“Jarvis says he teleported,” Tony reports, holding an ice pack to his shoulder. “Did we know he could still do that?”
Bruce sighs. “I’d be surprised if Loki knew he could do that. If I had to guess I’d say he was running on pure instinct. I should never have showed him how to use the internet. I should have known he would want to look his brother up.”
“God, this is a mess,” Steve says sadly. He doesn’t mean the mansion and Clint agrees with him wholeheartedly. The fact that he can’t think of any other way they could have handled this whole shit-show doesn’t make him feel even remotely less like a heartless sadist. “It’s not your fault, Bruce. Can Jarvis tell where he went?”
Tony shakes his head. “I’ve never been able to track him when he does that. Trust me, I’ve been trying for years.”
“He must be really scared,” Bruce says hollowly. Clint closes his eyes. He doesn’t want to think about that. He doesn’t want to think about the way Loki held onto him when he got upset or the way he’d tried so hard to help them and how he’s probably all alone right now. He doesn’t want to think about how much Loki had trusted them.
“Where would he have gone?” Steve asks. “Maybe the library? He liked the library.”
Loki had said he read books when he had nightmares, Clint remembers. The library would probably be comforting for him.
“Could he make it back to Asgard?” Tony asks. “I mean, that’s home. If he’s scared he’d want home and his mom, right? That’s what normal kids do?”
Clint doubts that Loki would go there, even in the unlikely event that he has the power to make it that far. No. Loki had left angry and he’s been on his own for about half an hour now. If it were Clint, the last thing he’d want to do is go find someone else he trusted implicitly in case it was only to find out they’d betrayed him as well.
“Or Thor,” Steve says. “But now he thinks Thor hates him.”
“Jarvis says he’s not in the building.”
“Maybe the playground,” Bruce suggests. “Clint said he didn’t like it much, though.”
He hadn’t, at first. He’d enjoyed it eventually, after he’d gotten the other kids to play his game, but then that had soured for him as well.
Actually, the playground sounds perfect. It’s already been ruined - how could anything spoil it further?
“I’m going out,” Clint says abruptly. Steve calls after him but lets him go when he doesn’t turn back.
The playground is fenced off with caution tape. The tire swing’s been taken down from on top of the castle, but it hasn’t been reassembled yet and the bridge is still broken. In addition half the castle is now charred and smoking, and the slide has been neatly punctured by the fireman’s pole. Loki had definitely arrived angry.
Clint finally spots him perched on top of the monkey bars, arms around his knees, rocking himself gently back and forth. He doesn’t seem to notice at first when Clint climbs up level with him.
“Loki, kiddo, I want to explain - “
“Don’t call me names as if you like me!” Loki says shrilly, scrubbing at his cheeks with both hands. It’s clear he’s been crying pretty hard.
“I’m so sorry,” Clint says helplessly. When he’d left the mansion he’d been thinking that Loki probably wouldn’t want a whole bunch of people to see him upset. Now he’s wishing he’d brought somebody who was better with words. “We’re all really, really sorry.”
Loki turns his face away. “I don’t care.”
“The way we saw it,” Clint says slowly. “The way we saw it, there was no good way to get out of this. Thor hit the device with Mjolnir, and all of a sudden instead of Thor’s angry brother we’d never known that well we had this smart, funny little kid that we all actually liked. At first we thought it would be too complicated to explain and then later, when we saw how much you loved Thor, we knew it would break your heart to find out you’d been fighting. We knew... we knew the truth was going to come out eventually, but we liked you so much, Loki. We liked you so much that we wanted to save you from that heartbreak as long as we could, and then it blew up in your face. And that’s not fair, because you haven’t done anything to deserve it. You’re just a kid who loves his brother.”
Loki presses his face into his knees to muffle a sob. Clint eases forward and puts a hand on Loki’s foot, the only part of him he can easily reach.
“It’s not fair!” Loki wails.
“It really isn’t,” Clint agrees.
“I don’t even know what I did wrong!”
“Hey,” Clint says sharply. “Look at me. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“To Thor!” Loki sobs. “As a big person! What did I do? Why does he hate me?”
“He doesn’t,” Clint says. “No, Loki, really he doesn’t,” he insists when Loki scoffs. “You saw one fight and yeah, it was bad, and both of you said a lot of really horrible things but you’ve got to understand that was really unusual. Thor was upset about something else that day - he never loses it at you like that normally. All we ever hear about you from him is how smart you are, and how much he loves you, and all the adventures you two used to have together. He loves you, Loki. That video you saw was him on a bad day.”
Loki sniffles and scrubs at his face with his sleeve. “He doesn’t like me now, though. I’m too little and I’m too weird. Why would he ever like me? What did I do?”
Clint sighs. “I’ve got to be honest, Loki, I don’t know that much about it. I know you guys were really close for a long time and I know something happened to put you on opposite sides, but I don’t know how any of that fell out.”
Loki finally makes eye contact. He looks exhausted and beyond miserable. “The adult me is a villain, isn’t he?”
“Thor always says we just can’t understand what you’ve been through.”
“I made that device. The broken one. Whoever made it was really angry.”
“The adult version of you made it, yeah.”
Loki nods, either accepting this or too emotionally overwhelmed to take anything else in. “A lot of things make more sense now.”
“Yeah?” Clint says cautiously.
“I have been calling for Heimdall to open the Bifrost and bring us home since the fight in the street,” Loki says tiredly. “Heimdall does things for his own reasons, always, so I thought he must have some sort of plan. But it is because it was me asking.”
“I don’t know enough about Heimdall to answer that, I’m afraid,” Clint says softly. “It could be that he thought here would be better for you than there.”
“Or that he was afraid I would try to destroy everything,” Loki says dully. “I think I want to get down now.”
“Okay.” Clint holds out his arms and is relieved beyond measure when Loki scoots to the edge of the structure and tumbles into them. He has no right to want Loki’s affections back, he knows that none of them have particularly earned it, but God. He hadn’t expected the fallout to be this painful. “Want to go home?”
“Okay,” Loki says, burying his face against Clint’s shoulder. “Did I hurt anyone when I lost my temper?”
“No, we’re all fine. Some of the furniture got a little busted up, but honestly, that happens so often we don’t even notice any more.”
Loki nods. “Clint?”
“Please don’t lie to me any more.”
Clint sucks in a breath. “I promise that if there’s something I can’t tell you, I’ll tell you that instead of trying to make something up.” It’s not exactly the same as not lying to Loki, but in the lives they lead making a promise to never lie is frankly dangerous.
“Good. We really don’t care about the furniture.”
Loki doesn’t laugh, but he doesn’t pull away either. Clint’s willing to take what he can get.