Title: Cross Reality
Summary: Post-Avengers. As Thor and Loki were ready to depart for Asgard, the Tesseract becomes unstable and opens a portal. Another Loki emerges claiming his name is "Tom". Chaos ensues as they meet their counterparts one by one. RE-POSTED.
Warnings: Psychological & Physical Trauma, Violence, Torture, Abuse, Suicide Attempt, and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
A/N: The Actors' names were changed to abide by the guidelines created by fanfiction where non-historical or non-fictional characters are not allowed. Therefore, all characters used here are fictional, and any similarities to any person living or dead are purely coincidental.
Chapter 1 – Parallels
Assembled on the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, Manhattan, the Avengers saw off their new ally and his mad little brother. The battle was finally over. Loki was now silenced and in chains. He glared at Thor and halfheartedly ignored the rest of the Avengers.
"Do you have plans on returning?" Natasha asked.
"Perhaps one day." Thor answered, daring a glance at his stoic brother. "I have duties I must attend to, and it will be a while before those mishaps are mended. Until then, you would have to do without me."
"Not a problem." Clint announced.
"We owe you some thanks, Thor." Steve stepped forward and shook his hand. "If there's anything you need. You know where to go."
"Or who to call." Tony jokingly added. "Send me a postcard, big guy."
"Thor," Erik called. "Here you are."
After carefully placing the Tesseract in the device, they handed it over to Thor, who grasped the handle and nudged the other end to Loki. If only looks could kill, Loki would have murdered Thor ten times over.
Loki grabbed the other end with little to no complain.
Thor nodded to his friends and twisted the device. Nothing. He awkwardly met Loki's judging eyes and tried again. Still nothing. Confused, he turned to Bruce and Erik for answers. Even Loki tilted his head with interest as the cube remained silent.
"I expected a little more flare than that." Tony whined.
"It should've sent them to Asgard." Bruce declared.
"We just don't get a break, do we?"
"It's a profession." Clint answered. "You'd get used to it."
All of a sudden, the cube began to flicker. It erupted in small bursts of blue waves and danced around the device, trying to inch its way to Thor and Loki's hands.
"I don't think that's supposed to happen." Natasha grimaced.
"No, it's not." Erik stressed.
Thor felt the touch of the Tesseract's waves reach him and tiny sparks of electricity multiplied. He immediately released his grip, but Loki held on. The Tesseract's energy looped and crawled on Loki's arm, gravitating to him like a leech, and paralyzed him with fascination and fear.
Thor watched in horror as his brother's eyes glimmered dangerously.
"Loki?" He gasped. "What are you doing?"
"I don't think he's doing this, Thor." Bruce said, judging the look on Loki's face. "Something must've happened. It could be an effect of evanescent-wave coupling."
"Which means?" Steve asked.
"It's quantum mechanics, Cap." Tony interrupted. "You won't get it."
"Tell us anyway."
"Two of the waves you're seeing are physically overlapping." Bruce stuttered, fascinated its scientific performance. "Which means the other waves will copy that and overlap again."
"Is that bad?"
"The two optical waveguides— they're physical constructions that guide the electromagnetic waves into the optical fiber— when those two waveguides are linked then it causes an imbalance. The fiber cores near each other will affect the field created by an element."
"In this case," Natasha supplied. "The Tesseract"
"And it provokes the waves onto another fiber," Bruce massaged his temples in acknowledgment. "Causing a vicious cycle."
"The glass cylinder," Tony voiced. "The container around the cube is part fiber, optical fiber. Think of radio frequency and it's mixing with the transmission. It's similar to electromagnetic fields."
"No wonder I felt a spark." Thor muttered.
"How long will it keep doing that?" Clint pointed as the energy wrapped around Loki. "Because I don't think we want that thing to keep molesting your brother to give him unwanted powers."
"Can it be shut off?"
"I'm not exactly sure how." Erik trembled. "I wouldn't touch that thing while it's like that. It's too dangerous."
"We need Fury." Steve stated.
"He already knows." Natasha exclaimed. "He just finished talking with the World Security Council."
"We're not going to have a repeat of the invasion."
Steve raised his shield and positioned himself to Loki's right. Natasha and Clint flanked him. Bruce and Erik stayed a good distance away with the rest of the Shield Agents while Thor and Tony took the opposite side.
Thor flexed his hand, unable to rid himself of the odd feeling of the Tesseract's touch. Something was very wrong about the situation.
"Loki!" Steve called. "Drop the cube!"
But Loki barely responded. His stoic expression remained dazed with the Tesseract's lulling song. It wrapped around him before erupting in a powerful, blinding light.
Loki released his grip on the Tesseract and collapsed.
The Avengers were tossed aside from the powerful collision and a portal appeared.
It was dark on the other side, and there was no telling what was behind it. Thor was the first to stand, debating whether to run off and help his brother or prepare himself for whatever thing was going to come out of that doorway.
"Looks like the same portal from the invasion," Tony grimaced. "Any ideas on how to shut that off?"
He really hoped another nuke wasn't an option.
"Thor." Steve called. "Can you get near the Tesseract to shut it down?"
"I wouldn't advice that." Erik commented. "We aren't sure about the gravitational pull of the portal. Thor's matter is denser, if the portal changes its polarity…"
"He could get sucked in," Clint huffed. "Along with his brother."
In a span of a few minutes, the portal reacted again, creating a gust of wind pushing them back. Bruce and Erik were just thankful it didn't pull them in like they thought it would. As the light grew, it eventually fizzled to a stop, but not before it blasted them with raw energy.
Smoke was everywhere.
When it cleared, they all gaped at the uncanny resemblance of an alien just thrown out of the now stable Tesseract.
"What just happened?" Tony blinked.
Thor bravely knelt down to see if the man was alive.
The man lay on his side. He had dark brown, with a tinge of gold, wavy hair, and wore a tight black jacket and pants with a white long sleeved shirt underneath. He looked harmless and in need of medical attention.
"He is breathing." Thor announced. "He also has minor injuries. A few scrapes here and there, but he is fine."
"He looks like your brother." Clint scowled.
"I find nothing unordinary about him. I sense no magic. He is just that of an injured human being. There is no trick."
"Do you think your brother did this so he won't be sent to Asgard?" Steve asked as they started checking for themselves. "It might be a contingency plan."
"I know not."
Thor moved to his own unconscious brother, pulling him up to his chest. Loki's breathing was erratic and blood dribbled from the gag. Thor immediately released the latch on the back and pulled it off.
Loki coughed more blood.
"Whatever happened, I do not think Loki meant for it to end this way." Thor assessed, conflicted with anger and compassion. "He's severely depleted of energy and needs some medical attention."
"We have a jet headed this way." Natasha announced.
Bruce, Tony, and Erik carefully handled the Tesseract, putting it back in the briefcase for further analysis while Clint and Steve handled the Loki look-alike. Natasha walked over to Thor and knelt down.
"His shackles are burnt." She pointed out.
"So they are." Thor frowned, pulling them off. "His wrists are damaged."
Natasha could figure out Thor's conflicting emotions in a heartbeat. It was plainly written on his face. There was doubt, anger, and confusion along with conflict of trust and worry or blinding rage and fury.
"Can you vouch your deranged brother didn't do this?" She threateningly whispered. "Because Fury won't be as generous as before."
"I cannot give you a forward answer." Thor sighed. "Not yet."
"If this really was his plan, then your brother has a death wish." She straightened and crossed her arms. "We'll have the medical team check him for any radiation he's contaminated with, and get him treated."
"Don't thank me just yet. Just make sure your brother doesn't decide to step out of line, or we might just finally pull the trigger."
"Your threats are clear to me, Agent Romanov."
"Good to know."
A few minutes later, the jet dropped by and Shield Agents strolled in with stretchers and guns. Steve helped carry the Loki look-alike on the stretcher while Thor helped his brother onto another. Tony eyed the look-alike as he was carted away with Loki on a jet. The guy looked pretty normal, and he hoped his instincts were right.
"I leave you kids for 20 minutes and this is the thanks I get."
Tony looked up.
"Great, Fury's here."
The tension was high as they assembled in the meeting room.
Natasha and Clint sat to the right of the circular table while Steve sat on the middle with Tony and Bruce on the left. Thor stood in the corner behind the assassins. His mind trailing off through the skies as Fury and Hill walked forward, looking like disappointed parents.
"Tell me again how this happened." Fury urged.
"Things didn't go according to plan?" Tony joked. "Is anyone else freaked out that Loki has a twin?"
"Stark." Steve warned. "No jokes. We're full of problems enough as it is."
"It's a reasonable question."
"And I need a reasonable answer." Fury glared. "I had your asses covered when I let Thor get away with the Tesseract. I need to know what we're up against before the World Security Council discovers this little mishap."
"Where's Dr. Selvig?" Bruce wondered.
"Is he alright?" Steve asked.
"I had him dismissed for the rest of the day. He's not exactly up to his normal standards, and that's saying something for someone who was mind-controlled."
"You received our report, Director." Natasha interrupted. "Anyone could have tampered with the cube."
"Loki did open the cube from another end in space." Clint shrugged. "Someone else could've opened it and it happened to fall on our watch."
"Then it wasn't Thor's brother messing around?" Fury remarked.
"No." Thor finally voiced. "I do not believe he was. Loki is cunning. He would not endanger himself nor depleted his reserves for one meager attempt at escape. This is not how he works."
"So you're defending him."
"His actions have caused damage here on earth, so no, I'm not defending him. I'm only saying this is not how my brother works. He has his tricks but they are more… elaborate than this."
"Then how do you explain the look-alike now being treated in the medical bay?" Fury challenged. "If your brother is free from any accusation, why does he have a twin?"
"Called it," Tony mumbled.
"A possible alternate timeline?" Bruce supplied.
Everyone turned to him.
"That's a leap in possibility." Hill addressed, meeting eyes with Fury. "But not that far off. What makes you think this theory is justified?"
"A random occurrence?"
"Please explain, Doctor." Fury listened.
"It's just a theory." Bruce swallowed. "The cube is powerful. It could have reacted to anything and opened up the portal. Loki was the nearest and it must've grasped at a thread of DNA or a signature and pulled out a Loki look-alike from another timeline."
"That's a cool theory." Tony smiled. "I like it."
"This is the best theory I have."
"And it's the best we got." Fury nodded.
"If you need more ideas, maybe you can call Dr. Selvig and have him add more information. He might be able to explain it better through astrophysics than a hypothesis from a nuclear physicist."
Thor, whose patience was wearing thin, interrupted.
"Where is Loki?"
"Took you long to ask." Fury punched a few buttons on the table and a hologram of Loki's cell and the look-alike's appeared. "He's back in his cell where he belongs, and as soon as he and his twin wakes up, we'll make them talk."
The state of his brother's form disturbed him. Loki wore thinner clothes that of earth. Long grey sleeved V-neck and some black pants. He also lay deadly still on his side, chained once more and gagged with new equipment.
The other one was also changed into less formal clothes. But this one had an oxygen mask strapped to his mouth, his hand bandaged and one of his wrists was cuffed to the bed.
"What will you ask them?" Thor wondered.
"For Loki, the cube and whatever the hell he remembers," Fury frowned. "The usual questions for the Loki look-alike— his name and his origin for one."
"Did he have anything on him?" Tony asked.
"As a matter of fact, he did, which is why you're here." Fury tapped away on the table and several contacts lists with pictures appeared. "This man's cellphone consists of quite a shocking number of friends list."
"I guess your theory on alternate timelines is plausible, Doc." Natasha smirked as she looked at her blonde counterpart. "Scarlett Jones, not a bad name."
"Scarlett as in red and blood," Clint snorted. "It's nearly as threatening as Natasha."
"You're not bad yourself, Jeremy Runner."
"Badass name for a badass guy."
Tony raised his phone and had Jarvis upload the details to his data base. He looked at it on his phone, making it easier than craning up his neck to see the holograms. As he skimmed through the contacts lists, he started snickering out loud.
"Something you'd like to share with the class?" Fury asked.
"My name is Robert Devan Jr." He laughed. "Robert? Bob?! Junior?! Really?"
"I think it suits you." Steve shrugged.
"Get in a good laugh, old man." Tony huffed as he read Steve's counterpart. "Or should I call you Mr. Christian Evans. It really suits your allegiance type. It's also funny how you have a Dorito design next to your name."
It was Steve's turn to frown.
"I don't see anything wrong with that name." He huffed. "It's a good name."
Tony rolled his eyes in response and ignored Steve. The guy really can't take a joke and is just goody two shoes about everything. He nudged Bruce to look at his phone and the scientist lowered his glasses to see.
"Mark Ruffles?" Bruce whispered.
I know right." Tony chuckled, thinking of several jokes that were highly inappropriate. He set that thought aside and eyed Fury and Hill. "You have awesome names too, Samuel Jayson and Cobie Smoulders."
"Chris Worth," Thor muttered to himself.
"I'm not buying this." Clint voiced, leaning back on his chair. "Cool names and pretty normal pictures, but I still think it has something to do with Loki. But if you want to stick with the alternate universe theory, then be my guest."
"Can I play with the look-alike's cellphone?" Tony raised his hand.
"Why?" Fury glared.
"I want Jarvis to tap into the internet. Maybe there's still a signal or browser history left in there. And if it works, then Bruce's alternate timeline theory is the bomb."
"Maybe later, Stark."
"Sir," Hill walked forward. "Our guest is awake."
She enhanced the footage as the Loki look-alike begun to stir. The Avengers watched. Vital signs were also spiking to an alarming rate. Doctors moved in to calm him down, giving him some painkillers and drugs to keep him awake.
"Get him into an interrogation room." Fury ordered. "I want my best man out there."
"Here we go." Clint huffed.
What the hell happened to him?
He was in and out of it as he felt himself being dragged across the hall. The tight grip on his arms disappeared and was replaced with cold metal on his wrists. He couldn't move, let alone talk properly.
"What's going on?" He thought. "Where am I?"
His eyesight cleared.
He squinted at the bright light and lowered his aching head. His arms were covered in scrapes and his body was on fire, but he felt no pain. He was completely disoriented. What had happened in the last 24 hours, he wondered.
"How did I get here?"
His eyes adjusted to the light.
The room was small, all metal. He was strapped to the table with one chair opposite him. He saw enough movies to know what an interrogation room looked like. The question was why. Why was he there? The last thing he remembered was waiting in the hotel for an interview.
Here he was like a criminal.
"Did I do something wrong?" He pondered.
His thoughts were interrupted when a tall man entered the room. He trembled slightly, worried about the situation. He stared as the man took out a plastic bag containing his belongings, and arranged them neatly on the table.
His hotel keycard, his car keys, and his cellphone…
The man sat down in silence.
It was very intimidating.
"I'm going to ask you a few questions." The man continued. "You will answer them truthfully. You will not lie. Everything you say will be used against you. Is this clear?"
He nodded obediently.
The shock in the man's eyes didn't go unnoticed. The man was really uncomfortable with him and he wondered why. Was it because of his status or was it because of the boss he listens to from the earpiece? He couldn't tell.
"We'll start with your name."
"I didn't quite catch that."
"M-my name is Tom." He stuttered. "Tom Hiddles."
The Avengers curiously watched.
This was one of the most bizarre moments they've ever had. Not only were they interrogating said look-alike, but they were interrogating a guy from an alternate universe that happens to look like their bad guy.
"Tom Hiddles." Fury declared as he ran over the details. "A 36 year old, British actor with quite a successful career, single, and has two sisters."
"Actor." Tony snorted.
"If all of these line up with his answers, we'll think of something else to ask him." Fury said over the earpiece. "For now, start with the age, occupation, and family."
"Will this be helpful?" Steve asked. "Knowing this type of information?"
"Any information is useful, Cap."
"How old are you?" The man on the screen voiced.
"36." Tom answered, the chain on his wrist clanking on the desk. "I'm… Forgive me for interrupting, but… what am I doing here exactly? I don't… remember moving away from my hotel."
"Tell him his questions will be answered when we're done." Fury relayed.
"Your questions will be answered at the end of the interrogation." The man smoothly replied. "What's your occupation?"
"I'm an actor."
"A movie or television star?" The man joked.
"Do you have any siblings?"
"My two sisters." Tom frowned. He decided now was the time to ask before he lost whatever courage he had left. "Don't I have some… rights? I'm being interrogated like a criminal strapped and injured without knowing what I've done. Do I at least get a lawyer?"
"What do you remember before all of this happened?" The man ignored him.
"Is that why I'm here?"
"Just answer the question, Sir."
"I was waiting for an interview for our latest movie." He answered. "They wanted me to wait at the hotel while they're preparing for a small conference a few blocks from there. I was resting… then there was an earthquake. The furniture was flying, and there was this bright light."
"What happened after?"
"I woke up here."
Fury turned to the Avengers.
"He seems believable." Natasha crossed her arms, skimming through Tom's pictures. "His words are as accurate as the details on his phone, but I can't say for sure what his motives are. After all, he did say he's an actor."
"Still not buying it," Clint said.
"I don't think we have enough evidence to have him convicted." Steve thoughtfully declared. "What will we accuse him of? Dropping from a portal? Looking like Loki?"
"I agree." Thor muttered.
"Maybe you should uncuff him." Tony suggested.
"You want me to uncuff him?" Fury stared at him as if he was insane. "An alien that looks and talks as you and I just dropped from a portal and you want me to uncuff him. Can you hear what you're asking me, Stark?"
"It sounded better in my head."
"Convince me why."
"You heard what Tom said, he's an actor, he has a family, and he's a guy who wants his rights." Tony enumerated. "We'll be the one who looks suspicious if we don't play along. He doesn't look like he can put up a fight anyway; looking as scrawny as he is despite how tall he is…"
"He does look sincere." Bruce shrugged.
"See," Tony pointed. "He's with me."
"I'm outnumbered." Clint rolled his eyes and accusingly pointed at Stark. "If this blows up to shit, I'm blaming you."
"Guilty as charged." He raised his hand.
"Agent," Fury called. "Take the shackles off and tell him a doctor will see to him after. Ask him about his contact lists. Who they are, what they do, and what the hell is his relationship with them."
They watched as the Agent carefully took off the handcuffs and sat back down. "A doctor will be with you after this session is over, until then the painkillers are all you have." Tom warily rubbed his wrists and tilted his head in confusion at the man's words.
"Am I allowed a phone call?" Tom asked.
"Not at the moment, no." The man leaned back. He pulled out piece of paper and placed it on the table, turning it to Tom's side. "That—" He poked. "—is a list of your contacts. If you would explain to us their occupation and their relationship with you, that would be great."
"They're my co-workers."
"They're fellow actors and actresses." He rubbed his temple. "They're also my friends. We've worked for a few years now. I work with some of them more than others. Given how successful the 'Avengers' movie was, it's reasonable for us to work together."
"Avengers movie?" Clint laughed.
"I'd watch it." Tony grinned.
Fury tore his eyes off the screen and turned to Thor, who was deep in thought. He would've called him to ask about his views if the god didn't look so threatening. Normally, Fury felt suspicious about strangers, but this one just seemed different.
"I don't mean to be rude." Tom said. "But what are these questions for? I don't think they're associated with whatever happened at the hotel."
He sighed, "Of course it is."
What was he going to do?
Tom was trapped there for the duration of their questions. He even inwardly made a joke about Shield kidnapping him. After all, the guy in the suit looked like he came straight out of set.
"Do I get an explanation?" Tom wondered.
"Not until after."
"So I can't leave. What about my family, do they know I'm here? My manager's probably looking for me about the interview."
"I'm sorry, Sir."
Tom was a generous person and an overly patient man, but this was ridiculous. Being held against your will without so much as an explanation would cause anyone to panic. The man listened to his boss (obviously) and relayed the instructions.
"You are to remain here until further notice." The man said.
"If nobody is going to press chargers, I would like to know why I'm kept here." He calmly argued. "I don't think it's legal to treat people like this."
"So you've excused." Tom rubbed his temple. "What did I do wrong?"
He picked up the phone, the keycard and the car keys and placed them back in the bag. He also took the piece of paper with him. He stood up, straightened his chair out and looked at Tom, who sat there holding his breath.
"Excuse me," The man said. "I'll be right back with that doctor."
He left, leaving Tom on his own.
"Where the hell am I?" Tom lowered his head on the table. "How did I get into this mess?"
If he was right, that man sounded like a Shield Agent akin to a flawed copy of Coulson. He wondered if he was in on some prank show from the studio or whether he's really being held here by the government.
In any case, Tom felt like he was in another Avengers movie, but more comparable to the Age of Ultron branching over to Civil War when it came to the government… and Shield.
Awful thing was, he now know what Loki felt in the first movie.
"Might as well play the part correctly." Tom thought.
"We've concluded a few things." Fury muted the screen. "I don't think anyone can deny that he's as normal as any human being. Despite our suspicions, we can't really hold him hostage like this."
"What are we planning?" Steve asked.
"We'll break the news to him slowly, and if all goes well, we'll send him back where he belongs."
"So he'll be set free?" Tony blinked.
"Guarded," Hill voiced. "Someone will be with him at all times."
"I'm putting him in the Avengers care for the time being." Fury said, raising a hand before anyone interrupted. "We'll let the guy rest and have him shipped off to Stark Tower."
"It's still under repair." Tony whined.
"And if he decides to take over the world?" Clint pointed out. "What then?"
"He won't." Thor answered. "I sense no malice in him, only sincerity. Doubt if you will, but that man in that chamber is no warrior."
"Got to give the god a gold star," Fury agreed. "I'll leave the Tesseract in your safe hands." He emphasized. "You can experiment with Tom to get a fix on how to send him back. But before that happens, tomorrow you will be introduced as friendly faces. Hill will brief you."
With that, Fury walked away.
"We'll escort you to your proper rooms here on the Helicarrier." Hill advised. "Mr. Stark and Dr. Banner, you're allowed use of the labs in Sector 3 to find out what went wrong with the cube. Agent Barton and Agent Romanov, you're to meet with the specialist at BlockA2 for more information from Tom's cellphone."
"I volunteered as tribute." Tony frowned. "Are you really going to ignore me?"
"I think you should focus on the cube."
"I can multi-task, you know?"
"Captain and Thor," Hill blatantly ignored Tony. "We could use some more theories and answers about this morning's mishap, if it's not too much trouble."
"It's fine." Steve nodded.
Tony and Bruce were escorted out to the lab while Natasha and Clint headed straight for BlockA2. Thor and Steve still hung around the meeting room when Fury came back with some documents that clearly weren't for them.
"Thor," Fury sat down. "Mind telling me what's on your mind."
"Asgard was known for many tales." He crossed his arms.
"You think there's something in there that explains whatever happened here?" Steve wondered. "In your myths, that is."
"Yes." Thor nodded. "But I'm not sure they are myths."
"We're listening." Fury said.
"The Infinity stones," He opened.
"What about them?"
"I grew up with these stories and I'm not sure if I remember them correctly."
Thor was going to suggest Loki and his knowledge on such matters, but thought against it, knowing full well his brother would do everything in his power to manipulate them for his freedom.
"There are six of them," Thor began. "Each capable of destruction— I believe that the Tesseract is the space stone. Much like the Bifrost, the Tesseract can penetrate through barriers and create passage ways that are somewhat safe to travel. The cube most likely ripped through a pathway to an alternate timeline, pulling Loki's counterpart."
"They're dangerous then." Steve stated.
"They are." Thor sighed. "They're very powerful and beyond control. We may be able to use a fraction of their powers but it's completely ill advised. There is always a limit until destruction comes our way. I was told that no infinity stone should be so close together. It brings upon bad tidings."
"So these stones," Fury mumbled. "Do you know where they are?"
"They are scattered across the universe. No one knows where they are, but here we have one. And that is enough to know it's in capable hands. My father will lock it up in our vault where none could reach it."
"About the scepter," Thor opened. "Our deal stands, yes?"
"It's in safe hands, Mr. Odinson." Fury stood up. "It's locked up in a crate where it belongs. To be shipped off to high security."
"Of course," He nodded.
Thor frowned, battling his thoughts on whether to inform Fury about his idea that the scepter might be more than what it seems. Thor respected the man, for he had earned his trust, yet he decided giving too much knowledge to mortals was courting chaos.
He would leave the mortals be.
The scepter was in Shield's safe hands. After all, if it was more than what it seemed, it was best kept and guarded by people Thor could trust. Besides, if his father asked for the scepter, he would just retrieve it at any given time.
"Thor." Fury voiced. "Your brother's awake."
Floating on the table was a screen of Loki's cell.
His brother was on his feet, pacing around the room like a cornered animal. Thor could even call him deranged looking. He wasted no time and walked away without another word. Steve, Fury and Hill watched him go.
"Your turn, Rogers." Fury clasped his hands together.
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