Warning: Minor use of swearing in this chapter.
After wrangling the issue out with Fury for the past 20 minutes, no-one had gotten anywhere. Clint and Natasha wanted to keep them locked up under S.H.I.E.L.D's protection in the Helicarrier, Steve was not having two boys 'locked up like foreign critters', Tony didn't want them running around his tower and Loki and Thor were staying well away from them as well as each other, which made the whole thing even more awkward. At one point, Tony suggested bundling them up in Loki's condo. With Loki. Thor protested, Steve backed him up, Bruce joined in, Fury pulled out the big verbal guns and Loki began to question the mortals' sanity.
All in all, it was an experience that none of them wanted to dwell upon longer than necessary.
Fury, being the Director, simply told everyone that Thor and Loki were going to stay with them all (and he'd backed up that point with a typical Fury-glare) in a S.H.I.E.L.D safehouse in upstate NY and they were all going to like it or man the hell up and deal with it.
Loki had then gone into a long-winded explanation as to why he and Thor should stay well away from their younger counterparts and subsequently managed to confuse Thor to the point where Fury decided it might be safer just to drop them from the case.
Bruce made a note to never watch Doctor Who with Loki again.
Getting Thor and Loki's younger selves into a car to get to the safehouse in the first place had been one hell of an ordeal, considering neither of them had seen a car before. However, Loki seemed to suddenly have an unlimited well of patience when it came to their younger counterparts, and managed to coax them into one of S.H.I.E.L.D's typical black, nondescript SUVs using some kind of Asgardian analogy that Tony didn't get.
Tony then decided that he didn't really care. He was hungry, and tired and cold and everything else that came with being stuck in a frozen wasteland for hours with nothing more than body heat and Loki's fuego fiasco el supreme to keep them warm.
No. Right now, Tony really wanted a large glass of Scotch, some of Pep's lasagne and then sleep. Lots of sleep.
They'd split up for the ride, seeing as there were now nine of them, and Thor and Loki were being made to at least see their younger selves to the safehouse. Tony, Thor, Loki and said younger selves crammed into one car, whilst Bruce, Steve, Clint and Natasha went in the other.
"I want to get this straight, we need to give you some kind of codenames or something because this is going to get really confusing, really fast." Tony said almost as soon as the cars rolled out of the S.H.I.E.L.D HQ gates.
"And what do you suggest?" Loki looked to Tony from the right-side window seat, an air of amusement dancing about his words. Tony just shrugged with one shoulder, brow furrowing as he began to think. Dark eyes drifted over the younger Thor and Loki as if their presence would inspire some new names for him.
"Mini Loki? That just sounds creepy. Loki 2? No?" the inventor began to throw out random names, most of which got a rumbling chuckle from Thor, and confused looks from the two boys.
"They're not robots." Loki commented dryly, a pale finger running along the seam of the leather-covered seats.
"Okay, I got it. For however long we have to, er, babysit, we'll call you-" Tony prodded Loki's chest with his index finger, "Luke, and Thor can be… " Tony trailed off as he looked over to Thor.
"Why don't you guys have Earth-aliases? All the cool gods do." Tony huffed, sitting back in his seat as Thor laughed again. That noise was beginning to get on Tony's nerves. Not because it was an annoying sound in itself, exhaustion just warped it to the point where it became all too cheerful for Tony to bear in his current state.
"We do, my friend." the older god responded, shifting in his seat, "many."
"For the sake of authenticity and the entertainment of seeing you pronounce names wrongly, can I suggest we take on names relevant to our culture?" Loki smiled thinly, watching Tony's expression go through several changes in a few short seconds, before smoothing out into a passive mask.
"Einriði," the trickster pointed to Thor, then to himself, "Luka." Loki stated with a half-hearted grin, returning to staring out of the window at the city rolling by, the daylight dimming and the passage of civilians beginning to ebb as they returned to their homes and families.
Thor's eyebrows rose in vague surprise. Loki had remembered Einriði after all. But Einriði had been aeons ago. He was ancient. He was Thor at his worst, Thor at the height of youth and arrogance. He was the companion to Luka on their endless quests across each of the Nine, often stretching from months to a year, whether it was raiding the halls of Vanaheim or lurking in the furnaces and forges of Svartalfheim for little trinkets and treasures that the Dwarves would offer the beloved sons of Asgard. Mjolnir had been one of them, Thor mused as he turned the hammer in his hand. His heart lay heavier with each turn of the weapon; as if it wound a clockwork key the wrong way and only worked to slow motion, not quicken it.
It then occurred to him that the only reason Loki remembered Einriði so clearly was because Einriði really was little more than a companion. He was not protector or watcher of Loki and Luka, but neither was he a warrior or a foolhardy boy wielding a dangerous weapon such as Mjolnir. Luka made him use his brains. Made him think and plan out. Luka even went as far as teaching him how to play chess – a game that Thor still could not master for the life of him. Einriði learned the art of stealth and wit, how to think on your feet and not with your sword.
And from Einriði, Luka learnt the basic mechanisms of defence – where to strike, when to strike, how to move, what not to do – and the art of using a sword, a spear and even a bow. It had been the only time they had been allowed to share such skills on such even ground. Ground where there was no Odin to say 'that's enough, Loki' or 'seiðr is not worthy of your time, Thor' and no Frigga to chide Thor's reckless teaching methods that often ended up in broken furniture and tattered drapery.
An equal companion, Thor concluded.
"Lokes. Lukey. Luka. Hey!" Tony waved a hand in front of Loki's face, attempting to draw the god's attention to him and away from the cityscape that was flying past outside the window. Loki obliged eventually, swatting Tony's hand away like it was nothing more than an irritating fly.
"What?" Loki hissed, not pleased at being disturbed from his thoughts. Tony sat back, looking offended for a moment, but the feeling quickly passed as he glanced to Thor and reminded himself of why he was trying to get Loki's attention in the first place.
"He's been staring at you for ages and he's not responding to me and it's really creeping me the hell out, Lokes."
"Please, refrain from calling me that or I'll have no issues with depositing you out of this moving vehicle." Loki grumbled, but the usual, finely-honed edge to his voice wasn't there to back up the threat. He was too busy studying Thor, who was staring dead ahead at Loki, unmoving. Loki made various gestures to test Thor's line of sight, but the god's blue orbs were unseeing, clouded by thought.
"Well, would you look at that," Loki smiled, and his words were reinforced with the nasty bite of sarcasm, "he's thinking."
Loki felt lighter all of a sudden, as though the weight of the world had been removed from his shoulders. This was how it was supposed to be. This divide. It was no longer a hindrance to his life, but something that gave him his freedom. Living on Midgard for almost a decade had given him time to think, and this divide was a result of that.
Simply put, he'd decided that he wanted nothing to do with Asgard or Jotunheim.
Thor knew this. Thor objected.
Besides that, Loki couldn't help but think that he definitely hadn't been.. right in the head earlier, not after apologising – repeatedly - to the oaf for something he'd deserved, losing all control after assuming his Jotun form, and then throwing another temper tantrum at Helblindi in front of everyone. How embarrassing, Loki frowned and pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger, trying to maintain a clear thought path through what was, quite frankly, the absolute shitstorm that had been today's events.
Letting his weary head drop back against the headrest, he ignored Tony attempting to make small talk with 'Thor' and 'Loki' and allowed his thoughts to be swept away on the gust of fatigue. Seiðr exertion was terribly draining, and Loki knew he'd be feeling incredibly sorry for himself tomorrow, holed up in his 1000 thread count, pure Egyptian cotton comforter and nursing a mug of Ceylon tea.
As much as he was loath to admit it, Midgard was starting to rub off on him.
"How the hell do you say Thor's name again?" Tony got out first, stumbling rather unceremoniously out of the door in between attempts to pronounce Thor's given name. Loki was right. This was just entertainment for the gods. Bastards.
"It may be easier to say 'Riði', friend." The newly renamed Riði is the next one out, wearing an amused grin at Tony's valiant attempts. Tony regarded him with an incredulous glare.
"Not much easier, Thor. Oh, I mean, Ri-e..thi." Tony stalked off to the front doors, though Thor and Loki could still hear the man trying to say the name correctly as he disappeared behind the collection of cars that had gathered around the main gates.
"Your name still sounds Midgardian, Loki. Luka." Riði said to Luka, who shrugged and got out, not needing to coax Thor and Loki this time for they were more than happy to remove themselves from the strange metal contraption.
"Okay, listen up, announcement imminent!" Tony marched up to the other Avengers, who all turned to see Tony looking a little flustered.
"I've just renamed Thor and Loki to make it easier, and Loki's being his usual stupid self and requested that they be 'relevant to their culture'-" Tony mimed air quotes, doing a ridiculous impression of Luka while he was at it, "-and I was an idiot and agreed, so now we have to call Thor, Ri-eth-i, and Loki is Luka."
"Of course, you would take it upon yourself to rename them, Tony." Natasha quipped, a sarcastic smile pulling at her lips. Tony returned it in quick succession.
"Luka? Isn't that some character from the Lion King or something?" Clint snorted, shooting an amused look in Luka's general direction.
"Hurtful." Luka glided past Clint as the electric gates slid open. "My being is far greater than that of an animated lion, Barton."
"Your being?" Clint turned to follow the trickster, his footsteps heavy and clumsy in comparison to the ones he followed.
"You thought I had a god complex." Tony grins, slapping Bruce heartily on the back and making the man wince as he did.
"He is a god." Bruce reminded the eccentric, who had started to walk after the small group already making their way back to the mansion. Tony only responded with a vague wave of the hand, dismissing the topic just as quickly as he'd brought it up. His footsteps fell away as chatter began to fill the void left behind.
Bruce simply shook his head, an incredulous expression finding its way onto his worn features as he stared after his hapless friend. Slowly, he forced himself to move again, his joints still aching from the cold of Jotunheim.
All of them were feeling the aftermath.
After all, you don't go realm-hopping to a place like that and leave entirely unscathed.
A.N: I am SO sorry for the wait! A bunch of real life problems (the worst kind) decided to crop up and kick me in the ass.
I can just imagine Loki holed up in a ridiculous expensive comforter with equally expensive tea, it just popped into my head and I decided to whack it in here because evil bad guy Loki cocooned in a comforter. I wish I could draw.
Also, sorry for the short chapter! I'm just a bad writer *rolls away into oblivion*