Author's Notes: First off, many, many thanks to my wonderful beta, Ricechex! She was a huge help with this fic, and this probably wouldn't have even been written without all of her support.
Secondly, for those interested: The title of this fic comes from the song 'The Ghosts that We Knew' by Mumford and Sons, which is pretty much the theme song of this fic and gave me way too many feels while writing this.
And lastly! This fic does go AU from the end of the movie. Notable changes are that Loki escapes, and that that one character who dies in the movie doesn't actually die, because how could you, Joss Whedon?
It happens on a Thursday, which holds no real significance except that Thursday is, apparently, 'Thor's Day,' as their resident god has taken to proclaiming very loudly to anyone who will listen on said day. And, okay, if Tony were at all interested in Loki's motivations for his attack on this particular day, it being Thor's Day may hold some significance, but as it is, Tony really, really isn't all that interested.
He's more preoccupied with the attack itself, and besides, Tony doubts Loki actually needs any extra motivation to cause trouble in the city other than being a little shit.
So yeah, no significance, except the whole 'happening' thing.
"Iron Man, on your left!"
Tony spins in time to see the blast coming but he's too late to dodge it. He grunts as he's thrown straight into the corner of a building, and he can't decide whether the impact from the hard edge of concrete or the blast to the chest hurt more. Either way, he knows he'll probably feel both in the morning.
The suit's hud goes crazy at the impact, and he plummets downward from the hole he's made in the building. Tony struggles and swears, but finally manages to right himself, kicking on the boot repulsors just in time to catch himself before he finishes his free fall to the street some thirty feet below.
A moment passes and he recovers enough to take to the air again, scanning his surroundings for the Loki that had attacked him.
Yes, the Loki, because plain old, singular Loki has decided it would be a good idea to divide himself into ten Loki's in order to wreak ten times the havoc.
As if one of him wasn't bad enough.
Tony does, however, have to give credit where credit is due. It's a damn clever tactic, and so far it's working out great in the god's favor. Unfortunately for them.
He didn't even know Loki could split up his magic like that, though he supposes it should be rather obvious that it's possible. The entire concept is even rather simple, really. If he can make clones of himself with magic, then it's perfectly reasonable that he can also divide his magic between them. Not that logic like this actually needs to apply to magic, but whatever.
"Any luck finding the real one?" He asks over the comms, firing a repulsor blast down at the Loki that Steve is fighting on the street below. The clone (or maybe it's the real one, hell if Tony knows) takes it to the shoulder and is distracted long enough that Steve is able to punch him clear off his feet. He lands some feet away, shoulder still smoking from the blast.
"None, yet," Clint's voice crackles back, "I just took out two, though. So I guess we're down to, what, eight?"
"Seven, actually," Natasha cuts in smoothly, "Hulk just took one out."
"Great, at this rate we'll have taken out all of them before we even find the real one." Tony lifts his eyes from where Steve is finally holding his own against his Loki with ease, and spots a flash of gold and green lurking on a the top of an apartment building not too far away. He grins, taking off in that direction. "Guys? Scratch that, I may have just found him."
Thor's voice is loud as it chimes in to the conversation, and Tony flinches as it sends a burst of static bouncing in his ears. "That is wonderful, Man of Iron! If we can defeat the real Loki, then the replicas should vanish."
"Sounds like a plan."
Tony does, indeed, find Loki on top of the building, or a Loki at least, as he still isn't entirely sure this isn't another clone. The Liesmith is tucked against the roof access structure, hiding most likely, with his head bowed in concentration and his hands linked in front of him, his lips moving rapidly in some kind of chant that Tony can't quite hear. The god has somehow not noticed him approach, and doesn't even glance his way as he drops to a hover a good ten, fifteen feet away. Tony decides that he must be about to cast a spell, or perhaps is maintaining the spell to keep all of the other Loki's running about through the streets below.
Either way, he's distracted and vulnerable, and Tony only hesitates for a second before taking the shot, firing a missile straight at him.
A moment before the missile hits him, Loki's eyes fly open and he swivels to face Tony, green light cackling and breaking the air around him. The energy from whatever spell he was casting bubbles outward around him for a split second before imploding back to it's source. And then the missile hits it's target and explodes, sending Loki off his feet and over the edge of the building.
Tony takes a moment to congratulate himself before remembering that Loki's just been hit with a mini missile and likely just fallen fifteen stories to the ground below and Tony does not want to have to explain to Thor how he just killed his brother.
Like that would even kill a god, but still, he should at least go check on the guy. He's probably not even unconscious, the asshole.
Except that he is, apparently, when Tony finally reaches him. Very unconscious and collapsed in a very ungodlike heap in the middle of the street.
"Guys," he begins slowly, nudging the god with one metal boot, "I think we've just caught ourselves a God of Mischief."
When Loki wakes, it is to confusion and pain and blinding, bright lights. His head throbs and his body aches and he knows, almost at once, that he is not on Asgard as he should be. Everything about this place feels too wrong to be Asgard.
It is hardly the first time he has awoken in such a manner in an unfamiliar place, but it is no less disconcerting.
He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, gathering his wits about him. It would hardly do to panic. He is supposed to be the calm and level headed one.
Moments pass and, at long last, he opens his eyes again and drags himself upright. The movement brings to light a whole slew of new aches and pains throughout his body and he ignores them in favor of taking stock of his surroundings.
He is on a cot, his hands shackled with something that he doubts would be strong enough to hold him. The room he inhabits is small and cell like– four white walls, one made up almost entirely of what appears to be a mirror, and a single door in the corner that looks to be heavily reinforced. He wonders briefly if the people who put him here even have any idea who he is.
Loki studies his bonds briefly, testing their strength. They're strong, but nothing that he can not escape from with magic. He keeps them on for now, though. There's no real need to alert his captors to his ability to escape just yet, at least not until he knows what he's up against.
Eventually, he stands, and when he does, the world pitches and spins around him. He stumbles and catches himself at the last moment against the mirror, trying to shake the dizzyness. His head throbs violently and he really wishes he could remember what happened and how he got here.
His brother, at least, is somewhere nearby. He can sense the magic of Mjölnir just beyond the mirror, and the presence is calming and familiar. Surely Thor will know what is happening. He is more than likely in a similar situation as Loki, perhaps still unconscious, perhaps injured more so than him. Thor would never have gone down without fighting to the end.
Oh, how Loki hates that his brother makes him worry so.
Across the room, the door groans and rattles and finally swings open, revealing a tall man with an eye patch and a long leather coat. He comes to stand in the center of the room and Loki turns to face him, curious to finally meet his captor. They stand face to face in silence for a moment before Loki finally speaks.
"Where am I?"
The man snorts. "I hardly think you're in a position to be asking me questions," he tells him, gesturing to the shackles around his wrists.
Loki frowns. "I merely wish to know where I am, is that so much to ask?"
"You're in a holding cell in Stark Tower."
"Yes, but what realm am I on, mortal?"
The man regards him coolly. "Earth," he says at last, "Or Midgard, as I believe you Asgardian's call it."
"I see," Loki replies softly, turning to study the mirror again. "And my brother, Thor. Where is he?" He has a great many questions he wishes to ask this man, but his concern for his brother is finally making itself known. Midgard is a realm of mortals, and to know that they have somehow captured he and his brother is– harrowing, to say the least.
"I don't see how that's any of your concern right now," the man begins, only for Loki to cut him off.
"He is my brother," he snaps, his patience running thin, "And I would see that he is unharmed. Now tell me, what have you done with him?" The last sentence comes out as a shout but the man doesn't so much as flinch.
"Thor is fine."
Loki takes a deep breath and calms himself. "Then I would speak with him," he says softly, "You will let me see him." It is not a question.
"You do not get to make demands of me–" the man snarls, only to stop mid-sentence at the sound of a booming, but muffled, voice from the other side of the mirror. He turns his gaze to it and lets out something akin to an angry sounding sigh. "Goddammit! Fine, let him in!" He turns back to Loki with a sneer. "You get five minutes with him before we start interrogating your ass."
The door slams open and Thor storms in, Mjölnir tight in his grip. Loki is not sure what he is expecting, but he's surprised to see him like this. He is unharmed and still armed, even, and his confusion only increases tenfold.
"Brother! What is going on here?"
The man from before glances at Thor and throws his hands up. "Five minutes," he tells the god, before stalking out, closing the door behind him, leaving Thor and Loki alone together.
Loki clears his throat. "Brother?"
Thor blinks and stares at him with an odd expression. "You were captured," he says simply, and Loki huffs, gesturing violently with his shackled hands.
"Obviously, Thor. But what happened."
"You attacked the–" He pauses, looking him up and down carefully, "Do you truly not remember, brother?" He releases his hammer and reaches forward to rest his hands on Loki's shoulders.
Loki pulls himself from his brother's grip, giving the room he is in a sidelong glance. "No," he says softly, "No I do not."
It's pushing midnight by the time Tony makes it to the debriefing. Or rather, by the time the debriefing even starts, because Tony's only about fifteen minutes late. That's nothing new though. Running late to meetings has kind of become his thing since joining the Avengers. 'Fashionably late' as he likes to call it (because isn't that original), but Fury never seems inclined to agree.
But really, they've been back at the tower for hours, and the debriefing is only just now starting. And Fury isn't even there when he walks through the door.
Tony's not complaining though, because he gets to avoid the lecture that always follows his late arrivals.
The entire team's already gathered (minus Thor, though that's hardly a surprise,) looking as exhausted as Tony feels. He gives them a grin as he drops himself carefully down into a chair, wary of the bruises he now sports from the battle earlier. Turns out the impact with the building hurts much worse.
"What's happening, guys?" he asks, settling into as comfortable a sprawl as he can manage in his chair. He picked out these chairs, you'd think they'd be more comfortable. He should probably look into getting them replaced.
Across the table, Clint stretches and props his feet up on the table. "Just waiting on Thor and Fury, I guess."
Next to Tony, Steve clears his throat and leans forward. "I am sure that they have a good reason for being so late," he says, giving Tony a sour look that clearly shows his disapproval at the man's tardiness. An 'unlike you, Tony' goes unspoken. Not that that matters, Tony just ignores him either way.
"Maybe Loki's woken up and started causing trouble?" Bruce asks, stifling a yawn. He looks horrible, clearly exhausted and barely awake, though he's probably fared the battle better than the rest of them. At least he won't be waking up with bruises everywhere.
Bruce's speculation is definitely a possibility, though. They don't exactly have a proper way to restrain Loki and his magic. Tony should really get on that, actually.
"Unlikely," Natasha finally speaks up, looking up from her phone, "The alarm would have sounded if he'd started causing any trouble. Fury is probably still interrogating him."
Tony snorts. "Like he'll get far with that, dude's the god of lies and all."
She just shrugs and goes back to whatever it is she's doing on her phone. Probably Angry Birds or something.
An awkward silence falls over the room, and Tony eventually yawns loudly just to break it. It's late, and this is ridiculous, honestly. They've waited to debrief until morning before, and he doesn't see why Fury absolutely insists on having one now.
They just caught the bad guy, the least he could do is let them sleep before shouting at them about stuff.
And speak of the devil, apparently Fury's finally decided to show up. And he's already yelling about something; Tony can hear his voice traveling down the hallway.
A moment later, the door slams open and he storms in, Thor right on his heels.
"–out of your goddammed mind." Fury finishes snarling, marching to the front of the room. Thor follows him like some sort of puppy, ignoring their audience.
"At least consider what I have to say on the matter!" He exclaims, voice rough and strained. He moves Mjölnir from hand to hand several times before apparently deciding that it gets it's own seat today and promptly dropping it into the empty chair next to Tony.
Fury scowls. "I have, and the answer is no!"
"I beg of you–"
"Do you not understand the meaning of–"
"Hey, hey– Can we maybe stop with all the yelling?" Tony cuts in, eyeing the two wearily. "Because– and I'm sure I speak for everyone here when I say this– it is way too late for this much yelling."
Fury scowls at him but doesn't respond. He finally turns to address the team instead, ignoring Thor as well, who still stands nearby, looking less than happy.
"It would appear," he begins at last, "That our god of mischief has come down with a convenient case of amnesia."
There's a beat of awkward silence following his statement and then the room bursts into noise as everyone starts trying to speak at once.
"You have got to be fucking kidding me," Clint's voice booms out above everyone else's, more or less reflecting the general consensus on this among the team.
Tony, for the most part isn't so much mad about the 'convenient amnesia' thing as he is about how inconvenient dealing with it will be. This is bound to eat up a lot of time tonight, and he really just wants to get to bed already.
There goes any hope he had of this being a quick debriefing.
Eventually, the noise dies down enough for Steve to get a question in. "Are we entirely certain, sir, that this is not some kind of trick?"
Thor levels him with a glare from where he stands behind Fury. "I can assure you that this is no trick. My brother was–"
Clint interrupts him. "But how can we be sure. I mean, this is awful convenient, isn't it? We capture him and suddenly he just forgets everything?"
"Loki has not forgotten everything, Barton," Thor continues, "He has simply lost a portion of his memory."
"Let me guess," Bruce says, sounding almost bored, "He's forgotten that he tried to take over the world, right?"
Thor turns to him, startled. "How did you know?"
"Lucky guess," he mutters. "Really though, doesn't that seem even a little suspicious to you?"
Thor hesitates and looks the team over. "You did not see him when he woke. He was disoriented and confused, and believed he and myself to have been captured. He expressed concern for me and-"
"Whoopdedoo. He pretended to care about you. I still don't see how you can be so sure about this," Clint says, clearly more than displeased with the way events have unfolded.
The god narrows his eyes at him and continues. "The person who awoke in that cell was my brother as I knew him before–" He cuts himself off frowning. "He is as I knew him in Asgard, before his fall. I am certain of it."
Fury finally speaks up, apparently having had enough of the back and forth. "As much as I don't want to believe it," he tells them, "I do. I spoke with both Loki and Thor at length, and this is far too convincing to be a trick. I do not believe that even the god of lies could pull off such an act as this, given what I have gathered from Thor."
"Ok, fine. So let's assume he has, in fact, lost his memories," Tony begins, finally deciding to give his two cents, "How exactly could that have even happened? He's a god." He slouches back into his chair, deciding he might as well get comfortable, because this conversation is definitely going to take a while.
The room falls silent (again with the silence, and this really must reflect on how tired they all are that it even keeps happening,) and all eyes fall on Tony, who drags himself forward and out of his slouch defensively. "Hey, no. Don't look at me like that. It's a good question."
Natasha sighs and props her chin up in her hand. Her phone, Tony notices, is nowhere in sight. "You apprehended him, Tony. If anyone should have the answer to that question it would be you."
"All I did was take him out, not–"
"Didn't you throw him off a building, though?" Bruce asks.
"I did not throw–" He stops himself and scoffs, "Does it really matter? Need I remind you guys that he threw me out of a window once? A fifteen story fall is hardly–"
Steve looks at him, unamused. "Not saying the guy didn't deserve it, but wasn't that building more like twenty stories high?"
"Fifteen," Tony hisses at him. This whole 'gang up on Tony' thing is getting old fast. "And like I said–"
"Actually, that apartment building was sixteen stories tall," Clint chimes in and, okay, Tony's had enough now.
"Does it matter?" He half shouts, slamming a hand down onto the table, "He's a god. A fall that far wouldn't even concuss him!"
Next to him, Thor nods in agreement. "Anthony Stark is correct. Such a fall would hardly have harmed my brother." He frowns and glances at Tony. "Surely, though, something else must have happened. Such memory loss within an Asgardian is hardly a normal occurrence."
Again, all eyes are on him and he drags himself to his feet, suddenly recalling the strange spell that Loki had been casting when he found him. "Jarvis! Throw up the footage from the suit."
"Do you remember something, Stark?" Fury asks.
"Actually, I think I do have something for you guys."
The screen behind Fury lights up and Tony makes his way over to it, yawning. "Now forward to where I finally found Loki," he instructs Jarvis, who immediately does as he's asked. The video on the screen speeds up, and the team watches the battle from Tony's point of view in fast forward. "Ah, right there!" The video pauses and Tony studies it carefully before tapping the screen and allowing it to continue at regular speed.
He pauses it again when he gets it to where he needs it and zooms in. "Here." He gestures at the image of Loki on the screen, surrounded by a flood of odd green light.
"He appears to have cast some kind of spell," Thor comments loudly, and Tony rolls his eyes.
"Obviously. I thought perhaps he was maintaining all those clones with whatever he was doing, so it didn't seem important until now."
Fury makes a derisive noise. "Everything that happens on a mission is important, Stark, regardless of relevance," he snaps.
Tony ignores him. "Okay, anyway, Loki was casting some kind of spell when I found him."
"My brother would not have needed such a spell in order to maintain the clones," Thor informs him, squinting at the screen.
"It looks almost as if whatever he's casting backfired on him," Natasha notes and Tony grins, giving her a thumbs up.
"Exactly. So Thor, tell us– is it possible that a backfired spell could have done this to him?"
The god hesitates and points to the screen. "The amount of magic coming off of him here suggests that it was a powerful spell. It is likely that you broke his concentration when you attacked him, and that is why it backfired. Without him directing where the magic should go, it returned to its source. So yes, it is possible. Depending on what spell he was trying to cast."
Tony closes the video down and returns to his seat. "Well there we go. Memory loss possibly explained."
"I don't see why we're even discussing this," Clint says, "Seriously, who gives a flying fuck about whether or not he really lost his memory, which I still doubt by the way, or even how he lost it. He's going back to Asgard either way."
Thor shifts awkwardly in his seat. "Actually–"
Clint swears and leans forward in his chair. "Oh hell no. I thought that was the plan, you guys," he exclaims, exasperated, "We catch Loki, he goes back to Asgard. We wipe our hands of all this and let Thor and his group deal with him."
"And that is still the plan," Fury says, "Because the last time I checked, Thor, you are not the one who gets to make those decisions."
Thor lurches to his feet, wrapping a hand around Mjölnir. "I would not see my brother punished for crimes he does not remember committing!" he exclaims.
Fury steps forward threateningly. "You will take him back to Asgard, or he will be taken into Shield custody where we will deal with him. And I doubt you'd like what we have planned for him after the stunt with the Chitauri."
"You have no right–"
"I have every right."
Thor tightens his grip on his hammer while Fury stares him down and eventually Steve speaks up, trying to stop this from escalating.
"Thor, what would you suggest we do with him, then, if not have him brought to justice for his crimes?"
"Crimes he neither remembers committing nor knows he committed! And I would have my brother once again fighting by my side, here on Midgard."
The room erupts into noise again and Tony sighs, rubbing his head. He's starting to get a headache from all this.
"You've lost your damn mind," Clint chokes out, "You don't honestly expect for us to just let him go, do you?"
"By your side? What, like a member of the team. Honestly, Thor."
"Memories or not, he tried to take over the planet. And let's not forget how he almost killed Coulson."
Amidst the noise, Natasha makes her presence known. "Actually, I think it sounds like a good idea."
Everyone falls silent almost at once, staring at her. Thor grins. "Lady Natasha, I am so glad you understand–"
"Oh god," Clint groans, "You've lost your mind, too."
"I can assure you that I have not, Clint," she says, glaring at him. "I do, however, see an excellent opportunity here. Think about it. This is a good chance to study him more closely, both him and his magic. Not to mention that his skillset would also be an asset to this team, however long he's here."
"She does have a point there," Tony adds, "I could learn a lot from seeing his magic up close. And hell, if he doesn't remember being our enemy I could probably convince him to let me study it up in the lab. Maybe develop a way to restrain it. You know, for when he does remember."
"Yeah, remembers and kills us all in our sleep!" Clint mutters, voice cracking slightly.
They all ignore him.
"I do not know how comfortable I feel with you tricking my brother in such a way, Man of Iron."
Tony shrugs. "You're the one proposing that we let him fight alongside us and basically join the team, or what not. How exactly do you expect that to work? 'Oh, hey, you used to be one of our biggest enemies, but now we want you on our side because you don't remember any of that.'"
"Tony's right, we can't exactly tell him the truth about this if we let this happen," Bruce says.
"This is not happening, why are we all even discussing this?" Clint tries again, looking to Fury.
Fury frowns. "Because Natasha made a good point."
"We could perhaps put this to this democratic process that Steve has told me so much about?" Thor proposes hesitantly, casting a nervous glance at Fury.
"What, and vote on it? And when the hell did this team become a democracy, anyway?" Tony asks.
Fury crosses his arms. "The team can vote on it if they want, but I'm still the one making the final decision on this," he informs Thor, who brightens considerably.
"Friends! What say you?"
"Hey, can we get back to how this would even work before we start voting on this? We don't even have a plan." Tony tells them, trying to keep the conversation from derailing.
"Does it really matter what we tell him, so long as he believes it? Either way, it won't go so well once he remembers," Bruce asks.
"True enough. What's to stop him from coming after all of us when he remembers?"
Tony considers Steve's question for a moment. "Jarvis. If he can figure out how to follow Loki's energy, magic, whatever signature, then he can alert us to any mischief he may try and cause. And regardless, Jarvis can keep track of his movements around the tower," he says, "He does anything suspicious and Jarvis will let us know."
"Well, that's settled then." Natasha stands up, pressing her palms flat to the table. "You all know what my vote for this is."
Steve sighs and rises as well. "I don't much like what I suspect Shield has in store should Thor refuse to return Loki to Asgard, and Natasha does make a good point. This is a good opportunity, however long it may last. I'll have to vote in favor of this as well."
Bruce closes his eyes and 'hmms' under his breath."This is going to backfire on us badly, I can already tell, but why the hell not."
Clint stands abruptly. "Am I seriously the only person who didn't wake up on the crazy train this morning?"
"So is that a nay?"
He opens his mouth to speak but then hesitates, looking around at the team. After a moment, he sighs and sits back down. "It hardly matters what I think, right? I've already been outvoted."
"You're still a member of this team, Clint. Your opinion on this does matter," Natasha tells him.
He frowns. "Okay then, I'm not a hundred percent on board with this– considering my history with the guy– And I'm still not entirely sure I believe this whole convenient 'amnesia' thing. But–" Clint pauses and glances over at Thor. "If this is for real, the amnesia thing I mean, then I guess I have to say I do kind of see the point you all are making."
Thor looks at him hopefully and Clint sags in his chair with another sigh.
"Alright, I'm for it. So long as I don't have to be nice to the guy."
Tony grins and stands as well. "Excellent! I've been dying to get a good, close look at Loki's magic. So I'd have to say I'm okay with this, overall."
Thor smiles at them all, glancing over at Fury, who looks the team over with his one good eye. "Alright, then. But when this backfires, and it will, it's going to be on your head, Thor, not ours."