The first time it had happened had been mortifying.
It was mostly dark, the only illumination coming from a monitor that Bruce had hooked up to Loki’s arm, and the lamp that was set up on a nearby table. Bruce, being Bruce, tried to smile comfortingly at Loki as he wrapped the blood pressure meter--sphygmomanometer, he had called it. He was a stickler for the medical terminology--around Loki’s forearm.
Loki watched carefully, untrusting of the man who not long ago had smashed him repetitively into the ground. The hole was still there, to Loki’s humiliation and Stark’s great amusement. (Bruce had shot Tony a disappointed look as he purposefully led Loki past it on the ‘welcome-to-the-club’ tour.)
Bruce was better at forgiving-and-forgetting than almost any of the other Avengers, except perhaps Thor, and was trying to work his way towards a relatively un-awkward acquaintance. Loki was not making it an easy task by refusing to make eye contact with the doctor, and never giving anything but mono-syllabic answers.
“There will be slight pressure now,” Bruce said carefully, pressing a button on the machine that the cuff was attached to. Loki jumped as the thing started caving in on his arm, letting out a yelp and almost ripping it off his body. “That would be the aforementioned pressure,” Bruce said gently.
“Slight,” Loki emphasized, “You said it would be slight .”
“Sorry, I-- Loki, what is happening to your hand?”
Loki looked down in horror, feeling the cold spreading from his fingertips slowly; the blue pigment making itself known. “That’s just... uh...”
Bruce raised his eyebrows. Loki at a loss for words? Forget the blood pressure, this was research enough. “That’s the frost giant, isn’t it?” Bruce asked, watching Loki try to pull down the sleeve of his tunic.
“Jotunn, yes,” Loki corrected, never making eye contact. “Do you have access to the storage of that footage,” Loki asked, eyes flicking up to the hidden camera in the corner of the room.
“How did you--” Bruce started, but was interrupted by Loki looking up at him with an almost frightening spark in his eyes, “Yes, I do, but--”
“Get rid of it. Permanently. I do not want anyone to ever see this,” with that, Loki stood up, tearing the meter from his arm and stalking out of the room, leaving Bruce standing in the silence with his mouth slightly open.
Four days later, Loki was sitting in the collective kitchen, eating a Kiwi with a spoon and eyeing it suspiciously. Natasha was sitting opposite him. She had become used to his presence, never showing fear or weakness. It was Loki that was wary of her, instead of the typical other way around. Tony was at the table, reading a newspaper and occasionally letting out a loud and dramatic sigh. Eventually he held the newspaper up, waiting for someone to look over at him.
Loki made the mistake of turning his head towards the engineer. “Do you see this,” Tony said, hitting the newspaper with the back of his hand. “They’re calling me ‘compassionate’. Me! Oh, if only they were to interview Clint, or you Nat! Or god forbid, Steve! He would have something to say about me, and it wouldn’t be pretty, believe you me.”
“Steve wouldn’t say anything bad about a fly,” Natasha responded, never taking her eyes off of her own half-consumed Kiwi fruit.
“That’s a lie. I’ve heard him. He was all ‘Listen here, fly. I’ve already told you once to get out of my room. A good soldier listens to his orders. Do you want to be made a fool of, little guy?’” Tony smirked at himself; at the image he had created. Loki and Natasha didn’t so much as smile. “Oh, come on guys! That was funny! That was me being my classic witty self. Witty! They never say ‘witty’ in these articles.”
“I can’t imagine why not,” Loki said, cool as a cucumber. Natasha made a noise that almost sounded like a snort as she stood up to deposit the kiwi skin in the garbage disposal. Her walk was the product of years of ballet training, and Tony followed her with his eyes as she left, letting out a slow, soft whistle.
Now Loki and Tony were alone in the kitchen.
It was an awkward situation, seeing as though the last time they had met one-on-one someone had been thrown out of a window. That recollection was not brought up by either of the men. Instead, Tony questioned the whereabouts of the kiwis and Loki pointed him in the direction of the heaping bowl of the fruit on a nearby counter.
“Who bought all of these?” Tony asked, but it was rhetorical. How would Loki know. It was probably Clint, he thought. The freak.
Tony made his way over to the drawer with the knives, pulling out a blade that was much too large for the job of kiwi maneuvering, but was perfect for showing off to the bad-guy-gone-good sitting at his kitchen counter. He threw it up and spun it in his hand, catching the knife handle first. Loki made a point of not looking. Tony resolved to move back to the table and continue his show, but as he walked, his feet tangled with one another and his jugular was on its way to being impaled by a kitchen utensil.
Loki was quick to move; to catch Tony before any damage was done. When they were both upright and breathing normally, Tony stared at Loki. It was unnerving to Loki, who stared right back until he realized that he was feeling a familiar sensation of tingling and cold. “I’ve gone blue,” he stated, and it was definitely not a question.
“Dabba dee dabba doo,” Tony replied, eyes scanning over Loki’s face.
“I would appreciate it if you stopped looking at me like that,” Loki said.
“Anything for you, Max Rebo,” he said, “also, did you just save my life?”
“I would rather we not talk about this any longer,” Loki said, and turned to walk away, before stopping, “and don’t tell anyone else, either. I know where you live.”
But Tony, of course, told the first person he saw--who happened to be Clint, sauntering in for a post-workout snack.
“We have a smurf in the house, my friend.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Clint said.
“Our very own Loki has a secret talent. He changes colour. Did you know about this? No one tells me anything fun.” Clint was looking at the newspaper still open on the table.
“I think that’s because they can see that you get enough fun without them,” he said, tapping to the picture of a wasted Tony with a bandana around his head, his arm around a man who--apparently--was the chief of surgery at a children’s hospital. The headline read: STARK GIVES MILLIONS TO ST. AUGUST’S HOSPITAL.
“Yeah, I don’t even know where St. August’s is. That’s not in New York, is it?” Clint just rolled his eyes in response. Tony continued, “Anyhow, I was thinking we give our resident trickster a scare, see if we can’t make ‘im go all Inky on us.”
“Pac-Man character. Blue? The most misunderstood villain? There are loads of similarities here, Barton. What did you spend your childhood doing?”
“Target practice,” Clint responded, but then, “Alright, I’m in. What do you suggest we do?”
“Oh, I have big ideas, my friend. Just you wait.”
Loki sat alone in his room, watching the walls and willing himself into normality. Odin’s magic had been faltering lately, and the thought alone of it disappearing forever was enough to leave him irritable and on edge. When the pigments finally dissipated, Loki closed his eyes and rested. Humiliation is exhausting. Constantly keeping his guards up was exhausting. This whole ‘being a good guy’ thing was exhausting. He hadn’t even felt any of the supposed ‘rewards’.
He was glad that Thor had been called away with Steve to the other side of the world where ‘superhuman strength’ was needed. Loki wasn’t trusted enough for a mission outside of New York. Tony had wanted to go, but Pepper had stopped him in the last few moments insisting that he had an important conference coming up. It was still coming up, Loki realized thoughtfully.
He was snapped out of his reverie as four taps on the door reverberated through his skin. Loki rose to answer it, but when the door swung open, Odin was standing before him. Loki’s knees buckled. “Father.”
The fear was enough to chill Loki, and the chills brought on the wash of blue quickly. Odin did not speak, but moved his hands in a way that seemed to beckon Loki to rise. He did so, and then noticed that the All-Father’s eyes were blank. It was then that the image started to falter, flickering and dissipating away like a ghost. Loki scowled then.
Clint and Tony burst out laughing from their position just around the corner. “You weren’t even kidding!” Clint said, “He’s blue !”
Loki contemplated killing them both right there, but thought better of it. Instead, he slammed the door on the both of them and began to plot his revenge.
The plotting would have gone better if Loki were able to revert back to his normal appearance, but that was becoming a challenge of its own.
Pepper had been working the entire day for Tony. It was never easy work, but it was occasionally rewarding. Rewarding was watching Tony get drunk and promise to build a new wing of a Children’s hospital, which he could totally afford. Rewarding was watching Tony completely hungover the next morning. Unrewarding was living in a near-chaos state with the help of six superheroes intent on constantly bickering. Oh, and the God of Mischief and Lies was here now, too.
This day had seen enough of both sides, but of course it would never be done until it was seamlessly melding into the next day where it would all start again.
And then something grabbed Pepper, pulling her back into the elevator.
“Shh,” Loki whispered when Pepper tried to yelp, and then bite. “It’s alright. I’m not going to hurt you,”
“Then why did you just half-drag me into an empty elevator,” Pepper replied, suspicious. “And why are you... blue?”
“Because I need your help,” and he said it in a way that almost sounded like begging; pleading. “I need your help to trick Tony Stark. As vengeance. For this.” Loki waved a hand over his arm.
“He made you blue?”
“This is what the Jotunn look like,” Loki said, annoyed now.
“Wow, I- Wow. Loki, this is... exquisite.” Pepper fought to not trace one of the patterns in his skin with her finger. “Though the eyes are a little-”
“Disgusting, it’s all disgusting. This is a horrid form and I can’t revert. Not right now. I think releasing some of this...utter rage should help.” He sounded pretty set in his opinion. Pepper had lived long enough with Tony Stark to know when not to argue. But it really was impressive, and she could get used to those piercing scarlet eyes.
“Alright. Okay,” Pepper said, and then, “promise he won’t get hurt?” Loki just raised his eyebrows at her in response. “Fine, what do you want to do?”
They would need Natasha to complete the prank. Pepper had seen it done in a movie once, but doubted that anyone else in the building had seen it and so was dubbed (in her own mind) project manager. She was also close enough to Natasha to convince her to join in, though Nat was always up for messing with her archer beau.
But Natasha had a request first, and Pepper knew that Loki would not agree unless it was very carefully proposed to him. Pepper was beginning to think that having the talent of carefully wording things was a good thing to have--and look for--on a resume. She sure as hell used it a lot.
“I think now that most of us seem to have seen it--except Bruce and Thor-”
“Bruce has seen,” Loki sighed, “Thor knows well enough the phenotype of the Jotunn. I will never let him see this side of myself,” he said, anger rising.
“But Natasha hasn’t,” Pepper finished, “and since we’re asking her to risk her relationship...” Loki scoffed at that. Pepper continued, “I think it’s only fair for her to see... what you’re so angry about.”
This was difficult because Loki respected Black Widow, possibly more than any of the others. Most of him didn’t want anyone to see him as he truly was, and there was a little part that died as each of them did. He knew that little part would be some deal greater when the people he actually liked saw him in this way. After all, these were people he had resolved to spending a lot of his future with. He sighed, “Fine, let her in,” and braced himself.
The door opened a little a first, then more and Natasha pushed her self fully into the room. Loki winced as her eyes fell on him. He looked at the floor so as to hide his eyes, but curiosity struck and his eyes darted back up to see her reaction.
Her eyes were wide. Natasha had never believed in aliens until, well, the alien invasion she was involved in stopping. Even when she heard whispers of it in S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters; she convinced herself she was mishearing. Yet now there was something distinctly non-human sitting in front of her. She had never been a scientist, but something about Loki like this made her want to study him. She could only imagine how Tony would have felt to see this.
And then she remembered the way Tony acted when he saw something he liked; he made fun of it. She also realized that Clint wasn’t exactly discreet when it came to social matters, and realized how self-consious Loki clearly was about his heritage. That could not have been a good situation. Natasha drew her features together seriously, which Loki took as a bad sign.
But then, “Let’s do this,” she said, and Loki wanted to ask--something, but he didn’t know what that something was, and so promptly dropped it. Pepper smiled at him before nodding seriously. She was taking her job of project manager very seriously.
Loki tried to ignore the part of him that was dying and focused on the task at hand.
Five times now, someone had seen Loki as he truly was. It was an unpleasant thing, having everything you’ve been hiding stripped away. Your biggest secret revealed to all by someone else’s doing. It was why Loki would never feel guilty for what he was about to do to Clint and Tony. He waited in the kitchen; waiting for the sign that it had worked. When it came, it was glorious.
“WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?” Tony yelled from his personal bathroom, followed by a string of curse words.
From Clint, Loki only heard something smash as it was dropped, and then Natasha calling, “Seven years bad luck, sweetheart,” mockingly.
Loki grinned, and felt the blue start to slip away from his skin. He blinked, and felt his eyes return to normal. He smiled some more and it left him faster. He was impressed with himself for realizing that vengeance really can solve problems, despite certain Midgardian sayings that implied otherwise. Maybe this was the evil in his Jotunn heart running off of the misfortune of others, but Loki tried not to think about that.
What was important was that Loki was back to his normal Asgardian-looking self, and Tony and Clint were walking into the kitchen, dyed blue from head-to-foot. Loki schooled his features into mock-surprise.
“Whatever happened to the two of you?”
“Don’t play games with me, Laufeyson,” Clint spat as Natasha sauntered in, Pepper trailing behind her.
“Oh good, it worked,” Pepper said, admiring.
“You helped him with this?” Tony growled, turning towards her.
“You weren’t playing nice with the other Avengers,” Pepper replied. Natasha nodded.
“Oh, it is so on now,” Clint said, eyes blazing as a slow smile spread across his face.
“You want to try me, little hawk?” Natasha responded, before sashaying away. Clint followed her closely and moments later the door to their bedroom was closed. Tony finally smiled.
“Well, I guess not much harm was done, then. You’re lucky this time, Boo Berry. I respect you for your quick retaliation. Maybe. We’ll see.”
“I could have killed you,” Loki said.
“Ah, good point. That’s frightening. You’re frightening. And now you have Widow on your side,” Tony pointed at Loki, “You scare me.” Loki just smiled in response, very slowly. Tony mock shuddered. “Well, whaddya say, Pep? Want to follow in the footsteps of our resident assassins?”
“No way, buddy. You have a conference in an hour,” she grinned in response.
Tony thought about that for a moment before looking again at Loki’s now-grinning face. “I hate you both. I really do,” he stated, and then left. Loki picked up a kiwi from the bowl and handed it to Pepper before picking one out for himself.
“Thanks for this,” Loki said.
“No problem, it was fun to see Tony’s face, and the fun will only escalade at this conference. Fury’s going to be there,” she grinned.
“Oh, yes, thanks for that too,” Loki clarified, “but I meant to thank you for the kiwis. They really are quite good. Better, even, than some fruits on Asgard.”
Pepper just smiled at him before grabbing a spoon to scoop the kiwi out with, and they sat together in silence for some time; recollections of the blue Clint and Tony fondly playing over their memories.