful fingers, he turned the page. When Loki didn’t stop him, he kept going, flipping through the sketches one by one. A lot of them were not of him, but many were. A third. Maybe even half. Here he sat up in his bed, sheets draped across his lap as he typed something out on his phone, papers spread around himself. There he was bent over his desk, and there was a close up of his face, clearly asleep, cheek pressed against what could have been the edge of a hammock but Peter knew to be one of his web nests. Some were just of his expression, or his body held in specific positions. In others he resided in places he had never been. A forest, surrounded by trees and underbrush like the fox he had watched Loki complete. Staring out of what must be a the cockpit of a spaceship at an expansive stretch of darkness scattered with more stars than should be possible.

In one he stared at his own reflection in a gilded mirror, chin tilted up as he examined himself from under his lowered lashes, and the sight of it made Peter flush with an unfamiliar heat.

After several minutes of silent examination, he became aware of Loki’s gaze on him, heavy and unwavering. He wet his lips, something fluttery in his chest making it harder to catch a breath. “I don’t know what to say.”

Loki closed his laptop, giving up the pretense of distraction, but continued to regard Peter in silence.

“You made me look…” Words failed him here; nothing in the English language seemed adequate. He stared down at the current page and whispered, needing Loki to know, “It’s beautiful.”

He didn’t look at the god. It felt like too much. Too immense to look at head on.

Loki’s voice was equally hushed when he replied. “Thank you.”

Peter flipped through the rest of the pages slowly, taking his time to stop and stare, to appreciate the remarkable skill and utter grace that lived in each line. It felt like falling into another world. It looked the same, but wasn’t. It was better. Deeper. More.

His reverie was eventually broken by Loki delicately clearing his throat, calling Peter’s attention back to himself. “Shouldn’t you be going?”

“Huh?” He blinked up at Loki, uncomprehending of the bemused, slightly smug smile that pulled at one half of the god’s mouth.

“Your date, Peter.”

It took him another long moment to remember what Loki was talking about.

“Oh.” He looked around for his phone, then glanced across the room at his alarm clock when he couldn’t immediately spot it. “Oh, right.” It was almost six.

“I guess I’ll…” He lifted the sketchbook and, not seeing a clear place to set it, stood and turned, somewhat flustered. He carefully put it down in the spot he had just vacated, keeping his fingers off the pages to avoid any smudges, and stared for just a second longer at the last drawing. It showed his own hand spread across the dark fur of a cat that was almost certainly Loki. He found it somewhat difficult to tear his eyes away.

“Um, go. I’ll go, then.”

Loki was quiet as he fumbled for his wallet and key, and found his phone under one of the t-shirts littering his bed. Peter lingered by the door, feeling a little lost. “Bye. I’ll, uh, see you later.”

His roommate just nodded, something in his expression quietly satisfied. “Have a good time.”

Peter met his clear ice gaze for another moment before he forced himself to turn and pull the door open, slipping out into the hallway with an uncomfortable sensation of coming untethered.

He tried to shake it off on his walk across campus, letting the chilled air pull him out of the fog of undefined thoughts, but he was still feeling a bit out of sorts when he met Andy on the steps of Stevenson a few minutes later than their agreed upon time. He apologized, but Andy just waved him off good-naturedly and inquired about what movie they should see.

Peter tried to concentrate on the discussion, but it was difficult to form an opinion on whether he was in the mood for the new action flick versus a comedy with Zack Galifianakis. He expressed some interest in the sci-fi thriller that Ned had told him about, but there wasn’t a showing of that for another hour and a half. They settled on the action flick, simply because the timing was better, and Andy easily filled the rest of the walk to the theater with chatter about his various midterms and a group project horror story.

Peter tried to be thankful that he didn’t have to say much beyond the occasional sympathetic response, because he wasn’t feeling particularly talkative at the moment. His head was still stuck halfway in another world.

“Want anything from concessions?” Andy asked after they had bought their tickets. “I know they’re stupid expensive, but I can’t see a movie without getting Reese’s Pieces.”

He was ready to decline, used to avoiding the hiked up prices (May would always sneak in candy in one of her big purses), but Loki’s warning about a lack of food at the party made him reconsider. “Um, sure. I’ll get some popcorn.”

He ate most of it in the first half hour of the movie, mindlessly stuffing it in his mouth while his mind wandered elsewhere, lingering on black and white images. It didn’t help that the plot was fairly boring and predictable, scattered intermittently with a car chase or shoot out. There was one pretty big explosion, setting the air vibrating with bass and making Peter’s skin prickle with overstimulation.

He was jarred out of his daze when Andy pushed the arm rest up between them and moved closer, pressing their arms together and boldly taking Peter’s hand in his.

He glanced up questioningly, but Andy pretended to be focused on the movie while he threaded their fingers together. Peter’s stomach felt kind of twisty and his heart was beating faster, but he couldn’t really tell if it was good butterflies or just anxiety.

Andy was warm, and he smelled strongly of cologne. It probably wasn’t a bad scent, to people who didn’t have heightened senses, but the chemical undertones were likely to give Peter a headache after a while. He tried to ignore it, focusing instead on the sensation of holding hands. It was… nice. It was supposed to be nice. But they both seemed to be running a little hot and Peter hadn’t taken his jacket off so their palms were getting a bit sweaty and he thought his fingers might still be kind of sticky from the popcorn.

After another ten minutes or so, he drew his hand away and wiped it on his jeans, flashing Andy an apologetic smile. To make up for it, he shifted a bit so he could lean his head against the taller boy’s shoulder, taking advantage of their difference in height. And that wasn’t so bad, except that the cologne smell was stronger there and Andy’s shoulder was kind of bony.

He stayed there for the rest of the movie anyway, uncomfortably aware that Andy would be notice any movement he made. When the final scene finally faded to black with a swell of music, he eagerly sat up to stretch the crick out of his neck and take a deep breath of popcorn-scented air.

“That was good.” Andy commented as he gathered his own jacket from the empty seat on his other side and stood up.

“Oh, yeah.” Peter agreed as he got to his feet, even though he couldn’t even recall the main character’s name. Agreement must have been the right move, though, because Andy smiled widely at him and slung an arm over his shoulders as they exited the theater.

The lacrosse party was just getting started when they arrived at the house shared by several of the upperclass team members. The music was loud but people were mostly just standing around and shout-talking at each other, holding plastic cups and trying to pretend they weren’t way too sober for this to be any fun. Andy got them both drinks when they arrived, red cups filled with beer from a keg. (A keg? Really? Painfully stereotypical. Peter was sure it would be cheaper and easier to just buy cans of beer in bulk.) He sipped at it, but it tasted truly awful. Even worse than the stuff MJ used to sneak from her dad’s fridge in the garage and way worse than the bottled beer Harry used to keep in his penthouse.

It wasn’t really Peter’s scene in the first place, and he quickly grew bored. People kept coming up to talk to Andy, which he was honestly not bothered by because it was becoming a bit of a struggle to keep up a conversation. Soon it grew more crowded and the people got steadily more intoxicated, creating a looser, louder atmosphere. Andy refilled their drinks when their cups were empty (Peter kept taking a sip whenever he didn’t have anything to say, which was often), and before long he was laughing louder and running his hand freely up and down Peter’s arm, occasionally toying with the sleeve of Loki’s jacket.

When he leaned down to speak into Peter’s ear (too loudly, because his super hearing could unfortunately pick up each and every sound out of the cacophony of noise), asking if he wanted to go somewhere else, Peter agreed enthusiastically.

He thought maybe they would go outside and get some air. Instead, Andy led them upstairs, away from the pounding music but further into a smog of marijuana smoke drifting out from a couple of the bedrooms. There were people pretty much everywhere, but Andy found an empty corner of the hallway and gently pressed Peter up against it.

“You’re so pretty.” He said, not giving Peter any time to respond before he was leaning down to press their mouths together.

The kiss was wet, and tasted of the beer they had been drinking. Peter had only kissed three people before, so he was definitely not an expert, but this one held none of the easy finesse of MJ’s or even the sloppy heat of the guy he’d hooked up with at graduation. It was just… Kind of awkward. He curled his fingers into Andy’s shirt for something to hold on to and tried his best to respond, maybe guide the kiss into something other than Andy’s tongue moving way too much and way too far into his mouth. He was only minimally successful.

He pulled away after a minute, ready to be done, and Andy proceeded to trail more wet kisses down his neck until he hit a ticklish spot and Peter flinched away. Andy laughed and leaned in to press their lips together again. He allowed it for a few seconds before breaking it off, taking one of Andy’s hands and squeezing it.

“I’m kinda tired.” He added an apologetic smile to the declaration, inwardly cringing at how strained this was rapidly becoming. “Maybe we could head out?”

“Oh, sure. Yeah.” Andy nodded his agreement and turned to lead them down the hall back towards the stairs, keeping his hold on Peter’s hand.

Peter grimaced to himself as soon as Andy was facing the other way, lifting his free arm to wipe his mouth off on his sleeve. He immediately regretted it, because now Andy’s spit was on Loki’s jacket and he had no doubt that the god would be able to tell somehow. It would be embarrassing. And the thought of Loki knowing about it, knowing that he had kissed this guy, left a slightly bitter taste in his mouth.

Andy insisted on walking him back to his dorm, and this time he didn’t have sweaty palms as a legitimate excuse to stop holding hands. Suddenly every moment spent together was uncomfortable, though Peter could tell that Andy was somewhat unaware of the tension, being clearly more buzzed and also more into all of this than he was. He just wanted the night to be over. But he wasn’t granted a reprieve at the door to his building. Instead, Andy offered to walk him all the way to his room. Peter felt bad enough for bailing on the date (and mentally planning on never speaking to the guy again) that he allowed it without protest.

He was ready for a quick goodnight and goodbye when they finally stopped outside his door, but Andy lingered.

“Sure you don't want to come back to my place?”

Peter forced a smile. “No, I’m pretty tired.”

“Alright, well… Maybe I could come in for a little while?” He leaned over Peter with a smirk that was clearly meant to be charming, laying one hand against the line of his waist. “We could Netflix and chill.”

Like Peter didn’t know what that meant. He squirmed away with a tense chuckle.

“My roommate’s here.” He shrugged apologetically, hardly bothering to pretend he wasn’t making excuses.

“You could ask him to leave for a bit? I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”

Peter was struggling for an adequate response when a voice cut in from over his shoulder.

“He minds.”

Peter twisted around in surprise to find Loki standing close behind him in the open doorway, expression icy and dangerous enough to send a tingle down the back of his neck.

“Uh…” Andy straightened up, clearly put off by the sudden appearance of a third party. There was an awkward beat of silence. “You’re the roommate, then?”

Loki sneered, eyes hard. “Obviously.”

They stared at each other, neither offering their names or any other pleasantries, and Peter was struck mute between them, mortified by the sudden deterioration of the situation.

“I think it would be best,” Loki broke the silence, words quiet but carrying an undeniable thread of threatening command, “If you left.”

Andy blinked, expression quickly turning from confused to affronted. “What?”

Loki’s eyes darkened, and Peter stood frozen at the sight, unconsciously holding his breath. He could believe that Loki was a god, when he looked like this.

“Leave.” He repeated, the word lashing out like a blade. “Now.

He stepped forward, cloaked in menacing, muted fury, and Andy took an involuntary step back, maintaining the distance between them. They all stood suspended for a moment, the air tense, before Andy glanced one more time at Peter and turned away to retreat down the hall, jaw clenched.

Peter stared at Loki, somewhat stunned by what had just occurred, but the god simply turned on his heel and retreated back into their room without a word.

He stood in the hallway, giving himself a moment to stress over how the hell he was going to explain any of this to Ned later, before following Loki inside and shutting the door behind himself.

“What was that?”

“You were drinking.” Loki accused, voice flat, ignoring his question entirely.

“Relax.” Peter stalked past him to throw his wallet and key on his desk. “My metabolism doesn’t let me get drunk. Not unless I down a couple bottles of Smirnoff, at least.”

He turned to get Loki in his sights again, frowning when he found the god stuffing his closed sketchbook into one of his desk drawers. “Why did you do that?”

“Why did you let him put his hands on you?” Loki snapped back before visibly pausing and taking a breath. He stepped to his bed and sank down on it, gaze flicking to the closed door as he crossed his arms over his chest. “I could feel your discomfort, your… distress through the walls.”

His upper lip lifted around the words like they tasted sour on his tongue.

Peter blinked in surprise, taking a moment to process that. He moved slowly to Loki’s side and hesitantly sat on the edge of the mattress. “I was handling it.”

“Were you?” Loki’s eyes were sharp, fixed unwaveringly on him, and Peter’s stomach clenched at the intensity of his regard.

“Yes.” He insisted. “I can handle myself, you know. I have literal super powers.”

“You’re still mortal.” Loki’s throat flexed around a swallow. “Still… vulnerable.”

Peter was struck silent by that, suddenly aware of how Loki must view him. And all humans. How breakable they must seem to him. How short their lives, in comparison. It filled Peter with a sad sort of awe.

He wet his lips and shifted closer, leaning until he could press his forehead lightly to Loki’s shoulder.

“I’m fine.” He muttered. “He wasn’t going to murder me or anything.”

Loki didn’t respond for a few moments, but Peter could feel some of the tension bleed out of his frame.

“No.” He scoffed. “Only slobber all over you until you drowned in his excess saliva.”

Peter choked out a startled laugh, which quickly morphed into a horrified groan. “Oh god…” He didn’t question how Loki knew about that, just hid his face in his roommate’s bicep and briefly considered the possibility of smothering himself out of embarrassment. “Gross.”

“Indeed.” Loki drawled, tone turned blissfully light with amusement. Peter smiled.

“Well.” He sat up with an exaggerated sigh. “That was a well-rounded disaster. I think I’ll go to bed and lose myself to the comfort of unconsciousness.”

Loki rolled his eyes, but there was an upward turn to the edges of his mouth, and Peter felt a little less bad about his car-crash of a night when he gathered his pajamas and toothbrush and headed to the bathroom.

It was later than he had thought, and he was actually pretty tired out from the effort of the evening (not to mention night after night of patrolling), so it didn’t take him long at all to fall asleep with Loki working quietly on his computer across the room.

 

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The night was cold and dark, the city shrouded in mist that obscured Peter’s vision as he swung, keeping him from seeing the streets below. It was insulated and damp, like flying through a cloud, and the tops of the buildings loomed like monoliths emerging from the fog.

He tried to see through it, eyes straining as he peered into the shadows, but his search was fruitless.

Frustrated and itching with a creeping sense of despair, he clung to the side of the tallest building he could find and started to climb. It stretched up and up, and too much time passed before he finally broke through the rolling layers of fog and reached the top. He pulled himself onto the roof and looked out over the sea of white; nothing but a vast blanket of cloud stretching towards the dark horizon, stars glittering overhead.

An unnamable sadness swept over him at the realization that he was completely, utterly alone here.

Then a rustle of movement sounded behind him and the skin at the base of his neck tingled gently. He stood with a sharp inhale, turning to see with a swell of hope warming the space behind his ribs.

A relieved smile broke across Peter’s face as he rushed towards Loki, so incredibly grateful to find him here after he had been searching for so long. This time, the god let him fall into his arms, wrapping Peter in a firm, sweet embrace.

“I’ve got you.” He murmured into Peter’s hair, voice low. “I’m here now.”

He clung to Loki, fingers tangling in the leather of his cloak, and tears pricked his eyes as he buried his face in the god’s chest. It distantly occurred to him that he ought to be embarrassed to be seen crying, but he was too relieved to care. It felt like he was finally where he belonged, where he was searching for. Finally somewhere warm. Somewhere like home.

Loki ran a comforting hand through his hair, stroking down the back of his skull a few times before he thread his fingers through the tangled strands and pulled, tilting his head back until they could look at each other.

And Peter had never seen those ice eyes look so heated. It sparked something in his gut, and his grip tightening incrementally. And then Loki leaned down, and Peter knew what was coming but he still let out a soft gasp when their mouths met.

It was warm, and good, and Loki tasted like mint leaves and fresh snow, and the slide of their tongues was smooth and so very right.

And then Loki was laying him out on the rooftop, and his whole body flushed hot when the god spread himself atop him and pressed Peter down with his weight. He couldn’t move and that was good. He didn’t want to move from here. Not ever. Not when Loki’s hand wrapped lightly around the column of his throat and held him there, kept him steady as he slowly consumed Peter’s mouth. It was good.

It was so good.

 

****************************************************************************************************************************************

 

Peter woke with a gasp, overheated under the weight of his comforter and disoriented by the darkness of the room. There was no moonlight, just the dull glow of his alarm clock. The room was silent beyond his own heavy breaths and racing heart, and he was achingly hard in his sleep pants.

His skin was still buzzing, arousal like a churning, living thing in the pit of his stomach. He hadn’t masturbated since he went home during fall break and now he was desperate for it, hand moving of its own volition to slip inside his boxers.

Still riding the hazy high off his dream, mind caught against the rooftop with Loki’s heavy weight pressing him down, he wrapped his hand around himself. The first pull made his whole body tremble with a suppressed shudder, teeth digging sharp into his bottom lip to hold back a whimper.

Suddenly, all he could hear was the steady metronome of Loki’s heart beating from across the room.

He was right there. And Peter knew he could come so easily, he was so close to the edge. But instead he wrapped his fingers tight around the base of his shaft and squeezed, staving it off.

Loki could be awake. There was no way to know for sure. And while the thought filled him with a conflicting mix of embarrassed anxiety and sick arousal, he pushed the possibility to the back of his mind.

He forced himself to pull his hand away and curl over onto his side, facing the wall. He was hard and turned on and frustrated for a long time, listening to Loki breathe in the dark. And though he tried to calm his body and his mind, the racing of his heart could not seem to slow.

Eventually he slipped back into sleep, and no more dreams roused him in the remaining hours before morning.

Chapter Text

Peter should be concentrating on the open chemistry textbook draped across his legs, but his mind was drifting. And he was letting it. He was reading a few chapters ahead of the class, anyway, and his only currently unfinished assignment was a bio paper that he was diligently putting off until the day before it was due. So. He could afford to zone out a little.

He was quite comfortable, curled up on Loki’s bed with his shoulder and cheek pressed firmly against the god’s bicep while he worked on an online quiz for his Gender Studies course. Peter hadn’t even known he was taking it until last week. Although he’d been surprised to hear his roommate mention it, it was not at all unexpected that Loki would be interested in such a subject once he thought about it. The room was kind of hot since the dorm had turned the heat on and their radiator filled the enclosed space with warm, dry air, but Loki was pleasantly cool to the touch even through his soft cotton shirt.

Things had been easy between them lately. As easy as ever, really. Although Peter never would have imagined their casual familiarity when he’d first walked into the dorm room and seen who his roommate was, it never bothered him how quickly they had grown comfortable with each other. It was nice.

The thought might have occurred to Peter that things would feel a little awkward after he had realized he was sexually attracted to Loki, but that just hadn’t happened yet. It was probably because Peter had always known he found the god ridiculously attractive, so it wasn’t much of a leap to develop… Desires.

And it didn’t really matter, did it? It’s not like anything would change between them. His only concern would be making Loki uncomfortable, and he doubted the god would care much even if he did find out, given how he viewed human lives. Like the bright, fleeting flare of a lightning bug appeared to a strong, ancient tree.

People already thought they were involved, anyway. Apparently Andy had told their mutual friends about the disastrous end to their date last week., and heavily implied that Loki was some sort of jealous lover. Ned had asked him point blank the morning afterwards if Peter was fucking his roommate, and why hadn’t he said something about it? He had been quick to set Ned straight (and Gwen, when she asked him far too excitedly about it later that day), but he wasn’t as embarrassed or bothered by the rumor as he might have been.

Who wouldn’t want to be hooking up with Loki? He was inhumanly beautiful and unbelievably intelligent. He was also sarcastic, manipulative, occasionally quite rude and entirely closed off to everyone except Peter.

And that shouldn’t make Peter feel quite as special as it did.

Regardless, he wasn’t going to pretend they were anything other than platonic (if slightly closer than usual) college roommates, but it wouldn’t kill anyone if he let people think what they wanted to think.

He’d mentioned it in passing to Loki earlier, laughing it off as a bit of a joke, and the god hadn’t reacted much at all beyond a brief, snide comment about Andy being a sore loser with fragile self-esteem. He was probably right about that.

Peter blinked slowly at the dense text in his lap, letting the words shift in and out of focus. It was still early in the evening, and he would be leaving for patrol in a half hour or so, but maybe he could catch a quick power nap if he made the effort. His sleep had been somewhat restless lately.

He considered turning off the desk lamp and moving to his own bed, but that seemed like a lot of effort. Instead, he pushed his book off to the side and squirmed into a more comfortable position, half laying down with his face smushed into the crook of Loki’s elbow. It couldn’t be the most comfortable position for the god, but his typing only stalled for a moment before he adjusted the angle of his laptop and resumed once again. Peter let his eyes drift closed, lips curling upwards as he took a deep breath and filled his senses with the scent of Loki’s clothes and skin.

He hoped Loki didn’t mind. Did he feel warm to the god? He tended to run hot since the spider bite (which he found counterintuitive since actual spiders were coldblooded, but there were many aspects of his powers that ran perpendicular to real arachnid characteristics, like his overactive metabolism, which was likely related to the uptick in his core body temp). And he remembered Loki mentioning something about Asgardians having better temperature regulation than humans. He’d meant to ask more about that, but he’d never gotten around to it. Did Loki have to lower his temperature when Peter’s proximity made him warmer? Did he have conscious control over that? It would be cool, if he did.

It occurred to Peter then that Loki had felt warm when he was a cat. Maybe that was just a characteristic of the feline species? And then he found himself lingering over the memory of Lokitty’s soft, toasty body cradled in his arms. How he had felt. So light, but still solid. Warm with that fluttering heartbeat. So tactilely alive as Peter handled him. Stroked his fur. Scratched beneath his chin.

God. He’d really just fondled Loki without even thinking about it, hadn’t he? And Loki had been kind enough to say that he hadn’t minded, afterwards. Still. The memory would continue summon a tug of guilt to Peter’s stomach alongside the slightly shameful warmth.

It wasn’t really all that different to the way they touched casually now. Leaning against Loki on one of their beds like this was common enough. Sometimes Peter would take Loki by the arm without thinking when they were talking about something, using touch as a way to emphasize whatever he might be saying. Or he’d tug on a bit of the god’s clothing to get his attention or make a point.

Now that he thought about it, he was almost always the one initiating these sort of interactions, wasn’t he? Loki was rarely the one to reach out. And he’d never draped himself across Peter, letting the human take his weight like this. Maybe he didn’t even enjoy it.

Peter’s stomach dropped at the realization, and he jerked himself away from Loki to sit back up and put some space between them.

Loki stopped typing, turning his head to blink at Peter. The look on his face must have conveyed some of his inner agitation, because a small crease of concern appeared between Loki’s eyebrows.

“Sorry.” Peter blurted out.

Loki blinked again, waiting a moment before prompting. “For…?”

He swallowed, and wet his lips, looking down guiltily at the dark blue comforter. “For, like… Using you as a pillow. And stuff.”

He could feel Loki’s nonplussed agitation prickling the air.

“What in Asgard are you talking about, Parker?”

He shifted in discomfort before taking a short, huffing breath and forcing the words out. “Sorry I always get in your space without asking. I just touch you whenever I feel like it without even thinking and I do it all the time and you don’t even like it.”

The silence after he pressed his lips together made Peter want to crawl up the walls and hide in the corner. He settled for shifting again and picking at the seam of his jeans, venturing a reluctant glance up at Loki from underneath his lowered eyelashes.

The god was looking at him with something indecipherable in his eyes.

“How do you know I don’t like it?”

Peter dropped his gaze again with a shrug. “Because you just sit there and you don’t react or anything. And you don’t really touch me in the same way. I never thought about how that probably means you don’t want me to. Sorry.”

Loki let out a slow, exasperated sigh.

“For a very smart human, you are somewhat of an idiot.” Peter’s eyes flashed up, and he was surprised to see a hint of a smirk on Loki’s mouth. “How forthcoming am I with my opinions, whether they are kind or unkind?”

Peter nearly scoffed. “Very.”

His roommate raised an eyebrow, giving him a pointed look.

Peter blinked. “Oh.”

“Oh.” Loki mimicked teasingly, his smirk growing and turning warm in a way that made Peter’s breath stick in his chest. Then he bent one leg to angle his body slightly towards Peter and lifted his arm in invitation.

Trying and failing to keep a grin off his face, Peter moved close again and folded himself into Loki’s side. He lay his cheek against Loki’s flank, where he could feel the steady rise and fall of his ribs, and relished in the weight of his roommate’s arm draped over his back, his hand laying flat and firm against the curve of Peter’s side.

Loki went back to navigating on his laptop one handed, and Peter let his eyes close to listen contentedly to the rush of blood beneath Loki’s skin, surging and slowing with every pump of his heart.

He felt happy and fuzzy all over, in a different way than usual. It probably should have made him nervous, this feeling that he couldn’t quite (or didn’t really try to) define. But it felt good. Dangerously close to perfect. And maybe he could just enjoy it and not overthink things for once.

That seemed to be working out well so far. When it came to Loki.

Chapter Text

Peter felt good. Really good.

It was the first truly cold night of the year, crisp ice air and biting wind. It hadn’t snowed yet, but the cement, the buildings, the lights all had a sparkling quality like they were just on the edge of frosting over. It was the kind of weather that put Peter in mind of snow days and the dark, long months of winter, even though it was only the end of November.

He was swinging through the east end with enough effort to keep his blood pumping, making the cut of unforgiving wind through his suit feel invigorating rather than uncomfortable. He was pretty sure he had aced his last English Lit quiz earlier that day and all of his classes were winding down in preparation for finals. He didn’t have any homework or plans over the weekend and the whole world felt wide open and wildly real.

And Loki flew along beside him, keeping pace with measured, casual flaps of his great black wings and glinting iridescent like he might crystalize into ice himself.

It was a typical Friday night, activity wise. Spider-Man had already stopped a robbery, busted a low-level drug deal, and broken up a gang fight before it got too nasty. He was keeping an ear out for trouble and trying to cover as much ground as possible, as much to keep himself active and warm as to protect a wider swath of the city. He considered taking a quick break to chat with Loki. Maybe the god could pop into a nearby Starbucks and get him a peppermint hot chocolate. He’d go himself, but the suit attracted too much attention and he didn’t carry his wallet with him for obvious reasons. Maybe Loki didn’t either, but surely he could just conjure money, right? The moral lines were a little blurry, but Peter supposed it ranked pretty low on the list of crimes to worry about an ex-super villain committing. Especially since he really wanted some hot chocolate.

He started looking for a roof to land on, preferably one with some sort of heating system. He tried to avoid hotels and apartment buildings where residents had roof access, so it took a minute to spot a bank crowned with huge, steaming vents that were sure to be giving off some warmth. He landed with a tight front tuck to absorb momentum and gratefully collapsed spread eagle in front of one of the vents. It didn’t scald him, though the steam did smell kind of musty and weird.

“What on Midguard do you think you’re doing?”

Peter grinned under his mask, not bothering to sit up yet. “It’s cold out. Aren’t you cold?”

“Hardly.” Loki sniffed disdainfully. “I’ve mentioned that Asgardians are much better at temperature regulation than weakling humans such as yourself.”

He hummed in recognition, turning the sound into a whine of protest when Loki nudged his thigh with a heavy boot. “Perhaps it would not bother you so if you dressed in warmer clothing. If you could even call that thing clothing.”

“It’s a super-suit.” Peter grumbled. “Don’t knock the super-suit.”

“As you wish.”

Peter couldn’t stifle his smile at the light amusement in the god’s tone. He stretched a little, relishing the ache of exertion in his arms and legs, and accepted the hand that Loki offered to pull him to his feet. “Could you get me a hot chocolate?”

Loki raised one dark eyebrow. “Hot chocolate?”

“Mhm. Peppermint. You know, from Starbucks? It’s seasonal but I’m pretty sure they make it all year if you ask for it. And anyway, they should already have their holiday drink specials running. Oh, and with whipped cream! Please. They put those mint chocolate shavings on top, sometimes.”

He raised both hands to Peter’s biceps and rubbed firmly up and down his arms, warming the skin beneath his suit. “Are you truly that cold?”

Peter shrugged, using the movement to lean into the touch a little more. “Not really. Mostly I just want the hot chocolate.”

Loki rolled his eyes, but the corner of his mouth was twitching upwards. “How nefarious, taking advantage of your friend’s generosity. What would Spider-Man say?”

“He’d say I can owe you the five bucks, if it’s really that much trouble.”

“You could owe me.” Loki tipped his head in consideration, eyes narrowing ever so slightly. “Though it would not be money I would want in return.”

Peter felt something dip behind his navel, a lurching little thrill that made him suppress a shiver. But Loki was smiling placidly in the next moment, dropping his hands from the hero’s arms. “But you don’t. I shall fetch your drink and feed your sugar addiction, free of charge.”

“I don’t have a sugar addiction!”

“Of course you don’t. My mistake.”

He opened his mouth to argue the teasing comment some more, following the familiar script, when a voice caught the attention of his amped up hearing.

“Please, oh god please don’t please, Jack, ple-e-ease…” Her words dissolved in a hitching sob, wet and panicked. “I didn’t… I swear, I, I never, just - Oh god please, please don’t - ” She was cut off with a thump and a short scream, and then it sounded like she was crying too hard to speak.

Peter caught hold of Loki’s wrist and tilted his head in the direction of the distressed voice, face falling into a grim expression under the mask. “It’ll have to wait.”

Loki nodded once in understanding, and Peter squeezed his wrist before letting go and darting towards the edge of the rooftop.

He traveled fast towards the woman, only about a half mile away, with a lump building in his throat that was equal parts dread and anger. They were outside an apartment building when he found them, fenced inside a half-empty parking lot. The woman was cowering beside the crumbling stairs that led up to a side door, paint peeling, and the man was yelling.

“I fucking told you! I fucking told you never to speak to him and you fucking did it anyway. I fucking told you, didn’t I? How many times, huh? How many times did I tell you?”

There was a dull glint at the man’s waist and Peter only saw the gun when he raised it, pointed it in the woman’s direction. She flinched back with another violent sob, her makeup running and what looked like a bruise already forming on one cheekbone.

He landed a few feet away and raised his arms, palms out. “Hey, hey, hey. Let’s all calm down, okay?”

The woman’s eyes flew towards him, wide and wild with terror, but the man’s attention stayed fixed ahead. “How long, huh? How long has this been going on behind my fucking back? HOW LONG?”

He was practically shaking with rage, dripping with it, teeth bared, and all the hairs on the back of Peter’s neck were standing on end. “Hey, man, come on. Look at me, look over here.”

“I d-didn’t!” The woman cried, clinging shakily to the metal bannister at her side. “Please I promise, I promise. H-he just called because - ”

“DON’T FUCKING LIE TO ME!” He screamed, loud enough to make the air ring, to make Peter flinch. “I’m done with the lies! I’m done with the fucking manipulation and all the fucking lies everything you fucking say to me is a lie, isn’t it? Since day fucking one, I should have known. You bitch. You ruined my fucking life with your lies!”

Peter stepped closer, preparing himself to lunge in and take the gun. “Come on, man, you don’t want to do this. Let’s just - ”

“Jack, please, I never - ”

“SHUT UP. SHUT THE FUCK UP.”

It happened too fast.

The man wheeled on him and Peter’s senses screamed. He dropped on instinct and a shot rang out. He scrambled back to his feet but the man was already moving, arm straightening, finger tightening. There was a flash of green in his periphery and then Peter was lunging. His whole body fought the movement, skin lit up like a live wire, but he was going to shoot her and it was too late to stop him.

There was another bang, louder than the first, and Peter felt himself stumble.

He tried to catch his footing. It was always so easy to catch his footing. But his legs didn’t listen and his infallible balance didn’t kick in, and his knees hit the pavement hard enough to hurt.

There was a twinge under his shoulder and he raised a hand to it, pressed at the pinched spot uncomprehendingly. His palm came away wet and dark.

He glanced up, confused, and found Loki staring at him from a few yards away, lips parted. He couldn’t parse the god’s expression, couldn’t understand the horror he saw there.

Then his eyes flashed green with a cold, hard fury, brighter than any human rage could reach, and he whirled on the man with the smoking gun. A sharp gesture and a sharper word, and there was a wet ripping sound like nothing Peter had ever heard before.

And then suddenly it hurt. His chest hurt. It hurt so bad he couldn’t breathe.

He slumped over gracelessly, trying desperately to suck in some air, to catch his breath, but the pain made his vision blur and it felt like his throat was full of fluid, like he was drowning, and he coughed even though he couldn’t catch his breath and that hurt even worse than before.

Someone was screaming. Loud, blood-curdling screams. And Peter wondered if that woman was dying.

His mouth tasted like smoke and blood, burnt and metallic, but he couldn’t swallow it. Still couldn’t catch a breath. And it was cold. So cold. The screaming wasn’t stopping, and he wished that it would. It was starting to scare him.

Then there were hands turning him, jostling him, and he choked on an involuntary noise as the pain spiked unbearably. He blinked and Loki was there, face pale and mouth set in a grim line. He tried to reach for him, to grab hold of his cloak for something to hang on to, but his arms wouldn’t move. He couldn’t move and terror buzzed through his veins, sharpening everything into stinging clarity.

Loki was speaking, low and rushed, a frantic tint to his voice, but Peter couldn’t understand a word of it. It took him a long moment to realize that was because he wasn’t speaking in English, or any language Peter had heard before. Something pressed down on his chest, a hand, and then there was heat. He kept his gaze fixed on Loki’s face even when a green glow flickered at the edge of his vision. The heat intensified until he thought it might really burn him, but the burning was better than the pain so he didn’t mind.

Then the burn turned into a buzzing sort of numbness, spreading out through his chest and shoulder and ribs. And then the pressure he had hardly been aware of released, and he could suck in a wet, rattling gasp of air. The relief was so intense he could feel it in his teeth, could see his vision go dim with it. He raised his arms and clutched at Loki’s cape, smooth leather crumpling in his fingers. The numbness spread out through his limbs and made his jaw close with a snap, an icy shiver working its way through his body.

The low murmur of Loki’s voice dropped off into silence and the silence was too loud. It was cold again. Too fucking cold. Peter’s breath hitched as he pulled in great heaving gulps of air, and another shudder gripped him tight and made his teeth chatter.

Loki’s breath left him in a rush and he gathered Peter tightly into his arms. “Shh… Shh. It’s okay. It’s okay now. You’re okay.”

Peter fumbled to rip his mask off one-handed, filling his lungs over and over with air so cold it stung his throat, and let himself be held. And when he started to feel light headed, when the pressure built under his trembling skin like an inflated balloon about to burst and he couldn’t stand to hold still for a second longer, he pushed weakly away from Loki and tried to sit up straight. His movements felt clumsy and exaggerated, and he gripped Loki’s arm to try and peer over his shoulder.

“Where did…”

“Don’t look,” He said fiercely, laying one palm across Peter’s jaw and tilting his face away.

But he’d seen it.

He looked more like meat than a man, now. Sprawled messily across the pavement, a dark, glistening heap of muscle and fat. The teeth and the whites of his eyes were shockingly bright against all that blood. He was… Steaming slightly. Like breath in winter air.

And then he smelled it, raw and briny, the copper taste of blood in the back of his throat. He let out a sound like a whimper, unintentional, and turned his head in the opposite direction, seeking fresher air. He couldn’t find it. Couldn't get the taste out of his mouth. His breaths came quicker, more desperate, and it wasn’t until Loki wrapped a hand around the back of his neck and held him steady that he realized he was shaking all over.

“Close your eyes,” He ordered, and Peter did, burying his face in Loki’s shoulder. The god didn’t have a strong scent, but his clothes always smelled faintly of paper and detergent and his skin was kind of sweet in a warm, vaguely floral way. Maybe if he inhaled deeply enough, he could fill himself with Loki and there wouldn’t be room for anything else.

Loki wound an arm around his waist and pulled him in close, allowing Peter to cling. There was a tilt and his stomach lurched, like the floor suddenly dropped out from under him, and then they were sitting on Peter’s bed in the dim light of the desk lamp he’d left on before patrol. He raised his head just enough to see, to confirm that they were in their room and everything was dizzyingly different, the air warmer and drier, clear of the cloying, gamy scent and for a few long seconds he really thought he might be sick. It felt like some of his guts had been left behind. Or like… Part of him was here and part of him was there. He was left reeling in the wake of it.

His teeth chattered loudly in the small, quiet space and other students breathed through the walls, muffled and slow, sleeping or quietly being. Loki still had an arm around him and a hand at the back of his head, holding him up, holding him together, and Peter struggled to return to himself. To sit up and clench his jaw, to slow his breathing and get it the fuck together. He glanced up at Loki’s mouth, which was still a flat, worried line. He knew if he raised his gaze further, he would see that small crease between his eyebrows, could imagine the slightly haunted look in his eyes.

“I’m fine.” Peter tried to reassure him, but the words shook a little too much to be convincing.

His eyes fell to his lap, and he realized that he still had his mask crumpled up in one fist. He carefully smoothed it out and set it aside, swallowing an itch of panic at the sight of dark smudges of blood on the bright red material. His right palm was covered in it. It would get on the bedsheets and probably stain.

He was’t a stranger to blood, especially not his own, but something about seeing it now made his stomach hurt. He huffed a sigh that came out more flustered than frustrated and reached back for his zipper. He aborted the movement halfway through and let his arms fall; Loki still had a hand on his waist. Was still looking at him with that concerned expression on his face.

“I should…” The words faded out, his voice failing him, but Loki seemed to understand.

“Here.” He shifted Peter with a gentle nudge, found the zipper and pulled it down smoothly.

Peter wet his lips and waited for Loki to turn his back before he tugged the suit down and off his arms. He got it halfway down his legs before he saw the blood soaked through the material, darkening the whole front of the suit and a good portion of the back as well. His breath caught in his throat and he struggled to yank it the rest of the way off and over his ankles. Loki silently passed him a pair of sweatpants without turning around and Peter pulled them on with unsteady hands.

He couldn’t stop himself from looking down at his chest. The blood was a shockingly vivid red, still wet and brightly slick against his skin, only just starting to grow tacky at the edges where it was smudged by the suit. There was so much of it that he panicked momentarily, convinced that he must still be bleeding. But he wasn’t. He wasn’t. He was fine. He was okay. He was okay, now.

“Let me.” Loki took both his hands, smoothing out his fingers and muttering a few lyrical words beneath his breath. Peter closed his eyes, blew his breath out through his lips as slowly as he could, and when he looked again the blood was gone. All of it.

Loki helped him tug a sweatshirt over his head and smoothed it down. He lay his hands over Peter’s arms and rubbed gently up and down, warming him up. It felt really nice, and a small sob crawled up Peter’s throat before he could choke it back.

And then he was crying, breathy and messy and uncontrollable. Loki wrapped him up in his arms, pressed Peter’s face to his shoulder, and let him.

It took a few minutes to calm back down, but eventually the sobs grew weaker and the tears slowed. His breath came easier. The wild aching fear knotted in his stomach dissipated, and he came back to himself enough to feel embarrassed about the snot he was smearing on Loki’s sweater. The god had turned his battle outfit back into regular clothes at some point, and Peter was grateful for that.

“Sorry.” He muttered, putting enough space between them to wipe his nose with the back of his hand. “I’m okay.”

Loki handed him a tissue, startling a weak breath of laughter out of him.

“You’re okay,” He repeated. “Scoot back.” He arranged Peter’s pillow so he could lean back against it and arranged himself so he could sit pressed up against Peter’s side, the line of his body a warm, comforting weight from Peter’s hip to shoulder.

“Here.”

Peter blinked down at the steaming mug that his roommate was suddenly holding in front of him, the rich, silky smell of hot chocolate wafting up towards his face. It was topped with a generous swirl of whipped cream and little red and green peppermint shavings.

He fought the returning urge to cry a little bit more and took the mug with both hands, cupping its warmth close to his chest and breathing in the sweetness. He took a tentative sip and it was just the right temperature, hot enough to feel all the way down into his stomach, but not hot enough to burn his tongue. It was delicious, just like he’d been craving earlier. The slight nausea still lingering in his guts disappeared quickly, and he couldn’t stop himself from taking a few more long drinks. He felt warmer inside, more grounded in his body and in their room. Like he was really here and not still struggling to return to reality.

“Is this magic hot chocolate?” He murmured into the mug, licking a dab of whipped cream off the rim.

Loki laughed, the sound relieved and just a little unsteady. “Only insomuch as it was conjured using magic. Otherwise, it is perfectly regular.”

He nodded slightly and took another sip, letting his body sag sideways so that Loki took a bit more of his weight. After a quiet minute, when his hot chocolate was mostly gone, he took a deep breath and asked the question that had been lingering at the back of his mind the whole time.

“The woman. Is she…?”

He curled a hand over Peter’s forearm and stroked his thumb gently along the inside. “She’s fine. She ran, after I…”

Peter flinched at the memory, vivid and visceral. He pictured the police finding it. Finding him. What in the world would they think? What was that poor woman thinking, right now? Even considering what he had done to her, what he had tried to do, she shouldn’t have had to see that. No one should have to see that.

“I’m sorry,” Loki murmured, so softly it was almost a whisper, but there was real regret in his voice.

Peter shrugged one shoulder. He couldn’t say that it was okay. It wasn’t okay, but. “I understand. He did almost…”

Almost.

“I’m not sorry I killed him.” Loki said it gently, but there was a thread of steal in the words. “Only that I did not step in sooner.”

He turned his head to look sideways at Loki and found that their faces were almost too close to clearly make out his expression. The lingering worry and guilt in his pale eyes was enough to make Peter feel soft inside.

“S’not your fault.” He murmured.

Loki allowed one of his beautiful half-smiles with a faint sigh, sending a light gust of warm air across Peter’s mouth. The taste of his breath, just a hint, had Peter’s eyes drifting closed. He tipped his head forward and Loki met him halfway, pressing their foreheads together. They sat still for a minute, just breathing, and Peter finally felt like himself again. Calm. Safe. Like he really was okay.

“Come,” Loki said after a while, pulling away to tug Peter’s blankets aside and gesture for him to slide underneath.

Peter crawled between the sheets and let Loki tuck him in, smiling in spite of himself. He wouldn’t have allowed it on any other night, but it felt nice, to be cared for.

“Thank you,” He whispered as Loki stepped away to turn off the desk lamp, knowing that the god would hear him.

His eyes drifted closed without any effort. He wouldn’t have thought that he’d be able to fall asleep, at least not easily, but exhaustion hit him like a wave. Dark and fuzzy and undeniable. Maybe it was the healing his body had done, though Loki was clearly responsible for the bulk of that, or maybe it was just the adrenaline crash. Regardless, he was asleep before he could think to fight it.


He woke up in the night, shaking and gasping and cold, the phantom burn of oxygen deprivation making his chest ache. He reached a hand up to rub at the spot, sucking in purposeful gulps of air. It didn’t hurt, not really, but he couldn’t get the feeling to go away completely. And he could hear the radiator still creaking from underneath the windows, clearly working, but he was chilled even under his comforter.

He sat up, too unsettled and uncomfortable to stay lying prone. He glanced across the room and found Loki awake, propped up on one elbow and watching him in the dark.

Without a word, he raised the corner of his blanket, and Peter slipped gratefully from his own bed to crawl into Loki’s.

He curled up facing his roommate, and let out a soft breath of relief when Loki lay one arm over his shoulder and pulled him in close. He really didn’t think he’d be able to sleep this time, but the god was radiating heat like a furnace and Peter couldn’t control it when his racing heart started to slow, when his muscles melted into the mattress and his head lulled against Loki’s collarbone. The gentle drag of his fingers through Peter’s hair was soothing both his body and his mind. Everything felt heavy and soft and he was asleep again before he knew it.

It never occurred to him to build a web nest, safe up high in the corner of the ceiling, far away from the warmth of Loki’s bed.


When he woke up in the morning, sunlight turning the backs of his eyelids red, he felt nothing but warm and so comfortable that the idea of moving seemed incomprehensible. He let himself lie there for a while, acknowledging where he was and congratulating himself on not freaking out about it at all. And mostly just clinging to the contentedness that seemed to have sunk all the way into his bones overnight.

When he did finally drag his eyes open and squirm around a bit, stretching his muscles, he was greeted with the sight of Loki’s massive black wolf form laying across the other half of the bed. He was tucked up close against the wall so as not to take up too much room, his head resting on two large paws, and he was staring steadily at Peter with lazy, half-lidded eyes the color of the northern lights.

Peter blinked at him for a moment, then rolled closer with a sigh and buried his face in the wolf’s downy fur.

Loki made a sound in his chest that was kind of like a gentle growl, but reminded Peter more of a purr than anything else. He chuckled into the wolf’s shoulder and wondered, a bit hysterically, what this would look like from the outside.

This was weird, right? It was probably weird, but he couldn’t really bring himself to care at the moment.

“Morning.” He greeted dryly, voice muffled by the fur. It felt good on his lips and eyelids. “What’s this about? Feeling lupus-y?”

There was no answer, so Peter pulled back after a few seconds to look Loki in the eye. He blinked slowly, but remained silent. Peter frowned, uneasy with the lack of response. “You can answer me. In my head. Please?”

The wolf’s ears twitched backwards, and he let out a small huff of air that sounded enough like Loki’s put-upon sigh to make Peter smile again.

“You seemed cold.”

It was still a little strange to hear the god’s voice in his mind without any outward indication from the wolf that he was speaking, but it was a relief, too.

“I was,” He admitted, reaching out absently to stroke down the wolf’s soft flank. “Thanks.”

He was sure, too, that Loki recognized how thoughtlessly at ease Peter seemed to be with his animal forms, and probably took this on as another way to offer comfort. He was too quietly pleased with the thoughtfulness to feel embarrassed about it.

“That was kinda crazy,” He admitted softly, watching the way the wolf fur spread around his fingers. “Last night.”

It almost didn’t feel real, thinking about it now, with the sunlight and the warmth and the comfortable little bubble of their room. Except that each moment was a vivid spot of panic in his memory, just waiting for him to touch on them again, like scenes from a horror movie that keep popping up in your imagination after you finish the film and return home to go to bed.

“It was… unpleasant in the extreme.”

Loki’s voice was a bit strained, even as a mental projection, and when Peter looked back up at his face, he had averted his bright eyes to the wall above their heads. There was some guilt, as there always was in making other people worry about him, but some part of him (in his stomach and the base of his throat) was illogically pleased to see evidence of how much Loki had grown to care for him.

“Yeah.” He wet his lips and let his head rest on the pillow again. “Sorry.”

“I’m just glad you’re alright.”

“Me too.” He let out a shaky breath of laughter. “And thanks for that, by the way.”

The wolf managed to tip its head and stare at Peter in such a way as to perfectly emulate Loki’s ‘obviously, are you an idiot?’ face, and he couldn’t stop his answering grin. He reached with both hands to stroke down the wolf’s neck and pressed his face to Loki’s muzzle, resisting the urge to make some ridiculous noise like he would to a dog.

“This okay?” He asked instead, digging his fingers into the thick of Loki’s coat at the base of his neck and very carefully not thinking about how their relative positions might feel, were he in his human form.

Loki nosed affectionately at Peter’s cheek, making him giggle at the cold, wet sensation, so he figured it was fine with the both of them.

He stroked through the wolf’s fur over and over and breathed in the warm, barely there scent of him until he was starting to feel drowsy again.

“Has that ever happened before?”

Loki’s question was soft in his mind, but somber, too. Peter blinked his eyes open, but was content just to stare at the dark strands of fur in front of his face. Just like with his raven form, the color was so dark it nearly looked iridescent when you stared too closely.

He took a moment to answer, taking the consideration seriously. It wasn’t something he thought about very often. He knew the risks of his job, lived with them almost every night, but he didn’t particularly like to dwell on the likelihood of his death. The fact that he was probably going to die fighting, whenever it eventually happened. He just hoped that the ‘eventually’ was as far in the future as possible, and tried not to worry about the rest.

“I’ve broken a few bones, had plenty of wounds that bled a lot, but I’ve never…” His voice failed him momentarily, and he swallowed before getting the words out. “I’ve never really thought I was going to die before.”

He hadn’t let himself think the words, but the feeling had been all-consuming for a few horrible moments.

They lay in silence for another minute, each quiet in their contemplation, before Loki spoke again.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I will be joining your patrols from now on.”

The all of them went unspoken, but not unnoticed. His tone was polite, even kind, but it was explicitly not a request. Despite their earlier conversations about Peter’s undoubtable ability to do his job without a babysitter, he found that the idea was more reassuring than insulting.

“Okay.”

He shifted down on the bed until he could cuddle up against Loki’s side and bury his face in his fur again. The wolf snorted softly when he burrowed his hands under its stomach, trapping them between Loki’s toasty underbelly and the sheets. He twitched and gently snapped his teeth together in an approximation of annoyance, but Peter just grinned and pressed in closer, and a few moments later Loki was curling inwards slightly to lay his head over the top of Peter’s, surrounding him in soft.

He drifted happily like that for quite a while, isolated from the world, until the sun slanted in like early afternoon and he felt like maybe his heart would burst from his chest if he stayed wrapped up in this for a minute longer, wrapped up in the alien god that he was almost certainly, just a little bit, kind of in love with.