Unfortunately, although some food (and a little processed sugar and food dye) quickly brings Loki back up to snuff, that afternoon there’s a dust-up in the financial district between the NYPD and a bank-robbing robot thing. Hawkeye and Iron Man, as the two only Avengers left on active duty, are called out to deal with it. It’s not a hard fight, even though Clint can basically only play long-range backup for Tony, but the cleanup is messy and Steve makes a point of the Avengers sticking around to help out in those situations. This is probably genuinely because it’s the right thing to do and not because it improves their relationship with local law enforcement.
By the time they get back to the mansion it’s really too close to Loki’s bedtime to launch a risky magical campaign, so Steve calls a strategy meeting instead to decide who gets fixed in what order. Since Loki will probably need to rest up in between each one it turns into quite a debate.
“Tony must go first,” Loki says firmly. “Gender is relatively easy to switch and as a first subject he will allow me the most leeway to adapt to using the device’s energy.”
“All right, fine,” Coulson says. He’d been pushing for Steve first for his greater visibility. “Tony Stark at a shareholder’s meeting will still help.”
Tony sticks out his tongue. “I don’t go to shareholder’s meeting for Pepper, I’m not going to do it for you.”
“Are you sure you want to turn back?” Clint asks mildly. “I thought you were enjoying your new... tracts of land.”
“Fuck no,” Tony says. “I miss my dick and these boobs are going to play merry hell with the aerodynamics of the Iron Man suit if I have to alter the chest piece.”
Steve removes his hands from Loki’s ears, glaring at Tony. “Don’t repeat anything Tony ever says, Loki.”
“I know what boobs are,” Loki pouts. “A boob is an idiot. I am not a child.”
“Still, it’s... not a nice word,” Steve says weakly, goggling.
“Do you think you’ll be able to fix Captain Rogers next?” Coulson asks, undistracted as ever by their shenanigans.
Loki nods. “Probably. Returning Bruce and Natasha to their proper bodies would be next in terms of simplicity because it is mostly a question of breaking the magical ties holding them in place and allowing their consciousnesses to return to the appropriate vessels. But as long as Tony’s attempt is successful and I have a little time in between to alter the basic spell, I do not think it should be a problem to proceed on to Steve.”
Coulson nods. “Mr. Stark followed by Captain Rogers it is, then.”
“And then Thor?” Loki asks hopefully.
Clint, Bruce, and Steve all twitch guiltily, but Coulson’s expression doesn’t change. “If you wouldn’t mind, I would like to get Agent Romanov and Doctor Banner back in their respective bodies before there is another accident,” he says. “But then you can wake Thor.”
Loki nods, disappointed. “I see your reasoning,” he says. Everyone around the table starts breathing again. Thor would probably understand the necessity of continuing the we’re-all-friends-here charade, but the one thing the big guy’s never been is subtle. Clint and Tony had tried once to teach him to play poker and the results had been farcical.
Granted, Thor’s probably the best one to decide about what to do with Loki now that his return to his usual age and sociopathic mentality is an option, but the nastily practical side of Clint knows that it’s best to get Loki to fix as much as possible before they even have to face up to that. Maybe if the device had an unfortunate accident before Loki could alter his age? But no, Loki had said it was far easier to perform magic on himself than on someone else. He might not even need the device to do it, and in any case it would just be another delaying tactic. Loki’s going to find out eventually - the best they can hope for is a little control over when and how.
Clint scowls. Making the best of a bad set of options is hardly new to him in his line of work, and he can already feel his mind hardening in preparation. He doesn’t like it.
The meeting breaks up. Loki follows Clint into the kitchen and leans up against Clint’s leg as he gets himself a glass of water.
“What’s up, kiddo? You worried?”
“A little,” Loki admits quietly. “I... do not wish to... I am very good at magic, my tutors have said so and I already teach myself things from Asgard’s library that they cannot do themselves, but I... worry. Whoever made that device had a very devious mind. I am concerned that mine is not devious enough.”
“You think it might be booby-trapped?” Clint asks, frowning.
“No,” Loki says. “No. I just... worry.”
Clint threads his fingers through Loki’s hair. He leans into the touch. “Tell you what, why don’t you go sit in the living room and I’ll make us some hot chocolate?” It’s maybe a little late to give Loki sugar, but he seems to burn through it really freaking fast so it probably won’t be a problem. Loki can just give Steve puppy eyes if he protests.
“Hot chocolate?” Loki asks curiously.
“Never had it? Well, we’ll have to fix that!” Clint says, smiling. “Go sit in the living room. I’ll be out in a moment.”
When he’s gone, Bruce comes out from where he’d been lurking behind the corner of the refrigerator.
“Natasha’s a lot more stealthy in that body,” Clint remarks.
“And able to walk in heels without killing herself,” Bruce agrees. “We need to come up with some kind of plan.”
Clint sighs. “I know.”
“I don’t want to think about it either - “
“I know. Look, we can grab Steve after Loki’s in bed - “
The lights flicker. Clint scowls. “If Tony blows out the power grid again Coulson’s going to - “
“He’s still in the conference room,” Bruce says frowning. “It’s not him.”
The flickering gets worse. A lightbulb pops.
A few more lights blow and then the power goes completely. In the dimming light Clint can see sparks dancing across the surface of the walls and the floor. Green sparks.
“Shit,” Bruce says with feeling. They run for the living room.
Clint makes it first. Loki’s sitting on the floor with his back pressed up against the couch, surrounded by a steadily darkening nimbus of green energy. Bruce’s laptop is open in front of him, playing a video.
“ - not my brother!” Thor’s tinny voice says over the laptop’s speakers, and oh, Clint remembers that fight. It had been the anniversary of something Thor refused to talk about. Loki had started making his usual trouble, and instead of letting it slide off his back like normal Thor had finally lost his temper. The fight had eventually ended in a draw when both Thor and Loki were too furious to aim and the collateral damage had been staggering.
Tony pushes past Clint and Bruce and slams the laptop shut, silencing it.
“Loki - “
“You lied,” Loki says. “He hates me. You lied.”
Clint comes around the edge of the couch. “Kiddo - “
“Don’t!” Loki snaps. He’s on his feet now - Clint’s not sure how, because he didn’t really seem to move. “You lied.”
The green sparks are getting bigger. “Loki, I need you to calm down. Let me explain.”
“No!” Something shatters. “He hates me! You said we were friends! You all hate me!” Loki’s hovering now, the dark green energy whipping around him and holding him at eye level.
“No, Loki - “
A burst of energy throws them all back. Clint hits the entertainment center and goes down in a shower of plastic shards and DVD cases. By the time he gets himself upright Loki’s gone, leaving shattered glass and a scorch mark behind on the living room floor.