Chapter 1: Prologue
Fate, as Loki would discover, was a cruel mistress.
He had let go of his staff- his last connection to Thor, connection to safety, because he had been done.
The memory clamped into his brain and refused to let go. He hated Thor. There was no doubt of that. He had acted out of hatred and jealousy but betraying Laufey had been his plan. He was going to show Odin that he was a capable son and King without the ‘brother’ who had always cast a shadow on him. He had tried so hard and for so long, and it had all wound up for naught. It always had been. It always would be. So he decided that he needed to fall in more ways than one. His life’s goal was impossible, there was no need to go on.
If your own… ‘family’ had that little faith in you after you struggled so hard to do everything for them, what was the point in living anymore? He had wanted to die. He had let go to die. He had thought falling through the realms would do it. He’d be torn up, caught between worlds, his body nor soul would stand a chance.
Of course, he hadn’t counted on the gates to the realms overlapping in places. And just when he was ready to accept death:
He kept falling.
The stars faded, there was a flash of white, gold-tinted light, and then nothing but blue. He was aware enough to see that there was ground coming up to meet him, and then he crashed down, and there was nothing but pain, then all awareness faded to black for a moment, then came rushing back to him.
When he came to again, there was heat beating down on him. Nothing unbearable, but just more than he had encountered in some time. He carefully opened his eyes. He could’ve move, but he could observe. That was good enough for him. Solid, apparently tan ground, light blue sky, grey-white clouds, one yellow, bright sun-
He was back on Midgard. He had fallen to Midgard. In more than the literal sense. Well wasn’t that poetic justice that Odin and Thor would appreciate for separate reasons?
Rather suddenly, pain caught up with him. It was near crippling. He tried to will it away, and in a brief, panicked thought, he realized he couldn’t. The more he tried, the worse the headache that had started became.
There was a strange sound from behind him and he strained to look to see what it was. There was a large one of those… wheeled chariots he had seen in his last visit there, and three bodies coming at him that he couldn’t make out.
“What the fuck?! What the actual fuck, this happened again?! I JUST TOLD YOU PEOPLE I DON’T GET PAID ENOUGH FOR THIS!” Shrill. Female.
“It’s not intentional, Darcy!” Strangely accented. Male.
Third voice, female, even, hopeful, “Is it Thor?!”
“Too small to be Thor," the main replied.
Well, that was different. And then it hit him- if they knew about Thor and were Midgardians that meant-
Oh, this situation kept on getting worse and worse. It was the mortal who had stolen Thor’s heart, the man of science and the idiot girl. He heard them getting closer.
“Is it Fandral?” the Idiot Girl continued, sounding a little to hopeful. Of course the ponce had charmed her when he was barely there for a Midgardian day.
“Hair’s too dark,” the scientist pointed out.
The fools were going down the line of who had come to their precious Thor’s rescue. If they had met Thor and his friends, or at least done their research, there was truly only one option left. And of course they couldn’t figure it out. He sensed shadows over them, and for some subconscious reason, he tried to look at them.
The scientist was frowning down at him.
Jane Foster had a disappointed look.
The idiot girl, in turn, was staring at him like he had sprouted a new head, which, as far as he was concerned, might have actually been a possibility. “Why’s his all… Gotye-ey? Thor didn’t look like that.”
“He’s not Thor,” the scientist countered, just as Loki tried to open his mouth to say as much. The mortal continued to lean forward over him. “Oh, I know exactly who you are.”
The idiot girl looked from Loki’s face, to Eric. “Loki? Is this Loki? He’s got the look and all the green, except, ya know, looks like he went thirty rounds with Mike Tyson-“
Maybe those two weren’t such lost causes after all. He’d have to see about this Mike Tyson, too. Must’ve been some cheap imitation of a witch of his- Odin and Thor’s realm.
Thor’s mortal, however, didn’t sound thrilled. “If it is, we’re not helping him, right? He tried to kill us. He killed Thor… temporarily.”
An unfortunate turn that I can still rectify, Loki wanted to say, but he couldn’t bring himself to speak. He had lost the ability to move again as well.
“Actually it was the giant metal death monster that killed him…” Idiot Girl pointed out.
The Scientist considered both sides for a moment. “… It may be best if we… take him. If he’s left on his own, who knows what he’s capable of.”
Loki was dimly aware of silence, and then the world spun around him- another unfamiliar feeling. He tried to flex his fingers, get some sort of spell going to get away or get them away, but nothing happened. In fact, the moment he tried, he felt his power drain from him in one fell swoop. The loss was suffocating, and strangely enough, that was enough to get his body to jerk violently.
“What’s happening?!” Idiot girl squeaked.
“He’s… seizing?” the scientist began. “I guess- we- I- We can’t just leave him here then. Who knows what he could do if he recovers. We need to get him to the hospital, too…”
“And how do we explain the whole ‘he’s potential murderer’ and a him-sized-crater-in-the-desert thing?” Idiot Girl asked.
“… We’ll work on that.”
Loki seized again, and suddenly there was pain again, this time unlike anything he had felt. It was vision blurring, mind numbing. This was new. This was different. This was bad. He struggled to breathe, failed, and then everything went black again.
Chapter 2: Captured
Darcy pushed herself back into the hospital room waiting chairs, trying to find a comfortable spot. She failed. The doctors had accepted the story they came up with: her ridiculously drunk boyfriend had thought it would be hilarious to start a fight with a biker, had lost miserably and the biker had fled.
Of course, it had all been fine and dandy ‘til the lead doctor who looked after Thor had stepped in to check on him- and seemed to have recognized the other three. After one look, they knew their story was all but debunked on paper.
So now they were waiting for the other shoe to drop, trying not to look like They’d Done This Before With The Other God Brother.
After a few minutes, the doctor came out of the exam room, looking more angry than confused like he had with Thor. “You three again…” he mused.
Darcy got up. “How’s my boyfriend? Is Steve okay?”. He didn’t look like a Steve at all, but it was the first name to pop up since she had to go down the list of exes when she was getting the cover story, and Steve had been the least douchey of them all, so she had picked that one.
The doctor, to his credit, squinted at her. “Is he your boyfriend? Is he really?”
“Excuse me?!” Darcy squeaked, trying to sound indignant as possible. Erik had shifted uncomfortably, so the best thing to do was distract him.
The doctor crossed his arms. “Don’t think I don’t remember you people. A month back, you brought in some… Nordic looking guy who had enough superstrength to take out four doctors and a security team. Now this guy can’t do damage since he’s out cold, but by rights he should be dead.”
“By rights?” Jane finally cut in.
The doctor levelled her with a look, but brought up his chart. “Bruising, consistent with your story, so at first I wondered about some… fight club the two of them could’ve been involved in, and if that’s still the case, it’s very much a ‘talk about Fight Club’ deal, but then… all of the veins showing, all the coloring-those are side effects of at least ten fatal diseases and infections. Your guy should’ve been dead about six times over by now. But he seems to be healing at an alarming rate too, and his vitals are normal for a person of his height, weight and apparent age, so if there’s anything you want to tell me…”
“He’s a way fast healer. He’s apparently always been, so nope, just tell us when we can get him back,” Darcy cut in.
The doctor frowned at her, but sighed. “As soon as he wakes up, I’m assuming. If he’s a fast healer, and… well, records show he is now, he just has to regain-“
There was suddenly panicked shouting from behind them.
The doctor donned a far-away look, then set them with another disapproving look, and they tried to match his far away look. They were all dreading history repeating itself. The doctor turned on his heel and headed for Loki’s room. Darcy, Jane and Erik all looked between each other before bolting after him.
In Loki’s room, the God had apparently woken up, ripped his I.V out and was brandishing the drip’s stand like a staff. He was barely getting it off the ground in his weakened state, but the nurses and doctors, apparently also having flashbacks from Thor were staying as clear as they could from him.
There were a few seconds of silence, and then Loki visibly swayed on his feet, then collapsed in a heap.
More silence passed between the onlookers, then Darcy bolted forward. “Well, he did wake up!”
Erik made a grunt of acknowledgement. “We’ll pay up like we did the last time. You have our word!”
“Just get him out of here!” the doctor snapped.
Darcy thought about coming back at him with a shot at bedside manner, but she decided they had bigger issues to deal with. Besides, if he got back to full health- if that was even possible now, judging by his reactions, if he was in the hospital, more people would get hurt. The three of them made their way over, framed the man, and then dragged him out of the room, down a couple of halls, and out of the hospital.
After a while, they had managed to drag him into the camper and had settled for getting as many bungee cords as they could and tying him to one of the folding metal tables they had in the back. It would last a grand total of ten seconds, but at least it would be something.
They took turns by the hour to watch him. Of course, Darcy had the sixth shift, and that was when he woke. She had gotten distracted by the last of the blue veiny lines running along his cheeks when she had noticed he opened his eyes. She reared back.
Loki, on the other hand, jerked forward, then looked down. “What are these holding me? Release me, mortal!”
“No can do, since you tried to kill us that one time.”
“Do you think these… ropes can stop me?!” Loki hissed, and arched against them.
“Apparently they can, so it works for me,” Darcy countered. She had no idea where she got the courage to talk back, considering who she was talking to, but she had been bullied too many times in life to change so quickly.
Loki scowled at her. “Do you even know who you challenge, you foolish girl?! I am Loki, son of-“ he stopped short and almost looked like he had been slapped. “… it doesn’t matter anymore.” He settled back.
Darcy frowned. “What? Did your and Thor’s father not like the whole murder thing?”
“Hold your tongue, mortal. My business is my own.” He clearly wanted to add something, judging by his facial expression, but he stayed quiet.
“So that’s a yes, then?” Darcy asked, and when he gave her a death glare, she was finally rightfully terrified. She risked getting her phone and sending a ‘he’s up’ text to Erik and Jane.
Loki stared at her for a while, then sighed. “Leave me be, Mortal. I’ve no quarrel with you any longer, you have no quarrel with me. Let me go.”
“Are you kidding me?!”
The two turned to look at the door when they heard Jane, and sure enough, the woman barreled through. She stormed over and stopped a couple of feet from Loki. “You tried to kill us, you killed Thor-“
Loki scoffed. “Yes, you’ve mentioned that-“
“-And now you’re back here, so you’re probably back to try to kill him again and were off to a bad start, so let me break this to you, too. He’s gone. He’s been gone for a little while now.”
“Of course he’s gone. He destroyed the bridge to protect all of you from me. It was the last thing I saw him do. He’s back at his precious home with his precious family,” Loki spat.
“You mean ‘our’?” Jane countered.
“No,” Loki murmured, “I don’t.”
Darcy looked between the pair of them. Well, that definitely meant something had gone wrong… up there. She could’ve sworn she saw him look hurt for a split second, but it was gone behind that cold stare a moment later. Christ, what had happened up on the rainbow bridge thing when they had been awkwardly standing around waiting?
Loki glowered at her. “As I was telling your companion, I had no quarrel with you. I never have. I was after Thor, no one else. Let me go.”
“Says the God of Lies,” Jane countered.
Loki made a face at her.
“We did our research when Thor mentioned you,” Darcy explained.
Jane nodded. “God of tricks, lies… basically we shouldn’t trust you. We shouldn’t even have brought you here.”
Loki groaned and leaned back. “So continue to conflict yourselves. I am offering to leave in peace, you don’t want me to be here, I don’t want to be here. If you continue to wait for the attack that will not come, be my guest.”
Jane frowned at him, then looked at Darcy. “Keep an eye on him. I’m talking to Erik.”
Darcy sighed, then looked back at Loki when Jane left. “Sure, leave me with the crazy murderer when he’s awake. This won’t end well.”
“It won’t…” Loki murmured. He leaned his head back and didn’t speak for a while.
Darcy looked at him, and the pained look was back. She wondered if he was trying to play them. To her annoyance, that part of her that felt that if someone looked like a kicked puppy, they needed and wanted help kicked in, as much as she didn’t want it to. “… You… want water or something?”
Loki looked back up at her briefly, puzzled.
She shrugged. “We’re not exactly experienced in the whole… kinda sorta taking-a-god-prisoner-‘til-we-figure-out-what-to-do thing. I mean, Thor was a first and he wasn’t… well…”
“A monster? A murderer, as you keep saying?” Loki spat and laid back down.
“Dunno about the monster bit, but yeah, murderer. At least you can admit it,” Darcy shrugged.
Silence passed between them for a few minutes. After a while, Darcy strained her neck to see if he was awake. When she saw he was, she leaned back. “So… do you still have your powers? ‘Cause we thought Thor was a mental case and then he got them back when he was fighting you that metal death machine thing you sent, and it was mad cool, and-“
“I don’t. I wouldn’t be here if I did,” Loki explained. “I don’t understand…” he continued, but stopped.
Darcy bowed her head. She still wasn’t sure whether to believe him, but that did explain his ‘vitals being normal’ despite ‘all the infections and diseases.’ He was mortal, just like Thor had been. Okay, maybe that was Earth 1, Norse God 0. But what would happen if he did get his powers back? Better start kissing his ass now, she pointed out to herself. “You uh… you comfortable?”
“What?” he looked more confused than he had with the water comment.
She motioned vaguely at his armor. “Looks kinda pointy in all the wrong places to be laying down with it.”
“Alright dude, I’m just… trying to make this okay for you.”
Loki looked at her in confusion again, then shook his head, dismissive, mocking, and leaned back yet again. “You’re trying to gain my favor in case I break free or I’m lying to you,” Loki corrected.
Darcy shrugged. “You know what? Yes.”
“I told you, this is the last place I want to be…” Loki murmured.
“ ‘Scuse me if I don’t believe that.”
Silence passed between them again. After a few minutes, Erik came back into the room. He hesitated in front of Loki for a moment to the point that even the god looked uncomfortable. Erik finally spoke. “We’re at an odd spot, aren’t we? We can’t trust you, but we can’t keep you here. And I don’t think you have the strength to do anything else.”
“I keep telling you worthless halfwits that I want nothing to do with any of you. Nothing to do with the people who helped him. Nothing to do with this blasted realm!” Loki snapped again, straining against his bonds again. “I assumed you were all smarter than this.”
“You can take the offer or leave it. Makes no difference to me,” Erik shrugged. “We’ve just got to figure out a way to get you home and away from here.”
“I have no home,” Loki deadpanned.
It was Erik’s turn to make a face. He hesitated again. “Well, what will it be?”
Darcy stepped back again and fished her phone out of her pocket. She didn’t pause in dialing 9-1, and waited.
“… I decline,” Loki replied without missing a beat.
Erik studied him, then nodded. “Fine. I’ve got to make a call, anyway…” he backed up, then went to leave the room.
Darcy leaned back towards him at the last minute. “Call? Call who?”
“Our mutual friend who Jane won’t be happy with,” Erik answered.
It took Darcy a moment, but realization dawned on her. Coulson. No, Jane would be livid. She’d kind of be livid too, but she could deal. “Remind him to give me back my iPod!” she suggested.
Erik grunted in acknowledgement, then walked out of the room.
Darcy turned back to Loki, who was aiming a confused look at her once again. She crossed her arms over her chest. “Dude’s a hardass. You’re in for it now.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Loki replied.
Darcy’s frown deepened. So this standoffish little shit was the one Thor was so upset about pre-murder? Not to mention this guy was a murderer? Of manners, seemed more likely. Maybe the metal death monster was some sort of ploy from another person, because it didn’t seem like this guy could have the mere interest in controlling it. Then again, he was apparently an inch from dying and yet perfectly okay, so who really knew what was what in this case?
At least for now, she had more important things to focus on.
Like how long Itunes was going to take getting all her replaced and new songs back onto her iPod. Idiot princes from other realms could wait.
Chapter 3: A Book of Lies and Slander
Loki woke the next morning to find it was apparently the scientist’s turn to look after him. The pair made eye contact briefly, then Loki broke the connection and settled down again. He closed his eyes. He still felt… off. Not nearly as horrible as he had before, but still miserable. This was exhaustion of a different sort. He felt numb, to a point, and the physical pain was doing him no favors either. The events on the Bifrost were mentally catching up to him, he knew that much.
The scientist sighed, and without another word, went over and undid the cords. “Come on. Let’s get some food and water in you, at least.”
Loki stayed put for a moment, not at all sure what to think of the development. He sat up slowly and rubbed at the marks on his skin from the rope.
Erik turned to one of the shelves in the corner and came back with a glass of water. He held it out and waited. When Loki didn't take it, he shook the glass side to side slightly. “Go on…” he insisted.
Loki took it, and paused. “Why do you not fear me as the other two do? Is murder nothing in your eyes?”
Erik leaned on the nearby wall. “Well, I suppose… Gods have different standards when it comes to death and killing, so… it’s not exactly my place to judge,” Erik admitted. Then, after a beat, he cracked a smile. “What’s a little murder between brothers, eh?” he chuckled, and when Loki didn’t laugh, and had a dark look pass through his face, he coughed and went silent.
Loki snapped out of it. “It is Selvig, is it not?”
Erik glanced his way and nodded.
Loki studied him for a moment, then took a drink from the glass before he set it down carefully. He half expected it to be poisoned. When nothing happened after a couple of minutes, he wasn't sure what to think of the hospitality.
It was Erik’s turn to study the other. “You look better. Less… well, you don't look like you're dying anymore. Only have a few of those lines left on your face. Look, it’s none of my business but… how did it happen?”
Loki scoffed. "Why would you care?”
“Just making conversation," Erik countered with a shrug.
“You don’t need to concern yourself with pleasantries. I don’t plan to be here for much longer, if I am free to go, as you said. When will this ‘Coulson’ of yours be here?”
“Couple of days, most likely. He’s very interested in meeting you.”
“He will not get the chance. I plan to leave as soon as I can.”
“Look, I said- “
“I will not be a prisoner anymore!” Loki hissed and advanced on the other man. When Erik took a step back, the God backed down. He shifted from foot to foot, then squinted. “How did all of you know me? I assumed there were… tales told by generations, but you seem to know far more than expected?”
Erik visibly wasn’t sure what to do for a moment, then again, went to the table behind the pair of them, got the book on Norse mythology and held it out. “When we got your br-“
“Not my brother," Loki answered with the most amount of venom in his words that Erik had heard yet. Still, to Erik's surprise he took the book and flipped through the marked pages- the ones about him.
“When we got Thor here, we read up, and you weren’t far behind in pages,” Erik answered. After a moment, he scratched his ear. “It’s only just occurred to me I handed that over and there’s a good chance you can’t read what-“
“I’ve learned all of Midgard’s languages. My moth- Frigga, suggested it when I was a boy. Thought a… future ruler would need to know everything about all the realms, if need would ever arise…” he trailed off. “I highly doubt this was ever a possible scenario when she suggested it.” He took the book, and couldn’t help the breathy laugh that came when he read the cover. “Mythology. You Midgardians are nothing more than ants to us, yet you see us as Gods who are not even your own.”
“Sounds like any other Gods and men scenario to me,” Erik supplied. "And you used to be. Still are, depending on the religion."
“But you never expected to be in the presence of any, did you?” Loki asked.
Erik shrugged again. “Give that a read. Keep it, even.”
Loki went to respond, only to turn when the idiot girl- Darcy, apparently, came in, and promptly gawked at him.
Darcy stopped mid-stride to gawk at the visitor. “He’s free?! Why is he free?!”
“Because none of us are experienced in this whole… borderline prisoner scenario, and we’re all too humane to leave him be for that long?” Erik replied.
“Yes, we know,” Erik nodded. "It was only temporary, though."
Darcy huffed, then looked at Loki. “You’re looking less dead everywhere,”
“As I’ve been told,” Loki countered.
Darcy clenched her jaw, nodded, then left the room.
Loki would’ve laughed at the uncertainly apologetic look Erik gave him for a moment, had it been any other scenario. It still felt wrong to laugh after the last few hours of his life, though. He straightened out, more warrior instinct than anything when he heard hard, calculated footsteps come from where Darcy had disappeared moments before. He caught one glimpse of her before there were suddenly two little pinpricks of pressure at his chest, and then-
Volts. Pure electricity flowing through him for a number of seconds, to the point where he thought she had summoned Thor. He could barely string the thought process that he was going to kill her for doing so and then kill Thor when he was at it before the pain stopped. He collapsed to his knees in a jerking mess, gasping in pain. Whatever recovery he had done in the last few minutes had been set back to square one.
“Darcy!” Erik objectected with the same fatherly tone he had used before.
“No!” Darcy snapped at him.
Loki realized the ordeal was over, at least for now. He looked around, puzzled to not see Thor hovering over him. He blinked wearily, then looked up at Darcy.
Darcy, on the other hand, wore a strictly unapologetic look as she frowned down at him. She was holding an object- some black contraption with two strings that led to the other pieces that had apparently attached themselves to his chest. “What?” he tried to scramble to his feet. He stumbled for a moment in the process, but recovered quickly enough and tried to tower over her. It wasn’t hard, but by the sudden challenging look she got and her arms crossing over her chest, he had his hands full with someone who wasn’t going to take that.
“Look. That, is a warning. I had to do it with Thor because he was weird in the beginning but now that I’m used to your guys’ nonsense, I’m moving on. So if you mess around, there’s more where that came from. And that was the low setting," Darcy warned him.
“You pathetic little worm, you think-“ He stopped short. Hold on. That… device was Thor’s powers all In the power of her hands, and did she just…? “You used this on Thor?” he cut himself off, and finally, finally, a real smile came to his face. “You used his own powers against him?”
Darcy opened her mouth, and it looked like she was about to give him an attitude, and then something clicked in her mind. “Well, yeah, I guess…”
Loki’s answering grin was downright predatory, and it felt so right being back on his face. “You, girl…” he began, and reached for the prongs. He got them off of himself with a small amount of difficulty and weaved them and the wires through his fingers for a moment. “Are going to have to teach me how to use this little contraption of yours.”
Darcy made a face. “Yeah, no, weirdo. Not gonna do that.” She yanked the wires out of his hand.
Loki watched her fix the device, then squared his shoulders. Admittedly, it was almost strangely poetic. It apparently only took some sense being shocked- Thor’s element, of all things, into him to get him out of his state, or at least mostly out of it.
It was enough to get him to think again, which was good. He honestly didn’t feel like these people were to blame for anything. He didn’t have any quarrel with them and had no desire to harm them. They hadn’t done anything truly life-threatening. Just brilliant. In fact, they were strangely accommodating to a person they continuously reminded themselves was a murderer. Well, that didn’t mean he couldn’t toy with them to try and get some sense of normalcy back in his life… new life, whatever… this was. Some small part of him wondered if he even wanted to go down this route if he had so been given a new attempt at life, but he pushed it back. He might not have been a true son of Odin, but he still was the God of Mischief and Lies. Of course he needed to do this. He picked up the mythology book from where he had dropped it and made himself look as comfortable as he could on the couch on the opposite side of the room. “Well, if his… house arrest I am under permits me to just… sit around and do nothing, I would like to take a look through this before I… go. With your man or without. I see there are no windows here, so… am I free to be alone? I trust you’ve hidden all your weapons by now.”
Erik and Darcy both made concerned facial expressions, then turned to each other and had a hushed conversation. Loki could only make a handful of phrases out- ‘Jane’s gonna kill us’, ‘if he could actually get out he would’ve done it by now anyway’, ‘will kill us anyway’, ‘you just tazed the man.’ When they glanced his way, he tried to look as enthralled with the first bit of the book as he could be.
After a few moments, the pair of them shuffled out, with a murmured ‘we’ll be back shortly’ to boot.
Loki, in turn, just turned back to the book. Sure, he was toying with them, but there was part of him that was dreadfully curious about what Midgardians knew about him, and… the others. He settled in. For a brief moment, the thought that doing just that might not be the wisest idea with what had happened, but he fought that concept back as well.
And so he found where the chapters involving Odin and his legend began, and started reading.
When the Universe decided that Darcy and her friends apparently needed to have another god literally drop into their lives, Darcy was fairly sure she was going to die. When it turned out to be the guy who had controlled the Metal Spinny Monster of Death, she was certain she was going to die. When she had found out Erik was giving Loki limited free reign, she was convinced she wouldn’t last the week, and when it was her turn to check on him after they left him for three hours (Jane had found out about the his free reign and bolted to go stock up on more scientific gear, so she had to step in for Jane’s shift) and heard a loud bang, she had made peace with her higher powers pretty damn quickly.
But then Death didn’t come.
In fact, the bang suddenly sounded very small, all things considered, but nothing had changed. She glanced around, still too petrified to look at where Loki probably still was, and found the mythology book on the ground near the door. He had apparently thrown it. When she looked his way, she found that he looked murderous, and was in the middle of pacing the room. She felt her life expectancy fade to negative one million all over again. “Uh…?”
“LIES!” he suddenly roared, not looking at her, but pacing harder. “Nothing but petty lies and slander! Oh, Odin, the mighty, powerful, perfect king who ran his kingdom perfectly! Thor, the golden son, the mighty warrior with his stupid friends! And Loki, the great trickster, who only served to make their lives miserable. Whose tricks served no other purpose than for cheap entertainment!” he yelled again, no words, just clear, angry pain, that Darcy felt. “I cannot escape it, even in an entirely different realm!” he continued.
Darcy watched him go from pacing the wall in two strides to sitting back on the couch, and she saw the anger change to what looked like full-on anguish, and despite not wanting anything to do with him, refusing to sympathize, she desperately wanted to know just what had happened before he fell. Why Thor wasn’t with him now, why they suddenly weren’t family anymore, when Thor had called them brothers and done anything to protect the man, even after the attack. And admittedly, when Loki looked up and his eyes looked glossy, she was at a loss on how to feel.
Loki flinched. “Just a monster, all the time. And this… they don’t even know what came after. Just out to ruin everyone. A monster. Such easy judgement with so little knowledge of the beast they set out to slaughter…” he continued. After a few moments, he finally looked at her. “Is that why all of you fear me so? You have nothing to go off of but this and… what happened between my brother and I?!”
Darcy was smart enough to not call out the murder thing again. She chose biting her tongue was probably the most opportune thing to do- at least for this situation. “I can leave-“
“You will answer me!” He countered.
“I don’t know!” she forced out, praying it didn’t sound like that much of a lie. “We’re all new to this god thing! I barely paid attention in that week in high school mythology!”
“Darcy?!” Erik called, all but barreling into the room.
Darcy all but bolted behind him.
Erik looked between them. “What’s going on?”
Loki scoffed. “I took your useless suggestion.” He glared down at the book to make his point.
Erik opened his mouth to reply.
Loki held his hand out. “I’m leaving.”
Erik raised his eyebrows. “Like I said, where will you go? We have-“
“It’s a desert. I have nowhere to go. I am still… not well. And even if I did, after the harm I caused before, I’m done. I have no desire to harm anyone if they are not in the way, as I have now told you numerous times. I am not as irrational as you people apparently know me to be. So let. Me. Go.”
Erik stared him down for a while, then stepped aside. “Then go.” He made a point of continuing to shield Darcy as he moved from the door.
Loki stalked out of it, and with a familiarity that unnerved the other two, found the front exit of their little setup and walked out.
“Well, that could’ve gone better…” Erik sighed.
“Totally your fault.”
“I’m well aware, Darcy.”
“… I’m not sure.”
“Jane is totally gonna kill us. Literally.”
“… Should we call the cops?”
“How far out is Coulson?”
“At least one more day.”
“… … .. We’re doomed. Earth is doomed.”
Chapter 4: Meeting
It had been a matter of hours since Loki had left the scientists’ home. He had left in search of the small settlement that he had seen as the Destroyer, going off of sight memory alone, found it, then just kept walking for as long as he could. He had ended up back in the desert with nothing around him, let out another scream that made his mind go blank, and that was that. After he came back to himself, he had looked up at the night sky outstretched, unchallenged above his head. For the first time in his life, he felt unbearably small. Days ago, he had fallen through its vastness for what felt likes ages, and it was only now that he fully acknowledged it. The sheer feeling of it sent him down to his knees. Thousands and thousands of miles above his head, outside this universe, his ‘family’ was probably celebrating Thor’s return, or coronation, or an upcoming war. They were most likely celebrating his death. He finally looked away. There was no sense in concerning himself with the affairs of people who weren’t his family. That had been the first step to him… breaking before.
He hated how easily he had lost his head before. It was a moment of crippling weakness. He didn’t have the time to unload on the worthless insects that were humans. He was above them as it was. Still, part of him acknowledged, they had made the effort to restore him. It was for selfish reasons, yes, but he was hardly one to judge something as a whole. A small part of him was tempted to go back to them, to have… something, but the rest was strongly against it. He needed some… semblance of a place to stay, now that his home wasn’t his home. He just wished Midgard wasn’t his only choice. And now he had this ‘Coulson’ person to deal with. By the sound of it, Coulson was like Asgardian men of science- so his life expectancy was low as it was if he stayed.
“Uh… Loki? Your Highness? … Dude?”
He flinched. Of course they would come to find him. Humans could never leave well enough alone. “What do you want, Mortal?”
“For you to take it easy until Coulson gets here… or for you to wanna figure out what you wanna do with your life while not killing anyone.”
“I do not wish to speak of this with you. It is none of your concern.”
“Well, it kinda is, considering you fell out of the sky when we were looking for Thor to come back. Anything other-worldly is our business now,” Darcy pointed out.
“Where is Selvig? I would much rather have his company. He knows when to silence himself,” Loki replied.
“He’s on the other side of town, looking for you,” Darcy replied.
“He left you alone with the possibility of you encountering the monster on your own?" he snapped, not looking at her.
“Dude, enough with the metaphors, man. I was raised by hippies. No one’s a monster, ‘can’t we all just get along’ and that stuff…” Darcy supplied.
Loki exhaled sharply, then held up his hands at his chest level. He turned them, back to palm, a couple of times, examining. “No, you wouldn’t know, would you?” he fell silent for a while, and then realized that the musing had gotten Darcy to be quiet for a while. Another few moments later, curiosity got the better of him. “Hippies?”
Darcy chuckled after a moment. “Hoo, boy. You’re the smart one and you still have a ways to go on… what was it- Midgardian lingo n’ stuff. Man, I can’t wait to introduce you to Pop-Tarts. Oh my God. I should teach you to drive!”
“And what makes you think I plan to stay here for that long?” Loki asked. He finally turned to look at her. “I am not here for your entertainment. I am here by chance, and I plan to leave as soon as… soon as…” he didn’t know. As soon as he found the means? As soon as he was back to his old self? Well, his newer self?
“Well, you’re powerless like Thor was, and it’s not like you have anywhere else to go…” Darcy pointed out. “Besides, it looks like you could use a bit of fun, especially after that meltdown.”
“ ‘Fun’? Fun? It’s quite reassuring to know I was correct in assuming I’m just a game to you."
“Dude, I wanna do something for you. People need breaks after near death experiences!” she answered. After a few indecisive moments, she closed the distance between them to sit next to him.
Loki went to turn to her, only to find that she had already walked over to stand shoulder to shoulder with him. “Why do you not fear me like the others? Selvig fears me, but he's careful and diplomatic. Thor’s woman avoids me, but you… you do not allow yourself to be willfully ignored.”
“I’ve dealt with too many bullies in my life to let one who’s probably a standard… neutral guy by your world’s standards bother me,” she admitted.
“Neutral," Loki repeated again and scoffed. "You’d be surprised,” Loki admitted quietly.
She shrugged. “Everyone deserves a second chance.”
“I don’t…” Loki replied.
Darcy sighed. “So what do you plan to do about it?”
“I’m not sure…”
Darcy looked around for a while. “And you… plan to just… stay out here in the desert ‘til you do?”
“If that’s what it takes.”
“Ugh,” Darcy grunted. She got up. “Come on, Mister Misery. I don’t know how you handled heat exhaustion, thirst and a buncha other stuff in Asgard, but it works a lot differently when you’re at least apparently mortal, almost just died, and are adjusting to a new climate.”
“What?” Loki began.
“Exactly,” Darcy insisted. She stood up and yanked on his arm. “Come on!”
Loki surprised himself by starting to rise with her, then stopped short. “And what of this… Coulson? I would not put it above you mortals to take me away and be experimented on.”
“We got Thor back from him, we can keep him in line with you.”
Loki finally understood. Coulson was the man he had to disguise himself as when he first checked in on Thor during his stay on Midgard. The man was quiet, calculating, but he could tell that there was something deeper hidden under the man’s surface. Admittedly, it was why he had chosen him out of the bunch, and not just because he was clearly the leader of the group stationed not far from where they were now. “Ah…”
Darcy, to her credit, caught the unusual response, given the statement, but tried not to show it and succeeded. “Look, if it’s anybody who’ll know how to handle this, it’s probably him.”
“And if he doesn’t?”
“Then Jane will,” Darcy replied without a hesitation.
“ ‘Thor’s woman’.”
“How would she…?”
“She’s an astrophysicist- studies the stars. She’s why we found out Thor was legit. If you wanna get home, or open up a portal thingee and go someplace else, we can do it.”
Loki studied her face for a moment, then leaned back. “You are one of the strangest women I’ve ever met… and I’ve met quite a few strange women.”
“Tell me something I don’t hear from at least five people every other week.”
“And if I acquiesce, you’ll… desist this… blind optimism, if I’m to stay in your care, considering I have no other option?” Loki asked.
“I’ll consider it.”
Loki nodded after a moment. “Then let’s see him.”
Honestly, Darcy had expected things to go south fast after he had agreed. She had expected another near death experience. But he had behaved, for the moment, and had simply sat down at the table Erik had set up and waited.
More so, she was surprised when Coulson had shown up looking far less stiff than he had the first time. Jane let him in, Erik was next to her and the pair made small talk. When she had stepped up to give him a piece of her mind, he had spotted Loki just as she was about to form the first few words, taken her iPod out of his pocket, held it out to her, and when she took it with a gleeful grin, he had brushed on past her and immediately sat down opposite the God of Mischief.
“So… my old acquaintances here tell me you’re Loki-“
“Brother of Thor. We did our research after his little vacation here.”
Darcy, to her credit, had no issue leaning over to him, hissing, “ixnay on the upidstay…” the same time Loki had growled, “not my brother,”
“Touchy subject. Got it," Coulson nodded. "That why you’re here? Thor and Odin kick you out of… your 'realm'?”
“Wasn’t exactly ‘kicked out’ as much as… fell out," Loki answered.
“So that explains the lack of a giant crater and lightshow, fancy.. writing on the ground," Coulson realized.
“Considering the crater was made by Mjolnir, I suppose not.”
Coulson studied him for a moment. "Sounds like Thor wasn’t our only visitor before if you knew about the hammer” Coulson replied.
“No, he wasn’t. I was present for a portion of his stay, but… I stayed closer to your facility. I would see to having better security checks, Agent Coulson. Your men didn’t think much of the unknown, identification-less visitor around the most important piece in your ‘investigation,” Loki supplied.
“Well, now that other-wordly visitors have increased since Thor’s stunt, you’ll be happy to know we have improved security.”
Loki merely grunted in response.
Coulson stared at him for a while. “You know, we planned to get Thor’s input on a few pieces of research with travelling realms and all the things that go along with it. He was too busy trying to end you to help us out, maybe you can. I mean, legend tells you are the smarter one.”
Loki scoffed.. “Do you really think flattery will get you anywhere?”
“It’s worked on others, why not you?” Coulson countered. “Point is, I’m here for some information that, as I’m out of… neutral informants for the moment, you’re my only shot at getting some answers about how you beings get here.”
Loki shook his head. “‘Fell’ hardly means willingly left. I had no other choice, and I don’t intend on going back, or staying here longer than needed. I assure you, sir, your precious Midgard is safe.”
“Yeah, well, that’s what Thor implied, and that was twenty minutes after a giant metal man took out half of the squad of men I had stationed out here, cars and all," Coulson countered.
“Ah, yes, sorry about that… misunderstanding. You were the only thing between Thor and I, and as you mentioned, I did want to ‘end him’, so…” Loki trailed off, then leaned back in his chair. It was supposed to throw the man off, get… some leg up on him since the mere condescension wafting off him set him right back to Odin talking down to him and Thor as a boy, and it brought him back to normal, in a way, so he needed to push back. And if owning up to that attack gave him the higher ground, so be it.
Coulson, unfortunately, was visibly unfazed. If anything, he looked bored with the information. After a moment, he looked down and smiled before looking Loki in the eye- the visual epitome of 'I know'. “I see what you’re trying to get at. So let me make this abundantly clear: I’m willing to work with you. I’m open to negotiation, if it comes down to that. My bosses aren’t. You help us out, we can help you with… mostly anything. You cross us, we have about thirty different weapons that can kill all kinda people, mortal or otherwise, and we won’t hesitate,” he threatened, not breaking eye contact once.
Loki stared right back for a while, then cracked a thoughtful smile of his own. Maybe he had underestimated the man. He had a spine, unlike so many others he had seen. He was right to think there was something deeper. For once, things might have been looking up. It was going to be fun. He leaned forward. “When do we start?”
Chapter 5: Left Unattended
“So… it’s as simple as… rings overlapping?” Coulson asked, attempting to come to terms with the fact that how… beings travelled from world to world was so simplistic, minus all the fancy names. He wasn’t holding back with air quotes, either. He took a small amount of pride in knowing that the action was throwing off Loki. The god had blown up his favorite truck from work, after all. He wanted some revenge for Betsy. But concerning the science, He really wished he had Fitzsimmons with him. Then again, they probably wouldn’t be able to handle the God sitting in front of him. Even with Loki… behaving, he still felt like having the gun trained on him under the table wasn’t be enough backup. “And you just… have people who charted a course and could just… pinball your way from ‘realm’ to realm?” he asked. When Loki made a face at the ‘pinball’ bit, he shrugged. “… Uh, make… connecting lines… neatly.” The metaphor was great, if he thought so himself, but explaining it- and simplifying pinball- not so great. “How’d you manage that? Is that why all your powers are debunked?”
“As I’ve mentioned time and time again to all of you, my fall was literal. Going through space like that drains the life out of you,” Loki explained. For a brief moment, he glanced over his shoulder, and Coulson was fairly sure he spotted Erik and Darcy shrink further behind a connecting wall overlooking their table.
“So it was… luck, that got you back here? The breaches in the portals just happened to be lined up?" Coulson asked.
“Horrendous luck, but yes. Coming here wasn’t the plan at all, and now I’ve to deal with it.”
“Well, considering you’ve got a bunch of different people who are well in their rights to kill you on sight and are choosing not to, I think you’re in pretty good shape,” Coulson admitted. Loki stared at him, and Coulson was a bit uneasy when Loki’s nostrils flared and his jaw visibly clenched. He had set something off and it was coming soon. His finger itched on his gun's trigger.
Loki continued to stare, then scoffed bitterly- no mirth, just honest pain and hurt. “I said it wasn’t intentional. I had intended… I did not plan to survive my fall.” He looked over his shoulder again when there was a feminine hiss of alarm. He turned his attention back to Coulson. “So imagine my dismay at landing here, the place Thor so loved in such a short time, and then ending up in the care of the ones who took him in. It’s not death, but it’s akin to it. And if that’s the closest thing to cessation I get, then so be it.”
“So you just plan to… sit around and do nothing with your life? Just accept it? Are you going to bother trying to survive? You’re a god, can’t you fix it?” Coulson asked.
“An additional cruel joke. I’m apparently powerless. No better than any of you mortals,” Loki replied.
Coulson eyed the god’s hand wearily when he raised it.
Loki flexed his fingers experimentally, then sighed darkly, still staring at them. “In fact it’s a wonder of mine as to why I appear human when…” he trailed off.
Coulson arched an eyebrow. “Run that by me again?”
Loki looked back at him and lowered his hand. “It’s none of your concern.”
“You like that answer, don’t you?” Coulson countered.
“When it’s sufficient,” Loki shot back.
Coulson smiled at the response, then got up. “I think we’re done here.”
“Finally,” the other man deadpanned.
Coulson chose to ignore that one, then walked back over to where Erik, Darcy, and Jane, who had snuck over moments ago, were. They had all retreated to the next room over. He exchanged looks with all of them for a while before he sighed heavily and shrugged. “Well, he’s certainly got less manners than Thor did. And we can work with some of the information he’s gotten.”
Jane muttered something under her breath.
Coulson turned his attention to Erik briefly. “If this situation works itself out, let me know. For what it’s worth, I’ll be keeping tabs on all of this and all of you just in case.”
“Oh, so we’re the criminals again?!” Jane blurted.
Coulson leveled her with a disapproving look. “No. I told you before: you never were. We just had some concerns about what we thought were unknowing civilians playing with stuff they had no understanding about. I was referring to your safety from the guy who tried to blow us all up, but if you want to see it that way…” Coulson shrugged, then looked to Erik again. "If or when this situation blows over, we actually might have a case of… well, potentially friendly other-worldiness that I’d appreciate your input into, Doctor Selvig,” he glanced Jane’s way, “You too, Ms. Fost-“
“Doctor Foster,” Jane snapped.
“Doctor Foster,” Coulson corrected. “Since I’m considering bringing you on and it is technically a job offer, I can say that we found something when we found Captain America not too long ago. It’s… I don’t even know what it is, other than it’s a monumental energy source and we need to know more about it.”
Erik nodded. “Sure, I suppose. But as you said, one thing after another.”
“Fair enough. I’ll be in touch.” He nodded a farewell at Erik and Jane, then went to leave before he stopped short. “Oh, and uh, Ms. Lewis- I had a couple of my scientists add a few gigs onto that iPod for you and improve the battery life. Least we could do.” He nodded again, then left the house.
The three of them stared at his retreating back for a while.
Darcy was the first to speak. “Huh… he’s weird,” she mused, then looked at the other two and beamed. “I like him.” When Jane and Erik gave her ‘are you kidding?’ looks, she frowned. “What?” When he walked away, it was her turn to sigh. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you that he was weird!”
Loki would’ve hated to admit it, but Coulson had a point, as far as he was concerned. As much as he wanted to die before, and even so now, if he was stuck there, there was no sense in moping. He had to adapt, whether he liked it or not.
He had heard Coulson say something about Captain America and his three companions hadn’t questioned the strange name. And if Coulson was speaking to him, Captain America must’ve been a being on par with him and Thor when it came to powers or legeng. Which got him thinking just how many cases like his and Thor’s actually existed.
Research. That was the key to success in getting his answers. Thor had never learned that. He flinched. He needed to stop thinking about Thor, that would help immensely. He turned his attention back to the task at hand. From his last visit he had gathered that books would hardly be helpful with current events. Technology would be the apt choice to find out about this Captain America. And by the sound of it, the Idiot Girl was the one who could help him with that.
So he asked, and shortly after, wished he hadn’t.
It had started going downhill the mere moment he had approached Darcy. He had walked over to her, opened his mouth to make the request, and she had met him halfway and punched him hard in the shoulder. If his powers were active he knew he wouldn’t so much as felt it. Without them, well, it wasn’t that bad, but enough to make the point that she was cross with him. “… Ow?”
“That is for being suicidal!" she snapped and jabbed a finger at his face for good measure.
She frowned at him. “No one deserves to think that way. At all. Even really, really bad people.”
Loki squinted at her, then racked his brain for a suitable response. “Would your world’s Hitler deserve-“
She closed the distance between her finger and his forehead in a hard poke. “You don’t even know that you have people who care about you and would be crushed if they lost you. Thor-“
“Then your mom or Frigga or whatever you call her now. Thor said she loved you, and you probably love her. Would you have wanted to do that to her?!”
Loki was halfway through realizing that it clearly wasn’t him the speech was really dedicated to. She had probably had some other mortal fool in their life that decided they weren’t fond of living (and who would be fond of it there, really?). He realized he actually sympathized with her. And to make things worse, he also knew she was right- at least to a point. Take Thor out of his life, take Odin, the Warriors Three, everything that he had hated, everything that had driven him to letting go, and Frigga was still there. She was his mother, like it or not. The others could all leave existence and he’d be happy. And then he realized they probably all thought he was dead. If Heimdall had survived, Loki doubted he would’ve told them that wasn't the case. She most definitely thought he was dead. At least Odin probably spared her the suicidal edge and claimed to kill him himself for being a traitor. He suddenly felt like he had been full on stabbed, and it nearly rivaled the pain he had experienced when he had first crashed back to Midgard. He noticed that Darcy was staring right back, looking like she wasn’t sure if she was going to live past the next minute again. He broke eye contact. His idea with Captain America could wait now. As pained as he was, showing it was still weakness against them. He couldn’t afford letting them see.
Darcy, once again, clearly had her life flashing nonstop before her eyes. She was brave when it mattered despite usually regretting it, he'd give her that.
Even that afterthought was enough to derail his spiral again, and he sighed. “I heard something about a ‘Captain America’- is he… did he go through something like this?”
Darcy blinked at him, thrown off from the tangent, but she recovered. “Not really, unless you mean like… powerful guy. Back in the day he got some… I dunno, superstrength from Iron Man’s dad and was a big war hero, but that’s it.”
Loki nodded slowly. “Can you… research it on…what was it, it a ‘computer’?”
She studied him again, then shrugged. “You’d have to learn about our technology one of these days. Come on.” She led him to the nearest desk and fired up the laptop that was on it.
She had explained that all that needed to be done was ‘type in the rectangle thing like this’ It seemed simple enough from there, but when she went on a tangent about ‘social media’ his eyes glazed over in disinterest, and thankfully, she had caught it, said as much, then went back to ‘Google’, whatever that was. “So you just wanna check out Captain America, you eavesdropper?”
Darcy turned to him. “Really? Coulson might just kill us. He’s probably tracking all of our technology’s search histories.”
“Yes, well, considering acting out of caution has gotten me this far in life, I have a new outlook on just how I deal with authority from any realm. If you’re that worried, let me deal with Coulson.” He, of course, had meant by violent means that he’d have to figure out in the meantime. Darcy seemed to catch the underlying tone and gave him an uneasy look. He offered his usual, fake-as-ever-reassuring smile that usually put people at ease. “With words, I assure you.”
She looked fairly torn on believing him, and he had to admit he was impressed. She took the answer as fact for a minute, then turned back to the laptop, then glanced at him one final time in hesitation before she went back to it. “Whatever. So what do you want to know about Cap?”
“Whatever I can,” Loki answered. After a beat, he squinted at her. “ ‘Cap’?”
“It’s… kinda sorta his nickname. In History classes we learned all about him and like, every single textbook mentioned his soldier friends called him ‘Cap’ so it’s kinda stuck over the decades in everyone’s brains.”
“History books, decades...” Loki mused. “So… he’s dead, then?”
“Yeah, he basically sacrificed himself when he was flying a plane that turned out to be transporting-“ she stopped short. “Uh, someone he thought was HYDRA…” she finished. She squirmed for a moment, turned the part of the ‘laptop’ that was projecting the image away from him, typed something, then turned it back. He noticed that several of the texts that were there before were absent, but there was no sense in asking about it. She had done something to change it. So this Captain had been hiding something dangerous. Darcy's attempts at keeping things from were at least decent. He respected that, but now he just had something to dig for. She finally continued. “But yeah, he died around World War 2-“ finally, something familiar, Loki realized “-That is, if you don’t believe the conspiracy theories that the guy’s still alive and living in Canada or whatever.” Her jaw dropped a bit. “I probably shouldn’t have said that out loud…” she murmured. Then, after a longer beat, “whatever. You’d probably find out anyway. Well, take your pick: “’Captain America: Early Life to Death’, ‘The Star Spangled Man: Fact or Fiction’, ‘Is Captain America Really Dead?’, or ‘Captain America and the Howling Commandos: A History’ ?” she asked.
“… I suppose start off with the… positive ones?”
Darcy clicked on the first link, then leaned back and let him read on.
He did, trying to ignore Darcy staring at him, then the screen and back every so often. He picked up most of what she was doing, so after a while, he managed to navigate his way through the history and current events for… ‘other worldly’ heroes and such. Captain- died crashing a plane into the sea. Howard and Tony Stark- father and son geniuses who had a perfect grip on technology, and the latter had built a series of… powered armors in order to help save people and such. Then there was the Hulk- freak laboratory accident. All of these ‘other worldly’ things were either man-made or had enough evidence to be myth. No one could help him. No one would understand. All he had were these… fools. Well, two brilliant fools and a girl who was apparently in dire need of friendship of any sort.
He hated that he actually seemed torn on just how he felt about the situation: he was starting to respect them- maybe even like them. He thought he’d be fine on his own, but he was getting to realize that wasn’t the case. He allowed himself the thought that it was no wonder Thor had gotten attached to them so fast, they were so dreadfully alone in the mortal world.
There was suddenly hard, calculated walking behind them.
“Darcy, what’re you doing?!”
Doctor Foster. Probably angry that Darcy was showing him how to work a wealth of knowledge. Part of him thought that he wouldn’t have done it for a dangerous, other-wordly being either. Foster was being the only truly smart one of the group. He respected her most. He didn’t bother turning around when he sensed her come up behind them, all in Darcy’s space.
“He heard us about Captain America. He was curious. Look, the guy can’t be clueless forever! He’s gonna find out somehow!” Darcy objected.
“No, he’s gonna stay clueless!” Jane countered and all but smacked the laptop’s screen down.
Now that got to him. He finally turned. “You prefer me ignorant? What if learning the commonalities between our worlds will help improve your world's science? It could help bring Thor back to you.” That’s what all this was about, wasn’t it? He could be civil, he could grow to like them, but at the end of the day they really wanted Thor, especially her, there was no doubt about that.
Jane crossed her arms over her chest and scowled. “Thor said he’d be back on his own.”
The corner of Loki’s mouth twisted up in a cynical smile. Yes, well, he had seen to it that Thor wouldn’t return- at least in the easy way. He doubted Thor would have the intelligence or even drive to find any of the others. “I’m afraid that’s not true, considering our little fight… complicated coming back by the Bridge he no doubt told you about. If he’s determined enough, it’ll take quite a while to find any other means, considering I’m the only one who knows of them,” he admitted. He saw Darcy gawk at him out of the corner of his eye.
Jane shook her head and lowered her arms- still defiant, but the sentiment had done the trick. “He will. He promised me.”
And again, he was torn. How badly had Thor affected them? This woman, this… admittedly brilliant, beautiful woman had played right into Thor’s hands. He knew Thor might have felt genuine affection, but he would tire of her, if he hadn’t already. He already did. He had watched too many women that even he had been fond of fawn over Thor time and time again, and he’d been oblivious. And then there were his precious promises. He broke those more than he broke hearts. “Doctor Foster, let me make something clear for you. Do not count on Thor’s word. Because if it is one thing I have learned from being in his shadow all my life, is that he never keeps his word.”
Jane stared back at him for a moment, then to his surprise, she advanced on him and went as far as jabbing a finger into his chest. “You know, maybe that’s true, but don’t try to pull anything and play us just because he hurt you. So he clearly broke promises to you, whatever they were. To think that you think that justifies murder, his murder, and murder, any harm you’ve done to your actual home is astounding!”
Darcy was looking between them, jaw down, speechless.
Loki continued. “You heard Selvig. Gods have different standards than humans.” It was a lie, a clear lie, and if Jane was the only one on the same page with him about it, then so be it.
“It’s also called decency, but I doubt you’d know that,” Jane countered.
Darcy finally stood up; shot up, was more like it, in order to drag Jane away. Erik emerged from the other room and met them halfway to give them an extra dose of speed.
Loki watched them go, and then sat back down. He enjoyed the silence for a couple of minutes, then tired of it and turned back to the laptop and opened it, then powered it on again. He didn’t know how long he had, but in what little he had observed from Darcy using it, he had a basic grip on it. He needed to find out just what she had hid from him. Maybe that could give him more answers.
When they didn’t check on him for a while afterward, he relaxed a bit and worked harder. And then after another few minutes, he found the ‘setting’ that he had seen her access to stop him from seeing something. He investigated further, then found a box marked with words that were blocked out of the searches. There was only one:
Now, wasn’t that interesting.
Chapter 6: The Dangling Conversation
Darcy knew leaving Loki alone with the unlimited power that was the internet was pretty dumb. Hell, she had even expected him to still be at the internet, down some rabbit hole of “how to” videos on mass destruction. But she had gone back to the room and he was back on the couch, reading the mythology book he had thrown across the room the other day. She wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. “Yo.”
He glanced her way. “Your people have no idea what they’re dealing with concerning this Captain America. Coulson’s task is a lost cause. The man is dead.”
“What? Why?” Darcy asked, a little too quickly for her own comfort.
Loki scoffed, and as fake as it was, the smile that it caused felt strange on his face. “You do realize I’m a great deal more intelligent than Thor, yes? I observe and find missing pieces when someone is keeping something from me,” he pointed out. “The tesseract…” he continued, “It’s dangerous. Odin- the fool- he took it as yet another trophy for a victory he gained by cheating. We could barely contain its power. Mere mortals will not be able to, either.” Truthfully, he didn’t know why he had given up knowing about the Tesseract so quickly, but seeing as he had nothing to lose- or nothing to lose until he figured out this place more, he was willing to focus on the less important details.
She shrugged. “Well, good thing it’s either at the bottom of the ocean or super pressurized right now.”
“It won’t stop it if it’s used improperly,” Loki mused. “Mortals always have a knack for doing so.”
“Well, that’s not our generation’s fault, at least,” Darcy countered.
They let silence pass between them for a few moments. That was until Jane stormed into the room, arms full of notebooks. She proceeded to dump them on the table in front of Loki. “You. You explained it to Coulson simply enough, I missed half of it, look at all of this. Tell me if I’m right, if I’m onto something.”
“I told you, Doctor Foster. Thor isn’t worth it." Loki cut her off.
“And travelling between realms isn’t?” Jane countered. “You keep pointing out that mortals are primitive, ignorant, whatever negative adjective you choose. Newsflash, a lot of us want to learn. The amount of knowledge that we could get from… universal exploration or communication is limitless!"
Loki actually laughed at that. “You vastly overestimate other realms’ willingness to be civil with others.”
“Yeah, well, maybe humanity needs to learn that. We could still use the knowledge it could bring,” Jane countered.
Loki studied her for a moment, then held out his hand.
Jane handed the notebooks over.
Loki glanced at them, then opened to a random page. “I might need a lesson in your world’s symbols when it comes to mathematics, but… well, it’s not like you’ll let me hear the end of it if I refuse.”
Jane crossed her arms over her chest and clenched her jaw.
Loki broke eye contact with her, then set the notebooks down. When Jane didn’t move, he turned his attention back to her. “By all means, continue to stare. That will surely get me to read faster.”
Jane huffed, turned on her heel and stormed off.
Loki looked Darcy’s way.
Darcy shrugged. “She’s not really… all that social. Too much space n’ stuff.”
“I see that,” Loki nodded, motioning at the notebooks. “Really? All this over wanting to see a… temporary love interest?”
“Kinda sorta, but I promise it’s more for the space knowledge, like she said,” Darcy offered. When he arched an eyebrow, she shrugged. “What? Give her some credit. Give human women credit. We’re not all about the boys.”
“In my experience that’s not exactly true,” Loki countered.
She rolled her eyes. “Hey, your bad luck with the fairer sex isn’t our fault.”
“Bad…?!” he gawked at her, then shook his head. “You truly are unbelievable for a mortal.”
“Been called worse,” she shrugged.
He let himself laugh at that one.
A knock on the entryway interrupted them, and they turned to see Erik leaning in.
The older man waved with his free arm, then nodded at his other arm, which was holding what looked like a small pile of clothing. “I uh, picked these up for you. Figured you might want to get out of the… armor,” he explained. “I have a nephew around your size and build. Had to ask him for sizes. If any of them are wrong, just let me know.”
“You’re giving them to me just… like that?” Loki asked.
Erik shrugged. “I told you we’re humane.”
“The Asgardian Lost Dog League,” Darcy added.
Loki arched an eyebrow at Erik.
The man shrugged. “If you’re stuck here for who knows how long, you might as well start some semblance of a life. You know, one that doesn’t scream ‘drifter from another world.’”
“Oh! I can talk to my fake I.D guy again!” Darcy blurted. She avoided Erik’s disapproving look and turned to Loki again. “So, do you like the name Paul, John, Rob or Barry?” she asked. When she got confused looks in return, she made a face. “What? Ringo likes me, he lets me pick out the names that go on the I.D’s! I mean, I got ‘Donald’, didn’t I?”
“… Your I.D guy’s name is Ringo?” Eric asked.
“Not important. Loke, you want a name?”
“Never call me that again, and no, not particularly.”
“Richard “Dick” Smith it is…” Darcy sighed.
Loki watched her fish her 'cell phone' out of her pocket and pointed it at him. “What-“ there was a click, and he felt quite uneasy when she beamed and nodded. “What was that?”
“You’ll find out,” she countered. She got up and left without another word.
Loki watched her, then looked at Erik again. “False identification. If I remember correctly, that’s… I believe the term is illegal here. I didn’t see Thor hanging around with criminals coming."
“Criminal? No. Worse… she’s a future politician,” Erik replied, then after a moment, glanced back Loki’s way and chuckled.
Loki joined him a moment later. “She wants to be a world leader?”
“Not world. She tells us she wants to start off small. Town counsel and all that.”
“Oh, something tells me that girl will go all out,” Loki mused.
“I know,” Erik agreed. “Tells me too,” he elaborated. He nodded at the clothes again. “Get those on. I’ll take you to dinner, too. Get a better lay of the land- hopefully without a breakdown this time.”
Loki studied the man, then nodded. “I might just like that. And… thank you, I suppose.”
Erik nodded, then turned on his heel and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Loki came out a matter of minutes later. The jeans fit fine, but he was all but swimming in fabric with the shirt- not that Donald’s shirt would’ve been much better, but at least it was something. He looked… plain.
Erik came in to check on him. “There we are. Now you look less like a man out of time and more like… well, another stray that us strange scientists took in.”
Loki frowned, then looked down at himself. He had a point, yet he wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not at that particular moment. Still, something in him stirred when he realized the other man was trying. He was being kind. He didn’t quite understand the pull on his heartstrings that caused. “So…?”
Erik motioned towards the front door, then paused. “You know, I was going to take you to Izzy’s since that’s… one of the only places in town, but that may be a bad idea.”
“The uh, diner you… killed Thor in front of and did a fair bit of damage to.”
“Ah,” Loki nodded. After a few moments of silence passed, he shrugged. “… Call it making amends and take comfort in the fact that it wasn’t exactly me who tried to destroy the place itself. And… there is the fact that I couldn’t do anything now, even if I tried.”
Erik considered the facts, then shrugged. “I… suppose that’ll do then.”
Loki was about a third through his plate of rather atrociously cooked bacon and eggs when he decided he couldn’t take Erik’s staring anymore. They had started in surprisingly companionable silence, despite the weary look Erik kept giving him- more specifically his hand, holding the steak knife. The object could’ve been far sharper to cause even more concern, but Loki had been willing to decide against telling him so. “Problem?”
“Wha- no- I-“ Erik sputtered, then laughed, and Loki detected the slightest nervous edge to it. “I’m just… impressed with your… table manners, I guess. No mugs or plates being broken, you’re pacing yourself- Thor did everything by tradition and went through half of our pantry and fifty dollars’ worth of breakfast when he got here.”
“Yes, well, ou- his mother taught me all world’s manners, and… well, also to not eat like an animalistic brute.”
Erik’s answering chuckle was genuine this time, and Loki wanted to stare with pride when he realized he heard agreement in there, at least for the end comment. He took another bite of food, then watched Erik turn his attention back to the knife. He hesitated, then lifted the knife between his pointer and middle finger and twirled it slightly- an old trick from when he was bored with his own daggers. He heard Erik inhale sharply and let the smallest hint of a smile grace his own lips. “Calm yourself, Selvig. If I wanted to harm you, I would’ve done it by now.” He squinted. “I thought you were open to giving me the ‘benefit of the doubt’ as you mortals call it.”
Erik glanced around when Loki had said the ‘mortals’ bit, and upon being satisfied no one had heard, he shrugged. “Cautious optimism. I’m open, but you haven’t really given me any reason to trust you.”
“Presently I haven’t given you any reason not to, either,” Loki pointed out.
“Yes, well, considering what you put us through before, you’ve got a negative lean on a neutral start,” Erik countered.
Loki studied the man for a while, and then after a beat turned the knife in his hand so he was holding the top of the bladed end and the handle was out to Erik. When Erik arched an eyebrow, he waved the knife a bit. “A gesture of good faith, then.”
Erik took the knife carefully, and subtly elbowed his own knife a couple of inches back away from Loki. They sat in silence for a while again, then Erik finally spoke. “So… what happened up there with Thor after he left us? What did we miss? What has you so upset?”
Loki clenched his jaw. It was a loaded question. The man would hardly understand any of it. But again, he was trying to see his side of the story which was a damn lot more than anyone else had done for him. “I… am not Odin’s son by blood…” he began. It was the easiest to say because now he had realized he had wanted that so many times since his childhood and now he had gotten it.
Erik had the nerve to laugh for a moment. “Yes, well, you’ve established that for us any time we mention Thor.”
Loki felt the urge to lash out at the man, but fought it back. “There’s another realm… Jotenheim, home to beings called frost giants, and… I am their former leader’s son.”
“Former?” Erik asked, and when Loki set him with a look that was part anger, part guilt, part trying to silence him, he understood. “Ah.”
Loki nodded carefully, then tried to decide how to simplify it next. He tried not to look as disgusted with himself and his ‘family’ as he thought of it, but knew he had failed. He did have to be careful with some of the details, anyway. “Odin stole me after a battle like one of his damned, cursed trophies… raised me as his own. My entire existence was a damned lie. I was forever in Thor’s shadow for a reason. I was never really his, so why should he treat me like it?” he spat. He took a moment, then sighed. “I found out when Thor and I were in a battle with the frost giant army. I- one touched me, and I just... I looked like one of them because of it. I made the mistake of asking Odin, he admitted what I was- my true parentage… I just... I needed it to end. I wanted revenge-"
“And that’s where we came in,” Erik mused.
Loki hesitated, but nodded. “And as you know that fell through. Thor bested me, as you know- as you’re probably still relieved to find.” He hadn’t wanted to get that deep, why was he? He continued all the same: “I failed. I always will fail. But… the worst part… after all that, after trying to prove myself, after I took down Laufey for Odin… it still meant nothing.” He laughed bitterly. “Odin chose Thor over me like he always would- always will, and I just… I didn’t want any more of it, so… I ended it. Or tried to, and here we are.”
Erik stared at him for a while.
Loki read every single emotion. He knew the man was too smart. Erik knew there were details he wasn’t getting into.
And yet, the man leaned back. “You poor bastard.”
Loki scoffed. “I thought we’d established I don’t want your pity.”
“It’s not pity. It’s just… understanding,” Erik admitted. “I… can’t imagine that, living so long with that much spite and.. ignorance around you," Erik mused. When Loki made a face, he sighed. "Thor told us Odin had always been tougher on you. He seemed to think it was out of love."
"There's not a loving bone in that bastard's body," Loki cut him off.
Erik nodded. "Even so, it was just his theory. Point is, it was all for a reason, then wasn't it? Just not the one you had thought it was. I'm not condoning it. It must’ve been terrible.”
“It was…” Loki murmured.
Erik leaned forward. “You’ll get through- you’ll learn to live with it.”
Loki scoffed again. “How would you know?”
“Life experience,” Erik replied.
Loki couldn’t tell if the man was being genuine, and that bothered him endlessly. More silence passed between them, and he settled for shoving his food back and forth with his fork. Out of instinct, he tensed when someone came up from behind him and he glanced up.
She was older, redheaded, and had ‘Izzy’ written across one side of her dress.
The woman smiled warmly at him, then turned her attention to Erik. “Hey, Doc. Who’s this? New intern?”
Both men glanced each other’s way for a moment. Erik was the first to attempt to speak, but he choked for a moment. “Yes, he’s the new intern, uh-“
There was a loud shuffle suddenly, and then Darcy was shoving her way into the empty spot in the booth next to Loki and shoving something into his hand. “Totally just found your I.D in my car- Hey, Izzy, how are you?" she greeted, then looked at Loki again. "You need to keep track of your stuff, dude.”
“Sorry?” Loki countered, taking the I.D from her.
She nodded, then proceeded to steal Erik’s fork and took a couple of stabs at the eggs on Loki’s plate and went to work shoveling them all into her mouth.
Loki shared a knowing look with Erik. "Like that," he answered.
Erik chuckled, then refused to meet Darcy's eyes when she frowned in confusion at him.
“So Darcy, you’re not the low kid on the totem pole anymore, huh? You gonna show this one the ropes?” Izzy asked.
“That’s the plan,” Darcy confirmed, threading one arm around Loki’s elbow.
The God tensed, but forced a smile toward Izzy.
“Good! Best of luck then, Hon.”
He smiled and nodded, and she went on her way.
The three of them finished the meet-up. Darcy left to bring the van back around, leaving the pair of them alone again.
“Are we going to get the full story?” Erik asked hesitantly.
“Perhaps,” Loki murmured.
Erik smiled weakly, then nudged his shoulder.
Loki took a deep breath. “I- Selvig?”
Loki paused, considering. Then, “Everything. Listening,” he added. “I… I’m not used to someone giving a damn.”
Erik nodded, then stood up carefully. “Come on, before she starts honking the horn. She loves honking the horn.” He dug cash out of his wallet, put it on the table, and ushered the god out of the building.
When the three of them made it back to their site, To Erik and Darcy’s surprise, Loki delivered on his promise. He went right back to the den to take a look at Jane’s notes. Erik and Darcy were pleased with that, considering they could talk again.
“So how’d dinner go? Find out anything about how he ticks?”
Erik sighed. “He’s… dangerous, still, in a lot of ways. We’ve noticed, but he’s… entirely devoid of any responsibility for what he did. It’s all Thor and his father’s fault. We’re still gonna have to tread lightly, but… he’s… getting better in a short time. There’s hope. We just need to listen.”
Darcy wandered back over to him when he reached the other end of the living room. “So are we sure about being nice to this guy? Like, I’m all for… ya know, appeasing the god, but… yeah, still not sure about it.”
“We’ve been over this. I doubt he deserves it, but right now, we’re all he’s got, and by the sound of it, he’s convinced no one’s been there for him. If we prove him wrong, that… may work in our favor. And his,” Erik countered. “Friendship can do amazing things.”
“Yeah, well, so can attempted mass murder,” Darcy sighed.
Erik shrugged in agreement. A moment later, his phone rang. He checked the caller I.D and groaned. “How did- ugh, this can’t be good.”
“What can’t be good?” Darcy asked, but the man was already answering the phone and heading in the opposite direction. “Erik?!” she followed him til he reached his room, and then stopped short when he promptly shut the door in her face. “Rude… and now I’m talking to myself.”
Now all there was left was to wait to see what this nonsense was about. Something told her that her life was about to get complicated again.
Well, the college credits had been nice while they lasted.
Chapter 7: The Calling
Darcy turned what she had finally realized was the real right turn she was supposed to take to S.H.I.E.L.D’s holding cells. She had already had a strong dislike for Coulson (but the whole giving-back-her-now-souped-up-iPod thing was pretty cool), and his people telling her conflicting instructions on how to get to the guy who had voluntarily locked himself up was getting annoying. It had been a week of her wandering around for the most part and paying Loki occasional visits, and it sort of annoyed her that she was getting used to it already.
A week ago, they had been called in to SHIELD HQ early because apparently the pieces of Tesseract from the crash site (pieces? Darcy wasn’t sure) had been pulsing ridiculous amounts of energy, and Coulson had gathered all of the scientists he knew. He had also called Loki a threat and had tried to convince the others to keep him back at the house. However, Loki had offered up his knowledge on the topic, so Coulson and him had made an agreement- the god would play nice under ‘supervision’ at HQ, and he’d give them all he’d know. Coulson had been openly suspicious, and even Darcy had thought those were weird terms, but they had gone through with it.
She arrived at the entryway to the holding cells. She called on her waitressing skills from back in the day to balance the box she had in one hand to open the door. She walked through, then spotted Loki’s outline leaning against the front pane of the glass cell a few paces away. She walked over to it and waved at the guard at the door. “Hey, got a delivery for Loki."
“I need to check it,” the guard pointed out.
Darcy made a face. “Seriously? It’s just lunch for the poor guy. He didn’t do anything.”
“Right, so controlling a robot creature that almost killed ten agents is nothing?”
Darcy huffed. “Fine. Whatever…” she opened the box. “Plain pizza, see?” she jiggled the box. “Nothing above, nothing below…” she moved the box repeatedly to prove her point.
The guard studied her for a moment, then looked at the pizza, then back. He shook his head and turned to enter a code into the lock panel.
Darcy snorted. “Yeesh, Wade, lighten up.”
“Ward,” the guard corrected.
“That’s what I said,” Darcy countered before going inside.
Loki looked like he wasn’t sure if he should be disappointed or accepting of his visitor. “They still have you here?”
“Eh, Erik and Jane kinda made us a package deal,” Darcy explained. “Which includes you, in case you were curious,” she clarified, and set down the pizza box on his bed.
Loki made a face at it. “What is that?”
“Lunch. Try it, it might be the first thing you actually like with Midgard food.”
“Highly unlikely,” Loki murmured.
“Would you just eat it?!” Darcy demanded, getting a slice for herself. “For a God you sure do whine a lot, you know that?”
“And you, Foster and Selvig are far too charitable.”
“Yeah, well, sue us,” Darcy shrugged and sat down on his bed. When Loki just blinked at her, she rolled her eyes and nudged the pizza box with her thigh. “Well, go on.”
Loki stared at her again, then sighed and opened the box. He frowned at the food for a moment, then took one of the slices. When he felt Darcy staring, he looked back at her. “Why do you insist on staring at me any time I eat?”
“Because I’m gonna find out when you’re lying to me about hating everything or I’m gonna find out what you like one day or another.”
Loki took a bite and chewed slowly for a few moments, then swallowed hard. He let silence pass for a while, then, “it’s not… terrible.”
Darcy sized him up for a moment, then shook her head. “Not good enough.”
“Because now I can’t tell if you’re lying because I told you that. I mean, you are the god of lies or whatever.”
Loki gawked at her and scoffed again. He arched an eyebrow when ‘Ward’ apparently did the same from his spot outside. “That fool does smile," he mused to Darcy.
“Only took him a week,” Darcy agreed quietly. She sat on the cot in the corner so he could sit, and the pair of them stared out the window for a while.
Loki opened his mouth to speak again when suddenly he jerked bodily. It was enough to have Darcy jump upright and Ward to turn around and point a gun squarely at him. He jerked again, then flinched and fell to his knees. Mind numbing pain had started pulsing through his body. He looked up at Ward and motioned at Darcy. “Get her out of here!”
Ward didn’t waste a moment. He unlocked the door, bolted inside, got Darcy and went right back out, but turned sharply to see what else was going on.
Darcy, on the other hand, pressed herself up against the glass. “Loki?! Lo, you okay?! What the He-holy shit, your hands are blue, actually blue, what the hell?!”
Loki frowned at her, then looked down to see that she was absolutely right. He knew that blue. It was deja-vu, staring down at something that was still so unfamiliar at the same time. He turned so his palm was facing up, and a faint blue, different than his Jotun skin, was glowing, pulsing along his veins. He knew that blue, too. “Mister Ward, I suggest you get back to your men and Selvig…”
“If you did anything…” Ward began.
“I’ve been sitting here in plain sight for the last few hours, I have done nothing, and I am the only one who may have the slightest idea of what is going on, and if I am correct your people are in far more danger than I am- if this is even danger!” Loki hissed.
Ward looked between Loki and Darcy.
“She’s safe with me, go!” Loki repeated. He didn't have as long as he wished to dwell on the fact that he had spoken the truth before he was hit with another wave of pain. He gritted his teeth against it and groaned.
Ward hesitated again, then tore off down the hallway that would eventually get him near the labs.
Darcy started pacing the length of the front of the cell, and Loki wasn't sure how to feel when she looked concerned. “Dude, is that…?”
“This…” Loki began, looking forlorn as he held up his hand. Suddenly, it started changing back to his mortal flesh color, and he frowned all over again. “Was… my true form,” he continued. The glowing lines glowed brighter, this time around in harmony with another wave of pain. He exhaled sharply. “And if I’m not mistaken… this… is… evidence of the tesseract.”
“Plain English, please?”
“I don’t know myself, but before… when… “ he shook his head. “I… had… extremely momentary custody of a small… piece of the Tesseract, and… it looked like this.” He stretched his fingers out, then put his hand down when the glowing faded. “Something’s wrong. S.H.I.E.L.D should not have toyed with things they don’t understand.”
“Bro, slow down, what’s your theory?” Darcy asked.
“I haven’t had… myself back, I haven’t had any reaction to anything like that, and then we find out that you mortals are toying with the Tesseract and submitting it to varying trials, and suddenly that happens, to the only place I’ve had contact with the Tesseract…”
“I don’t follow.”
“As you’ve found out, the Tesseract has had many owners before it fell into Midgardian hands. If that happened to me when I had it for but a moment, and I sensed it here, not physically far from me…” he trailed off. “You mortals are in immeasurable danger, if its previous owners will come to re-collect it for themselves. This may have started a war, simply because you Midgardians enjoy playing with fire.”
“Right, war, no pressure,” Darcy murmured. “So… we gonna go see what’s up or not?”
“I don’t think it wise,” Loki replied.
“Well, considering you’re probably the smartest guy in the building on the subject, and this whole prisoner thing was bullshit anyway…” she practically marched over to the door and entered the number code that she had spotted Ward use before. When Loki leaned over to frown at her expectantly, it was her turn to scoff again. “What? Dude really should’ve been more careful about who could see that, but ‘oohh, woman know nothing, woman won’t figure basic numbers and finger motions out, oooh’, ‘me no care about the little details because me a Big Bad Agent who got stuck with babysitting duty, blehhh’” she imitated, dropping her voice as low as possible.
Loki tried to hide his answering smile but failed miserably, then made his way through the doors. “If I get shot or worse, I’ll find a way to come after you.”
“Bring it. Anyway, I think we should lead with the whole ‘you messing with this thing may cause a war, my hand just lit up like a deep sea creature so listen to my theory before you go all murdery on us’ before the whole ‘I let you out’ thing,” Darcy instructed.
“Fine then,” Loki agreed.
After six wrong turns, three near misses with guards doing rounds, and a battle of wits with a faulty ID card reader, they had made it to the labs.
The pair hadn’t counted on arriving to see that everyone who had been around the cut of the Tesseract to be on the floor. They all looked winded, and like they had been thrown a matter of feet, and the equipment around them showed similar signs.
Coulson was the first one on his feet, and was the first to spot them as well. “What is he doing out of containment?! How is he out of containment?!”
“Oversight, sir!” Ward called from one of the far corners. “If I had-“
“I highly suggest you end your experiments with the Tesseract, Coulson!” Loki cut the younger man off and marched over to the one he addressed. “That pulse got to me, too. I have no proof of it-“
“His hand went all glowy and blue!” Darcy chimed in.
“Everyone but Foster, Selvig and this one, clear out!” Coulson ordered as he looked Loki in the eye.
The rest of the crowd shuffled out. Coulson waited until he was certain they were all gone before he walked closer to Loki. “Alright, tell me what you know.”
Loki nodded, then motioned at the Tesseract, that was now hanging by sparking equipment. “Your people toyed with this, it gave out some sort of energy, and then…” he glanced at his hand to find that it was entirely back to normal- or, how it had been the last few weeks, anyway. He turned his attention back to Coulson and motioned at the Tesseract. “May I? Feel free to hold me at what was it, gunpoint?”
Coulson hesitated, then nodded. “Fine. Get as close as you can to prove your point.”
Loki mock bowed, then took a few steps back towards the Tesseract.
Darcy watched him just as carefully as Coulson was. She glanced the agent’s way, and he looked unsure on weather to focus on keeping her and Erik, who had just made it over, out of danger or getting ready to tackle Loki to the ground.
Loki finally reached the Tesseract and extended his hand.
The Tesseract pulsed again, but it was gentler, no damage was done. Sure enough, Loki’s hand started turning blue again, and he visibly rocked on his feet. However, he turned back to the others fairly quickly and held out his hand to show them. “I think it’s calling to people who have had it in their possession at any time.”
“You- what?” and Coulson forced out. “And why?”
“You recall what I told you about the other realms other than your own?”
“I’ve spared you some details. I’m not from Asgard. I’m not like Thor. I’m from Jotenheim. And this… this is… what I really look like, before… come to think of it, I don’t even know why I’m not like this now,” he admitted after a moment.” He swayed again and dropped his hand, then let Erik come over and guide him away from the Tesseract.
Coulson and Darcy followed. When Loki looked like the weakness had passed, Coulson continued. “You said you felt it, felt it how?"
“As in I sensed it here. I felt it here. Which potentially means everyone who’s ever had it in their physical possession knows as well,” Loki explained. “And if they come for it, you Midgardians are in for an all out… inter-realm war.”
Coulson raised his eyebrows. “War. Great. No pressure.”
“That’s what I said!” Darcy added.
Coulson sighed. “So… if it comes to that, how many… races? Are we talking about?”
“Not counting long-dead ones? Still far too many for one planet’s forces to handle,” Loki explained. “You people have made a terrible mistake trying to harness the Tesseract.”
Coulson scoffed. “Yeah, well, that’s the popular theory…”
Loki, Darcy and Erik all turned to him, puzzled.
“I- you’ll find out eventually,” Coulson admitted.
“If there may be a war coming and you want us involved in the science bit, I think it’s time we found out now, don’t you?” Erik cut in.
Coulson studied them all for a moment, then sighed. “I uh… look, we aren’t working on finding Captain America, we’ve got him. And now he’s about to get uh, thawed out just in time for this then, so… we’re in for an interesting few days.”
“Wait, so we’re gonna meet Captain America?!” Darcy asked, worry about the main subject matter of the conversation apparently temporarily forgotten.
“I… looks like that may be a possibility, yes.”
She squeaked in response and grabbed Loki’s arm , much to the god’s apparent displeasure. “This is gonna be so cool!”
Coulson gaped at her for a while.
Loki shook his head. “Her priorities are extraordinary.”
“I see that,” Coulson agreed. “So… how long do we have if your hunch is right?”
“Worst case scenario? A couple of Midgardian months.”
“Oh, short notice. Even better,” Coulson replied.
“You chose to mess with something you didn’t understand.”
Coulson merely grunted in agreement.
“I admit I’m surprised you’re hearing my theory out, Coulson,” Loki pointed out.
“Now we might have a way of double checking it,” the man explained. “But, more importantly, let’s get you out of here and the tech people back in.”
Loki put his hands up and headed for the door without a word, leaving the others to hurry after him.
Darcy was in back of the crowd, and had the only view of Loki risking a glance back at the lab doors when they had cleared the area. The fear that had been so clear there during the first few days of his stay had come back. He had been doing so well being civil, she had actually started to trust him. But now, just with that little glance, he had thrown everything away and not even known it. She just hoped that the last few days would count for something and he wouldn’t do anything stupid.
A ‘few interesting days’ indeed.
Chapter 8: Betrayal
Loki tensed for the third time at the sound of a gun being shifted behind them. They had remained at SHIELD HQ in order to wait for Captain America to show. He was starting to detest not being a prisoner in the area, considering he had felt safer in the cell compared to out in the open when every single person in the area didn't trust him.
Darcy leaned over. “Dude, they cleared you. They won’t shoot if they give you reason to.”
“Right, because according to your ‘news channels’ that idea has proven entirely true…” Loki countered.
Darcy gawked for a moment, then shrugged. “Fair point.”
“Easy, you two…” Erik chimed in from beside them.
Darcy sighed. “What, the guy’s like, one hundred, I mean I get precaution and stuff, but like, how evil could we be? How evil would we be to try to hurt an elderly man? If they found him all frozen like they said, I mean what assholes wouldn’t let time do its thing and kill the guy for them?”. The agents around them clearly didn’t like that sentiment judging by the looks she got, and she shrugged. “What? It’s true.”
“Not the time, Darce,” Jane replied.
Darcy harrumphed, then zipped up the hoodie she was wearing and shoved her hands in her pockets. “It’s also freezing, which is totally uncool. So Captain America was on ice, right? Is that why? Gotta keep the area cold? Like penguins at zoos and stuff?” she was met with silence again, and after a while, she rolled her eyes. “Man, even Coulson’s better company than this set. And when am I getting my phone back?”
“Not until you’re off the premises again, Ms. Lewis,” Coulson supplied from somewhere behind them.
They turned to watch him walk up, then he led them around one corner, waving off the guards that were at the door.
“Will it be souped up like the ipod?” Darcy asked.
“Not this time,” Coulson deadpanned. He scanned his I.D, then when the doors gave a telltale click, he opened the door. “Doctor Selvig, Foster, Ms. Lewis…” he began, then paused and looked at Loki.
Loki caught the meaning, and realized just how lost he was for an answer. “Just… Loki,”
Coulson nodded. “Loki, meet Captain America- Steve Rogers.”
Darcy followed him the last couple of steps, then stopped short when she saw a man who certainly wasn’t one-hundred years old standing in what looked to be a lab room. He was in his mid-thirties at most, blonde, ripped, beautiful eyes. He washer perfect idea of man, she mused, then tried to derail that train of thought when she realized she had physically just described Thor too. Then again, Thor was Jane’s, and Captain Fucking America was apparently much better looking, and she would have gladly climbed him like a tree. She contained another squeal and yet again, gripped Loki’s arm and dug her nails into it to try and anchor herself.
Loki, having no opinion of the man in front of him for the moment, tried to pry her hand off and addressed the man. “The Midgardian War Hero. Pleasure,” he nodded.
Steve looked him up and down briefly. “Steve Rogers," he clarified. "So you’re the guy from another world."
"Loki," Loki answered. "And yes, the very same… well, considering there have been two of us, I suppose I could just say ‘one of them’, then.”
Steve took his turn to nod, then turned his attention to Darcy. “You’re Lewis, then?”
Without missing a beat, Darcy looked him dead in the face, unzipped her sweatshirt to midway down her chest and extended a hand. “Darcy Lewis, friends call me Darce. Big fan. Like, super big. Hi.”
Steve cracked a smile and took her hand to shake it. Darcy went to reach for Loki again, but he sidestepped it just in time.
Coulson finally spoke up. “We did a background check on Miss. Lewis, Captain Rogers. Darcy here is one of your Howling Commandos’ grandkids.”
Steve’s smile dropped and he looked at Darcy, who had glanced Coulson’s way as well. “Whose?” he asked.
Darcy, however, hadn't caught the question. Her attention was on Coulson. “No one was supposed to know that!” Darcy objected. “Grandpa told us all stories as kids but we were sworn to secrecy about them! I was doing so good!”
“SHIELD digs deep,” Coulson admitted. “Wait, if you knew about the Howling Commandos you knew about SHIELD. So you knew who we were when we showed up about Thor?”
Darcy shrugged. “Yeah, but I didn’t think it was a big thing. Like, by the sound of it, it was just another government agency, you know? It was the Howling Commandos that were the real secret from what I figured all those years ago.” When she found that everyone was staring at her, she tossed her hands up. “What, the intern surrounded by smart scientists can’t draw lines and figure out things on her own?” she countered. Silence. “Oh, I see how it is.”
Steve’s smile returned. “You’re Doogan’s granddaughter, aren’t you?”
Darcy’s face lit up. “Totally! How’d you know?!”
“Sounds like logic he’d use,” Steve answered. “I think we’re gonna get along just fine, then.”
Darcy contained yet another squeak, then turned to Jane this time. “Hear that? He thinks we’re gonna be friends, this is so COOL!”
Coulson smiled weakly, then moved closer to Erik and Jane, almost to reintroduce them. “You’ll be working with Doctor Selvig and Foster most of the time, telling them what you know about the Tesseract, answering their questions.”
“I still say you shouldn’t have done it, but whatever it takes,” Steve agreed, reaching to shake the others’ hands as well. When he spotted Jane’s tight lipped smile, he laughed. “Go on, ask.”
Jane looked at him apologetically, then motioned at him, head to toe. “How…?”
Steve squared his shoulders. “My guess? Mix of the ice, and the very thing we’re trying to understand that's in the lab right now.” When Jane frowned, he shook his head. “Look, when I was a kid, I was taught that when there’s something you know is dangerous around, don’t go and poke it with a stick.”
“Well, we did… a fair bit of research beforehand,” Coulson supplied.
“Not enough,” Loki and Steve replied simultaneously. They glanced each other’s way when they realized what they did.
“So you’ve seen this thing in action, too?” Steve asked.
“Not… in action, precisely, but I’ve seen wars fought over it. Been present for it. I know just how great its power is,” Loki explained. “You?”
“Well, my part of the war turned out to be over it, too, and… did experience its power firsthand, and… I plan to never do that again,” Steve explained. “Which is why I’m making it my personal duty to keep S.H.I.E.L.D in check when they’re dealing with this.”
Loki arched an eyebrow at Coulson, and the other man shrugged.
“Yeah, usually I’d be a stickler with rank, but… you know, if I didn’t let him call the shots even a little at S.H.I.E.L.D, Peggy Carter would find out, pull a few strings and have me fired… or probably shot… present health considered.”
The others weren’t sure how to react to how casually the man had said that, or that Steve looked like he was in absolute agreement, but also like Coulson had just punched him in the gut.
It was Coulson’s turn to look apologetic briefly, then motioned at Loki. “What we didn’t tell you was what happened with him. The Tesseract pulsed, he went down, and… well, I’m assuming turned into… what…you… well, supposedly looked… non-human for a bit. He felt weird, his report matched yours when you got lightheaded. Now he’s convinced that other worlds might come to check it out and get it back. What’s your theory?”
“Well, if the guy from another world says there’s a chance, and I’ve seen how hard a man tried to get his hands on it… it wouldn’t surprise me,” Steve replied.
Coulson looked at Loki. “If it comes to that, how little time do we have?”
“I told you, maybe months? Depends how they get there. Every realm is different. They have primary means of interworld travel… and other ways.”
Steve made a face. “How-“
“I fell,” Loki cut him off, and left it at that.
Steve arched an eyebrow and looked to Coulson for support.
The other man tried to hide shaking his head and giving a ‘don’t even ask’ look, then squinted and looked back at Loki. “But your brot-“
“Not my brother-“
“Thor said there was some bridge, the Bifrost, if… any of your people wanted it back-“
“The Bifrost isn’t an option now,” Loki cut him off yet again. When Coulson made a face, he sighed. “What was that expression you used the other day Darcy? I plead the fifth?”
Darcy nodded. “Yeah, you got it,” she praised, then paused, letting the meaning sink in. “Wait, what?” She took small comfort in sensing Erik tense behind her. Jane, on the other hand, shifted from one foot to the other, like she had expected that to come up in general conversation, like it basically just had. Show off. She looked back at Loki, and the comfort she had felt was instantly gone when the man hardly looked apologetic about whatever he was pleading the fifth about. That didn’t bode well for any of them, that was for sure.
Loki, true to her observation, hadn’t missed a beat in the meantime. “Nothing that concerns you. Just know that Asgard will not come, because they do not have the Bifrost, and I am the only one who knows other ways to travel between worlds, and here I am, trapped. The Tesseract itself is a portal, which is why it needs to be watched and guarded by as big of a force as you can manage in case… someone else knows it’s capable of that ability and abuses it. Considering that not many civilizations know that, however, to figure out how long it would be I would need to study your stars, and try to recollect what my- Thor’s mother taught me about the Convergence.”
“Convergence?” Darcy asked.
“The alignment of the realms I mentioned,” Loki supplied.
“Doesn’t sound good,” Steve supplied.
Loki shook his head in agreement. “It’s not, and it will be devastating here. It’s devastating enough when one world can empty into one single other one, imagine them all. I’ve already been over this with the others.
“Right, so homework…” Coulson began. He motioned at Loki. “List of threats and a ballpark at how long they’d take to get here, and how much of a threat they’d be-“
“Educated guess,” Coulson explained.
“Ah,” Loki nodded.
Coulson motioned at the scientists. “You two, we’re going to have to work something out to make sure that this thing can be harnessed and how much energy it actually has…” he continued, then finally looked at Steve. “Captain Rogers, you… … well, you keep trying to adjust to modern life and chime in whenever and wherever you see fit.” He gave the man an awkward pat on the shoulder blade, then did it again, more confident the second time around.
Steve wasn’t sure whether to look accepting or uncomfortable.
Coulson let silence pass between them for a while, then broke it himself. “Alright, Loki, Ms. Lewis, with me. Selvig, Foster, if you want to join my scientists in the lab for a bit, hallway to your left, take two rights and go through the doors. If anyone gives you trouble, send them my way.”
The group dispersed as requested. Coulson had led Loki and Darcy out of the facility and had a couple of agents drive them back into town and back to the house. It was late into the night by then, so Darcy had put enough faith in him to tell him she was heading to bed, and he was welcome to have free reign of the house, so long as nothing got broken or murdered- the latter, thankfully, in reference to the plants.
Her innocence… or her drive to try to lighten the situation, at least, was strangely endearing to the God. So much so that he had played by those rules, instead seeking out a book on Astronomy that was on one of Erik’s bookshelves, went outside, and started his assigned ‘homework’, trying to find anything that would give him a hint on where they were, and what others could see. Just like it had before, space felt vast and open and endless all over again, and that same helpless, tiny feeling came over him again. He tried to go back to researching, but the feeling trumped all, and he set the book down. His own tiredness won over everything else, and he settled into the chair he was in for the night. Before he knew it, he was in the first restful sleep he had in ages.
Of course, that was bound to change.
Because what was once calm darkness drifted into streaks of blues, yellows and purples. Smells seemed… off, and the air was suddenly terribly, terribly cold. Loki squinted against the colors when he heard voices that he had never heard before. The colors shifted to reveal two figures. One was alien, disfigured, and Loki struggled to recall the race. The other was larger than the first by far, with better armor to boot. The second did not turn around as the first kept on speaking. After a moment, Loki could hear what the first was saying.
“ -eract has awakened. It is on a little world. A human world. They would wield its power, but our ally knows its workings as they never will. He is ready to lead. And our force, our Chitauri, will follow. The world will be his. The universe yours. And the humans, what can they do but burn?”
Loki’s vision blurred again, this time with light that was distinctly Tesseract blue.
Well, that solidified things as far as incoming invasions. They had one confirmed threat. But how could he see that? Was it another one of the Tesseract’s tricks? Have everyone’s who’s come in contact with it see the others’ plans to take it back? How would that work out? Why? Questions for another time. So their first threat was the Chitauri. He had thought they were a dead race. How were they back? They were dangerous, more importantly, he needed to tell S.H.I.E.L.D’s people. Warn them. Let them know they were playing with the Tesseract. Let them know the Tesseract wasn’t for them. The Tesseract was his. He stopped short. No, where had that come from? He had seen the Tesseract end civilizations, he wanted no part in it, so why had… well it had to be the Tesseract’s tricks again. He-
Loki woke from the dream and snapped out of his haze at the voice calling for him, and when he saw the sight to behold, he wished he hadn’t. He had apparently bolted upright in the process of waking up, but not only that: he had a choke hold on Erik’s throat. He loosened his grip and shoved Erik away all at once. After a moment, Loki realized he had used potentially godly strength, considering how far Erik had gone back a matter of feet before he hit the ground. He scrambled to his feet and held his hands out, then debated putting them up. “Selvig, I- are you alright?!”
The man only rubbed at his throat and gawked at the god.
Loki’s stomach turned when he realized just how terrible he felt, how he genuinely wanted to know if the man was alright. Thor had managed to rub off on him, even after everything. He cared about these people after such a short time, too. Considering they had been the first good things in his life after so long, he wanted them safe. And now he had possibly ruined that all in one fell swoop through no direct fault of his own. He knew he didn’t deserve their trust, didn’t want it- yet, but it still ached to know it would go wrong now anyway. “Sel- Erik, I swear to you, I didn’t mean for that to happen. I- there was- I think I’m affected by the Tesseract more than I thought,” he explained. The sentiment sounded false, and even if he had been trying to harm the man, he knew it would’ve sounded like one of the worst, recognizable lies he had ever said. Please believe it, he repeatedly begged in his head. It almost hurt, realizing he had boxed himself in so much in a matter of seconds. He heard the door to the small house they all shared slam open, and his heart sunk further.
“Erik! Erik, what happened?! GET AWAY FROM HIM!”
Foster. Of course it was Foster. If it was Darcy, there would’ve been a chance he could talk his way out of it. With Foster, there no chance at all, and she’d distrust him forever. He put his hands back up and sidestepped so she could run to Erik when she reached them.
Again, his heart ached when Jane dropped next to Erik, looked him over, then glared Loki down with as much hate as the god figured she was capable of. He hated himself for standing there and realized he at least needed to try pleading his case. “I swear to both of you, I didn’t mean for that to happen, I- something…” He stopped short. What was the point? Even the warning, the report on what he had seen would’ve fallen on deaf ears. He knew they wouldn’t believe him anyway. He was the evil one, nothing like his brother. His crimes outweighed his efforts to help them. No, bitterness will not help this, you fool. When has it ever helped you? Part of him scolded back. He took a couple of slow steps back, then turned and started walking back towards civilization. Distance was his safest option for everyone. He needed to see if the dream was a lead on the Tesseract without hurting people. The worst part was now he didn’t know if that was possible.
And in some unlikely twist, he was concerned about that fact.
Chapter 9: Sanctuary
Loki had avoided Erik, Darcy and Jane for that long, and he was surprised to find out just how dreadfully lonely he had been. He had managed to survive via basic hunting means, a few quick, stealthy walks through Izzy’s diner and a few well-placed bowls during a rainstorm, but it had worked. More importantly, the nightmares that seemed more visions of reality still plagued him. If there was any truth to the dreams, there were other races contemplating coming for the Tesseract, but were either cautious, found out that there was another more powerful item in their care or in their sights and had decided against it, but still, the Chitauri, Thanos and this… other stranger, were getting ready to come for it with all they had.
Now he sat on a roof of a business overlooking Izzy’s, observing the street he had caused so much destruction on a matter of months ago. The conscience that had been steadily growing inside him had riveted him to the spot so he could just think on everything.
Most of the businesses had done repairs in the months since he had nearly ruined them. Windows that the Destroyer shattered had been replaced. The traffic light in the square had been as well. And yet there were still traces of the disaster he had orchestrated. The middle of one of the roads had a distinctly Thor-sized intent. The concrete slab holding up the traffic light still had chunks missing. Metal bits on the rooves of the businesses were dented.
It was so, so much, over such a small, insignificant thing, and now he couldn’t even confide in anyone about it. ‘It’, apparently being his newfound conscience. He missed Erik and the looks that a father was supposed to give his children. He missed Darcy and her blind optimism. And it was slight, but he missed Jane and her logic, the grounding trait of the group. No wonder Thor had grown so attached to them in a matter of days. He had as well. He let out the weakest scoff as he realized he was actually agreeing with Thor on something.
His eyes drifted upward to the sky and he opened his mouth to ask Heimdall if he had found that fact as as ironic. His stomach twisted when he remembered he had killed the Gatekeeper.
An entirely new level of loneliness washed over him, stronger than the first since it was he himself who had caused it. He curled on himself.
He needed a plan. He needed to warn… someone about the Chitauri. But whom? No one who knew about his origins would trust his word after what he had done in reflex of a dream… if it even was a reflex… or even dream. Not to mention every Midgardian who had no idea about gods or aliens or other realms would call him mad. He tried not to laugh again. He really had grown a conscience. Weeks ago, he would’ve gladly let this world burn, and now here he was, worrying about a select few on it.
He continued to watch the horizon when he spotted Erik’s van rounding one corner. He pressed closer to the roof, ducked, and waited. It came to a stop beside Izzy’s, and Erik, Darcy and Jane all piled out a few moments later.
He ached to talk to them all over again, to just be around them. He straightened out to study them. Jane looked murderous, Erik looked… tired and pained and Loki’s heart hurt for it, and Darcy just looked plain confused. They all looked like they were ready to have an important conversation. He knew he was the topic, and damn it, he was curious now. He edged off the roof, dropped to the ground and made his way across the street as quickly as possible.
He squinted to find them in the small crowd inside, and when he spotted them heading for a table, he went to sidle over to the exterior wall that was just around the corner from it. He checked that the window was open, and when he saw it was, he was satisfied.
“-Are you sure you’re okay, Erik? The bruises are finally clearing up, but…”
“I’m fine, Jane, for the last time,” Erik insisted, but sounded more desperate for her to believe him than annoyed. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around what happened.”
“Yeah, well, he played us like fiddles, there’s still probably an alien army coming, and the resident bad guy is in the wind, because he’s trying to play us into thinking he’s guilty about it.”
Loki stopped short when he realized it was Darcy who had said that. He really was doomed if she had given up on him that quickly. He didn’t hear Jane’s addition, but had no desire to either. He had his answer to his first question, anyway. Erik was alright, that was the important thing. He backed away from the window and tried to formulate a plan. He needed to figure out just who was coming. He had a race, but he didn’t know specifics. He had thought the Chitauri were dead, but he had heard whispers- once thought mindless gossip, that they were still around, hiding in the shadows. There was the leader, Thanos, the most common name in the gossip. So that meant he was most likely around, but in legend, Thanos had never been one to do his own dirty work. He’d rather watch the destruction from afar. Then the thought that Coulson might know crossed his mind.
Well, if there had been multiple sightings or encounters with beings from other worlds, and he and Thor had been two in… however many he had, could they have found something out already? He needed paper, a… pen or whatever Midgard called the objects, and a means of transportation. He flinched and sighed when he realized that obtaining those objects got harder as the list went on in his current predicament. He glanced down at his hands. Unless… no, no, using his potentially returning power had gotten him in this mess in the first place.
Still, he needed to find Coulson. He looked back at the horizon. If he remembered correctly, where Thor had landed the first time and he had followed, Coulson’s people had put up a temporary base. If they were still expecting Thor again, or people from Asgard, by rights, it should still be there. And he could most likely make it there by nightfall. He could stir up trouble to be noticed there and most likely have it shrugged off.
Well, that was decided then. With one final glance through the window at the others, he got up and headed for the town line facing the desert.
Inside, Darcy watched Jane leave their booth to wave Izzy down to get another pot of coffee, then looked at Erik. “You know, she’s gonna figure out that you’re still fifty- fifty on this whole thing and it’ll be her turn to give you bruises.”
Erik sighed. “I know, I just… Loki was… oh, I don’t know. I think I’m projecting Thor on him too much. I thought I heard him say something, but… he’s the god of lies, what am I supposed to think? Besides, you seemed to be friendly with him, this can’t be easy on you, either.”
“He tried to kill you, Erik. Or at least choke you out to for the sake of hurting you. He’s a dick, we were wrong, and now we have to stop him, but Thor’s not here, Coulson’s busy with the Tesseract, and none of us can defend ourselves for anything, and we let Loki run. So basically the Apocalypse might happen, and it’s our fault. But that said, you’re kinda right, like, at least you and I trusted him enough that I was alone with him for a while and he didn’t get all murdery, so I don’t know.” Darcy shot back. She shoved a French fry into her mouth. “This whole thing is making me miss the Big Guy, that’s what I do know. He was just a big fluffy golden retriever who wanted to be loved and give love and we didn’t have to worry about loyalty there.”
Erik hummed in acknowledgement, then rubbed at the phantom pain in his neck that had started up at the mere mention of the conversation’s topic. “Well, Coulson’s looking for him, so there’s that.”
“And it’s taken him this long to get so much as a trace?” Darcy asked. “I mean, Loki’s totally an evil genius, but like… it shouldn’t take this long to find a dude that tall and… attention commanding.”
“Unless he’s letting it happen, letting Loki stay free to observe him, maybe see how strong his powers are if he is getting them back.”
“Which he is,” Darcy pointed out.
“I’m not denying that,” Erik defended.
Darcy dropped the subject when Jane got back, coffees in hand. When they settled back in, she sighed and crossed her arms, laying them on the table before putting her chin down on them. “We’re screwed, aren’t we?”
Phil sat at his desk, looking over the countless files on the Tesseract that by some miracle, S.H.I.E.L.D had already compiled in the short time they had known of it. Still, he had been going nonstop on the new threat, so he needed a rest. But the fact that he had gotten a call that Loki had gone off on his own again complicated that. Potentially powerful God from another world on the loose and an energy source that could make a fatal weapon was hardly a desirable combination. He needed to prioritize, and fast. He was just starting to lean towards getting Loki first when he heard footsteps approach.
“We’ve, uh, well, got eyes on Loki, sir.”
Phil glanced at the new arrival. One of the newer agents. Of course they wouldn’t get to the point. Still, at least it was something. He stood up in order to put his suit jacket on. “Go on. Where is he?”
“He’s… just outside the compound, sir.”
“What? Is he doing any damage?”
The agent looked uncomfortable for a moment. “Uh, he’s just… kinda throwing rocks at our security camera and calling for you.”
Phil stopped to blink up at the messenger, but when he looked hopelessly confused as well, he sighed. “Alright, I’ll go. I want a security detail on the roof first, though. Hidden, let’s not alert him if it comes to that.”
The agent shuffled off.
Phil stared at the door for a few moments. He contemplated how to handle the situation, but since there were so many unknowns, he decided on not going out guns blazing, but at least being ready for it. He retrieved his sidearm and made his way towards the exit.
When he reached the exit doors, just as the agent had said, Loki was just outside the gates, hands up, flanked my two agents. Phil had to admit that the man looked worse for wear: almost as bad as the first time he had seen him. The agent advanced a bit. “You wanted to see me?” he called.
“I need your help!” Loki answered.
“With what?” Phil countered.
Loki bowed his head a bit, visibly searching for words. Then, looked up at the man, looked at a loss again, then: “… I’m not exactly sure.”
Well, Phil hadn’t been expecting that, for starters. “Why don’t you come in and we can talk it out?”
Loki glanced off to the left, and it took Phil a moment to realize he was looking towards the lab, towards the Tesseract. The agent was worried he had made a bad situation worse by inviting him over until he realized Loki looked genuinely scared.
And then, unintentionally confirming that fact, Loki called back, “I’d prefer if we would talk out here… away.”
Phil sighed, then walked over to him anyway. “This far enough for you?”
Loki looked him up and down. “Considering I’m sure that means that’s as far as you’re willing to go, yes.”
“Sounds like we have a deal. Alright, Selvig and the others said you tried to kill him, but you left of your own accord, went missing for three weeks, and now you show up here. What’s your side of the story?”
“Nightmares,” Loki replied without a thought. When Phil frowned, he sighed. “For what it’s worth I understand how mad it sounds, but for once I’m not lying. I- ever since I came back in contact with the Tesseract, I’ve been plagued by these… visions, nightmares. What happened with Erik, there was… some bleedthrough of sorts.”
“What, so you wanted to kill the Tesseract and you listened and it went wrong when you woke up?” Phil asked.
“Honestly? I think the Tesseract wanted me to kill… for it.”
Phil stared him down for a bit, then closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You know, this is quite the twist on the usual ‘God told me to do it’ bit that wanted criminals do.”
Loki squinted. “What?”
Phil shrugged. “That’s just… if people are… not all there, they tell law enforcement that God or some Entity told them to do it.”
“It isn’t like that,” Loki insisted. “I wouldn’t…” he trailed it off. There it was again: he cared for them. “Erik’s shown be nothing but kindness. I wouldn't do that to him."
Phil made another face. “Really? Because we keep going back to the bit where you leveled a town street not far from here because you were mad at Thor.”
At the accusation, Loki’s focus and entire mood changed faster than he could even account for. “What would you have me do?! Apologize for it?! I am sorry, but…” his thoughts cut up with him and he practically snapped his jaw shut to silence himself. He took a deep breath and looked Phil in the eye. “I know that it’s another thing you’ll hardly believe, but I do regret that. However, that was the past. Things have changed, I have changed,” he went on quietly.
“Selvig, Foster and Lewis changed you?” Phil asked, and to Loki’s surprise, it seemed more out of sheer curiosity and a want to understand him than being mocking or disbelieving.
“… Perhaps,” Loki admitted, then after more consideration. “They care. I’ve had… very little of that in my life. I wouldn’t wish to threaten it.”
Phil studied him again. “Running usually implies guilt-“
“Would you have believed me if I told you I didn’t intend to harm them after all I’ve done to you and your men?” Loki countered. “Of course I ran. Nothing was in my favor, and if that... transition happens again, I may hurt one of them, now that I’ve already done it to one.”
Phil nodded slowly. “How about this? You stick around here for a while for observation, maybe a couple of tests in a controlled environment- that means we keep an eye on everything, and keep you as far from danger as we can. You have one of those visions, you let us know, we check it out. That keeps you in check, and around if something goes wrong.”
It was Loki’s turn to study the other man. After a beat, he sighed. “We have an accord.”
“Good,” Phil stepped behind him so he could motion towards the SHIELD building. “Come with me. We’ll keep you as far from the Tesseract unless absolutely needed for those tests.”
Loki frowned, and suddenly felt like he had made a drastic mistake when Phil waved at someone and six men dressed head to toe in what Loki assumed was modern Midgardian armor filed out of the building to flank them. Still, it was better than what he had ages before. He could prove himself.
And at that moment, that worked just fine for him.
When the men led Loki back inside, another, Agent Bellmore emerged to come to talk to him. “You believe him, sir?”
Phil shook his head. “Not at all, but right now, we’re out of options, and if playing his game is gonna keep him playing nice, or the closest he can get to it, so be it.”
“That’s… a lot of faith to go on, Sir, with all due respect.”
“Oh, I know. But again, powerless or not, we’re dealing with a God, so it’s gonna be tricky.”
Bellmore seemed to accept that as an answer, and walked back with him into the building.
Phil finally waited until Bellmore had left his side to turn away in order to raise his eyebrows and rub at his neck. He was at least eighty percent positive that things were going to go south quickly. He really, really needed a drink. He had to talk to someone about installing a bar in one of the empty utility areas.
Chapter 10: The Looming Threat
Golds, purples and blues bled into Loki’s vision all over again. The blues took over, and Loki saw Thanos and the Stranger looking out on what was undoubtedly an army… or the start of one.
“The Midgardians are insects. We will take their world by force, and even when we find the Tesseract, we will enslave them. It is no more than they deserve…” Thanos murmured.
“There are two that know of the Tesseract. They watch us. Even know, one does…” The Stranger responded.
“The prisoner, and the wanderer,” Thanos agreed. “One has given us nothing, but the other…”
Blinding pain again. Loki grit his teeth against it and was snapped right out of that vision, to another: mere flashes: Erik, Darcy, Jane, the bit of the Tesseract S.H.I.EL.D had acquired, the stars… they let up and his vision swam, and in the meantime he realized just what the stars had meant: it was as good as a precise location for them, if their astronomers were as good as they had been centuries ago. A second shot of pain went through him again, then he was actually blinded by bright white lights- too concentrated to be anything other-wordly than- Midgard.
Sure enough, Coulson entered his line of sight a moment later, and the lab went into focus behind him.
“Hey, your brain levels are off the charts to begin with, but you just about broke the machine before. What happened?” Phil asked.
Loki jerked against the restraints they had put him in apparently after he had fallen asleep, and hated the uneasy grunt that came out of his mouth.
Phil hesitated, then started to undo them. “What… happened?” he repeated.
“Invasion. There’s a race, the Chitauri, they’re planning an invasion. I don’t know when. I do know that apparently when I’ve seen them, they’ve seen me. They’ve seen me here. They’ve seen where I am, they’ll know from the stars alone. They-“ he stopped short. “They’ll know who to get to get to me so they can get more of what they’re looking for…” he finished.
Phil frowned. “What?”
“They… I don’t know, took over my own visions. They showed me what they’ve seen. I don’t know how. But they’ve seen Selvig, Foster, Lewis… if they get here, they’ll find them first.”
Phil shook his head. “We’ll get a security detail to them, it’ll be fine.”
Loki scoffed. “You’ll need far more than a small group of men,” he countered.
“Then what do you suggest? Just bringing you?” Phil countered.
“In addition to your own men. it’s better than nothing. If my body is returning to its usual state, they may have a fighting chance. Literally. If I recall, the Chitauri start off small. They go by waves. A small army at first to get a feel for things, retreat, then come back with more.”
Phil finished unstrapping Loki and had to jerk back to avoid having his head collide with the god’s when he bolted upright. “You’re not at one hundred percent, though. You’re just slightly better than our own guys. You’re right up there with…” Coulson made a face before continuing. “Tony Stark, if you want to be an asset like that.”
It was Loki’s turn to make a face. “Who?”
Phil, in turn, started to smile, but promptly stopped. “Believe it or not you just made my day. So I might just let you do this. I’m just skeptical about-“
“They won’t come immediately. They calculate first. But that may give me time to recover, to plan… something.” Then, carefully again, “I can’t let them hurt my friends.” He almost choked on the word, doubting his own sincerity all over again.
Phil, unfortunately, caught the hesitation. “I’ll call the order to get the Tesseract out of here, then go with you.”
“Your men will allow it?” Loki asked.
“We’ll have more men with us, and if they don’t, oh well. S.H.I.E.L.D was made for this, so we’re gonna keep everything in check,” Phil explained.
“Then let’s get out of here,” Loki countered.
Phil sighed one final time, then moved so Loki could go for the door.
Loki practically threw himself off of the table, then bolted for the door before he stopped short and turned around.
Phil tried not to laugh given the circumstances, and went to the door, hung a right, and motioned at Loki to follow him. The pair headed for the exit in utter silence, not at all sure of what either of them were in for.
To Loki’s surprise, he hardly minded the drive, even if it was just Phil essentially interrogating him on the last few days, the nightmares, the seconds before he had put Erik in the choke hold, the nightmare when he was with them, the Chitauri themselves, all of it. He would give Phil his due, the man clearly didn’t trust him, but when he played the field he at least made it seem like he was on genuine neutral ground. Loki was almost comfortable with the man by the time the sun was setting.
After Phil had run out of questions, the ride was silent, but it was a companionable silence all the same. They were most of the way there when Phil finally broke the silence.
“What the Hell…?”
Loki glanced Phil’s way, then saw he was looking at something just below the truck’s visor. He looked where the other man was looking and saw what looked like a perfect circle cut out of the clouds. Futhermore, just below the circles, there were muted colors: deep golds, purples, blues- Loki felt his blood run cold. “You need to go faster. Forget getting to the house, get to that.”
Phil glanced at the GPS beside him, then made a face. “Well, you’re not gonna like this, but… I think those places are one in the same right now... so are you saying that’s…?”
“Yes,” Loki growled. “You need to go faster. Now.”
“Yeah,” Phil agreed before pressing down further on the gas pedal. He steered the truck off the road so they could make a straight line back to the house.
Loki lurched to accommodate the speed, but was more focused on the sight to behold. He had been so, so wrong. “No, no no. Don’t you dare, you bastards…” he murmured.
They continued to speed towards the apparent landing site, steering off the road for good measure. A matter of tense minutes later, the campsite came into view. Seconds ticked by, and Erik, Jane and Darcy came into view. Loki's blood ran cold when another figure came into view: Thanos’ second in command. And he was walking right for them.
When they got close enough for Loki’s liking, the god looked at Phil. “Stop this… thing! And dim the lights!”
“Why? We’re not-“
“Just do it!” Loki snapped.
Coulson brought the truck to a stop, then turned off the engine.
Loki opened his door carefully, then looked at Phil. “Follow me, be as quiet as you can. Just get them out of here.”
Phil blinked at him. “What’re you-“
“I’m not exactly sure yet,” the other man admitted. He shut the car door and started walking towards the others as stealthily as he could. If he judged right, he could make it to his companions just as the other Chitauri from his nightmares would.
Across the short distance, the humans looked at a loss of what to do.
The Other took another step forward and snarled at them.
Moving on mere impulse, the idea that he was about to lose quite possibly the best three things that had ever happened to him, Loki tore forward. In the next moment, mere habit took over. “NO!” He remembered, then felt the ghosts of his old daggers in his hands from mere battle instinct. Out of habit, brought his hands back and threw forward.
A moment after it happened, it felt foolish. It wasn't like he actually had the damn things on him. It was ridiculous. He… until his panic dimmed and he focused on the scene again: and the two daggers embedded in the Other’s armor.
By the time Loki had realized they were actually there, and somehow, someway he had tapped into his materialization magic, the daggers dissolved.
He tried desperately not to look surprised, and put extra effort into not looking at Erik, Darcy and Jane when they had all turned to gawk at him as well.
When the Other turned to look at him as well, he glowered back and advanced on him. “You will not harm my friends …” he growled.
The Other turned to face him, reached up and yanked the ice from his chest without so much as flinching. He tossed it aside. “So you are the Wanderer…” he mused. “And you are not of this world...” He drifted over to the god. “But where do you hail from?" he studied Loki, then sneered. "I know your face, son of Odin."
Loki snarled. "And you are the Chitauri, and you hail from worlds you kill,” Loki countered. He heard Coulson come up behind Erik, Darcy and Jane to start leading them away.
The Other continued to study them. “Why do you defend an inferior species?”
“Why do you think killing them would help your cause?” Loki countered.
The Other didn't respond.
Loki caught him looking at Coulson, Erik, Darcy and Jane just in time to catch him going for the sword at his side.
The humans seemed to catch the movement too, because they visibly tensed in a panic: just the window that the Other needed to unsheathe the sword, bring it back and drive it forward. He didn’t care which target he got, as long as he got one of the three that the Wanderer had defended.
Instead, his blade met Loki’s side.
The God had also taken a chance with an opening his enemy had provided.
He turned to Loki, and his sneer grew larger as his victim grunted in pain. He withdrew his sword, and Loki fell to the ground.
Loki stared up at him, but in a pulse of light and a low hum, the Other was gone.
There was a beat of silence. Loki was fairly sure Erik, Jane and Darcy had all called his name, but he could barely register it and they seemed far away. Coulson was yelling something into his earpiece, and suddenly Erik and Darcy were flanking him, gaping at his wound, and the fact he had just saved at least one of their lives after supposedly nearly taking one of their own. The pain in his side suddenly caught up with him. If he had any strength to laugh, he would've. After all the mental grief they had put him through, he finally had physical pain to show for it. It was almost poetic. He could feel himself losing conciousness, but he needed them to know. "I sincerely hope this will be the last time I will literally bleed for you people…” he mused. He swayed once, twice, and then the ground came up to meet him.
When he came to, he found himself in a lab, and it didn’t take long for him to realize that he was back at the S.H.I.E.L.D building, in what must’ve been a healer’s abode- not exactly a lab. What had Darcy called it, a hospital? Yes.
“There he is…” Erik mused from beside him.
Loki looked his way, and immediately went into action. “Erik? I- I’m sorry, I-“
Erik reached out to put his hand on his neck gently, and Loki fought back the urge to weep at how reassuring and fatherly it felt.
“Easy, easy,” Erik murmured. “I’m still not sure what you’re about, or if this is part of a bigger plan of yours, but even if it is, you just saved our lives twice over in the span of five minutes. Whether you have an ulterior motive or not, we’re grateful, and indebted to you.”
“No, you’re not,” Loki dismissed. “I know I don’t deserve your trust-“
“As far as I’m concerned, you do now," Erik replied. "We'll talk later."
Loki smiled weakly and gave Erik a look that was half grateful, half pleading. “Humor me. I don’t know what the Tesseract is doing to my mind, but it isn’t good. I don’t know… I my change. I may still hurt you all. And if my powers are recovering..." he recalled and glanced down at his hands again.
“Have you told Coulson?” Erik asked.
“About the dreams? Yes, but when these races.... " he began. "These beings are dangerous. You... you humans can try, but you'll never fully understand the dangers they come with."
“They’ll- we'll just try our hardest, then," Erik countered.
Loki scoffed. “Does your optimism know no bounds?"
"Sounds like endless optimism may help us in this case."
Loki smiled, then flinched as pain coursed through his wound. He looked down to examine it. Someone had put an odd bandage over it. A decent amount of dried blood was still on it.
A moment later, the door into the room burst open. “Loki! Dude, you’re alive! Our hero!” Darcy called, all but throwing herself into the room, then by his side. She tossed her arms around his shoulders for a hug, and Loki flinched away from it. To her credit, she immediately let go. “Oh, right, sorry! I owe you one!”
Loki grunted in response, then looked at Jane. Out of sheer reaction, he arched an eyebrow. “Upset that I didn’t die in the process?”
Jane chewed her bottom lip for a moment, then sighed. “No. I’m here to thank you, just like everyone else. So… thank you, for saving our lives and all. And for maybe not lying about not trying to kill Erik before.”
Loki sighed. “I don’t know how else to explain it other than-“
“Explain it later, get rest now. We’ll talk it out when you’re healed up.” Erik insisted.
Loki ached at the trust he had apparently gained, but refused to leave it. “Just… know I didn’t mean for it, it wasn’t… “ he stopped short. He was at a loss, between the muted but persistent pain where he had been stabbed, and the fact that he was actually struggling for words for the first time in a while. “There was no intent to harm. The Tesseract is doing something to me, and believe me, I know how mad it sounds. I also apologize for everything that I may do that’s similar in the future, if this… thing with the Tesseract continues and the Chitauri come back… and they will.” He glanced Darcy’s way and flinched, waiting for a poorly timed joke when she approached him again.
Instead, she just sat in the chair beside the hospital bed silently.
Loki sighed. “I don’t know what to do…” he murmured. "I don't want to hurt any of you again."
“We’ll figure it out,” Erik offered.
Loki looked from him, to Darcy and Jane, who offered an uneasy smile and a reassuring nod, respectively. He felt himself grow tired again, and realized taking Erik’s advice would be reasonable at the time. A question crossed his mind, and again, part of him felt weak for assuming it. At the same time, another part needed it to be answered. “Will you be here when I wake? All of you? Just not…” he nodded to signify the immediate area around him. “Here…” he corrected.
“If you want us here, sure,” Darcy replied, and the other two nodded as well.
“Good…” Loki murmured, and then let the drugged sleep take him.
Darcy looked at the other two, who merely shrugged in return. All they knew was that they were in for a long night on top of the nightmarish long night they had already been through, and they had no idea if it would carry into the next few nights.
All they could do then was wait.
Nice, super short chapter so the next one can flow a bit better. Enjoy.
The next morning, he was thankful that whatever S.H.I.E.L.D’s doctors had pumped his body full of kept his mind stable enough not to send him into another vision.
Either that, or Thanos and the Other were keeping him out of their communication somehow on purpose. Both ideas made perfect sense. He had woken up, still sore as could be. He had glanced to the side and seen that Darcy, Erik and even Jane had held up their end of their bargain. The three of them were dozing, heads cushioned on each other. There was some sort of folder on Darcy’s lap, and there was the message “Visiting hours are dumb, especially for here, he’s a god, we’re his friends, LEAVE US ALONE’ written in Darcy’s handwriting and resting in her lap.
He turned his attention to his wound. The bandages had been changed sometime in the night. It still ached. He was still having trouble wrapping his head around the ordeal. He had called them his friends. He had stepped in the sword’s path without so much as a second thought. They had accepted his apology and let them be put out when they tried to do the same for him. They Believed him… in him, finally. The feeling of belonging swelled up in him. He studied them for a while, then heard the lab door open.
Phil stepped through the doorway. “Hi. Heard your vitals were closer to what we flagged as your normal. Getting better, even. How’re you feeling?”
“Like I’ve been run through with a sword,” Loki countered, and had to fight his own smile when one corner of Phil’s mouth turned up.
“Alright, I deserved that one. How’s your…?” Phil began, then frowned. After a few seconds, he mimicked the throwing motion Loki had done with the daggers.
Loki blinked a couple of times, then raised his hand carefully. He concentrated, and sure enough, the outline of a dagger materialized in his palm, but faded after a couple of moments. “It's coming back, but… it’s muted.”
Phil nodded, then glanced Erik, Darcy and Jane’s way when they started to stir from hearing the conversation. “Well, that was one Hell of an emotional response to danger, so I’m sure that had something to do with it.”
“Yes,” Loki replied simply.
Darcy, not having caught the exchange in the process of waking up, blinked blearily at them before turning her attention completely to Loki. “Hey Frosty. How you feelin’?”
Loki glowered at her for a moment, then leaned back. “Been better.” He turned his attention to Phil. “Any reports of…?”
“The Other guy? No, not yet. Looks like he cleared out to wherever they come from, but I have a feeling they’ll be back with an army. That tends to be the popular choice with those sorts of retreats.”
Loki flinched and looked away. He clenched his jaw and shook his head. “Oh, I'm such a fool."
Jane made a face. “With what? Saving us?”
“No. Well, partially.” When he received two glares and two puzzled looks, he sighed. “Not with the saving. Just… now they know Midgard has a champion from another world, and… they know the lengths to which I would go to defend you” he explained, giving the three sitting down a pointed look. “The Other arriving near you was chance before. It was an educated guess on where to go to see what was going on, but now, when they come with reinforcements, who knows what they'll do."
Jane settled down and gave him an apologetic look.
Phil let a few moments of silence pass, then cleared his throat. “Loki, for what it’s worth-“ he stopped short when his phone rang. “To be continued, excuse me…” he stepped out, putting his cell phone to his ear as he went.
Silence was back, then Darcy took her turn to break it. “Okay so now that you’re not seconds from death, how did the whole dagger thing work?”
“I don’t rightly know. I just… all of you were in danger, and I reacted out of habit, and it worked. That’s all that matters, really.”
The other three stilled, then nodded slowly again, offering weak yet grateful smiles again.
A few moments later, Phil came back in. He paused in the middle of the room, thinking something over, then looked at Loki. “Do you know if any of your friends are coming to visit?”
“What?” Loki squinted.
“You think a search party is coming after you?” Phil restated.
Loki scoffed. “Unlikely.”
“Well then, we have another problem, potentially Asgardian shaped… if we’re lucky.”
Loki focused more on the ‘if we’re lucky’ bit. He motioned at Erik, Darcy and Jane. “Get them out of here. As we’ve all figured out, I should be fine on my own.” When Phil went to protest, he leaned forward. “Now.”
Phil went to protest further, then gave up. He was supposed to be more focused on protecting civilians, after all. He looked at the mentioned civilians and nodded towards the door. “Let’s go.”
When they looked Loki’s way and got a nod and a reassuring smile in response, they all shuffled after the agent as he approached the door and motioned at them to go through.
Loki watched them, then waited a bit. He needed to see what was going on, if he could recognize the threat if getting to Earth was as much of a show as it was if the Bifrost took visitors down, or the Chitauri’s lightshow as well. He also needed to get out of the ridiculous ‘hospital gown’ if he was going to get out and investigate. He had seen Erik bring in a couple of things the previous night, and sure enough, there were jeans and a black T-shirt tucked away on one of the tables in the corner. He got up and turned to see if he could see anything from his window. There was some light in the sky in the distance, but there were no details he could make out from there. He needed out, and he needed out now. When his I.V gave a tug of protest at him moving around so much, he took the needle out of his hand and flinched at the pain it caused, then took the rest of the other attachments off. He glanced at one of the machines when it started beeping at the loss of the data. Out of sheer curiosity, he raised his hand to try to freeze it in order to silence it, and it worked. Satisfied, he made quick work of getting out of the gown and getting into the new clothes. Now all that was left was figuring out how to get out of the maze of a building.
He was halfway to the door when he heard alarmed shouts from outside. He stopped short to listen.
The commotion was getting louder, closer. He flexed his fingers to try to get ice flowing again.
There were two sets of footsteps just outside now. One was heavy, with purpose. The other, lighter, running.
Then, Phil’s voice, just outside the door: “Hey, easy big guy. Remember me? Look, I know that you’re probably looking fo- okay.”
The door swung open so hard it cracked against the adjacent wall.
Out of sheer habit Loki grounded himself in a defensive position, but when he saw just who Phil had tried and failed to keep out, the stance dropped. Then, of course, leave it to Darcy’s influence to come to him at that moment, because all he came up with was “well, shit.”
Fate, as it turned out, had more than a terrible sense of humor. Fate hated Loki, he decided, considering Thor was standing in front of him. The worst bit was that it looked like the oaf wasn’t sure whether to deck him in the face or hug him.
“Not your brother,” Loki managed to snap before he was pulled into what might have been a bone-crushing hug a matter of hours ago. Well, at least that answered the first dilemma. He gritted his teeth to fight back his wound throbbing in protest of the movement. He stared over the man’s shoulder at Phil.
Phil, in turn, offered a look that was half ‘well, you had this coming’ half ‘sorry.’
Loki waited for Thor to put him down before he straightened out his clothes. “What’re you doing here?!”
“Looking for you!” Thor countered, grabbing Loki again by the shoulder. “When I found out that our realms were aligned, I spoke with mother, and we both realized the most logical place you would be after that fall was here!”
Loki scoffed again. Thor had said ‘logical.’ He supposedly used logic. Just how much of that had been Frigga alone and not him? His heart pinged again as he realized just how much he missed her, but her alone. He got so lost in the thought it took him a moment to realize Thor had been talking the entire time. He braced himself and risked listening.
“-ence will be happening soon. I need you by my side- fighting by my side,” he finished.
Thor made to grab for him again and Loki stepped back and put his hands up. “Do not touch me.”
Thor squinted, confused. “I’ve come to take you home.”
Loki actually laughed bitterly. “’Home’? Home? The place where I was a spoil of war? Where I was in your shadow my entire life?” he shook his head. “I’m never going back there. I wouldn’t be wanted, anyway.”
Thor's confusion only seemed to worsen. “I want you there. I want you by my side again. Is that not enough?”
“No!” Loki scoffed again. “Never has been, never will be!” he raised his arms slowly. “Look well, Thor. I was wrong the last time we spoke. Your mortals got to me. I like it here. People- your own people, your woman, her friends, I care for them. I quite like it here, and just may stay. I'm surely not returning to Asgard.”
“But the Convergence-“
“Will happen in due time. Midgard is a realm of insects to so many, it will be all but ignored when the time comes.” Loki decided the last thing they needed in the Chitauri situation was Thor trying to interfere. It would turn a bad situation far, far worse. “You’ve found me. I didn’t want to be found. Go back. Leave me.”
“Not without you,” Thor countered. “Come back to us. Father and Mother-“
“They are not-“
“They miss you! I’ve missed you!” Thor protested.
Loki shook his head again. He went to respond, then stopped short when Thor hauled him up again and started to drag him out of the room. “What, no visit to your dear Jane-“
“Jane can wait,” Thor dismissed.
“Really? Because I highly doubt she’ll appreciate that logic,” Loki countered. “Coulson’s seen you, he’s the type to tell her that you’re here. Are you truly ready to break her heart again?”
Thor hesitated for a mere moment, then something else crossed his eyes. He smiled, and Loki fought back the urge to strangle him. Thor caught the other’s look, but his grin grew. “You’ve grown to care for them, too,” he realized.
“Have not. They’re just convenient,” Loki answered. Again, his stomach turned. Part of him still saw Erik, Jane and Darcy that way, but there was that inkling of conscience that hated him for saying that- for partially believing it.
Thor, for once, was not fooled. “They’re good people. I’m pleased they found you.”
Loki squinted at him. “How… you do recall that the last time we spoke of them I threatened their lives, do you not?”
“Considering they are apparently still alive judging by your report, I see that you have not followed through. I am pleased,” Thor explained. Then, “Come now. Mother still waits.”
Loki went to protest again, but Thor had already turned and started back down the hallway. He groaned under his breath and followed. When he got within an arm’s reach of Thor, the bulkier man reached back and grabbed his shirt to pull him along, as if he still expected him to run. Admittedly, Loki hadn’t ruled that option out. He glanced behind them just in time to see Coulson turn one corner to give him a helpless look before he turned back.
Thor dragged him down a few more hallways before he opened one door.
Loki merely balked at the rushes of light that met them instead of the interior of a room. “That’s not one of the-“ he began, but Thor shoved him roughly through the lights, and that was that.
Moments later, Loki’s vision was blurred yet again by rushes of color. But instead of lights, it was just solid, bright but stable golds. He froze for a moment until he realized that there was no blue edge to the golds, and no purples or blacks to go with them. This gold was richer, more yellow, more orange, pure.
This was Asgardian gold.
He didn’t want to, but he looked up.
True enough, he was back in Asgard, with so many bright, golden buildings stretching up above them. He paused again when he noticed that it wasn’t one of the hidden portals he had come across while exploring over his lifetime. “How did…?”
“You are not the only one who can be resourceful when determined,” Thor answered and hauled Loki back to his feet. “I asked, Heimdall answered-“
Loki turned to Thor so quickly his neck ached. “Y- Heimdall’s alive?!”
Thor looked at him darkly for a moment. “That surprises you?”
Loki drew back and scoffed. “You are being oddly welcoming considering I destroyed most of Jotunheim, tried to kill you, you know I ki- thought I killed Heimdall."
“And it will all be addressed after the Convergence. Now, we need to fight. We need to eliminate the small threats so we can prepare for the larger ones.”
Loki rolled his eyes and went to straighten out, then flinched when his wound throbbed in protest. He doubled over, hissed and touched the wound before he could stop himself.
Thor, as attentive as ever, was in his space in a moment. “You’re hurt- you're bleeding,” he clarified and pointed at the red splotch on Loki’s shirt.
Loki glanced down, stepping back when Thor went to investigate again. “I’m fine. It’s nothing-“
“That is not nothing, Loki. What happened?”
“It’s handled,” Loki deadpanned. “Now, dear brother, where to first? Odin? The War room? Am I to have a trial for my crimes?”
“Mother and Father first,” Thor answered. He gave Loki’s wound another glance before he took his arm again, gentler, this time. He started to guide the other down one of the alleys.
Loki mentally mapped out where they were, and about three turns later, he knew they were headed to the castle first. Well, that was that. He was actually going to die this time around, and worse yet, the last person he would probably lay his eyes on was Odin. He hadn’t caught a break in the last few months, so why would he have now?
Asgard’s people who they passed along the way merely stared after they were done bowing. Loki wondered how much or little they knew about what transpired the last time he was in the city.
Thor must’ve felt him tense, because his grip lightened. “They know nothing of what happened. To them, you’re just their prince that went missing for a while.”
“And what, the Bifrost and Jotunheim’s destruction was-“
“All done by Laufey and his men,” Thor answered.
I was one of them, Loki wanted to say. He resisted, and let Thor lead him the rest of the way.
When they made it through the castle gates, the guards looked far more cautious and more aware of what had truly happened. Instead of curious looks, he was met with suspicious ones, and it was the most reassuring thing Loki had seen in a while. Sure, he had come a long way, but reality was a welcome change as well.
They had made it into the throne room with much of the same stares. Loki had managed to hold his head high through it until Odin and Frigga came into view.
“Loki?!” Frigga gasped, and immediately rose to her feet.
Loki refused to meet her stare.
Odin, on the other hand, stared him down.
Frigga rose and rushed over to him, trying to ignore the guards who looked torn on what to do. “We thought you dead.”
He finally risked looking at her, and eased his arms away from his sides. “No such luck.” He flinched when she grabbed his face between her hands.
“Do not speak like that!” Frigga protested.
“And why should he not?!” Odin snapped. The others looked his way, and he finally stood. “This boy has cheated his death twice over. Three times, if my son would not have such a bleeding heart and done what he should have done the moment the whelp betrayed him.”
While Loki scoffed, Thor flinched.
Frigga looked between the three men, who had suddenly gone silent, glaring between each other. “Enough, all of you. As if any of us are in a position to judge the other. We have all made mistakes, but you are all still my family at the end of the day.” She focused on Loki at the last bit, effectively silencing him before he even had the chance to snap back at her. “My son has returned from a long journey away. Let us at least talk over a meal.” When she was met with the same silence, she sighed. “You know, for men who are so very adamant you’re no longer related, you all share the exact same stubbornness.” The men continued to glower, she gave them another look, and within a moment, they all seemed to accept that denying her was not going to work. Annoyed looks turned to looks of chagrin. She nodded. “I’ll send for the servants now,” she announced. She cast them one final look before going on her way again.
A couple of hours later found the group at their banquet table in the hall. Loki was thankful there was no celebration to go along with it. He still expected Sif and the Warriors Three to show up (and skewer him, but that was beside the point), but they hadn’t shown either. He was, however, painfully aware of the guards posted at each entrance, hands close to their weapons and staring him down.
Frigga had asked him about what had happened after his Fall when Odin remained silent the entire time. As much as Loki didn’t want to admit it, he still loved the woman who had been his mother for so long, so he humored her, giving her as many answers as he could without alluding to his human hosts.
Thor, of course, ruined that in one fell swoop. “Jane and her friends found him and took him in.”
Loki shot him a look, but then couldn’t ignore the fact that Odin made a face he couldn’t read- the only acknowledgement of the conversation so far.
Frigga looked to Loki to clarify, and he realized he was stuck again. “Yes, they… originally thought I was Thor. Imagine their disappointment when they found me half dead instead,” Loki explained.
“Loki…” Frigga murmured.
Loki glanced her way. “What? I wasn’t their hero they had spent a while trying to find again. They didn’t trust me at the start.” They still don’t, part of him reminded him. They shouldn’t, another countered. He squeezed his eyes shut momentarily, then came back to them. He looked Frigga’s way and was mortified to find that Frigga had apparently seen the action and read it as is. There was that pity again. He clenched his fist to channel the anger into something, then glanced back at the plate piled high with food, and the thought that it might be his last meal came back after not thinking about it for a while. He hadn’t touched any of it, and his unease told him to change that, but he didn’t. He forced himself back to the conversation. “I owe them my life… several times over, that’s all.” He heard Odin do something that sounded suspiciously like a scoff and clenched his fists again. He looked at Odin and found the older man staring back. With courage that hadn’t reared its head since the last time they shared a conversation, “would you finally like to interject, Odin?”
“Loki…” Frigga said again. This time it was a warning.
Odin put his hand up. “No, let the boy ask. I do. You owe far more people than them your life.”
Loki glowered at him. “ I’m sorry, do you truly need that much recognition about the thing you’ve apparently held over me all these years? I didn’t ask to owe people anything. They did it out of the goodness of their hearts, not for personal gain, after all.”
“Do you expect me to envy them?” Odin began. “Mere mortals who live in a world of ignorance? The most useless, powerless people in all the realms?”
Loki went entirely white knuckled at that, immediately furious and knowing full well there was more coming. It was a small comfort that he saw Thor had also tensed up.
Odin paid no attention to their unease. “And yet one of them bewitch my son into the illusion of love, and then they take in a traitor! They are fools. The realms would be better off without Midgard. Better off without those ignorant little friends of yours. You are far better off without them.”
Loki stared at him, jaw firmly set. He would’ve thought that Odin would’ve been pleased that Thor finally seemed to truly care for a woman, but apparently not. All that mattered was their mortal status. He should’ve known better. He could tell the insults were just beginning, and he tried to keep his protectiveness over his friends bottled up.
Odin paid no head to him. “My son should hear the sort he aligned himself with. These ‘scientists.’ They are but mere children playing with things they can never understand! This… Jane, a child, thinks she could ever understand our magic, and Thor claims to have offered her free reign here to explore and learn. How could she fathom any of this?!” he went on.
“Father,” Thor began.
“No. You want to be King? You must learn the order of which realms can converse with which.”
“You had no problem with it before.”
“Because they were means to an end. You learned sacrifice through them. It is time to let them go,” Odin went on, finally sparing a look at Loki. “Both of you. The pretender is doing you no good. Nor is her mentor. At least he seems to have the sense to not meddle in our affairs. And then the lost girl who’s more interested in poor humor than science. What use is she to anyone?”
Loki went white knuckled again. He saw Thor look guilty out of the corner of his eye and had to pause to wonder if Thor had seen Darcy that way, but then he remembered how Thor had mentioned all three of them. Darcy was important to him, too. Good. Then out of some recently buried habit, protectiveness of Thor came over him after a moment. “Enough…” he murmured.
Odin looked at him again. “You wish me to stop this? To stop telling you why associating them would be a bad thing? Would do more harm than good when it comes to ruling? I assumed you of all people would want to know what qualities make a leader great. Your friends cannot even fight. I doubt they’d know so much as how to handle a blade-“
“I said ENOUGH!” Loki cut him off, surging to his feet in the process.
The other three merely stared at them, shocked at his display.
Loki stared between them before he started to pace frantically. “Useless Midgardians? Fools? Insects? They are good people! Better people than any of us!” he yelled. “What they lack in skills, combat or otherwise, they make up for in heart. That used to be important to you,” Loki growled, looking Odin in the eye. “The lost girl’s name is Darcy,” he began. “She might not have the intelligence the other two do, but she’s just and loyal and so bloody determined to make her mark on the world that her worth is equal to them. The Pretender, as you called, her: Jane, is one of the most intelligent beings I know, she could put our own scientists to shame!" he caught Thor's grateful smile but chose to ignore it. "And Selvig- Selvig’s just as intelligent as she is! She gets it all from him! And he too is just, and willing to see the best in people, even when there’s none to be had, and and and-“ he could feel the hot tears forming and his throat constricting, but it was far too late by then. He felt ripped open, feelings on display, clear as day, and he had done it to himself. He wanted to stop, but he couldn’t. “…And he’s been a better father to me in a short few weeks than you ever were to me all my life!” he finished.
The moment the end bit came out of his mouth, he felt lightheaded for what felt like thousands of reasons. Forget feeling ripped open; he knew there was mental scar forming there from his tirade that would take literal ages to fade. At the same time, it was like a weight had lifted as well. He stared down at the table, not daring to look any of them in the eye. “They deserve better than being judged by their kind.” He could feel Odin staring at him, unmoving, Thor looking uncertain, and Frigga looked like she was on the verge of tears, but there was something else on her face that he couldn’t read unless he got a better look. He fought back a wave of nausea and inhaled, then exhaled sharply. “And they’re about to deal with a threat of their own that they’ve got no idea how to handle. I’m the closest thing to protection they have, and I’ve just been dragged back here against my will, and it turns out to be for nothing.” He couldn’t stomach being there any longer. He needed to escape this. He needed a way back, and he needed it now. Without another word, he turned on his heel and made for the archway that led out of the room.
And then, just as he was leaving, he heard two chairs move. He couldn’t bring himself to stop entirely, but something slowed his pace.
That was, until he realized who one of the chairs belonged to, since Odin called out, “where are you going?!”
And again, without so much as thinking, without considering what he was truly saying, Loki turned back sharply. “HOME!” he roared.
It was after the answering moment of silence after the word echoed around the entire hall that he realized what he had said, and the implications that came with it. To his surprise, after focusing on it, he found no fault in it. It was true. It was a rash, rushed decision, but it was true. He saw that the other one who had risen was Thor, and the latter looked just as stunned as he probably did, but there was also the hint of a smile tugging at the side of his mouth. Loki looked away again. “I’m going home,” he said again, firmer this time.
No one at the table moved or had any other response. The guards seemed even more apprehensive, and the two nearest ones had a hand on their respective weapon’s hilts, ready to fight if the need arose.
Loki breathed heavily a couple of times, then turned, and exited the room.
He had made it out in peace, and was nearly out of the castle when there were rushed footsteps behind him, then beside him, and he recognized Thor’s presence before he saw him.
The older god, in turn, said nothing for a while, just continued to walk by his side.
“What the Hell are you doing?”
“Coming with you.”
Loki stopped in his tracks, his mind finally catching up with his body. He should’ve been slaughtered for the outburst before. It was the best case of chance he was still breathing, even now. He had said so much in so little time and just left. Of course, leave it to Thor to try to mend things. Something in him twisted all over again. “Thor, no.” Again, he surprised himself at how gentle it came out- intentionally, no less.
Thor looked confused and stopped walking. “Why?”
“I…” Loki paused, then stopped as well. He had poured his heart out too much before, he could hardly stop himself. His mind wouldn’t let him. “You have far more duties than I do here anymore. I know you care for Jane- Erik and Darcy too, but now I’ve know them longer. They’re more mine then yours. I finally have something that is nearly entirely my own without… interference or trickery” he made a wide- sweeping gesture to indicate he implied that his former status had given him all he had needed once, “I need protect them- to care for them. I…” there it was again, the habit of self-preservation chanting ‘no, no, no, stop, he won’t understand, he won’t care, no one will’ in the back of his head, “I’ve been a righteous ass, and… they’ve helped. They can keep helping, but I need to be there for them to do it.” He felt more cut open at the seams then he did during his outburst, especially when Thor gave him the pained look he hadn’t seen since they had fought on the Bifrost. A moment later he was pulled into another near-bone crushing hug. This time around, the pain that his actual wound gave off felt far less severe than it had the first time. Probably because he was going numb from what had just happened inside.
Thor let him go after a long silence, only to get a solid hold on the back of Loki’s neck in order to touch their foreheads together. Loki wasn’t sure what compelled him to let him, but he did.
“I still don’t know what I did to deserve such animosity when I was at Midgard, Loki. I may never understand, unless you let me. But I do see that their company has done you well. Take care of them for me. And if you ever need my help in defeating whatever you’re not telling me about, you come back and tell me, and I will help you.”
“I will,” Loki murmured, and meant it. Soon, he promised himself, you’re going to do something that won’t surprise you.
Thor let him go, stepped back, and nodded carefully.
Seeing that as goodbye, Loki turned and walked away without another word.
After a few minutes of walking, with his mind elsewhere and his body leading him subconsciously, he realized he had made what he realized was a wrong turn. He had intended on going deeper into the city and finding one of the first pathways between realms he had found. Instead, he had subconsciously headed for the Bifrost out of sheer habit. When he realized his mistake and saw the broken Bridge, in better shape than he left it but still unusable, he stopped short. He knew what else- rather whom, wouldn’t be far from there and turned sharply on his heel.
“Do you truly expect to make an escape when I see everything?”
Loki stopped short yet again. He flinched and kept his eyes shut, letting himself hear Heimdall approach him from the right, not willing to see it. He heard the gatekeeper stop a few feet from him and opened his eyes. He turned slowly, and subconsciously started putting his hands up. “I mean no harm. I made an error, I meant to go –“
Heimdall arched an eyebrow at him, and Loki felt like he was looking through his very soul. He went so far as to brace himself, fully expecting to be stabbed through the gut again.
No such action came.
Instead, Heimdall finally broke eye contact. “I have watched you. You have been given a gift, son of Laufey…” he began.
Loki flinched at the label, but understood Heimdall’s game. He would gladly accept the verbal jab to make up for what he had done.
Heimdall continued. “You have used it well so far. Do not waste a second chance given so willingly. And if you cross us again, I will best you, and you will die.”
Loki didn’t dare answer. He correctly assumed that was the end of the conversation, and took a few steps back towards his original destination. He didn’t want to risk turning his back on Heimdall just yet. He waited until he was satisfied there was a fair distance between them before he finally turned and walked the rest of the way.
He made it to the alley in the middle of the city soon enough, when down the small flight of stairs that led to a door, and pushed it open, into nothing but blackness. The sight had been fine the handful of times he had used it before, but now after everything, it seemed for more intimidating than it had. Still, he felt the magic just beyond the blackness, and took a strange comfort in it. He took another deep breath, and stepped into it.
There was a whir, and in a matter of moments, he was back in the New Mexican desert, still not far from town. The skeleton of S.H.I.E.L.D’s first base was on the immediate horizon, and the city was just beyond that.
He started on his way back, making a mental note to talk to Darcy about getting a ‘cell phone’ as she had suggested. A ride would’ve been particularly nice at that moment.
Erik, Darcy and Jane were back at their camp when he arrived. When asked, they had explained he had been gone for just over a full day, and that Phil had been particularly unhelpful with letting them know what was going on, or if he was ever coming back. He had apparently shooed them away from the hospital right after he had made it into Asgard. They hadn't been happy about it, but by now they had seen enough with the man to begrudgingly accept that whatever had gone on was classified, even considering that Loki was essentially their charge. They had gone home and hoped for the best, and now there Loki was. They were curious as to why he looked so tired and conflicted, but decided to drop it for the moment.
So of course, by nightfall, Darcy had enough of avoiding the subject. She had already found it odd that Loki had helped with the dinner dishes, but he had been extra quiet for a while. She cornered him after the fact. “Talk, buddy. The Hell happened? Where’d you go?”
“None of your concern.” Loki countered.
“Except it totally is,” Darcy shot back.
Loki flinched. “Darcy, just… stop. Leave it.”
She frowned and scooted closer. “You okay?”
“I just... I have a lot to think about. It’s been an… eye-opening day.”
“Need to talk about it?”
“Need the hug I owe you?”
“You’re not going to leave me be until I talk or accept, are you?”
"You are correct, sir,” Darcy replied, not missing a beat. When Loki frowned at her, she beamed back.
Loki studied her for a moment, then cast his eyes at the floor. “Then I’d quite like that hug now.”
Darcy stared at him for a moment, hardly having expected that. Still, she followed through, then felt worse when he all but sagged against her and returned it. It lasted a while, and Darcy patted his back. “You okay?” she repeated.
“I will be,” he admitted after a moment. He lifted his head to stare further into the house, unfocused and yet still focused at the same time. Jane and Erik were visible from the doorway into the living room, invested in some book and talking animatedly but quietly with each other. At different moments, the pair seemed to realize they had an audience, and even Jane offered a weak, tight lipped smile at him.
Well, if it was one thing that was certain, he was in for it now. He had friends- a family, even. And a home, if he truly believed that.
The funny part was that he was willing to let himself do so.
Home, he mused again. He could get used to that.
For the record, no, Odin's not going to be an asshole the entire time. He'll come around... eventually. Right now he's just very set in his close-minded ways on how he thinks a king should rule, and there's no getting through to him. Hm, sounds like another one we all know...
Chapter 13: The Avengers Initiative
Ahhhh, sorry for the wait. Life got crazy hectic. Short and sweet mostly just to insist that I'm still here and working on this.
Loki rubbed his face and glanced at the clock. 3am.
Darcy had cornered him around 11pm after she had interrupted his “Usual Creepy Stare Up at the Sky and Have a 50/50 Chance of Screaming” time, as she called it, and dragged him back inside. She had rambled on about his ‘brooding’, and then had set up a game of Scrabble- whatever the Hell that was, and had made the pair of them hot cocoa- whatever the Hell that was, too.
And when he found out what they were, he realized the action was nauseatingly juvenile, misplaced and… just what he needed after the disaster of the last couple of days.
The cocoa was hardly to his taste, but tolerable, and at least this ‘game’ that bore a striking resemblance to the one he used to beat Fandral at when they were children would help him learn more words in this strange culture he had fallen into.
After a while they had gotten to talking and the game went ignored.
It had been small talk for a while, until Darcy was visibly distressed about something. “So are you gonna tell us where you disappeared this time?”
Darcy shrugged. “Dude, I found you doing your whole Les Mis Stars nonsense, but you were full on missing for a few hours. We were kinda worried. Ya know, with your powers back and all we’re kinda useless to you so-“
Loki finally looked up at her, at a loss for words. He wasn’t sure “I won’t harm you. I told you that.”
“Not what I was getting at, Idiot,” Darcy countered. She was worried when something flashed in his eyes, but then let out a small relieved breath when one of the corners of his mouth tipped up at the insult. “Like we told you, you saved us. We’re all cool. But we can’t have you go disappearing like that anymore because we worry now, and who knows if you’re gonna get a little frost happy and turn yourself into a human popsicle- accidentally or otherwise. Or ya know, ice over the whole town if you sneeze and put us through Frozen nonsense, too.”
Loki squinted. “You are aware I still have no idea about the references you make, correct? And human what?”
Darcy sighed dramatically and thought of an alternative. “Ice sculpture,” Darcy provided instead.
Loki considered it, then shook his head. “I don’t believe that’s how it works.”
“What, so you just turn blue and that’s that?”
“I’ve- that power’s only come up once since I found out. They’re clearly… emotion driven now until they truly come back. Considering I’ve really only used the ice once before this, I merely have a slightly better idea of what to expect from them as you do.”
Darcy got up, stepped over the game and sat back down beside him. “What were you doing when you that one time?”
He debated being honest again. 'Trying to kill Heimdall.' Because nothing would prove his point while also ruining trust again than tallying another attempted murder. But if he wasn’t honest, it was just another lie. He resisted shaking his head. The liesmith was debating lying. How far he’d fallen and not minded in the least. Still, he had to answer. And after fabricating a lie, he came up with the next best thing. “The fight with the Frost Giants where I found out I was one of them.” It was a white lie, considering it was the second longest time he had tapped into those powers. Still, the mere thought that he was back to lying gave him an odd sense of comfort.
Darcy stared at him, and for a moment he realized she had seen right through the lie- at least to a point. He squared his jaw. “I’ve said my piece. None of you are useless. I won’t target you.” His stomach twisted in a knot when part of him wanted to say ‘if I can help it.’ The Tesseract had toyed with him too much, and if it ever fell into the wrong hands, who knows what was to come.
No, he’d fight tooth and nail before it ever came to that.
There was suddenly a weight on his wrist and he looked down. He hadn’t noticed that the thought process alone had him clenching his fist on his knee to the point he was white-knuckled. Darcy had put her hand over it to snap him out of it.
“Hey, Broody Brody, snap out of it. You know for the god of lies you kinda suck at it.”
He surprised himself when he chuckled at that. “Yes, but I wasn’t-“
“Before that. When you came up with a bullshit answer.”
Oh. He struggled again. For once he wanted to be out of the spotlight. A distraction. That would do. But acknowledge it, damn it. He wondered just how long he would be walking the line between throwing all of his own trust in and still not letting them in. “You’re far more intelligent than I first gave you credit for, Darcy.”
“Nice try, Bucko,” she fired back. When he didn’t respond, she sighed and leaned into his shoulder. “Just… be careful, okay? You’re the closest thing to an actual friend I’ve got in this merry band of nerds and I don’t wanna lose you.”
Of all the things their group had told him, of all he had heard, that was quite possibly the worst best one yet and his heart suddenly ached with another pang of belonging. He sighed, contemplating an answer again. He simply opened his hand under hers and turned it so he could lock their fingers together. “You have my word.”
“Good,” she replied and put her head on his shoulder. She closed her eyes a moment later. “Now shut up, I’m tired and lazy and you’re comfortable right now.”
He laughed again when she finished settling. “Good to know that I’m your closest friend and yet you still use me like a piece of furniture.”
“I use everybody like furniture. You’re not that special. Now shut it.”
Loki did as he was told this time. Within seconds he felt her breathing change. He envied her, being able to fall asleep that quickly. Like she hardly had a care in the world. “Sleep well, Darcy.”
The next day, the group had been called into the S.H.I.E.L.D base. Erik and Jane had been taken one way, Darcy another, and Loki a third way. Loki wasn’t sure how to feel that Phil was his chosen escort, and they had gone down a few nearly dimmed hallways and up a couple of staircases. As far as he was concerned, Phil seemed to be a man who wouldn’t do anything rash, but he still hardly trusted him. Eventually they came to a room with a closed door with a strange device that Phil touched, then looked into. When Phil looked back at him as the door opened, he let the man see his brief confusion.
“That stuff should stay on the bottom of your… uh, cultural list, for lack of a better term. You’ve got bigger things to worry about.” He motioned at the doorway. “I will say you did better with that than your- Thor did.”
“I think and observe before I judge and act. And is this one of those things?” Loki asked.
“More or less.” Phil agreed. “Usually one of the higher-ups does this, but he’s pressed for time and apparently thinks I’d be better explaining it to you.”
“Because you’re better with the subject matter or he wouldn’t trust me enough to not shoot me on sight?” Loki asked after a moment of observing the room. It was nearly spotless; with a few screens and boards lining the walls. A large table sat in the middle of it, and a plain desk was in the corner. The screens were displaying images of people he didn’t recognize – until one flashed to his and Thor’s landing site and a picture of Thor in the room he had come to speak to him in when Thor had first gotten to Earth.
“Bit of both,” Phil admitted, pulling his attention back. He noticed Loki still seemed tense, even as he took in his surroundings. “If I wanted to get rid of you, I would've done it already," he provided.
Loki scoffed, but there was no anger behind it. After a moment he shook his head. "That was... not one of my main concerns."
"So it's the Tesseract, then? It's still locked up safe at a different location miles away, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
Loki eased up, but only slightly. “Where?”
“That a test to see if I was foolish enough to tell you?” Phil countered.
“More or less,” Loki parroted him from before. “But good. Don’t tell me.”
“You know something about it we don’t?”
Loki suddenly realized that the agent was probably the only one he could be honest about the predicament with. The distrust was mutual. His priority was civilians. He wouldn’t hesitate to put him down if something went wrong. “Concerned about what it could do in my head if I could lose control.”
Phil took a moment to respond. “Have you, yet?”
“No. But one of the new threats you’ve no doubt heard about- the Other… he’s strong. His species is strong. They’re planning something, and who knows what they’re capable of. They’ve been thought dead for so long, they could be stronger than they were.”
Phil nodded again. “Which is why we’re in this room.” He picked up a remote and pointed it out at one of the screens.
Loki followed his gaze. The screen switched up to display ‘The Avengers Initiative’, a few things he couldn’t make out, and a series of people- one of which had been Darcy’s escort a few minutes before. However, the most glaring one was Thor up in one corner, and then himself directly next to him, with less things that branched off a photo of him in one of their medical labs. He turned to Phil.
In turn, the man looked like he wasn’t sure whether to look apologetic or indifferent. “Plan A was trying to get Thor, but if we can’t get him, and… well, if there’s no other-worldy choice readily available, we’ve got you.”
“Loki scoffed again, but this time there was some venom in it. Second choice and he had been here longer. And talked to Phil more. Typical. Still, he had made it this far and the buffoon hadn't. "What is it?” Loki asked.
“Extra line of defenses against alien threats. Fight aliens with aliens, or superhumans, or the best of the best of my people.”
“Superhumans?” Loki asked again. Another photo on the other side caught his attention. A creature, green and huge but humanoid, and he assumed that answered his own question.
Phil caught his look. “Yeah. That one’s… complicated. Not that your involvement wouldn’t, but… it would still help. We’re still in the early stages of getting everything together.”
“I assume you’re asking me to join up to help you if this threat does come to fruition- which it will?”
Phil nodded. “Would eliminate a little bit of the red tape I have to work around while talking to you.”
Loki had no certain idea what that meant, but he had a hunch, so he opened his mouth until the same damned thought that kept haunting him came up. “Then yes: under one condition.”
“Name it,” Phil offered, even as he tensed up.
“The first sign of danger, you get Erik, Jane and Darcy away from it as quickly as you can.”
“Deal,” Phil agreed after a moment- long enough to have Loki know he had considered it, but maybe not weighed all of the pros and cons of it.
That, however, was fine by Loki. "Then you have your latest addition to this Avengers Initiative.”
Phil tried not to look surprised. “Good. We have a bigger start, then.”
Loki watched him go to the desk in the corner. It was like someone had thrown a switch- suddenly he was all business. That was, until the agent promptly stood up straight and pressed his lips together. He arched an eyebrow. “What is it?”
“I was just…” Phil began, then sighed. “You know, the first couple of people we’ve got in on it had… paperwork to deal with. Kinda weird to tell a god to sign on the dotted line. I mean, your kind would probably have more important things to dedicate your time to outside of whatever threats we’d face.” When Loki merely blinked at him, he closed the drawer he had started to route around in. “We’ll, uh… consider your paperwork. But… really that’s all that I brought you here for that I can tell you. Now, you have to return the favor.”
“You mentioned the Other. We know next to nothing about him. Anything you can give us would be excellent.”
“How long have you got?” Loki asked.
“As long as you need.”
“Then we best get started.”
Loki grunted as the third ‘beanbag’ hit him squarely in the chest.
Phil’s grand plan of trying to help him get his powers back in check was literally using him as a punching bag for the infernal little things. He had loaded them up into some sort of gun and had been shooting them for a good ten minutes. He had only managed to summon up a couple of daggers to stop them so far.
“Try to get emotional?” Coulson suggested. “It worked when your friends were in danger, right?”
Loki frowned. “If you’re suggesting-“ his head whipped back when a beanbag skirted his forehead. He groaned and clenched his fists. He glanced back at Phil out of the corner of his eye. When he saw that Phil merely shrugged and offered a grimace that seemed quite devoid of the apology he was trying to pull off. “Really?” he hissed.
“Got something out of you, though,” Phil countered and nodded at his hands.
Loki glanced down. The air around his hands was dispersing in waves around his clenched fists, but nothing more. He saw Phil quickly bring the gun up and fire again. He was ready this time. He dodged it, and tried to focus on the magic that was still trying to reacquaint itself with his body. He felt it spike with his effort, and pushed outward.
Two twin shards of… matter materialized, shot across the room, and wedged themselves directly in the barrel of the gun.
Phil hid a smile and examined Loki’s work. “Better!” he called. He carefully poked at the shards and moved the gun around to let the material catch the light. “What is this, solidified oil? How’d you come up with that?”
“Not sure. Just… needed something to block it. Didn’t think much about it,” Loki answered.
Phil nodded, then gave him a pointed look and waved the gun.
Loki crossed his arms over his chest and smirked. “What? You deserve it after all this, don’t you think?”
“It’s not the deserving it I’m worried about, it’s the ‘I have to ask Stark for more of these if they stay in there’ part.”
“I’m starting to think I need to meet this fellow,” Loki mused.
“You don’t want to. Believe me,” Phil answered, then waved the gun again.
Loki sighed and with a wave of his hand, the shards dematerialized.
The pair turned at the new voice.
Loki struggled to remember its owner. He had seen the man a handful of times now, but he still remembered him most at Mjolnir’s crash site. The one who Phil had told to kill Thor if things went south. He had liked him at first on sheer principle. The man seemed level-headed, intelligent, good with a weapon, and seemed to have a decent sense of humor unlike so many at the site. He tried to recall his name.
“Barton,” Phil greeted, answering Loki’s question for him. “What is it?”
Clint Barton stopped sizing Loki up for a brief moment to look at his boss. “It’s… kinda funny, considering the conversation I just walked into.”
Phil groaned. “No, not now.”
Clint grunted in affirmation.
“Where is he?”
“Science wing. Wanted to check up on some of the gear. And see how Lola’s doing.”
“He’s not touching my car,” Phil countered.
Clint shrugged. “He wants to meet this guy, too,” he added, and nodded at Loki.
“How did he even know about him?”
“He said something about ‘having JARVIS look into some of the files that I specifically was locked out of’ and ‘If I’m part of the Cool Kid’s Table now, I get to see who else is sitting there’,” Clint recited.
Phil shook his head. “And he’s not going to stop until he meets Loki, is he?”
“Probably not,” Clint agreed.
“Tell him we’ll be there soon.”
Clint nodded, then turned around and left the room.
Loki walked over to Phil. “So… Stark, I assume?”
Phil raised his eyebrows. “Uh huh...”
Loki motioned at the door. “After you, then.”
“Oh, believe me. You’re not gonna like him either. The man’s ego is intolerable.”
Loki smirked. “You have met Thor, yes?”
Phil managed a laugh, then shook his head. “Oh, Tony’s worse.”
“Oh, I find that rather hard to believe.”
Phil smirked, but didn’t bother responding otherwise. He nodded at Loki to follow, and off they went.
A matter of minutes later, Loki was coming to terms with the fact that he had been very, very wrong.
Tony Stark still had nothing on Thor’s ego, but… the man was still an intolerable, righteous ass. He had a feeling he and Thor would adore each other. Upon the first few moments of being around the man, he had decided to play nice for now. He had offered his hand to Tony to shake, but Tony had rambled on about ‘not liking being touched.’ He then proceeded to comment ‘Wow, you’re tall’, sized the god up and given his forearms a dramatic squeeze. Worse yet, he and Darcy had been introduced a matter of minutes before they had, and Darcy was gawking at the billionaire with stars in her eyes. She hadn’t so much as spared anything more than a glance at Loki since, or done her customary quick wave as a greeting. After that, they had gone back into one of the rooms Phil had taken him to before, where Tony had insisted on seeing who else was on the ‘Dream Team.’
After a few named had been mentioned, Tony had parked himself in one of the chairs, kicked his feet up on the desk and turned his attention to Phil. “Right, so we’ve got me- oh, sorry, my ‘suit’, a dude with serious anger issues, Robin Hood over there, my very backstab-y ex-personal assistant, my dad’s best friend from back in the day, and a god who tried to kill you all a couple of months back- no offense,” Tony rattled off, then motioned at Loki at the last bit.
“None taken. I’m used to it by now,” Loki countered, then frowned. “Hold on, your father’s friend? That looks like a recent picture and the man looks younger than you. Don’t humans only live-“
“It’s complicated,” Tony cut him off, then looked at Phil again. “Seriously though, does Fury know how much of a bad idea this is? ‘Cause he seemed aware, but you never know with him.”
“You thought it was a decent plan if worse came to worse three months ago,” Phil argued.
“Yeah, but you’re actually starting to contact these people. How bad can-“
“Bad,” it was Loki’s turn to cut him off. “I wouldn’t underestimate beings from other worlds just because you think you can take them on, Mister Stark.”
Tony squinted. “What makes you think I think I can take them on?”
“Have you seen yourself?” Loki countered, motioning at the man’s stance.
“Easy,” Phil warned, but Tony waved him off a moment later. The man merely beamed and pointed at him. “I changed my mind, I like this guy. He tells it like it is. You should take notes, Agent Smith.”
Lok squinted. “Smith, his name is-“
“Just go with it,” Phil cut him off. “But thanks.”
Tony shrugged. “So, Loki. Do I… call you Loki or do you prefer some other name or title? Like ‘Almighty God’ or ‘Sir’ or anything? Your Highness?”
Loki opened his mouth, but Darcy elbowed him in the ribs. “Don’t encourage him, Mister Stark.”
Tony smirked. “Ah. So you are one of those people. I knew I liked you.”
“Is that something to be coveted?” Loki asked.
Tony shrugged. “If you’d like.”
“I’d rather not.”
Tony’s answering smile was appreciative, and Loki had to admit that was the only thing he had done so far that didn’t bother him. He stood up and strolled back over to Phil. “Where is Natalie, anyway? Is her name actually Natalie?”
“Do you want something, Stark? Or did you really just come to check in on the project?” Phil countered.
“Well, I mean, it was really to meet a god and get his input on this whole thing with an intergalactic weapon and all of the aliens that are supposedly gonna come get it and supposedly obliterate earth if they have to to get it.”
Phil blanched. “That was level four clearance information, how-“
“Only level three? Come on, Agent Smith. You have to give Jarvis and I a challenge,” Tony chided. He looked at Loki. “So these… Kree and Chitauri… people. Bad news?”
“Very,” Loki nodded.
“You’ve fought with them directly?” Tony asked.
“Not directly yet, but… we’ve seen enough of the destruction they’ve caused to know they aren’t to be trifled with. They’ve levelled cities- planets centuries ahead of your world technology-wise in days. If they want something, they will stop at nothing to get it.”
“So… if we get this crew together… we gonna stand a fighting chance?” Tony asked.
“We’re just six people for now. And five of you are human mortals, gadgets or not. It... doesn’t look good for Earth.”
Tony snorted. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“I’m not saying you’re doomed. I’m saying it will take a lot of work. And these people need to be recruited as soon as possible. I’ve…” Loki stopped mid-explanation. He didn’t like Tony’s ego, didn’t trust him, but he knew he was smart just from standing around him. If he mentioned feeling Thanos and The Other through the Tesseract and heard some of their plan, felt their eagerness, who knew what conclusion the man would come to. He needed to keep it quiet for now. “… Have a hunch that they won’t wait around much longer. They’re both ancient races, but they have great numbers hidden away. And they will use them.”
“What changed from a few months back when you were the one ready to level a city?” Tony asked.
“Plenty,” Loki answered. “It was… a complicated situation,” he elaborated.
Tony studied him for another few moments, then shrugged. “Been there.”
Something about the tone of his voice changing made Loki realize that that sentiment was perhaps the most genuine the man had been the entire time.
Silence passed between them for a while. Tony got tired of it, fired off something about working on another project back at his tower in New York, and promptly left.
Afterward, Phil had excused himself to handle ‘security issues’ then come back with coffees for all of them.
“Told you he’s an ass,” Phil pointed out.
“He’s just concerned about how Earth would fare in all this,” Loki countered. “But yes, he would give Thor a run for his money.”
“Yeah, but at least he’s aware that he’s kind of a dick. Like, a totally cool dick, but still a dick,” Darcy offered.
Phil shrugged. “Fair point.”
The three of them turned sharply when they heard rushed footsteps, then Jane calling for Phil.
“Agent Coulson! COULSON!”
“They don’t run often. This is… probably super bad,” Darcy muttered to them when they saw the other two full on running down the hallway to reach them. They both had a stack of paper under one arm.
Phil met them a quarter of the way. “What? What’s going on, did something-“
Jane held up her stack of paper. “Patterns!” she blurted. She paused to catch her breath. “Erik…”
Erik held his own stack out to Phil. When Phil glanced at it and shook his head in confusion, he sighed. “Jane and I thought it would be a good idea to check on energy readings in the desert from when Thor, Loki and the Other came down here, to see if… there was a pattern, or if the environment changed drastically when one of those portals showed up. You know, just to have the readings to know what to expect if they showed up again.”
“And?” Loki asked.
“There were a bunch of radiation spikes, and the elements in the air changed for a while…” Jane continued. “But… we expected three anomalies- one for each of you, each time you landed.”
“I don’t like where this is going,” Darcy pointed out.
“And you shouldn’t,” Jane agreed.
“How many have there been?” Loki asked.
“At least twenty. Counting yours, but… they start getting more and more frequent. There’s been one every other day last week. And there is a pattern… in timing, and in place” Jane continued. “… And it’s a direct line. Straight to SHIELD’s main HQ.”
“Straight to the Tesseract,” Loki clarified, the same time Erik said it.
“We would’ve gotten the information sooner… should’ve gotten it sooner, but it was bound to take time, and we just… didn’t have the resources,” Jane murmured.
“When will they reach the compound?” Darcy asked.
“If they keep up the pattern… they’re gonna be there tomorrow,” Jane finished. “If that.”
Phil didn’t bother responding. He dug his phone out of his pocket and dialed a number and hurried down one of the connecting hallways. He turned back to them at the last minute. “Find Barton, have him get to the helipad now!”
Darcy frowned. “Wait, so even I’m going?!”
“Don’t have a choice!” Phil called back.
More out of shock than anything, they watched him until he turned another corner and disappeared out of sight before they snapped out of it.
“Let’s get Barton then,” Erik instructed. “Think I saw him in the training area a few minutes ago.”
By the time they had found him, Clint had already been informed on the latest development. He led them to the roof, where a SHIELD helicopter was waiting for them. “Waited until the last minute to tell us we had Armageddon around the corner, huh?” Clint called once they were up in the air. He didn’t get an answer- not that he had expected one to begin with. “Alright look, you’ve all got assignments when we get there. Selvig, Foster, you’re gonna go to the lab there, keep an eye on the Tesseract. Apparently it’s been giving off all sorts of energy spikes the last few hours.”
“A little too coincidental?” Erik suggested.
It’s bloody calling to the ones who’ve encountered it before, Loki mused to himself. It was that moment that the fact that he was headed straight for the damn thing he had avoided for that exact reason. Why the Hell had Coulson sent him with them? What did he expect would happen? He had confided in him that he was worried about the Tesseract’s effects on him. Damn it.
Loki snapped out of his thoughts at the mention of his name. He glanced at the others to see they were all staring. “What?”
Clint adjusted his headset mic. “You’re gonna go with Lewis away from the compound. There’s a little town set up not to far from there. A lot of civilians, SHIELD family members. We need you on the ground to keep them safe and help with evac if it comes to that,” Clint instructed.
Loki tried hard to mask his relief. So Phil had thought things out. He still figured it would be dangerous being close enough to the Tesseract, but at least there were going to be security checkpoints between him and it. At the same time, part of him wondered how smart that was. If the Other or whoever would be coming was going to be at the Compound, why wasn’t the other-worldly presence there as a front line of defense? Because if something goes wrong, you’ll be an added threat, the first part of him objected. He flinched. Whatever happened, it wasn’t going to be good. At all. Now all they could do was wait. He was starting to loathe waiting. He caught a glimpse of SHIELD HQ drifting into view in the distance, and he swallowed hard.
Here went everything.
Darcy paced back and forth between the trucks that served as the SHIELD roadblock at the nearest town to HQ. Things had been fine so far, no trouble, no loud noises, no bright, multicolored lights in the sky like Loki had described. It had seemed like a false alarm. But it was also quiet- too quiet. Maybe it was the fear that came from the last few hours of her life being a whirlwind, but something still seemed off.
She looked Loki’s way. The god had settled on the hood of the furthest van. His hands were in constant motion, and she could see objects blinking in and out of existence every so often. He threw half of them across the road before he let them disappear. She heard the SHIELD agents muttering among themselves and casting him side glances every so often, so she wandered over to him. “So… do you think this is a false alarm?”
“No, it’s not remotely a false alarm. Things are going too well to be a false alarm.”
“You call this ‘well’? We’re just wasted out here.”
“Precisely,” Loki replied. “It’s too peaceful. These people are safe here, we haven’t heard or seen anything... we’re exactly where we need to be in good timing.”
“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” Darcy asked.
“No. It’s a false sense of security. It’s- the Other wants us to believe we’re all okay, that things are going smoothly. There’s no visible evidence of anything we found… he’s making us think we’ve already won, or that we’re at an advantage…” he mused.
“Because it’s what I would’ve done,” Loki said.
Darcy frowned when she realized he had spoken, but Loki’s mouth hadn’t moved. In fact, it hadn’t even come from her left where she was. She looked over her right shoulder where it had, and she screamed, because there was another Loki standing a couple of feet behind her. She launched herself away from the car.
The SHIELD guards around them scrambled for weapons.
The Loki on the left groaned and the one on the right disappeared. “It was a test! If your leader wants me at my best, I need to know if I can operate at my best!” he called.
Darcy settled down, more of the agents’ sakes than hers or Loki’s. She looked ahead for a while, then stopped and frowned when she saw yet another copy of Loki, this time a few yards away in the field across the street. Another one popped up further along, then a third, and a fourth, getting more and more distant as they went. The Loki beside her kept looking from them to the agents, and made each of his copies disappear any time the agents were about to get one of them in their line of sight.
“So… what’s your plan with those guys?” Darcy asked.
“In case they need assistance back there.”
“But… aren’t you afraid of going all whackadoo once you get there?” she continued. When he shot her a warning look, she put her hands up. “Right, sorry, I-“ she frowned when his face fell. “What?”
It was Loki’s turn to stand up straight. “I’ve just remembered what’s been missing in all this quiet.”
“Coulson hasn’t checked in once. Does that seem like something he would do?”
“Because the Other is already here,” Loki replied and turned towards the direction HQ was in.
Darcy felt some rush of… something next to her, and then suddenly the Loki who had been standing’s eyes seemed far duller. She reached over towards him- and her fingers went right through his arm. She concealed a yelp and pulled back.
“I’m not sure how long this copy will last, just try to buy time, will you?” Loki asked.
Darcy went to protest again, but ducked when there was a distant explosion, and suddenly the edges of a bright blue ring streaked across the sky. “Uh… guys?” she called.
The agents were already scrambling around, and before she knew it, one of them had grabbed her arms and ushered her to one of the nearest vans. Another went to do the same with Loki, then gawked when he disappeared. “What the Hell?!”
“He went to go prevent that!” Darcy countered, then looked around. "Please don't be too late..." she murmured to herself.
The moment Loki had switched his consciousness into the clone he had sent into HQ’s lab and his feet hit the floor, he was ready for action. What he didn’t expect was there to be a giant explosion directly around him when he got there. He snapped his eyes shut and projected himself elsewhere before damage could be done. He kept projecting further and further away from the blast radius, but wherever he went, he seemed to be seconds off. He finally ended up landing a moment too late in one case, and the blast radius caught up to him and tossed him him through the air. His back connected with a concrete wall, there was a rush of heat, then nothing.
When he came to, there was nothing but chaos around him. The building was in tatters, and what wasn’t smoking was singed or collapsed entirely. His body thrummed with pain as he attempted to stand up. He stumbled, then strangely enough a rush of strength powered through him and he got to his feet with no trouble afterward. The lab. He remembered that it was in the direct center of building. Now the trick was getting to it around all the destruction.
It took him a few minutes, but after navigating to what seemed to resemble the basement, he finally reached the lab- or what was left of it. It was like the entire floor had been dropped a few feet. Machinery was sparking, the walls were singed, and the bodies of several SHIELD agents and scientists littered the floor. He went to work examining them. He started to breathe heavier when he didn’t see Erik, Jane or Coulson anywhere. And then, also as expected, that same disembodied voice that he had encountered before started up in his head again… and this time it sounded a suspicious lot like him.
Find it, it calls to you, it is yours, reclaim it. Reclaim it.
He flinched and shook his head, trying to rid himself of the voice. “Not now….” He hissed, then looked around. Worry was finally setting in. “JANE! ERIK!” he looked around. He could feel his panic mounting, and then suddenly whittling away to nothing, then showing up again, then he was indifferent to the chaos. No, no, this was bad. He needed to leave. He couldn’t see them. The more he thought about the latter part, the more he realized that that realization was literal in both senses- he couldn’t see them as a whole in the wreckage, but his vision was also starting to blur. “ERIK! JANE!”
He saw movement out of the blurred corner of his eye and immediately went on the offensive. He summoned a dagger, drew back and-
“Whoa! Whoa, it’s me!”
Phil came into focus, apparently in a mental struggle on whether or not to put his gun down or keep it trained on Loki. “I saw you show up just in time to get hit by the blast. How the Hell-“
Loki let the dagger dematerialize advanced on him immediately. He grabbed him by the throat “Where are they?!”
Phil scrambled for purchase on the floor. “I can’t tell you if you’re choking me-“
“WHERE ARE THEY?!” Loki roared. Then, searing pain again. Some unknown force was trying to will him to look in the corner that was glowing an odd color, even with all the dust and charcoal around.
Phil stared at him for a moment, then realization set in. “Oh no. Ow, alright, uh, just… just breathe alright? Focus, this isn’t you.”
“Oh, it should be,” Loki hissed. He had missed this strength. He almost felt like his old self, back to normal, he felt powerful. He hadn’t felt like that entirely in weeks, even with his powers returning. He set Coulson down forcefully. “Answer the question!”
Phil stared at him, apparently contemplating even saying anything. “The Other took them! He got the drop us us-ow-took the Tesseract, it did something to them- not unlike what’s happening to you right now!” he added.
Loki stared at him for a while, stunned. And then blinding rage sunk into him- at the Other, at Phil, at the situation- he knew that it was elevated for some reason, but he didn’t know why- nor did he care after a moment. He yelled out, then punched the nearest broken column. He needed an outlet. He needed to hurt something. There was enough force behind the punch that a good chunk of the pillar broke off and shot across the room. He heard Phil inhale sharply. His fault. This is that bastard’s fault. He turned on his heel and marched over to Phil, who immediately backpedaled, but Loki was too fast for him and was inches away in a matter of seconds. “You swore to me you’d look after them!” Loki hissed. He backed the man against one of the most intact walls in the area.
“And I intend to keep my word!” Phil countered.
“You should’ve kept it to begin with.” He failed you. Kill him. It’s the least he deserves. He stands in your way now. Kill him.
“There’s more, Loki. Let me down, you need to know!”
Kill. Loki grimaced and tried to drown out the voice with the blood pounding in his ears. He looked at Coulson, and he seemed to notice he had a choke hold on him for the first time. He half threw, half set the man down. “What?” it still came out as a hiss.
“The Other… he used the Tesseract on them. He’s… it warped their minds. They’re… by rights they’re enthralled right now.”
Loki squinted-a strange moment’s peace in the storm going on in his head. “That’s… that’s possible?”
Phil put his hands out. “Do you even realize that’s what’s happening to you now?” Phil hissed. He started to stand up carefully. “Look around! This place got leveled, there was nothing that could be done! We were entirely outmatched!”
Loki fought back another wave of the urge to kill the man and did as the other man requested. He looked around. It truly did look like they had completely underestimated The Other’s threat, and it was clear they had prepared. The place was still a bunker at the end of the day. He walked over to one of the tables- the only one that seemed to be intact. “What was here?” he asked. He failed to notice Phil carefully crossing to his other side quietly as possible.
“The Tesseract,” Phil answered.
“Did he say anything about it? How did he use it to…” Loki couldn’t bring himself to finish the question.
“There was… a staff. He weaponized it and destroyed the place. We were all ordered to clear out, even me. I’m here against orders to come and get you back.” Coulson said.
He’s lying. He didn’t do a damned thing. “Did they say where they were going?” he asked.
“No,” Phil answered. “He just took the Tesseract and them and left.”
“How could you fail them like that?!” Loki yelled. He didn’t bother looking back at Phil. He couldn’t. He might just let the voice win.
“I haven’t failed them yet- and neither have you,” Phil added at the last second. “But I’m sorry they got away,” Phil said. “And I’m sorry about this too.”
That got Loki to turn around- just in time to see something cylindrical come at his face. It connected, and his head whipped back. He stumbled, then the pain immediately ceased. Kill. KILL.
Phil frowned, glanced at the fire extinguisher in his hand and took a step back. “Thought that would’ve worked…” he said, more to himself than the god.
Loki snarled again and lunged at Phil. He pinned him against the wall. “Bastard. What? With me out of the way, you get the Tesseract on your own?”
Phil grabbed at his hand, then frowned. “Wait, what? No-“ he choked when Loki tightened his grip. “Come on, snap out of it, this is the Tesseract talking.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. It’s only encouraging what I already know. What I know I should be doing. Should have done already,” Loki hissed. His grip tightened again.
Phil hissed. “Do you they would want this? They go missing, you go crazy, we’re forced to kill you and then we get them back?!” he hissed.
“And if they die because you failed to save them either way?” Loki countered. He pushed Phil further against the wall.
“It won’t come to that if you snap out of this and help me. Come on, Loki. You’re better than this,” Phil countered.
Loki frowned, then tossed him across the room again. “I’m not. I should’ve known, I should’ve been here! I even said that The Other is coming for me through them, I should’ve stayed! I should’ve killed the bastard when I had the chance…” he rattled off. He turned his attention back to the stand where the Tesseract had apparently stood. Use it. It would make things far easier. He walked over and reached out towards the stand. He could still feel the residual power around the area. Yes.
Loki turned back to Phil and summoned his dagger again. He took a step forward, only to be deafened by a sound he had yet to hear- and then pressure in his chest. He looked down. Blood was spreading from a small injury whatever Phil had caused. He realized the bastard had shot him directly in the chest. “Fool, do you think you could kill me?!” He advanced again.
Phil shook his head and adjusted the grip he had on his gun that Loki hadn’t noticed the first time around. “No, not kill you. It’s possibly a stupid move, but I respect you. Hell, I even like you. And I already told you: I plan on keeping my promise. I’m not letting you die before I see it through.”
“Then allow me to take that burden from you,” Loki hissed. He summoned another dagger and prepared to throw.
Phil grunted, then brought his gun up as much as he could and fired off another round into Loki’s chest.
Loki glowered. “What makes you think that would work again?”
“ ‘Cause that was only part one.”
Loki stopped short and tried to contemplate that response. Before he could, he saw Phil hit a switch on the side of his gun. Before he could stop him, an electrical current surged through him, not unlike Darcy’s taser from earlier. He was dimly aware that Phil had hit another button, and another current ran through him. This time it was far greater- and enough to have everything go black around him.
When he came to again, he was in a cell, not unlike the one in HQ. But it was larger and circular, and he could tell from sight alone that the walls were thicker than the last. He tried to move, only to find that he was being held in a metal chair with metal bonds to boot. He suddenly became aware the disembodied voice and hissing was blissfully absent from his mind. He enjoyed that for a few equally blissful seconds… until the last few moments he had been conscious before waking up came rushing back. He had almost killed the fourth closest thing he had to a friend in this world, and he had enjoyed doing so. “Coulson!” he called, almost in reflex alone. He looked out the window to find the hallway entirely empty. “Coulson!” he tried again. Still silence. He flinched. What had he done? Had he killed the man? “COULSON!” He had ruined everything again.
Then, from a certain spot in the wall. “You’re awake.”
Loki sighed. “Are you alright?”
Phil scoffed, then answered. “Physically: bruised up, but I’ll live. Mentally: I… don’t know. Hell, I signed you up for all this without thinking it would be… that bad.”
“Well, that was a bad situation gone worse,” Loki countered. Then, “Darcy. Is Darcy alright? Where is she?!”
“She’s fine, she’s safe,” Phil said, his voice suddenly a fair ways more confident and reassuring
Loki closed his eyes and sighed in relief.
“I’m not going to let you see her, though. Not yet.”
“I wouldn’t let you,” Loki countered. He took small comfort in the fact that Phil let out a breath’s worth of a laugh.
“I need to make sure you’re… back to the you you were a day ago first. But even then I don’t know what to do. I mean, you said the Tesseract only encouraged you. How am I supposed to take that?”
“Not lightly,” Loki admitted.
Phil was silent for a while. “How’re the wounds?”
Loki glanced down and pulled the collar of the shirt they had provided him. The bullet wounds were raised, but had apparently healed up most of the way already. “Healing.”
“I… don’t know how to handle this, Loki. I… I thought things would be better, I thought you could fight it more. I mean, wherever the Other is, he couldn’t have gotten far with the Tesseract when you got there, but if you reacted like that with just the residual energy, if we lost you that much, how are you going to be on the front lines where you wanted to be?”
“I don’t rightly know.”
“I mean, you were most definitely emotionally compromised, but I’m not sure if-“
“Have they been sighted anywhere yet?”
“We’re working on that now, but it’s still early,” Phil replied.
Loki flinched and shook his head. “Fine. And for the record, I do have confidence that you tried to save them. You’re a good man whether my subconscious wants to believe it or not. I-“
“Good. And I do intend on following through, by the way. With or without your help. We will get them back.”
“Thank you,” Loki said after a moment. Silence passed a third time, and then the god heard the locks on his shackles click open. He raised his arms carefully and rubbed at his wrists, getting feeling back into them entirely. “You’re releasing me so soon?” he asked.
“No, not yet. Just letting you move around. It sounds like you’re back, but I can’t entirely risk it.”
“I’m surprised you’re giving me that liberty,” Loki pointed out.
“Well, I told you in there, if you even remember: I like you, and that’s the problem. I lost or nearly lost a lot of good people just now. I count you among them when you’re like this. My boss wanted to put you down to be safe, but… this you, this you we can work with. We just have to figure out how to use you from here.”
“You said the Other took people. Who else did he take?”
“Barton and a couple of agents. Samuels and Rourke. We all took a hit.”
“I could’ve stopped him, I… figured out his game minutes too late, if I was smarter, if I was faster, if-“ Loki flinched. He realized that if he hadn’t gone soft in the last few months, he would’ve figured it out. Something told him that Phil picked up on the implication as well.
“So that’s what you meant…” Phil muttered.
Loki didn’t know what he meant. “What?“
“You said as much back there. Do you not remember? The point is, you couldn’t have known, that’s just it. You didn’t. There’s no sense in beating yourself up about it.”
“I apparently beat you up enough for it,” Loki pointed out. When Phil didn’t reply, he continued. “Is there anything I can do from here?” Loki asked.
“Not yet. This… I’m calling in the Avengers, so right now it’s just recruiting and we need to go from there,” Phil replied.
Loki looked up at the speaker when there was suddenly some weird background noise he couldn’t make out, then Phil yelling something about ‘her’ making it through security and then ordering someone to ‘not let her through’ – and then the door outside the cell slid open and Darcy watched through, quickly pursued by two agents who proceeded to try to drag her out of the room. He crossed to the back of the cell.
“HEY! Get off me, I’m just trying to get answers that no one is giving me!” she took a swing at one of them, and the intended victim swatted her hand away and then twisted it behind her back.
Loki heard her answering yelp and bolted to the corner nearest them. “Get your hands off of her!”
Darcy’s head whipped in Loki’s direction when the SHIELD agents practically dropped her in their haste to turn all their attention to him. She elbowed her way back over to his cell, then saw the two red marks on his chest. “Loki, are those gunshot wounds- what the shit?!” she turned around, then looked at a speaker in the corner. “I might be a damn ‘civilian’, but I’ve been involved in this bullshit since Thor landed here, that’s my friend in there, my other friends are missing, and no one’s telling me anything!” Darcy blurted.
“Darce…” Loki sighed.
Darcy jabbed her finger in his direction. “Who shot him?! Why?!”
Loki flinched. “It was self-defense.”
Darcy turned towards him. “Wha-“ her face fell. “God, Loki did you hurt Erik and Jane?”
Loki felt his heart break all over again. This was exactly why he hadn’t wanted her there. But he had a feeling that Coulson had tried to keep her out, and it was Darcy, so she found a way to beat the system. Then realized how he could’ve, given what he had already done if timing was different and he had been there. “No, no, it was-“
Distant murmuring came over the speaker again, then Coulson spoke again. “Do you want to tell her, or should I?”
“Tell me what?!” Darcy demanded. “Where are Jane and Erik?!”
“The Other has them,” Loki said quietly. When Darcy looked at him and he could see her own heart breaking, he sighed. “I… I got there seconds too late. I was right, they were already there, but the attack was underway.” He didn’t dare tell them the extra detail about that that Coulson had told him- one of the very few things he seemed determined to remember after the whole ordeal.
“So why…?” her voice cracked, and she motioned at his injury to sub in for her voice.
“Residual energy from the Tesseract. It… tapped into me, same as it did before,” Loki said. “I… lost it. Coulson was there, and… I suppose I took everything out on him,” Loki admitted. “I barely remember.”
“That’s not an excuse!” Darcy protested, but looked like she felt bad a moment later. She went to take a step back, and out of sheer reflex Loki went to reach for her before he caught himself and let his hand drop. Darcy seemed to catch herself as well and stepped forward again. “Well, that’s like what was wrong when you had that whole thing with Erik. Then you came back and saved all our lives,” she pointed out. “That counts for something, right?” she asked, then looked at the camera above one of the speakers. “Right?”
“It was worse, Darcy,” Loki admitted. “The first one was a bleeding effect of sorts. This time… I wasn’t even in control. I was barely there.”
“But it’s a proximity thing, right? I mean, you sound like you now, so it has to be far away,” Darcy pointed out, then her face fell. “Which means the Other guy has it, doesn’t it?”
She swore, then turned so she could slide down the glass wall in order to sit on the floor. “That sucks.”
Loki wanted to laugh, but he fought the urge. Leave it to Darcy to chalk all of this up to ‘it sucks.’ He paused. “Coulson, get Darcy out of here. I don’t want her around if something goes wrong again.” He gave the agents who had chased her in a pointed look.
She turned back around. “Like Hell! I’m not leaving you!”
“No! Right now, crazy or not you’re the only friend I’ve got, and you’re here. I’m not leaving you!” she snapped. “You hear that, Pal?! No matter what he tried to talk you into, I’m not leaving!”
Loki wasn’t sure if he wanted to kiss the girl or hit her upside the head.
After a few seconds, Coulson finally weighed in. “It’s your call. I was with you before, still kinda am, but… now I’m starting to wonder that even if we actively tried to separate you two, she wouldn’t let us.”
“You’re absolutely correct,” Loki agreed. “But the door stay closed and I don’t leave unless absolutely necessary,” he added. He gave Darcy a pointed look.
She sighed, then crossed her arms over her chest. “Fine. ‘Scuse me for hypothetically protesting inhumane conditions in prison.”
Coulson said something about ‘political science majors’ over the loudspeaker, and then there was a commotion and a pop from the speaker, like he had covered it up.
Darcy finally risked a smile in return, then settled back down.
A few minutes passed in entire silence. The agents had cleared out to do other tasks and Loki had come to sit back to back with Darcy against the wall. Darcy took Phil’s silence as indication that no one was that invested in the speaker or microphone any more. She assumed that it was mostly video that SHIELD was paying attention to, so she felt it safe to ask the question that had been eating at her since she had found the god. “Hey, Loki?”
“… Do you think Erik and Jane are gonna be okay?”
Loki flinched. He knew that question was coming, he just hadn’t expected her to ask so soon. Not at all. “Of course I do.”
“You know, for the God of Lies… you suck at lying.”
Loki let out a weak laugh that he hoped didn’t sound as pained as he thought it did. “That’s your, Erik and Jane's influence,” Loki countered. “I used to be perfect at it, but then you three had to come along and knock some humility into me.” It was terrible, and the humor behind the sentiment felt all sorts of wrong, but he figured that was what she could use at that moment.
“Loke?” Darcy repeated, and he could hear the tears behind it this time.
"Can you get back to old you levels of lying and just... not stop until we find them, then?"
That, of all things, was the thing that hurt the most so far. He sighed and moved over and pressed as close to the glass as he could manage- anything to resemble touch as he could, given the circumstances. “I can do that.”
Chapter 16: House Arrest
Loki’s ‘house arrest’ as Darcy had called it had proven to be… not as disabling as Loki had expected. Every hour that he had stayed calm and friendly, Coulson eased up. He had provided the updates Loki had requested: the latest of which was that the Other, Erik, Jane and Barton had been last seen in Germany. Darcy had taken to teaching Loki the game of Hangman in the meantime. She apparently found it twice as cool while played with a dry erase marker on the glass. Loki thought the game was barbaric considering Midgard’s history, but Darcy hadn’t looked like she was on the verge of tears again for the last couple of hours, and Loki was just as thankful for the distraction. They were halfway through their eighth game when Loki looked around. “So where are we?”
“Some sort of ship, by the looks of it. Don’t have a clue about where in the States we are anymore, though.”
Loki nodded carefully.
The speaker above them crackled, and Coulson cleared his throat. “So… good news or bad news first?”
“Good,” Loki replied, the same time Darcy had said, “Bad.” He looked at the camera and motioned at Darcy.
Coulson sighed. “Alright, bad news is… you might be getting a roommate soon-“
Loki frowned. “You’ve finally decided Darcy will be safe in my care?” he asked.
“Uh, no. Just… one of the Avengers… well, we uh… our recruitment involves playing with fire a lot, so to speak. That cell wasn’t for you originally.”
Loki looked up. “You made this for the Other?”
“No. Let’s just say there’s another guy on the team that you don’t want to make angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry. And… well… that cell was supposed to be for him in case he… acted out. But then you acted out and right now, we only have the one cell, so…”
“Put the threats together? That’ll go swimmingly,”
“Yeah, I know. I guess that’s a little bit of good news. My superiors have been checking out the feeds from the camera on your cell. They seem to think you’ve de-escalated enough to get out of there, so maybe you won’t have to worry about the roommate situation.”
“That’s the good news?” Loki asked. It was the most lackluster example of such he had ever heard.
“So what’s the bad?” Darcy chimed in, though she seemed like she already had a good idea of what it was.
“We haven’t found a trace of Jane or Erik yet. The Other must’ve found a way to cloak his movements. Loki, any idea how he could’ve done that? Darcy said you have some sort of power that may do something like that, so-“
“I make copies and can transfer consciousness into each of them. Chitauri, Kree- any species from around that realm can’t do that. I don’t know how he’s doing this, unless the Tesseract is… interfering with your technology.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought too…” his voice faded out for a few moments, then, “Good news got confirmed. You’re out… for now. Until the next sighting, just in case…”
Loki scoffed. “And if your people find him in the next few minutes?”
“We’ll work from there. They want you out to meet the rest of the team. They’re all arriving now. You’ve already met one of them. When you get out, take the hallway straight out, then take two rights and you’ll be in the meeting room. I’ll see you in there.”
“And me too?” Darcy asked.
“… Would you listen if any one of us said ‘no’?” Coulson countered.
“Nope,” Darcy confirmed.
The static died out.
Loki and Darcy exchanged looks. The moment was lost when there was suddenly a booming, mechanical hum in the background. The floor suddenly shook, and they could feel themselves rising. The god looked back at Darcy. “I thought you meant Naval ship.”
“ I did,” she replied.
They heard another mechanical click, but this time far closer. The door to the cell slid open.
Loki gave one final cautious look around before he headed for the exit. Once he had crossed the threshold, Darcy bolted over to him and threw her arms around his neck in a tight hug. He couldn’t find it in him to complain in any capacity and returned it. He only found it problematic when he realized he was holding her as tightly as she was him. He spared a moment to dwell once again on how far he had come. He wanted to laugh. God of Mischief, former son of Odin, Touch-Starved Mess. He pressed his chin closer into her shoulder. “You’re going to get them back, Darcy.”
“We’re gonna get them back,” Darcy corrected.
Loki didn’t protest further. He knew she wouldn’t have it, and he didn’t want to incite her into worrying more. He didn’t let go of her until she did him.
Darcy sighed, then straightened up and collected herself. “Come on. Coulson said two rights, right?” she asked. She turned towards the exit door, and it opened when she got close enough.
“Right,” Loki agreed.
Darcy turned back to him and frowned when she realized he had magicked up the armor he had worn the day they had found him- good as new, obviously, but after seeing him in nothing but T-shirts and jeans the last few weeks, it was strange. “Dude, what?”
Loki shrugged. “If I’m back in the circle and we’re about to go to war, I’m damn well going to look the part.”
Darcy grinned, then hesitated. The smile faded, like she wasn’t sure whether she should even say what was coming. After a bit, the smile won out. “Badass! But you know that’s such a Thor thing to do, right?”
Loki merely groaned and rolled his eyes. Darcy smiled again, then tugged on his sleeve to try and get him to walk faster.
They made it into the room that Coulson had mentioned, and were both equally surprised to find that they had been right- they were in midair.
“This thing goes from ship to a plane?!” Darcy asked, to no one in particular. She seemed ecstatic for a moment, then the enthusiasm immediately dulled. “Erik would’ve loved this.”
“And he will when he sees it,” Loki replied and nudged her arm with his. He spotted Steve Rogers entering the room on the other side, flanked by a redheaded woman and an older man who seemed to have Erik’s fashion sense.
Steve saw them and offered a wave.
Loki was thankful that Darcy’s enthusiasm was almost immediately back as she offered an even wider wave in greeting.
The group met in the middle.
Steve looked around. “I guess I’m the only one who knows all of you, even if I just met two of you. Darcy, Loki, this is Agent Romanoff, Doctor Bruce Banner. Agent Romanoff, Doctor Banner, this is Darcy Lewis, and Loki.”
Natasha nodded at both of them. “Natasha,” she supplied.
Bruce shook their hands, then turned his attention to Loki. “Loki? Like the god?"
Loki narrowed his eyes and smirked. "Precisely like the god, my good sir." He ignored Darcy when she elbowed him in the ribs.
Bruce didn't think much of it. "Your parents were big fans of Mythology, then?”
“More like were mythology,” a man corrected from somewhere in front of them.
A man who had been dead center in the room turned to them. He had a patch over one eye, and as far as Loki was concerned, wearing enough black leather that even he found it ridiculous- and he had half of the ensemble in common with him.
They all turned to face him. Bruce frowned and looked at Loki.
“He’s The Loki, Doctor Banner,” the man continued. “But that should be the most insane thing you’ll hear all day.”
Bruce looked at Steve and Natasha. He figured Natasha would know, being an agent and getting all of the intel, but Captain America- Steve hadn’t even reacted, and that threw him for a bigger loop. “Did you…?”
“Took me a while too,” Steve admitted quietly.
Loki turned his attention back to the one who had announced him, feeling that one single eye boring into him. Maybe he had immediately underestimated the man. He had a feeling this was one of Phil’s superiors who had wanted to put him down immediately.
Meanwhile, Bruce had looked at Darcy to gauge her reaction.
Darcy had also picked up on it and shrugged. “Yeah, I’m used to it by now. He’s not the first Norse God that fell out of the sky and essentially into our backyard.”
Bruce nodded slowly, and when he saw that no one was looking at him anymore, he shook his head in disbelief. He looked at Loki again.
Loki merely nodded, then looked around at all of the other SHIELD agents who were scrambling around. Most of them kept looking his way cautiously. It took him a minute to notice they were spending as much time studying him as Bruce. He must be the one with the temper. He took his turn to study the man. He seemed to be a perfectly average Midgardian. Clearly a bit jumpy, but otherwise nothing special. Far more quiet than his companions. Then again, it was always the quiet ones who were the issue. He turned his attention to the others again. He remembered that the one-eyed mad hadn’t so much as introduced himself. He wondered if he had done it on purpose.
Darcy, on the other hand, had noticed they were the only two who hadn’t been pulled aside or weren’t in a conversation with a stranger. “Guess we’re demoted from the cool kids’ table already.”
“I just tried to kill their second in command with my bare hands, and you’re a ‘civilian’- I’m assuming that’s… military talk for ‘person who doesn’t need to know.’ Comes with the territory.”
“Still a dick move if you’re one of the strongest allies in the room in the room when you’re not trying to kill Coulson.”
Loki went to respond, but was cut off when the ship ascended. There was another hum, and then the metal panels of the exterior of the helicarrier visibly shifted, then went translucent.
Current topic forgotten, Darcy couldn’t fight the giggle that bubbled up from her throat.“So cool!” Darcy beamed.
Phil had ushered them and the other new arrivals into a quick tour of the helicarrier next- which, Loki wasn’t quite sure what to think when Phil had decidedly avoided the room with his cell. He pushed it back to the back of his mind to wonder about later. They made it back to the bridge, and kept to themselves in one corner after that, unless brought in on a conversation.
That was, until Darcy heard a nearby computer beep, and when she saw the monitor, Erik and Jane’s photos were on it, paired with a sketch of the other, and a satellite image of a map was in the background. She pinched Loki’s arm and pointed, just as the agent at the computer called Coulson over, claiming they had found a “67%, no, 79% match. “They found them. Or him.”
The pair advanced on the computer, as did the one-eyed man.
The one eyed-man looked at Steve. “Captain, you’re up.”
Darcy gave Loki a desperate look.
The one-eyed man caught it, and even if Loki had been silent, he advanced on him. “You are benched. You are not going anywhere near them.”
“They’re our friends,” Darcy objected.
“You’re a civilian, this man is unstable, and it’s a conflict of interests.”
“Then… I don’t know, give me a badge or something! Coulson can vouch for us! I’m good in IT, do you guys need a hacker?!”
The other man advanced on them. “Agent Coulson said I could expect better from you two. Thought you two would be smart enough not to challenge us right away.”
“We’re concerned, Sir,” Loki countered. “Excuse us for questioning your judgement in using the Captain when I know the Other far more than any of you, and we would be the only ones who could get through to the others if we attempted negotiation.”
The one-eyed-man marched over to him, and Loki stood his ground. It was a decent intimation tactic again, he’d give him that. The walk was all calculated confidence, but he was still a god, and as tall as the other man- something that he wasn’t probably used to. He couldn’t help the ‘well met’ smirk that tugged at his lip when the other man had made it chest-to chest with him.
“You forget that we’ve got people under the Other’s control too, so you aren’t special that way. And by the sound of it, you should know that negotiation isn’t something that’s on the table when someone is under the Tesseract’s influence.
Loki failed to keep up his composure for half a second too long. He hadn’t considered that, and it showed- and the other man had apparently noticed.
“Yeah, I thought as much.” The man replied. He turned around.
Loki spared a glance at Phil, who looked torn on which side to take again. He had the decency to look apologetic before he went back to work.
“Jackass,” Darcy hissed.
The man turned around. “Excuse me?!”
Darcy’s face fell. “Uh… I said you could’ve… just asked us nicely to not try to have Loki go down there,” She looked around at the others around her, and they were all staring. “…Shit.”
Two hours later, Loki was still trying to make it seem like he was as interested in the architecture of his cell’s ceiling as he had been the moment the pair of them had gotten thrown back in it.
“… Your fault.” Darcy finally said.
“My fault? Oh, no, this was all yours, going and taking it too far as usual," Loki countered.
Darcy sighed. “Can’t you just… magic us out of here? Make a copy of yourself, have him play with the buttons on that panel until he finds the one that opens the door?”
“Then what? The door opens, the agents see two of me out of containment, you in perceived danger, and I get shot again? No thank you. I made it perfectly clear before I was done getting hurt for you people.”
“Yeah but you’ll live through it.”
“It still hurts, you foolish girl.”
“Oh, now the claws are coming out. Where were they before?”
“Retracted, making sure you didn’t get shot.”
“I mean, would they really use guns in a plane?” Darcy countered.
Loki made a face. “Why wouldn’t they? They seem to be the most effective Midgardian weapon.”
Darcy blinked at him, then sighed. “Right. Earth physics. We need to get you that book too.”
She didn’t say anything else for a while. Another few minutes passed, and the speaker crackled. “Hey,” Coulson again. “You might want to see this.”
The video screen from the TV in the corner went from live footage of them to a news report coming from Germany. The Other was there, talking to an assembled crowd.
Both their stomached turned when they saw he was making the crowd kneel. Worse yet, one of the angles had a clear view of the area behind the Other- where here were outlines of three people that were distinctly shaped Jane and Erik.
Loki felt Darcy touch his hand briefly, and he moved his in order to give hers a reassuring squeeze, argument forgotten. "If they're there, where's Barton?" he murmured.
A matter of seconds later, a man who had some armor that had the color scheme of the flag Loki had seen numerous times quite literally jumped into view. “Who?”
“That’s Steve!” Darcy said, suddenly hopeful again. When Steve charged at the Other and the two began to fight, she bounced on her heels. “Kick his ass, Cap!” she called.
A moment later, someone else showed up in armor that almost made Loki miss Asgard. “And that one…?”
“Stark,” Darcy answered.
A few moments later, the Other had apparently backed down and surrendered, and the newcasters had promised updates soon. Darcy seemed pleased with the idea, but it didn’t sit well with Loki. “That’s too good to be true, too…” he murmured.
“What? That we got him?” Darcy asked.
“That he went willingly,” Loki countered. “He was prepared to kill all of us without remorse, instantaneously. You don’t think it’s strange that he surrendered immediately when he was only outmatched by two- who aren’t even gods?”
Darcy frowned. “Knows when he’s beat?” she suggested. “What, are you thinking from… old you perspective?”
Clearly. “Just a hunch.”
Darcy stared at him, but didn’t press the issue. “Guess we’re gonna find out,” she mused, then, “wait… if he has the Tesseract… and he’s gonna be here, what’re you…?”
Loki blinked. He hadn’t even gotten that far yet in thinking about it. He faced the camera in the corner and waved his arms. He waited a few seconds, then spoke, "Coulson? Did you hear that?”
“Yeah. Working on it," Phil answered.
“This still the only one of those you have in here?”
“Something tells me we’re gonna need to pick up another one. But we’ve got some decent containment equipment. Just… promise me you’ll try to tell me the second you start to feel odd, alright?” Phil asked.
“Get her out of here, first,” Loki replied and motioned at Darcy.
Darcy pouted, but didn’t push again.
“Coming down now.”
After Coulson had retrieved Darcy and left Loki alone for another hour, the agent came back for him. He guided him to one of the cargo bays, where sure enough, another identical cell had been made. Loki studied the thing as he approached it. “How many of these things were made to contain Banner?” he asked.
Phil frowned. “How-?”
“For special agents, all of you are hardly subtle when you’re assessing threats,” Loki countered.
Phil made a sound that could only be described as ‘you’ve got us there’, but made no other response. He watched Loki get in, then entered the command to close the door. “Anything yet?”
“Not at all.”
“May be a good sign. Maybe the control is based on emotion, too.”
“Possibly," Loki nodded. He was surprised he hadn't thought about that yet. Maybe it was because the Tesseract hadn't wanted him to. Still, it made the most sense.
“For the record, I still don’t like doing this to you, either.”
“You keep the ones you care about safe. I can’t fault you for that,” Loki answered. He looked around the room he was in and paid close attention to the U shaped line in the floor. He studied the two edges of the U and found wiring and what could only be described as giant hinges on the floor. It was a door that opened down, and if he had studied the vehicle enough, there was nothing further down, so that door opened out into the air. “… I will say you may have chosen the wrong one of these for me.”
“Tell me about it. But Director Fury seems to think that they need the alien in the ones closer to the science equipment."
“Fury?” Loki asked. “The one with the eyepatch, then? Your leader?”
Loki considered the information, then “They want him closer to the labs for testing purposes rather than immediate… threat disposal, if come need be?” Loki clarified.
Phil grimaced. “Well, technically you both have dead drops, but… this one has less surface area before you’d leave the jet.”
Loki started to scoff, then stopped himself. His face softened. “Just… be careful. My word might not mean much after all this, but… you’re putting a lot of precious seconds at risk with what’s perhaps a warped assessment of which is the greater danger to all of you.”
“Always am. And I already know that. But thanks,” Phil replied. He fiddled with the controls on one of the panels, then left without another word.
Loki sat down on the floor and sighed. He let his head rest against the wall and sighed. And now, he was in for an even longer day than the one before.
Loki woke at a distant hum in his ears. He didn’t know when he had nodded off, but now he wished he hadn’t. “No, not yet. Not now.” He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to will the sound away. Hunt it. The Tesseract is yours. “No.” Asgard can be yours. “I don’t want it…” he growled, hoping voicing as much would give him some sort of leverage.
He heard the door to the bay open and scrambled to his feet, ready for a fight, to defend, anything…
Apparently, except for what he got:
Thor was in the doorway, nearly taking up half of the space from edge to edge.
The pair stared each other down for a while, and then Thor turned, only go grab the nearest poor agent and haul him up to eye level with one hand and point to Loki with the other. “Why have you imprisoned my brother?!”
“Not your brother,” Loki muttered. He flinched against the buzzing in his ears.
“WHY?!” Thor repeated. “A Chitauri invades and you imprison the only one who can help you?!”
Loki sighed. “I’m not the only-“
“I am asking your captors!” Thor countered.
There was the sound of someone sprinting down the hallway, then Phil popped into view. He stopped directly beside Thor. “Wait, Thor, I can explain!”
Thor all but dropped the agent. “Then do so, Son of Coul. Is this your doing?!”
Phil gave him a ‘one second’ motion, then waved in Loki’s direction. “This was… kind of a mutual decision.”
Thor frowned, then walked into the room. “Loki, is this true?”
Loki nodded. “It is.”
Thor shook his head. “You told me there was a problem here. You told me you could manage. Why did you not tell me the Other was coming so soon?!”
“Because I didn’t know!” Loki snapped. “Not yet.”
Thor looked him up and down. “Where are Jane, Selvig and Darcy? Where are our friends?”
Loki opened his mouth, then shut it. He couldn’t believe he was actually apprehensive about telling him. “Darcy’s here, Jane and Erik are…” the humming got louder and he flinched against it. Maybe Phil had been onto something when he said the connection was emotion based. “They’re…”
“The Other has them,” Phil cut in.
Loki's head His pounded.
Phil shook his head. "We tried to get them after we got the Other, but they disappeared. We need to find out how to sever his hold on them,” Phil replied.
Thor turned to him sharply. “What hold on them? Is Jane alright?!”
“No,” Loki said quietly.
Thor looked at Phil for answers. “Where are they?”
“I can’t tell either of you that,” Phil answered. “All I can say is that the Other weaponized the Tesseract. He’s got some sort of hold on him. It’s like mind control, really.”
Thor snarled. “He can affect minds, he’s at least a thousand times stronger than you Midgardians, and you imprison a god who’s on your side?!” he demanded.
Phil backed up. “It’s… there’s…”
“The Tesseract has a hold on me, too,” Loki supplied. “I’m not enthralled to the Other like Jane and Erik, but… I’m not far off. The Tesseract seems to be sentient,” he explained. “And the last time I was so much as around where it used to be stored, I almost killed Coulson. I’m not letting it happen again.”
Thor’s frown deepened. “But you seem fine, and the Tesseract is here-“
Loki’s face fell. “It’s on the ship already?!”
Coulson nodded slowly. He motioned at Thor. “When we brought in the Other, he had that scepter that had a chunk of the Tesseract in it, Thor hitched a ride with us. Apparently your people up in Asgard saw what was happening and came down to lend a hand, because they didn’t think we’d stand a chance either,” Coulson replied. “So… yes, it’s here… under watch, and contained pretty well right now. Are… are you okay?”
“I’m not. It’s… muted, but it’s there,” Loki replied.
“Try to fight it.”
“What the Hell do you think I’ve been doing?!” Loki hissed. Something a few yards behind Thor and Phil passed them- a familiar blur of that purple, navy and gold. The pain grew acute, then died out again.
Thor caught Loki’s reaction and turned around. He spotted the Other being led down another hallway and looked back. “It seems he does have a hold on you, brother.”
“Not your brother.”
“You are,” Thor countered.
Phil looked between them, mumbled something about being back soon, then left them alone.
Thor was silent for a while. “You were never one for surrender. Why are you doing so now?”
“I’m not surrendering. This is for our friends’ protection-“
“Surrendering to the Other. You let these Midgardians keep you caged when you wish to help. Why?”
“Because I don’t want to be his weapon against them!” Loki shouted. He wasn’t sure why he was being so generous. Maybe it was because he was desperate, maybe because the humming in his ears was growing unbearable, even at the low hum. “I’ve already lost two of them! I will not lose the other two!” he hissed. “I just told you the Tesseract has a hold on me because I’ve held it before. It’s… it’s how I found out about my true lineage,” he admitted. He ignored Thor’s look of confusion. “My mind is no longer my own. It’s poisoned against me, against the only people I care about. It wants power, and it will stop at nothing to get it.”
Thor stepped forward carefully. “That is all you desired before. You said as much. Why-“
“Because it’s no longer your respect I seek,” Loki answered.
Thor was visibly unsure of how to take that.
“I’m not the man I was before, Thor. That man died when I fell.”
“I told you before. I have your friends to thank for that. I cannot see them in danger by my hand. I will not. And if that means being locked away in case I lose control, so be it.”
“I want to help. But I need your help to do so. I need you by my side.”
“You’ve never needed me, Thor,” Loki answered. “Why do you think I always hated you so much?”
Thor looked away like he had been struck. “Of course I needed you. Why do you think I was always so engrossed with Father whenever he was hard on you? I wanted him to leave you alone so you at your best for me.”
It was Loki’s turn to feel like he had been punched in the gut. He had never thought of it like that, and the realization came like another punch. It was an entirely selfish concept, but so decidedly Thor. Not to mention that it almost all made sense now. He felt tears spring to his eyes again and looked away sharply. After a beat he snuck a look Thor’s way and found that at least he was in good company with that. “Now’s not the time for this. You need to go help Coulson.”
Thor hesitated, then nodded. Without another word, he left.
Loki stared at the door as it closed and exhaled sharply in order to kill the sob trapped in his throat. A breath’s worth laugh afterward. It was a sick joke that if Thor had just simply explained it that way months back, so much could’ve prevented. Things would’ve been different, faster. Still, he wouldn’t have Darcy, Jane and Erik either, so who was really to say? He shook his head in disbelief, then stopped short upon realizing the humming was gone- and the more he thought about it, it hadn’t been present for that entire exchange. Of course, the moment he put that fact together, the humming started up again. He sat as far from the door as the cell would allow.
After a few minutes, a voice came over the speaker. For once it wasn’t Coulson. No, this was darker, more a growl than a voice. The Other, he realized.
“-You have imprisoned the Wanderer and sent the Prisoner to do the wandering. Unwise. How desperate are you? You call on such lost creatures to help you.”
Loki growled at the intentional use of 'desperate'. He had used the term too recently for it to not be a jab at him. “Get out of my head.” His head throbbed, and he tried to put up any mental blocks he could against it. It barely served a purpose. The pain stopped, but the humming grew louder.
Someone must have been transmitting the feed so he could get an opinion himself. Darcy or Phil, he was sure.
Fury responded to the Other. Loki could barely hear him, but from the occasional inflection he could tell it was all tough talk again- probably too rehearsed.
The other wasn’t deterred, either. “It burns you to have come so close, does it not? You have the Tesseract back. To have unlimited power than so many seek. But you intend to share it with all your people. Foolish, when only one can have real power.”
“Well, let me know if real power wants a magazine or something,” Fury responded.
Loki smirked. Well, he could appreciate Fury for that, at least. It would most likely get him killed first, obviously. But he knew the man would at least die after making sure he went down with a fight. He could respect that.
He just wished it would mean something in the end.
Chapter 17: Bow or Break
Loki was bored again.
No one had so much as visited him since Thor and Coulson had left. No one had even talked to him via speaker. It was too quiet all over again. If only he could figure out why the Other was so damned willing to be captured.
Loki closed his eyes. Phil was right. Tony was an ass.
Tony made his way through the doors and stopped in front of the cell. “You good? Comfy? Want food? Blankets? A soda?”
“They’re sending you to talk to the prisoners?” Loki asked.
Tony shrugged. “Just making sure everyone’s taken care of. I’m cool with you. You’re more with it than that Other guy, so I can deal,” he explained. “I heard you on the bridge. What’s your take on the Other himself? He crazy? Like… old you crazy?”
Loki frowned. “What?”
“Your brother explained-“
“Not my brother.”
“Yeah, he said you’d say that. Still, what’s your take? Is our merry band of misfits a match for this guy?”
Loki sighed and leaned on the glass. “I’m not sure. On a base level: perhaps. But he’s one of those ‘know you better than you know yourself’ types- he plays dirty and preys on weaknesses. I’m confident you can fight dirty if come need be, I get the impression Agent Romanoff has, but Thor and Captain Rodgers? Not so much. And the Other has my people, who are Thor’s people. He’s already compromised. But then Captain Rogers doesn’t have anything holding him here in the present, by the sound of it. He’s got nothing that can be held against him.”
“So… ruffle his feathers, you think?” Tony asked.
“If that’s what it takes to manipulate him against the Other more, yes.” Loki agreed.
Tony nodded. “Good. You and I seem to be on the same page.”
“Most other people wouldn’t consider that a good thing.”
Tony smirked. “You don’t pull any punches. I like that. Where were you twenty minutes ago with all this agreement? If I had a god on my side, Cap wouldn’t have wiped the floor with me.”
“Everybody’s challenging each other already?” Loki asked.
Tony shrugged. “Yeah, well, Cap’s a dick, your brother- Thor, sorry- doesn’t really want to get involved, my former assistant is more interested in keeping SHIELD afloat and getting her friend back… this thing was doomed from the start. Or it had a bunch of kinks to work out, first. And the best part is that it’s not just us. SHIELD is hiding something, too. Just haven’t figured it out yet.”
“And you’re seeking my help when I’m locked up here?” Loki clarified.
“Just catching you up,” Tony countered. "Also, I was making a point and getting to it, so if you could just give me a second, I mean damn. Anyway, so you're the god of lies. Do you have some sort of lie detector ability?”
Loki scoffed. “Nothing is ever that easy, Mister Stark.”
“For me it is,” Tony shrugged.
It was Loki’s turn to smirk. There was quiet after that, so he figured the conversation had run its course. “You want to get me on your side, go see how Darcy is. Just… don’t tell me where she is.”
“Check on the girlfriend. Got it!” Tony nodded. He hit the panel and the exit door slid open.
“That’s what they all say, Mischief!” Tony called over his shoulder before he disappeared down the hallway.
Loki groaned. And now he had typical human meddling in idiotic drama to worry about. He had half a mind to go find the other, point to his jugular and tell him ‘go.’
He waited another few minutes in silence. He had half expected Tony to return with news by now. The man seemed to focus more on frivolities in the face of danger, so he had expected that to be high on the man’s list of priorities. He turned in order to slide down the cell and get comfortable again- only to get thrown feet to the side when the cell lurched. He scrambled to his feet to try and figure out what had happened, only to realize it hadn’t actually been the cell that had moved- it was the entire ship. Finally. He felt bad for responding with that, but at least his fears were confirmed. The wall above him sparked violently and he ducked. The entry door into the cargo bay slid open, and he was mildly surprised to find that it was Tony who came charging through, decked out in his flying armor.
“Mischief, you’re up!” Tony called. He slammed his hand down on the cell door release.
Loki went to exit, only to duck when there was an explosion from directly above them that knocked them both off of their feet. “The Hell is going on?!”
“We got attacked by some jet. I think the Other has a rescue party,” Tony explained. “They stash your weapons anywhere?”
Loki held out his hands and and summoned his daggers.
Tony’s helmet closed over his face as he examined the man’s hands, then looked back up. “We’re talking you doing party tricks at my place next holiday season after this,” he reported. “Come on.”
He led Loki out, and then stopped short and put his hand to his ear. “Hey, I came to get you to give us an advantage. I’ve got a mission. Go find Fury, he’s got something for you.”
“Right,” Loki nodded. He watched Tony run the opposite way, then watched the SHIELD agents charge down a different hallway. He figured Fury would be in the direction of the danger, so he took off in the opposite direction.
He turned one corner, then immediately had to rear back so he wouldn’t collided with Natasha in the process.
Natasha didn’t miss a beat. “What’re you doing out of your cell?!”
“Trying to help. Stark’s idea. Have you seen Fury?”
“No!” Natasha forced out. She seemed ready to run, and he wasn’t sure if it was because of danger or her own readiness to jump into action.
Loki growled. “Any reports of the Other?”
“Not yet. Dealing with the Hulk right now,” Natasha replied, edged with desperation again.
“What the Hell is the Hulk?” Loki asked. There was a deafening roar to their left and a giant green blur careening towards them. Loki tackled Natasha out of the way of its charge. They hit the ground. Loki turned to see what it was. The shape was humanoid, but giant.
“That,” Natasha clarified.
“Is that Banner?!” Loki blurted.
Loki blinked. “Now I understand why Coulson was so concerned.”
“Yeah,” Natasha replied. She looked around and bounced on her heels. “You go check on the Other, I’ll get the Hulk?”
It was Loki's turn to nod. “Agreed.”
The pair of them got up and ran different directions.
Of course, it wasn’t until a few moments later that Loki remembered that Phil had convieniently left that level out of the tour. He had no idea which way was right or left, let alone the way to the labs. He reached a fork in the hallway and paused. Just as he was about to go right, something slammed into him and sent him flying through at least two walls.
He landed and once he stopped rolling, got into a defensive crouch- only to find Thor a matter of feet away from him. He knew Thor was strong, but not that strong. So there needed to be someone else. He looked across the room, and there was the Hulk, all over again. So Natasha was either dead or unconscious. Their odds couldn’t get any worse, at least.
When the Hulk recovered fully first, Loki was first in his eyeline and he charged.
Loki rolled out of the way and brought his daggers up. “Did Fury give a policy on what to do if Banner turned?”
“We’re reasoning with him!” Thor objected, already assuming that Loki was ready to kill him already.
Truth be told, he wasn’t wrong. “We might not have a choice in the mat-OOF!” Loki went flying when the Hulk backhanded him across the room. The next time he looked up, he knew he had to have been knocked out for a couple of minutes, because there were new chunks of rubble around that hadn’t been there the last time he blinked.
“Loki!” Thor called. There was another loud bang, and Loki figured Thor had met a similar fate. He went stand, only to almost get knocked down by a silver blur. It took him a minute, but he recognized the blur. Mjolnir. Of course Thor had come prepared. Bastard.
The Tesseract’s humming suddenly grew more. Loki wasn’t sure if it was because of his thought process, or the very real possibility that the Other had been freed and gotten the scepter. “Thor, we need-“ he looked at where Thor had been laying, only to see the god charging the Hulk again. He jumped onto him and got him in a headlock. “A little help, Loki!” he called as the Hulk started to paw at him, trying to dismantle him.
Loki hesitated. “…I’m… kind of sort of enjoying this, actually.”
“LOKI!” Thor repeated.
The Hulk roared and finally managed to get a hold on Thor’s back. He pried him off and started slamming him down on the floor repeatedly. He brought Thor up a final time, and Loki realized that there was a good possibility that Thor’s back would break on impact at the particular angle the Hulk was about to exploit. “HEY!” he called. It did the trick- the Hulk looked up at him. “The only one who gets to kill him is me!” he protested. He launched one of the daggers at the Hulk’s shoulders, and it imbedded itself just above the muscle. Not much damage, but enough that the Hulk cried out, dropped Thor and tried to pry it out.
Thor took advantage of the moment and slammed Mjolnir into the Hulk’s chest.
It sent him flying through another wall.
The pair of them stood in silence broken only when Thor let out one of the heartiest laughs Loki had ever heard him do. “You’re laughing right now!”
“It was just like old times!” Thor explained, clapping him on the shoulders. “See?! I missed this! I missed us!”
“… You do realize I was prepared to watch him come inches away from killing you?” Loki countered.
Thor just grinned back at him.
The moment passed when the ship tilted again. Both started to sway on their feet.
The adjustment was enough to jog Loki’s memory on his concerns before he had been an unwilling participant in that fight. “The Other. Darcy!”
Thor, to his credit, immediately sobered. “These are good people. They’ll keep Darcy safe. Where is the Other?”
“Not too far from the science labs,” Loki answered.
Thor nodded. He held out Mjonir and advanced on Loki.
Loki backpedaled. “I can run there just fine thank y-“ he felt Thor yank him close before he registered it, and suddenly they were flying through a few of the holes in the wall that the fight had caused.
They landed, and Loki looked for anything familiar. Once he did, he hit Thor in the shoulder and motioned at him to follow him. They ran into the holding cell’s room… only to find it vacant. “No…” he hurried over. The door was open, not broken. Someone had opened the cell. He backed up and waved his hand, intent to dispel any magic. He suspected a cloaking spell, but there was no evidence of anything.
“You…” came a hiss behind them.
Loki recognized The Other’s voice and whirled around- only to see Thor’s body come flying towards him. They collided and fell backwards- right into the cell.
The Other sneered. He ran a hand over the panel and the doors shut behind them.
Thor launched himself at the door. When it didn’t break on impact, he started to slam Mjolnir into it.
The Other laughed at them. The sound came out more as a snake’s hiss. He turned his attention back to Loki. “Wanderer. Prepare to wander no longer. You made your choice. Now suffer the consequences.” He reached for the controls again.
“Move away, please.”
Loki’s head snapped towards the entryway door. Phil was there with some sort of gun trained on the Other. “Coulson, no…”
Phil ignored him. He started to walk towards the Other. “Hell of an attack. How’d you get all of our enemies to get on board so quickly?”
“Because tyranny makes for enemies… who all want power,” the Other replied. “Power that they think they will get. Power that your friend was foolish enough to deny.”
“We’ve got a saying here. 'Absolute power corrupts absolutely',” Phil countered.
“And there is a beauty in corruption that your foolish hearts plead ignorant of. Only the Wanderer has tasted both sides out of all of you. So I will ask him again: why not join us? You are superior. You deserve to be in the service of gods and kings here. Listen to the Tesseract’s call. Feel it.”
Loki inhaled sharply. The humming grew louder again- like it was practiced with the Other’s words. He flinched against it and tried to will it away again. “I while ago I might have taken you up on that offer. Now... never. I’ll take humans over gods and kings any day.”
The Other sneered. “You have grown a heart…” he mused. He crossed in front of the door. “Now you will watch as I break it.”
Loki knew the Other’s intention a second too late. The other turned sharply, brought back the scepter and stabbed it directly into Coulson’s chest in one fluid motion. Loki threw himself against the glass. “NO!” he watched Phil drop to the floor.
Thor let out a roar of his own and went back to work slamming Mjolnir into the glass quicker and stronger than he had before.
The Other paid them no heed. He walked back over to the cell’s control panel, then reached for a button- the one that Loki had pretended not to see Phil take a glance at when he mentioned the floor opening up.
Loki heard the hatch start to open. Air rushed around them from above. He looked from Thor, to Phil, to the Other and back frantically, trying to figure out how to stop the fall. Of course, that was when he remembered that his ability to multiply had come back. He cursed himself for forgetting it so easily, and immediately summoned a copy of himself directly by the panel and phased into it. He bolted for the controls- which gave the Other enough time to start a retreat. Worse yet, Loki found the exact control he needed right when the last lock had been released. He only had time to make eye contact with Thor before the cell dropped out of sight. “THOR!” He bolted forward again. He had to come to quick terms with the fact that there was nothing he could do now. He turned around and looked from the door, to Phil in the corner. He let out an involuntary whine. He looked between both options again. With a final shout, he summoned a copy and sent it after the Other and practically dove for Phil. “Coulson…” he went to work trying to examine the wound. He knew things looked grim at best. He just didn't want to believe it.
Phil coughed. “Quick thinking with the whole clone thing” he forced out.
Loki shook his head. “Stop talking. We’re going to get you help.”
“I’m done, buddy. It’s too late.”
Loki looked him in the eye. “No, no it isn’t. Don’t say that.”
Phil let out a weak laugh. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, but… it’s okay. It’s okay.”
“It’s not!” Loki shouted. He flinched and tried to look as apologetic as possible.
Phil, to his credit, even dying bothered to give him a reassuring nod. “Hey. I got a lot of resources from exploiting my hunch that you’ll be better than the Tesseract and you’d be the biggest help out of everybody we called in. Told a lot of people you wouldn’t end up being a liability who would kill us all... “ he coughed again. “Do me a favor and don’t make a liar out of the both of us, huh?”
Loki blinked the tears that were forming in his eyes away. The man had been murdered to prove a point and intimidate him, and he was still on Loki's side. He was still dumping all of his faith into him on a hunch, even after he had tried to kill him barely two days prior. Everything hurt for Phil. “Coulson… Phil…” he began.
“Consider it my last request,” Phil cut him off.
Loki flinched, then nodded. “Manipulative bastard,” he couldn’t help accusing, but there was no animosity behind it.
Phil snorted. “Look who’s talking.”
Loki forced a smile. He nodded. “You’ve got my word.”
Phil moved his hand onto Loki's arm.
Loki fought back tears again. And now he was in his final moments and he was trying to make him feel better. He didn't deserve the man. At all.
The door slid open again and Fury came barreling through.
Loki realized how it must’ve looked in his eyes and started to stand up.
Sure enough, Fury pulled a gun on him. “Get away from him!”
Phil tried to sit up a little straighter. “ Nick, s’okay! The Other did it. Lok… tried to help,” Phil explained. “Wanted to… save me. Not… gonna work out.”
Fury didn’t look convinced.
Phil shook his head. “Loki… you’ve got a promise to keep. And Nick… got a job to do. They’ve got something to Avenge now. Make sure it happens.”
The other two exchanged glances and looked back at Phil… just in time to see the light fade from his eyes.
Loki inched forward. “Phil?!”
Fury checked his pulse. He hesitated, then looked away. “He’s gone.”
Loki snarled and got to his feet.
Fury watched him. “What the Hell are you doing?!”
“Ending this,” Loki growled. He needed to find the Other. He was going to find him, and rip him limb from limb. The Tesseract had been strangely silent up til then, and the moment he had thought it, it came back with a vengeance, louder than ever. There was a strange pattern to it this time. It was arguably a song, repetitive and high as it was. He didn’t mind. He could use a little madness at that point. It would help in destroying the Other.
He saw something distinctly purple, blue and gold in the distance and ran for it.
He reached the Other just in time to see his copy meet the same fate Phil had. When the copy dissolved away around the scepter, the Other growled.
Loki summoned his daggers and charged again. The Other was quicker. He managed to grab Loki’s arm and launched him across the room. “Clever trick, Wanderer. I thought for sure I had won there. That you would use your rage properly.”
“What do you call this, then?” Loki hissed. He brought his feet up and kicked the Other in the ribs hard. It was enough force to have the Other’s grip let up so he could get out of it.
“Learning from your mistakes,” the Other replied. “I have struck you once today. The next time you fail me, I will take the girl from you. And when the friends I have taken from you finish their job, I will end them in front of you as well.”
“Not if I kill you first,” Loki countered. He swung his dagger again and managed to make contact with the Other’s arm.
Still, the Other barely seemed bothered. He ripped the dagger out of his arm, then threw Loki across the room.
Loki struggled to get to his feet, but that time around, all of the fights and emotional toll had started to catch up to him. His elbows buckled and he collapsed back onto the floor. He reached for his remaining dagger as the Other advanced. This was it. This was it. He clenched his fist around the dagger’s hilt and rolled onto his back.
The Other finally reached him.
Loki used the last of his strength to slam the dagger into the Other’s leg.
But again, it barely had any effect.
The Other merely glanced down like he had been inconvenienced slightly. “I will be back for your reconsideration. You will bow… or you will break,” he reported. He brought his foot up to Loki’s face, and the last thing Loki saw was it coming down on him before his world was nothing but black again.
When Loki came to, the first thing that met his eyes was harsh, artificial light. He squeezed his eyes shut again and groaned. When he reopened them, Natasha was leaning over him, blocking it.
She smiled weakly. “Hey. You did good back there. How are you feeling?”
“I’ve been better,” he countered. Then he shot upright. “Darcy!”
“She’s okay,” Natasha assured him. “We had her in the living quarters the whole time. It was the place that had the least action to begin with.She’s come by every few minutes to check on you. Should be-“
“Here,” Natasha finished, just as Darcy ran into the room.
Loki met her halfway and it wasn’t until she was in his arms that he realized he was the one who initiated the hug this time. He let her go immediately and cupped her face in his hands in order to examine her. “Look at me,” he instructed. He felt guilty when he used a bit of his silver-tongue magic in the order, but if compulsion got the job done, so be it.
She did, and he gave her a quick once over before he looked her in the eye- the same pale blue as Erik’s, no trace of a deeper hue or glow. “Do you feel alright?”
“Do I feel alright? Dude, you’re the one who took the Other on. Are you?!”
Loki nodded quickly and sighed. He let his forehead drop to hers. “Better now.”
Darcy huddled into him.
The moment was broken at the interruption and Loki looked at the doorway, then spotted Natasha and Clint in the doorway. When he saw Clint he tensed and shouldered his way between them and Darcy.
Clint put his hands up. "Hey, easy, it's me. I promise. I... it's over. The control got broken."
Loki looked at Natasha, and when she nodded he looked back at him. "How?"
"Hard hit on the head," Natasha replied. "Sounds unrealistic, but it works."
It was Loki's turn to nod. He waited a bit, then sighed. “Were Jane and Erik here?”
“No. We did multiple sweeps,” Natasha replied.
Clint visibly hesitated, then pinched the bridge of his nose. “He’s uh… he’s not done with them. I was the muscle, they’re the brains. The Other needs them for his final plan with the Tesseract.”
“Set it off in New York, destroy what needs to be destroyed to prove a point and work from there,” Clint replied. “And I think he failed to tell me the bigger details on purpose.”
“So we’re back to square one, but also worse off,” Loki provided. He wasn't sure if he had harming Erik and Jane, even to end the Other's control over them. Even if he could, who was to say that the Tesseract wouldn't push him farther. “That’s hardly favorable.”
“We have to make it work,” Natasha countered. “Fury wants to see you in the squad room by the bridge, by the way. Just… without Darcy.”
Darcy nodded. “Don’t worry, I get it. Kinda hard to be part of the World Saving Team when you don’t have mad ninja skills or superpowers.”
Natasha smiled apologetically at her, then motioned at the door. “Go on. He said it was urgent.”
Loki nodded back and went on his way. Some of the spots he had seen destroyed had quick patch jobs done, while other spots were worse off than when he had last seen them. He made a mental note to ask how long he had been out, then kept walking.
“Just a few hours. The Other took you out and went on one last rampage before he got out of here,” Natasha replied.
Loki groaned. There was no way he was letting Darcy out of his sight until they put that bastard in the ground.
They made it back into the meeting room just above the bridge. Loki had to admit he expected it to be in worse shape. Still, they arrived in time to see Fury telling Steve and Tony something. There was a set of bloodied playing cards on the table.
“Phil Coulson died still believing in that idea…”
Loki stopped mid-stride, and a moment later, Tony shot up out of the chair he was in. Tony noticed his presence and walked over to him. “You need a drink?” he asked, although he looked miles away. “I need a drink.”
Loki looked from Tony, to Steve, to Nick. They all seemed equal parts stoic, and he had a feeling that Nick’s ‘damage report’ must’ve been some sort of pitch for the Avengers. Typical Midgardian- use sacrifice to further a political ideal. He started to wonder if Fury had even wanted to see him, or it was just a ploy for him to ovehear whatever would've been said. It probably would've ended in an intentionally poorly veiled threat. He realized Tony was still waiting on an answer. “… Yes. Yes, I do.”
“Good. Come on.”
Loki spared one final glance at Steve, Nick and the cards before he followed him out. A few moments later, after what Loki had heard, he wasn’t very surprised when Tony stopped in the doorway of the room where the Other had killed Phil. He flinched when Tony went inside. He took a deep breath and followed him. When the first sight that met him in the room was the bloodstain where Coulson had fell, his stomach lurched.
Tony was quiet for a while. Then, quietly, “Fury said you were with Coulson when…”
“The Other did it because I was there,” Loki admitted after a moment. “Our link, it… he knows Coulson and I were friendly. He did it to get to me…” he walked over to the bloodstain and knelt by it. He went to touch it, but couldn't bring himself to do so. “His bloody idiotic faith in me was his undoing…” he summarized. “…Odin... my... adopted father love that,” he added bitterly after a moment.
Tony managed a scoff. “Your dad sucked too, huh?”
Loki only grunted in acknowledgement.
Tony sighed. “Whether you got him killed or not, rumor has it you stayed with him til he died and still went after the Other afterward,” he pointed out. “Thanks… for that. Shit, I was never nice to the guy, but he at least deserved someone with him in the end.”
“He deserved a Hell of a lot more than that,” Loki countered, although there was no animosity behind it.
“Was he married?” came Steve’s voice from behind them.
The pair turned to him, and Steve looked back and leaned back, unsure if his presence was welcome or not. They both grimaced, but it seemed more at the situation than his company, so he leaned forward again.
Tony turned to look at him. “No, there was an uh, cellist,” he answered.
“I’m sorry. He seemed like a good man,” Steve continued.
“No, Loki’s right. He was an idiot,” Tony added.
“Why? For believing?” Steve asked.
“For taking on the Other alone instead of trying to figure out how to get the two gods ten feet away out of that cell to help him,” Tony explained.
‘Two’ was enough to take Loki out of the conversation for a moment. Had it been any other situation, he would’ve relished in the realization he had forgotten Thor was around. But now… not so much. What could’ve happened to him? Could he have survived that fall? If he hadn’t, would Frigga know? Would Heimdall find out and just notice the fact that Loki had favored checking on Phil over freeing Thor? Would she hate him all over again?
Loki’s head snapped in Tony’s direction.
The billionaire nodded back towards the door. “Let’s get that drink.”
Whatever the conversation was between the two mortals had apparently gotten heated, because Steve cut Loki off in the path towards the door. “Is this the first time you’ve lost a soldier-“
Tony whirled on Steve, and Loki stopped short, not sure whether or not to interfere or not. “We are not soldiers!” he snapped. “I’m not marching to Fury’s fife.”
“Neither am I. He’s got the same blood on his hands that the Other does.But right now we gotta put that behind us and get this done. The Other needs a power source. We can put together a list…”
“He made it personal,” Tony cut him off.
“That’s not the point,” Steve countered.
“It is the point. That’s the Other’s point. He hit us all where we live. He knows we have an unstable element and knew what to do to make it even less stable,” Tony motioned widely at Loki. “He attacked us on our home turf,” he continued, waving between him and Steve now. “Why?”
“To tear us apart,” Steve supplied. He glanced at Loki, who shrugged and nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, divide and conquer is great, but he knows he has to take us out to win, right? That’s what he wants.”
“And he just nearly succeeded now,” Loki answered. “What’re you getting at?”
Tony waved a hand to silence him. “He wants to beat us, he wants to be seen doing it. He wants an audience. Loki, you said you had some weird connection with him, he can get into your thoughts, what’s he like?”
“Brash but calculating... knows exactly how to get to people, like you said…” Loki listed off.
Tony nodded eagerly and started to cross the room. “Germany was just the previews. This is opening night. I mean, this guy’s a murdersome, ugly diva. He wants flowers h wants a moment built to the skies with his name plastered…” Tony stopped short and a look of realization dawned on his face. “Son of a bitch!” he immediately ran off in the other direction.
Loki looked at Steve. “Did you understand a word of that, or are you just as lost as I am?”
Steve motioned at him to follow him. He led him over to one of the hallways where there was a small screen still functioning. Steve brought up the keypad and searched ‘Stark Tower’- a giant obelisk of a building with Tony’s last name plastered at the top. “That’s his latest project,” Steve explained.
“Ah,” Loki nodded slowly, then realization hit him as well. “Wait, so that’s where-“
“The power source is. The tower has that new clean energy. That’s what the Other must be tapping into.”
“And that’s where he’ll have Erik and Jane, then,” Loki added.
“Guess so,” Steve agreed. He finally looked away from the screen and turned to Loki, only to find the spot vacant. “Dramatic exit. The god who we might not even be able to trust is learning from Stark. This day just keeps getting better and better…”
Ten minutes later, Tony’s assumption was confirmed. He had pulled up security footage from his tower, and sure enough, the Other was on the roof, making rounds around the main deck examining Erik and Jane’s work on the Tesseract and its built power source. And Loki felt more lost than ever, now that saving the actual closest thing to a father he had meant being right next to the damn thing that turned his mind into an abyss of madness. He knew he had minutes to decide and had agonized over it- until Darcy had come up to check in on everyone because they were ‘freaking out’ and had clearly known the others weren’t telling her anything. It killed him not to tell her- until he remembered she was a ‘hacker’, had ducked into a hallway, done some research and found out on her own. She had come to him, barely holding it together and requested one thing: “bring them back.” And damn it, he was sold. That was, that didn't mean he didn't see problems in the making. He drifted over to Natasha and Clint. "When it comes to breaking the Other's control over Jane and Erik, I’m out, considering if I hit them too hard, I’m liable to break their necks. Who’s going to handle prisoner control?”
“I clearly did it before, I can do it again,” Natasha assured him.
Loki nodded again. “Thank you…” he replied.
They continued on their way into the hangar. Loki was surprised and quite amused with the fact that all it took for them to commandeer one of the jets was for Steve to call one of the men ‘son’, and that was that. When they started to board, he grabbed Natasha by the arm. “I need one last favor from you…” he said quietly.
Natasha caught the secrecy and looked at the others. They seemed to be settled in, distracted, so she looked at him expectantly. “Sure…”
Loki sighed. “We’re going into the belly of the beast here. I will fully admit that I’m not sure how my presence will affect the fight. Coulson… Coulson and I made an arrangement before all this. I gave express permission that if it comes to it, he should put me down. I mean no offense, but you seem to be the only one not nauseatingly good and noble in this group. I want your word that you will follow through in that arrangement, because here, when my mind is my own, I refuse to hurt my friends, or any of you.”
Natasha studied him for a few moments.
Loki hated to admit how unnerved the assessment made him feel.
Natasha looked down, then back at him. “You’ve got a deal.”
“Thank you,” Loki bowed his head. He glanced back at the entry ramp as it started to close.
“Don’t thank me just yet. I’m the most observant person in this group and I just noticed we have one extra person in his plane…” she pointed out.
Loki frowned, then clenched his jaw, knowing full well what she meant. “Where?”
Natasha nodded behind them, where there was a wall and netting dividing the cabin from a storage area. “She’s not really subtle, is she?”
“Hardly,” Loki growled. He turned on his heel and marched over to the dividing line. He reached behind it and yanked Darcy out of hiding in one smooth motion. “What the Hell are you doing here?” he hissed.
Darcy looked apologetic for the slightest moment. Then, as soon as that look had started it was gone and she crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m trying to do something to help instead of just sitting around and getting carted off to be protected.”
Loki sighed. “Dar-“
“No!” Darcy cut him off. “You know what, I've understood why I needed to stand around before, but now... I'm just done. I’m done just sitting around when my friends are being controlled by a guy who's almost killed you a couple of times now. The way I see it, you guys are all here for the Other. Who’s gonna help you get all of those people in the area out of there?” she countered.
Loki stared at her and tried desperately not to show that he knew she made a fair point in the last part. “That’s for the agents and the local authorities to deal with, not you.”
“Well I can’t just sit by when my friends are in danger!”
“This isn’t some adventure that you can come along on this time-“ he stopped short when her hand flew across his face. It wasn’t hard enough to so much as sting, but it still took him aback. He could hear the quiet murmurs that were going on between Steve, Natasha and the others about Darcy immediately die down.
“I’m not trying to go on an adventure, you idiot. I just… I want to help. And last I checked, that was your logic for coming along too, knowing full well you might go crazy. So don’t even try that on me,” Darcy countered. “Besides, I do have experience getting people to evacuate buildings, courtesy of you and that giant robot thing, so put that in your pipe and smoke it,” she finally finished. She sat down on the nearest bench in a huff.
Loki remained silent and walked back over to his own bench. He pretended not to see the thumbs up Clint had done at Darcy behind his back.
Clint, to his credit picked up on how hard he was being ignored. “Hey, something tells me I’m gonna be the guy running interference on the ground. I’ll look after her,” he assured him quietly.
Loki wasn’t sure if he could trust the man at his word- not that he was in a better place. Still, he’d take what he could get at that point. “Thank you.”
Clint nodded. “I got your back. Just… try to make sure you keep having ours, alright?”
“I’ll do my best.”
Clint looked him up and down, then nodded slowly. “Good enough.”
Chapter 19: If the World Turned Upside Down
By the time they had touched down in the city, the humming was back in Loki’s head tenfold. He was barely out of the jet when he had to flinch against it. One in particular got into his head enough to make him sway on his feet.
Natasha glanced back at him. “You good?”
Loki shook his head. “For now… but who knows that’s going to last.”
“Fight it,” Natasha cut him off.
Loki had to bite back a sarcastic response. “So, what are we on the ground for?” he asked. A mere couple of seconds later, a blue pillar of light shot up from the top of Stark Tower. “Right… that.” He continued watching the light rise until the sky opened up in a ring around it- not unlike the same rings he had fallen directly through. “This isn’t…” his head pounded, then, clear as day, the Other’s voice started up.
Make your choice.
He groaned and tried to focus to get back into the Other’s head. I have, you bastard.
You wish to side with the insects?
Over you? Any day.
Then die with them.
Loki looked at the surrounding rooftops. Stop hiding, be a creature of your word.
I will leave that to you. Do you desire to know where I will watch your undoing? Use the Tesseract. Answer its call.
Loki grunted and tried his hardest to sever the connection. It was a trap to let the Tesseract in. If he answered it, he'd be doomed. For a moment he wondered how much of the entire ordeal had been the actual Other and how much of it had been the Tesseract. Still, he was able to keep it under relative control this whole time, even now. If the Other was this far gone to it, he must’ve been perfectly willing to end everyone and everything, controlled or not. Something glinted in the sun above him. He looked up, only to see Tony falling directly off the top of the building. “STARK!” he called. Moments later, something flew towards Tony, and right where there would’ve been a rough impact it engulfed him, and Loki realized it was his armor. Tony recovered and flew off to stop his fall. Loki huffed out a relieved breath he didn’t realize he was holding, then looked back at the roof. That clearly meant the Other was there- and so were the others, then. He focused on the edge of the building, focused and sent a copy up and phased into it.
When he took in the roof, his heart skipped a beat when the first thing he saw was Jane and Erik. Worse yet, they were working on some computer equipment of sorts, dangerously close to the opposite edge of the roof. Too close. Enough that if they so much as got pushed back from being in the way of any attack, they would most likely fall off.
He started towards them when he saw movement above his head. Things were pouring out from the tear in the sky. It didn’t take them long to come into focus and Loki realized they were Chitauri. He swore and turned back to his task in hand- only to come face to face with the Other. He leaned back and went to summon a dagger, but it was a second too late.
The Other advanced on him and shoved the scepter at his chest. Not touching it, but enough that Loki felt the pull, and the effects increased tenfold.
You could have so much. You will have so much. Disembodied again, and then in his own: Asgard could be mine.
“I don’t want it,” Loki countered.
The Other spoke this time. “But you do. You can finally be shown the respect you deserve.”
Well, that was true. Loki’s heart sunk the moment he thought it, wondering why that had suddenly occurred to him. He tried not to let it show.
“You will unsurp Odin.”
Oh, and there is that. He flinched. No, no, the Tesseract was merely using him. This is its weapon. You can do better.
It was the disembodied, ownerless voice again. Loki tried to will it away again. “We will beat you.”
The Other sneered, then swung the bottom of the scepter at him and followed it up with a blast from the piece of Tesseract in the top. He sent the god flying over the edge of the building in one fell swoop.
He frantically looked around for a place to phase until there was a voice off to his left. It took him a moment to recognize it as Tony’s, but it faded out with distance and the rush of air around him.
Something distinctly red and gold hit him directly in the back and suddenly there was a steady weight there and his vertical decent had gone horizontal.
“Damn- now I gotcha, Mischief!”
Loki risked a glance back towards the ground, and it was still coming up too soon. He grabbed Tony’s arms and turned them so when they hit the ground hard he took the brunt of the impact.
Tony rolled away after a moment. “Wow, ow, okay. Guess I didn’t have you.” He struggled to his feet. “So… the Other enjoys throwing people off buildings. Considering Thor and I are the only two who can technically fly and you can materialize places, that’s good to know. It also sucks for the rest of the team”
“We’ll adapt,” Loki countered. “And besides… you’re going to want more people on the ground anyway,” he added as he watched more Chitauri pour out of the breach.
The Chitauri didn’t waste time. Most immediately started opening fire on the group.
The moment he turned away from Stark Tower, a Chitauri landed in front of him and prepared to fire from what could only be some sort of energy weapon. Grateful for the distraction, Loki summoned his daggers and charged it.
The Chitauri met him halfway and threw its weapon aside in order to come at Loki, fists and claws first.
It didn’t take the god long to get the upper hand and bury the daggers in its throat. He pulled back and turned around again. He saw Steve, Natasha and Clint regrouping a half block away and ran to join them.
Natasha sensed his arrival first and Loki went to put his hands up, only to stop short when an animalistic roar came from the void above them. They looked up to investigate and gawked at the giant armored serpentine creature that was floating out of the ring.
“Loki… what the Hell is that?” Clint asked.
“I have no idea,” Loki replied.
They all jumped when more Chitauri soldiers came out of compartments within the beast’s armor. They all landed nearby.
“Get to cover!” Clint ordered.
They all scrambled for the nearby street that hadn’t seen much of the action. Before any of them knew it, they had peeled off in different directions unintentionally.
Loki ended up getting swarmed by four Chitauri. For once it was looking grim. Three went at him at close range, and just as one had set up a shot with its gun that would’ve gotten Loki right between the eyes, a lightning bolt obliterated it. The other three were stunned enough at the sight that Loki managed to kill them in the meantime, knowing full well what had happened and remaning on the fence with how he felt about it. A moment later, there was something at Loki’s back- a couple of inches wider than him, but a head taller. He couldn’t help the laugh that started up in his chest and he eased into a battle stance as more Chitauri approached. “What took you so long?”
“I was a little tied up,” Thor countered. “You all had the audacity to start without me,”
“Well, I always did enjoy stealing a glorious fight from you when given the chance,” Loki replied, then counted as even more Chitauri started approaching.
Thor laughed. “So… I’ll take the ten on this side, you take the ten on yours?”
“I think we always did better when we had a wager on who killed more enemies, did we not?” Loki countered.
Thor looked over his shoulder. “Is that you finally missing the old days, brother?”
Loki shrugged. “Perhaps a little… maybe I just miss beating you.”
“We’ll see about that.”
It was Loki’s turn to laugh again, and the pair of them charged into the crowd of Chitauri they were facing.
Loki had gotten far as killing his sixth victim when he lost track of Thor. He went looking for him, only to have one of the Chitauri come up behind him and put him in a headlock. He saw the creature draw his arm back and draw a dagger. He snarled and slammed his head back into the Chitauri’s, twisted in his grip and put his own dagger through its gut. He summoned another dagger, pulled the other from the Chitauri’s body and launched the pair into a Chitauri that had just arrived’s head. “Eight…” he thought out loud, just as Thor shouted, “nine!”. Moment ruined. He wasn’t quite sure why he wasn’t as offended as he usually had been in similar situations. He killed his ninth, and gutted the tenth- just as Thor slammed Mjolnir into its skull. “That one was on my side.”
“It was on mine,” Thor corrected.
“I got it first.”
“He was still breathing until I hit him,” Thor countered.
“Boys, is now the time?!” Natasha called from a few feet away.
“It’s always the time,” Thor responded.
“We need a plan!” Steve cut in as he approached with Clint. “What’s the story upstairs?”
“The cube’s defenses are inpenetrable for now. He’s got our friends on the edge of the roof- likely insurance if we get an upper hand.”
“What, so we work down here first?” Steve asked.
“High likely, until we can figure out a way in,” Loki agreed.
“How do we do this?” Natasha asked.
“As a team,” Steve answered. “Loki’s gonna keep this fight focused on us and that’s what we need. Without that, these things could run wild. We’ve got Stark up top, he’s gonna need us-“ Steve stopped short when there was a rumbling from behind them- odd within all the chaos.
They turned to see Bruce approaching on a motorcycle.
They all moved to meet him.
“So… this all seems… horrible,” Bruce pointed out.
“I’ve seen worse,” Natasha pointed out.
“No, we could… use a little worse,” Natasha elaborated.
Steve turned away to tell Tony about their new arrival.
A moment later they all saw Tony fly around one of the buildings: followed directly by the serpent creature.
“I don’t see how that’s a party,” Natasha pointed out.
Loki wondered what the Hell that meant until he realized she and Clint had been outfitted with the weird devices in their ears that he declined- adding Tony or any other SHIELD person’s voice to the battle going on in his head would do him no favors.
Tony and the creature swooped low.
Bruce took one last look at the group, then turned to walk towards the creature.
Steve advanced. “Doctor Banner, now may be a really good time to get angry,”
“That’s my secret, Cap,” Bruce began. “I’m always angry.” He leaned forward, and he immediately shifted into the Hulk just in time to punch the beast in the face. It was enough to have the creature flip over its head.
The remainder of the group gawked as its body came down towards them. Tony swooped between them and fired off a shot at the body, and the body disintegrated. They regrouped again, enjoying the momentary victory- until there were distant roars above them and they looked up to see another wave of Chitauri and two more creatures pour from the void.
“Guys…” Natasha began.
“Cap, call it,” Tony instructed.
“Alright, listen up, until we can close that portal our priority is containment. Barton, I want you on that roof, eyes on everything, call out patterns and strays. Stark, you’ve got the perimeter. Anything gets more than three blocks out, turn it back or turn it to ash. Thor, Loki, bottleneck that portal. Slow them down.”
The pair nodded, then looked for a high enough point to do just that. Loki picked a building and phased onto it. He saw lightning strike one of the highest buildings in the area and figured Thor had picked that one- and it was confirmed when lightning suddenly shot directly at the portal. He glanced back towards Stark Tower to see how close it was- how close the Tesseract was, then tried not to focus on thatRight. Back him up. He wanted to laugh. Months ago you were trying to kill him and now you’re defending his life. Go figure. He phased onto the building Thor was on and went to work throwing daggers and summoning explosions at any Chitauri that seemed to get too close to the god of thunder.
Do you truly think you can best me? Do you expect to win?!
Why do you side with the ones so easily broken?
I thought you were done with me.
I've reconsidered. You are better than them. Stronger. I only wish for you to see your potential.
Loki flinched against the voice again. So you can just kill me later and take the power back? He went to work killing more Chitauri to try and give himself another distraction.
It worked for a few seconds, and then more pain that almost split his skull open- by far the worst yet. And then suddenly it was over, and there was blessed… numbness… and then images flashing in his head.
Him on Asgard’s throne. A line of subjects, Odin and Frigga among them, but missing Thor. Odin bowing. Apologizing.
It can be yours, if you so wish.
It was tempting now, seeing all of it clear as day.
And then, illusion broken momentarily, Thor was in front of him.
“Loki, fight it. I know you can.”
Loki felt himself starting to surrender to that numbness that had been so nice after all the pain the Tesseract had caused. The distant humming was suddenly not so terrible anymore, either. It helped him focus in all of the madness. It blocked it out. “Typical of you, Thor. Be encouraging, then take all the glory later.”
Thor gripped Loki by the arms. “Snap out of it. Brother, please!”
“I’m not your brother!” Loki hissed.
With a wave of his hand, the concrete edge of the building Thor had been standing on clove in two, and Thor scrambled to try and gain balance but failed. As it started to fall with him on it, Thor made a last ditch effort to take Loki down with him and succeeded.
The pair of them hit the ground hard. The impact caused a crater in the street, and several Chitauri, policemen and onlookers got blasted back.
Loki charged at Thor, weapons drawn.
Thor scrambled to his feet and attempted to block every blow.
Loki saw Tony swoop past them then double back to see what was going on and he summoned and threw a dagger at him for good measure. He turned his attention back to Thor, who had already started to make his way back over.
“I will not fight you!” Thor objected and immediately blocked Loki’s answering blows.
“Coward,” Loki spat.
“If being a coward means keeping you safe, then yes! I am!” Thor shot back.
Loki saw a car out of the corner of his eye and launched it at Thor with a wave of his hand.
Something flew past his head, and he realized it was Mjolnir a moment too late. Thor had gotten the hammer, deflected the car and then launched the hammer at him.
Loki ducked in time. “You’re getting rusty.”
“Do not make me do this, Loki…” Thor murmured.
Loki scoffed. “Begging already? That isn’t like you- OF!” Mjolnir skirted the back of his head- not enough to do much damage, but enough to knock him off balance and send him stumbling right into Thor’s arms.
He swayed again, and suddenly the humming in his head hurt again.
What are you doing?! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!
His voice again. No. Just him. Himself- not his imagination running wild. He needed to stop this. This was the Tesseract, was he really that gone? Just like that?
Who cared? Why hadn’t he done it sooner? It felt good just going with it. The Other was right. It did make him powerful. Just like the last time, he felt at home with that level of strength.
He saw more Chitauri approaching out of the corner of his eye.
Loki snarled and turned at the new voice: Natasha. “This is a private conversation, Agent Romanoff.”
Natasha studied him for a moment, then frowned. She exhaled sharply and levelled her gun at his head. “I’m sorry.”
“NO!” Thor roared. He charged between them.
“I don’t need your protection!” Loki countered. The humming was a roar again, and he could feel all of the exhaustion from the battle fading away.
“It was his idea, Thor. He asked me to,” Natasha replied.
“It isn’t him,” Thor insisted.
“That was his point," Natasha said quietly.
“Let me talk to him!” Thor continued.
“Talking is all you people do!” Loki cut them off. He summoned two daggers and launched one each at them. Natasha dove to avoid the one that came at her, and Thor deflected his with one of his gauntlets.
Loki snarled again, then tried to backpedal when Thor started to take giant strides towards him. Again, he was too late, and before he knew it, Thor had pinned him against the nearest building.
“Snap out of it, Loki! Fight the Tesseract! Your mind has always been stronger than mine! If it’s anyone who can beat this, it’s you!” Thor insisted.
“Of course I needed you… I wanted him to leave you alone so you at your best for me.”
The memory worming its way into his head was enough to throw Loki for the moment. It came like a punch in the gut just like it had the first time. He blinked rapidly. His exhaustion started to kick in and he blinked rapidly. No. Do not lose it. He’s lying. He thrashed in Thor’s arms.
Thor paid him no mind. He merely shoved Loki harder against the building. “What has the Other promised you? What has the Tesseract told you?!”
“Nothing I don’t already know!”
Thor slammed him against it again. “We cannot save Erik, Jane and Darcy without your help!”
The first memory was as much of a punch as the first time, but the flashes of his friend’s faces at their mention came like being stabbed multiple times each. He let out a broken wail. The roaring in the back of his head dulled to the hum again, then started to crescendo again. He was dimly aware that Natasha had gotten to her feet in order to try to push back what approaching Chitauri she could.
“You’ve gotten this far without its influence, what would they say if they saw you failed now?!” Thor continued.
That was far worse. The humming and roaring alternated every couple of seconds now, and he felt like he couldn’t move.
Thor hesitated, then took him from the building and launched him at the ground. He was next to him immediately. “You told me you cared for them. That you don’t want to see them hurt. They’re going to be hurt in countless ways if you continue this, Loki!”
It’s true. It’s true. They'll be destroyed.
It’s not. They'll get over it. You don't need them.
Both his voice this time. He struggled to his feet. He faltered twice, then succeeded, but still swayed in place. The battle raged in his head again and he cried out.
You could do better without them. They’re making you weak. Love is weakness.
Love. The realization was like another blow again. You love them. They need you and you love them and you need to snap out of this madness.
The roaring in his head gained a new level of intensity- enough to send Loki right back to his knees.
Fight it. Fight it for them!
He let out another roar and felt a giant pulse of magic expel from his body before he was even aware he had done it. His eyes snapped back open to find that the force of it had knocked cars aside and done further damage. Natasha had also been knocked back a few feet. More importantly, he had apparently levelled and killed the entire group of Chitauri around them. He suddenly realized the roaring in his head was gone. He could hear the battle around him but nothing else. No voices, no humming, anything. He had broken the Tesseract’s hold. He wanted to let out a giddy laugh. He glanced Thor’s way, and the other god studied him for a moment, then beamed, as if he understood what had happened. He figured he must’ve looked at a loss but relaxed and not crazed anymore, so he must’ve.
The moment was broken when more Chitauri approaching. He turned, summoned another dagger and stabbed backward in one fluid motion without looking back.
It wasn’t until he had heard the weapon connect with the Chitauri that he realized something had gone wrong. He couldn’t feel a body on the blade end. There was another distant thump like something had fallen in the distance. He turned just in time to see the Chitauri he had attacked laying on the ground not far from the others. He glanced down to investigate just how and why his dagger had managed that and his heart skipped a beat.
He wasn’t holding his dagger.
He was holding Mjolnir.
He would’ve dropped it had another Chitauri not immediately attacked him. He elbowed the Chitauri first to get some distance between them and gave Mjolnir an experimental swing. It sent the Chitauri flying into one of the nearby buildings. Loki risked sparing a moment to stare again, and couldn’t fight the disbelieving laugh again. How in the Hell was he suddenly Worthy? Had it been breaking the Tesseract’s control, or defending his loved ones? If it was the latter, he had something in common with Thor. He still wasn’t sure whether he was happy about that.
Feet away, Thor seemed to finally notice what had happened; because after all of the silence and battlecries, there was silence and then, “ … YYYYEEEESSSSS!”
More Chitauri swarmed them, and Loki tried to work with Mjolnir. Again he was torn when he realized that he wielded the hammer awkwardly. It was too clunky, to heavy, too… wrong. Of course he would be found worthy and then not even work well with the damned weapon.
Heimdell probably finds this hilarious.
“Thor!” he called. He tossed the hammer back to him, then summoned his daggers again, and then pair ran into the battle side by side.
After a matter of seconds, there were three Chitauri left. Thor was handling one, Loki the second, and the third had started to sneak behind Thor.
Loki caught the third movements out of the corner of his eye, killed the one he had been battling, and launched himself at it right before it was about to stab Thor. He managed to wrestle it to the floor and got on top of it. “Stay away from my brother…” he hissed before he plunged his dagger into its chest.
The alien jerked for a moment, then died.
Loki panted and glanced up to do a final sweep to make sure they were free of immediate threats. He was only slightly alarmed when Thor scooped him up again- only to pull him into another bone-crushing hug. “Not the time.”
“It couldn’t wait,” Thor countered before setting him down. He looked at Stark Tower, then back at Loki. “Will you be alright?”
Loki nodded slowly. “I think… I think so. Finally.”
Thor nodded. “Then let’s go save our friends and kill the Other.”
Thor and Loki reached Stark Tower just in time to see Hulk throwing the Other from side to slide, slamming him against the floor like a rag doll. The pair of them gawked for a moment. After the trouble he had caused, seeing him so outdone was as puzzling as it was a great sight to behold. Loki was the first to speak. “Right, well, that’s… handled for now.”
Thor nodded and tugged on Loki’s arm to get him to the roof. “It’s Selvig and Jane.”
Loki’s heart sunk at the tone Thor used, but when he turned towards the balcony, he was relieved to find that the pair weren’t dead, but both were on the floor, apparently hurt and looking very confused. Loki bolted for the doorway. He spotted Natasha out of the corner of his eye. She drew her gun and pointed it at him.
“It’s me, it’s over,” Loki assured her.
Natasha glanced at Thor, who nodded, then back at Loki. She took the fact that Loki kept looking from her to Jane and Erik frantically as evidence enough. She put her gun down and nodded.
Loki closed the distance between himself and his companions. He grabbed them both by the chin. “Both of you look at me. Now.”
They did, and he stared at one, then the other. Jane’s eyes were back to her brown, and Erik’s were his blue- far lighter and greyer than the Tesseract would’ve made them. He sighed in relief and yanked them forward in order to touch his forehead to theirs.
Erik gripped him by the arm. “The scepter. Loki’s scepter, the energy… you can’ t fight against yourself.”
“Frightening realization, isn’t it?” Loki replied, just as Natasha assured Erik that it wasn’t his fault.
Thor went over to Jane and helped her to her feet.
Jane let him and grabbed his hand, then turned towards the others. “We could’ve… we did all this.”
“No, you didn’t,” Loki cut her off.
“You didn’t know what you were doing,” Natasha added.
“Actually… I think I did,” Erik pointed out. “I built in a safety to cut the power source.”
“The scepter,” Natasha realized.
“It may be able to close the portal,” Erik explained, then looked down to one of the lower levels of the tower. “And I’m looking right at it.”
Out of sheer instinct, Loki reached out to get a vicegrip on the man’s arm as he leaned over, more for assurance he’d be okay than anything.
There was a roar in the distance.
Thor hesitated. “The Man of Iron is going to need help…”
“Go, we’ll take it from here,” Loki replied.
Thor nodded and took one final glance at Jane. “I’ll be back. I promise, this time,” he assured her. He jogged over to the side of the building and was gone a moment later, a bolt of lightning in his wake.
Loki turned his attention back to the others. “So… what’s the plan with this? Take the scepter and what?”
“Just… put them together. Have them counteract each other, and pray it works,” Erik replied.
“So… we’d still have to touch it,” Loki put together, then, carefully, “Agent Romanoff?”
“On it. Believe me, I wouldn’t let you go after it even if you tried.”
“I wouldn’t have tried. Thank you.”
Natasha nodded, then headed for the stairway inside.
Loki turned back to Jane and Erik and immediately went to work examining their wounds. He rubbed at the blood on Erik’s forehead, satisfied when he noticed most of the blood wasn’t fresh and had started to dry.
“Hey, Loki?” Jane spoke up.
“… After all this I’m sorry we doubted you even in the slightest when you attacked Erik that one time. This… this was insane,” she pointed out. “I don’t think I’m gonna sleep for months.”
“Something tells me you’re going to be in good company with that,” Loki replied. “Though… you know, I do have the urge to sleep for a month, but… same idea.”
Jane laughed weakly, and Loki took it as a victory. He draped an arm around her and the group waited in silence until Natasha got back.
“Alright, so… just… try to touch it with this thing?” Natasha asked.
Erik nodded and got to his feet. He approached the Tesseract with her and fired up a computer. “Aim for the ground first.”
Natasha did as asked, then shouted something that Loki couldn’t catch over the mechanical roar into her mic. A beat later, she frowned. “Uh… we’ve got a bigger problem.”
“SHIELD launched a nuke for the city and it’s due here in a couple of minutes,” Natasha replied.
“You don’t wanna know,” Jane cut him off.
“I think I have to in this case,” he countered.
“A bomb that can flatten an entire city easy,” Natasha added.
Loki sighed. “… And you thought Asgardian violence barbaric…” he murmured. Something caught his eye, and he saw Tony zoom towards the tower with something at his back, then shot up and into the ring in the sky. “He’s gonna put it where the Chitauri are,” he realized.
A moment later, Tony disappeared into the blackness of the other realm. Shortly after, the Chitari below suddenly cried out. Loki leaned over to survey the damage. Most of the ones who remained had suddenly dropped to the ground, seemingly dead. The Tesseract gave off a wave of energy, and Loki stopped, terrified for a moment, but there was no humming again. It pulsed again and died, and Natasha jerked forward, not having any more resistance. The void also pulsed, then started to close rapidly- with Tony nowhere to be seen. “No…”
Suddenly, Tony showed up- falling faster than the portal had been closing. He passed them mere seconds later.
Loki looked at Natasha. “Is that his usual descent speed?”
“No,” Natasha answered, fear dotting her tone.
Loki swore under his breath and hurried to the edge of the building. He tossed his hands up and started up a forcefield a few yards under Tony, just to have something there to slow him.
However, the Hulk swooped down from out of nowhere and caught Tony just as the man was about to hit the ground. The pair crashed into the forcefield and rolled to a stop.
Loki could make up the figures of his brother and teammates running to the bodies, but not much else. The Hulk roared after a moment, and Tony’s answering shout of alarm echoed all the way up to them. He scoffed. “Remarkable.” He turned back around towards the interior of the Tower, then stopped short. “… He’s gone.”
The crater that the Other had been vacating a matter of minutes ago was vacant. “NO!” He bolted inside and looked around. Still nothing. He barreled down the stairs to the second level of the apartment. Nothing again. “Bastard just disappeared!” He could hear Natasha doing an additional sweep above him. “How could I have been so stupid? I should’ve just ended him there,” he breathed. “They’re all going to kill me…” he realized. He could hear Natasha reporting the new development to the others, then sat on the nearest couch, waiting for them to come, and he was ready to accept his fate.
Which, minutes later, he hadn’t expected to be Steve clapping him on the back with most of the others in tow, and assuring him that ‘we just stopped an invasion, the city and the world are safe for now, and that’s all that can be done, then.’
“I had the opportunity, I could’ve-“
Steve shook his head. “Look, the cat got out of the bag. You just broke some pretty serious mind control, and you had some glaring priorities in this battle. We technically got him here, we can do it again,” Steve assured him.
“We’ll be ready,” Tony agreed.
Loki sighed. “If you say so…”
The elevator doors opened with a ding, and Clint stepped through with Darcy in tow.
Loki sat up again, then nodded outside. “They’re still out there. I think they both mentioned needing air.”
Darcy nodded quickly, bolted over to him, kissed his cheek, then ran for the balcony.
Loki sighed again, then looked at Natasha and Thor. “None of them should know about…. What… transpired before I reached the tower.”
Natasha didn’t look convinced; even more so when Thor nodded in agreement. “Careful. You keep hiding things from people, it’ll add up and come back to bite you,” she pointed out.
Loki shrugged. “I am the god of lies for a reason.”
Natasha covered up an eyeroll, then went to go check on the others as well.
There was silence for a small while, then Tony perked up. “So… now that we won and Loki’s not crazy anymore... let’s go get that drink that I owe him. And you all owe me. And get shawarma, too,” he suggested. When he was met with silence, he nodded. “Come on. Stark Industries treat.” He headed for the elevator.
Everyone merely looked around at each other, then the humans followed, and the other-worldly part of the company exited via their powers to meet the others at ground level.
Thanks to Tony’s (although justified) scatterbrained leading, they had gone for Shawarma first. There was dead silence as they all ate. Whatever needed to be said was said via looks, but even those were few and far between. By the time they had found a relatively intact bar, the only thing that Tony had said was, “uh… here’s to Phil” quietly with the first round. The second and third round went much like the restaurant.
Two hours later, Thor had the contained Tesseract in hand.
They were headed back to Asgard to put it in safe keeping. Loki wasn’t sure what was more ominous for him: that he was about to have the Tesseract in hand, or he was going back to Asgard after his dramatic last exit.
Erik, Jane and Darcy were all beside them as the other Avengers hung back for a while.
Erik was the first to hug the pair of them. “Be careful, alright? I don’t want you two involved in any other dangerous situations.”
“Likewise…” Thor answered, and Loki nodded eagerly.
Jane went next and hugged Loki. She went to do the same with Thor, but the man swooped in and kissed her at the last second, and it lasted long enough for the entire group to be uncomfortable. Loki went as far as elbowing Thor in the ribs while looking away to snap them out of it. Thor reluctantly took the hint. When it was Darcy’s turn, she hugged Loki as tight as possible. “Come back, you jerk.”
“I don’t intend to stay longer than necessary, I promise,” Loki replied.
Darcy pulled back. “Wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to this idiot who didn’t follow through last time,” she explained, giving Thor a light punch on the chest for good measure. “But, yeah, Loke. Hurry back before I die of boredom from these two, will ya?” she asked.
“I’ll try,” Loki assured her. “Take good care of them.”
Thor ushered them back after a moment, then held out the containment device. When Loki hesitated, hr frowned. “You know I would have someone else do this if I could.”
Loki nodded. “I do…” he sighed again and took the handle.
Thor waited a moment, then turned the handle on his end, and the two were gone in a flash of blue light.
When it broke, the pair were met with Asgardian’s warm light. When he took in the palace a short distance away, he suddenly felt far more trapped than his last visit. Even as a small set of palace guards came to escort them there, he felt like turning and running.
They reached the castle, and the urge increased exponentially.
Two of the guards took the Tesseract from them and peeled off towards the trophy room. It was then that Odin and Frigga entered the room, and Loki got as far as turning to bolt before Thor subtly grabbed his arm to stop him.
He flinched and turned back around.
The dam started to break when Frigga hugged him first. He tried to convince himself that he didn’t have a vicegrip on her when he returned it, but the fact that he found his arms practically locked around her a moment into it, he wasn’t sure if he could keep up the lie.
Frigga moved her head closer to his. “Heimdall told me everything,” she whispered. “Everything,” she elaborated and hugged him tighter.
Loki wasn’t sure if that meant his lapse in control or Mjolnir finding him worthy or both. He tried not to think too hard on it.
He finally let her go and she stepped back.
Ofin took his turn to look between them. “You’ve both done well. But there are other realms that need your assistance now. Hogun has requested your help in dealing with a civil war on Vanaheim-“
“I don’t intend to stay long enough to assist him,” Loki cut him off. “My place is on Midgard now. The Other’s gone missing, and I don’t intend to leave them without any help for long. I feel bad leaving them even now.”
“Then return,” Odin said.
Loki was surprised when there didn’t seem to be any animosity behind it. Dismissive, yes, but far less disapproving than usual.
“I wish to return as well, but only for a short while. I will answer Hogun’s call,” Thor agreed.
“Then stay one day, at least. That’s all I ask,” Frigga countered, and gave a pointed look at Loki.
Loki sighed. For all of the grief he had been through, for all of the changes… he still couldn’t say no to her. “Fine. One day.”
“Good,” Frigga nodded. “Now, come tell me about this Other…” she instructed. She turned around and started to lead them towards the great hall.
Loki glanced at Thor, who shrugged. He sighed and started to follow her. He had a feeling she’d try to weasel another day out of him.
He knew he'd consider letting her.
Loki had given Frigga four days, and he had dug his heels in that four would be the maximum. Thor and Loki had mostly gone their separate ways with Odin and Frigga, respectively. The time had consisted of playing mostly catch-up on both sides. Frigga had felt helpless, worried about her boys and the potential war on the way. Heimdall’s reports in had been the only thing that had kept her grounded, and the fact that Loki had fought the Tesseract enough that Mjolnir found him worthy (Loki figured Heimdall had kept some of the details safe, which he was grateful for) was the best news yet.
Midway through the third day, Frigga had taken Loki on a walk through the gardens. Loki had been worried about the careful looks the guards were giving him, but Frigga had merely looped her arm around his and tried to redirect him several times. “I simply must meet this Selvig. I need to thank him for looking after my sons.”
Loki “He’s a good man, but… I’m sure he’ll be delicate after all this. He went through a lot.”
“So did you,” Frigga countered.
Loki stopped in his tracks for a moment, but recovered. So she had found out. Leave it to her to keep it quiet. “… Still, he’s mortal. We are not. I’m concerned about him.”
Frigga nodded, then after a moment of consideration, she nodded. “Then I’ll have to come to him.”
Loki knew he wasn’t going to win the argument. “Just… give him time, then.”
“Well, it sounds like we have time, thanks to you and your friends.”
“I suppose we do,” Loki agreed.
Frigga smiled, then leaned against him. “Do you know how happy I am talking about your friends? Hearing you acknowledge them as such? You’ve changed so much in such a short time, and I wasn’t even there to see it,” she added regretfully.
Loki sighed. “Frig- Mother…” No, he wouldn’t rob her of the title. He’d gladly take ‘Father’ from Odin, but not her. He flinched, then tried to make up for it by pressing into her touch when she cupped his cheek.
“You called Midgard home the last time I saw you. That isn’t nothing, Loki…” she said quietly. When he went to protest, she shook her head. “You’ve never felt like you belonged here, lineage revealed or not…” she mused out loud. “Don’t try to deny it. You didn’t have many friends, you stayed with Thor, Sif and the Warriors out of some sense of duty to Thor…”
Loki hated that she was right.
“It’s good to see that you’ve found someplace you felt like you belonged. I so worried for you for years over it… but now look at you, you have a family all your own now. You finally have a home.”
Loki heard the tears in her voice before he saw them in her eyes and immediately turned to face her and pull her into his arms. “It was home here until… everything went wrong that short while ago. You were home- still are,” he assured her, then, teasing again: “…do you think me that incapable that I couldn’t do it here on my own?”
“I… had my doubts…” she admitted. She waited for a bigger reaction, but when Loki had none, she continued. “Tell me about this Darcy now. You’ve sung Selvig and Jane’s praises, told us about all of the science they know, and I’ve heard from Thor… but this… Darcy woman: You called her ordinary but special… I know what that particular description alludes to.”
Loki made a face. “What?”
Frigga held out her hand to stop him from walking and look at her. “Does she hold your heart?”
Loki scoffed. “Mother…”
“What? Your brother is quite taken with Jane and he was there a matter of days, why can’t you be with another?”
“Darcy’s a friend… my dearest one. That is all.” Frigga smiled that knowing smile of hers at him, and he tried not to roll his eyes. “Don’t you start,” he insisted.
“What? Grandchildren wouldn’t hurt…”
“Mother!” Loki objected further.
She laughed. “Is that all I’m going to get out of you during your entire visit?”
“Possibly,” he countered. He tried not to focus on ‘visit.’ He wondered if calling Midgard ‘home’ in her company did more harm than good, even if she seemed to be proud of him and his endeavors there. “I’d stay longer if I could. You know that, but… I’m sure rumors flew, and I doubt I’ll be met with any more welcome. Besides, they need me back there. Who knows how long the Other will hide. If he goes after them again…”
Frigga smiled. “I know, son. I’m grateful for the days you did stay.”
“As am I,” Loki replied for good measure.
She studied him for a while in silence, then nodded. “Come on. Let’s go find your brother and make sure he hasn’t destroyed anything in his own haste to get back.”
“Oh, I highly doubt he hasn’t.”
Loki and Thor returned to Midgard later that day. Loki was grateful that when they reached the repaired Bifrost, Heimdall merely nodded at Loki and he nodded back- a conversation all in two simple movements.
When they touched down back in New Mexico, Darcy was there to meet them, sitting in a beach chair staring at their landing spot at all. She had squealed, bolted over to them, tossed her arms around their backs and guided them back inside.
Thor and Jane had given each other that love-blinded sappy look for the next hour, so Loki and Darcy had all but dragged Erik to Izzy’s and gave the couple alone time for a while. The same went for nearly the entirety of the next day. It wasn't until Darcy asked about the possibility of 'little half god babies' that spurred their return. Darcy was pretty sure that Loki was back to his lying self when he explained that he didn't know what would happen on that front.
The couple had slowed down after that, and Thor was far more interested in finding out what Loki had done in his time there. Erik, Jane and Darcy spoke for him, Thor had continuously given him the same look Frigga had, and he could only smile sheepishly in return.
Days later, the aftermath of the Tesseract’s hold on Erik and Jane started to take effect. The pair poured themselves into their work and research about the bridges and Convergence. It had seemed back to normal until they refused to eat until Darcy had quite literally shoved them into the dining room chairs and dumped varying breakfast foods on plates in front of them.
Thor had left a couple of days after making Loki swear he’d find a way to give him updates.
Things started to settle after that. There was no trace of the Other. Erik and Jane had gotten most of their strength back but were completely scatterbrained- Erik moreso somehow. Jane had managed to harness the energy and poured herself back into her work. Erik had practically rediscovered coffee and the apparent realization that he thought better with less clothing on- something that the others grew instantly tired of.
Tony eventually sent some poor, tired looking man unfortunately named Happy to invite them to live at ‘Stark Industries Site 3’, where Tony planned to do a bunch of alien research and house most of the Avengers or any other worldly friends that would come by. It took them a couple of days to decide, but the group agreed to take him up on the offer. Higher-functioning tech and a sturdy roof over their heads was too much to pass up.
Moving day came a couple of months later, and Loki was surprised yet again when Izzy had yanked him into a hug during their goodbyes to the woman. And then they were off in a truck with Tony had provided.
Adjusting to living in Tony’s compound was easier than Loki thought it would be. After all, when Jane and Erik had to aquaint themselves with lab equipment and get their things sorted properly, he and Darcy only had to help lug the stuff and then pick a room. He had picked at random, ending up with a room whose exterior wall was comprised of floor-to-ceiling windows. The furniture looked brand new and modern and smelled the part as well. It was grandiose, just as he expected of Tony.
Darcy had visited after dumping all of her things in her own, supposedly identical room directly next door that she assumed would’ve cost ‘all of their arms and legs and then some’ without Tony’s assistance. She had helped him move the bed against the window and the turned the couch to face it when he had asked, only making some comment about him still not being over his ‘Javert phase’, which she still had yet to explain to him. She made coffee for the pair of them and then herded him over to the couch and dropped onto it. When he joined her on it, she scooted over so she could lay down with the back of her head on the edge of his thigh. A companionable silence passed between them for a while. Both grateful at finally feeling like they could relax for the first time in what felt like so long.
Loki hated himself for breaking it. “So… are you alright after all this?”
She shrugged. “Fine,”
Loki frowned at her. “Darcy…”
“God of lies, remember? I know by default but that was a particularly lackluster attempt.”
Darcy sighed and shrugged. “Fine. Still terrified, okay? Like, you guys totally had it worse in so many ways but I almost died a bunch of times, too. That’s some shit. I just… keep wondering what my life would’ve been without you clowns and the gods and alien nonsense and the lack of near death experiences, y’know? Like… yay, not dying on several occasions, but my life would be just so… boring. And I wouldn’t even know it.”
Loki chuckled. “Darcy, I’ve known you at the start of your adventure with all this ‘nonsense’ and now. If it’s one thing I doubt you ever were, it’s boring.”
Darcy laughed and gave his arm a gentle push. “Aww, look at you, laying it on thick.”
“Because I worry about all of you,” Loki admitted.
Darcy nodded carefully. “So… what about you? What do you think you would’ve been like if you hadn’t literally fallen into our lives?” she asked.
And there it was. The question that he had expected so many times and even asked himself on many occasions. And of course Darcy would be the one to say damn the potential consequences and ask. “… I don’t rightly know,” he said after a moment. But he did. He could just imagine how easily he could’ve- and most likely would’ve bent to the Tesseract’s will. He would be there, probably serving with the Other or Thanos, and not minding in the least. He snapped out of the haze when Darcy waved her hand in his face.
“You okay in there?” she asked.
“I’m fine,” he countered. He was grateful when she didn’t push it for once.
Before he could speak again, a disembodied voice started up from somewhere above them.
“Ms. Lewis, Loki, If I might interrupt…”
Loki had frozen in place for a moment, half expecting it to be the Tesseract again, but relaxed when he realized the Tesseract had never been so polite or sounded like that. He glanced around the room. “Who’s there?” he cast an uncertain look at Darcy, who had also started to look around frantically.
“Apologies. I see Mister Stark hasn’t explained all of his projects. I am Jarvis. I’m an A.I program… his virtual assistant, if you will.”
Loki blinked. “That… still means nothing to me.”
Darcy, on the other hand, jumped up. “Wait like… robot A.I?” she beamed.
“More or less,” Jarvis replied. “I just don’t inhabit a physical body.”
“THAT’S SO COOL!” Darcy replied. When Loki frowned at her, she waved him off. “Just… it’s like… science fiction technology for us: only in movies and stuff. Of course Stark made it work.”
“He did indeed, Miss Lewis,” Jarvis agreed. “Now, we might go back to the issue at hand that I contacted you about…”
Had it been an actual person who had said it, Darcy would’ve said something about the blatant subject change. That said, she thought Jarvis sounded friendly, and if he was an A.I, he probably didn’t get manners. “What’s up?” she asked out loud. “Uh, and… do we look at something to address you or anything?”
“It’s not necessary. Just speak normally,” Jarvis replied.
“Right. So, again, what’s up?”
“It’s about Doctor Selvig.”
They sat up straight.
“Is he okay?!” Darcy called.
“Physically fine. Mentally… there are doubts. If we get him in the infirmary, I can give him an MRI. Miss Foster…”
The pair of them had hurried out the door before he could even finish. They bolted down the nearest staircase and made it to the Science wing. Once they did, they spotted Jane in one of the labs staring at something.
“Jane! Jane is Erik okay?!” Darcy called. “That Jarvis… thing… guy told us-“
Jane on the other hand hardly seemed bothered, but she seemed far too intent on looking the part. She picked up her mug of coffee and stared into it for a while. “He uh… well, he’s okay, just… see for yourself.”
Darcy frowned. “What the Hell does that mean?” she asked. She looked at Loki, who was looking further into the lab. “And why haven’t you said anything yet?!”
“Because I’m a little confused as to why Erik isn’t wearing pants while running around the room,” Loki deadpanned.
Darcy stared at him, then realized he had probably seen Erik first and that explained the silence. She immediately covered her eyes with her hands. “Like British pants or American pants? Because both connotations are weird but I don’t wanna see anything I or anyone else shouldn’t see.”
“Yours,” Loki replied. He opened his mouth and pointed in order to get Erik’s attention, but thought better of it. He looked at Jane for an explanation.
Jane put her mug down. “Apparently it helps him think better. I didn’t ask.”
“And was that a policy beforehand, or…?” Loki began.
“Nope,” Jane shook her head.
Loki opened his mouth again and shut it, then studied Jane for a moment. “And what about y-“ he stopped short when Darcy took one of her hands off of her face to whack him in the chest. “Ow! Not what I meant!”
“No, I just get super focused. Like, obsessed when I start doing anything I put my mind to.”
“So… basically no effect, then,” Darcy answered.
It was Jane’s turn to open her mouth and shut it a couple of times. “Yes, but like… way more intense. When you guys came in, I snapped out of it… and also just remembered I haven’t eaten anything in a few hours,” she said, as if that same fact had just occurred to her.
Darcy lowered her other hand and looked at Loki. “You get Erik, I get Jane?” she asked.
Loki nodded and went to go investigate when Darcy grabbed Jane by the arm and dragged her out of the lab. Loki waited for them to get out of the room before he went over to Erik, who had barely even noticed he was there. “Erik? Everything alright?”
Erik beamed at him. “Fine! Better than ever! I feel great! We’ve made progress! Have you looked at this information yet?” he asked, motioning at all of the scattered papers on the floor.
Last time he had checked, only a third of the pile had been there, and it had been sorted neatly. “About the Convergence or the differing stars floating around?” he asked, more for Erik’s benefit.
“Either! Both! All!” Erik replied excitedly.
“I’ll… I’ll take a look at them later,” Loki answered. “First… let’s get you some tea. And pants.”
Erik looked down, then looked at him but couldn’t meet his eyes.
Loki tried not to show that he was relieved at the fact that the man looked embarrassed. That at least meant his inhibitions weren’t skewed.
“They’re in the corner. I’ll get them,” Erik explained.
Loki nodded and smiled weakly. When Erik turned his back, he rolled his eyes. So there was most definitely more to this than he thought there was. He was going to need something a lot stronger than tea. Then again, all of them probably did.
Then it was decided. Next step: finding the liquor cabinet.
Chapter 22: A Mess and a Catastophe
Loki eyed the new ‘intern’ carefully as Darcy gave him a tour around Jane's mother's house. Jane and Erik's research about the Convergence had brought them to London, and apparently setting up a couple of computers and a blackboard in the guest house in the back was the only affordable thing they could manage.
The god himself had been gone for the last month on varying missions that Tony had essentially volunteered him for. The issues had been about threats to national security, but after the invasion of New York it seemed like child's play. Really, now the only fallout was dealing with the people who had seen news footage of him in the carnage. He had despised the public's reaction at first. Leave it to Midgardians to call them all threats after a few buildings got destroyed when they were in the process of saving the world. Still, he and Tony had wiped the minor threats out, and then he had joined the others in London. There hadn't been much change from when he had left them, except there were heaps of paperwork and files that needed to be typed up that Darcy had apparently refused to do. Which, according to her, since Loki was only available half his usual time now that Tony was using him as an asset it entitled her to another intern. She had been holding interviews the entire week, and the young man who had been following her a little too closely now had been the victor. Loki had heard the man talking, and he seemed as scatterbrained as Darcy. He'd talk miles a minute for a stretch, and then be completely silent the next. The man was just... off. "I don’t like him.”
Erik looked up from his work, scattered on the kitchen table. “What?"
Loki flinched. He hadn't even realized he had said the sentiment out loud. At least Erik was acting like his old self at the moment. He nodded towards the other room. "Our latest recruit."
Erik looked at the other room, then laughed quietly. "Don’t like losing that title, eh?"
“No, I just… I don’t trust him.”
Erik arched an eyebrow at him, but there was humor behind it. "He's here to help with research. Seems like a good lad. What's not to trust? Why would trust matter with an intern who's here to help with paperwork and lab setup?"
"Because I'm a god, we're dealing with literal alien threats, and... " he trailed off. "Because an 'employer' should trust their 'employee', that's why!"
Erik shrugged. "Ian seems fine! He's friendly!"
“Yes, that’s the problem. He’s too friendly. No one is that friendly," Loki insisted, jabbing the desk they were at with his pointer finger for good measure.
"Well, considering we're probably the friendliest people you've met, are you sure you want to make that comparison?" Erik asked. Loki shot him a look and sighed when Erik laughed again. Sensing he needed to tread carefully if the whole thing bothered Loki that much, he stopped after a moment. He watched Loki study Ian from afar, and noticed the god grimace when Darcy laughed at something Ian had said loudly and nudged him on the shoulder. He noted the god clench his jaw for a moment, and then understood. “Ah.”
Loki turned back to him. “What?”
Erik smiled and shrugged. “Oh, nothing,” he replied. He took a drink from his coffee cup and went out of his way to not meet Loki’s eyes when the god stared at him.
After a few moments, Loki looked back at the tour and continued to size up Ian. After a while, he could tell Ian felt uneasy. The man was doing that quick look around that humans did when they knew they were being watched. Ian finally looked back at him, and he stared back, unblinking. He felt Erik kick him under the table and ignored it. Ian finally swallowed hard and looked away. Loki smirked. Oh, he was going to have fun with this one.
A few moments later, Ian shuffled over with the women in tow. He looked terrified. Loki took it as a victory. Erik merely thought it was similar to the 'meet the parents' look. “Uh, hi, we haven’t met yet. I’m the new intern, Ian,” he extended his hand towards Loki first.
Loki begrudgingly gave the man credit for at least getting that far after the intimidation tactic. He smirked and shook Ian’s hand. “Loki. Pleasure,” he squeezed harder then necessary and still didn’t bother looking away.
Erik cleared his throat, then realized he was being ignored on purpose.
Ian squinted. “Loki? Like the god?”
Loki’s grin turned predatory. “Precisely like the god, sir.” He felt an elbow nudge at his forehead with some force, and he bit back the smile when he realized it could've either been Jane or Darcy who had done it at that point. They had all agreed he would keep a low profile and not use his powers unless absolutely necessary or he was just around them. They must've wanted to look as normal as possible for this one. How sad.
"He tells us how his parents were very into Norse mythology back in the day," Erik provided.
“They might as well have lived it,” Loki added with a quick glance at Erik. He felt Ian yank his hand free of his grip and took it as another victory.
Erik stood up to break the tension between the other two. “Erik Selvig. Good to meet you.”
“Same, sir," Ian nodded. "So... what do you here, Loki? I've heard Erik's name a bunch of times, but not yours."
"Security, mostly," Loki deadpanned. "I work for Stark's task force with keeping the world safe and looking after these three and all that. And deal with unsavory characters," he added. A hand clapped down onto his shoulder and nails dug into his skin- too long to be Darcy's. So it was Jane who had elbowed him as well.
Ian gawked, the underlying threat not lost on him. After a moment, he finally found another topic. "So... have you actually met Tony Stark? What's he like?" he turned his attention to Loki. "Wait, are you an Avenger?"
Before Loki could respond, Darcy took Ian by the shoulders and started to guide him towards the living room. "Exactly how he seems on T.V. Hey, why don't you go get your stuff and I'll show you where you can set up in our lab?" she suggested.
"Sure," Ian nodded, then went to retrieve his things.
When Ian was out of earshot, Darcy took her turn to punch Loki on the shoulder. "Do not blow this for us! He's the new me! And I like him!"
"He's a fool!" Loki protested. "The whole Chitauri ordeal is a historical event to you Midgardians. It's quite literally known as The Battle of New York now. It was on every single international news channel for days, and he doesn't seem to remember that I was one of the people running around fighting, armor and all?" he asked.
"Well it's not like you're in your armor now. And yeah, but a fool who makes good coffee," Darcy countered. When Loki rolled his eyes, she held out the cup that was in her hand. "He volunteered earlier. Seriously, check it out!"
"I'd rather not," Loki said and pushed her hand away. "Is that really all that important when you're doing astrophysics work?" Loki asked.
Darcy shrugged. "I was in Poli Sci and found this internship on accident and it worked out just fine. We've been over this, dude. Be nice."
Loki rolled his eyes again. "Where is he expected to stay?"
"We figured we can send you off to Tony's place in London and give him your couch," Darcy deadpanned. She grinned when Loki's face fell and he opened his mouth. "Dude, I'm kidding. He's local, he's got a place in the city," she explained. When he still looked unhappy, she sighed and punched his arm again. "Come on. Give him a chance. We gave you one."
"Yes, well, attempted murder does set the bar quite low, I suppose," Loki countered. When he looked at Erik for support, the man only put his hands up in surrender.
Darcy squeezed his shoulder. "And now you're our resident god who saved us all like fifty times. See? Things work out."
"I still don't like him."
Darcy rolled her eyes. "Whatever, Space Man."
Well, that was a new one. Loki risked an affectionate 'you've got to be kidding' look at her, then sighed. "Fine, but don't come crying to me when it turns out I'm right and he turns out to be an ass."
"We won't, cause he won't. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go send the intern home because we've got some alien stuff to deal with. And I have to go find Jane."
Erik looked between them, then leaned back. "She's been gone all day, where is she?" Erik asked. "We've got those readings to investigate later. It's not like her to be out for that."
"Apparently agonizing over the clothes she brought. She's got a date tomorrow," Darcy replied. She shimmied in excitement.
She looked Loki's way and immediately stopped. "I mean no offense, but we haven't really heard from Thor lately and they never really labelled what they were and and-"
"My brother or Jane's love life is hardly a concern of mine," Loki cut her off at the pass.
Darcy playfully nudged his shoulder, then looked at Erik. "See? Our little caterpillar is growing up into a beautiful butterfly. He didn't correct me about Thor."
Loki rolled his eyes yet again. His only response was batting her hand away when she went to go squeeze his cheeks. She gave one an answering light smack and turned on her heel and skipped off. Loki shook his head and went to go back to reading the book on Norse mythology he had been reading before the interruption. This one had been better than the first when it came to giving him more than the 'trickster brother' role, but not by much. Darcy had finally explained the 'Javert' thing to him and had pointed out Les Miserables when they had been at the bookstore last, but he had decided he hadn't the time or patience for it. She had added the movie to the Netflix queue and he was just as determined to get out of that as well. He had found his old spot and had continued for a while until he felt Erik's eyes on him. He sighed, shut the book and stared back. "What?"
Erik opened his mouth, then shut it, then grinned and shrugged. "You know, I haven't encountered a man look at a woman like that since it was me looking at my wife on our wedding day."
"Oh, for pity's sake, not you, too," Loki groaned. He immediately paused as the rest of his sentence sunk in. "You have a wife?" when Erik frowned a bit, he matched the frown. "Oh, Erik, please don't tell me-"
Erik waved his hand dismissively. "No, no, she's alive and well. It's just... something we haven't gotten into with you because there was really no need until now: it's quite the long distance relationship. She's a visiting professor in Archeology. Tours the world, and I'm here, travelling a lot myself. We don't see each other much is all. It's why this is the first you've heard of her. That's not the point. The point is don't just wait around waiting for something to happen."
"... You have read about my love life's track record, yes?" Loki countered.
Erik opened his mouth, then shut it. "You've done a great deal of adding and changing your story, too."
"Yes, but then there's the whole immortal thing to get in the way. She's a slight mess, I'm a catastrophe, the list goes on!"
Erik put his hands up, then got up to leave. "Easy now. I was just wondering about what I've been seeing lately. Ian and her look like they'd be a decent match, too."
Loki groaned. "What is this, the Tesseract turns me into a jealous, maniacal monster and you into a matchmaker? I got the crook end of the deal."
"I'm just saying you've been through a lot. You seem to like her. Allow yourself some happiness."
Loki stared at him, then sighed. After years of hearing the same nonsense from his mother, he could deny her til his dying day. Hearing it from Erik felt different. He wasn't sure if it was because it was the first time the other man had mentioned it, or the fact that he had dropped that knowing look a few moments ago. Or maybe he was done lying to himself that there wasn't... something there with Darcy. She was the only one who consistently kept up with him, and had been the first to stop walking on eggshells around him. Part of him knew there was a little more than respect that came with it. Still, so much could go wrong. "I just... it would end in disaster. I can't do that to her."
Erik nodded. "I can appreciate that, I suppose."
"I'd hope so," Loki countered.
The pair of them sat in silence for a while, then Erik leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. "Darcy's got a point though. Behave with the man."
Loki rolled his eyes again and opened his mouth to protest when he saw Erik suddenly look shell-shocked. He sat up. "What?!"
Erik looked at him. "Behave!" he repeated, then all but shot up and hurried out of the room and down the hall towards the labs.
Loki sighed heavily. Even after all this, it was hard to come to terms with the fact that this was his life now. He hadn't expected it to get stranger or crazier when he had first started liking it, but yet here he was. Still, he wouldn't have it any other way. He turned back to his book yet again. He'd check in with the others later. He had a feeling he wasn't going to have much time on his own in the next few days.
The next day, Loki decided that taking that alone time was in fact an extremely bad idea.
Several of the instruments measuring local energy levels were skyrocketing in one part of the city. Worse yet, Erik's moment of madness had turned out to be hours of madness. Loki had woken up to find Darcy and Jane staring at a news story. A news story that apparently involved Erik running around naked someplace called Stonehenge, checking on some of their equipment and insisting that he was 'trying to save people.' He had been fully prepared to phase over to wherever the place was and retrieve the man, only to see that the police had come and intercepted him. It had only deterred him for a moment and he was ready to go research what police station he'd need to phase into, only for Jane and Darcy to tell him that would make things far worse. He had never felt so helpless in his life. The girls promised that they'd go get him that afternoon when all the paperwork was done and Erik would hopefully be back to normal. He reluctantly accepted. But a few hours into that waiting, he had been getting restless. He had gotten so far as figuring 'damn the consequences' and pulled up local police information, only to hear Darcy and the new fool entering the house and talking.
"Is that Loki guy okay?" The newcomer.
"Yeah, he's just... weird. You get used to him," Darcy explained.
"So the whole 'I'll kill you in your sleep' vibe...?"
"Oh, that's just his face," Darcy added. "And personality. Ya know, bad childhood and all that nonsense."
Loki sat up when they entered the room and tried not to grin when the pair looked shell shocked that he was there. "Whose bad childhood?" he asked.
Darcy turned sharply at Loki's voice near the doorway. Sure enough he was there, looking between them. She waved. "Mine!" she blurted, a little too loudly.
Loki gave them a final look. "Everything alright?" he asked.
Darcy nodded. "Everything's fi-ine!" she ended on a high note. When Loki made a face, she gave him a pointed look as subtly as possible then looked at the table beside Loki.
Loki followed her gaze.
One of the laptops was open, playing old footage from months back when he had been training some SHIELD agents. It was the point in the video that he had started to magic up obstacles for the agents to destroy or dodge. So much for secrecy. He looked Ian's way, relieved when the man seemed none the wiser. He crossed the room and closed it, then tucked it under one of his arms for good measure.
Silence weighed between them, then Darcy tossed her hands out. "Right, let's go save my boss... and probably check up on those weird readings we got a little while ago. Erik's gonna meet us there."
"Save? Is she alright?" Loki asked.
"Save her from what?" Ian added.
Loki tried not to smile when he realized the man sounded terrified again. He had either seen the footage and played it off like he hadn't, or he had already figured out that this wasn't just going to be a run of the mill internship.
"Apparently a good time," Darcy replied. "She sent me an SOS text and she's on that date, so I'm gonna go get her and you two are coming with me," Darcy replied, wiggling in place excitedly. "I still haven't decided if I'm gonna play the jealous ex or literally just use work as an excuse." She waved at them to follow her and immediately went out the door.
Minutes later, it was just Loki and Ian in the car. Loki was perfectly happy with the silence, except apparently Ian wasn't. The intern was stretched out in the backseat, humming to make any sort of noise. Finally, Ian spoke. "So... how did they find you?"
"Same as you. Came across the listing," Loki deadpanned.
"And uh... where are you from?"
"Far away," Loki replied.
"Right..." Ian nodded slowly.
Loki gave the man credit. It had only taken him two answers to pick up on the 'be quiet' vibe he was sending out. The man listened... until a few moments later, when he started to hum again. Loki gritted his teeth for a while, then tuned around. "Could y-" he stopped short when two car doors opened. Darcy got in the driver's seat beside him.
Jane went to get into the back- only to see Ian and scream. She immediately jumped back. "Who is this?!"
"My new intern," Darcy replied.
"You have an intern?" Jane asked.
"Yeah," Darcy confirmed.
Jane looked up at Loki, and he raised his eyebrows and put his hands up.
Jane frowned at Darcy. "And by the way, I hate you. I liked him,"
Loki snorted. "That isn't the story that Darcy told us."
Jane looked back at him, then back to Darcy. "What?"
"What?! I wanted to see what the guy looked like! Only the best for the best!" Darcy objected.
Ian checked something. "Oh, the GPS says you need to take a right here so we can get to the site."
Darcy turned the car so hard Loki's head hit the side of the roof of the car. "Shit!"
"Hey, Loki?" Jane asked.
"Remind me to never complain about your driving ever again," she replied.
Loki smirked. Erik and the girls had started to teach him how to drive, and he had gotten three different stories on how he actually had been. Erik had said he was doing well and picking it up quickly, he drove too aggressively and took turns to sharply for Jane's liking, and Darcy had insisted he drove too carefully. Now that he saw Darcy's own driving skills in slightly difference circumstances (another thing he would never understand about Midgard), he was fairly sure he should ignore her advice at all costs.
Jane shook her head, then pulled her cell phone out of her pocket. "I have to call Erik..."
"Yes, about that," Loki began, then was cut off when Ian provided another direction and Darcy swerved to follow it.
Jane waited to recover, then looked at him. "What?"
Darcy pulled up the video on her phone and showed it to Jane. "You know, like the first time we dealt with the whole Erik-went-crazy thing but now it's totally worse."
Jane looked like she wasn't sure if she wanted to watch the entire report or never see it again. "Great. So Erik can wait."
Darcy and Loki murmured in agreement. Ian, on the other hand, looked between all of them, opened his mouth to say something, then thought better of it and suddenly found the GPS far more interesting than anything else in the car.
Minutes later, they reached the location that the strange energy readings were coming from. They all piled out of the car.
"Hey, this is exciting!" Darcy called. She motioned at Ian. "The intern is excited!"
"Ian," Ian corrected.
Darcy paid him no mind. "Do you want the phase meter?" she asked Jane. When Jane refused, Darcy shrugged it off and pointed at Ian. "Bring the phase meter. The toaster looking thing," she clarified.
Ian looked at Loki for support, but the god merely looked at him, then picked up one of the tripods and followed Darcy.
Ian retrieved the phase meter, then saw that Jane was still by the car. "That man hates me, doesn't he?"
"... No, he's just... weird," Jane explained before she went to join the others.
"Weird," Ian repeated to himself. He realized he was a fair few paces behind the others and scrambled to catch up, wondering just what the Hell he had gotten himself into as he went.
Chapter 23: Reunited
Loki glanced Jane's way when she finished setting up the equipment. "Now what?"
"Now us humans read all this when you go scout the area for anything that's more your world than this one," Jane replied without missing a beat. When he merely blinked at her, she motioned at the parking garage. "It's coming from in there, can you multiply yourself and save us some time and see if there's anything visible around here?" she clarified.
"Ah," Loki nodded. He jerked his head towards Ian. "Keep the pawn distracted then," he instructed. He made his way over to the garage and summoned a copy of himself into each corner of the structure. He made another one at the entrance and phased into it. The further he was away from Midgardian technology, the better.
He wandered for a while until he felt magical energy in the air. It was faint, but the further he went down one hallway, the energy got stronger. It wasn't until he had been following the feeling for a while that he realized he had hardly been in his own head. The energy- whatever it was, was practically calling him. It was the Tesseract all over again. It was enough to stop him in his tracks for a moment. Still, the energy seemed to pull him again, and he was nearly defenseless to stop it. He started walking towards it again, not of his own volition. He fought the urge as much as possible. Being enthralled the last time had almost killed him and countless others. He wasn't going to let it happen again. The worst part was that he didn't seem to have much choice in the matter.
Still, the energy called to him, and he went, trying to fight all the way. The energy finally reached a fever pitch at the edge of one door. Whatever it was was directly beyond the door. He reached for the handle, and it took all he had in him to use his other hand to stop himself. No, no, no. Still, the pull won over and he opened the door. The metal of the handle practically burned him- or he had imagined it to try and snap himself out of the haze. He took a forced step forward again, then again, and then:
It all stopped.
The energy was gone. There was no pull. He had autonomy over his own body again. After a moment, he realized that he wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. He growled and risked going deeper into the room. "Jane!" he called. He jogged around the border of the room and checked through all of the windows to see anything. "Jane!" he repeated. Still nothing. This was definitely as far from good as possible. He needed to get back to the others. He glanced out the window, and by some stroke of luck, spotted them in the stairwell of the building directly across from him. He closed his eyes and prepared to phase over. It wasn't until he was halfway done with doing so that he realized just popping up would be extremely hard to explain away to Ian. When he opened his eyes next he realized he had lucked out. The realization must've sent him just off course enough to land him just behind the pair. He reached over and touched the small of Darcy's back to indicate he was there.
She jumped, startled at his sudden appearance. "There you are. Don't go anywhere," she insisted, and grabbed his arm for good measure.
Ian looked up from whatever he was paying attention to. "Hey!" he waved, then stopped short. He narrowed his eyes. "Hey, didn't I just see you...?" he pointed over his shoulder and out the window, sure enough, just where he had been minutes before.
"I'm a fast walker," Loki countered. He turned his attention back to Darcy. "You haven't found Jane?"
Darcy shook her head. "Not at all. Did you find anything uh... unusual?"
"Something's here, but it's gone. Can't tell if it's moving or just blinked out of existence," Loki explained. He noticed Ian looking down then up over the railing of the level they were on. Beyond him, three kids who must've been the Midgardian equivalent to street urchins were behind him. He made a face.
"I'm calling the cops. There's no way this is good," Darcy pointed out. She pulled her cell phone from her pocket.
Loki stopped her. "Don't you think that's a little premature? It's only been minutes, and if there's something unusual going on-"
Darcy made a face. "Few minutes? Dude, you and Jane have both been gone two hours."
"Hours?" Loki repeated. Nothing made sense. He looked back at Ian and the children. "And what the Hell are they doing?"
Darcy looked at him, then moved over to a soda can in the corner. She picked it up and held it out to him. "Throw it down there," she instructed and nodded over the edge of the railing.
Loki had a feeling he knew he wasn't going to like whatever this was about, but he threw it all the same. He watched it go over, then frowned when it disappeared in a wave of clear energy. Darcy pointed up at the visible stretch of sky. Loki followed her motion. A moment later, the dropped from the sky. "That is... not Midgardian," he pointed out, throwing caution to the wind about using the name.
"Nope. Funny thing is Jane found readings from this thing that lined up with your hometown," Darcy explained.
Loki considered the information, then nodded. He pulled her away from the railing by the hips. "Alright, then we're getting away from this immediate area. We all are," he instructed, and gave a pointed look at Ian and the kids.
Ian shrugged and shuffled over to them. To Loki's surprise, the kids also left, muttering something about it 'getting boring anyway' as they went.
They made it outside.
Loki looked at the other two when they stopped and put their equipment down, but didn't make a move to get into the car.
"Oh, right, Ian threw the keys into that magic thing. We didn't get them back," Darcy explained.
"You threw the kid's shoe and he didn't get it back!" Ian protested.
Loki merely shook his head and sat down on the curb. He watched Darcy call the local police, then moved over when she dropped next to him after the call. After a few minutes, she was silent- the same silence she had when she had been minutes away from her breakdown the last time they had lost Jane and Erik. He reached over and took her hand. "It'll be fine. If... this magic is connected to Asgard, to Thor- if it's a portal, there's no place she'll be safer," he explained.
"Yeah, but you've said yourself that Convergence thing is like... days away, right? You fell to Earth, what if Jane fell somewhere else? Like where those Chitauri guys were? Or the Frost Giant-sorry- or-"
"Then we will cross that bridge when we get to it," Loki insisted gently. "And we wait until that energy signature comes back and I go back in-"
"Uh, no, for the last time, I'm not losing you if I lost the others."
"For the last time, I won't be able to live with myself if any harm comes to either of you three," Loki countered. "I would rather die than see any of you in danger, and if throwing myself into it to get you out of it is what needs to happen, I will damn well do it," Loki hissed.
Ian, who had been standing a few feet away cleared his throat, but the two either hadn't noticed or were ignoring him. "Right..."
Before long, the police had arrived. Much to their unease, one of the policewomen had noted how 'weird' the circumstances were, and compared her 'weird' day to her sister's weirder one- on account of 'the strange bloke running 'round Stonehenge stark naked.' She had stared Loki down for a solid few seconds when he had said that the 'naked bloke' was his father and they needed to collect him, 'so if you would be so kind as to inform us where your sister brought him, it would be greatly appreciated.'
Loki was grateful that it was enough to derail the conversation before there got to be too many questions. A handful of the police officers left to sweep the area.
Of course, that was precisely when Jane had decided to show up out of the blue, looking no worse for wear and none the wiser on what happened. In fact, she was furious that the police had been called- that was, until she found out that her and Loki's stories matched up. She had thought she was only gone for minutes and not the five hours she really had been as well. Rain had started to fall, and just as it started, it stopped. Loki was the first one to notice that it had only stopped directly around them. He knew better than to question what that meant. "Oh, no..." he rolled his eyes.
"What?" the girls asked. Loki looked around, then sure enough, saw Thor making his way over to the group a few feet away. Jane was the first to notice and immediately started walking over. As she went, the break in the clouds went with her, and it proceeded to pour on Loki and Darcy.
"Typical..." they said together. They watched Jane approach, then gawked when Jane's first action to Thor wasn't a hug or kiss or anything. It was a hard slap to the face. Loki tried not to look as delighted as he was. Jane said something to Thor quietly. Darcy took his arm and dragged him over.
Ian, a few feet away, looked from one group to the other. "Who's that then? And why is he in armor? Is the Renaissance Fair in town?" he called.
They reached Thor and Jane just in time for Loki to hear 'the Bifrost was destroyed' and Loki promptly turned on his heel to walk away. He had expected Darcy or Jane to stop them. Instead, it was Thor's hand that landed on his shoulder and squeezed pointedly.
"I had to put an end to the slaughter," Thor finished. When Loki squirmed away at an angle that made it impossible for him to keep his hold, he let go. "But Jane, I believe that fate brought us together," he finished.
"Or your brother is a magic magnet and this shit is his fault," Darcy hissed.
Loki went to protest until he realized it was a perfectly reasonable theory. He closed his mouth.
"I don't know where you were or what happened, but I do know this.." Thor trailed off. "I know..."
"You do?" Jane asked, just as dreamily as she looked at him.
Loki and Darcy groaned.
"Do what?" Thor asked.
"What?" Jane repeated.
They stared at each other and leaned in.
"Hey!" Darcy protested. "Is this you?" she motioned at the clouds. "Because you know when you guys are getting sappy it's pouring on the rest of us and it's a long drive to Stonehenge."
Thor looked up, and the rain ceased.
"We're kin of in the middle of something," Jane protested.
"Pretty sure we're getting arrested for what now looks like a fake report," Darcy countered.
"Hold that thought," Jane poked Thor in the chest and ran off towards the police.
Darcy drifted over to Thor and took her turn to poke him in the chest. "Look at you, still all muscly and everything. How's space?"
"Space is fine," Thor replied. "How's Midgard?" he countered. He looked at Ian, and the others followed his gaze. The police had started to frisk him. "And who is that?"
"The new me," Darcy explained, seemingly just as Jane introduced him as such to the police.
They watched as one of the officers reached for her, and suddenly a pulse of energy- this time in physical form and bright red exploded from the space between Jane and the officer.
Thor yanked the pair of them behind him just as Loki threw up a shield of his own magic to counteract it. Once the brief commotion was over, Thor ran over to Jane, who was flat on the ground- much like everyone else in the immediate vicinity. Loki waved Ian over- which apparently turned out to be a bad move. The police had recovered quickly and immediately ushered them over to the police cars.They started listing offenses the group would be charged with.
Loki wasn't sure where to look until he heard Thor whisper something to Jane that sounded a lot like 'hold onto me.' "Thor, don't you dare," he hissed. He turned, fully ready to tackle the man to try and get him to stay put, but Mjolnir was already above their heads, and Thor and Jane were gone within a couple of moments in a flash of golden light.
Darcy and Loki stared at the vacant spot and advanced, staring up at the sky for a while.
"Well, that figures," Loki muttered.
"Left us here to deal with cops alone," Darcy agreed. She glanced at the officers, who looked twice as stunned as they had after that magical pulse happened. Loki wasn't sure which item to prioritize at that moment.
"What... the Hell... WAS THAT?!" Ian called from his spot behind one of the police cars.
Loki rolled his eyes. Well, there was that. But now he had to choose: Ian, or the police. He needed a computer or newspapers to bring up the Battle of New York. 'Surprise, good people, magic was a thing, you should've known by now, and by rights, your lives will be in danger soon.' He could just imagine the responses.
This was going to be a bloody disaster.