Chapter 1: To Rome
Suitcases were ridiculous, Loki decided.
Suitcases were ridiculous. Travelling itself was daft. Midgardian concepts of clothing were utterly backward; despite having invented washing machines, it still wasn't acceptable to wear the same outfit every day. Horses were extremely few and light years between; polluting metal cars were preferred. Housing was chosen for practicality, not splendour. On long trips, instead of using a reasonable means of transport, one must travel by "train" or "plane."
Instead of banquets in a hall, dinners were bought from and prepared in external places, then eaten on trays placed precariously on a table covered in poisonous substances and science equipment.
Or perhaps that was just what happened when you were forced to live with John Watson and Sherlock Holmes.
'This is ridiculous,' said Loki for the fourth time, and at this point John was regretting ever having agreed to, in his own words, babysit Loki.
If John was frustrated, Sherlock was positively infuriated; Loki had done nothing but complain since his arrival at 221B, and was currently making their lives a misery. Technically, it wasn't Loki's fault that they had to bring him along on a case, but that didn't stop anyone from getting angry at him.
'Do you honestly have to bring the alien?' Lestrade had asked when he'd handed them the three train tickets they'd requested. There was no way they were flying to Rome, especially not after what happened the last time Loki had gotten onto a plane.
Loki had scowled at the use of the word "alien" and opened his mouth to debate the fact that in actuality, he was a god and should be treated as such, but John silenced him with a hard stare. Loki's expression remained furious.
Sherlock had, of his own free will, called his brother to complain about Loki coming along with them. Mycroft's sole response (He didn't pick up the phone; Sherlock had to leave a message) was to send what they assumed was an officially accredited passport for Loki.
And now, they were packing, and not a despite a long-held wish to visit Italy, John couldn't have been less excited or more apprehensive to be headed off to Rome if Moriarty himself was dragging him there.
As he watched Loki attempt to decide what human garments to pack into his suitcase, he figured that perhaps this was an understatement.
Loki gave up and pushed the mostly packed, half closed suitcase away from him roughly with his foot before folding his arms and sitting on the couch.
'You do realise you picked out all of those clothes yourself, right?' he asked.
Loki nodded. John resisted shuddering. Clothes shopping with Loki had NOT been a pleasant experience by anyone's definition.
'I simply don't understand why I can't stay here,' said Loki furiously.
John let out a sarcastic laugh. 'Really? You can't see why we've got to look after you after you tried to destroy the planet?'
'I was aiming for domination, not destruction.'
'The point still stands,' John said. We're not leaving you here on your own; god only knows what kind of trouble you could get into.' He tried not to laugh at his now messed-up idea of god.
'Clearly not much, as I'm completely powerless,' said Loki bitterly. John rolled his eyes; he'd been playing the helpless card far too often. He hadn't taken his hands off the sceptre in the entire time he'd been there, as if willing it to return his powers to him.
'You may not have your normal abilities, but you're still the international criminal who caused hundreds of deaths across multiple cities,' John explained wearily for the eighth or so time, 'I'm surprised Lestrade didn't throw you in jail and melt down the key to your cell.'
Sherlock chose this moment to stride into the room, suitcase in tow. Loki scowled instantaneously; Sherlock's suitcase was far fancier than his own, and he detested being treated like an average civilian rather than the extravagant treatment he was used to.
'John, I've told you, Lestrade has offered several times to lock Loki up for the duration of this…'
'No,' said John firmly, interrupting Sherlock, 'I'm not letting him out of my sight, and you shouldn't want to let him out of yours either.'
'I know what he is, but that doesn't mean we're better off with him in a cell.'
'Can I just…' started Loki, before both John and Sherlock interrupted him with thrown out hands and simultaneous 'No's.
Sherlock and John glared at each other until Sherlock finally huffed and grabbed the handle of his suitcase. 'The taxi's out the front,' he said, before walking right out the front door.
John stood up and grabbed his own bag, heaving it over his shoulder. He gestured for Loki to pick up his own suitcase. Loki looked at John in contempt before standing up, grabbing his suitcase, zipping it shut the rest of the way (with difficulty), and harshly dragging it towards the stairs to the street. He carried the sceptre with him, trying to pull it off as a walking stick.
John followed close behind. This was going to be an interesting trip.
No, seriously, screw trains.
That was the thought, with varying levels of profanities, running through the minds of John, Sherlock and Loki as they sat on the train on the way to Paris, their stop on the way to Rome. They were sitting at a table, Sherlock and John opposite Loki, and the first half hour of the trip had been in complete, awkward silence.
John, as one would expect, was the first to attempt to break it.
'So, Loki,' said John, and he could hear the universe cringing just for trying to speak to the man, 'you come from Asgard, right?'
Loki looked up from where he'd been glaring at the table. 'Yes.'
'What's it like?'
Sherlock rolled his eyes dramatically and huffed, leaning out of the window.
'Grand.' Loki seemed to be reluctant to say anything further. Either that or, John thought, Loki simply thought that as mortals, Sherlock and John weren't worth speaking to.
'Ask him about his issues with his father next,' said Sherlock, and Loki's head snapped up to glare at Sherlock. John elbowed Sherlock pointedly, but Sherlock was too busy smirking to notice.
'My father is none of your business, and you'd do well to…'
'Listen,' said John, 'I suggest you start talking about something less close to your heart before Sherlock picks your personality apart and lays it on the table in front of you.'
Loki scowled. Sherlock looked pleased. John knew that this trip was just going to get worse.
'Asgard is beyond mortal imagination,' said Loki, and Sherlock looked exasperated at the dramatic introduction, 'It's made of spires and gold and the wills of gods. The statues flanking the entrance to Odin's castle are tall, as tall as… that tall, pointed tower in Paris.'
'The Eiffel Tower,' John supplemented helpfully. Loki didn't look as he appreciated it much.
Loki paused and stared at John in what looked like contempt before starting again. 'The entire city shines, the banquets are both numerous and carefully prepared, and the people don't dress in the ridiculous fashion you mortals have decided upon; we wear leather, cloaks, metal armour. And until recently, the Bifrost shone with every colour imaginable, and it was that which we used to travel between the worlds.'
None of this was said with fondness and affection; it was chewed through and spat out. Sherlock went back to staring out the window. John was captivated by the idea, though not exactly the retelling of it.
'You said, "until recently,"' said John, 'So, what happened to this… Bifrost, was it?'
Loki scowled. 'That would have been the work of my idiotic brother-by-adoption, Thor.'
'Well, I'm sure he had good reason to,' said John, 'do you know what happened, if something prompted it?'
Clearly Loki did, though he pressed his lips firmly together and refused to speak any more about either Thor or the rest of Asgard. No matter John's entreaties to tell him stories about something, anything; his childhood perhaps, his upbringing, even asking why on Earth he decided to ally with the frost giants and attempt to take over the world didn't entreat Loki to talk.
Sherlock pulled out his phone, Loki started tracing his sceptre delicately, and it was then that John decided it wouldn't be impolite to take out his laptop and start writing the draft of a blog entry.
Luckily the train guards were too busy checking their passports and their tickets to notice the either the sceptre Loki held or the absolutely furious atmosphere that surrounded the three of them. Loki, unsurprisingly, was not a patient man, and despite the train ride being relatively short, he was completely infuriated at his supposed "captivity" whilst on it.
They switched trains to the second one, headed for Marseilles, and walked down the aisle to their seats.
John immediately noticed the problem. They'd been allocated two sets of two seats, both facing the front of the train, and one of them was likely to have to share a pair of seats with a stranger.
There was no way John was inflicting looking after Loki on a stranger. There was no way John was inflicting talking to Sherlock on a stranger. Which presented a problem, because there was no way that John was inflicting on himself the catastrophic consequences of sitting Loki and Sherlock next to each other.
However, there wasn't much of a choice. John moved to sit next to the elderly lady reading some sort of dull woman's magazine and indicated that Sherlock and Loki sit in the pair of seats behind him.
Loki looked furious. Sherlock was incredulous. John pushed Loki into the seat next to the window and glared at Sherlock until he reluctantly sat beside Loki.
'John, this is unnecessary and…'
'Shush,' said John. It felt as though he was doing a lot of interrupting today, but he felt as though he'd earned the right. He sat in the aisle seat next to the elderly lady and took out a novel he'd brought with him for the trip.
There was no way he was letting himself fall asleep. Just in case he woke up and the train was on fire.
Before he'd gotten two pages into his story (though admittedly John was somewhat of a slow reader), he heard frantic muttering from behind him. Refusing to turn his head, he instead turned his attention to the noise, trying his best to decipher it.
'You're being ridiculous,' Loki was saying, clearly angry, 'your knowledge of this is impossible. I know you associated with Thor, and he clearly told you everything you're pretending you found out.'
'It's quite obvious, really.' That was Sherlock, of course.
'It is not,' said Loki, 'your fanciful lies and careful trickery will never fool me; I'm the god of mischief himself, as your species decided to name me. You think I wouldn't realise when someone as absolutely pathetic as yourself was lying through his teeth?'
Had this been just after Sherlock's return, John would likely have hit Loki for suggesting Sherlock was a fraud. As it was, that had long since passed, and he simply rolled his eyes before returning to his book.
'Would you like me to explain?' asked Sherlock.
'You can't,' said Loki, 'as you're lying.'
Sherlock rolled his eyes and stared down the aisle at the other passengers. The train was mostly filled with business men; there was one teacher, taking up a new job and hoping to make a good impression. A chef, by the looks of things, visiting a relative, most likely an elderly grandparent. A political man, foreign minister, spoke four languages and was incredibly proud of the fact. Right across the aisle from them, a television writer, probably a prominent one, working on a script. Sneaking a peek at the script itself, Sherlock saw that his name was Steven.
Loki scowled. He could see Sherlock's eyes flitting between the people on the train, no doubt "deducing" them. He looked out of the window in frustration. It was just his luck that his first enforced experience on Earth was with the most egotistical man on the planet, aside from Tony Stark, and an army doctor who was both far more dangerous than he looked and likely necessary to ensure Loki's protection from either the public that recognised him or the furious onslaughts of knowledge and deductions from Sherlock.
John turned another page in his book. Let the children fight it out, he supposed.
They weren't kicked off the second train, but it was a close call.
The third train was equally as uncomfortable as the first two, though at least this time they were given seating around another table. John was thoroughly enjoying his book, Sherlock seemed to have found something interesting in the century old psychology textbook John had insisted he bring along, and Loki?
Well, Loki was still fuming. It was surprising that he'd managed to keep up being so furious for quite so long, but John was too used to Sherlock's unusual moods to notice anything particularly strange about Loki's five hour moping session.
'How do you do it?' asked Loki eventually.
John looked up, more than happy to talk to the god who'd been sitting there scowling for so long. He'd simply been waiting for Loki to break the silence this time.
'Refuse to cave in, refuse to put me in a jail cell and leave me there until the end of this godforsaken trip. Still maintain decorum despite being provoked.'
Sherlock chuckled, still immersed in his textbook. John chose not to ask.
'It's not that difficult, honestly,' said John, 'you may think you're being difficult, but you haven't seen Sherlock on a week-long break between cases. Compared to that you're extremely obedient.'
Loki frowned at Sherlock and looked back to John, who'd opened up his book again and started reading.
'Really, you're not being difficult,' John assured him when he noticed Loki glaring.
'Is that a challenge?'
'God no,' said John, turning over a page, 'Besides. You'd hardly succeed.'
Loki wasn't sure whether that was a compliment or not, so he went back to staring out the window and sulking. He was still tightly clutching the sceptre.
'You do realise you can't carry that around Rome, right?' asked John, pointing at it.
'And why not?'
'You're not allowed to carry weapons in public, generally. In Europe, anyway.'
'You'd have me leave this sole link to my home in an unguarded room?'
'Look, we'll have to talk about it later,' said John, looking out of the window, 'We've arrived.'
Sherlock looked up from his psychology book to see the station come into view. He stood up quickly, heading to retrieve his luggage from the compartment next to the door.
John sighed and got up. Loki followed close behind, still scowling.
They'd arrived. Finally.
Chapter 2: Loki's Introduction to the Vatican
Warning; Sherlock is actually going to the Vatican. Sherlock. And Loki. In the Vatican. To be clear, Sherlock and Loki are going to offend some very religious people. Keep in mind that Sherlock's opinion in no way matches my own, and I have no intention of offending anyone of any religion.
The hotel was relatively easy to check into. It was within easy walking distance of the Vatican, and Sherlock honestly didn't expect to be there for long. All Sherlock needed to do was speak to the man held in custody and examine the wine that had apparently been poisoned and somehow passed the inevitable taste test before the pope got around to drinking it. He already had at least seven working theories about the murder and exactly how it came about.
The room that had been booked for them had two single beds and a trundle bed of sorts. Loki was not happy, not in the slightest, to be allocated to the trundle bed. Sherlock had argued that logically, he was the least important member of this case as his requirement for mental functioning was far less than either that of John or himself, therefore required less adequate sleep.
John had argued that Loki'd been a dick the entire trip and if he refused to sleep in the trundle bed, they'd handcuff him to it.
The suitcases were thrown into the room. They argued over Loki's sceptre for a grand total of five minutes before Loki caved and left it nestled carefully between the elegant curtains bordering the window. John assured Loki that if it had been stolen, Sherlock was definitely going to be able to track it down within a matter of minutes.
They'd locked the room with the old-fashioned key they'd been handed (rather a change from the usual key-card system used in hotels) and stepped out onto the street. Loki wasn't allowed to so much as hold the key.
For a moment, Sherlock and John just counted themselves lucky that they weren't in Britain or America. They'd been a sensation in Britain since well before Loki's invasion, but their international following was relatively slim until recently. Since becoming a part of the Avengers Initiative, it seemed their lives were going to be thrown even more in the spotlight than before.
Oddly enough, this meant that they were lucky; oh, sure, they were dragging around an international criminal, but at least their faces weren't known by every person they passed on the street.
With a devotion to the case that Loki wouldn't understand for a while yet, they walked towards the Vatican despite being both hungry and tired.
'Is this place far?' asked Loki.
'Not terribly,' said John.
'What is it, anyway, this Vatican City?'
Sherlock rolled his eyes. 'It's where a collection of idiots reside to promote their idiocy to the world.'
John glared. 'Sherlock, you've met both several hundred demons and an angel yourself. Behave.' Sherlock responded by huffing and focusing on the path to the Vatican.
John sighed and asked Loki 'Do you know anything about Christianity?'
'I've heard of the concept, though not past what Crowley told me.'
'Ok, well, you being a supposed God makes this easier to explain.'
'I'm not a "supposed..."'
'There's a whole section of the world that believes that an all-powerful, omniscient god created the universe and made humanity.'
'And this Vatican?'
'It's the city where the leaders of the church in charge of the religion live, deify saints, that kind of thing. And it's where the pope lives.'
'And who's the pope?'
'At the moment, no one,' said Sherlock, interrupting, 'Which is what brings us here. Ah, excellent.'
They'd arrived. The enormous pillars of the city spread out before them. John was awed. Sherlock wasn't paying attention. Loki was thoroughly unimpressed.
A guard waited to meet them; clearly he'd been told to recognise John and Sherlock. He waved at them to follow him, but stopped when he saw Loki.
'You can't bring him in,' said the guard, 'I've got the authority to allow access to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson only. No guests are allowed.'
Sherlock stared the guard in the eye. 'Your employer clearly wishes me to be here; he will allow me in on my own terms and with my own "guests," else I'll turn around this instant.'
The man looked slightly annoyed and spoke into a walkie talkie attached to his uniform.
Loki sulked. Luckily for him, he was wearing regular civilian clothes. His Asgardian getup would likely have been found blasphemous.
'Should I just wait out here with him while you…' started John.
'No,' said Sherlock, 'Just wait.'
The guard had stopped his furious conversation with whoever was on the other end of the line and grudgingly indicated that all three of them were allowed to come in. They followed the guard through a side door, clearly not very well-known to the general public, and through to a surprisingly modern office.
'The Detective in charge here will be with you shortly,' said the guard, before storming out a little more angrily than he'd intended.
John and Sherlock took their seats at the guests side of the desk, leaving Loki to sit on what he was sure was a decorative chair in the corner.
'You realise we've just smuggled an international criminal into the Vatican, don't you?' asked John.
Sherlock hummed non-committedly.
John just chuckled and waited for the detective. Luckily, the three of them didn't have long to wait. The man who walked in was slightly taller than John, slim and appeared extremely nervous. He was wearing a crumpled dark blue suit. Sherlock immediately assumed the man had been contacted by Lestrade and warned duly about Sherlock's personality; he couldn't decide whether to be grateful or irritated. He could imagine how that particular phone call would have gone.
Sherlock stood up and extended a hand to the man. 'Sherlock Holmes. This is John Watson.' John stepped forwards to shake the man's hand after Sherlock.
'And this is?' asked the detective in a thick Italian accent, indicating Loki in the corner. He made no move to get up.
'Not someone that you need to worry about,' said Sherlock with authority. The detective looked uneasy, but took his seat behind the desk, facing John and Sherlock.
'Thank you for coming,' said the man, 'I'm Detective Inspector Veneziano, and… well, we have absolutely no idea what's happened.'
'How so?' asked Sherlock.
'The man we've detained… well, honestly, it looks like he's completely innocent. In fact he appears positively distraught that his actions have brought about the death of someone he admired so greatly.'
'What has this man done to make him so worthy?' asked Loki.
'Quiet, Loki, please,' said John.
DI Veneziano went white. 'No… not… he's not the one who…'
They all realised at the same time that Veneziano recognised the name from the news.
'No, look, please…' started John, and he had to stop himself from finishing that sentence with "Just ignore the Norse god in the corner," 'He's our charge now. Completely powerless, I promise you. He's done enough complaining about that one already.'
'I can personally guarantee your safety in terms of this man,' said Sherlock clearly, 'He has no reason or inclination to do any harm to anyone here, with the possible exception of myself and John.'
If the DI looked nervous before, now he was positively twitching.
'Well, let's see, I was… where was…'
'Up to the bit where the pope was murdered, I believe.'
'Yes, well,' said DI Veneziano, 'Essentially, we have absolutely no clue. We can't even detect any poison in the wine, either the cup the pope drank from or the bottle itself.'
Sherlock leant forward slightly, curious. 'I've got two requirements.'
'Requests,' corrected John.
'Requirements,' insisted Sherlock, 'I need to speak to the man you've detained. And I need a sample of the wine. If I can get both now, I'll contact you this evening.'
'You'll have news?'
'I'll have the murderer. Or at least have been able to prove the man in your custody innocent.' said Sherlock.
DI Veneziano sighed. Clearly, he'd been told to accept that Sherlock would crack the case in a matter of hours rather than weeks.
'If you follow me, I'll bring you to the man,' he said, 'The wine will be placed in the room opposite this one. It has basic scientific equipment, should it be required. Any questions.'
'One,' said Loki.
The DI raised an eyebrow.
'Scientific equipment in a religious facility?' asked Loki, and John leant over and pulled Loki up from his chair quickly, getting him to be quiet.
'Ok, we can stop right there,' said John, 'we are not having this debate in the Vatican, understood?'
Loki simply looked furious and followed Sherlock and John as they in turn followed the inspector through the maze of corridors, apparently out of the Vatican (though not too far away) and into a quiet building that seemed completely nondescript.
They were led down some stairs, down some more stairs, along a corridor, and finally, into a small prison that looked fairly uncomfortable. Only one of the cells was occupied.
'As you can see,' said DI Veneziano, 'We rarely have to detain people here.'
The man in the cell looked up hopefully. He was looking extremely dejected aside from that; clearly he hadn't planned on the possibility of being here.
Sherlock took in his appearance and immediately decided that this man, however crazy he may be, did not intend to poison the pope.
'You can go now, Inspector,' said Sherlock, 'I'll take it from here.'
'Do you need to enter the cell, Mr Holmes?'
'Not at all, Inspector.'
DI Veneziano looked at the people surrounding him with a mild expression of terror and left as quickly as he could.
'Name?' asked Sherlock.
'Freddie Dowler,' said the man, 'are you Sherlock Holmes, by any chance?' He had an extremely well-to-do accent and a general aura of wealth and sophistication, despite his current surroundings.
'Yes,' said Sherlock, 'Now, quite obviously you had no intention to poison the pope. The very notion that someone of your level of insecurity and religious self-importance would sink to murder is ridiculous.'
'Now wait just one moment, sir…'
'However, it is quite clearly the wine you gave to him that killed him. Which brings me to the question I'll likely be returning to ask in an hour or so. When I return, I will ask you exactly who tampered with the wine and how.'
'Mr Holmes, I wouldn't dream of letting anyone even touch the bottle of wine I planned to present to his grace.'
Sherlock rolled his eyes. 'Of course you wouldn't. Come along, John. Don't worry, Doctor Dowler, we'll be back extremely soon.'
Sherlock walked out the way he'd come. John looked pityingly at Freddie and followed him, dragging Loki behind him. Loki forcefully shook John's hand off his arm, and gave him a look that clearly said "I can do that on my own, thanks."
The three of them headed at Sherlock's extremely fast walking pace towards the room they'd come from. Sherlock pushed open the door to the room with the supposed science equipment with confidence and swept into the room.
John pointed Loki in through the door before stepping through himself and shutting the door behind the three of them.
A desk stood in the centre of the room, and on it sat a nondescript, uncorked bottle of wine beside a half filled glass and a corkscrew, the cork still attached to it. Sherlock nodded in appreciation; they clearly hadn't tampered with the evidence. Or at least, not that he could see.
A modern microscope that looked ridiculously out of place sat at the corner of the desk, beside a box of disposable plastic gloves. Sherlock immediately took out a pair and snapped them onto his hands.
John looked at the wine bottle, then at Sherlock. 'Do you mind?'
'Not at all,' said Sherlock, and John picked up the bottle.
'Le Vin du Rosier,' he read from the label, 'Well that certainly sounds unusual.'
'Wine of the rose,' said Sherlock, holding the wine glass in his hands and examining it carefully, 'Not something that's likely to be relevant.' He paused, before looking at the wall directly in front of him. 'Actually, it may be. Use my phone, I've enabled international roaming. Get a list of the ingredients in the wine.'
John sighed. He put the wine bottle down, took the offered phone from Sherlock's outstretched hand and started typing in the details.
Loki gave up. He lifted himself onto a table running along one of the walls in the room. The table creaked but held under his weight. He tapped out a pattern against the table.
'Stop that,' said Sherlock, now looking at a miniature drop of the wine under the microscope.
Loki laughed sarcastically. 'Oh, so I'm not allowed to make even a single noise now, am I?'
Sherlock hummed agreement. John rolled his eyes and scrolled through the entries on Sherlock's phone. 'Look, Sherlock, I think this is it.'
Sherlock took the phone, ignoring Loki's furious expression and his continued tapping of the table. He scrolled through the ingredients, before turning back to the wine.
Then came the waiting. Sherlock obviously had his ideas, and John was willing to accept that he'd find the results in his own time. He took his phone out of his pocket and started going through a crossword, leaning against a wall.
Every so often, Loki would comment on how ridiculously long this was taking. More often than not, John would simply stare at him until Loki rolled his eyes and resumed a pattern of pacing, drumming his fingers on the table and glaring.
It was some time before Sherlock looked up. His eyes flicked between the wine, the corkscrew, and his phone, on which the ingredients were clearly displayed, and an expression of understanding crossed his face.
'Oh, of course,' said Sherlock, before dipping his finger into the wine glass and letting a drop fall on his tongue.
'Sherlock! That wine killed a man!' yelled John. Loki was smirking, though his smirk faltered when Sherlock grinned.
'Clearly, John,' said Sherlock, 'But there isn't a single trace of poison in this wine, not at all. The taste tester wasn't killed and showed no reaction whatsoever to ingesting the wine. He'd eaten exactly the same dishes as the pope, obviously, which leaves out the possibility that somehow the pope had ingested something to make an undetectable poison in this wine deadly. The bottle being confirmed as coming from an outside source, the taste tester himself couldn't have had the opportunity to swallow an antidote to any supposed poison before testing the wine. Quite simply John; there is no poison in this wine.'
'Then what killed the pope?'
'Vanilla ice cream.'
Loki's jaw dropped open in absolute bewilderment.
'I'm sorry, vanilla ice cream?' asked John, as Loki pulled himself together enough to raise an eyebrow.
'If you say it's obvious,' said John with feeling, 'I'll snap your violin bow in half when we get home.'
Sherlock rolled his eyes at the drama.
'Examining this wine shows no trace of poison, as expected. However, there are many elements of it that defy expectation. The ingredients of the wine have been added at a far later stage in the process of making wine than usual. I assume the bottle was originally filled with the real Vin du Rosier; now, it most certainly isn't. The obvious observation leading to this is that the cork has been chewed, presumably to get it back into the bottle after being uncorked initially. Upon tasting it, or even glancing at the glass, you can see that there's an underlying standard wine, which is for some reason filled with ingredients to make it resemble that of Le Vin du Rosier. Look; there's a thin layer of nutmeg around the rim of the glass where the wine's been sitting. Having tasted the wine, the taste of dairy products is clear. It genuinely appears that this wine was made from a cheap bottle of wine combined with basic kitchen ingredients. Inferring from the recipe, the most likely "cover ingredient" for vanilla, so to speak, would be vanilla ice cream. Frankly, I'm surprised the taste tester didn't pick up the poorly constructed taste.'
'Ok, so it's a terrible wine,' said John, 'I still don't see… vanilla ice cream?'
'Easily explained, and I'll simply need to look at the pope's medical records to confirm my suspicions. A fair portion of this bottle has already been poured, which means the pope drank more of it than a single glass. Inference; the pope had a severe allergic reaction to the dairy in the vanilla ice cream, obviously not something you'd expect to find in a wine.'
Even John looked a bit dubious at this deduction. Sherlock looked surprised that John didn't believe him. Right on cue, the DI walked through the door.
'Ah, detective,' said Sherlock, 'fetch me the victim's medical records and the autopsy report. If this was murder, it was done by someone with access to these records. More likely than not, I believe that the pope's murder was a mistake.'
DI Veneziano looked utterly floored. 'A mistake? But Mr Holmes, you can't honestly…'
'I'll need to see those records, and then have a word with your current prisoner,' Sherlock added, 'No doubt this case will be solved far too quickly. Not half as interesting as it appeared to be.'
The inspector shook his head in astonishment before turning tail and walking back out of the door, promising to come back shortly.
Chapter 3: One Case Solved, Another Just Beginning
I openly admit that I am stretching the facts and possibilities of this particular case. I am neither a decent scientist nor a criminal specialist, and my knowledge of the Vatican is internet-gained and therefore sketchy. Bear with me.
When DI Veneziano returned with a file in hand, Sherlock stood up and snatched it off him immediately, rifling through the contents quickly.
'I trust you're going to keep everything in that folder… well, quiet,' said the detective nervously.
Sherlock didn't answer, but John assured him that they would.
'Aha!' said Sherlock, snapping the file shut, 'of course. Detective Inspector, send this wine to someone who can analyse it for dairy products.'
'Dairy products?' asked Veneziano in astonishment, 'But why…'
'I'll be going to speak to Doctor Dowler again to find out who the murderer is,' said Sherlock, heading for the door and indicating that John and Loki should follow, 'Shouldn't take more than half a minute.'
'But Mr Holmes, how!'
Sherlock smirked. 'Assuming it was poison? Basic mistake. You shouldn't assume without all of the facts. There is no poison in that wine, Inspector, which means that he cannot possibly have been poisoned.'
'Just do it,' said Sherlock. He was already well out of the door, and John and Loki were right behind him.
Veneziano muttered to himself in Italian as he picked up the wine bottle and took it away to be examined.
They were walking towards the jail cell to speak to Freddie when Sherlock's ever observant eye caught sight of something he deemed ridiculous enough to examine further.
Outside a newsagent was a stand of international newspapers. It had been the newspaper John occasionally read that caught Sherlock's eye. He strode over to the stand and wrenched a copy off its shelf.
'What is it, Sherlock?' asked John, following him.
'How utterly ridiculous,' said Sherlock, '"Pope Killed by Inferior Wine? Quite honestly it's not just the police department that needs remodelling. If the media is focused on portraying a case like this as such a ridiculously mundane…'
'Sherlock,' said John, 'There's a man in jail right now and a murderer waiting to be caught? Can we deal with the terrible newspaper headlines later?'
Sherlock conceded the point and after a pause, he put the paper back and strode towards the building Freddie Dowler was being held in. John shook his head and walked quickly after him. Honestly, it was amazing he wasn't jogging after Sherlock's ridiculously fast pace.
Freddie was certainly surprised to see them back so quickly. He looked up hopefully, perhaps expecting to be let out immediately.
'Have you successfully proved me innocent?' asked Freddie.
'Not yet,' said John, 'Sherlock's got a couple of questions, and we'll have the murderer.'
'Of course. In fact, Doctor Dowler, you know who they are.'
Freddie looked completely bewildered. 'I assure you I know no such thing. To even conceive of such an idea is ridiculous.'
'The pope wasn't murdered, Doctor,' said Sherlock, 'Or at least, the chances he did so are minimal. The man had a severe dairy allergy. Wine, as you'd expect, wouldn't normally contain dairy products, but this particular one did.'
'Oh really? And what product might that be?'
Freddie chuckled. 'Mr Holmes, I can assure you, that wine cost me seven thousand pounds and I wasn't going to buy it without assuring it was the genuine article, let alone present it to his Grace!'
'And it isn't at all possible that someone tampered with the bottle before you passed it on?'
'And why would you suggest that?'
'The bottle was filled with a mixture of cheap wine and a collection of ingredients resembling those in the actual Vin du Rosier. Ingredients that I assume could be found in your kitchen. I'll ask you again, Doctor, is there any chance someone drank the original wine and replaced it hastily using kitchen ingredients?'
'Of course not, that would be utterly…. Oh.' An expression of pure shock and horror plastered itself over Freddie's face. 'Oh dear. I… but no. It couldn't have been. I told them explicitly, the bottles on the left. Only the bottles on the… but then there was the nutmeg… Mr Holmes, I'm ever so sorry, but I think that my choice of house sitters may have killed the pope.'
Freddie's face was white with guilt and grief, which was John's cue to take over.
'Freddie, I know this might seem unbelievable,' said John, 'But you have to tell us who it was. I doubt they knew what they were doing at all.'
'Of course they didn't,' said Freddie, 'They never do. Why I decided to trust those two with my house after they broke that vase, I'll never know.'
'Who was it?' asked Sherlock intently.
'Well, perhaps you've been to his shop,' said Freddie, 'Black Books. Little shop on…'
John couldn't help himself; he giggled. Not at the man's misfortune, not at the murder, but at the stunned expression on Sherlock's face at those few simple words.
'You're saying,' started John, when Sherlock remained silent, 'That Bernard Black and that Manny bloke murdered the pope?'
Freddie nodded, mortified. John just managed not to express how truly hilarious that was. Sherlock stood, still dumbstruck. Luckily for him, his phone went off, and he was wakened from his trance-like state to answer it.
'Mr Holmes, they're saying you're right. I simply cannot… how did you figure this out so quickly?'
'It was obvious. Speak to Freddie Dowler, he'll be able to tell you the name of the murderer. There was no intention in this crime; if anything I expect you to charge the men responsible with either manslaughter or criminal levels of idiocy.'
Sherlock hung up and glared at John. Clearly he could see how amusing John was finding this.
'Where's the other fellow?' asked Freddie suddenly.
'I'm sorry…' John looked around. 'Sherlock. Sherlock, Loki's missing.'
Sherlock nodded. 'He's been missing for a few minutes now, John.'
'And you just let him leave?'
'I didn't notice him leave,' said Sherlock, 'I assume it was on the walk here. I noticed his absence and decided to close the case before searching for him.'
'And you thought letting an alien criminal wander around the streets of Rome was a good idea why, exactly?'
'It's not like he can do any harm without his powers,' said Sherlock, waving his hands dismissively, 'Besides. He doesn't speak Italian, he hardly knows where he is, and while his capabilities at deception are admirable, it's not as if I won't be able to track him.'
John ran his hand over his forehead. Fine, they'd solved the case of the murdered pope; the case of the missing Scandinavian god may prove a little more challenging.
Loki'd slipped away from the pair of them while Sherlock was ranting about the media.
Hardly difficult, he thought, the pair of them being distracted by a simple newspaper headline gave Loki all the time he needed to sneak away and hide until they walked on, forgetting him. Of course they would forget him, he mused bitterly, it wasn't as though he'd tried to take over the world or anything. It wasn't as though he was important.
Loki shoved his hands into his pockets and headed back towards the Vatican. There was of course the minor issue that he didn't understand the local language, but it seemed that more often than not those in this country spoke the language he was familiar with.
The other issue was that Loki wasn't exactly sure where to go or what to do. Whether to resign himself to being Sherlock and John's captive, or striking out on his own, at least until the pair inevitably caught him. Either way, he hardly understood this whole "worthy of being Loki" challenge. It all seemed like a ridiculous plan designed to keep him on the planet he'd sought to rule. Surely he'd have been able to learn just as well in Asgard rather than on this pitiful wasteland.
Well, Loki didn't have forever to hide from the so called consulting detective. They'd find him, he knew they would. So he began exploring.
The Vatican was by no means as grand and spacious as the halls of Asgard, or even his own throne room in Jotunheim. As he made the comparison his face darkened, eyes turned to the paintings stretched across the ceiling. No doubt that even if he did make it off this infernal planet, he wouldn't be allowed to return to Jotunheim.
As he remembered the particular frost giant he named his own personal guard, he figured that might not necessarily be a bad thing.
A woman bumped into Loki before scowling at him viciously and storming off. She proceeded to take what looked like several hundred photos.
'I come from another planet entirely, mortal, and I'm apparently an international criminal on probation' Loki muttered under his breath, 'And even I'm not that bad a tourist.'
Right. So the tourists were bothering him. Loki slinked through the halls of the Vatican, keeping carefully out of sight of any suspicious guard-like figures, and heading into the far quieter halls of the enormous church.
There wasn't as much grandeur or extravagance here than there was throughout the tourist filled section of the Vatican. Clearly this part of the building was used solely by religious officials and their guards.
Loki smirked. It had been child's play to get in here.
He stalked along a corridor, pausing at the sound of a door opening somewhere further along. He stayed perfectly still, waiting for the noises to pass, before continuing on his way.
A door almost directly in front of him opened and it was all Loki could do to wrench the door closest behind him open, hope that it was a spacious, empty cupboard, and wait until the guard passed.
Shutting the door behind him, Loki turned to find out where he was, and found himself staring into the faces of around a hundred men in white robes with shocked faces. He'd quite clearly interrupted them in the middle of some terribly important discussion.
Loki stared. The men stared back. Not a single person in the room quite understood what was happening. In Loki's case, this was because he'd never been told about the system of re-election for a new Pope. In the cardinals' case, this was because there was a man with shoulder length black hair in the room that no one was supposed to leave or enter until a new pope was chosen.
Extremely subtly, Loki turned the handle of the door and edged out of the room, ignoring the stunned faces of those gathered within.
He was halfway down the corridor before he heard someone calling for a guard.
'Sherlock, you have got to be kidding.'
Sherlock was standing outside the newsagent where they'd lost Loki. He was looking around, looking for clues, and he'd been standing there for a minute without saying a word in response to John's constant queries about where Loki could possibly be.
'You seriously have no idea where he's gone?'
'I'm thinking, John,' said Sherlock firmly as his eyes darted around the crowd.
'No,' said John, 'you're stalling. If you'd been able to figure out where he was, you'd have done it by now.'
Sherlock grimaced almost unnoticeably. John chuckled.
'Well, no doubt some clue'll turn up,' said John, walking into the newsagent to buy the paper Sherlock had been distracted by.
While he waited, Sherlock's phone rang once again. It was the number that had called him previously. Surely Veneziano wasn't still having difficulty with the case…
'Mr Holmes, an intruder just broke into the Cardinal's room. They said… well, it seems to me like he looked exactly like… your charge. Is… is Loki still with you?'
'Thank you for your information, inspector,' said Sherlock before hanging up despite Veneziano's protests.
'John!' Sherlock called, 'The Vatican. Now.' He started heading in the direction Loki was supposedly running.
John told the man behind the counter to keep the change and, for that matter, the paper as he raced outside to follow Sherlock.
Chapter 4: The Chase is On
They'd have notified Sherlock by now, of course, thought Loki as he walked quickly (no point drawing further attention to himself by running) away from the Vatican. The busy streets surrounding it should provide him with a decent amount of cover.
The surrounding babble was irritating him to no end. He couldn't help but wonder whether his powers would have enabled him to understand the chatter around him. Did Odin's spell take into account the fact that he'd spent his time on Earth consorting only with English-speakers? Did it take into account that he would no doubt be housed and, god forbid, "corrected" by English-speakers?
None of these questions were particularly useful when an elderly lady stumbled into Loki (What was it with people bumping into him lately?) and started shouting at him in Italian. She was gesturing wildly, her overfilled handbag threatening to spill its contents.
Loki ignored her. It wasn't as if he'd be able to respond to her in a language she could understand.
The woman clearly didn't accept this as an appropriate excuse. She marched straight up to a man standing on the side of the road. A man who was wearing a black uniform and an official looking hat. She started talking.
In seconds Loki realised that this man was probably part of Italy's law enforcement. Therefore he would be able to contact Sherlock more easily than anyone else in this particular street. Therefore Loki should get the hell out of there while his relative anonymity was still intact.
He walked slightly faster. Any faster and he'd have to start jogging. His choices were limited; he didn't want to get backed into a shop, a restaurant or a bar, so he had to keep walking, keep moving.
Loki understood that he was essentially buying some thinking time, inconveniencing Sherlock and John without genuinely running away. He hardly had anywhere else to go. He simply wanted it to be made clear that he didn't want to be there, not under any circumstances, and that if they were going to be "looking after" him, they may as well have some difficulty with it.
He grinned as he passed out of sight of the old lady and the policeman who was listening to her with a polite but detached expression.
A hundred metres down the street, behind him, a black coat swept out into view.
'And you know that he's gone this way how, exactly?' asked John.
'Of course he'd go this way,' said Sherlock impatiently, 'Isn't it obvious?'
'As usual, it isn't obvious to me.'
Sherlock huffed and continued walking down the street, ignoring John's comment. John shook his head in mild exasperation. Of course Sherlock would never admit to following instinct rather than physical evidence.
They were headed away from the hotel, almost directly; the street was crowded, and Loki was probably going to tend towards crowds to hide himself in. Those points were clear enough. The why was a bit more confusing.
'So why is he doing this again? Aside from not wanting to be stuck on Earth in the first place,' said John.
Sherlock snorted. Delicately. 'His purpose, as far as he was concerned, was to wreak havoc and rule Earth, or possibly a greater portion of the universe given his origin. His capability of the latter is greatly reduced with his lack of power. The first is still possible.'
'He's causing trouble for the sake of causing trouble, and inconveniencing us as much as possible,' said Sherlock. He desperately wanted Loki to have some greater motive in running away, but there wasn't really another explanation. Loki wasn't an idiot; he knew he'd be caught, knew he'd have to suffer through being held captive by as many of the Avengers as were forced to deal with him.
He just wanted the feeling of rebellion.
Sherlock's mind was in overdrive as he looked for Loki, but there weren't many clues he could work with. Not the man with the miniature dog (lived in a tiny apartment, worked shifts, had toast for breakfast), the mother and her children (born within a year of each other, the younger struggling with school), nor the… actually, that lady badgering the police officer was rather intriguing.
Sherlock marched towards the woman, John following in his wake.
'What's going on?' asked Sherlock in Italian, doing his best to act the concerned citizen. John rolled his eyes and hoped that Sherlock didn't embarrass them.
'That man,' said the lady, positively trembling with rage, 'he just barged into me! Refused to apologise! Didn't speak a word, actually! Ridiculous man, no morals…'
'Shoulder length black hair?' asked Sherlock. Admittedly he was taking a stab in the dark, but the only one who would call him out on it was John, and John didn't speak Italian.
'Why, yes, how did you know?'
'Which way did he go?'
'That way, and he was in rather a rush.'
Sherlock turned in the direction she was pointing and started jogging through the crowded street.
'Young man, listen here!' yelled the lady, but Sherlock and John were already out of earshot.
Loki made sure to glance around him every twenty seconds or so. He did so in as subtle a way as possible, but he was determined to make sure that he wasn't being followed.
When he glanced around for about the fifteenth time, the tell-tale black coat swept into view. With a curse, Loki cursed under his breath and pushed through the crowd, heading towards a side street.
Sherlock noticed, of course. Even John noticed. Though Loki was at least thirty metres in front of them, they could see the people part to allow him to dash off into a side street.
The pair started running again. The chase was most certainly on.
Loki raced through the streets, hardly taking in a single thing as he tried to throw the pair off his trail. It was damned near impossible, but his total lack of knowledge of the city was actually doing him a favour; his movements were completely unpredictable and spontaneous.
His clothing was hardly doing him any favours. Loki hadn't expected to be running around as much as this and had opted for style over practicality, buying fashionable, yet ultimately restricting, trousers and coat.
As he turned one corner he spotted a door, slightly ajar. He took the chance and stepped through it, hiding behind the door and assuming that his luck couldn't possibly be terrible enough to allow him to burst into another room full of religious officials.
For once, Loki's luck held out. He was in a dark corridor. People were dashing backwards and forwards, but none of them were paying attention to him. Someone walked past him and shut the door firmly without even seeming to notice Loki's presence. Everyone seemed to be far more focused on climbing up ladders, rapidly whispering to each other in fevered Italian and switching their outlandishly bright clothing for different outlandishly bright clothing.
The clothing exchanges were being done in seconds in tiny rooms off the hall he was standing in. Someone would dash inside, close the door, and emerge seconds later in an entirely different outfit before rushing to either end of the corridor and leaping up some stairs.
As a loud fanfare of some sort started from the other side the large black wall running along one side of the corridor, Loki peeked inside one of the dressing rooms. Costumes lined the walls, and while most were far too bright and extravagant for Loki to even consider, there were some far more suited to his tastes.
He ducked into the tiny room, shut the door and grabbed a dull gold scarf from the rack of clothing lining the wall.
'Admit it,' said John, standing impatiently as Sherlock paced up and down the alleyway, 'you've lost him. Again.'
Sherlock scowled. He may have solved the case of the pope's "mysterious" death, but that was by no means important in comparison to the fact that he had lost an international criminal who was somehow evading them through the spectacular technique of not having a clue where he was going.
'It's ok, Sherlock,' said John as Sherlock passed him again, 'We'll find him.'
'He must be in this block still,' Sherlock said clearly, his hands gesturing wildly, 'He couldn't possibly have escaped another way.'
'There are doors lining every single building along here and half of them are unlocked,' said John, having experimentally pushed on a few door handles to try and narrow the field of where Loki could have gone.
'You don't have to tell me, John,' said Sherlock, still frustrated.
'Look,' said John, 'It can't be too difficult. There aren't many places he could be. If he was in someone's home by now either an alarm'd be going off or someone would be yelling to get the damned foreign house robber out of their rooms.'
'Which leaves either the restaurant at the corner or the theatre,' said Sherlock, nodding. He raced off in the direction of the restaurant, shouting out deductions about why Loki was far more likely to have hidden in a restaurant than a theatre as he went.
Loki hadn't changed much about his clothing, though he figured he blended a little more.
His hair was vaguely messier, not quite as styled as it usually appeared. A golf scarf adorned his neck. His coat was gone, replaced by a somewhat more formal and even less practical jacket.
At least the coat he was leaving behind in the dressing room wasn't bought with his own money, he thought as he opened the door and looked up and down the corridor.
The music was louder now, almost to the point where Loki was unable to hear his own thoughts properly. He briefly considered sneaking out of the door he'd walked in through, but on trying it he found that it was locked. How that had happened he had no idea, but he didn't exactly have the luxury of time to go hunting for a key. For all he knew, Sherlock could be picking the lock as he decided what to do.
The only other exits seemed to be at either end of the corridor, five steps up from the ground floor. Loki chose the left corridor and, ignoring the insane amount of noise, pushed the door open and looked through.
Sherlock gave up on the restaurant before John had even walked through the front door. He found himself turning around and dashing for the theatre.
'Unhand me!' Loki said clearly as a man grabbed Loki by the arm and dragged him between a pair of curtains. He could hardly see, it was so dark back here. 'If you only knew who you dared to manhandle…'
Loki never managed to finish his sentence. Three pairs of hands pushed him in the small of the back and he stumbled through the curtains and onto the stage, music blaring, lights blinding, and the various men and women around him in brightly coloured costumes smiling and dancing like there was no tomorrow.
It was sickening.
Loki tried to make a dash for the edge of the stage but was finding this somewhat difficult; his eyes hadn't adjusted to the light, and his vision became almost instantly blurred by a flash of glittery paper raining from the sky. Loki stopped walking and furiously yelled 'Would you all just stop moving!'
The dancers turned their heads and seemed to recognise him. Later, Loki would discover that he closely resembled an actor who was meant to be on stage at the exact moment he'd walked through the stage curtains. When shown a picture of the man, he'd insist that he looked nothing like him.
The movement stopped. The glittery flakes fell to the floor. The band faltered.
The door at the back of the audience burst open, and Loki looked up just in time to see Sherlock Holmes and John Watson burst into the room as the crowd fell apart laughing.
When Sherlock and John finally made it to the door at the top of the stairs and looked down on the stage to see Loki in his disguise, it was just as well that Sherlock was focused enough to race to the stage and drag him back up the stairs towards the exit he and John had come in from, because John had to stop in order to burst out laughing.
The audience let Loki up the stairs with minimal protests. They even let him keep the scarf.
Chapter 5: Return to London
John and Sherlock were genuinely furious. John had pulled Loki out of the theatre by the upper arm, and then stared him down before going on a slight rant about how infuriating Loki was. Sherlock decided, quite cleverly, that he didn't need to interrupt.
It didn't take long to drag Loki back to the hotel room. Sherlock sent a brief text to Veneziano explaining that they'd found Loki, and he was not a concern any longer. Veneziano's fear-filled reply was longer, filled with far more expletives, and also ignored.
Immediately upon re-entering the hotel room, Loki had dashed to the curtains and pulled out his sceptre. Unsurprisingly, his power didn't return to him. He hadn't exactly been a pinnacle of good behaviour so far.
They did handcuff Loki to the bed, in the end. Ignoring any and all possible misinterpretations of that gesture, John toed off his shoes and crashed onto the bed, not bothering to move under the sheets.
'We go home tomorrow,' said John with finality, 'and so help me if you try and escape again Loki, I'll handcuff you to Sherlock.'
Neither Sherlock nor Loki looked particularly pleased with that idea. Loki lay down on the uncomfortable mattress, handcuffed hand dangling over the edge. Sherlock went into the adjacent bathroom, and by the time he'd finished showering and walked back into the main room, John was asleep.
'How long am I going to have to endure this abuse?' asked Loki, pulling on his trapped arm pointedly.
'As long as we're forced to accept your delightful company,' said Sherlock with heavy sarcasm, 'Now I would recommend you sleep. Regardless of your life with your abilities, no doubt you're as weak and tired as any other human currently.'
Sherlock had a point. Loki closed his eyes and tried to ignore his handcuffed wrist. Sherlock sat in his own bed, taking out and reading the out-dated psychology textbook he'd brought along.
Sherlock smirked when a soft snore came from Loki's direction. He switched off the light and attempted to sleep.
The train guards stared at them oddly as they walked up to the platform and boarded the train.
Earlier that morning, John had called Mycroft and had a heated conversation. All Loki heard of it was John's part.
'This trip is not happening if we do not have first class, private tickets the entire way back to London… it's more for the passengers… so help me Mycroft I will let him loose… thank you.'
The result had been rather comfortable seating that no one was properly able to enjoy due to being tired and furious. Or, in Sherlock's case, vaguely amused.
Loki had started to make a comment that was clearly turning into a complaint when John pulled out his phone and said 'Right, that's it.'
'What's it?' asked Loki.
'We've done as much as we can,' said John, flicking through his contacts to find the number of the poor bastard he was about to call, 'You're going to be someone else's problem.'
Sherlock tried to hide his exhale of relief. Loki did likewise. He didn't particularly want to be stuck with another of them, but he was absolutely positive that none of them could be as bad as being stuck with Sherlock had been.
John held the ringing phone to his ear for a few moments before talking loudly. 'No, Stark, I have NOT reached your life decoy model, Jarvis told me exactly what that sounded like and you're being a prat.'
There was a pause.
'I swear to god if you don't start talking to me I'll text Pepper and get her to take this call.'
A babbled stream of words came out of the phone.
'You met Sherlock's brother, Tony, how difficult do you think it would be to get hold of her number? It's your turn.'
There was another pause, followed by a pronounced sentence full of nothing but swearing.
'He'll be there in a day or two, Tony. Don't ask any questions, Mycroft and Nick can sort this out.'
A muffled, questioning sentence.
'The Vatican. Look, it was a case, the pope was murdered, but… look, never mind. I'll talk to you later, Stark. Much later.'
John hung up with a self-satisfied grin and settled down to finish his Sudoku book.
Sherlock smirked. Loki scowled. John sighed. This was going to be a long trip, again.
The sight of the door of 221B Baker Street made John grin joyfully and regain some of his energy. Safe in the knowledge that soon, Sherlock would be unable to bicker with the fallen Asgardian god, he'd let them verbally attack each other with supposedly wittier statements. John never remarked on the accuracy of any of this, regardless of either's entreaties to join in on the conversation. Instead, he simply went through his book, doing puzzle after puzzle and enjoying the view of the passing countryside. Even if it was marred by ridiculous arguing.
'You are mortal, and hardly as worthwhile as one such as myself…'
'Who was clearly unworthy of the name of god, demonstrated by…'
'Your deductions are meaningless, Holmes (Loki had picked up on the fact that people often used last names when attempting to sound serious or angry, and was glad no one here knew his own last name), and you'd do well to remember that…'
'That which I don't remember is that which I consider useless. I highly suspect that I'll be deleting this entire experience…'
John smiled as he found the correct spot for a number seven in a particularly difficult puzzle.
But now that they were home, there was the rather pressing matter of getting Loki the hell out of England. Preferably John would have preferred to call Thor (the Doctor had left Jane with a phone full of the Avengers contact numbers and something that enabled it to cross space and time; no one had asked how he managed it).
John leapt out of the car with his bag in tow, thanking the taxi driver for putting up with them and handing the poor man some money. Sherlock and Loki practically evacuated the taxi, dragging their respective belongings with as much dignity as they could muster.
None of them had even raised a hand to the door when Mrs Hudson opened it and hugged John.
'Welcome back, boys,' she said, moving to hug Sherlock, who hugged her back as best as he could with one arm.
Before any of them could speak Mrs Hudson turned to the intergalactic criminal god and given him a hug as well. The expression on his face couldn't have been more shocked if he'd been electrocuted.
There was a flash of light Mrs Hudson let the stunned god go as they turned to look at the source. Lestrade stood there with his camera-phone aimed at them, resting his other hand on his knees and visibly shaking from laughter.
'Oh man,' he said, wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes and tucking his phone back into his pocket, 'That one is absolutely priceless. Come on, Sherlock, John, alien-boy, you're telling me how the case went. I got word from a detective in Italy. He seemed rather panicked…'
'Come upstairs and I'll get you all some tea,' said Mrs Hudson, ushering them inside.
'Thanks Mrs Hudson,' said John, walking up the stairs to their flat.
'Just this once, dear,' she said, smiling, 'I'm not your housekeeper.'
Lestrade had to hold up a hand and get them to stop telling their story. He'd already spat his tea out once and had no intention of doing so again. As it was, he simply laughed and laughed as they waited to explain it further.
'I'm sorry,' said Lestrade finally, still chuckling, 'But you guys must have had one hell of a trip. Tell you what, I thought Veneziano was barking when he told me to go and speak to that bloke from the bookshop.'
'What happened?' asked John.
'I could have charged him,' said Lestrade, 'But it clearly wasn't even slightly intentional. Poor bastard didn't even realize it was his birthday til I showed him the paper and he saw the date.'
Lestrade looked around thoughtfully. 'Bit of toast fell on my head, actually. Not quite sure what that was about.'
John raised an eyebrow and Lestrade shrugged. 'It would've seemed like a crime to arrest Black, honestly,' Lestrade added.
'We haven't even told you how Loki got dragged into an Italian theatre yet,' said John, and Lestrade looked confused.
'He doesn't like theatre?'
'No idea if he likes watching it, but he certainly doesn't like being in it.'
Lestrade cackled. Loki glared. Sherlock didn't look up from the laptop he was typing ridiculously complicated details of the case onto.
'Solved, done and dusted then?' asked Lestrade when Sherlock finally snapped the laptop shut.
'Not quite,' said Sherlock, and he checked his watch, 'The case will be over with… approximately now.'
'Boys!' called Mrs Hudson, 'One of your brother's cars is here, Sherlock!'
Sherlock smiled and looked at Loki.
'It has been entirely not pleasurable to be in your company,' said Sherlock, indicating that Loki should get out of his chair, 'And I do hope you enjoy your flight to one of the cities you so valiantly tried to destroy.'
'What's going on?' asked Lestrade.
'We're passing him to Stark,' said John, 'I think nearly losing Loki overseas was probably the breaking point for us. It's someone else's turn.'
'I feel so grateful for your help,' said Loki with the most sarcasm he could possibly cram into that sentence, 'Your treatment of house guests is appalling. I'll be well to be rid of you.'
'You've only got to deal with Tony now,' said John as Loki hauled his bag over his shoulder and fetched his sceptre from where it was leaning against the wall.
'Hang on, Tony Stark?' asked Lestrade, 'You're sending him to Tony. Stark?!'
'Of course we are,' said Sherlock, 'After all, it is his turn.'
Lestrade gulped. 'May god… or gods… or, someone, have mercy on this planet.'
The car's horn sounded and John stood up to show Loki out.
'That is unnecessary,' said Loki as John took his bag for him, 'I am quite capable…'
'Handcuffing you to the bed was also unnecessary,' said John, walking down the stairs, (Lestrade choked on his tea in the background. Later, John would explain) 'Think of this as attempting to be a good host. Even if you are a bit of a spoiled brat.'
Loki let John take his bag and put it into Mycroft's car, but refused to relinquish his grip on the sceptre.
'For god's sake,' said John, 'don't get into any trouble in the airport. Not here, not in New York. Just… try.'
Loki frowned. 'I hardly see the point.'
John just shook his head. 'Good luck, anyway.'
Mycroft's driver shut the door as Loki got in and John went back inside. Loki looked utterly confused. He'd been an absolute pain for them the entire time. The fact that John was still being nice to him was more irritating than anything else.
The man in the passenger seat immediately started going through the plans for the trip to New York in impeccable detail. Arrangements hadn't been made for Loki's sceptre; reluctantly, he would be forced to part with it for the flight. This man was supposedly also Loki's bodyguard, and would be stuck with him for the duration of the trip.
The lights of evening London rushed past Loki. He ignored them. He began to plan exactly how to undermine Stark's control of him.
Stark put down the phone as soon as John hung up on him. Damn that man, he thought, though he could hardly blame the guy.
This, however, reminded me that Loki was going to actually be coming to his tower. To Stark tower. And Tony would have to make sure Loki behaved. Which likely meant not drinking, at least so he could maintain some sort of guard.
He groaned loudly at the prospect of this.
'What is it?' asked Pepper, looking up from the couch. She'd only heard a little of the conversation; she was on the phone talking about share prices of the company at the time.
'It's our turn to look after reindeer games,' said Tony somewhat dejectedly.
Pepper paused for thought. 'We're not going to be able to do it.'
'Well, according to the man with the eye-patch and the great god-of-the-British, we don't have a choice.'
'In that case, we're getting help,' said Pepper, 'I'll bring Coulson in. You get Bruce.'
'You, Pepper, are amazing,' said Tony, kissing her on the cheek before dialing Bruce's number. Pepper smiled at him before calling Coulson.
Hey, thought Tony, he was still going to be looking after Loki. It wasn't written anywhere in the rules that he couldn't bring in help.
Chapter 6: Welcome to Stark Tower
This was an emergency, as far as Tony was concerned. Not five minutes ago, Pepper and Coulson had taken a car and headed out to the airport. In less than two hours, Loki would land. Pepper and Coulson would collect him, and bring him back to Tony's own Stark Tower.
This was emergency protocol four on Tony's post-invasion scale, and as such, required emergency response four.
Which is why the patrons of a bar in a small town in Ohio were very surprised when Tony Stark himself, wearing the full Iron Man get-up, strode in and sat down at a table with a couple of newcomers.
'Tony?' asked Sam, 'What the hell are you doing here?'
'Emergency,' said Tony, 'Could someone bring me a beer?' This later sentence was loudly directed towards the bar in general, and every waitress suddenly tripped over themselves to get to the tap first.
'What kind of emergency?' said Dean, looking vaguely concerned.
A beer was placed in front of Tony, the waitress who'd handed it to him smiling flirtatiously at Tony before turning to the other waitresses and grinning evilly. Tony nodded at her before downing a third of the beer in one gulp.
'Must be bad,' said Sam, watching the beer disappear quickly.
'You can say that again,' said Tony, 'on second thoughts, don't? I don't want to think about it.'
'Apparently,' said Tony, 'Dr What-his-face and the consulting douchebag have decided it's my turn to look after Loki.'
Dean winced, managing to grin at the same time. 'Good luck to you, dude,' he said, chuckling into his own beer.
'Watch it, hunter, or I'll pack him off to you next,' said Tony, pointing the beer at Dean threateningly.
Sam laughed. 'You wish,' he said, 'You know Jack's calling the Doctor to pick him up after you're done with him. Or what's left of him, anyway.'
'So if Loki's going to your place,' asked Dean, 'why the hell did you come here?'
'Emergency response four,' said Tony, 'Handy little database Jarvis set up for me. Designed to minimize stress, you know.'
'And what's emergency protocol four?' asked Sam.
'Chuck on the suit and have a beer with a couple of mates who haven't tried to fire, kill, torture, maim or otherwise shatter my body and soul beyond repair?' said Tony, 'Alcohol and like-minded people.'
'You came here to complain to us?' asked Dean, 'Actually, how the hell did you know where we were?'
'Fury's keeping tabs on you two,' said Tony, finishing his beer and looking around for another, only to have a pile of jostling waitresses swat each other's hands out of the way of the tap again, 'Piece of cake to hack into the networks and figure out where you two were.'
Dean and Sam looked at each other. They weren't really surprised that Fury was keeping tabs on them; hell, he got their monthly credit card bill and paid for it with SHIELD money. Good investment, he said; keeping the world safe from supernatural threats. And he'd only called to shout at them once so far for going overboard and staying in an executive room in a hotel in Chicago.
They'd taken the hint; fuel, hunting expenses, accommodation, car repairs, hospital bills and enough entertainment to stop them tearing each other to shreds was acceptable. Top rooms in five star hotels and cleaning out the minibar in said rooms was not.
'You came here,' said Sam, 'in your suit, from New York, with Loki about to arrive… to chat?'
Tony shrugged, Sam laughed, Dean ordered another round of beers (which they were given for free) and the three of them settled down to chat about what, for them, resembled normal life.
Pepper and Coulson weren't just standing at the gate Loki would enter the airport through. After flashing their credentials at security, arguing and coercing, they'd made their way through to the exact place the plane door would open.
'I'd feel better if Natasha were here,' said Pepper, sighing as the plane edged forward, having landed five minutes earlier.
Coulson wasn't offended, but he wasn't concerned either. 'It'll be fine,' he said, eyes firmly trained on the door, 'He tries anything, I've got the taser. He'll be out in seconds.'
'Mind if I tase him myself?' asked Pepper, and Coulson chuckled. 'No, really,' she added, 'This guy's tried to send you all to hell. If he so much as steps on someone's foot…'
'He won't try anything, Miss Potts,' said Coulson, 'Not if he knows what's good for him. We are only meant to be trying to help him, after all.'
The door to the plane opened. Pepper and Coulson waited, perfectly composed and patient, though both were rather furious at being coerced into doing this at all.
Loki came into view, stumbling around the corner, his sceptre in his hand. The guard pushing him noticed Pepper and Coulson, then turned to head back into the plane.
'He's all yours,' said the guard, and with that he was gone.
Loki's eyes flicked between Coulson and Pepper. They both stared at him. With a sudden burst of speed, Loki leapt out of the doors of the plane, attempting to sprint past the pair of them.
With a calm motion, Coulson pulled out his gun and swung the back of it in an arc, connecting with Loki's head with a loud crack. Loki sprawled out across the floor, making no attempt to get out.
'Oh my god, did you kill him!?' asked Pepper, sounding far less concerned than she usually would.
'He's just unconscious,' said Coulson, checking Loki's pulse. 'I was sent a picture of his luggage. We'll pick it up and drop him off at Stark Tower. Tony and Bruce can handle him.'
'What if he wakes up?' asked Pepper as Coulson lifted Loki over his shoulder to carry the unconscious god to the luggage carousel.
'I doubt it,' said Coulson, 'In fact, when he does wake up, he may well have a concussion.'
Pepper squashed down her urge to smirk, resisted the urge to say good, and followed Coulson towards the baggage collection, ignoring the blatant stares they received from across the airport.
Bruce had driven to Stark Tower almost immediately after Tony had called him. He knew Tony, he knew Coulson, and while he didn't know Pepper he knew enough about her to know that there was no way the three of them would be able to handle Loki without someone getting severely injured. They needed a calming presence.
It struck Bruce as extremely ironic that he, in this instance, was the supposed calming presence.
Bruce had only just walked into the third level from the top, the sort of entrance room for the massive apartment that took up the top three floors of Stark Tower, when he saw Coulson walk in from the lift next to him, Loki over his shoulder, while Pepper trailed behind with a bag and a sceptre she looked very uncomfortable carrying.
'Phil, what did you do to him?' asked Bruce in a resigned way.
'He tried to escape,' said Coulson, 'I had to stop him. He got knocked out. He's not severely injured.'
Great, thought Bruce, I've been here ten seconds and someone's already unconscious.
'Bruce?' asked Tony from around the corner, 'That you?' He walked around the corner and saw the three of them standing there, an unconscious Loki over Coulson's shoulder. Tony groaned in annoyance.
'Put him in his room,' said Tony, 'And make sure he doesn't wake up until I've had another drink.'
'Another drink?' asked Pepper.
'It was an emergency,' entreated Tony, 'I just went to Ohio and had a quick beer with the Winchesters.' He waited for Pepper to suggest he remained sober in order to deal with Loki.
'Vodka martini for me,' said Pepper, leaning Loki's possessions against the wall. She walked towards the bar, intending to sit on the lounge and read something, anything to take her mind off the fact that they were babysitting a murderer for the week, 'Extra dry, extra olives.'
Tony whistled. This was going to be an interesting week. He followed Pepper through to the bar.
With a sigh, Bruce picked up the bag and sceptre. 'Want to show me where this guy's staying, then?' he asked.
'This way,' said Coulson, walking through the apartment. Two flights of stairs later, they walked Loki through to the tiniest bedroom in the place, which was still absolutely enormous. A double bed lay across the centre of the room, a wardrobe stood in one corner, an ensuite bathroom door next to it, and a small table with three chairs placed around it stood in another corner. Loki was shoved unceremoniously on the bed, his sceptre was leant against the table and his bag was put in front of the wardrobe.
'He'll be awake within an hour,' said Coulson, 'He probably shouldn't be alone when he does wake up.'
Bruce and Coulson looked at each other.
'Go on,' said Bruce, 'I'll stick around. You carried him here, go take a break for a while.'
'Thank you Doctor Banner,' said Coulson, walking out of the door as quickly as he could manage.
Bruce pulled one of the chairs out and sat at the table, pulling his mobile out of his pocket. He opened up a half-finished game of solitaire and proceeded to wait.
Loki awoke with a significantly painful lump at the back of his head.
He immediately groaned, frowning. The last he could remember was trying to run away from the agent and the woman who'd been waiting for him at the airport, before…
Ah. He assumed the agent had knocked him out. Blast it, it was going to be even more difficult to escape from this lot than it was from Sherlock and John.
He opened his eyes to see a roof decorated with simple down lights. He noticed that he was lying on a bed, certainly not one he'd been in before, in a room he didn't recognise.
He sat up quickly, regretting it as the lump on the back of his head throbbed in complaint. As soon as he found that damned agent, he was going to sneak up behind him and stab him in the back with his sceptre.
Where is the sceptre, he thought with sudden panic, and looked around the room to find it before realising that he wasn't alone.
'Afternoon,' said Bruce, not taking his eyes off his phone, 'I'm guessing your head's not feeling all that great?'
'Oh, of course,' said Loki, chuckling sarcastically, 'They sent me the one person I couldn't provoke. Well done, you petty mortals, well done. Where is the agent who rendered me unconscious?'
'Your stick's over here,' said Bruce, ignoring the question and tapping the sceptre lying on the table in front of him, 'I figured you'd be looking for it.'
Loki got up and snatched the sceptre from the table. Having collected it, he was unsure of what exactly the plan was from that point on.
'What tedious tasks will I be forced to do this time?' asked Loki, striding over to his bag to rifle through the contents and assure nothing had been moved.
'Tedious tasks?' asked Bruce, 'Last I heard, John and Sherlock let you tag along with them to Rome instead of throwing you in the jail cell you probably belong in.'
Loki glared. 'My treatment was less than satisfactory. I was treated like a prisoner.'
'You were probably treated like an irritating guest,' said Bruce, closing his phone, 'Maybe if you start behaving, we'll treat you like a regular guest.'
Loki didn't comment. Bruce sighed.
'This is where you'll be staying for now,' said Bruce, indicating the room generally, 'Your bathroom's through that door, the rest of Tony's Stark Tower apartment is through the other. If you need anything, ask Jarvis.'
'I'm not entirely sure I'm comfortable with this, sir,' said Jarvis' voice, making Loki startle. Bruce ignored his questioning glare.
'You and me both, Jarvis,' said Bruce, before turning back to Loki, 'Have a shower, get changed, you'll want to after the flight. When you're ready to face being stuck here, come downstairs. Don't bother trying to escape, Jarvis can recognize you and won't permit you to use the lifts, and don't even think about trying the fire stairs.'
With that, Bruce walked out to tell the others that Loki had woken up. Even if Tony was completely and utterly drunk, at least he could rely on Coulson to be perfectly alert and very dangerous.
Loki watched the door close behind Bruce before searching through his bag for a change of clothes. Yes, he'd have a shower, he'd get changed, he'd become perfectly acceptable to deal with in this ridiculous society; and then he'd try and make their lives hell.
Chapter 7: Games Night
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Loki strode out of the bathroom, fully dressed with his hair still dripping wet, the back of his shirt gradually sticking to his back more and more. One step at a time, he thought; while dripping water all over Tony's floors may not be much of an inconvenience to him, it would at least amuse him if someone tripped and fell.
He walked downstairs with as much confidence as he was able, carrying his sceptre and trying not to look as though his head was in a fair amount of pain.
The four unfortunates stuck with Loki looked up the moment he set foot in the room. They were sitting on couches around an oversized coffee table, clearly awaiting his presence.
'You realise that there is a hairdryer in that bathroom?' asked Pepper, trying to keep the distaste out of her voice.
'A what?' asked Loki, 'Another ridiculous Midgardian contraption? I don't believe that will be necessary.' He sat down on the couch with an air of indignity, inwardly smirking as Stark's leather couch was soaked through with water.
Stark raised an eyebrow. 'Jarvis, make a note; I'll be needing a new couch.'
'Of course, sir,' came the reply, 'I'll have another ordered immediately.'
Loki scowled; he'd forgotten that most of his destructive ideas could be thwarted by the sheer amount of wealth Tony possessed. Tony smirked and Pepper chuckled. Bruce put his hand to his forehead in exasperation; they'd all been conscious in the same room for thirty seconds and the games had started.
As if he'd heard Bruce's very thoughts, Tony piped up 'So, who's up for a game?'
The four of them stared at Tony as though he'd suddenly grown an extra head or three. 'You can't be serious,' said Loki and Pepper at the same time before scowling at each other.
'Why not?' asked Tony, 'Time to kill, fallen gods to babysit… what else is there to do?'
'I've got some work for the company I really should be starting…' began Pepper. She started to get up, but Tony pulled her back down to the couch.
'I'll get someone else to take care of it. You're obviously free, Loki,' Loki narrowed his eyes further, if that were possible, 'And Coulson? I'm sure you wouldn't want to miss out on this, would you?'
Coulson looked unshaken, but that didn't fool anyone. 'I doubt this is advisable, Stark, what with…'
'Great, so you're in! Bruce?' Tony looked at Bruce with the most overboard charming expression he could manage.
Bruce sighed. 'I'll stay,' he said, standing up. 'Where are these games, then?'
'Study, bottom shelf of the bookshelf,' said Tony, pulling out his phone, 'I'm ordering pizza.'
Loki sank back further into the couch, leather squelching behind his back. This wasn't looking to be one of the most enjoyable evenings of his life. Still; it looked better than being handcuffed to a trundle bed.
'Ah, Tony?' asked Bruce, walking into the room, several cardboard boxes under his arms; 'Is this really what you meant by games?'
He placed them carefully on the table, making sure the names of each were visible. This wasn't the super-advanced gaming technology system that Bruce assumed Tony had hidden somewhere in his apartment. These were…
'Twister?' asked Pepper, 'Cluedo? I haven't played these in years. I didn't even know you had these!'
'Well, there's a second time to try everything,' said Tony, 'Any votes for first game?'
'FIRST game?' asked Loki, staring at the foreign-looking collection of coloured boxes in front of him, 'You expect me to play more than one of these infernal games?'
'Don't knock it if you haven't tried it,' said Tony, eyes drifting to the case of poker chips.
'I'd avoid playing this, knowing Loki's history,' said Coulson, standing up and plucking the case of darts from the table before walking out of the room to take them back to the study. Loki rolled his eyes.
'I suggest asking him to leave the spear on the bar as well,' called Coulson from the hall.
Bruce, Pepper and Tony looked at Loki. He stared back at them.
'Loki, put it away,' said Pepper, glaring.
'And what if I refuse?'
'Oh, no no no no,' said Tony, 'you don't want to do that, goldy. You wouldn't want to see Pepper when she's angry.'
'I thought that statement would have applied more readily to another of you,' said Loki, pointedly looking at Bruce. Bruce chuckled.
'If you think I'm bad, Loki, wait until you see Pepper in a rage. I've heard the stories.'
Loki looked at Pepper, who was smirking at him. He maintained eye contact with her as he stood up, carefully placed his sceptre on the bar, and then walked back to his seat.
Tony threw a quick thank-you-glance to Bruce. At least Loki would be easier to handle if he thought every single one of them was "armed" and dangerous.
'So, what should we start with?' asked Pepper, 'Poker? Chess? Monopoly? Cluedo?'
'Might have to skip Trivial Pursuit, the kid here wouldn't know a thing… How about we start with an easy one?' asked Tony, 'Monopoly first.'
'But Tony, that's not exactly…' Bruce fell silent at Tony's pointed expression. He sighed. 'Monopoly it is then.'
'Stark,' said Coulson from the front of the room, 'The pizza's here.' The others turned to see him balancing four pizzas, two large bottles of coke and two lines of garlic bread. Bruce jumped up to help him carry it all. They left most of it on the bench next to Loki's sceptre, bringing just the one pizza to the table with the games.
'We're playing Monopoly, agent,' said Tony, setting up the board and shuffling the chance cards. Pepper was handing out money, 'I vote Pepper for banker,' he added.
Pepper rolled her eyes and dragged the remaining cash next to her, within easy reach. Everyone else arranged their money, while Loki held his and stared at it, unsure of how the money came into the game at all. After a scramble for the pieces, Loki was left staring at the remaining ones.
'You've got to pick one,' said Bruce, 'It's a marker for where you are around the board.'
Loki reached for the horse and placed it on the same square as the other four pieces. 'I don't suppose it's necessary for me to understand the rules of this game in order to win?' asked Loki, brimming with overconfidence. This game looked infinitely simpler than those he used to play as a young child.
'Confident, are we?' asked Tony, 'Well guys, let's see if the god can pick up a simple game of Monopoly.'
'With ease,' said Loki.
'I don't think so,' said Tony, 'Time to teach you some humility.'
Pepper, Bruce and even Coulson broke out into very unmanly giggles.
'I'm sorry,' said Coulson, 'I never thought I'd see the day. Tony Stark, teaching humility to a god.'
'He's got a point,' said Bruce, picking up the dice, 'well, if no one else is going to, I'll start.'
He rolled the dice, and the game began.
'Go to Jail,' said Tony, 'Do not pass go, do not collect the $200 you so desperately need.'
Loki scowled and pushed the horse towards the jail square of the board. Pepper looked at him with a touch of sympathy; he really was doing absolutely shockingly at this game. Bruce raised an eyebrow at Tony. Bruce was already out. Coulson was doing rather well, and Pepper was hanging on due to a remarkable ability to distract Tony with short, innocuous sentences when her piece landed on his properties. Two empty pizza boxes lay squashed under a third one containing a half-eaten pizza, and glasses of coke lay scattered around the table.
'I don't see what this has to do with humility,' said Loki, scowling after another two circuits of the board in which he inevitably had to pay Tony several times due to his monopoly of at least a quarter of the board.
'Everything,' said Tony, 'We're teaching you how to lose, and how to loosen up.'
'He doesn't exactly look loosened up,' said Coulson, 'He looks wound up and pained, actually.'
'Of course I look pained, you ridiculous mortal,' said Loki, 'Your unnecessary manoeuvre in the airport resulted in a painful lump on the back of my head. I'm surprised at the lack of medical attention I've received for it.'
'I'd thank him if I were you,' said Tony, 'Looks like he was going easy on you.' Loki ignored him and coughed loudly as Pepper landed on one of his three properties, demanding the money he needed to survive another round.
Less than a round later, Loki was bankrupted. He flicked the horse off the board with disgust and sat back against the couch, now thoroughly regretting his earlier decision to leave his hair soaked. On her next turn, Pepper was bankrupted by Coulson, and lest the game continue into the early hours of the morning, Coulson and Tony decided (reluctantly) to call it a tie.
'So…' said Tony, 'Cluedo?'
The fourth pizza was almost entirely finished, and Tony was definitely on the verge of ordering another. It was around 10pm.
'It was Colonel Mustard, in the Library, with the candlestick,' said Pepper decisively. 'I've never understood that. Of all of these, why would you murder someone with a candlestick?'
'Clearly you haven't a decent imagination,' said Loki threateningly. The others ignored him.
'Completely right, Pepper,' said Bruce, laying her cards out. 'I've never been able to guess the room.'
'That's because you spent your entire time in either the library or the study,' said Coulson, who'd been one room away from knowing the solution. 'I don't believe Loki was on board at all that game.'
Loki scowled, tossing his cards to the table. 'These games are ridiculous. Why do you mortals waste your time on these activities when there are far more interesting things to be doing?'
'To take a break,' said Pepper, 'Or just to have fun. There's not meant to be a purpose to these. Instead of glaring at everyone whenever you lose, which you will keep doing if you never ask for the rules, why don't you just try and have some fun?'
'Well, that's easy for you to say,' said Loki, reaching for a slice of pizza. He couldn't believe that he was eating this unhealthy rubbish, but for reasons he couldn't quite put his finger on, the stuff was absolutely delicious and addictive.
'Time for something a little more interactive,' said Tony, 'who's up for Mario kart?'
'You have Mario kart?' asked Bruce, 'Count me out; I'm a disaster at those games.'
'Just as well, there are only four controllers anyway,' said Tony, 'Come on Coulson, I bet you're an absolute ace at this game.'
'After hours of playing it with my nieces, I'd say I am,' he replied. Coulson was starting to enjoy himself, despite the presence of the grumpy Asgardian, and so was loosening up beyond the normal possibilities his job allowed him.
'It's a bet, then,' said Tony, springing up to move into the room with the projector, 'This way. Loser has to buy the next pizza.'
It was just as well that Pepper was terrible at Mario kart, else Loki would have found it interesting trying to pay for the pizzas. They were spread out on bean bags in a room with an enormous projection of Mario kart on the wall. Loki hated to think how utterly undignified he must look sitting in this outrageous spotty blue bag. Bruce was perched on a chair in the corner, occasionally playing solitaire and occasionally taking the opportunity to laugh at the competition.
Two races were happening; the first was a vicious battle between Tony and Coulson for first place; each was using underhand tactics and all the shortcuts they knew to beat the other. The second was an equally vicious battle between Pepper and Loki for last place.
'Dammit Coulson!' yelled Tony as Waluigi, Coulson's character, crossed the finish line after a neck-and-neck race for the final stretch of the course.
'You wouldn't believe it, but my nieces beat me every time,' he said.
They sat there debating whether they should invite Coulson's nieces over for a good few minutes while Pepper and Loki finished the race.
'Dammit!' said Pepper, watching as Loki's character, Yoshi, threw a red shell at Pepper and raced past the finish line just in front of her, 'I'm buying. Someone set up the next game.'
'Poker!' yelled Tony, and ran for the case.
Poker, surprisingly, was the only game Loki seemed to be any good at. He was surrounded by a pile of chips. Pepper and Tony were doing reasonably well, while Bruce and Coulson were each hanging on by a thread.
'I raise you exactly the amount you have,' said Loki, talking directly to Pepper, who was the only one who hadn't folded. He counted his chips and put in the amount that Pepper had, still leaving him with a reasonable amount.
'He's bluffing,' said Tony as Coulson said 'He's not bluffing.'
'He's too good at lying,' said Bruce, 'Pepper, I'd leave this one.'
'Everything,' said Pepper, pushing all of her chips into the middle of the table. 'Cards?'
Loki scowled and put down a bunch of mismatching cards, his only points being from a pair of twos. Pepper smirked and lay down a full house.
'Knew it,' she said, chuckling. Loki cursed.
'That was… challenging,' he admitted, ignoring the smiling looks he got from the people who were his designated captors for the week.
'I have to leave,' said Coulson, 'It's midnight, and Director Fury wouldn't accept "playing poker with a god" as an excuse for why I'm not working as well as I usually would.'
'You're coming back here tomorrow, Phil,' said Tony, 'Tomorrow'll be movie night.' At Bruce's expression, Tony added 'you too Bruce. No way is anyone missing out on this.'
'And how exactly is movie night supposed to be helping me?' asked Loki.
The others shrugged. 'Bit of pop culture never did anyone any harm, right?' said Tony, 'Come on. We'll start with Rocky Horror.'
They all burst out laughing, aside from Loki. 'I'll come back tomorrow,' said Coulson, walking out the door, still shaking his head.
'I should be off as well,' said Bruce, 'Good luck with everything.' He waved as he walked into the lift after Coulson.
'Time for the kids to go to bed,' said Pepper seriously, and Tony chuckled. Loki didn't have the energy to scowl; he was jet lagged and exhausted. He plucked his sceptre from the bar and walked straight to his room, intending on drying his still-damp hair before sleeping.
He had no idea what Rocky Horror was, but it sounded vaguely terrifying.
Author's note; Hey, look, I'm still alive! It's been around a month, hasn't it? I'm really sorry; uni's been frantic and I have exams coming up, so the next update will be mid-November, at which point you can probably expect me to go back to updating once every few days. Thanks for sticking around, guys!
Chapter 8: Movie Night
Author's Note; I'm not sure if this is important, but there are slight spoilers for Rocky Horror in this chapter. Not that the plot of that movie makes a whole lot of sense.
Loki woke the next morning, refusing to open his eyes immediately. He drew his hand round to the back of his head; the lump was shrinking quickly. Evidently, and also rather irritatingly, Stark hadn't been lying when he'd said that Coulson had gone easy on him.
Loki blinked open his eyes, before sitting up faster than if the bed had suddenly caught fire, and scooting back against the headboard, staring in surprise.
'Sorry to startle you,' said the figure in the trench coat at the foot of his bed.
'Why were you watching me sleep?'
'I wasn't watching you sleep. I was waiting for you to wake.'
'That is you watching me sleep, you realise.'
'I assure you, you were occupying the absolute minimum of my awareness.'
'What do you want, Castiel,' said Loki, spitting the name out like it was sour, 'I'm fulfilling the punishment given to me by Thor and yourself.'
'Your allocation to these people was to ensure that you learned from them,' said Castiel, 'Not to escape, not to victimise, not to lament your situation. They are trying to help you.'
'Is that so?' asked Loki, 'I wouldn't say that. I'd rather think that these mortals were using me as entertainment.'
'I'd have suggested the same thing about you.'
Loki rolled his eyes.
'You do realise that while Odin may have cast you out, it was neither his nor Thor's intention for you to remain on Earth,' said Castiel, 'If you simply try to...'
'And how would you know anything about their intentions?' asked Loki, glaring now.
'Since my... promotion,' said Castiel, clearly disliking the expression, 'I've endeavoured to make contact with several other divine races. While this kind of contact is unprecedented, I believe it will be of use, considering the extra-terrestrial visitors we seem to be receiving.'
'And in a conversation about intergalactic peace treaties, a single criminal was brought up?' asked Loki, scoffing, 'Pardon me if I find that difficult to believe.'
'You were the principle topic of conversation, actually,' said Castiel, 'your predicament was weighing on Thor's mind quite heavily. He understands the feeling of exile.'
There wasn't much Loki could say that wouldn't be interpreted as whining, so he fell silent.
'Is that all?' asked Loki, 'you're not delivering warning of a time limit, or a set of rules, or...'
Loki never finished his sentence. At that moment, Loki's door crashed open and splintered apart on the floor, allowing Tony in his Iron Man suit into the room. He stood with his arm outstretched towards Castiel for half a second before recognition set in.
'Feathers?' asked Tony, his helmet sliding back to reveal his face. He sighed and pointed at Castiel. 'you, my friend, just made me waste a perfectly good door.'
'How did I manage that?' asked Castiel.
'Jarvis threw the silent intruder alarm, he said, staring at the ceiling, 'Jarvis!'
'I'm so sorry sir,' said the machine, 'but you haven't programmed me to recognise angelic life forms.'
'Just the one angelic life form,' Tony corrected.
'Remember what I've said, Loki,' said Castiel, before vanishing into thin air with a flutter of wings.
Loki couldn't even come up with an appropriate way to describe how annoyed he was at the angel, so he stuck to scowling at the empty air until finally, Tony waved his hand in front of Loki's face and he snapped out of it.
'Rise and shine, sleepyhead,' he said as he turned around and walked to the door of Loki's room, 'Pepper's going shopping today, and you're going to go help her out.'
'Do I get a say in this?'
'Did it sound like a question?'
Loki rolled his eyes and fell back into bed.
'Jarvis,' said Tony, one eyebrow raised at the lazy god, 'If he's not up within five minutes, make sure to sound the alarm. You know the one.'
'Of course, sir,' said Jarvis, and with a smirk, Tony left the room and closed the door.
Loki stood up four minutes and thirty eight seconds later, but only so he had time to double-check that the sceptre still wasn't going to allow him his powers again.
After getting dressed and walking over the splintered remains of his door, Loki met up with Tony and Pepper in the living room. The leather couch that Loki had sat on and soaked through the previous evening had already been replaced. He resolved to spill something far more atrocious on this couch; preferably something highly flammable. And possibly a lit match.
He sat down on the couch, infuriated by the fact that this seemed to be more comfortable than the last one. Without warning, a plate of food was handed to him, and a glass of juice placed on the coffee table in front of him.
'Eat up,' said Pepper, her face betraying some sort of irritation, 'Tony's got a conference to get to today, so apparently I'm the one who has to look after you.'
She looked at Tony with an expression that suggested this could have been several people's jobs before it was Pepper's. He shrugged at her, his mouth full of toast.
Loki stared at his plate of toast. One was covered in what he recognised as jam; the other was covered in something brown. He held it up and sniffed it; it was vaguely bitter, but didn't smell poisonous or rotten.
Tony watched out of the corner of his eye as Loki carefully took a bite, then burst out laughing when he spat it out, immediately gulping down his entire drink. Tony's guffaws went on for so long that Loki threw the toast with incredibly accuracy directly at Tony's head. Pepper shook her head.
Tony was still laughing, even after washing all the Vegemite off his face.
Loki was being forced to wear a disguise. American society had a way of memorising the faces of the worst criminals to commit crimes in their country, and Loki was at least on the top three of that list. In this case, the face that everyone knew had committed atrocious acts across America, and of course the rest of the world, was being covered up with a pair of flashy sunglasses, the stupidest cap that Tony owned and a very ineffective blonde wig.
The regulars of the particular store that Pepper and Loki were shopping in didn't seem to notice that Pepper was leading around what looked like a grumpy teenager who's been grounded for being late home after his curfew. Loki would have tried to escape, but he had spotted the SHIELD agents following them; no doubt he'd be accosted within seconds of getting out of Pepper's sight.
'What are we…' Loki started, and Pepper interrupted him before he could even sound properly exasperated.
'We're here to get food for the next few days,' said Pepper, 'And given that we're standing in a shop full of food, that's pretty obvious. You can stop pretending to misunderstand everything, just look around and actually think.'
Looking around wasn't a priority of Loki's, considering that it reminded him of being stuck on an alien planet. But, assuming that when Pepper was angry she could be fairly dangerous, he peered around. The shop was filled with brightly coloured packaging, some for foods he did recognise, most for foods he didn't.
They walked through the aisles, Pepper feeling like a mother with a grumpy, overactive child she had to explain everything to.
After finally paying, which Pepper insisted that they actually had to do, they went straight into the biggest DVD shop Pepper could find. Loki browsed the shelves and became incredibly confused at the titles while Pepper went searching for what she was after. Sure, Pepper knew that Tony already owned Rocky Horror, and Bruce and Phil had promised to provide their own requested movies, but the one she was planning on torturing the lot of them with?
There's no way Tony'd have that one in their DVD library.
Pepper cooked. She didn't cook all that often, but if left to his own devices, Tony would use Loki as an excuse for endless nights of pizza and garlic bread.
Loki had spent the entire day desperately attempting to find a way to escape the building. Much to his irritation, Jarvis had set the alarm off seven times in his various attempts to escape the building. The eighth time, he had accidentally bumped into Coulson while trying to sneak past the elevator.
'Going somewhere?' asked Coulson, raising an eyebrow at Loki.
'Of course not,' said Loki, stepping gracefully over to the couch and sitting on it with all the elegance he could muster. He and Coulson briefly had a staring competition; Loki being the picture of innocence, Coulson the picture of calmly-contained danger.
'Agent!' yelled Tony happily, striding into the room, 'Got your movie?'
Coulson handed over a worn-looking DVD case which Tony examined. He nodded in approval and clapped Coulson on the shoulder.
'Great choice,' he said, 'classic. I like it. Bruce?'
Bruce had slinked into the room after Coulson, trying to avoid the gap between Coulson and Loki in order to minimise his personal injury. He walked around them and handed his DVD over. 'It might not exactly be your usual kind of film, but…'
'Awesome,' said Tony, grinning. Now all he needed was for Pepper to have chosen something equally representative of the earth's truly superior movie-making skills. As if hearing his thoughts, Pepper walked into the room and announced that dinner was ready, on trays in the theatre room.
'So, Pepper,' said Tony, a flirtatious smile on his face, 'Picked a good one?'
'An excellent one,' said Pepper, a clever smile on her face, and she walked off towards the theatre room, after taking the DVDs from Tony.
Tony wasn't sure what to make of the smile. Either he was in for a real treat, or Loki, Bruce, Phil and himself were in for a hellish evening of some horrible chick flick. He just hoped that Loki's horror would be worth putting up with it.
'What an odd title,' said Loki as the title of the film crept onto the screen, 'do the people of this movie have golden hands?'
'Not exactly,' said Bruce as Tony and Phil giggled like immature schoolboys, 'It's referring to the villain.'
'The villain has golden fingers?'
'Just watch the movie,' said Pepper. James Bond walked onto the screen and said something incredibly sexist. She suddenly felt even more justified in her choice of movie. Coulson's eyes were glued to the screen, and Tony was shouting at all the appropriate moments.
'Is this man supposed to be impressive?' asked Loki after less than half an hour.
The others didn't bother to answer. Loki could work it out for himself.
The credits rolled, Loki had decided that James Bond could have been easily defeated if he were to be faced with the likes of Moriarty, probably even Crowley, and Coulson was feeling good about his choice of movie.
'Got to love the old Sean Connery ones,' said Phil, taking a sip of the beer he'd gone and fetched mid-movie.
'I've always been more of a Daniel Craig fan,' said Pepper.
Tony looked at her with an exaggerated expression of shock and horror. Pepper rolled her eyes at him and took a sip of her champagne.
'There is more than one actor playing the main character?' asked Loki.
'About ten, actually,' said Bruce. He was drinking water; movie marathons tended to give him headaches that alcohol would only worsen.
Loki shook his head. Humans were ridiculous. That this pathetic hero could survive through that many actors was utterly ridiculous.
'Mine next?' asked Bruce.
'Definitely,' said Tony, 'then Pepper's. We're saving the delights of Rocky Horror for last.'
Pepper got up to switch the DVDs over.
'You're telling me that the main protagonist is in a wheelchair?' asked Loki, staring at Patrick Stewart's character in shock.
'He's a mutant,' said Bruce, clearly identifying with the mutants on a fairly close level, 'He's got telepathy, mind control… he's still a powerful character.'
'He is physically incapacitated, but he's still mentally brilliant.'
Loki sank into his hated bean bag, hoping if he was actually the main protagonist that he spent a lot of his time off screen. A movie in which one of the primary characters wasn't able to walk didn't sound like the most enjoyable experience.
'Just keep quiet and watch the movie,' said Bruce, reaching for a handful of popcorn.
The plot unfolded as expected, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. After a while, Loki started to realise that despite the physical limitations of Charles Xavier, he was enjoying this movie a great deal more than the last.
'Magneto is fascinating,' said Loki, and Tony snorted.
'Course you'd say that,' he said, but there wasn't any malice behind his words. Loki just went on watching the movie, ignoring the others.
The movie ended, and Loki was still staring at the screen. Pepper got up quickly to switch to her choice of movie.
'Pride and what?' asked Loki, reading the title, 'Is this aimed at me, and my exile on Earth?'
'Don't be stupid,' said Pepper, 'It's an Elizabethan romantic drama.'
'A what romantic drama?'
Tony and Phil were staring slack-jawed at the screen. A romantic movie. What's worse, a romantic movie in which the man realises he's been too proud and arrogant. And what's worse, a period drama romance.
'Why the movie, Pepper?' asked Bruce, 'It's a bit disappointing compared to the series.'
'Do you really think that any of these three would be able to handle the series?' asked Pepper, gesturing at the deadened expressions of the three other men in the room.
Bruce chuckled. 'You're probably right,' he laughed, before settling back into his couch and hoping he could ignore the heavily edited plot.
If Loki, Tony or Coulson were asked afterwards, they wouldn't be able to tell you many details about the movie. Coulson could possibly tell you a few details, but one of the surprising numbers of things that Loki and Tony had in common was a complete and total lack of any interest in anything involving Keira Knightly. Except possibly Pirates of the Caribbean.
The movie ended, Pepper grinned in triumph and Bruce twitched very slightly at the huge number of errors and omitted details. Loki stared.
'Is the entire point of this movie to suggest that pride is negative in a romantic context?'
Pepper stared at Loki. 'One of the points. Well… that and prejudice. Elizabeth had the wrong idea as well.'
Loki vaguely tried to form some words before simply adjusting his bean bag and settling in for the next movie.
'Rocky Horror now?' asked Tony excitedly. The others nodded; they were all keen to see how this one was going to turn out. After refilling of drinks, the DVD was put in, the screen lit up and a pair of men's lingerie-clad legs started dancing across the screen.
It didn't seem possible to fall out of a bean bag, but Loki managed.
'What is this?!' asked Loki as Frankenfurter ripped off his coat and revealed his dark feminine get-up.
'What debauchery…' he started saying as Janet and Brad's clothes were ripped off by the people dressed in glittery outfits.
'Why in the name of…' he started when Frankenfurter snuck into Janet's room.
At Frankenfurter sneaking into Brad's room, he fell off of his beanbag again.
By the time the golden-underpants clad Rocky was unwrapped on-screen, Loki's eyes were stuck as wide as they could go, and his fingers were visibly twitching. Coulson, Tony and Pepper were dissolving into peals of laughter every now and again, when Loki would wince or cringe at the events on screen.
Encouraged by the hilarity (and in part the alcohol), the four of them who knew the songs were singing, some at the tops of their voices, cheering, and acting like the audience of a typical Rocky Horror screening. Loki, on the other hand, was beginning to wonder if the Earth contained more horrors than even he could bring to it. If Tony was aiming to terrify Loki, this had been an excellent choice; it wasn't as though a traditional horror movie would have scared him in quite the same way. When Frankenfurter was finally removed from Earth and the three unfortunate humans were crawling on the grass outside the mansion, the other four were watching out of the corners of their eyes to see Loki's reaction at the end of the movie.
The credits rolled. Loki's face was still a frozen mask of disgust. After about thirty seconds, he seemed to notice that he was no longer being subjected to the wonders of Rocky Horror, and finally shook his head and glanced around the room. He noticed that the others were waiting patiently for him to react.
'Was that the last movie?' he asked.
'From the time, yep,' said Tony.
'I still think Magneto was fascinating,' he said, maintaining as much dignity as he could while he stood, stretched his legs out after having been sitting in one spot for so long, and stormed off to his bedroom.
Tony may have replaced the leather couch within a day, but his door still lay splintered across the carpet. Very well. Loki could live with an open door.
Author's Note; I could give some sort of excuse here for the fact that I haven't updated in over three months, but then again, I could just openly admit that I was distracted and lazy, and apologise a lot for that. Hopefully I should be able to post a few chapters, given that I've just been on a week long holiday without internet, television or anything to distract me.
Basically I should update more frequently now, but… yes. We all know how that went last time.
Pretty much… sorry!