Title: Like So Much Shattered Glass
Chapter: 7 of 7 COMPLETED
Fandom: Marvel (movie 'verse)
Beta: Shara Lunison
Pairings: Tony Stark/Loki Odinson(Laufeyson), canon
Warnings: Spoilers for The Avengers (2012) and prequel films, angst of the self-hate variety, mentioned child abuse,
Summary: Loki thought to break the Avengers, one man at a time, before killing them. His plans had never involved being broken in return.
A/N: I apologise in advance for the stupidity of the charity host. He is, as my sister would say, a 'special snowflake'.
This chapter would have been up sooner, but I was too busy finishing the sequel.
The first thing Loki did upon waking on Friday, was take her female form, deciding that if she was going to be in public as a female that evening, it would do them all well to get used to her before they left. There were a couple double takes as members of the tower piled into the kitchen, but Thor took it in stride, and once he got over his momentary surprise, Stark settled in to flirt with her, both of them ignoring Thor's moaning and groaning and Rogers' increasingly red face.
With all the magic nonsense and Banner being so badly hurt, Stark had mostly forgotten about Culture Week. But Coulson, recognising the dangers of losing his scientists and Loki in the lab for another whole day, reminded the human before anyone could leave the kitchen. So they ended up in the common area, everyone but Rogers, Thor, and Loki picking a film to watch, and stayed there all day, only breaking long enough for everyone to make sandwiches for lunch and serve up the Mexican food Thor had ordered.
About an hour before they were due to leave, Romanoff, Jane, Thor, and Loki excused themselves to get ready, Thor laughing off Barton's comments about his similarities to a girl with far more ease than he would have had one of the Warriors Three or another Æsir made the comment, Loki noted.
Loki was actually quite pleased with her gown, which was a brilliant green piece with a low-cut back and what the shop assistant had referred to as a 'halter top' top. It wasn't quite floor-length on Loki's height, but she'd no intention in wearing those ridiculous heels Midgardian women seemed to favour – they looked painful – so it worked out well enough.
She conjured a golden necklace, bracelet, and earrings with diamonds that shone faintly blue, a colour she couldn't seem to be rid of and so decided to ignore. The one earring knocked unpleasantly against the tracking cuff Odin had given her and she had to take a moment to make them smaller. Her hair was left to hang free, trusting that her magic would keep it from getting tangled.
They met in the garage, next to the limo they would all be riding in. The males all wore black tuxes; Thor's bowtie was silver and red, Stark's had tiny Iron Man heads on it against a green background that matched Loki's gown, Rogers' was red, white, and blue, and both Coulson and Barton's were plain black. Jane and Romanoff wore gowns similar to Loki's – Jane in silver, Romanoff in black – and high heels, so they might better match the heights of their dates, Thor and Barton, respectively.
All of the Avengers also carried the most important pieces of their uniforms: Stark had a red and gold suitcase that could change into his suit, Rogers carried his shield, Thor held Mjölnir, Barton had the case for his bow and quiver, and Romanoff had a suspiciously large purse. They sort of laughed upon seeing each other, proving that it was coincidence.
"Guess we all suspect the inactivity," Stark commented as they set everything in the boot before getting into the limo. Loki lingered behind them for a moment, eyeing the filled boot. When Hogan slammed it closed, she twitched her fingers and transported all but Mjölnir into a magical space – she knew better than to think she could move her brother's hammer – figuring if the humans and Thor were concerned, there was likely a very good reason.
"It always pays to be prepared," Rogers was insisting as Loki slipped in.
"Whatever you say, Boy Scout," Stark returned before grinning at Loki. "You, my dear, look stunning. Are you sure we can't skip the party and make straight for the bedroom?"
"Tony!" Rogers snapped.
"You have to earn me before you can have me," Loki informed the human.
"Mm. A challenge," Stark replied, wiggling his eyebrows.
"Keep the mischief to a minimum," Coulson warned them. "You're supposed to be keeping a low profile in public, unless you want to end up trapped in the helicarrier for an extended stay."
"I don't trap easily," Loki pointed out.
"You do if we get hold of the Anti-Magic Field," Coulson reminded her.
Loki stiffened. "Noted," she said, frowning at Thor when he growled.
"Low profile means we should probably avoid marking you as Thor's sibling," Romanoff commented. "Cut out the 'Brother' and 'Sister' stuff. Also, Loki, is there another name we can call you by?"
"Loki is Loki," Thor insisted.
"I have never used another name in this form," Loki clarified, "though as a woman, I am Loki Friggadottir, rather than Loki Odinson."
"You people," Stark muttered, shaking his head. "Okay. Ms Friggadottir. I can do last names. Can everyone else do last names?"
"We'll figure it out," Rogers decided.
"And the gender switch should throw enough people," Banner commented calmly. "There weren't enough good pictures of Loki's face for the majority to connect the dots, and those that do make the leap are probably already on SHIELD's watch list."
"Which will be handled by people more experienced than any of you at not making a scene," Coulson added drily and most of the group traded sheepish – or in Loki, Stark, and Barton's cases, amused – looks.
Their arrival was not unremarked upon, and they quickly found themselves flooded with reporters and camera men. Rogers took the lead, all beaming smiles, with Coulson, Stark, and Loki half a step behind him. Rogers had no trouble talking about his pleasure about the charity ball, how glad he was that they would raise money for abused children. Coulson played the public face for the Avengers, fielding questions and moving people along with an ease that was, frankly, scary. Meanwhile, Stark was soaking up the attention, making a joke here, offering a bright smile there, while Loki smiled vapidly for the cameras, appearing for all the world as the 'eye candy' Stark had suggested she would be, though her eyes were sharp and missed little.
When they finally got into the ball, Stark's shoulders slumped slightly and he sighed. "Jesus. They're fucking vultures." He looked over his shoulder at where Coulson was slipping in at the back of their group, waving the reporters on to focus their attention on some newcomers. "Phil, who told them we were going to be here?"
"It may not be us," Romanoff pointed out, looking out onto the dance floor. "I can see at least two foreign dignitaries, the city mayor, the state governor, and four celebrities; this is a big deal."
"Steve picked it, of course it's a big deal," Stark muttered.
Rogers shot him a disapproving look, then shook his head. "Right. Everyone stick in pairs and check in with myself or Phil every half hour. Tony, Clint, try not to get too drunk."
"Clint won't," Romanoff promised, smile just shy of murderous. Barton smiled a bit nervously next to her.
"I will attempt to keep an eye on Stark," Loki added, glancing towards her brother. "It's not my first party spent trying to keep a companion at least slightly sober." Thor laughed a bit nervously.
"Thor, try not to make as big a scene as last time?" Rogers asked.
"I shall try, Captain," Thor promised solemnly.
Jane smiled and squeezed Thor's arm in hers. "I'll keep an eye on him."
Rogers sighed. "Right. Bruce, who are you going with?"
Banner considered his options, then shrugged. "I'll stick with you for now, Steve, if it's all the same."
"That's fine by me. Okay. Every half hour," Rogers reminded them before he and Bruce turned to vanish into the crowd.
Slowly, the group melted into the room, quickly lost in the sea of bodies. Stark seemed familiar with the layout, for he made a beeline for the bar, only letting himself be stopped twice to greet some self-important person or another. Once at the bar, he ordered a cognac for himself and cosmopolitan for Loki. "You don't have to actually drink it," Stark told her as he handed it over. "It'll give you something to do with your hands when you're talking to someone boring."
"You are well familiar with these sorts of parties," Loki commented quietly as they re-entered the throng.
"I hate these sorts of parties. But, yes, I'm skilled at getting through them with limited pain." Stark smiled at someone and they got sidetracked talking to a couple of other people before he added, "Usually I get ridiculously drunk to keep them from seeming too painful, but Pepper and Steve are damn good at getting on my case."
"I have discovered few people to be pleasant when inebriated," Loki murmured behind a vacant smile. "Unless you are one of them, you will avoid becoming such in my company."
"Noted," Stark replied into his glass before he was smiling again, greeting some person or another.
Loki's first name changed a couple of times while she circled with Stark, which followed with his well-known inability to keep track of the name of any woman who wasn't his personal assistant or the Black Widow. Loki's last name, however, remained constant, for which she was grateful, as she was quite fond of her mother and rarely got the chance to claim her in such a way. There was also some uncertainty as to her job; Stark had forgotten what fake job he'd given her after a few people and made something up, but when Loki was able to discuss her new job as easily as the last one, Stark decided it would be an excellent game to just change what job she had every fourth person or so, which she kept up with admirably.
There was little dancing on the floor for the first hour or so, with people looking to be seen by the right people. Finding Rogers or Coulson had seemed an impossibility in the sea of faces, but Stark was well skilled at catching one or both of the men on the half hour, waving cheerfully and proving to Rogers during the second check-in that he wasn't drunk. (He was, in fact, still nursing his first glass. Whether he was behaving because of Loki's threat, or for the same reason he'd brought his suit, Loki couldn't tell, but she remained pleased either way.)
About an hour after they arrived, the host finally called for everyone's attention and officially opened the event. He motioned towards where a group of children were huddled, saying, "These are the children your donations will be helping. Feel free to speak to them at any time during the ball."
"Jesus," Stark hissed, mouth twisted with disgust. "He brought the kids? Why would you fucking do that?"
"Come on," Loki ordered, pulling Stark in the direction of the children as their host finished his speech and opened the floor for dancing and handing over of money.
"Loki," Stark hissed, moving quickly to keep pace with her longer legs. "What are you doing?"
"I'm not leaving those children to be approached by complete strangers looking for their good deed for the month," Loki snarled, mouth curled with a sneer.
"I don't do well with kids," Stark warned, looking more than a little unwell.
"Do your best to emulate me, then," Loki suggested. And then they were stepping out of the crowd in front of the children and Loki slowed her pace and gentled her expression. She stopped and crouched down a few paces before the eldest, who was glaring at the crowd and standing protectively between them and the younger children behind her. "Hello," Loki offered in a light voice. "I'm Loki."
The eldest child eyed her suspiciously for a long moment before saying, "Sarah. What sort of name is Loki?"
Loki smiled. "My mother is fond of the Norse legends, and I am named after her favourite god, the Trickster. You might have heard of another of those gods recently: Thor."
A young boy poked his head around Sarah. "I know 'im! 'E's a superhero!"
"Indeed he is," Loki agreed. "He's here tonight, you know. All of the Avengers are."
"Is Iron Man here?" another boy asked, looking hopeful.
Loki glanced over her shoulder at where Stark was telling off a couple of people who wanted photos with the children. "That's him," she told the children. "Tony?"
Stark looked back at her, smiling oddly. "Yeah?"
"You have an admirer."
Stark blinked in surprise, then he grinned. "Yeah? Cool."
Coulson appeared next to Stark then, Rogers and Banner just behind him. "I'll handle crowd control," he suggested. "Make sure your date behaves herself."
"You may be putting too much trust in me," Stark muttered in reply before moving over to stand next to Loki. She grabbed his arm and dragged him down to crouch next to her. "Hey there, kids."
"Are you really Iron Man?" the boy who'd asked about him pleaded.
"In the flesh," Stark agreed. "The suit's in the car, or I'd go all out for you."
"Cool," a number of the kids declared.
Then Rogers was kneeling on Loki's other side, Banner crouched awkwardly next to him. "Hey, guys. And girls," Rogers said, smiling as easily as though he did this every day.
"Ah. And here's Captain America and the Hulk," Loki informed the group of children.
That seemed to break the ice, for suddenly the children were moving forward to meet their heroes, all of them asking questions a mile a minute. Stark and Rogers both laughed and tried to keep up while Banner looked bashful and wiped at his glasses awkwardly, which just made the two children that had flocked to him adore him all the more.
Sarah, the eldest, walked uncertainly up to Loki, a younger girl keeping step behind her. "Are you an Avenger?" Sarah asked.
Loki's smile took on a sad edge. "No, I'm not."
"Ms Friggadottir is better served behind the front lines, watching the action and giving us suggestions," Rogers cut in, grinning. "Sometimes, we get so wrapped up in the fight that we don't realise an easy solution, so she and Agent Coulson back there keep an eye on the big picture and give us hints."
"You kids saw the dragon fight in D.C.?" Stark added. When they all nodded, eyes wide, he jerked his thumb at Loki. "She's the one who told us to dunk 'em in water and light 'em up."
"My big brother was in D.C. then," one of the girls said, eyes wide. "He says one of the dragons was looking right at their class group when Iron Man and Thor distracted them and led them to the water." She darted forward and hugged first Stark, who looked like he wasn't certain what to do with the affection, then Loki, who hugged her back.
"Is your brother not here?" the god asked as the little girl pulled away.
She shook her head. "No. His leg was broken during the attack, so he's in the hospital still." She looked down. "Auntie was really mad that he'd got hurt, because she had to pay all the bills out of pocket. I told her it wasn't his fault and she hit me for being smart." She touched her arm and Loki saw, peeking out from under the edge of her pretty dress, the faint purpling of a healing bruise. Around her, the other children looked suddenly uncomfortable, reminded of the reasons they were here.
Loki brushed gentle fingers over the bruise and a sparkle of green magic darted from her to the wound. "Come now," Loki said in a gentle voice. "None of this." She looked over at Stark. "Someone invited me, saying there would be dancing, but I've seen little of such."
"You want to dance?" Stark asked, disbelieving.
"I think we should all dance," Loki clarified. "After all, this is a party in the children's honour, and they don't seem to be having enough fun."
"I think that's an excellent idea," Rogers agreed.
"But I can't dance," one of the girls mumbled.
"That can be fixed," Stark assured her, climbing to his feet. He did a little bow and held out his hand. "May I have this dance, madam?"
The girl giggled and let Stark take her out to dance floor, a boy and another girl trailing behind when he motioned for them to join him. Rogers and Banner, likewise, collected a couple children each and led them out to dance.
Loki was left with Sarah, the little girl clutching at her arm, the girl whose bruise Loki had healed, and one boy. "Coming?" she asked them. "I promise nothing will happen to you."
"You swear?" the boy demanded.
"I swear upon my mother's life, may she live forever," Loki intoned solemnly. Then she smiled again, the same friendly smile she would use when she met with some of her more skittish contacts in the other realms.
That seemed enough for the kids, as the boy took one hand, the girl she'd healed took the other, and Sarah fell in step with them, the last girl still holding on to her, as they made their way through the silently parting crowd to where the other children were having a lovely time. Thor, Barton, and Jane had joined the group on the floor and someone had talked the musicians into a cheerful little number that the children could dance to. A couple other people were on the floor, smiling and laughing themselves, but most of the party-goers were hanging back, watched by the sharp gazes of Romanoff and Coulson.
Sarah's little hanger-on got scooped up by Thor, making her squeal in delight, shortly after they made their way through the crowd. After glancing back at Loki, who nodded, Sarah hurried after her charge and the laughing blond god, leaving Loki with the other two children.
"I suppose you two must have names," she said to the boy and girl.
"Lottie," the girl said.
"Patrick," said the boy.
"And I'm Loki," Loki informed them, though she was sure they remembered her name. "Shall we dance?"
The two children both quickly agreed, their smiles returning, and the three joined the fun.
The musicians had just finished one song and were quickly conferring to figure out another 'fun' song they all knew when a shot rang out in the hall. A number of people let out screams and almost everyone ducked, trying not to make a target of themselves. The Avengers, Jane, Loki, and Coulson closed ranks in the middle of the dance floor, around the children, as a circle of gunmen appeared over the heads of the terrified guests.
"One of these days," Stark muttered, "I will remember to just keep my suit with me."
"We're looking for two of the kids, a Charlotte Anderson, and a Robert Montgomery. Hand them over and we'll let everyone go without any bloodshed," one of the men demanded.
"There's a robbery on forty-ninth, and a fire on sixteenth," Coulson reported quietly, a hand to his ear, as though cupping one of the small earpieces SHIELD and the Avengers used. "They timed this well."
"They timed this exactly," Rogers hissed. "We're sitting ducks!"
One of the children let out a whimper and Jane turned and crouched to hush them, Thor sidling over to protect her back.
"We're not poultry," Loki commented drily, "and unlike some people, I don't leave weapons in parked cars." She twitched her fingers and removed the items she'd snuck from the trunk, leaving each floating in front of the person it belonged to.
"You, are a God-send," Stark swore as he flipped the latches on his suitcase to start the process of opening it.
"Close enough," Loki agreed.
"Here, watch that for me," Barton told one of the children, dropping his suit jacket on his head.
Rogers, shield held firm on one arm, looked over the team as they finished their preparations, Thor still unarmed to avoid the structural damage to the building and Stark's car that calling Mjölnir would cause. Before Rogers could open his mouth to give them directions, a shot was fired and it froze inches from Thor's nose, a flash of green rippling out from the point of contact to show the otherwise invisible dome protecting them.
"Right," Rogers said, speaking low and quickly. "We need these guys down before they start shooting at the crowd, which needs to be evacuated. Loki, how long can you hold this shield?"
"All night," Loki replied with an easy shrug.
"Good. Coulson, Widow, I need you two handling the civilians. Banner, Foster, stay with Loki for now, in case h–she needs help with the kids. Thor, Hawkeye, Iron Man, and myself will take care of the guns; Iron Man, see if you can't get Hawkeye to the ledge up there." He pointed to a high window ledge that looked like it had just enough clearance for the sharp shooter, and the two in question nodded. "Good. Go!"
Those who'd been given duties outside the magical shield all moved at once. The sudden motion caught the gunmen off guard for long enough for Barton to get positioned, Coulson and Romanoff to shoot a way for the civilians to get out, and a couple of the men to get taken out by Rogers and Thor. But then they realised what was happening and the shooting started, full-tilt.
"You can't extend the shield to protect those people?" Jane asked Loki as they watched a couple go down after being hit by the few gunmen not focussing on the Avengers.
"Not without endangering everyone under it," Loki replied quietly. "The greater the area it covers, the less its integrity. This was meant as a personal shield, not one for multiple people." And I've already translated it from Asgardian to Midgardian, Loki silently added. I can't make any promises what changes that might create.
Thankfully, the fight didn't last long, not with the Avengers on the case. With the party pretty much over, the civilians continued their way home or to the single ambulance that had arrived outside as things were finished, leaving the heroes to gather up the bodies of the gunmen. Five of the fourteen had survived and they were collected separately from the dead, left for Coulson to question. Most of the Avengers had left the dead to check on the children, who were all pretty well off, playing hand games with Jane and Banner, or talking Loki into performing magic tricks.
"Are you have fun, Si–Loki?" Thor asked, kneeling behind a couple of the children who were watching Loki's magical windstorm.
Loki smiled at her brother. "You know I am," she replied. She had always enjoyed children, what with their endless energy and penchant for causing mischief, but she was also a parent and understood all too well the pains and joys of caring for children. "Go see to Lady Jane, if that is your preference," she added, eyes sparkling with amusement. "This is more to my experience than hers, I think."
Thor laughed. "You may be right."
Loki's eyes tracked Thor as he moved around her to where Jane sat with her group of children. Just before she would have turned back to her own crowd, Loki caught sight of a man in a dark suit and sunglasses standing in a shadowed corner, near where the civilians had escaped. He was staring upwards, and Loki traced his gaze to where Barton was carefully making his way from his perch, bow slung comfortably over his shoulders. When Loki looked back at the man in the shadows, she saw him reaching under his jacket, only to pull out a gun.
Loki needed no help putting two and two together. "Want to see something cool?" she asked the children, eyes flickering between the shadowed man and Barton's slow decent.
"Yeah!" the children chorused.
Loki's lips curled with a smile she didn't feel as she touched her hands to the floor and ice spread out from her fingertips, moving far quicker than should be possible towards both the man in the shadows and where Barton was swinging along a pipe. The ice headed for Barton reached him first, building up into a slide just under him, and a flick of Loki's eyes saw the pipe he was holding onto snap, sending him careening down the ice slide. The bullet that had been fired by the shadowed man just missed his head.
In his corner, the shadowed man cursed his luck and turned to escape before he was noticed, only to realise his feet had become encased in ice, which was slowly climbing his legs.
"Captain," Loki called in a sing-song voice, "we seem to have missed someone." She nodded towards the trapped man, who was attempting to break the ice with the butt of his gun.
"Nice catch," Rogers offered before touching Thor's shoulder and the two made their way over.
"Cute," Barton said to Loki as he approached her and her laughing crowd of children, all of whom had watched Barton's tumble. "I'm glad I could help you amuse the kids."
"I, too, am forever glad for your service," Loki purred, eyes bright with amusement; if Barton hadn't realised Loki had just saved his life, she wasn't going to tell him.
It wasn't until almost half an hour later that the current guardians of the various children made it in to pick them up, accompanied by SHIELD agents, who were there for the gunmen. At the end of the group of newcomers was Fury, single eye sharp. The Avengers, Loki, and Jane all stood to meet him after seeing that the children each had an adult to collect them.
"Debriefing as soon as everyone is mostly cleaned up back at the tower," Fury informed them, tone no-nonsense. "Loki, you and I will have a chat first."
Loki's expression tightened, but she nodded; she didn't care for Fury, but nor did she need him as her enemy. And maybe, if I'm lucky, she thought, he'll do away with the armed guards. Though, luck was rarely in Loki's favour.
"Director," Rogers interrupted, "Loki saved a lot of lives today, and I consider her as much a part of this team as myself or any of the rest of us. Please treat her with the respect she's earned, past deeds notwithstanding."
"It was his 'past deeds' that brought you all together," Fury reminded them.
"First off," Stark cut in, visor up and glaring for all he was worth, "she has more than proved herself willing to play the field, even going so far as to take out one of those Doombots and warn you about the surveillance spells so you could isolate however many of the damn things you've got squirreled away. Second, she saved my life during the dragon fiasco, then healed Bruce nearly as soon as she got back from Asgard. Third, she's been helping me figure out their fucking magic and design a way to counteract it, which you well know, since Magic Fingers has been snooping through my files. Again. Fourth, she kept those kids happy and safe while we were knocking heads together. And fifth, she saved Clint's ass and caught one we'd missed after we'd all relaxed."
"Wait, what?" Barton stared at Stark.
Stark sighed and pointed towards the broken pipe. "Eagle Eyes, look over there and tell me what you see at approximately the height that your head was at when you took your tumble."
Barton turned and looked, paling as he saw the bullet hole Stark was pointing out. "Jesus fuck." He looked back at Loki, who raised her chin and frowned at him, and was silent for a moment before saying, "I still hate you."
"It's entirely mutual," Loki said with a huff.
"If we want to compare kill-counts, we're going to be here all night," Stark continued, his point to Barton made. "The only one here who can claim a lily-white ass is Steve. And Jane," he added, nodding to the young scientist, who smiled back. "Point is–"
"The point is," Romanoff snapped, "Loki's as good as part of the team now. And if she's got some nasty plot she's concocting behind our backs, she's doing a good job of playing it off. She and Clint still go at each other's throats, and she and Stark like fucking with everyone's heads, and maybe everything's not perfect, but it wasn't before Loki moved in, and it may never be. But it's close."
"And we protect our own," Banner added quietly from Loki's side, making her start slightly. "If we won't, who will?"
Fury had stood through everything wearing the same disapproving frown, but letting them have their say. After waiting to see if they were done, he snapped, "If you're done? Good. Let's go."
They made for the limo, Thor walking at one side of Loki while Banner kept pace at the other. Behind her, she heard the heavy thumping of Stark's boots, and Romanoff kept just in front of her, smiling nastily at the SHIELD agents they passed who did double takes at the sight of a female Loki, Coulson and Barton walking to either side of her with slightly less violent smiles.
Loki was...touched by the support. She wasn't quite certain what to do with it, with them. She had been defended before – Thor would take her side against their peers, Frigga against Thor and Odin – but never by those she could claim no relation to, never by those she had so greatly wronged. She had brought a war to their world, had pushed Stark out the window of his own tower, had used Banner to spread discord and fear amongst SHIELD, had controlled Barton's mind and used him against his former friends... She had not been kind, but yet they supported her, called her one of their own. And why? Because she made them a meal? Because she'd saved some lives? Because when they asked her for help with their science, she was willing to lend her aid?
Loki did not understand humans, did not understand these humans more than any other.
When they reached the limo, Fury motioned for everyone to slide in before him, Stark slowly rising above them to fly home, as the limo could not hold him in his suit. When Loki moved to get in, Fury curled a finger at her, beckoning. One eyebrow raised, she ducked under Thor's protective arm and stepped up to him. "Yes?"
"Director–" Coulson started, looking out through the door, eyes dark with suspicion.
"You can teleport," Fury said.
Loki took the hint. Reaching up and touching the side of his bared neck, she teleported them to the main floor of the tower, lips curling with a mean little smile when he tilted unsteadily at the arrival. "I must assume you wished to speak with me before the return of my brother and the others," Loki commented.
"You assume correctly," Fury returned as he made for the lift.
Loki followed the human, eerily calm. She was well used to walking into danger, and hardly considered Fury to be any sort of threat to her on her worst days, never mind one when she had the magic to string him up by his own intestines should he prove an intent to see her dead. There was also, she acknowledged, a sense of security in knowing that Stark would be aware of where she was, would be arriving soon enough and had likely already informed Thor and the other humans, meaning they weren't far behind. (And if Thor so wished it, he could pick up Mjölnir and fly to the tower, arriving shortly after Stark.)
The top floor opened to a short hallway, a line of offices on one side and a doorway into a large conference room on the other. It was to one of the offices that Fury led her, saying, "When Stark, Thor, and the other Avengers arrive, tell them to gather in the conference room. They may not storm in on my meeting."
"Director," JARVIS replied, "Sir has ordered me to–"
"Stark doesn't give orders right now, I do," Fury informed the AI. "And because I know he will attempt to argue this: Override Code November Foxtrot Zero Zero Three Alfa."
"Understood, Director," JARVIS replied before falling silent.
Fury motioned Loki to the chair on one side of the desk, which she settled gracefully into while he dropped into his own, fingers steepled in front of his nose. "So. Not bad. One week and you've got my people eating out of the palms of your hands."
"Quite literally," Loki replied with an easy smile. "Just last week they enjoyed a meal made entirely by myself."
"Surprisingly poison-free. I heard." Fury leaned back in his chair, his steepled fingers following him. "I have to admit, saving Barton today was a nice touch, good way to prove yourself willing to change for the better."
Loki opened her hands in a supplicating manner. "What is it you humans say? Everyone deserves a second chance?"
"We also say 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks', and you strike me as pretty damn old."
"Old in years, not in flexibility," Loki returned, clasping her hands and holding them against her stomach. "Were I so old I was incapable of change, I would never have attacked your world."
"How about this one: 'Never trust a liar'."
Loki's smile widened. "A wise course of action."
Fury leaned forward, hands flat on his desk and eyes intent. "What's your angle here? You get everyone to like you, trust you–"
"I have been quite firm in reminding people not to trust me," Loki interrupted, a glimmer of ice behind her easy smile.
"Now that's a clever bit of reverse psychology," Fury replied, unmoved. "Tell them not to trust you, so they think, maybe, they can trust you after all. That you're being truthful with them."
"Only fools trust a trickster, and even Thor knows to take my every word as a partial truth. He may be uncertain of the lie, may be incapable of spotting it without someone there to refute my claim, but he knows I am not well inclined to speak the full truth, though I may impart kernels of it." Loki still smiled, appearing utterly relaxed. "If my truth is only that you'd do well to disbelieve my every word before thinking them honest, who are you to demand other?"
"I am in charge of this group," Fury returned without pause. "You are up to something, and I want to know what."
"It's not for you to know," Loki said, trying not to think, It's not even for me to know, not any more. For my plans have fallen to pieces at the feet of my enemies and I am little better than a broken soul trying to find a new life to inhabit.
"You'll give me one truth, Loki Odinson, or you'll be sent back to Asgard gagged and in chains. Again," Fury informed her and Loki's eyes narrowed, the façade of ease discarded at the threat. "Do you intend harm against the Avengers?"
Loki met his single eye head-on, well-practised with focussing all her attention on but the one eye. Masks were cast aside and they were as they had been in the beginning: god and man, trickster and soldier, liars both; and liars were always the best at seeking out the untruths. "Not now. Not any more," Loki said, and the truth – forced from her as it was – burned her tongue. "Not in such a way that they might need but a handful of days to fully recover."
Fury let that linger between them, turning Loki's words backwards and upside down, trying to find a lie, but Loki had let none slip her lips and the one-eyed man nodded and stood. "That's all I needed. Let's go."
It became immediately evident that not everyone was so inclined to follow Fury's orders, as Thor awaited them outside the office door, tense. He relaxed slightly upon seeing Loki's easy movements, but he still pulled her into a hug when she moved to continue past him. Loki sighed and allowed the contact, feeling the cold uncertainty from her time spent in the office chased away by his warmth.
"If you two ladies want to move out of the hallway, we can start the debriefing," Fury finally called from within the office, where he'd been trapped by Thor's large bulk taking up most of the path beyond the door.
Thor tensed and Loki grabbed her brother's arm, squeezing hard enough to bruise even his magically-strengthened skin. "Learn to take an insult, Brother," she warned. Because Thor was fine with Loki's ambiguity as to her gender, but he had always been a man, above all else. To suggest he was anything other than the accomplished male warrior he was, was the easiest way to get under his skin, and something Loki had been known to exploit when she was enough irritated with him in their youth. He had outgrown his anger somewhat in recent centuries, still allowing the insult to goad him into a fight, but less inclined to lose his head in the process; yet, Loki had spent so much of their life together trying to hold Thor back that it was habit, and as soon as the insult was heard, she made an attempt to calm his ire. (Or curse the bad timing of it.)
There was a darkening of anger in the elder god's eyes, but he heeded Loki's warning and turned away from the vexing human. "Come, Sister," he ordered and took her arm, as he might have their mother, to lead her to the conference room.
The humans looked up when they entered, relief flashing in their eyes before they returned to the masks they all wore while bored or – in Barton's case – in her presence and not otherwise distracted.
Loki took a moment to consider the humans, taking in the removed jackets of Barton, Rogers, and Stark, the missing ties of the same and Thor. She considered their seating arrangements, how Stark sat at one end of the table, directly across the table from Fury's chair. Banner sat at his left hand, two empty chairs at his right. At Fury's right sat Coulson, Rogers at his left. Romanoff and Barton sat across from each other, dividing the table in half. Or, they would have been dividing it, but a chair had been added for Loki and thrown off the symmetry.
Stark pointed at the open chairs as Fury took his seat and the two gods slipped into them, Loki finding herself between her brother and the insistent human.
"Debrief," Fury ordered Coulson and Rogers, and the two calmly outlined the events of the evening. There was an odd tenseness to their voices, one Loki had never made notice of before, and it took her an embarrassingly long moment to recognise it as suppressed anger. For what reason, she could but guess, but she was near certain that it had to do with her and Fury's disappearing act earlier. She felt...oddly guilty, for a moment, before she shoved the feeling away. Loki Friggadottir feels regret for no act!
When the events of the evening had been delivered, Fury then said, "Odinso–"
"Friggadottir," Romanoff, Stark, and Thor were all quick to correct.
"Or Loki," the god in question added drily, amusement glittering in green eyes. "I am, oddly, inclined to respond to that."
Fury raised his eyebrow. "Loki, Stark said you caught the man who took a pot-shot at Agent Barton; what happened?"
Loki tilted her head to one side, amusement fading from her eyes. "I was watching Thor walk towards Lady Jane and caught a glimpse of him in the shadows. He pulled a gun and pointed it at Barton. I stopped him."
"No, you dropped me onto an ice slide," Barton corrected, but the anger he'd spoken with shortly after the event was absent. There was only a quiet uncertainty in his eyes, a curiosity in his voice.
"And surrounded the man in ice; not really the best way to stop a gunman," Coulson commented neutrally.
"It worked pretty damn well, though," Stark defended.
Loki rolled her eyes. "I was entertaining the children and, thus, could not take part in other, more acceptable methods of ending the threat; I chose the option which would entertain the children, yet keep them from noticing the threat and panicking." Her lips curled with a sharp smile. "That it wounded your pride, Barton, was but a bonus."
Fury nodded and folded his hands in front of his mouth. He gazed around the table, meeting everyone's eyes, then stopped at Rogers. "Captain, you told me you consider Loki a part of your team; did you mean that only for the moment, or would you be willing to take him on full time?"
There was a sharp breath drawn around the entire table, everyone turning to Rogers, waiting to see his response. Rogers, for his part, looked over his team, waiting until each one nodded before leaning forward and meeting Loki's cool gaze around Romanoff and Thor. There were a world of questions in his eyes: Will you listen to me on the field? Will you continue to protect everyone, keep them from death? Can you work in a team long enough to get the job done?
Can I trust you?
Loki's lips flexed with a smile, bitter and more than a little amused. She inclined her head; yes.
Rogers turned back to Fury. "I have no problems with accepting Loki into the Avengers."
"On your head be it," Fury replied as he stood, but there was a hint of a smile in his eyes, of approval he would never voice.
"This calls for ice cream," Stark insisted as Fury left the room.
"Yes please," Loki immediately agreed and Thor and the humans laughed, long and loud and so much relieved.
It sounded a lot like home, to Loki, like the home she'd lost when she'd fallen from the Bifröst two years ago. And maybe two years were but a blink for a god, but they had still crawled, and she was relieved to find them over at last, safe and warm with Thor's love at her side and the camaraderie of these extraordinary, impossible mortals filling all the empty spaces she'd long learned to ignore.
Only a god of lies could find a home amongst one-time enemies.
A/N: So, there's still the Dr Doom subplot and further yet for the FrostIron, but I realised that this fic is really about Loki discovering his place on Earth and forming new bonds of family and friendship, so all of that will have to wait for the sequel.
Merlin forbid, I just said I'd write a sequel. I'm either insane, or in need of sleep. (Or both.)
So, yeah, this is the last chapter of Like So Much Shattered Glass. See you again in Rough Edges. (Which should be posted by the time you get to this note on any and all sites you're reading this fic on – FFN, LJ, AO3, dA – so go, read.
And if you leave a comment asking about the sequel, I WILL LAUGH MY ASS OFF AT YOU AND NOT RESPOND. 'Cause you're an idiot. Who can't read A/Ns. Seriously.)
Also, bit of confession: I never, actually, figured out what Loki's revenge on the Avengers was gonna entail. Which is why it was never mentioned. (Beyond, you know, that he had ideas.)
So, yeah. That. ^.^"