A/N: This is it! I tried to wrap a lot of things up in this chapter. There are still more things to be said, but there needs to be an end at some point, and if I continue anymore then it will just become redundant and this, I feel, is a nice gentle settling point for the story to conclude.
I would like to thank everyone who has read and reviewed Working Visa. I appreciate that you gave my writing a chance, especially as this is a crossover and not the easiest type of story to read or write in an accessible way.
When I first decided to expand the one-shot into something more, I didn't expect this kind of support from so many wonderful readers.
I would also like to give credit to reviewers A shade of grey91 and Vashti who not only reviewed with enthusiasm, but whose truthfulness and constructive criticism went a long way to improve this story, and reminded me that I wasn't just writing this for my own enjoyment but for everyone else's too.
It's hard to remember that this started as a prompt on NorseKink, so a special thanks goes to the OP, made_of_tin, for lighting the first spark of inspiration.
I hope everyone has enjoyed the journey.
Overall, Natasha was satisfied with the meeting's conclusion. It wasn't the best negotiation she had walked away from; no one's nose had been broken or testicles stepped on, but they'd gotten a reasonable deal regardless.
It hadn't been lengthy either, for which she was grateful. Apparently, Loki was as enthusiastic to be around Stark as the billionaire was to be around Loki.
There'd be weekly emails, was the settlement, and if Loki felt he had to follow-up then he would contact Steve. It was much more reasonable than all the Avengers being expected to jump for the MiB every time they caught a glimpse of an alien.
It was a manipulative game that S.H.I.E.L.D and Fury was playing. Natasha knew that the freedom offered to the Avengers was a false image. They may appear to solely answer to the Men in Black, and it was more than likely that S.H.I.E.L.D had tabs on any MiB files pertaining to the Avengers or their reports.
She didn't exactly know how Loki would manage to alter the timestamps on the information Steve would give him, but she wouldn't put it past his abilities; he seemed to be much more adaptive than Thor. There was also no doubt in Natasha's mind that he could manipulate anything he wanted, even a high-tech government system.
Both parties left the meeting at the same time, the Avengers silently deciding that they didn't have anything else immediate to address. If they needed to discuss anything else it could be passed around outside a group setting.
The Men in Black agents also seemed to have a silent way of communicating. Jay and Kay, Natasha could tell, had years of co-ordinating actions and thoughts in the field. It impressed her that Loki could pick up on such interactions after such little time working with them.
Natasha supposed that having no memories, no identity, would spur one to connect strongly; like a just hatched baby sea-turtle imprinting on the first thing it sees.
She left the conference room as the last Avenger to do so and kept a distance behind the Men in Black agents as she followed them through the corridors towards the elevator.
It wasn't as if she was spying or sneaking. She knew they knew she was there, even though she wasn't quite sure why she was following them. She didn't like the idea of being cornered with them in the elevator, and needed, somehow, to get Loki separated from the others.
"JA.R.V.I.S," she hissed. "I need Loki alone."
The digital intelligence didn't respond, but he didn't always need to.
Early in her time staying in Stark Tower, she'd had words with J.A.R.V.I.S and they had come to an understanding. It went a long way to belay her fears about living in building controlled by one omnipotent computer.
She should never have let Clint make her watch that 2001 movie.
But the fact that she could get him to obey her, even convincing him to go behind Stark's back on a few things; small things, just so she could ease the AI onto her side, put her at ease. It was also an interesting challenge to see how far she could take him.
Natasha watched as Loki, Jay and Kay approached the elevator, and stopped in the hallway. They would turn once they entered and see her standing in the hallway. She would make eye-contact with Loki and perhaps he would understand their meaning, but even if he did, she didn't trust him to act in compliance with her.
She scowled and watched as the doors to the elevator started to open, but smirked slightly when they gave a shuddering halt before being completely parted.
There was enough room for one and a half people at a time to walk through comfortably, but no more. It only took a moment of hesitation before agents Jay and Kay strode forward, turning to face each other and both sliding through the doors and into the elevator at the same time.
It was a very smooth manoeuvre, and Natasha was impressed at how comfortable the two men moved together.
It did, however, leave Loki to follow behind them. He stepped forward to follow his colleagues when the two silver shields slammed shut, with a speed never before seen on elevator, leaving the god agent stranded in the hallway and blinking slightly at the wall of metal in front of him.
Natasha smiled to herself and made a note to thank J.A.R.V.I.S later.
"Catch you off-guard?"
The dark haired man spun around and plastered a smile on his face. It was not a sincere expression, but not as cold and malicious as it had once been.
"Probably one of Tony's pranks. He thinks he's funny."
A more genuine smile, "but you do not."
She looked at the shiny doors in front of her. "Sometimes he's amusing, but not when me means to be."
Loki chuckled deep in his throat. "Is it worth taking the stairs or are they also 'booby-trapped'?"
"I wouldn't trust them."
"Yes, you don't seem like one to trust easily."
Natasha turned her head slightly, so she could look at him out the corner of her eye. "No, but I trust myself, which is more than some people."
Loki cast an accusing look.
"I do." She admitted.
He ran his eyes over her, assessing something she couldn't see. "And the others?"
"No. They trust you."
Loki looked away from her, not casting his eyes down but staring blankly at the elevator doors in front of them. "I suppose the question then becomes; can I trust you?"
Natasha looked at his profile as the god stared steadily at the metal. "I shouldn't," the rejection came out softer than she had intended, and so she took a pause to try and assess exactly what she should say.
Part of her wanted to tear into him. He had taken the coward's way out and he deserved to get his memories back if only to have the world turn on him once again. She wondered, also, if she should tell him that Kay knew about his memories returning.
However, if it was obvious to her then Loki should realize soon enough without her help.
"Until you give me reason not to, I'll keep you secret."
He looked back at her. She saw in his eyes the same pain that had resided there when he had been captured. As it had been deeply buried during the meeting when he had been playing the amnesiac, she realized that Loki now must be allowing her to witness the emotion.
There was something new there, too.
Loki looked lost.
"I would appreciate it if you would." He spoke.
She smiled, surprising herself with how sincere it was.
"Just don't make me regret it."
Kay lowered himself into one of the plush seats that were tucked in the corner of Stark's lobby. Jay had chosen to flirt with the attractive woman behind the desk before joining him, which suited him fine. It was more likely that the secretary wouldn't listen into their conversations if she trusted at least one of them.
He preferred Jay flirting than him having to attempt the 'lovable grandpa' routine. He just didn't pull it off as well.
The secretary giggled and Jay shot her a final grin before he thanked her and made his way to where Kay was seated.
"She said she'll ring maintenance, but this is Stark's Tower so I don't think they can do much."
Kay nodded. It was fairly obvious that the great Tony Stark only kept a maintenance crew for appearance. He couldn't imagine anything in the building that wasn't kept under Stark's control, which of course created the question about why the billionaire would want to keep Loki in the tower when he had only just recently thrown him out.
"I'll kill him if he's not down here soon."
A smile tugged at Kay's lips, but he pushed it away, "Loki or Stark?"
Jay shot him a look that told Kay that he shouldn't have to ask that, but the older agent could see a warning flash behind Jay's dark eyes.
Kay made the decision to not tell Jay about the god's memory. He didn't want to force the other to lose Loki again, when it was clear that he was struggling to move past the protectiveness that had been spurred by Loki's kidnapping.
"He can handle himself," he told Jay, leaning forward to grab a magazine from the small table between them. It was a technology magazine, and Kay enjoyed flicking through to see where the world outside the MiB was at.
They hadn't gotten very far, even with Stark's helping hand.
Jay sighed and sunk back into his chair. "I can't believe this. How can we have all the technology in the universe, but we can't hack one elevator?"
"It'll come down when Stark's ready."
Jay made a face.
Kay frowned and pulled his phone from his inner-jacket pocket. He moved over the key pad quickly to alert Zed about the situation. In Stark Tower, it was more than likely that any communication in or out, despite being on a MiB encrypted phone, would be detected and deciphered, but it was just a quick message to inform him that they would be late returning.
"Does Loki seem different to you?"
The elder agent looked up from the screen to the inquiring Jay.
"We went out for a drink before the meeting and he seemed... quiet."
Kay looked back down at his phone, "He's always quiet, Sport."
"Not like this, Kay."
He shrugged. "Maybe Thanos told him something he didn't want to hear. He needs to sort out everything that has happened, decide what he wants to believe and what he doesn't."
Looking up, Kay gave Jay a look that told the younger man to let the subject lie. He knew it would be difficult for him to let it go, but Kay sincerely hoped that if Loki had someone who acted and supported him unequivocally the same as before the kidnapping, the Asgardian Jotunn would want to stick around and protect his second life with the Men in Black.
It had been years since Jay had joined the MiB, and Kay couldn't remember if he had ever thought of the man as James Edwards, even before he'd put on the suit. There were times, however, when it was incredibly clear where Jay had come from.
Kay didn't try to pretend he understood what it was like being a cop. There was an innate bond within the force, which reared its head whenever an officer was killed or attacked, and he knew that even though Jay had not been part of his old precinct's 'inside group', he still had the same mentality.
Someone had come into Jay's group and hurt one of his kind and it had provoked a strong protective response.
It was nice, but unnecessary.
Especially in the case of Loki.
If he pried too deeply, then Loki's defences might come up, and the god would start walling himself up again and that really wasn't what they needed. The newer agent needed to sort himself out, find a decent middle ground between the god and the agent, but if he was pushed then he wouldn't even search for the line.
Kay would keep an eye on Loki and Jay, make sure they were playing nice.
He would make sure both his boys are safe.
Bruce pulled the large, hand-made cushion off the ergonomic chair and threw it onto the floor. His body soon followed after with a soft thud, crossing his legs and leaning his back against the concrete walls of his laboratory.
He was glad that Loki still wanted to be a Man in Black and Bruce had no doubt that he would do the job well. Whatever tortures he had suffered on the ice planet hadn't seemed to dampen his ability to work.
Although he had no way of knowing if the kidnappers told Loki anything about his attack on Earth, Bruce thought that they must have played Loki's memory-loss against him, tormented him with past scenarios that may or may not have been true. It must have been easy for the god to start doubting himself.
Bruce could relate.
Even if the authorities hadn't chased him down, Bruce thought that he would have fled after his big green problem had come to light anyway. It was easier when your life was falling apart to try and run from people, to doubt your ability to do the job.
"Do you realize how much that chair costs?" Tony's incredulous voice came from the doorway.
Bruce blinked his eyes open, having not realized they had closed.
"A lot. And you're sitting on the floor. On the floor."
"You sit on the floor."
"I bought the chair."
With an uncoordinated motion, that led Bruce to believe that Tony'd had a drink or two at some point during the day, the iron man plonked himself down next to the pillow Bruce was occupying. It worried the doctor, given that Pepper had returned to the office and left Tony unsupervised. He wondered if he could make a lock for the liquor cabinet that Tony couldn't hack or pick, and barely had time for the thought to finish before it was dismissed as a pipe dream.
Tony may think that they were two intellectual equals, but Bruce felt that there was still a standard deviation or two between them.
"I just needed something before I had to sit and listen to Loki and Capsicle, in my dining room, pretend everything's okay." The inventor explained, seeming to pick up on Bruce's concern.
"How are you with the arrangement between the two?"
Tony shrugged. "As long as he's not showing up to personally get the updates." He looked over out of the corner of his eyes, "How's the big guy with all of this?"
Bruce cocked his head for a moment, trying to listen to the low grumble that had become the white noise of his brain.
"He seems to trust agent Kay and, by extension, Loki. He's not worried."
"You know what I'm worried about."
Tony rolled his eyes and affectionately shoved his shoulder into Bruce's "I'll be fine."
"I know. Doesn't stop me from worrying. Or Steve, he worries too.
"I know... So what was Asgard like? Have they discovered the wheel yet?"
"I'm not happy with this." Captain America snapped, putting his hands on his hips.
Thor nodded, and looked over at the Agent Barton with a sense of smugness. The warrior captain had confronted Thor and the agent not long after the assembly. He had not gone to their unofficial leader to betray the actions of the archer, so he knew one of the other Avengers must have said something.
"He was asking for it." Clint exclaimed.
Steve levelled a look. "I don't like bullies, Clint." He spun around to face Thor, with a look that reminded the god of his mother's patient yet decisive gaze. "And you were lucky Agent Kay was there to stop you. I don't think murdering Clint would have gone down well." He spun around to the archer again, "We're trying to make friends."
"Yes, mother." He responded.
It appeared that the agent Barton saw the same as Thor did in Captain Rodgers.
Thor tried to smother his booming laugh, and failed.
The larger of the two humans sighed and rolled his eyes. "So are you both better now? Is this..." He waved his hand between the two, "going to affect your ability to work together."
Turning to the human archer, Thor studied him for a moment. He could understand, with all that Loki had put him through, why the Hawk's Eye might feel hostile towards his brother and unwilling to accept Loki seeking forgiveness.
If Loki had not been Thor's brother, he, too, might not be so merciful.
Thor had, he thought, made that same mistake with the Jotunn; despite the peace between their people he'd kept a mighty grip on the past.
So he offered his hand to the Clint hawk.
"I shall propose a truce, on the condition that your fist shall never again make contact with any part of my brother."
Agent Barton cocked his head slightly, and Thor, realizing his mistake, switched which hand he was offering, as to not damage the Hawks knuckles more than Loki's jaw had already done.
Clint accepted the adjusted grip. "No problem."
Loki watched Agent Romanoff's smile as the elevator doors closed her face from his view. He wouldn't allow himself to laugh until she had completely vanished behind the shield of metal.
Of course she was the only one to figure it out. He should never have doubted her.
It was... nice, however, to have someone in his corner; knowing who he was, what he could remember, and not running to persecute him.
Yet, he was surprised at how accepting she seemed. He'd have thought she'd refuse him any sort of leeway.
He chuckled again as he watched the floor numbers go down.
She was probably the only person on the planet that he'd be comfortable with knowing his secret.
She was the only human he could trust to not do him any favours. Not let him slip.
That, he decided, was what he wanted.
The doors of the elevator slid open, and Loki looked up and out into the lobby of the tower. Kay and Jay were sitting around a small table, with Jay looking concerned and Kay trying not to look concerned.
Loki didn't know if he could fit into their little organization anymore, but he wanted to try.
And he would try.
Loki straightened his tie and made a quick glance down at his feet to make sure his black shoes weren't scuffed.
He was a MiB agent...
...and he was going back to his family.