I do not own Avengers or Thor. I am still working on Yggdrasil, do not fear.
Loki never stayed at the HQ. Bruce didn't really have much of a home to go to, and if there was ever a need for the Avengers it was safer for him to be with his team heading to the event, rather than try to get there on his own, before he Hulked out. Natasha and Clint divided their time between the New York AHQ and the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, though after the team started to get to know each other better they spent more time there. Thor would move around between New Mexico with Jane, Asgard, and the head quarters. Tony, of course, built the thing, so he lived there when he wasn't in Malibu. Steve let go his apartment, becoming the headfigure for the Avengers team.
But while the invitation for Loki to stay there had been extended, he opted not to. He would join them for weekly pizza nights, movie marathons, training, even just "hanging out" as Tony liked to put it. But he never stayed. If the movies went on into the early hours of the morning, he'd be there. But once the movies ended he'd be on his way out once more, even if it meant he would be back an hour later for a sparring with Steve. And rather than cool off and shower/bandage up with the rest of them after a fight, he'd make his way off on his own to lick his wounds.
Tony had had quite enough of it. Loki could be a loner all he wanted, but they were a team. They had to spend a little more bonding time than just pizza and movies. So after some nagging at Thor (Tony was surprisingly good at the silvertongue thing that Loki was so proud of) he obtained the god's address and made his way through town. Loki chose not to stay at HQ, and hadn't given a forwarding address to anyone but his brother. And the fact that Thor had it was an accident really; Loki had never told Heimdall not to tell Thor where he lived, after all. It's not like Loki ever went to visit home.
When Tony saw the address on the scrap paper, he was rather appalled. How could anyone live in the Bronx? Not that Tony had anything against them, really, he was a California boy after all and it really didn't matter to him. But really, with how much Loki was getting paid, with how much money Tony had, why on earth was he living in an apartment so… cheap? Because standing at the entrance to the building, that was the nicest word Tony could come up with.
It was tall, with a lot of crowded windows set deep into the brick face. The main entrance was on a small side street, almost like an alley more than anything else. It was real close to the buildings around it; a cat burglar would have a field day jumping from one window to the next. In the sweltering heat of July the bricks and sidewalks and streets shimmered in a magical wave that almost made you cross your eyes, and the hum of hundreds of window-mount AC units almost drowned out the merciless noise of traffic not far away.
What a dump.
But Tony was here to collect Loki and bring him into the central air of Avengers HQ, and have him move in. Because this was stupid, really. Sure, Loki kept his ear piece in at all times, and even when he didn't Steve suspected he had a crystal ball somewhere watching them for signs of a fight going down. And after a few seconds of getting a call he'd suddenly appear, fully dressed in his armor and horned helmet, ready to fight. There was really no reason for him to have to live at the HQ, but it was silly to have everyone else there and him be the odd one out. He didn't exactly fit in with the rest of the team as it was, why alienate him further? Bruce wanted everyone to get along and sing kumbaya, and Loki was being the difficult one.
Finding the door in the mess of falling apart stairs and doors proved to be more difficult than Tony thought. The second floor was all even numbers. The third floor was in denominations of fives. The fourth floor was totally random, some rooms even started with an eight. There was no real numbering system to go off of to make it easy. So when he found room 1605 on the tenth floor, he seriously hopped he had found the right place. If it wasn't, barging in would be weird. So rather than just forcing the door and surprising Loki, because he honestly didn't want to deal with the people on the other side suing him if it wasn't Loki, he knocked.
"Come in Thor, you know you do not have to knock anymore. Unless it is locked with magic, of course." Well that was promising. So Tony did as he was bid.
It was like walking into a freezer. A really, really, quiet freezer. Tony's breath rose as an instant shiver shook him to the core. Nothing like walking out of 106F weather into something below 40F in less than two seconds. That was his first observation. His second was how dinky the apartment was. If Tony had to be honest, his broom closet was bigger. If he opened the door any further it would hit the corner of a three-cushion couch, which was shoved into the corner opposite the door, right beneath the only grimy little window in the place. To his left was what he could only call a kitchenette taking up most of the other corner.
It looked like someone had taken a janitor sink, a camp stove, and put some wallpaper on some plywood, setting the sink and stove into it before calling it a counter. At least there were cabinets both above and below the sink, as well as a toaster oven to the right. A mini-fridge with a microwave atop sat beside the toaster oven. And sitting in the last corner was a small chest of drawers. Between the drawers and what made the kitchen was a door frame that was missing a door. The walls were a disgusting grey, the hard wood floor covered in scratches and scrapes and stains that could only be described as blood, the ceiling was a horrific off-white that comes with mildew and time. And there was nothing personal in the space whatsoever. No pictures on the walls, no frames or ceramic frogs on the dresser, no area rugs, no pillows, nothing. It looked ready to move into, a clean (somewhat) slate for the next person.
"You did not tell me you were coming over today Thor, I would have cleaned the place up a bit if you had." Tony's attention was stolen from staring in revulsion at the place to the doorless frame, where he found himself even more wordless at what he found.
Someone had taken a bathtub, and sawn it in half short-wise; Tony thought that he'd be able to fit in it if he had his knees under his chin, and that was if he curled his toes under. How someone as tall and lanky like Loki, all limbs and length, fit in something so small? And it looked as though there wasn't a shower head to be had, so a bath was the only option. Ice crawled up the tiled walls, clinging to the gross grout lines, melting slowly. A sink, this time a janitorial sink without a counter, was mounted to the walls, and above it held on with a thumb tack was a makeup mirror barely bigger than Tony's coasters at home. And within it was a tall, lanky, blue, person, fluffy white towel wrapped around his hips as he combed his wet black hair into place.
"Stark?" Loki whirled around, red eyes wide as he started to fade from blue to white. "What are you doing here?"
"I-I, what… this is where… what happened to you?" The blue gone from Loki's skin, the apartment instantly turned from the freezing cold to almost stifling hot.
"Loki, hold on."
"GET OUT!" Loki stormed from the bathroom (if you could call it that) and shoved Tony from the doorway, out into the hall, slamming the disgusting wood closed in his face.
"Loki, hold on, what's going on?" There was no answer. After ten minutes of knocking on the door and calling for his team mate, Tony gave up and headed back to the HQ. Thor had a lot of explaining to do.
"Man of Iron! How went the meeting with my brother?"
"Thor, just the man I wanted to see." That didn't take long, the man was the first to spot Tony when he came back in through the front door. Stark threw his arm around Thor's waist, being unable to reach his shoulders. "Come, let's talk somewhere."
"Did my brother insult you somehow?" Thor asked, face like a kicked puppy.
"No, no, not exactly. Um, question for you." Tony steered Thor into the sitting room, pushing him onto the couch and taking up a seat himself on the coffee table. "Do you realize that your brother is blue?"
Thor's laughter was not the answer Tony had expected. Shock, outrage, confusion, that was what Tony had wanted to have met him. A laughing Thor was not something he really wanted right now.
"My brother is a frost giant, did you expect him to be any other color?" Thor grinned at Tony, but after catching the wigged out eyes, the grin faded. "I take it you did not?"
"He's a what?"
"A frost giant. His birth world was Jötunheim, though his home will always be Asgard." At the lost look Tony gave him, Thor became serious and leaned forward. This was going to be long.
"My… our father, Odin, rescued Loki after the war with Jötunheim, several Midgardian centuries ago. He took Loki in, and raised him as my brother. Though, to Loki, it did not always seem as such. About two Midgard years ago, Loki learned of his parentage. It was not a good moment for him; I had been banished, and father fell into the Odinsleep. We had both been brought up to believe that the Jötun were monsters, creatures not to be trusted and to be killed on sight. It did not do Loki well, and he attempted to prove himself a true son of Odin, and therefore not a monster, by destroying Jötunheim. It was not a good day; it was the day that the town was laid to ruins by the Destroyer. I believe you read of it in the files Director Fury gave you?"
Tony nodded, trying to wrap his mind around what was being said. So, Loki wasn't a god, but a monster, a giant? But he was short? Well, not short, he was just shy of Thor's height by maybe an inch. But Tony wouldn't exactly call that giant.
"I stopped Loki from doing too much damage, but by that time he wished to end his life. Odin and myself would not allow him to do so. While he was under watch by our mother for his health, father sent him here as punishment, just as he did with me. However, he sent me to watch over him, protect the earth, and fulfill my oaths to Son of Coul. It has taken time, however, Loki has become more comfortable in his true skin, and I have learned to accept it as such. He is shy with it though, it would appear, as he did not wish to show it to you."
"Is that why he doesn't live here?"
"I assume it would be. He told me that being in his Jötun blue could cause frost problems for your JARVIS, though now that I think on it perhaps it is his wish not to reveal himself to the rest of the team. He has told me he has always felt a drain on his magic, and until the giants had shown him who his sire was, and the Casket had broken his glamour spell, he did not realize what it was. Now that he knows, he enjoys not having to power the illusion more than he has to."
Tony thought back to how cold the room had been when Loki had been blue, and how hot it had hit when he changed back. The frost was a genuine concern. There had been ice on the tile in the bath, the room had been way too cold for the heat of July, JARVIS would not appreciate having his circuits frozen. Though, Loki would make everything colder, and would reduce his carbon footprint during the summer by lowering how often his AC would be running. Hmm.
"So, wait, if Loki's okay with being a frost giant, why does he hide it from us?"
"I am unsure. I thought perhaps he had let you know and chose to be in the skin he grew into for ease of the public. I see now this is not so. I shall speak with him."
"No, no, that's okay. I think I'll have a talk with him. I don't think a brotherly chat would help much."
"No? This concerns me, is Loki thinking ill of me?"
"No, I just don't think he'd like the idea that you told me so much about him without him knowing."
"Ah, yes. This is wise."
"Right, right. Well, I'm going to go find Loki again."
Tony rapped his knuckles on the disintegrating door once more, trying not to show how much he hated feeling the dry-rot fall on him. This place was seriously gross, why did Loki live here?
"Stark, you are not welcome, please leave."
"Come on Loki, let's just chat a bit?"
"No." Well, that was a definite end there. Tony wasn't going to have any of it. He set his shoulder to the door, and pushed. And it gave, really, without any trouble. Only to be shoved back into place with a green glow, fixed back into place and unbending the second time Tony threw himself against it. Magic, ick.
"Loki, come on. We're a team, we need to talk."
The door opened a crack, two chains firmly across the opening, and an extremely angry blue eye peering out.
"I said no, and I meant it. I will be there next time there is a need for me, but I will not speak to you here."
"Great, then come to the HQ and speak to me there if you won't do it here."
"Loki, stop." Tony shoved his hand into the gap before Loki could close the door. "Thor told me, okay? So I could come in and we can have a quiet, private, talk about this. Or I could stand out here and yell it through the door and all your neighbors will hear it."
Loki glared at him, but the wheels were turning.
"Or I could just shout your name very loudly, and everyone in the building will know the rich and hansom Tony Stark was in their midst?" Oooh, ouch, low blow. Tony would rather not have everyone in a building that was falling apart know he was here. Being held up and his money stolen wouldn't exactly put a dent in his bank account, but it wasn't how he wanted to spend the day.
"Come on Loki, just let me in, and let's talk."
"Why should I?"
"Because as a team, we should know everything that might come into being a problem with our members. And right now, I'm seeing this whole thing being a liability, and needs to be covered one-on-one before anyone else learns of it and takes advantage."
It wasn't a lie, not totally. At least Tony hoped it came across that way. You can't really lie to the god of lying, can you? Mostly, Tony was curious, how could he not be? But giving it some thought, it did make sense. If Loki was still suicidal, it was something the team had to know about. He doubted it, as Loki lived alone, away from the team, and was still here. But what about his powers? Did he still have his "normal" green magic when he was a frost thing? Did they go away? Were there different ones when he was in his frost mode? What were the limits? Tony needed to know these things! It was bad enough that he didn't know as much about his normal magic as he'd like to. But now there might be a whole new branch and that wasn't something Tony wanted to have to face in the heat of battle.
Loki glared harder, before a flash of green came to his eyes and the chains unlatched, allowing the door to open. It snapped shut the second Tony was clear of it, and Loki turned his back on the man in favor of sitting on the threadbare couch.
"So now you know that I'm an abomination, congratulations." He spat, allowing his perfect posture to slump ever so slightly. "Come to gloat?"
"No, nothing like that." Tony opted for the arm rest, which creaked. "You're not an abomination, you're just different. Which, I might add, is what makes this team work so well."
Loki scoffed, but spoke no further, allowing Tony the opportunity to look about a bit harder than he had a few hours before. Yeah, it was just as empty as the first time he had seen it. No knick-knacks, no pictures, nothing personal at all around the place. Rising from the arm of the couch, Tony leaned his head into the bathroom to inspect. The bathtub was just as small as he thought, there was no way he'd fit into it, let alone Loki. The sink was chipping and cracked, and it was a good thing there was no door, as it would have hit the toilet just as the front door hit the couch.
The tiles he assumed were once white. They weren't now, most were grey though some of them were splotched with blues and yellows and reds. Not all of the splotches were paint, Tony was not pleased to discover this. And he was right, there was a lack of shower head. As well as a lack of towels, tooth brush, comb, soap, or anything else for that matter.
"Are you sure you live here?"
"It's rather… bleak."
"I am not allowed to change anything to my liking I am afraid." Loki's voice was soft, full of regret.
"The landlord won't allow pictures or anything?"
"Of course he would allow that! I am speaking of the rest of the place. Are you here to mock my living arrangements, or work out whatever 'safety issues' I present to the team? If you are simply going to judge my room you can leave."
"No no, we'll talk team. So, frost giant huh?"
"Can I, um. Can I see?"
"You already have."
"Not really." Tony turned, crossing his arms and leaning his weight against the door frame. Loki was gazing out the window as best he could. There was so much grime you really didn't get much light into the place, let alone be able to look outside. Barefoot, baggy blue jeans, tight black tank top, his hair slicked back as per normal; you really couldn't guess that the man sitting on the marigold yellow couch held so much power within his veins. A frost giant, a sorcerer, possibly the most powerful one in existence, just sitting in grunge on a hot day in July. It was surreal. Even further weird when you realized that the normally composed and cool Loki was sweating slightly. Loki didn't sweat, it was that simple.
"You really do not need too. No one should have in the first place."
"It is not something I am very proud of."
"Is that the only question you are going to ask? You are such a child, Stark. I am not proud of it because it is a hideous monstrosity that should never have existed. I would prefer never to be such, however since Odin's punishment it has become a strain on my magic. It is not something I cannot handle, but it is nice to take a short reprieve from it. And, thus, I come to my personal space here and allow myself to let down my magics. This is an extremely private place, one I would have preferred you never found. And would very much appreciate if you never came again."
"There's nothing wrong with being a frost giant."
"There is everything wrong with being a frost giant." Loki spat with so much venom Tony expected the couch to melt. "They are warmongering atrocities that long for battle and blood."
"Your brother likes battle and blood too you know."
"But he has honor. Something he enjoys noting that I lack. He finds my magic and words to be trickery, deeds in battle that are less than honorable and are thought to be underhanded."
"And yet, if you were to leave the team, we'd be seriously missing a vital part of ourselves."
"Then we all know who would be at fault should I leave." Loki's pointed glare did not go unfelt.
"Alright alright. Is there a difference between your normal magic and your frost giant magic?"
"My personal magic is one that manipulates the forces around me. I use a vast arsenal of illusionary spells as well as shielding and feindfire. The magic that all Jötun are born with is that of an elemental type. Control over ice."
"And is there a way to harness them for fights?"
"Of course there are. I am fond of throwing knives and staff fighting. I can create ice blades with my Jötun magic, and rods with my own."
"But you won't use the frost magic?"
"I prefer not to."
"Interesting. You realize that none of us would care if you were blue, right?"
"I beg to differ." Loki chuckled at this, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his spread knees. It was such a relaxed pose Tony wondered where this was going to go. "Do you recall the attitude Banner received when he first became a green monster? I highly doubt that just because I am still human sized, that a blue monster will be any more welcome."
"Well, yeah. At first. But the team would let go of it pretty quick."
"Can you be sure of that?"
"I did, didn't I?"
"Did you? You have only seen it once, for only a few seconds."
"And you won't give me the chance to see for myself?"
"I would prefer not."
"Come on Loki. It can't be that bad."
Loki was still for a moment, eyes reading everything that was written across Tony's sincere face. After a long pause the god bowed his head with a heavy sigh.
"I am only doing this because it is unforgivably hot."
"Well yeah, if it's too hot for me it would be too hot for someone made of ice, wouldn't it?"
Loki's glare made it clear that he didn't want any input on this at the moment. Tony made a show of clamping his mouth shut and watching. With a head shake Loki stood, pulled the shirt over his head, and crossed his arms once more.
A mean chill grabbed the air, the temperature dropping faster and faster as blue crept over Loki's skin. It was welcome at first, but as Loki's eyes faded to red, as faint lines of lighter blue crept over his face, arms, and torso to form intricate designs, the comfortable cooling became almost too cold for Tony's sweat-drenched band shirt. Soon enough, Loki's spell had dropped completely, leaving him in a very rich blue tone.
"Well?" His voice was soft, full of shame as though he expected Tony to scream, or at least laugh. Instead, Tony pushed himself off the door frame, taking a step to stand before the taller man. Gingerly he lifted a finger, silently asking for permission before lightly touching Loki's skin. It was cold. He expected that, but not really. Loki had been cool, much like someone with poor circulation would be. But this was like holding onto an ice sculpture.
Another second, and he was tracing the designs across Loki's arms and chest with curiosity. He had expected his finger to develop frost bite and fall off. It didn't.
"You are lucky I am a runt." Loki seemed to be reading Tony's mind, though the shorter man flinched at the word "runt." That wasn't a word he would have used on a person. "Were I a healthy, full strength, Jötun, your skin would have been frozen black and your bones turned to ice. Due to my own magic, my upbringing suppressing my blood, and my weakling stature, there is no concern for my shape harming any that touch me."
"Well that's good."
"What can you do?" Tony stepped back, expecting something grand and explosive as was Loki's way when he was showing off. Instead, a crystal blade of ice wrapped itself around Loki's arm.
"It is not much, hardly strong enough to be of any use. I do not practice in this form, for obvious reasons."
"You know." Tony weighed his words here. Loki was the politician of the group, the one that could talk almost anything down. "You really don't have to hide this. It's part of you. Just like my reactor is part of me, and the Hulk is part of Bruce. We can help you through this."
Loki's blade melted, his skin fading back to white, eyes flicking from red, to green, to normal blue as the room warmed right back to an unbearable degree. Loki grabbed Tony's arm, dragging him out the door before closing it in his face once more, sliding the locks and chains home, the door glowing with green magic to keep him from breaking it open once again.