“What the hell is he doing here?” Tony shouted when Thor appeared back on Earth just a few months after the Chitauri attack, with an anxious looking Loki in tow.
“Loki has something he wants to say to you,” Thor said, shooing his brother forward.
Loki bowed his head, and clasped his hands in front of himself nervously. His hair had been trimmed neatly, his clothes were plainer, he looked like he'd gained a little weight, and Tony swore the look of guilt on his face was genuine, or a damn good impression of it.
“I-I want to apologise for throwing you through a window,” he stammered. “I shouldn't have done it. You could have been badly injured, and I'm very sorry.”
“What else?” Thor asked, and Loki glanced at him fretfully.
“I'm sorry I brought an army into your realm.”
Loki looked back at Thor again, and then turned to Tony and said, “I'm sorry I tried to subjugate the human race. It was very rude of me.”
“Excellent!” Thor said, slapping his hand on Loki's shoulder so hard it made him stagger slightly. “Now reparations have been made we can all be friends again! Come brother, you have many more apologies to give this day.”
Thor grabbed Loki by the elbow, and marched him from the room, leaving Tony still stood there, open mouthed, and unsure of what to say.
Thor took Loki to Stuttgart next where he apologised profusely to the old man who had refused to kneel to him, and to the home of the man whose eyeball he had needed, and after much screaming and chasing, Thor had eventually been able to pin the man to the floor so Loki could say sorry for hurting him.
“I'm sorry I took over your mind,” Loki said when he found Selvig cowering in the corner of his laboratory. “It was wrong of me. I hope you will be able to accept my apology.”
They reappeared back at Stark Tower later, and this time the avengers were prepared. Everyone was suited up and ready to fight when Thor unceremoniously put his hand on Loki's ass and pushed him forwards with such strength that he almost tripped over his own feet.
“We don't want any trouble,” Steve said, “but if you make a move we will take you down.”
“Captain, I am not here for mischief or bloodshed, I'm here to say how deeply sorry I am for my previous actions, and I hope one day you will be able to forgive me.”
“Oh yeah, like we'd fall for that one,” Clint said, double-checking that he had an explosive arrow ready to shoot.
“Agent Barton,” Loki said, “I am incredibly sorry for taking over your mind and making you kill people. You have my humble apologies and I hope one day that I can make it up to you. Dr Banner, I'm sorry for goading you into unleashing the beast.”
Loki took a step towards Natasha and raised his hands slightly to show he meant no harm.
“I'm sorry I called you a rude name Agent Romanoff,” he said. “My mother was very disappointed when she found out what I called you. She brought me up much better than that and I am deeply regretful that I called you such a degrading thing.”
“Loki…” Thor rumbled behind him.
“Oh, and I'm sorry for the explosion that blew you all up, and for trying to knock the flying fortress from the sky. Basically, yes, I'm sorry for everything I've done.”
“Excellent!” Thor said, as he began to lead Loki inside by his elbow. “Now come brother, it has been a long day, we must find you a bedroom.”
“Hold on a damn minute,” Natasha shouted, and Thor paused. “You killed our FRIEND, you can't just waltz in here and expect us to forgive you just because you had a telling off from your mother!”
“Agent Coulson has accepted my apology for that,” Loki said, then he looked at Thor and asked, “Did you not tell them?”
“I am sorry brother, it slipped my mind,” Thor said, and then he turned to the Avengers. “My brother and the son of Coul talked for a long time on the matter, they have made amends.”
“Oh and we're just supposed to take your word that Coulson's fine with being dead because you waltzed on into the afterlife and asked him?” Tony snapped.
“Well, yes…” Loki replied, his face betraying his confusion at their disbelief.
“My friends, you may have my word on my honour that my brother tells the truth,” Thor proclaimed, then he turned to Loki and said, “Come, I shall tuck you into bed, as usual.”
“Thank you, brother,” Loki said, as Thor wrapped an affectionate arm round his shoulders.
“And what do we do at the end of each day?” Thor asked, as he sat on the edge of the bed, pulled the sheets up to Loki's waist, and gave his stomach a reassuring pat.
“End it with a hug and a kind word,” Loki said, as he sat up and wrapped his arms tightly around Thor.
“I was very proud of you today Loki,” Thor said. “It wasn't easy to face those you have hurt in the past, but you did it.”
“Thank you,” Loki said burying his face in Thor's neck, “and thank you for helping me and believing me. I was sincere in my apologies, but I fear it will take more than that before my words are accepted.”
Thor pulled out of the hug, and said, “What more can we do? If only there was a way they could hear it from the son of Coul himself.”
Loki thought for a moment, and then said, “I have an idea.”
“Zombie! Zombie apocalypse!” Tony shouted when Coulson walked nonchalantly into the kitchen the next morning and poured himself a cup of coffee.
“Ohhh…” Coulson intoned after his first mouthful. “I have been dying for a good cup of coffee for weeks.”
“Dying?” Tony asked. “I think you'll find your tense is wrong there, and I know because I was at your funeral.”
“I saw,” Coulson said, leaning his back against the counter, and cradling the cup in both hands so he could smell it. “I got a really good turn out, didn't I?”
Tony slumped to the table, put his head in his hands and said, “That's it. I've finally lost my mind. People warned me, they said I drink too much and don't get enough sleep and they said ‘Tony, one day you'll go nuts’ and I never believed them, but it's finally happened.”
“Stop being dramatic, Stark.”
“Were you really dead?” Tony asked. “Was that even your blood on those Captain America trading cards, or was it just another one of Fury's lies?”
“There's blood on my trading cards?” Coulson said, in a panicky voice. “But I left them in my locker.”
“They were in your locker?” Tony exclaimed. “First he lies about making weapons of mass destruction, and now this? Are you sure he doesn't really have two eyes?”
“They were near mint, I kept them in protective sleeves, they were archival safe, and acid free,” Coulson said.
“Did you really die?”
“So what are you now? Like a ghost or something?”
“No, I'm alive,” Coulson said. “Living, breathing, and ready to take down the bad guys again.”
“Are you willing to start with Loki, because he's asleep upstairs.”
“Hey, don't pick on the kid,” Coulson said, pointing his finger at Stark. “He had a tough time, we had a good talk about it, got everything out in the open, and we're fine. He just wants to make up for what he did wrong now.”
“What, so you were in heaven having a cosy chat over a Coffee and Doughnuts?”
“I wasn't in heaven, I was in Valhalla, and they don't have Coffee. We were preparing for Ragnarok,” Coulson said. “Geez, I hope it doesn't happen before I get back. That would be really embarrassing.”
Tony sat back in his chair and said, “You were in Valhalla?”
“I died in battle, where else would I go? Oh and don't suggest Fólkvangr, because that wasn't happening.”
“So you're back? You were dead, and now you're not.”
“Er, and how did this happen?”
“Well it turns Odin presides over Valhalla, and Loki had a word with him, and here I am.”
The kitchen door swung open, and Thor entered loudly, followed by Loki.
“Son of Coul!” Thor proclaimed. “You have returned to us already! I thought father would make you wait. It is good to have you back.”
“Thor, it's good to be back,” Coulson replied, and then he nodded, and said, “Loki.”
Loki smiled shyly and said “I am glad to see you under better circumstances than our last meeting in Midgard, Agent Coulson.”
“That's ancient history. Forget about it, and I told you to call me Phil,” Coulson said, waving his hand.
“Tell me,” Loki asked, “did they treat you well in Valhalla?”
“Oh yes, the Einherjar were very nice,” Coulson replied. “I taught them a few new moves.”
"I can imagine," Loki said with a smile.
Tony watched as Coulson and Thor discussed Mead, traded stories, and told jokes that he didn't understand about the Valkyries, then his eyes were drawn to Loki, who had slumped at the other end of the table looking exhausted.
“How did you do it?” Tony asked. “How did you get Coulson out?”
“I traded some years off my lifespan for the years I robbed from him,” he replied.
“That's hardly a fair deal,” Tony snapped. “You're immortal.”
“I'm sure you humans appear immortal to a May fly too, but I can assure you that we do not live forever,” Loki replied, rubbing his forehead.
“You look unwell brother, would you like me to escort you back to your room?”
“I fear the life transfer has had more of an effect on me than I realised. I think I shall go lay down again, yes,” Loki replied, standing up. “I know the way back, you stay and continue your conversation, and I will find you later.”
As soon as Loki had closed the door Tony said, “Jarvis keep an eye on him and tell me if he so much as twitches his nose wrong.”
“As you wish sir,” the AI responded.
“Loki is not here to cause trouble, Stark. He is here to make up for all the wrong he did.”
“What exactly did you do to him back on Asgard, cos whatever that punishment was, it sure was a doozy,” Tony said.
“Punishment?” Thor asked looking slightly puzzled. “Loki was not punished. You think us so barbaric that we would punish those who are not of sound mind?”
“What?” Tony asked. “So what did you do with him?”
“We took him to see the mind healer,” Thor replied. “At first we had to tie him to his chair to stop him from fleeing, but we all talked for many, many hours, and there was much shouting and recriminations, and I am not ashamed to admit there were many tears too. Then we all went on a quest together.”
“Aye, Mother, Father, Loki and myself, we made camp in the hills, we sang songs, we drank, we told stories, and we hunted for many moons. It was a magnificent time!”
“Wait so he invaded earth, killed the king of another planet, tried to kill you more than once, and you took him on vacation?”
“You think someone who was unwell would be made better by being locked in the dungeons? What kind of people do you believe the Aesir are?” Thor asked, looking more than a little pissed off. “Loki confessed that he felt jealous and angry, and wanted to hurt everyone, because he felt worthless and did not feel loved. It is up to us now to show him that he is valued in every way.”
“So you gave him a hug and that basically gave him a personality transplant, is that what you're saying?”
“Loki is in the early stages of healing his mind, he is still very unsure of himself. He needs time, we must have patience with him as he finds his place in the world again.”
“You can have all the patience you want,” Tony said, standing up and heading for the door, “but I'll never trust him.”
As Tony slammed the door behind him, Thor said, “I fear this may be harder than I imagined.”
“They'll come round,” Coulson said, and then added, “By the way, do you know what happened to my trading cards?”
Coulson had been subjected to DNA and detailed psychological testing. He passed lie detector tests with flying colours, and the Avengers were finally forced to believe that this really was Agent Phil Coulson of SHIELD who was arguing for Loki to be given probationary status in the Avengers.
“But he KILLED you,” Fury said, leaning on the table.
“And out of all of us who were effected by his actions it should be me who would find it hardest to forgive him, but I have. I think Loki would be a great asset to the team.”
“I don't want to work with him,” Clint said. “After what he did to me, I could never trust him.”
“My brother has many skills that would aid us on the battlefield,” Thor said. “If you do not allow him to make reparations to the people of this realm by aiding you I fear the people of Asgard would call for him to be executed.”
“You have the death sentence on Asgard?” Steve asked.
“Only for those who refuse to repay the victims of their crimes, and since Loki does not have enough years to exchange to bring back the other people he had a hand in killing, the All-Father has decreed that payment must be made by saving a life for every one he ended.”
“So if we don't let Loki join us he'll be killed?”
“Yes, this is correct.”
“I vote we let him help us,” Bruce said, from the back of the room.
“What?” Clint snapped.
“I've seen too much death lately to be comfortable with another one on my conscience, no matter who it is,” Banner replied.
“I vote yes as well,” Steve said.
“Me too,” Tony said, and Clint glared at him. “Ah don't look at me like that. Given a choice of having him with or against us, I'd rather have him on our side.”
“What say you, Fury?” Thor asked. “Now that most are agreeable to my brother joining the team, will you give him your approval?”
Fury sighed and said, “Yes, on a probationary basis, but if he puts one foot, one toe, out of line, he is out of here so fast being Hulk smashed will feel like a walk in the park.”
“Excellent!” Thor said, as he stood. “Come, Coulson, we shall tell my brother the good news together.”
Everyone watched as Thor and Coulson left the room, and as soon as the door shut the argument erupted.
“Really Tony? Really?” Natasha shouted. “How could you do that after everything he's done? He threw you out of a window, or have you forgotten that already?”
“Will you give me a minute to explain?” Tony shouted back at her. “You really think I want to work with HIM?”
“Then why the hell did you say yes?” Clint snapped.
“If he thinks he's one of the team it'll give me a chance to investigate how his magic works, so when he turns evil again we'll have some kind of defence against it.”
“Ooohhhh… I like that plan,” Natasha said.
“You think you could do that, Stark?” Fury asked. “You could develop a weapon to use against him?”
“Given enough time, and if he lets me run a few scans on him, I think I can, yes,” Tony replied.
“Get started on it straight away,” Fury said. “Make this your number one priority.”
“Will do, boss,” Tony replied.
“Brother, we have good news,” Thor said as he and Coulson entered Loki's sparse room.
“What is it?”
“You are now an Avenger.”
“I am?” Loki asked, smiling brightly.
“Probationary Avenger,” Coulson corrected. “You'll have to prove you're up to the job, and not about to turn evil again, before you get full Avenger status.”
“When they see what you can do on the battlefield brother,” Thor said, “they will welcome you as a team mate and a comrade.”
Loki walked to the desk and took out some thick parchment paper he had brought from Asgard, and laid a quill and ink on the top of the desk. He said a simple spell and then pressed a sheet against the wall, where it stuck fast.
“What is this for?” Thor asked.
“I thought it would be nice to know how far I have come,” Loki said. “When I save a life I can place a mark on the paper. It would be nice to know when I have saved more lives than I have taken.”
“That is an excellent idea,” Thor said wrapping his arm round Loki's shoulder.
“Let's get you started on this shall we?” Coulson said, picking up the quill. “You brought me back to life, so I think that counts as one.”
Loki watched as Coulson drew a single line in the left hand corner of the extremely large sheet of paper, and looked forward to the day when it would be filled.