New York City has thirty straight days of thunderstorms. Meteorologists are probably baffled. No one from SHIELD calls them up to tell them why.
“Enough with the thunder,” Steve orders.
“Make me,” Thor’s mouth replies.
“That’s still weird,” Clint says, idly. “Tony, put your nametag back on.”
Thor makes an obnoxious face at him. It’s an expression completely alien to Thor’s open, honest features. So much so that for a second he actually looks like the guy currently wearing that body: Tony Stark.
Tony keeps taking his nametag off. Or, he might currently be wearing it on his ass or crotch, Clint’s not going to look down to check. Briefly, it was in Thor’s hair ‘til someone pulled it off and Tony discovered he felt Thor’s pain, too.
“Everyone knows who I am,” Tony says. “I’m memorable.”
“You’re a dick,” Clint says.
“Nat, you’re going to have to wash your mouth out with soap,” Tony says to Natasha, who’s sitting cross-legged on the floor in Steve’s body.
“Stop being a dick,” Steve’s mouth shoots back.
Tony grins at her. “I just wanted to see Captain G-Rated curse.”
He looks across the room at Bruce’s body. Bruce’s face glares at him. The actual Bruce is smiling, because he, as usual, thinks all the shit Stark pulls is funny.
Except he’s smiling with Loki’s face, which is just really unsettling for everyone. When Loki smiles, bad things happen. People die, aliens invade New York, or Asgardian magic does something ridiculous and evil. Loki smiled while he recited the spell that got them into this mess.
Bruce, unlike Tony, wears his nametag prominently. His body language is also pretty distinctively his. Loki is taller and thinner, so Bruce’s clothes look more ill-fitting than usual. Clint has decided SHIELD should make Loki wear pants that are too short, forever.
“Did not we agree to not mistreat our vessels?” Clint’s voice asks. It sounds so weird coming from someone else. It also sounds silly talking like Thor.
“Too many double negatives,” Tony says, crossing his arms. He tries to do it smoothly, but halts, clearly unused to Thor’s massive chest and muscled arms. “Also, I’d like to remind everyone, my vessel is not here and Loki didn’t go in on that pact.” He scowls. “And neither did SHIELD.”
“You want Loki in here?” Steve asks.
“I want to keep an eye on my body, yes,” Tony says. “I’m the only person I trust with me, for the record.”
“Loki is averse to pain,” Thor says. “He will not harm himself in your form.”
“Not unless he has a trap door,” Tony agrees. “Can I get the same promise from SHIELD?”
He looks pointedly at Clint and Natasha.
“No,” says Natasha, flatly.
“Oh come on,” Steve interrupts. “Don’t encourage Tony’s paranoia.”
“It’s not paranoia,” Tony says. “Your SHIELD dunces don’t even understand how the arc-reactor works.”
“Maybe you should tell them,” Steve says.
“Right, because they’re so incredibly trustworthy and make excellent life choices with new technology,” Tony snaps back.
“Whoa,” Clint interrupts. “Thor, can Loki undo this?”
“Would torturing Loki make him reverse the bibbity-bobbity-boo?” Tony asks.
Thor shakes his head, bringing one hand up to touch his hair. He keeps petting Clint’s head like he misses his own hair. “This magic seems beyond his control,” he says.
“Is that a maybe?” Tony demands.
Natasha tilts Steve’s head curiously.
“If he was able to reverse the spell, my brother would already be gone,” Thor says. “The Midgardian vessel is uncomfortable.” He frowns. “And small.”
“Your digs suck, too,” Tony says.
“I’m not small,” Clint says.
Thor takes the safer track of ignoring both of them. “Loki is trapped, just as we are.”
“But he’s trapped in human form,” Natasha points out. Clint wonders if she’s bored and antagonizing Tony on purpose. “That’s actually best case scenario for SHIELD.”
The thunder outside actually gets louder, now.
“If they fuck it up and kill me, I’m keeping your body,” Tony tells Thor. “I’ve always wanted to live forever.”
“Unacceptable,” Thor says.
“I agree,” Steve says, squirming in Bruce’s body.
“I don’t really want to stay in Loki’s body,” Bruce says. “I couldn’t go out or anything.”
“Tough,” Tony says. “Choose better next time.”
“We got a choice?” Bruce asks. “I don’t remember that.”
Natasha gets up and stalks over to the intercom that’s in the corner.
“Can we get a feed of Loki’s cell?” she requests, pressing the button. She’s walking better in Steve’s body than she did at first.
The SHIELD employee on the other end promises to look into it, which isn’t an answer.
Tony stands up and storms over to the intercom. He starts yelling into it, demanding to speak to Fury. The thunder picks up in volume, and their cell echoes with it.
“Stop it with the thunder!” Steve says. “Do you know how irritating that is?”
“Why,” Tony taunts. “Are you getting angry?”
“Rogers, do you need to go into Hulk’s room?” Natasha interrupts, sharply.
“I think Stark should be the one in isolation,” Steve says.
“Can we vote on that?” Clint says.
“Are you seeing green?” Bruce asks, shifting nervously. “Because your eyes are a little…”
Steve nods, scowling. He gets up and stomps off to the attached cell, the Hulk-proof door slamming shut behind him.
Natasha lets out a breath she’d been holding.
“That’s not funny,” she says to Tony.
“Get me a TV,” he says.
Clint thinks they’re lucky that Bruce swapped with Steve and no one else. It took Steve four days to stop hulking out about, well, everything. Bruce had to help him, a lot. He’s a pretty calm guy, except when Tony is poking him. Clint isn’t sure he’d have the same control. And he’s certain that no one else would, except maybe Natasha.
“Maybe SHIELD should let him smash you a little,” Bruce says. “Wouldn’t hurt Thor very much, right?”
“Hey,” Tony says. “None of that.”
“It usually makes the Other Guy feel better,” Bruce continues. “I think.”
All things considered, Clint thinks he got the best swap. Natasha is human, she’s not evil, she doesn’t turn into a Hulk, and she has awesome breasts that are now his. He’s doing an excellent job keeping his hands to himself, something he has doubts about with all of the others for various reasons.
SHIELD finally provides a feed of Loki’s cell. Mainly to shut Tony up. Stark’s obnoxiousness combined with Thor’s vocal cords is surprisingly persuasive.
Loki hasn’t done anything to Tony’s body and it doesn’t look like SHIELD has, either. They’re mostly keeping him sedated and tied to a hospital gurney, though. Director Fury doesn’t trust him or Thor’s assertion that he’s no more magical than Tony Stark is right now.
“What do you think Loki was trying to do?” Clint asks the room, eventually.
They’ve run out of card games. Tony keeps cheating and Steve has to leave the room before he loses his temper. Natasha also cheats, but she doesn’t get caught or it doesn’t piss Steve off as badly. It’s funny because she tries to use her body as a distraction, and Steve’s doesn’t work particularly well for that. And her fingers aren’t as dexterous anymore, either. She’s used to smaller hands.
“Put Hulk in someone who can’t control him,” Natasha suggests.
Bruce shrugs. “That’s a weird plan. Still a high probability of getting smashed.”
“Loki’s plans suck,” Tony points out. “Unless his plan was to steal my body. Which I understand, since I’m a hot commodity.”
“I think he just wanted to fuck with us,” Clint volunteers his answer to his own question. “Everyone in the wrong body. We couldn’t walk, let alone fight.”
“I could fight,” Natasha says, frowning.
“You almost kicked yourself in my face,” Steve says, which makes Natasha shake his head in denial.
“I agree,” Thor says, looking at Clint. “Loki relishes chaos.”
“And cheating,” Tony says.
Steve looks at him, sighs, then gets up and locks himself back in isolation.
“What?” Tony looks offended. “I didn’t even do anything.” He glances over at Bruce. “Is that what it’s like for you?”
“No,” Bruce says, rolling Loki’s narrow shoulders. “Seriously, just let him smash you once.”
They switch again, fifteen days in. Even though Loki is supposedly a magic-less Midgardian, and also drugged into a stupor.
It happens quickly and silently, with no external signs. One second, Clint is looking at Natasha’s slender hands and trying to work an ace out of her sleeve. In the next, his hands are large and male. But, still not his.
He’s in Thor. Loki is in Steve, which he finds out because Steve launches himself across the card table and punches him in the face.
Loki didn’t get any kind of directory, apparently. Or he just decided to hit the first Avenger he saw. Clint hits him back without knowing who he is. Not Steve, obviously.
Thor’s body is kind of awesome. Clint’s never felt this strong before. His hand is itching for Mjolinar, some kind of muscle memory. He wonders if Thor wanted his bow, earlier. SHIELD made sure they were disarmed before locking them all up. Which was probably for the best, since as much as he wants to pound Loki into the floor, Steve doesn’t deserve it.
The rest of the Avengers pile on top of Steve. It takes most of them to hold him down. There’s minutes of chaos before a SHIELD agent bursts in and shoots Steve’s body repeatedly with a tranquilizer gun.
“Isolation,” Loki’s voice orders, which is just confusing. “He’s got a metabolism like a super model.”
Together, Loki’s body and Thor’s body drag Steve’s unconscious body inside Hulk’s cell and pull the door shut.
“Who are you?” Clint asks Loki’s body.
“Tony,” Loki says. “You?”
“Roll call,” says Tony, looking around.
“I am Thor,” Natasha’s voice says, with a sigh.
“Steve,” Clint’s own voice says, sounding relieved.
“Natasha,” Bruce says, standing pressed against the far wall. His voice is an octave higher than earlier. “Can we put him someplace else?”
“Do we have another Hulk-proof room?” Tony asks, rhetorically.
“I might need to go in there,” she says, tone wavering. “Soon.”
“Oh, fuck,” Tony says, which sounds ridiculous coming out of Loki’s mouth.
Clint is already opening the door, because Bruce is turning green.
“Don’t kill me!” Clint’s voice yells, as Natasha rushes inside.
Fortunately, Hulk isn’t too interested in smashing anything that doesn’t move or make any noise. He – or she, Clint isn’t real clear on what’s going on right now – actually mostly ignores Steve’s prone body. Steve, in Clint, alternates between watching warily and turning away with his hand over his eyes.
Tony doesn’t watch.
“We need to get him in someone else,” he says to Clint. “Preferably you or Natasha.”
“Or you,” Clint says. “I liked that. That was working well.”
“No backsies,” Tony says.
“We have no means,” Thor says, watching the scene inside the isolation room. Clint wonders if he’s more worried about Steve, or Loki in Steve.
Bruce, in Tony, is returned to the cell once SHIELD figures out that Loki’s swapped out.
“How am I?” Tony asks, seriously. “I better be okay.”
“I think you’re high,” Bruce says, stumbling to a seat in a chair. “That’s about it.”
He looks at isolation, where Hulk is still freaking out.
“Natasha,” Clint says. “And it’s been a while.”
“And Steve is…”
“Loki,” Thor says, worriedly.
“Ah,” Bruce says. He squints. “Is he dead?”
“He’s been feigning unconsciousness for a couple hours,” Steve says, sounding thankful.
“That’s probably for the best,” Bruce says. “The Other Guy really doesn’t like him.”
“Me?” asks Steve.
“I don’t think Hulk is going to understand the Matryoshka doll situation in play,” Tony says. “And if he does, the guy responsible is in you.”
“Yeah,” Bruce says. “I’m just a little stoned, and I have to keep reminding myself you’re not actually Loki.”
Tony glares at him. “You wanna go? I’ll take you.”
“He’s in you,” Clint says. “You want to fight yourself?”
“I find this the only acceptable proposal from Stark thus far,” Thor says.
It takes a long while for Hulk to turn back into Bruce. Or Natasha, as it happens.
“She’s going to need water,” Steve says. “I got really thirsty.”
“Yeah,” Bruce agrees.
“And then I got angry again,” Steve adds. “Because I was thirsty.”
Bruce nods, without comment.
“Loki knows better than to try anything, right?” Clint asks, when Bruce’s body shrinks back down to pink and small, leaning against the wall of Hulk’s cell.
“I hope so,” Tony says. He raps on the wall near where Loki is playing dead. “Hey, numbnuts, all three of those people in there want to turn you into a paste. Stay possum.”
SHIELD rolls water into Hulk’s cell through an access shoot, but Natasha makes no move to get it. She stays pressed against the wall, knees up to Bruce’s chest. The Avengers in the adjacent cell can see her physically quaking.
“I’m going in there,” Clint says, because to hell with it. The thunder is crashing outside again. Apparently, Tony wasn’t doing that on purpose. It just happens.
“That’s a dumb idea,” Tony says.
“Yeah,” Bruce agrees. “I’m gonna do it.”
“Dumber idea,” Tony says, outraged. “You’re in me, and I want to live.”
“I’m not gonna make her angry,” Bruce says.
“He’s not you,” Steve says. “He can help. He helped me.”
“No,” Tony objects, as Bruce opens the isolation door and walks inside. Bruce stoops down to grab a water bottle, and then slowly approaches his own body. Tony bangs on the wall next to Loki’s head. “I will beat the hell out of you with your own fists if you move,” he threatens.
“Maybe you should stop making annoying noises for five seconds,” Steve mutters at Tony. “She needs peace and quiet.”
“Indeed,” Thor says, reproachfully.
“Maybe everyone should go in there and sing Kumbaya to her,” Tony suggests.
In the next room, Bruce extends the bottle of water to Natasha, moving slowly and talking quietly. Natasha takes the water and lets him sit down next to her. And then she leans into him. Bruce puts his arm around her.
“You want to get smashed?” Steve asks Tony.
“You can’t turn green anymore, buddy, in case you forgot.”
“I wish they’d let the Other Guy at you,” Steve says. “Just once when he can’t actually kill you.”
“That’s your real body in there,” Clint says to Tony. “You piss Hulk off, it’s your funeral.”
“I have a new body,” Tony says. “An immortal body.”
“That is not yours,” Thor says.
“Finder’s keepers.” Tony peers into the next room. “My body is cuddling with the Hulk,” he says. “Great.”
Loki mutters something that ordinarily would have been too low and muffled for Clint to hear through the walls. Thor’s ears, however, pick it up clearly.
“What’d he say?” Tony asks.
“I think he just wished for death,” Clint says.
“Not in my body,” Steve says.
Natasha only beats the hell out of Loki, in Steve, a little bit. Clint thinks she shows a lot of restraint, given that Loki is an asshole and Steve’s body can take a lot of abuse.
She also gets the Hulk under control a lot faster that Steve did, once the initial shock is over. She does some of the Loki-beating in Bruce’s own body.
“Ow,” Bruce says, watching.
“What do you mean, ow?” Steve demands. “She’s kicking me!”
“I’m going to pull a hammie,” Bruce says. “She needs to stretch better.”
Loki is remarkably well-behaved for the next two weeks of their captivity. Clint isn’t sure who the guy is more terrified of – Natasha or Hulk.
Tony continues to taunt Loki through the wall. Clint has serious thoughts about throwing him in there, and letting both of them have him for a couple minutes. It’s Loki’s body, after all. He’s pretty sure the only person who would object to this plan is Thor, and Steve might decide to help him carry it out, so Clint doesn’t verbalize any of this.
If he really wanted to, Tony could use Loki’s body to bust out of SHIELD’s cells. He’s threatening it a lot, but isn’t going anywhere. Clint knows he could, because Clint could do the same thing with Thor’s body. The walls, which are made of some ridiculously strong substance he’s pretty sure Stark invented, now feel like paper.
It’s extremely tempting to break out. In Thor’s body, Clint could go flying around New York. Maybe play with Mjolinar a little bit. See what else he can do with thunder.
Except that eventually SHIELD would catch him and probably never, ever let him go again. Maybe he could claim to be Tony, in Thor. They let Stark get away with everything.
Thor promises they only have to endure until thirty days have passed. Loki’s spell has an expiration date. Clint thinks Thor should be able to call home and have a magic doctor or someone make it happen now. He probably doesn’t want his people to see him stuck in Natasha.
In return for the likelihood that Thor is prolonging their suffering, Clint invites Natasha in to play with his (Thor’s) hair. She puts him in pigtails, while Thor valiantly tries to figure out a reaction that won’t make her Hulk out.
“We must respect our vessels,” Thor says, scowling. “This applies to everyone, not only Loki.”
“You can play with my hair,” Natasha offers, with Bruce’s shit-eating grin.
She’s only Hulked out a few times after getting it under control. All because Loki said something or looked at her wrong. Tony’s actually not bugging her, or at least not bugging her any more than he is anyone else. He’s being much nicer to her than he was to Steve. Maybe he realizes he’s the double threat of being himself, and looking like Loki.
Natasha seems to be doing well. Which is surprising, given how incredibly unwell she looks during and after when the Other Guy makes an appearance. And how much she doesn’t like him.
“I’m fine,” she says, when Clint asks. “I don’t mind missing out on him.” She pauses. “Just don’t let him kill any of you?”
After that, Clint wonders if it’s more stressful being around Hulk, or being Hulk. There are now three opinions on that, but he feels like that’d be a volatile and unnecessary discussion. And he thinks Natasha’s handling it okay, so he helps out by keeping the focus on how much the Avengers are pissing each other off.
“We need some scissors,” Tony tells SHIELD. “Mohawk time.” He touches Loki’s hair. “No…mullet time!”
“You will not assault my brother,” Thor says. With Natasha’s voice, he sounds incredibly menacing.
Tony doesn’t actually do anything. Maria Hill won’t give them scissors. Clint thinks Thor probably doesn’t even know what he’s suggesting.
“I wish I’d gotten to be Natasha,” Stark says, petulantly. “I would have so much fun.”
“Don’t think I wouldn’t kill myself,” Natasha warns.
“I still yearn for death,” Loki announces from Hulk’s room.
“That can be arranged!” Tony yells back at him.
As the end of the spell approaches, SHIELD orders Tony into the isolation room. Loki’s going to be back in his own body, soon. Clint wonders why SHIELD even bothers with direct orders when they know how Tony reacts.
“How are we going to know when the change happens?” Steve whispers to Clint, as they watch Tony storming around their cell, doing a very close imitation of a supervillian and making a litany of threats against SHIELD.
“Stark is shorter,” Clint says. “And he has the glowy thing in his chest.”
“I heard that,” Tony says.
Clint makes an innocent expression, which he knows Thor’s face pulls off well.
“Good,” Steve says. “That was for you to hear.” He pauses. “Hey, maybe Loki didn’t mean to swap all of us. Maybe he just meant to trade with you.”
“It might take us a while to notice,” Natasha says.
“What she said,” Clint agrees, though he thinks Loki would probably try to actually kill someone immediately, while Stark just likes to insult and threaten.
They all look at Loki, in Steve, who just blinks spitefully at them all. Maybe they’ve accidentally given him a terrible idea.
“That says more about you, and that I surround myself with very stupid people,” Tony says, scowling. “Which I knew.”
Tony eventually obeys, locking himself in isolation with Loki in Steve and Natasha in Bruce. Just in case Hulk doesn’t take the return trip well. This is fortunately a short-lived situation, because Clint sincerely thinks someone is going to get killed, and he’s not sure who, or whose body they’re in.
The transformation is as quick and painless as the two previous times. One second Clint is tall and broad, and the next he is suddenly the correct height and size. For a strange second, he feels wrong and small.
“Everyone in the right body?” Steve polls the group. “I’m Steve.”
“No,” Tony says. “I’m Steve.”
“That’s not funny,” Steve says.
“Yeah, it was,” Tony says, grinning.
It kind of is, and Bruce is laughing and in total control of Hulk, which is a good reason for everyone else to smile. Also, SHIELD has to let them out now.
Loki’s been tied up to be returned to Asgard, and gagged again to prevent him from using any more magic. Clint feels like they’ve done this before, and every time he just comes back, crazier.
“You back?” he asks Natasha, who is tracing her face with her hand.
She nods, silently. Clint reaches out and rips her “Thor” nametag off her shoulder.
“Good,” he says. “That was weird.”
“Yeah,” she says. “Did you like my body?”
“Like it on you better,” he says.
“Me too,” she agrees. “What about Thor’s?”
They walk out the door, following the sounds of Steve and Tony bickering. Bruce is ahead of them. Thor walks next, with his bound brother.
“Too bulky,” he says. Natasha smiles at him. He doesn’t tell her he might actually miss the thunder.
~please feed the author~