“You can't be serious?” Clint said as he trotted down the corridor on Thor’s heels, closely followed by Natasha.
“Aye, I am," Thor said over his shoulder, as he continued walking. "When I return from Asgard I will be bringing my brother with me.”
“After everything he did, the people he killed, you call this punishment?” Clint asked desperately as he grabbed Thor’s arm, trying to turn him round.
“I'm not really understanding who’s getting punished here,” Natasha said. “Is it him? Because it really feels like it’s us.”
Thor stopped, and turned. “My friends, it has been arranged. If you take issue with my father’s ruling, then perhaps you should talk to Fury.”
“Fury knows about this?” Natasha asked.
“Yes, he has been most helpful with the arrangements.”
“He agreed to let a homicidal maniac into what is basically our home?” Clint gasped. “How the hell could he do that?”
“He should have discussed this with us first,” Natasha added. “I never would have agreed to this, Clint wouldn't, Tony wouldn't.”
“Fury wanted me here to help with the defence of your realm, but when Loki has received his punishment he will be under my protection and must accompany me on my visits.”
“And who the hell is going to protect us from him?” Clint shouted.
“You will see when I arrive back with him that there is nothing to fear,” Thor smiled, as he walked out through the door and onto the roof of the building. “I shall return soon my friends.”
Clint and Natasha watched as Thor began to spin Mjolnir furiously, and then vanished into the skies.
“We have to talk to Tony,” Natasha said.
“What do you mean, you knew?” Clint shouted. “Did Fury threaten you?”
“And what exactly could Fury threaten me with?” Tony asked, as he used tongs to transfer a few ice cubes into his glass as he stood behind the bar. “He needs me way more than I need him.”
“So you’re just going to let Loki move into the tower without even consulting us?” Natasha asked. “The guy who brainwashed Clint, and who threw you out of a window, and you’re fine with having him under the same roof as us?”
“Trust me, when he gets here, you’re gonna be glad I agreed to it.”
“I doubt it somehow,” Clint said.
“Oh believe me, you’re gonna wanna stick around for this,” Tony said with a grin.
Two days later, as Thor landed on the platform outside, one arm wrapped round his brother’s waist, Clint could already tell there was something different about Loki. The haughty, pissy manner was still there as he looked around himself disdainfully, but it seemed forced, an imitation of his previous confidence.
“How nice, a welcoming party,” Loki sneered as Thor marched him into the tower, and found Clint, Natasha and Tony waiting for them.
“I wouldn't miss this for the world. Everyone’s favourite Norse god brought down a peg or two,” Tony said. “We've got a nice comfortable cell waiting for you.”
“No,” Thor stated firmly. “Loki has endured his punishment for his crimes. He will not be punished further by being locked away.”
“Punishment?” Clint asked. “You only took him back to Asgard for two months ago.”
“Our father was deciding a suitable punishment, and now it has been carried out.” Thor stated. “Loki has been banished, he has been rendered mortal, and is no longer able to perform magic. He is now no different to any Midgardian.”
“So he’s human?” Clint asked. Thor nodded, and a grin slowly spread over Clint's face.
“Told ya you’d be happy,” Tony said.
Clint smashed his fist into Loki’s face, knocking him backwards a few steps, and he shouted, “Not so tough now, huh?”
“You will regret that, mortal,” Loki growled, as he stood upright and wiped the blood from his nose.
“Oh yeah? You aren't a god any more, mortal, so what are you gonn-” Clint was cut off as Loki smacked his jaw with a swift uppercut, then knocked his legs from underneath him with one quick movement of his feet.
“Brother!” Thor cried, as Tony and Natasha helped Clint up.
“I may be a god no longer, but I still have a thousand years of combat training,” Loki shouted as Thor pulled him back.
“Loki, you are to treat my friends with respect,” Thor shouted.
Loki rolled his eyes. “Perhaps when they treat me with the respect a prince deserves I shall show them some.”
“Respect has to be earned,” Natasha said. “You're gonna get exactly what’s coming to you.”
“Ooooh!” Loki scoffed. “ I'm terrified. I’ll be sure to sit trembling in a corner while I await your vengeance.”
“Get him out of here,” Tony snapped, and Loki grinned as Thor grabbed him firmly by the arm and dragged him from the room.
“This is where we shall stay,” Thor said as he directed Loki through the door.
Loki looked around at the large room, which had a bed at one end, a large living space, and floor to ceiling windows on one side that overlooked the city. He tutted. “This will not do.”
“These are the quarters that Stark prepared for me, and there is ample room for two. I will ask for a bed to be brought in for you, but until then you can sleep in my bed, and I will sleep on the couch.”
“Good,” Loki said, and then he pointed. “What is this?”
“It is called a television,” Thor said as he picked up the remote, turned it on and started flicking through the channels. “It is a wonderful invention. The mortals relay their news through it, they perform plays on it, and show sporting events.”
“Puerile entertainment. Turn it off at once.”
“It’s been a long day, and it will be an even longer day tomorrow,” Thor said. “I think you should bathe and then get some rest.”
“I'm not tired.”
“Loki,” Thor said, as he moved over to his brother, and took hold of his upper arms gently. “I can see how exhausted you are. This new form does not have the stamina of your old body. You must learn to relax more.”
Loki sighed. “Very well, I will bathe. Send the handmaidens in.”
“They do not have handmaidens on Midgard,” Thor explained.
“No handmaidens?” Loki asked, raising an eyebrow. “Then who will wash me?”
“You are to bathe yourself.”
Loki gasped. “You expect a prince to wash himself like a commoner?”
“Yes, now come. The bathroom is here,” Thor said as he opened the door and directed Loki inside.
“What is this?” Loki asked.
“It is a bath.”
“THIS is the bath? How am I supposed to fit in it?”
“You lay down.”
“Lay? In a bath?” Loki asked. “That is absolutely absurd.”
“If that is not to your liking then perhaps you should use the shower,” Thor said, as he opened the glass door, and turned the water on.
Loki scoffed. “I might as well go outside and stand in the rain for all the good that will do.”
“You have a choice,” Thor said firmly, as he turned off the water. “You can either use the bath, use the shower, or stew in your own filth, and I should point out that I can smell you quite clearly.”
Loki narrowed his eyes and glared at Thor. “Get out. I will use the bath.”
“A wise decision.”
Loki was annoyed the next morning when Thor woke him at 7am and instructed him to dress in dowdy Midgardian clothing.
“These trousers do not fit correctly,” Loki fussed, as he tugged at the waist. “The tailor who made these should be sacked.”
“The Midgardians do not use tailors for every day clothes. They buy them ready made.”
“No wonder they all look so slovenly.”
“Mister Odinson,” a voice came from the ceiling.
“I have been instructed to inform you that Director Fury has sent a car for you, and it is waiting downstairs.”
“Thank you very much, will you kindly inform them that my brother and I will be there shortly.”
“As you wish, sir.”
“So you understand the terms of your parole?” Fury asked, as he sat opposite Loki, who was glowering at him fiercely.
“Yes,” Loki replied, throwing the bundle of papers he was reading down on the desk. “I am to act like a slave, and in return you will not incarcerate me.”
“You aren't a slave, you will be paid a fair wage for your work.”
“What need have I for riches? I am a prince.”
“You were a prince,” Fury corrected. “If I understand Odin’s ruling correctly your banishment means you are no longer a prince of Asgard.”
Loki waved his hand dismissively. “A trivial matter. It will not last”
“The car is waiting outside, and it will take to the café where you will be working from now on,” Fury said. “You better be on your best behaviour.”
“And what will happen if I am not?” Loki asked as a smirk spread across his face.
“So you’re the one who killed Coulson?” the man asked, as Loki handed over the papers Fury had given him.
“Yes,” Loki said quietly, as he cast his eyes over his new employer. The man who had only introduced himself as Smith, stood head and shoulders above Loki, and his impressively muscled arms were swathed in black tattoos. Loki ventured that even Thor would have felt like a dwarf while stood next to him.
“He was a friend of mine. He helped me turn my life around when all I wanted to do was destroy, and you,” Smith poked Loki in the chest, “killed him.”
Loki sniffed, held his head up high and attempted to project more confidence than he was currently feeling. “I did, yes.”
“I could squash you like a bug,” Smith said threateningly as he moved forward and Loki swallowed reflexively. “If you pull any shit in here I won’t think twice about gutting you.”
“Pull… shit?” Loki asked, scrunching his face up in disgust. “You expect me to clean the latrines?”
“That wasn't what I meant, but yes, that will be one of your duties, as well as cleaning, serving customers, and you will show respect at all times, or I will put you through the wall.”
“Very well,” Loki replied.
Loki quickly learnt that all the other employees at the café were a particularly unsavoury bunch, and they had all spent time in prison for various crimes, but they had been placed in this café to ‘turn their lives around’. Their language was frequently uncouth and shocking when there were no customers within earshot, and they laughed raucously all the time, which annoyed Loki endlessly.
Loki had been informed that he was not to tell anyone that he led the alien invasion, and was responsible for a disaster that had touched the lives of so many. His face had never been captured on camera, and his part in the devastation that befallen the city was never revealed, but he knew if it became common knowledge there would be reprisals against him, and in his current moral form he was vulnerable.
As Loki sat in the tiny staff room eating his meagre lunch, another employee entered carrying a sandwich, and pulled back a chair.
“First day, eh?” the man asked, as he sat and took a bite out of his sandwich. “How you liking it so far?”
Loki grimaced, feeling vaguely ill as the man chewed noisily. “I am not.” He took a sip of the coffee he was provided with and then gagged as he swallowed it. “What is this foul concoction? People actually purchase this?”
“Yeah, it’s no Starbucks, is it? Food’s good though,” the man said as he took another bite and chewed messily. “So what did you do?”
“Do?” Loki asked, fighting the urge to vomit.
“You’re an ex-con right? We all are. I bet you pulled some high class property fraud or something.”
“Murder,” Loki replied coolly.
“Murder?” the man asked. “Who was it? Boss? Wife?”
“A co worker,” Loki replied pointedly.
“A co…” the mans voice trailed off, and he put his sandwich down. “You know what, I'm not feeling all that hungry any more.”
Loki grinned to himself as the man left the room hurriedly.
“Are you sure you used soy milk in this?” the woman asked, as Loki slid her coffee across the counter.
“Yes,” Loki said.
“It’s just that I'm sure you used the normal milk, and I'm a vegan.”
“And is your species allergic to milk?”
Loki leaned forward across the counter and spoke quietly, “I am aware of the many species that populate the realms, although I am unfamiliar with yours. Are your people unable to digest milk products?”
“My… people?” the woman snapped, and then she poked a finger at Loki’s shoulder. “Are you being racist?”
“How dare you lay your hand one me,” Loki said, as he glowered at her. “I once tried to kill and entire race so you should think yourself lucky that I am not inclined to wipe out the Vegans as well, you mewling quim!”
The woman raised her hand and slapped Loki across the face. “I want to see your manager!”
“How unfortunate,” Loki said, as a smirk started to pull at the corner of his mouth. “He’s not here right now.”
“When is he back?”
“Well, I have no idea. Perhaps you’d like to come back at say 7pm.”
“But you close at 6.30,” she said, angrily.
“Oh, so we do,” Loki replied with a smirk.
“You haven’t heard the last of this,” the woman said as she turned and marched out of the shop.
“What the HELL is going on here?” Smith shouted when he came back from his meeting and found his shop filled with chanting women who were sitting on the floor waving placards.
“We’re protesting against your employment of sexist staff.”
“I want to make a complaint about him,” the woman said, pointing at Loki, who was leaning against the coffee machine with a smug grin on his face, and his arms folded across his chest.
“I wouldn't listen to her, she is absolutely out of control, and verging on hysteria,” Loki said. “Perhaps she has hormonal problems.”
The women started to jeer loudly.
“Loki,” Smith warned. “Don’t be rude.”
“Rude? She struck me!” Loki cried, as he stood upright. “I demand retribution.”
“Hold up, hold up,” Smith said, raising his hands. “Ma’am, why don’t you tell me what happened here.”
“He refused to tell me if he put soy milk in my coffee, he said some stuff that sounded racist, and then he called me a whining cunt.”
“I did not!” Loki protested. “I called you a quim.”
“It means the same damn thing and you know it.”
The start of a smirk played at the edges of Loki’s mouth, and then Smith prodded at his phone and said, “I just looked up what it means and you need to apologise to this lady right now.”
“I will do no such thing!” Loki exclaimed.
“Apologise, now,” Smith said loudly, moving threateningly close.
Loki glowered up at him. “Never.”
“He’s all yours,” Smith said as he stopped the wheelchair next to the Shield issue car.
“Did you have to knock him about so much?” Fury asked. “His brother isn't going to like it.”
“He turned psycho on me so I put him in a headlock. How was I supposed to know he was so… flimsy?”
“I am not flimsy,” Loki protested, struggling to look up with his neck fixed in position by the rigid collar. “You are an absolute brute.”
“I hardly touched you, and then you fell on the floor screaming that you were dying,” Smith said.
“You could have killed me!” Loki exclaimed, then he flinched at the sudden shooting pain, and brought his hand up to his neck.
“I'm sorry,” Fury sighed. “I really thought you’d be able to help him.”
“I did my best, but the women’s group said he if continues to work at the café they’ll protest every day,” Smith sighed. “I never thought I’d say this, but some people really are beyond help.”
Loki had thought his sudden ejection from his job at the café would mean he was free to lounge around the tower all day, having his brother wait on him hand and foot, but as soon as the doctors had declared his neck healed Fury called him into his office and told him where he would be working next.
At first he had thought working at a library would be fun, and Fury had clearly placed him in a task that he would actually be good at, but he soon found that what passed for literature on Midgard was not to his liking.
He spent his days rearranging ridiculous books onto small shelves, occasionally sneering at the text on the back, and the only part of the job he actually enjoyed was demanding fines when people returned books late.
“Just these please,” the girl said as she handed over two books, and her library card.
Loki muttered under his breath as he opened the covers and scanned the code into the computer.
“What did you say?” she asked, as Loki stamped the books with an inked date.
“I called you an illiterate fool,” Loki replied.
“What?” the girl asked.
“I have attempted to read this book, and got no more than 10 pages into it,” Loki said as he held up the copy of Twilight. “It’s quite the worst thing I’ve ever read and if you think this is great literature I suggest you need considerably more education.”
The girl glared at Loki and snatched the book off the counter. “I’ll be making a complaint about you.”
“Oh, please do, then perhaps they will allow me to leave this awful collection writing behind me and forget that it exists,” he growled.
As Loki sat by the back door of the library, enjoying the fresh air during his lunch break, he heard a voice calling his name.
“I'm outside,” he called back.
The door opened and the head librarian appeared, “I’ve had a complaint about your… What are you doing?”
“What does it look like I'm doing?” Loki asked, as he threw a copy of 50 Shades Of Grey onto the fire.
“You heard the news?” Tony asked, as he looked up from his laptop when Thor entered the kitchen.
“Your little brother has been fired again.”
“Again?” Thor asked. “He only started working at the house of animals today.”
“It seems that he got caught printing out the personal details of someone who brought in an abused dog. Last I heard he’d been dragged out of the building screaming that he was going to ‘pay them a visit’, and I doubt he meant for afternoon tea.”
“Where is he now? I must have words with him. This cannot carry on.”
“Fury sent a car for him, so he should be back here soon.”
Two hours later, Fury arrived, at the tower, and asked to speak to Thor.
“Your brother is missing,” he said, as he drummed his fingers on the tabletop.
“Missing?” Thor asked. “We must begin a search at once.”
“Yeah… about that. See it turns out that the council have decided that since Loki is human now they don’t see him as much of a threat, and they've decided to treat this as parole violation.”
“But… you found him before.”
“That was an emergency, and they aren't willing to use that much of Shield's computer power tracking down someone who isn't about to blow up the city when they need it to find the real criminals.”
“Loki is alone, lost and alone, in a strange world,” Thor said sadly.
“I know you’re worried about him, but the police will find him. I think he’ll manage to take care of himself.”
Thor had spent weeks searching, alternating between moping around the tower, and furious rages which caused entire cities to be plagued with thunderstorms for days, until Tony offered to help, and wrote an algorithm that would enable Jarvis to run a low level face trace. Without the computing power of Shield behind the trace it had taken almost five months to track Loki down, but eventually they found him.
“Wow, London looks really different,” Steve said, looking through the Quinjet screen and taking in the breathtaking sight of the city skyline as they came in to land.
“This is where he was last seen?” Clint asked, as he set the Quinjet down in a quiet back street. “It looks like office space.”
“Jarvis?” Tony asked.
“Have you kept tabs on him?”
“I have, sir,” Jarvis replied. “Loki walked approximately six miles through the streets, and has now returned to this building. He is currently on the second floor, and I have downloaded detailed maps showing a path to his location.”
“Great work,” Tony said, then he turned to Steve. “Plan?”
“We don’t know if he has regained his powers or something, so I Clint, I want you and Bruce out here on the street with Tony, just in case the tricky little bastard comes out a window or something. We need someone who can take him down, or at the very least go after him if he’s suddenly learnt how to fly.”
“No problem,” Clint said, as he moved into the back of the jet and readied his bow.
“Fine by me too,” Bruce replied with a nod.
“Thor, I want you with me and Natasha,” Steve said. “We’re going to go in there and bring him out. If you can talk him out of the building without any need for violence, that’s even better.”
“A fine plan,” Thor said.
“What are you doing here?” Loki gasped, dropping his sandwich as Thor entered the room where he sat, dressed in a black uniform.
“Brother, I have searched for you for so long,” Thor said, his eyes beginning to mist over with tears of relief.
“Well, you've found me now, so you can leave.”
“Everything OK in there?” Steve asked from the corridor.
Loki rolled his eyes. “Don’t tell me you've brought your entire troop of heroes just to find me.”
“I was worried about you. I’ve come to bring you home.”
“I have a home,” Loki replied, as he wiped his hands on a napkin. “It is small, but well furnished, and I am very happy there, so if you want me to return with you, then my answer will be no.”
“But… I have missed you.”
“You can rest assured, Thor, that feeling is not mutual.”
“I'm taking you home,” Thor said, as he strode quickly across the room and grabbed Loki by the arm firmly.
“Unhand me at once!” Loki screeched, trying to pull away.
“What are you doing?” Steve asked, as he ran into the room, followed by Natasha.
“Tell him to let me go,” Loki shrieked. “Thor, you are hurting me.”
“What on earth is going on here?” a man shouted from the doorway.
“I am taking my brother home with me,” Thor said.
“It seems like Loki doesn't want to go with you, so I suggest you let him go,” the man said firmly.
“Thor, put him down,” Steve said, and Thor reluctantly let go of Loki’s arm.
“Thank you, Mr Hughes,” Loki said, as he straightened his uniform.
“I think we should all take a minute to calm down,” Steve said, and then he turned. “I should introduce myself to you I'm Ste-”
“I know exactly who you are,” Hughes said. “It’s quite hard to mistake someone prancing around in an American flag for anyone else, and I’d like to know what you are doing harassing a member of my staff.”
“Member of staff?” Natasha asked. “You’re his boss?”
“I am yes, and Loki is our most productive worker. He’s been our employee of the month three times, so obviously I'm going to be a little bit miffed when I see someone on the verge of breaking his arm.”
“Loki is my brother,” Thor said.
“You could be the Queen for all I care!” Hughes exclaimed, and Loki began to smirk. “You do not come in here, on private property, and harass my staff during working hours.”
“I apologise,” Thor said. “It was not my intention, I merely wished to check that he was well.”
“You've checked, I am well, and now you can leave,” Loki said.
“Can I see you again, brother?” Thor asked hopefully.
“I have a life now, Thor, and you are no longer part of it.”
“I think it’s time for you to go,” Hughes said.
“Was he in there?” Tony asked, when they reappeared in the street.
“Yes,” Steve replied curtly.
“You didn't arrest him?”
“He hasn't done anything wrong,” Steve replied.
“It’s Loki, so I find that hard to believe,” Clint said.
“What about his parole violation?” Bruce asked. “Isn't that a crime?”
“Was he ever really on parole?” Natasha asked. “He wasn't convicted here. His only agreement was that he would hold down a job, and not commit any crimes, and it looks like he’s doing that, but just… in a different country.”
“So we’re just leaving him here?” Bruce asked.
“I guess so,” Natasha replied.
“My brother has created a new life for himself, here in London,” Thor said mournfully. “He appears to be happy, and if he has finally found peace we should not disturb that.”
“Soooo… while I was waiting out here on the street looking like an idiot I couldn't help but notice there is a nice little pub down there on the corner.” Tony said. “Drinks, anyone?”
“Tony, it’s like 10am,” Steve said. “Isn't it a little early?”
“It’s 10am back home, but here in Ye Olde London, it’s 3pm,” Tony replied.
“I could use a drink,” Natasha said.
“I would appreciate a drink,” Thor replied.
“Well, all right, Thor,” Tony said, patting him on the back. “My friend here has a face like… well, thunder, and he needs to drown his sorrows, so the pub it is.”
“What about the jet?” Clint asked.
“Eh, leave it here, it’s not in the way, and no ones gonna steal it,” Tony said with a wave of the hand.
“Where’s the Quinjet?” Clint asked, three hours later when the Avengers left the pub and found the street empty.
“It’s been impounded,” Loki said, his voice echoing from the shadows where he leant nonchalantly against a wall.
“What?” Tony slurred. “My suit was in there!”
“Oh, I'm sorry that your untaxed, uninsured vehicle that was left parked on double yellow lines and blocking access to a public road was removed,” Loki smiled. “Perhaps next time you might like to obey the parking rules. Normally we would clamp an uninsured vehicle for 24 hours, but as it had no wheels, that proved to be a little difficult.”
“Brother,” Thor said, “What is the meaning of this? You have stolen the jet?”
“Not stolen,” Loki corrected. “Under the terms of my employment, I can legally ask the police to have your vehicle seized, and there is nothing you can do about it.”
“You’re… a meter maid?” Natasha asked.
“What a strange term,” Loki scoffed. “No, my title was once ‘traffic warden’, but now I am a civil enforcement officer. You have 14 days to pay your fine. If you wish to collect any personal possessions from your vehicle I suggest you do it now, before the depot closes for the night.”
“And what happens if we don’t pay?” Tony asked loudly, as he wobbled on his feet.
“Then your jet will be crushed. I think that will make it considerably less aerodynamic,” Loki said with a smirk.
“Brother, how could you do this?” Thor cried.
“I suggest you move along and stop blocking the street, unless you want me to attach a penalty charge notice to your head, brother,” Loki growled.
“Come on guys,” Bruce said. “I think we should go get Tony’s suit.”
Loki laughed as the Avengers began to walk dejectedly down the street, heading back to the main road, and Natasha turned to Steve and said, “I can see why he’s employee of the month now.”