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Wandering Child

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It started with trying to find Loki some clothes. The armour getup was pretty much ruined at this point, and getting the tesseract calmed down enough for anyone to go near it was taking a while.

Thor wanted them repaired, which, sure, Asgard, whatever, might as well be judged in his best duds. But they had to get them off him, and they had to have stuff for him to put on. Nobody wanted to think about Loki naked. It was like naked flies: it happened, just no thinking about it, because gross.

SHIELD had enough data to inform them of his rough dimensions, but finding someone who matched was harder. Either they were too big or they were too short, and not making him look more ridiculous than he already did in his dented armour really shouldn’t have been that much of a problem.

In the end it was one of the bridge techs, probably the guy playing gallaga, that offered an old, outgrown shirt and a pair of sweats. They looked like they’d fit a kid that’d stretched out like toffee, but after the earlier fiasco SHIELD was very prickly about the accuracy of their tests, and they absolutely insisted they’d fit.

They handed them over to avoid diplomatic incident and gave him a bit of privacy because again, naked Loki was a definite no, but it was kind of startling what they found when they turned back to check he hadn’t used the opportunity to turn everybody into frogs.

That was the thing: without the cape and all the leather and buckles, Loki was tiny. Frail, even, and the points of his collarbones looked about to cut through the shirt.

The camera changed angle when he sat and clasped his hands and from the back he was an hourglass of bone: shoulder, spine, pelvis.

It changed again to a profile view and from the side his features were blade-sharp, his eyes sunken against the edges of his nose and chin. He looked haunted, and weary, and very, very ill. Six cameras in the cell, and they all showed different angles of the same.

“That’s not what I expected,” Clint said, and he sounded startled.

“What, never saw him with his kit off?” Everyone scowled at Tony and he subsided, grumbling. “Come on, he was a minion of evil. It’s a legitimate question.”

“Well, the answer’s no, Stark.”

“Never? Really?” Tony looked grotesquely fascinated.

“What were the measurements again?” Bruce broke in, tactfully diverting their attention before they all started pissing each other off.

“My brother has always been a weak warrior,” Thor said. “He relies on his tricks.”

Bruce nodded. “Yeah, that’s ... not measurements.”

“187 tall,” Natasha read from her screen, on the ball as usual. “They couldn’t get accurate bodyweight with the armour, but the total they calculated off the helicarrier’s pressure plates was 82 kilos.” She compared with the camera, brow furrowing. “That can’t be right.”

“Oh, Nat, don’t --”

“The armour itself, how much?” He ran right over Clint, and that was unusual enough that everyone else was shifting their attention to Bruce and Natasha and how focused they seemed.

“Why does this matter?” Tony complained. “Who cares if he’s not a horny fashion plate?”

Bruce shook his head, and something in his face shut him up. “Natasha?”

“Uh, estimate from the team examining them right now is 18 kilos of armour weight. Bit hard to tell, but that’s what they’ve got.”

Tony blinked. “That’s a bit low. Isn’t it?”

Bruce was leaning all the way over Natasha’s shoulder now, tapping at files and shaking his head.

Clint nudged Thor, who was looking confused at their confusion. “They’re just bitching because they couldn’t take him down.”

“You didn’t either,” Natasha said.

“It was a team effort,” Steve said from the hallway, loping in at a half-jog. He had the look of extremely frustrated politeness that followed all his meetings with Fury. “What’s the problem?”

“The problem is I need a second opinion on these scans,” Bruce said. “Uh, Tony? You ever dabble in anatomy?”

“Yeah,” and he got up, tapping his chest, and leaned over Natasha’s other shoulder; she was beginning to look put-upon. “Why am I looking at a kid’s x-rays?”

Bruce looked sick. “Damn.”

Natasha gave him a considering look, clearly trying to decide if vomit on her shirt was worth the effort of forcibly moving him. “Dr Banner?”

Tony blinked, brain visibly catching up. “Whoa, these are his? That’s -- wait, wait -- can’t be more than 17, lookit those stress fractures. Tail end of a growth spurt, you think?”

“He’s a kid?” Steve said. “How can a kid do that? I was under the impression children were --"

Thor patted their shoulders. “Friends, you need not be concerned. No man of Asgard would do such things.”

Clint looked like he’d swallowed a lemon whole. “Thor, buddy, uh, thing is, we thought he was.”

“I am sorry that so much pain has been caused by a youth,” Thor said, guilty and regal. “But you need not fear. He has done so pretending to the actions of one grown into manhood, and he will be punished as one.”

“What?”

There was a distinct undoctorly wince, and Tony took his heel off Bruce’s instep. “All right, look, let’s not get all worked up. This is SHIELD, and clerical errors? Not beyond them. Let’s get another set done. He’s cooperating, right?”

“Yes,” Steve said. “But if he is a kid --”

“XRAYS FIRST FREAK OUT LATER,” Tony bellowed. “Am the only smart person here? No, don’t answer that, it’s obvious. We’ll get an independent batch, hell, grab a portable one, we’ll do it ourselves, see what’s going on. Hour tops.”

Steve looked like he’d rather be in another meeting with Fury. “Someone has to go with him in case. I’ll do it, but I need a partner.”

“I will,” Natasha said, and efficiently crowded everyone back so she could stand up, ignoring Tony’s wounded hiss. “Ready when you are, Cap.”

“I hope you’re wrong,” Clint said.

Tony grimaced, watching them go. They were hilariously mismatched, but they had teamwork going for them and it wasn’t like SHIELD was going to do any better. “Me too.”