In retrospect, Tony really should have seen this coming.
What had he told Cap? Genius. Genius. Geniuses don’t get completely blindsided by something like this.
That being said, the coffee mug drops from his hand anyways, and even Steve, standing right next to him, Steve whose reflexes have, apparently, evolved far past the realm of human understanding, doesn’t catch it.
That’s because the TV screen in the kitchen has all of their attention, and holy shit, no, that can’t be right, because if it is, it is a very, very bad thing.
“Well. That’s a lot of dust,” Tony’s mouth says. “That’s going to be hell to clean up—can you imagine that? If you were parked on that street, only, I guess, it’s good you weren’t, because that would be a problem, especially considering the fact that some of those probably exploded, and, wow, imagine explaining that to, uh, insurance, and that’s not what I think I’m looking at, is it?” The newsreel continues with his voice as its background music, and holy hell, that is definitely human shaped. More or less. A human shaped torpedo, a human shaped missile, something human shaped that dropped straight out of the sky like a meteor and left a crater the size of a minivan in the middle of the Colorado Plateau.
And then there was the miniature aurora that erupted right before the crash. There’s that.
“Rainbows,” Steve says hoarsely. “Look.” And, yeah, the footage is slowed down to focus on the rainbows rippling across the sky right before the great boom.
“Funny,” Tony answers. “I had no idea they fixed that.”
Because Thor, Thor had come down on a rainbow bridge, hadn’t he? And then broke it. So it’s Thor. It has to be Thor.
Steve swallows. “That’s not Thor.”
A tall, wiry silhouette staggers and sways through the dust. There’s a bolt of green light and the camera feed shuts off.
“No,” Tony agrees. “That’s not.”
In between the spaces where Tony thought I wonder if Fury knows and he got the first syllable out, a phone rings and they’re one their way. Of course Fury knows. Of course there’s already a S.H.I.E.L.D. fleet sent ahead of them. Of course, by the time the Avengers have assembled, Clint and Natasha from headquarters, the Hulk from Bruce’s lab, and Tony and Steve from the mansion, Loki is spitting mad and staring down a hundred well-trained sights of guns bigger than they make them in Asgard, all from a very healthy distance away.
“What do you think, Cap?” Tony asks, turning to Steve. “Looks like if we leave him with SHIELD long enough, he’ll bust a coronary and that’ll be our job done for us.”
“I just want to shoot him,” Clint chimes in from the comms, from his perch on top of one of the black vehicles. “Can I shoot him?”
“You can’t shoot him. Not right now, anyway. We don’t know what’s going on,” Steve answers, level-headed as ever.
Loki’s still disoriented and off balance; he staggers and trips over a jutting stone and topples over, falling to his knees. He stares down at the ground below his hands incredulously, as if he can hardly believe he’d be so close to it. His lips move, but they can’t hear him.
“What’s he saying?” asks Natasha.
“Hang on. Jarvis, focus in on Loki’s speech patterns, we’ve got to hear what he’s saying… Yeah, that’s good, sharpen, lessen noise.”
“—don’t care what you think you are, you can’t do this, you cannot. You haven’t the power. I have no allegiance to you.”
“Did you all catch that?” Tony asks. It’s not making any sort of sense to him, but neither does a lack of an attack. Loki’s looking limp, and it’s a little disturbing, to be honest, that he doesn’t feel like his life’s in danger. And wow, talk about whiplash.
There’s a chorus of affirmatives and, as one, they move into the danger zone. Loki’s digging his fingers into the dirt. The closer he gets, the easier Tony can see the state of him; he’s bruised and battered, and he’s missing a layer or two of his armor, only layers of black left where his gold plating had stood.
Still, the crazy’s remained; when he sees them approaching, fanned out enough to take care of every side, he starts to laugh. “Excellent, brother. Leaving me to the mortal defenders.”
“Uh, Avengers, actually, if we’re getting technical,” Tony cuts in. “What are you doing here, Loki.”
In answer, Loki spits at his suit.
Loki pushes himself to shaky feet and cranes his head back to glare up at the sky. “You have no right,” he howls, and all of them take a quick step back, because yikes. “None at all. How dare you! I am not a part of your kingdom anymore than you are my brother, Thor. If you mean to kill me, do it directly, you coward.”
“Listen, I know this might come as a shock to you, but Thor’s in Asgard,” Tony snipes, and it’s just Steve planting a hand in the middle of his chest plate that stops him from going up against Loki now. “He left to take you to whatever the hell kind of prison system they’ve got on the great Viking planet, so if you wouldn’t mind, go back there.”
Loki gives a harsh, short laugh and spreads his hands wide. “Prison, as you so delicately put it, was not made for one such as me. And neither, due in no small part to my brother’s cowardice, is death.”
“So what,” Tony says, stubbornly, because no, brain, shut up, you’re wrong, Thor wouldn’t. “I’m sure he can find something. There are eight other realms. You could always go play house with the—what were they? Ice trolls?”
The glare that Loki sends him was always scarier when lit up by the heavy green light that usually accompanied it. Still, it’s a look that promises a slow death, so when Loki takes a step towards him, he acts on instinct, blasting a low-level repulsor beam into his chest. It should be enough to stop Loki, for a moment, and it’s mostly stalling while he gets the blasters that he wants online, but it doesn’t work the way it should.
Instead, it sends Loki flying head over heels backwards, skidding the final few feet, chest smoking.
“Oh my god,” Natasha says after a moment. “I think you killed him.”