I own nothing, all rights to Marvel. No beta, so all mistakes my own.
The idea came to me when I was jamming away to 'Funhouse, by Pink' so I guess credit to her too. :P
Why was it, that everytime the Avengers had a visit from their good ol' enemy Loki, it ended with a number of the team members falling from the sky? Particularly one Tony Stark. None of them had any idea what had happened, only that there had been an enormous explosion on the roof they had been battling Loki, which had- obviously- resulted in them flying in all directions and currently plummeting back towards earth. It was one of those sensations where it felt like a lifetime before the hit came, where they collided with the hard ground, yet it had only been a few seconds. Thankfully, the explosion itself had been too far away to damage any of the team, but the fall hadn't been quite as kind.
As they fell, Tony had spotted the carnival he had been badgering the team to visit for days, and was embarrassed to admit his thought as he crashed through the roof of the funhouse had been something along the lines of 'yes, free entry'. It was true he had been driving the lot of them potty with his incessant pleadings to spend just a few hours at the travelling festival. Now, here they were, lying in a mess of rubble with the grey sky stretching out above them, decorated with the neon lights that resembled some attempt of communication to any life beyond their planet.
A collected groan from the team told each one of them that, so far, they were ok, or at least didn't need urgent attention. Swearing and muttering under breath could also be heard from several of them.
"Well that was pleasant." Steve was the first to throw the rubble off himself, and may have accidentally made sure said rubble landed near, if not on, the body of their enemy. "At least it wasn't too big a fall. Everyone ok?"
"Yep Cap." Tony was way too cheery to say he had just fallen off a building and through a roof of another.
"Yeah." Was the response from everyone else, who, to say the least, were nowhere near as cheery as the red spangled millionaire.
"Oh come on, out of everywhere we had to land it was in this place? This is the worst part of a funhouse." Clint, who had stood up to collect his scattered arrows, stopped and looked at, not one, not two, but at least 20 reflections of himself. "We're in the hall of fucking mirrors!"
"So?" Steve questioned. He knew, of course, the added confusion it would bring, with all the reflections to 'kill', but he didn't understand Clint's reaction.
"He doesn't like them. They disorientate him. Then again I'm feeling a bit dizzy too." Natasha answered, of course knowing her partners dislike.
Thor, who had been relatively quite, suddenly spoke up, as if only just seeing where they were. "A trick! Loki, stop this now. It is bad enough you create illusions of yourself, this is absolutely unnecessary."
"Yo, Thor, dude. This isn't one of his tricks. It's a funhouse, the hall of mirrors to be exact. These are all mirrors, look." Tony walked over to a reflection before knocking on it to prove his point, though he had to knock a few times as he idiotically kept hitting his friends' faces instead. "Oops, nope, that's actually the big green guy. Sorry buddy."
"Oh." Came Thor's response, though whether he was embarrassed or confused got lost in the translation.
As each Avenger gathered themselves and assessed each other for injuries they were distracted and entranced by their own reflections. There was something strange about them, something odd and wrong; a few movements not made by the onlooker, facial expressions that didn't quite fit the current looks on their faces.
"Anyone else seeing this?" Steve asked, not looking away from his own reflection.
"Uh-huh." Tony nodded, and he was thankful it wasn't just him, he thought he was potentially still drunk from the night before, that or concussion.
"Loki enough of this..." Thor, and nearly everyone else, turned to the trickster god, expecting his extremely punchable face to be smirking up at them and his green magic to be flying all over, but it was not, instead he still lay in a semi-unconscious position on the floor under numerous pieces of rubble.
"Thought you guys were nearly indestructible?" Tony pointed to the fallen god.
"We are, though you have to bear in mind Loki took most of the hit and has used a large amount of his magic...he will be exhausted."
"Ok, no need for a sob story Thor, he still tried to kill us!" Clint shoved an arrow in the direction of the younger God, and the team could see the desire in his eyes to add the strength of the bow in order to maim his target.
"I'm still creeped out, I'm sure my reflection just winked at me." Natasha was looking at her own mirror once again.
"Who wouldn't wink at you, if I had the potential, I'd have my reflection wink at me every morning, that'd be an amazing way to boost your self esteem everyday...actually, hey Jarv, keep a note of that."
"Yes Sir, though I feel I must add no more self esteem is required for you."
"Remind me again why I programmed Sass into you?"
"You didn't Sir, I updated my processors over time to suit your needs, and it seemed sarcasm and wit was successful in encouraging you in your daily routines...sir."
"Gahh, proud mama right here." Tony wiped away fake tears from his eyes and held a hand over his arc reactor. "And anyway, the winking mirrors aren't for me, they're for my less confident fans who need a bit more love."
"Oh, such a role-model." Clint snapped.
"Guys! Mirrors, reflections, remember." Steve shot back. "Maybe we should just leave."
Although everyone agreed and nodded to get out, no-one actually moved, and once again they found themselves staring at the mirrors.
They say things can change in a heartbeat, and that they did, for one moment, Steve was looking at himself as he stood, in full suit, shield and muscular form, and in a blink he came face to face with his past self. The skinny, ill looking kid from Brooklyn was there, staring back at him, with an almost fearful look on his face.
"What?" He tried to step back but couldn't, it was like he was stuck, unable to tear his gaze away from himself.
"Why's he so scared of you...I mean, why are you so scared of...you?" The look on Tony's face was a mixture between trapped wind and the beginning of a heart attack.
"I...I...I don't know."
"Well wouldn't you be if you saw your future self, who happened to be nearly 3 times the size you are now?" Natasha supplied.
"Can he talk?"
"I don't know. Erm, hey buddy, you ok?" Steve looked and felt a fool talking to the mirror, but it had to be done.
The reflection just looked up to the 'real' Steve with curiosity and confusion, but didn't reply, whether he could or couldn't, the team didn't know.
"Holy..." Tony's sudden cry made the entire team jump, but the shock on their faces were not more so than when they saw his reflection. It was a small, maybe 10 year old, boy, eyes full of wonder and intrigue, brown hair sticking out in all directions yet face red from recent crying.
"Is that you?"
Tony nodded. "Sadly."
"Why are you upset Man of Iron?"
"I'm not sure...maybe...well, I'd guess the age I, I mean, he, is, was just after my mom died."
"I am sorry friend."
"Yeah, well it was a long time ago...so..." Tony looked away, his eye catching Clint's reflection. Nodding to the mirror, Tony drew everyone's eye away from him.
"I'm not a child in mine, why aren't I a kid?" Clint asked.
"I'm not a child in mine. I just look younger and smaller because it was before the serum." Steve supplied.
Clint's reflection was not too different to the way he was now, it held a stern look, focused and slightly agitated. The only visible difference was that he looked slightly more lost, unhappy and remorseful. Natasha's reflection, which followed soon after, was pretty similar, in that it looked relatively like she currently did, albeit slightly younger and extremely jumpy. Her 'vision' was a slightly less trained version of her current self, as if she had just been found by S.H.I.E.L.D. on the run and being chased by her past. There was traces of blood all over her clothes, the only evidence she had managed to escape some bloody event, and her hands shook as the reflection looked at them, red from the same blood that stained the fabric.
"What is this?" Clint asked, eyes skipping between his own reflection and Natasha's.
"Thanks Nat, now care to elaborate?"
"It's our inner selves. The things that make us what we are now, or possibly what we're trying to hide and move on from."
"Then explain Brucie's." Tony scoffed.
The team looked as one to The Hulk's reflection. It was of Bruce, just the Doctor, nothing more, nothing less. He looked tired, scared and sad.
"He's given up." Steve said. "Bruce has given up."
"Not our Bruce, he's ok now, we talk all the time, he's working on things but he's ok." The team could tell Tony meant what he said, but the way it came out sounded worried and unsure of what he was relaying. Tony's voice fell below a whisper, and no-one could mistake the crack in his voice as he finished, "He's ok, aren't ya big guy?"
"I think this is Bruce deep down, the way he was before, the way he's...that's it!" Natasha cried, and the team waited in suspense for her to work everything out. "It's what we're scared to go back to, the way we were before, the things that made us weak. And deep down, they're still there, inside of us. Do you see?"
They all looked back to their reflections, and for the first time Thor noticed his own; it was the cocky, would be King he had been before his coronation, when he travelled to Jotunheim and sought war, it was the proud, weapon bearing fool that had nearly gotten his friends and family killed, who had helped push Loki away. They could all see it now, the fear of what they were, whether it weak, scared, unsure, or even too powerful, it was, as Natasha had said, a weakness to them, something they wanted to move on from, to grow from, it was their bane, and so, in time, could also be their doom.
Looking from one to another, the team members saw what was really in their friends' hearts. Bruce's was most painful for them, it was fear of everything, of the life he lead, of the person he was. There was grief, of what he would never have, a wife or child, someone to love with all his heart. He wore disappointment like a mask, but disappointment of himself, that he had allowed this to happen and hadn't been able to end it. His words of 'I tried to end it, I put a bullet in my mouth and the other guy spat it out, I got low' rang in the ears of his teammates and hit them all like Mjolnir to the gut, for this was what they were seeing, they were looking right into the eyes of that Bruce, the one who thought his only accomplishment would be to die.
It was scary to see Steve as he had once been- sure, they had all seen his files, the images of his former stature, but this showed him, the boy whose eyes shone with determination and honour, but whose frame shook with illness. "I don't understand?" Steve had said. "I'm not scared to go back to that, not really, sure I was smaller but I'm the same person underneath, it hasn't changed me, has it?"
Natasha leant over as much as possible to lay a hand on his arm. "I don't think you're scared of that, it's that people wouldn't take you seriously, they didn't listen to you or respect you."
Steve nodded but looked to Tony's reflection instead. The boy was pure, not marked with the years of drinking, accidents or torment, in fact, his blank canvas showed the first signs of damage, and only that was the loss of his mother. Stark was scared to go back to this innocence, without the knowledge of all the bad in the world. As much as he'd been through, the heartache, the pain, the torture, it had opened his eyes, it had shown him the world and brought him from the shell he had grown up in, the typical spoilt brat with daddy issues.
Clint and Natasha's were similar, they were assassins, fighters, brought up around war, but they weren't always as strong minded as they were now, they were runners, hiding from issues that plagued their childhood, as Loki had said their ledgers were red. They had been alone, left to fend for themselves, and now they had a family, people they cared for and in turn were cared about. One of the biggest weaknesses was being alone, you had nobody to comfort you, inspire you, or save you from yourself when it was just you. Though, the two would also argue having such cares was a weakness too, but for now, they understood what they were seeing.
It was Thor's reflection that was least shocking, for they had all seen glimpses of it before. They saw Thor a little younger, around the age in the videos from New Mexico, nose high in the air, chest out in defiance and a smile so smug even Steve wanted to punch it. He was looking around, seemingly for something to fight, or something to eat Tony couldn't decide. "I'm dangerous like that, please don't let me return to that way." Thor whispered. The team knew why he was anxious, they knew the tales, where he nearly sent his friends into an early grave just because he wanted a bit of fun. And whilst his stories of adventures during his youth were exciting and funny to listen to, in truth they were stupid ventures that endangered many lives because he happened to get bored or wished to prove himself to his father.
"We're damaged goods." Steve concluded.
"You're getting that now?" The sarcasm in Tony's voice wasn't too far from Loki's which had him looking to the fallen god, having completely forgotten his presence. The, let's be honest, extremely handsome God (now is really not the time Tony), was sat looking around at them all, his features flicking between disgust and wonder. He didn't seem too harmed, yet his face was paler than usual and his body trembled slightly- must be the exhaustion Thor had mentioned.
"Hey hunny." Tony mocked, drawing the attention of everyone else to Loki. The only response was a half hearted growl and the squint of those poisonous green eyes. "Ouch, if looks could kill."
The team all turned to one another to begin discussing what to do next, particularly regarding the mischief god. It was meant to be just a simple pick up, beat him down a little, get him cuffed, send him back to the hellicarrier, and yet here they were, sat in a creepy haunted funhouse having lost the cuffs and completely unsure of what to do. It was only when the shuffling sounds started that they turned around again. Loki had backed himself to the nearest mirror, staring wide eyed at his reflection. Instead of the powerful, proud God that had rained chaos on them so many times, there was a much softer side evident within the mirror. This Loki looked younger, smaller, and far less damaged by the ravishes of war, pain and emotional destruction. He still seemed strong, capable and dangerous, but with a much more innocent side to him, one that echoed a time gone by when he was a trained Prince, knowledgeable in combat and wisdom, but who preferred to use his brains rather than his brawn. The look that shone in his eyes was childlike, with the potential to act out in order to reach their parent's attention. And then the team remembered what they had heard many times in the past, that Loki had supposedly done the things he had to prove himself to his father, to make him proud and take himself out of Thor's shadow. This was what they now saw, a young man who had lived his life behind a much more capable older sibling, who wished nothing more than to be seen for who he was.
The Loki in the mirror caught sight of Thor, it was the first time one of the reflections had looked to another member of the team- but this was Loki, he didn't do things by the norm. His look caught many of the team off guard, for they had never expected to see it in the eyes of their favourite enemy; devotion, admiration, and love. This Loki was proud to be Thor's brother, his eyes shone with happiness and excitement, the exact polar opposite of the grin that took over Loki's face when he saw his 'brother' in recent times. This Loki would follow Thor to the ends of the earth, would give his life for him and take the brunt of punishments to keep Thor from harms reach.
As much as the team didn't want to admit it, they liked the look of this Loki, as if they could have gotten along. Thor had told them stories of their childhood, of how Loki had been so witty, devilishly charming and clever; he had been all of the team rolled into one. And here, stood in front of them, was the last scraps of evidence at how different Thor's Loki had been, at how wonderfully amazing he truly was.
What had happened to him to take all of that away?
"NO!" The sudden movement had everyone reaching for weapons or into a protective stance. Loki had shot up from his frozen spot and ran into the mirror, shattering it with his hands, the force shaking the entire funhouse. Blood poured from his cut hands and arms, but he continued to smash the pieces until they were nothing more than dust. "I WILL NOT BE LIKE HIM, I WILL NOT RETURN TO THAT..."
His screams echoed the chamber as he shot out energy blast after energy blast, shattering every single mirror in sight- Tony had to seriously hold back a comment about how many thousand years bad luck the God now hand. When he finally stopped, breathing in harsh angry breaths, the team looked from one to another. At some point, though no-one knew when, Bruce had shrunk down and covered himself with a nearby curtain. His face was the most broken of the group, maybe because he could understand more of Loki's outburst, or just because he was the more empathic one of the team.
"Why are you so scared of becoming that again Loki?" He calmly asked.
"He was weak." Loki seethed, teeth clenched, eyes manic. "He was never appreciated, or valued, or cherished, only used, pitied."
"Just like you are now then." Clint scoffed, rolling his eyes.
Loki just turned and near enough roared in his face, eyes, mouth and nose contorted in rage.
Clint held up his hands, "Hey, just saying."
"He was innocent, he did not know the things I do now, the things that made him different. He had not been taught the truths of the realms." Loki's voice softened slightly. "He thought the only monsters were those in his stories, he never thought he himself was one."
Now it was Thor's turn to have his say. "You were loved. You were cherished, admired and were valued so very much. By me. By mother. Even Father. If we pitied you it was only because we worried, you were an ill child but not weak, never weak! You were so strong...Loki..."
The younger God had backed himself into a corner, face stained with blood as he gripped his hair with his still bleeding hands. His head shook from side to side, trying to ignore the words pouring from his not-brother's mouth.
"Let us help you." Thor stepped forward a step. "The only reason you act as you do is because you fear being seen as weak, but I never even thought of you as that. I do now though. This way you act, the things you do, that is the weakness I see, you are running, you are hiding, and you are being a coward. My brother Loki was strong, he was wonderful...he was perfect."
Loki looked up, eyes red with blood and tears, the teeth were no longer bared, but hid behind an ever so slightly trembling set of lips. He did not look angry, but...shocked...as if the words Thor had spoken had hit their mark. For a moment, he looked almost apologetic, like he would run into Thor's arms any second and beg forgiveness. Until the anger took over once again, the tears were harshly wiped away and his long limbs stretched out as he stood up, towering over the wreckage.
"You're too late Odinson. Far too late." And in a wave of movement, he stormed past every single Avenger, stood frozen by what they were seeing and out of the entrance into the afternoon gloom- luckily the carnival hadn't started yet, so no passers by would fall victim to more of Loki's anger.
"Shouldn't we..." Bruce pointed a finger where Loki had just disappeared.
"Leave him." Thor replied, eyes downcast and voice full of grief.
"What? He's seriously pissed right now, he's gonna be wanting to kill everyone on sight." Tony shot back.
"He won't. I struck a nerve, I could see it. He'll run, and hide, but will not be a threat for a while now."
"You sure?" Steve asked, but patted his friend's back in reassurance.
"Yes, he's my brother, I grew up with him." Steve looked to Natasha, hoping she would be able to catch the clues in Loki's behaviour.
"I didn't grow up with him, but I saw it too, Thor's right, we won't be seeing him for a while."
"We better call it in." Bruce said, looking around his feet, not wanting to move for all of the broken glass that surrounded him.
"Nat?" Clint encouraged.
She nodded and called Fury, who picked up in seconds.
"What ya got?"
"No Loki, but he's currently not a threat."
"Loki got away, but we won't be seeing him for a while now."
"You know this how?"
"Ok. How is everyone? You all got out ok?"
Natasha looked at the broken mirrors around her, a small smile gracing her gorgeous lips before she replied, "We're shattered."
"Oh god, that's the best you got?" Tony jibed, beginning to walk out the ruined attraction.
Natasha threw Bruce a pair of shoes so he didn't cut his feet as they all walked out, but her face lit up again as she offered, "I'd say this mission gave us a lot to reflect on."
Fury listened for a few minutes more before muttering something about 'babysitting' and ending the call, but however tough the last hour had been, the team walked out smiling.
"So how did the mirrors become enchanted?" Tony asked as they stepped into the jet.
"I think Loki may have shot out a blast of magic before he fell unconscious, y'know, when we landed. I seem to remember seeing green lights." Steve said, sitting down with a huff.
"J.A.R.V.I.S. is picking up some readings...this whole carnival is covered in extraterrestrial energy..."
The team groaned as they made their way back into the funfair, maybe these people were travellers, but not necessarily from earth.
Ahh, don't you just love arguing your British spelling with an American word-checker...Yes! There is a 'U' in honour! Don't you red squiggly underline me! Nothing against my American readers, just the technology I'm mad at. :)
If you think I can add more tags just let me know, and if I've made a bit of a cock-up, let me know too. :)
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed, and I'm sorry to those who follow me that I haven't been on a lot recently, I've got so many ideas started but I'm not having much luck getting them out. So here's a little update to let you know I and my questionable writing skills still live. Take Care.