Thor leaned against the training room wall, watching his brother in the ring. Loki didn't always train with them, as she had her magic to attend to, but she had to practice combat as well.
Another three warriors went over the ring's edge, leaving Loki standing alone again. She tossed a knife in the air, showing off.
Hmm, she was still in her female form. Perhaps Thor should have mentioned that on Midgard. They seemed to have some very strange ideas about gender. Well, perhaps the difference in her appearance would make it easier for them to forget their animosity.
"What can you do without magic?" Fen called. "Come on, Trickster, show us a fair fight."
Loki eyed Fen coolly. The two had never exactly gotten along, but Fen made a point of antagonizing Loki. Thor suspected Loki rather preferred that to the polite coldness many others aimed at her. "But as you say, I'm a trickster. I don't fight fair."
"So show us your tricks! Or do you have no more than magic?"
There was a murmur of interest, and the master in charge of the younger warriors said "Yes, it would be good for the students to learn the methods of an opponent who... uses your style of combat."
Thor smiled at the master's attempt at diplomacy.
Loki watched one of the young women climb onto the platform, and nodded consent. "Very well. For example...." She crooked her fingers, gesturing the young woman over, and put an arm around her shoulder so that Loki stood at her back, with a knife to her throat.
Then she spoke into the young woman's ear, tone low and dark. "If you behave politely, many people will simply let you put a knife to their throat."
The youth squeaked, and tried to jab her elbow back into Loki's ribs, as she would have been taught. Loki dodged it, and with a flash of magic to guard her blade, slashed it viciously across her throat. The warrior staggered away, clutching her throat for a second before realizing only magic had touched her.
Thor rolled his eyes, but then chuckled at the display. For all Loki's disinterest in other lovers, she did enjoy her own strange version of seduction. For certain, the young warrior's heart would race every time she saw Loki.
"But that's just a trick!" someone called.
Loki spread her arms, as if to say 'ta da!'
"And what if your opponent is not so trusting?" Fen asked, approaching the ring.
"There are always limits, but misdirection is a powerful tool. Would you like a go?"
Fen climbed up, and began circling Loki in combat stance. Loki kept her hands folded behind her back in lecturer's pose, only turning slowly to keep facing Fen. "Of course, 'Look over there!' is always good, but let's skip that for now." she said, in a casual lecturer's tone. "Simply facing your opponent directly and showing a disinterest in responding with a fight throws warriors of many worlds off. Be honest, Fen. It disturbs you that I'm not reacting defensively. You feel it's difficult to attack me when I am signaling non-violence."
"You've got me there, Trickster!" Then Fen lunged at Loki, stabbing forward.
A brief dance ensued, of Loki dodging and Fen pivoting to take advantage, and Loki spinning away again. Loki never unclasped her hands.
Then Fen was circling again.
"Now, this is hardly a long-term solution, and ineffective if the opponent has already been warmed up in combat with others." Loki continued, in the same lecturing tone, though she drew a knife. "At some point I will need to kill Fen." She gave Fen a dangerous mockery of a smile. "You have learned to match your opponent's tempo, I assume?"
"Yes sir." one of the young warriors said, hesitantly.
"You should be aware then, that your opponent will also match tempos with you. If you time it correctly.... Ah. Yes. Fen, you are following my pace now, correct?"
Fen's face made a range of expressions, before he admitted, "Yes."
"Once you control the pace, you merely w-" Loki struck suddenly, stabbing a false knife into Fen's ribs before he could even complete a step back. Loki nodded to him and drew away. "...wait, until the moment they have fully exhaled. It's only a split-second advantage, but in close combat it can be immensely helpful."
Loki circled cautiously backward from Fen, knives drawn defensively. "As I said, misdirection does have its limits. For example, now I'm in a ring with a particular annoyed Asgardian warrior." She sounded nervous.
Fen gave her an aggressive smile. "Yes, you are!" He lunged for Loki, swinging. He anticipated Loki's dodge and caught her, allowing Loki close enough to wrap a leg around his and shove him out of the ring, ending the match.
Loki straightened her clothes fussily. "As a last resort, show fear. It draws mercy, over-confidence, or both."
There was a smattering of somewhat confused applause, and laughter. Fen picked himself up, looking more amused than embarrassed. The training master clapped Loki on the shoulder, thanking her, and Loki hopped off the platform and walked towards Thor.
"And did you enjoy the show?"
"How many techniques like that do you use against me in the bedroom?"
Loki laughed softly. "I barely know where the tricks end and I begin, brother." Her teeth snapped in the air as she passed, as if to bite Thor's throat, but she didn't break stride as she left the training room.
Thor followed. "All is well here, I take it?"
"You were gone all morning. As you can see, I've completely taken over, thrown all your supporters into the underworld, rebuilt my statue, and begun planning conquest of three other realms."
Thor didn't like how quickly that list came to Loki. "You'll have to put that on hold." he said with a smile. "We are needed on Midgard."
Loki finally stopped and turned to him. "I very much doubt Midgard has requested me."
There was far too much truth in that. They knew Loki had fought against Thanos, heroically protecting both their world and Asgard. But they had not fought side by side, and learned to trust each other. They still thought of Loki first as their invader. Thor had reminded them that he had not stolen Loki away; they had surrendered Loki to Asgardian justice, and must accept the results.
Besides, Loki would know more of strange creatures that could not be photographed or captured, and buzzed in and out of existence. If anything, Midgard had more need of Loki than of Thor. He had told the Avengers that. They had reluctantly accepted Thor bringing Loki with him, as long as Thor kept her "on a tight leash", as Stark put it. Clint and Natasha had both refused to be near her, and left the tower.
"But they do need you. Some creatures have been coming to their world. They show up as black spots in their pictures. They seem to come in and out of existence at will, so they cannot easily be captured or killed. We must determine what they are, and why they are coming to Midgard."
That got Loki's interest. "Black spots? What kind of camera?"
Thor was momentarily taken aback. He sometimes forgot Loki had spent time on Midgard other than invading. "Uh...."
Loki waved it away. "Nevermind. But I hardly need to go there; I'm sure if you bring me a proper description-"
"Loki, these things are clearly not of their world. I have a responsibility to Midgard against such threats. Will you not support me?"
Loki took a slow, dangerous breath, realizing she was in a trap, and not happy with it. "And how long will we need to be there?"
Thor gave her his best 'This'll be fun!' smile. "Could be weeks! Come on!"
Valkyrie was left in charge, and Loki was hurried off to Midgard. She rather thought the haste was to prevent her from preparing too much trouble. As if Thor could simply force her into behaving in front of his friends.
They landed on the roof of that Stark man's tower. They were clearly expected, as Stark and the soldier were both waiting.
What a mood-killer. Loki had been so enjoying riding lightning with Thor; it was always thrilling. She glared at the powerful little mortals in cold challenge.
They were both frowning.
"Uh... I thought you were bringing Loki." Stark said.
Thor blinked at them and waved an arm at Loki. "Yes, as I said."
"That's a woman." Stark said firmly. "Loki is a man. I distinctly remember, from when he threw me out a window."
Loki smirked. Good times.
"No, I think that's Loki." the soldier said, uncertainly.
Loki made a dismissive noise. "Simple creatures. Do Midgardians never change what they are?"
Stark approached boldly. "Some do, honey, but none of them are quite so convincing." He got well into Loki's space, and looked openly down her body. "Maybe you could show me just how advanced your methods are."
These primitives were disgusting. She gave Thor a look that told him this was entirely predictable, and therefore his fault. Then she picked Stark up with both arms and tossed him over the edge of the building.
"Loki!" Thor made to go over after him, but Loki stopped him, nodding to the suit already following him down.
The soldier seemed to have already realized Stark was in no real danger. In fact, there was just a hint on his face suggesting a rather righteous satisfaction at Stark being tossed off a tower. "Well, that was bound to happen."
Stark also seemed to accept his fate, and simply landed back on the roof, mask already open. "Fine. I'll take that as a maybe."
Thor clapped a restraining hand on her shoulder. "Indeed. This is my brother Loki. Sometimes she takes this form."
"You use 'she' and 'her' pronouns?" the soldier asked, simply confirming. Loki gave him a thoughtful look, and nodded.
"Yeah, how's that work?" Stark demanded.
Loki's head snapped around to him. "It's no concern of yours." she growled. How dare he! He was no intimate, to question her on such a matter!
Stark held up his armored hands defensively. "Alright, sweetheart, whatever you say."
"Such a good start." Thor sighed. "Let's see those pictures again. Perhaps you can make some sense of them, brother."
The soldier made a noise of agreement, and led them inside. Stark followed, leaving his suit.
The soldier led them down to what he said was Banner's lab, where the little man was doing some kind of analysis of a viscous substance.
"Hey, so, everyone survived? Good...." He looked at Loki uncertainly. Loki barely looked at him, surveying the lab. The beast was here. How lovely. "Uh.... Is that...? Who's that?"
The soldier started to say something, but the Stark man interrupted. "Reindeer Games got himself a new body. She's clearly in love with me, as you can see."
"Stark." Thor said, voice warning.
"Uh...." The little beast vessel still looked confused. "Okay, well, do you want to see what we have?"
"Yes." Loki went around Thor, who had taken up a barrier position between her and Stark. She bent over Banner's shoulder, and let him explain the footage and what he'd gotten from the residue some of the creatures had left.
"I'd need to see them to be sure, but they may simply be wraiths. Odin's death would have left a great deal for them."
That pulled Thor away from glaring at the Stark man. "Don't try to scare them, Loki. Wraiths are harmless."
"Because they are too weak to cause harm. Usually."
"What- ah... What are wraiths?" Banner asked, as though hesitant to interrupt.
"Scavengers. They pass from the afterlife into our world to feed on the residue left after death." Loki ran a finger over a picture, trying to be certain through the dark distortion.
"Yes." Thor said, firmly. "But they are invisible and undetectable except to those with training in magic, or perhaps a special sight. And just as well, as they cause no harm."
"Usually!" Loki insisted. "But there have been cases where wraiths seem to turn predatory. It's theorized it happens when they gain enough strength." She looked at Thor pointedly. "Perhaps from a few years of feeding off the death of an ancient god?"
Thor clenched his jaw.
"Odin died here, Thor, and no rituals were performed. Not until too late and much too far." She wanted badly to point out that this was yet another mess his horrible beloved father had left for them to clean up. But he would only turn around and blame her for Odin's death, as if she caused time to pass.
"So, if that's what these are, what do we do about them? What are these rituals?" the soldier asked.
"It's much too late for that; the energy's had years to disperse and be fed upon. These attacks aren't near each other, are they?"
"No, they're all over." Banner confirmed.
Hmm. "They will eventually stop on their own, but that could take years."
"Not an option." the soldier said firmly.
"Is there a spell, Loki?" her brother was at her shoulder. Oh, how she liked him asking with such appreciation, rather than the demands or mockery of their youth.
"I do not know of one, but I may be able to make something work." Perhaps the ritual to settle Odin's energy could be modified to work globally... but no, that would only cause the wraiths to go into a desperate hunt, and then vanish completely. Something to weaken the wraiths back to scavengers, then. "I will have to think on this."
Apparently Midgardians couldn't just mind their own business about Loki's form and pronouns. They ate some kind of Asian food that night, sitting on the floor around a low table. Loki nudged her brother's ribs and discreetly demonstrated the correct way to use chopsticks, and Thor picked it up quickly. As they ate, conversation doggedly returned to gender.
Loki tried to stay out of it. The Midgardians seemed to be trying to explain their own vocabulary to each other. They talked about 'transgender' a lot, and 'genderfluid' and 'gender identity', and Steve, who seemed to be the knowledgeable one, lectured Stark on manners regarding pronouns.
The vocabulary was simpler on Asgard. Sometimes people changed. Shapeshifting was Loki's unique trick, but switching between man, woman, or neither was common enough. Anyway, it was common enough to be easily accepted, and not require this... dissection. It certainly was not questioned and scrutinized by those one barely knew.
"But!" Stark waved a tiny glass of alcohol for emphasis. "If sheeee" The annoying man dragged the word out to satisfy Steve. "is still the same person, then... he's still the same person! If your body can change whenever you fucking want, that doesn't mean you're changing. I can put boobs on my suits, I'm still a man!"
"Yeah, but if you change your appearance as an expression of-"
"Biologically," Banner lifted a finger, "we have no idea what her internal arrangement or chromosomes are, assuming those even work like humans' do."
"Yeah, sweetheart. Does the plumbing match the drapes?"
"Can you stop being such a jerk, Tony?" Steve protested.
Thor made another attempt to change the topic, questioning Stark loudly about his newest invention. The appeal to the man's egomaniacal side didn't work, amazingly.
"Inventions? You know, right now I'm a little more interested in biology. Maybe you can help with that, Lokes?"
Fuck it. If Thor couldn't control his friends, Loki would. "I'm afraid I work with advanced pupils only. You wouldn't be able to keep up."
"I'm a pretty fast learner."
"Oh, indeed?" Loki watched the pushy man intently and began slowly circling her chopsticks.
"Yeah, try me out, darling, I- Oh, shit!" Stark looked down at his lap in shock, where the sensations crawling into him were utterly invisible. "Oh... shit, oh fuck, what- fuck!" He leaned back on his elbows, practically knocked there, and Loki twirled the second chopstick into a complementing pattern. "Fuck! Yeah, okay! Advanced class, I got it!"
Loki put the chopsticks down. Thor chuckled, the sound rich and lovely and just a tiny bit dark. Perfect.
"You had that coming, Stark!" he said.
"You really did." Steve sounded exasperated.
Banner just coughed uncomfortably.
"Really, I thought with all that talk you'd make it a bit farther than that." Loki let herself sound a bit disappointed. "All that would get me from an Asgardian would be a wink across the table."
Stark gave a breathless laugh, and winked at her.
Eventually the meal wound down. Steve sighed and looked at Loki. "I guess we should get you a room."
Loki blinked and looked up at Thor. "Didn't they even give you a bed big enough to share, brother?"
Thor looked just as confused. "Of course."
"But you don't need to." Steve said quickly. "We have plenty of empty rooms. They're just as nice."
"If you're scared to sleep alone, sweetie- HEY!" Stark jumped backward as the front of his shirt caught fire. A moment later the flames vanished, leaving both him and the shirt undamaged.
"Really, we don't need a second room. We hardly even use separate rooms at home." Thor explained.
There was an awkward silence.
"Because... you're still rebuilding Asgard, and space is limited?" Banner suggested.
Thor smiled warmly. "No, Asgard's reconstruction is well past that!"
Loki sighed tiredly. These Midgardians were exhausting and intrusive. They probably had some primitive, backward taboo that would prohibit Thor and Loki sleeping together. "Fine, yes, show me this room." If they were here for long, she'd want some space away from Thor eventually.
Banner and Stark had started arguing about how the bifrost worked - they were both wrong - so Steve was left playing the host. "We've got an empty room right next to Thor's; two floors up." He led them up the stairs. Loki noted some of the security built into the place, and was sure she wasn't seeing all of it.
Steve opened a door and gestured in. "Tony springs for all the fancy stuff; just ask Jarvis if you need anything."
Loki started to enter, prepared to continue this thin charade until confirming that she and Thor were lovers had some benefit. Thor immediately ruined that by catching her arm.
"Brother, you aren't so angry as to make me sleep alone tonight?"
Loki let herself be pulled against him, but gave him a chastising look. It was a weak one. Thor did so hate to sleep alone.
Steve coughed. "So you two really are, um... sleeping together?"
Thor looked surprised. "Yes, of course!"
"I mean, you're, ah...."
"We are lovers." Loki said coolly. "We have sex. Thor sticks his cock in me."
Thor muttered something about "Not when you're in this form." Loki ignored him. Anyway, she'd had Thor's cock in her mouth plenty in this form.
"And then we both orgasm. Are you people always this concerned about other people's genitals?"
"Sorry, sorry!" Steve shook his head. "Um. Well, ask Jarvis if you need anything, and I'm just one level down. Good night."
"Rest well, friend." Thor said, and pulled Loki into his room.
The room was smaller than they had on Asgard, and the bath wasn't as nice, but that was only to be expected. It was a fine room, Loki supposed. It could do without the pile of fan mail that had been left for Thor.
"You didn't give me time to pack anything." she said irritably.
"You could sleep naked. I intend to." He kissed her neck, wrapping his arms around her from behind.
"Is that why you dragged me here in such a rush?" It was an easy game between them; Thor maneuvering to get her bare, while Loki preferred to be clothed, especially in this form.
Thor chuckled. "There is a very large closet. I'm sure you can find something."
Of his. She would look ridiculous, swimming in one of his shirt. She supposed he'd like that. "I could sleep in my armor."
"Mmm, that would be very inconvenient to my cunning plan."
She laughed at that, and turned in his arms, to kiss him properly. "You're going to have to work very hard to keep me motivated. You realize that, don't you? Modifying a spell to work on such a large scale will be tedious, and there are so many fun distractions on this world." They had this internet thing here, which opened so many exciting possibilities. She pushed her thigh against Thor's cock. "You'll just have to keep me so well-sated I can't even think of causing trouble."
"Oh, so you guessed my plan already?"
She tangled her fingers in his hair, and pulled him toward the bed. "As long as you understand your duties in this matter...."
Thor tumbled her onto the bed, and demonstrated that he understood his duties quite well indeed.