No one was really sure when Loki stopped being a probationary Avenger who was paying for his crimes against Midgard, and simply just became one of the team.
Steve thought it was probably the day a giant squid had attacked the harbour, overturning boats, and destroying buildings with its massive tentacles, and Loki had vanished from the fight briefly, then come flying down the street, swimming through the air on the back of a reanimated sperm whale skeleton that he had liberated from the natural history museum.
“What the hell are you doing?” Steve shouted as Loki jumped down from the whale, and directed it into the water to do battle with the squid.
“It is the creatures natural enemy, is it not? What better to destroy the beast?” Loki replied and once the squid was dead he had sent the skeleton back to the museum without a scratch on it.
Clint thought it was the day when the Avengers had been lured down to an abandoned warehouse by a call that turned out to be a trap, and when a massive bomb exploded Loki had instinctively used his deflection spell as a shield around them all and saved them from being burned alive.
“Good job,” Clint had said, slapping Loki on the back in gratitude.
Loki merely shrugged. “It was nothing. A reflex action.”
Clint felt that little bit safer every time they went out with Loki after that day.
Tony, of course, knew exactly when and why Loki became a full time Avenger, and it was none of those things. Loki had become a proper member of the team the day he revealed that, as well as being able to create ice cubes at will, he could also turn plain water into the finest Scotch he had ever tasted. As far as Tony was concerned that was Loki's greatest gift, and after that he welcomed him with open arms, and an empty glass that always needed filling.
Even though no one could agree when and why it happened, he was one of them now, despite his annoying habit of watching a DVD, not putting it away, and telling Tony he had no idea how it ended up covered in scratches, and the fact it took the fortune of a billionaire to feed two Norse gods who between them could easily polish off a horse for breakfast, and then be looking for a snack an hour later.
Tony was sometimes surprised just how much Loki ate, considering that when he actually deigned to wear normal earth clothes he looked positively waif-like, and as if a slight breeze could have knocked him over. Loki claimed his enormous appetite was due to his magic, and after every battle the first thing he did was eat almost everything in the cupboards, so Tony was surprised when he realised he hadn't seen Loki in the kitchen for three days.
“OK, where is Loki hiding himself?” Tony asked, as he sat down to lunch with Thor and Bruce.
“He is not feeling well,” Thor replied.
“You want me to check him out?” Bruce asked.
“He is not suffering from an ailment of the body, but of the mind.”
“He's gone nuts again?” Tony asked, picking up his knife, and cradling it to his chest. “Should we be hiding all the pointy things?”
“No, Stark, not that kind of illness. My brother has always been prone to bouts of melancholy, even as a child,” Thor replied.
Bruce and Tony looked at each other, and then Bruce said, “Sounds like he's depressed. I could have a chat with him if you like, and we have medications that might help him feel better. I can't guarantee they would work on him, but we could maybe give it a try.”
“I would appreciate that Banner, thank you,” Thor replied. “I have been spending time with him, but he will not speak much with me. I have continued to give him a hug every day as the mind healer suggested, but it does not appear to be helping.”
“Still doing that, huh?” Tony asked, raising an eyebrow at the idea of hugs being prescribed as therapy. “Sounds a bit new agey to me, but then you do have the long hair soooo…”
“An embrace provides support and promotes healing. It conveys that someone is loved and cherished, and worth that love, in ways that words never could,” Thor stated firmly. “Perhaps you should try it yourself. When did someone last hug you?”
Tony glared at Thor for a second, trying to think of his last hug. “It's all hippy BS. Besides, I had the arms of a gymnast wrapped around me just last night. Her legs too.”
“That is not the same thing,” Thor said. “You should accept the embrace of a comrade, one who knows and cares about you. I, or my brother, would willingly help you, if you require it.”
“If I need a hug I have a whole bunch of one armed robots who'll willingly do the job far better than any human, so leave me out of your little Asgardian love in, OK?”
Thor was frowning. Bruce knew that when this happened it usually ended with the table being overturned, so he cleared his throat, and said, “So… I have a meeting this afternoon, but I'll swing by and talk to Loki when I get back this evening, is that OK?”
“That would be agreeable,” Thor replied, and went back to polishing of his 12lb Turkey.
Tony had been spending a lot of time in his workshop lately, but now he was bored, and skulked round the room, looking for something to do while the latest upgrade to his armour was rendering, and quickly decided he actually just wanted someone to annoy.
“Jarvis, who's in the building?”
“Thor is currently in the gym, and Loki is in his room, sir.”
“They're the only two people in the upper levels?”
Tony knew from experience if he went to gym Thor would ask him to spar, and that would end with him flat on his back in the middle of the boxing ring, nursing a headache, and a sore backside from falling on it repeatedly, so Thor was out.
That left Loki, poor little melancholy Loki, lying in bed all alone, just waiting for someone to annoy him. Yup, Loki it was.
“Wake up, sleepy head,” Tony announced as he barged into the room, and ripped the curtains open.
“I am awake,” Loki mumbled as he covered his eyes with the back of a bare arm, and squinted at the bright sunlight. “What are you doing? I told Thor I did not wish to be disturbed.”
“Well, if you're awake you can come downstairs and have some fun with me instead of sulking up here.”
“I'm not sulking. I don't feel well.”
“Come on, you and me, let's do something cool. That'll make you feel better.”
“Your idea of fun, and my idea of fun do not coincide lately,” Loki replied. “I still remember the unfortunate incident with the… bunny girls, was it?”
“Well why don't you pick what we do? It's not healthy to keep yourself locked away in here.”
“I wish to lay in bed and do nothing,” Loki replied as he pulled the covers over his head to blot out the sun.
Tony pursed his lips, torn between feeling sympathetic and dragging him out by his ankles. He sat on the edge of the bed, and decided to go with sympathy, hoping it would rouse Loki enough to get his ass up and dressed. “I know what it's like, you know. To just wanna be left alone to wallow in your own misery.”
“You do?” Loki asked softly, pulling the covers down. “You always seem so happy.”
“I have feelings… somewhere…” Tony said. “I have my dark days where I don't want to do anything, and I just want everything to go away.”
“What do you do on those days?”
“Set fire to stuff usually,” Tony replied, then he nervously added, “In a totally controlled situation, not in a ‘destroy the world’ kinda way. You wanna come down to the training range and blow some shit up? You could show me how to throw magic fireballs.”
“That does sound appealing,” Loki said.
“Come on, what'll it take to get you out of that bed?” Tony asked, knowing he just needed one more thing, one more push that would make Loki do what he wanted. “You wanna hug? Thor said hugs make everyone feel better.”
“All right,” Loki replied, tentatively. He sat up, and let Tony wrap his arms around him.
They hugged for a moment then Tony slapped Loki on the back, and said, “Come on, get up, and jump in the shower, you really could use one.”
Tony stood up, ripped back the bed covers, and said, “Oh, god, seriously? Put some pyjamas on next time!” Then he threw the covers back over Loki's naked body.
“Do you remember what I taught you in Asgard? How to create fire?” Loki asked, as they stood in the training room.
“Magic is science, science is magic and I just split the carbon dioxide down, and excite it and… Voilà!” Tony snapped his fingers, and a flame sprang into view.
“Excellent,” Loki said looking at the feint red glow that shimmered in Tony's hand. “Now recalculate the equation, add more oxygen into it. That will make the flame burn brighter, but do it in increments so-”
Loki was cut off as the flame in Tony's hand exploded with a huge woof, and burnt itself out.
“Whoa!” Tony exclaimed, then he turned to Dummy who was waving his fire extinguisher at him, and said, “Ah! Ah! Ah! Don't you dare!”
“I said increments you imbecile!” Loki scolded, as he checked his eyebrows were still on his face. “I won't teach you any more if you aren't going to listen.”
“No, come on, I'll be good, I promise,” Tony pleaded in his most child like voice, sticking his bottom lip out and hoping it would work better on Loki than it did on Pepper.
“I'm tired,” Loki replied, his shoulders hunching, as he suddenly looked downcast and deflated. “I do not wish to play your foolish games any longer.”
“No more messing about. I'll do exactly what you say, just stay for ten more minutes,” Tony said seriously, and then he watched Loki nervously shifted his weight from one step to other, and Tony remembered his reaction earlier, when one hug had gotten him exactly what he wanted. “Someone looks like they need another hugggg.”
Loki sighed heavily, and said, “Perhaps.”
Tony opened his arms, and Loki moved over to him, and gratefully accepted the embrace.
“Feeling better?” Tony asked, as he slapped him on the shoulder.
“Come on then, show me how to throw those fireballs.”
In the three days since Loki had taught him how shoot fireballs from his hand Tony had destroyed three of Clint’s archery targets, and one LCD TV while trying to demonstrate his new-found skill to Bruce, but in that time he had noticed that Loki was spending less time in his room, and instead had become prone to falling asleep in odd places round the Tower.
He'd found him asleep outside on the landing pad one day, perilously close to the edge, one afternoon Loki had scared the life out of Tony when he thought there was a dead body under the bench in his workshop, and one evening he was in the kitchen face down in a plate of sliced of ham, although none of those were quite as surprising as the time Tony woke up from a bad dream, only to find Loki's bare arm casually draped over his shoulder.
“What are you doing?” Tony mumbled, only half awake.
“I couldn't sleep,” Loki replied, drowsily. “Normally I would get in bed with Thor, but he is snoring like a Bilgesnipe.”
“OK,” Tony replied, turning back onto his side, then he said, “You're not naked are you?”
“I'm wearing pyjamas,” Loki replied.
“OK,” Tony said, and he rolled over, and went back to sleep.
It was almost a relief the day when he found Loki curled up in a relatively normal place, on the leather sofa in the main room, wrapped in a green blanket.
“What's up?” Tony asked.
“Nothing,” Loki mumbled.
“You wanna talk?”
“I don't need to talk, I just need to rest for a while.”
“A while seems to be a long time,” Tony said, as he sat on the sofa at Loki's feet. “Why don't you tell me about teleportation.”
“Why do you want to know about that?” Loki sighed. “Isn't almost destroying yourself and several of your possessions with fire enough danger for you?”
“It just seems cool, and a really useful skill to have when we're going up against it,” Tony replied, and then he shook Loki's feet. “Come onnnnn, tell me!”
Loki sighed again. “Teleportation isn't really vanishing and appearing somewhere else. You break down the bonds of your atoms, move them to another place and reassemble them in the correct order.”
“You make it sound so simple,” Tony stated, his mind boggling at the idea of breaking down your own body with just the power of thought.
“It is a simple matter, when you are skilled sorcerer, such as I,” Loki replied, and then he held his hands up, and pushed one finger through the palm of his other hand, “Plus it provides you with an excellent trick to entertain people with at feasts.”
“Oh that's just nasty,” Tony said, with a scowl. “Can you teach me how to do it?”
“The calculations required may be unimaginable for a mortal brain, but it wouldn't hurt to try I suppose,” Loki said, as he pushed his blanket back and sat up. “As long as you don't teleport yourself inside a wall, because that might hurt.”
“Are you ready?” Loki asked, after spending almost an hour explaining the technique and the long mental calculations involved.
“I'm not going to turn myself into a table, or a house plant am I?”
“No, your body has a memory of the shape it should be,” Loki replied. “Unless you want to be a house plant, but that really is a lesson for another day.”
“I'll give it a go.”
“Now remember everything we spoke of,” Loki said, as Tony closed his eyes and concentrated.
Tony worked the calculation again, feeling numbers running through his body, as he started to feel lighter, and everything snapped around him. When he opened his eyes he was two foot to the left of where he had been stood, Loki was watching him with a curious grin on his face, and all of his clothes lay on the floor next to him.
“You bastard,” Tony snapped, as he grabbed his jeans and quickly pulled them on.
“Oh, did I not tell you to add your clothing to the equation?”
“You did that on purpose,” he said, as Loki began to chuckle.
“Let that be a lesson that teleportation is not an easy matter,” Loki replied with a grin, “but congratulations are very much in order. You have come a long way my little Padawan.”
“Ah ha! I knew it was you who scratched my Phantom Menace blu ray!”
“A blessing in disguise,” Loki replied. “It was terrible compared to the others.”
Over the next few days Tony practised teleporting, first mastering teleporting with his clothes on, and then increasing the distance from a few inches, to the other side of the room, and finally into a different room all together.
He used his new skill for a variety of noble causes, most of which involved teleporting into a room unannounced and scaring the living daylights out of someone, or teleporting himself to the kitchen so he could get a beer out of the refrigerator. He was now fairly competent at his new skills, and couldn't wait for some idiot to attack the city so he could send them home with their hair on fire.
Loki seemed to be feeling a little better too, spending more time out of his room, although he hadn't joined them for any meals yet, he seemed content to hang around Tony's workshop and quietly watch him work on his armour.
One day Loki hadn't shown up, which made Tony slightly anxious since he'd grown quite accustomed to the tricksters presence, laid on the couch in the corner of the room, occasionally asking questions that ranged from surprisingly insightful, to deeply personal, to just plain bizarre.
“What are you doing?” Tony asked when he found Loki huddled up at the base of one of the floor length windows, wrapped in his blanket. “Not thinking of jumping are you?”
“No,” Loki replied. “What would be the point? I'd probably just bounce, anyway.”
“So what are you staring at?”
“There are no birds. I was just watching for a long time and I saw no birds.”
“There are tons of birds in New York, you just have to know where to look.”
“I miss them,” Loki sighed, and Tony came up with a plan to cheer him up.
“Where are you off to?” Clint asked when he saw Tony pulling his jacket on.
“I'm taking Loki to the zoo,” Tony replied. “He misses birds.”
“Well, you be careful he doesn't come back pregnant,” Clint said, right as Loki walked into the kitchen dressed in a casual black leather jacket and black jeans.
“What was that, Clint?” Loki asked.
“Er… I was just saying I hope you have fun.”
“I'm sure we will,” Loki replied, and as they left the room, he stuck his head back round the door and said, “By the way, you have something on your face.”
“I suggest you look in a mirror,” Loki said with a smirk, then ducked back out of the room, leaving Clint with a pig's snout instead of a nose for the rest of the day.
“This is magnificent,” Loki said, as the entered the aviary. “The geodesic design is quite beautiful.”
“It was originally built for the world's fair,” Tony said, as they walked along the wooden pathway, “but they moved it here, added some mesh, and voilà, big aviary.”
“Oh look! The birds fly freely,” Loki said excitedly, as two small red birds landed on the handrail beside them.
“Looks like they like you,” Tony pointed out, as another brightly coloured bird landed beside the first, and started singing loudly as it puffed its chest out.
Loki smiled gently and said, “Midgardian animals, especially birds, are attracted to magic users. They can sense it.”
“Why aren't they singing to me?” Tony asked. “I know magic, sort of.”
“It is not part of you yet,” Loki stated. “When you use magic for long enough it becomes part of who you are. For me it is always there, always… ‘switched on’, as you would say, but it is new to you, you have to actively think about it to use the magic you know. Why don't you try it?”
“Think about a spell, and they will sense it,” Loki said, “but don't actually do it. We don't want you to accidentally roast one of these creatures.”
Tony thought about the calculations needed to create fire, feeling the numbers, sensing the air around his body, and then one of the birds looked at him, and started singing proudly as it hopped up and down the handrail in front of him.
“See, they like you,” Loki said with a smile, which quickly faded as he said, “When you told me the animals would be in cages, I must admit the thought disturbed me, but this is much better than I expected.”
Loki frowned slightly, keeping his eyes on the tiny birds in front of him. “I have spent time locked away in a cage, trapped… punished. It was not pleasant.”
“Not them no, although they weren't exactly welcoming hosts either, but I visited many places after fell, and not all of them were pleasing,” Loki replied, as he looked away. “I do not like to think about it. It is a painful memory,”
There was a flutter as the small birds flew away, and then a large waft of air hit their faces as an enormous Turkey Vulture landed on the railing, holding its vast wings out, and bobbing its head.
“I think you found a new boyfriend,” Tony quipped, as the bird continued to display.
Loki held his hand out to the Turkey Vulture, which hopped onto his wrist, leaning its massive body into his chest, and he closed his eyes, as the bird nuzzled its head into his neck.
For a second Tony thought that Loki was going to cry as he moved his chin gently along the top of the bird's head, and ran a hand down its powerful back. Tony let out a breath and said, “I know what it's like you know, to be trapped, locked up.”
“You do?” Loki asked, still keeping his eyes shut, as the bird rested its head against his face.
“Do you know how I first became Iron Man?” Tony asked.
“No,” Loki replied. “Tell me about it.”
So Tony told Loki about Afghanistan, how he had been tortured, and how Yinsen had died. He wasn't quite sure if he had ever told anyone all the grisly details of how he was driven to build his first suit, in the past he glossed over them with “Terrorists, yadda, yadda, torture, build suit, escape, etc, etc.” and a wave of the hand as if it wasn't important, but he wanted Loki to know he wasn't the only one, and at least someone around him understood.
“You are very brave, Stark,” Loki said when Tony finished his story.
“You might call it bravery, most would call it reckless.”
“You were captive, mistreated, and injured, and yet you still created a technological marvel.”
“Didn't do Yinsen much good though did it?” Tony asked. “He saved my life, and I couldn't do the same in return for him.”
“No, but he died a warriors death, so you can be assured he is in a good place now,” Loki said. “Do you think he would be pleased that you blame yourself for not saving him?”
“No,” Tony sighed, “but he was a good man, and I'm such a… screw up.”
“If Yinsen had not given his life you would have died in the cave,” Loki said. “If there had been no Iron Man, who would have prevented me from taking over Midgard?”
“I'm sure the others would have managed to take you out.”
“Perhaps,” Loki said, allowing the Turkey Vulture to step back onto the railing, “but which of the Avengers would have flow the explosive device into another realm?”
“Thor probably would have done it if I hadn't been there.”
“Thor flies by throwing Mjolnir. I doubt he would have had the control to even catch it,” Loki replied. “You don't give yourself enough credit, Stark. What you did was a brave and noble thing that saved countless lives. Perhaps you should concentrate on that rather than the one life you could not save?”
“Maybe,” Tony replied, lost in thought briefly, then he said, “Come on Snow White, lets look round the rest of this place.”
As they moved down the aviary walkway, followed by a dozen singing birds, Tony felt glad that he had gotten Loki to talk, he felt an odd lightness in his step, and even though he didn't want anything, he gave Loki a hug anyway, just because he felt like it.
Next chapter should be up by the weekend :-)
Once Tony had vaguely mastered the art of teleportation he began to think about atoms differently. If he could strip himself down and reappear somewhere else, the next logical step was to appear as something else, but he had to admit that the thought scared him.
He worried that if he turned himself into a house plant he might not be able to turn himself back, despite what Loki had said about his body having a memory of what it should be. He might end up stuck as 'Yucca-Plant Man' for the rest of his life, and he couldn't see anyone being scared of a Yucca Plant, even if it was armoured and firing missiles.
After 3 cups of coffee he was struck by a marvellous idea: what if he could change other things, into other things? He would start with something small, but nothing living, simply because if he turned a dog into a cat and it was inside out, the PR fallout would be a mess, and Pepper would kill him. Being killed by Pepper was not a priority right now.
He started writing a list in his head of things he could change into other things that wouldn't end up with a pool of blood in his workshop, and a protest group wanting his head on a pike, but ran out of ideas at five.
1) Turn water into Scotch, Martini, and other associated alcohol products.
2) Turn armour into Vibranium. Become COMPLETE bad ass, as opposed to just bad ass.
3) Turn armour into whatever Thor's hammer is made of. Become so bad ass that I
rule the universe am even more awesome than usual.
4) Turn all Pepper's shoes into that brand she really likes.
5) Find out the name of that brand of shoes Pepper really likes.
Once he had his list he started on the groundwork for the transformation, but soon hit a wall. The calculations needed to turn a base metal into Vibranium, with all it's complex properties were almost incomprehensible even on paper, and there was no way he would be able to do them in his head.
“How the hell do you do this?” he asked Loki, who was lounging on the couch in the corner, seemingly enjoying watching him struggle. “There's no way anyone could remember all these equations.”
“A thousand years of practise,” Loki replied. “And of course, I am far more intelligent than you, which helps quite a bit.”
“I don't have a thousand years. I want to be able to do it now.”
“Stark, I am willing to teach you magic, but you must understand, that it is a fine art, and I do not wish to see you destroy yourself because you are rushing into spells that are beyond your capabilities.”
“So what should I do?”
“Start small,” Loki replied. “Transmutation is difficult process, and Vibranium is an incredibly complex material, so I suggest you stop trying to run before you can walk and begin by turning one base metal into another.”
“Alchemy,” Tony said. “Were basically talking alchemy here aren't we?”
“Yes, although this actually works.”
“Are you going to help me or what?”
Loki snorted in irritation, then hauled himself off the couch, and walked over to the bench. “What metal do you have on hand?”
“I have a hell of a lot of titanium.”
“That would be perfect. We'll start with some small shards if you have some.”
Tony grabbed some titanium scraps, and placed them on the workbench, then watched as Loki placed his hand over one of them, and when he moved his hand away a piece of gold, smaller than the titanium shard, remained in it's place.
“You have to tell me how to do that!”
“Place your hand over the metal and tell me what you can feel,” Loki said.
Tony picked up another scrap of titanium, and placed his hand over it. “I feel 26 neutrons… and 22 protons and electrons.”
“4 energy levels.”
“Excellent,” Loki replied. “Now rearrange them.”
“Just like that?” Tony said sarcastically.
“Yes, just like that." Loki replied. “Perhaps if you stopped using your mouth and actually concentrated you might find it easier.”
Tony closed his eyes, working out the correct placement until he had everything in order, and when he lifted his hand instead of seeing a chunk of bright shining yellow metal, silver liquid coated Tony's palm and ran across the table.
“Well done, you've just created mercury,” Loki said dryly. “Now I suggest you visit a physician to check that you haven't poisoned yourself.”
After he had been given the all clear by the medical team, and the workshop had been thoroughly cleaned by a hazardous waste crew, Tony accidentally created mercury three more times before he finally created gold.
He spent the next couple of days perfecting his technique on various metal objects around the Tower, but Steve wasn't very happy when Tony turned the keys of his motorcycle into gold, and they snapped off in the ignition. There was more unpleasantness when he attempted to turn a carving knife into gold at the kitchen table, and accidentally created mercury again. It poured across the table and splashed on Clint’s favourite jacket, and the hazardous waste crew had taken it away for disposal, leaving Tony living in fear for his wardrobe.
After the dining table incident Tony had spent few days hiding out in his lab, turning random items into gold until Bruce pointed out that he would probably bring down the economy if he kept doing it, so when they got the call to say the city was under attack from a group of laser wielding aliens Tony was almost glad of something to break the tedium.
There wasn't a lot of the alien soldiers, thirty at most, and after a few cars and stores were trashed, the Avengers quickly got the upper hand in the situation, and were just left to mop up the few stragglers who were advancing down the street.
Tony realised this was it, now was the ideal time to bring his new magical powers into play, to throw a few fireballs and kick some alien ass.
“Guys!” Tony shouted excitedly, as he raised his hand. “Watch this!”
Everyone watched as Iron Man let out a muffled a shriek, staggered back a few steps, and then his faceplate opened, revealing Tony's soot-streaked face.
“What the hell was that?” Steve asked.
“I tried to shoot a fireball, and I kinda shot it inside my suit.”
“You fool, Stark,” Loki crowed, as he walked calmly towards Tony. “I warned you that you needed more practise before trying to employ your new skills in battle.”
“You shot a fireball inside your suit?” Steve repeated.
“Oh my god, am I horrifically burned?” Tony panicked. “Is my face gone and I'm just not feeling the pain because of shock?”
“There are no burns, and your facial hair is intact,” Loki replied. “Unfortunately you appear to be missing your eyebrows.”
“What? Someone get me a mirror!” Tony screamed, then he scrambled round in the wreckage of a half destroyed car, pulled off one of the wing mirrors and held it to his face. “No-no-nooo! I have no eyebrows! I can cope. I'll go back to the workshop. I'll invent new eyebrows. Better eyebrows. Eyebrows that shoot rockets… and are flame retardant.”
“Perhaps this will be of some use to you,” Loki said, waving his hand in the air, and then passing the conjured item to Tony.
“Oh ha ha!” Tony said as he threw the eyebrow pencil on the floor.
“I believe we should rejoin the battle,” Loki asked, as he watched Thor smash an alien with his hammer further down the street. “Perhaps you should consider fighting with more conventional methods this time?”
“You'll teach me how to throw fireballs with my suit on, later?”
“Of course,” Loki replied, then he turned and headed towards Thor, who was spinning Mjolnir round, and knocking soldiers flying as if they were bowling pins.
Tony pushed his faceplate down, and prepared to take off, then he paused a moment, and retrieved the eyebrow pencil from the floor. He tucked it safely into one of the panels of his suit, then blasted off down the street.
After the alien soldiers had been dealt with they had gone back to the Tower, and Tony spent some time in his bathroom forlornly staring at the spot where his eyebrows used to be. All he had now was some singed looking stubble, so he used the pencil Loki had conjured to fill them in.
Later, when Tony walked in the kitchen, he was rather surprised to see Loki sat at the table wolfing down a gallon of chocolate ice cream, while Clint and Natasha hovered at the other end staring at a laptop screen.
“Yes, yes, very funny,” Tony said as Clint and Natasha looked up and stifled giggles at his crudely drawn on eyebrows. “I'm fine by the way. I survived almost being roasted to death today, but thanks for checking I'm OK.”
“We're not laughing at you,” Clint said. "Well, not really."
“I was,” Natasha said. “Tony, do you want me to teach you how to draw your eyebrows so you look a little less like Mr Potato Head?”
Clint laughed, pointed at the laptop screen, and said, “Oh my god, look at this one!”
“OK, what's the big joke?” Tony asked.
“Unfortunately someone took a photo of you with no eyebrows,” Loki said, as he tipped half a bottle of chocolate sauce into his ice cream tub. “It has been circulated on the internet.”
“Yeah, but it's really caught on,” Natasha added. “People think it's a good look for you.”
“Really?” Tony asked, with a note of hope in his voice.
“Oh totally,” Clint said, as he turned round the laptop, and revealed an old Time magazine cover of Tony standing proudly in front of the Iron Man armour, with his eyebrows photoshopped off. “That's not the only one. In fact someone has already registered the domain name Tony Stark Without Eyebrows dot com, so I assume there'll be a full site of them soon.”
Tony groaned. “A full site? Really?”
“Oh look, someone did you!” Clint said with a laugh, turning round the laptop so Loki could see the altered picture of himself.
Loki paused, the spoon half way to open his open mouth, and frowned. “That is not funny.”
“You look like Marilyn Manson,” Natasha laughed.
“Why would someone seek to make me look so… ugly,” Loki said, his voice breaking as he dropped his spoon into the ice cream tub, pushed it away across the table, and stood up. “If you'll excuse me, I feel a little unwell. I think I'm going to lay down for a while.”
“Hey, wait, Loki. It's only meant to be a bit of fun,” Tony asked. “You know what the Internet is like. They'll be on the next meme in a few days.”
“If you require my assistance, I will be in my room,” Loki said, as he headed towards the door.
Tony grabbed him arm as he went to push past him. “Hey, come on, don't let it upset you.”
“People can be cruel at times, and I don't just mean the people on the internet,” Loki replied, casting a glance at Clint and Natasha. “I have no wish to be part of it.”
Tony opened his mouth to speak, but Thor wandered into the room with his hair still damp and curling from his shower.
“Brother, what is wrong?” Thor asked loudly, as he noticed that Loki looked distressed. “Who among you has offended a son of Odin?”
“It's nothing, Thor, really,” Loki replied. “I just got a little upset.”
“Who has upset you? I shall demand that they apologise at once.”
“Whoa, big guy!” Clint said. “Unless you're gonna get half of Tumblr to say sorry, I think you're out of luck.”
“It wasn't Tumblr that upset me, it was Clint and Natasha,” Loki stated calmly. “They found pictures people made of me on the Internet. If people are making fun of me online I would rather not know about it. It was hurtful that they showed me, and laughed about it.”
“Is this true?” Thor asked menacingly.
“Yeah… Kinda,” Clint said. “We didn't know it would upset him though.”
“You thought he would find it amusing that people were making slights against him?”
“Well, now you put it like that…” Natasha said.
“I believe you owe my brother an apology.”
“Sorry, Loki,” Natasha and Clint mumbled.
“And now you should give him a hug to make up for it, like real friends,” Thor said.
“What?” Clint asked.
“Give Loki a hug to show him that you are sorry.”
“I'm not doing that.”
“Why?” Thor asked. “Do you believe there is something wrong with physical contact between two men?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then hug him, now.”
Clint stood uneasily as Loki advanced towards him, his arms open wide, and a smile on his face, which unnerved Clint even more. He wrapped his arms around Loki briefly, and then patted him on the back.
“There ya go, sorry for upsetting you,” Clint said, then he went to pull away, but Loki kept his arms clamped around Clint’s back.
“Oh, I'm not finished yet,” Loki said, as he tucked his head against Clint’s ear and held on, as he rocked gently from side to side, before releasing him.
“You done?” Clint asked.
“I believe so. I do feel much better now,” Loki replied, and then he moved over to Natasha and held his arms open, until she stiffly accepted his embrace.
After a while Loki released her, and said, “They upset Tony too.”
“I'm fine,” Tony said, raising his hands, and stepping back. “I'm completely fine. I don't need a hug.”
“If they have offended you they must apologise,” Thor stated, as he put his hand on Tony's back and pushed him roughly towards Clint.
“He's not going to let us out of here till we do this is he?” Tony asked quietly.
“Probably not,” Clint replied.
“Count of three?”
“One, two three…” Tony said, and then they hugged quickly, patting each other on the back, and pulled back.
“Isn't that better?” Thor asked. “Now Lady Natasha.”
“This one I've got no problem with,” Tony said, smiling.
“Touch me anywhere, Stark, and I swear I'll cut your throat while you're sleeping,” Natasha warned, as Tony leant in and gave her a brief hug.
“Do you feel better?” Thor asked.
“Oh sure, much better,” Tony replied slightly sarcastically.
“Excellent,” Thor said, as he opened the refrigerator and took out an enormous ham shank. “Now we are all friends again we should partake in a group activity.”
“We could go see a movie,” Natasha suggested.
“I'm not sure I'm ready for public consumption yet,” Tony said, waving his hand at his face. “No eyebrows, remember?”
“We could watch a DVD?”
“Is there any that aren't scratched?” Tony asked, as he shot a withering look at Loki.
“Oh! I know!” Clint said excitedly. “I bought the Lord Of The Rings trilogy on blu ray the other day. We should watch that.”
“Absolutely not!” Loki shrieked.
“Why?” Clint asked.
“I will not watch anything that was written by that man,” Loki said petulantly, and everyone looked at him, slightly confused.
“My brother and Tolkien had a rather unfortunate disagreement,” Thor said, as he carved a thick slice from the ham.
“Disagreement?” Loki asked, incredulously. “He punched me in the face.”
“Only after you threw your ale over him.”
“Er, why were you having a bar room brawl with the writer of one of the greatest pieces of literature ever?” Tony asked.
“We had an argument about Gandalf,” Loki said. “I knew the real Gandalf, and his characterisation of him was terrible.”
“Loki, he did tell you it was not based on the Gandalf you knew.”
“I don’t care,” Loki sulked. “I do not wish to see that film.”
In the end Clint had gotten his way, and had put Lord Of The Rings on, then regretted it when Loki had not stopped muttering, “Gandalf would never do that,” and “Gimli is a place, not a person!” through most of the film, until he fell asleep after about two hours.
As the music started, and the film ended, Thor moved across the room and gently shook Tony awake. “The film has ended my friend. I think you should retire to your quarters.”
“What?” Tony asked, opening his eyes, and looking blearily around the room.
“You fell asleep some time ago. Perhaps you should go to bed. It will be much more comfortable.”
“That's a good idea,” Tony replied, then he looked down and realised that Loki had edged across the couch in his sleep and was currently sprawled across his lap. “You wanna get your little brother off me, because he is way heavier than he looks.”
Thor gently shook Loki's shoulders. “Brother, it is time for bed.”
Loki whined in response, and squirmed away from Thor's hands. “Noooooo. I will sleep here. Leave me be, Thor.”
“Stark wishes to go to bed too, but you are laid on him.”
Loki whined again, and pulled his arms over his face to blot out the light.
“Brother, you must-” Thor was cut off by Loki leaping off the couch with a fierce shriek.
“All right, I'm up! Are you satisfied?” he shouted, then he whined again. “I'm sooo tiredddd.”
“Say goodnight to Stark.”
“Goodnight, Stark,” Loki said, then he slumped forward, barely awake, and wrapped his arms round Tony's neck.
Tony reached round and patted him on the back. “Night, Loki.”
“Come on, Brother,” Thor said, as he hauled Loki back upright before he fell asleep on Tony's shoulder, and directed him out of the room.
Tony ran his hands through his hair, and realised it was only 11pm, and far to early to go to bed. He hauled himself off the couch, and walked through to the kitchen where Natasha and Bruce were sat.
“What's that you're drinking?” Tony asked.
“Hot chocolate. Want some?” Natasha replied.
“I'll pass. Is there any coffee in the pot?” Tony asked as he slumped heavily into a chair.
“It's a little late for coffee, don't you think?” Bruce said.
“It's never too late for coffee,” Tony replied, but then he realised he was far too exhausted to even get up and pour himself a cup.
“Natasha told me what happened earlier. Is Loki OK?”
“He's fine,” Tony replied, scrubbing his hands across his face as he yawned.
“I think you should go to bed, Tony,” Natasha said. “You just smudged your eyebrows.”
“Oh crap,” Tony said, looking down at the dark smears on his hands. “That's a good idea. Bed it is.”
Tony hauled himself out of his chair, moved round the table and sleepily wrapped his arms around Bruce and said “Night,” then moved over to Natasha and hugged her too.
As Tony stumbled out of the room, Bruce and Natasha looked at each other.
“What the hell was that about?” Natasha asked.
“Beats me," Bruce replied. "Was he drunk?”
“I have no idea.”
I am SO sorry for the long delay. Real life got in the way a bit.
This fic was originally only going to be 4 chapters long, but the final chapter was longer than anticipated, so I've split it into two :-)
“Are you OK?” Bruce asked the next morning as Tony poured himself a cup of coffee.
“I'm fine,” Tony replied. “Why wouldn't I be?”
“I was just worried you might be a little shook up after the whole fireball thing yesterday,” Bruce replied. “It's not every day you give me a hug.”
“Hug? I literally have no idea what you are talking about right now, but I'm completely fine, and thank you for asking.”
“You hugged me and Nat last night.”
“Jarvis?” Tony said, as he looked up at the ceiling.
“Inspect the water for illegal substances please. Bruce is plainly hallucinating.”
“You did!” Bruce exclaimed. "Ask Nat!"
“Whatever, shared delusions,” Tony said, as he inspected his eyebrows in the shiny steel surface of the coffee pot.
“I suppose you won't be doing magic any more after yesterday?” Bruce asked. “It's pretty scary stuff.”
“Are you kidding?” Tony said. “Magic is great. I'll teach you if you like.”
“You can teach me magic?” Bruce asked sceptically. “I thought you had to be born that way.”
“Not so much born that way, but you do need a certain set of qualities.”
“I don't get it.”
“Loki explained it in a way that sounded like you need a certain form of intelligence, which apparently I have, and you probably have too, although obviously to a much lesser degree.”
“I still don't get it.” Bruce replied.
“Simple analogy. Some people are fast runners and some aren't, and even with all the training in the world, I'm never gonna run as fast as Usain Bolt, because I'm simply not built to do it, but I can handle complex mathematical formulas in a way that most people can't.”
“So you're saying that magic is just math and if you are really good at math you can do magic?”
“I'm saying Loki was right, and magic is science. Math, physics, chemistry, all together,” Tony replied. “You could totally do it. You want me to show you how to shoot a fireball?”
“I won't end up eyebrow-less like you?”
“I cross my heart, your eyebrows will be intact.”
It didn't take Bruce long to master the art of creating fire in his hand, but he had insisted on doing it in the training room, with Dummy on stand-by just in case things got out of hand, and within a few hours he had destroyed one of Clint’s archery targets with a glowing fireball.
“This is much easier than I thought it would be,” Bruce said with a beaming smile. “How long did it take you to learn this?”
“A few days,” Tony said, feeling slightly annoyed that Bruce had got the hang of it in less time. “But I'm a much better teacher than Loki.”
“Oh yeah, when he explains stuff it's all wordy and like listening to Shakespeare recite a physics textbook. ‘Thou art creating flame, breaketh apart yon dioxide of the carbon’ etc. etc.”
“I thought he'd be a really good teacher.”
“Trust me, you're better off with professor Stark.”
After the magic lesson had ended, everyone assembled in the kitchen for a dinner that Steve had slaved over for hours, but once again Loki had been absent and Bruce was starting to worry.
Every time he had attempted to speak to Loki in private he was either busy with Tony, or his bedroom door was locked and Jarvis said he was sleeping, but he decided to give it another try just in case.
“Loki?” Bruce asked, as he gently tapped. “Loki, can I come in.”
“Mr Banner, sir,” Jarvis intoned from the ceiling. “Mr Odinson is sleeping. He has not been sleeping well lately, as I'm sure you know, and I believe it would be a good idea to allow him to rest.”
“Oh OK,” Bruce replied. “When he wakes up can you tell him I wanted to see him?”
“Of course, sir.”
“It's really important that I speak to him, so please don't forget.”
“It is impossible for me to forget, sir. Please rest assured that your message will be passed along.”
Bruce decided to take a walk while he waited for Loki to wake up. He enjoyed wandering the streets of New York at sunset; he loved the cooling air and the way the golden sunlight reflected off the windows. He liked seeing people gather for dinner, laughing and enjoying each other's company, catching a small glimpse of other people's lives every time he passed a restaurant or café.
He hadn't been paying much attention as he walked, but when he looked up he was outside the Shawarma Palace, and the memory of the teams first meal together after defeating the Chitauri brought a smile to his face.
The door swung open as someone left and they held it open for him.
“Thanks,” Bruce replied, even though he hadn't intended on going inside, but it seemed rude to let the door swing closed after they had been so polite, so he decided to collect a menu instead.
As he stepped inside the smell of freshly baked naan bread, lamb and sauces made his mouth water, and even though he had already eaten, he considered buying something anyway, but then he noticed a familiar figure, sat alone at a table with four plates in front of them, mouth open, mid bite, with a shocked look on their face.
“What are you doing here?” Bruce asked.
“What does it look like I'm doing?” Loki asked. “It's dinner time.”
“Jarvis told me you were sleeping in your room.”
“Jarvis is very helpful indeed,” Loki replied with a smirk.
“You've got him lying for you now? What did you do, put a spell on him?”
“I had no need of that, Jarvis and I agree on many things.”
Bruce pulled back a chair, and sat opposite Loki. “You know, if you're feeling better, you should start coming back to meals with the rest of us. You don't have to sneak off to eat alone.”
“I'm fine,” Loki replied.
“You've been talking to Tony?”
“I have, yes. I should not?”
“No, no, it's perfectly fine,” Bruce said. “Has it helped?”
“I think so,” Loki replied. “He does seem a little better.”
“Tony seems a little better?”
“Don't you think he's been a bit melancholy of late?”
“I… I don't know.”
"You don't know?" Loki asked. "Have you ever bothered to look past his layer of bravado, and his incessant talking to see the real Stark?"
"He does talk a lot..."
“He seems to spend an inordinate amount of time shut away in his workshop, hiding from other people. It isn't healthy.” Loki pointed out.
“Wait… So were you really depressed?”
Loki smirked, and took a small bite of his bread.
“You faked it?” Bruce asked. “Thor was worried about you, how could you do that to him?”
“Ah yes, Thor is a wonderful actor when he has a purpose he believes in.”
“Oh my god, Thor KNEW?” Bruce asked, and Loki stifled a snicker. “That's pretty low, pretending to have an illness that effects people you know.”
Loki's expression changed to a look of dark fury, and as he slammed his hand angrily down onto the table Bruce felt a spike in his heart rate and fought to keep it under control.
“I have lived a thousand years and I have suffered anguish that no mortal could even begin to comprehend,” Loki hissed. “You think I don't understand pain? You think I have not tried to end my life to escape the despair I suffered for centuries?”
“Sorry,” Bruce replied, trying to calm himself down. “I didn't mean to make light of what you've been through.”
“No, you should not assume things about me when you know nothing,” Loki said, as he cleaned his hands with a napkin. “But my experience suffering from an illness of the mind has given me the ability to recognise when someone I care about is suffering from the same affliction.”
“So you faked all this to get Tony to talk to you?”
“Are mortal brains really so slow that you forget that I am the god of lies?” Loki huffed as he threw his napkin on the table. “Jarvis came to me and confessed that he had calculated that Tony was spending 15.62% more time than average in his workshop, drinking 10% more, and suffering from 40% more nightmares of late, and he was worried about him.”
“Jarvis came to you?” Bruce asked, and Loki nodded. “Why would he come to you, and not me?”
“Because Jarvis knew that you would have been like a bull in a china shop and stormed in asking about 'feelings' and 'emotions' and scared Stark back to his lab,” Loki replied. “Jarvis said that if Stark thought he was offering me counsel he would reveal much about himself, and he did.”
“So you got Tony to talk to you?”
“Stark often talks to me, although it is usually about cars, how much money he has, and his quite frankly disgusting adventures with supermodels,” Loki said, “but during our trip to the aviary he spoke of how he created Iron Man. He revealed many things that I do not believe he has talked about before, and if my time with the mind healers taught me anything it is that sharing the bad things that have befallen you in the past really does make you feel better.”
“So that's your big plan to help Tony? You lie and manipulate him into telling you things?”
“Do you people actually know anything about me?” Loki asked, sitting back in his chair. “The art of manipulation and lying are among my greatest gifts. Did you honestly think I would join your little group of heroes and all that would suddenly stop?”
“But you're supposed to be one of the good guys now,” Bruce said. “Good people don't lie.”
“Oh pish posh,” Loki said, with a wave of the hand. “I see your politicians lie on the television every day, and no one accuses them of not being good people.”
“Loki,” Bruce said, leaning in closer. “No one really likes politicians either.”
“Really?" Loki asked incredulously. "Then why do you let them rule you?”
“I… I actually don't know the answer to that,” Bruce said, and Loki smiled triumphantly.
When the alarm that indicated that zombies, or aliens, or killer robots were attacking the city went off the Avengers quickly gathered in the main room of the tower where Tony was already busy sorting through the live video footage SHIELD was beaming to them.
“What have we got?” Steve asked.
“Looks like… the same alien soldiers we fought the other day, and a whole lot more of them, but this guy,” Tony said, as he sifted out an image of a particularly large and burly soldier, “appears to be the leader.”
“OK, everyone suit up,” Steve replied, and then he turned to Clint. “Let's get the Quinjet fired up.”
“Aye, aye Captain,” Clint replied, then he, Steve, Natasha and Bruce headed to the hanger at the top of the tower.
“I will meet you on the battle field,” Thor said, as he headed outside, spun Mjolnir, and then flew into the air.
“You OK?” Tony asked when he saw the slightly nervous look on Loki's face.
“I'm perfectly fine,” Loki replied, as he was surrounded by yellow light and his simple tunic and trousers morphed into his battle armour. “Just don't set fire to yourself again.”
“I'll do my best,” Tony replied and Loki watched as he moved outside, and headed towards the landing pad, where his armour appeared, placed on him by robotic arms, in a manner that looked almost magical. As Tony blasted into the sky, Loki closed his eyes and teleported into the battle.
Tony, Thor and Loki had already cleared one street of the soldiers when the Quinjet touched down, and the back hatch lowered.
“What are the orders, Cap?” Tony asked, as he landed next to the jet.
“Fury said that the local area has been sealed off, and the police are working on evacuating the civilians from the surrounding buildings. Our orders are to eliminate the threat.”
“In other words we wipe them out?”
“Pretty much, yeah.”
“Awesome,” Tony replied. “Plan?”
“Whatever you do best,” Steve said, as he pulled his shield onto his arm, “that's what you should do.”
“So general mayhem and destruction?” Natasha said, with a shrug of the shoulders. “I can live with that.”
“Everyone move out,” Steve announced loudly.
The alien soldiers had new guns. Last time the Avengers had fought them they had been armed with low quality laser weapons that hardly did any damage, but they had been upgraded since their last battle, and now they were exploding craters in the road surface, and spraying shrapnel across the street.
“Make sure you don't get hit,” Tony said over the comm. “They've ramped the power up on those weapons massively.”
“I hear you,” Clint said, as he rolled behind a car, and loosed a volley of arrows. From his position on the floor he could see a group of the soldiers all aiming their weapons at one spot in the sky, and he said, “Tony, watch it, there's half a dozen of them-”
The soldiers fired their laser weapons in one volley, straight at Iron Man as he flew down the street, and as Tony dodged the blasts, one of the aliens let off another volley which clipped one of Tony's boots and sent him spiralling down into the street below.
“Jarvis, why the hell am I on the ground,” Tony asked.
“I believe it's known as a ‘lucky shot’,” the AI replied. “The left boot mounted repulsor jet pack has been damaged and is out of service, sir.”
“Can you work around it?” Tony asked, as he stood. “I need to get back in the fight.”
“The damage is too heavy to reroute power. It appears that you will grounded until repairs can be made.”
“Well, it's a good job I have other methods of transport now.”
“Sir, I hope you aren't implying that you intend to perform a magic trick. I have seen the pictures on the internet of your last attempt.”
“I thought I told you to stop going on Twitter.”
“I didn't access twitter sir. I was on Tony Stark Without Eyebrows dot Com.”
“That's up an running already, eh?”
“Yes, sir. The forum is particularly active. Would you like me to register you an account?”
Tony closed his eyes, and said, “Prepare for teleportation in three, two, one...”
Tony felt the familiar rush of air around him as he teleported, aiming to appear right behind the leader of the aliens who was perched on the flat roof of a diner directing the battle, but as he opened his eyes he found himself face to face with the creature, and something felt different.
“You have made a grave error,” the alien said as it curled its fingers around Tony's bare neck.
“What the hell,” Tony choked out, as he raised his hands and saw that while his armoured gloves were still on, his arms were completely bare.
“Why have you presented yourself to me in such a vulnerable state?” The creature asked as it plucked Tony's helmet from his head, leaving him almost completely unprotected. It tossed the helmet to the ground, and it landed next to the armour that Tony had teleported out of.
“Shit,” Tony croaked.
“I have your metal man!” the alien leader shouted, as he pulled Tony in front of him and held a laser weapon to his head. “I will kill him if you do not surrender.”
“What the hell?” Steve asked, as he looked up and saw Tony clad only in the boots and gloves of his armour, and his regular clothes. “How did that happen?”
“That dullard,” Loki hissed as he appeared by Steve's side. “I told him he was not ready to use his magic in battle.”
“Magic?” Steve asked.
“Stark has never quite mastered the art of teleporting and keeping all of his clothes on.”
“He teleported out of his suit?”
“Not all of it,” Loki replied. “It appears he still has his boots on.”
“Hawkeye, have you got a clear shot?” Steve asked.
“If you don't mind me shooting him through Tony, then yup,” Clint’s voice came over the comm.
“I'd rather have Stark left alive, please.”
“Shame,” Clint replied, as he whacked an alien in the face with his bow. “Give me a minute. I need to get a better angle, and I'm kinda busy right now.”
Loki was about to suggest that he would teleport up to their position, when the Hulk appeared behind him, dragging the battered body of an alien soldier along the ground, and let out an enormous snort.
“Do you mind?” Loki said, casting an evil look towards the Hulk, as he brushed his shoulder.
Hulk looked at the alien holding Tony captive and growled, then he raised his hand and blasted a huge ball of green flames down the street as he let out a mighty howl of anger.
“Move! Move!” Steve shouted, as the Hulk roared and conjured flames into his hand again.
“Get down,” Loki shrieked, as he barrelled into Clint, who was making his way down to their position, and bundled him behind an overturned car.
“Why the hell did you teach Hulk magic?” Clint shouted, as he peered over the car, watching Hulk smash the remaining soldiers, and send fireballs streaking across the street.
“I taught him nothing of the sort!” Loki snapped back. “Only a fool would teach an out of control creature how to shoot fire!”
“Then who did?”
“You will only need one guess. Who among us has no eyebrows?”
“Tony, you idiot!” Clint said, as he turned to look down the street.
Thor landed beside the car, and watched as the Hulk continued his assault upon the aliens. “Loki, when did you teach Banner magic?”
“Why does everyone keep blaming me?” Loki shrieked, as Steve and Natasha ran across the battlefield and skidded to a halt behind the car. “Blame Stark. I had no hand in this.”
“Stark must be a great teacher if he instructed Banner on the magical arts,” Thor said, as the Hulk created a magical clone of himself, which he sent running around the last few soldiers. “He is very competent for one who has so little training.”
“Stark couldn't train someone to that level of proficiency if his life depended on it,” Loki sneered at the sleight that Tony was somehow better than him. “Banner must have a natural aptitude for magic.”
The Hulk roared once more, running with long bouncing strides, then he vanished, and reappeared clinging to the side of a building. He vanished again, and reappeared clinging to a different building, teleporting the full length of the street in short bursts in a matter of seconds.
“He's going for Tony!” Natasha shouted, as the Hulk appeared behind the alien leader, and snapped its neck with one swift flick of his wrist.
Tony turned as the alien crumpled to the floor, and said, “Thanks, big guy.”
The Hulk roared in his face, almost deafening him, then vanished again leaving Tony stood alone on the diner roof, and appeared back in the street below, sending a giant ball of flames into an empty store front, and rampaging his way between the overturned cars.
“How the hell are we going to calm him down?” Steve asked.
“I believe I may be the only one who could attempt such a task,” Loki replied.
“Nay, brother,” Thor said. “Banner has injured you before. I shall attempt to calm him.”
“Yes, because you can neutralise a magical attack now?”
“Then step aside, and let me do it.”
Thor sighed slightly, and moved to allow Loki to step from behind the car.
“Holy shit!” Clint exclaimed, as the Hulk's image shimmered as he bounced down the street and a little blue Wizard hat with white stars and moons appeared on his head. “Did you do that?”
“Me?” Loki asked, pulling his most innocent face. “Why would you think I would do such a… oh OK, yes it was me. Don't you think he suits it?”
The Hulk stopped, and ripped the hat off his head, only for another one to appear. He ripped that hat off too, and then another appeared on his head, and Loki started to laugh.
“Is that really a good idea?” Steve asked, as the Hulk stood roaring in the street, trying to rip reappearing hats off his head. “You're just making him even more angry.”
“I think it's a wonderful idea,” Loki replied with a grin, and then waved his hand, and a red robe appeared on Hulk's body.
“Yeah, before he was just angry, now he's really pissed off,” Clint added, as Hulk teleported around the street punching cars, and throwing wreckage through shop windows. “Good luck with calming him down.”
Loki walked calmly, his hands clasped behind his back, to where Hulk was stood.
“Banner!” Loki shouted. “You must calm yourself.”
The Hulk turned and roared in Loki's face, then conjured a menacing flame in his hand.
“You really can be the most vile creature at times,” Loki said as he wiped his face. “Where have your manners gone?”
“Yes, yes,” Loki snapped. “Hulk smash! Hulk burn! Hulk need to CHILL OUT!”
Hulk threw his head back, howled loudly, then he raised his arm and backhanded Loki across the face, sending him flying through a store window.
Loki lay still for a moment, surrounded by shards of broken glass and overturned clothes rails, then climbed unsteadily to his feet, and moved back out into the street, clutching his side as he stepped out.
“Banner!” Loki shouted. “You must calm down, and stop being so ridiculously rude.”
Hulk roared again, then blasted Loki with bright green flames. Loki raised his arms and used his deflection spell so the inferno curled around his body, leaving him unharmed.
“Loki!” Thor shouted in the distance, and as Loki turned, Hulk grabbed him by the foot and flung him like a rag doll into the tarmac.
“Not again,” Loki gasped as he lay in the dent in the floor for a moment, while the Hulk growled angrily above him. He dragged himself painfully to his feet again, and went to speak, but the air around him shimmered, and he suddenly found himself staring up at the grinning Hulk from a position close to the floor.
“Oh that's just wonderful,” Loki squeaked indignantly, as he twitched his little rabbit nose, and thumped his long back legs on the ground before transforming himself back into his normal body.
“Right, you asked for this,” Loki said, as threw himself at the Hulk, and wrapped his arms around him.
Hulk looked down for a moment as Loki grasped his arms around his waist, and pressed his face into his stomach, then hummed quietly as he gently ran his hand down the Hulk's back.
“See, this isn't so bad is it?” Loki asked, as the Hulk snorted, and slowly placed his hands on Loki's shoulders.
As he held on Loki could hear the hammering heart rate inside Hulk's chest begin to slow, and then felt his body start to grow smaller under his embrace, until finally he was holding Banner, who was now swamped by the red robe the Hulk had been wearing.
“Well, that went better than anticipated,” Loki said, as he pulled out of the embrace, coughed and spat out a mouthful of blood on the floor.
“Better?” Bruce asked. “It looks like you've been hit by a truck.”
“Can someone help me down?” Tony shouted from the diner roof. “I'm trapped up here with a dead alien and its head is the wrong way round. It's kinda freaking me out.”
Loki looked up, to see Tony perched dangerously on the edge of the roof, then teleported up to his side, grabbed his shoulder, and teleported them both down into the street below.
“Thanks, man,” Tony said, as he dragged Loki into a tight hug.
“Stark,” Loki choked out. “Stark, you are crushing my broken ribs.”
Tony released him quickly, but kept one arm round his shoulders. “Sorry. You OK?”
“Just a little pneumothorax,” Loki wheezed. “Nothing a chest tube won't fix.”
“Brother, you are injured,” Thor shouted as he arrived by Loki's side.
“I'm fine,” Loki said, as he leant over and placed his hands on his knees, drawing in a few raspy breaths. “My magic is already healing the worst of it.”
“We will hold a feast when we arrive back at the tower,” Thor announced loudly. “This has been a most glorious triumph in battle!”
“Feast?” Natasha asked, as the rest of the Avengers arrived. “I could really go for some pizza.”
“Tales will be told for a thousands years of how you calmed the savage monster, brother,” Thor said triumphantly, as he slapped Loki on the back roughly, and caused him to wince in pain.
“Hey, I'm stood right here you know,” Bruce protested.
“My apologies Banner, I did not mean to offend you.”
“A little less of the ‘monster’ talk would be good.”
“Very well, from now on I shall only refer to him as a beast, creature or brute,” Thor announced happily.
“Can we go home now?” Loki whined. “I really need to sit down.”
“Of course, Loki,” Thor said, helping him to straighten up, and placing a hand under his arm to help him stand.
“I have this overwhelming feeling,” Tony announced, as he smiled happily.
“What is it?” Clint asked. “The urge for Shawarma?”
“It's just this sudden urge… Group hug, you guys!” Tony said, as he pulled Steve and Loki towards him. “Group hug!”
“I'm really sorry,” Bruce said, as he cleaned the cut on Loki nose.
“You have nothing to apologise for, my magic has healed the worst of my injuries, and the rest will heal when I replenish my energy,” Loki replied. “Besides, it's Stark's fault. He should never have given you instruction on how to perform magic.”
“What can we do about it?” Bruce asked. “How am I supposed to control it? I can barely control the other guy as it is, so I don't think I'll be able to stop him if he decides to shoot fireballs again.”
“There are healers on Asgard who would be able to remove the memory from your mind, but the problem will be getting Stark to stop trying to teach it all over again. He can be very impulsive at times.”
“I noticed today that the first thing he wanted was a hug. Looks like you have quite the epidemic on your hands there.”
“It's an epidemic that has no symptoms other than happiness,” Loki replied. “A hug is one of the few cure for sadness that has no side effects.”
“So you're going to keep talking to Tony?”
“Of course. Why shouldn't I?”
“I really don't approve of you lying to him,” Bruce said, and Loki went to speak, but Bruce interrupted him, “If it's doing more good than harm, then I guess you can carry on.”
“Thank you for your permission," Loki said, "but I wasn't going to stop anyway.”
Tony wandered into the kitchen later that evening, once he'd put his armour back together, to get another celebratory beer from the refrigerator, and was surprised to find Loki sitting at the table with an almost empty pizza box in front of him.
"Hey," Tony said.
“You OK now?” Tony asked, as he popped the cap off his beer.
“I'm fine, it's just superficial wounds,” Loki replied. “I need to eat to allow my body to finish healing itself.”
“I'm sorry about the whole teleporting thing,” Tony said. “If I hadn't done that the Hulk wouldn't have lost his mind, and you wouldn't have been smashed… again.”
“I taught you magic in the hopes that you would have some method of defending yourself should you ever find yourself in trouble without your armour,” Loki said. “You never should have shared that knowledge. It was meant for you, and you alone.”
“What are we going to do about him?”
“He has agreed to accompany me to Asgard where the mind healers will remove the memory from his mind,” Loki replied. “Of course, all that will be pointless if you attempt to teach him again.”
“I promise I'll never breathe a word about magic to him ever again.”
“I hope you will be able to keep that promise,” Loki said, “because apparently even Banner has more self control than you do.”
“Hey, that's unfair!” Tony complained.
“Unfair?” Loki asked, as he raised his eyebrow. “Who was the one who broke their promise to me about not using magic on the battle field, approximately 25 minutes after they made it?”
“OK, OK, I admit I messed up, but I will do my best not to do it again.”
“I will believe it when I see it.”
There was a slightly awkward silence for a moment as Tony took a drink from his beer, then he said, “So... You wanna watch a film or something?”
“Can I bring my pizza with me?”
Loki shoved the remains of his pizza slice into his mouth, then turned around and picked up four pizza boxes from kitchen counter, and followed Tony to the lounge.
After they finished Dead Poet's Society Loki started to cry, and lied about how his father had never supported him when he wanted to learn magic, and instead he had sent him away to live with the trolls in the hope that it would make him a man, and all he really wanted to do was make his father proud of him.
Tony gave Loki a hug and decided to tell him about his dad.
I have to say thank you to everyone who posted comments or left kudos on this fic. I probably wouldn't have finished without you :-)
NOTE: there is now a sequel to this fic here: Team is a four-letter word