1964-04-18 - Shock to the System
Summary: When the man is not the man he is thought to be, pushing on the delusion doesn't always work.
Related: N/A
Theme Song: How Am I Not Myself - Bad Suns
thor rogue 


When he's not at work or at Amora's apartment, Donald can usually be found at Rowdy Yate's Golden Gloves gym— throwing fists with several other gentlemen, some of whom are quite skilled enough to give even the big Nordic fellow a run for his money. Some even whip him handily, though every day he improves by leaps and bounds.

In the last thirty seconds of a bout with a local light heavyweight, Donald's giving a good accounting for himself and it's clear that his opponent's ahead only on points and perseverance. If one big hit had landed, it'd knock the other fellow on his rear.

Sure enough, the bell goes *ding* and the two opponents separate after banging fists together. Donald shakes his head, already knowing he's scored against— but looks surprised when the points come out quite close.

"You're getting better every day, Don," the young man tells Donald, clapping his back. "Another month or two, you might try some of the amateur night bouts. Who knows? Might even try going pro," he grins. Donald nods and grins back, and steps out of the ring to remove his boots and gloves.

*

The girl who watches over the erstwhile heir to a distant realm has an unusual talent for catching his path or discovering whereabouts. Rarely do her talents evince a traceable quality; she has been trained far too well by those skilled at covertcy and espionage to walk up on an unsuspecting man while banging a drum and playing a horn, as it were. Locations added to the slow march of knowledge acquired from afar add the Golden Gloves gym to a mental landscape. It's not so much stalking as assuring no wolves or jotunn in sheep's clothing make their appearance.

She wouldn't be the sort to attend here. Women rarely bother, and those who do tend to be a very specific breed. Not her ilk, though she does away with the minidress for jeans, something less upsetting to the folk who find boxing a good outlet for aggression. In Rome, they weren't allowed in the palaestra; this place reeks of masculinity. No trouble then. She flits across the doorway and steps inside, then leans against the wall. In time or other, the disruption will be noted, and the concentric rings lead back from Donald Blake to the bohemienne.

*

The strange silence echoes forward from the entryway to Donald, and his face hardens just a little at the redhead. Not hostile— but not pleased to see her, either. He finishes unwrapping his wrists and throws his gear into the gym bag, the handle of his stout hammer protruding from it.

Dusting his hands on a rag he walks towards Scarlett, stopping just out of arms' reach and ignoring the curious looks he's getting from the men at the big blonde fellow welcoming the woman into their 'territory'.

"Scarlett," he remarks, with a short nod of greeting. "What do you seek here?"

*

Patience is a virtue for those willing to practice the higher arts. She mantles herself in the wordless veil of minutes passing without interruption save for the modulated breaths taken to centre herself. The practice of yoga is almost unknown on these shores, yet Scarlett attains an almost meditative balance. Serenity to be tested in moments to come, either a cheap shellac or bone-deep.

Not until Donald addresses her will she offer the respect owed someone on his home turf, the deep inclination of her head setting off a mahogany tide over her plaited hair. Another style from the encounter previous, every bit as elaborate, nets her shoulders. "The path I ought to have walked in the first place, Mr. Blake," she replies without fanfare. The tone of her soft soprano broaches a note of regret buried among the low volume. Eavesdroppers can make of their conversation what they will, but she will not make it easy.

"I would ask the pleasure of your company that I may speak truthfully to you. Inquire whatever you would from me, and I will reply as best I can. A fair exchange, I hope?"

*

"You have a fair way with words, Scarlett, but you'll not find me a student of poetry," Donald tells Scarlett, with those grudging tones of someone who's felt slightly wrong, but decorum prevents an outburst.

"Speak plainly if you like, and I'll listen. I hear enough honeyed words from Amora I'd relish someone speaking in a blunt manner." He folds his massive forearms across his chest and looks down at Scarlett expectantly, his sharp blues eyes narrowed slightly in focus.

*

"So would I. May we please step outside? I'd rather they did not hear your private business," Scarlett replies in kind, easily modulating out of the language of a gifted student in Columbia's halls, where every impression is shortchanged on account of her fairer sex. Every cut and thrust of academia must be parried by eloquence and intellectual skill paired to modesty. One may expect the bohemian isn't going to complain about the bra burnings in a few years.

"I also wish to apologize to you. No matter what my reasons for acting are, they have wronged you in a way," she explains quietly.

*

Donald hesitates, but nods assent and leads Scarlett to a side door. He holds it for her and they step outside, to a small deck normally reserved for smoking.

Her apology twists his face. It's sincere and earnestly delivered, and Donald struggles with the irritation he's holding versus Scarlett's attempt to redeem himself. Manners win out, and he exhales and nods his head. "I suppose you have your reasons as well as I for your association with Amora," he concedes. "I hope going forward you don't conceal your alliances anymore, however. Trust is not easily earned."

*

Smoke cannot bother her, though Scarlett breathes slightly deeper to catch the tobacco notes hidden beneath aged grey layers set down in heavy strata over time. It never really leaves the walls or the floor, wood sopping up the carcinogenic oils. The faded curve of a smile finds her lips, though it does not quite reach those richly verdant eyes when the Scandinavian man speaks. Staring back "Loyalty, I think you may hear, lies at the heart of these matters. I have tried to walk a path between my allegiances, doing what I thought to be best for all involved. However much it fit like a bad, scratchy wool sweater." Her voice brooks no beseeching quality, no pleading to understand. She will stand on her own two feet.

Folding her fingers together, she inclines her head, shoulders rounded in. "I don't know where to begin." A simple admission really. The words she's gone over in her head a hundred times are laid out. "Unless I am much mistaken, you are Thor Odinson, crown prince to a realm beyond Earth called Asgard. It was not long ago a coup happened there. You disappeared searching for your brother, Loki, who usurped your father's power and shut the gates to Asgard. No one knew your fates. Lady Amora and I searched without any luck. And there were so few of your people here. Then… here you were, in the city I last saw you, and you did not know who you were. Not long after, I came upon Loki, who did not know me. Was it a coincidence?" The question lingers for a moment in space, allowing her to gather the scattered waves of her thoughts and braid them back into a simpler design. Simplicity is difficult.

Her shoulders square, facing whatever must come to pass. "I didn't know if you wanted to forget what passed. It seemed wrong to force the knowledge on you or if you chose a kind of exile to heal. You deserved that if you wanted it. You have always shown me nothing save the highest consideration and let's be honest, you are an honourable, good man. If this is what you needed, it's the very least you were due. Thus I stayed quiet against my proper judgment. I can't speak for Amora's motivations or Loki's, not now. He perished, and with him, took my heart. I spoke to Lady Sif of this not long after we saved her from the ice, but she has vanished again. So here we are."

*

Donald shakes his head, steadily, and almost before Rogue finishes speaking, he slashes a hand through the air to ward off her words. "No— no. That is not correct. None of it is," he says, firmly. "And I am frustrated by Amora's dogged insistence that she cling to a delusion."

"I am not Thor Odinson," he tells Rogue. "There's simply no way I could be. A God? A god who can control weather, who carries a hammer made of the heart of a dying star? I am a human being," he tells her. "I remember an apartment in New York. Family and friends. Meals and joys. I don't have the soul of a god, the magic and power of Asgard. I have been blessed to be touched by Thor's Grace— to be his envoy on Earth and to carry His will here," he says, reverently.

"But I am merely a mortal serving a higher power. I am not the God that Amora is seeking, much as it pains me when I see in her eyes that which I am not."

*

"Maybe you are. Maybe you aren't. I don't know for certain. Lady Sif believed you were. If Loki comes to himself and believes you are, and he is the trickster, it makes a compelling argument. Neither had reason to will it so." Scarlett shakes her head. "Amora's delusion is not mine, either. Whether she told you all she believes, I don't know and need not know." She can abscond from that responsibility, accepting the words he speaks at face value. Whatever she feels within, Donald will need a better lie detector than most to capture. For there's a sonnet of screams in the pandaemonium lyrics scribed on the Soul-Thief's soul.

"But that man, Loki, seems to remember whom he is. I at least have to tell you there could be a chance. If I'm wrong, I am fine with that. But not," she sighs, "if it means discord between you and him or anyone else in that family. Too many people suffered the last time around there was a fight."

*

"Think about who you speak of," Donald urges Rogue. "Amora seeks a lost love. Just when she thinks he's lost forever, she finds me. Sif seeks a companion and a leader, and when he's lost, she finds me. Loki's brother, dead at his hands— and suddenly, he finds me."

"All of these people are seeking someone who is dead, and it grieves me immensely to play the character of a corpse and fill the role of someone dead and gone," he says, face set stony. "And the more this charade drags on, the more it pains me to see others looking for hope in a man who is not— cannot be— the man who is dead."

*

"I know better than most, Mr. Blake, exactly what she desires. I have seen what she craves with my own eyes, a vision that is never going to leave me." The smile on her face is a terribly poignant curve, a sickle against the dark glimmer in her verdant eyes. "A man who was never hers, a child borne of a love denied her again and again. I have sympathy for that. Sympathy for a woman tormented in ways I cannot imagine who sees her shield-brother, the man she fought with from one side of the world to another. Even for a brother caused by treachery, there is hope in thinking there was no pain inflicted. You're right, it is frightening. Desperate. But if you were, and there was a way to avert a schism in your family. I would do it. Because the lot of them have been wounded in their ways, and if you were he, then maybe there would be some way to help. And if not?"

She raises her shoulders gently and her hands with it. "Be who you are. That's the great joy of New York. You can have write your story here, and the city will support it. I have nothing to gain or lose if you are Mr. Blake versus another. My conscience on this is a bit clearer, and again, I am sorry."

*

Donald's face grows a little flinty. "I -am- who I am, Miss Scarlett," he says, his voice a low growl. "My name is Donald Blake. Amora and Loki and Sif and all these others wish to make of me the role of a dead man, but I know who I am, and what Thor wishes of me. Courage and honor," he remarks. "I'll serve with both as best I can, and honor Him in doing so. Perhaps, you can convince Amora to let go this foolish obsession," he tells the redhead. "Let go of the obsession with the dead and see the living in front of her.:"

*

"I cannot convince her of anything." A shake of the young woman's head follows. "She's headstrong, compelling, determined, flighty, and angry. Why on earth is she going to listen someone of my age when she has centuries and millennia behind her?" Sighing, she takes a step away. Scarlett raises her shoulders. "I can see for myself this isn't going well and I am not saying clearly what I'm thinking." His anger is reasonably palpable, such the girl stares up into the sky. "I mean that I have no stake in this. If you and the bookseller got in a fight, I didn't want it to be over a lack of information. Seeing as it doesn't apply, then good. We clarified that. I wish you much happiness and success finding your way in the city here."

*

Donald's ire subsides, and he exhales, shaking his head. "I do not mean to… pick a fight," he tells Scarlett, deflating a little. "I am suspicious of you, and perhaps undeservedly. You have a worry for someone for whom you care much."

"I can hope, whatever the future brings, we can at least find some détente. Or friendship, even," he tells Scarlett, wryly. "My issues with Amora are not my issues with you."

*

"As I said. I was friends with some of them, I think, and loved another. I wanted to do what was right. Noble. Courageous. And those things are very hard to be," Scarlett answers the blonde with a laugh, though it hurts. The scars are fresh. "I want Amora to be balanced, not harsh, for example. But those are thoughts for bagels and another day. Know you this, I don't want to meddle or wish you ill. You have right to be suspicious and moreso because I talk too much and think too hard. And stumble over what ought to be a smooth path. I'd like your friendship if you are of a mind to give it. Some day, maybe."

*

"Aye. Not today," Donald says— and he smiles. "But someday, Scarlett. It would not offend me to count you as a friend, I think. We walk among mighty beings, we mortals. Best we keep to our own company as well, eh? Just to be safe?"

Someone calls his name and he looks inside, then with a short wave and civil nod at Rogue, he turns inside. "Until next time then, Scarlett. Be well," he tells her— and then departs the patio.

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