Title: Bruises – Chapter One
Author: Lucky Gun
Summary: Because Loki's possession of one of the sharpest minds in SHIELD wasn't easy. In fact, it barely worked at all. A better take on Clint's forced defection, return to the Avengers, and the aftermath. Contains whump, language, torture, and all the horrors of a POW. NO slash. AU.
A/N: This story will be a more in-depth look at Loki's possession of Clint. I can't imagine it was easy to take over the mind of a man who owed everything to SHIELD, who had nothing to live for outside of it. And Loki has always had a habit of underestimating. So here's my take on it. Please review!
It was his first attempt at using the scepter to turn an allegiance to his own. He'd been told it could be done, been promised in grandiose wordage that he could bend his enemy's army to his own will. He didn't discount the powers of the scepter, but he was Asgardian; while he knew the proper capabilities of magic and illusion, he better knew the strength of the individual when pressed against personal conviction.
But he was a general, a would-be-king, marching into battle and striking the drums of war. No time like the present to determine the truth of the scepter's power.
At first, very early in his first possession, he'd been pleased. The transfer of will worked perfectly, his victim's eyes shading an electric blue before a simple, gentle mental nudge had the man holstering some sort of weapon. Heartbeats turned into eternities, and he delved into the man's mind.
He found himself walking down a long hallway made of red marble, the walls wide and far apart. The floor was lined with streaked dirt, some parts rust-colored with what strongly resembled blood. Loki looked around, frowning as he took in the dozens of doors that lined the halls. Some were in immaculate condition, mahogany wood standing tall. Others worried him to a slight degree: cracks struck through the marble in wide, sweeping strokes, the framings were sagging under some monstrous weight, and chinks of wood were splintered from the door faces.
He walked the halls slowly, knowing he had time. He tried entry on no portal and instead stalked quietly through the man's mind. Every once in awhile, he'd pass a particularly strained door, a breeze from beyond it swirling through the hall, tickling Loki's hair against his nose. And he would hear things, see things, feel things.
"Barton, you've got to abort! Listen to me, there are chi-"
But Barton couldn't abort, not for anyone's sake. He knew the stakes. He'd been following his target for two weeks, and he'd seen more cruelty than he'd previously been able to imagine. So he clicked the earpiece, Coulson falling silent in his brain, and he strung a deadly arrow in his bow. He tracked the target as it exited the hotel, nodded to a valet, climbed into a waiting van. He waited until the van moved closer to an intersection, its brake lights about to illuminate the road behind it.
He released the arrow, gaze hard, and his aim was true as the world's turning. The bolt struck the gas tank, a charge igniting the fuel, the van exploding and taking the combustible arrow with it. He leaned back and tapped his earpiece again, his throat constricting.
"Mission completed. Target eliminated," he said as strongly as he could manage, and there was a heavy sigh as his handler processed the words. "Barton, there were..."
He knelt and ignored the sirens echoing through the late Parisian streets as he stowed his bow and quiver in his weapons duffel.
"Kids, I know. Three of them. Twin nine year old girls, and a four year old boy. His nieces and nephew. He was taking them home," he informed evenly, some small part of him cracking invisibly.
"...There may have been another opportunity in the future, Clint."
More than anything, the agent could hear his handler's sorrow for his own loss, his own struggle, and he shook his head sharply.
"SHIELD doesn't operate on maybes, sir. Mission accomplished with division-acceptable collateral damage. Heading to the extraction point now."
If Coulson heard him over the radio throwing up a few minutes later, his handler never said anything.
Loki stumbled backwards, away from the door, shaking his head sharply to dispel the taste of bile and the smell of burning flesh. He frowned hard, remembering abruptly the words he'd spoken when he'd caught the man in the first place.
"You have heart."
And so he did. Maybe too much of it.
Loki continued on, doors marking the passage of distance, and he continued to find himself assaulted by memories not his own.
"Goddamn it, Tasha, run! Get the hell out of here!" he shouted, despair coating his words as heavily as blood coated his leg.
Guilt and anger intermingled as he saw the flash of her red hair through the heavy jungle foliage, heading his way. Glaring at him, calling him an idiot and worse, she hauled him to his feet and surged through the underbrush with half his weight on her small frame. Then she was down, a hole in her side, and he half stood, half knelt in front of her as he loosed arrow after arrow onto their pursuers.
When SHIELD reinforcements spilled through the brush, automatic rifles spitting fire, he allowed himself the luxury of unconsciousness, his only fear being Natasha's safety, and the new and burning revelation of his own mental state: he was compromised.
Loki tilted his head, curious as to that memory, and he looked at the door carefully. It was strong and sturdy, with a small sliver of air weeding through an old fashioned keyhole. A protected memory, one he didn't allow himself access to often. And the woman...he could sense her presence everywhere in the long halls of the man's mind. Intrigued, he continued walking.
He watched her dance through the fight, body twisting in ways that shouldn't be legal, much less possible. She seemed to treat gravity as an option, a suggestion, and he could tell, even from a distance, that nobody told her what to do. So he lined up his arrow with her throat and waited for a break in the music. When it came, when the last of the Agency's men were down and she stared at the death she'd pirouetted through mindlessly, he found himself putting the arrow back in his quiver and tapping his earpiece.
"Coulson, I've got an idea that you're not going to like."
And then he walked to her, held out his hand, and smiled at her with something different than his usual, hawkish smirk.
"I'm Clint Barton, agent of SHIELD. I was sent to kill you. I'd like to offer you a job, instead."
This memory swirled from a door that, surprise, surprise, was actually open a crack. There was nothing different about the entry that Loki could see, but he could sense the man's sheer approval of the woman. A foreign expression crossed his mind – red on the ledger – and he raised an eyebrow, a true understanding of the man's mental stance gracing him.
"He operates on debts. They both do. How interesting," he murmured, and he continued to wander.
He walked through memories of pain, of fear, of betrayal, of hatred. He walked through the smell of gunpowder and the stench of such minor failure amplified to stellar heights. In some places, he was almost suffocating from repressed anger and suppressed fear. In others, he practically levitated through the air with peace and contentment.
He paused outside one door, though, that caught his attention sharply. At first glance, it was like any other door, slightly weathered but still intact. A longer look found reinforcements to the framing, kick plates on the bottom, three locks thrown against whatever was held inside. Deciding to gamble, he slowly, carefully undid each lock, his hand shaking slightly when he reached for the knob. Then he steeled himself and twisted it, abruptly finding himself sucked in a dark vortex of terror and desolation.
"No one's coming for you, Hawkeye. It's been, what? Ten weeks? Twelve? Can you even keep track anymore?" a voice whispered from the darkness, and Clint just sagged against the chains holding him to the cold stone wall, fighting not to choke on the blood that threatened to strangle him behind his gag.
The blindfold that had been on his face from day one scratched as he blinked uselessly against it. He knew he had to hold out, to wait. He knew they would come for him. It was simply a matter of time. He just had to wait. He tried not to groan as his multiple gifts from his captors made themselves known with his breathing. God knows how many bones were broken or sprained, how many ribs were bruised, how many contusions and burns were leaking what precious little blood he had left. He only knew that he had to keep his mouth shut. He'd tried to be smart in the beginning, tried to distract his captors as much as possible. But now? His tormenter removed the gag and he coughed and spit out blood and thick saliva before he managed to catch his breath through the pain.
"Agent 1128964 of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. Clint Barton, codename Hawkeye. Agent 1128964..." he continued breathlessly, endlessly, just like he'd been trained to do.
Even when the blows rained down again, he managed to say nothing but that. When his captors tired of the game and his lack of response to their repeated requests for codes, information, agent locations, they tied him up their favorite way.
He was hanging upside down with chains around his bare feet and ankles, his hands shackled behind him to a heavy chain belt wrapped around his waist. His eyes were still blindfolded and his mouth gagged underneath a thick black bag that was zip tied firmly around his neck. That would have been almost bearable if they hadn't included the rather large tub of water at his shoulder level. If he curled up and lifted himself away from the water, he was able to breathe through the bag, in a fashion. But then his muscles would tremble, his abs would spasm, and he'd have to let himself back down into the water, holding his breath and fighting against panic while he waited for the trembling to cease long enough for him to pull himself back up. His captors were usually good about getting him down when he finally couldn't take anymore. He'd been cheerfully told he'd only died twice so far.
But upside down in a cold room, blind, gagged, alternating between slowly drowning and stressing open his wounds with his movements, is where they found him.
He'd barely heard their entrance, as he'd been underwater at the time, but when he felt hands on his stiff bare shoulders, his aching chest, he stilled. They should hit the winch, pull him up, move the tub, and drop him onto the ground headfirst. Instead, someone gently lifted the back of his head to above water level, and he inhaled rapidly, almost hyperventilating in his desperate fight for air. How long had he been under that time? Three minutes? Four? He had lost count. There was the sound of movement and voices around him, and he found himself on the ground, chains gone, a soft hand working a knife too close to his throat for comfort. But he waited patiently – he was good at that – and decided he could try for an escape. What else did he have to do with his time?
So the knife cut through the zip tie, the bag pulled from his head, and he surged into motion. Acting on instinct and hearing alone, he snagged the knife and rolled to his feet, tearing the gag from his mouth in the same move. He heard the sounds of surprise and grimaced desperately; there were more of them there than he'd thought. But then he ripped the blindfold off and light assaulted his eyes for the first time in three months.
He may have screamed as he forced his eyes to stay open, to accept the sensory information. It was mind over matter, and he thought he may have dealt with worse before. But everything around him was dark with long, wide flashes of searing white agony, and he flinched away from the light and scurried into a corner. He could hear someone speaking in low tones, but he couldn't make it out.
"Agent 1128964 of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. Clint Barton, codename Hawkeye. Agent 1128964 of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. Clint Barton, codename Hawkeye," he repeated softly, brokenly, as he curled into a ball and wrapped his arms around his head, protecting his eyes from the sights he had been so long denied.
He wanted to scream again as he realized that he might be permanently blind from so long in the dark.
So he did.
Loki growled fiercely as he pulled the door shut, snarling at the memory. He could feel the man's fear and pain in his own head, and it annoyed him. His first pet was becoming a rather heavy project. So he threw the bolts on the door again and stalked off, intent on finding the man's innermost self.
What he found instead was an image of the agent sitting on a single, metal, utilitarian chair in the massive and empty room the long hallway led to. There was light everywhere and nowhere, simultaneously, and Loki manifested his war armor as he walked towards the man. The agent was clad in the same clothes his physical body was wearing, and he sat silently, a black bow cradled carefully in his hands. Loki came to a stop in front of him and grinned at his first subject widely.
"So we find you, Clint Barton, the Hawkeye. You are mine to command now, the first of my rule, the reign of Loki," he bragged, and slowly, surely, the agent raised his head to the demigod before him, Loki's grin fading as he did so.
His face was full of fear and horror, but his eyes...dear God, his eyes.
They were a solid white.
"You have nothing you want, sir, and everything you'd sooner be rid of."
Then he moved, blindingly fast, and Loki found himself outside his mind again, back in the real world. He held the man's overly blue gaze for a moment, breathing heavily, but the eyes that stared back at him were calm and cold. Loki tested his control and grinned when the man shifted the way he'd told him to, stood silent the way he told him to, walked the way he told him to. So he decided, fine and very well, the man's reaction in his head had been a fluke, an initial response. Certainly nothing for Loki to be concerned about.
And then he silently ordered his new pet to shoot the enemy leader in the head.
He watched the bullet slam, not into his skull, but into the man's torso, and the bulletproof vest covering it. He felt a strong tug of dissension, anger, and fear over his link with his turned agent before it disappeared like a thief in the night, the startlingly blue eyes catching his for just a moment. It was a long enough space of time for Loki to see a bit of color leech from the irises. The demigod couldn't help but give a small shiver of uncertainty.
And then he wondered what the hell he'd gotten into.
End Chapter One