Meeting the rest of Fury’s ‘special’ team didn’t go all that well, at first.
“What the hell is that thing?” Tony Stark demanded, staring at Stitch, who was perched on Loki’s shoulder again.
“Shut up, stupidhead,” Stitch retorted, and blew a raspberry in Stark’s direction. Stark visibly recoiled in shock.
“So do you, and yet we refrain from behaving as though it is some kind of marvel,” Loki drawled, and heard Thor stifle a chuckle to his left.
“Sir?” asked Captain Rogers, looking to Fury.
“As I said, this is Prince Thor and Prince Loki of Asgard,” Fury said patiently, “accompanied by Stitch, an exiled member of the Galactic Federation.”
“The what now?” asked Stark.
“Exiled?” Dr Banner asked, eyeing Stitch warily. “What was he exiled for?”
Stitch blinked big black eyes at Dr Banner.
“Experiment,” he explained. “Stitch designed to destroy. But Stitch mostly good, now.”
“Oh,” said Dr Banner. “Well, that’s… great.”
“He’s an experiment? Well that explains a lot. What went wrong?” Stark wondered aloud.
Stitch growled audibly, and Loki said sharply, “Stark, if you wish to leave this room alive and intact, then you will cease insulting my companion.”
“Yeah?” Stark asked easily. “Or what, Longhorns?”
Loki smiled, showing all his teeth.
“Or perhaps you may find that that flying suit of yours mysteriously malfunctions the next time you’re in it.”
Stark’s eyes turned hard and cold.
“Is that so?” he asked, taking a step forward. “Well–”
“Gentlemen!” Fury barked.
Loki turned away from Stark to smile politely at Fury. Stitch took the opportunity to stand on his front limbs and wave his rear end at Stark.
“Is it – is that thing waggling its butt at me?”
“He is, Stark, and unless you want things to go badly you’ll treat him with respect. I’m told he gets testy at being treated as an it.” Fury gave Stark a reprimanding look.
Stitch jabbered in agreement, and flipped himself right way up. He leaned on Loki’s helmet, surveying the rest of the room.
The rest of the meeting about Thrym didn’t go much better. Stark seemed intent on picking fights with Loki, Thor, and Captain Rogers alike, and Loki’s threat seemed to have only made the situation worse, he admitted in the privacy of his own mind.
Loki watched out of the corner of one eye as Stitch crawled under the table. No one else seemed to notice. Loki kept his gaze firmly on Fury and pretended that he hadn’t seen anything. A few minutes later Stitch reappeared, and climbed up Loki’s chair to sit on his lap.
At the end of the little conference Stark went to get to his feet and walk away – and promptly fell flat on his face. Thor roared with laughter, Stitch giggled madly, and Loki tried hard to suppress a smile. He wasn’t the only one.
“What the hell?!” Stark yelled, discovering that his shoelaces were tied together. “That little–”
“Stark,” Fury interrupted, with a tired sigh. “Just go.”
Glaring, Stark re-tied his shoelaces so that they were no longer tied together, and stalked from the room, muttering under his breath.
“Take that, stupidhead,” Stitch snickered.
“Can you two please try and behave like there’s a mature adult between the two of you?” Fury demanded, levelling a look at Loki and Stitch.
Loki did his best to look hurt.
“Excuse me? I had nothing to do with Stark’s misfortune,” he protested, but Fury’s look only turned into a glare. Loki sighed. “Very well. It won’t happen again.” He glanced at Stitch, to make sure that the other being was paying attention. Stitch only chortled.
Fury nodded, satisfied with Loki’s answer, even if he looked less than pleased by Stitch’s evident glee.
At that point an agent spoke up, informing Fury that Thrym had been traced to Stuttgart, Germany.
“Captain, Thor, Loki, you’re up,” Fury said shortly, and the three men nodded, preparing to leave. Stitch rubbed his hands together and laughed evilly.
“So…” said Captain Rogers, as they sat in silence on the quinjet. “You’re aliens, huh?”
Loki didn’t bother to respond, but Thor replied, “Indeed, Captain.”
“Things must be different where you come from, then,” Rogers persevered.
“Quite,” said Loki briefly. He glanced at the ceiling, where Stitch was gnawing on a cable.
“Stitch! Stop that!” he said sharply, and Stitch spat the cable out, growled, and dropped down to land on Loki’s helmet. Stitch grabbed one of the horns and swung off it. By this time Loki was getting used to Stitch doing that, but Rogers stared.
“What’s his story?” Rogers asked, watching Stitch warily. Thor glanced at Loki curiously, clearly wondering the same.
Loki shrugged, and met Stitch’s eyes; but Stitch didn’t seem to mind the question, so Loki went ahead and answered it.
“Stitch was an experiment in genetics, designed to be powerful and destructive,” Loki explained, “created by a mad scientist with more interest in what he could achieve than ethics. His laboratory was raided by the Galactic Federation’s police force, and the scientist was arrested and Stitch was seized as the product of illegal genetic experimentation. While Stitch was given the opportunity to prove that given the chance, he could be a productive and civilised member of society, I’m afraid he failed miserably.”
Stitch muttered something in a disgruntled voice, too low for Loki to catch. Loki went on.
“He succeeded in escaping, and crashed his ship on Earth, where he was adopted by a young girl named Lilo. In his time with Lilo and her sister Stitch learned that there were other things in life besides chaos and destruction, and the Galactic Federation decided that it would be better for him to stay with his newfound family, given their positive influence on him. So he’s been on Earth ever since.”
Stitch flopped into Loki’s lap. Loki scratched behind one long ear, and Stitch cooed and stretched out blissfully.
“How did you end up meeting him, then?” Rogers asked.
Loki smiled wryly.
“I ended up on Earth through a set of unexpected circumstances, and landed in Lilo’s back garden,” Loki said ruefully. “Stitch found me, and Lilo’s family took me in. I’ve been living with them for the last six months. My time on Asgard was not pleasant, and I much prefer living on Earth,” Loki admitted.
Rogers opened his mouth, presumably to ask another question. To Loki’s faint relief, the pilot announced that they were above Stuttgart, and would be landing in the next two minutes.
“Don’t bother,” Rogers said into his earpiece. Grabbing his shield, he jumped out of the jet.
Thor grinned at Loki.
“I like him,” Thor confided. He raised Mjolnir.
“Thor, don’t you –” Loki began.
Thor leapt out of the plane.
“–dare,” Loki finished, with a sigh. He watched in resignation as Stitch followed the example of the other two and leapt out of the quinjet.
“You’re all idiots,” Loki said into the earpiece SHIELD had given him, and waited for the quinjet to land before he went striding out.
Chaos met his eyes. Humans were screaming and running from the scene, while Rogers and Thor were busy fighting Thrym, who was using his ice powers to attempt to freeze them both, a sceptre with a glowing stone held in his other hand. As Loki strode towards them, Stitch leapt up and bit Thrym on the leg, apparently unaffected by the freezing cold that would have caused frostbite in anyone else.
Thrym howled with pain and tried to shake Stitch off, which gave Thor the opportunity to hit Thrym with Mjolnir.
Thrym was bowled over by the blow, and snarling, got to his feet. He was, as Fury had said, a good eight feet tall, wearing little to hide the patterned designs on his blue skin but for the single garment that hung around his hips and covered his indelicate areas. Thrym’s red eyes gleamed with malevolence and rage, and Loki could feel the icy tang of his magic in the air.
Rogers moved in close, readying his shield, and Thrym made a grab for him.
“His touch will cause frostbite!” Loki yelled into his earpiece, pushing Rogers out of the way. Thrym’s hand closed on Loki’s face instead, and Loki felt his skin change and cool as Thrym’s touch triggered the shift into his true, Frost Giant form.
Loki only smiled dangerously at the look of shock on Thrym’s face.
“Surprise,” he said, and blasted Thrym backwards with his magic. Stitch stopped biting Thrym’s leg and climbed up the Jotun’s body to latch onto his ear, instead.
“Why is Loki suddenly blue?” Loki heard Rogers ask Thor, while Thrym snarled and batted at Stitch, whose teeth stayed embedded in the Frost Giant’s ear.
“That is his true form,” Loki heard Thor reply. “My brother is adopted. His true parentage is Jotun, like Thrym.”
“So touching Loki will give me frostbite, too?” Rogers asked dryly, as Thrym gave up on dislodging Stitch and advanced on Loki, this time raising the sceptre in his hand. The jewel at the end began to glow ominously.
Loki prepared to blast Thrym again, but Roger’s shield came spinning over Loki’s head to hit Thrym square in the face, ricocheting on impact and flying back over Loki’s head again. As Thrym’s head snapped back at the force of the impact, Thor’s hammer flew forward to hit him as well. Thrym was sent sprawling across the pavement, the sceptre flying from his hand.
Rogers and Thor joined Loki, each being careful not to get too close, aware of the cold radiating off Loki’s skin.
“Do you think he’s had enough?” Loki wondered.
Suddenly, music began playing in the background, and Loki glanced up as Iron Man swooped down to join them.
“You started the party without me,” Stark quipped, as he landed, one hand outstretched in Thrym’s direction.
“And here I thought the party don’t start till you walk in,” Loki replied, watching Thrym alertly.
Stark snorted, and asked, “Ke$ha? Really?”
“The rest of my musical knowledge is primarily confined to Elvis, which just didn’t seem thematically appropriate,” Loki replied, and was rewarded with a laugh from Stark. A glance at the other two showed that Rogers and Thor just looked confused.
Stitch stopped biting Thrym’s ear as the Jotun sat up, beginning to get to his feet. Stitch scrambled over to climb up the front of Loki’s armour, just as Iron Man hit Thrym with a blast of energy. Thrym was thrown backwards, landing with a fleshy smack on the pavement a good dozen feet from where he’d started.
The team of superheroes moved forward to where Thrym lay groaning on the ground.
“I would surrender, if I were you,” Loki advised. Thrym glared at him with obvious hatred, but made no move to get up or resume hostilities. Stitch cheered loudly, and cat-called Thrym from his position on Loki’s shoulder.
As the only one (besides Stitch) who wouldn’t be burned by Thrym’s touch, Loki was in charge of placing the specially-modified handcuffs on the Frost Giant’s wrists. Only once Thrym was on the quinjet, the entire group ready to subdue him should he act out, did Loki allow his Asgardian shape-change to sweep over his skin, ivory tones replacing blue.
The flight back to the helicarrier was uneventful, and Thrym was escorted to a large glass cell through which he could be watched at all times, and which could be ejected immediately should Thrym prove a threat.
Stitch poked Loki in the arm.
“Stitch want candy,” he informed Loki.
Loki cleared his throat, getting the attention of the others.
“Does anyone have spare change for the candy machine?” he asked. Banner, Thor, Rogers, Stark and Romanov all shook their heads, but one of the nearby agents said, “Uh, I have a few dollars, I think.”
“Would you mind?” Loki asked.
“No, sure,” said the agent, rummaging through his pockets, and pulling out a few coins. Loki thanked him, and left the room to find the candy machine he’d passed on his way in.
Stitch and Loki attracted some curious looks as they walked down the corridors, but no one tried to stop them. A few minutes later and Stitch was carrying several chocolate bars, and gnawing on one of them.
Loki and Stitch returned just in time to hear Banner say dryly, “He really grows on you, doesn’t he?”
“I don’t suppose we’re any closer to knowing why Thrym wanted the Tesseract?” Loki asked, strolling into the room.
“That’s a no on that one,” said Stark, once again out of his armour. “So how come your musical repertoire is limited to Ke$ha and Elvis?”
“I’d like to know what he needs Erik Selvig for,” Banner mused, ignoring Stark’s question.
“Selvig?” Thor looked startled and concerned.
“He’s an astrophysicist,” Banner began, but Thor cut him off.
“He’s a friend.”
“From your last time on Earth?” Loki inquired, and Thor nodded, looking troubled.
“Thrym has him under some kind of spell, along with one of ours,” said Romanov.
“The mind-control,” Loki said. “Fury said that Thrym used the spear.”
“Iridium, what did they need the iridium for?” Banner wondered, still following his own train of thought and ignoring everyone else’s words.
“It’s a stabilising agent,” Stark offered. “Means the portal won’t collapse on itself. Like it did at SHIELD. Also, it means the portal can open as wide, to stay open as long, as Thrym wants.”
“That sounds bad,” Thor commented. Loki gave him an incredulous look.
“No, really?” Loki couldn’t help saying.
“The rest of the raw materials, Agent Barton can get his hands on pretty easily. Only major component he still needs is a power source. A high energy density, something to kick start the cube,” he said, and the conversation turned into a discussion of what Thrym might be up to.
Loki took a seat, and listened. He didn’t understand some of what Stark and Banner were talking about – Earth science was very different to everything he’d learned on Asgard – but he got the general gist. If he wished, Thrym could very soon open another portal, no doubt for some nefarious purpose.
Loki realised that Stitch was also listening, and suspected that the small blue being understood the conversation better than he did.
“Dr Banner,” said Fury, walking in. “Can you track the cube?”
“Let's start with that stick of his. It may be magical, but it works an awful lot like a HYDRA weapon,” said Rogers.
“I don't know about that, but it is powered by the cube,” Fury responded. “And I'd like to know how Thrym used it to turn two of the sharpest men I know into his personal flying monkeys.”
“Monkeys?” Thor asked in confusion. “I do not understand.”
“I do!” said Rogers, looking pleased. “I understood that reference.”
He realised that everyone was staring at him, and the smile faded. He resumed his serious expression.
“Shall we play, Doctor?” Stark asked Banner.
“Let’s play some,” Banner replied warily.
The two men started to walk towards the door.
“Allow me to come with you,” Loki said, with a toothy smile.
“Look, Reindeer Games,” Stark began, and Loki raised an eyebrow at him. “I’m sure you’re some big-shot God-Prince or something where you come from–”
“I am also Asgard’s closest equivalent to a scientist,” Loki interrupted, his voice dry. “I may not understand Earth’s science to the degree that I understand magic, but I assure you, the two are different sides to the same coin. I would learn more from the scientific perspective.”
Stark stared at him for a moment, then shrugged.
“Okay, whatever. Don’t expect us to dumb anything down for you, though.”
“As little as I would be willing to ‘dumb things down’ for you, I expect,” said Loki, his tone drier than ever, and Stark’s eyebrows went up a little. He gave Loki an assessing look, which Loki returned blandly.
“Alright then,” said Stark, looking a little bemused, and escorted Banner to the door.
“But Loki–” Thor began, and Loki waved a hand at him.
“I will find you later, Thor. In the meantime, you might as well keep Captain Rogers company. I’m sure he’d be glad to have a companion as lost to the modern world as he is.”
Before Thor could reply to that, Loki left the room, following Stark and Banner.
There was the click of claws behind him, and Loki knew that Stitch had decided to accompany him. He slowed his pace a little, allowing Stitch to catch up. Stitch was still holding his cache of candy bars, although it had diminished significantly.
“I suppose you understood more of their discussion than I did?” Loki murmured, as Stitch drew level with him.
Stitch glanced up, eyes bright and intelligent, and smirked.
Loki didn’t respond, but merely continued after Stark and Banner.
Banner got on surprisingly well with Stark, even after the other man gave him an unexpected electric shock.
“Ooh,” said Stitch with a look of evil delight, eyeing the device covetously.
“No,” said Loki sternly. Stitch gave him a disgruntled look, and Loki only smiled serenely back.
He sat back and listened as Stark tried to encourage his new companion to have more confidence, but Banner was deeply dubious. The situation only grew more heated when Rogers intervened, deeply disapproving.
“Abandoned my brother so soon, Captain?” Loki asked. “Did he try and tell that boring story about the time he went hunting trolls? Because if so, I don’t blame you.”
Rogers ignored Loki, while Stitch sniggered.
“You need to focus on the problem, Mr Stark,” Rogers said.
“You think I'm not?” Stark raised his eyebrows. “Why did Fury call us and why now? Why not before? What isn't he telling us? I can't do the equation unless I have all the variables.”
“You think Fury's hiding something?”
Loki and Stitch both laughed at that, and Rogers turned his head to look at them.
“Captain,” Loki said indulgently. “Nick Fury is not only a spymaster, he is the spymaster. Of course he is hiding something.”
“His secrets have secrets,” Stark agreed, sounding satisfied by Loki’s words. He pointed at Banner. “It's bugging him too, isn't it?”
Banner looked uncomfortable.
“Uh...I just wanna finish my work here and...”
“Doctor?” Steve asked, putting a note of command into his voice.
Banner paused, and sighed.
“Yeah, it’s bugging me too,” he admitted. “There’s a lot about SHIELD that just… doesn’t add up.”
“Like what?” Rogers was frowning even more deeply, but he seemed to genuinely want to know.
“Like Stark Tower,” said Banner.
“Stark Tower?” Rogers echoed. “That big ugly…” Stark glared, “...building in New York?”
“It's powered by Stark reactors, self-sustaining energy source. That building will run itself for what, a year?”
Loki stilled in surprise. He hadn’t realised that Earth had advanced so far in its research into such methods of power.
“That's just the prototype,” said Stark, a hint of excitement in his tone. “I'm kind of the only name in clean energy right now.”
So,” Banner pointed out reasonably, “why didn't SHIELD bring him in on the Tesseract project? I mean, what are they doing in the energy business in the first place?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Loki asked, and three heads swivelled in his direction. “Look at your history. When an advancement is made, in secret, not by private organisations and individuals but by organisations which claim to be for the protection of their people, what are such advancements usually used for?”
Stark and Banner looked grim, while Rogers looked lost.
“Defence, and attack,” Loki answered his own question.
“You think they’re making weapons?” Rogers asked, sounding perturbed.
“It is what most beings would do. And as I said, look to your history. Humanity has a long tradition of making potentially unrelated inventions all about warfare.”
“Well, we’ll find out once my decryption programmer finishes breaking into all of SHIELD's secure files,” Stark said easily, although his eyes were still grim.
“I’m sorry, did you say…?”
“JARVIS has been running it since I hit the bridge,” Stark shrugged. “ In a few hours we'll know every dirty secret SHIELD has ever tried to hide.” He held out a bag. “Blueberry?” he asked innocently.
“I’ll have one,” Loki said with a smile, reaching forward to take a few of the small berries. He was finding himself more and more amused by Stark, despite their unpromising beginning.
“Yet you're confused about why they didn't want you around?” Rogers asked sharply, ignoring Loki.
Stark gave him a look.
“An intelligence organization that fears intelligence? Historically, not awesome,” Stark responded.
Rogers took a deep breath, visibly trying to settle himself.
“We have orders,” he said. “We should follow them.”
“Following isn’t really my style,” Stark said flippantly.
“And you’re all about style, aren’t you?” Rogers replied, with something that was almost a sneer. Stark only raised his eyebrows.
“Of the people in this room, which one is: A, wearing a spangly outfit, and B, not of use?” he asked.
“Steve,” Banner said more seriously, “tell me none of this smells a little funky to you?”
“Just find the cube,” he snapped, and stalked out.
Something near Stark beeped, and he grabbed the nearest tablet, eyes scanning it.
“Well, well,” he said softly.
“What?” asked Banner. “What is it?”
“JARVIS’s finished going through SHIELD’s files,” said Stark. He glanced at Loki. “You were right. SHIELD is building weapons.”
Loki listened with half an ear to the discussion that followed, but started paying more attention when Stark and Banner began to examine the magical sceptre Thrym had carried with him. His instincts twinged in warning.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Loki warned.
“Yeah?” Stark asked absently, still examining the sceptre. “Why not?”
“Do you really want to risk being placed under Thrym’s control, as well? Some of these artefacts have a mind of their own, so to speak.”
Banner paused at that, although Stark didn’t.
“You think it might be sentient?” Banner asked Loki.
Loki gave a loose shrug.
Banner turned back to the sceptre with even more care than he had been using before.
Some time later Fury walked in, and looked displeased to find that the small group was studying the sceptre – Banner and Stark still examining it, while Loki kept an eye on them to make sure that they didn’t blow themselves up, or worse.
Stitch had long disappeared under one of the tables for a nap, after eating all his candy bars. Loki thought it best to leave him there, for now.
“What are you doing, Mr Stark?” Fury demanded.
“I like the way he immediately singled you out as the ringleader,” Loki commented, with a grin.
“You’re supposed to be locating the Tesseract,” Fury snapped.
“We are,” said Banner. “The model's locked and we're sweeping for the signature now. When we get a hit, we'll have the location within half a mile.”
“And you'll get your cube back, no muss, no fuss,” Tony added, and tapped something on the nearest keyboard. Suddenly the monitor was displaying a selection of the files that he had hacked into earlier. “What is PHASE 2?”
A clatter behind them caused the group to turn around. Rogers had just dropped some kind of weapon onto the table behind them, and he looked angry.
“PHASE 2 is SHIELD using the cube to make weapons. Sorry, the computer was moving a little slow,” he added to Stark.
Fury seemed to realise that his little team was on the edge of rebellion.
“Rogers,” he began, “we gathered everything related to the Tesseract. This does not mean that we're...”
“I'm sorry, Nick,” Stark interrupted, displaying plans for experimental weapons on the screen. “What, were you lying?”
When Rogers spoke, his voice was coldly furious, and full of disgust.
“I was wrong, Director. The world hasn't changed a bit.”
At this point Thor and Romanov walked into the lab. Thor looked surprised and concerned by the amount of anger in the room.
“Did you know about this?” Banner asked Romanov.
“You want to think about removing yourself from this environment, Doctor?” she replied, avoiding his question.
“I was in Calcutta, I was pretty well removed,” Banner responded, his voice far too even. “And now I’d like to know why SHIELD is using the Tesseract to build weapons of mass destruction.”
“Because of him!” Fury exploded, pointing at Loki.
“What? How am I to blame for this?”
“Last year Earth had a visitor from another planet who had a grudge match that levelled a small town. We learned that not only are we not alone, but we are hopelessly, hilariously, out-gunned,” said Fury, his words backed up by the emotions in his voice.
Loki felt a flare of anger, and then paused. Wait. Why was he feeling angry? Everything that Fury had just said was justified. And yet…
Loki frowned. Something wasn’t right. He shouldn’t have felt so angry.
The others continued arguing, oblivious to Loki’s sudden distraction.
“Loki was not in his right mind,” Thor protested. “He regrets all that he has done. And my people want nothing but peace with your planet.”
“But you're not the only people out there, are you?” said Fury, and this time Loki could sense the fear behind the anger. “And you're not the only threat. The world's filling up with people who can't be matched, they can't be controlled.”
“Like you controlled the cube?” Rogers scoffed.
And then, of course, Thor had to speak up.
“Your work with the Tesseract is what drew Thrym to it. It is the signal to all the realms that the Earth is ready for a higher form of war.”
“A higher form?” Rogers repeated.
“You forced our hand,” said Fury. “We had to come up
“Stop,” said Loki. “Stop fighting. Something’s wrong, can’t you feel it?”
The others went on as though he had said nothing.
“Nuclear deterrent,” Stark said derisively. “Because that always calms everything right down.”
“Remind me again how you made your fortune, Stark?” Fury snapped.
“I'm sure if he still made weapons, Stark would be neck-deep...” Rogers began.
“Wait! Wait! Hold on! How is this now about me?” Stark protested.
“I’m sorry, isn’t everything?” Rogers retorted.
“Will you all shut up for one moment –” Loki tried again.
“I thought humans were more evolved than this,” said Thor.
“Excuse me, did we come to your planet and blow stuff up?” Fury told him.
“Do you always give your champions such mistrust?” Thor demanded.
“MEEGA NALA KWEESTA!” screamed a high-pitched voice, and blue light shot over everyone’s heads and blasted the far wall, the impact sending debris over everyone.
Stitch stood on the table where the sceptre had lain, holding the device in four pairs of hands, antennae extended from his head and venomous spines protruding from his back. He was cackling in maniacal laughter.
“What the hell–” Fury began.
“The sceptre is controlling our emotions!” Loki yelled, before anyone could interrupt him again. “It’s making us angry so that we fight amongst ourselves! You need to try to remain calm!”
“Calm?” Stark spluttered, “how are we supposed to be calm when that thing–”
Stark ducked the second blast just in time. Stitch cackled further.
Loki stared at Stitch in dismay, controlling his own feelings of fear and anger. He knew all about Stitch’s destructive protocols, of course, but he had never seen them active before. Oh, Stitch was prone to chaos, certainly, but this? This was something that he had never seen before.
“Stitch,” he said calmly, taking a step towards the table where Stitch stood, “put down the sceptre.”
Stitch yelled something at him, which the Allspeak translated as a vulgar comment.
“Stitch,” Loki said quietly, “think of Lilo.”
The evil grin on Stitch’s face faltered for a second.
“Lilo,” Loki said, with more force. “She loves you and cares for you, Stitch. Think of Lilo. What would Lilo want you to do? Would she be happy to see you destroy everything? Or –”
“Lilo want Stitch to put the sceptre down,” Stitch said quietly, and gently put the sceptre down on the table. Then he looked down at his six limbs, before his eyes darted up towards his antennae. A second later his middle pair of arms was sucked into the rest of his body, his venomous spines following suit. A moment after that, his antennae followed suit.
Stitch climbed down from the table, and sat, looking up at Loki.
“Stitch is sorry.” He hesitated. “Is Loki mad?”
“No,” said Loki. “I’m not mad.” He took a step forward, crouching down in front of Stitch.
Stitch moved forward, pushing himself into Loki’s arms. Loki folded his arms around him in a hug and held him close.
“It’s alright,” he told Stitch. Stitch burrowed in closer. “I know you weren’t in control of yourself.”
For a long moment no one said anything into the tense silence. The sound of the computer beeping was clearly audible to everyone.
Sending Stitch and Loki a wary glance, Banner walked over to the computer monitor. A moment later, his eyes widened.
“Oh, my God!” he blurted.
The next moment everyone was thrown sideways as something exploded through the nearest wall. Loki and Stitch slammed into the floor as smoke and debris filled the room. Groaning, Loki blinked around, Stitch sitting on his chest and already assessing the scene. The others were climbing to their feet, Fury sitting up and putting a hand to his earpiece, bellowing for Deputy Director Hill. Thor was already standing, Mjolnir in hand, and Stark went racing from the room, no doubt in search of his Iron Man armour.
There was no sign of Banner or Romanov.
Loki glanced at the shattered internal windows, and got to his feet. He walked over to the windows and looked down. Banner and Romanov were sprawled in the lower equipment room. Loki climbed through the window and jumped down to join them.
“Everyone alright?” he asked.
“My leg’s trapped,” Romanov said, tugging on the piece of debris pinning her leg. But her eyes were on Banner, who appeared to be undergoing an internal struggle.
One he was losing.
Loki wasn’t the only one who had noticed; Romanov was talking in a low, tense voice, trying to reassure him.
“Doctor... Bruce, you’ve got to fight it. This is just what Thrym wants. We're
going be okay. Listen to me.”
“I don’t think he’s listening,” Loki said edgily, as Banner’s form began to swell and turn green. “Stitch!” he called.
“Ih?” Stitch’s head appeared at the edge of the upper floor, peering down.
“Romanov’s leg is trapped,” Loki said rapidly, his eyes on Banner, who was undergoing a transformation. “Can you free her?”
Stitch leaped down to join Loki, and walked over to Romanov. He lifted the piece of debris easily, and Romanov pulled her leg free, scrambling to her feet. Loki grabbed her hand.
“And now we run,” said Loki, just as Banner turned angry green eyes on them. Loki took off.
Romanov had trouble keeping up with his longer stride, and Loki was dragging her along with him, but he didn’t dare slow down. There was a high-pitched cry of “Ikata!” behind them, and then a bellow of rage from the Hulk. Loki wondered absently who would win, Stitch or the Hulk. He hoped that Stitch was up to the task of fighting Banner’s monster.
Loki was reasonably certain that he himself would survive an encounter with the Hulk, unlike the humans. That didn’t mean he wished for such an encounter.
“Brother –” said Thor, as Loki and Romanov ran past.
“Busy running!” Loki called back, glancing over his shoulder, and saw Thor begin swinging Mjolnir as he noticed the approaching threat.
Behind him, there was another roar, as Thor engaged the Hulk, Stitch shouting insults in the background. Thor would be fine, Loki told himself. He had a hard head.
It was only when Loki had put some distance between them and the Hulk that he let go of Romanov’s hand. She shook it out, wincing slightly, and Loki realised that he’d been gripping it harder than he’d meant to.
“Sorry,” he apologised.
“I’m alive,” Romanov replied dryly, her other hand going to her earpiece. Loki did the same. Fury was still yelling instructions at people in his ear, but as Loki listened, there was a momentary pause.
Then Fury said, “It's Barton. He took our systems. He's headed for the detention level. Does anybody copy?”
“This is Agent Romanov,” said Romanov. “I copy.”
“Good luck,” Loki told her, as Romanov turned and began running for the detention level.
There was a faint sound of claws scratching against the floor, and Loki turned to see Stitch behind him, watching him.
Stitch spoke in his native language, telling Loki that Thor was still fighting the Hulk.
“Stitch come see if Loki need help,” he added in English.
“Perhaps,” said Loki. “I’m going to go and check that Thrym is still contained. This has all the hallmarks of a distraction.”
Stitch grunted an assent, and the two of them headed for where Thrym’s cell was located.
Loki stopped short in the doorway. The glass of Thrym’s cell was shattered, the individual pieces frosted over with ice. Thrym himself was standing outside his cell.
As Loki stopped in the doorway, Thrym’s eyes went to him, and a nasty smile stretched over his face.
“You will die, runt,” Thrym said in the Jotun tongue, readying his ice magic.
“I sincerely doubt it,” Loki replied, preparing his own magic.
Loki side-stepped the blast of ice that came in his direction, sending a bolt of his own glowing green magic at Thrym. Thrym ducked, and straightened, grinning maliciously.
Loki prepared himself for a long battle.
He was reckoning without Stitch. Before Thrym or Loki could do anything else, Stitch climbed up Thrym’s body, dodging Thrym’s attempts to hit him, and punched the Frost Giant in the face with all his strength.
Stitch may have been small, but he had the strength of something thousands of times his own size. Thrym didn’t stand a chance. He was knocked out instantly. Stitch leapt off the Jotun as Thrym collapsed to the floor.
Loki conjured a set of magical bindings, which bound Thrym’s arms behind his back and tied his ankles together.
He looked at Stitch.
“Stitch do good?” Stitch asked, swivelling his ears in Loki’s direction. Loki smiled at him.
“Yes, Stitch. Very good.”
Loki sensed a presence by the door, and turned to see one of Fury’s agents wielding a massive gun. Fortunately, it was being aimed at Thrym, not him.
“Trouble?” the agent asked. Coulson, Loki recalled. The man’s name was Coulson.
“Nothing we couldn’t handle,” Loki replied smoothly, glancing at Stitch. His friend looked smug.
Loki, Stitch, Thor, Stark, Rogers and Romanov sat around the table, Fury sitting at the head of it. Agent Barton sat with them as well, his eyes haunted, but his expression dared anyone to comment on it.
“We’re fairly certain at this point that Thrym’s people intend to open another portal, yes?” Loki asked. “The question is where.”
“Stark Tower,” said Barton, and everyone’s heads swivelled towards him. “That’s where Thrym told the others to go. Stark Tower.”
“That’s impossible,” said Stark confidently. “There’s no way they could get past the Tower’s defences, and besides, even if they did, JARVIS would tell me.”
Loki steepled his fingers, seeing a flaw in Stark’s words.
“Your Tower is impregnable to magic, is it?” he asked pointedly.
Stark’s confidence faltered, a sliver of doubt entering his expression.
Thor turned to Fury.
“We should leave for Stark Tower in all haste,” Thor rumbled. “If that is truly where Thrym’s thralls intend to open the portal, we must stop them.”
Fury gazed at him for a moment, then nodded.
“I’m sending the lot of you to New York. I want this portal stopped before it has a chance to open.”
“We’re on it,” said Rogers, and the others nodded in agreement.
“I think I should sit this one out,” said Banner. “I’m not going to be much help.”
“Probably a good idea,” said Stark, “although if we need the Other Guy, we’ll give you a call.”
Together, Loki, Stitch, Thor, Barton, Romanov and Rogers headed for the flight deck, where they boarded a quinjet. The exception was Stark, who took flight in his metal suit.
Loki hoped that they would be in time to stop Thrym’s thralls from opening a second portal.
The quinjet landed in the street not far from Stark Tower, blocking the road. Loki and the others paid the halted traffic no attention as they headed inside the Tower.
“Oh yeah, Thrym’s guys are here, right where you said they’d be, Barton,” Stark said through the communications device they all wore. “I’m going to try and – shit!”
“That sounded bad,” said Barton. The group exchanged glances, and hurried for the elevator.
A security guard attempted to stop them, but Romanov pulled a security pass from somewhere and flashed it at the guard.
“We’re with SHIELD,” she said calmly. “This building has been infiltrated by terrorists. You need to evacuate.”
The security guard started to argue, and Romanov glanced towards the others.
“You guys keep going,” she said, and so the rest of them piled into the elevator as Romanov did her best to convince the guard of the threat upstairs.
There were no buttons in the elevator, but the doors closed and it began moving upwards of its own accord.
“What magic is this?” Thor asked suspiciously.
“Technology, Mr Odinsson, not magic,” said a voice from the ceiling. Loki jumped, along with Barton and Rogers. Thor merely gripped Mjolnir a little tighter.
“And who are you?” asked Loki warily, as Stitch climbed the elevator wall, and stared at the small camera and speaker set in the elevator ceiling.
“I am JARVIS,” the voice said. “I am an Artificial Intelligence, and I am responsible for running Stark Tower. Something has been interfering with my systems. Under the circumstances I suspect magic.”
Stitch, who had been examining the camera closely, started picking his nose.
“Mr Stitch, perhaps you could cease your current activity while in front of the elevator camera?” JARVIS sounded faintly aggrieved.
Stitch sniggered, but dropped from the ceiling to land on the elevator floor.
“So, uh, no offence, but where are you taking us?” Barton asked, looking even more wary. Loki supposed that on Earth, they were not used to constructs of JARVIS’ type.
“To the penthouse floor, sir,” said JARVIS. “That is where the interference with my systems is occurring, and I believe that Sir is currently on that level.”
“Then take us up there,” Rogers said, looking determined.
The elevator doors opened a few minutes later, and the small group strode out into an opulent penthouse suite. On the outside balcony, Stark could clearly be seen fighting several men. There was the sound of gunfire.
Stitch grinned, and went running out onto the balcony. The others followed him.
The scene that followed was almost anti-climatic: between them, Loki and the others managed to knock almost all of Thrym’s thralls unconscious, which only left Thor’s friend, Erik Selvig.
“Erik!” Thor boomed, approaching him. “How do we stop this?”
“You can’t!” said Selvig, with a manic smile that spread wide over his face. “She is opening the portal!”
Sure enough, even as he spoke, a ray of blue light speared the sky above their heads.
Stitch let out an irritated sigh, and threw himself at the machine.
“Stitch, wait!” Loki shouted in alarm. But Stitch didn’t hesitate to yank the Tesseract from the centre of the machine with his bare hands, before the portal could open up.
A moment later he dropped it on the balcony floor with a loud “Youch!” and gave the Tesseract an offended look.
The machine Selvig had stopped working as soon as its power source was removed. Selvig’s face fell.
“I am truly sorry for what I must do, my friend,” Thor rumbled, and hit Selvig over the head, catching the man as he fell.
“So, here’s the cube,” said Stark, approaching it.
“Careful! Don’t touch it with your bare hands,” Rogers warned.
“Relax, Cap,” Stark retorted, just as Romanov joined them.
“Is the threat contained?” she asked.
“Seems to be,” said Barton, staring at the Tesseract with an expression of intense mistrust. Loki couldn’t blame him.
“Ah, do they have the container they used to transport it lying around somewhere?” Loki suggested.
“Good idea,” said Rogers, and after a brief search for its specially-manufactured case, Stark carefully lifted the Tesseract back into its case, and closed it.
“So, that’s done,” he said, sounding surprisingly upbeat. “I tell you what, after we hand this thing back to Fury, who wants to get shawarma?”
“What is shawarma?” asked Thor, frowning.
“I think it is a food,” said Loki, while Romanov asked, “Is now really the time for this?”
“Why not?” Stark asked. “We saved the Earth from whatever was waiting beyond that portal – I say that deserves a celebration.”
“A mighty feast in our honour!” Thor boomed, warming to the idea.
“Stitch could eat,” Stitch informed Loki, glancing at Stark speculatively.
“Perhaps,” Loki told him, with a smile.
Afterwards, while they were eating shawarma, Loki rang Lilo. He put the phone on speaker so that Stitch could be part of the conversation.
“This is Lilo,” said a familiar young voice. “Pelekai residence.”
The heads of the others turned curiously towards him, but Loki could not contain his smile.
“Hello, Lilo,” he said.
“Loki!” Lilo shouted. “Are you and Stitch okay? Did you save the world?”
“We did,” Loki informed her. “Although we received some assistance.”
“Really? From who?” Lilo demanded to know.
“A man named Dr Banner,” said Loki, “and two agents named Barton and Romanov, as well as Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man.”
“You met Iron Man and Captain America?” Lilo sounded doubtful.
“Yes, and I shall tell you all about it when I see you next,” Loki assured her.
“You should take a picture,” said Lilo. “Then you can show me when you get back.”
“I will do that,” Loki promised.
“Is Stitch there?” Lilo asked.
“Hi Lilo,” said Stitch cheerfully.
“You’re really okay, Stitch?” Lilo asked, sounding a little worried.
“Stitch fine,” said Stitch. “Lilo need not worry.”
“Will I see you guys soon?” Lilo asked.
“Almost certainly,” Loki told her. “As soon as someone can spare a plane to fly us back.”
“Okay then,” said Lilo. “Nani’s calling me for dinner, so I should probably go. We’re having pizza tonight because David’s working and Nani’s too tired to cook. She says it’s easier when you’re around to babysit everybody,” Lilo added, matter-of-fact. “Bye Stitch, bye Loki.”
“Goodbye, Lilo,” said Loki, his words echoed by Stitch, and Lilo hung up.
Loki was glad that he had managed to help avert disaster. He’d given Fury several suggestions about what to do about keeping Thrym contained, all of which SHIELD’s Director was following. It looked as though the trouble had blown over, and all Loki could think about was going home – back to the people he considered family.
He looked down at Stitch.
“It will be good to be home,” he said, and Stitch made a sound of agreement.
“Home where ohana is,” Stitch said, and Loki couldn't agree more.