A/N: Sequel to my fic Abaddon. To recap, Loki was kidnapped by a faceless mutant dude who called himself "Abaddon". Thor found out, smashed Abaddon to bits, and nursed Loki back to health in the Stark Mansion. Much angst ensued. The end.
Time to wring out some more Loki!angst. ;)
A New Page
Thor shot a look at Tony but said nothing, sighing and forcing his hands to drop to his sides instead of pulling at the collar and sleeves of his borrowed uniform. This "business attire", as Tony called it, was uncomfortable in more ways than he could count.
Tony returned the look with a sigh that all but said, I told you you should have stayed at the mansion.
And he was probably right. Subterfuge had never been Thor's forte, and, truth be told, this was Tony's business and not his.
The government had asked for Mr. Stark's expertise in refining a new specie of weapon that the inventors themselves described as "still kind of glitchy", and, really, Thor was worse than useless there.
But Thor had seen the photos of the prototype of this so-called "weapon". It was not a sword or a gun or a missile or anything that Thor would file under that category. It was a man.
A man without a face.
All the Valkyries in Asgard could not keep him at the mansion after that.
Tony had been passing off Thor as his new, Norwegian assistant who barely spoke English. All Thor had to do, Tony instructed, was to smile uncomprehendingly each time someone spoke to him. With all the scientific jargon being thrown around, it was not that much of a stretch.
After a few more words, the head scientist – a thin, nervous man with glasses and a lab-coat – offered to let them view their newest prototype and turned to walk with brisk steps down the corridor. Tony followed the scientist, and Thor followed Tony.
"How are you holding up?" Tony whispered to his friend.
Thor sighed and pulled at his collar again. "This does not feel right without the weight of Mjolnir in my hand," he muttered.
"You know," Tony sighed. "You really need to get out more."
Thor shot his friend a half-hearted glare as they walked but decided not to respond to that. "What have you learned?" he asked.
Tony blew out a heavy breath. "The weapon's last 'prototype' was Abaddon, without a doubt."
Thor instinctively gripped the air where Mjolnir would sit. Just the mention of that creature summoned images of his brother covered in blood, pale and trembling, green eyes wide and unseeing. It made Thor want to retrieve Abaddon from the land of the dead so that he could destroy the creature all over again.
"We cannot let this continue," Thor growled.
Tony placed a hand on Thor's arm and gave his friend a warning look. "Get angry later," he hissed. "Right now, we're just gathering information. There are warehouses full of the creatures, and we need to find out where."
Thor's mind reeled for a moment at the thought of all those Abaddons lined up and ready to march.
The scientist led them into a laboratory that rivaled the main hall of the Asgard palace in size. The air was thick with the sharp smell of chemicals and smoke and the hair-raising stench of burnt skin.
"Don't touch anything," Tony muttered when he caught Thor staring in awe at the mess of tubing and glass that surrounded them. Thor was careful to keep his distance from the more fragile-looking pieces of equipment.
Eventually Thor's eyes fell on the center of the room, where a face-less creature lay sprawled, doll-like, across a metal slab. There were subtle differences: the creature was slighter and of more graceful proportions, and the synthetic "skin" was more flesh-colored instead of the pasty white Thor remembered. Still, one look at that face, and all Thor saw was Abaddon.
Tony gripped his shoulder, and Thor forced himself to relax, slowing prying his fingers out of the fists they had unconsciously formed.
"Homo Ultimus," the scientist excitedly informed them, "the next step in weapons evolution!"
Tony and Thor exchanged glances, but the Thunderer knew to leave this to his friend.
"You are aware, I hope, Dr. Sven," Tony said with a smile that Thor knew meant danger, "that your 'next step' is responsible for the torture and brutal murder of hundreds of people?"
The giddy smile slid from Sven's face. He fiddled nervously with his clipboard. "That is why I say it is still glitchy, Mr. Stark... and why I hope you will help us refine the Ultimi."
"Glitchy, he says," Tony muttered around a dry laugh. "I want this project shut down or there will be hell to pay."
Minutes later, as he and Thor were being manhandled back outside, Tony reflected that his threat would have held more weight coming from the inside of his iron suit. Next to him, Thor muttered something about how he should have brought Mjolnir. Tony's warning look told him that now was not the time to get violent, so the two men allowed themselves to be dragged back through the door and thrown face-first into the dirt.
"Well," Tony sighed as he rose to his feet, casually dusting himself off, "that didn't quite go as planned." At Thor's look, Tony shrugged and said, "What? Stark Enterprises funds these sorts of projects. I thought the threat of de-funding would have scared them silly."
"They must have found the necessary 'funds' from elsewhere," Thor grumbled as he clambered to his feet.
"Great," Tony mumbled. "Now I'm becoming obsolete."
"That's hardly news," a third voice chimed in. Tony and Thor turned to see one of Sven's lab-coat-wearing underlings smirking at them as he changed into –
"Loki," Tony groaned.
"Brother," Thor said guardedly. "Why are you here?"
"I should think that obvious," Loki said with a tight smile, indicating the compound with the barest tilt of his head. "Oh, and you might want to step back a few paces."
Thor leveled a narrowed glare at his brother, but Tony took the prescribed steps backward anyway. "Why?" Thor all but growled.
The next moment, the earth rumbled under their feet and an explosion of light and sound temporarily rendered them deaf and blind. When the earth stopped trembling and the light and deafening roar dissipated, Thor and Tony turned to see charred earth where the compound used to be. As one their jaws fell.
"That's why," Loki sighed.
Thor reacted first, grabbing Loki by the lapels and shoving him back against the nearest tree. "There were people in there!" he shouted, face red and eyes wide in anger.
Loki stared calmly, coldly back at his brother, remarkably composed for someone currently dangling in the air. "The destruction of one Ultimus saved more lives than were lost in the explosion," he said matter-of-factly. "Those humans could not live to make more."
Thor growled and threw his brother to the ground, turning to pace in wide circles like an angry jungle cat.
"There are other Ultimi, you know," Tony said, "scattered throughout the country."
"I know," Loki replied as he pulled himself to his feet. He made a show of dusting himself off and pulling blades of grass out of his clothes, but Tony suspected it was just so he could avoid eye-contact. "That is why I... require your assistance."
Tony rolled his eyes. He couldn't just say, I need your help, like a normal person?
"You want us to help you blow up more buildings?" Tony asked dryly.
Loki finally looked him in the eye at that, and Tony thought he saw the barest hint of madness, of desperation, there. "I want the Ultimi destroyed," Loki said. "Help me do this and, if you come up with... less destructive means, I might listen."
"'Might'," Tony echoed in a grumble. "That's so reassuring, especially coming from you."
Loki shot him a narrowed glare. "Next time I could make sure you're in the building I blow up."
Tony started to say something scathing, but Thor's hand on his shoulder made him bite his tongue.
"Enough, you two," Thor sighed. His lips were still pursed in anger, but he kept his temper in check. "We will help you, Loki."
"We will?" Tony cut a glare at Thor.
"But," Thor continued, tightening his grip on Tony's shoulder for a moment, "you do not leave my sight. Understood?"
Loki rolled his eyes and shrugged one shoulder. "Fine."
Tony knew as well as Thor that Loki would rescind on that promise the moment it became inconvenient. Still... at least this way they could keep an eye on Loki for a while and keep him from blowing up an orphanage or whatever.
It made him wonder why Loki wanted their help.
Loki grinned and clapped his hands together. "So!" he exclaimed. "To the Bat Cave!"
Tony and Thor stared at the Trickster for a long moment.
"What?" Loki asked. "Well, what do you say then?"
"I say, 'Shut the Hell up so we can get going'," Tony sighed. "Just don't touch my underwear this time."
Tony turned on his heel, knowing that Loki would follow, looking altogether far too smug.
A/N the sequel: Okay, this fic is fighting me a bit more than Abaddon did since it's a whit more complicated, so don't expect such fast updates this time around. I'll try to crank this out as quickly as I can, however, and each review you give helps to motivate me like you would not believe. :) While I'm on the topic, I want to thank each and every one of you who left a review for Abaddon. You all have my most heartfelt thanks and undying love!
And cyber-cookies. OMNOMnom!