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The Other Gods

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In the last few hours Loki's plans had all come together, a glorious caucophony that made little rational sense to anyone who lacked his grand vision. The streets were filled with light and sound and blood and violence, especially in the wake of Dr. Banner's impressive... outburst. In those last few minutes, before things got hazy and unfocused, Loki let the flood of information overwhelm his senses, just the once, and felt his mind reel at the sheer joy of it.

That was how the newly-founded Avengers found Loki- arms wrapped tightly around his chest, laughing so hard that he rocked back on his heels, tears of hysterical glee streaming down his face. There might have been screaming. Thor might have come to him, said something, reacted with rage at something his comrades said or did. At that point Loki's memories jumbled into a meaningless flurry of color, red and gold, red and blue, red on steel, red on leather.

~ ~ ~

Loki knew he was awake, but he didn't really know for how long. His eyes were open and a little dry, but not badly. His mouth was open, and that was painfully dry, his tongue swollen despite the line of drool on the side of his chin. Loki's body ached, reminding him, vaguely, of time spent as a young man, learning the warrior's arts, learning how to ride a horse, learning how to become a horse. He shifted forward and his vision swam, a headache burrowing into the bone of his forehead and the meat behind his eyes.

“You're awake,” a man said from the corner of the room, and Loki jerked his head up, alarmed that he had not known, had not sensed the man's presence. His thoughts ran together at an agonizingly glacial speed, and he realized that, for the first time, he was seeing Nicholas Fury, director of SHIELD, with his own eyes, and not through the eyes of a puppet or a slave.

“Kill you,” Loki croaked, wincing at how he sounded even as he wiped his hand across his mouth. There was something wrong about this, something that made Loki's skin crawl, even though he couldn't quite figure out what it was.

“You certainly tried,” Fury said drily, closing the distance between them. “Turns out, I'm a hard man to kill.” Loki blinked, forced his eyes to focus- he was in a room, smaller than his bedchambers in Asgard, and oddly narrow. There was something strange about the walls- three were painted some nondescript beige color, and one was a darker gray, and looked like it hadn't been painted at all. Loki looked down at his hands, at his lap, and realized with a rising horror that he was wearing a loose jumpsuit in a neon yellow, the pants and sleeves too short for his arms and legs.

“Where,” Loki's voice trembled, and he tried to steel himself against showing any more vulnerability, any more violation. “Where is my armor? Where are my clothes?”

Fury stopped a few feet from Loki, just out of arm's reach, and crouched down to eye-level. Loki became aware of a weight around his neck, his hands scrabbling at something metal that lay snug against his throat. Loki's airway constricted, panic choking away what little oxygen he could take in. Fury's hands were suddenly at his wrists, pulling Loki's hands away far, far too easily.

“Easy, easy,” Fury ordered. “Breathe. You're in SHIELD's custody. The collar is a preventative measure against you... doing any of the things you've been doing over the past few months.” Fury's dark eye roamed over Loki's face, and Loki felt naked and dirty and young. “Your brother insisted.”

Loki snarled, because of course Thor would insist on Loki being stripped naked and dressed in some stranger's garb, of course Thor would insist on humiliating Loki further with some sort of device that robbed Loki of his strength, of his power, of the ability to string two thoughts together.

“Did he insist on this ugly little cell, too?” Loki rasped, wishing murder on the man before him.

“Well, yes. Considering that our other option was to euthanize you and donate your body to science,” Fury replied coldly. “Believe it or not, Mr. Odinson, nobody's thrilled with your presence here, after that little stunt you pulled.”

“Series of stunts,” Loki muttered sullenly. “Where is Thor, then?”

“That information is on a need-to-know basis,” Fury snapped, standing up.

“He's my brother and I'm in your dungeon. I need to know,” Loki said heavily, raising his chin.

“You are here, alive, because he threatened to flatten the building if we didn't let you live,” Fury told him. “And for that reason, we are not letting you near him until we have determined you to no longer be a threat to the continued existence of humanity.”

Loki sneered, leaning back against the wall. “Good luck with that, human.”

Fury narrowed his eye and bit back a response, turning on his heel and striding out through the massive door. Loki watched him go, mustering up enough contempt to smother the feeling of dread in his gut.

~ ~ ~

Time passed. Food was brought to Loki on trays by heavily armored personnel, despite the fact that most of the time Loki had to struggle to stand, had to labor to pull himself over to the uncomfortable cot against the wall. Sometimes Loki ate. Usually he did not. Once in a while he threw the food, smeared it on the walls. Once he used some sort of horrid meat paste to paint a portrait of his father on the wall. Once he used applesauce to draw a filthy picture of Fury. The staff responded to everything- eating, ignoring, obscenity- with the same blank expressions and wordless movements, sometimes taking a moment to hose the mess down and mop it up.

Sometimes Loki suspected that the room was not as soundproof as he thought it was. When it was utterly silent in his room, he sometimes thought he could hear the low murmur of a conversation on the other side of the unpainted wall. Once he thought he heard music, and he pressed himself up against the wall, straining to hear it long after it ended. After standing like that for forever, he backed slowly away, his hands shaking.

Loki was beginning to smell ripe, like fruit just beginning to spoil. They hadn't let him out of the room once- there was an ugly steel toilet in the corner, which Loki had learned how to use after some trial and error. There was no way for him to clean himself, and his hair had become a tangled, shaggy mess, dull with grime.

The next time someone brought him food he covered himself with it, noting the distinctly unpleasant sensation as it dried sticky on his skin. Hours passed before someone came back, far more time than was normal, and Loki matched the expressionless face of two burly, armored staff members as they walked up to him and picked him up by the armpits.

The trip to the shower was relatively short, the room huge and bright, a row of shower heads sprouting from the tiled wall. Water streamed from one at the end. Loki stared at it, unsure of what exactly he was expected to do. Massive gloved hands took him by the arms, stripping the jumpsuit off and pushing him, gently, towards the spray.

Loki stepped gingerly into the water and hissed at the shockingly cold temperature, at the needle-like sting as the droplets hit the skin of his face and chest. He stood for a few minutes, letting it run through his hair, his eyes closed. It washed the mess off of him, and he wondered idly if he could just stand there forever. Perhaps the water would wash all of him away, eroding him the way the sea wore stones down to sand.

Turning, Loki opened his eyes, water dripping down through his eyelashes, and glared at the pair of guards flanking him.

“I'll kill you first, when I get out. I'll burn your bones to ash while you writhe screaming on the floor,” he promised. Neither man's expression changed, neither man's face betrayed even the whisper of emotional response. Suddenly furious, Loki stepped forward, naked, fists raising. “Look at me, you worms. Look at me.”

Neither man said a word, silently taking Loki by the arms and pulling him out of the shower stall. Loki twisted and struggled to resist as one held his arms down, kicking out to prevent the other from forcing a clean jumpsuit onto his body. The Asgardian snapped and snarled like an animal, his vision blurred and stinging as hot tears spilled onto his cheeks. He was dragged back to the cell like that and thrown unceremoniously in, the door locking solidly.

Loki screamed himself hoarse, beating his fists against the door until his hands left bloody smudges on the metal. Exhausted, Loki crawled into the farthest corner, curling up with his back against the unfinished wall, weeping tears of impotence and rage. Shivering, his wet hair soaking the shoulders of his jumpsuit, Loki pulled his arms protectively around himself, his knees against his chest.

Eventually, Loki's eyes slipped shut and he drifted off to something resembling sleep, his dreams haunted by the spectres of hunger and loss.