Chapter 1: A Chemical Defect Found In The Losing Side
The door to the seedy hotel room was locked, but Loki waved his hand over it and it opened. The room’s occupant leveled a gun at him, but lowered it when he recognized the intruder.
“I mean you no harm, Mr. Holmes,” Loki announced calmly.
Sherlock put the gun onto the end table carelessly and sat back, regarding Loki with a piercing gaze. “No, you don’t. You’re here to tell me that you’ve been dismantling Moriarty’s organization for the past three weeks.”
Loki tilted his head, studying Sherlock for a second before replying. “And how do you know that?”
“Why else would a reformed supervillain from outer space be dropping in on me? You don’t need me to solve a case for you, you have a genius level intellect yourself and are too arrogant about it to ask for help. Your apparent reformation has been all over the news for months now. Whatever your objective in joining the side of the angels is, you won’t jeopardize it just to harm one human with no connection to yourself. In the past nineteen days, on three occasions I’ve arrived at Moriarty’s nests only to find that they’ve already been cleared out before I got there. My brother is part of the clandestine brain trust that chartered the terms of your parole. Making my affairs part of a supervillain’s redemption arc is just the sort of thing he would do.”
“There you are wrong. I offered."
Sherlock steepled his fingertips. “And you’re enjoying the fact that I’m wrong about something.”
Loki shrugged and smiled, showing his teeth. “This is where you usually show off your deductive skills, but they won’t do you much good with me; we lack a shared cultural context.”
“I wouldn’t be too sure.”
“Really. Surprise me.”
Sherlock studied him for a few more seconds, then began to speak rapidly. “To the uninitiated your accent sounds upper-class British, but it isn’t quite right and as you're an alien there's no reason for you to speak with an accent humans would recognize. You chose a manner of speaking which, along with your perfectly tailored designer clothes, suits your self-image as a sophisticated, elegant villain, a gentleman fiend. But in fact, you aren’t even speaking English at all, are you? You’re using some sort of alien magic Babelfish.”
Loki’s right eyebrow quirked. “True.”
“You’re enjoying your supposition that despite my fame as a prodigy of deduction, I won’t be able to deduce anything about you because you are from an alien culture. You don’t believe any mere human could ever equal your intellectual achievements, but that isn’t really true, is it? Look at how much progress Dr. Jane Foster has made in only a few years towards understanding how Asgard’s rainbow bridge worked. How far have you gotten with that?”
Loki no longer looked amused.
“And your reaction just now tells me that you’re threatened by more than Dr. Foster’s intellect. You resent the influence she has over your foster brother. You’re very possessive about your family, you don’t even like sharing them with each other, and she’s able to influence Thor in a way that you aren’t.”
“Dr. Foster is no longer involved with my brother,” Loki said icily.
“But you still resent her. And if you weren’t recently reformed, you’d probably blast me to bits for pointing it out. You said you offered to take out Moriarty’s organization. Why would you do that?"
Loki spent a moment reining in his temper before replying. “Because I know what it is to miss one's lover and one's brother." He allowed himself a fleeting smile. "Now you may return to them."
"I don't miss my brother." Sherlock’s tone was disdainful.
Loki was beside him in a flash, and his hand shot out too swiftly for Sherlock to see the movement. He only felt fingers as strong and cold as iron around his neck, not tightly enough to hurt, just a warning. Just a reminder of his mortal fragility. "Human lives are not long enough for this foolishness, Mr. Holmes. Reconcile with your brother while you both have time."
Sherlock held Loki's gaze, seemingly unconcerned with the implicit threat. “You don’t know what he did.”
The god of mischief laughed aloud. “Is that supposed to impress me? I could tell you a few stories about how much one can forgive a brother.”
"I don't believe your motives are so sentimental. You don't have an altruistic bone in your body."
“True. My brother got all of those.” Loki released him. “But I do have a sense of... fealty. Your predicament is partly my fault.”
“And resolving it will curry favor with my brother, who is one of your current masters.”
Loki pointedly ignored this. “Moriarty used to work for me - that is how I knew where to find his minions - until I realized how insane he was. I prefer to be the craziest person in the room.” He smiled toothily. “Generally that isn’t a problem.”
"He was too insane for you?" Sherlock’s voice was mocking, not incredulous.
“I really should have killed him when I learned the extent of his madness, but….”
“But you sympathize with the insane and homicidal?” Sherlock offered.
Loki sauntered to the dresser and picked up a small bottle that stood upon it, turning it over in his hands as if he were curious about what it contained. After a moment he spoke in a tone of idle curiosity. “Have you any sense of self-preservation, Mr. Holmes?”
“A question I might well put to you, Mr. Laufeyson.”
“Moriarty showed such promise, but in the end he killed himself to impress his nemesis. The things people will do for sentiment.”
“So you didn’t help me out of sentiment.”
“Certainly not. You once did a favor for a friend of mine."
Sherlock's eyes narrowed and he looked Loki up and down. "A woman."
"One might even say, the woman."
“You were one of her clients?"
"Don't be tiresome. She's a friend. I would have come to her aid myself, but I was in Alfheim. I didn’t know she had been in peril until I returned.” Loki turned and walked to the door. When he reached it, he paused and spoke over his shoulder. "Dr. Watson has remained faithful to you since your supposed death. No doubt he'll be angry when he learns of your deception - they do get upset when you return from the dead, but they get over it." With that he left.
Sherlock sat without moving for over an hour. When he did move, it was to fetch his violin. He played it without stopping until well after dawn.
Chapter 2: An Old Friend
Loki's return to Avengers Tower is delayed.
The moment Loki was back inside the hotel room he and Natasha were sharing, his cell phone rang. The impeccable timing no longer surprised him when he pressed the button and heard Anthea’s polished voice. “Mr. Holmes wishes for you to stay in Germany for a few days longer, Mr. Laufeyson,” she informed him. “Some of his colleagues on the Continent wish to debrief you.”
“I have already told them - oh, very well. And Agent Romanoff?”
“She will be returning to New York tonight as planned. A car will come to your hotel in the morning.”
So they were leaving him unsupervised, inasmuch as anyone on Mycroft Holmes’s side of the Atlantic was ever so. Loki was relieved. Being around Agent Romanoff was wearying. As a comrade in arms, she was excellent. But she kept needling him to see what information she could get out of him. Not that he hadn’t expected that, but it was tiresome. Just because she had played him once, when he had been under the worst kind of pressure and still healing from months of torture, not remotely at the top of his form, they thought she could do it again.
In a few weeks, he would let her get something out of him. It would make the humans feel less afraid of him. But not yet. He didn’t want them underestimating him too much. There was an ideal balance between the two which resulted in nobody trying to kill him.
While Natasha swiftly packed her things - she always travelled light - Loki called Thor to tell him he would be gone a few more days. “Stay out of trouble, brother,” Thor admonished him, and Loki rolled his eyes.
“What sort of trouble could I possibly get into spending all day answering the same bloody questions yet again?”
“I am certain you could think of something. Why do they wish to question you again, anyway?”
“I suppose they just want to hear it for themselves. Or they imagine that they can find something the others missed.”
“Just come back to me safely, brother.”
“You don’t get yourself killed without me to watch your back, you great oaf.”
Loki ended the call feeling sanguine enough. If Thor had to do without him for a few extra days he would be all the more... appreciative... when Loki returned. Even this early, a reminder of what missing Loki was like would not be amiss.
Loki watched from the window as Natasha got into a taxi. Years of various types of battle had put him into the habit of watching his allies. No sooner had the cab had pulled away than Loki’s phone beeped again. A text message.
Let’s have dinner. ~I.
Chapter 3: Teardrops From The Moon
Loki has dinner with an old friend, who is not dead.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Loki waited in front of the dimly lit brewery for only one minute before spotting Irene Adler. Her hair was flowing loose instead of sculpted into the elaborate styles she preferred and she had recently (purposely, he believed) spent too much time in a tanning salon, but he recognized her at once. “My dear, you are as stunning as always,” he told her, leaning down to kiss her cheek. “But perhaps you should allow me to alter your appearance, much of a shame as that would be.”
“Hm. I was going to see a plastic surgeon, but the discreet ones are so expensive.”
“I’m more so. Not in money; you’ll owe me a favor.”
“Don’t I always?”
The pair took a booth in the back where few people would pass by them. It wasn’t Irene’s usual sort of place, but there was too much risk of being recognized in the four-star establishments she favored. By the same token, instead of her usual elegant designer garb she was wearing an off-the-rack little black dress.
They ordered and Loki smiled across the table at her. “What do you call yourself these days?”
“Iris. Very nice. And here I thought you’d choose Holmes as a surname.” His crescent-moon smile widened, showing teeth. “Don’t feel too badly, my dear, we all lose the game now and then.”
“As you can attest, Liesmith. Lucky stiff. What I wouldn’t give to have that Amazon bind me with her lasso….”
“You’re a domme, Iris.”
“For Wonder Woman I’d make an exception. We all have one. Even you. A pity it couldn’t be me, I’m sure you’d be so interesting.”
He gave her a smirk and a wink. “Oh, I am.”
Her eyes narrowed. "You've found him, haven’t you? Your one true top.” She scrutinized him. “An Asgardian, perhaps? It’s one of the good guys, or you'd have been with... him, yes, him... all along. It isn't a cape, is it?"
Loki gave her his most innocent look.
“Who is he? One of the Avengers? It would be amusing if it were the Captain, but I’m sure that lovely Amazon wears the pants.”
“I haven’t asked. She has a mean right hook.” Loki rubbed his jaw expressively, even though several months had passed since Hippolytesdottir punched him.
“It isn’t the Widow, because it’s a man, I’m certain of it. I suspect Hawkeye hates you too much after you pulled your little brainwashing trick on him. Tony Stark is obviously genuinely besotted with Bruce Wayne. And he’s not a top, either.”
“Really?” Loki couldn’t hold back a smirk. “I should tell my brother. Already he thinks Wayne is unworthy of his friend Stark, because he isn’t a warrior.”
“How sweet. Hm, and it can’t be the Hulk man, either, unless you’re doing him in his green form. That scruffy nerd couldn’t dominate a kitten.”
“Really, Iris, you can do better than that if you wish to bait me.”
“I feel like Sherlock. I’ve eliminated all of the Avengers, so who is it? A Justice League member? Batman? Is he handsome under the cowl?”
Loki leered. “You have no idea. I make him keep the rest of the costume on, though.”
He grimaced. “My foster father wears an eyepatch. It’s a turn-off.”
“True. Nothing kills the mood like incest vibes. For most people, anyway. I’ve had a few clients who-”
“Ew, stop, I don’t want to hear about it. I’ll confess. It’s Superman.”
“Oh, yes. As soon as I adopted my rightful patronym, he was eating out of my hand. He can’t resist anyone with the initials L.L.”
She laughed. “And here I was afraid you’d be dull now that you’ve joined the white hats. It made me so sad to think of you as a good guy.”
“Then don’t. You have no idea how refreshing your company is after the last couple of months surrounded by Gryffindors in tights. It’s pleasant to be with someone who doesn’t want to kill me and doesn’t expect me to harbor noble sentiments that I simply don’t.”
“Like your foster brother? Tell me about him.”
"What interest have you in my brother? You said smart is the new sexy."
“I’m interested in your feelings for him.” Loki quirked an eyebrow at her and she continued. “Such an intricate mixture of love and hate - it’s delicious.”
"I don't hate him. I resent him. I'm angry at him. I don't hate him."
“And you love him. Why? You have nothing in common, he had everything you wanted, I know he took you for granted and used you-"
“Iris.” At his tone, she fell silent. He paused for a moment before beginning, slowly. “There is no Hogwarts on Asgard. Or anywhere else, unfortunately, but I digress. Usually young sorcerers are apprenticed. Of course, in the case of a prince that’s out of the question. I asked my father - my supposed father - to engage a tutor for me, but he refused.”
Loki shook his head slowly, eyes falling to the tabletop. “I’m not sure. At the time I thought he did not wish to encourage me in such unmanly pursuits, that he wanted me to devote myself to battle as Thor did. Now I think… perhaps he simply did not consider me worth the bother.”
She nodded slowly, not moving her gaze from him.
“So I taught myself, with books from the palace library. It was difficult, with no one to guide me, no one of whom I could ask questions. But if you have magic in you, it burns to be let out. I persevered rather than let it drive me mad.
“When I was… oh, perhaps your age in years, which for an Asgardian is a very young adult indeed, from my studies I learned of stones with mystic properties. They are called fire pearls. They come from a particular sort of meteor shower, very rare. There’s an old ballad that calls them ‘teardrops from the moon’.”
“Quite so. My astronomical calculations showed that such a meteor shower was likely to occur on Vanaheim a few weeks later, so I asked the king for permission to make an expedition there. A prince can’t just jaunt off anywhere he pleases, we’re too valuable. And at that time, I wouldn’t have dared to steal away alone. A few centuries later I did so quite often, but then I didn’t yet have sufficient magic to defend myself if the need arose.
“Odin refused, of course. Without really considering it. My trivial hobbies weren’t reason enough to send guards and servants to another realm.
“Thor was there when I made the request. He is….” Loki paused, searching for the right words. “My brother is terribly thoughtless, but when something manages to penetrate his inch-thick skull, he is generous to a fault.
“So he overheard me, and he heard his father dismissing my request, and he galloped over. He pretended he hadn’t heard his father’s refusal, and he boomed out, ‘Loki’s going to Vanaheim? They have griffins in Vanaheim, don’t they? I have long wished to hunt griffins! Allow me to accompany you, brother.’ And then he was inviting those insufferable friends of his, and a dozen more warriors were clamoring to join us. Fa- Odin didn’t say a word, just sat there while they planned the trip on the spot. We went to Vanaheim. Thor got a griffin’s head and claws to add to his trophies. I got my fire pearls. I have them yet.”
Irene was entranced. “And still, you’ve tried to kill him.”
“I only actually tried to kill him once. All the other times I was bluffing.”
“Oh, well, that’s all right then,” she mocked. “What a sadistically wonderful entanglement.”
“That’s enough about me. You’re quite right, life as one of the good guys is quite dull. What are you up to now, ‘Iris’?”
“Just a bit of fun. With the same people you’re here to talk to, incidentally.”
“How do you know about that?”
“I know the German contingent - that is, I know what he likes.”
“That line might work on someone who doesn’t know you. Do you think I didn’t catch on years ago that you have dozens of sources of information, and that most of them don’t involve pillow talk?”
“You think I allow my partners pillows? How sweet.”
“And in this case, I would have to not know of Major Eberbach. You cannot possibly provide him with what he likes, you’re female. And don’t try to pretend that you’re mistaken about him. That’s always been your superpower: telling what someone likes just by looking at them.”
“Too true. Such a shame.” She raked her eyes over him. “The only men who interest me at all are always out of reach.”
“Maybe that’s why we interest you. We’re unattainable.” He gave her a flirtatious smile.
“I suppose you’d know about wanting things you can’t have.”
His smile faltered a bit. “Careful, Iris, or the new face I give you might not be a nice one.”
“You can’t frighten me, Loki. You don’t have enough friends like me. You surrounded yourself with villains but you’re not a villain. Now you’re surrounded by heroes but you’re not one of them either. You’re an adventurer, like me. They’ll never be able to understand us, neither sort.”
“Midgard is much more interesting with you misbehaving in it,” he conceded. “And you can misbehave so much more effectively when you’re beautiful.”
Fire pearls are a real thing. I wrote an essay about the lore surrounding them, but be warned: I wrote it many years ago. I wasn't as good a writer then and had only pre-internet research.
Irene Adler's appearance in this is based on photos recently taken of Lara Pulver hanging out with Tom Hiddleston.
Chapter 4: A Sadistically Wonderful Entanglement
A dominatrix, a Norse god and an aristocratic thief have a midnight tea party.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Irene’s window slid open and a slim, black-clad form moved smoothly inside, heading for the desk.
There was a flash of blinding green light and an explosive sound. The thief dove for cover, and when he could see again, his jaw dropped. Standing before him, resplendent in full armor and notorious horned helmet, an elaborately wrought golden spear in one hand, was Loki of Asgard.
“This woman is under my protection, mortal,” Loki announced in a voice that echoed.
The thief was still gaping when the light switched on and a smooth female voice sounded. “Dorian, love. Have you ravished that lovely NATO major yet? You can stop the theatrics, Loki, he’s a friend.”
Dorian looked every bit as stunned to see her as he had been to see Loki. “Irene?”
Irene was standing behind him, hair tousled, wrapped in a red silk kimono, a pearl-handled pistol grasped negligently in one dainty hand. “It seems this is my night for meeting old friends.”
“I thought you were dead!”
“I needed everyone to think that. I’m so sorry if you missed me.”
“Of course I missed you, you wicked woman.” Dorian and Irene embraced, Irene still holding her pistol. Loki allowed his armor to fade away to a less imposing Midgardian designer suit.
“Aww,” he pouted. “This was going to be my first solo superhero gig. I was going to brag to my brother’s friends about it.”
Dorian turned away from Irene, still keeping an arm around her, and spoke to Loki with more composure now that he was no longer putting on a show. “You can dress or undress by magic? That must be handy. Or is your armor an illusion?”
“All of my clothes are illusions. I’m always naked,” Loki replied.
Dorian looked to Irene. “Well, you’ve moved up in the world. You’ve taken Congressmen and princesses to your bed, and now a god. I never would have thought.”
Irene did not trouble to correct his error. “Did Major Eberbach send you after my computer, Dorian?”
Dorian bit his lip. “No. It was going to be a surprise. I didn’t know it was you, Irene.”
“Iris Nixon, now. Oh, pardon me, introductions are in order. Dorian, meet Loki Laufeyson, God of Mischief. Loki, meet Dorian Red, Earl of Gloria, also known as Eroica.”
“Eroica! I heard a great deal about you from other supervillains before I… ah… reformed. You’re generally recognized as one of the greatest thieves of your time.”
Dorian drew himself up. “‘One of’?”
“Gentlemen.” Irene tucked her pistol into the sash of her kimono. “I believe that the proper British thing to do now is have a cup of tea.”
And so a few minutes later, the three of them were sitting about Irene’s table, sipping Earl Grey. Irene poured for them, as composed as if an after-midnight tea party with a larcenous Earl and a Norse god was a routine matter for her. Loki and Dorian kept regarding each other warily.
“So, luv,” Irene said to Dorian, “I suppose you were going to give my computer to your dear Major, were you not?”
Loki spoke up airily. “If I may change the subject, I might have a job for you, if you’re interested.”
Dorian tilted his head and waited.
“There’s a lovely old sword in a museum here. It belonged to a friend of mine, back in the day.”
“900 AD or thereabouts. I’d like to have it. Sentimental reasons. But now that I’m one of the ‘good guys’,” Loki let his tone become disdainful, “I can’t risk being connected to the theft. Retrieve it for me, Eroica, and you may name your price, in money or magic.”
“One million pounds.”
Dorian stared for a second before composing himself. “I’ll have it for you in a week.”
“Lovely! Now that the business is out of the way, maybe you’ll let us get back to bed.” Irene’s tone was insinuating as she rose and draped an arm around Loki’s shoulders, leaning against him. Loki played along, winding one arm around her slender waist and smirking. Dorian looked horrified at the display of apparent heterosexuality and downed the rest of his tea in one swallow.
“Keep in touch, Irene - Iris. I was so sad to hear of your supposed death. You’ve had two now, haven’t you? I’m going to start thinking you’re immortal.”
“You’ve sussed it out, luv. Loki’s actually a vampire, not a Norse god. He bit me before my first staged death. Speaking of which, what’s your blood type?”
Dorian gave her a chiding look and rose. “As I said. Keep in touch. The world was a duller place without you. So orderly and sedate.”
“Which is why the world will always need me.”
They air-kissed each other’s cheeks and then Dorian clapped Loki lightly on the shoulder with one hand and shaking the other. Loki gave a little frown. “I thought that was a macho sort of thing to do on Midgard. Doesn’t seem dandified enough for you.”
“You’re right. It was just an excuse for me to see if your clothes really were an illusion.” Dorian ran a fingertip over the blue worsted of Loki’s suit in illustration and fluttered his lashes for a second before leaving with a final look at Irene.
Irene shut the door behind him and gave him a minute to get away from the door before turning back to Loki. “And what are you up to, Silvertongue? Dorian’s a friend of mine, don’t hurt him.”
“Any friend of yours is a friend of mine, my dear Iris. Besides, he is one of us. A mischief maker. A trickster.” He brushed a loose tendril of hair away from her neck, playful. “Now, why don’t we get to bed, as you suggested?”
She smirked, giving him a little shove. “Good night, Silvertongue.”
He took her hand and kissed it in courtly fashion. “Good night, Miss Nixon.” As he turned to the door he absently reached into his jacket pocket, then halted. “Why, that - he actually picked my pocket!”
Irene’s eyes widened with delight. “What did he take?”
“My room key. Of course I can get in without it, and keep anybody else out. But what cheek, stealing from a deranged murderous pagan god.” Loki gave her his most wolfish smile. “I like this one, Iris. I’ll do him a lovely favor.”
Unfortunately it is highly unlikely that I will ever be able to finish this story, or this series. So here's what would have happened:
For the rest of The MacIntosh of Discord, “Iris Nixon” (Irene Adler) was going to dangle her MacIntosh computer full of vital intel in front of various agencies, including NATO, SHIELD, the SIS and others, forcing them to compete for it while the tricksters sat back and cackled.
Later in the series, I was going to reveal that Irene is in fact the Greek goddess of discord, Eris, and a long time friend of Loki’s. I figured sometimes pagan deities get bored and spend a few years as mortals. During that time they don’t remember their true selves, though their true selves are still somewhere, perhaps directing a few things, or at least playing tricks, such as Irene’s true self choosing the name “Iris Nixon” for her - a pun on “Eris Nyx’s son”. Of course, Eris is Nyx’s daughter, but Iris Nixdottir would have been a bit much.
The subplot about the sword was going to be, it’s actually just an old sword, but Loki would lead Dorian to believe that it was The One Thing That Could Harm Him™. Instead of turning it over to him, Dorian would give it to his lover, Klaus von dem Eberbach of NATO, and the humans would feel better believing they had a “nuclear option” that could take down Loki if need be.
After all the hijinks were done, Loki would have used magic to alter Irene’s appearance. I was going to have him make her look like Natalie Dormer, as a nod to Dormer’s playing Irene Adler in Elementary.