They’re both silent for the trip home, Loki lying limp and heavy against Clint and Clint trying to walk as smoothly and softly as possible, which given his profession and experience is pretty damn smooth. Loki rouses himself enough to get tense as they near the kitchen and hear the others’ voices - Tony’s saying something about lojacking every member of the team, which Clint makes a note to thoroughly discourage later - so Clint just sticks his head in and says “I’m taking Loki down to his room. I’ll see you later.”
The looks of surprise on everyone’s faces are pretty good, even if Clint’s feeling too depressed to really enjoy it.
Loki relaxes as soon as they get away from the others, but as Clint helps him get ready for bed he locks up a second time.
“What’s wrong, kiddo?”
Loki looks close to crying again. “It is nothing. I am fine.”
Clint crouches down. “You want me to stay with you?”
Loki’s face crumples. He nods.
“Okay. Here, lie down. I’ll rub your back.”
The emotional turmoil and heavy expenditure of magic knock him out pretty fast. Clint waits until he’s sure Loki’s out cold and then he pulls out his phone and texts Tony, the only one who reliably carries his cell phone.
L asleep. Upset but ok.
He barely has to wait at all before the phone buzzes in his hand.
Where was he? Can you come up and debrief?
The complete sentences and reliable punctuation indicate Steve has taken the phone from Tony. Clint spares a moment to wonder what Tony would have said - popular culture has yet to designate an emoticon for sarcasm but Tony seems to communicate pretty well without it.
Playground, Clint explains. Repairs needed. Staying here. See you in AM.
He tucks the phone away and moves himself onto the floor. It’ll be more comfortable in the long run, he’ll still be close enough to hear Loki if he gets upset during the night, and most importantly he’ll save himself from the indignity of photographs in the morning.
He only wakes up once, somewhere around two AM, when Loki drags his blanket onto the floor and starts using Clint as a pillow. It’s too much effort to move him back onto the bed, so Clint gives in and goes back to sleep. Bruce probably feels too guilty about the blowup last night to sneak in with a camera anyway.
The next morning Loki is understandably subdued, but they all treat him gently and apologize a lot and by midmorning he’s able to make eye contact again. Bruce spends about half an hour talking earnestly with him while Steve and Clint hover nervously in the background and pretend to discuss strategy, and afterwards Loki smiles at them. It’s a little sad to see the degree of relief on the faces of America’s toughest superhero team at such a small gesture, but at least no one has it recorded for blackmail later.
Unexpectedly, it’s Tony who delivers the coup de grace. He shows up smelling faintly of ozone with a tiny Mjolnir for Loki’s Thor action figure that shoots real electricity. Loki is delighted with it and doesn’t even notice when Steve pulls Tony aside to explain in detail that it’s a bad idea to give children working tasers. No one has the heart to confiscate it, though.
“Well,” Loki says finally, looking pale and determined. “I suppose it is time to attempt to change Tony back, then.”
The tactician in Clint thinks Hell yes, it’s about damn time. The softer, squishier part of him worries that Loki’s understandably still upset about last night and argues that it can’t hurt to give him a day or two to regain some equilibrium. Fortunately, Steve’s the one actually in charge, so once everyone is awake and caffeinated they go down to the sterile strongroom next to Bruce’s lab.
Only Loki, Tony, and the device are allowed into the room. Steve had pointed out the necessity of not allowing a further magical catastrophe to wreak havoc on the team, no matter how beseechingly Loki looked at Clint as he went in. Steve, Bruce, Clint, and Coulson duly crowd into an observation booth with, Clint grudgingly admits, extremely high-quality audio-visual equipment in addition to the large one-way window.
“Okay,” Tony says with the insouciant bravado that all of them know means he’s worried. “You want me to do something special? Chant or light candles or stand on my head or something?”
“No?” Loki says, confused. “I may need to touch you but the rest is unnecessary. Unless you’d like a candle?” He adds, clearly trying to be understanding.
“Nah,” Tony says. “I can never decide what scent to go with. Too confusing.”
From the look on Loki’s face, scented candles aren’t an Asgardian thing. “Very well,” he says. “Stand there, please.”
Loki positions Tony next to the table with the device. “First I will lay the groundwork for the spell,” he explains. “Then I will reach out and take your hand and attempt to bring the device’s energy through myself and into you. If all goes well you will then revert back to your original gender. There should be no pain, although it may feel unusual. Also, the air around us will begin to distort - you may wish to close your eyes if it becomes too disorientating.”
Tony nods. “Got it.”
“All right. I will begin.”
Loki closes his eyes and concentrates. After a moment Clint starts to see the hot-air reality-warp from Loki’s shapeshifting the day before. It builds much more slowly this time, and the shimmer of it seems somehow more regulated. Tony looks like he’s about to have a coronary.
Loki sucks in a deep breath and the shimmer solidifies, nearly hiding him from view. He reaches out one hand and takes Tony’s, who twitches but holds his ground. The shimmer extends up Tony’s arm, fading out at his bicep. Loki reaches out the other hand towards the device, stopping just short of touching it.
The device begins to put off a poisonous green glow. Clint has to grab the edge of the observation window to keep himself from going into the room as the sight of it triggers some primal not good response deep in his hindbrain. Beside him Steve grabs his arm, obviously feeling the same way. Even Coulson twitches slightly.
The glow extends to meet the palm of Loki’s hand. Loki flinches but holds steady, and a moment later a pure-white pulse travels up his arm and down the other. When it hits Tony, there’s an incandescent flash and the whumph feeling from before, magnified enough that Clint can feel it from behind the window. The onlookers curse and look away, shielding their eyes.
The flash dies down as quickly as it had come. Clint straightens, blinking spots from his vision.
Tony and Loki are standing in almost the exact same positions as before, except that Loki has taken his hand away from the device and Tony is back to his old bearded glory.
“Oh, thank God,” Tony rasps, staring down at himself in undisguised relief. “I have never been so glad to have a - “
“Tony!” Steve says sharply over the intercom.
“ - magic user as a friend in my life,” Tony redirects smoothly. He frowns. “Loki? Hey, kid, you okay?”
As soon as Clint sees the concern on Tony’s face he starts moving, shoving past Coulson and out the door. He barges into the containment cell just in time to lunge for Loki as he crumples.