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15 November 2018 @ 03:37 pm
The Ice Demon and the Red Skull 2  


Loki nearly backed out three times on the doctor's -- once in the morning, when he thought about slipping into another universe during his run with Steven, the second time when he considered taking the wrong train on purpose, and the third where he stopped on the pathway up to the faux Colonial-style low-rise building where the office was.

"You can do this," Steven told him.

"Of course, I can. The question is whether I wish to," Loki replied. "And the answer is very much 'no'."

"Do you want to go back to the apartment?" Steve asked, very patiently. Far more patiently than Loki wanted, since he'd rather provoke a fight. A nice brawl in the middle of the quiet side street might ease the tension inside him quite nicely.

But faced with a question he had to answer, Loki had to admit, "No. That seems like .... giving in. And I don't want to do that either."

Satisfied that Loki wasn't really quitting, Steve's hand closed on Loki's shoulder. "Come on."

Loki walked up the steps to the wide front porch, straight to the door without hesitating. Inside there was a short entry hall that went straight to the back, he could see daylight on the other side through the small window.

The door on the left had a small sign on it "reception" and Loki opened it. He paused there. "I can do this," he said to Steve. “You can go back."

Luckily Steve must have read something in his face that let him nod wihtout argument. "All right. If you're sure?"

"Yes." He almost let the reception door shut when he yanked it open again. "Steven? Thank you."

Steve gave him one of his self-effacing smiles, but a bright one, and called, "No problem. See you at home, later. Call me if you need anything."

Loki waved and turned to face the reception area. To his surprise, he was alone in the room, except for the receptionist. She was an older woman sitting behind the small desk, with sharp dark eyes and a warm smile. "Mister Rendell?" she asked.

"Was it the devilishly handsome looks that gave it away?" he jested.

It fell somewhat flat, since her smile didn't change. "The doctor is just finishing up, if you'll be seated for a few minutes."

He didn't sit down; he couldn't, he could only prowl restlessly around the room, picking up magazines and looking at gossip and pictures of celebrities without interest, examining the books on the shelf to one side without noticing any title, and handling every small decorative, polished rock or shell before putting it back.

The receptionist was inured to patient behavior, since she said nothing, only kept an eye on him in case he broke anything. Then Loki heard a door close elsewhere and some footsteps receding, and the receptionist said, "Mister Rendell, the doctor will see you now. Go through the door."

She gestured to the door to her left that led to the next room.

Swallowing hard, Loki made himself walk to the door, turn the knob, and push it open slowly.

*

Loki raised his eyebrows. He’d not expected the long green hair on his doctor. The man was fairly young as well.

“Doctor Leonard Samson,” he introduced himself, and held open the door for Loki to pass inside, before shutting it behind him.

“Luke Rendell,” Loki said, since that was the name the receptionist had, then added, “or Lukas Onsdag. The Ice Demon. That one you might know, too,” he threw it out there, to see how Samson would react.

The doctor merely nodded. “I know; they told me. Come in. Please have a seat.” He gestured to the living room-style arrangement of two padded chairs across from a sofa. Loki took one of the chairs.

Samson took the other chair without comment. “It’s only fair to tell you a bit about me, if you’re curious? My father was also a psychologist, he’s retired now. For a long time, I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps. But I soon realized in school that it was still my calling, in medical school I took a specialty in clinical psychiatry and did my residency at the Veteran’s Hospital in Virginia. The reason SHIELD probably suggested me to you was because I was brought in on the so-called Hulk and so I have some familiarity with,” he hesitated before adding judiciously, “unusual clients.”

“And you have green hair,” Loki pointed out. “So you must be unusual yourself.”

“There was a malfunction while I was visiting Doctor Banner and some of the Gamma radiation leaked all over me. Green hair appears to be my
manifestation of it, much as Bruce Banner turns huge and green, I merely have green hair and some extra strength. But it does give me a bit of… perspective in dealing with, what’s the word they’re using? ‘Metahuman”? And, I guess, non-humans?”

His voice rose in a question and Loki nodded. “Yes. I am not human. I was not born on this world.”

Samson accepted that as well. Loki wished he could be so calm.

Samson tapped his finger on the arm of his chair. “All right, given that, let me ask a basic question, do you have any concept of psychiatry? Treating mental health? Or, I guess, doctors at all?”

“I’ve lived on this world a total of more than a century, so I understand physicians.”

“But not psychology?” Samson persisted.

“I know what it is. It appears to be talk, as far as I can tell.”

“There is a lot of talking,” Samson agreed. “Talking about a problem weakens its hold, and can help patients into realizations of their own emotions and behaviors. But it’s not all talk. I give my patients something to do between sessions. I call it homework.”

Loki’s chest felt tight, thinking about talking about anything. He crossed his legs one way, then the other way, before leaning forward. “You realize this is futile?” Loki asked him. “You are mortal and therefore you can’t possibly understand what it is to be me.”

Samson barely reacted to that attack, lifting his brows, and asking, “If that’s true, why are you here?”

“Because doing nothing was not improving anything. So I thought I would take the suggestion of my friends, but now I think it may be a waste of my time and yours.”

“It’s not a waste of my time,” Samson told him. “SHIELD has paid for four sessions in advance. So, you might as well take advantage of it, and decide whether you want to continue after?”

Loki rested his gaze on the doctor’s desk and the teddy bear sitting there carrying a little “get well soon!” balloon. “They’re paying you, does that mean you report to them?” he asked.

“No,” Samson said. “I do not report anything back to them, not even that you’re here. Though I imagine they probably know that. But to reassure you, everything you say is in confidence and restricted by doctor-patient confidentiality and privacy law.”

Loki met his gaze. “And will not end up in a book you want to write?”

Samson gave a small nod of acknowledgment. “That is an issue in the profession. But if it helps you trust me, I have super-strength. If I wanted fame or fortune, that’s what I’d use, not writing a book about you. Or Bruce Banner, for that matter.”

The last of his objections taken care of, Loki knew he had to either leave, or accept that he was staying. He should leave; he should have nothing to do with mortals and their primitive knowledge of the functions of the mind, and lack of knowledge of anything outside of themselves. It was foolish to stay, like thinking a chimpanzee could do surgery.

But, on the other hand, leaving would leave him in the same place and what would it accomplish, besides a temporary sop to pride? He’d tried dealing on his own, and nothing seemed to be helping. If anything, yesterday seemed to prove he was handling everything worse.

“All right,” he said finally. “I suppose since it’s not my money. And I will stay because I believe you are intelligent enough not to reveal my secrets and make yourself into my enemy, which would be most unwise.”

“Do you feel it necessary to threaten me?”

Loki gave him an unfriendly smile. “I want you to understand I am not human, Doctor. And I have had enough of your kind turning on me. So I will begin with this promise: betray me and I will kill you.”

Samson didn’t react defensively, or fluff up in prideful challenge, which Loki was glad to see. Samson absorbed the promise, head tilted a bit as he considered, and responded with a mild, “Fair enough. Warning heard and understood.”

“Good.” Loki sat back in the chair, eased by the response. “I suppose I’ll allow this. What should I do?”

“Nothing. Relax as much as you can. What I need from you is honesty.”

Loki snorted. “Honesty? You have no idea who I am.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Samson insisted. “If you’re honest with me, it’ll be easier to help you. It’ll be hard, I know that - deflection and pretence and outright lies are common, especially when we get close to the core of the problem. But this is a safe place to be honest; I’m not going to judge you. I’m not here to make some moral or ethical valuation of what you tell me. I’m only here to help you. Okay? Heard and understood?” he prompted.

Loki wondered if that could possibly be true. How could any listener not judge? But he understood the gesture at least. He nodded. “Yes. I understand.”

“All right then,” Samson said and leaned back in his chair. “Why don’t you tell me about why you’re here?”

Such a deceptively simple question. Loki gave a brief laugh. “I don’t know where to begin. And don’t say ‘the beginning’. You won’t live long enough for that particular tale.”

“You said ‘doing nothing wasn’t improving anything.’ So how about you describe what’s happening that you want to improve?”

Loki’s gaze settled on the little bear. “I... “ he started, and trailed off, not knowing what words to use to describe something that seemed so huge and so heavy, yet trying to grab onto it revealed it was only smoke. Samson didn’t prompt him. “I’m fine,” he said finally, wanting to establish that much at least. “I can do everything I need to do. But… yesterday, on the subway, the lights went out. I missed my stop, because I forgot where I was.” He huffed a laugh. “Which sounds stupid, I know.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Samson said mildly. “But what do you mean? You ‘forgot where you were’?”

Loki shook his head. “I was somewhere else.” He flicked his gaze up to check Samson’s face. There was a narrow frown between his brows.

“Where were you instead, if not the train?” Samson asked.

Inside my tiny prison, constantly electrocuted, pain and darkness my only companion.

He opened his mouth to say that, but all that came out was, “Nowhere. Darkness.”

“Did it bother you?” Samson asked.

“Well, of course it did, wouldn’t it bother you?” Loki retorted sharply.

“We’re not here to discuss me. So, it bothered you. Why did it bother you?”

“Because… because I didn’t know where I was. Because I thought … I was back there. … and… and... “ He had to stop there, words failing, and inhale a ragged breath. When that didn’t help much, he got to his feet with a convulsive movement. Walking to the bookshelf, he stared at the spines of the books, nothing about the letters making any sense until he shut his eyes and reopened them again, finding his focus. “Why is it so bad this time?” he asked, turning to ask the only question that really mattered. “Before, I went decades hardly aware anything had happened. I didn’t react like this, I was able to keep up the masquerade, but I just ... I can’t this time. It’s as if I feel it lurking, all the time, waiting. Why is this happening?”

He spread his hands, waiting, as Samson considered his question, before saying, “Right now, I don’t know the answer. I can guess, but that’s all it would be. But if we work on it, we’ll find the answer. And, I believe, we can ease its hold on you. Do you want that?”

He didn’t answer immediately, but said, “Yes.” It felt like a commitment, but one Loki felt better for having made. He wanted it, and perhaps with this mortal, he might get it.




part three